Friday was a hard day for women in the United States. Regardless of which side of the abortion debate you fall on, the overturning of Roe v Wade is as deeply personal as it gets. Rest assured, I am not going to proselytize or get political here. I simply want to talk about empathy and understanding.
Even if you are someone who prides themselves on strict professionalism with your colleagues and clients, you have to read the room. You must listen to not only what someone is saying but also to what they are not saying. When the stakes are high and emotions are as supercharged as they are for many right now, it is more important than ever.
In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Steve Covey talks about the importance of empathetic listening. Not only is it a habit of highly effective people, but Covey refers to it as a real paradigm shift due to the fact that most of us do not listen at all. Instead we ignore, selectively listen, pretend to listen or signal that we are listening. Empathetic listening is listening with the goal of putting yourself in the speaker’s shoes and seeing the world as they do. Covey says to “seek first to understand.” It requires listening with your ears, eyes and heart, and it’s far from easy. Even those of us who consider themselves naturally empathetic find it hard because you have to stay in the moment and truly live without judgement. Human beings are constantly judging. It’s how we make meaning and how we protect ourselves. Reserving judgement takes practice and skill. One simple hack that Michael Sorenson describes in I Hear You: The Surprising Simple Skill Behind Extraordinary Relationships is to imagine the speaker as a child. This is a particularly good tool if you are having a hard time listening to someone because their viewpoint and communication style is vastly different from yours.
As the high selling season ends, the market shifts and everyone and their mother goes on vacation, I hope you yourself have a moment to stop and listen. Listen to yourself. Listen to your clients. Listen to friends. Listen to strangers. Listen to the wind. You will learn a lot if you do it right.
Until next week,