Mike and I have been thinking a lot together about how we can use good listening techniques to help people to have their full attention on events happening in the world; because especially now do we need everyone’s mind on the issues the world is facing. Our thinking so far has led us to set up the not-for-profit community listening project, Listening for a Change.
We feel that currently in the UK we’re not listening well enough to each other; we’re not allowing each other the space to process our thoughts to their fullest extent, to be risky and to be vulnerable with them. Each of us is also not getting a chance to listen to the thoughts of the widest sector of society. Often it feels there is a fear of speaking and of being shut down. And yet it is by listening and thinking out loud in this way that we get to a point where we can approach situations with clarity. That includes situations in our personal lives as well as those that are concerned with the direction we want society to be going in and the question of how we get there.
We both come at this from arts and therapies backgrounds. Mike’s a filmmaker and also involved with the organisation, Reconnect in Nature, which takes people back to nature in order to get in touch with themselves and with each other. I use creative and co-production methods in my social research work and I practice a couple of schools of counselling.
With Listening for a Change we aim to encourage both the process of thinking out loud and the sharing of stories. We are basing our approach on the principle that by thinking aloud and hearing others think aloud, we get a chance to think freshly, shift our positions and decide on action. Thinking out loud is important because it gives us a chance to notice what we feel and the complexities of our reactions (that includes our reactions to what we ourselves are saying).
Noticing our reactions and reflecting on them is key to achieving clear thinking. However, this is an activity that requires a great deal of care and attention, which in our day to day lives we often feel we don’t have time for. With Listening for a Change, we want to give people a non-judgemental space and some useful directions to be able to notice their thinking.
To give a sense of our approach: a lot of this work depends on having the opportunity to truly be heard (a sentiment given a huge deal of clarity by Carl Rogers); to have our reactions to ourselves heard, to have our reactions to our experiences of the world and to each other heard. Having our inner worlds understood to this extent creates an environment for us to be able to build on our experiences in a considered way.
So, long term we are aiming to create the conditions for hearing as well as for thinking out loud. We’re still working out how to make depth of hearing an easily accessible experience — just as we’ll always be working on achieving depth of hearing ourselves. For now though we offer guidance and a listening post, so that recordings of other people’s thinking processes can be heard. The project is an enticing experiment, which explores what happens when you share your thinking with a listening ear and all the many facets of that approach.