First a quote: “Friends are those rare people who ask how we are and then wait to hear the answer.” – Ed Cunningham
Good morning. How are you?
Please don’t answer yet, I’ll come back to this question again momentarily.
Two weeks ago, my MMM (What Did You Say?) was about one aspect of communication. Part of the message was about the importance of clarifying our intentions before we speak with someone, especially if we’re angry or upset. Even more important if the person we’re speaking with is also angry or upset.
It is wise to remember the positive intentions that reside within our heads and hearts are invisible to others. People cannot see your intentions! They can hear your words and see your behaviors, just not your intentions. From your words, and actions, the person you are speaking with will make assumptions (often faulty) about your motives. If you’re not careful, this phenomenon can damage your most important relationships.
Positive intentions which reside within our heads and hearts… are invisible to others!Always remember, more often than not, the impact of your words and actions, as perceived by others, will be different than intended. This morning, I offer one quick and easy example to illustrate this point. I suspect almost all of us are frequently guilty of this example, myself included. How many times have you bumped into someone you know, and care about, maybe at a meeting, in the hallway, at the grocery store, or on the street, and then uttered these three words: “How are you?” Now, the second question becomes, assuming they answered, did you listen? Perhaps other questions you might ask yourself are: Did you ask that question expecting an answer? If so, was your desire to listen authentically or superficially? Or, was this something that just spilled out of your mouth with no real intent to determine how they are, or how they’re doing? Now, in fairness, I realize asking the question “How are you?” seems to have become a common cultural norm, at least here in the US. Those three words, “how are you” have almost become slang, often used interchangeably with more casual phrases, replacing words like hello, hey, hi, or good morning. This happens so often in our culture, very few of us give it a second thought. On the receiving end of that question, I suspect most people are rarely offended. It just seems normal and natural. But, what if that is not the case? What if someone is confused about a new corporate policy or change that was recently introduced in your department? What if someone doesn’t know how to do a task you delegated to them and are afraid to admit it? What if someone is struggling with some aspect of life and is desperate for someone, anyone really, to not only care, but to also listen? Here’s the point: I suspect most of us ask people those three words as we pass them in the hall, on the way to a meeting, because we have good intentions. We ask because we do care. We ask because we want to acknowledge them as important people. We ask because we desire to demonstrate a genuine concern for others. And yet, as we say those three words, our accompanying behaviors might indicate something entirely different than what our underlying intentions are. We’re late for an important meeting, we’re busy, or we don’t have time for them, or to listen to their woes and challenges. It is possible they will see us as acting the exact opposite of what we intended.
For me personally, if my intent is to say good morning, or hello, those are the words I should choose. I no longer ask “How are you?” unless I genuinely want to know, and I have the time to listen deeply. This has been a hard habit to change, I slip up on a regular basis.
Leaders understand their positive intentions are not enough. Leadership is about having a positive impact on others.
By the way, this concept also applies in our personal lives. If you’re a parent, having a loving heart and loving intentions is not enough. It is your words, tone, actions, and behaviors, as perceived by your children, that matter. If the goal is to be a good parent, spouse/partner, manager, scout leader, neighbor, teacher… positive intentions alone, are not enough.
Think impact! Ask yourself, “What are my intentions today?”
What impact will you have on the most important people in your life this week?
Happy belated Mother’s Day to all the moms out there. I hope you had a wonderful day.
“Expanding Your Capacity for Success”
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- “One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.” – Bryant H. McGill
- “The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when someone asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer.” — Henry David Thoreau
- “Speak in such a way that others love to listen to you. Listen in such a way that others love to speak to you.” – Zig Ziglar
- “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand. Most people listen to with intent to reply.” – Stephen R. Covey
- “When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” – Ernest Hemingway
- “Listening is an art that requires attention over talent, spirit over ego, others over self.” – Dean Jackson
- “It is hard to listen when you are talking, or when you are thinking of a response.” – Catherine Pulsifer
- “You see pain with your eyes, but you sympathize with your ears. Sometimes the greatest way to serve someone is just by listening. Behind every need is a story.” – Rick Warren
- “I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.” – Larry King
- “Most of us are so focused on what we are thinking that we miss most of what goes on in our conversations.” – John Stoker