“The greatest compliment was paid to me today. Someone asked me what I thought and actually attended to my answer.” – Henry David Thoreau
It is a Monday morning. You walk into your place of employment and see that co-worker who you either do not know really well or that annoys you a little bit. You make eye contact and say politely, “How are you?” while deep down you are begging for him to just say, “I’m good!” or “Doing well.” so you can get your coffee and go about your business. Except he does not do that. He replies with, “You will never believe what happened to me this weekend!” and proceeds to take the next five to ten minutes telling you all about it. “You will never believe how much I do not care!” you are thinking, and it is written all over your face and in your body language. Without hearing anything he has to say, you keep thinking to yourself, When will this be over? I wish he would just stop talking!” Finally, he takes a breath, and you use that as a moment to exit the conversation quickly. You leave him awkwardly standing there, and realizing that you never had any intention of caring how he was.
Sound like a familiar exchange?
Fast forward to Tuesday afternoon. You are in a meeting at work. You have been asked to be prepared to share ideas on the new campaign that is being launched. After your supervisor and committee leaders outline the details of the campaign and some of the strategies, they turn to you. “What do you think?” they ask. As you share your first idea, they begin to talk over you and give their own ideas on things. In the middle of getting out your second idea, they start to talk over you and tune you out altogether. You have more ideas–genuinely beneficial ones–yet you elect to sit there and be quiet. It is clear that there are enough voices in the room, and yours is not one of the important ones.
We have all been there. We have asked someone for a question, but never intended to listen to the answer. Someone has asked us our opinion, but never took the time to let us answer.
There is nothing we want more than to be heard. It makes us feel validated. It makes us feel valuable. It makes us feel like we are contributing.
Have you ever wondered how many times you missed the opportunity to solve a problem or learn something incredible because you we’re talking too much or failed to ask the all important question–what do you think?
But, we must do more than commit to asking these four words. We must ask them then listen, genuinely and intently listen. One of my law school professors used to engage us in active listening discussions when he felt the conversations during class were becoming people shouting their own opinions across the room without any regard for what others were saying.
We may not always like what we hear and we may not always agree. Perhaps, that is why we fail to ask and/or listen. But, we do not always learn things from the people who always agree with us. Our greatest progress can come by listening and learning from those who are not satisfied with our performance. At the very least, we can gain new perspectives to bolster or understand our positions.
Today, I challenge you to not just ask people what they think, but hear it, too. Open yourself up to the wealth of knowledge that exists in the minds of others. Become someone who is known as a great listener. Listen with your ears. Listen with your eyes. Listen with your heart.
Not only will you make someone feel heard, but you will make them feel appreciated, too. And there are no better feelings than those.
Bring your best today!
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