An actor reached out to me recently and asked for “any exercises for listening we can do at home or anything if we dont have the money for class right now and need to stay sharp?”
Here’s my response:
Yes, I do. Here is a an exercise — many more can be found in my book – Acting with Impact, available on my website or at Samuel French Bookshop in Hollywood.
In life we can get caught up with challenges and often we need to listen and observe better. Sometimes a memory is triggered unknowingly and what we are hearing isn’t actually what’s being said, but rather we are embellishing it with our own expectations of what we may dread or hope to hear. For example, we may feel less confident in our lives so we may miss a compliment because we don’t feel we deserve it. Or we may miss an important communication because our minds may not be present.
This exercise is an observation exercise. Listening always involves taking in a communication that is from another person’s point of view. Our attempt in this exercise will be to hear it as purely as possible.
Make this a 30-day exercise to raise the standard of your concentration in listening:
When you are out and about in your day, observe where your thoughts go when you listen to other people. How present are you to what the other person is saying? Do you feel better or worse when you listen? Do you jump to react? If you get triggered easily, for example – get angry or sad or feel hurt, consider where your mind goes. Try to slow down. Try to really focus on the other person and where they are coming from.
Do this exercise honestly – in that it’s not a shallow, surface exercise. It’s an exercise to awaken a deeper understanding of yourself and how you listen. So push yourself to open your awareness to learn where your thoughts go. You want to move to being more present. You want to understand that your triggers may be getting in the way of connecting with others.
Rate your listening on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being best). And write about your experience doing this exercise. Continue doing this for 30 days and discover if your listening improves. If it goes unchanged than you will want to slow down to deepen a more conscious state of awareness. What you are attempting to do is raise the standard of your concentration and empower your listening skill.
Raising your value as an actor begins with listening. It’s a key foundation skill that must be consistently practiced. Everyone can improve upon this skill. It ebbs and flows, we all need to stay on our game and practice this “Power Tool” regularly.