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.
Engagement is incredibly important to me. It matters in so many areas of life. Of course you can imagine that I will tell you that engagement matters in my marriage, you better believe it does! Focused conversation, feeling heard, and a give-and-take engaged conversation is what makes for a happy and successful marriage. Without that what is the point? I want to know that I am always paying attention and engaged in Chris’ life, that he is doing the same for me. When it becomes part of your every day, it is not hard, it becomes part of you.
Engaging with others also matters at work. Do you pay attention to your co-workers or employees? Do you listen and engage in their questions and ideas? Or do you come to a meeting with the decision already made and only bring them in so they think you care? When I read Seth Godin’s recent blog: “The hard work of understanding” I thought “Godin gets it right again.” The full excerpt of his post is here, (the bold lines for my own emphasis):
“Sometimes, we’re so eager to have an opinion that we skip the step of working to understand. Why is it the way it is? Why do they believe what they believe? We skip reading the whole thing, because it’s easier to jump to what we assume the writer meant. We skip engaging with customers and stakeholders because it’s quicker to assert we know what they want. We skip doing the math, examining the footnotes, recreating the experiment, because it might not turn out the way we need it to. We better hurry, because the firstest, loudest, angriest opinion might sway the crowd. And of course, it’s so much easier now, because we all own our own media companies.”
It makes me think that when we try to move through our lives so fast, we miss others along the way. We miss engaging with them, connecting with them, we miss understanding them. Instead of going through each day, each meeting, so fast, what if we focused, listened, connected, and engaged with others? I think it is doable, sometimes we just need to stop, breathe, and think about what experience we bring to those around us. Are you with me?