I had a beautiful encounter one day with a troubled lady Police Constable. If an onlooker had to speak about the incident it would very literally appear that I was the one in trouble because I was stopped for speaking on the phone while driving. But the moments of those 20 minutes unfolded thus that she emerged as the one on the distressed side.
As she very angrily opened my car door, sat inside and guided me to the side of the road to interrogate me and slap me with a fine, I smiled. With one hand on my heart I only told her very genuinely that I am sorry to have done something so wrong. She looked at me and initially did not want to believe me and started lecturing me on road and traffic rules and all the sections of law under which she could fine me. I only looked into her eyes and said ‘I understand, I am sorry ’.
There was something in the pureness of that moment that changed her demeanour from an annoyed, frustrated official; to a meek, wanting to speak her heart out girl. She went on to tell me about the problems they face standing on the road whole day, amongst all the traffic and pollution with no moment or place to even sit in the day and about people who speak to them in demeaning tones and randomly go about breaking traffic rules making them almost believe that they should not have chosen this noble profession.
It amazed me to see the transformation in her body comportment, the tone of her voice and her speech. The only thing I did, was to listen to what she was conveying through her body, her mood and her words.
I did end up paying the fine but what mattered to me was that she left me with her beautiful smile and a new name on my friend’s list!.
My coach and Director of The Institute for Generative Leadership, Sameer Dua, always reminds me, ‘You can say anything you like, the thing that matters is what the other person is listening’. How powerful is that!
The listening we create in people is a responsibility we should be willing to shoulder. If for two days I allow my child to sleep off without brushing his teeth because I was busy with my chores when he slept off, the listening I have created for him is that I have no qualms about him going to bed without brushing. If on the third night I remind him to brush his teeth and he does not listen, I would be on the wrong foot if I listen to him being disobedient. Here, I would have to start all over again in inculcating the habit and be consistent with what I want him to listen!
How many times in a day do you speak to people through your words and actions and expect to be understood to the dot?
If your boss asks you for a report in a sterner tone than usual, do you listen to him being a rude and dominating man or a man with concern for the job to be done on time?
If your mother calls you three times and checks on where you are, do you listen to her being nosy or a woman in your life who loves you and cares for your well-being?
If your wife requests you to stay with her one evening instead of going out with your friends, do you listen to her being someone who wants to take charge of your life or someone who loves spending time with you?
How many times are you listening to what people actually want to convey?.
We are surrounded with people who matter to us and when they speak we listen to them, constantly, keeping in the foreground, the assessments we have about them and experiences we have had in the past with them.
What if we keep aside our assessments and historical experiences we have about these people and listen to what they are trying to really convey? Imagine the opportunity we would be giving them to emerge as possibilities of happiness in our lives and in turn creating a future of our choice!
So, the next time your employee calls in sick and would like a leave what is it that you will listen?
Sheeja Shaju, Leadership Coach, Institute for Generative Leadership, India
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