Archive for August, 2011

I am preparing for an online class the  Presencing Institute  with Otto Scharmer‘s team.  This will be a global classroom that is considering leadership and mobilizing society for more creative change.  Fundamental to Scharmer’s thesis is that there are at least four kinds of listener.

  •  The 1st kind of listener is what Otto calls the downloading listener.  This sort of listener takes in information that confirms and affirms their habits and judgements.  When we have the experience that someone is talking about what we already know…we are in downloading mode.
  • The 2nd kind of listener is the factual listener.  The factual listener, contrasted from the downloading listener, is attending to the facts and details as informants and possible replacement parts for what the person had previously understood.  This, Scharmer notes is classically how science listens and investigates novelty.
  • The third kind of listener is the empathetic listener.    The empathetic listener makes a deep connection with the person they are listening to.  At some point, they forfeit their own point of view and imagine what it is to be in the shoes of another.  We are no longer observing another’s life but we are feeling it with our compassion.

All three of these types of listeners were familiar to me.  Scharmer’s description of each was a nice summary and reminder.  However, it was the fourth type of listener that really pulled my attention.  This fourth type of listener is what Scharmer he Generative Listener.   It is this mode of listening is the most profound possibility for each of us.  For in the listening to another person, we become a different person.  We are so profoundly affected that we begin to imagine ourselves and our own possibilities differently.

In the first form of listening, we  as leaders might try to develop a plan that will fix the people in our lives or the situations in which we find ourselves.  After many futile efforts in my own life, I1 have come to believe that God does not intend me to fix another.

When we are listening at level two  we may try to apply our new information in a competition mode.  So that either we know more than another or so that we can strive toward greater accomplishment with the new information.

When we are listening at level three we may find that we no longer want to fix someone.  However, it is necessary for us to adjust ourselves in order to be in relationship with what we now imagine and understand about them.  Pity can be at work or the need to explain another to ourselves or company.

But what happens when we listen at level four?  It seems that level four might make use of all the practiced multitasking that each of us do each day.  That we allow there to be a place in our innermost self where our work, our family, our agitation, our appetites our sense of self are all in dialogue with one another even when we are seemingly in conversation with only one person.  Isn’t it amazing how, in certain conversations, we have revelations and new understandings?    We feel a bit transformed but can’t explain how or why!

Scharmer’s ideas are very new and interesting to me.  Do any of you readers of this blog have experiences with the generative level of listening?


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