This is an activity for raising empathy.

This is an activity for raising empathy. Empathy is the ability to put yourself in the other person's position so that you can appreciate their situation. It's called active listening because that is the most empathic form of listening.

It means listening not just to the words but really trying to absorb the speaker's personality, situation, concerns etc. Above all it means listening silently. I did this activity with Adrian Underhill's British Council Oxford Summer School and it really works.



None needed. Duration 10-15 minutes Level B2 and upwards


1 Explain the difference between the four types of listener.

* Non-listener - doesn't concentrate, interest in something else, usually themselves.

* marginal listener - listens to just the highlights, really focused on their reply.

* Judgemental listener - listens to form an opinion and possibly mak e ajuidgement on what is said.

* Active listener - really focuses on the speaker, their words, their emotional state, their body language.

Active listening is considered the best of these.

2 Explain the class will practise active listening. Ask them to work in pairs.

3 In turn each person speaks to the other for about a minute (on anything of current interest to them). The other must pay total attention and say nothing.

Just listen.

4 At the end the listener summarises what they heard and also gives feedback on the emotional state and situation of the speaker. e.g. I thought you were worried when you spoke. I felt you were quite tense. etc.

5  The speaker than reflects on the quality of listening of the partner. e.g. I thought you stopped concentrating half way through.

6 The speaker becomes the listener and goes through stages 3, 4 and 5 again.

7 Elicit from the class the folowing information.

* How they felt during the activity.

* If they felt they formed a different or better relationship.

* What difficulties they experienced duringthe activity.

8 Finally, encourage the class to practise active listening in their own time. It will improve their relationships and everyone willtell them they are marvellous conversationalists!






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