Revisiting deep listening

I’m not sure when I first heard about Dadirri (deep listening) as described by Miriam Rose Ungunmarr (1999), maybe it was in a conversation with B when we were talking about how to facilitate the kind of education for young people which creates a space for this experience. In the past few blogs I have tried to seek out and write about a space in which being with occurs… I think that my thoughts have been quite conceptual and have lacked the grounding that comes with actual experience. So I am back to revisiting deep listening and feel like I should dwell in this space, one which I have a tangible and lived experience of. In her exploration of deep listening, Brearley (2009: 43) refers to the work of Scharmer (2009) and talks about it as, ‘a generative form of listening, which opens a space for something new to be created.’ 

Are generative spaces like deep listening the fertile soil in which cultural transformations take shape? Something to explore… There are so many contexts in which deep listening could potentially influence process and the quality of relationships/dynamics.

Whilst I was reluctant at the beginning of my Masters to acknowledge deep listening as a research method, it seems like I can’t move forward without this critical practice: 

‘Taking the time to invest in relationships lies at the heart of deep listening… [it] is underpinned by the concepts of community and reciprocity’ (Brearley, 2009: 44).

For me the relationships I cultivate and nurture with research collaborators/participants are paramount. In the past when I have spoken about remaining objective in my research, I have interpreted that to mean that I need to create a separation between myself and that which I am exploring. Brearley (2009) makes reference to Bishop (1996: 23-24) who attempts to address this issue of distance:

“As researchers ‘we need to acknowledge our participatory connectedness with the other research participants and promote a sense of knowing in a way, which denies distance and separation and promotes commitment and engagement.”

I would love to hear from people who have used the practice of dadirri/deep listening to create a collaborative research space.


Filed under Theory

3 responses to “Revisiting deep listening

  1. From Michael…I think it would be useful to avoid conflating what Miriam-Rose means by Dadirri with what Brearley and Scharmer mean by deep listening, and in fact what people like Yingiya are talking about when they refer to the birds and trees talking to each other, or Buthimang talking about the grass singing to the frog. If we take these experiences to be different for each person then we have a better chance of working out what they might mean for ourselves. (If you want to know more about generative listening I think Juli Cathcart knows about it.)I think the contrast between generative spaces and deep listening is interesting – one is a metaphor of space, the other of action. Just thinking about Kathy Addelson saying that time and space emerge out of collective action, I would tend to prefer the active metaphor. (the action is ontologically prior to the space) Do you think that listening could be thought of as a collective action? And does it presuppose a subject and an object? I think we could treat those as empirical questions – we answer them by reference to our experience. I agree that we need to avoid the judging observer role and see ourselves as participants. Michael

  2. I remember Yingiya speaking about this… “the land and the language are both talking together,” (2010: personal comms.), “Land needs its own language… If I can use the word ‘country’ this way I'm talking about the land, water cloud, wind, rain, animals, people and more. Example, wind is blowing and the waves are crashing, making a loud roar. What's really happening there, is they are communicating and they are singing and dancing in own clans' language. When I sing, sing about its behaviour, swirling around and during turn of the tides, it reaches out communicating with other clans country and shares songs and dances with them.”Do I think that listening could be thought of as a collective action? Yes, I think it can if something common is generated out of this action – safety, compassion, trust, empathy, love, interconnectedness… So what might be happening when listening, as collective action, is part of our experience of being with (say country)? Or another way of looking at it might be to relate to listening as a metaphor: being with country is like listening… I must get in touch with Juli, can you please forward me her email/phone details?

  3. More on being objective… I like this quote by Addelson in Moral Passages:'Knowledge of the sort professionals produce, i.e., knowledge certified for public use, has to be made "as if" the professionals were not actors within the folk activities, "as if" the professionals were judging observers. This is the idea of objective knowledge… But of course the professionals are actors in the collective activities, not only gathering "the facts" but formulating them as knowledge to be used by others as well as themselves' (p.12-13).

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