Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Sometimes You Only Need to Listen

I was exiting a Whole Foods when I noticed him. I knew him from a professional association I once belonged to. It had been nearly a decade since we had spoken.

I called out his name. He greeted me with a big smile. I sat down at his table. I asked how he was doing. After exchanging pleasantries, I asked if he was still writing.  I knew he had written highly-acclaimed nonfiction books as well as some novels.

He indeed was and proceeded to tell me about them. At length. His jovial tone turned more serious and increasingly strident. He became more animated and even agitated.

My friend been writing articles and books covering political issues. His positions were undoubtedly controversial to some, anathema to others.

While his views on many subjects conflicted with my own, I listened. I asked questions. I discerned some points where we shared similar views and noted them.

I didn’t argue with him.

I didn’t contradict him.

I didn’t have to make a point or be right.

I wasn’t thinking about countering each point he made.

I just listened. And learned. And connected with him.

It wasn’t difficult. It wasn’t painful.

I parted ways with my colleague in a good frame of mind. I felt neither angry nor emotionally triggered.

He suggested that I call him when I’m next in his town to have dinner. And I will.

A commitment to listening served me well here. In our polarized times, perhaps it’s the most important commitment we can make to each other and society at large. 

1 comment:

Patrice Leroux said...

Nice article Mitchell. Yes, listening is indeed one of the keys towards trust, engagement..and business sustainability. Jim Macnamara (UTS) proposes an "Architecture of Listening in Organizations...

Cheers !

Patrice Leroux