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The fastest way to learn is to discover a person or group which reaches totally different conclusions to your own when looking at the same reality. Robert Theobald
All too often, we suffer from an acceptance of ignorance. Whether we are talking about organizations, nations, political parties, religions, communities or individuals, the tension and conflict present in so many of our interactions does not represent differences between values and beliefs, cultures and civilizations. Instead, it is the result of the acceptance of ignorance and the unwillingness to learn and understand.
When understanding is not present, the ability to predict, anticipate, comprehend, empathize, and ultimately, connect becomes much more difficult. But then again, connection is a dirty word.
- “I don’t want to waste time talking with end-users about this technology. We understand what they need better than they do.”
- “I’m tired of listening to these damn employee complaints. We’ve given them too much already. What more do they want?”
- “If we include ‘them’ in our decision-making process, they will want something we might not be able to deliver.”
- “I know it’s better to include your employees to help them develop, but it just takes too much time. It’s more expedient to just tell them what to do.”
Companies treat suppliers like criminals who are determined to find holes in their contracts that help them steal us blind. Managers distance themselves from employees, so it is easier to fire them should there be a RIF. The company president lives in a town far removed from the community of his or her executive assistant . . . intentionally. Their kids don’t go to the same school, nor play on the same ball team.
Politicians refuse to walk across the party isle to create compromise, let alone improve a bill through dialog. Countries refuse to engage in talks. Diplomacy, and the ability to reach across ideological divides to solve pressing problems, has been replaced with a celebration of intractable ideology.
All this posturing. All this noise. All these opinions. All this desire to stand apart.
And nobody listens.
As John Mayer sings in his hit song, sometimes we have let people say what they need to say. We have to make sure they know that they can take out their wasted honor, their past frustrations, their so called problems and put them in quotations. Even if their hands are shakin’ and their faith is broken, we’ll let them say what they need to say.
As much as this song is about the power of sharing your true feelings, it’s also about giving the gift of listening as someone unloads. When we listen, we help others feel understood. We show them our heart’s wide open and give them space to communicate their needs, interests, and ideas – both what they know and what they may not yet understand.
The real gift, however, isn’t to them. It’s to us. We learn. We understand. Our own ignorance is replaced with the ability to connect.