Changing the world, one conversation at a time.
When we run programs at Landing Strong, we spend quite a bit of time discussing how to create an environment that feels comfortable and safe. Participants tell me that it’s not uncommon to walk into a community coffee group where they’re initially having a good time, only to have the mood shift once the subject of politics comes up. Suddenly the tone is angry and loud. Instead of ideas and insights forming the discussion, hard opinions become the propulsion for discussion. Listening decreases as each person fixates on ensuring their “truth” is heard.
When this happens, I know it’s just a matter of time until the conversation shuts down, and the potential for insights and wisdom arising from the discussion are lost.
Speaking truthfully without hurting feelings, writes Cheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer at Facebook, is an acquired skill. It’s that wonderful balance between appropriateness and authenticity.
In her book Lean In, Sandberg notes “When communicating hard truths, less is more…The ability to listen is as important as the ability to speak.”
What if we all made it our mission to seek to understand the opinions of others, without needing to be right? How would the world change? We may disagree with what we hear, but at least by listening we are inviting an opportunity for dialogue. Sowing the seeds of change. If we are able to shift our focus from being heard, to accepting the uniqueness of each person’s truth, the discussion becomes richer.
I have to admit, I don’t always master this art. But I try.
Please join me in noticing the tone and manner in which we communicate with others. Is it inviting or overbearing? Welcoming or deflective?
As Sandberg confirms, being aware of the problem is the first step to correcting it.
Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Founder, Landing Strong