I listened to a conversation about ways to accelerate organizational change. As the conversation went on, with each phrase I realized that I understood less and less. I understood the language (English). I knew the words and what they meant. I also felt like I was the lead character from “It’s a Wonderful Life”, wanting to ask the person to repeat himself because I thought I had heard with my bad ear. In the movie, George Bailey could not believe what he was hearing. In my case, I could not understand what I was hearing! On any level, it made no sense to me.
I came away from the conversation confused. I am still not completely sure I understand the conversation. I ended up asking lots of questions. Some of the answers he gave made sense; others did not. As I replay the conversation with the benefit of time and reflection, there are three lessons that stand out.
Conversations are complete when receivers hear and understand. An opening for a complete conversation begins when someone is able to hear. It is not complete until the individual also understands. An old observation still stands. “Think, friends: If I come to you and all I do is pray privately to God in a way only he can understand, what are you going to get out of that?” (1 Corinthians 14.6)
Conversations from the heart are only heard in the context of dialogue. While they begin with both parties listening to learn, it is only in the questioning and clarifying that they come to life. Even though we speak the same language, words have different meanings. Assuming that one understands is always dangerous. Ask, clarify, and affirm are necessary for dialogues.
Conversations ask the person sharing to be open to more. Part of the process will include being open to different viewpoints and perspectives. Seeing through another’s eyes opens a door for a bigger story.
On this night we did not connect. I am hopeful that we will connect again. We are willing to invest. The possibilities are endless.