Are you listening to the unconscious?

Meet Martin. The man who took me to the airport this morning on my way to Athens.

I sat in the taxi and went straight on my mobile phone checking emails. How silly.

But then I closed everything and turned my attention to Martin, ‘So for how long have you lived in the UK?’ (the man did not sound like a native speaker)

’20 years now’, he responded.

‘And Martin what have you learned in those 20 years about the UK?’, I asked.

In that moment, Martin literally pushed the steering wheel against his hands. His gesture told me that he found the question deeply uncomfortable and one that he would have not anticipated even in his dreams.

He said, ‘it’s a nice place and the people here are nice.’

I asked him, ‘what’s nice about this place.’

‘I like the weather, it’s very nice weather in the North Sea’, he said.

Nice weather, I thought to myself … That’s precisely why I want to run away from Aberdeen but I kept my breath.

I asked him, ‘and what about the people, what do you like about the people.’

‘Well, I am a diver. I love diving so the North Sea gives me the opportunity to dive. I love Aberdeen weather because I can dive, I am love diving,’ he said.

One doesn’t need a linguistic expert to recognise Martin’s love for diving – the word dive and diving appeared 5 times in one single sentence. There was no mention of people.

Interestingly, even when I probed what he liked about people, he kept coming back to diving. In his own words, he felt ‘rejuvenated’ by this conversation in less than a 15 minutes ride.

It doesn’t stop there. I then met a woman at the airport lounge. We found out that we were both heading to Athens and in less than a minute she tells me, ‘I’m an accountant but I work for a charity.’

I said, what do you mean when you say ‘but.’

There was a good a few seconds silence and a bit of surprise and then she smiled at me.

Well, I work with small children. These are mostly children from foster care and those who don’t get the desired attention. I find it so satisfying to work with these children. That’s where my passion lies.

In less than 2 minutes, I knew what this woman believed in and where her passion lies.

These little stories serves as an example to illustrate how important it is to listen without an agenda if you want to connect with people. Asking open questions, listening to the metaphors, treating people as whole beings, paying attention to what they repeat and exploring the dialectics (paradoxes, confusions, contradictions, trade-offs, choices and compromises) helps us understand and connect with people.

This life philosophy is as applicable to investigations and audits as much as it applies to having conversation with our children.

Stop controlling people, stop trying to solve their problems, stop being their saviour and start listening to the unconscious being.

For a very long time in my life, I have believed that the act of organising and organisation starts first with people.

You cannot organise me and I cannot be part of your organisation if you don’t take the time to understand me. And the onus to understand is on you, not me, when you hold power and authority over me.







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