A Leader’s Thanksgiving

Spiritual attentiveness is less a matter of concentration than contemplation. It is releasing distractions, preoccupations, and prejudgments and being available for absorption. ~David G. Benner

Thanksgiving—a day that we might look forward to, or not. I once heard that Thanksgiving eve is one of the most popular nights for people to seek out a local bar. The reason it’s so popular, to take the edge off before facing family members they may see only once a year.

Quoting an article in U.S. News, “The reality of Thanksgiving for some Americans is rife with family tension, arguments, sorrow and loss. Others face the stress of hosting, or the dread of being asked questions about their lives that they are not ready to answer.”

The point I want to make here is not to get everyone depressed before the Thanksgiving holiday. Instead, I want to encourage leaders to take a few moments to pause and consider David Benner’s quote to “release distractions, preoccupations, and prejudgments and be available for absorption.”

I recently used a TED Talk, 10 Rules to Have a Great Conversation, by NPR host Celeste Headlee when teaching about effective communication. Three of the rules I think will be especially relevant as we all gather on Thanksgiving.

  • Don’t pontificate – assume you have something learn.
  • Don’t equate your experience with theirs. Maybe it’s been a tough year, or a great year. Either way, let them have their experience.
  • LISTEN. Celeste says this is the most important of all 10 rules, and the most difficult.

Celeste closes out her brief talk on how to have a great conversation by repeating the statement, “be prepared to be amazed.”

If we can release distractions and prejudgments and make ourselves available for absorption, then we’re much more likely to be amazed. A leader’s Thanksgiving can be one of encouragement, of hopefulness, of being available for absorption.

One final quote about listening that really caught my attention. Alan Alda said, “Listening is being able to be changed by the other person.” Wow, that’s really listening and being available.

Leaders, this week let’s be thankful, let’s be attentive to others, let’s listen, and let’s be prepared to be amazed as we gather together.

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