Do You Listen?
Early in my career I was idealistic, opinionated, and I’m pretty sure that my mouth’s filter was defective. I remember sitting in meetings in my early 20′s, voicing my thoughts and ideas with abandon, not questioning how they might land. I of course thought I was “right” about most everything, and wasn’t afraid to say so. I was quick to pass judgement, to disagree, and to point out mistakes. I confused integrity with truth and saw no reason to shield someone from my perception of reality.
Most people would say that this was politically foolish – and they’d be right. Lucky for me, it was a small consulting firm and my boss was pretty conflict-adverse. He just smiled and nodded silently during the meetings, while my colleagues shifted in their seats uncomfortably. He pretty much left me on my own, and since I was a self-directed high-achiever, that worked for both of us. I worked my way up as far as one could go in that 7-person organization, and when the only place left to grow was out, I left. Surprisingly, he didn’t fight that. Can’t imagine why… Reflecting back, I’m pretty embarrassed.
As I’ve matured I’m still a tad idealistic and opinionated but I’ve come to recognize the wisdom in thinking before I speak. Not because of my own ambition, (although my blurting-ways would’ve surely been a career-killer, had I had aspirations in a larger organization) but because I really want to make a difference. And to make a difference I need to be able to influence.
The thing is, people can’t be influenced if they stop listening to you.
As Maya Angelou so poignantly said, “People will forget what you’ve said. People will forget what you did. But people never forget how you made them feel.”
That applies to when you make them feel crappy too.
One thing I know for sure, is that when we make people wrong, they don’t want to listen to us any longer. And when we don’t treat people with respect, they don’t want to listen to us any longer. Any why should they?
If we want people to listen to us – really listen – then we have to be willing to really listen to them as well.
Influence is more than being a crafty spin doctor – saying whatever you need to say to get people to agree. It’s more than bulldozing over others, in attempt to get them to do it your way. Influence is much harder. To influence, we need to pay attention to how we impact the way people feel – for real. How they feel about us. How they feel about themselves. How they feel about about the issues at hand. How they feel.
So start working on that filter! Because both of us know that the world needs more people out there working to make a difference and we cannot do that if we do not listen.
Today, ask yourself: Do you listen?
©OnStage Leadership, 2014 (originally posted in August, 2013)
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