Sounds of Silence

Communication

 

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  At the time I was selling my house and as my broker was looking around she told me that my tv’s were outdated and took away from the aesthetic appeal.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.

Leadership

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.

Personal Development

Sometimes our greatest inspirations come from children. Children live life from a place where anything is possible without the head clutter that we as adults seem to let get in the way of just about anything. As a business coach and consultant I experience firsthand people’s joy when they fulfill on what they are committed to. In one particular training a woman shared a personal story with the group for it exemplified what we were talking about. I think it is worth repeating so I will share it with you.

The conversation we were in was around not identifying ourselves and our work by our past limits. “Mary” shared a story about her 7 year old son, “Mark” and his friend Timmy who were both on the little league team. The final game of the season was to be on Saturday and Timmy hadn’t hit a single ball all season. Since a child doesn’t tend to add too much meaning to things Timmy then declared that he was going to hit a home run on Saturday. Mark thought that was great and they went on their merry way. As the week progressed, Timmy went on to tell everybody he ran into that he was going to hit a home run on Saturday. Kids thought it was great and adults thought how cute, even though they didn’t believe it would happen. How many adults do you know who would dare say something like this in an area where they had had no previous success? Zero probably. After all, what if it didn’t happen or turn out the way I said. I could look like a fool, people might find out I’m not so great. Better to live in my risk free zone and accept that I am as good as I’m going to get. (For most of us even our risks are calculated risks).

 

Saturday came and Timmy went up to his coach and announced he was going to hit a home run. Finally it was Timmy’s turn go to bat, he approached the plate, bat in hand ready to hit his home run. The pitcher threw the ball Timmy swung his bat and it tapped the edge of the ball and went backwards. Appearing to be a foul at first sight nobody went into action except Timmy who started running to first base. By the time the others realized that the ball did not go into foul territory Timmy was already headed for second base. The ball was thrown and the catch missed and Timmy was on his way to third base. By the time the ball was retrieved Timmy was placing his foot across home plate. Timmy had done it, he hit his home run. Although this event was far from extraordinary, (the ball went backward instead of forward) people were left with the extraordinary. Parents and kids alike shared in joy and awe of possibility. There was an aliveness present. When we take a risk in life and stop worrying about how it will turn out we step into the realm of aliveness or being alive in it’s full vibrancy. Regardless of the outcome we move forward and expand ourselves and those around us.

Many years ago I was in a leadership program and in order to get candidated I had to get up in front of the room (there were over 300 people) and share the training authentically. I was so in my head when I first stepped up on stage that authenticity was the last thing coming out of my mouth. I couldn’t remember what I was supposed to say and was stiff as a board. The trainer asked “Francesca, where are you?” (I thought it was pretty obvious where I was) so I answered “in my head. ” I wanted to die on stage. I was found out, my biggest nightmare, stripped down so all my not good enoughness was now on stage. Running wasn’t an option for that would look even worse so I surrendered, stayed on stage and got coached. Funny thing happened since I no longer had to protect or hide my not okayness, I started sharing from a whole different place. I was now sharing my vulnerability and humanness not what I thought it looked like to do it right. This was something people could relate to. Before I knew it half the room was in tears and the other half clearly moved. Who knows what waits on the other side of our fears that we feel so necessary to hide. I invite everyone who reads this to take a risk, not a calculated one, today and everyday. It isn’t whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game and the name of this game is being alive.

Thinking Instead of Reacting Can Make All the Difference

   
 
   I remember the quote from Helen Keller that “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”  Why is life for some a daring adventure, mediocre or unsurmountable for others?
 
Why for some is life full of anger, others boring and still others always a half full glass?  Could it be as simple as a conscious choice?
 
        Not so long ago I remember driving home after having spent the day with my mother shopping. I was on top of the world for none of the everyday glitches that can set someone off were bothering me in the least.  In fact I was actually feeling happy as a lark or so the saying goes.  Earlier at BJ’s there was a major breakdown due to the check out machines being non functional for over a half an hour.  You can imagine the upset people were experiencing at this BIG inconvenience in their day.  There was I cool as a cucumber actually sympathizing with the employees.  Upset was non existent in my world as I drove towards the intersection of rt.’s 27 and 20. As common in most intersections in order to make it possible for those of us who wanted to turn left onto rt. 20 there was a green arrow for turning. As the line started to move I was sure I would make the light before it changed and ongoing traffic ensued.  All was well and then IT HAPPENED the arrow turned yellow, the man in front of me came to an abrupt halt and I automatically reacted by beeping my horn. Didn’t he know we could have made it through before the light turned green and avoided the long (probably all of 2-3 minutes) wait.  I regretted my reaction seconds after it happened. Where did I just go? The light soon changed again and I turned on rt. 20 and drove a short distance down the road before reaching my destination at Whole Foods.
 
Effective Communication
 
         As fate would have it the man in front of me who stopped at the light also turned into Whole Foods.  As I got out of my car I noticed he was walking towards me with so much rage that foam was coming out of the side of his mouth (not really but it sounds good and I’m into drama).  He angrily asked me why I beeped my horn at him. I was feeling like the child about to be yelled at by her parents for messing up. I responded because you stopped at the yellow light (let’s face it everybody knows that when a green arrow turns yellow it means you have to speed up to make the light).  He then read me the riot act about yellow arrows, his anger escalating.  
 
      We all know that the most important thing for human beings is being right and/or looking good so it would have been a perfect moment for me to defend my righteousness (the fact that I was wrong means nothing at a time like this, because could you believe he was actually yelling at ME in the parking lot of Whole Foods!!!) and then it happened, my moment of Conscious Choice, I let go of my righteous indignation, listened and honored his perspective.  When he stopped I said I am sorry, I did not mean to upset you.  It stopped him in his tracks and not quite knowing how to respond (I’m sure he was prepared for an argumentative response and ready to righteously walk off himself, for we are all the same)  and said it was okay.  I then said no really, your are right, I didn’t need to be so impatient. (I actually saw and meant this for once you are in the present and consciously choosing you aren’t defensive about what you did,rather able to take in what didn’t work)  He then  apologized to me for his behavior. What could be possible for us personally or professionally if we consistently chose our actions instead of reacted?  What might the world look like? 

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