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


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The Cost Of Certainty

Yountville, California, USA

November 23, 2020



"Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people." ... Eleanor Roosevelt

This essay, The Cost Of Certainty, is the tenth in a group of eleven on Listening: It is also the tenth in a group of ten on Enrollment: I am indebted to JeanneLauree Olsen who contributed material for this conversation.




I can tell when I'm not listening fully. I can. Really. I can check it out. It's a powerful ability we each have which allows us to re-assess, and then to listen fully again.

Listening fully calls me to be open, receptive, and uncritical, to the point where I disappear  to myself over here ... and then all there is for me (ie all that remains) is you. To listen you fully, I have to (in a word) be  with you. And what tells me I'm no longer listening you fully / being with you, is the realization I'm listening my own already internal interpretation  of what you're saying, and am no longer listening what you're saying ... or  ... when I notice I'm impatiently waiting for you to get to a pause in what you're saying so I can interject and say what I've been waiting to say / saving up to say - clearly, unavoidably, none of which makes for full listening.

Distinguishing what it takes for me to listen fully (which as I said is to at least be open, receptive, and uncritical) reveals to me how I can support you in also listening fully. Watch: any access I may have to you listening fully, is found (unsurprisingly) in my own speaking. Speaking in a way that allows you to listen fully, is constituted in my language  ie in my conversation. Generally, it's in my choice of words. More particularly, it's in the degree of possibility I speak (more on that in just a moment).

Having distinguished what listening fully is (and therefore by inference, what listening fully is not), I've noticed how the inclusion of provokers like "Maybe ...", "What if ....?", "It's possible that ..." etc interspersed throughout my speaking, keeps the conversation open rather than closed. It seems to me that each of them tease out new possibilities, even possibilities I haven't yet taken into account. So they generously set you up for listening fully, and participating actively in the conversation. "I'm totally certain about this" is harder to listen than "Maybe this is possible, what do you think about it?" even if whatever I'm speaking about, is the same in both cases.

I've noticed how any fervently expressed certainty on my part, however valid, isn't as easily gotten by a listening that's not yet enrolled, as a maybe, as a possibility - which is to say, as any certainty expressed as  a maybe, as a possibility. Possibilities ("Maybe ..."s, "What if ....?"s, "It's possible that ..."s etc) are easier to get, and so the unenrolled listening stays open. They show I'm interested in your input, that I'm generous, that I'm inviting you to participate, and that I'm not overly invested in (ie I'm not overly attached to) my own point of view - and any heavy investment in one's own point of view is an enrollment conversation killer at the best of times.

Many of the ideas and material in these Conversations For Transformation were either Self-discovered or became increasingly Self-evident the longer I listened Werner, their source. That said, I've noticed going for absolute certainty, at least when I'm in conversations that are enrollment conversations, comes unwittingly at a cost. It's a paradox: transformation brings certainty, and yet I've noticed when I'm speaking transformation in an enrollment conversation, it works better when I come from possibility than from certainty, even if I'm completely certain! The listening I'm enrolling, stays open with the former, yet is likely already fait accompli  with the latter.

Speaking into an unenrolled listening, my own certainty won't guarantee everyone else will listen for transformation the way I do (look: if it did, the whole world would be transformed by now). That's maybe because the machinery of the already always listening  has skewed our listening away from  the possibility of being transformed (for more on this, refer to the contents of the manila folder labeled "Defense Mechanism 101"). The cost of certainty without possibility, is incomplete listening, and inconclusive, low enrollment. And certainty with  possibility? That's an intriguing (if not disconcerting) mix, the evidence of which is open listening, and big enrollment.



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