Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 6, Issue 23;   June 7, 2006: If Only I Had Known: II

If Only I Had Known: II

by

Ever had one of those forehead-slapping moments when someone explained something, or you suddenly realized something? They usually involve some idea or insight that would have saved you much pain, trouble, and heartache, if only you had known.

Jean and I are having a rare dinner together at a pleasant little restaurant. We're catching up, and she suggests a topic for Point Lookout: "If Only I had Known." I jump on it, excitedly describing a time when I said something I regretted later on, after I learned some tiny but critical facts. Jean listens patiently and with interest, and then explains, "Oh. Not that kind of if-only-I-had-known."

Oops. I listen up.

She continues. "I meant, say, listening. If only I had known how important listening is — and how to do it — my life would have been so different."

An appealing plate of pasta (not what I ate that evening)Now that I understand, I agree. I overcome a powerful urge to slap my forehead. She tells me several more of her own if-only-I-had-knowns. Here are three of mine.

Listen generously
Listening to others is how we learn what they have in mind. People don't always communicate well or openly, but even if they don't, what they say (and don't say) holds important clues.
Interrupting, finishing sentences, or hurrying others along, all get in the way of listening generously. If you're talking, you probably aren't listening.
Let others have all the time and space they could possibly use. Encourage them. Let them know along the way, possibly with body language, that you understand. If you get confused, let them know that, too. This is what I did not do with Jean that night.
Let people know what's happening
Take responsibility for giving people the information they need about what's happening for you. Make unreasonable efforts to get your message across.
If I'm upset with someone, or if I have important information, I'll do best if I let people know what's going on.
Waiting for others to ask does work sometimes, but more often, people are two frazzled by the squeaking wheels in their lives to pay much attention to the wheels that don't squeak. And scoring someone with "negative points" for not listening, or for failing to ask the right question, might put you ahead in your own mental "tournament," but those points don't count for much out here in Reality.
Take risks
Learning The score you keep
inside your head
isn't worth much
out here in Reality
entails doing things you've never done before. To get good at something, you have to be willing do it badly at first.
Be easy on yourself — allow as much time as it takes to learn something new, accepting that until you learn it, you won't be very good at it. If what you're trying to do is inherently dangerous, practice first on something similar but less dangerous.
Remember that most failures are non-fatal. If they were, I wouldn't have been here to write this, and you wouldn't be here to read it.

What are your personal If-Only-I-Had-Knowns? What do you think you'll be adding to your list in the next couple of years? First in this series  Go to top Top  Next issue: Knife-Edge Performers  Next Issue

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Artist's depiction of a dust storm on Mars with lightningAnd on July 5: Tackling Hard Problems: II
In this Part II of our look at solving hard problems, we continue developing properties of the solution, and look at how we get from the beginning to the end. Available here and by RSS on July 5.

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