Listen First Conversations

A Listen First Conversation is any conversation characterized by civility -- one that prioritizes respect and understanding. A Listen First Conversation might be between two friends or among dozens of people. It might be a refreshing learning experience or a miracle. It might be private or broadcast to 20,000 people. It might be on a park bench, in a classroom, in the office, in a living room, on a street corner, at a round table, in a candidate debate, or even in Congress and on the world stage.

We've created the Listen First Conversation Guidelines below to share our best practices for engaging in more productive, civil conversations characterized by listening first. These guidelines have been used to tremendous success in one-on-one conversations, public round tables, radio shows, podcasts, and even video conferences among Southern Conservatives and San Francisco Liberals!

Pledge to Listen First, put these guidelines into practice, and share them with others. Please keep us posted on your experiences! Use hashtags #ListenFirst and #ListenFirstConversation to promote civil discourse among your friends!

Top 10 Guidelines for a Listen First Conversation

  1. Come with an open mind, ready to learn and grow
  2. Listen as you want to be listened to
  3. Fully listen to and consider the other’s views before sharing your own
  4. One person speaks at a time
  5. Be fully present and curious rather than thinking of how to respond
  6. Physically engage free of distractions with eye contact and a relaxed posture
  7. Maintain a calm and respectful tone
  8. Restate what you heard said to clarify understanding
  9. Ask thoughtful and respectful questions
  10. Seek to discover common interests and areas of agreement

Formal Listen First Conversation Guidelines

Before a Listen First Conversation...

  • Agree on the purpose of the conversation
  • Define the scope of focus and time limit for the conversation
  • Agree on a neutral location

In a Listen First Conversation...

  • Listen as you want to be listened to
  • Fully listen to and consider the other’s views before sharing your own
  • Prioritize respect and understanding
  • One person speaks at a time, wait for the other person to finish speaking
  • Be fully present and engaged: remove mental and physical distractions
  • Physically engage: eye contact, relaxed posture, nod, etc.
  • Maintain a calm and respectful tone as well as volume
  • Restate what you heard said to clarify understanding
  • Ask thoughtful and respectful questions

After a Listen First Conversation...

  • Share what you learned or gained from the experience
  • Honor confidentiality

Listen First Conversation Best Practices + Recommendations

Come with an open mind, humbly ready to learn and grow

Let go of your assumptions

Listen without judging

Seek to discover common interests and areas of agreement

Be fully present and curious rather than thinking about how you will respond

Be aware of sub-text: facial expressions, tone, body language

Ask open ended questions such as “How did you come to this way of thinking?”

 

Copyright Listen First Project, 2017