Practising Disruptive Communication 

By Edith Friesen and Dolly May for Enlivening Edge Magazine

Disruption of the status quo is everywhere, not just in next-stage organizations.

Some disruptions are direct and top-down. They often involve denouncements and pronouncements by thought leaders, and public demonstrations that mobilize the masses to change their hearts, minds, and behaviours. While such disruptions can result in real and lasting social change, more often they preach to the converted. It’s as if an invisible force field—reinforced by the spoken and written word—keeps people both in and out.

Other disruptions are indirect and bottom-up. They often involve individuals and organizations modeling the desired change. The next-stage organizations that Frederick Laloux studied and wrote about in Reinventing Organizations are likely in this group of disruptors.

By their very existence, such organizations and individuals create an invisible force field that magnetizes our unspoken dreams and desires. They invite us into a conversation and inspire us to conduct experiments in our own lives.

Both kinds of disruptors need a new way of communicating, a new way of speaking and writing. Top-down disruptors need to be less alienating and more invitational. Bottom-up disruptors need to break through programed ways of speaking and writing.

What does this mean for next-stage organizations and individuals who are serious about modeling change? The three breakthroughs that Laloux wrote about—self-management, wholeness, and evolutionary purpose—offer some clues.


Empowered writing, whether in an email, a blog, or a work report—lies at the heart of self-management. This involves giving ourselves permission to say what really matters. Sure, it pays to take good advice from outside authorities and listen to the needs of our readers. However, when we take ultimate responsibility for our writing, we disrupt our internal program of sticking to the rules and safe topics. We take risks when it matters. This wakes our readers up.

Empowered speaking is about sourcing what really matters to us and giving it life through our voice, gesture, and language. This form of self-management allows us to side-step generalisations and to step back from what we think should be said. It disrupts our learned behavior of never rocking the boat, and helps us risk voicing the controversial. Here we say what we mean, and we stand by what we say. Our listeners now have something to chew on, and how they choose to respond is up to them.


Writing in a more authentic, embodied, and ensouled way conveys wholeness. We were not taught to pour ourselves onto the page. Instead, we were programed to protect ourselves, to couch our words, and to follow the writing conventions in school and in the workplace. Writing from wholeness disrupts the status quo. We become real and vulnerable. We write from the intuitive mind, not just the rational mind. Such disruption closes the gap between writer and reader.

Speaking authentically means casting off the cloak of ‘being professional’. We are no longer talking heads. By speaking from our wholeness, we move beyond the rational to include our emotional self. This simple act of disrupting platitudes such as “I’m fine” and “Let’s action that” shifts our conversations from transactional to relational. Now, our colleagues, clients or collaborators can feel us and sense why something matters to us. This helps them come into a deeper resonance with us.

Evolutionary Purpose

We were programed to write with a specific purpose in mind and to elicit a certain response from our readers. There is a more organic way of writing, and it relates to evolutionary purpose. By sensing and responding while we write, we disrupt our tight-fisted, controlling way of holding our writing. Instead, writing becomes a living system and we become vessels for what wants to emerge. This kind of writing touches our readers below the level of words and disrupts their mental resistance to change.

Conversations that flow from evolutionary purpose feel exciting. Being in service to something bigger energises us to speak and helps us choose our words in the moment. We know exactly what to say next. Thoughts ripple and burst at our lips with an urgency and a certainty. We disrupt our need for control, no longer forcing an agenda but responding to a calling. Each utterance is an invitation for our listeners to get involved. And when the call lands, they feel moved to step up to co-create.

Disruption Begins at Home

Why are we going on about this? Because both of us are disruptors at heart. We are in service to a bigger communication game. This is what drew us together more than two years ago. We are also learning from each other.

Each of us has a strong communication wing and a broken wing—one writing and the other speaking. We have discovered, painfully at times, that the art of disruptive communication begins at home, by disrupting our own patterns and learned programs. At the same time, we are developing ways to synergize our strong wings and create a new approach to communication—for ourselves, for others, and in service to what wants to emerge.

Now, it’s your turn to reflect on your communication skills. What internal programs and ways of working are you disrupting? What kind of invisible force field, whether attracting or alienating others, are you creating with your speaking and writing? How are you applying the next-stage principles of self-management, wholeness, and evolutionary purpose to your day-to-day communication?

And what is your communication strength? Enlivening Edge offers stellar opportunities to develop your speaking and writing in the context of like-minded friends and organizations on their own reinvention journey.

Why not join and write a post in EE’s Facebook Community? Or create an article for EE’s online magazine? Why not join EE’s videoconference Community Conversations?

Every voice and story strengthens the force field. Someone, some organization, is waiting for you to join the conversation.

Edith Friesen is a writing coach, educator, and author of the forthcoming book, Writing with Your Inner Muse. She has written in numerous organizational contexts and led transformative writing workshops internationally.

Edith helps budding, stymied, and wounded writers connect with their creative source, embody their writing, and write with greater impact. She lives on Vancouver Island, Canada. [email protected]


Dolly May is an embodied speaking coach. She helps changemakers trapped in their heads embody what they need to say most. Her approach taps into the intelligence of the body, helping the speaker prioritize and animate the mind’s swirling thoughts.

She collaborates with positive-change organisations to shift the way we create, run, and deliver business. Dolly May lives and works in London UK. [email protected]


Featured Image Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash