There are times when the words we are using do not work. We cannot get our point across, or worse, they are hurting or offending even when we mean well. When something like this happens, it leaves us asking ourselves what we could have done differently, or if there was something that we could have learned and used, to make things work.
And when we are in a leadership position, we must understand that many of the interactions we have, will not stay contained within the office walls. The role our work plays in our life is huge, and whatever happens at work, is often taken home. Especially now that many people are already at home and the only thing that separates work from personal issues is a window border on a screen.
David Whyte is a poet. A very special poet, not because he is Anglo-Irish and now lives in the US, but because he has a corporate practice, advising large corporations on communication skills, organizational leadership, and creativity. HERE is one of his fabulous TED Talks.
When Whyte was first recruited for Corporate America, part of the words coming from the person who approached him that convinced him were: “the language we have in our world, is not enough for the territory we have already entered “. Since then (according to his Wikipedia page), he has advised companies like Boeing, AT&T, NASA, Toyota, The Royal Air Force and Arthur Andersen.
I don’t think that Whyte is advocating for us to write emails that rhyme or that have the structure of a sonnet, but some creativity, and the ability to go past the filters we put on our ears can be very useful.
He summarizes it in this phrase he used when interviewed by Krista Tippet: “poetry is that moment in a conversation where you have to have the other person understand what you’re saying. And sometimes it’s when you’re delivering terrible news, news of a death or an accident, and you have to tell the other person, and they have to hear it. And you have to say it in such a way that it’s heard fully. But you have to say it, also, with the intimacy of care and of understanding at the same time.”