I was speaking with a good friend of mine recently, a man who has thought a lot about faith and action. He spoke about how, in this culture, we place a lot of emphasis on “the word.” We celebrate speakers and are inspired by words and talk, but, in his view, the real transformation happens when we combine word with deed and community.
I mulled this over. I am someone who thinks about words a lot. And I started to see a relationship between intention and this idea of combining word and deed.
When we speak from a place of intention, it is meaningful because it is linked to action. As listeners, we are moved because we feel like moving—we want to change something in our lives to match the action and motivation we feel from the person we heard speaking. We don’t respond just with our minds, we respond with our bodies. Our hearts may race, maybe we feel nervous energy in our feet or legs. We want to leap into action!
Have you ever been in a boring meeting and realized, “Oh, I have no idea what that person is talking about. I better really listen!” And then you start listening, but then you realize you’re thinking about listening and still haven’t heard anything? Yeah.
Instead, clear your mind. Remember why you’re in this meeting. Lean into your empathy and compassion.
Then try listening again.
We are in a strange time in the history of human communication. We are bombarded by texts and emails and messages from social media apps. There are so many that we have to triage those messages. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t lost track of an email and then had to send one of those “I’m so sorry! I meant to get back to you and this fell off my radar!” responses.
What can we do to remember that there is a person on the other side of that email, that text?
What can we do to reinstate the connection between humans that communication is supposed to represent?
When we ask the nearest person for their feedback, there is no guarantee that they are knowledgeable about the things we want to know about.
Usually, they will still agree to weigh in.
This is how bad advice gets traction in the world.
Here were a couple of things I heard recently that this blog does not endorse:
“You looked nervous!”
How is this helpful? Either they were nervous, which they already knew, or they weren’t, and now they feel like they’ve messed up. Being nervous is perfectly normal, and it’s not the job of the feedback-giver to talk about that. Talk about how the speaker made you feel or what they made you think about, rather than guessing about the speaker’s internal state.
“Here’s something I heard recently that is supposed to work—-picture the audience naked!”
I have written about this old standby before, and here’s the gist. What’s happening when you’re picturing the audience naked? Are you thinking about your intention, about the core of your message that is so meaningful that it brought you here today? You are not. Instead, you’re trying to make yourself feel better by imagining something that isn’t real, and that is inherently distracting.
Instead, ask for targeted, knowledgable feedback. Get someone in your corner who can tell you what you’re doing well and help you build on your strengths.
In a workshop I did last week, a woman said, “I am often in back to back 30 minute meetings for seven or eight hours. How can I stay present for all of them? It’s exhausting!”
Yes. It is. Seth Godin writes about this concept–emotional labor is what many of us do now. We’re not digging ditches or building buildings; we’re showing up day in and day out and working with other people, solving problems.
The woman in the workshop wanted me to give her a way to check out of some of these meetings. I get it—it’s really hard to keep showing up, to keep being present, to engage 100%.
And yet. When we don’t engage, when we allow ourselves to default into being distracted or wishing this day were over already, we’ve wasted the opportunity to create something, to be available to a new idea, to support someone in their journey.
The good news is that the more we practice this presence, the more capability we have. Like anything else, this is a muscle you can build.