One of the things that’s really different about the problem space is that we’re paying attention to people and their purposes not to our solutions. We’re not even getting into idea land yet. All we’re trying to do is absorb their perspective, and absorbing their perspective takes time. It takes trust. You have to build trust with people. You need to get to depth with people. You can’t understand them just based on their opinions and preferences, and explanations. We have to get to depth in the problem space. We need to understand their inner thinking, their emotional reactions, their guiding principles, so that we understand what their world is like, what their context is like, how their thinking changes from context to context. And really get into that.
It’s connecting with the people, and understanding what’s their world like in their heads. What makes them tick? How do they decide to do what they did? What was it like emotionally? What was the inner thinking going on? This kind of listening is called empathic listening. It is a type of active listening or non-directed interview.
I do not do listening sessions face-to-face. Not even on video. There’s a reason for that. You want to make a safe space for people. You want to build trust so they can talk to you about their deep inner thinking. When you do this face-to-face there is an authority relationship going on. There’s also cognitive distractions, visual cues, and body language cues that cause dissonance. You can create a safe space with just audio, the tone of your voice, and the words you use in support of what a person is saying.
In a listening session I actually don’t take notes. I record it. I need to pay rapt attention to the person.