Ephemeral moments emerge as we interact. These moments take on deep consequence as through their sum total, we create one another. ~Daniel Goleman
Interactions. I’ve scoured my memory and I cannot recall any education from K-12 through college and grad school that taught the basics of effective human interaction or social intelligence. How are we supposed to develop these skills? Left up to parents? It’s the most critical skill needed and yet we have little to no opportunity to develop these skills?
When I read the quote from Daniel Goleman, specifically the idea that through the moments of our interactions sum total we create one another, I was taken aback. I was startled by the thought that we are creating one another. Our current collective ability to engage in effective interaction is not exactly something to model.
While the various divisions in our country have highlighted our inability to interact effectively, those same challenges find their way into organizations. And worse, it’s through these tension-filled and compassionless interactions that we are creating one another.
Where to start?
I suggest we start with both practicing and teaching listening skills. I’ve found that people who believe they are good listeners are many times making suggestions and solving others’ problems. That’s not listening.
This month I’ve been facilitating a series of webinars called The Coach Approach. Part of the learning has been to understand and practice the coaching process. It’s three very basic steps. (1) Ask questions. (2) Listen. (3) Invite. To do this well, it requires a fair amount of empathetic and compassionate behavior. That always proves to be more challenging than the participants anticipate.
I ask for volunteers to coach and to be coached. The coachee presents a very basic problem/situation. Then the coach starts asking questions. Those questions tend to be “questions” that start with Have you tried… In other words, we jump right in with making suggestions dressed up like questions. We think we’re “listening,” but we’re really telling them how we think they should solve their problem.
Stephen R. Covey said, ”Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
Shift Our Interactions
Imagine for a moment, this simple adjustment. Interactions that shift from the need to win, to be right, or to solve someone else’s problem. To interactions that are focused on curiosity, exploring ideas, and understanding a perspective different from our own. In other words, listening.
We are all dealing with higher levels of stress caused by uncertainties of employment, finances, and health. Tensions from differing views on race, masks, and political perspectives punctuate our days. Not to mention the added strain that has surfaced due to staying at home far more than we’d prefer.
Despite all of that, we can’t lose sight of the fact that it’s through the sum total of our interactions that we are creating one another. Our interactions have a deep consequence. What do you want that consequence to be? What if our interactions reflected bold grace?