Leading without Listening…no chance!

07 Dec 2020

I wrote a post a few weeks ago about how much time we spend in conversations without listening to the person we are speaking to.


I have been thinking about this since. Specifically, about how essential it is to being a human that we have the ability to engage in meaningful conversations. Our communication with other people gives us agency in the world.


How often do we see ‘breakdowns’ in communication, humans failing to communicate effectively? How plainly apparent is this in the modern political arena, and if we are honest with ourselves, how often does communication breakdown in our businesses or teams? I keep coming back to the fact that all good conversations start with our ability to listen, really listen.


I had this in mind when I listened to the Turning Towards Life podcast from the wonderful people at Thirdspace. A few weeks ago, they discussed a poem called ‘Setting’ by Rosemary Wahtola Trommer and it had an effect on me. Now this feels a bit brave, I am going to share a poem – I wonder what you will make of it.


Setting – by Rosemary Wahtola Trommer


In every conversation
there is a table made of listening.
Sometimes the tables are beautiful,
solid, clean—the kind
that can support anything
you put on them.
Sometimes, they’re like
the tv dinner trays
of my childhood—
a little rickety, but they’ll do
if what’s put on them is light.
Sometimes they’re so cluttered
that whatever’s placed on their surface
is almost immediately lost.
Let tonight’s table have a small vase of flowers
and a candle perhaps, nothing else.
May it be small enough we might
see each other’s eyes, might notice
every nuance of breath. Whomever
I am most nervous to invite,
may I invite them. And though
the tea is just a metaphor,
may I offer. May they accept.


So, if we are struggling to communicate then perhaps, our table is too cluttered, or perhaps it is just a rickety TV dinner tray. Perhaps we are not taking enough care over the spaces we create for the conversations we are in. Perhaps we are showing up with a dinner tray when we need a beautifully solid, clean table with a candle and a vase of flowers. Just think, show up with a table that doesn’t create the space needed to hold what is there to be said and imagine the cost. The connections unmade, the relationships unbuilt, the possibilities undiscovered. Can we afford to continue like this?


Perhaps we might begin to ask ourselves, “what will todays table look like”?

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