People long to be heard and understood, especially in their most emotional moments. Professional hostage negotiators understand this need so much that many have a rule for it: talk only 20 per cent of the time, listen 80 per cent of the time. The better you can learn to listen, the more people will want to share with you – and fortunately for us all, active listening is one of the most fun skills you can build. Here’s a group listening game that comes from improv comedy (a pastime, like negotiation, that’s built on trust and hearing).
Make a circle of three or more people. Turn to the person on your left and make up an outlandish rumour – something like, “Hey, I just heard that Beyoncé is a man!” Now the listener’s job is to first validate your rumour, and then add to it: “Yes, I heard that too! I also heard that Jay-Z is two men.” The initial listener now becomes the speaker, and spreads a new rumour to the person on his left (and so forth until you get bored or tired). This game is doubly-awesome because its success relies only on active listening and positive validation, two fundamentals of both improv comedy and strong relationships.