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A lot of people bad mouth talking. Walt Disney once said: “the way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing”. Lyndon B Johnson claimed: “you aren’t learning anything when you’re talking”. Even Will Shakespeare quipped that “talking isn’t doing…words are not deeds.”

But not everyone agrees with these men and their words of so-called wisdom. Some of us have chosen to hear wiser words from those such as Maya Angelou who advised: “Good done anywhere is good done everywhere. For a change, start by speaking to people rather than walking by them like they're stones that don't matter.

What do you think? Is talking a waste of time, a delay for achievement, an impediment to progress?

I believe that taking time to talk isn’t a luxury because I have seen the difference it makes. As a former litigator, all too often I ended up in court in situations that could have been resolved – often years earlier – if people had taken the time to talk. I won’t be the only one that has seen a strategy fail because teams have been too quick to jump into action without talking to those who will be impacted by the changes they impose. Much needed for change can be ineffectual in the face of a reality that the change makers were simply unaware of. Actions can speak louder than words – but only if words are listened to in the first place.

The tricky bit comes in creating a space where people feel enabled and empowered to speak so that the conversation is heard and the time not wasted. As a facilitator, I see how people fear ‘talking shops’. Instead of speaking up they remain silent, not convinced that anyone will listen. They worry that others may be too quick to judge them and so prefer not to express things from their perspective. People question whether their own opinion is wrong and so avoid saying anything rather than being made out a fool. As caring individuals, they often seek to avoid expressing differing views with colleagues in case it sparks conflict.

As a facilitator, it is my role and privilege to create spaces where people feel comfortable, confident and collaborative in their conversations. To do so effectively, we need to think carefully about how we connect and communicate with each other. In our emergence from the pandemic, we have had to revisit how we do this, particularly in a context where hybrid working is a permanent reality for so many teams of diverse individuals.

We’ve learned that while some people love a Teams catch up, for others its isolating; while some folk have no fear about speaking out in face to face gatherings, others prefer the anonymity of a zoom screen; and for those who have joined organisations remotely, the lack of water cooler gossip can leave them feel disconnected personally and professionally. All that means we need to be creative and conscious about how we talk with each other so as to ensure we listen, learn and live effectively with each other.

But no matter how hard it is, the answer cannot be to ‘just do it’. If anything, now is the time to talk more than ever. In that way, we might be enabled to hear the connections that we need in order to take the action that we require so as to make the changes that we can.

What do you think? I’d love to take the time to talk with you about it. Let’s have a conversation soon.

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