Communication Tips – The Power of Listening

Playback Theatre is a form of theatre that encourages a high level of communication between all involved. The facilitator / conductor, the performers and the audience are all engaged in deep listening and because the performers are modelling empathic and active listening techniques, they encourage empathy between audience and storyteller.

Our ensemble have brainstormed ten communication tips derived from their experience listening and reflecting thousands of stories. The 10 tips below all apply as much in everyday communication as they do in Playback Theatre.

In Playback the performers do not ask questions, they listen to the whole story and they imagine themselves in the storyteller’s shoes before responding. It is the facilitator’s job to ask questions, but also to get out of the way and let the storyteller tell the story that they want to share.

  1. Listen to understand first, then to be understood.
  2. Remember you have only one mouth and two ears for a reason. Listen more than you speak.
  3. Listen to the speaker rather than listening for your own response.
  4. Remember the power of stillness and pause.
  5. There’s no harm done speaking a little slower.
  6. Learn people’s names and use them when you speak with them.
  7. Ask questions, get to know people by asking them about themselves. Be interested in what they say and see if you can find common ground.
  8. Let people finish. It’s hard to stop yourself when you have a good idea, but it can be great to hold that thought and let the person finish. What they finish with might change how you respond.
  9. Put your phone away when talking. Give your full attention.
  10. Not all cultures use direct eye contact.
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