Co-Listening

November 29, 2021

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On this 14th episode of LIVING ROOM CONVERSATIONS, we invite Sebastien Dupuis, the founder and Co-CEO of Tirezio, a Geneva-based company that specializes in listening and emotional intelligence in the workplace.

Tirezio designs workshops and training programs that help leaders and teams develop their emotional skills and create more fulfilling human relationships through the power of listening.

Sebastien describes himself as a conversation nerd – his focus is redefining what talking and listening mean.

One of his favorite activities is listening to leaders and teams to help them create a dialogue where it’s needed, to sustain caring, BS-free work cultures that drive healthy, productive engagement.

Living Room Conversations: Co-Listening

Ensi = Ensi Stähli-Yang (Host)

Sebastien = Sebastien Dupuis

ENSI: Hi everyone! Welcome to the Living Room Conversations Episode 14 brought by LIVEforward institute I’m Ensi, a catalyst from LIVESciences. Really welcome everybody to join us from Youtube, LinkedIn and Facebook channels. If it’s the first time you are joining us in this conversation you might wonder okay what is a Living Room Conversation? So the idea really started with our strong belief in this catalytic power of conversations in the work we do and as all of us are kind of launching ourselves into this virtual space we really want to open our living

room to the people who work with us, who have inspired us and who continue to explore new topics with us around the future of work.

And this is also really a great opportunity for us to create a space to to connect and to exchange thoughts and learnings in a more relaxed way. Today we have a guest in our living room; Sebastien. Sebastien Dupri is the founder and co-CEO of Tirezio. Tirezio is a Geneva based company specialized in listening and emotional intelligence in the workplace. So Sebastien, I’m really glad to have you with us today before we dive into the topic of co-listening, I just want to quickly see with you how are you today and how are you arriving into our conversation?

SEBASTIEN: Hi Ensi, hi everybody. Thanks for having me. So I was a little bit stressed out earlier today. I had two workshops I was running. I’m here in Paris for the next gen enterprise summit but I’m coming into this conversation actually quite happy to be here with you Ensi, and the rest of the crowd.

ENSI: Happy to hear that. Maybe would you like to say a few more words about yourself and your company so that our audience gets a bit more information?

SEBASTIEN: Sure! So the name is Sebastien Durpis, I’m the founder of Tirezio. So Tirezio we specialize in emotional intelligence in the workplace and more specifically we develop leaders and managers and teams through listening and so there there’s a few things that we do in organizations, we started by offering a service that we developed over the years that is at the intersection between pure listening and coaching that we call Co-Listening where we help leaders, teams have the conversations they need to have but they’re not having yet, basically and the how we started doing this is very much related to my own experience where I’ve had a career working in the US, spend a few years in China when I was in china I did a burnout and I went through quite a bit of soul searching after that and I started from this observation that there’s lots of inefficiencies in organizations and sometimes use less suffering due to the fact that people are not having the right conversations at the right moment and I wanted to see if something could be done about it so I started a journey talking to lots of people trying to figure out what’s existed in terms of solution and at the end of 2017 I met a French entrepreneur who had put something in place they found really interesting in his organization where he was offering proactive listening to his employees every month. 

And we started from that observation and we combined that with tools from coaching; I had trained as a coach in the meantime. And so that, that’s how we got started and now over the last year we’ve been doing that and training people on a very specific type of listening that we call progressive listening that has quite a few specificities one of them is that it is both relaxing for the person talking and the person listening. 

ENSI: Thank you very much for sharing your story. Very curious to know more about this and just to our listeners online please feel free to join us anytime by sharing your comments or questions in the chat. So Sebastien you mentioned I think different kind of- I hear different types of listening. You mentioned about proactive listening you mentioned about progressive listening and I think in our like, classical workplace we talk a lot in the past, we talked a lot about active listening. So it would be interesting to understand a bit more like what’s the difference between different types of listening skills.

SEBASTIEN: Yeah. So, yeah. Active listening, which you’re mentioning is tends to be the gold standard for listening or at least that’s something that’s taught in organizations it was developed in the 50s by someone called Carl Rogers. So he wrote a book called active listening in 1957 and it was actually a big step and I think there’s a lot of very good things in active listening but since 1957 quite a bit has happened and there’s a few dimensions that did not exist in active listening including the systemic perspective. And one, as I was mentioning one difference between the type of listening that we do; progressive listening and active listening is that progressive listening first of all, is quite easy to learn. Active listening takes quite a while and quite a bit of practice and it’s also usually a bit of a strain emotionally and cognitively for the person listening. 

And there’s a few things that are done in active listening that we don’t do in  progressive listening including rephrasing; so we try to create a space in those conversations that we call ‘bubbles’ so bubbles of listening or 20-minute phone conversation with the intent to listen to the person and help identify conversations she may want to have in relation to that topic. And one thing we find is that it’s not always useful to rephrase or play back to the person what she’s just said, there’s other types of questions that we ask that tend to create a much more relaxed space for both the the listenee and the listener.

ENSI: I think you mentioned several times like a relaxed atmosphere and relaxed space,

and I wonder for people who have maybe first time experienced this, what you mentioned as a bubble talk which is 20, 25 minutes talk with let’s say, a stranger that you get a call from some colleague from your company and then we are supposed to to start a conversation right away. So I’m wondering for people who first time experienced this, what could be the challenges you know, that people really feel comfortable and relaxed as you mentioned. What’s your experience with this? 

SEBASTIEN: Yeah and it took us a while to get there and a lot of the coaches that we started training on the methodology usually are quite skeptical because they tend to work in one hour, one hour and a half session and they’re skeptical they can consistently create a good experience in 20 minutes and and it took us a while to get there. One thing we found is that

the to create this safe space for the person especially in the context where someone you don’t know who’s calling and quite often when we work with organizations we do it where these

bubbles are referred to to dozens or more of people and not everybody knows really why they’re getting a bubble. there they were asked how do you have 20 minutes in your calendar next

week? They said yes. And so we really worked on the intro of the bubble and the words that we use in this intro to make sure that the person understand that this is a safe space where they can bring anything that’s on their mind right now, and one thing we discovered and we did a lot of tests doing these bubbles in person, we tried a little bit and we did very quickly we went to  remote even before COVID and we realized that by turning off the video, not using video but just doing audio actually helps create that safe space very quickly. And we think we have a few

explaining shows for that but it’s something that that surprised us quite a bit. 

ENSI: Very interesting because I think phone call- this is really a traditional way of our communicating, right? These days we are all using Facetime, Zoom that you can see each other so that’s a really interesting point that you actually suggest to turn the camera off and then the person would feel more comfortable or relaxed in that sense. Maybe to understand a bit overall like you I think I’m not sure you also mentioned about like the workshop with companies so talked about bubbles which is the 20-25 minutes talking or conversation on the phone and you have workshops with companies. So how actually this concept of co-listening could help organizations or teams or even individuals in their work?

SEBASTIEN: Yeah. So, there’s a few things that we do and one thing we realized quite late, we’ve been doing this for a few years already is that this listening skill that we were teaching coaches, initially anybody can learn with just a few hours of practice but even we got to the point where we do workshops like an hour, an hour and a half workshops where we do listening exercise with small rituals that lasts only a few minutes where we put people in this situation and they don’t have a lot of leeway it’s actually quite constraining exercise where they’re invited to

to read a set of questions and wait and be silent in between the questions, and we realized that

by putting a team together in this context and having people listen to one another in pairs, you could actually help people hear things from their colleagues that they had never heard before right? 

So we offer these as team buildings and sometimes we do it around the theme we just did one for a client around the theme of failure so we had people listen to one another individually on that theme and what people realize is that after having this conversation with their colleagues

they built a stronger bond than they had before, right? And and then we also offer trainings where managers and teams get to actually not only do a 90-minute workshop on this but actually practice and over the course of a few weeks include some of the tools that we teach into their daily conversation with colleagues and what people tell us is that it really transforms the way they interact with their colleagues but also in their personal life they they realize they have resources and tools they can use in any conversation when someone comes up to you with a an emotional topic, something that’s bothering them, we don’t always react in the most constructive way and just by practicing the act of listening in a different way we were able to do that in daily life.

ENSI: Yeah I really love to hear that you say first of all this is very simple to learn, but it can really, can really be helpful for all kinds of conversation not only at work but also in our lives. And yeah I find this really, I think because when you are talking about this I think about myself, I think most of us sometimes we really we like jumping into conversations when others are still talking but we are so eager to share our ideas and our opinions and we can’t stop. And you came to this point that to say actually sometimes we need to create this space for others to talk, to really you know share or finish what they want to say and I guess most of us are not very good at this. So to have some practice on this would be really, really helpful I think also for myself. Actually we have a question from our audience or listeners that ‘How do you turn the video off if you are in person?’ or do you recommend only ‘do you recommend only doing this remotely by phone or audio?’ 

SEBASTIEN: Okay, great question. So I had the case this morning I was running a workshop in person here in Paris. What we found is that it does help not to look in the eye of the person and directly at least for training or this introduction workshops that we do so I had people sit side by side next to each other. For and it seems to be useful for at least for the training period to have this conversation without direct eye contact and all the body language, at least some of the time. And then once you master the tools what I found and other practitioners have found is that you can, it becomes easier to use them in face-to-face conversation. So it doesn’t mean that you cannot have this kind of conversation face to face but as you train, I think you learn and you discover things quicker if you do these exercises without looking directly into the eyes of the person. 

ENSI: Thanks for the answer and then I’m thinking, like you said for many people, our team this

is actually a big transformation in the way they have conversations. What are the common let’s say, challenges do you see for them to actually you know change their kind of old habits and then be more into this listening mode? Have people share like what are the most difficult things for them?

SEBASTIEN: Yeah so it really depends, and it varies from organization to organization and we work with with Teal organizations with tlish organizations with very hierarchical organizations and there seem to be some patterns. But from sometimes from one team to another you’ll have very different patterns and every individual is different, and when it comes to listening and how we listen, or don’t listen to one another we all have our own biases. So we’re there’s this concept of what we call conversational biases where each of us when we’re in conversation with another human being, there’s a few things that we tend to do and for some people it might be

to give advice or make injunctions or it might be to not be comfortable with the silence and then fill it up or we see a lot of coaches that we train on the approach have this bias that we call need-to-understand bias where they will tend to ask questions that help them understand the problem of the person which could be useful for coaching but what we find is that in this bubble conversation it’s not always the most useful thing that you can do to help yourself under some problem but help the other person realize that maybe she has other people that are more relevant to help her with that problem than you are as a coach. So it really depends on the people what we found is that the uh with some very simple exercises we call them ‘rituals’ where you’re put in that situation of listening to the other person, asking a question, waiting for for a full minute without saying anything other than ‘mhmm’ maybe to show that you’re present. You discover what you would like to say so when we in the workshops that we do, or in the trainings we invite people to make a note of what comes up for them in terms of emotions what what they would have liked to say, or to ask in these moments and that’s that’s how people learn about their own tendencies, their own biases and the idea is that a lot of the things we want to do in these conversations that we have with other people is usually it’s very with very good event and some of it is really good but we invite people to make conscious choices as to when to do that versus give more space to the other person and listen maybe for a few seconds more.

ENSI: And would that take really long that you know people because I think you mentioned about being conscious and really being aware and then kind of choosing that moment hey you want to listen more or you want to express your own ideas so how like, what’s your experience with this? How long normally people need to practice and then that really you know form this into a habit and to be really conscious?

SEBASTIEN: Yeah, again it depends per person. I think some people tend to do that more naturally already but what we see is that most people with 10-15 bubble equivalent of practice and it’s something when they go through our training, something they can do in their daily jobs they can include some of these rituals just a few minutes and they’re in their one-to-one meetings for instance. After 10, 15 of these conversations people usually have a good sense of where they need to work and they all have already developed a very different attitude to listening. But from my experience and I do hundreds of these conversations per year I started doing that about four years ago and I’m still learning so yeah. I think it’s a lifelong journey. But what we see is our level one training program is eight weeks and usually after eight weeks people tell us that it has really transformed the way they interact, yes.

ENSI: Yeah. I’m also interested to know a bit more about you know, how you talk about like to support organizations you would have this bubble talk which is offered to individuals and then you also do a team workshop or training. And how are these you know, different formats connected? Bubble talk, workshop, training for the leaders, how are these things connected?

SEBASTIEN: So they’re connected in quite a few ways. So we historically we started by offering bubbles so individual conversation and we, working with teams, with a collective through these individual conversations and we were wondering whether that would be enough. The reality is that a lot of people need you need to work with the whole system to be able to change the system but what we found very early is that because people say in these individual conversations lots of things they’re not telling their colleagues, you can do a lot of the collective work in in those bubbles and help them get into motion of having those conversations but very quickly we realized that there were some insights that came up that needed some kind of

feedback always respecting confidentiality of the individual conversation and so we added the capsule format which is a collective conversation that we do typically after we’ve done bubbles in the team or in an organization where we invite people to reflect collectively on the types of conversations they need to have and then get into motion of doing that creating the space for having those conversations going forward and we have a specific format that we have developed for that over the years.

And now more and more we see that bubbles are also a complement to training so when we train people individually or collectively, in the type of listening that we do, progressive listening it’s useful for them once they’ve finished the learning to have a few reminders and have a few bubbles 20-minute bubbles in the weeks following the training is a great way for them to to reflect on what they’ve learned, what challenges they they run into applying that in their daily conversations so there’s many ways we can integrate these different offerings.

ENSI: Yeah, it’s nice to see how everything is actually connected and linked and then in the end, really for the purpose to help the team and the team members. Before I think you also mentioned that sometimes you work with Teal companies or Tillage companies and we, LIVEsciences we are a Teal company. I wonder do you see any you know, difference when you work with two companies and other types of companies, or other color of companies, do you see any major difference? In this context of co-listening and the different things you are doing with the companies?

SEBASTIEN: Yeah, and because we look at things through this lens of conversation; one

thing that was quite clear when we started working with different types of companies is 

we’ve seen a lot of companies that either started from a Teal or a Teal intention or transitioned to to Teal from a more hierarchical model where feedback was an issue right? And the ability to do as direct feedback as they used to do in the previous organization when there was the case

and also we tend to see that there’s a lot of organizations that are aspiring to Teal where there’s

it’s sometimes difficult for leadership to to make more, I was going to say authoritative decisions and and sometimes there’s a little bit of a struggle to find the right balance between the power of the collective versus the power of the leader.

And I know you guys had Peter Koenig on the show a couple weeks ago and I think he says a few things that are some very right about how some in any human endeavor there’s always one person that is more connected to the incense of the endeavor and plays a specific role and we see a lot of Teal companies that sometimes have a hard time recognizing that.

ENSI: Thanks for sharing that. And you talked also especially about giving direct feedbacks,

do you mean that in Teal or Tillage companies that we are asked more frequently to actually very openly and transparently sharing with each other the feedback, so that’s kind of for us, after time that’s getting easier to be more transparent and direct?

SEBASTIEN: Well, actually it was the opposite. We saw the opposite happen in some organizations, I think in Teal organization there’s usually an invitation and a frequent one to make feedback but and hopefully there’s space and there are rituals to do that but the spontaneous feedback that used to happen in some organization where people maybe felt alright- [Internet interruption] -a specific outcome tended to disappear. We’ve seen that in a couple of organizations that made the transition from hierarchy to Teal.

ENSI: Sebastien actually your video was just frozen for a few seconds could you repeat what you just said?

SEBASTIEN: Okay yeah I said that we saw a couple organizations that migrated from a hierarchy to Teal where feedback became at least spontaneous feedback and direct feedback became less frequent right? And people were tending to rely a little bit on the processes to make that feedback emerge rather than just calling out their colleague or walking up to that desk

to make the the direct feedback they felt they needed.

ENSI: And in this sense, how do you see like co-listening or this listening skill would help us in receiving or giving feedback? 

SEBASTIEN: Well, there’s a few aspects to that. So there’s this lady in the US called Sheila Heen who has been working on feedback for a long time. She did a TEDx on it. One thing she says is that she’s been teaching feedback for for a while and she realized that she’d been teaching people how to give feedback but not how to receive and she came to the conclusion that the receiver is actually doing most of the job. And there’s the way we look at it is that there’s definitely an opportunity for for people to ask more for feedback and and create a space where their colleagues feel safe to actually make that direct feedback but it has emotional implications and what I see is that it’s by practicing and what we do in our trainings we invite people to listen to one another, and also to ask for feedback on how they felt during the listening it’s really by practicing receiving feedback and accepting that maybe you did or you said something that upset your colleague and that’s okay. And so I think it’s very often a challenge for people to create that space where they can have these very direct conversations but I think most people aspire to it, and so it’s probably more of a matter of helping people think about it, take the time, give themselves mutual permission and with the right tools they can actually have this conversation in a way that’s enjoyable and productive. But most of the time with the date today we neglect probably the fact of asking or giving that feedback or giving it in a way that is easy and useful to hear for the other person. Sorry, do you have a question?

ENSI: Yes, yes! Really thank you for sharing this it makes me also reflect a lot you know, on myself or how we are actually giving and receiving feedbacks in our daily work. Very inspiring like for me personally to also think about you know to ask for feedback more often but also when I am receiving feedback, how am I positioning this, and reacting to it and really listening to what the others are trying to tell me, instead of reacting very fast out of it. So really good reflection for myself as well so I see we have some questions coming in. We have a question from Vincent. Thank you for the question. So the question is about accountability. ‘In your experience do co-listeners have enough time in 20 minutes to get commitment from the listenee to act after the bubble?’ 

SEBASTIEN: Okay so thanks Vincent for the question. We don’t put too much pressure on

ourselves to have a specific outcome for the bubble. The promise for the bubble is that we’re going to be listening to the person. And if during that time the person comes up with something she wants to do, a conversation she wants to have and most of the time I would saym 90 percent of the time, it does happen in the bubble; then that’s great and we can use tools from coaching to to help with the accountability if that’s something that the person wants. But in order to create the safe space we want to create for both the listenee and the listener, we don’t we don’t make it a requirement that after 20 minutes there is an action, there is a next step. And it actually, it contributes to make it a nicer, more enjoyable conversation I also believe it contributes to creating space where there’s more insights that come up and maybe more actions or at least more relevant actions that come up then if like in coaching you assume yeah there you’re going to set an objective and try to help the person get closer to the objective by the end of the conversation so we don’t do that in bubbles. If by the end of the bubble the person just needed to be listened to and it did some good to her and that’s great we did our job as a listener.

ENSI: And I like this point that I think sometimes it’s really – we just want to be listened to, not necessarily like, getting comments or ideas or defining some actions out of it. But I believe even within these 20 minutes that it’s not so like, action-oriented that you have to come up with some you know, steps you want to take afterwards but definitely it will trigger quite some reflection for the person and this would plant some seed maybe for this person to think about okay what I can do about this, and what kind of options I have, who I can talk to and so on. And I actually like this approach that you know people are not feeling pushed into doing something out of this conversation so it comes back to the safe space that people actually feel this is a safe space and actually this leads to my next question; for this kind of bubble talk, how many times do you actually talk to a listener and do you always talk to the same person? Or how does it work?

SEBASTIEN: So there’s no rule, and maybe I should mention that our- the way we see our mission is that we so we developed this methodology over the year and we’ve been practicing, and we still practice it, but we see our role as transmitting this this know-how so we we train coaches and we train pretty much we train our own competitors and the idea is to equip coaches and facilitators with tools that they can use and include in their own practice so as long as the spirit of creating that safe space, to help people reflect on the conversations they want to

we’re happy to help people and include that in other types of practices.

The way we do it typically an organization and it really depends on the context and the intention but it is useful to have several bubbles per person because we see that usually there’s a first insight or couple inside that come up in the bubble in relation to something that’s going on in the organization and the person takes and again, we don’t force anybody to have conversation, but by themselves the people in the bubbles they will think of that conversation they want to have with their colleague if we have time we help them reflect on how they want to approach this conversation. And then it’s useful to have both for accountability and also for further reflection to have a follow-up bubble maybe a week later or a couple weeks later. And so we like it when we have a chance to to work with the organization over a longer period of time it’s- the format is quite useful for to to do a flash intervention and organization where maybe there’s high levels of stress people don’t have time for coaching but they know they need this kind of support and so we can do just a one-off and offer a bubble to everybody and then do a collective session if needed. But it’s also useful for people and we do that for people who train on the methodology now we also offer them bubbles to help them work with their learning journey and it’s interesting to see everything that happens between two bubbles.

ENSI: That makes total sense. We have another question from Romina. Thank you for the question. So are there things that you would suggest people do not bring to a bubble? Do you define when to request a bubble?

SEBASTIEN: So, there’s two questions in here but I’ll answer the first one first. That’s a great question. And a lot of people have compared what we do to a kind of therapy and we’re not therapists right I certainly I’m not we have some practitioners there, they’re also trained therapists but the intention of the bubble is not to be a therapeutic session. However maybe that’s one distinction with coaching or the way it’s practiced by many people. We don’t assume that there are topics that we will not hear in the bubble right? So we really invite people to come up with whatever is troubling them right now. Whatever they have on their mind in the moment. And the promise is again it’s not there that we’re gonna solve the problem or help the person solve the problem the promise is that we’re gonna be listening and what’s quite comfortable as a practitioner with their approach is that you know you’re going to be helping the person reflect on who around her is relevant to that topic. So even if it’s something that requires medical attention or is in the psychiatric domain. The way I see it, it’s still okay to listen to the person and if you can play that role of helping her realize that and sometimes I have this in bubble where I listen to people and ask them the questions we like to ask in bubbles like who have you discussed this with? Who would it make sense for you to discuss this with? And quite often people say ‘Well, I haven’t spoken to to my therapist in a few months but maybe it would be good time to do that’ and then you help people actually and we like in the 20 minutes, we like when we have the time to go as far as asking the person ‘Hey do you want to take a minute to send a message or put something in your calendar to make sure to anchor that behavior?’ because there’s a lot of these requests for help that people need or feel they need that they tend to procrastinate and anything we can do as a listener, to help people do something in the moment to make it more likely to happen then that’s helpful.

So, so far I haven’t seen or heard any topic that I wasn’t comfortable listening to. We invite our practitioners if they are not comfortable to mention it, but most of the time because they know they’re gonna not put the pressure on themselves, but rather help the person realize that she has a support network and there’s other people around her that can help. And usually practitioners are comfortable hearing about anything. And as to when to request a bubble – I’m a little bit biased here and what we do at Tirezio, so we, most of the people at Tirezio is trained on the methodology on the process of training and we do offer each other bubbles quite regularly and we find that both planned and unplanned bubbles are useful so sometimes people will feel a need to talk about something or to need help reflecting on the topic. But we also have these rituals on a weekly basis where anybody on the team can show up and we just offer each other, whoever is there, offer each other a bubble. And we find that just by taking a few seconds to think about what’s on our mind, what’s bothering us right now we usually come up with quite useful conversations. So I would say any time is a good time to ask for a bubble or the other way around, any time is a good time probably to create more space for the other person you’re

talking to and see whatever it is.

ENSI: Yeah, maybe a very similar question to that I was wondering like you know, when the organizations or teams that they would think about to have support from you of the bubbles or capsule talk or workshops – like what could be the trigger that they think ‘Hey this would be helpful for our organization, our team’ to you, know learn about these skills or to really

improve how we have conversations? How do they come to this idea actually to reach out to you?

SEBASTIEN: So the way we’ve been developing is mostly through word of mouth. So we’re not we don’t we haven’t communicated much so it’s not like there’s many people who reach out to us spontaneously at least it wasn’t the case until recently. Typically we tend to work with organizations that either are in a big transformation project, so managerial transformation, or organizational transformation. We work with quite a few hyper growth companies where they need to ramp up managerial skills quite quite quickly. And usually that creates a lot of tensions, chaos. I’ve been myself in hyper growth companies and I can relate to that and it’s always been very instructive right? But it’s also emotionally quite challenging.

And any organization that wants to invest in a culture that promotes deeper relationship with people, that’s what you do in the end. When you take the time, a few seconds more and a few minutes more here and there to listen your to your colleagues that’s what you do you create deeper bonds with the people you work with on a daily basis. 

ENSI: That’s really beautiful. When you say that for companies or people who want to actually build deeper relationship and you mentioned about transformations; I can really echo that. I think during transformations or changes, normally people really go through different emotional stages and I could imagine that during this time would be nice to to get some support and to you know, also listen to each other more to also pay more attention to relationship not only the business because this, in the end will help us to understand each other better and to work better together. We have another question from Marianna. What would you say are good and perhaps incorrect things to do or say when having a conversation with someone important to you in business? So maybe there are some tips when you do co-listening that you tell people to pay attention to be cautious about. 

SEBASTIEN: Yeah, so I think there’s lots of things that can go wrong and part of my realization after I did my burnout, I realized through the I took a coach at that time and I became very sensitive to words. Words that I use, words that other people use and I realized I wasn’t very sensitive to energy levels. I’m not very conscious of them before that but then I became a lot more aware of that and I realized that a lot of things people were saying to me was draining a lot of energy for me. And myself, I started realizing there’s lots of things I said in day to day that maybe because there were injunctions or they were some kind of advice or they were sometimes just asking the question ‘why’ to someone can be quite intrusive or create negative emotions so there’s lots of things that can go wrong in conversation. So maybe a few tips and these are things that people learn early on in our trainings is to remain silent for just a few more seconds, and it’s very simple but it’s also very hard but it can be learned with practice and it’s useful to create a framework where with someone else, where you give yourself permission so we do public webinars every month where we put people in that situation, in breakout rooms to listen to one another and basically not say anything for a few more seconds they would they would have done spontaneously. So that’s a good thing to practice. 

And also there’s some sets of questions that we teach in progressive listening that come from clean language so clean language is an approach that was developed by a therapist from New Zealand, David Grove in the 80s, 90s there’s someone in the UK called Caitlyn Walker, she did a TED Talk also on the topic of clean questions. There’s a few questions that tend to work very well to help the person keep going and whatever they’re talking about without introducing too many biases. And one of these questions is when someone says a word that you want to reflect back to the person for instance, she says the word ‘frustration’ you can ask just take that word and ask ‘what kind of frustration?’ right, so you’re not making any assumptions about what the person meant by that word and that really helps the people expand on whatever they were starting to tell you.

And there’s quite a few questions that we teach that are just very useful because they create this space where we don’t make too many assumptions about what the person meant and that really helps build trust and also helps the person express more clearly get clarity herself on whatever she’s trying to tell you.

ENSI: Mhmm. What I really like about this approach is that you are actually trying to think from the other person’s perspective. So you could still ask clarifying questions but more like from the angle that you don’t want to assume and you want this person to express him or herself more clearly. Why I mentioned this because I think at the beginning you also mentioned that sometimes we tend to ask many questions in conversations but for the purpose that ‘oh I want to know, I want to understand and I really want to know more’ so I have a lot of questions like follow up questions to you know, kind of bombarding this person so that I understand what the situation is.

And I think what you just shared as a tip is that, yeah we of course we can ask clarifying questions but more from the perspective of the the person who is expressing him or herself and from the angle that help this person to actually understand the situation or what he or she wants to say. I really like this point.

SEBASTIEN: Yeah, what’s interesting is that a lot of people think that the purpose of listening is to understand what the other person is saying and that can be part of it but it’s not a requirement. You can listen to someone very well and create a very useful space for that person without understanding, well, what they’re saying. So we like to play around with the methodology and in some we have some regular practice groups for our practitioners and we’ve already done this exercise where we have someone offer listening in a language they don’t understand. I did that in German, I don’t speak German and I had a little script that we used in our trainings translated into German and I listened to someone on her topic it was about the relationship she has with her neighbors and after 10 minutes she had the next step. My pronunciation was very bad, I’m sure but it was still useful to her. So just to illustrate the fact that there’s more in listening than the need to understand what the other person is saying and just by using some tips that help the person herself get clarity on what she’s saying then you can do both at the same time, right? You can create value for her because she gets new insights and also understand much better than if you made a comment or asked a clarifying question that maybe would have been biased right? 

So to Marriane’s question I think in a business relationship, there is an expectation that you’ll understand what the person is saying so I’m not saying that you should not try to understand what the other person is saying but sometimes trying to understand gets in the way of getting

clarity both for you and the other person.

ENSI: That’s amazing what you shared. I can’t imagine how this works like if you don’t understand but you just give the time for the person to speak and then you ask next question and next question and this could work in the end that’s amazing. Also nice, saying thank you for

your answer. You- actually, I was also curious about you mentioned that this is helpful not only at the workplace but also very helpful in your personal lives so I think that because that’s a very different context right? At work or at home you are talking to your parents, to your friends and to your partners wouldn’t there be like some huge difference here? Like in terms of listening or having conversations because the purpose might be totally different when you are talking to your colleagues, talking to your team or when you are at home where you are more I would say, more relaxed and maybe more courageous that to to just you know, say anything in your mind.

SEBASTIEN: Yeah. I think you’re right. I think there’s some commonalities, right? And the power of silence or the power of showing empathy and in the way that’s actually helpful that

works in any context. Now, in the personal realm, yeah maybe people will tend to be more direct but that doesn’t always help. Although I’m a big fan of authenticity, sometimes there are ways to be authentic that will not help the other person be in a good emotional state and in the personal realm there’s the nature of the relationship makes it even more complicated to a certain extent, right? And there’s lots of emotions involved, and expectations so yeah, I’m not sure if-

ENSI: It’s a hard question right? It’s challenging. 

SEBASTIEN: Well, it’s challenging for me because I think I tend to be very comfortable doing this conversation with people I don’t know in organization. I listen to them on the phone and pretty much I need to know their first name, what language they speak and usually I know I’m going to be enjoying the conversation. And in the family side of things is not always like that, right? And because you have all these emotions involved and yeah so I think that’s something I’m still working on and I’m not trying to impose anything of what we do in our practice, in my family. But sometimes I’m thinking that it might help. If I could find ways to create that same kind of space I create for people outside of the family.

ENSI: Mhmm. For some time-

SEBASTIEN: I’m working on it. [Laughter]

ENSI: Yeah [Laughter] thanks for sharing that. Yeah, I also, I find it would be challenging

and quite different like a different conscious level maybe at work and in private life. I find like there are many tips or points you mentioned I find really really helpful. So you talked about that

the first thing I remember is to be silent for a few seconds or even longer to really become sure is to listen to the others, and to create this space also by time like to create this trust between each other so that the others will feel more comfortable to share and maybe really have a deeper conversation in that sense.

Any other you know, tip or main thing that you think of when we have conversations? Doesn’t matter at work or in our daily life. Anything maybe just for me also for our audience like if there is one thing that you say ‘hey you could start to practice right now, today with your colleagues, with your partners, with your friends’ what could that be?

SEBASTIEN: Well one thing that I found helps a lot is when we give ourselves permission to show up as vulnerable in conversations. And the ability to share our doubts say, when we don’t know and there’s lots of people that we talk to in bubbles that we see, and we work with a lot of organizations they have a strong purpose and so people are very committed to that purpose and they tend to give a lot to that. And they don’t always think of asking for help when they need it right? So accepting that you cannot do it all and that you don’t know it all and able to share this with other people and again it’s a matter of giving mutual permission to have these conversations where we don’t show up as as strong or as perfect as we would like sometimes. That really helps create that space where if we do that for the other person just showing ourselves vulnerable they would be much more likely to do the same with us.

ENSI: That’s really beautiful how you said it. So really paying also attention to me, myself and I and to show vulnerability to be authentic this also helps to create this space and to have a good conversation with the others. Thanks a lot for sharing this. Time flies really quick. I think we are close to the end of one hour. I hope our audience and listeners online also enjoyed this conversation and if you like what you know, this format and what we are talking about make sure you like and follow us on our social media and if you are curious what events are coming up, you will see the events on our screen here. So go ahead, grab your phone. Our next Living Room Conversation is in December 2nd and then there are also a few events that are coming from Tirezio. Sebastien, would you like to say a few words about the upcoming event?

SEBASTIEN: Yeah. We run those 90-minute webinars. So we do them both in French and in English once a month typically where we talk a little bit about the method and we get people to experience it. So we do that on Zoom we get people into breakout rooms and they go through a ritual and usually yeah, people learn something about themselves and about those biases, conversational biases I was mentioning earlier. And for some people it can be the start of a personal development journey and that’s why we see in the trainings that we do, people tend to yeah to start exploring something about themselves about the relationship they have with others that seem to be useful.

ENSI: Thanks for sharing this. And Sebastien, really, big thank you for joining us and I really enjoyed our conversation, our dialogue, it’s very inspiring. I learned a lot. I think there are several things I can practice for myself and I hope our audience also find this helpful so to everybody, thank you again for joining us today! We hope to see you around. And maybe our last checkout question; so Sebastien, if there is one thing that you take away with you out of this conversation what would that be?

SEBASTIEN: I feel gratitude. Thanks for having me. Thanks for the conversation. Yeah, I like what you guys do at LIVESciences. Thanks again!

ENSI: Thank you very much. I also want to thank our team in the background who helps us to

make this happen. Our co-producer, Rhea and our- and now also our director Ken to support us in the background. You don’t see them but they are actually doing a lot of work to actually make everything run smoothly. So with this I wish everybody a very nice day, morning, evening, night

and hope to see you soon next time.

End of Transcript

Be More Pirate with Alex Barker

Our guest, Alex Barker, runs Be More Pirate: a global social movement and consultancy. She is a freelance writer, speaker facilitator, community builder and advocate