Napoleon Hill describes a ‘properly chosen Master Mind Group’ as ‘… a group of people who are willing to lend wholehearted aid, in a spirit of PERFECT HARMONY’. In most Mastermind groups that I’ve been part of so far, this has translated into dynamic pro-active group meetings where we share our experience, brainstorm ideas, discuss concepts and strategies and give each other advice. In short, the free-flow of conversation and debate is, for many, one of the most wonderful aspects of being part of it all.
But this week, on returning home after 6 months abroad, I met with some trusted members of my first ever Mastermind group and we decided to start 2009 with a session that was radically different. The focus would be on lending our ‘wholehearted aid’ simply by listening to each other – and I mean Listening with a capital ‘L’.
The ‘rules’ were simple – the session was to last no longer than 2 hours. We chose a random object in the room to pass around – whoever held it would become the Speaker, the others would become the Listeners. The Speaker would take up the object and talk, uninterrupted, for as long as they needed about whatever they wanted. The others would just genuinely and completely listen to what they had to say, nothing more:
No questions. No interruptions. No input. No discussion. No advice.
Once the Speaker was done or felt the time was right, they would pass the object to the next person and then they would become the Speaker for as long as they wanted, then onto the next person. And round again – each member would get 3 turns, then the session would be closed.
So, with many reservations (how un-Mastermind! how will we cope without being able to ask questions or give advice?, how will that work? what good will it do?), we began. Here we go again – the Power of the Mastermind! What an amazing session. Somehow, the dynamics of giving support to each other by simply listening, allowed each of us to access our own thoughts and in this case, especially our emotions, in a truly uncommon way. We were all given time to speak our minds without being judged, interrupted or being given well-meaning advice. This allowed us the possibility of being able to talk ourselves round to a different perspective or leaving point during the session, especially over the course of our 3 respective turns. As my coaching manual says, Listening is ‘the highest form of hospitality’, of the sort that does not set out ‘to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place, hospitality is not a subtle invitation to adopt the lifestyle of the host, but the gift of a chance for the guest to find his own’.
If there’s one thing I love about Masterminding, it’s the feeling that anything could (and almost always does) happen in the groups to change or expand your perspective and awareness. How many times a day do you feel you’re being truly and deeply listened to by those around you? How often do you really Listen to what your partner or children or friends or colleagues are trying to say? Despite the fact that it’s a crucial element to good communication, listening, unlike speaking, reading and writing, is a skill which is little taught and even less practiced in the true sense of the word. So listen up! Try Listening-only in your Mastermind group once in a while – it could be one of the most ‘wholehearted’ meetings you have together.
First published on www.evancarmichael.com in January 2009.
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