Learn How to Listen in a Radically Different Way

Apply this listening skill to foster a better environment for ideas.


| December 2015



Attentive listening

Most people think they listen well, but they rarely do - not at this level. Listening this way is a radical act.

Photo by Fotolia/Mirko Vitali

Over the Past 15 years, Nancy Kline has identified 10 behaviors that form a system called a Thinking EnvironmentTM, a model of human interaction that dramatically improves the way people think, and thus the way they work and live. In Time to Think (Cassell Illustrated, 1999), she addresses listening – the quality of people’s attention for each other – as the core of this method. The following excerpt is from Chapter 3, “Attention.”

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Listening of this caliber ignites the human mind. The quality of your attention determines the quality of other people’s thinking.

I have listened to lots of people over the years – most of them professionally and some just because we were together. I don’t know of one person among those many who, under the right conditions, didn’t have interesting and important things to say.

Colleagues sometimes ask me whether I ever get bored listening to people. Yes: under one circumstance. If people are not saying what they really think, when they are chronically ducking and censoring or trying to impress or placate, I am bored. But if people are thinking for themselves about things that really matter to them, I am fascinated. You can tell when a person has just moved from let-me-please-you thinking back to their own mind – they go from soporific to scintillating just like that. I enjoy those moments hugely. 

Beneath the fear of being punished for thinking for themselves, most people have ideas that matter, ideas that would make a difference if they could be developed fully. People, regardless of their position or status, can think of things that move discussions to whole new levels of sparkle and resolution. Individuals you would never suspect of being interesting have absorbing stories to tell and disturbing insights that would humble even the most long-winded of us right out of our self-importance and rush. If the conditions are right, the huge intelligence of the human being surfaces. Ideas seem to come from nowhere and sometimes stun us. 

liviasusan
12/16/2015 11:41:52 PM

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