In the last 3 years, my goal was to write 1 blog every month. I was consistent, disciplined and felt control over my own agenda, wishing to inspire as many readers as possible and provoke thoughts. My last blog was five months ago when I wrote about the impact of not having regrets in life, inspired by the sudden passing away of my beloved father. Since then…nothing, no control.
Grieving has taken me into an unknown place and so far, it has been a revealing phase in my life. A phase of not being in control. Not being able to control sudden waves of emotions, feeling fragile, vulnerable, loosing focus and concentration and having difficulties making any decisions. It feels like the word “control” is being replaced by the words “letting it go”, a concept which I usually would not embrace so easily but is beginning to feel familiar.
Do I like it? Not sure but I do notice that I don’t dislike it.
In the last months, my gears have shifted from first to second and now to third. I miss giving workshops, coaching, networking and developing projects, however, I feel I am not able to perform at my best and I cannot control that. Instead of feeling frustrated, giving myself permission to letting go and being kind to myself is helping me.
Last Sunday evening my daughter and I went to the Opera House to watch Spartacus, Katchaturian’s famous ballet. Towards the end of the first Act, Spartacus and Flavia, his wife, bid farewell to each other in a powerful and emotional scene, like in many ballets.
However, this farewell was different. There was silence, dead silence. The orchestra stopped playing and the audience dove into total and complete stillness. The only sounds we could hear were the dancer’s ballet shoes softly brushing the floor and the couple’s heavy breathing. The calmness must have lasted a minute but it seemed much longer. At first, this silence felt awkward but as it amplified this dramatic farewell, it allowed the audience to process what they were seeing, hearing and feeling.
Silence is a powerful and effective communication tool that can be used both at work and at home, when the timing is right. It does take some courage to use silence and it’s not always easy to do. It feels like stepping out of one’s comfort zone.
In a world where speed seems to be a dominating factor and information is given and received to us by the touch of a finger, the idea of slowing down can be challenging. Whether you are asking a question to a colleague, want to make an impact in a speech or confront your partner with an issue, allow 15 seconds of silence and notice the impact it has on them and on you.
Another meeting, another closed door, another chair to sit on. What do you notice before stepping into a meeting? Are you fired up, is your energy depleting, are you dreading it, are you nervous, will you be heard?
What if that meeting took place outdoors? What impact would that have?
Just imagine right now…stepping out onto the street with your colleague or your boss. Do you feel your body physically moving? The air changing? The temperature difference? There is a shift in your energy. Despite the distractions that there may be on the street, the conversation involves just the two of you. Notice children tend to be more open and communicative in a car then around a table at dinner, ever question why? That is because they do not have eye contact with the parent who is driving. Same with meetings.
The fact that there is little eye contact, as you watch where you walk, allows each of you to have more space to think, to be creative and to react at your own pace. When we breathe deeply, we create more space in our bodies, in our minds and more brain function. As a result, we become more efficient and are able to generate new ideas and thoughts.
The dynamics in relationships also change, as you both walk the same pace, at the same time. You are equals. There is no hierarchy or looking at each other across a desk or boardroom.
Lastly, by stepping out of offices, you simply get your heart pumping, your blood circulating and feeding your brain oxygen. Golf is a prime example of such a combination and you “walk the talk and not talk the talk.” In Russia, they offer another perspective, a type of traditional sauna called the “banya.” Everyone sits together naked, equipped with a felt hat (against the intense heat) and a bundle of birch branches (used to whip yourself to ensure better blood circulation). As the sweating begins, so does the talking. Depending on the levels of the talks, vodka accompanies the discussions and before you know it, you have reached an agreement with a towel wrapped around you, feeling re-energized and never forgetting this moment!
So what is holding you back from having you next meeting outdoors?
How do you feel when someone does not thank you for a dinner party? Does not react to an article or tip you sent them? Did not respond to your request or invitation? Walked right by you without acknowledgement? We are all guilty of that at one time or another and personally, I don’t feel good about it.
This is the time of year when many people are acknowledged for their work, their friendships, their achievements, their inspirations and their encouragement. Living as a foreigner in International circles, this month is about our children losing friends who are moving away, farewell dinners for Ambassadors being posted elsewhere, appreciation lunches at school, clients reaching goals, employees being evaluated and many “thank yous” to people who help us facilitate and nurture our everyday lives.
The other day I heard the garbage truck coming onto our road and quickly rushed outside to get my bins out. The two unfamiliar garbage men swept my containers in the air, emptying them within seconds and slid them back towards me. I thanked them for their work and they both looked very surprised and smiled back flashing their gold plated teeth. How many people thank them personally for their work I wondered. Such easy words to say and the outcome is powerful.
Acknowledgement is not only about recognition, it is also about awareness and reaction. I continue to be surprised at the amount of professionals who simply do not even react to an email, how professional is that we ask ourselves? Yes, everyone is busy, but which result is stronger:
“Thank you for your email and I/we will respond to you within the week.”
No reaction at all.
What is the impact you want to have on others and on yourself?
A couple of weeks ago, I went to visit a prison for a day, as part of a small group, north of Budapest. As soon as the invitation arrived, my curiosity signed up without a moment of hesitation.
Having spent our day escorted by the “Commander” walking around the workshops, dining area, meeting prisoners in their cells, we ended our tour in the Chapel/Library where a 42 year old convict was chosen to speak to us. He has been in prison for 20 years and has 163 days left till he is released. One of the questions asked was “what could your parents have done differently when they raised you.” Without much pondering he answered, “they should have listened to me more and listen to what I think and what I would like to do and not think only of their own agendas.” Both his parents have passed away since he has been imprisoned.
The ability to listen is a unique quality which not many of us have. Naturally, we listen to what we want to listen to, waiting for the other one to speak so that we can say what is on OUR mind or start thinking what we will say next. Our day to day lives may not require more than a minimum level of listening, just as most of us never reach more than an average level of fitness. We don’t need the muscles as we are not top notch athletes. We listen mostly to the words and the focus is on what I said and what he/she said. We need to listen more with the heart and not always with the head.
The absence of real listening is especially common in the work force. When there is pressure to get a job done or a deadline met, people listen to the minimum of what they need to do, so that they can move onto the next challenge. It’s no wonder that people feel like they are in a ‘rat race’ and a serious common issue among companies is simply “employee engagement.” Everyone is talking and nobody is listening. Listening is not simply quiet listening, there is action in listening.
1) Senses and Intuition: notice in the other person their breathing, the tone of the voice, their emotion, their body language, their pace of speech. As I walked unexpectedly into a cell with 8 convicts, I noticed my own physical reaction and total discomfort. I was so aware of my reactions, that I took a step back, a deep breath and became fully present again.
2) Impact: what is YOUR impact from listening on others? By really listening well, you have choices you can make as to what steps are next. When I asked the prisoner what he was looking forward too most when he steps out of prison in a few months, he replied “to have a child.” He smiled and there was a definite shift of energy in the room that was felt by all of us. As for me, it became clear that I have a choice to volunteer my time as a Coach in challenging sectors of our society, which I will start thinking of.
Listening is an effort and can enrich your own experiences. People who don’t feel they are being listened to, can feel like prisoners. Overlooking the significance of effective listening can have costly consequences; it can affect employee productivity, angry customers, bring employee moral down, create fear and resentments, create family tensions and in some cases, drive your loved ones away.
Think of someone you know and ask yourself what makes him or her a good listener. What do you need to do?
(c) 2018 Anna Jankovich, all rights reserved.