Sometimes we ‘need to be reminded more than we need to be taught.’ – Samuel Johnson (paraphrased)
My reminder came this morning, a simple truth about human performance shared with me several years ago by one of my teachers, Bob Dunham who repeatedly put it into this context: “All our results – good, bad, or indifferent – come from the conversations we have, the ones we don’t, the ones we have effectively, and the ones we have ineffectively…” Bob would often say… So I was thinking about our political discourse, and it occurred painfully to me that most of us are not happy with our collective results. We’re angry on the right, and we’re angry on the left. When applying my teacher’s mantra, it starts to make sense. Bad moods are symptoms of ineffective and missing conversations. When it comes to politics, we are for the most part not having the conversations.
Just yesterday I discovered one of my Twitter followers was spreading ominous conspiracy theories and fake news stories and even boasted of being personally called and thanked by President Elect, Trump. Like a knee-jerk reaction, I clicked to unfollow him. “One less follower for him,” I smugly thought. But now it’s dawning on me. We live in our own self-constructed echo-chambers, happily unable to hear the views that counter to our own, following the people we are inspired by (or at least willing to tolerate), and unfollowing those we perceive as representing the shadow parts of our consciousness, the parts we forbid to enter into our mental space. This contracts our possibilities and does not expand them.
When we paint each other as ‘good’ and ‘bad,’ as ‘right’ and ‘wrong,’ we ultimately draw ourselves into little corners and prevent ourselves from realizing true greatness. As an executive coach who specializes in effective communication, I just articulated a gourmet recipe for ineffective and missing conversations. So my challenge to myself and anyone else who dares to realize their greatness is this: Find someone you disagree with, but have an interest in, and have the most effective conversation you can have with them. That would be a powerful leadership move.
For more on this topic, check out Eli Pariser’s Weekend Edition interview on NPR at: http://tinyurl.com/gmwzn2m