• Jan Rybeck

Look Who's Not Talking

Those who say don’t know, and those who know don’t say.

Ancient words by Lao Tsu and the Tao T’ching.

Perfect for tweeting.

I have found these words to be powerfully instructive.

Like, for example, a colleague I once knew who knew all the leadership jargon and used it generously while pissing everyone off and losing the confidence of her team.

Or the leader whose quiet confidence and kind ways created space for others to step up. And when he did speak, it was not about what he knew but about what was possible.

The other day I was reviewing a video in which I interviewed a well-respected colleague. I was intrigued by the times I felt the need to speak more than ask a question. It was obvious in the replay that my comments were not additive, nor were they particularly smart. I just needed to say something. Those moments caught me off guard as I had been trying to sit back and make space.

I suspect I was afraid of being invisible… my vintage reptilian brain operating without permission, making sure I had a place.

And after all, I’ve been told to get my brand out there and how can I build my brand if no one knows I am here?


Probably not something Lao Tsu had to worry about.

Imagine coming into a meeting and no one says anything for the first 5 minutes…can you sense the discomfort and awkwardness of that space?

I am in this tension a lot with my work. I notice that the quieter I am and the more space I make for others, the more power in the work. It’s like the silence creates a vacuum that attracts the potential of the other…. and the moment.

And yet, our world has a hard time with the space of silence.

What is it we fear in the space of silence?

Not being seen?

Not being heard?

Not getting what we need?

Seeming out of it?

Losing credibility?

Causing discomfort?

Wasting time?

These concerns are very real. And yet, they are only half the equation.

Space is what allows for growth. If we can manage to move past or perhaps sit with the anxiety that comes with space, just long enough, we might just come to know there is actually something in that nothingness, if only potential.

It reminds me of the Japanese concept of “moo” or the power of yin that exists in the empty space.

A cup is no longer useful once full.

A conversation is not that if one person does all the talking.

A mind cannot learn if it is already full of what one already knows.

What is the mindset that leads you to speak when you do?

What might be an experiment for creating space in your day to day interactions?

What mindset would enable you to create that space?

When does what you know get in the way of what you might learn?

“In times of complexity and change it’s the learners who will inherit the future, while the learned will be perfectly equipped for a world that no longer exists”.- Eric Hoffer

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