Listen and Wait


As I am teaching my course this semester, students keep asking me “is this really going to work?” Here is a reply I wrote for them a couple weeks ago on the value of listening and waiting…


I’ve made all of my dances by listening and waiting. I can’t highlight enough the value of slowing yourself down enough to notice what is going on around you. You can’t go in thinking you know what to do. You also can’t go in thinking you HAVE TO FIGURE IT OUT RIGHT NOW. But you do get to learn to trust your mind. I think that is the only thing that has gotten easier for me. Learning to trust my mind and know that inherent in the creative process is risk, not knowing, and feeling like it won’t ever work.

How do you show you are listening?

  • You remember names.
  • You remember things the employees have told you about themselves and you ask them about that (their trip away, their love of cooking, their daughter’s bday, etc).
  • You get excited about what they tell you!
  • You put pieces of the information together to have conversations about this work and it’s consequences/implications
  • Say, “tell me more about that” And then don’t interrupt while the person answers you.

Right now the most important work you need to do is build relationships. You build relationships by listening and giving the gift of your attention. By listening and opening yourself to learning you enter not knowing, a place of vulnerability. This also build relationship.

Later, you will then call upon these relationships to make the art and to problem solve over and over again. You will not be going it alone. It is not all up to you ALONE.

A note about bringing your full human self to the picture.

Get completely curious about the daily work of the employees you meet. This curiosity will build in momentum. When the employees sense your authentic curiosity, they will tell you more. You will then get more curious about that new information. It will amplify.

What are you authentically curious about? It has to really matter to you—even though I think inherently all of the work is interesting—you get to figure that out. This is where you get to show who you are.

If you aren’t curious, why aren’t you? What do you need to shift for yourself so you can be?

When you show this curiosity, you are bringing your full self to the space. This is giving the gift of your attention.

You also get to laugh with the employees. If they start making fun of you, then you know you are ‘in.”

Be your likeable, curious self. Slow down enough to notice what they means and where you are.

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