Listen up people

Community is the value I most like about coworking. As the movement grows, it it feels important to listen to all the voices: enthusiasts, space operators, coworking members.

Coincidentally, just as I was noodling about how to figure out what a diverse group of people want in a community, a conversation about creating community broke out on the Coworking Wiki.  Alex of Indy Hall and I got into a discussion about listening that prompted me to write this post.

Listen is a Verb

First, I want to remind you that listen is a verb.  It’s an action word, even though when you’re listening at your best it probably looks like you’re doing nothing.   Listening well takes attention, energy, focus and discipline.  It ain’t for the faint of heart. It’s likely you’ll hear something about yourself or your community that you don’t want to know.  That’s where the courage kicks in.


Listen with your eyes

We have two ears and one mouth for a reason.  It’s good to listen more than you talk.  Not only will you have lots of friends, you’ll be in the know!  Somehow, we  forget about our eyes!  Your eyes give you another opportunity to listen to the non-verbal messages, including silence, that are there.

Normally, eye contact comes up when teaching how to listen.  You also want to look around. How is the person sitting or standing? What’s the general vibe?  Where are their eyes looking?  These questions can add a lot to your understanding of what the person is trying to express.

Interestingly enough, listening with your eyes works for communities, too.  As your community grows, it’s a good idea to create a listeniing channel or two so you can keep your finger on the pulse.  Communities die from too little guidance as well as from too much.

Try observing your community as a way of listening.  How do people congregate?  When and where? Rachel Young of Comaraderie told me that her kitchen with its avocado oven is a major draw for  her community.  They host communal dinners and sometimes get the odd batch of cookies.

Listen with your feet

I once lived with 50 men, fraternity brothers actually.  As a fellow greek I understood their bond but I needed them to become part of my living/learning community.  So, I devised a plan.  I walked.  Each night I visited every room to say good night around 10 pm, when folks were going out for the evening.

Yes, people laughed at and questioned me at first.  I laughed, too, and listened to how the day went, what was coming up for the weekend and who wasn’t getting along.  Before long, the nightly walks became a ritual our community looked forward to and enjoyed.  The discipline of showing up, being present and listening yielded a deep  mutual respect and trust between the brothers and me, which I consider one of my best accomplishments.

Find a way to get in front of each person in your space every day and listen.

I’ll be sharing a cool way to get feedback from your community on Thursday. Til then, how are you listening to your community, whether it’s a coworking space or the members of your small business?


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