Three “Simple” Steps to Real Listening …

“Everyone hears what you have to say.  Friends listen to what you say.  Best friends listen to what you don’t say.”


Ever had  a relationship where the other person understood what you were not saying?

… A relationship where silence was okay, because you were linked enough to not have to use words to convey your mood or siutation?

If “Yes”,  lucky you:)

Really listening to someone as active listening asks us to do, is hard work.

1)  Empty your mind

In other words, forget about what you want to say.   Minimize or eliminate distraction.   Just listen.

Never underestimate the power of focused attention to another person.

2)  Hear the words and the meaning behind them

Once you have emptied your mind of things that get in the way, you can concentrate on the words chosen to convey some message and the images that come from those words.

Words are not generic … each has a specific meaning, based on the person’s background, culture, and emotional state.  Pay attention and analyze what words they choose and the tone in which they use those words.

3)  Hear the silence and the words not chosen

This is the most difficult, but is also the source of the greatest insight.

Think about what was said and look for the missing pieces.  Try this:  

If you were talking about the topic, what would you include?

What did you expect to hear that you did not?

How congruent is their tone with their word choices?

Well, this is actually the easy part … once you hear the unspoken words and feel the underlying emotion, then you have to respond accordingly.

…. Tomorrow.

Trying to listen beyond the sounds in the Heartland ….


I Can See This Clearly …

“An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.”

Mahatma Gandhi as quoted in The Nobel Book of Answers, (2003) pg. 151

An eye for an eye” is the ultimate statement of equality.  

Whatever someone does to you, you do back to them.   

You’ll get yours” is what we say when we operate on this basis in our personal affairs.   We do enjoy seeing someone “get what’s coming to them“, don’t we?   At the end of the film, if the bad guy does not meet a terribly fitting end, we often feel cheated or uneasy.

Life is supposed to be fair.   When someone acts badly, they should suffer in return.  We do not like it when someone treats us poorly and does not suffer poorly afterward.  

The Occupy Movement is at least obliquely based on this idea.   Why should the few with a lot of money do things that make them more money at the expense of most of us with little money?

“You can’t treat me like that.  I’ll show you!”

In our work, we sometimes fall into this type of “tit for tat” relationship with another person or another work group.  An adversarial relationship develops and can take on a life of its own.   They do or say something, so we respond.  They respond to our response, and so it goes … and goes and goes and goes.

‘Taint Fair!”

Proportional response” is the term used in the political arena to denote this viewpoint.   When one country or faction takes a certain action that is at odds with the interests of another country, especially if that other country is the United States, we want to see at least a proportional response.  

As the intensity of the action increases, our idea of what is proportional seems to expand.

Unfortunately, we often respond with somewhat more force than we received.

Of course, this usually results in a game of one-upmanship, which does no one any good.

“In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king“.    Maybe being a better person and not giving in to the wish to see justice done

How about a proactive stance and not a reactive stance?

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”

Rather than waiting for someone else to do something that may or may not benefit you, reach out.  Act toward others in the way you would like to be treated.  I’m no rocket scientist, but this makes sense to me, whether we are talking about a relationship, a business transaction, or a global interaction.

Feeling rather peaceful in the Heartland ….


Home Is Where The Heart Is …

“The heart has its reasons which reason knows not of.”

Blaise Pascal (15th century mathematician and religious philosopher)

… and we think we’ve just discovered the role of emotions in decision-making🙂

Emotions can affect and even create our decisions, which we then justify with rationality.   Here’s one example of how this sounds:

“I shouldn’t eat those cookies.”

“I want to eat those cookies, because I’m lonely.”

“I have had a very tough week and I deserve a treat.”

“Eating a few cookies will make me feel better.”

“I’m only going to eat a few.”

“I only ate half the box.”

“They tasted really good.”

“They would have spoiled if I hadn’t eaten them.”

“Now I feel guilty.”

(and repeat) “I shouldn’t eat those cookies.” 

But don’t take my word for it …

Harvard Kennedy School Emotion and Decision Making Group

Emotion and Decisions

How Our Emotions Can Affect Our Decision-Making Ability 

As leaders, we are not immune to this.  We just have to be aware that our emotions often drive our decisions and evaluate our thinking accordingly.

Sometimes, our emotions are telling us something important that the facts just do not address.  Sometimes they are are just making us hungry for a whole bunch of cookies.

Looking for a box of cookies to “sample” in the Heartland ….


In Good Times and Bad …

“Real friendship is shown in times of trouble; prosperity is full of friends.”

Author Unknown   Often attributed to Euripides or Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Sometimes the message is so clear and obvious that more comments are not needed.

Whoever said this understood a basic reality of life:   It’s easier to be a good person when times are good.  The true test of character and all that entails is when times are not so good.

Who are your true friends?

When are you a true friend?

What do you need to do today to live this out?

Getting ready to call up an old friend in the Heartland ….


“And This Too Shall Pass …”

“Success is never final. Failure is never fatal. It is courage that counts.”

Winston Churchill  as quoted in The Prodigal Project : Book I : Genesis (2003) pg. 224

Remember the old joke?

When things are rough, just keep reminding yourself This too shall pass.”

When things are good, just keep reminding yourself This too shall pass.”

Like most really good humor, that joke is based on reality.  Churchill understands this.

Life is about the average.

We all experience some soaring ecstasy and transcendent moments.   Our brains tend to interpret these as fleeting.  We also all experience some “dark nights of the soul“, as Thomas Moore describes in his book of the same title.   Our brains try to convince us that these depths last for long periods.

Enjoy the highs and endure the lows.  Have patience and develop the ability to recognize when you are “up” and when you are “down“.  Figure out how you can tell the difference.

We also experience many days which lie between the two extremes.  Our days usually consist of some positive and some negative events, in various mixtures.

This is where we live our lives … and you control the math.

How you view your daily life events will produce an average which can reflect either a generally optimistic or a generally pessimistic line.

How are YOU doing on average?

Trying to stay ahead of the curve in the Heartland ….