(Recapped Article from Marc Chernoff)
This past December a busy attorney named Valentina and her 10-year-old son, Marco, moved into their new home in New England. The morning after they moved a massive snowstorm swept through closing all the schools.
Although young students like Marco suddenly had the day off from school, Valentina still needed to visit her office for a couple hours to finish up some important paperwork with a new client. So, despite the snowstorm, Valentina drove to work, leaving Marco in their nearly snowed-in home to write a short essay that was assigned by his teacher to make up for the missed school day.
Shortly after arriving at her office Valentine received a text message from Marco that read: “Windows completely frozen. Will not open.”
Valentina looked at her phone in confusion because she couldn’t fathom why Marco wanted to open any of the windows. She didn’t have time to sort out the details, so she quickly texted Marco a simple fix she had learned as a child growing up in the mountains: “Warm up a cup of water in the microwave, pour it evenly over the edges, then lightly tap the edges with a mallet.”
Valentina then hurried into her meeting. While she was working with her client, she felt her phone vibrate from a few new text messages. An hour later when the meeting was over, she finally read the text messages.
The first text from Marco read, “What? Are you sure that works?”
Then, “Please hurry up! I have to turn in my essay soon!”
Finally, “The laptop is dead!”
Confused by the messages, Valentina called Marco and asked, “What’s wrong with the laptop?”
He sounding distraught and irritated and said, “I don’t know, I poured warm water over all of its edges and tapped them with a mallet, just like you told me to. But now it won’t even turn on.”
Valentina suddenly realized that her 10-year-old son’s initial text message was not about the windows of their new home…rather, he had texted her about the Windows operating system that runs his laptop computer! Marco’s laptop was simply frozen. But now, thanks to a cup of warm water and the light tapping of a mallet, it was indeed dead!
REMEMBER: In life, in business, and in our relationships, the biggest mistakes can arise from the smallest misunderstandings. We can avoid these misunderstandings with a simple approach to slow down, really listen to others, and clarify what they mean. It will take a few more moments of your time, but it will also save you from headaches and heartache later on!
One of the greatest problems in communication is the illusion that has taken place.
- Too many people don’t really listen to understand – they listen to reply.
- We often respond based on our own perception of our reality, not theirs.
- We collectively misunderstand each other which results in unnecessary and misunderstood mistakes.
And, like you, I’m only human – I still miscommunicate and misunderstand people, especially when I’m in a hurry.
So here are simple strategies to support the practice of paying better attention to the people in your life:
- Do not make assumptions unless you undoubtedly know the whole story. If in doubt, ask the person directly until you have clarity.
- Be curious and listen for what’s truly behind the words. Listen with genuine curiosity, and not with the intent to reply.
- If you only hear what you want to hear, you’re not really listening. Listen to what you don’t want to hear too–that’s how we grow stronger.
- You never know what someone has been through that day, so don’t make empty judgments about them or their situation. Be kind. Be teachable. Be a good friend. Be a good listener.
- Sometimes all a person needs is an empathetic ear – they just need to know someone else hears them. Simply offering a listening ear and a kind heart can be incredibly healing.
When you take the time to actually listen, with humility, to what people have to say, it’s amazing what you can learn…especially if the people who are doing the talking also happen to be the people you love.
To Your Success,
Peak Performance Coach