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Yesterday I wrote about how we build stories about our identity around the events of our lives.

I received the following feedback from Morgan (name changed for anonymity) who is a subscriber to my blog:

“I love this. The counter-point is that since this lived experience and narrative shapes everyone, we need to be careful not to pre-judge others as we cannot know their experiences and the narrative they assign to them. To me, that is at the very heart of inclusion … recognising all of us have travelled a different path but respecting each other enough to be genuinely curious about how that has shaped us.”

Firstly, thank you, Morgan, for your feedback. It is gratefully received.

Secondly, I couldn’t agree more. When we communicate with others, it is essential to understand how they are hearing you. It’s no point talking to someone in a language they don’t understand. That is not communication.

Genuine dialogue, the two-way exchange of ideas, requires advanced empathy from both parties to understand how the lived experience of the other person impacts their perspective and, thus, their understanding of what is being said.

This might mean that when communicating with people from different backgrounds or with different experiences, how you say it is just as important as what you say. This is one of the components of the Paradox of Authentic Leadership.

For more background on how our experience shapes how we communicate, I recommend Hugh Mackay’s book Why Don’t People Listen?