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.