A new way to think about listening & TLC

leadership listening people in practice practice Jul 06, 2023

Have you ever been asked what you felt is missing in the world? How did you respond?

While I've talked, written and worked a lot with story, there's a powerful flipside of the coin that very few people seem to be paying attention to. Story is a powerful tool, a human superpower, the secret sauce to connecting and communicating. In our world we put an over emphasis on "getting the message out" and positioning ourselves and our offerings.

But the truth is, you will never be a good storyteller until you become a great listener.

I can see the lack of listening -- or even more witnessing; giving others the deeply felt sense that they have been seen, heard and valued -- at work in the world. As people allow themselves to become triggered, as they react with louder and more strident voices and keep repeating themselves, it seems to me they do that because they feel they have never been listened to. Not truly.

Queen Margarete of Denmark once said it quite succinctly: "Perhaps all the wars that have happened in the world were because of the conversations that didn't."

I met my most profound teacher about listening when I was 22 and she was 12. I marvelled at how her biggest gift didn't seem to be understood by the people around her, but in the end, it was the saving grace that changed the world.

Now many decades have passed and my mentor is still 12. That's because she's the lead character in the book Momo, by Michael Ende. Th author spends all of Chapter Two describing her listening ability and it is a powerful depiction of the power of true witnessing to change everyone and everything. It is a testament that the power of intentional presence can be life-changing.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's classic book The Little Prince also carries a scene that underscores the power of witnessing and presence. In it, the fox tells the Little Prince how to befriend him (this is often translated as "to tame", but in the original French has a different meaning). It is a slow process, a process of sitting beside and slowly coming closer. It is the definition of how a true friendship among very different beings can evolve.

First you must listen deeply and put yourself aside. First you must practice TLC, or "talk less, coach!"  This opens the doorway to a truer meeting.

A client asked me to prepare a video about listening for an online leadership session. I had some good fun thinking about why listening is so important to me. Here's a short clip from it. And you can find the full video here.

Isn't it time to have a brilliant ally on your side?

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