Expression sessions: practicing the art of listening and asking questions.
This session is to practice and refine our tools of communication.
Disparity between perspectives creates an empty space for us to conspire fearful stories of the other. When connection is made and curiosity is activated we each have the opportunity to expand beyond what we know and build compassion and empathy for all walks of life.
Although we are not taught about effective human communication at school it is a foundational skill, that once perfected can unlock collective intelligence, forgiveness and understanding.
What are you grateful for?
Due to a few technical difficulties the overall vibe of the group felt fractured and restless to begin with. This could also clearly be a projection of my own anxiety in trying to solve the technical difficulty on the fly.
Once we started expressing that in which we are grateful for the mood totally shifted; a quietness and listening emerged as everyone seemed to be pulled into the present.
As discovered in last week’s discussion, gratitude opens us to the present and this opening exercise was a perfect example of that.
We then split into groups with an ‘A' and a ‘B’, for an open question and listening practice. ‘A’ was the listener and ‘B’ the expresser for the first twenty minutes and then they swapped over.
The expresser’s role was simply to explore with the technology of expression and enjoy the intentional space in which the listener provided.
The listener was instructed to ask open questions in order to give the expresser opportunities to deepen their exploration.
Open questions are questions that do not have a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ response, they are questions that require a more than one word response. Usually starting with ‘how’, ‘what’, ‘where’ and ‘why’.
For example; How do you know what you believe is true?
The listener was also asked to avoid tangents of their own, talking about themselves, giving advice, or labelling and naming any form of the expresser’s exploration.
Listening is a gift that most often is ignored in its potency. It can shift another person’s experience and empower them as they find their own answers and discover their own insights.
To add impetus to the exercise I explained the power of perfecting communication; giving each other the opportunity to be understood is a connecting and uniting tool we all have at our disposal.
To kick off the exercise the expresser was given the question: What emerged through doing the gratitude check-in?
Once the exercise was complete we all came back together and discussed the experience of being the listener, the expresser and the experience of gratitude.
The expressers experienced a deepening in their own exploration of themselves and that which emerged throughout the check-in. I personally felt relief after getting into a rhythm of expression, as if a block had been removed and the flow had regained its natural course. Perhaps expressing gives us each permission to allow emotion to flow through us?
The listener’s understood that when intentionally asking deepening questions they had to switch their focus and listening a degree higher than their usual habit of listening and waiting to speak. Some noticed how they had ideas, tangents and experiences triggered by the expresser and having to let them go in order to tune back in.
This exercise of letting go of a thought popping into the mind could be the same process when triggered. Although heightened, perhaps the exercise of listening and letting go of the need to speak trains our objective ability to observe our own triggers?
We then spoke about gratitude and the experiences of being grateful.
There is a vulnerability in being grateful and perhaps it’s just a masculine thing?
This vulnerability is perhaps present authenticity and opening of the heart and as a generalisation men are more closed with their hearts than women. Men can feel vulnerable opening themselves emotionally while women can feel more vulnerable opening up physically. We are each complementary in our differences, here to hold space for each other’s vulnerabilities, external and internal.
Gratitude was discovered by the group as an antidote to restlessness and negativity and in sharing our gratitude it acted like a virus, infecting us all with presence and love. Gratitude brought a fullness to life. Blinded by excessive dwelling upon the past and the future, we strip the present bare of presence and close our hearts. Our heart seems to be a creature of the present moment for feeling can only be experienced within the body in a present moment.
Sharing our gratitude gives us access to the present moment and creates a connection with all who are graced by this act of vulnerable authenticity.
The group finished the discussion nourished by each other's sharing of gratitude and gifting of intentional listening.