Connecting: Hearing and being heard.

Exquisite listening. [image (c)Yuri Arcurs]To me, a key ingredient for a productive meeting is connection. Otherwise, why meet at all? But how many meetings have you been with someone who was physically there, but mentally: elsewhere? Or perhaps you’ve been that person who isn’t really present?

Thus I wonder, “How can I establish connection upfront, to set the stage for a great meeting?” I’ve discovered a simple yet extraordinary tool to do just this: Lee Glickstein’s Relational Presence Five and Five process.

In a nutshell, here’s how it works: each person gets five minutes to speak and have the other person’s undivided attention. No interruptions, no comments. Pure talking, pure listening. And guess what: it gets results.

Just the other day, I introduced a colleague to this process as we kicked off an important all day meeting. He was initially doubtful, but when I told him it would just take 10 minutes he agreed to give it a try. We each spent 5 minutes talking, freeform, about the project.

It was a great experience: here’s why:

  • As a speaker, I got the benefit of space to talk to an attentive listener without the fear of being interrupted. Because I could talk, pause, reflect and then continue, I really developed new trains of thought more deeply. And just the act of having a listener made me work harder for clarity.
  • As a listener, all the pressure was off because I didn’t need to think about how to respond. My job was simply to relax and listen. As a result I had more bandwidth available to hear what the speaker was saying, and just focus on their words, their intent, their emotion.

The results were amazing. We both got new insights into our hopes and concerns for the project, and felt more relaxed and focused. And we got to hear each other’s thoughts very clearly. Talk about connection: you can imagine that we had a productive meeting.

Through the course of our several hour meeting, we used a shortened version of this process at key points where we seemed to be talking past one another. We each took a couple of minutes to speak and be heard. And then going one step further, we tried to summarize each other’s point of view until we got it right.

What struck me was how satisfied I felt after my collaborator successfully paraphrased my point. Although we still had more to discuss, now that he knew where I stood, I felt more confident that we’d find a solution. The process helped us shift from talking “at” one another to working things out.

Actually using the five and five can be challenging. First of all, I think this practice is powerful in a one on one meeting, but less so with a group meeting. The dynamic of the group “check-in” sometimes works, but it depends on the level of trust already in the room. In a one on one setting, the trust dynamics are much less complicated.

Second of all, doing a five and five, or even a two and two, does take time. In a harried environment, people may not want to invest in the connection, believing that they need to instead rush through the agenda. In my experience, two calm, connected people will vastly outperform two rushed, frantic ones.

And lastly, strong connection isn’t clear valued by everyone. If a person believes that communication and coordination are simple, straightforward, fully automatable processes, then they won’t invest the time to build person to person connection. I propose that this very connection is the ultimate solution to the coordination snafu’s that continue to plague projects, regardless of how much technology is thrown at them.

Interested in the five and five? Give it a try and see what happens. Lee Glickstein gives detailed instructions and an audio clip on his website:

Although I’m not affiliated with Lee, I’ve benefitted tremendously from his classes and am a big fan of his work.

Paul Konasewich,

© 2007 Paul Konasewich


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