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Listening is Culture Change

13 min read

While Newtonian physics states that there is one measurable reality, Einstein’s physics says that what’s real depends on your point of view. In this world, you can’t really relate to someone successfully unless you know how it is for them, not as it is for you. Such listening is like an alchemists ‘Philosopher’s Stone,’ turning the base metal of opinion into the gold of potential cooperation. Culture is everything that is affecting you in the moment. Culture change requires moments of the zero gravity that comes from truly listening.

This unique approach means listening with deep appreciation for the feelings and concerns of other people and other groups. When this kind of listening happens, a point of view can shift. When this does not happen, a point of view will not shift.

If culture is history repeating itself into the future, then listening openly without preconception thwarts that process. We are left with what we want in the future in a whole new framework of uncertainty, risk, excitement, fear, and the possibility of true innovation. No wonder most cultures don’t change much. If listening is culture change, the voyage one must commit to is like Columbus setting sail on a flat Earth. It is a voyage only for the stout of heart, in the future of unclaimed territory. It’s a journey for leaders who mean to have a future not mandated by the institutional and collective past of individual members, and especially themselves.

Such listening is a magnet for new ideas, a force field that attracts creative conversation. Such listening is not a technique. It is not a quick fix. In education and advertising, the subject of listening is largely trivialized and turned into another good idea or admirable, but unused method. Listening, however, can become a regular practice in work and personal life, and become as inseparable from one’s own life as being a parent or a friend. At this level, it is magical and rare. It’s also the Cork in the Bottle of our dreams for what we really want — for companies and people.

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