Listen to Other People

I’m sitting here on a Saturday morning just thinking deep and reflective thoughts. As a manager at my job now, part of my responsibility is to help a group of people function as a cohesive unit. It’s a great challenge as each person on my team is unique in their own way. They have their strengths and weaknesses. One of the things that I’ve found to be most useful when interacting with them (and others in life) is to just sit and listen. Some of them have shared some very insightful things. I think people want to be heard and know that someone cares for them!

Listening means setting aside what you want to say or do. It means emptying your mind of pre-conceived notions and beliefs. It means letting go of your ego so that you can make room for someone else’s thoughts and ideas. It’s like emptying your cereal bowl. I may really like Cocoa Puffs. But if my bowl is full of them, there’s not really any room for Frosted Flakes or Cheerios. This bowl here doesn’t have much room for anything else :)

bowl_cereal_cocoa_puffs

 

I hear things all the time from people where I work as a manager. If you are just paying attention, you will pick up on the philosophies and desires of people. Some might be having struggles in their family life. Others might feel inadequate when it comes to talking in groups. Others might only want to work in a certain area, and another might want to just feel useful. It takes hard work and focus to listen. But take time to do it. Pick up on the words and expressions of other people. It’s really an art that if practiced will help remove barriers you might be having with other people.

While I walk through the halls at my place of employment I notice conversations going on. And as I walk, for a few seconds, I might pick up on something interesting. One of our VP’s said something that really stood out to me that I heard. He said (and I paraphrase), “People need constant leadership and communication.” I really felt those words were true when I heard them. People need customized attention according to their own life situation and needs and don’t need to be changed. Not everyone is a driven Navy Seal. People have rough edges about them and that is what makes them human and unique.

I think there is a time and a place for a firm hand. But I think a prerequisite to that is listening and showing someone that you care for them. As I wrote in a previous article, each of us has layers like an onion. It’s important to learn how to break down some of these barriers with someone before even thinking about admonishing them or giving a firm hand. The defense will be just too strong if all layers are left intact. Your words will just bounce off like an arrow against a steel wall.

I challenge you to set aside your own thoughts for a day. Grab a notebook and walk around wherever you are. Watch and listen to people. Jot down the things they say. You’ll be amazed at what your own brain is able to process as you now understand people better. As a leader and a manager, I can’t think of a better skill to master than the ability to listen and have empathy for other people. It’s not easy. And you might stumble and make mistakes. But people will know you are sincere and be willing to accept those blunders.

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