How the Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work: Seven Languages for Transformation

By Kondrath, William M. | Anglican Theological Review, Fall 2002 | Go to article overview

How the Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work: Seven Languages for Transformation


Kondrath, William M., Anglican Theological Review


How the Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work: Seven Languages for Transformation. By Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2001. ix + 241 pp. $24.95 (cloth).

I first heard about this book from a parish priest who said it was one of the most important books she had read in years. Engaging the exercises in the book was helping her make important changes in her professional and personal life, she said.

I teach courses about leadership and change. For me, the richness of the book lies in its diagnosis of the immunity to change, that is, the dynamic system "by which we continuously manufacture nonchange" (p. 76), and its simple step-by-step methodology for change.

Kegan and Lahey teach at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education and conduct workshops and seminars for physicians, clergy, teachers, and business professionals. Their book is replete with worksheets for identifying and changing the language or mental technology by which we "regulate the forms of thinking, feelings, and meaning making to which we have access, which in turn constrain how we see the world and act in it" (p. 7).

Leaders lead and shape language communities, the authors contend. The first four chapters of the book encourage the reader to develop "a new mental machine." This machine uncovers the dynamic equilibrium that preserves one's system of immunity to change; and it offers possibilities for learning to change. We can move away from the old languages of complaint, blame, New Year's resolutions, and "big assumptions that hold us." We can learn new languages of commitment, personal responsibility, competing commitments, and "assumptions that we hold," Kegan and Lahey write (p. …

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