Silent listening

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List of methods / Facilitation

Silent listening is a group facilitation technique, often used to avoid reporting back and to encourage multiple perspectives to form at an early stage in conversation. Silent listening is not a passive process but an active process where the speaker is given the opportunity to outline their chase in their own time and listeners take notes It is a process, that of itself, means that listening of itself becomes a "radical act" [1] but without the need for prior coaching. Like most complex facilitation techniques it create a process from which the behaviour arises, rather than trying to define the behaviour.

Ritual Dissent is improved (and any risk reduced) if preceded by a round of silent listening

Prior knowledge needed

No prior knowledge or theoretical understanding is needed to practice this


No preparation is needed assuming at least three groups with a minimum of 3/5 participants in each working in cab


The method is normally used after smaller groups have completed a task to either describe what is happening or come up with proposals about what should be done. In process facilitation each group would normally report back to the group as a whole, here we have multiple groups giving feedback in parallel. These instructions assume three groups, but you can extend to any number but going much beyond seven gets tedious. So in larger groups you might run this with three clusters of five tables to handle fifteen groups overall or similar

Each group is asked to appoint a spokesperson and if the group is large (say over ten but this is not rigid) an observer
Each spokesperson then moves to the next group moving clockwise or anti-clockwise Do not move to the next stage until you have everyone in the right place!
The group is told that they must listen in complete silence while they hear the presentation, once complete the spokesperson much be completely silent and the group should then talk about what was said as if the spokesperson had left the room and was no longer there. You may have to enforce this, preventing any questions of clarification or similar
The spokesperson presents the work of their group for a maximum of four minutes and then fall silent and listen to what is said, if there is an observer they are silent throughout, only permitted to take notes How long this takes place is really a judgement call - look for signs of falling energy levels
Once complete the spokesperson moves onto the next group and is not permitted to talk about what was said Again it is likely you will have to enforce this
Once the full round is complete the spokesperson, and observer if appointed, go back to their original group. The facilitator points out that they have heard n responses to their idea, the original group has heard n proposals and they should now be told to ask themselves one of the standard questions Again there is no hard and fast rule on how long this should carry on.
The process may be repeated with up to two more revisions, or move directly into ritual dissent

Do's and Don'ts

This technique is used to examine the situational assessment and/or proposals of each group - not their hidden motivations or attitudes. Groups should be given a general warning about ad hominem feedback and told to comment on the idea, not the person.

Virtual running

Default is to state that it cannot be until we have developed and tested practice. If it can be run virtually then we describe it here.


  1. Time to Think: Listening to Ignite the Human. N. Kline


Specific articles can be referenced here

Blog posts

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In a virtual environment

The method has been conducted in virtual settings with success over a range of platforms.

See also Virtual facilitation