This isn’t a new phenomenon but it seems to be getting worse. We are not very good at listening to people we perceive as different from ourselves. That makes it hard to build inclusive work teams, share diverse points of view, and leverage the strengths of everyone on your team.
The founders of Living Room Conversations want to help people actually listen to each other rather than debate and talk at each other. Recently a number of leaders at several of our campuses have used the Living Room conversation agreements and topic-specific conversation guides to tackle the tough topics of status, privilege and race with diverse groups of faculty and staff.
- Be curious and open to learning
- Show respect and suspend judgement
- Look for common ground and appreciate differences
- Be authentic and welcome that from others
- Be purposeful and to the point
- Own and guide the conversation
The actual conversations become structured “deep listening sessions” that include an orientation to the process, intentional time-keeping and facilitation and a closing period. An example of the status and privilege guide can be found here – Conversation Guide.
I can attest to the almost magical listening and sharing that occurs during a living room conversation. People stop interrupting each other, they smile as they hear the stories others share, and they are surprised by how easy it is to share their own story with people who are actually listening to them.
When we asked participants after the conversations the majority responded that they had not changed their personal points of view but they now could see more common ground with their colleagues, despite their differences. Further, there was universal support for more dialogue.
Using a structure to help people actually listen to each other can provide a starting point for greater inclusion, in the workplace and beyond.