Connections

November 2017
Vol. 16, Number 9

Management News

Conference News

Chapter News

Committee News

Member News

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for upcoming Chapter events

Urban Confessional Comes to Minneapolis to Share Free Listening

Scarlett Ferguson, scarlett@fergusoninsights.com

On September 23, five members of the Minnesota Chapter hosted Benjamin Mathes of Urban Confessional to teach us and others in the community about Free Listening. Inspired by his workshop and plenary session at the end of the 2017 QRCA Annual Conference, we were delighted that Ben agreed to come and provide a more intensive Free Listening workshop on a beautiful fall day in Minneapolis.

Free Listening in its purest form is what we strive to do as moderators — be fully engaged in listening to someone to understand their point of view. However, instead of listening to people recruited for a research study, Free Listening is going into the community and making ourselves available to those who have something to say, but may have no one to listen to them. It is an opportunity for people to share what is on their mind, without receiving judgment, advice or even discussion.

Ben led 18 of us — five QRCA members and others just interested in this community service — through a series of exercises to prepare us to Free Listen. His exercises heightened our awareness of being fully present to listen to the individual, helped us look for the positives in each person even if we didn’t share their opinion, to probe to understand how their views might have been shaped, and to respect the silence that might happen in an imbalanced conversation of Free Listening. He shared several experiences that reinforced the premise that many adults and teens don’t feel they have someone who will listen to them without distraction or judgment.

After about 90 minutes of training and prep, we made our Free Listening signs with cardboard and markers and set out to be sponges for anyone who wanted to share with us. In teams of two to four people, we stood at different locations in the City of Minneapolis — on busy street corners, at farmers' markets, local parks, and public transportation stops, holding our Free Listening signs. It was a bit uncomfortable at first, but most of us had people stop and ask what we were doing and were surprised and appreciative when they learned our mission was simply to be there to listen. Not everyone had deep conversations with a stranger, but nearly all of us felt it was a meaningful experience and see value in continuing this community service.

This Free Listening experience was relevant to us as QRCs and provided good reminders of behaviors that promote candid communication:

  • Be relaxed, have no expectations, and people will share what’s on their mind.
  • Be fully present in the conversation; close other issues out of your mind and focus on their story.
  • Listen to understand the individual and where they are coming from, especially when our inclination is to disagree with what is being said.
  • The speaker controls the conversation. We learn more by letting them tell the story; let go of needing to control the conversation.
  • Be comfortable with silence; be patient and they will fill it with their story.
  • Sometimes we feel inadequate when sad stories are shared; Ben assured us that listening is enough.
  • Some came in thinking "Minnesotans won’t open up to strangers," but Ben challenged that assumption with "Does your assumption cause you to do something that makes people less likely to share with you?"

Interested in learning more about this Free Listening experience? Feel free to contact these QRCA members who participated: Scarlett Ferguson, Riva Kuprtiz , Pam Goldfarb Liss, Pam McCarthy, and Jeff Walkowski.

MN Chapter Free Listening Event

Ben Mathes, leader of Urban Confessional, with QRCA members Jeff Walkowski (l) and Scarlett Ferguson (r).

MN Chapter Free Listening Event

Several members of the Minneapolis community pause for a picture with QRCA members Pam Goldfarb Liss, Jeff Walkowski, Scarlett Ferguson and Riva Kupritz. Pam McCarthy also participated but is not in the picture.

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Philadelphia Chapter Invites Members to its Holiday Party

Mike Karchner, mike@kmrinsights.com

Come join the Philadelphia Chapter for our annual Holiday Luncheon and Presentation, featuring Mr. Jim Nyce, former SVP, Head of Global Consumer Insight and Strategy at Kraft Foods and former VP, Strategy and Insight at PepsiCo. Jim will be presenting “Looking Back and Looking Forward.” He details what all the changes mean for QRCs and the qual industry and gives an insider’s look at how the client-side research function has evolved dramatically over the past two decades.

Jim has spent the past several decades leading global Insights functions at some of the largest and most respected consumer packaged goods companies in the world. During this time, Jim has been on the forefront of helping to evolve the research function from “project management order-takers” to insights-based consultants charged with shaping strategy and driving organizational growth. Over lunch, Jim will share his unique perspective on how and why the client-side research function has evolved and how we as QRCs can position ourselves to better meet our client’s changing needs.

The event will be held in downtown Philly’s Positano Coast restaurant, on Friday, December 1, from 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The menu will feature a four-course served lunch with the entrée of your choice from among Chicken Maximo, Veal Parmigiana, Pan Roasted Salmon, or Mushroom Risotto, plus coffee, tea, and soft drinks, tax and tip all for $40. For more information, please contact Karen Zimmerman.

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