Curriculum Development: Catalytic Listening Meeting #1

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On January 27, 2016 Creating the Future’s Faculty Team met to begin crafting the second course in our new curriculum – Catalytic Listening. And as we do with everything at Creating the Future, we are using the framework of Catalytic Strategy to develop that program!

What will learning / teaching Catalytic Listening make possible? For whom?
We began by listing the “for whoms”:

  • Participants in the class
  • Instructors
  • The ripples of people those participants and instructors encounter
  • Accomplishing Creating the Future’s mission – to see that people everywhere around the world are bringing out the best in each other through the questions they ask

Here is just some of what the group came up with as the highest potential outcomes for the participants in this class, as well as the ripples of people they will encounter:

People would feel respected. They would feel listened to, appreciated, welcomed (vs judged).

They would feel strength, confidence – seeing that they have wisdom within themselves. Catalytic Thinking helps people identify strengths and wisdom they didn’t know they had. They see the path open in front of them, giving them hope.

What learning Catalytic Listening makes possible is “presence” – giving attention to the moment. That results in people feeling safe, feeling seen and heard at a deeper level, feeling fully alive, connected.

Catalytic Listening results in people receiving the energy to choose, to take action. It makes the path feel doable.

Learning Catalytic Listening creates shifts in our perceptions of ourselves. Through the reflecting back that is part of the practice, that lens of potential changes how someone sees themselves. Listening back in this way honors that person.

It creates empathy, giving the asker / listener a reliable framework for effectively expressing their compassion and empathy (vs. giving advice, which comes from a place of compassion and empathy, but often is not received as such). It changes the lens of the asker / listener to a lens that is optimistic, positive, nurturing, respectful, engaged.

And that transforms not only the person who is being asked and listened to – it transforms the asker / listener! It changes their thoughts about themselves, moving away from having to be the expert, and instead holding the space for new thinking to emerge.

There is something generous about Catalytic Listening. Asking / listening in this way is a gift we’re giving each other, creating a continual loop of the good energy of the people in the conversation.

Learning about Catalytic Listening is about significance – a sense of seeing the significance of the other person, the significance of the moment. It is a sense of renewal, seeing things anew from someone else’s perspective.

Catalytic Listening has links to various counseling methodologies (e.g. motivational interviewing), which focus on asking, “What will your life look like when it’s good?” Nancy Iannone noted that she infuses Catalytic Listening into her counseling work, and that just this past week one of her counseling clients shared at the end of their first session, “I was afraid I’d be judged for the choises I’d made. Instead I feel accepted and encouraged.”

Catalytic Listening is not about the wisdom of the asker / listener. It says of the person who is seeking advice, “This is YOURS. This is about the person you want to be.”

Learning Catalytic Listening helps people feel honored, accepted, respected, lifted up, capable. When one feels heard in this way, it is tranformative.

Learning Catalytic Listening provides an ongoing opportunity for the asker to normalize why giving / receiving advice often feels demoralizing. It helps the asker move beyond their frustration with giving advice, by learning why the dance of giving / receiving advice feels so difficult. “When it feels bad, here’s what’s going on.” Instead of providing a fix, Catalytic Listening helps people uncover what they have to bring to the situation.

If we assume people have the wisdom in themselves, Catalytic Listening brings out that wisdom. If I truly believe they have strengths in themselves, this brings it out, while advice squelches it. As Creating the Future participant Troy Alford has noted, “When we give people advice, we rob them of their journey.”

What the class makes possible, then, is that the practice of Catalytic Listening becomes more reflexive.

Part of that is the power of noticing when we’re giving advice, that WE are the cause of the frustrating response that we normally blame on the other person (i.e. “If you didn’t want my advice, why did you ask for it?”)

Learning Catalytic Listening cuts through the drama that often happens when people are in negative situations. Lisa Humenik used Catalytic Listening as she was getting to know groups in her new community, which helped her to focus on the value those groups were trying to accomplish vs, their struggles.

Justin Pollock shared the results in a workshop he leads on Catalytic Listening. Justin has people pair up, and has one person do nothing but gripe for 1 whole minute. Then the asker / listener uses Catalytic Listening. The response is consistent, as noted by one participant: “I found it impossible to get sucked into the drama!”

Justin also noted that the reflection in Catalytic Listening prompted one person to remark that it forced him to ponder, “Is that what I intended to convey?”

We then switched gears, asking what teaching Catalytic Listening will make possible for the instructors:

More practice! The practice will become more internalized, more automatic, as instructors become more aware of their own practice through teaching it.

Teaching this class will help instructors challenge their own habitual behaviors. It will help the instructors practice tangible, powerful ways to create different results. “If you can change this habit, you can change another habit!”

Instructors will gain skill and confidence in the teaching process, especially because new instructors will be co-teaching with more seasoned instructors. Co-facilitating provides the ability to share what we’re learning and then build on that, with the constant reminder that you’re not alone.

Instructors will learn from the participants, because this is not a lecture class – we are all co-practitioners on this journey. We are facilitators and encouragers (vs. the traditional role of instructor). This allows for the joyful celebration that we are all human, including and especially the instructors – that this is a practice, not a perfect. 

Teaching this class will also create joy for the instructors, watching others be successful in their practice. 

Our next meeting of the Faculty Team will happen this week. Due to a few technology glitches, the next few meetings will not be available live for Twitter participation – we apologize for that. But we do promise to post the videos, as you will see below, and to summarize the meeting 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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