Photo: Communicating a message

Communication, Collaboration, and Creating a Better World

Posted on November 19, 2021 by Connor LaGrange, TPF Fellow 2021/22
The Patterson Foundation embraces its values. Those values are a guiding light shining the way for each endeavor. One of those values is "We work with others to strengthen their impact." By doing this, TPF can remove itself from the center of attention and strive to build up others within the community. This not only is a great value, but it is also an idea humanity could cling to in today's world.

Values can often be high-in-the-sky aspirational thinking. They are difficult and oftentimes strenuous to implement in one's life or one's organizational culture. What makes this value potentially challenging to embody is who it involves.

People.

This is by no means a judgment on TPFers or our fellow community members. Rather, it is a recognition of the flawed and complex interactions between people on an individual level. What makes this difficult to live is the fact that life involves working with others. So often, the reason we find working with others difficult is our inability to communicate with one another effectively.

Communication is an intriguing and crucial topic. So many of us pay lip service to its importance, yet so few of us (myself included) put in the work or effort to bolster our communication. For others, what communication entails is an even larger mystery.

The importance of communication within our relationships and even organizations cannot ever be overstated, yet meaningful communication often slips through the cracks. Much of our inability to communicate with each other, our stakeholders, and the broader community can be boiled down to one shortcoming we can all so often demonstrate—the inability to listen.

The philosopher Epictetus once said, "We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak." If only that were always true. In my brief time spent outside of higher education in the "real world," I realized the importance of listening (and quite frankly, I can at times be the worst listener in the room). If you have ever been in a relationship of any type (platonic, romantic, and work-related) and had a disagreement, the words "are you listening" may have been uttered. One of the easiest ways to make someone feel valued and known is by simply listening to them.

TPF demonstrates listening well in many ways, but one unique way comes to mind. One of the things that TPF attempts to ensure is that we (as an organization) don't "arrive with the answer." When we make a conscientious effort not to solve problems or answer every question, it gives us a chance to listen to others fully. This does not mean TPF executes this principle flawlessly in every interaction. Rather, it permeates TPF's culture and is a mindful attempt at ensuring TPFers and those who interact with the foundation feel heard.

Once you can ensure someone feels listened to, you can begin building connective tissue and eventually trust. And as The Patterson Foundation's CEO Debra Jacobs likes to say, "Change happens at the speed of trust."

Like many other things in our complex world, there are many steps in between learning to listen and creating change through our shared trust.

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