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."
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 Realityentails 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.
Are you fed up with tense, explosive meetings? Are you or a colleague the target of a bully? Destructive conflict can ruin organizations. But if we believe that all conflict is destructive, and that we can somehow eliminate conflict, or that conflict is an enemy of productivity, then we're in conflict with Conflict itself. Read 101 Tips for Managing Conflict to learn how to make peace with conflict and make it an organizational asset. Order Now!
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More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- First Aid for Painful Meetings
- The foundation of any team meeting is its agenda. A crisply focused agenda can make the difference between
a long, painful affair and finishing early. If you're the meeting organizer, develop and manage the
agenda for maximum effectiveness.
- When Stress Strikes
- Most of what we know about person-to-person communication applies when levels of stress are low. But
when stress is high, as it is in emergencies, we're more likely to make mistakes. Knowing those mistakes
in advance can be helpful in avoiding them.
- Team Risks
- Working in teams is necessary in most modern collaborations, but teamwork does carry risks. Here are
some risks worth mitigating.
- Performance Issues for Non-Supervisors
- If, in part of your job, you're a non-supervisory leader, such as a team lead or a project manager,
you face special challenges when dealing with performance issues. Here are some guidelines for non-supervisors.
- Risk Creep: I
- Risk creep is a term that describes the insidious and unrecognized increase in risk that occurs despite
our every effort to mitigate risk or avoid it altogether. What are the dominant sources of risk creep?
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming January 22: Disjoint Awareness: Bias
- Some cognitive biases can cause people in collaborations to have inaccurate understandings of what each other is doing. Confirmation bias and self-serving bias are two examples of cognitive biases that can contribute to disjoint awareness in some situations. Available here and by RSS on January 22.
- And on January 29: Higher-Velocity Problem Definition
- Typical approaches to shortening time-to-market for new products usually involve accelerating problem solving. Accelerating problem definition can also help. Available here and by RSS on January 29.
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- Get 2009-10 in The Questions Not Asked (PDF, )
- Get all of the first twelve years (2001-2012) in The Collected Issues of Point Lookout (PDF, )
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Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.