15 Jun 2011

If you’re telling me, it must be important to you

Posted by paulandrew


In the ongoing quest to “get more done,” “move faster,” and “be more productive,” the relationships we have with those around us
often suffer. Why? Because in the hurry–hurry mindset, there isn’t time to really be present for others when they are talking.

Consider two very different ways of interacting with people:

Just the facts, please. If you think that talking is only about an exchange of surface level information, then all you’re ever doing is listening for that factoid. Everything else is overhead. Talk about the weather? Waste of time. Ask about your son? I’ll do it because I’m supposed to. Compliment you on your shoes? Not sure what it has to do with the pending deadline. Look, can you get it done? Yes or no. Rush, rush, rush.

Listening as if people matter. If you genuinely value people for being people, as opposed to being holders of factoids or highly skilled robots that can do things for you, then you take an interest in who they are and what they are saying. Why? Because at some deep level you see them as people, and because of a deep belief in the power of genuine, person to person connection as not just a great way to live, but also as a great way to achieve results. I’d argue as well that on the high stakes issues, simple answers are misleading.

Consider that factoid you need right now. Are “the facts” always so simple, or do they have many nuances? Have you ever been asked a question in a brusque way by a very task focused person, who didn’t seem to give a damn about you, and answered in an overly simplistic way that left out the most valuable information? Yes, technically you answered accurately but the real gold was in the story behind the answer.

I know that I’ve left out key information before, and it leaves me wondering how many times I’ve been that task-focused person who missed out on the gold because I was in such a huge hurry, and failed to really connect with the person in front of me.

You can probably guess where I’m headed. If you really care about getting things done, invest in people! Take that extra moment to ask people how they are doing and really mean it. Get interested in what makes others human, and appreciate what they share with you. Within this context of connection, the game changing information can flow. Given the increasing complexity of the world, those who get access to this deeper level of information have a big advantage.

Look–I’m not saying that you need to spend 3 hours looking at boring photos from the Cancun vacation. But are you really so busy that you don’t have 180 seconds to connect with someone about what they did on Saturday? When I hold listening workshops, people are amazed at how spacious–and rare–three minutes of attentive listening feels. It’s worth experimenting with.

So take that extra moment–because often a moment is often all it takes–to pay extra attention. And consider that whatever the other person is saying, it must be important to them.

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