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Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There!
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Ever been involved in a situation where there’s conflict to be resolved, a problem to be solved, a dilemma to be unbundled, a conundrum to be clarified, or a story to be heard. Who hasn’t?

Quick to the rescue!
In such circumstances, do you immediately jump in, reactively, with a quick solution, answer, or retort?

How often in such situations are you hearing, but not listening? How often do you find that after jumping in with a solution or other response, you did not get the whole story, see the complete picture, or understand on a deeper level?

One reason we have a tendency to jump in is because our minds are working at 90 miles an hour, making judgments on the fly, wrapped up in our judgments, preconceptions or assumptions judgments, preconceptions and assumptions that are often quick, misguided and incorrect.

Listen to understand.
“Listen to understand before being understood.” is a principle bandied about in most of the “effective listening” literature. We say we “get it.” We feel we have this capacity were “good at” listening. But, how often do we really, really listen before being understood? Honestly?

Listening is not easy, especially today. In an age when we’re caught up in 25-second sound bites, when we’re inundated with input from our electronic devices, listening is a very real challenge a challenge not easily met by most folks. Why?

Products of a “media age”
Being raised in, or living in, a “media age,” many of us have become addicted to the need for hyped and immediate stimulation, resulting in a brain that is under-developed and one in which hyperactivity (moving from stimulus to stimulus – iPhone to iPhone, Smartphone to Smartphone, to Facebook, Twitter, TikTok,  Instagram, email, etc., incessantly, impulsively and addictively). The result is that focused attention for many is impossible – resulting in our inability to listen, reflect and think more deeply.

Because our brains now need change almost every few minutes (seconds!?) to sustain focus, listening, concentrating and conscious attending are often very challenging and sometimes often well-nigh impossible.

Need for ever more stimulation
Since we have conditioned ourselves for more and more immediate stimulation, our low-brain areas require this consistent stimulation and our cerebral cortex (the thinking/listening-related parts of the brain) are underutilized.

One unfortunate result of this conditioning is an inability to listen, to empathize, to be quiet and contemplative in a sustained way in the presence of another or others, especially when the situation calls for deeper reflection and understanding.

When listening is called for, many of us instead have a knee-jerk reaction in some way –  advising, “fixing,” “one-upping,” educating, telling, directing, training, hijacking the others experience, correcting, and, of course, suggesting an immediate solution – our need to “do” something.

Unfortunately, when this happens, those across from us often feel unheard, unappreciated, invisible, angry, resentful, frustrated and, often, attacked anything but “listened to.” Not a great way to build trust, engender safety or create healthy relationships.

So, the next time you’re in a situation that calls for listening, perhaps don’t be so quick to reassure, give advice, or explain your side or perspective.

In other words, in these situations, “Don’t just do something, stand there!”

Some questions for self-reflection:

Do you feel you’re a good listener? How do you know? Would you feel comfortable asking others (at work, at home, at play, in your relationship) what they think?
Have you recently been told you’re not a good listener (at work, at home, at play, in your relationship)? How did that make you feel? Why?
Do you have a tendency to ping-pong from electronic device to electronic device? Be honest.
Are you addicted to any of your electronic devices? If you say “no,” can you do without it (them) for an hour, a day or a week? If not, you’re addicted – justifications and denials notwithstanding.
Would folks say you’re often the first to jump in with a suggestion, a solution, an answer, even when they may not be asking for one?
Do you have a reputation as one who’s always “fixing” others without their asking?
Do you ever feel unheard, unseen, invisible when speaking with others? How so?
Do you ever hijack or “one-up” others’ experiences?
Would you consider yourself to be a compassionate and empathic person? How so?
Do you ever ask others if they think you understood them, before you claim you did understand them?
What one or two ways this week or next can you “listen to understand before being understood?”

(c) 2020, Peter G. Vajda, Ph.D. and True North Partnering. All rights in all media reserved.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to share this reading with you and I hope you find it insightful and useful. Perhaps you’ll share this with others, post it on a bulletin board, and use it to generate rich and rewarding discussion.

What is the one thing that is keeping you from feeling successful, happy, confident, in control or at peace as you live your life – at work, at home, at play or in relationship? Maybe you know what that “thing” is…maybe you don’t. You just have a feeling that something has to change, whether or not you embrace that change. And how would that change support you to show up as a “better you?”

I’m available to guide you to create relationships that reflect honesty, integrity, authenticity, trust, and respect whether at work or outside of work. I support you to focus on the interpersonal skills that enable you to relate to others with a high level of personal and professional satisfaction – unhampered by personal inconsistencies, beliefs, “stories,” and behaviors that create barriers to a harmonious, pleasant, conscious, compatible, healthy and productive relationship.

I coach by phone, Skype and in person. For more information, 770-804-9125, www.truenorthpartnering.com or pvajda(at)truenorthpartnering.com

You can also follow me on Twitter: @petergvajda.

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