In January, we shook the dust off our feet from 2020, we remembered Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and we saw the United States welcome a new president. Now, as we look forward into our future, we’re trying to live up to our name; the United States of America. Dr. King dreamt of it, and President Biden has called for it. Unity.
So what’s our best way to achieve unity? It seems that common practice is to shout our beliefs at others, demanding their unity. But there’s a secret; the best way to create unity is to listen.
It looks like this year, we will finally hear the starting pistol for the rat race, and we get to commute past our couch all the way to the office. We’ll shoo away the cobwebs from our tables, chairs, and computers, and finally, chisel out that half-a-cup of now petrified coffee from the bottom of our favorite mug. The desk calendar will still be open to March 2020, and have appointments that were long since canceled.
As your colleagues arrive, Gary will impress you with his full beard, Sarah might have questionable blue hair, and half of this rag tag bunch will try to hide their (our) quarantine 15. Here’s what’s going to happen; you’re going to want to start sharing stories – from the marvelous to the mundane. But, take a moment to take a breath.
There is an old adage: “Speak so people will want to listen.” That is excellent advice. Certainly, I have been to my share of conferences where I wished the speaker had heeded that advice. But for this moment, flip that saying around; “Listen so people will want to speak.” That’s right, genuinely listen and be curious about what the other person has to say, what stories and experiences they have to share, what common ground we can find.
The best way to let someone know how much you missed them is just to listen. The best way to move past division is to listen. You will get your turn to unburden yourself, but not right now. Don’t interrupt: listen. Don’t judge: Listen. Don’t even think of a snappy retort. Just Listen: Listen completely.
Listening used to be thought of as a passive activity. Listening was thought of as relinquishing power. But in reality, it is just the opposite. The most basic and powerful way to connect with another person is to listen to them.
There is nothing so valuable in making a connection as paying complete attention. One of my speaking associates has a wonderful turn of the phrase that goes like this: Attention Pays – so Pay Attention. As President Biden recently shared with the country, “Unity is the path forward.” Let’s open up, and all move forward together by taking the time to be in the moment and listen.