Catriona Futter – Equip For Life Coaching Becoming your best self and living life to the full – 07713 974138

Tag Archives: Choose To Make A Difference

To really listen is to give a precious gift

Listen with a view to understandWe are well into Christmas season now, with all that entails. Everywhere we turn, we are swamped by advertisers and marketers seeking to encourage us to buy that perfect gift to give to the one we love. Or something along those lines.

Interestingly, there has also been something of a backlash to the crazy, totally-over-the-top commercialism and consumerism of this time of year, starting in part as a reaction to the Black Friday sales of last month. Why do we need so much stuff? When we live in a part of the world where we have so much, and other areas of the world have so very very little, and yet there is enough to go around – something is wrong somewhere.

Last week we were talking about the habit of win/win – living with an abundance mentality that says, there is enough for all, and my actions can be for our mutual benefit and enrichment, and not simply for my own self-focused gain.

Well, here’s a thought – how about during this Christmas season you give a gift that is incredibly precious, won’t contribute to climate change in any way, does not involve struggling round the shops being overpowered by cheesy Christmas tunes, and won’t cost you anything – at least in financial terms.

And it will give worth, value, and a depth of care and empathy to the recipient that has the potential to open up greater riches in your relationship.

Let me introduce the habit that I believe carries the greatest power and impact:

To listen with a view to understand.

Imagine something with me for a moment.

You have something on your mind and heart that is really bothering you. Someone you know asks you how you are, and you decide to be vulnerable, so you open up and start to talk about the issue in question. But the person to whom you are speaking jumps in before you have got to the root of the issue with an anecdote of their own about a situation they were in, moves swiftly to advice about what they would do in your situation, and then is distracted by a text coming in on their phone. The overall effect is to leave you feeling shut down, raw in your vulnerability, unsupported, frustrated, and worse than when you started.

Ever experienced this?

Or – swift look inside of yourself – maybe you have behaved in this way towards someone who was wanting to talk to you?

How often do we, as humans, listen to each other because we want to be understood, rather than because we are seeking to understand?

When we listen from our own perspective, we tend to evaluate what the other person is saying whilst they are still speaking, and we interpret what they are saying from our own reference point. We then form opinions and judgments based on an incomplete picture and a lack of understanding of what was really being said – all this is usually subconscious and happens all the time.

The communication exchange becomes all about us and not about the person who is actually doing the talking. We are listening with a view to responding – with our own opinions, advice, judgments, assumptions.

Imagine instead we seek to listen with a view to understanding.

As we listen, we seek to get under the person’s skin and see things from their point of view – to not only hear their words, but hear the emotions behind the words. We pay attention to their body language and give them space to express how they really feel.

The person being listened to feels heard, understood and therefore valued and of worth. And as they are given time and space to explore the issue or problem on their mind and the emotions behind it, and talk it through without any assumptions, judgement, advice being offered, it is then that the speaker often will untangle the issue for themselves and gain greater clarity as to possible solutions.

Think about some of the situations you are in just now – with your work colleagues, friends, your partner, your family. Consider any problems within any of those relationships. How many of those problems are caused by misunderstandings? And therefore, how many of those problems could be resolved or prevented if we took time to really listen to and understand each other, to learn where the other person was coming from? What is the potential then for how much more rewarding and fulfilling those relationships and situations could therefore be?

Habit 7 in full is to seek first to understand then to be understood.

To be understood is about influence.

We all want to be heard, to be respected, to be valued. We all want to have influence – to make a difference and feel that we matter and have worth.

We tend to think that influence is about putting our argument across well, about presenting ourselves convincingly.

But influence is less about speaking and more about listening.

Listening to someone so that they feel heard and understood creates more openness, deeper communication and mutual trust and respect. This is the basis of influence.

This is the basis of influence and greater interpersonal communication.

This is the gift that really does keep on giving. Perhaps in this Advent season as we approach Christmas, we can choose to listen with a view to really understanding each other and in so doing, bring greater depth, openness and connection to all our relationships.

Habit Number 4: Think win/win

Think win/win - enough for all.

Think win/win – enough for all.

Would you do something for me? Take a wee minute and have a good scout around inside your soul. Poke into the dark and dusty corners into which you would prefer others not to venture. Ask yourself this question, and be really honest with yourself about your motives:

How often do I go into a situation/relationship looking for what I can get out of it?”

If you are human – and I am guessing that you are if you are taking time to read this – you will recognise that that response is indeed sometimes the case. It is a very human tendency to look to what we can get out of a situation – be it a bargain or a cheap/better deal, kudos or recognition, our emotional needs met. Or, put it more bluntly, we look to win.

Equally, you might ask yourself this:

How often do I go into a situation seeking to be helpful or make the peace, but end up feeling that I have been walked over?”

People pleasers, appeasers, those coming from a place of feeling the victim, those struggling with low self confidence and self worth – again, very human tendencies that we will all recognise. Allowing others to dominate, bulldoze all over us, take advantage of us and our insecurities can be an all-too-common outcome of a situation or relationship. In other words, to lose.

This is what is at the basis of Habit Number 4 – Think Win/Win. This one can be hard to get your head round, beyond it sounding really aggressively competitive and sport-related. And my opening comments this week might seem especially harsh and polarising. After all, life isn’t as black and white as this is it – you can’t divide life into winners and losers.

But to ‘win’ in the context of the Think Win/Win paradigm is NOT about selfish triumphalism or personal, individualistic gain.

Far from it.

This is about living life from a starting point that there is plenty for everyone. Having an abundance mentality, a generosity of character and spirit.

This is the idea that one person’s success does not need to be achieved at the expense or exclusion of anyone else.

I don’t have to trample over you to get what I want. Nor do I have to let you trample over me. There is enough for us both, and we can work together to allow us both to flourish.

This fits perfectly coming after Thanksgiving. Now I am Scottish through and through (and a wee bit Danish) but have some American friends, and I love the tradition of Thanksgiving. To take some time with your nearest-and-dearest, with friends old and new, and express thanks for the abundance of the harvest. And to share that abundance, even as you express individual thanks for what the year has brought you.

For me, this is the spirit of Habit 4. When we can see what we have and what we can do, and live from a place of thankfulness, we can truly seek Win/Win, which is mutual benefit and satisfaction in all our encounters.

This of course is all about character.

To constantly seek mutual benefit and mutual satisfaction in any relationship or situation takes

security in who we are, integrity in our behaviour, and a clear understanding of our own values.

It also takes maturity. In Dr Covey’s book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, he quotes a Harvard professor from 1955:

emotional maturity is the ability to express one’s own feelings and convictions balanced with consideration for the thoughts and feelings of others.”

This is about being secure in who you are, and at the same time valuing the other person and seeking to understand where they are coming from. This fits so well with team coaching – having a shared goal that all parties are working together toward rather than each seeking individual gain.

How might win/win work out in practice?

This is extending from Dr Covey’s work slightly, but for me, these are some of the outworkings of living with an abundance mentality where there is plenty for everyone:

  • replace “I have to….” with “I get to…” in your thinking and see how that shifts your perspective. What does that prompt you to be thankful for? What does that allow you to see about your circumstances and strengths that enable you to give with your best rather than perhaps begrudgingly?
  • do you live more with a spirit of entitlement or generosity? Pay attention to that little mind worm of ‘what do I get out of this’ and replace with ‘what can I give here?’
  • what can you do, and what do you have and how secure are you in that, as you go into encounters with people that require some kind of resolution?

A win/win abundance mentality of mutual benefit for all is not a bad way to start Advent.

Make a difference the Glasgow way.

Make a difference

Make a difference

Sometimes the problems our world is facing seem so complex and multi-layered that overwhelm and paralysis set in – as an individual, what on earth can I do that would make a difference?

Not a very cheery place to start this week, but let me expand a little. Famine, terrorism, complex political wranglings, injustice, social breakdown. All have been in the news this past week. And all are subjects that can lead to a numbing and mental shutdown at their extent and ghastliness. Sometimes the temptation is to switch off to it all because it is all too big, too complex – we feel utterly powerless to do anything of any use.

And yet.

Sitting alongside the dark events in the world are little vignettes of hope.

At the weekend, I took part in a community event that, when pitted against the monster of social injustice, seemed almost entirely inconsequential. But there were lots of us who worked together as a team, each person contributing their unique skills, enthusiasm, and energy. None of us on our own could possibly have done all that was required to make the event a success. And yet each person working as part of a much greater whole created something collectively that brought ripples of blessing and generosity bobbing outwards into several areas of need within our immediate world.

Last Friday saw the fundraising mega machine that is Comic Relief. Tens of millions of pounds were raised to help many in desperate need in the UK and Africa, including those affected by the current horrific famine. Again, watch the stories of human suffering, and the need is utterly overwhelming. What difference can I possibly make? But recognise that no man is an island, that we are all part of this world, and we work better together, and each of us is empowered to do what we can. Those millions raised consist of many, many single contributions of individuals moved to do their small part.

And yesterday, a little reminder of the difference one person can make to your day. Whilst walking through the centre of town, I encountered a busker seeking to earn a few quid singing. He was very good, and alongside him, a young business man had started dancing, watched and cheered by his business colleagues. Smart suited and smart shoed, he pulled off some nice moves in the middle of the street, purely for fun. Then a young woman joined in, and two blokes in anoraks.

For no reason at all, except the enjoyment of the dance.

At 9 in the morning.

I love Glasgwegians. I love the human spirit at it’s most free.

I smiled broadly as I walked past, and noticed the same effect on other passers-by. All these be-suited office workers, business people, delivery folk – I watched their faces shift from single-minded-Monday-morning focused-seriousness to a broad smile of enjoyment at the nonsense in the street.

We each of us have it in us to make a difference. Sometimes it will feel of so little consequence that it is hardly worth bothering about.

But who knows this week, you might be just the person to meet a need – be it a smile, a word of encouragement, a helping hand, a strong shoulder, or a few quid. Each of us can choose to do what we can to make a difference, knowing that together, real change is possible.

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