About trust, listening and safe environments

TEDxENIM, Rabat/Morocco, 25th of April 2015

Umm Zakaria
May 21, 2015 · 6 min read
Umm Zakaria and son on stage @TEDxENIM, Rabat/Morocco

One of the biggest diseases of our times is the lack of trust!
We do not trust each other.
We do not trust politicians and governments.
We do not trust people, who are different.
We do not trust our neighbors.
The boss doesn’t trust his workers, the workers don’t trust their boss.
We do not always trust our partners. Sometimes it’s hard to trust our kids.
And than in many situations we even don’t trust ourselves.

It is a disease, because without trust there is no development, no step forward, only stagnation or even worth … fight.

We are suffering from this disease, because we do not LISTEN to each other.
And when I say LISTENING, I don’t mean the reaction to:
“Glisse … , Skoutt …. , Sma3 …. — Sit down! Shut Up! Listen!”
No, I am talking about an activity, about a conscious action, about really paying attention to a person.
Hearing is passive, you only lend somebody your ears, …
but listening involves the whole body including the brain.

Listening means:
• Receiving
• Appreciating
• Summarizing and
• Asking
And again
• Receiving
• Appreciating
• Summarizing and
• Asking!
But when I am approached by: “Sit down! Shut up! Listen!”, I don’t really want to LISTEN!

To build trust and really connect with each other, we must feel comfortable; we need a SAFE ENVIRONMENT!

A safe environment is not a room or a place to go, it is a situation, … something, that we constantly have to build and work on. It is not a PLACE, it is actually a process.
A process within ourselves and, while we connect with somebody else, a process with each other!
Let me sum up the three essentials for a safe environment, where trust can be built, where we are ready to listen, where we can connect with each other and where ideas can be exchanged! I personally learned about these essentials for safe environment as a participant of an Active Listening Playground (ALP) from Keren Rosenbaum. They are also known as the three ALP commitments.

So, when we have the intention to develop ourselves and to communicate with somebody else, we need to start to
1.) Keep out judgement!
You all might say, “well yes, that’s pretty obvious”, but yes it is also pretty hard!!!

We constantly judge others and also ourselves by saying:
• “Oh, how she looks today!”
Or
• “Come on, that’s so stupit!”
Or
• “That’s a nice idea, but in Morocco, it is IMPOSSIBLE!”
• Also laughing about somebody, who is speaking can be a big judgement.
Or … you even judge yourself by saying:
• “No, I am not able to do this!”
So actually we are judging all the time, but one possibility to keep out judgement is simply to

NOT SPEAK IT OUT LOUD

and to

REMIND OURSELVES, THAT WE LIMIT US WITH JUDGEMENT!

Another step in the process to create a safe environment is to

2.) WELCOME or even PROVOKE MISTAKES!
We all know the statement: “WE learn from mistakes!” Of course we do :-D
But still mistakes are seen as something negative, NOT POSITIVE!
I know, it is quite hard to change ones perspective about MISTAKES, but imagine the approach to overcome your disappointment about the mistake — accept it as part of the process — and use it to make something even better out of it and surprise yourself and others?!!!
A mistake is not the end of the process, but a milestone on your way of LIFE LONG LEARNING!
BTW you can also teach this approach from a very early age to your kids. For example: when small children start to walk, they still have problems with their coordination and very often they stumble and fall down. Then there are two ways for parents to react about it. First, they can run to the child and comfort him by saying: “ooooohhhh my dear, did you fall down? Are you hurt?”

Or second, they clap their hands and say: “BRAVOOOOO that was great! Good joooob! Try again, try again!!!”

And this example leads to the third essential for a safe environment:
3.) EMBRACE CONFUSION!
This is my absolute favorite, because the moments of confusion are the most exciting ones and I am a person that loves adventures!
What happens, when we are confused?

“Wenn ich jetzt plötzlich auf Deutsch spreche und mich kaum noch einer versteht, alle gucken mich interessiert an, aber nur sehr, sehr wenige werden meiner Rede noch folgen können und ich sehe nur noch Fragezeichen über euren Köpfen!!!”

THIS is the moment, when our brain produces questions.
We ask … why? … How? … when? … who??
The moment of confusion is the birthplace of a new learning adventure!
In this moment questions pop up in our brain, we start expressing and actually asking questions AND THAN …
… the way how we find and get the answers defines the quality of our learning process!!!

So these are the 3 essentials:
Keep out judgement
Welcome mistakes
And embrace confusion.

This is, what we should keep in mind to create and experience safe environments for better listening, better connections and better trust!
So this is all theory and I shared my knowledge trough words with you. I am now curious, if YOU all feel safe here in this place, if this TED conference is a safe environment and if you can all step out of your comfort zones and do some crazy stuff.
Let´s put this knowledge into action.

I invite you to stand up … and start talking … I want you to describe, what you can see around you, on your right side and on your left side, over and under you … but I don’t want you to talk in English, French or any language you sepak, NOOOO!! … I want you to talk in GIBBERISH, which is the language nobody understands, like …lkjfsh jsfk sksdihula jkfa qsdx … Can you do that? Can you please start doing that? Go for it NOW!!

…………………………………

…………………………………

Okay great!
And now we play: PUSH-THE-BUTTON

This game, beside many others, is composed by my dear friend Keren Rosenbaum, who is the founder of the global organization COMPOSING COMMUNITY. Keren is an interdisciplinary composer, who has the super power of Synesthesia (Mix of senses). She can taste, what she hears and feel, what she sees. Synesthesia inspired her to compose and perform music, that involves all senses. Her technique is called “REFLEXIVE MUSIC”.

Keren came to Morocco in 2013 and together with a group of inspiring people, we initiated the Active Listening Playground Morocco.

It is always great to approach life in a playful way. I saw, that some of you really loved the Gibberish and “Push the button”, others were confused, others were afraid about judgement others were not sure, if they do it right or they made a mistake :-D So yes, it was a pretty good exercise to see, if you feel safe in this environment!

Thank you so much for listening to me today. I feel honored to speek on this TED conference here in Rabat.
I am known as Umm Zakaria. I am a member of the organization Composing Community and I invite people to special listening experiences on the Active Listening Playground Morocco. Thank you for your attention.

Here you can see a video of the Active Listening Playground Morocco experience:

French/Arabic: “De la créativité à l’école” — https://vimeo.com/117685319

English Trailer: https://vimeo.com/81046680

Find more Active Listening Playground projects here: http://www.activelisteningplayground.com/

TEDxENIM Team and Speakers

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