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 ….


Either You Buy This Or You Don’t …

“The greatest lesson in life is to know that even fools are right sometimes.”

Winston Churchill As quoted in Cracking up: American humor in a time of conflict (2006) pg. 79

This statement is a hard pill to swallow for those of us who like to live in Either/Or Land …

We tend to like our world neat and orderly.  Among other things, this means that those who are right are always right and those who are wrong are always wrong.

Simplifies our thinking process by allowing us to categorize not just the person or the source, but the information as well.

As long as we know who is talking, we do not have to actually evaluate or analyze the content, we just accept it or reject it, based on the speaker.

Think about how easy this is.   If one of my politicians says something, I can take it to the bank.  If one of their politicians says something, I can ignore or better yet, deride what they say, based solely on who said it.

When the folks from another department start talking, tune out because they never have something important to share.   When your biggest work enemy speaks, concentrate real hard on how much you dislike him or her.   Dismiss anyone who is not as old, as high up in the hierarchy, or as “edjukated” as you are, especially if they come from a different part of town, the state, the country, or the world.  If they worship God in a different fashion or do not behave like you behave, make fun of them or fear them.

As long as you do not just listen and consider …

Ignore or attack those who you do not like.  Never give them the satisfaction of actually listening to what they say and judging it on its own merits.  What could be easier?

Sigh … I really hope the sarcasm above was obvious, but I know a few folks on whom it would be lost.  Of course, they would not be caught dead reading my blog, because I’m one of Those:)

Bottom Lines:

Listen to the words and decide for yourself about each message.  

Resist the impulse to stereotype the thinking based on the person.  

Most of us have something of value to share.  Don’t miss it.  

Trying hard to listen to the words in the Heartland ….


Gurus …

The world is full of gurus, experts, and masters.  We used to have a lot of “meisters” as well, but that term seems to have lost its panache.

We crave knowledge, but too often settle for data and information.

On a recent stroll around our neighborhood, I noticed a fellow resident talking about the benefits of living here with several people in a car, who were obviously shopping for a new home.

I sure hope they talk to more than just this one person, to get a fuller picture of life in our neighborhood.  Their source is a known “crank” at resident association meetings, a poor neighbor to those around him, and generally negative human being.  I don’t like his dog, either.

We do not always adequately or accurately evaluate what we receive . While my neighbor was not seeking the “expert” role, many do and we need to approach their value carefully.   Here are five things I learned “the hard way” about learning from others.

Be A Tad Nitpicky

Pay attention to the details and question them.  Many folks like to talk in generalities and make vague statements.  Consider what they are saying in terms of consistency, validity, and common sense. Continue reading

“Slow Down, You Move Too Fast …”

I suppose it’s a sign of the times …

Many people have been and are writing around the concept of mindfulness these days.  With economic, social, and political turmoil, an increasingly rapid pace of technology change, and deep uncertainty about the future, we human beings naturally find ourselves looking inward for help.

Mindfulness is being touted of late as an overlooked and essential part of our daily mental routine.  My thinking about it has to do with leadership and management.  Generally, mindfulness has one essential characteristic:

Attention to the now ~ not looking ahead or behind, but focusing on now

To do this in our busy, busy world, we need to carry out two sub-tasks:

Consider without judgment or filters ~ most problematic for our judgment-oriented selves

We learn to make judgments and evaluate situations.  As a young military leader, I was hammered with the concept of “decisiveness”, closely linked to “action”.  In other words, decide quickly and then act.

Useful in some situations, really harmful in others.

Consider without distractions ~ being fully present in the moment without allowing anything else to intrude

Have you ever had the full attention of someone?  I mean, their complete attention ~ total concentration on you without anything else getting in the way.

The interaction has a definite beginning and end.  It’s an event.  The power of this in terms of authentic leadership and motivation cannot be understated.

Mindfulness is powerful stuff and too often only experienced with a professional therapist  or counselor.  This is how you should be with those whom you lead and manage and how you should experience those who lead and manage you.

About the leading quote:  Michael Carroll writes about being “Awake at Work” and is one of the more helpful sources for mindfulness in the work environment.   I suggest you get to know him and his work … soon:)

Being mindful of myself in the Heartland …


Making a Stand … Or Not.

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak …

Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”

Sir Winston Churchill

… or as Kenny Rogers might say:

Lyrics from “The Gambler” 


The point is that we have to know when to speak, when to listen, when to stay and fight, and when to go away.

Awfully simple and direct, except knowing what to choose when is devilishly complicated for most of us. 

Life, after all, is not a country western song …

Trying to figure out how to do the right thing in the Heartland ….


The image is  from the Potsdam Conference near the end of World War II, showing Chiang Kai-Shek, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill  in a formal portrait during the discussions about the post-war  world.