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:
- What Haven't I Told You?
- When a project team hits a speed bump, it often learns that it had all the information it needed to
avoid the problem, sometimes months in advance of uncovering it. Here's a technique for discovering
this kind of knowledge more systematically.
- Selling Uphill: Before and After
- Whether you're a CEO appealing to your Board of Directors, your stockholders or regulators, or a project
champion appealing to a senior manager, you have to "sell uphill" from time to time. Persuading
decision-makers who have some kind of power over us is a challenging task. How can we prepare the way
for success now and in the future?
- FedEx, Flocks, and Frames of Reference
- Your point of view — or reference frame — affects what you see, and how you experience the
world around you. By choosing a reference frame consciously, you can see things differently, and open
a universe of new choices.
- Workplace Myths: Motivating People
- Up and down the org chart, you can find bits of business wisdom about motivating people. We generally
believe these theories without question. How many of them are true? How many are myths? What are some
of these myths and why do they persist?
- The Deck Chairs of the Titanic: Obvious Waste
- Among the most futile and irrelevant actions ever taken in crisis is rearranging the deck chairs of
the Titanic, which, of course, never actually happened. But in the workplace, we engage in activities
just as futile and irrelevant, often outside our awareness. Recognition is the first step to prevention.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming April 1: Incompetence: Traps and Snares
- Sometimes people judge as incompetent colleagues who are unprepared to carry out their responsibilities. Some of these "incompetents" are trapped or ensnared in incompetence, unable to acquire the ability to do their jobs. Available here and by RSS on April 1.
- And on April 8: Intentionally Misreporting Status: I
- When we report the status of the work we do, we sometimes confront the temptation to embellish the good news or soften the bad news. How can we best deal with these obstacles to reporting status with integrity? Available here and by RSS on April 8.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
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.