Introduction to How We Talk Matters

To our peril, in the face of a mountain of serious issues, we are yelling at one another. Why? We’re scared. Life is uncertain and impermanent. And, we live in the shadow of multiple and inter-connected challenges locally, nationally, and globally: food insecurity and malnutrition, climate change and environmental degradation, decrepit infrastructures, inequality and inequity, and wars with their horrifying “collateral damage” including the soul-crushing abuse of women and millions of refugees desperately seeking safer havens.

How can we even begin to tackle these issues with polarized and dysfunctional democratic institutions?

Unfortunately, just like our leaders, we tend to seek security by grabbing onto inherited and often unexamined beliefs about rights answers. Such “certainties” can be comforting in this changeable and frightening world. They can distract us from the anxiety, anger, and helplessness we feel. However, they can also instigate combative interactions that interfere with our ability to come together to solve the problems before us.

When we stop and deeply consider the larger picture, we see we are in this together. We understand that we need one another not only to survive, but also to create a world, an organization, or a community that we will be proud to bequeath to our children and our children’s children.

Our need to talk better together has never been greater. We no longer have time for unproductive and damaging discussions that lead to stalemate, destructive compromises, and downright bad decisions. Can so much depend on how we talk with one another? Yes! How we talk affects our ability to learn and think effectively, which is key to our being able to figure any of this out.

Of course, changing how we talk with one another is not the only step necessary to taking on these matters, but it is essential to improving our situation and creating a desirable future. The future need not be a place we march towards blindly; instead it can be a place we create together through our interactions. Perhaps those of us closer to the issues in our communities and organizations can show the way.

If you are interested in becoming more adept at generating effective, even transformative conversations with colleagues, and leaders at work or in your community, or with neighbors or family members, this blog is for you. My hope is that you will find inspiration, tips, and tools here to create meaningful and productive conversations about consequential questions so that together we can do good things for our world. Each post will be grounded in the brain and behavioral sciences and in just plain common sense based on my years of experience as a facilitator, consultant, and community member.

Please pass this along to anyone who you think might find this information helpful.

Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird

7 thoughts on “Introduction to How We Talk Matters

  1. How lovely to receive your blog. I took your Collaborative Organization Design course in the early 1990’s when I was the internal OD at Kaiser; I still have the binder! Wishing you both well.

  2. Your comments past discussion on the role of intention – choosing to listen first to understand. Perhaps there can be some meaningful exploration here of the role and process of intention?

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