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Empathic Listening

This past week (prior to November 8, 2020), the U.S. election distracted me from my Quest for Deep Joy. I delayed my Face-to-Face Friday video to Sunday… I just didn’t feel like sharing my thoughts with the world. I couldn’t get inspired on a topic. I just didn’t know what my thoughts really were! I felt like life was in limbo. I wasn’t feeling much Deep Joy. We had voted on November 3rd. Biden had a victory speech finally on November 7th. And the counting continues. It just doesn’t feel settled.

So now (on November 8th), we have a decision and I finally feel ready to share my thoughts. For half of Americans, it’s the best answer, and for the other half, the worst. Their team lost the race.

In honor of that, I want to share my thoughts on living in the state of Deep Joy and still feel empathy for the ‘other team’.

For me, the Quest for Deep Joy is an intention, a decision to operate from a position of happiness. It is fueled, energized by my purpose, my North Star setting direction. It is maintained by daily practices and a belief in the goodness of humanity and the importance of progress forward.

And sometimes, HOW we think we’re going to reach our North Star, our Purpose, isn’t what happens. Sometimes our team doesn’t win, and sometimes we must take a detour in the path. There might be a feeling of grief for what might feel like a waste of time going down a path that has now ended. But in the process of democracy in America, the long race for our two teams to the White House is never a waste. Like any marathon, the race… how we run our race… is telling about our honesty, integrity, and values. Participating in the race, via making your vote count and your voice heard, is part of the race… OUR part… even when we aren’t ourselves the candidate. The race causes us to test our skills and our mettle. Coming in second place doesn’t mean the race was a waste. Running a good race makes us stronger and helps us learn how to improve our selves and our process for the next race.

What’s important to remember is that if we can get to a state of Deep Joy, we have this constant base of strong, sustainable, and intrinsic happiness, self-confidence, a faith in the goodness of humanity, and a focus on the future.

We can then use a blend of open-mindedness and empathy to listen to those with a different opinions without risking our own happiness. We can then enable and encourage good ‘civil discourse’ across the table, both/all of us really actively listening to the others’ opinions, fears, dreams, beliefs.

Stephen Covey, the author of the 7 Habits series said:

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

Dr. Stephen R. Covey

Don’t seek first to reply. Seek first to hear the other person holistically. What are they saying and what’s under the covers? What are their fears and dreams? What are their beliefs about the future that are driving their choices? What issues were at the heart of the choices they made?

If you both go into the discussion with an open mind, ready to hear the other person fully, imagine what you might learn. You may not change your mind about the best choice for president, but what can you learn about the other person? What insights might you receive. And what insights might you provide for the other person?

This type of discussion, a truly healthy debate, requires integrity and a vulnerability to open up to listen and learn. Hidden agendas not allowed. They say there is a reason we were given two ears and just one mouth… that we should listen twice as much as we speak.

I hope that over the coming years, no matter if your team won or not, we can find space for active listening, conversation and collaboration, not competition and in-fighting. Conversation and collaboration gives us creativity and progress and learning. The minute we move to violence, we lose the ability to listen. And, when we shift to violence, we minimize our own credibility. We are out of control and our wisdom diminishes. And if we don’t make space for healthy discussions, the unhealthy discussions take over; violence can feel like the only way to become heard, and we cease to make progress. High emotions are a platform for high anxiety, not solutions.

In coaching corporate teams, I teach these kinds of communication skills… making a space to hear each other’s opinions, creating safe spaces for learning, highly effective teamwork, and the power of collaboration and creativity. If we can teach this and practice this at work, we can surely teach and practice this at home and in politics.

My hope and my message is one to consider whether you are American or not. There are politics and related debates in all countries, and people who are passionate about their own positions, as diverse as they are. The message is universal.

We need to use active and empathetic listening when we work together on difficult issues.

We need to learn to articulate our position in a healthy conversation, with other open-minded and diverse people.

We need to have diverse viewpoints in our life to stretch our mind and test our ideas. Not ALL ideas that we have are great! With a Growth Mindset, we can listen and learn.

Regarding the voices on social media… we have to be super careful here. If you have not yet seen The Social Dilemma on Netflix, it is worth watching. Social media is engineered to show you messages that you will like and that will keep you engaged for the purpose of advertising money. The messages presented to you are CHOSEN for you. They do not necessarily represent the truth. They do not show you dissenting opinions with which you can have a healthy debate. What you see on social media is not what I see, nor what your spouse sees, nor what your children see. You must remember that this is not balanced and objective journalism that existed prior to news outlets becoming profit centers and entertainment (more here). It is engineered to make you click. It is not engineered to make you think. Don’t get lost in the scrolling. Don’t get lost or spun up into the hate speech. Be conscious. Be a critical thinker. Be careful.

Get off social media sometimes. Talk to real humans, especially a few open-minded people that think about things differently than you… those with different priorities, hopes, dreams, fears, and beliefs.

Be open minded. Be confident and articulate.

Practice active listen with empathy, especially for the ‘other guy’.

This episode is based on my YouTube video from November 8, 2020.

Published by Thene Sheehy

Living & Working in Northern Portugal