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  • Writer's pictureTamsin Hartley

Transformative listening

Updated: Jan 21, 2021

Change the way we listen to ourselves and we make better decisions, imagine our future more clearly, and take more pleasure in what we do.

Change the way we listen to others and we can understand and connect with them with greater richness and depth, to mutual benefit.

Clean Language is a simple, powerful and respectful way of communicating and exploring a situation. At its heart lies a set of Clean questions combined with a person’s exact words only. If we remain curious and set aside our natural tendency to go into ‘fix it’ mode, these questions can transform the way that we listen to ourselves and others.

In the Listening Space there is a metaphor for what needs to happen to be able to listen in this way. Imagine you are entering a space in which all thoughts and emotions are welcomed. However, you first need to wipe your feet on the Welcome Mat. In so doing you wipe away any desire to fix, analyse, change or judge. Your intention is simply to remain curious.

After attending a recent Listening Space course, one member decided to bring the idea of the Welcome Mat to a senior leadership programme being delivered overseas.

And the participants loved it!

Before long their interpreter turned up with a real ‘Welcome Mat’ to place on the floor in the middle of the room. People started wiping their feet on the mat each time they entered the room. If someone went into ‘fix it’ mode rather than pausing to get curious, their colleagues directed them to the mat to wipe their feet! In fact, they insisted that the mat remain in place for the rest of the course.

It was a powerful reminder to listen with curiosity and an intention to understand rather than fix.

I asked him what the impact had been of all of this:

  • There is less ‘fixing’ going on.

  • We don’t hear ‘You should …’, or ‘What you need to do is …’, any more.

  • I’m hearing more questions being asked of one another.

They were being given the opportunity to be heard and to think for themselves – a very valuable commodity in our frenetic, ‘information-overload’ lives.

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