I have attended many events in the social innovation and changemaking space, and a phrase I have heard a lot is “WE NEED LESS TALK AND MORE ACTION!”
I have heard this said with a lot of gusto and a great dose of frustration, and perhaps for various reasons. For some they have attended so many networking events and seen these as ‘talk-fests’ that never eventuate into anything. For others their drive for action is so much part of who they are that talk-without-action is so genuinely frustrating to them. People even throw in statements like ‘walk-the-walk’ rather than ‘talk-the-talk’, as if integrity is somehow only linked to or expressed by those who are in action.
Do we undervalue the role of talking about change? Or are our ways of talking about change so generally ineffective, disconnected or uninspiring that we are prepared to forget it and march straight into action?
When I think about true dialogue, speaking and listening can be a process that provides connection and deepens understanding of ourselves, others and the world. Perhaps when people denigrate talking, they are denigrating the type of talking that doesn’t allow them to connect with others or enter into a deeper space of meaning. Our binary thinking therefore dismisses one in the favour of the other. What if the process of changemaking requires both talk AND action?
My sense is that action without talk is highly dangerous. Or let me say that another way; action without connection and deep consideration of others and the world can be highly dangerous. I wonder what changemaking and action would look like if we found ways to enter genuine dialogue as a deliberate process.
Yet perhaps the ‘talking-naysayers’ are right. What if talk is a blind or inadequete approach to providing connection and understanding? There may well be other ways. I have already written on contemplation, and wonder if silence and time are equally important parts of the change process. Silence can be powerful in allowing wisdom, and time for other forces to come into play.
Perhaps our rush to create change is more dangerous than talk. Perhaps what we need more is time and silence to consider its impacts. Of course, some people who talk of the urgency to address the social and environmental challenges we face may dismiss this; saying that we can’t afford to not act. Well, it was not time that got us to this place, it was the limited consciousness that we approached things with. If we rush in with the same thinking and perceiving that got us here, surely that is equally dangerous.
I originally titled this post “Less talk, less action”. It is not a matter of dismissing the need for either. Both of these are part of the changemaking process. So are other approaches that I am seeking to explore in this blog. There is a time for talk and a time for action. There is also a time for meditation, a time for silence, a time for empathy, a time for understanding. Where is your attention now?