Notes from ACCUS – Humility, Appreciating Others and Listening

I attended Agile Coach Camp US (ACCUS, hashtag #accus) over the weekend. It was a fascinating experience. It felt more like gaming or science fiction conventions I have attended than like technology conventions. It was a gathering of kindred spirits, which was cool.

One of the things that Olaf Lewitz (@OlafLewitz), our lead, had us do at the beginning of the session was to define a goal, something we were looking to experience at the camp. My goal was to practice truly active listening, which is something I find very rewarding but very hard. Seeking that experience, I attended a session organized by Paul Boos (@paul_boos) on Humility and Appreciating Others, which was folded in with a session on Listening. When I “checked in” at the beginning of the session, I declared my intent was to listen and not speak. Instead, I took notes.

As it turned out, I did speak once during the 40 minutes of the core session, to offer a metaphor that I thought was particularly powerful for framing the value of humility. Near the end of the session, the others asked me to break my silence and tell them how my experiment had gone. I found it to be really valuable for me, not only as practice in not speaking, but as an affirmation of the value of remaining silent and letting the discussion find its own path.

I promised to put my notes from the session online, but the convention app limits notes to 140 characters, so I’m posting them here. I’ll link from the convention app to this blog post.

**notes from the session follow**

Value of Humility, Appreciating Others and Listening


– recognition of your own imperfection
– we are both good and both bad, we all have assets and liabilities
– it’s not all about me
– human, not hero
– dull shine – how do we reconcile being humble with still being recognized? We can have a “dull shine” that lets us be good without outshining others
– Not the priest at the oracle
– vulnerability (which makes us afraid)
– confident
– It’s not all about me
– Able to accept someone else’s input without having a deep emotional reaction (because it’s not all about you)
– Ability to question my

Opposite qualities of humility
– Convinced of my own awesomeness (I’m not conceited, I am this great)
– Peacock
– Arrogance

How can I be both confident and humble at the same time?

I’m realizing that one way to express humility is the feeling that “this conversation might be just as good without my input” which I am practicing. But I want to offer that insight, because I think it might be useful.

Metaphor I decided would benefit the conversation
– Humility is akin to martial arts “horse stance” – it gives us a stable base that lets us absorb praise/criticism/drama without being deeply affected.

Times Kevin said something: 1

Post-speaking self-reflection:
– The metaphor I offered was interesting but didn’t change the course of the conversation or spur more use of metaphors as a way of framing the conceptual value of humility.

Satir Interaction model (Virginia Satir)
– Processing of information begins with emotional reaction

Ladder of inference (Chris Argyris and Peter Senge)
– Actions
– Beliefs
– Conclusions
– Assumptions
– Interpreted reality
– Selected reality
– Reality and facts

How do Appreciation and Humility influence the Ladder of Inference?

What is appreciation? Is it showing that you appreciate someone (recognition of the value of their work in an email, for example), or is it the bottom-of-the-ladder interaction of actually appreciating and valuing their work? In other words, are we actually caring about them or just softening the blow?

This leads to the “feedback sandwich” which sucks.

How do you appreciate someone who you dislike, or whose values are very different from yours?
– Find anything that you can appreciate – even if you dislike their position, you can like the fact that they offer opinions. You can value their knowledge, or their passion, or almost anything, but find something and TELL THEM.

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