conversation is an engine

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Posts Tagged ‘listen

Positioning ourselves as extreme listeners

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Image Credit: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

July 18, 2013 at 9:00 am

Posted in curiosities, listentalk, story

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Mrs. Wheeler’s Back. And She’s Gone Existential.

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Fan the Wonder


Your 2nd grade teacher showed up. The one who always said “Listen to your neighbor.” She just dropped in—several decades later—but now she’s wearing a black beret, smoking unfiltered Gauloises and sipping espresso.

MrsWheeler-05212013Mrs. Wheeler is no longer concerned with making things simple for you. In the training for everyday life that was part of 2nd grade, listening was a critical skill. She thinks you’ve forgotten it today, based on how you treat people.

Mrs. Wheeler wants you to start seeing the people around you. And then she wants you to assign value to these others that surround you. Not just your gang. You already value them and you listen to them (more or less). It’s those others—those not in your group. The ones you barely acknowledge, let alone listen to. Mrs. Wheeler says a true interest in others means allowing those others to be themselves.

“Of course, Mrs. Wheeler,” you say. “How could it be otherwise?”

“Ah,” she says, smoke slowly drifting up.

And when people show up with words different than yours? Different language entirely? Or just a different set of words that are not the key words you watch for? What if these others wear clothes that are provocative? Or not at all stylish? What assumptions do you automatically process? And how do those assumptions affect how you listen?

“No,” says Mrs. Wheeler. “Pay attention. These others are saying something you need to hear. Fan whatever wonder you find.”

She slowly stubs her cigarette on the saucer.

“This is the way,” she says as she steps out your front door.


Image credit: Kirk Livingston, All Rights Reserved.

Written by kirkistan

May 21, 2013 at 9:27 am

Dummy’s Guide to Conversation #14: Please Say More

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How To Be A Verbal Philanthropist

tumblr_mf2pvy4DDf1qbcporo1_1280-01092013I always like it in the classroom when the professor says to the student, “Please say more about….” It is a sign of active listening, a phrase which pulls the reluctant student further into the conversation.

“Please say more” is irresistible in its eagerness to hear more of a person’s thinking or reaction or opinion. It is also a demonstration that people and their thoughts and ideas are important. And it is a crazy generous way to engage in conversation. Generous because by nature we rush to fill the space between someone else’s words with our own thoughts.

When someone says to me “Please say more” I feel honored and free and engaged—almost like having been given a gift.

Being a verbal philanthropist doesn’t cost much—just your attention.


Image credit: Neil Swaab via 2headedsnake

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