An excerpt from Ballgames To Boardrooms: Chapter 7
Just a couple quick stories of how listening has/can/will change our lives…at work and at home.
Demystifying the Lost Art of Listening
I was about eleven years old, in my last year of Little League. I played shortstop and occasionally pitched (but not well). One Saturday morning I was on the mound pitching. My coach gave the sign to throw a change-up after I was throwing fastballs all game long. The hope was for the hitter to be out in front of a slower, change-up pitch, swing, and miss, of course. Instead, when I took a little off the pitch, the batter smacked it deep into the right field gap.
We May Not Know Everything After All
Frustrated, getting the ball back from a teammate, now with a runner on base, I kicked a few pebbles, slammed the ball into my glove, and mumbled under my breath, “Why can’t I just throw the ball?”
From the corner of the dugout a low, stern voice called out, “Cause I’m the coach. That’s why.”
At the ripe age of eleven I undoubtedly believed I knew everything there was to know about everything. I guess I saw myself as such a prodigy and student of the game, I knew more than the coach. Okay, no. Hardly.
I was a terrible pitcher, and not even very good at baseball. Maybe I was a decent shortstop, but I couldn’t hit a lick. Pretty sure the coach, an adult my parents’ age, and a great man in our community might be a smidge more qualified to make the call. After all, he was the coach. It would’ve been wise to listen more and talk less; a lesson that applies just as much today as it did then.
Jimmy Buffett covers a song originally released by Fred Neil in the 60’s, “Everybody’s Talkin’.” The first line is a microcosm of today’s business world, and society, for that matter:
“Everybody’s talkin’ at me…can’t hear a word they’re sayin’…
Only the echoes of my mind…”
How often do you find yourself talking (or trying to talk) to someone, on the phone, videoconference, or during an in-person conversation, and you can’t get a word in edgewise? Why? Because, uh, they won’t stop talking. It’s true. Everybody’s always talking. Since they’re always talking, we sit around chasing our thoughts and all we literally hear are “the echoes of our mind,” a la Fred Neil’s lyric.
How often do you leave your office, hop in your car, turn on the radio, get five miles down the road and have no idea what songs, commercials, or talk radio segments just played in the very car in which you’re the only passenger? Maybe I’m the only one, but does your mind race with to-do’s, concerns and fears weighing down every thought?
I’m sure you work or live with people who talk and talk and rarely pause to listen. It’s a total thing and a bit of an epidemic plaguing corporate America. Grand Canyon size wedges are driven smack dab in the middle of relationships. It also prevents talented up and comers from “becoming” all they could, should, and would be, if only they’d listen. Unfortunately, it also keeps many from experiencing the levels of fulfillment and happiness they long for both at work and at home.
On the other hand, consider an environment filled with respect, learning, understanding and love. How does that sound? Maybe a little better? That’s the type of environment you can cultivate within your teams, companies, families, and relationships when and if you listen.
Don’t fall into the “know it all” trap. Of course, you’re smart. Be smart enough to realize someone else might know something, too. My wife is six years younger than me. Back when we were dating we had a few “fights.” Nothing major, just typical squabbles. One of my best friends gave me some great advice, as I was in mid-argument with the woman who is now my wife. He said, “Be open to listening to her. You might learn something.”
He was right then, and he continues to be right even today. I thought since I was “the older one” I automatically knew best. Dumb. Wrong. Not even close. I’m so glad I learned that lesson early in our relationship journey. If I didn’t learn to listen and become open to new ideas and perspectives, we probably wouldn’t have progressed in our relationship or ever even married. That’s a scary thought.
Four compelling reasons to LISTEN:
Listening is respectful
Listening is learning
Listening leads to understanding
Listening is loving
If you find yourself stuck in the hamster wheel, with more upsetting days than fulfilling ones, there’s a better way. Better days are around the corner. Be the one who listens because you will:
Become known as the respectful one,
Learn all kinds of new stuff,
Begin to understand things you never understood before, and
Receive an abundance of love from people to your left and right, your team, and even your boss.
Replace irritating days with fulfilling ones because you listen.
Thanks for listening.
More ideas and inspirations for turning your “menial job” into “meaningful work” can be found in my new book available on Amazon.com.