TED Talk Tuesday: Shut Up and Listen!


How can we change the world? The answer is simple: we can’t. The world must change itself. More precisely, the people of the world must be the agents of change to bring justice and opportunity around the globe.

Perhaps it would be beneficial (although probably not) if the people of Africa, for example, would just listen and follow the instructions of some foreigner coming in to tell them how to grow food, start businesses, care for their families, etc. The problem is, the people of Africa, Asia and anywhere else don’t want someone else to tell them how to live their lives.

Imagine that scenario happening to you. Let’s say some stranger arrives in your community from some foreign land. This person is very successful and she wants to give you the keys to be just as successful. First, you must embrace some communist ideas, including the suppression of free speech. Second, you must force out of your neighborhood any neighbor who disagrees with you. Third, you must wholly submit yourself to this woman’s authority. Are you interested in obtaining success through her methods?

Most of us would say no. And yet, this is the kind of thinking that we so often subject others to. In the name of trying to help them, we are actually trying to “convert” them – to a way of thinking, to a culture very different from their own. We have a lot of great ideas – ideas that are born out of our culture and our experience – but we fail to take into account the culture (which goes back thousands of years prior to ours) and the collective experiences of these people.

One of the keys, I believe, to working with people around the world is to understand that they aren’t less intelligent, less skilled or less able than us and ours is not and should not be a teacher/student, master/servant or parent/child relationship. We are brothers and sisters – each one learning from the other, each one giving and receiving and each one sharing from our own unique perspective.

If we want to help others, we need to take Dr. Sirolli’s advice. We need to shut up and listen!