To Truly Hear

corporate man woman_sIs is the deep listening of UU Wellspring something people in the corporate world can embrace? I’ve struggled with this for years in my role as a corporate leadership consultant. In corporate cultures, the pace is so fast and unrelenting. So I do my best to teach the concepts of deep listening, assigning articles and suggesting that managers practice outside of work.

Every once in a while, grace happens as the light bulb goes on for one of the earnest young leaders I work with. It happened earlier this summer. After reading one of the assigned articles [http://www.fastcompany.com/1727872/using-empathic-listening-collaborate], a young woman wrote the following, which I share with permission. Her thoughts motivate me to continue my faithful action out in the world!

“After reading this article, I increased my awareness in conversations, looking for a positive interaction to share. However, the contrary opened my eyes to the importance of honing empathic listening skills.

“ While waiting in line to pay condolences to a dear friend who just lost her beloved mother, I was able to self reflect and prepare my words carefully. I rehearsed in my head what to say to the children and husband who were mourning.

“As I approached the family I listened as others shared sympathetic remarks. And then a woman, with her very present mother, reached the grieving family and asked ‘how are you doing?’ Before receiving a response she blurted out, ‘this is heartbreaking! I know exactly how you feel right now!’

As I watched my dear friend’s face, fall it hit me. To truly hear, we need to make a conscious decision to put the speaker ahead of ourselves, our preferences, and our thoughts. By not listening, and projecting her own perception of empathy, a well intended condolence transformed into a hurtful interaction. We do not need to ‘know how someone is feeling,’, and acting as we do can be quite insulting.

“ As I embraced my friend and her father, my well planned words slipped away. This was not the time for a scripted response, but to listen with my heart.”

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