For many of us, one of the biggest challenges in our personal and professional lives is dealing with the people we’re pretty certain God put on the planet to bug us.
In fact, one of the biggest reasons we leave a position in an organization to find another is because there is someone we must interact with regularly with whom we simply can’t seem to get along.
Yet we have those other people in our lives that test us (and our patience). Instead of great synchronicity, we feel as though they are the rocks to our windows. But isn’t it interesting that sometimes our biggest tests are people who matter most to us?
Sometimes it’s our spouse, our partner, our son or daughter, or someone essential on our own team, and we know that if we can’t find a way to make it mesh, we can’t possibly win. Deep down inside we know that if they were ever really in trouble, we’d run through fire for them, but over time, because of different perspectives, we may have become abrasive.
We’ve forgotten how powerful we are when we get back to being embracive. And finding that power starts with listening.
When I became the vice president of a large training company in San Diego, our head of customer service felt a great deal of resentment toward me because she had been intensely loyal to my predecessor and thought that I had somehow been the cause of his departure. Though this was not the case, her iciness toward me and my ineffectiveness in finding a way to ease the tension between us was affecting our whole team. Everyone seemed to tiptoe around the office as if it were a minefield, terrified an explosion might occur at any moment. We were falling behind on deadlines and not fulfilling our promises to our customers.
Finally one day I asked her to come into my office.
Once she sat down I said, “You are so important to this team and I know we can find a way to work together so much more effectively. So for ten minutes, if you will allow me, I will just listen to you. You are free to say whatever is on your mind, and I promise I won’t interrupt or defend. I’ll just listen. After your ten minutes, I’ll ask if you would just listen to me for ten.”
I’ll never forget her response. Looking quite skeptical, she said, “I don’t think I can talk for ten minutes.”
I simply asked, “Would you try?”
An hour later she stopped talking! I kept my promise and didn’t say a word. I just listened.
In fact, I didn’t even get my ten minutes! But from that moment on our relationship transformed, as we treated each other with new respect and genuine eagerness to work together. We accomplished more over the next year—and had more fun doing it—than I would have dreamed possible. Today, more than twenty years later, our friendship continues.
Perhaps the greatest of all human needs is the need to feel heard.
When we listen to others without focusing on what we’re going to say next, we communicate to others that we truly value them. This genuine listening is a real secret to being fully present. We build their trust at the core level. They, in turn, are much more interested in listening to what we have to say.
By listening, we break through and connect with others far better than we could by trying to convince them to come over to our side. We empower rather than overpower.
Taking time to just listen is a surprising and tremendously enriching WOO (window of opportunity) to build relationships to whole new levels.