Conversation requires speaking and listening

from the old blog Nov 25, 2016

Yesterday in the United States, people gathered with their families or people they cherish to celebrate Thanksgiving. To express gratitude, and to engage in – or perhaps avoid – conversation.

I’ve been thinking a lot about conversation recently, and about what constitutes true conversation. Here’s one thing I know (and I bet you agree):

Communication requires giving and receiving.

In the act of conversation, this means that a true conversation requires speaking and listening.

Given what’s going on in politics, it’s clear that the U.S. has become extremely polarized. On a communicative level this means that we’re not balancing our acts of speaking and listening. We’re alternating too much between shouting for what we demand, or covering our ears with our hands and going “la la la la la” to things we don’t want to hear. Of course the huge topic since the election has been how social media perpetuates a world in which we can bellow our beliefs into a void and shut out all the things we don’t agree with.

In my teaching and writing, I often use the phrase “speak your truth” (I was even audacious enough to encourage Hillary to do it). When I say “speak your truth,” I don’t mean shout your knee jerk reactions from the highest rooftops. I don’t mean express every single thing that comes to your mind. What I mean is: tap into your deepest level of truth, listen to it, and when you know it’s the real deal, express it.

The liability of emphasizing the “speak their truth” part too much is it leaves out the listening part. We need balance. A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog about Patsy Rodenburg’s system of the three circles of energy (it’s a fascinating and life-changing thing to learn, so I highly recommend you read about it here). In this system, Patsy calls true presence “the second circle.” We are in second circle when we are giving and receiving with our whole being. When we are looking and seeing, speaking and listening, expressing and processing.

This moment in history is asking all of us to be more mindful about what we say, and also to truly listen when others express their truth to us. If we can re-engage in a practice of true conversation, we’re going to start healing the divide that is so clearly present. Here’s one more thing I believe:

When we speak our truth and are really listened to, the result can only lead to progress.

Yes the progress might be that we reach an impasse and have to part ways (or pass legislation, or fundraise, or fight). However the progress might also be that we come up with a solution we never could have envisioned on our own. True conversation leads to evolution.

I know it’s cliché to end with a question, but I’m really asking this one:

Who can you have a real conversation with today?


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