I am (once again) reading Richard Carlson’s “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and it’s all small stuff”. I know that there are volumes of spirituality tools, books and websites designed to help change your life and achieve all possibilities, but I’ve never come across anything as simple and direct as Carlson’s work. His words always hit home:
“If we would just slow down, happiness would catch up to us.”
“One of the most dynamic and significant changes you can make in your life is to make the commitment to drop all negative references to your past, to begin living now.”
“Effective listening is more than simply avoiding the bad habit of interrupting others while they are speaking or finishing their sentences. It’s being content to listen to the entire thought of someone rather than waiting impatiently for your chance to respond.”
It was the last one that struck me yesterday. I was in a conference call and I obviously needed a reminder about listening. Conference calls are brilliant for today’s work environment: they reduce our combined carbon footprint, they bring together people who might otherwise not have a chance to meet, and you can sit at your desk to participate.
But they do have their down sides. Participants can multi-task, like search the web for a new (insert your favourite passion…fly rod, running shoes, sheet music, etc.). You may forget to use the mute button at an inopportune time. And because you’re not in a formal meeting, you may not give your undivided attention to the call.
I was looking at another document on my desk (okay, an article about skiing in Whistler). Someone referenced a piece of work that I believed was not well put together, and I quickly made a negative comment about it. She immediately countered my comment, and I found I was preparing in my mind what I was going to say back to her. I had missed the preliminary discussion, and then I realized I had actually missed some of her comments because I was too busy thinking about my response. I was guilty of not giving my undivided attention and respect to her and other meeting members. STUPID ME!
I had to stop my mind, erase my planned response. I had to be patient and actively listen with a critical ear, not a defensive, quick-to-judge ear.
I found out, by simply listening to the ongoing conversation, that I had not communicated my thoughts effectively at all! And I still wanted to jump in and say “No, no, I really didn’t mean it that way” Instead, I just listened to everything she had to say, waited until she was done, then waited some more until other comments were made. I then apologized to everyone for my lack of clarity and my short fuse, and promised that I would participate more fully from now on.
Carlson would most likely have a few things to say. He’d remind me that I made a mistake, but that I could reflect and learn from it. He’d tell me it is okay to let others be right, and if I do, they will be less defensive and more supportive of all ideas. Then he’d tell me not to sweat the small stuff, and the conversation on the call was, indeed, small stuff.
In my next conference call, I’m going to plan to listen from the start. I’ll slow down my responses so I can listen even better. And more importantly, if I am chairing the call, I will make one of the ground rules that we all need to listen completely and critically, and think carefully before we launch into what we believe to be right.
“Mistakes are really not that big of a deal. In fact , as most of us acknowledge we need to make mistakes in order to learn and grow”
I guess I learned a lot from this call!