Welcome to the
Hi, my name is Joshua Lazerson, and I’m glad you’re interested in learning about, or learning more about, the Listening Project.
The idea for the Listening Project first came to me around three years ago. The idea was very simple: set up a couple of chairs in public places and offer people the opportunity to speak uninterrupted about anything they wished for five or ten minutes, with the promise that if they did so I would really listen.
You will find more information on this page about why I have chosen to do this, what is involved in doing it, why I think it is valuable, what I have experienced in doing it, and most importantly (to my mind), why I hope you will consider becoming a listener also.
First, a Thank You
If you are here because you saw me doing this out in the world, stopped to read about the Listening Project, and took a card with the information to access this website, I am grateful for your interest in listening, and I appreciate your being here. If you are one of the people who has stopped to read my sign and then joined me to share something about your life or to discuss the project with me, I am particularly thankful for the chance to get to know you a little bit, and for your willingness to engage with me and help build this new experience. Thank you.
I also want to thank anyone who is reading this and has engaged in their own listening project or work. Some of the people who have stopped to speak with me have mentioned that they have seen or heard of similar efforts. If you have reached out to others with a will to listen and a plan for doing so, I appreciate you and what you have done.
The Listening Project
A Modest ‘How-to’ Guide to Get Started
I think that this is the most essential element of the project. I’ve included an image of mine on this website. As you can see, the poster does a number of things in fairly short order: it gives people a sense of who I am; it provides a sense of why I’m doing this; it presents the offer I am making to people; and it suggests that there are a few boundaries I’m asking people to observe. I also tell people that if they would like to join me but don’t know what they would talk about, I am happy to ask them a question. And I added a note that makes clear that all people are welcomed and appreciated.
I think that your poster probably should offer similar information. Most important, it should impart a sense of who you are. A friend who had been to my house and who had seen the poster told me a week later that he thought it was very effective because the sense of it was open, that its messages taken as a whole provided a feeling of openness, earnestness, and sincerity, or words to that effect. Ideally people who take the time to read it feel that what you are offering is genuine and heartfelt: it is the place or moment in which you do, or do not, establish the beginnings of a sense of trust with someone.
In terms of nuts and bolts, I went to a FedEx store that has an architectural photocopier and had my 8 ½ by 11-inch copy of the poster blown up to 3 feet by 4 feet. That was about $25. After trimming it, I realized that I needed a fairly lightweight but strong board to put it on. I went to a hardware store and bought a pre-made thin piece of plywood 4 feet by 4 feet, and they cut it down to 2 ½ feet by 3 ½ feet for me for free. I then taped the poster to the board around the edges using that heavy, clear packing tape. It’s holding up pretty well. You may well make your poster another way. I began by using some fairly heavy wooden folding chairs that we already had. Since then, I have purchased three lightweight summer folding chairs ($9.99 a piece at a sporting goods store) that are much easier to lug around. I also built a handle on the back of the poster board to make it easier to carry. Perhaps you will be so much smarter than me that you’ll rig up a cart or some other wheeled device that can carry all of these worldly goods for you.
If you would like to be in touch with me, ask questions, make suggestions, have thoughts to share, or wish to share your experiences, I would be pleased to hear from you. I will do my best to get back with you as soon as I can, while acknowledging that, perhaps like you, I still have a full working life going on. I appreciate your patience, just as I appreciate your reaching out.
If you decide to move forward as a listener yourself, I would be very interested to know that and to hear about your experiences.