Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Personal Power and Listening

Welcome back to the PAEON blog and our discussion of personal power and listening.

One of the best uses of personal power is assertion: stating what I mean. It could be a need, request, interpretation or something else; but it really is my truth. When I share that with someone I am acting in my power, but I am also vulnerable. I have just admitted the exact location in which my defenses down.

That's the first part of the communication, the sharing of information. And as I indicated in the first post, I am going to introduce the activity of listening. And in some cases, activity is too strong a word. I have often just shut up so the person I was with could unload whatever was on their mind, paying no attention to the content, just praying for silence. I would pretend, even contend that I was listening. I was not.

Moving through the power scheme, the next level of listening I'm going to describe is closed or defensive listening. I have spent most of my life the master of this. I listen for what you will say that will make you or your argument vulnerable to attack. Once I hear what I need to hear I know I have won, and I'm safe. You can't hurt me anymore because you are either wrong or stupid. Of course this keeps me locked up in a very small world, just barely big enough for me. And probably shrinking.

Then I was introduced to Reflective Listening by Adam Kahane in his great book "Solving Tough Problems." He describes this as listening for the way in which what someone else is saying includes me. I don't mean the other person is dragging me in or accusing or blaming, but the place being described which I can see includes me. I put myself into the situation so I get an appreciation of the depth of what the other person is experiencing. I'm not actually there, but I am looking to "get it." In this place we are equal. we are not the same, but we are nearing the idea of compassion and mutual experience. Here we have something to share.

And finally, the place I have been looking for and terrified of all my life is that combination of all the listening powers and skills Empathy. Again from Kahane and a mentor of his, Otto Sharmer, this is described as "listening from the inside." I am listening for the places where our experience overlaps, or where we share a common need or fear.

At this point we have the opportunity to use our mutual personal power to find the place that belongs to both of us. This is a place beyond our individual selfish desires. What We have found in our practice is that this is a place where people step into the unknown; a place beyond either one;s ability to control what happens. When people are able to do this together, that is when life for both gets much bigger.

So who wants to share a story about how they risked attack and rejection with another person and went way past where they thought they could go?

Or maybe something we haven't yet imagined happening?

Eureka it's working now !

Welcome to the Paeon blog. We at Paeon are here to articulate our experiences in the world of Coaching and focus on the idea of Greatness as we say on our Home Page www.paeonpartners.com.

Please be aware that it may appear that I think I know everything. If you see that it is because you are paying attention. That doesn't make it true. We (David and I) will be putting out our experiences and ideas here and hope you will contribute to the conversation.

For now I'd like to start out by talking about power. While I am most specifically interested in Personal Power, it is important for me to see how many situations are power based. While war is the most obvious, it is just the biggest, most obvious example. I'll say more about that later, but today I want to mention what I have been talking to my clients about lately with regard to their Personal Power.

As a human being I have power. It is not a choice, it is merely a fact. And there are three things I can do with this power. I can give it away so that someone else has it. This takes me out of my life, except to be a Victim. I capitalize that because it is an archetypical Victim. I am not making the decisions in my life, someone else is.

Alternatively I may use my power against someone else. I am not referring to self protection here, I am talking about using my power to intentionally hurt someone else. And finally I may use my power for my own benefit.

It is important to recognize that when I use my power to benefit myself, it serves me. And it also serves the people closest to me: my loved ones, friends, co-workers, because these are the people who benefit most from my being powerful. The reasons we are close is because we carry common cause, we are interested in the same things, want the same kinds of outcomes. The people closest want me to make my decisions. And I want the people closest to me to make their own decisions. That way we are living in a world of our making, not a world of someone else's making.

This may sound like everyone gets their own way. Not likely. What it really means is that I make my decisions first without knowing what someone else's decision might be. When they hear of my decision, they get to ask if I have considered a concern of theirs. At that point the negotiation begins to take place. If we both tell out truth, and if we both listen with curiosity and interest, we wind up with the way we want.

One of the powers of relationships is that they create an opportunity to see the world as a bigger place than we can see alone. They also create the possibility to get beyond the space of our own imaginations.

Next time, we'll talk about the various levels of listening in an effort to make our negotiating more powerful and rewarding.