Stories & practices that empower real change

Otto Scharmer on Deep Listening and the Emerging Self

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M.I.T. professor, Presencing Institute founder, and co-creator of Theory U, Otto Scharmer tells us that the modern world requires more of us as leaders and changemakers. But how do we create this progress? How does personal growth happen?

Scharmer studied the practices of some of the most innovative leaders of their fields, and found that contemplative practices were integral elements of their daily lives. Additionally, he says, a key practice that many shared was having a small circle of friends who deeply listen, non-judgmentally, to each other. It is this circle of support that helps one to slough off the ‘old self’ and connect with their newly emerging selves.

Scharmer elucidates:

“The new world, all the cares around us, requires us to show up more with our full self. And that’s something that we as leaders, as managers, as changemakers we need support structure for. And what is that support structure? Well, one is kind of having a practice.”

Photo by Hernan Pinera

Photo by Hernan Pinera

“And another one that we found many people use and we, including myself, have found makes a huge difference if you have it, is basically to have a small circle of friends that you get together with once in a while. Maybe two, three times a year, it may be for a day or something. Or a weekend. And where then as a small group usually it’s not more than five people, it’s a small group that, over dinner or in whatever form, you’re not just socializing and having a good time and exchanging stories but you are really listening to each other’s lives journey and the issues that we each are facing and the evolution and kind of really in the leadership edge that I’m dealing with.

What is it that I need to let go of? What’s the old self I need to shed? And what is it that I really need to learn?

So what is leadership edge? It’s kind of in my own development – what is it that I need to let go of? Or what’s the old self I need to shed? That I need to let go of? And what is it that I really need to learn? What are the capabilities or what is the space I need to move into more fully? So that of course is kind of the deeper challenge that we all have. But what we don’t have is a good support structure for that and kind of having a small group of people who do that with each other – who apply deep listening to each other.

What is deep listening? Deep listening is listening with no judgment but with full empathy and with an orientation that doesn’t pay attention to me where I am failing… where I’m failing and basically dying kind of where the old self is dying. So noticing that. But then really paying attention to the other part of myself that is wanting to be born but that isn’t there quite yet. It’s maybe a space of possibility I can connect with and maybe in my best moments I can show up with that, but very often I cannot. And so what can I do to connect that, my best possible future self, my highest future possibility?

Deep listening is listening with no judgment but with full empathy and with an orientation that doesn’t pay attention to me where I am failing…where the ‘old self’ is dying.

And it turns out that that’s really like a birthing process – the other aspect of my emerging self.

Photo by Photophilde

Photo by Photophilde

One of the most important resources for connecting with this emerging self that we as human beings can give to each other is to have a few – what do we call that? It’s friends. So it’s not the Facebook friends, of course – the many. But it’s the few friends that really can hold you in that regard. No judgment, full empathy and paying attention until you are really noticing your highest future possibility and not just where you are failing. And what do we have in normal relationships? So a lot of judgment. Because, particularly when we have a long history with each other, I know all the wrong things. So all the things where the other person screwed up.

One of the most important resources for connecting with this emerging self that we as human beings can give to each other is to have a few friends.

Then the empathy may not be always there. And the letting go is very difficult. So because there is so much history, particularly if we are in conflict, we pay attention to those aspects of the other person that we don’t like, that’s like – and by paying attention to that we are reinforcing it. So this is – so what I just described, this deep listening is a rare capacity. If it happens, if it’s applied to me it changes me, who I am. If I kind of practice, if I have an experience like that for an evening, for a half day, I return from that session a different person. I am no longer the same person.

So why? What does that mean? I am more my real self. Who I really am. I operate on a different level of energy. I am there a little different, a little more with who I really am. That’s the feeling. So that’s kind of this deeper dimension of, that’s really what I call with this kind of funny word: Presencing.”

Watch the full video, ‘Otto Scharmer: Leading From the Emerging Future’ HERE.

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