Hang on a minute. We already know it’s important to talk. We’ve been talking about talking for years.
That’s true, but I wonder how good we really are at talking with (and listening to) each other.
One of the things that’s come out most strongly for me in the corona situation is the challenge of creating an environment where we can all express our feelings and opinions in a way that is respectful of others, open, honest, liberating and creative.
I like to work through possible futures in conversation. I find it very creative. It’s one of my most powerful ways of influencing the future. But to do that I need to feel free to talk about many different ideas without having a preconceived notion of what the right direction will be.
Some of it is challenging, scary stuff. Some of it might be illusion or imagination. Some of it is inspiring. Talking about it helps to clarify what’s real and what’s not – at least for me.
I spent many years living in an imagined future until I noticed that none of it was actually coming into reality. That was the beginning of learning to be more grounded.
I’ve also had times of trying to fit in with the mainstream narrative and be “realistic”, but it hasn’t served me well. It makes me feel stuck in the past way of doing things, without a sense of evolution or emergence.
Other people might enjoy a completely different style of conversation from me. That’s fine. The diversity is great. But there’s a challenge here that I’m pondering.
As we have more and more possibility, through technology, to communicate with anyone we choose, based on our values and preferences, it’s easy to create small siloed communities of like-minded people. They gain information from the same sources and validate each other’s opinions. It’s comfortable and enjoyable and very self-affirming.
At the same time, it distances us from people with different opinions and perspectives, some of them uncomfortable or confronting. That seems to me to be limiting and ultimately dangerous.
One of the original values of mainstream media was exposure to a range of opinions. It used to be a golden rule in the BBC, but those days seem long gone.
It’s almost inevitable now that we’re swinging in the opposite direction, towards highly personalised media and sources of information. One of the strange consequences of that is that we no longer have a shared narrative.
Even in the current covid story, which has an extraordinary global focus, there are such radically varying views on it that conversations can be very difficult. As someone who doesn’t hold a mainstream view on what’s happening, I’m having to learn a lot about how to share my perspective in a way that another person can hear.
It’s showing me how to speak about something with as much honesty and transparency as I can, whilst listening to and respecting someone else’s views that I may totally disagree with. I’m not finding it easy and I grapple every day with big questions as a result.
- How do I allow space for mild and extreme disagreement?
- How do I share my views, especially where I have some expertise, in a way that doesn’t dominate or control others?
- How do I offer another person the chance to learn something that might be very valuable to them, without making them feel threatened?
- How do I listen to someone who’s talking about something that I know is untrue (factually, scientifically, rationally) and allow them to feel valued and loved and yet not pretend to agree with them on issues where they don’t know as much?
- How do I learn from others who know more than me, without letting them take over my discernment?
- How do I listen to and respect someone who’s locked in a fearful, scary version of the future?
- How do I listen to and respect someone who appears to me be living in an illusion and is not facing the truth, without confirming their illusion even more?
I can honestly say that I don’t have a ready answer for any of these questions (and I could easily have extended the list). I feel as if I’m living inside a big question mark a lot of the time. Ways that used to work aren’t enough any more. Formulae and ready answers are deeply inadequate.
It feels like my energy and engagement in life are being honed and massaged and shaped and reshaped into a new form that I can’t easily predict. For that I’m grateful.
If you’re a business owner, and you appreciate clarity and wisdom, I invite you to The Spirit of Business podcast, hosted by Sarah McCrum and Matt Murphy.
Image credit: Etienne Boulanger of Unsplash