Listening with Heart

Here’s another excerpt from a talk I recently gave. It’s a bit “spiritual” as opposed to “business” but I think there is huge relevance to working more effectively, and yes, even about saving time. The audience here was all ages, hence the simple language.

It was a sunny summer Friday afternoon. My kids and I couldn’t wait for our family camping trip. We were going to leave as soon as I finished one more business meeting. I was managing a large government contract and the meeting was with my Government counterpart project manager. Let’s call her Vivian.

Vivian liked to talk. She was intelligent and well-informed but she could go on and on. And I must admit, when she started to repeat herself, I started to tune out and listen less.

The meeting was scheduled for 1 hour. I had prepared an itemized agenda and sent it out in advance. When I arrived, I placed the agenda in front of each of us. There were with 5 discussion points. I had the decisions and actions I needed from Vivian clearly stated. And I was watching the clock.

After 45 minutes, we were still working on agenda item 2 – we should have been on item 4 by then! This meeting was really dragging.

Sitting in Vivian’s stuffy government office on a Friday afternoon, with a glimpse of sunshine visible through the small window, I was impatient to get the camper van on the road.

Vivian kept talking and talking. I couldn’t get a word in edgewise. My attempts to bring her to a conclusion, a decision, or to somehow move forward were fruitless. I felt myself getting more and more impatient and frustrated, and listening less and less as she repeated the same point over and over without pausing for breath or paying any attention to the time or my carefully planned agenda. (whew)

It looked like we would never get done.

But suddenly, something shifted in me.

As my mind wandered, I realized that the reason she was going on and on about every detail was because she cared deeply. She wanted to make sure I understood, and she was repeating herself because she could tell, on some level, that I wasn’t listening very well.

When I realized that, I felt a real wave of appreciation and gratitude flow through me. I suddenly felt love and deep respect for Vivian. I admired her for caring so much.

I didn’t say anything. But inside me, I could feel my change of attitude very strongly.

And she stopped talking!

She stopped and said, “I’m just going on and on here. How do you think we should proceed?”

Remember, for the last 45 minutes I found it impossible to interrupt her constant chatter …now she was silent and listening to me.

I was amazed.

We finished the rest of agenda, right on time. I hurried home to my children, our camper van, and Rathtrevor Beach, with a light heart and a huge smile on my face.

And I have never forgotten that experience.

Gerry Brimacombe

Does this resonate with you? Try it out and let me know how it goes!