Turning to One Another

In Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future , Margaret J. Wheatley encourages us to hold conversations about what matters most to us. Nothing fancy; just simple conversation. Simple and powerful. Wheatley says, "All change, even very large and powerful change, begins when a few people start talking with one another about something they care about."

The book has three parts. First, Wheatley describes why she thinks conversation is critical now, and why she is hopeful that conversation can help us create a world of rich, healthy, living communities and relationships.

My favorite passage from part one gives me a way to do something that's always challenging for me: expose my assumptions. Wheatley says:

Noticing what surprises and disturbs me has been a very useful way to see invisible beliefs. If what you say surprises me, I must have been assuming something else was true. If what you say disturbs me, I must believe something contrary to you. My shock at your position exposes my own position. ... If I can see my beliefs and assumptions, I can decide whether I still value them.

Part two is a short set of aphorisms that capture the themes elaborated the rest of the book, each illustrated with a gentle drawing. "There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about."

Part three offers ten conversation starters, questions that, Wheatley says, can lead a community or organization into "conversations about their deepest beliefs, fears, and hopes." For each question, Wheatley tells a story about the value that can come from the conversation, and provides a short poem (most written by her) woven around the question.

As I was reading this book in bed, my wife Lisa asked me what I was reading about. At that moment, I was reading about the second conversation starter: What is my faith in the future? Not knowing exactly what the question meant (which I think is part of its value), Lisa and I talked for a while about our faith in the future. It wasn't a question we'd talked about before, or even thought about (again, part of the value of the question). Our conversation was gentle, hopeful, and quiet, and we surprised ourselves with where it took us. Very, very nice.

I would love to have a conversation about that same question with a larger group—maybe a dozen people, or maybe four.

I attended one of Wheatley's workshops a few years ago, and I've listened and re-listened to her audio readings of her books, so I was able to read this book in her voice. The combination of her voice and her words make this book, for me, simple, gentle, hopeful, and powerful.

What simple, powerful conversations do you care to convene?

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