Are you willing to be disturbed?

Holding hands

Working on a video trailer for my book recently reminded me of Margaret Wheatley’s beautifully written turning to one another and its short chapter entitled willing to be disturbed.

She points out how we’re not trained to admit we don’t know, and how difficult it is for us to give up our certainties. Margaret believes, as do I, that curiosity about what others believe is what we need, and that we need to be willing to admit that we’re not capable of figuring out things alone.

She recommends that we listen for what surprises us. If what you say disturbs me, she says, I must believe something contrary to you. My shock at your position exposes my own position.…If I can see my beliefs and assumptions, I can decide whether I still value them.

When I talk about attendee-driven conferences, while some people “get” the inherent possibilities, many find it hard to believe that a group of people can create a rich, optimal agenda for the event within a few hours from their initial meeting. Sustaining such disbelief is uncomfortable, and one common response is to stop listening for differences. Although I often feel frustrated when I sense that people aren’t listening in this way, I do my best to continue to listen to their truth, because that’s how I can stay open to learning from them.

Margaret concludes: I expect to be disturbed by what I hear from you. I know we don’t have to agree with each other in order to think well together. There is no need for us to be joined at the head. We are joined by our human hearts.

Are you willing to be disturbed?

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Six principles of conversation

conversation_2995911291_cfba89e806While reading Margaret Wheatley’s lovely book turning to one another I ran across the six principles she has “learned to emphasize” before beginning a conversation:

  • we acknowledge one another as equals
  • we try to stay curious about each other
  • we recognize that we need each other’s help to become better listeners
  • we slow down so we have time to think and reflect
  • we remember that conversation is the natural way human’s think together
  • we expect it to be messy at times

I’m especially taken by her third principle. We can’t listen by ourselves.

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