In Conversation: Learn to Listen and to Tell the Truth



David Gurteen

First Published

February 2002


Anthony de Mello, Stephen Covey, Suzy Wetlaufer , Theodore Zeldin



Do we listen, in order to confirm what we already think and in order to reply? Or do we listen in order to discover something new? Do we enter into a conversation with a willingness to learn rather than the intent to force others to accept our views?

Are we willing to learn? Are we willing to change? Are we open to the truth, no matter what the consequences, no matter where it leads us?

Are we willing to admit that we are wrong? Maybe we have always been wrong or maybe our views are obsolete and no longer appropriate in a rapidly changing world.

Are we ready to listen? Are we open? And by being open, I do not mean gullible. Being open does not mean swallowing everything we hear "hook, line and sinker". Or being talked over and walked upon - not standing for our point of view. We still need to challenge everything but from an attitude of openness, not stubbornness.

Are we prepared to tell the truth? To describe the world as we really see it?

Are we prepared to accept that in being honest we will scare the living daylights out of people?

Are we prepared to deal with people, who when we tell the truth, will perceive it as a personal assault - an invitation to battle rather than the beginning of a real conversation.

We resist speaking the truth, and we avoid hearing it, too. Are we prepared to be vulnerable and ask people what they really think of us?

The truth is an emotive word. It is seeped in philosophical meaning.

Is there a single truth? Is there a single underlying reality? Or are there many truths? Is truth a matter of individual perspective?

Don't get me wrong - I'm not looking to open a philosophical debate. I'm more concerned with everyday practicalities.

To my mind, in everyday matters of complex human affairs, be they business or personal, there are many truths. There is rarely such a thing as "the truth" but "my truth", "your truth” and "his or her truth".

In seeing the world we are not objective, dispassionate observers. We see things through different lens with different filters. Our observing equipment is different, shaped and formed by years of differing experiences, by our genes and by our parents and teachers. People are fundamentally different. People are more different than we ever realize. What motivates us, turns us on, turns us off, makes us happy, makes us sad, fulfilled or depressed is different for all of us.

Maybe there is a single underlying reality - a single truth - maybe not - but what I think is certain is that if there is - we rarely see it or agree it

We all experience and perceive the world differently.

If we do not listen and do not tell the truth then what hope is there for us truly sharing, synergising and making productive our collective knowledge. We need to explore the fundamental role of conversation in knowledge management, the barriers and how to overcome them.

But fundamentally it is simple - in conversation - we need 'to learn to listen' (or should it be 'to listen to learn'?) and 'to tell the truth'.



This article has been influenced by the writings of four key people:

Theodore Zeldin, Anthony de Mello, Stephen Covey and Suzy Wetlaufer.

Video: Knowledge Cafe at KM Egypt 2010

This video was taken at KM Egypt in September 2010 where I was invited to run a Knowledge Cafe.

It is probably one of the best videos that not only describes my Knowledge Cafes but where you also get to see it in action and hear some of the insights from the people taking part.

Note: the room and the tables are not the ideal setting for a Knowledge Cafe nor is the reporting back process but often the Cafe needs to be adapted to fit the room and the number of participants.

Media Information: Image

If you are interested in Knowledge Management, the Knowledge Café or the role of conversation in organizational life then you my be interested in this online book I am writing on Conversational Leadership
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