Talk is cheap, but discussions are invaluable.
Yes, we all know that person. You know the one who talks but never takes action. That individual who loves to flap their lips and nothing but hot air resounds. You hold your ears begging they would stop with the blah, blah, blah.
It goes to show you there is a massive difference between talking and discussing. Though the two sound interchangeable, they are far from it. One involves a one-sided conversation while the other requires active and open listening from all parties partaking. Can you guess which is which?
Margaret J. Wheatley wrote an impactful book in 2005, "Finding Our Way: Leadership For an Uncertain Time." She wrote it for the occurrences of our society 15 years ago. However, the words within are violently telling in our now. The book opens up with a powerful quote from Rudolf Bahro, "When the forms of an old culture are dying, the new culture is created by a few people who are not afraid to be insecure."
So many of us only engage in talking because we fear our insecurities. We get stuck in regurgitating meaningless words too afraid to abide and sit in our vulnerabilities. We can't show weakness or let on that we don't have the answers. Our unwillingness to do so and allow ourselves to feel lost, confused, uncertain, and incapable only keeps us from engaging in discussions.
In her chapter, Willing to Be Disturbed, Wheatly helps us understand why this is a barrier to greatness, to change, and true innovation. Whenever we place ourselves in the midst of a real discussion, we force listening. There is no other choice but to stop and open our ears to hear, which, in turn, opens us up to learning. Learning then leads to change.
Wheatly describes what to listen for to ensure that this two-way conversation evolves into learning. We are looking for what surprises us. When a comment or point is made that shocks us and leaves us in disbelief because it goes against our own beliefs, turn the ears up. This jolting moment sheds light on our own positioning and assumptions. We must begin to pull them out and assess to determine if we still value the mindset we approached the discussion with after what we have heard.
The question we must ask ourselves is, "Are we willing to be disturbed?" Can we get comfortable with the uncomfortable? There may be something said that challenges everything about who we are and why we are. Are we ready for it? There may be a pandemic that exposes all the gaps and band-aid fixes of our organizations. Will we move into discussion? It could be racial tension that seeks to break every single brick within the walls of inequality and injustice in our society. Will we engage in discussion?
The question must be posed as most won't do it. Most of us prefer our certainty and won't trade it for curiosity. Most of us won't travel into the mystery because it feels safe in the "what we currently know "(even if it is a lie). Then there is the element that severely holds us back from the real, in-depth, heart-to-heart discussion—the admitting we were wrong. Venturing into a place where insecurities are memorialized, and we come to terms with our mistaken notions isn't for everybody.
No, this place is for change agents, the creators of new, and the fire sparkers. If we are willing to let the uncertainty drive us into listen mode, then our next steps can move us into the unimaginable.
"We can't be creative if we refuse to be confused. Change always starts with confusion; cherished interpretations must dissolve to make way for the new. Of course, it's scary to give up what we know, but the abyss is where newness lives. When we're bold enough to move through the fear and enter the abyss, we rediscover we're creative," Margaret J. Wheatly.