A newsletter on progress-space research and audience development for cultural leaders. One reader calls it, "sometimes funny"

We're almost finished reading Listening Well by William Miller in the MAP Community, and one of the things we're learning to listen for is ambivalence.

Ambivalence is a clue — If we hear someone expressing ambivalence in a listening session, it's a sign that we may be getting to depth. Someone who is ambivalent may be trying to work through conflicting guiding principles. If we pull on that thread, we may hear that person's inner-thinking and emotions, which gives us a view of what they value.

Of course, all this runs contrary to our usual approach to understanding audiences.

We're talking about an individual. There's such specificity in listening deeply. Wouldn't it be better to survey a thousand people and learn a little than to listen carefully to 10?

But when was the last time anyone shared their inner thinking or guiding principles in a survey? How much are you really going to share in a focus group?

Invitation for this week: Try listening for ambivalence.

Now, I suppose you can be ambivalent about trivial things. "It's so hot, I can't decide if I want to go to the beach" is very different from "I love going there, but that one person who works there was so unkind… I worry about taking my child there."

So, maybe try listening for deeper ambivalence.

The point is, ambivalence is a clue, so let's try to watch out for it.

When the cook sees bubbles forming on pancakes, he knows it's time to flip them. When a museum leader gets to a place where she's hearing ambivalence from a visitor, she knows she's getting to depth.

As always, reply to this email to let me know your thoughts or leave a comment on this post.


Cartoon showing four people sitting around a coffee table, each holding tablets that look like the ten commandments. The caption reads, "Well, I really enjoyed it, and it definitely made me want to read more by this author."
Image: Ed Steed


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