Attending the Clore course with seventeen talented and inspiring individuals made for a rich experience. I was fascinated by the varied responses to our speakers and workshop topics, and thrilled to be challenged and stretched by such a thoughtful group. Our divergent approaches made collective responses really stand out, and I noticed a group shift over the course of the week from asking how an experience could be applied to our own situations to asking what an experience made us think about our own situations (a subtle but significant difference).
This shift was no doubt influenced by a lesson on listening, lead by Deb Barnard. Deb introduced five levels of listening: the ‘me now’ and ‘just like me’ crude levels of listening made me recall many an excruciating experience, but it was the third level that had an impact on the group as a whole, the ‘what you should do is…’ response that belittles the speaker. Many of our collective had been on the end of this (probably) well meant but useless advice, and a few more (myself included) confessed to being the advice giver. It was a bit of a wake-up call.
Until then I had found many exchanges with friends really confusing, wondering why they wanted to talk to me about their problems if they didn’t really want to hear my advice. It hadn’t occurred to me that some people need to talk aloud to think (I find talking aloud really inhibits my thinking!) nor that being listened to actively is such a rarity.
What’s wrong with liberally and swiftly dishing out advice is the same thing that’s wrong with asking how someone else’s learning can apply to our own situation: it might not be a good fit. Our ability to solve a problem is likely in direct proportion to the amount of information we have about the problem, and the outcomes of solutions that have been tried before. Deb’s session hinged on the premise that each of us have the resources we need to make a difference and the result I observed in the group was a collective responsibility to explore a problem fully, without jumping to action. Quite a shift for a bunch of doers!