Sounds of Silence



To be a coach one has to be a pretty good listener in order to be effective.  One must be keenly present to what people are saying .  I do trainings in corporations teaching people how to communicate effectively and that includes listening.  I take what I do seriously and consider my listening skills to be right up there.  However, if you were to ask my four sons about whether or not I am a good listener you might hear something like,  she has to be right (absurd of course,  I don’t have to be right, I AM right) or that I’m stubborn (nonsense, I just know more) and on and on.  Okay, I’ll admit there are times when I am not fully listening and I am by no means perfect (just close).  The power of listening, truly listening could end wars.  Most of us go into a conversation listening to someone from some sort of a preexisting agenda, designed to showcase our point of view.  To really hear somebody else we have to be able to put us and our brilliant thoughts aside and actually step over to the other person’s experience, not our opinion of it or our viewpoint of it. 

One fine day several years ago as I was talking to one of my four sons I had an opportunity  to put that into practice.  At the time I was selling my house and as my broker was looking around she told me that my tv’s were outdated and took away from the aesthetic appeal.  Yes, it was true that my tv’s were over 10 years  old and not flatscreens, however it didn’t bother me.  One of my sons had recently bought a new flatscreen and put it in the family room to let me see what my broker was talking about.  I couldn’t believe the difference it made.  When I went into my bedroom (the master bedroom) I was suddenly aware that the tv there looked like it came out of the Flintstones house.  My other son had a 50″ flatscreen in his bedroom that was not only too big for the room but also something he rarely watched.  (Hmmm…my mind thought, of course he will want to lend it to me for my room).  After all it would help sell the house and that is the most important thing.  Never mind that my room was large enough to accommodate it.  It seemed like the perfect solution to make my room look like a luxurious retreat.  He reluctantly agreed till football season started in a couple of months.  Well, the house had not sold by football season and my son wanted his tv back.  I argued that I needed it to sell the house and although he was angry it remained in my room.   The house sold after football season had ended.  A few weeks later my son sat me down in the family and asked to talk to me.  I said of course.  I had no idea what he wanted to talk about.  He started out by telling me how angry he was at me for taking his tv.  Essentially that I had made him give the tv to me against his will.  Instead of jumping into my defense of the need or the thought that he was being selfish, I chose to listen to what he had to say. Suddenly, I was over there in his experience getting how it felt to have your mother demand your tv and despite your feelings or what you said you had no choice.  I could see how powerless that made him feel.  Of course he was angry.  I probably would not have handled as well as he did had it been my mother.  At the time my reasons seemed a priority, but I did not take him or his feelings into consideration at all.  I listened till he said all he had to say and I said I am really sorry.  I get it. When you truly listen to someone else they are not left with it.  It is freeing for both of you.


Listening in any situation makes a difference.  Years ago I was filling in for my husband’s vacationing secretary.  The phone rang and I answered it to find a patient on the other end. (My husband was a physician)  The patient proceeded to tell me a detailed description of all her pains.  My first thought was why is she telling me this she knows I’m not even the regular secretary, never mind the doctor.  I can’t do anything about it.  Then I remembered that all people want is to be gotten.  I listened to her, really listened and after about 10 minutes she said, “You know, I feel better already.”

Listening works, try it and see the difference it can make at work or in any relationship.

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