Listening

Ask For The Story

In my personal life I do quite a bit of work with kids. More often than not, when I ask a child a question and they begin to answer, a well-intentioned adult will interrupt and give a succinct explanation, ending the conversation.

The adult's behavior is easy to understand: the child's answers are often long-winded, hopping from point to point, never really touching on what I initially asked — at least not at first.

I often have to tell the adult, "I was asking because I am interested in the story, not the answer."

When you ask a child a question and then give them space to talk, you'll learn much more. More importantly, it shows them that their opinions and perspectives are valued and that they have a right to voice them.

The same thing applies to conversations with adults.

In our impatience to tick a box on a checklist, in our desire to have everything nicely tied up in a bow, in our drive to find the most efficient solutions and increase our productivity, we settle for surface conversations and miss out on the joys and benefits deep listening brings.

There's a quote I love because it proves true over and over: "A good listener helps us overhear ourselves."

Ask people questions and then give them space to talk.

 


Originally pubilshed January 2015

The Two Qualities You'll Need to Survive Working in Weddings

Artwork by Benny Kanofsky (left) and  Anthony Burrill  (right). 

Artwork by Benny Kanofsky (left) and Anthony Burrill (right). 


If you've worked in the bridal industry for more than twenty minutes, then you know that a person is not always their best self when planning their wedding.

There are several reasons for this: unseen family dynamics at play, emotions long buried now bubbling to the surface, fear and uncertainty at this new season of life and, of course, daily conversations about money, which is generally not a comfortable topic regardless of purchase size.

If you expect your clients (or their families) to be saints all the time, you're in the wrong line of work.

Being generous doesn't just apply to material resources. Sometimes it means being generous with our patience and empathy as well. It means extending the benefit of the doubt when you'd rather make a snap judgment. It means not expecting people to be fully rational when making decisions about an emotional milestone event. It means listening on a deeper level, beyond just what your clients say aloud. It means asking for the story and leaving space for it to be shared.

If you want to make it in weddings, you'll need these qualities – gracious generosity and deep listening – in spades.

Becoming More Generous

It's impossible to have an open mind and a closed fist. Generosity requires an open mind, requires that we put ourselves in others' shoes, requires that we see that reality for some is different than the reality we may personally experience. 

If you want to be more generous, make sure that you haven't inadvertently built an echo chamber around you.

Read news from reputable outlets that may not be part of your usual routine or that may be to the right or left of your views.

Follow trustworthy people on Twitter or Facebook who you respect but may not always agree with.

Listen to the stories and perspectives of people who have lived life very differently than you have. 

Staying insulated with stories and news that are comfortable and familiar is a surefire way for your generosity muscle to atrophy and to only ever give from a place of superiority that views others as projects to be worked on or improved.

Being willing to listen to others and acknowledge their experiences as valid empowers you to give from a place that affirms dignity in a fellow human being.
 


Originally published 2013