Don’t judge a book by it’s cover
Apparently I have RBF (resting bitch face) but for a time… I had no idea! I was delivering a program once and discovered that participants’ initial perspective of me sounded like this… “She’s mean, difficult, too serious, no fun, pretentious, disconnected, and controlling.” Whereas, my perspective of me was, “I laugh a lot, love practical jokes, can be counted on to bust out a Scottish accent in the middle of a serious meeting and wear crazy hats or costumes on Zoom.”
Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.
The stories and interpretations about me, my body language, my tone of voice, and my eye movement grew from an existing foundation built from memories held within each participant – nothing to do with the present or even me.
I capitalized on this rich opportunity to speak to the energy that permeated the room, which required vulnerability and took the participants, and myself to a deeper level of intimacy.
We explored their interpretations, biases, judgments and stories against the facts:
- My eyesight causes me to squint when I attempt to adjust my blurry eyes.
- When I’m puzzling over something, I tense my facial muscles, which helps my brain focus.
- I’m autistic, so my facial expressions and body language often don’t match what’s happening inside me.
- Sometimes there is a processing delay between experiencing an emotion and being able to describe or show it accurately.
- My eye movement isn’t typical; I’d probably fail one of those body language tests.
By exploring together, we re-created the listening people had of me. It was a natural, organic way to demonstrate that their “truth” about me had little to do with the present or even me. The process allowed us to reset the energetic container to be one of safety and trust.
Had we not spoken about it, I would have delivered the material from a divided, separate container or energetic field, absent of the rapport I needed to illicit shift in each of these participants.
Why is this important to you?
Consider that most of your conversations and relationships occur on the surface, built on assumptions, stories, biases and interpretations. You operate over the top of these daily, primarily unconscious of their impact until they erupt. As a result, your listening of people, both personal and professional, is tuned to one frequency and infrequently based in the present and, more frequently, built on your past experience of them.
Active listening isn’t just about facing someone and giving them your full, undivided attention. It’s about being self-aware enough to sense, or observe, what’s in the energetic field between you and others and to be responsible for the impact.
To observe the energetic field means:
- to interpret, including the meaning you make of events, people, objects
- to use all of your senses, sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste (not just see)
- to acknowledge that how you observe is also shaped by your language
- that expanding your use of language will allow you to develop what and how you observe
The meaning you make of events, people and objects require your self-awareness. Self-awareness in action occurs when we notice that we ascribe people’s qualities based on what exists within us and is built based on the criteria and standards we operate from.
So wait, why is this important to you? Context.
Webster defines context as (a) the parts of a written or spoken communication which precede or follow a word, sentence, or passage and affect its meaning and (b) the surrounding environment, circumstances or facts which help give a total picture of something
As a leader, you may be unable to change the circumstances you lead in. However, you can change how you and your team view the situation by exploring the underbelly of your conversations, meetings and interactions.
- This skill is crucial all the time and heightened when:
- entering new markets
- responding to shifts in the economic landscape
- navigating new frontiers and the unfamiliar
- creating agile organizations and leaders
Consider the following quote:
A leader’s job is to engineer the types of conversations that produce epiphanies. Conversations that reveal we are capable of original thought. Intelligent, spirited conversations that provide clarity and impetus for action, for change. Yet too often, we, the results-smitten, speak only of measurable goals, key business indicators, action plans, cash-flow projections, economic indicators, process, and procedure. All are worthy come-ons, yet true success requires conversations that exert a deeper magnetism, a pull as powerful as the tides. ~ Susan Scott in Fierce Conversations
Define your leadership by your ability to make the impossible possible. For example, you can exist adequately by remaining blind to context or powerfully harnessing context to hit new heights, create and innovate.
Context is distinguishable through language; however, primarily invisible and woven into your company culture. Join us in the Bomb Proof Executive Program. Surface your blindspots, biases, blocks, mental models, assumptions that influence your actions, and more.
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