Catalytic Listening Class Development: Conditions for Success (Mtg #2 Summary)

On February 3, 2016 Creating the Future’s Faculty Team met to continue crafting the Catalytic Listening course in our new curriculum. The video of that 2nd meeting is at this link. The following is a summary of that meeting.  (To follow this process from the beginning, Meeting #1 is here.) 

Catalytic Thinking 102: Catalytic Listening
Cause-and-effect conditions for our students’ success

“Our power to create results lies in our power to create favorable cause-and-effect conditions for those results to emerge.” ~ Catalytic Thinking

As we do with everything at Creating the Future, we are using the framework of Catalytic Strategy to develop this class. During our first meeting about this class, we discussed the outcomes we want this class to create for our students – what we want to be different for them after the class is over. To turn those outcomes into reality, this second meeting focused on the cause-and-effect conditions that would create those outcomes. What would students need to know? What would they need to feel? Believe? Value? What would students need to have? These and other questions filled our conversation.

What would students need to be assured of?
– They’ll better understand the people they’re listening to

What would they need to believe?
– Believe they are able to do this.
– that this works and works everywhere
– that they can’t mess this up

What would it take for them to believe that?
– reflection on successes they’ve had in making changes within themselves
– opportunities to practice A LOT, in a safe environment
– see success in more than one person – see it in action in a number of different ways, with different people, in different settings, perhaps even before they actually try it themselves – watch others do it well.
– For the kind of person who role-plays in their head, it’s easier to do that if you’ve seen it in action

What would they need to know?
– that we are ALL practicing. When the instructor admits to screwing up, it normalizes what the students feel
– the example of a fellow who was new to the practice, sharing that every time she facilitated she got nervous in the pit of her stomach. And when the instructor said, “Me, too!” she knew it was all ok.
– when the class shares “What did you practice this week?” that the instructors share their own practice also – that we are ALL practicing
– permission to create safe space in ourselves, that some days you’re having a good day and some days it’s a bad day. “When you’re having a bad day, you need the group. And when you’re having a good day, the group needs you.”
– that the power of creating safe space is within them
– that implicit in Catalytic Listening is consent and permission – the ongoing checking back, reflecting back, is ongoing asking for permission to continue the conversation. The importance of checking back to ensure the other person is continuing to step willingly into the conversation (vs our doing something TO them).
– that this is a gentle cycle of asking, listening, reframing, reflecting – and that the reflection has questions in it, which allow us to check in. The reflecting is what turns the hearing into listening.
– “It sounds like what you want is X. Am I right?” Justin’s observation that the reframing and reflection PLUS the question “is that right?” gave his counterpart the chance to ask themselves “Is it?”
– the difference between what we’re hearing (their literal words) vs what we’re listening for (the subtext that indicates their potential)
– that this is a practice, not a perfect.
– self-awareness. The cognitive knowledge and emotional understanding that our words may have caused someone to react badly to us vs. “what a jerk”
– that this is not a formula – it is a way of thinking. That there are a lot of tools / ways of asking questions that can therefore apply, if you’re thinking through this lens.

What would it take to know that this is about the way we think and be vs a tool / trick / formula?
– Hit pause during the class to be explicit and deconstruct the WHY, they thinking
– A reminder that this is about YOUR OWN language – the things you say as you ask and listen
– Reminder that this is also about self-listening – what we are listening to
– Stories! Example of Hildy’s mother – that it took 2 years for her to be ready to have the conversation, which made it the difference between having a conversation vs having something “done to us.”
– They need to know that this isn’t magic fairy dust. It isn’t a formula that works all the time. It is an approach that involves BOTH people in the conversation – not a tool we use on others.
– This is not “Tool + application = result”
– reminders for instructors to remember every time to say “this is not THE way, it’s A way.” That what we’re listening for is the common theme with ways to reframe, with different language that makes sense depending on each person and each situation. “This is what I often say. What are questions YOU’ve found effective?”

What would they need to feel?
– that this is building upon what they learned in the “bringing out the best in people” overview in the 101 class. That we are continuing to practice what we learned, adding new layers onto the practice in how we think and be with others that brings out the best in them. The ability to reflect back and remind “as we said over and over in the 101 course…”
– this language and these phrases will be familiar to them, because they will have heard it all repeatedly throughout the 101 course. That will help assure them and provide confidence and comfort and reminder that this is all part of one framework about bringing out the best in each other
– that they’re part of something bigger than themselves – that they’re not alone.
– feel they have ongoing support
– feel that the instructors are aware of ourselves and our own habits and practice
– comfortable to share the explicitness in their own conversations with other people. “Here’s WHY you’re feeling good in this conversation.” Because we’ve been explicit with them about the importance of being explicit.

What would it take for students to feel comfort being explicit in their own conversations?
– A cheat sheet!
– post-it notes of questions we all keep on our monitors, bulletin boards, etc.
– Instructors swivel our cameras to show that WE post “cheat note” questions for ourselves (like Justin did after a meeting last week, a photo of what his workspace looked like)
– we’re being explicit about how WE make this work for us!
– the ahas we’re creating right now, you can create that for other people by being explicit.
– the ability to be explicit about the power of being explicit
– the ability to be honest about trying something new – “I just took a course. Can we try asking this question?”
– permission to feel that they don’t have to be the expert / know what they’re doing. It’s a practice, not a perfect!
– teaching is a powerful way to learn. The fact of being explicit gives you the opportunity to “teach” and thereby learn.
– be explicit with the students that they will learn and embed more by being explicit – that teaching is a powerful way to learn for THEM, not just for us as instructors
– Encouragement to put it in their own voice. The language must be THEIRS

What would students need to have?
– self-awareness, about themselves, about why they’re taking this class. Where are they coming from in their own awareness? Where are they feeling most comfortable to practice – family vs work settings, etc.?
– permission and encouragement to notice unease in ourselves. When something doesn’t feel right, asking ourselves what that’s about. We can ask ourselves and also ask the other person, “I feel like I’m not seeing this entirely. Can you tell me more?”
– the prompt as the listener to be mindful of our own discomfort / feeling like we’re not fully understanding / something’s missing / something’s off / etc.  Encouragement to be mindful of this in their own conversations
– a welcoming, listening space to move from thought to action

What would it take for students to have a welcoming, listening space to move from thought to action?
– Understanding / experiencing what it is to put aside the megaphone and advice and agenda (I’m going to fix you) vs holding the space for the framework and for the other person to find their wisdom

What would it take to deeply understand that giving advice brings out the worst in people / causes pain / doing harm to their relationship with that person?

“I don’t want to give advice, but…” or “I get that advice is not effective, but…” What would it take to help people connect their cognitive understanding that advice causes harm (but even so, I know I’m right about what you should do) to the belief that the other person will find their own wisdom? What would it take for our students to experience that their habitual way of telling people what to do is doing harm?
– HG NOTE: have Trae work us through belief repatterning with this
– being on the receiving end
– reflect on a time when that’s done to them
– experience in the class – practice exercise of the BAD feeling of advice (perhaps pair up and have pairs practice giving advice and experiencing what it feels like)
– noticing as a practice
– POSTER for the class: “When we give people advice, we rob them of their journey.” ~ Troy Alford
– What does it look like in real time when we are robbing someone of their journey? What is their reaction? What are their facial expressions? How do we know that “yeah but I know what’s best for them” is causing pain? What are the indicators?
– Exercises where they see the pain, then use Catalytic Listening and see the potential
– overall belief system around “if someone else will just tell me what to do!” when in reality they don’t want to be told that.
– Deep dive into explicit content re: the science re: the dance of advice
– that we all do the “advice” mode with the best of intentions – we are unintentionally hurting people
– meaningful content about the brain science behind advice vs finding our wisdom
– Noting that “broken systems” encourage us to be the expert. We are rewarded at work for being the expert. Normalizing that we give advice because systems lead us there.
– Instructors being clear about the line between “teaching what happens when we give advice” as fact and science vs “giving you advice about giving advice”
– We’re not teaching not to give advice
– We’re teaching what happens when we do give advice, and let people decide if they want to choose a more effective path
– It’s about stepping back and seeing reality without the story we’re telling ourselves. The story we’re telling ourselves is that I know better than you.
– Importance is therefore of pulling out of them what they see, what they’ve experienced vs our teaching “here’s what not to do” and “here are ways we’ve found that bring out the best in others” vs a “thou shalt not”
– Importance of instructors to walk the talk and be self-aware
– Importance of USING Catalytic Listening to teach the class – building the curriculum around reframing / reflecting re: outcomes and values, asking

Conditions for success for instructors:
When the time comes to discuss conditions for success for the instructors, the following are thoughts we wanted to be sure to address.
• Teaching the reality of advice without giving advice (walking our own talk)
• At 1:39:51 the issue of instructors responding in real time when people in the class give advice. How to respond in a way that models the practice, in real time? If these are the conditions we want to create, what will the content be? And “when you see this in the class, what to do?”
   – co-creating the cues of “what to do when this happens?”
   – 1st session re: “What would it take to be sure we’re bringing out the best in each other?” (vs ground rules)
   – Explicit questions “We’ll be practicing things that go counter to our habitual ways of being, individually and with each other. What will it take to bring out the best in each other when we notice that in each other?”
• Instructors being mindful that they are simultaneously holding the space for 3 sets of relationships – the relationship between the co-instructors, the relationship between the instructors and the students, and the relationship between the students and the people in the students’ lives.

What’s Next
At our next meeting, we will be turning these conditions for success into learning objectives and content. From there, we will consider the conditions for success for the instructors. What do our instructors need to know? Understand? Be assured of? After that, we’ll move from strategy to the actual work of creating the content and practicing teaching.

Normally these initial strategy meetings happen in real time, live online for anyone to participate via Twitter. Due to some technology glitches, we’ve been unable to stream these curriculum strategy meetings live – we apologize for that. We do promise to continue to post the videos of those discussions, and to summarize the meetings as best we can for those who can’t be there.

To any Creating the Future fellow who has taken the immersion course, you are invited to join the faculty team. Please calendar every Wednesday at 12noon PT / 3pm ET for 2 hours over the next few months as we develop this course and then begin teaching it in BETA!


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