Saturday, September 10, 2011

Listen to the Message

Have you ever ignored what someone said because you didn't like the tone of their voice? Have you ever focused on the timing of the information instead of the words of the comment? I used to, and if I am not careful, I still do.

My father used to always tell me that I had a problem with messages. He would say, "You don't like how people tell you things. You worry about why they said it. You worry about how they said it. What you need to do is just listen to the message".

Usually, the conversation would end with me rolling my eyes, sucking my teeth and snatching my head in the direction I used to depart from the room. Why? Because I hadn't liked what he said! 

My father has passed on but because his words live in my heart, he still lives on in me as well. People are rarely going to gently tap you on the shoulder, pull you aside and whisper in hushed tones pretty words that you want to hear. Many people aren't capable. For others, their intent may not be to help you. Their intent may be to try to hurt you or make you feel or look bad.

So what. That is not your concern. Your job is to be a pole vaulter. That's right, I said pole vaulter. Your job is to take whatever has been said to you and examine it. Don't judge it. Take the emotion from it. Take the words and leverage them the same way a pole vaulter uses a pole to catapult him or herself over that vault. You may not be trying to jump over a vault, but you are definitely trying to reach heights that you have never reached before. You are trying to become the highest functioning human being that you can be. You can't get there dragging your legs behind you like deadweight, loaded down even more because of someone's words that were directed to you that you perceived to be unkind. Or, you just didn't like what was said for whatever reason.

When I got my first corporate job I had a boss who did things that I did not understand. Among other things, she would rewrite my documents and correct them over and over in bright red ink. After about 3-5 iterations, my document would look just the way it did when I first gave it to her. I was miserable.

My father said to me, "You need to send your boss a dozen roses. She has done you a tremendous favor". You know I got an attitude. I was like,"You must be crazy, daddy".

Then he went on to explain. "Your boss has shown you how people can be in Corporate America. You have learned how to navigate around her. You have learned how to handle a person that likes to play games. Instead of letting what she said or does defeat you, you have learned to turn it around. That is something that you will be able to use as you move forward in your career. She has given you something very valuable. That's why I said you should send her a dozen roses".

I am not going to sit here and pretend like I appreciated or understood what my father meant at the time. As I progressed in my career, I met many people like her on the job. When I did meet other fools, I was able to side step them and continue to move forward. They may have slowed me down, but they never stopped me.

Whenever someone gives me a message, I stop, listen and try to understand what the person is saying. I have a reputation for being able to take criticism and feedback very well and use it to improve myself. That is because no matter how the message is stated, no matter why it was said, I work very hard to listen to the message. It's not the person's intent that is important. What's important is how YOU use the information for your own benefit. That's what counts. If you learn to focus on the message and not the messenger, you'll be able to mine the gold and get a nugget from every interaction. It's your job to be the alchemist. It's your job to turn a leaden, heavy burdensome interaction into gold. Listening to the message can make you rich in experience.

Experience is knowledge and knowledge is beauty. Listen to the message and use it to beautify yourselves bit by bit!