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Listening

Posted Oct 03 2009 10:02pm

     I'm involved in Marc Cooper's Mastery of Office Management Program and our homework for the last two weeks has been listening.  I am amazed at how hard it is for me to turn off my own thoughts so I can manage to actually really listen to others.  I'm not happy with this realization, but better to know it so I can try to do something about it.

    If I had a dime for every time someone told me I'm a great idea person, I'd have  a lot of dimes.  Ideas just come to me.  Sometimes I even wake up in the middle of the night with 2 or 3 ideas for something that would be just great to do in the practice.  People like to hear my ideas and think that I always know the right thing to say.  So, why should I listen more?  Maybe I meant to be talking more than listening.  After all, I'm so good at it, right? 
    Well, I got a lesson in the value of being listened to the other day.  There was a situation one morning that left me feeling hurt and upset.  At the moment, I didn't really know where to go with what I was feeling, my boss didn't know a lot of the background behind the reason for my distress and so he couldn't really appreciate or understand how I felt.  It was very real to me and all the more frustrating because it threatened to put us at odds with each other, which would have made the situation all the more dismaying for both of us. 
    We got through the day, talked a little, but I still felt like a solution was not reached.  The next day I got up and felt like I'd love to just turn off the alarm and sink back into the pillow and forget about that thing called work.  I pushed myself to get moving and made it through the day with less than my usual enthusiasm, but satisfactorily as far as I was concerned.  At the end of the day I was talking to my boss in his office and he told me that he didn't like seeing me feeling the way I was, and that seeing me frazzled would affect the way the staff looked at me as a leader.  He told me he wanted to help me find a way to breeze through stress like this without  letting them see me sweat.  Then he listened to what I was dealing with, how I felt about and we talked about how to handle the next situation like this.  As I talked I could see him listening to me.  He was really considering what I was saying looking at it from my point of view.  Finally, he said, "You sound like what happened makes you feel separate from everyone."  Exactly!  He put into words exactly what I was feeling.  I didn't even know the word for it myself until he said it.  I could see him replaying it all in his mind and seeing it how I saw it.  I don't know if he agreed with my point of view, but he saw it and accepted it for what it was.  And suddenly, the weight lifted and I felt better. 

    If he had sat there and talked and told me how I should have felt and how I should have handled the problem, I would still have felt isolated.  Instead, by really hearing me and considering my view of things, he stood with me as a mentor.  He showed me that listening is a performance art of wisdom and grace.  It is not passive, but a dynamic form of interaction.  Listening validates, it says, "You're worth the time it takes to hear you out."  Listening inspires.  It builds loyalty and gives you influence with others.  Listening is mature.  It means you can control yourself and your own impulses long enough to give someone else a chance to give you the information you may need to really know what is driving their reaction.  It allows you to be wise.  With all it has to offer, listening seems like a worthwhile endeavor.  I know I can talk, in the future I'll listen more.  I want to make someone else feel the way my boss made me feel.  That is something to aspire to.

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