A listening story in 8 parts

Listening is a ripple effect, and often we don’t even realize it’s impact.

Many of us are making efforts to be better listeners and to catalyze more listening in our work or at home, yet often we lack awareness in a given moment of Listening’s ripple effect. This ripple effect happens when we listen not just with our ears but with all of our senses, paying close attention not only to words but also to the person who is speaking – including their tone, attitude, context, history, background – all of which give us clues as to how to interpret their words. This deeper Listening then ripples out to widen our understanding of the topic, the person, the possibilities.

Little did I or the others in this story know the impact we would have on each other in a variety of ways by listening to each other, to ourselves, training listening and researching listening.

This story, written by Jennie Grau, Partnerships Director of the International Listening Association (ILA) and President of Grau Interpersonal Communication gives a glimpse into how people who listen to each other can open doors to possibilities that connect both people and projects in surprising ways which have lasting impact.

It highlights the importance of blending listening practice and field research as a key means of integrating more in-depth listening into organizations.

Jennie Grau has worked for more than twenty years as a consultant, trainer, coach, facilitator, and presenter. She has enabled people to change how they work by paying attention to the ways they listen, speak, and resolve conflict. Her creative and interactive programs develop leaders, strengthen teams, build capacity, support organizations, and drive innovation. Her clients include Fortune 500 corporations, non-profit organizations, educational institutions, and government entities. She has made both television and radio appearances.  Her work has been noted in the Wall Street Journal, US News & World Reports and the Lansing State Journal.  

Thank you, Jennie, for sharing your story. x. Raquel

A listening story in 8 parts by Jennie Grau

Part One

Many years ago, Professor Avi Kluger, a researcher, teacher, trainer, and storyteller from Israel attended the Annual International Listening Association (ILA) Convention. I had the good fortune to sit next to Avi at dinner. As we conversed, he told me of his research and his students. He asked about my doctoral work and my communication training business. We discovered we had much in common. 

Part Two

From time to time I’d attend presentations or workshops that Avi gave at ILA Listening conventions.  His work continued to interest me – a mix of quantitative science with a passion for experiential learning through Listening. Sometimes his graduate students and individuals he mentored also attended ILA conventions. I discovered those he supported were interesting and intelligent people who shared my passion for Listening. One of those individuals is Raquel Ark. 

Part Three

I met Raquel in Dublin, Ireland in 2018 at an ILA convention. Her workshop stood out for several reasons. First, she introduced me to new research that found when people are listened to, their positions on issues become more moderate. Second, I got to have an amazing conversation with Jonah, a remarkable 11-year-old boy from Singapore. Third, I appreciated Raquel’s balanced facilitation, providing direction while holding space for the group.

Part Four

Post-convention, Raquel and I video conferenced (she lives in Germany, I live in the United States). We discussed our mutual interest in Applied Listening and field research. We lamented the paucity of field studies. I listened to her describe a group with whom she was involved based on Theory U. She listened and learned of my listening training and group facilitation work. She mentioned an Israeli researcher, a former student of Avi’s by the name of Guy Itzchakov who was looking to find trainers and facilitators open to collaborating on research. 

Part Five

Following Raquel’s introduction, Guy emailed to ask if I would be willing to approach one of my clients so he could do an experimental field study on the effectiveness and impact of listening training in a business setting. I was simultaneously nervous and excited. A million questions flashed through my head:

  • What am I getting myself into? 
  • Do I really want to do this? 
  • What if the study finds that the training is not effective?
  • Do I really want to know? 
  • Would a client even grant him access to their teams? 

But … my passion for my listening work, my belief in this curriculum, and most of all, my curiosity to know if this training makes a difference won out. I decided to explore this further.

Part Six

We set up a Zoom conference. A charming, curious, intelligent person spent the next hour telling me about himself, his work, his life. I was hooked. A series of conversations and emails followed to define the scope of the project and find a client willing to allow Guy to do this study on the effectiveness and impact of listening training in a business setting. I had an outstanding client in mind: one that was data driven, listening aware, and as it turned out, willing to allow Guy to do his work. Within a few months we had an agreement. My role was to deliver the training. Guy and the client did all the rest. I eagerly awaited the analysis of the results.

Part Seven

Months later, Guy and I shared the data. The results indicated a statistically significant positive effect on employees who participated in the listening training in the following ways. They experienced less anxiety, higher competence and were better able to understand their customer’s perspective. 

I’m excited by these findings and now wonder if this listening training influences other organizational metrics such as turnover rate, customer satisfaction scores, cost savings, etc.? So much more to do.

Part Eight

I started working in the field of Listening twenty-five years ago. There were few training programs. The idea that Listening was a powerful skill set was absurd to all but a few who had either applied or experienced Listening’s power directly.

A quarter of a century later there is a dawning awareness of the importance, challenge, pleasure, and power of Listening. By blending practice and research in the field we can bring theoretical and empirical depth to this awareness. 

I’m grateful that I risked leaping across the chasm of the unknown to better understand how our training program impacts people and their work. I’m grateful this client was willing to take the leap with me. Even if the results had been less favorable, we would have gained insights on how to improve and grow. My organization, Grau Interpersonal Communication IC, shares our client’s committment to continous quality improvement. 

I’ve frequently said that, “Were Listening more “visible” like a new technology, with buttons to push and screens to touch, venture capitalists would be falling over one another to invest.”

To make Listening “visible” we need more practioners, their clients, and researchers willing to leap and learn together. Please contact me if this idea interests you.

Jennifer M. Grau, President
Grau Interpersonal Communication

+1 517-881-7387 mobile, +1 517-484-5756 US Eastern Office

https://grauic.com 

www.linkedin.com/in/jenniegrau/ 
 

Raquel Ark
Raquel Ark
I am a communicator, coach, facilitator devoted to sharing ideas, tools and resources that help you master the art of listening. Listening is the doorway to understanding, the bridge to connections and the foundation of trust.
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