The Queerly Complex Method of Listening for Deep Connections

The Queerly Complex Method of Listening for Deep Connection has been developed, refined, and honed over two decades of practice by Jason Wyman. It draws from pedagogies of appreciative inquiry, question circles, participatory action research, active listening, and bearing witness.

The Queerly Complex Method of Listening for Deep Connection is evolving and will continue to both expand and be edited. This is and will always be a work-in-progress.

1. Start & return to the Unknown.

When listening for connection, it is important to always begin with the mantra, "I don't know." This places you, the listener, in a space of curiosity and openness rather than in a role of expert. Yes, you may be an expert in your field and have a wealth of knowledge. To listen deeply requires the humility to know your wealth may have no value to whom you are listening. And if you want to listen, maybe setting aside what you think you know and embracing the Unknown will help you see, hear, and witness what's truly being said, instead of what you want, need, or desire to hear.

2. Remember: You are their champion & their cheerleader, not their judge, therapist, or coach.

I am an artist, and while I value coaches and therapists, I am not one. I most certainly am not qualified to judge someone, either. What I can offer is to be your champion and cheerleader.

Too often, when we share something instead of a champion or cheerleader, we get a critic. The critic can be helpful at times, but often is a hindrance when trying to figure something out, trying something new, or examining your ways of being. The critic silences inquiry and introspection.

A champion or cheerleader, instead, offers encouragement through the process of inquiry and introspection because the listener knows this process is already fraught with self doubt / self sabotage and major structural inequities. Just being in this process is reason enough to celebrate and cheer.

When I listen for connection, I am there to be your champion and cheerleader so you build more trust and confidence in your self, your own knowledge, and your own way of being. I am not listening to promote my way of seeing / experiencing the world. I am there listening at your request because you want to better understand how you experience the world.

And I am here to celebrate, honor, lift up, and champion you on this journey.

3. Listen for understanding & meaning-making; hear beyond the surface. Watch for body language including tone & qualities of voice and minimize personal reactions.

The art of listening is the art of searching for understanding and meaning-making. Humans naturally want to better understand our world by making-meaning out of our lived experience. This can become a vicious feedback loop in which our understanding influences our experience which reinforces how we make meaning out of those experiences and in turn affirms our preconceived (aka previously held) understanding.

When I listen for connection, I am listening not just to what is being stated, I am listening for their understanding of this cosmos and their place in it and how they make meaning out of their lived experiences and positionality. By listening for what's beyond the surface, I can offer better questions that can disrupt or upend patterns of belief that may be getting in the way of better understanding what's truly being said in the moment.

Additionally, listening requires watching for body language because more is being said than simply words. It is important to remember that tone and qualities of voice are also a part of the body, and as a result the speaker might not be fully aware of how their voice is revealing something other than what they are stating.

As listeners, it is important that we do not read into understanding, meaning-making, or body language. Rather, our role is to be humble and uncertain in what we are experiencing and witnessing. Minimizing our personal reactions to qualities of body language that might seem peculiar, out-of-the-ordinary, or reactive to us is crucial in being a good listener.

Instead of reacting, we should be able to respond with openness, curiosity, and a willingness to be wrong. This means doing the work necessary on our selves to be able to notice our patterns of behavior that serve to shut down conversation and interrupting them when they, inevitably, show up.

4. Repeat back what you think you hear frequently & invite corrections, edits, ah-ha's, & questions.

As you are listening, frequently repeat back what you think you hear. Preface this by stating, "What I think I heard you say was, ...," and then end with, "Is that correct? Or is there anything that should be edited?"

There can be disconnects between what someone thinks they said and what someone thinks they heard. These disconnections are natural, but they often go unnamed, especially early on. This becomes a major problem in listening for deeper connection because the moment what you think you are hearing disconnects from what the speaker thinks they are saying, you disconnect from the speaker's reality. The longer you go in different directions the harder it will be to find commonality in understanding.

This can easily be remedied by checking in with the speaker and confirming with them about what you think you heard or observed regularly throughout the conversation. Doing this also invites opportunities for the speaker to have their own ah-ha moments or even discover questions they need to ask themselves.

Repeating back is a very useful tool for discernment, yours and the speaker's. You are discerning whether or not your interpretation of the conversation is accurate, and, therefore, to what extent your bias is coloring your view of what it is the speaker is saying. The speaker is discerning whether you are receiving what they are sharing accurately, and, therefore, whether or not they are communicating effectively. It is a process of interrupting possible bias and assumptions from destroying trust in each other and one's self.

5. After paraphrasing, offer connections between what's shared & other's experiences of this cosmos, including your own.

Instead of offering advice, offer stories of connection between what's been repeated back and other's experiences. This includes referencing authors or books you've read, videos or performances you've watched, podcasts or music you've listened to, etc. It also includes sharing stories of your own lived experience that in some way offer an intersectional or divergent perspective on what's already been discussed.

The goal here is not to convince the speaker of something but to offer opportunities for the speaker to accept, reject, adapt, or integrate the stories and connections you shared free of your judgment on their importance, necessity, or helpfulness. Yes, you have opinions and interpretations, and that is what you are sharing here. It is also true that those things are insignificant to the speaker outside of how important they are to the speaker. And it is not your place to tell them what is important.

6. Always & in all ways return to the Unknown.

See Tip #1. Even when you think you know and you think you have clarity between one another and you think you see a connection, tell yourself, "I don't know."

This mantra is the most central tenet in listening for deep connections because the body and all of its various parts and pieces that work independently and interdependently with each other come with biases that color how we experience, and thus interpret, this world and this cosmos. By staying friends with the Unknown and letting go of certainty, we become ready to witness truths that come from deeper within our DNA and cut through the generations of human superiority complex that has placed us and our gods on top of the cosmological pyramid.

Always and in all ways returning to the Unknown reshapes your entire cosmos; it places you in uncertainty, making you ready for anything.

The world is a much better place when we are free to be our full, gloriously, queer selves.