I just tried 5 Minutes of Listening with a friend and it was magic! This practice is so simple and effective that I had to share. It’s different from catching up with a friend, however, so keep reading for the details of how to do it and why it’s magic. (It’s also a great addition to your itty-bitty resilience plan during uncertain times!)

My friends at ThirdPath Institute introduced me to 5 Minutes of Listening as a way to address work and/or life concerns that delay or stop progress. If you’re willing to experiment with it, you’ll find the practice useful in all kinds of circumstances.

Let’s dive in so you can start reaping the benefits right away.

How to Do It

  1. Ask a friend or coworker to listen to you for 5 minutes in exchange for 5 minutes of listening to them. Choose something about which you need to problem-solve or vent about to move beyond and someone who listens well.
  2. Explain the parameters for listening. You each have 5 uninterrupted minutes to talk advice-free. No fixing allowed by the listener! The listener provides space for the talker to express whatever is keeping them stuck and makes only sounds of encouragement.
  3. Set a timer for 5 minutes. As the talker, get to the crux of your challenge as quickly as possible. Don’t worry about bringing the listener up to speed on the details. Keep yourself laser-focused until you start to talk about a possible solution. Talk through the solution if it feels right or discard it if you don’t think it will resolve your challenge. Keep talking until your 5 minutes end.
  4. Take a quick moment to reflect. How do you feel physically, emotionally, or mentally? While you were talking, did you magically uncover a possible solution to move you forward? Are you ready to carry on?
  5. The listener gives relevant positive feedback or encouragement such as “I really like that you ….” or “It sounds like you’re well on your way to figuring this out.”
  6. Switch roles and become the listener.
  7. Together decide if you want to trade 5 minutes of listening periodically when a challenge arises. Or you might schedule a weekly call so you have listening time protected on your calendar.

Why Do It

  1. Quick and efficient. In typical conversations, you likely feel the need to bring a listener up to speed with all of the details, which takes too much time and can distract you from focusing on the problem. At most, this 5 minutes of listening practice is an investment of 15 minutes and helps two people get unstuck. That’s pretty powerful!
  2. Don’t have to choose your words carefully. You’re trying to better understand your challenge, so it doesn’t matter how well you communicate to the listener. Just talk about your challenge with any words that come to mind. This is a zone of non-judgment, expression, and self-compassion.
  3. Laser-focused on releasing the challenge. Often, focusing on details derails us and draws the listener in for feedback. You already know what’s got you stuck so focus on talking your way to a solution instead of describing the details.
  4. Solve your own challenge. You know yourself best. As you talk, the solution will emerge, and you quickly know whether it’s worth pursuing based on if you feel better (AKA less stressed). It’s magic!
  5. Extend understanding and compassion to yourself and others. With all of the overwhelm and unhealthy stress, you don’t have the time or energy for long conversations to problem solve. In less than 15 minutes, you can help yourself and a trusted confident some of the stress and carry on — judgment-free.

Update: After trading 5 minutes of listening with a few people for several months, I’ve found it increases my productivity with work. The process takes me quickly to my next best action. Talking through my concern helps me create an action plan which ends up increasing my accountability.

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About the Author

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I coach managers to redefine how to work, parent, and achieve financial freedom without sacrificing wellbeing. Motherhood, marriage, chronic illness, divorce, remarriage, and caring for aging loved ones contribute significantly to my story. Together, we can help you reach your fullest potential — on your terms.
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