Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More

Responding To Where The Inquiry Comes From

Browns Valley, California, USA

January 14, 2018

"I'm not making an issue of the words you use. I'm making the system from which the words are derived the problem. Given the system, I can't answer the question. You see, it's not simply the words you're using that are the problem. What I want to convey to you is this: in the assumptions from which you are asking the question, you allow for no truthful answer to the question. The words you use reflect your assumptions accurately, and given your assumptions, there's no solution to the problem. One cannot solve the problem in the system you are using. In fact, that system is the problem. Now, I'm going to answer your question, because, you know, I came here and agreed to do that, but I want to tell you the truth before I answer the question. So I'm telling you that my answer will make no sense if you listen to the answer in that system from which you asked the question. The answer is that the organization has for several years been shifting away from a structure that has a central place or a top place from which decisions are made and passed on. We always tried not to operate that way, and over the years we've become more and more successful at not operating that way. The structure of just about any ordinary organization, however, is that way."
responding to an interviewer inquiring "I want to know what problems you see, and how those changes are going to contribute to the relationship between you and your underlings in the organization."

Unlike hundreds of Werner's extraordinary quotes I've posted to this Conversations For Transformation website, the quote appearing above which is the source quote for this essay, doesn't appear in the clickable quotes box on the lower right of the Conversations For Transformation's website's home page, and nor does it appear in the Werner Erhard Quote Experience. That's because all quotes appearing in both those locations, stand alone - in other words, they speak for themselves with no introduction needed, with no added context required. This  quote on the other hand, is spoken by Werner in response to an interviewer's inquiry. The interviewer's inquiry to which Werner is responding, appears above following Werner's quote. Without knowing the interviewer's inquiry, Werner's response to it has no context. Knowing the inquiry, his quote in response to it, has context and is brilliant. It's stunning, actually. It's vintage Erhard.

When you listen Werner's response, it's clear he isn't merely responding to the interviewer's inquiry per se. Were he only doing that, it would have been brilliant. Rather, he's responding unasked to where the inquiry comes from. That's what makes his response stunning. And it's that he's responding to where the inquiry comes from, that this essay addresses.

We human beings are enigmatic in so many ways (we are to me, at least). We enact things. We run our lives. We occupy space and time in the world. Yet for the most part, we don't know who we really are. Wow! We do what we do, and we do a lot, and yet for the most part, given we don't know who we really are, we don't even know who's doing the doing. That's enigmatic to me. In spite of it, we don't invest much capital in the inquiry into who we really are. So when we're in a conversation, we're mostly speaking while not knowing who we really are - said another way, we're mostly unaware that we're the space that colors and shapes what we're talking about (that's actually a lot closer to the truth than it sounds). That space is behind (ie is prior to)  what we're talking about. Colloquially, we say it's where we're coming from. And where we're coming from, colors and shapes what we're really  talking about: where we're coming from, colors and shapes what we're really saying.

Now: to listen for where we're coming from, rather than to listen for what we're talking about, is to listen for what we're really saying. And at best, we live like the difference between the two listenings is inconsequential; at worst, we're clueless that there's any difference at all. In the above quote from Werner which sources this essay, you can hear he's listening for and responding to where the interviewer's inquiry is coming from. And I'll bet you good money the interviewer isn't aware it's where he's coming from. And I'll bet you more good money the interviewer isn't aware that where he's coming from, is speaking louder than what he's talking about.

It takes a certain relentless listening to respond to where we're coming from (ie an extraordinary listening) rather than to respond merely to what we're talking about (ie an ordinary listening). It requires listening in a way that doesn't get sidetracked by the enigma of us operating in the world without knowing who we really are.

First listen the interviewer's inquiry above, then imagine what you may have said if it were you who was responding. Imagine what you may have responded to, and how you may have couched your response. Now listen Werner's response. Notice he's not only responding to what the interviewer is inquiring about, as much as he's responding to where he's coming from. Said another way, he's responding to the space that colors and shapes what the interviewer is really saying. That's what makes Werner's response extraordinary, brilliant, stunning. And he's not just listening extraordinarily on this one occasion: no, this is the way Werner always  listens. Really.

Communication Promise E-Mail | Home

© Laurence Platt - 2018 Permission