Improv skills lead to success

Relationship Listening

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Previously, I mentioned John Kline’s book Listening Effectively and talked about informative listening. In this post, I’d like to take a quick look at relationship listening.

As the name implies, relationship listening is the process you use to improve your relationship with your conversation partner. Your goal is to learn more about your colleagues and, by so doing, improve your relationships with them. There will always be a few individuals who use this information against you, or who use information as a weapon, but most of your colleagues do want to get along better. Be sure to set your boundaries appropriately, both for your own comfort and to maintain your professionalism, but don’t be afraid to offer your trust and offer more trust to someone who deserves it.

Relationship listening is important for team members working in the same space, but it’s vital for virtual teams. I’m a freelance writer, which is about as solitary an existence as you can get these days. I didn’t meet my agent until we were five years into our working relationship, and only then because I happened to be driving through his part of the country. I believe we’ve been in the same room a grand total of three times since 1996, but we know a lot about each other and have navigated some tricky waters together.

If you’re an improv performer, you should do a lot of relationship listening. I started workshops with my current group in 1995 and, over the years, we’ve developed a deep shared context. There are about 30 regular players who rotate in and out of our cast in a given month, so of course there are subgroups that get along better with each other or who have more in common. Even so, we share where appropriate and aren’t afraid to turn to each other for a sympathetic ear. Having established that comfortable, familiar base, we can push each other to improve as performers and as a team.

Written by curtisfrye

May 6, 2012 at 11:32 pm

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