Speaking of things that cannot be said
We’ve been talking together here at Impact HQ in the beautiful English Lake District. We do that. Talk. A lot.
Sometimes we try and talk very deliberately and carefully about something (as opposed to the usual “meeting” type talking where, despite ourselves, we often start behaving less like human beings and more like people who have been programmed to have meetings with each other. I know you know what I mean).
When we try and focus both on a topic and on our ability to collaboratively construct a dialogue, an intentional conversation, sometimes something remarkable happens. We start speaking of things that cannot be said.
I know what you are thinking; how is it possible to speak of things that cannot be said? The answer is it isn’t possible, not exactly. But powerful conversations, intentional conversations amongst people who are skilled in dialogue are works of art. And art is all about speaking of things that cannot be said.
What I mean is that there are things that are really really important to me, to you, to my friends and colleagues, to human beings, that exist beyond the day to day, at the surface of things. Often they are the things that make us cry even though we don’t really know why we are crying (or at least we can’t explain it very well through our deep sobs). Or they are the reasons why we are haunted by a book, or an idea, or moved by a view from a mountain, or a photograph we keep in our wallet or in our phones (or in our hearts). They also show up as frustrations, things that derail us out of nowhere, things we can’t let go of even though they have a negative effect on our mood, our attitude, our wellbeing.
In organisations there are too many things left unsaid that just need to be spoken, obvious things that sweep aside collusion with negative behaviour, bad attitudes and more. It feels like we need more truth telling in organisations, more honesty, more directness and less politics, less swallowing our dignity or denying our conscience or intellect.
But deeper than all of that in organisations is the need to speak of things that cannot be said. It is these things, these deep, difficult, emotional, human things that make an organisation more that just a structure chart, or a P&L or a marketing brochure. It is these things that make every organisation a unique community of people. It is these things that make an organisation worth working for (or not).
Someone said to me yesterday that all organisations are works of art. I struggled with that a bit because I am pre-disposed to regard art as beautiful. And there are many organisations that are definitely not beautiful. But beauty comes in many different forms and is itself something that cannot be said but only experienced.
Which is why conversations, powerful, intention, skilled dialogues are really really important in organisations, in communities and in the world. Because at the heart of every great conversation, the ones we still remember despite the passing years, the conversations that moved us, that profoundly shifted our understanding, that shaped our heart, is the work of speaking of things that cannot be said.
When was the last time you had that kind of conversation? If you can’t remember or worse if you have never had one then get on a train or a plane to beautiful English Lake District and we’ll help you create one.
Or tell us your stories about the experience of conversations that have changed your life.
We love those stories, we talk about them a lot.
Grahame Broadbelt is Global Head of Communication and R&D at Impact.