Blog: Learning Curve backup

Blog: Learning Curve backup2019-12-26T07:24:05-04:00

Why Participation Matters

We want to make a difference. We want our lives to matter.

The connection between those wants and our lives actually mattering points to our participation. Participation may be key to our aliveness. Unfortunately, it is so misunderstood.

The advent of participation trophies, mocked by many, has added to this misunderstanding. Still, participation brings meaning to our existence. It is worth exploring and connecting to as a practice.

Beyond the Surface

When I taught college, I discovered a challenge early on: How do I get students to participate in their learning? We know that student involvement leads to greater engagement, more discoveries, and better comprehension. But how can this virtuous cycle be accomplished?

Many in our profession create team exercises and discussions. Some of these can work. During my first year of teaching, I found myself designing such activities. Then, I discovered something. Beyond any contrived teams or tasks, if the material mattered to students, they would find ways to involve themselves.

But how can we make the material matter?

  • Reframe Attendance. Immediately, I noticed that we conflated attendance in class with participation. Physical attendance gives the appearance of involvement. Actual participation includes an authentic interest, connection, and willingness to become involved. I see this is a precondition to co-creating.
  • Make It Matter. I discovered that, as a teacher, I also have to be involved in the material to make it matter to the lives of learners. Content that matters encourages participation.

Participation Evokes Possibility and Fear

Participation matters. But many do not believe that it makes a difference.

Unfortunately, much of our participation seems guided by whether we can achieve some goal or agenda. Organizing life’s activities around winning or succeeding misses a deeper understanding of being human.

Our full participation in any effort offers the possibility of discovery and connection. We discover gaps in our awareness, uncover blind spots, and bump up against hidden alternatives. We also open up new possibilities and connect to a more profound understanding of ourselves and others.

Full participation always yields better results and surprises.

Greater participation in elections yields greater legitimacy and trust because it includes more voices and ideas.

Civic participation produces better citizens and meaningful societies.

Full participation in any change effort can alter any perception, situation, or issue.

So why don’t we participate fully? I’ve discovered two reasons: fear of failure and fear of looking foolish.

These fears often manifest as an attachment to winning, success, achieving status, and creating impressions, as well as avoiding failure, looking silly, and incompetence. These fears also constrain when and how we participate.

The Importance of Involvement

Letting go of our fears and diving into life offers immense rewards.

At its fullest, our participation involves us wholeheartedly and unreservedly throwing ourselves into something. This definition differs from merely “going through the motions” of doing something, as it requires involvement.

Our involvement requires taking risks and letting go of fear, which can be challenging.

Pose this question to your students: Would you rather know how to get an A, or give up the A to discover how to learn, risk, and fail? Our system rewards the former, but a meaningful life rewards the latter.

Involvement is the secret sauce that motivates our participation. It invests our attention, intention, and energy into the worlds that make up our life.

Whether we’re writing, sailing, parenting, playing music, cooking, or serving customers, our full involvement unlocks the love, joy, concentration, and aliveness that makes life sing.

And yet, our participation is often stifled by whether we will win or lose, succeed or fail. This saddens me, as so many of life’s realizations are revealed through our involvement in efforts—especially when we lose.

Every time I play chess or Scrabble, I enjoy participating. Even when I lose, I always learn something that adds to my enthusiasm.

Winning is temporal, but involvement is fundamental to being human. Moreover, experiencing loss focuses our attention and direction even more. And how we deal with loss reveals our character.

Our full involvement in any activity may be the ultimate hidden reward. Indeed, our involvement may result in what finds us “in the zone.” Whether we’re writing, sailing, parenting, playing music, cooking, or serving customers, our full involvement unlocks the love, joy, concentration, and aliveness that makes life sing.

Levels of Involvement

Becoming more involved motivates our participation in co-creating worlds and becoming more, which begins with our level of involvement.

LEVEL 1: Involvement with Self. I explore topics through personal learning, investigation, and research. I gain more knowledge about issues that interest me.

LEVEL 2: Involvement with Others. I explore my knowledge and experiences with others, which leads to questions and discoveries. Through dialogue and questions, I clarify assumptions to apply knowledge. With greater “experience,” I increase my expertise and become competent.

LEVEL 3: Involvement in Worlds. I immerse myself in a world. What I learn, how I learn, and what I do with what I learn are guided by the way I navigate that world. Through immersion in different worlds, I discover distinctions in my awareness and perceptions that reveal tacit knowledge. I speak the language of this world, discover its values and views, and “belong” in an otherwise impossible way.

When applied, I can see this in my life, using coaching as an example.

LEVEL 1: Coaching as a Topic. Here, I can investigate the research by engaging acclaimed texts. I gain knowledge of what coaching is and what it is not.

LEVEL 2: Coaching as a Career. Here, I sign up for a training program to learn and discuss coaching concepts and experiences with others. I clarify assumptions and discover new techniques and practices. I learn how to apply coaching knowledge and process my experiences to become competent.

LEVEL 3: Coaching as a World. Through discovery, I find myself enjoying membership in this world. Through associations and organizations that maintain relationships and community standards, I attend webinars, events, and conferences. I now find myself involved in inquiries and conversations that shape the future of coaching. I learn what it means to be a coach.

We Participate in Conversations

Our involvement is felt by the way we show up, take risks, and offer support in conversations. Conversations are both the vehicle for and product of participation.

In businesses where employees take initiative, they find more satisfaction. In classrooms where students participate fully, they learn more. In countries with greater citizen participation, governments engender more legitimacy, trust, and social cohesion.

None of this happens without our participation, which finds us in different levels of conversation: from a conversation with ourselves, to conversations with others, to a conversation for something. That last dynamic has us being a conversation for some world we inhabit.

Becoming a chef is different than being a cook, becoming a musician is different than playing a musical instrument, and becoming a history buff is different than knowing history. In each of these situations, we inhabit a world, speak a language, and share a culture.

Involvement requires interest and investment that shapes our participation in the conversation that we have, co-create, and become.

Where do you find yourself fully involved? What world might you want to dive into? How can you access membership in that world? What stops you from participating more fully?

If we must give trophies for anything that expands our humanity, why not encourage participation? Why not encourage involvement in the very conversations that open new worlds?

Such a reward would bring more far joy, balance, and satisfaction into our lives than mere winning ever could.

Reading Time: 7.5 min. Digest Time: 12.5 min

View our related blogs:


tony-zampella-headshot

Tony Zampella is the learning designer at Bhavana Learning Group, which serves coaches, educators, and learning professionals and executives.

As an instructor, researcher, and designer of contemplative learning programs and practices, Tony’s work explores the human side of change by bringing wisdom to learning. His focus includes ontological inquiry, Integral meta-theory, and Buddhist wisdom to sustain contemplative practice.

 


Becoming Antiracist requires Moral Imagination & Practice

Between COVID-19 and the ongoing racial unrest in the US, the business community has been pressed into moral leadership. This is worthy of examination.

A Social Pandemic

The brutal murder of George Floyd at the hands of four police officers now finds businesses signing on wholesale to social justice. But what does that mean?

Will businesses put health-related needs before economics? Or profits over hateful material on social media platforms? Will leaders create policies and practices to support racial equity?

— It’s more than a little cringeworthy to hear the NFL declare that Black Lives Matter yet continue to ostracize Colin Kaepernick.

— Or financial firms standing with protesters while continuing practices that push out billions of government-issued, pandemic dollars that favor those with “access.” 

— Or witness tech platforms with algorithms that drive hate speech at marginalized groups yet issue edicts supporting equal justice.

— Or note the Washington, DC football team changing its racist name only because of boycotts from Amazon, FedEx, and Nike.

We have several contagions.

COVID-19 has devastated our nation with a biological disease. It has exposed a deeper moral epidemic of racial and criminal injustices, as well as depravity in our business, healthcare, and economic systems. These dilapidated priorities and beliefs have for too long maintained the very inequities that could tear our nation apart.

How will businesses lead at this time? Can business leaders imagine a world beyond opportunistic “scaling strategies” and impulsive, short-term fixations? Can we think beyond the next quarter, slogan, or branding scheme?

What does it mean to receive throngs of messages, posts, and viral videos supporting Black Lives Matter? Is this a branding, political, or strategic statement? Or is it a moral cause?

The current environment is fixated on performative allyship and activism, designed more for viral messaging and virtue signaling than facing historic injustices and securing true equity.

A Moral Moment

Regrettably, I wonder if many who occupy today’s C-suites can summon the moral courage and venture beyond branding, politics, or strategic considerations.

Our moment today seems different from other times, precisely because it ventures beyond civil rights (for full citizenship) to question the fundamental existence of our humanity. To meet this moment requires moral consciousness.

In 1968, after Martin Luther King, Jr. came out against the Vietnam War, a reporter quizzed him, asking, “Since you face so many criticisms and since you are going to hurt the budget of your organization, don’t you feel that you should kind of change and fall in line with the Administration’s policy…?”

King answered, “I’m sorry, sir, but you don’t know me. I’m not a consensus leader. I don’t determine what is right and wrong by looking at the budget of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference… nor do I determine what is right and wrong by taking a Gallup poll.”

King properly questioned what it means to stand for something.

“Cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?’

Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it politic?’

Vanity asks the question, ‘Is it popular?’

But conscience asks the question, ‘Is it right?’”

Sifting through the safe, opportunistic, and popular, what is right requires digging deep beyond branding, strategy, and politics. It requires moral imagination.

What Is Moral Imagination?

Moral imagination asks us to look beyond dogmatic views of right and wrong, good and bad, or the ethics of strategic calculations and pragmatic solutions.

Moral imagination involves:

  • the capacity to conceive of and generate beneficial ideas,
  • the ability to form ideas about what is worthy and just, and
  • the willingness to put the best ideas into action for the service of others.

We can conceive of a better, fuller world by including different perspectives, views, and concerns from the self and groups, society and culture, and humanity and the planet.

As leaders, we expand our focus beyond scaling and strategy to focus on cultures that enact principles of service and inclusion with humility.

As businesses, we expand our view beyond profit to include equitable practices for colleagues and customers, and sustainable systems for society and the planet.

As citizens, we bring an interdependent awareness to our place in society and on this planet. We demand policies and practices that honor the dignity of all humanity.

Success is measured by the development of one’s integrity and character, not the fleeting emotions of status or the accumulation of pleasures.

This is a time of consciousness. We are interconnected. To be whole today—in the face of distraction, disruption, divergent ideas, and diverse experiences—requires us to embrace an expanded view of humanity with deep commitment and practices beyond individualism, competition, and personal advantage.

In the face of social unrest, complexity, and disruptive change, cultivating moral imagination requires a larger view of justice that views humans as dignified beings and persons with complex experiences, not objects whose value rests in utility or usefulness.

To those in business with power, as the late Congressman John Lewis said, a moral vision requires “good trouble.”

As an emerging body of knowledge, study, and practices, antiracism marries moral imagination with social justice, calling us to take on such commitment and practice.

Evolving Toward Antiracism

For our firm, cultivating moral imagination is fundamental for this moment. Over these last few weeks, we’ve not made any proclamations. We’ve used this time to continue exploring who we are at this moment. What do we care about? How we will contribute?

I’ve outlined our years-long exploration into diversity, equity, and inclusion in a white paper titled A Pedagogical Inquiry: Challenges in Unlearning Systemic Bias, which has led us to antiracist work as defined by historian and author Ibram X. Kendi.

Kendi’s work develops a paradigm for thinking about racism and antiracism. He shuns the “not racist” cul-de-sac between racists and antiracists.

RACIST: One who supports a racist policy through their actions or inaction or who expresses a racist idea.

ANTIRACIST: One who supports an antiracist policy through their actions or who expresses an antiracist idea.

The entire antiracist enterprise clarifies a path forward with practices that have evolved from previous models.

The diversity awareness model, which emerged in the ‘70s, increases the sensitivity of other ethnic groups and cultures by gaining knowledge of each. The goal here is to address visibility and representation.

The cultural competency model, which emerged in the ‘90s, offers cultural competency as a skills-based effort. It includes a historical perspective on operating in different cultural contexts by relating and communicating across cultural lines. The goal here is to understand these dynamics to cultivate inclusion.

The antiracist model is different. Emerging around 2010, it challenges systemic racism to achieve equity. It recognizes the impulsive need for power and control that leads to structures and policies, which are then rationalized by ideas. It encourages action to reveal the power and privilege in policy and practices that impede access and opportunity.

The work of becoming an antiracist is a commitment to practice.

Begin with a Commitment Statement

For our firm, commitment guides our views, listening, speaking, and actions. It is not a description of what we want, but rather generates who we are. Generating a commitment embodies our values, priorities, and actions.

Creating such a statement is not a casual undertaking.

To engage this inquiry and process, we reached out for support. Educator and consultant, Joy Gardner at Evoking Change worked with our team to help us give voice to the following commitment statement. It represents our work, values, and priorities. We’ve added it to our website and enthusiastically share it with you:

OUR COMMITMENT TO DIGNITY AND JUSTICE

We embrace dignity as fundamental to the being of human beings. While we exist as one humanity with members of equal worth, we also acknowledge the systemic oppression that has prevented so many from sharing their unique contributions.

Because we are interdependent, we are deeply affected by the systemic dehumanization of members of our community. These ongoing transgressions create injustices that demand immediate action.

We are committed to the action and antiracist practices necessary to ensure racial equity and equality for all. 

We encourage our community to speak and act out, disrupt the status quo, and advance the cause of social justice.

We seize this moment to advance our moral obligation to reimagine education, expand what it means to be human, and undo the deep inequities that oppress our possibilities as a people and as a society.

Our commitment to learning ennobles the authentic voices of our community, as we:

    • Unlearn the misperceived view of “separation” that cultivates bias and exploitation.
    • Discover and cultivate an evolved imagination to conceive of expanded possibilities.
    • Listen to community members with humility and compassion.
    • Act with intention and wisdom to speak out against the systemic bias that impedes access and opportunity.

Today, we stand for this fundamental dignity and call it into existence.

Generate Commitment through Practice

A commitment statement is the beginning. It cultivates a view, outlines priorities, and details practices. The next step is to develop antiracist practices to generate that commitment. To do this, I’ve revised seminal practices developed by Tema Okun[1] into the following seven “Rs”:

  1. Read and educate ourselves on the history and impact of our Western Worldviews and other structures of racism.  (Begin with the list of books and films at end of this blog.)
  2. Reflect on what this education means to developing a (White) antiracist identity. Practices such as slowing down, reflection, and journaling support identifying speech and action to challenge everyday racism.
  3. Remember our intentions. Be mindful of the way we participate in the thoughts, assumptions, and beliefs that uphold racism. Discern hidden intentions as revealed by our impact. Remember that as White people, we “forget” that racism exists as a default.
  4. Risk your comfort zone by addressing racism in conversations when you observe it or realize when you are participating in it.
  5. Recognize the experience of rejection you will encounter with antiracist practices. We all make mistakes and “get it wrong” when it comes to identifying and challenging racism. Learn to recognize, accept, and examine rejection. Avoid identifying with mistakes, and taking things personally. You are not the mistake you made. The R-A-I-N Practice by Tara Brach (resources at end of blog) offers additional support. 
  6. Receive feedback by becoming non-reactive. Remember that a larger system is at play. We can improve by receiving feedback as a contribution, not an attack.
  7. Relationship-building is part of what you do along the way—with White folks and people of color who are somewhere on their journey from the nonracist “neutral” space to antiracist. Becoming more aware involves being in dialogue and practicing with others. 

Becoming an antiracist is an ongoing process of learning and unlearning. It is not a turnkey operation or one-time achievement. This mountain with no peak invites a climb, so learn to enjoy it.

A Blunt Truth

This moment calls for moral imagination to connect all levels of the infection that has metastasized in society. We are called to cultivate moral courage beyond political, branding, and strategic considerations.

We become committed to framing our existence—how we live, perceive, and interact, as well as what we stand for. This commitment examines our beliefs and worldviews and encourages practices to shape how we live, work, and play.

With study, reflection, and practice, I’ve arrived at this blunt truth: If I do not engage in intentional antiracist practices, as detailed in the seven Rs above, I perpetuate the disease. Calling myself non-racist merely glosses over and leaves unexamined society’s programming, structures, and systems.

I will continue to do harm as part of systemic racism.

Any possible remedy begins with that admission and a commitment to antiracist practices.

Reading Time: 10 min. Digest Time: 18 min

[1] Tema Okun’s work identified White Supremacy cultures is modified by Anneliese A. Singh in the Racial Healing Handbook.

BOOKS

FILMS

R-A-I-N. This practice as outlined here and in this video by Tara Brach stands for

  • R: Recognize it.
  • A: Accept it.
  • I: Investigate it, be curious. What is it like?
  • N: Non-identification. This is just a passing process that comes and goes, not who we are.

View our related blogs:


tony-zampella-headshot

Tony Zampella is the learning designer at Bhavana Learning Group, which serves coaches, educators, and learning professionals and executives.

As an instructor, researcher, and designer of contemplative learning programs and practices, Tony’s work explores the human side of change by bringing wisdom to learning. His focus includes ontological inquiry, Integral meta-theory, and Buddhist wisdom to sustain contemplative practice.

 


Listening for Context: Discovering the Unexamined

The nature of being human shifts when we listen for context rather than for mere content. In our last blog post on the Importance of Context, I distinguished between the significance and decisiveness of context. We saw that listening, more than any other human faculty, is our access to context. This blog post explores several ways that listening is decisive.

Listening and Meaning-Making

Humans make sense of life in the meaning we assign to events. In a sense, we are literary beings. Things matter to us because they bring meaning to our existence. By perceiving, observing, sensing, and interpreting experiences, we make meaning and meaning makes us.

The nature of “being” is contextual—it is neither a substance nor a process; rather, it is a context for experiencing life that brings coherence to our existence. The first choice we ever make is one that we might not be conscious of. To what reality do we grant being?

In other words, what do we choose to acknowledge; what do we pay attention to? To whom do we listen? How do we listen, and what interpretations do we acknowledge? These become the framework for the reality through which we think, plan, act, and react.

Always–Already Listening

One of the most inaccurate assessments of another person is that “they’re not listening.” This view represents a misunderstanding of listening.

Humans are always granting being or listening to something. It takes an exceptional amount of training and practice to bring nothingness (blank slate) to the matter at hand. But that is quite different from the claim that we are not listening.

In most cases, what we mean by “not listening” is that the matter at hand is not registering in the listening that is present; that listening is insufficient and is rather focused elsewhere, on some other speaking. But on what?

Philosopher Martin Heidegger framed our involvement in the world as an always–already phenomenon. As subjects, we exist within latent structures in our listening before we perceive ourselves as such.

These listening structures reveal the features of a phenomenon that seem to precede any perception of it and are said to be “always already” present. This alwaysalready listening is always and already there, whenever and wherever we exist. When we show up, it shows up.

Listening is therefore our hidden context: our blind spots, threats, and fears; our content, structure, and processes; our expectations, identities, and cultural norms; and our web of interpretations and horizon of possibilities all offer a context for our words and actions.

These many layers of assumptions, norms, and expectations make up our alwaysalready listening as the fundamental structure that filters content. Such latent structures are a perceptual constraint that, until surfaced, shapes what we see, hear, and act on.

So, then, what gets in the way of us being in the present moment?

Most of us are unaware that our listening is not an empty vessel or blank slate, but that it contains perceptual constraints.

Perceptual Constraints

We assume that whatever someone says to us just enters our ears, is registered, and lands in our listening exactly as it was said. We often repeat the words back to the speaker, as if a match in content (words) is also a match in context (meaning).

While we may hear what is said as it was said, latent structures and content in our listening influence our perceptions to shape meaning.

  • Binary framing structures such as right/wrong, good/bad, true/false, win/lose, I know/don’t know, or agree/disagree are examples of binary filters that shape our thoughts and experiences.
  • Content such as concealed histories, associated memories, or socialized norms and culture also shapes our perceptions.

To illustrate an “I know” filter: say you are cooking in the kitchen and your spouse walks in and says, “You need to stir this pot.” You may defensively blurt out, “I know!”—even though letting your spouse know that you know is irrelevant to anything other than defending your alwaysalready listening that “I know.”

The entire need to say “I know” comes from “I know” being always and already in your listening. It is not that you are thinking “I know;” it is that who you are in that moment is “I know,” and when someone says something that occurs for you as a challenge to who you are, you respond defensively.

The perceptual constraint that we call alwaysalready listening shapes our observations, listening, and speaking. Concealed from us, it is already and always there before we can hear anything new.

Think about it, and you will find an example by identifying someone in your life to whom you are alwaysalready listening before that person even opens their mouth. Much of this forms a recurring loop.

Our Recurring Loop

Most individuals engage life at a surface level of listening. At the surface, we react by downloading events and uploading responses. This level of listening finds us transacting tasks in a recurring loop of

  • noticing what we react to, and
  • reacting to what we notice.

Our listening filters train us to engage life in this recurring loop. We tend to refine our filter for our already–always listening, which limits our bandwidth for noticing anything beyond what can be downloaded.

In short, there is a gap between what we hear (what enters our ears) and what we listen to (what lands and informs us). Said another way, our listening is decisive. The way we listen, whether explicit or implicit, defines our views, speaking, and actions.

The grid below shows some of the content in our already–always listening.

  • The interior funnel (bold items) includes some structures and concerns that we experience as we engage with information, others, or the world.
  • Outside the funnel includes some of the questions or concerns often coming at us.
listening recurring loop

Click to Enlarge

As you review this grid and move from the right side (ear) to the left side (brain), review all of the implicit structures such as assumptions, beliefs, and stories, or the explicit structures such as distractions, conditions, and symbols that occupy the space between our ear (right side) and our brain (left side).

Which of these items can you observe in your own listening?

Which of these are most pertinent to you in any situation or during specific situations?

Which of these might you automatically bring to any conversation?

The Listening We Are

We do not do listening or have listening – we are a listening. That listening, more than anything else, shapes what’s possible in any situation.

I remember my mentor sharing moments from the movie The Matrix with me. She correlated its premise with my writing, teaching, study, and practices. I had found the movie’s trailer to be very violent, so I listened to her through an “I’m against violence” filter already present in my listening. Who I was as a listening filter biased the possibility she shared. I thereby rejected the movie.

Years later, after my mentor had passed away, I caught the movie one night on television. Instantly, I related to the narrative, philosophy, and underlying themes, and any violence now seemed ancillary. I have often reflected on the many conversations I might have enjoyed with my mentor. I have since purchased The Matrix trilogy and viewed it dozens of times.

In the same way, people listen to classical music with an “I don’t like classical music” filter already in their listening before they even hear a new piece of classical music.

In these instances, our ability to hear music or view a movie is not interfered with, but our listening of these experiences is constrained and shaped by our alreadyalways listening.

Even though we think we are open-minded, coming to a situation as a blank slate, we can now see that we listen to people through a filter of assumptions from deep in the background.

In the Background

Much of what is conveyed in a conversation is implicit by virtue of a network of background conversations. In their paper Organizational Change As Shifting Conversations (1999), Jeffrey Ford and Laurie Ford discuss background conversations as “an implicit, unspoken ‘backdrop’ within which explicit conversations occur and on which they rely for grounding and understanding.”

They continue that background conversations “manifest in our everyday dealings as a taken for granted familiarity or obviousness that pervades our situation and is presupposed in our every conversation.  A conversation between a female manager and male worker, for example, may occur against a background for gender, manager and worker, oppression or exploitation, human rights, business, organization culture, family relations, or the singles’ dating market.”

Like the “I know” filter presented earlier, Ford et al. suggest that “background conversations bring both history and future into the present utterance by responding to, reaccentuating, and reworking past conversations while anticipating and shaping subsequent conversations.”

Context begins in our listening and is decisive. Can we hear with our eyes and see with our ears? As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “People only see what they are prepared to see.”

What we believe (context) often counters and always influences to a degree the facts and events (content) we observe and experience. We listen first to our background beliefs, assumptions, and values.

We are often used by and at the effect of concealed, habitual, or reflexive backgrounds. To become co-creators, we can discern and become present to the interior structures in the background.

Interior Structures

When viewing context, most focus on exterior conditions without examining interior structures, such as backgrounds that reveal the past, perspectives that can reveal both past and present, and possibility that reveals an emerging future.

Backgrounds. Drawn from our past (often historical or socialized) and automatic in our listening, backgrounds remain undistinguished and concealed from us. These begin with our alreadyalways listening and reveal our assumptions, norms, and worldviews about how things are, or our unexpressed expectations about the way things ought to go.

Perspective refers to a point of view or attitude that can either be explicit or implicit, such as frames of reference. To shift perspective in the moment, we can pause with a question: how important will this event or choice be in 1, 5, or 10 years? Often viewing current events in a historic context can expand perspective and lessen its charge.

George Carlin shared this view on perspective: “Some people see the cup as half empty. Some people see the cup as half full. I see the cup as too large.”

Shared Background: By dropping assumptions, surfacing expectations, and sharing perspectives, we reveal concealed backgrounds and can create a “shared obviousness” with others—making what’s obvious to us obvious for others. Once distinguished, this “obviousness” can support creating a shared understanding, which cultivates possibility.

Possibility. The way we discern backgrounds, surface perspectives, and drop any agendas or goals cultivates a presence, an availability that cultivates the radical openness and imagination for something new, uncertain, and unpredictable. Such a space allows for an emerging future possibility.

The grid below supports us in discerning the structures in our listening.

Discerning and Creating Context

Becoming present to the categories Background, Perspective, and Possibility in the grid above supports practices under the columns What to Drop, What to Clarify, and What to Create.

a) What to Drop details surface items, shifting them from unintentional to intentional in our awareness. Then we can either bracket (set aside) or let go of what’s arisen to create space for openness.

b) What to Clarify details items in our awareness and within language so that we may note and name them. We can then communicate any framing, concerns, or gaps in our awareness.

c) What to Create details the contexts that open new understandings, presence, and possibility.

Just the awareness of Background, Perspective, and Possibility offers an emerging openness in our listening. Accepting the presence of background will find us asking superior questions. To surface perspectives will find us inviting more views. And to acknowledge both of these will find us opening possibility.

Possibility can reveal both an emerging future and previously unseen backgrounds and perspectives, returning us to uncovering and disclosing to cultivate openness. In the space of openness, we can recreate each other. We learn to be with another (or a situation) exactly as they are and as they are not.

As we become present to our specific assumptions and interpretations, we become present to the possibility of listening we bring to any conversation. In this way, we shift our view of reality as co-created by our participation.

Reading Time: 13.5 min. Digest Time: 21.5 min

photo credit: B Rosen

Please view these related blogs: The Importance of Context in Listening and Life


tony-zampella-headshot

Tony Zampella is the learning designer at Bhavana Learning Group, which serves coaches, educators, and learning professionals and executives.

As an instructor, researcher, and designer of contemplative learning programs and practices, Tony’s work explores the human side of change by bringing wisdom to learning. His focus includes ontological inquiry, Integral meta-theory, and Buddhist wisdom to sustain contemplative practice.

 


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 “In times of change, those who are prepared to learn will inherit the land, while those who think they already know will find themselves wonderfully equipped to face a world that no longer exists.”

—ERIC HOFFER

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