Tom Atlee – On Listening and Diversity

A close friend of mine once shared that humility is a self protecting virtue – the idea that it is hard to assert the grandeur of one’s own humility.  I often observe my own arrogance – thinking that I know better, not being inclusive, or simply not paying attention.  In my experience, humility has been an acquired skill, practiced and all but natural.  It is also a prerequisite for true listening.  It’s hard to listen to another if you think you already know what they’re going to say.

I was reminded of the importance of humility in my last conversation with Tom Atlee.  We spoke at length about his definition of co-intelligence – a term he coined – and the value of deep listening and diversity in that function.  In preparing for this write up, I caught myself tuning out for the first ten minutes of listening to the recording – because “I had already read about it.”  When I went back and listened again, I realized how much I missed.  Humility is a never ending practice.  Unfortunately, we rarely have an opportunity to replay our interactions.

Tom Atlee is vice president and research director of the Co-Intelligence Institute, a nonprofit organization he founded in 1996.  His early co-intelligence research in the late 1980s focused on the relationship between group dynamics and collective intelligence. Beginning in the mid-1990s through the mid-2000s, his focus shifted to developing society’s capacity to function as a wise democracy.  He is the author of numerous books and recently published the Wise Democracy Pattern Language resource online.

Tom offers his unique understanding of human intelligence and wise co-existence.  He shares his experience of “listening aikido” – taking the energy of a person’s response, particularly if it’s negative, and directing it towards constructive expression – as well as some simple ways to practice reflective listening.  

Tom’s perspective stems from a life time of peace activism and thought exploration and he is truly one of the great minds in this domain.  Please enjoy.

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