My 4 year old son is taking karate. He is a proud white belt with three stripes. Last week he earned a big orange “Awesome” sticker. The instructor singled him out of about 20 kids for being the best listener. He was so proud of his award and has been telling everyone about it!
Fast-forward to Write 6×6, week six. The grand finale. How do I foster relationships at work, home and at play? Honestly, I don’t know. Well, I think I might know…
My father was an engineer. Engineers are known for their lack of communication skills. They are straight talkers and only if you ask them. Mostly they are introverted and prefer to keep to themselves. He is still pretty set in his ways, but has softened a lot over the years.
I got 50% of that gene. That, along with the fact that I swam four hours a day in secondary school. I had no social life except for the three minute breaks between sets and when the coach gave us a “social kick” set. I did not have much training in the way of building relationships.
Fortunately my mom was good at it and through my observations, I learned to relate to people from all genders, ages, races, cultures, sexual orientation and socio-economic status. She passed away in January, and the piece of my heart that is still functional wants to honor her talents.
I like to observe people. The people who I relate to the best are listeners, not talkers. I can’t do idle chatter very well. I need my conversations to be meaningful, where I walk away with a little piece of that person’s positive energy and life vision and they with mine. I like being present with people and really understanding their motivations and how they, in turn, relate to others.
Back in the karate studio, the teacher asks the group how many ears they have. “Two,” they shout! “And how many mouths do you have?” “One!” they shout. “So you should listen twice as much as you speak!” he reminds them.
I like to listen. Especially to people who appear to be unhappy or grumpy. Grumpy people are grumpy because people have stopped listening to them. Ignore the grumpiness and really listen! You can learn a lot!
Listen to learn. Listen to understand. Listen to be kind.
Stop talking and really listen.