my Speculation; it starts with observing…
Someone whose Assessments I pay close attention to recently Asserted; “There are no significant explorations in the domain of Listening.”
“What can we learn about others if we can not, or will not take the time to reflect on where they come from?”
Much, however is available about communicating; being clearer, more concise, more compelling — being better understood — being a better negotiator. But, from my perspective when it comes to developing relationships with other people all those ideas about communicating should be suspended for a moment.
Here is why; when you are in Relationship, there are reciprocal commitments, promises made to one another; when you are in relationship, your concerns are not the only ones that matter; when you are in relationship, to have it be successful, you have to work on not only understanding yourSelf — you have to work on understanding Others.
I’ve worked most of my life trying to understand others; first in anger, that didn’t work; then energetically, and that seems to work much better. People have complimented my listening ability. In fact, I’ve been told that the way I am able to look and listen from different perspectives is a great skill, which enables me to Offer others valuable insights. It is my intention to do so here.
Offers and Requests:
These are the building blocks of human interaction. By paying attention to the various energy flows we can determine a lot about any situation. Energy consists of; time; logistics; cash; debit/credit; knowledge, which can be converted to skills; space; resources including human networks, and other readily available assets.
To begin understanding others we must first develop the skill of listening. We must listen, not necessarily to the words being used, but to the concerns being expressed behind the words. What does someone else want? When do they want it? How do they want it? In relationship this works both ways with each discovering what the other cares about. And, this gets us in the realm of making Offers and making Requests. How can we help one another get where we each want to go?
Offers require someone to use their capacity, their power, their energy to take care of the concerns of another.
Requests require another to use their capacity, their power, their energy to take care of our concerns.
“The difference being key to whose energy is being consumed, and whose concerns are being addressed. Children, for example are living requests from birth until they are stable, and able to take care of their own concerns.”
In business we can view offers as fairly straightforward on the surface. The corner gas/electric station offers to take care of the concern of getting your body from point A to point B by selling petroleum products and/or electricity to keep your vehicle on the road. If one has a mind for, or interest in business, then many requests and offers can be viewed from the perspective of making the business run. If a window is broken, then a request is made of a glass company to replace the glass. In return the glass company expects to get paid, so they can pay their workers and suppliers in order to stay in business. Offers and requests, when executed well can make businesses very profitable. Yet, within business people often have difficulties coordinating with one another. This is because they lack clear Observational Frameworks to orient around.
In friendship we can explain our position, and see who helps, when and in what ways. Some might feel that they are owed specific requests, while others might feel that perspective lacks integrity in that it isn’t illustrative of interest and care. Some might feel that their friendship entitles them to your value by special access, and grateful in ways that don’t satisfy. It seems that we are not generally clear what a friend really is, and how to be one.
In life if a woman suggests to her husband that he should cut back on his drinking, and drive more considerately and safely with their child in the car, what should the husband listen?
Is she making an offer? Is she making a request? Or, is she making a demand?
One way to look is that she is making an offer to take care in the domain of Family. She is looking out for the families future. And, she is offering the energy of her thinking to take care of the concerns of the other members of her family. Another way to look is that she is making a request. She is requesting that her husband adjust his behavior to take care of her concerns for family. Either way not listening to her is not going to produce healthy outcomes.
Demands are something else. Demands have serious constraints in that there is an expectation that there can be no other answer than yes. No room for decline, no room to say no. Demands must be met, or there are consequences. In both directions. Demands don’t work well when trying to build relationship.
Offer and requests must be able to be declined. They can also be accepted, and negotiation can take place in the form of a counteroffer. They are fluid, we are making offers and request all the time. Perhaps, not well. If someone says “It’s hot in here.” they can think that they have made a request to open a window, but there are no specifics. Who will open the window? When?
In relationship we can get lazy. We can fall into the trap of not specifying what we want. We can also fall into the trap of not taking the time to really understand what someone else wants. Keeping the ideas of offer, request, capacity and concerns in mind in our relationship building is important. The energy in relationship can not just flow one way. Finding some rhythm, a reciprocal flow can be difficult between two people. Adding a third or more makes things obviously more complex. Often the navigating the complexity is not easy, convenient, or without effort and work.
One way to begin to such endeavor, the journey of creating relationship with others is to adopt an Observational Framework for the exploration. The observational frameworks that I have found particularly valuable are those Offered by Fernando Flores. Offers and requests are part of the very simple, yet powerful observational frameworks Flores has invented.
I first learned of Flores in 1990 and began to study his Action Workflow and the Conversation For Action Loop designed by Chauncey Bell. And, all this time it seems that I haven’t stopped working with these philosophies. I’ve been fortunate to have employed Flores’ distinctions and Bell’s loop in business very successfully, and in my personal life too.
Core to Flores’ work is the idea of a set of Recurring Domains Of Human Concern. There are thirteen. Aesthetics/Play; Body; Career; Dignity; Education; Family; Membership; Money; Situation; Sociability; Spirituality; Work; and, World. And, within these domains of concern, of care We Are All Equally Human, And We Are All Individually Unique. No two people have the same brain. No two people have the exact same impression of anything they see, hear, or do. Yes, there are generalities, but those don’t really matter when one is Cultivating a relationship.
These thirteen recurring domains of concern are what we are all operating to take care of. Each of us dynamically somewhere on the continuum between selfishness and altruism. One minute we might be selfish in one domain, and the next minute we might be very giving in that same domain, or in another. Ever changing.
Complex vs. Complexity:
While we think we are one person, we can actually act differently around different people. We adapt. This can be a good thing, or this can be a bad thing, depending on what someone’s true intentions are in doing anything. Are we out to take care of ourselves first, and others second, or the other way around, and we always seem to come in last? Or, are our lives more balanced?
We have Feelings. Just because we have feelings does not mean that they are true. Nor should they be ignored. Feelings are automatic. Something happens and we react by way of our feelings. Sometimes we show this and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we talk about our feelings, and sometimes we don’t. But if we are really in relationship with someone, then we must take their feelings into consideration. Not just our own.
We have Moods. Moods are our stories about the future. We can share moods with other people. We can also observe and shift moods, not only in ourselves, but in other people. As we share our stories we co-invent the future with the people we share our stories with. But, not if we are not listening, not if we are trying to figure out where we are going to say when it is our turn to speak.
We Can Fear Being Inclusive. Because different people engage with different parts of our personality we don’t have the exact same experiences repetitively. If we are out visiting and make four different stops to see friends we will have four different conversations with varying degrees of overlap where some things will be repeated.
The uniqueness of conversation illustrated in the game “Too many crows on the line.” The game starts with a simple sentence being shared with one person on either end of a line of people. The listener repeats what they heard to the next person in line, and so on, and so on until the sentence has been shared with everyone. The difference between the beginning sentence shared and the ending sentence heard is usually astoundingly different.
When two people are in conversation the challenge is reduced the difference between what someone is saying and what the other person is listening. When we expand the number of people in the dialog, say from two to four we greatly compound the complexity. The more complex the life puzzle is to be solved the more complexity of difference there is between everyone involved. If complex life puzzles are trying to be solved, then care needs to be taken to ensure that all parties involved are connected to the full spectrum of the situation in an effective, efficient way. To the degree that they are not all connected in this way chaos reins, people get their feelings hurt, and get in bad moods.
We Tend To Freely Exercise Our Limited Power. When people upset us we retaliate by limiting that which we can control. That can be anything.
A few years back a dozen of us were having dinner in downtown Scottsdale, AZ. I had ordered steak and mushrooms. As dinner was served I received steak, no mushrooms. I waited. The mushrooms never came. The mushrooms were held hostage by the chef who had been romantically dumped by the server.
Fourteen people’s energy; including the server and manager became focused on one person’s feelings and reactions. By limiting the small amounts of power that we ultimately have we end up making things that are simply complex into grand complexities that can become very difficult for everyone involved.
Being Of Value:
A great example of being of value is being an apprentice to a master craftsman. Imagine two apprentices working for the same master.
One apprentice is not attentive, he does not study, and he does not practice what the master tells him to practice. When helping the master the apprentice’s mind wanders and he daydreams of fishing in a small boat. The apprentice does not notice what the master is doing, and he can not anticipate the tools that the master will use next, or how the master will use the tool to further the work. The apprentice is not listening, and therefore of little value to the master.
The other apprentice the opposite, he pays close attention, he studies, and he practices the lessons the master gives him. When helping the master the apprentice begins to know exactly which tool the master will use next, and how he will use it. The apprentice is listening to the master’s needs, and he becomes more and more valuable to the master in his work.
To conclude; I would Offer that being of value to others is a great way to begin to Listen to others in new and exciting ways. A great exploration can be to simply focus on making someone else smile!
It seems I’ve spent my life thus far doing two basic things; creating something different; and, helping others get where they want to go. As a result I’ve compiled a vast range of experiences, which enables me to look both differently, and from multiple perspectives. I make that, which is unclear, clear, and I make that, which is complicated, actionable.
My background is business where I’ve reviewed hundreds of concepts. I’ve founded companies and advised many more. My history as a strategist includes; three successful exits, two turn arounds, and the adoption of an $800MM Santa Clara County bond measure. I’ve also experienced massive failures in a wide range of domains.
My education has been appropriation by desire. I never graduated from college, but I believe in, and practice continuous learning. I study and apply the disciplines of biology, linguistics, human behavior, effective action and behavioral economics in my work with businesses and leaders who seek to create something different, or get somewhere specific, yet, perhaps, not well defined.
The foundation for my own success and the thinking behind much of what I practice, teach, talk about and write comes from the works of Dr. Fernando Flores and his longtime friend and colleague Chauncey Bell.
*All rights reserved — Worldwide. Views expressed are my own, and should not be interpreted as being shared or endorsed by persons or entities mentioned, or cited.*