Empathy in 8 Minutes: Ashoka Fellow David Castro on Learning to Listen

“The first duty of love is to listen.”   Paul Tillich


In 1994, I participated in a short training experience that changed my life. The instructions for the exercise: Be quiet for eight minutes while someone tells you his or her life story, then switch and tell your life story while your partner listens quietly for an equal time. No questions, no comments, no interruptions. Just listen.


In those days I was still practicing law, and the exercise revealed to me what a poor listener I was. When my partner started to tell his story, I wanted to ask a truckload of questions directing the conversation. I wanted to follow up on particular details, ask about things he hadn’t mentioned, shortcut certain areas and learn more about others that interested me, like someone fast forwarding through a TV show.


by David Castro