Archives for September 2020

Embrace people and respect differences

The divisiveness in our country because of partisan politics is disappointing on many levels. People demean others they know and don’t know on social media and anywhere else they can leave comments. People physically attack others at protests and even drive cars into crowds. This really is unbelievable if you think about it. In many ways, our country is coming apart at the seams.

I know people’s positions on political issues are shaped by their core beliefs. No one is going to change another’s core beliefs through an online comment, an in person confrontation, or even a courteous conversation. What happened to hearing someone out in a respectful manner, agreeing to disagree, and moving on? What happened to respecting other’s opinions even when you don’t agree with them?

People cheer for political parties and issues as if they are sports teams. They aren’t. I don’t know anyone who has stopped speaking with a friend or family member who cheers for a different sports team. I am a lifelong Eagles fan. I can and have watched football games with friends or family members who are rooting for the Eagles’ opponent. Sure, it’s more fun when the Eagles win, but, win or lose, we move on and have enjoyed each other’s company.

Notice that nothing I am saying has anything to do with people identifying as supporters of a specific political party because it doesn’t matter who you support or what you believe. It’s about how people need to get back to speaking with and getting along with their friends and family who have different beliefs. So many people have let extremists from both sides drive their narrative. But most people are not far left or right. Sure, they lean one direction or the other, but most people are not as far apart as it may seem, nd likely agree on many issues.

Many people were raised to generally not speak about politics or religion. If you choose to speak with a friend or relative with different political views, it’s up to you whether you discuss politics or not. If you do, hopefully you both can do so in a respectful manner. Don’t you want to try to understand why someone you care about thinks differently than you? This isn’t so they can change your beliefs or you theirs, but to understand people have reasons they believe how they do. Knowing why may help you better understand them. It really isn’t different than you not being able to get anyone to change the sports teams they root for by asking how they became a fan of a given team.

Relationships are everything. They enrich the quality of your life. If someone is truly toxic, that is different, and a reason to not maintain a relationship. Otherwise, remember why you like the person and their good qualities. Yes, politics dominate the news cycle, but there always are many other things to talk about.

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Listening is a skill

It’s a skill to fully listen to one or more people in a conversation. If you want to test how people are listening, ask them to repeat back to you the message or direction you were trying to convey. You will be surprised at how often the other person wasn’t fully listening or took something different from your words than you meant. That’s right, someone can be listening, but take something different from what you said than you meant.

I struggle with active listening because my mind goes into overdrive on what I want to say or how I want to respond. In my role as an attorney I have to be able to think on my feet, immediately respond to questions from judges or clients, and all the while respond in a meaningful way that answers a question or drives home a position. This doesn’t help me be a better listener, but only a better advocate for my client. Turning this off in other conversations is difficult.

The struggle to fully listen is evident in conversations with clients, friends, and family. I may be thinking about a response to a question or position, or a story I want to share, but if I focus on what I want to say, I am not focusing on what you are saying. This is human nature, but I constantly am working to be a better listener.

At a base level I try to remember what I tell my children, which is that if your mouth is open, your ears are closed. I am trying to teach them you have to listen to know what to say.

You should ask others about what you have said to see whether they were fully listening to you and whether they understood what you were trying to convey. You will be surprised by the results. Likewise, in important conversations, repeat back what you believe you heard to see when you are correct, or not.

I notice when I focus on what the other person says my responses are more thoughtful and directed at what I understand the speaker is interested in discussing. I challenge you to listen better in your conversations this week and see how you do.

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Never stop learning

A few years ago I read a quote that resonated with me. I happened upon the quote this week and had the same reaction. The quote is “Everyone is born a genius, but the process of living de-geniuses them.”  This insightful statement is by Buckminster Fuller, and he is correct on many levels. 

We all have potential, but realizing that potential takes work.  Think about the intelligent people you have known who are disinterested in learning or otherwise do not apply themselves. No matter your definition of success, in most settings, hard work beats intelligence.

Learning goes hand in hand with hard work. It is part of improving yourself and makes for a better work place. It also makes for a more interesting work place.

Learning may take the form of business and self-help books, staying current on the news, or books on your chosen profession or vocation. It could involve attending seminars or taking classes. With the Internet at our fingertips, the options for learning are seemingly endless.

If you aren’t interested in learning more about what you do or how to do it better, you should ask yourself why. Is it because you think there is nothing left for you to learn? There is. Is it because you aren’t really interested in what you do? If so, that is a deeper question you should spend time considering.

This learning doesn’t really happen by chance. You may randomly pick things up from reading required in your job or from working with others in the course of doing your job, but that is haphazard learning. It is better to come up with a plan, which may include asking others for opportunities to learn from them or receiving direction on other actions you may take to do so.

What you learn depends on what you do and what will help you do what you do. The first step you should take is to figure out what your options are. They may include reading a book about networking, to taking a course online or at a local community college. The amount of options may surprise you.

Despite the plentiful options, it’s up to you to take action to stop the de-genius process. Challenge yourself and see where you can get by the end of the year.

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