Listen to Learn

One of the gifts of this past year is that our family developed a habit of talking to each other more. For us, this began when we were isolating together last summer. Now the four of us speak regularly, with our weekly anchor conversation being on Sunday. Each of us shares our sweet, sour, surprise and spiritual experiences from the preceding seven days.

For my son (a university student away from home) and I, this is a natural exercise as we are both verbal processors. For my husband and daughter, who are more internal processors, it’s been a bit of a stretch assignment, but they have appreciated the challenge.

I havas well.

The practice has created a pathway to meaningful conversations and a safe opening to share what isn’t going well, and what is. Perhaps it seems that during a time when almost all of life and work are going on at home, it would be easy to have good communication.

But good communication requires effort; it must be nurtured. Otherwise, we can discover that our most substantive conversation of the day is about who will do the grocery shopping, and when.

Many days, my goal of laughing at least three times a day is met in those familial conversations (Episode 201), but we also have more serious, thoughtful moments, especially when we peel off into 1-on-1s.

This happened for me this past week, with my son. During one conversation he was sharing stories of when he was on his mission in Brazil, stories I hadn’t heard even though he’s been back from Brazil for several years now.

The secret sauce, I’ve deduced, that is making these conversations so delicious to me, is my willingness to listen. To not fill the open space. To allow the conversation to breathe. To be fully present and to enjoy the pathway of communication as it unfolds.

I’m fond of quoting the 19th century American philosopher, author, and critic, Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Rings and jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only gift is a portion of thyself.”

One of the greatest gifts we can give to others—and to ourselves—is the gift of a listening ear.

This isn’t just true at home but also at work. In our coaching we do inside of organizations, we look at teamwork traits, how well people can collaborate with others. This often hinges on patient listening and interpersonal sensitivity. People who are the most successful as collaborators, know how to listen and build consensus.

A few years ago, we interviewed Lisa Kay Solomon (Episode 82) for the podcast and addressed the question of how we design collaborative conversations. She pointed out that we spend hours preparing to deliver a speech, but very little—if any—time preparing for a conversation. What do we want to accomplish in this conversation? What outcomes are we hoping for? How do we want people to feel? And then remaining open to how that conversation organically unfolds.

I had one of those conversations with Sumeet Shetty who joined me recently on the podcast (Episode 205) for a conversation about books.

I first met Sumeet Shetty in a conversation at the SAP Book Club in India. Sumeet is the Development Manager, Intelligent Enterprise Solutions at SAP India––his day job is about intelligent virtual conversation, or chatbots.

Before I started the interview he requested that I share with him each question, give him a moment to reflect, then answer. After he answered one question, we would discuss (off-line) what other questions had come up and decide what the next question would be.

This beautiful recipe continued the entire interview. It gave us space to explore. What additional questions have come up? Where do we want to go next?

A great example of being driven by discovery (the 7th accelerant of Personal Disruption) and principle-in-practice—take a step forward, gather feedback, adapt.

It’s what the best speakers do.
It’s what the best conversationalists (and meeting attendees) do.
It’s what the best managers do.
It’s what the best parents do.

We may know what we want to accomplish. But we take a step forward, we gather feedback (listen), and adapt.

What conversations are you having?
What outcomes are you hoping for?
Are you listening?

As always, thank you for being here.

My best,

P. S. You can listen to the full interview with Sumeet here.

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