The Art of Listening…?

I was in grade 8. It was lunchtime. Hanging out in the classroom with my friends, I was eating my tuna and pickled onion sandwich (home made onions by my Mom) and launching into a story.

I can’t remember the story now, but I do remember suddenly noticing one of my friends completely interrupt me to talk about something. I was incensed. I stopped talking. Eventually, all of my friends noticed my silence. The girl who had interrupted told me to continue.

I refused. I dug in my heels and point blankly refused. “You weren’t listening, so I’m not going to tell you the rest.” And, I didn’t.

When I was even younger and hanging out with adults a fair bit (I was an only child) I used to ponder the magic of these big people. As I watched and listened to them, I marveled at how they could talk and listen at the same time, since their voices were often all going at once.  As a kid, I concluded that you gained an extra sense when you became an adult enabling you to listen and speak simultaneously.

Nope!

Listening. Hearing. Empathizing. Sympathizing. Understanding. Relating. Connecting.

In recent rehearsals for a play, our director would remind us to listen, really truly listen to the others. This advice was always valuable as it pushed a sort of “refresh” button. Anticipating the delivery of your lines and your fellow actors’ lines kills the life in a scene.

In performance, you must hear, and speak the text as if for the first time. If you trust your listening skills, the interpretation will then reveal fresh nuances . The result is a greatly satisfying experience for both the audience and the actor.

In real life, ineffective listening shows up chronically.

Wandering eyes, vacant looks, the chest rising with a breath that is ready to interrupt with their own thoughts that are quickly formulating in their head, or a polite nod, are all clear indicators of an unsuccessful listener. And, they never ask questions. (The good ones do the opposite!)

In business, truly listening to a potential client, and being curious about their needs will most likely be more effective than constantly “pitching” them. I know most of us get annoyed at those badly scripted phone calls from large companies trying to sell us something.

The other day I had one of those calls. At breakneck speed, a guy assumed he had what I wanted and pitched me over and over, using statements like “I want you to..” “You need this..” “I will sign you up today…”. He most certainly was not listening to me as an individual with unique needs.

I stopped him and suggested, gently, that his company should change their tactics to ask what the potential customer would actually like before they assumed they knew best! Their business would most likely improve!

Today, we communicate frequently via the social media (Facebook, twitter, etc..)  where some “interesting” listening is occurring. Some people seem to think that constantly giving people information is a “social” action.

In my mind, being social usually entails listening, conversing, and possibly mutually creating deeper value. The  successful internet socialites shine and are a great example.

What do you think?

What is your best or worst listening experience, and your best or worst “being listened to” experience? I challenge you to observe those around you, and yourself as the art of listening unfolds. I will join you in this venture… honest!

Let me know how it goes.

(Oh, and by the way… one of the most important listening skills to develop is listening to yourself, your instincts, your ideas, your dreams, your loves, your questions, and your ponderings.)

And, for your listening pleasure…..

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Do You Use Music to Enhance Your Creative Process?

Lately I’ve been thinking about the power of music and it’s presence in the creative process. Do you use it any way to help you with your work? Or do you need silence in order to create?

When I designed my bouffon workshop I tapped into a line up of music that supported each step of the way. At the beginning, I chose music to put participants at ease, to enhance creating an early safe place. I then slowly sneaked in primal sounds to inspire each bouffon to emerge. Eventually, faster pace music helped playfulness release, and then soft music brought everyone back to his or her humans. This, of course, is the readers digest version!!

At the end of most workshops, people request the CD titles as they have enjoyed the atmosphere, and their reaction to the music.

Another place where I have consistently used music is before performing on stage. Again, I listen to my instincts and choose a piece of music that suits what I, as an actor, need to hear prior to making my entrance. I have to say that some of my choices have been most surprising considering the type of role I was playing. I think the most extreme example was when I was playing a demure French woman (Agnes in  L’Astronome) who loved to knit (and opened the play knitting on stage) and who was in love with her psychiatrist. The music that came to me was the song “Shine” by “Collective Soul”. I needed to dance and “rock out” before I became that character! Crazy but it worked for me!

I am a social media enthusiast (this term I adopted from Kevin Knebl who is a musician & warm & effective LinkedIn coach) and you can find me scrolling around on twitter, looking for inspirational gems. I find them. I would like to share one with you now that relates to our discussion on music.

Vivian Nesbitt and John Dillon have a unique place online with their radio station: Art of the Song Creativity Radio. Their mission speaks clearly of their goals and desires for all of us creative types….everyone! I will let their words lead you to their website and their individual blogs. Explore, listen and get inspired for your mode of creation whether it is a play, a poem, a story, a song, a dance piece, a painting, an invention, or a great marketing plan.

“Art of the Song is a one-hour independently produced radio show with music and interviews exploring inspiration and creativity through song writing and other art forms. The program is heard on over 190 stations worldwide. Learn why songwriters and artists create, how they become inspired, and how you can tap into that creative source in every aspect of your life.

Art of the Song is not just for songwriters and musicians, as it explores universal truths common to all creative expression. We talk with writers of folk and roots music as well as novelists and visual artists.

Our mission is to inspire listeners to find and express their unique creative voices, and to connect and grow the worldwide community of creative people.”

I would like to thank all musicians, songwriters, and singers for bringing your sounds to me. I have always dreamed of being one of you but will have to settle for being an actor/writer/teacher for the moment. Maybe one day I will collaborate with a musician to put music to my words. (I can fantasize, can’t I?)

Thanks for reading!

(Here’s a little Collective Soul for nostalgia sake!)