True listening

“True listening requires setting aside oneself”

M Scott Peck

Generous listening

I’m currently reading Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living by Krista Tippett. Chapter two is about the importance of words. The stand out passages here for me focus on the art of listening, a skill that requires some work in a world where too often we listen only while waiting for our turn to speak.

Tippet introduces us to Rachel Naomi Remen’s concept of generous listening:

“Generous listening is powered by curiosity, a virtue we can invite and nurture in ourselves to render it instinctive. It involves a kind of vulnerability – a willingness to be surprised, to let go of assumptions and take in ambiguity. The listener wants to understand the humanity behind the words of the other, and patiently summons ones own best self and ones own best words and questions.”

To my eye, that’s a description of coaching.

If generous listening is a call for us to find our best questions, we need to know how different questions invite different responses:

“a question is a powerful thing, a mighty use of words. Questions elicit answers in their likeness. Answers mirror the questions they rise, or fall, to meet. So while a simple question can be precisely what’s needed to drive to the heart of the matter, it’s hard to meet a simplistic question with anything but a simplistic answer. It’s hard to transcend a combative question. But it’s hard to resist a generous question. We all have it in us to formulate questions that invite honesty, dignity, and revelation.”

That final sentence is a pretty strong call to action for me as a coach. It’s a reminder to check myself when preparing to ask a question. To query why I’m asking it or what I am hoping to learn. And ultimately how it benefits the person I am coaching.

“Humans are capable of a unique trick: creating realities by first imagining them, by experiencing them in their minds.”
Brian Eno

Keep coming back

To get good at anything we need to practise, to repeat an action until it becomes second nature. To make progress we need to show up, to keep coming back, just like the sun.

“The wise man doesn’t give the right answers, he poses the right questions.”
Claude Levi-Strauss

Via Ian O’Byrne

Confidence in an idea

Our confidence in an idea decreases as time goes on. That’s something I heard twice in conversation over a 48 hour period at the Thinking Digital Conference in May. And it’s something I know from my own experience.

Sometimes to move these ideas forward and turn them into something we have to access a very special part of our brain…

A post shared by Mr Bingo (@mr_bingstagram) on

I’m also keen to explore how working openly, and sharing ideas before they’re fully formed things can counter this loss of confidence. This is something I intend to do as I develop content for my coaching business, so watch this space.

“Your mind will take the shape of what you frequently hold in thought, for the human spirit is colored by such impressions.”

Marcus Aurelius

Learning something new

Austin Kleon talks a lot about the importance of hobbies. In his recent post Learning for learning’s sake he explores the links between creativity and curiosity:

Creative people are curious people, and part of being a creative person is allowing yourself the freedom to let your curiosity lead you down strange, divergent paths. You just cannot predict how what you learn will end up “paying off” later.”

The post is a response to a view that equates learning with professional development, where learning something is only seen as valuable if it is connected to your career development or can be put to use to improve your product or service.

Of course, Kleon calls this view out. And encourages the pursuit of lifelong learning:

“The lives of great thinkers teach us that learning is the verb of life. The trick to lifelong learning is to exercise your curiosity as much as you can and to let it guide you where it wants to go.”

I’m all for learning things for no other reason than to learn something new. To acquire a new skill and then see what opportunities arise from it.

Yesterday I taught myself to make stop motion animations on my phone just because I could. And because ever since I got this robot I knew I wanted to create something like this…

A life without learning for the sheer joy of it is no kind of life I want to live.

“Much silence has a mighty noise”

Swahili proverb

Better conversations

In this TEDx talk the journalist and broadcaster Celeste Headlee shares her 10 rules for having better conversations. She summarises her approach like this:

“I keep my mouth shut. I keep my mind open. And I’m always prepared to be amazed”

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