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We have a rule in my house (another Wes’ism), “The first one to freak out has the floor.” What that means is, you can’t freak out that someone is freaking out. That rule is usually followed by The Holstee Manifesto’s, “All Emotions Are Beautiful.” Emotion is often very misunderstood and largely interpreted in the business world as a form of weakness. But emotion comes in many forms and the business owner screaming at an employee or back at a client, seems to be acceptable. My father was very emotional and it often came out as anger. He’s less expressive now, but for years I suppressed emotion fearing it would lead to anger. At times it did. I learned that was me just copying him and I could find other ways to express myself. Like I’ve said before (another Wes’ism) “It’s taken me 20 years to unlearn all the stuff my parents taught me.” Understanding the way I express my emotion and when I express my emotion, tends to be very strategic, even though I’m not consciously thinking that way. This step-back approach, takes practice, but really helps you from saying something stupid.
Breaking it down
Choosing silence instead of waiting for your turn to speak, is mind blowing. It turns the whole act of conversation upside down. The gears inside your head switch to analytical mode and you begin to take in everything. What that person is saying. How they are saying it. Where they are saying it. Where you are hearing it. The emotion in their voice. The emotions that you feel hearing it. Silence is the anti-reaction method. Yes, silence is a reaction and doesn’t work in every situation, but as a go to first step, the results are magical.
Here’s a great example that we can all relate to. Have you ever had this feeling (or story) of a situation that you convincingly believed was true? You believed it so much that you actually prepared a response, played the outcome out in your head and possibly planned physical recourse, in case things got ugly? This preparation was for nothing, because the whole situation was anticlimactic. Not only was it not what you had imagined, you now actually feel great, because this stressful situation that you imagined, is now not true, so you can relax. Amazing.
In business and relationships the weight of the message is important. You have to ask yourself if the message you are giving is building up or tearing down? Is it helpful or harmful? Is the message for them or is it because you want to say it? Will the effect of the message be short or long term? Will they learn? What’s the payoff?
It all depends on the message, but the timing of the message, will determine if they even hear it. People may believe that context is everything and you “have to strike while the iron is hot,” meaning, you have to say something right then, because everyone will forget the situation later and your message will lose it’s impact. This is untrue. If it’s worth teaching, then you will have the benefit of the outcome to support your message. This will help you re-create the context and refine your message, so that it is simple and to the point.
Always the student
Teaching implies that you’ve mastered some knowledge and you are imparting this to others. What really happens is that your message is constantly being refined, tweaked and adapted for every new situation. One can argue that the intention of teaching is to not teach at all, but to challenge oneself to learn. Choosing to listen is a form of teaching itself, which by example alone shows restraint and introspection. Listening may be the most powerful teaching tool of them all.