How’s it going out there? Are you thriving or just surviving? And for that matter, how do you know (other than how you feel of course?)
Whether you like or not, your life is not your own. We do not live in a vacuum; our thoughts, beliefs, daily activities…they all impact the people around us. Every day we have a choice in directing our focus. It can be (and most often is) self-centered and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Self-improvement is a great thing as long as it eventually leads to service. On the other hand, we can chose to focus first on others. Empathy is a prime example of this mindset. Making an effort to understand and act on the priorities of others is what I call empathy. So, how do we arrive at an understanding of what’s most important to others?
After all, before attempting to take action we must know what inspires those whom we care most about.) Communication involves 2 components: speaking and listening. In order to practice empathy it is imperative that we learn to speak less and listen more.
So here’s the primary point of this message today: Do you have a system for seeking feedback? You can start by asking yourself “am I more at ease when I am speaking or when I am listening?” That question alone can give you an accurate assessment of where your current priorities are. Is it more natural for you to direct conversations with questions or to answer only when spoken to? There is an art to asking questions, no doubt. I absolutely love new environments with fresh faces. I love asking questions and tend to err on the side of interrogation (as my wife reminds me!) I can get a roll and ask 5 questions before a person even has a chance to ask for my name! I am a student of people and questions are my classroom! I just can’t help myself; but I can honestly say that I am genuinely interested in the interests of others!
Feedback in my case is fascinating but I do not want to assume that this is the same for you. Perhaps you are just as interested in others but find the initiation of a conversation a bit awkward. Well for starters, a name and handshake goes a long way! Beyond the initial exchange of names you MUST quickly transition to keep your audience engaged. I have found that a wonderful question to follow is “I’d love to know one item on your bucket-list!” This question is wide open and provides maximum flexibility for your audience to respond. It is imperative that in this moment you shift your focus from speaking to listening:
THE REASON THAT WE DO NOT REMEMBER NAMES, IS THAT WE ARE THINKING ABOUT THE NEXT THING WE WISH TO SAY RATHER THAN LISTENING TO WHAT WE ARE ASKING FOR TO BEGIN WITH.
Asking questions is a brilliant “system” for seeking feedback. If you make the effort to initiate a conversation, surely you can stick around to collect what it is you are looking for. You cannot build a relationship without listening; you are not a mind-reader! People love to give feedback, the only question is can we accept it! You have 2 ears and 1 mouth…do you think that happened by accident?!