Don’t Drink The Poison

I’ve been around for a few years and, like most people, I’ve had my share of disappointments. I’m talking about the kind of disappointments that come from someone else making a decision or doing something that negatively impacted me. I’m sure you’ve experienced the same thing. Whether the harm is personal or professional, the emotional response is usually the same. You go through a grief process. That’s normal. What is, unfortunately, too common, though, is that people often get stuck in resentment after being wronged.

Resentment

Resentment is “bitter indignation or anger at being treated unfairly.” Anger is one of the stages of grief. When we are treated unfairly or wronged, we lose something. It could be our job, an opportunity, our comfort, our sense of dignity or worth. We can lose many things at the hands of others. It’s the sense of loss that we respond to with grief.

Anger is like a match. When you strike it, it flares and burns for a few moments then it goes out. Resentment is what happens when you use that match to lite a charcoal fire. The flame settles into smoldering coals that burn hot for a long time. The problem with that smoldering fire is that it consumes the coals and leaves them in ashes.

Another metaphor for resentment is drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. When someone wrongs us we often want them to pay for what they’ve done. Somehow we believe our resentment will exact payment. The joke’s on us! They go on their merry way, oblivious to our suffering, while we whither inside.

The Antidote

The antidote to the poison of resentment is forgiveness. James C. Hunter, in his book on Leadership, defines forgiveness as “giving up resentment when wronged.” Sounds simple. It’s not. He doesn’t mean giving up in the sense of raising a white flag of surrender. He means letting the resentment go because you realize it’s only hurting you.

Don’t misunderstand. Forgiveness doesn’t mean excusing what the other person did. If they were wrong it doesn’t matter why they were wrong. It doesn’t mean saying what they did was OK. Wrong is wrong and if they harmed you they shouldn’t have done it. Forgiveness doesn’t mean just forgetting about what they did. No. There are lessons to be learned through the process. Besides, I don’t have one of those “Men in Black ‘flashy things’,” do you? (it’s a movie reference). And, the problem with sweeping it under the rug is that you usually trip over the bump in the rug at some point.

When someone does something wrong, justice demands a payment. They owe you. Forgiveness is canceling that debt. When you forgive, you realize you are going to live with the consequences of what that person did no matter what. Your choice is how you will live the them. Will you whither inside while resentment poisons your life? Or, will you thrive because you have released yourself from the expectation of receiving payment?

What do I know?

Several years ago, a gentleman got himself onto the board of an organization I was serving for what seemed like the sole purpose of torpedoing my work. He was successful. The board asked for my resignation. It was a confusing, dark time for my family. Many others in the organization were also confused and some felt hurt by our departure. Shortly after we left, he resigned from the board and left the organization, too. Strange.

Even now, when I think about it, I’m confused about what happened and I feel a twinge of pain wondering how things might have been different if I had continued in that role. Those are some of the consequences I live with but I’m thriving because I released myself from any expectation of payment even in the form of answers about why. I’ve also learned the truth of the song lyric, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

If I can do it, so can you. Whom do you need to forgive?

More than Just Me

Here’s a story from China.

A curious man once asked to visit heaven and hell. Expecting hell to be a terrible, frightening place, he was amazed to find people seated around a lovely banquet table. The table was piled high with every delicious thing one could possibly want. The man thought, Perhaps hell is not so bad after all. Looking closely, however, he noticed that everyone at the table was miserable. They were starving, because, although there was a mountain of food before them, they had been given three-foot-long chopsticks. There was no way to carry the food to their mouths with such long chopsticks, and so no one could eat a bite.

The man was then taken to heaven. To his surprise, he found the exact same situation as he had seen in hell. People were gathered around a banquet table piled with food. All the diners held a pair of three-foot-long chopsticks in their hands. But here in heaven, everyone was happily eating the delicious food, for the residents of heaven were using their extra-long chopsticks to feed one another.

Enough said!

Not Just Another Lady

Several years ago I had an epiphany at Walmart. It was a Monday evening after dark. It was rainy so I had just dropped my wife off at the Walmart front door. I was about to pull away to park the car, but I waited for a woman who had just stepped from the parking lot in front of my car on her way into the store. I recognized her.

The day before, at church, she and her husband had been the focus of a celebration. They had just retired from an organization where they had spent their career living among an indigenous people group whose language had never before been learned by outsiders and had no written form. They had learned the language, reduced it to writing and taught the people to read it. Then they had translated the entire New Testament of the Bible into that language so the people could read it. It was an incredible lifetime achievement which I deeply admired.

The epiphany came when it occurred to me that to everyone else in that store, she would be just another lady in the Walmart checkout line.

That moment changed me in some way. It showed me there is no such thing as “just another lady in the Walmart checkout line.” Everyone has a story. Every story is unique. Just because I don’t know a person’s story doesn’t mean they don’t have one or that it’s not important. It is to them. “Treating others as important people” is how James C. Hunter defines “Respectfulness.”

Word Nerd Alert

The online dictionary defines respect in these two ways:

  1. A feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.
  2. Due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights, or traditions of others

It comes from two Latin words that mean “to look back.” I’m not sure if that means to look back at someone who is looking at you, which is a western form of respect. “Look me in the eye when you speak to me.” Many eastern cultures consider that disrespectful. Or, does “look back” mean a double take, like when you glance at something and it catches your eye so you look again? Something worth giving your attention. I can see either meaning as part of Respectfulness.

What’s The Point?

I was having lunch with two colleagues some time ago when my phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number and normally I wouldn’t answer a call I didn’t recognize, especially when I’m in the middle of something. But, my colleagues happened to be saying something to each other at that moment so I answered the phone. The voice on the other end identified herself and asked if I had a moment to talk to the CEO. I took the call. That one was pretty easy.

I like almonds. There is a gas station near my workplace that sometimes has a sale on almonds, two bags for $6. I usually spring for the almonds when they’re on sale there. The question is, how do I treat the Indian gentleman who usually works behind the counter when I pay for my almonds? Do I treat him like I treat the CEO? His story is as important to him as mine is to me and the CEO’s is to him. Respectfulness dictates that I treat him as an important person. That gas station is usually busy so I respect his time by not trying to take too much of it. But, I do smile and clearly say, “Thank you” and I look for anything else I can do to be respectful.

A Matter of Policy and More

Most companies have written into their policies that employees will treat each other with “dignity and respect.” I’ve seen collective bargaining agreements that have similar language. Why is that? Someone has said that contrast is the mother of clarity. So, what is dis-respect? Disrespect is to treat someone as though they were not important, to disregard them or to mistreat them. Clearly no relationships, work or otherwise, would survive long in that kind of environment. Organizations thrive when people treat each other with respect.

People need to know that they matter. They want to know they matter on a personal level and that their work matters. Showing respectfulness sends the clear message that both are true. The simple phrase, “Thank you,” for example, signals to the other person that what they did, large or small,  mattered to you.  That means they mattered.

Try this. Next time you go through a drive through, make eye contact with the person who hands you your order, smile, and clearly say, “Thank you.” Watch their face. Write to me and tell me what happened. If you can do that with a likely stranger, how about your co-worker or family member?

Where Credit Is Due

“Hey Mom, Why is the sky blue?” “Dad, Where did I come from?” “Hey Mom, What are clouds made of?” If you’ve ever spent much time around children, you’ve heard all the questions. In fact, one study said that children ask 73 questions per day on average. I remember one drive into the city with our two youngest, Suzi (my wife), and grandma and grandpa in the car. Our youngest son, Jordan, hit the daily average in the first hour on that trip!

Young children are absorbing the world around them for the first time. They’re learning. They ask questions because they don’t know and they want to. It’s refreshing (when it hasn’t reached the point of being annoying), to hear the purity of their asking. Kids are real. There’s no pretense, no arrogance. They just ask because they want to learn. In his book on Leadership, James C. Hunter uses those terms to define “Humility.” He says humility is “being authentic, without pretense or arrogance.”

Word Nerd Alert

As I like to say, “The beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms.” So, let’s look at each of those three words used by Hunter. The online dictionary says:

Authentic

  • not false or imitation : real, actual
  • true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character

Pretense

  • a false reason or explanation that is used to hide the real purpose of something
  • an act or appearance that looks real but is false
  • a claim of having a particular quality, ability, condition, etc.
  • a claim made or implied; especially one not supported by fact
  • professed rather than real intention or purpose

Arrogance

  • an insulting way of thinking or behaving that comes from believing that you are better, smarter, or more important than other people
  • an attitude of superiority manifested in an overbearing manner or in presumptuous claims or assumptions

The online dictionary defines Humility as: “a modest or low view of one’s own importance, humbleness.”

One Chinese character for humility includes characters for walking, for connecting and for a small child.

C.S. Lewis said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”

What’s the Point?

Harry S. Truman is credited with saying “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”

If we combine what C.S. Lewis and Harry S. Truman said, we get to how I think about humility. Humility is not about putting yourself down or downplaying your strengths and abilities. It’s about using your strengths and abilities to lift others up. Especially as a leader, it’s making sure that you absorb blame when things go wrong and give credit when they go right.

When you hear a star basketball player interviewed, which kind of comments draw you to them? Are they the comments from the player who says, “Yeah, I really had to step up my game and carry my team to get the win?” Or are they from the player who says, “I’m really proud of how we were able to pull together and get this win. It’s an honor to be a part of this team?” Of course, it’s the second. We appreciate the humility.

No one succeeds alone. Those who think they do usually do end up alone. Arrogance and Pretense push people away. We are social creatures, designed to live and thrive in community. Every successful person has had teachers and mentors and support people along the way who are as much responsible for their success as they are.

Childlike

It’s interesting how we use the term “childish” to mean selfish and demanding, someone who might throw a temper tantrum if they don’t get their own way. On the other hand, we use the term “childlike” more positively. It refers to people who have not lost their sense of wonder, who ask questions, who are trusting and genuine, people who rely on others for help and don’t mind. In other words, humble.

The greatest leaders exhibit childlike humility. How can you use your strengths and abilities to lift up the people around you? Who around you now or in the past has been partially responsible for your success? Why not start exhibiting humility by thanking them?

I See You

I got a new shirt several months ago. One morning while I was getting ready for the day, I put on my new shirt. My daughter was getting ready for school at the same time. She came out of her bathroom and saw me in my new shirt for the first time. Apparently she liked it because she said, “New shirt? Ooh, I see you, Dad!” I don’t remember hearing that expression too many times before, but it made me feel good and I’ve thought about it since.

Am I Invisible?

I’ve mentioned before that we lived in China for a couple years . . . along with 1.3 billion other people! That’s a lot of people. And, we saw a lot of mom’s carrying babies during that time. My wife loves children (and elderly people, we saw a lot of them, too). One of the first Chinese phrases she wanted to learn was how to say “What a cute baby!” She said that to as many moms as she could. At first she said it just because it was true. But, when she noticed the reaction of the moms, she had another reason to make that comment. Every time she said that to a mom, it was like the mom was amazed that this lady had noticed her child, and she seemed so appreciative.

Suzi (my wife) began to wonder if all those moms felt invisible in the huge throngs of people that were always present. When you looked out over a crowd there it was a homogeneous looking sea of black haired people pressed together. Calling out a mom by saying she had a cute baby seemed to make her feel like she wasn’t invisible, like she mattered. Suzi was on a mission to make sure moms knew they mattered. It was like she was saying, “I see you.”

Light ’em Up

A healthcare client of mine employed a hospitality customer service technique called the 10-5 rule. Ever heard of it? It says that if you are approaching a guest in the corridor or outside the business and they are 10 feet away from you, make eye contact and offer a warm smile to acknowledge the guest. If they come within 5 feet, a sincere greeting should accompany the smile.

Try that and watch what happens. I’ve seen, time and again, people approaching me who had on shall we say “resting business face” light up like a child watching the fireworks at Disney World when I greeted them with a simple “hello.” It’s amazing how a simple but sincere greeting can transform a person’s countenance.

What’s It All About?

These are examples of simple acts of kindness. A brief but powerful definition of Kindness is “giving attention, appreciation, and encouragement.”

Giving attention is simply saying, “I see you” to someone who may feel invisible. Notice the people around you. Take a moment to acknowledge them. Hold the door for someone. Smile and say, “hello.” Offer to help someone who is struggling.

Appreciation means “to enjoy the good qualities of someone or something.” It also means “a full understanding of a situation.” Either meaning works for kindness. It’s telling the Chinese mom her baby is cute. It’s saying, “What a delicious meal!” Or, “Good job. Your report was spot on.” It could be, “I realize what a difficult situation this must be for you.” It could even be as simple as, “Thank you.” Don’t you like to be appreciated?

I was recently talking with a client who mentioned what a good job one of his subordinates was doing. The person was three levels lower in their hierarchy. I ran into that person later the same day and told him what is boss had said. He was so grateful to hear that. He must have thanked me three or four times.

Encouragement means, “the action of giving someone support, confidence, or hope.” It also means, “persuasion to do or to continue something.” Finally, it means, “the act of trying to stimulate the development of an activity, state, or belief.” You can see how any of these uses of Encouragement would be an act of kindness for someone who needed hope or needed to press on or to believe in a better tomorrow.

So What?

There are a million reasons to be kind. Here are two. First, you could save a life. There are many stories about how an act of kindness saved someone. Check out this one for example. The lyrics to this song show how our words have the power to hurt or to Speak Life into someone. Our words and actions are powerful. Use them for good.

A second reason to be kind is that kindness is a boomerang. When you put it out there, it often finds its way back to you through someone else. This reason may sound a bit selfish but in reality, the boomerang effect of kindness often involves a multiplication effect as well. The kindness not only returns to you, but it also gets payed forward by the person to whom you showed it. So go ahead and be selfish.

We never know what the people around us at work, in the neighborhood, at the store, may be facing at any given time. Your one act or word of kindness could make all the difference in the world to them. Find someone and show them some kindness today!

Are We There Yet?

I know you’ve either heard it or you’ve said it (or both!). You’re on a long road trip, driving for hours, and inevitably out pops the question, “Are we there yet?” You can hear the whiny voice, can’t you? When I used to fly a lot for work I had a love-hate relationship with that map. You know the one. It has your origin and your destination with a line connecting them and a little symbol of an airplane showing you how far you’ve come on the trip and how far you still have to go. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve checked that, especially on long flights, with the follow up question running through my mind, “How much longer?”

The obvious missing element in the above scenarios is patience. We get impatient with so many things,  traffic, in grocery store lines, in lines anywhere! But, we also get impatient with people, loved ones, co-workers, perfect strangers (and imperfect strangers!). Being impatient with situations is bad for us. It effects our blood pressure, heart rate, stomach, etc. Being impatient with people is also bad for us for the same reasons, but it’s bad for the other person as well. It can effect their body like effects ours. But it can also effect them mentally and emotionally to the point of inhibiting their growth.

Patience – Word Nerd Alert

So, what is patience? The English word comes from a Latin root that means “suffering.” One Greek word for “Patience” comes from two words, one meaning long and the other, temper, so it means taking a long time to get angry. Other words mean to bear a load for a long time or to endure hardship. One of my favorites is a Chinese expression. The characters for this “Patience” include one made up of the characters for “knife” and “heart” and one made up of characters for “and yet” and “small.” It seems to mean that patience is taking a knife to the heart and yet considering it a small thing. Wow!

Another, very simple definition of patience is “showing self control.” That seems appropriate when we consider some of phrases we use to express our impatience. “I lost my patience.” “I lost it.” “I went off.” Those expressions mean “I didn’t control myself.”

Patience is a Virtue

Whichever definition we choose, patience is good for everyone. That’s why the saying, “Patience is a virtue.” It keeps us calm which is healthier. But, and I would argue more important, it gives people room to grow. Patience allows people freedom to try things, experiment, make mistakes, fail, and ultimately succeed. Without it people become timid and fearful. With it they become creative and courageous.

Where does impatience come from? If you type that question into the Google search bar you’ll find some good articles on impatience from a psychological perspective. The depth of those articles is beyond my scope. I can say, though, that impatience comes largely from a belief that people and circumstances should align to my goals and timelines. When they don’t, I experience frustration which is akin to anger which is very similar to impatience.

How Do We Do It?

So, how do I become patient? It starts by remembering that the people around me are as interested in their goals and timelines as I am in mine. Are mine more important just because they’re mine? Hmmm, perhaps not. With that in mind, here are a couple things we can do to re-gain self control when we feel our patience running out:

  1. Take a deep breath and let it out slowly.
  2. Identify the source of your frustration, what goal is being threatened or what timeline might not be met?
  3. Think about the actual worst that could happen in this situation.
  4. If we can’t change the situation without showing impatience then find a way to make the best of it. We might check emails on your phone if you’re in a long line, for example. Be creative.

Showing patience makes for healthier, more productive relationships at home, at work, anywhere. Think about the last time you showed impatience. How did that go? What might you have done differently? Now, plan for the next time a situation like that may come up. How can you show patience?

The Three Stone Cutters

I’m sure you’ve heard the story. It was way back in the days when building stones were cut by hand. One day a manager wanted to see how stone cutting operations were going so he went out into the quarry to observe. As he watched, he noticed three different stone cutters. They were all working but they were working differently. One was steady and methodical. He looked like he would reach his quota, but not a bit more. He took a few shortcuts the manager didn’t like but they didn’t effect the overall quality of his work which was passable.

The manager saw another who seemed equally methodical only he didn’t cut corners. This stone cutter looked like he would meet his quota as well so he was working a little harder than the first. He checked his work to be sure it met quality standards so it was at least as good as the first stone cutter’s work.

Then there was the third. This one was different. He whistled while he worked. He didn’t seem to be working any harder than the others but he was already almost at his quota. As the manager watched longer, he noticed that this stone cutter had found a way to improve his output by the way he arranged the stones he was cutting. And his quality was superior to the others.

The Question

The manager was curious. What made the difference in the way each of these stone cutters worked? So he decided to ask each one of them the same simple question, “What are you doing?”

He approached the first stone cutter and asked him, “What are you doing?” The guy looked at him like he was crazy and said, “What does it look like I’m doing? I’m cutting rocks.”

He approached the second stone cutter and asked him the same question. This one simply replied, “I’m earning a living for my family.”

Finally, he came to the third stone cutter. The manager was curious to see how this one would answer the question, so he asked, “What are you doing?” The stone cutter looked up with a beaming smile and said, “I’m building a cathedral!”

The Point

All jobs have mundane tasks that we don’t necessarily enjoy but we have to do because it’s part of the job. Most organizations have jobs that may seem mundane, like cutting rocks, but are necessary to the success of the organization, like building cathedrals.

The ability to link the most mundane seeming tasks to the overall objective of the organization is key to seeing the best results. Some people, like the third stone cutter, can do that for themselves. Most people, though, need help from their manager. That’s why the ability to inspire people is such a critical dynamic for bosses.

What is your organization all about? Saving Lives? Feeding the World? Putting a ding in the universe? What is the inspirational mission or vision of your organization? If your organization doesn’t have one, find a way to frame your purpose into something bigger and more important than any one individual. Then, help your people connect to that and you will inspire them. Transcendent Purpose is what Dan Pink calls one of the three intrinsic motivators; those things that motivate us from inside which are the most powerful of all motivators.

I Love That Idea!

Think of something. Anything. Chances are, whatever you thought of started with an idea. Someone, somewhere said, “I have an idea.”

“Everything begins with an idea.” — Earl Nightingale

Your organization started as someone’s idea. The screen you’re reading this on started as someone’s idea. The way you do a certain thing is a manifestation of an idea about how it should be done. In my post on the Engager Dynamic called “Solicit,” I talked about where the best ideas about improving work come from. They usually come from your front-line employees. The ones who have their hands on the work every day most often have great ideas about how to make it better, easier, more efficient, higher quality, safer.

Glum (Character on the show “Gulliver’s Travels”)

We all know what often happens when someone brings up an idea. The Glums in the room usually speak up first. One might say, “We already tried that and it failed.” Another Glum response is, “That will never work and here’s why.” Sometimes you don’t even get the “… and here’s why!” Pessimism abounds. Sometimes it’s not just pessimism, it’s pride. Many people don’t like your idea just because they didn’t think of it.

One famous example of a great idea that was initially shot down is Fred Smith’s 1965 Yale University term paper. Fred had what he thought was a revolutionary idea that would change the way the world does business. His professor didn’t think so. He got a “C” on that paper. Fred later turned that “average” idea into FedEx.

I’m Lovin’ It

Innovation, creativity, market disruption can only happen when ideas are allowed to flourish. I had a client who mandated that their team “love every idea for 5 minutes.” What do you do when you love someone, especially a child (an idea is like someone’s child)? You feed them, you care for them, you foster their growth and development. When you love an idea, you do the same thing. For this client, the team discussed all the ways the idea could bring benefit and how they could implement it to realize those benefits.

You might not employ the “love every idea for 5 minutes” approach. You may create a no “No” zone, a place where the word “No” is not allowed when brainstorming or discussing ideas. Whatever your approach, making it possible for people to discuss wild ideas safely builds trust. Trust engages people. Engaged people come up with better ideas. Eventually your organization might just become the next FedEx.

Happy Anniversary!


It was one year ago today that I launched this blog. My first post went up on Sunday, April 15, 2018 and was titled “Star Performance.” Since then I have posted weekly, publishing every Monday. Although it’s been exactly one year, this is actually the 59th post because I published a few mid-week thoughts in addition to the weekly posts.

This blog has been primarily about elements of Employee Engagement. A few months ago I added a page to the website called “Posts by Category.” The categories listed are:

  1. Engager Dynamics
  2. Habit Formation
  3. Listening
  4. Words

That last one, “words,” may sound a bit strange, but I call myself a word nerd because I enjoy diving into the definitions of terms as a way of better understanding what I or someone else is talking or writing about. A few of the mid-week posts have been about words that have made a powerful impact on my thinking.

Engager Dynamics

These posts are specifically about those things “bosses” do that cause their people to give their discretionary talent and energy to the work. They are identified by a single verb, like “Expect,” then the post expands on what it means to set expectations. I’ve organized these “dynamics” into those that Challenge and those that Connect with people.

Habit Formation

So much of what we do is out of habit. That includes many of the ways we interact with each other. These posts revisit each of the Engager Dynamics from the perspective of how to make them your habit. The first in this series introduces habit formation under the title “How Does a Klutz Become a Dancer?

Listening

Arguably one of the most important and most underutilized skills in the human interaction skill set, listening is the focus of the next series of posts. I call it “The Super Power You Didn’t Know You Have.” Super Power listening allows you to see the world through other people’s eyes. That’s so cool, and cool things happen in relationships when you can do that.

Words

I mentioned this series above but, to elaborate a bit, I posted a few “Word Nerd Alerts” by themselves. I’ve included in this category other posts that have word definitions as part of the content within that post. What can I say, I’m a nerd.

A Request

On the “Home” page of the blog website (www.engagerdynamics.com) I wrote,

“Welcome to Engager Dynamics.com! Thank you for visiting. We are having a conversation about what I call “Engager Dynamics. We are looking at Employee Engagement from a little different perspective.”

I would love for this to be a conversation, so I invite you to leave comments on any of the posts. Let me know if you agree, disagree, have additional thoughts, or suggestions on topics. I know we’re busy. If you don’t have time to leave a comment, would you let me know if you’ve read any of the other posts in a comment to this one? Thank you!

The Habits of Transformational Engagement Part 2

In my last post, I wrote about an organization I had been part of. One of the biggest issues with that organization was poor communication. Isn’t that almost always true? In this particular case listening proved to be a key transformational dynamic. When people knew they were heard by someone who cared and, when appropriate, took action on their concerns, trust went up, morale went up, and metrics went up.

Good communication in all its aspects is a necessary thread that runs through all the Engager Dynamics. But let’s take a few minutes to talk specifically about listening. Like anything else, the way we listen is largely a matter of habit. We may have good listening habits or we may have bad ones.

Here are a couple of good listening habits:

  • Eye Contact – this is not staring a hole in the other person’s retina, but watching a person when they’re talking to you. Look for facial expressions, especially micro-expressions (those involuntary facial muscles “twitches” that divulge a person’s true feelings), and watch body language. I call this listening with your eyes.
  • Ask Questions – When someone is talking, think of it as them drawing you a verbal picture of how they see the subject of the conversation. Asking pertinent questions can help fill in details or give texture for a deeper understanding of the subject. For example, if one of your children came to you and said, “Johnny hit me!” You have a stick figure picture of a boy hitting your child. What’s missing? It could be the identity of Johnny, it could be the context and witnesses to the event, and it very well could be the reason Johnny hit them. Is Johnny a bully? Did your child hit Johnny first? Questions help fill in the picture.

Now here are a couple of bad listening habits:

  • Allowing Distractions – I once had a client who prioritized the phone over the face. In other words, it didn’t matter what we were talking about together in his office, if his phone rang he would hold up an index finger, say, “Excuse me just a minute,” and answer the phone. In the meantime I sat there listening to his phone conversation . . . awkward. Not only was it awkward, but it was a bit frustrating and I certainly didn’t feel like he cared about the conversation.
  • Forming your Response – There is a gap between the speed of speech and the speed of thought. When we use that gap to plan our response to what the person is saying, we lose focus on them and are, then, only pretending to listen. This is most common in situations where the discussion involves differing points of view. It may be a dialog, a disagreement, or a debate. The point here is that sometimes we disagree with another’s point of view less than we thought we did, but we don’t know it because we stopped listening to formulate our rebuttal.

You may be able to identify with one or more of these good or bad habits. We can train ourselves to stop the bad habits and develop the good habits. How, is the subject of another piece. Suffice it to say we can pay attention to the way we listen and try to identify our habits. That’s the place to start.

[Note: this post and last week’s are re-published from a Linkedin article I wrote a couple years ago. I broke the article into two parts for readability]