I want to share a little about the evolution of Project Talk + Listen.
Its seed began to grow while walking and talking with my teenage grandchildren. We walked, telling and listening to each other's thoughts and feelings about whatever came up. I wondered how they were experiencing and talking with their friends about the 2016 presidential election outcome. I was curious about their cares, concerns, and interests. I wanted to connect with them. I felt grateful for their openness and trust.
I was also conducting a personal experiment.
At that time I had begun to notice how I reacted to what I heard, whether it was my husband, daughter, a speaker at an event, someone in the news, or a friend. I found that even though I was quiet, my mind was active. Too often I was evaluating what I heard. My thoughts were either agreeing or disagreeing or judging: "Me too," or "That's not what I would do" or "That seems rational and solid in how she thought that through."
I saw that my reactions created a postage stamp-size view of what was expressed and cut off my curiosity about the talker's experience, idea, and inner world.
Then I reread an essay that Carl Rogers wrote in 1951 for the Centennial Conference on Communications at Northwestern University and had an insight. I began to see how listening from a personal point-of-view sabotages understanding. (The title of his talk was "Dealing With Breakdowns in Communication," which later became a chapter in his book On Becoming A Person.) Rogers believed that the major barrier to real communication is "our very natural tendency to judge, to evaluate, to approve or disapprove." He also believed that talking with genuineness and transparency, and empathetic listening (understanding with someone, not about someone) is possible and beneficial. At the end of his talk, he suggested that "barriers to communication can be avoided by creating a situation in which each of the different parties comes to understand the other from the other's point of view." I wondered if Project Talk + Listen could provide situations for this practice.
Like Rogers, I'm not the only one interested in uncovering and avoiding problems of communication. Wonder Anew participants describe their talking and listening difficulties this way:
"I interrupt, which makes her mad."
"I'm upset and need to talk to someone who can listen and not freak out."
"I end up trying to make him not have THAT feeling or THAT thought!"
"I shut down and can't hear what is said. It's as if I go deaf to survive the words."
"I feel relief and figure stuff out when I can talk to someone who listens."
"She doesn't want to hear what I say. She just wants to tell what she thinks"
One last bit.
This project began as a walk and talk.
I feel like my mind clears and calms when I walk. Plus I get exercise. (Distance wise, a 30-minute walk covers about 2 miles. But exercise is only part of it. Research shows that people seem more vulnerable and open while walking and talking outdoors.) However, sometimes sitting face-to-face is better. It depends on the topic and a mutual preference with a partner. So, it's your choice to walk or sit indoors or outside when you Talk + Listen.
I'm already practicing. I hope you join me.