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Not real live listeners in real time examples

For some, being a talker in a Teddy Bear Talk Support setup will seem very natural, and you can just start talking. For others, finding out what comes out of your mouth as you go along might not sound like such a comfortable idea to you. TBTS is about benefiting from operating in different modes than usual, often because the environment easily and automatically gets you into a different mode. Being told "Just open your mouth and see what happens" with a real live person in front of you might not be such an environment for you. So, what might such an environment look like for you? Using a recording device as a listener, writing to a listener, asking the listener to do some talking while having the focus be on your getting to react to what they're saying, there's all kinds of ways to include a listener in your process.

For me, I’ve had a listener that I’ve sent emails to. What I asked of the listener was to simply respond to the emails with “I read your email." Simply having someone I was sending emails to was a game changer for me.

Talking out loud on paper examples

Dear Byron

Here's an example of how helpful it can be to have someone on the receiving end as you talk through where you’re stuck with something you’re trying to write. It's from the last paragraph of the excerpt you can find on: http://tomwolfe.com/KandyKoloredExcerpt.html

... But at first I couldn't even write the story. I came back to New York and just sat around worrying over the thing. I had a lot of trouble analyzing exactly what I had on my hands. By this time Esquire practically had a gun at my head because they had a two-page-wide color picture for the story locked into the printing presses and no story. Finally, I told Byron Dobell, the managing editor at Esquire, that I couldn't pull the thing together. O.K., he tells me, just type out my notes and send them over and he will get somebody else to write it. So about 8 o'clock that night I started typing the notes out in the form of a memorandum that began, "Dear Byron." I started typing away, starting right with the first time I saw any custom cars in California. I just started recording it all, and inside of a couple of hours, typing along like a madman, I could tell that something was beginning to happen. By midnight this memorandum to Byron was twenty pages long and I was still typing like a maniac. About 2 A.M. or something like that I turned on WABC, a radio station that plays rock and roll music all night long, and got a little more manic. I wrapped up the memorandum about 6:15 A.M., and by this time it was 49 pages long. I took it over to Esquire as soon as they opened up, about 9:30 A.M. About 4 P.M. I got a call from Byron Dobell. He told me they were striking out the "Dear Byron" at the top of the memorandum and running the rest of it in the magazine. That was the story, "The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby."

Ways to recruit listeners

Ask your listener: “Hey, I’m in a tough situation with another person, and I could use a sounding board. Do you have a few minutes where I can have you just listen while I tell you what’s happening? Then, at the end, can I have you tell me what you think my main struggle is?”

An example

Let's look at a setup involving a real live person in real time. Let's first look at the most minimal setup for that, where the human teddy bear is serving as a silent witness. Just like if you were talking to a stuffed animal teddy bear who can't understand what you're talking about anyway, you can talk about anything you might want to think out loud about with your human teddy bear. It's fine if they can't follow what you're saying that closely. They can still hold the space for you in ways that are supportive. For example, we use TBTS in a "can't follow closely" way during my weekly co-working meetings with a writing partner where we each are working on our own writing projects. My writing partner and I take breaks from writing every 20 minutes and take 3-minute turns serving as teddy bears for each other. We are often smack dab in the middle of something and just start talking as if the other person had a much better idea of what we were talking about than they do.

What changes now that someone else is paying attention? One big difference with having someone to talk to is that, to some extent, you're imagining what the other person is paying attention to, what are they expecting to hear you say, what parts are likely to stand out for them, etc. These things are factoring in to what you're saying to the teddy bear.

So, then, you might automatically start explaining things you don’t think you need to explain to yourself. You might end up listing off some key things or key points that can shed light on the situation. You might start to see things from a third party perspective. Such things can often lead to big shifts or profound insights.

You may have experienced this already in normal conversations. I have. Sometimes, but not necessarily, it's happened to be that the other person hadn't said very much in the conversation. Sometimes it's because they were trying to find something to say but couldn't come up with anything. When I've ended up with great insights and heartily thanked the person, "But, I didn't do anything!" has sometimes been the response.

But they are doing something for me. When “human teddy bears” serve as silent witnesses, they bring with them their facial expressions, the nodding of their heads, the puzzled looks they get on their faces, and the regard for me that they are holding me with. Just with things like that, the space is held differently for me. I hear myself differently. Someone is paying attention. As a result, some things can become immediately obvious. What I focus on changes. What to say or do next can become clear. The teddy bear's very presence changes things for me.

Note that it can be because the other person didn’t "do anything" beyond give me their presence and attention that something was facilitated for me. They held the space and gave me plenty of room to take things where I needed to go. I was able to benefit from the power of listening. I was "heard to speech" as Parker Palmer likes to describe it. Because they were there with me in the way that they were, it made possible my saying what I said, and it made possible all that came with getting to have said it.


Even when I felt that she was not using all the information available to her to form opinions, I was careful to not insert that into the conversation.