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Supportive Listening™ July 2009 Newsletter
"Listening Tips" with Paul:
The Tipping Point
of Listening

In great Supportive Listening conversations, there is often a special moment that I call “the tipping point of listening.”

This is the point in the conversation when the speaker really gets it, that I’m creating space for them to solve the problem, and that I’m just not going to jump in with suggestions.

And that’s the point when the speaker’s problem solving energy really gets going. I had a powerful experience around this just the other day.

So there I am doing Supportive Listening for a colleague who wants to talk about a business challenge he’s facing around the topic of “focus.” Our conversation begins, he lays out the details around his challenge with focus, and then he turns to me and says “So Paul, how do I deal with this?”

Now consider how easy it would be for me as a listener to slip into the role of coach and start guiding the conversation, or to slip into the role of consultant, and tell him what to do.

But I’m very clear here that I see the potential for listening to work its magic in helping my colleague discover his own great insights. It’s a possibility that is often not explored, I believe to the detriment of the speaker.

And so with that conviction around the power of listening, I make a conscious decision not to coach, not to consult, but just to listen. I’m there to be a faithful Supportive Listener, thus giving him the space to take the lead.

I count off a few silent breaths, waiting to see if he’s going to continue talking. But he doesn’t and so I recount his challenge with a WIG. But to my brief recounting of what he’s said, he quickly shoots back “OK, so what do I do?!”

Aha, so he’s pressing me to weigh in with an opinion, to put me in the role of problem solver!

But I firmly believe in him, that he’s up to this challenge. Plus experience tells me that once I “grab the microphone” and give him even a bit of advice, it’s hard to hand that microphone back to him, and get his problem solving energy going again.

So instead of answering his query, I

[continued online...]


Help Us Test Supportive Listening Online

Are you interested in being part of a pilot test of Supportive Listening via the Internet? Do you have a webcam?

Paul is looking for people who would like to receive a few minutes of Supportive Listening via webcam, and provide us with feedback on the experience.

If you're interested, or know somebody who is, send Paul an email for more details.

"From the Listening Labs" with Eran:
The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful

Supportive Listening can bring out the beautiful and joyous in people. Although we tend to think about Supportive Listening as something we "do" when others are upset or unhappy, this way of relating to others aims, first and foremost, to help them explore, express, and accept themselves - the good, the bad, and the beautiful.

Many of us are willing to accept the good in us only half-heartedly. I know many people who automatically respond to any compliment directed at them by denying its truth ("no, really, it only looks like I know what I'm doing"), or minimizing their accomplishment ("thanks, yeah, I guess I just got lucky, but I'm sure it won't go this well next time.").

Supportive Listening allows people to come into contact with what they see as the bad in themselves, without having to fear that they would lose the warm acceptance of the Supportive Listener. In time, people can come to accept the so-called "bad parts" of their experiences, at first by acknowledging their existence ("I guess I just get really jealous sometimes"), and later by learning to see their experiences in a more multi-faceted way ("come to think of it, I usually feel really jealous only when I'm tired").

But the crown achievement of Supportive Listening is when people learn to see the beautiful in themselves, or experiences they have had. I recently met someone at a social event, and we had a nice conversation. As our conversation progressed, I naturally fell into a "Supportive Listening mode," although my new friend did not express any particular distress. Minutes later, I found myself listening to him as he searched for words to describe a life-changing experience he's had years ago, which he hesitatingly described as "mystical," during which he felt that he was connected to the whole world around him, and felt a deep peace and calmness.

It was a beautiful story to hear. Supporting him as he reconstructed the experience, fitting it with words and meaning, I felt as though I had helped him in brushing off the dust from a beautiful part of him, which he was now able to appreciate and enjoy more deeply than before.

I encourage You to experiment with offering Supportive Listening even in regular conversations. Put your focus on the other person and on your acceptance of them, be curious and accepting of their experience and their story, and see what happens. You just might experience beauty.

-- Eran

[join the conversation online...]

Presenting "Master the Tango of Listening"

Is your organization looking for a fun, interactive experience? Paul's new one hour talk includes stories from the dance floor, partner movement and listening exercises, and group discussion. Participants come away with a greater appreciation for the power of listening, and a practical tool they can start using right away.

Question? Contact Paul.

Supportive Listening Forums

Our free forums have a great Q&A section with a lot of information about Supportive Listening. You're welcome to browse what's there already and post questions, and answers, of your own.

Eran Magen conducts research on population health at the University of Pennsylvania as a Robert Wood Johnson Health & Society Scholar. He received his Ph.D. in psychology from Stanford University, where he also earned his M.A. in education. [more...]
Paul Konasewich teaches listening and leadership in the San Francisco Bay area. He is also the current Board President of the Bay Area Organization Development Network. Paul earned his MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management. [more...]
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