Listening in Meetings
I’ve been attending Quaker Meetings this year at University Friends Meeting (UFM). You can learn a little bit of back story about Quakers on my earlier blog post. There are three types of activities that I’ve participated in:
- Meeting for Worship – The (mostly) silent hour long meeting in which people speak when compelled to
- Adult Education – An hour long discussion group covering a wide range of topics (peace activism, brain science, role of religion in quakerism are all topics that have been touched)
- Meeting for Business – Once a month UFM limits their meeting for worship to about 30 minutes, the clerk then has a reading, and an agenda-led meeting about the corporate life of the community ensues
My first meeting was actually a Meeting for Business. It blew my mind. The main topic for discussion was highly controversial and sensitive but the general civility and listening of all the community members still astounds me. Nearly every point along the spectrum of opinions was represented, while everyone had a chance to speak, more importantly everyone who spoke was also listened to.
This is pretty amazing. How many times in a work meeting do we say something, but yet no one is listening? How many times is someone talking, and we’re just thinking about something else, either waiting to speak, or waiting for the meeting to be over?
Since attending quaker meetings I’ve started to pay attention to the amount people listen in meetings at PopCap. I’ve started by first paying attention to how much (or little) I’m listening, but also watched others. Additionally, I’ve tried to notice the effects of not listening. I’ve really tried hard not to ascribe judgement to non-listening and have focused solely on awareness.
My summary is this: we don’t listen much, and this causes all sorts of problems.
We waste so much time because we’re not listening. People repeat themselves (which is funny, because it doesn’t seem more people are listening on the second, third, and fourth time around), circular conversations don’t stop, idealogical differences pop up, we question peoples motives instead of looking deeper at what they’re trying to say, others can’t step in and help clarify, frustration rises, people feel unsatisfied, it’s harder to receive or give buy off, we don’t fully understand the problems we’re facing, and more.
Basically we waste our and other people’s time. If we could somehow capture the listening the quakers have instilled in the culture of their spiritual community I’m willing to bet job satisfaction and productivity would increase, we’d make better decisions and ultimately have a way more successful company.