conversation is an engine

A lot can happen in a conversation

Archive for the ‘listen’ Category

Tell Me a Story

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On the Mindfulness of Listening

Listening is such a simple thing. How hard can it be?

But we all know that listening is harder than it appears, because listening means we have to shut up. And good listening means not just shutting up but also not using someone’s moments of speech as a time to plan counter-arguments.BarnFire-20160122

Real listening happens nine hours into a car trip, after you’ve exhausted the common topics and celebrity gossip and a silence settles. For miles. Which can feel weird. And then you pass a broken down Quonset hut and your spouse/friend/acquaintance/ride share starts in on early memory of a fire at her parent’s farm, and how all the kids huddled in blankets watching the barn in flame and hearing the gas tanks in the tractors explode one after the other and how the firemen pumped water from a pond into a little pool they created and then onto the barn. And how the whole thing left her feeling sad and, well, bereft.

It had been a kind of turning point, she says, now that she thinks about it. And then she collects memories of what was different with her family after that and how it was different. She has very specific points.

And you have not said a word. Because the fire story had and entirely engulfed you as well. You were there—as she told her story—shivering on the side and hearing the pop of gas tanks.

Most listening is not that dramatic. But sometimes it is.

We’re talking about how to listen in our social media marketing class. How to listen to the audiences and communities we want to interact with. We want to hear the concerns and the jargon and the voices and the rhythm of those voices.

It occurs to me that we listen in stages. Or perhaps we hear—or comprehend—in stages. When new to a community, we hear the words and perhaps can make out only the broad outlines of the bigger story. The more we listen, the more we hear specificities and nuance The more we listen, the more stories we hear the emotion and motivations that bind a community together.

Good listening means sitting with and through the stages so that we burrow into understanding the people of the community. Our best friends are often great listeners because they sat through the bursts of story that followed silences.

Most of us have little time for listening.

Pity.

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Dumb sketch: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

January 22, 2016 at 8:54 am

Marcia Brady and ListenTalk and Learning in 2015

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Even the Gray and White Outside Points In

LowBattery-3-20151230Surely you notice all the 2015 retrospectives: photography, music, film, advertising. Every industry has some writer summing the year into the ten best. These waning days lend themselves to a bit of reflection.

2015 was a year for trying things. Today I’ll produce my 365th dumb sketch—a sketch a day since January 1, 2015. Did I produce art? Not a single time. But I did learn to see shadow and light and the crazy, limitless variation in the people around me. MarciaBrady-20151229I did learn that very few lines exist out in the physical world and that Marcia Brady can look like the Joker when drawn spectacularly wrong.

From publishing ListenTalk: Is Conversation an Act of God? I learned that I need to simplify my argument for listening to each other. In fact, the mystery and promise of conversation has taken hold of me so that I am listening to conversations in a new way. I continue ListenTalkCover-07082015to wonder what might happen if people at work listened to each other more closely. I continue to hope my nation can learn to listen to people outside our tribe rather than label and dismiss them. I suspect conversation is an engine will continue to sketch out the parameters of useful conversation in 2016.

Outside my window are variations on gray and white. Gray sky. White snow. Dark gray AliquippaPA-20151217branches thrusting up toward blue-gray clouds. Lighter gray shadow on snowy edges. It’s the perfect climate for asking about the fruit of a year’s worth of effort.

How about you? What’s got your attention as 2015 melts into the gray?

 

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Dumb sketches: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

December 30, 2015 at 10:08 am

Counterintuitive: Listening Beats Talking?

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Persuader Vs. The Persuaded

ReflectingMasoleum-2-06082015

The Russian polymath Mikhail Bakhtin—one of the titanic minds of the twentieth century, though too neglected now—believed that in a dialogue the position of primacy is with the person who listens rather than the one who first speaks. After all, he said, we do not speak unless we anticipate a response; and we shape what we say in light of possible reactions.

–Alan Jacobs, The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction (NY: Oxford University Press, 2011) 55

Without some listener—you see—there would be no words launched.

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Image credit: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

June 8, 2015 at 9:12 am

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