View from Venus

2.6 Listening as Resistance with Sherri Spelic

Episode Summary

In this week's episode, guest expert Sherri Spelic, physical educator, leadership coach, blogger, and publisher, joins us to talk about listening as a form of resistance, blogging as a form of creating community, and creeping imposter syndrome. We wrap up with our best tips and advice for becoming a better listener and at the end we'll have an assignment for our listeners- we'll ask you to pay close attention to who's in the room and who's speaking at the next meeting you attend. Share your story with us on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook and tag us @university_of_venus on IG and @UVenus on Twitter or post it on our Facebook page at and we will share, retweet, and amplify! Find University of Venus on Instagram @university_of_venus , Twitter @UVenus , and Facebook

Episode Notes

Topics Discussed in this Episode:

Resources Discussed in this Episode:

Music Credits: Magic by Six Umbrellas

Sound Engineer: Ernesto Valencia

Episode Transcription

View from Venus, Season 2, Episode 6

[00:00:00] Mary Churchill: Hello everyone, and welcome to this week's episode of the View from Venus. My name is Mary Churchill, and on today's episode, I am joined by cohosts, Meg Palladio and Lee Skallerup Bessette and guest expert, Sherri Spelic, physical educator, leadership coach, blogger, and publisher. In today's episode, we'll be talking with Sherri about listening as a form of resistance, blogging as a form of creating community, and creeping imposter syndrome.

You will walk away with our best tips and advice for becoming a better listener and, as always, at the end of the episode, we'll have a recommended assignment for you. 

Sherri grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, studied in Providence, Rhode Island, and migrated to Vienna, Austria, which has become home after 30 years. As a physical educator, leadership coach, blogger, and publisher, she dedicates increasing amounts of time to observing and making sense of movement in bodies, in relationships, in [00:01:00] texts, in the atmosphere. Her personal blog, edified listener, includes reflections on teaching, coaching, and the world in general.

We asked Sherri to join us on the View from Venus because we wanted to hear more about her work on the radical potential of listening. 

Hello, Sherri, welcome to View from Venus. Thank you for joining us today. 

Sherri Spelic: Thanks so much for having me. 

Mary Churchill: And Meg is going to start us off with a fun question to warm us up. 

Meg Palladino: Okay, so today's question is an easy one. Are you a listener or a talker? 

I can start first. I am a listener. I tend to wait to see what other people have to say instead of talking myself. 

How about the rest of you? 

Mary Churchill: I am a talker who is working really hard to become a listener. So I was at a meeting yesterday that was an hour and a half long meeting with about 25 people and I went in with this feeling of,  “I am in listening mode. I'm here to listen.” And so I had to really reinforce that [00:02:00] with myself and I did. I said very little. I introduced myself, but that was about all I said, Lee?

Lee Skallerup Bessette: I'm a talker to the shock of no one who knows me, and I've been working very hard on the listening as well.

We've found something out. It is really interesting that people with ADHD, we actually do listen with our mouths. And so people with ADHD tend to over-talk,  like talk over people and start those kinds of things and it's because we listen with our mouths, which most people find rude. 

But, so I've worked not only hard at listening, but also active listening skills, which, you know, making sure that I'm hearing what's being said, understanding what's being said, reflecting it back to them, those kinds of things, rather than just over-talking or talking over them. 

Sherri Spelic: Okay, so I'm going to say listener, because of course, my handle on Twitter is edified listener, and that's the name of my blog. So it would be [00:03:00] almost silly not to claim listener as my natural mode. Although I do talk, I do like to talk, and I spend a lot of my work day talking. But I feel much more like a listener. I really love to listen and, and enjoy investing that energy and listening.

Mary Churchill: So Sherri, we are fascinated with your background in physical education and how that informs your teaching and coaching practice. Can you tell us how you got there and how that works for you? 

Sherri Spelic: I will try. I will try very hard. So yeah, I've been teaching physical education for about for about 25 years and I kind of fell into this work. I actually was working on a degree in sports psychology and was going, coming at it as an athlete and a coach, as a coach of track and field. And really I was trying to, at that time, I was trying to understand what is it about the psychology of [00:04:00] competition that allows athletes to thrive, but also to, die, right? 

To just not do well suddenly. And that whole notion of choking and all those things, those kind of fascinated me. So at the time I was interested in that. And then something came up at the school that they needed a long term substitute in physical education. And I thought, well, I've coached track and field.

I knew lots of kids and I substituted at the school. So the school was familiar, but I said, yes. So I became a part time PE teacher and had a wonderful mentor who helped me, who really explained the field to me. She kind of explained like, here do these things and, and that has served me well throughout.

And then I kind of developed my own brand of working with students and I was really able to integrate my interest in sports psychology to understand, How do I work with a variety of students from a variety [00:05:00] of backgrounds, varying interest levels and abilities? And make this a reasonably enjoyable experience or as enjoyable as I can make it, and one in which we can all learn and get better.

So that's been my mission. 

Mary Churchill: Well, and I feel like coaching is kind of moving in or kind of taking over in a good way, many parts of our lives. Now you kind of see practices coming from coaching and really mainstreaming that in a really good way, especially as we start to focus on health and wellness within higher ed, both for our students, but also for faculty and staff.

So I see these as good movements. So you are well positioned. 

Sherri Spelic: Thank you. I always wonder about that. I mean, the coaching aspect, I mean, I was coming from coaching athletes, which is, you know, a fairly specific type. But I've also, when I [00:06:00] started, I was a coach and an athlete. So I was competing myself and doing my own thing.

But also coaching young athletes and trying to also, I mean, I got such joy from coaching young athletes because they're just, they're enthusiastic and they're also crushed when things don't go well. And for me, I always sort of wanted to encourage everybody to just get out there and do your thing.

And, I'm with you and I feel for you and no, I don't have the time because I'm too emotionally involved. 

So. Yeah, so that's a piece of my history that has stayed with me, and that is still just so central. 

Meg Palladino: Sherri, can you help us understand the concept of creeping imposter syndrome and how that stops people from acting?

Sherri Spelic: It's funny that creeping imposter syndrome is, you know, it's this notion that you think, Oh no, I'm good, I'm fine. I feel comfortable. I know what I'm doing, I think, and then this, you know, it's just sort of this thing that sort of sneaks up on [00:07:00] you where you think, this doesn't apply to me.

And suddenly there's this, you know, this sort of bit of doubt that that gets bigger and bigger and it's interesting, I think for me, I was, I spoke about creeping imposter syndrome, particularly in the context of this podcast because I thought, well, I'm not a higher education person.

I mean, I have a lot of connections in higher ed, which I love and I benefit from, but I thought, I don't teach at the college level. I actually never have. I spent, you know, some time in college spaces and in higher ed spaces, but, so I was kind of like, Oh, well, sure, I'll be glad to be on that podcast, but I'm not sure that I belonged.

So, that sense of, do I belong here? Is this the right place for me?

Mary Churchill: Yes. 

Meg Palladino:  Yes,

Lee Skallerup Bessette: Yes!  

Sherri Spelic: I appreciate being included. [00:08:00] So yeah, that's that. And I think it's something that, it's funny, I think it doesn't keep us from acting, but I do think it slows us down. It softens our voices. It’s things that, you know, it takes away, it kind of takes away our edge is like we might not say that. We might not make that statement as strongly as we might. We finish things with a question mark, but it's such, they're just  these really small things that happen in our communication. I think that really give us away. If we went back and looked at it and said, Oh, I kept using a lot of questions in finishing my statements.

So those kinds things, I'm starting to notice them more than my behavior. 

Mary Churchill: Well, I also find, for me at least, I'm hitting a stride. It’s going well, and then sometimes I feel like I'm over confident, and that's when imposter syndrome comes from me. It's like, am I. Am I, you know, I start to think [00:09:00] I've got this, and then it's, do I really have this?

Like I overthink it and that's when it's like, maybe I'm in the wrong space. What am I doing here? How'd I get here? 

Meg Palladino: The thing at an elite educational institution. It's easy to come by here. Yeah. Yeah. And I feel it a lot, 

Mary Churchill: Academia is rife with it. 

Lee Skallerup Bessette: We talked a little bit about listening already and that you’re a listener or a talker. So to go a little bit more into the importance of listening and creating space for listening, particularly as resistance, right? 

Listening, to me is a form of resistance and why is it so? Why are we so bad at it? Why is this, you know, in this particular historical moment and in particular, but generally like, why are we not so good at listening?

Sherri Spelic: I have some, I suppose I have several theories, but I do think, I mean, listening is hard. It is challenging. It's challenging to, you know, for a host of [00:10:00] reasons. You know, we all come with these. We all come equipped with our big brains and our big brains are busy. And they're full of who we are and our filters and our understandings of the world and how they work, and we're eager to apply those.

It's like we're kind of looking like, how can I make something happen here? Okay, this person is telling me this. Oh wait, I have a connection for that. So our brains are just, they kind of want to be busy, I think in a lot of cases. So listening is, it is something that keeps our minds busy, but it also requires this level of restraint that is hard to cultivate, hard to grow, hard to practice.

However, I have found that when people are given structures that allow them to practice an experience, uninterrupted listening that meets their needs, and all of a sudden they're like, [00:11:00] wow, I've never had that before. Like, that feels so different. And so this is one of the things that when I am working with, particularly with adults in workshops that listening is always at the core because I want people to have that experience of being listened to. And once you have that and maybe on a regular basis, then you can begin to understand, Oh, if I behave differently, I might have different results. And this notion of listening is resistance is something that kind of grew out of my understanding of my online presence that, you know, here are all these resources and all these wonderful people who are writing and telling their stories and I want to be with those people in their stories. But also recognizing that in doing that, I'm also making choices about, to whom am I listening?

Which stories am I giving priority to [00:12:00] and what does that say about who I am and what my priorities are? And also how am I passing those stories along? How am I sharing those stories? So there's a sort of a, the listening is a piece of a larger communication pattern that I hope is about doing some good in the world.

And on a small scale and sometimes on a slightly larger scale. 

Lee Skallerup Bessette: Oh, that's awesome. And I think that there's something interesting too about podcasts as a medium around this, particularly around our own listening. And I think that's why I think people are happy to be podcast guests. I think because it's an opportunity to be heard, right?

Because it's sort of this, it's a little bit more intimate. You have that kind of space. You're in their ears or in their car. It is uninterrupted to a certain extent. This is really interesting how as a medium, thinking about podcasting, how it could be used to help [00:13:00] with that, right? To help us be better listeners. It's interesting. You gotta think about that.

So you have a writing project called the identity, education, and power. It's on medium, right? And so how did you come up with that and then what was the gap that you saw that needed to be filled and how do you feel like it's filling it or  you're creating a gap that no one saw and then filling it.

Sherri Spelic: So I really appreciate this question because I haven't spent a lot of time recently thinking about that publication and what it means and why it's there. You know, I have a blog, I have my personal blog, edified listener, and, and I've been writing on that for awhile. And at some point, I thought, you know, how cool would it be if I could get people to write on the things [00:14:00] that I want to know about, but I don't want to write it myself.

You know, and I, we really had, you know, and then I started to create a dream lineup. Like, who would my, you know, which authors would I want to hear from, talk about, you know, whatever about these topics. And initially I thought that would be something about women in education. And I put down a couple of, you know, concepts and I thought, well, I'm talking about these things, but then it might be too narrow because I thought, I know some men from whom I'd like to hear.

I hate to sort of cut them out from the get go. So I came up with identity, education and power. And then when I thought of my dream lineup, I thought, oh, if I could get Tressie to write, if I could get Audrey, you know, and I really started to really think big, right? I mean, you know, like, let's shoot for the stars.

And so that was, that was the idea of you know, if I could [00:15:00] curate, if I could ask people to write for me, like, this is what I want to read, that maybe other people would be interested too. And so it's now four years old. And I can't tell you exactly how many posts there are, but wow, it's been an amazing project.

And in fact, Tressie and Audrey were among the first authors to contribute. Then Doxttdator, Paul Thomas, and just a whole range of folks have written. It's been fabulous. 

Mary Churchill: It reminds me also of this blog, this blog that we've, you know, we're moving into year 11 now and we created it also as a space to have a conversation more than as a space to talk, right?

There's a space to kind of give your story, but also I really want to hear what everyone else has to say in this space, right? And it's a very different orientation. It's very cool. And they both work, but it is... You're trying to create a space where [00:16:00] you can pull voices in,

We're wrapping up and we always end with kind of, what are our takeaways from this conversation?

And I'll start, and I think it is really, there was something you were saying when you were talking about sustained listening, really, and it made me realize that when we're not thinking about listening, there are some people we do listen to and there are others we don't listen to. And when we are are kind of aware of our listening, then we're trying to listen to everyone, not just the people that it's easy to listen to and so, right. And so for me, that's a big takeaway when you think about it. You're probably listening to voices that make you uncomfortable, that maybe you want to tune out, but that really you're forcing yourself to listen to them.

And that's a good thing. And that, for me, that does look like resistance. And that [00:17:00] is risky. It's risky to you, right? It's risky to everything we're going to do together. So thank you. 

Lee Skallerup Bessette: And for me, it's I like what you said about, you now, Twitter, who am I following? Who am I listening to?

And, but for me, one of the biggest responsibilities I have always felt, and I've tried to do is also, who am I amplifying, right? 

So not, you know, that if somebody said it better or somebody saying something that I want to retweet it. I want to, you know, have people who might not see it otherwise read it or at least see it and know that it's there to be able to allow these voices, right, that typically aren't heard and perspectives that typically aren't heard to get more visits and visibility? How are you listening to them and how are you amplifying them? You know, all of those kinds of things. 

Meg Palladino: And it was interesting, Mary, how you've said a few times about how [00:18:00] listening is uncomfortable or listening is maybe scary or some voices you hear because as a listener, I totally understand what you're saying.

It is scary. I mean, I'm a person who has like a lot of people come in and tell me their story and there's tears in my office. I have two boxes of tissues. It's exhausting, but wondering how I can help people be better listeners. 

Sherri Spelic: Wow. That's, I mean, I think that to pose the question itself is already huge.

Thank you. And so what I'm taking away from this conversation is, first of all, gratitude. Thank you for for having me. It's really an honor and I'm really thrilled to to be asked and to be heard, to be invited, but I'm also taking away a sense of why we gather, why we [00:19:00] get together and have these conversations that it should never be somehow to not be a surprise to us that we still need to remind ourselves of how important it is to listen and what an effort it takes, and that we're all still working at it. That we're not done. That for me is, is really great to be among professionals who are working in fields where exactly you are asked and tasked with listening on, you know, on a daily basis and in different capacities and that it still takes so much practice in so much restraint.

And we get better and sometimes we get worse, but we can get better again. So I'm really grateful for this opportunity. 

Mary Churchill: So are we! This was good. Thank you. And it just makes me really think about this in a much deeper way. And I think that [00:20:00] listening is going to be one of these 21st century skills, it comes up again and again in conversations of are we teaching our students to really listen, you know? And walk away with that instead of, I think the 20th century was all about, are we teaching them to give presentations and talk and dominate and you know, but now there's a lot of focus on do they know how to listen? 

Okay, listeners, here's this week's assignment. At the next meeting you attend, pay close attention to who's in the room, who is speaking, who you find it easy to listen to and who you find it more difficult to listen to and share your story with us on IG, Twitter, or Facebook, and tag us @UVenus and we'll retweet, share in our story and post on Facebook. As always, thanks for joining us and we'll be back next week with Padmini Ray Murray talking about gendered space.