‘Who hurt you so badly that you feel the need to hurt someone else?’ is an incisive, powerful, and courageous coaching question.
It was posed by poet and philosopher, David Whyte, in his recent, brilliant online series, ‘The Edge You Carry With You’. He reminded listeners that when we choose, consciously or unconsciously, to diss or dismiss another, we are projecting our own internal discomfort onto them.
We see it all too frequently on Linked In and other social media threads. The simple dissing or dismissing of another’s attempt to communicate. Frequently fuelled by digital disinhibition and reinforced by enticing, spiritless algorithms, we feel it is ok to comment in a way that we simply would not in a face to face exchange.
And most of us have been there and done that, at least once, haven’t we? I know I have.
We polarise rather than gather together. We create distance rather than move close in. We close off rather than open up to possibility.
We move into what Whyte describes as ‘the cheapest room in the house’ – our state of fear. In the worst cases, it’s a room some never leave.
In our blindness to the effects of our behaviour on others, we simply don’t know whether our off-the-cuff snarky remark was an irritant or a trigger.
This room is a place charged with unlimited potential where there is – if we choose it – a willingness to begin a different conversation, an uncommon conversation.
A conversation that encourages an expansion of self within and extension of self to other.
A conversation where we are courageous enough to ask for help – and courageous enough to offer a hand up to those who might need it.
A conversation that offers the opportunity to co-create positive and productive lives – both professional and personal – that have joy and meaning.
So I wonder… when tempted to react, are we willing to consider whether are we participating from the cheapest room in the house or from ‘the room of courage and resolution?’
The following words from the poem, Seven Streams by David Whyte offer a powerful reminder of this opportunity for uncommon conversation:
“Be a provenance of something gathered,
a summation of previous intuitions
Let your vulnerabilities walking on the cracked, sliding limestone
be this time not a weakness, but a faculty for something that’s about to happen.”
In my work with senior leadership teams, I have witnessed the power of an uncommon conversation to gather and mobilise, move closer in, establish more trust, and accomplish what the team was created to achieve. It is a joy to help each team member be the rising tide that lifts all boats rather than the naysayer that sinks them.
This is what I do. And why I do it.