Deep listening at the World Domination Summit

"To listen fully means to pay close attention to what is being said beneath the words. You listen not only to the 'music,' but to the essence of the person speaking.

You listen not only for what someone knows, but for what he or she is.

Generative listening is the art of developing deeper silences in yourself, so you can slow your mind’s hearing to your ears’ natural speed, and hear beneath the words to their meaning."

~ Peter Senge

Over the past few days, in the lead up to the World Domination Summit I have had many stimulating, body tingling conversations. The kind of conversation that throws the background out of focus and brings you sharply into connection with another through shared values, aspirations, challenges and interest. 

It's been happening over and over again. It's extraordinary. 

I've been thinking about that feeling. That feeling of deep connection. The feeling you have when you are truly, deeply engaged in conversation. 

As a psychiatrist in training who practices mindfulness meditation I'm often aware of the meta position through conversation. It's my job, to pay attention, deeply listen, not simply to what the other person is saying but what my own body is saying whilst in conversation. 

I'm intrigued by different personalities and am aware of the dynamics of conversation. 

Noticing the speed, depth, authenticity of conversation. Noticing those conversations that seem incredibly one sided and leave me wondering about the other persons lack of empathy. 

I aspire to the I-thou conversation as described by Martin Buber. The conversation that is sacred. The conversation where I bring an intention to be wholly present to the other persons being. This is in contrast to the I-it conversation where one relates to someone else as merely an object for their own benefit.   

As an extrovert, someone who genuinely derives energy and pleasure out of connecting with others, this conference runs the risk of getting me over excited and scattered. I can feel that urge inside me, that desire to reach out and meet, meet, meet.

I realise I need to let go of that desire and be present to the conversations that serendipity's dance creates. I know there are so many inspiring kindred spirits out there that will pass me by this year. It feels like being at disneyland and missing out on some of the rides. 

My intention this weekend is to be present to those I encounter, wholeheartedly. I want to hear the music that is beneath your words. 

Paying attention is one of the most important skills we can cultivate, especially in this age of distraction. Conversation is an opportunity to practice paying attention.  

To those I don't get the privilege of meeting this weekend, there is always cyberspace (@meditatecreate Facebook Elise Lew) and next year! 

How are you relating in conversation? Do you speak more than listen? Do you take in the whole person? Do you notice your attention straying? Any judgements? 



  1. Beautifully written Else! As an introvert, I have the opposite issue and need to push myself beyond my comfort zone to continue getting out there and meet people even when all the outside stimulus can be overwhelming at times. And whilst in conversation, I need to remind myself to contribute to it to it as much as I am getting out of it from the other person so that I am not selfishly only receiving inspiration and not sharing any back.

  2. This is such a welcome perspective and meditation. I'm an extrovert and can come off sometimes as completely inauthentic. I am also mostly deaf (deaf in my right ear, partially deaf in my left) with a distortion in my hearing unhelped by hearing aids. I find that as I have become more aware of how my natural passion and animation can sometimes make others feel bulldozed by me, I also find that because I cannot hear well I'm very aware of body language. As I strive to listen better and get the meanings below the words which is both a physical and personal challenge for me, I am also trusting more in my read of the body language and realizing just how much more information I am receiving in the communication and how to act on that for better connection.

    I could barely sit still during the Susan Cain discussion at WDS but felt I owed it to my fellow WDSers with whom her talked obviously resonated to hear what she was trying to communicate. That was time well spent and I appreciated the takeaways I got from that talk.

    I too flew halfway around the world for WDS. I am an American expat in Cape Town, South Africa and find it very odd to be the lone attendee "from" Africa, as that is just where my flight originated... I stand out and I like it. I've had a big life and have lots of stories to tell. But when I realize that I'm speaking more than listening, I make a point of wrapping up my story and asking my listener about hers. I made some amazing connections at WDS doing just that and felt great when I saw the ideas spark because of the engaged questions I was asking or just giving someone space to voice what needed to get out there.

    I do look forward to reading more about your experience with deep listening. I don't think we actually met at WDS but I know I saw you. All the best, Kerry

  3. Nice. I love the quote. Great to almost meet you at WDS. : )