As with many facilitation tools, facilitative listening is perhaps most useful when there is a chance that conflict may arise. Facilitative listening - sometimes referred to as ‘active listening’ - is ultimately about making sure that all group participants are properly listening to each other. It sounds simple but it isn’t always so.
In this post, we run through a quick what, who, when and why of facilitative listening and offer a brief example of when you might use this process tool in order to help you facilitate a better business meeting.
What is it? Facilitative listening is a facilitation process tool used for getting group participants to listen to each other. It is a structured approach to listening that focuses on properly hearing the ideas of others, regardless of whether or not you agree.
Who uses it? Anyone can ‘do’ facilitative listening. Good group facilitators, however, are able to use facilitative listening as an effective process tool to ensure that participants all get a fair and equal hearing.
Why is it important? When participants feel that they are being heard, group tensions are relieved and the likelihood of compromise increases.
When should you use it? Facilitative listening can be a key first step in terms of mediating conflict, particularly when there are ‘opposing sides’ in a group. As a process tool, facilitative listening is about helping people to really understand one another in a structured, safe environment.
Overall, facilitative listening is about ensuring that people hear, acknowledge and understand the views of others. A potential group activity could be to place participants in pairs. Interactions should be limited to either presenting ideas or listening. Because counter-arguments are not allowed, group participants will have a unique opportunity to hear each other’s views. Try it out. Make sure your group participants are heard and understood. If nothing else, it helps to relieve tension and set a positive tone for tackling issues together.
To read more about facilitation tools, check out our Infographic: Process Tools for Effective Meeting Facilitation