Active Listening & Collaboration

I’ve developed an Active Listening & Collaboration workshop that has proven engaging.

I’ve run this session for a ton of high school students and for multiple cohorts of college programs’ Entrepreneurs and Healthcare Execs in Training. I’ve run almost fifty sessions with accountants and insurance professionals. I’ve even run it in a communal house and with a fresh crop of McKinsey consultants – two very different experiences.

I just yesterday – thanks to my wife and her network – run one for Virginia’s Legal Aid Program.

It was awesome! (Oh, and donate to Legal Aid – they MATTER!)

What follows is my preamble to that session which I offer here as a little didactic on why we should care about Active Listening & Collaboration, and learning those skills and more through improvisation can make us, well, better people.

Why should Active Listening matter to all of us?

I use “WE” on the slide above. It’s about Connection. It’s about Empathy. At the end of the day, anyone who you consider a client wants what you want from anybody with whom YOU interact. We all want to be heard and have personal agency. Active Listening – echoing back what we hear – proves we’re listening. And when we’re actively listening – and not just waiting for our turn to speak – we’re meeting people where they are.

Why does Collaboration matter?

I am a big believer in collaborative progress through a shared understanding breeding optimal outcomes.

Is this a naïve view? Yes. Is, for example, the law about finding THE truth amidst conflicting perspectives or about elevating one perspective over the other as THE truth? Are all perspectives equally considered or weighted in determining THE truth?

I’m an Economist by education where so much ink has been spilt about the efficiencies and inefficiencies related to knowledge sharing. There’s theory based on a PERFECT INFORMATION model where every stakeholder is a rationale player working from the same reality. If everyone would just authentically lay their cards on the table – with individual interests denominated in comparable “utils” – then we could easily weigh the pros and cons of every situation and enact the best overarching solutions.

Of course few realities exist in a Perfect Information model. John Nash and others got to shock the world with their GAME THEORY, acknowledging the reality of imperfect information and macro-inefficiencies arising from self-interested motivations.

Ours is a culture of conflict over collaboration. Of short term gains for some over long term striving for all. Me trumps We. Use of verb intended.

In improv, ACCEPTANCE of another person’s views is paramount. We’re on stage without scripts, without blocking, without costumes, without sets,… We have to work together to build a world. And that world only becomes believable for the audience if can see that we we trust and listen to each other. If I walk on stage and say “This beach is beautiful,” the next person on stage will accept we’re on a beach and not say, “Idiot, we’re in a library.” An improv community is a beautiful little hamlet where everyone is predisposed to say “Yes, I accept your reality.”

That’s not real life, I get it. It’s maybe even less so in the legal world where as an advocate one may feel that even accepting another’s point of view as reality might prove problematic for the client or the case.

Learn improv and learn not only how Active Listening & Collaboration helps strengthen relationships among likeminded people. Learn improv and learn how ACCEPTANCE can act as a form of Aikido, using your opponent’s momentum to further your own goals.

I’m a big believer in the fact that learning improvisation fundamentals primes us to be better leaders, coworkers, parents, children, friends, neighbors,…

Taking improv lessons to heart will make us all better PEOPLE.

2 thoughts on “Active Listening & Collaboration

  1. This is great. I would love to run a workshop like this in my organization. How did you structure the workshop? What games did you use? What kind of feedback have you received from the workshop?

    • Thanks for your comment, Jason.
      Feedback on the sessions is always extremely positive – haven’t had a dud yet! Everyone walks away with at least one applicable life lesson they can use day-to-day (vs on stage).
      Games are below – if you provide me your email (here or through my Contact form) I can share my script with you:
      Crazy 8s with explicit emphasis on eye contact
      Action Pass
      Conduct A Story (pitch, etc. – made org specific)
      Yes And 4 Line layups
      My To The Ether – offer, set, cement – collaborative building experience
      Freeze Tag and/or Space Jump

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