Things annoy us. We sometimes go over things in our mind again and again. “Why did they treat me that way?” “How come they do not listen?” Whatever the situation, I have the perfect quote for you. Nevermind that I cannot remember where I found it last week, or who it is from (an Internet search did not prove helpful). What matters is if it gets you thinking. It has me pondering things in life, work, and with friends and family.
“Stop asking why they keep doing it and start asking why you keep allowing it.”
How many times have you felt walked over, disregarded, or simply not heard? What did you do about it? Did you share how you felt? Did you speak up? Or did you just continue with your day, either because you did not want to deal with it, or because you did not know how best to confront the person, or you tried but they did not listen or hear you? How often does that happen to you? I definitely have had those times. However, I usually do not have an issue speaking up and making sure that my voice is heard.
The eye-opening part about this simple line of words is “why you keep allowing it.” That is the key difference for me. I can speak up all I want, but if things do not change, then I continue to allow the behavior. If someone is being disrespectful to you, and you say something (or even if you do not) what matters most is if they continue to disrespect you and you let them. Interesting that it means we permit these things to happen to us, by not putting a stop to them. I know it is easier said than done, and not all situations are truly in our control, but this idea is a good mantra to remember, that when you continue to complain about why someone keeps treating you in a certain way, that you ask yourself: “Why do I keep allowing them to treat me in that way?”
Are you the person in the room that is interesting or the person that is interested? I just finished a book called: “Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone” by Mark Goulston. I encourage you to read the book, for a number of reasons. One: it will make you think differently about your employees, team, and co-workers. Two: it will make you think differently in your personal life. Three: it will remind you that we rarely listen. All three combined, if we only listened more our work and personal lives would be transformed.
I will give you an example that is shared in Goulston’s book. Do you know at Christmas time when you send out your Christmas cards? Are you the one that writes a long rant about all that you have done that year? All the promotions you received, possessions you gained, and trips you have gone on? Do you ask the recipient of the card how they are doing? Do you do anything to remind them how much you care about them, or want to connect with them, or is it all about you? Goulston talks about how much we are interested in ourselves, or how interesting we are, then in being interested in others. He writes:
“If you want to have an interesting dinner conversation, be interested. If you want to have interesting things to write, be interested. If you want to meet interesting people, be interested in the people you meet—their lives, their history, their story. Where are they from? How did they get here? What have they learned? By practicing the art of being interested, the majority of people can become fascinating teachers; nearly everyone has an interesting story to tell.” Page 56
I love, love, love this. If we all spent more time being inquisitive and interested, we all might also feel more listened to and heard. We all have our own story to tell, but so does everyone else. Like the vastness and uniqueness of a snowflake, so are each of our lives. What if we could be students to all the teachers in our lives? I know I have work to do. While I am an information nut, love learning new things, am constantly researching anything and everything, and love finding solutions — I could be more interested in others.
An hour of my day yesterday has inspired and led me to a few aha moments. I had the opportunity to spend an hour learning more about listening. Zalika Gardner, from Portland recently gave a talk at TEDxPortland. There are a few ideas that continue to cycle through my head since yesterday from her talk:
1. A baby cries because they want attention. Our social norm is that we do not continue to express those cries as we grow up, but the desire to want attention does not go away just because we get older.
2. How we listen to someone else shows them whether we think they matter or not.
3. Not feeling heard = not feeling loved. Feeling heard = feeling loved.
One of my biggest pet peeves is not feeling heard. Chris knows how much it matters to me. My not so nice side comes out when I do not feel heard. When I do not feel heard it is like opening a box of memories of all the times growing up when my father would tell me that children should be seen and not heard. Today I have two reactions to not feeling heard. I grow quiet, or I lash out. It really depends on who makes me feel that way. Usually if it is someone I am very close to (my sister or Chris) I lash out. I feel comfortable being my true self. When it is someone who is not as close to me, I grow quiet. I wonder if feeling safe and feeling heard equate to how someone reacts.
Her talk also made me think about how much we are consumed with our smartphones. How often they distract us. That text message that popped up on your phone may just be more important and more urgent than the person sitting right in front of you. I know I can do better to make sure I am completely focused on the individual who has my time and attention. I can listen more, I can focus more. While it definitely takes more of my time and energy, it is worth it to me to give others what I so strongly want for myself. Hopefully it means more of us (adults and children) feel more valued, heard, and loved.
Please watch the entire twenty minutes. I promise it is worth your time.
A colleague of mine always says: “You have two ears and one mouth. Listen more, talk less.” I agree.
Sometimes short and sweet makes an idea stick. I have been thinking about my actions and the actions of others. So often we are let down because of what others tell us they are going to do, and then they let us down. Maybe they do not follow through with what they told us they would do, (you know when it is just lip service). Or maybe it is the complete opposite, maybe they do not talk often but they show you their true being by what they did (or did not do). A recent blog post from Seth Godin, that was short and sweet really made me think:
“Two ways to listen
You can listen to what people say, sure.
But you will be far more effective if you listen to what people do.”
What if we started talking less (I am the first to say I need to do this) and watch our actions more? Does what we do matter more than what we say? Does showing someone we love them stick more than saying the words: “I love you”?
Do we really listen to what people do? What someone does shows intent and often leaves a lasting impact where words can sometimes be forgotten. It does not mean that words are completely lost, but what you experience with another is often hard to forget. It is why the phase: “actions speak louder than words” is so common to say, but do we often think about that when we take action? Probably not, but we should.
Listening to what people do is also an act of patience, so is listening to what people say. Listening to what people do just takes more conscious effort. When someone is standing before you there is more of an obligation to focus on them, make eye contact, and give them your time as you listen to them talk. There is no obligation to listen to what people do. That takes another layer of effort and care. You probably listen more to someone’s actions when you feel you have been wronged, but do you listen when they do something good? My hunch is that we all can do better to share our gratitude for others when we listen and see the good they have brought to our life.
Here is to a week of more active listening. Thank you, Seth.
Ah reminiscing. Over the weekend I went through a file folder of writing from childhood through to college. I came across a packet of writing from May 2000. It is a compilation from a woman’s writing class by all the women in the class. One of the exercises, I believe (based on the result), was writing our “woman seeking” ad. Here is my ad from 2000:
“single, white, midwest female seeking: single man who is not afraid of short hair or loud voices, who can listen and share, who is CLEAN and knows how to cook, who likes to sleep and demands comfy beds, who would rather know my thoughts than my bra size, who wants to influence this world, knows how to change a diaper, and can cuddle all day long.”
I laughed out loud when I read it. Then I found Chris and read it to him. See, it is a perfect fit. How did I ever know three years earlier that I would find my single man who loves to cook, sleep, cuddle? Who not only knows how to cook, but loves to, and he listens, shares, and definitely cares more about my thoughts, and just laughs at my bra size. I have seen him change diapers, but know once that day comes he will sleep less, continue to cook, and we will listen and share with that little one together.
Maybe now I should write an ad for what I want my next ten years to be like. If it comes anywhere close to what my senior year of college mindset gave me, life will be bliss.