I love Brain Pickings, it’s such a “breath of fresh air” on Sunday mornings. Recently I’ve delved into learning about participatory group processes as means to make better decisions with collaborators and make better decisions for our local food and health system. Today Brain Picking’s nailed it with an article on “listening.”

One of the key principles of good participatory decision making is to gather all the wisdom in the room. This requires  hearing all the voices in the room and striving for a deeper understanding of each other’s thoughts. Only by doing this can we “unlock” the potential for innovation. I knew this intuitively, but I was finding it difficult to put into words until recently.

I’m very grateful for to my facilitator partner Anne Stieger for encouraging me to read participatory decision making books and for inviting me help host an Art of Hosting Training in the Valley.

Anway, here’s the part that I think is most useful from Maria Popova’s Brainpicking’s  Erich Fromm’s 6 Rules of Listening: The Great Humanistic Philosopher and Psychologist on the Art of Unselfish Understanding article this morning:

Listening, Fromm argues, is “is an art like the understanding of poetry” and, like any art, has its own rules and norms. Drawing on his half-century practice as a therapist, Fromm offers six such guidelines for mastering the art of unselfish understanding:

  1. The basic rule for practicing this art is the complete concentration of the listener.
  2. Nothing of importance must be on his mind, he must be optimally free from anxiety as well as from greed.
  3. He must possess a freely-working imagination which is sufficiently concrete to be expressed in words.
  4. He must be endowed with a capacity for empathy with another person and strong enough to feel the experience of the other as if it were his own.
  5. The condition for such empathy is a crucial facet of the capacity for love. To understand another means to love him — not in the erotic sense but in the sense of reaching out to him and of overcoming the fear of losing oneself.
  6. Understanding and loving are inseparable. If they are separate, it is a cerebral process and the door to essential understanding remains closed.

I’m curious to hear from you, what strategies do you use for better listening every day?