Some thoughts by Rosa on the evolution of her listening journey

When I lead workshops on deep listening, I often invite participants to think about a person in their own lives, who has been a great listener for them — and to write a bit about how they felt, when that person was listening to them — and also, what that person did, to help them feel heard.

Then participants share what they’ve written, first with one other person, then with the group as a whole. That way, we can each draw on our own experiences, to generate some shared knowledge.

Yet we live with the legacy of a global culture of domination, one where speaking is given much more weight than listening, and where usually it’s the people with less “power-over” who are forced to “listen”, whereas those in high-status positions tend to believe that they can afford to NOT listen.

And so we distinguish between “forced listening”, which breeds “fake listening” — and which is not at all the same thing as, “free listening”, or listening that is an authentic gift from the heart.

I have been exploring the power of one-on-one listening for over four decades now. Yet for the first twenty years my heart longed for a practice that involved groups, something that went beyond the power of listening for one-on-one healing and transformation, as powerful as that can be. And then, early in the year 2000, I encountered a key part of the puzzle.

I am revising this webpage in 2021. For the last 20 + years, Dynamic Facilitation has been a significant part of my practice, which in addition to facilitation, includes teaching, writing, and research. Dynamic Facilitation has become an essential part of how I think, and how I view the world.

At the same time, my learning has continued to evolve. And so for the last several years, I’ve been exploring new ways of describing the work I do,  ways that honor everything I brought to my practice from the two decades before I encountered DF at the age of 39, as well as, all that I have continued to learn since.

Thus, I’ve been playing around with terms such as Dynamic Inquiry… Empathic Inquiry…. Dynamic Empathy…. and Heart-Centered Listening. On this page, my intention is to acknowledge and celebrate ALL of the various mentors and teachers who have significantly influenced my practice.

Another place where I’ve been celebrating the various influences on my work, was a zoom dialogue with my friend and colleague Holger Scholz, who works with “Leading as Sacred Practice“. In that video, we ended up exploring “Listening as Sacred Practice”.

I first met Jim and Jean Rough, the founders of Dynamic Facilitation, in the spring of 2000, while attending a workshop on “Dynamic Facilitation Skills”. It was a life-changing encounter. Yet some of the key practices I had already delved into by then, and which have continued to influence my practice, include:  

Paulo Freire‘s work on Dialogic Education;  

Alma Flor Ada‘s work on Transformative Education, inspired by Paulo Freire; 

Eugene Gendlin and Mary Hendricks Gendlin‘s work on Focusing and Experiential Listening

Marshall Rosenberg‘s work in Non-Violent Communication

as well as the insights and practices of the Re-evaluation Counseling community. 

I had also been deeply inspired by the work of Harrison Owen with Open Space Technology, and thanks to a conversation with him in the mid-1990’s, I brought several friends to an Organization Transformation conference he hosted in Napa, CA. One of these friends was Jane Deer, a colleague at the education reform organization where I worked. In turn, she invited her friend Tom Atlee to join us. Five years later, Tom was the one who first introduced me to Jim Rough’s work.

And then, there’s everything I have been learning in the two decades since 2000!  Starting with, Saul Eisen‘s work on Action Research and Participatory Process Redesign as a way to support the emergence of sane and effective organizations. Saul was one of the three original founders of the OD Master’s program at Sonoma State University, where I joined as a student in the fall of 2000. I am super proud to be a SSU OD program alum (2002), and Saul continues to be an ongoing source of friendship, inspiration and learning.

Other sources of inspiration and learning that I want to acknowledge and celebrate, include workshops and books by Ann Weiser Cornell and Barbara McGavin on Inner Relationship Focusing; Marvin Weisbord and Sandra Janoff on Future SearchJeff Conklin on Dialogue Mapping; Richard Schwarz on the Internal Family Systems model; Dominic Barter on Restorative Circles;  Christian Pankhurston Heart IQ CirclesNancy Kline on the Thinking EnvironmentSera Thompson and Aftab Erfan on the Lewis Method of Deep Democracy.

On this Dynamic Inquiry page, I have begun to compile a few writings about how some of these teachers have continued to influence and inform my thinking and my practice… and I hope to add more writings along these lines, as time permits.

In the last few years, I have been especially inspired and informed by my explorations of Edwin Rutsch‘s work on Empathy Circles.  In fact, I have found that Empathy Circles and Dynamic Facilitation complement one another beautifully… 

Along with my friends and colleagues Uli Nagel, Judy Fox, and Christiana Wall, we have been refining a new format called OMAH, which is short for “Communication Practices that Open Minds and Hearts“. In this format, we introduce Empathy Circles, a practice that participants can easily take home with them; while also offering newcomers a taste of Empathic Inquiry, a simplified version of Dynamic Facilitation

All this, in one meaningful evening, where we deepen our connections with one another, and enjoy learning and growing together…

Back in 2014, I enrolled in a doctoral program at Fielding Graduate University, where I will be completing a dissertation based on the experiences of practitioners who have been facilitating Bürgerräte or Citizens’ Councils, a highly effective participatory public policy processes in Austria and Germany.

I have been greatly inspired in my academic work by the writings of Dr. John Forester of Cornell University.  I first encountered his “Planning in the Face of Conflict: The Surprising Possibilities of Facilitative Leadership”, followed by an earlier work, “Dealing with Differences: Dramas of Mediating Public Disputes”. These books are exemplars of deep listening and learning from practitioners, and inspired me to pursue doctoral studies as a way to learn from the work of Dynamic Facilitation practitioners in Austria.

And so, the listening journey continues…  🙂  🙂  🙂