I have been thinking a lot in the last week about awareness. Being aware. Watching. Being present. After a few day training session at work, I realized how much more I could be aware of my surroundings, my actions, and how I approach situations. Last Friday I specifically practiced awareness, and while yes I was only in day one, I had a very good day. It could have also been because the sun was out, which means that those I was around were in a great mood. Sunshine in Portland in February does that to folks.
Regardless, I focused on listening in each conversation. I stopped, slowed down, and was aware and I enjoyed the day so much more. Sometimes that means I am more focused in my listening, other times it means I quiet my mind and do not say all the things that are happening within it. I am an extremely direct and transparent person, but I am learning that does not mean that I have to say everything that comes to mind. Part of being aware is listening to see if the person you are interacting with needs to talk and share from their own minds.
As I learned last week, awareness takes practice. Just as an Olympic athlete must train every day, so must each of us as we continue to be better and better, or as we continue to learn how to be our best. All we can do is try again each day. Try to be more aware, more present, and listen more. I love a line from this Fast Company article titled: “How One Simple Change Can Make You A Better Listener.”
“When people feel as though they have been heard, they trust you more.”
As well as:
“Ultimately, the ability to extract what people mean from a conversation is one of the most important tools of any leader. It takes a lot of work. And it requires curbing your natural tendency to jump right to a solution to people’s problems.”
I have a lot of work to do. I need to resist my constant urge to find a solution to problems, and start by listening first. Here is hoping I can keep up with my awareness this week. Listen more. Be more aware. Are you with me?
Your voice. How do you use it? You have to know your own voice, what you believe it, what you stand for, and what matters to you. Once you know your voice, you have to find out how to make it heard. It took me until I was in my early twenties to know what my voice looked and sounded like. Even now a decade and a half later, there are times when it might be strong, but still quivers. Mostly the last ten years have been a time to hone my voice, decide when I am going to open my mouth, and when I will work harder to make it heard.
“Knowing your voice—what you believe and why you believe it—and effectively incorporating that into your work can help set you apart from everyone else. There’s very little else that can do that for you.”
What I love about this quote is that it says “effectively incorporating that into your work” – it does not say conversation or meeting, it says work. That could mean how you incorporate your voice into your project, your new product design, your app. It could mean in your artwork, your presentation, or in closing a deal. It could even mean in how you deliver bad news or how you interact with your co-workers. Your voice is a part of you and not something that you can take on or off. It lives in all you do.
At times you might be in situations where you feel like your voice is a quiet flutter and your authentic voice is not strong, loud, and bold. You might not feel comfortable to speak up and put your career on the line, or take a stand with a friend. Over time that quiet flutter will get stronger and louder and our true voice will stand strong. Be ready for it. It will happen.
We grow up as kids not wanting to be last. When we stood in groups or lines in gym class, none of us wanted to be picked last. Everyone wanted to know they were wanted. Being last meant a lot of things, and different things to different people, but 99% of us did not want to be picked last (regardless of why). That does not mean that we all wanted to be first. We just knew we did not want to be last. Yet someone had to be last. Someone always has to be last.
You can decide though if you are first or last. A colleague told me recently to allow your work to direct your opportunity. So when I recently came across this short and sweet Seth Godin blog, I was inspired, and in case you are not Godin followers, I had to share. I’ve included the entire text (yes all of it) here:
Before you’re asked.
Before she asks for the memo, before the customer asks for a refund, before your co-worker asks for help.
Imagine what the other person needs, an exercise in empathy that might become a habit.
I remember so often growing up that my dad ingrained in me to think ahead, to figure out how I was going to approach something before I did it. The funny thing — my dad barely had a strategic bone in his body. Sure, as a contractor he had to strategize house plans and such, but other than that I did not gain my strategic mind from my dad. In any case, he did teach us to think ahead and be prepared BEFORE he got to us. Have our room clean before he lost it. Do our chores before we had to be reminded. Ask how we could further help. Whether I like it or not, he taught me to be proactive. I wonder if he truly knows that or if it was more about what he wanted.
Ah well, I will never know. I do so love and appreciate those that I interact with on a daily basis to volunteer, offer their help and support, and think about what another might need. Anticipate. Be available and helpful. I try to do it, and I love when those around me reflect the same behavior. Do we all have these skills? I am not sure. I think we all have them in some form. Some of us just elect to use them and others let them lie dormant.