A quick warning that this talk includes a heavy dose of swearing.

Sal Freudenberg first delivered this talk at FFS Conf on September 19th 2018 in London.

Listen to the recording on our YouTube Channel

Transcript below:

I’m so crap at Silence.
I’m A Not. Even. All. That. Reformed. Talk – a – holic
I’m loud and I’m fast and I’m brash.
Until I crash.
And then I’m so fucking not.

I even created a Silence workshop.
Where people reflect on the wonders of being quiet.
And the biggest learning.
Was how goddamned hard it is for me to just SHUT THE FUCK UP for a minute

Partly because I want to fill the space with buzz and hum
And reflect the noisiness I perceive in the world

And in part because
I sometimes think
I could just never. Speak. again

And I’m sorry.
That in the past I was THAT FUCKING FACILITATOR

And when you asked
in advance
what the topic would be for the retrospective,
I didn’t tell you.

Because I didn’t want to “ruin the magic”.

And in my own, fucked up, misguided way, I thought it would mean that we would all be stifled by over-thinking
and not be able to be together
IN THE MOMENT
talking about what matters most to us all,
collectively,
right THEN.

And when I asked everyone to stand up.
I’m sorry I didn’t see your discomfort
And that I went on to remove the tables that gave the room
just the right amount
Of balance and structure.

And when I made everyone express in a single word how they felt and you just shrugged and said “OK”,
And maybe I gave a little, almost imperceptible FFS sigh.
And across my face fell just a glimmer of what my kids call “Mum’s stink eye”.


And I’m sorry.
That when I asked about safety I never considered
You not feeling safe enough. to even admit.
that you weren’t feeling safe.

What a fucking idiot.

I’d say “let’s brain-write onto PostIt notes” and not notice
You clam up
Because I didn’t know that that weird thing I can do
Where I think, off the bat, of a hundred fucking things in all in row
without pausing to take a breathe
Isn’t. Exactly. Normal.

And that even though for me rooms are full of floating thoughts
to spike out of the air.
Like rockets

For you, ideas are precious.
Shiny. Polished.
Offerings to tuck inside your pocket.

And if I ever bothered to provide a space
For you to place
them next to mine

I’d be fucking humbled.
As my comparatively fragile, pedestrian foibles burst and crumbled.

And I’m so fucking sorry.

About when I said “Let’s generate insights”
And you tried so hard not to think it was funny.
And wanted to tell me:
“People go to away to retreats for months or even years
and still come away with empty.
Fucking.
Flipcharts”.

People like you.
People who care about depth.
Contemplators.

Even if you HAD told me I don’t know that I would have understood.
Not then.
I was JUST TOO FUCKING BUSY

And I’m sorry.
That. Boom. I’d be all “straight on to the actions”.
And not even notice your lack of reactions.

And if you’re into classic games, then I’d be the number 15 because by now I’m fizzing AND buzzing.
And I can’t even tell that not everyone is along for the ride.

And as I started writing them up I never saw you
Never REALLY saw you.
Shifting your weight on the chair. either.

And if I had
I’d have felt mildly annoyed that you might be lacking in focus
Because of your fiddling
And given another
almost imperceptible
shake of my head.

And your mind was still teasing away at something annoying that you could feel bubbling under.
The beginnings of.
The idea of.
Some.
Insight.
Almost ready, but still even now not quite right.

And when people shouted out their actions
You couldn’t tell which were good
Or not
Because you look at things from so
very
many angles.

And your mind is still poking at that other thing.
And you want to stand up on your chair and shout SHUT THE FUCK UP A MINUTE, I’m TRYING TO THINK.

But you don’t.

Your superpowers are Thoroughness. Edge-cases. Measuring. Depth.
And other things that just. can’t. be. fucking rushed.

And I’m sorry.
That even as I said “thanks for coming”
I still didn’t really see you.

I was so over-concerned about doing it all By. The. Book.

And you sidled away,
And I got this strange feeling.
Like I’d missed something, but I couldn’t define what it was.

And I wondered “is this what it’s like to have Alzheimers?”
Because it’s kind of like that feeling when you go back into the house for your keys and then stand there staring at the cooker because you can’t even remember what you are looking for.

Like the echo.
Of a thought.

Oh well.
Time to “wash up”.
Tables to clear, postIt notes to peel off walls.
And even without realizing I’m doing it I’m rolling BluTac into little balls.
Squeeze. Squeeze. Squeeze.

Even then. So late.
It doesn’t dawn on me.
Even when everything is tidied away

That you and your beautiful, brilliant mind will have
Your Most Wonderful Idea
The very next day


And nowadays with hindsight I can see that Shit!
It’s all about fucking context too.
Because some days you’re actually just like me.
And I’m you.