Facilitator Journal | Issue #0542, June 13, 2012
One of the most valuable listening tools I often teach in my facilitation courses is the Voice Mirror, a technique I picked up from my colleague Sue Walden of Improvisational Facilitator fame.
This tool is profound in many ways. One of the biggest insights that surprise people when they learn this technique is that we don't have to think to
listen effectively. Thinking is not required.
In fact, our thinking gets in the way of us fully listening and
relating to others. Let me know what you think of this
tool as you read about it in the article below and hopefully try it out.
Improv Skills Solve Facilitator's Greatest Fears! A strong statement? Perhaps. And I've found the improv skills taught
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facilitation or to any other endeavor that involves relating to
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facilitation, training, and group leadership skills. See details on our self-guided version below. MFJ readers save 30% by entering the coupon code VIP30 at checkout.
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Using the Voice Mirror to Listen Without
Sharpen your listening through presence
Our modern society has a love affair with thoughts and thinking. And for
good reason. For without them, there'd be some pretty big voids in our
world. Where would education be? How about science, engineering, economics,
and politics? So many pillars of our culture rest on the advances we've
made in our thoughts about things that it's no wonder we value them so
Any strength, if overused, can become a liability. I believe this is also
true of this tool we call thinking. I believe that many of
the ailments that plague modern society come not only from an increase
in environmental stressors, but also from our response to them. As the
pace picks up and our thinking becomes more complex, it become that much
more difficult to quiet our minds--a common complaint made by many people
As it turns out, with all this thinking and the wonderful things that
thinking has created for us, we begin to believe that if we stop, thinking
that is, the world will stop with it. In a sense, that may be true, and
a subject for another article. For now, consider how much
thinking grass or trees engage in. Yet see how they thrive in the proper
environments. They seem to know what to do to
grow and evolve with the little thinking they do. In fact, what if thinking
actually gets in the way of our growth?
Let's take listening for example. A skill of primary importance to facilitators
and group leaders. When we listen to someone and our minds are chattering
away thinking of what we're going to say next or what we just had for
lunch, how well are we really listening?
Is it possible to listen without thinking? Or is listening simply the act of not talking. I think real
listening is about presence. And thinking can remove you from the present
Rather than waxing theoretical any further on this subject, and risking engaging you in yet further thinking, let me leave you with an exercise to
try on your own to get an experience of listening without thinking. The
exercise below is called the Voice Mirror. My friend and colleague,
Sue Walden, introduced this to me several years ago, and it's one of many skills she
teaches in our Improvisational
The Voice Mirror
The “Voice Mirror is a key tool to helping you stay attentive when listening
to others, especially with the numerous distractions and demands in your
environment--not to mention the distractions inside your head. The Voice
Mirror provides a method for tuning out you expectations, assumptions
and past history, which interrupts your ability to be present and to listen.
Here is how you can learn the technique:
STEP 1. Turn
on a radio talk show or the television. Select one voice and begin whispering
the words of the speaker at the same time the speaker says them,
matching them word for word. (This is mirroring, not mimicking, repeating
STEP 2. As you become more comfortable practicing this, drop the
sound and continue to move your mouth, matching/mirroring the words.
STEP 3. Eventually, move the mirror into your mind, so that your
thoughts match word-for-word (without external sound or movement) what
the speaker is saying. Practice both with eyes open and eyes closed.
Don’t rush through
these steps—this type of focused listening is not an easy habit to acquire
and will take effort and practice. Until you learn how to do it silently (in your head), you may want to continue your practice privately with
the radio or television.
After you are
comfortable with this new tool, you can use it any time you feel your
mind start to chatter or wander. Most people find they only need to “Voice
Mirror” for 15 to 30 seconds to tune right back in to the speaker.
Note: Exercise submitted by Sue Walden, Founder and Director of
ImprovWorks, a non-profit organization dedicated to building Life
Skills through Improvisation.
Add Your Comments
practicing the above exercise, practice the voice mirror while listening
to a friend or colleague. What happened for you? How was this a different
listening experience for you? I'm
curious to hear what you discovered. Please click on Add Your Comments to share your questions, feedback, or experience.
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A week after the course I have
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Facilitator Training Agenda...
Here's what you'll be learning and doing during the course...
to your natural creativity
- Introducing the Parking Lot
- What is your default facilitation skill set?
Core Skills that support facilitation
- Exploring 1st Core Skill: Present Time
- The "Voice Mirror," a simple and powerful listening tool
Building the "muscle"
that encourages participation
- Check in on practice assignment
2nd Core Skill: Openness
- Experiencing the look and feel of openness
- Building the openness “muscle”
"Yes and..." approach
- Facilitation Applications
a way of being
- Check in about practice assignment
- Explore 3rd Core Skill: Flexibility
- Combining Being Present and Open to become more flexible
- Identify unexpected challenges in facilitating
- Building the options and possibilities “muscle”
- Facilitation Applications
Witnessing the magic
in about practice assignment
- Introduce “The Observer”
- Apply Core Skills to self
present with self
the inner critic
on your feet
aware of your language
and applied Improv
in about practice assignment
- Explore other applications of Improv Core Skills
- Emptying the Parking Lot
- Q & A with the Applied Improv Process
been to lots of teleclasses but have never done offline partner exercises
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Excellent resource book.
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__- Collection of humor and improv resources.
__- The Six Paradoxes of Improv.
Six paradoxes that will help free you to be a better facilitator and trainer.
__- Leadership Through Improv.
Article on how Improv techniques can be applied to leadership.
enjoyed the Improv class. Great material, excellent delivery including
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Brown, Facilitator, Intel Corporation--
Self-Guided Real Audio Version
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