Sarah: Our speaker tonight is called Dr. Alan Renwick and he's from the Constitution Unit at University College London, Alan.
Alan Renwick: Thank you very much, Sarah. It's a great privilege to be joining you here this evening. I wasn't able to join you at the last weekend, but I've heard great things about the work that you all did. And I'm gonna be here for this weekend, and I'm really looking forward to joining you over the weekend. I'm not going to say anything that you don't already know. So it's gonna be a nice, hopefully reasonably easy relaxing Friday evening chat about some important stuff. But it is important stuff. You're going to be doing a lot of listening. You've already done a lot of listening at the first weekend and you'll be doing a lot more. So I'm going to be talking about some things that it's just important to keep at the front of your mind when you're listening to people, in order to ensure that you're listening really well.#
It's all right, I should have advanced the slides, shouldn't I? There we go. That's what we're gonna talk about.#
So just starting about that is useful to think about what kind of discussion it is that we're aiming for here. So you already know this. We've heard about the conversation guidelines again, but just a very quick reminder. So we hear a lot of discussion in politics here in the UK that looks something like that. So it involves politicians shouting at each other. It involves them pointing at each other, accusing each other of being stupid and idiotic and all that kind of thing. That, of course, is what we call debate. And debate, with apologies to any of you who actually speak Latin because I certainly don't, so (indecipherable) or something like that. So to beat down, that's what debate means originally. So basically, with debate, participants are on one side of the discussion or the other, they are trying to win the argument, and therefore they're not really trying very much to learn from each other. Yeah, they're not really listening very much. As you know, a Citizens' assembly. Sorry, sorry. Debate might look something like that.#
As you know, a Citizens' assembly looks kind of different in how people engage with each other. And a Citizens' assembly, as you know, is all about not debate, but about deliberation. So deliberation coming from the Latin delibra. So think about the star sign, Libra the scales. So deliberation is all about weighing stuff up, to weigh things up. So if you're deliberating, then ideally, the participants don't yet have fixed views. Their goal is to come to a considered view. So as we got on the conversation guidelines, where is it? Be open to change. So you're considering things afresh. Therefore, you are keen to learn from others and therefore listening is really, really important. So deliberation maybe looks a bit more like that.#
So deliberating to me at least, deliberating involves four things. So it's always useful to start when you're deliberating, just by reflecting on your own existing thoughts. So when I came up here and Sarah said that I was going to be talking about what you're doing when you're listening, probably you're thinking, What's he going to talk about in relation to listening? What might that mean? And maybe you had some ideas about how you listen already, so it's good just to kind of ground yourself at the start by thinking about what you already think about something. Then you listen to other people, then hopefully you reflect again. So you're thinking, "What are the things you agreed with? Disagreed with?" You have questions that came out of what a presenter was saying, for example, so you reflect again.#
Then you discuss with others and you get the chance to hear how others heard, what you listened to. And their differing reactions to that. And then you go back and reflect again. And this is a circle that you can go round and round as long as you like. On my screen that was a circle. This screen is a bit stretchy, so it's not quite a circle. But you get the idea. So you go round and round for as long as you want. And the discussing with others part of that is basically what the conversation guidelines are all about. Yeah. So you've talked about that quite a lot. I'm going to focus in on the listening to others bit. What are we doing when we're listening?#
So firstly, useful just quickly to think about whom it is you're listening to. Who are you listening to? And basically two groups of people. You're listening to each other and you're listening to witnesses. So listening to each other. Hopefully, you've already found over the first weekend over your introductions, that you actually learn a huge amount from each other from people who are very different from you. Different kinds of life experience, and so on. That's really, really an important part of a Citizens' assembly. And you are also listening to the witnesses, the people who come and give presentations from the front like this. So you'll be hearing from scientists and researchers, from people who are advocating for a particular views on what should be done, from stakeholders who have particular interests. A stake in the game in climate change. So you'll be hearing from a range of different people and one thing that it's useful to consider is just to bear in mind where someone coming from when they're speaking to you. So you know, are they trying to present the whole truth to you? Are they trying to kind of push you in one direction in your thinking? That's always useful just to think about who it is that you're listening to.#
Then this is the really important. The big question. This is the meat of the discussion. So how can we listen most effectively? And again, I think there are two really important things to think about here. The first one is we can listen most effectively by thinking about what the speakers are saying. And secondly, we can listen most effectively by being aware of how we ourselves are listening. So let me just say a few quick things about each of those. So in terms of thinking about what the speakers are saying. So there are all sorts of things we could say about how to think about what a speaker is saying. I'm not going to say lots of things. I'm going to give you Alan's three top tips. Okay? Alan's three top tips.#
So first tip. Ask yourself, "Are they backing up their claims with good evidence and good arguments?" So pretty obvious when you think about it. If someone's making a claim, have they given some evidence in order to persuade you that that's right? Or have they given you an argument to show you why that makes sense? That's really important.#
Second point. Why might someone take a different view? So it's possible, actually, on the first point for someone to give you good evidence but still be wrong. Yeah. So someone who believes in flat earth theory. They can give you some pretty good evidence, they can point you out of the window and say, looks pretty flat. They can say, "Go to Australia, you don't fall off. You don't feel you're upside down." They can give you some pretty good evidence, but they're wrong. So just doing the first question doesn't get you all the way. It's really important to think about. Why might someone be - Why might someone take a different view? So maybe the first person is offering only some of the evidence, but there's also other important evidence that we need to take into account. Or maybe they're interpreting the evidence in a particular way that someone else might disagree with. Or they have different values about what matters what we should be caring about here. So it's important to think about that. And then that leads onto a third question. When speakers are disagreeing with each other, why are they disagreeing? Yeah, so sometimes it's just going to be because one of them is right about the facts and the other one's wrong about the facts. Sometimes that will be the case. Other times, one of them will be focusing on some issues, some of the evidence, others on other issues and other evidence. Sometimes they'll have different values, different arguments as to what we should do in the world. So it's really important in order to understand what's happening in the discussion and where you might stand in it. It's important to think about just why people are disagreeing with each other. Then finally thinking about how we listen, what we're doing when we're listening. I'm just gonna highlight a few pitfalls in how we listen that it's really important just to bring to the surface of your mind and try to resist when they might be happening. We sometimes call these biases as well. So we're better at listening to people who present well. So if the presenter's, kind of bit mumbly and bit incoherent and bit difficult to follow, we're less likely to listen to them. But they might actually be saying some really important stuff. Yeah? So that's important to bear in mind. We're better at listening to people who we think are like us. So men probably bit better at listening to the men. Women may be a bit better listening to the women. All sorts of ways in which different people might be different. And we might -we just tend to listen better to people who we think are like us.#
Third one really important. We're better at hearing things that fit with what we already think. Yeah? So if you already think that I don't know we need we all need to go vegan in order to save the planet. Then you're going to be really good at hearing people who give you evidence for why it's better to be vegan. Whereas if you disagree with that, you're going to hear more effectively the other arguments. So it's really important to try to hear both sides of the argument, including the bits that maybe you don't agree with initially quite so much. Individual stories move us more than evidence about lots of nameless people. So if you get a story about a particular person, maybe quite an emotional story, quite a kind of heartstrings pulling story thing that can really affect us. But maybe it's quite misleading about the overall picture, about the general passion that we see. So it's important to bear that in mind as well.#
This one's a bit little bit, a little bit different. We're worried about being liked. So this is more about what we do when we're trying to decide what we say to other people about the stuff that we've listened to. And it's really easy to want to be liked and therefore want to say stuff that we think other people will agree with. And of course, you, as you know, are here because your view matters. So even if you have a view on what you've just heard that you think other people are going to disagree with, it's really important still to express that for you, that's really, really important.#
Final one and then I promise I'll shut up. We're better at remembering the argument that we heard last. Yeah? If you've heard three speakers much easier to remember the last one, then remember the first one. So I encourage you to do a little experiment on yourself over breakfast tomorrow morning. See if you can remember any of these biases that I've just given you. Okay? I've given you six. I predict the one that you will remember first is this one. Tell me if it's not. Okay? Back to Sarah.
Sarah: So, that was just some food for thought.
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