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, particularly in 2020. Face-to-face gatherings of friends and family are exchanged for Zoom calls and outdoor walks at a distance. For some, COVID is a welcome excuse to avoid the annual family anxiety, especially in a year fraught with a host of issues with polarizing points of view.
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.”
Be Available for Absorption
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 periodically use 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 are especially relevant as we all gather (in person, by phone, or Zoom) on Thanksgiving.
- Don’t pontificate – assume you have something learn.
- Don’t equate your experience with theirs. It’s been a tough year for everyone, let them have their experience.
- LISTEN. Celeste says this is the most important of all 10 rules, and maybe the most difficult. One additional 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.
Prepare to Be Amazed
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. Thanksgiving can be a time of encouragement, hopefulness, and being available for others.
Leaders, this week be thankful, be attentive to others, listen, and be prepared to be amazed. In other words, lead with bold grace.