BreathIn Blog 2 – Did we get to generative listening?

In parallel, to our reflections on our work through the Breath In sessions, we have been working out how we can do Breath Ins in a way that is worthwhile for all involved, that respects our associated ‘responsibilities’ and manages for some of the inherent conflicts present in the group.

Participating in the Breath In sessions are a CEO, three consultants, a government employee working in a central backbone and a backbone leader based out of a NGO. We come together well because we are all practitioners and all have a connection to Clear Horizon.

This is our third Breath In, and it feels as if after a rocky start, we have come to a much better place where some of the obvious conflicts have settled down. There is a much greater level of trust and understanding of each other and our different contexts. This is allowing us to have more open discussions … maybe even generative discussions.

Through place based work I have been introduced to different theories, one of them is Otto Sharmer’s change management theory, the Theory U which has a strong focus on listening as a means for transformation. He describes four levels of listening:

1.       Downloading – “yeah, I know that already..” re-confirm what I already know. (I-in-ego/Politeness) – Listening from the assumption that you already know what is being said, therefore you listen only to confirm habitual judgements.

2.       Factual – pick up new information…factual, debates, speak our mind (I-in-it/Debate) – Factual listening is when you pay attention to what is different, novel, or disquieting from what you already know.

3.       Empathic – see something through another person’s eyes, I know exactly how you feel. Forget my own agenda (I-in-thou/Inquiry) Empathic listening is when the speaker pays attention to the feelings of the speaker.  It opens the listener and allows an experience of “standing in the other’s shoes” to take place.  Attention shifts from the listener to the speaker, allowing for deep connection on multiple levels.

4.       Generative – “I can’t explain what I just experienced” (I-in-now/Flow) – This deeper level of listening is difficult to express in linear language.  It is a state of being in which everything slows down and inner wisdom is accessed. In group dynamics, it is called synergy.  In interpersonal communication, it is described as oneness and flow.

I found it useful to reflect on our Breath In journey through these four levels of listening. I can’t speak for everyone else, so from my perspective I have observed myself do the first level of listening really well! I think that I had moments of factual listening (comparing the work across our experiences), I think I had instances of empathetic listening with one person at a time and I’m not sure I was able to reach much beyond that.

I’m curious as to how everyone else felt. I’m also aware that the transformation needs to happen in each of us first before it can happen in the group. So I suppose I have some homework to do!

The above is a reflection on the deeper experience of the Breath In. At a different level, that of developing understanding and theory I think we achieved more than we have in the past. See previous blog!