AN IMPORTANT TASK OF strategic questioning is to create the environment where people can see the solutions that are within themselves. You listen deep into the moving heart of the person opposite you. A strategic questioner listens for the latent solutions hidden in every problem. And this involves a special type of listening.

    A strategic questioner listens for the latent solutions that are hidden within every problem. And this involves a special type of listening. You are not merely passively listening ... you are creating an action path with your attention.

    This dynamic listening is in itself a special type of communication. It involves immersing yourself within the sea of "transactions" that surround an issue. You are not just listening to this information in a static or passive way. Your attention is focused on the reality of now ... and also paying attention to the clues of what it could be.

    It is this dynamic listening that opens doorways within the issues being discussed. Your attention creates space around the speaker - space within which they can explore their own options.

    Dynamic listening is more like looking than listening. Usually when you listen you hear everything around you in one total "hearing". But this kind of listening is listening in only one direction -- your ears are turned only toward the deepest part of the person or people opposite you. You are listening to their thinking, to their feeling, to their dreams, and to their essence. Your ears wander in between their words, their sighs, and their questions, searching out meaning, resolve, motion and need.

    You look for the obstacles to caring, the blocks to action.
    You look for what is pushing people, and why they feel compelled to do something about the issue.
    You look for the group's ideas of how they want things to be -- how they see things could or should change.
    You look for how they think about change and how change happens in their lives.
    You look for the path to change that the group sees -- however dimly and timidly they see it. Sometimes you explore the path together, asking questions which allow you both to think freshly and creatively.
    You look for the dreams and goals planted deep in the group or person's heart.
    You look for how to remove the resistance which is found on the path of change.
    You look for feelings as they anticipate each possible choice or option in front of them.
    You look for what support each person would need to move on any path of change.

  • WHAT DOES IT TAKE for us to really listen deeply to each other ? Usually our minds are not full of attention while we are hearing the other person speaking, our thoughts are full of reactions, distraction, fantasies and judgments.

    The musician Karen Hagberg has written (*) eloquently about the importance of dynamic listening. She writes :

    " Without careful listening, a pianist cannot understand the various ways a single note can be played ... It seems impossible that we do not listen to ourselves, what else is there to do while we are practicing?

    " What else are we doing? ... There are many things, actually, that I am able to do instead of listening. I can hear an imaginary pianist, Horowitz for example, and imagine his sound as mine. I can feel the music instead of listening to it and move around a lot as I play, imagining that my feelings must be coming out as sound.

    " Possibly I am daydreaming, half asleep, not concentrating ... Usually, though, I am merely thinking about something. Thinking is not listening, nor is judging the performance as it evolves. Listening is listening ... "

    There are times when we truly listen -- usually when we sense ourselves to be in danger. We stop in our tracks, our ears prick up, and we listen as if our lives depend on it. The listening required for strategic questioning is like that ... we need to listen as if someone's life depends on it - because it does.

    Through this dynamic listening to ourselves, to the earth and to our fellow citizens - even those we might consider our adversaries - we may create the space where people can discover themselves saying great ideas, or finding the energy and will to make changes happen in their lives.

  • STRATEGIC QUESTIONING IS POLITICAL because it is a process that encourages people to find their own way through the rapids of change. It is political because it leads to strategies for change. It is political because it can take political debates beyond dogma and ideology ... into fresh perspectives on common problems. It is political because it is a way of transforming your attachment to your own goals and opening up options that are common goals.

    It is funny how we resist change, resist participating in the changes necessary in our time ... I know I do. But when we get involved with change, we can tap into a surprising stream of aliveness and creativity and inner wisdom which is our contribution to the process of social change.

    There are many things that keep us from acting on what we know :

    We don't know any alternatives, as we have a lack of good information on the situation.

    We may lack leadership or the confidence to pursue our goals as leaders ourselves.

    We may subscribe to a kind of fatalism which does not encourage thinking about alternatives.

    We may have taken in the often frightening information about the problem in a passive and alienating way. (Television is one of the prime example of passive information transfer). And we are stuck in inactivity until our feelings about the information are dealt with.

    Strategic questioning helps us break through this sort of gridlock. In dynamic dialogue there is a focus on how change can happen and with it comes the potential for new "will" to arise also.

    In Hindi there is a special word, sunculp for this determination. Sunculp is the process of tapping into the strength and collective will of the whole. It is a will that is not individual but is part of the will of the entire context. It is a resolve and commitment which we experience for the whole society.

    Sunculp can be found in any timid person through strategic questioning. Some years ago the prevalent view in social change work was that if we only got the information to the "people" about what was wrong, then they would make the changes necessary. Now we realise that information is simply not enough. We actually have to facilitate the motion on the issue and create and sustain the sunculp to make the change required by the information.

    (*) from Karen Hagberg'sin Matsumoto Newsfrom her book When the Teacher is Ready the Student Appears

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