Talking. It’s what I do. I talk to lots of people every day, in my working and personal life. I’ve come to value the power of being in conversation with someone, and how much I can hear when I really listen to the other person. I am fearful though this art form is eroding and humanity is slowly losing it’s ability to have deep and meaningful conversations.
There are six different tools available to me on my MacBook which would allow for a video call. Yet when coaching people I use voice-only connections 99% of the time. I used to think it would be advantageous to be able to see the body language. Over the past year, I have learned video calls actually gets in the way of a deep and powerful conversation. My opinions around this have evolved to where I have a strong preference to not use video calling.
One reason I do this has to do with movement. Coaching is about creating movement. When I first start working with people, they are often very stuck in some way. Through our work together they create movement. I find movement is less likely to happen if we’re tied to a computer. Truthfully I’ve had some of my best coaching calls while both of us are outside walking and talking … even over the phone. It’s an amazing experience.
The bigger reason I avoid video chat is how I believe when we remove all the distractions of life we take the time to truly listen. We listen to each other more fully, and we don’t get distracted by everything else on our computer. We also listen to ourselves more fully. We listen more intently to what’s really important in this moment. It’s amazing what you hear in these moments of real listening.
Talking and listening
I think I’ve experienced more depth of talking and listening in the past year than I have in my previous 48 years of life.
In talking with others, I’ve learned the power in the words I share by being my most authentic self. I’ve learned my words can create the space needed for someone to shift their perspective, and can make a bad day suddenly brighter. I’ve learned sometimes the most powerful words are the ones I don’t say.
In listening, I’ve learned there are several levels at which we all listen. At times we listen to our own thoughts more than what’s happening in the world around us. We also can listen to the words of another as if we’re reading them from a text book. Finally, we listen to what’s in the space around us which I’ve learned is a level at which I hear far more than at any other level. It’s almost as if i’m listening to the energy flowing all around me. This energy is where my intuition hears things.
Although all types of listening serve a purpose, it’s in listening to the energy flowing around us we connect with each other at a much deeper level. When I listen at this deeper level my intuition comes more fully alive, and I have some of the best conversations with people. I will sometimes feel very emotional, or happy, or at times even shed a tear. I’ve learned this is coming from the energy flowing in the conversation, and it’s a reflection of the depth of connection in what’s happening for the other person. I never find this depth of connection in any other way than to listen to that energy which flows between us.
The lost art of talking
This will make me sound old (I’m almost 50)… however I remember growing up in a time when computers were not commonplace. Computers took men to the moon, but they didn’t exist in every day life. Computers only existed in the basements of big companies and were rarely accessible to most people in their day to day lives. ‘Mail’ was not preceded by an ‘e’ and my wall was something my friends and I threw a ball against.
I remember my Dad getting a bulky calculator for work that I was fascinated with. Yet this expensive device could only do basic functions, and today would be found only in a dollar store. When I started grade 9 I wrote my first computer program using punch cards. I didn’t get my first home computer until college days, and it had a blazing 300 baud dial-up modem! At the time a mobile phone simply meant we had a long cord on the rotary phone at home so you could move around the room.
What did we do? We got together and talked with each other. We called each other to see what was happening. We went out for lunches, we went for walks, we told people how much we liked a joke or experience they had.
Fast forward to today. I have two very active email accounts, post to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and other social media platforms I’m trying to figure out. I process around 50-75 emails every day. I use texting, BBM, Slack, Google Chat, and a couple other messaging apps. I can have video calls with people on Skype, Facetime, Zoom, Facebook, BBM, Google Hangouts, and something else I’m sure I’m forgetting. In addition, as a freelancer, I’m told I need to read and reply to blog posts just to be active. Oh … and I’m sure by tomorrow this list will expand and I will have something else to figure out.
I see technology as a good thing as it has the power to enhance our lives. Unfortunately, though, all this use of technology to stay connected is leading to a big problem. The problem is we’re forgetting how to simply talk to each other, and how to experience life together. We’re so busy responding to emails or posting a status, tweeting, or liking someone’s post that we’re forgetting about the richness found in a real life conversation.
Choosing to talk
I believe our ability to talk and connect personally with each other is like a muscle. We need to stretch, strengthen and use this muscle like any other muscle. It’s also true if we don’t use it, the muscle weakens and it becomes increasingly easier to not use it.
At a personal level I challenge you to make a choice this week, as you are the only one who can make this choice. Instead of simply replying to all those messages by hitting “Like” or reply, why not pick up the phone and call. I know you’re not going to call everyone, but what might be different in your life if you took the time to connect with one of those people every day?
For example, rather than posting a “Happy Birthday” message on Facebook, take this opportunity to call the person to wish them a Happy Birthday. Rather than replying to an email you received from someone down the hall, get up out of your chair and go over there and respond in person. While you’re at it take a moment to be with this person, and ask about their day.
Leading for Change
Companies and change experts spend a lot of time focused on resistance to change. Have you ever taken the time to notice what seems to be happening when people are seemingly resisting? For me, I notice many times the source of the resistance is a lack of information, exclusion, and/or lack of collaboration.
Many of these things point to our basic human need to connect with people. We’re social creatures, including the introverts in the crowd. Leaders getting up in front of the room and talking to a Powerpoint slide deck does not allow for the connection I’m talking about. Sending out emails with links to new process, does not constitute the connection either. Creating a fancy flow chart of how the new process will work, certainly does not replace the need for connection.
I once had a leader exclaim during a workshop with me, “wait a minute … I’m the leader and I will send out instructions for how they should do their job … isn’t that enough?!?” … ummmm …. no.
Effective leadership during times of change means being there to support those you lead as they transform your organization. This means taking the time to converse with them. Talk with them. More importantly listen very deeply to what is there. Connect with those around you having a rich, deep and powerful discussion every day.
Inspiring me to talk
Just want to acknowledge our friends Ron and Linda Hallman for the inspiratior for this post. The inspiration came in a conversation during dinner at a party on Saturday evening … go figure 😉