Have you ever been given the advice to “Leave your problems at the door?” Perhaps you had a rough night, your kids are having difficulty at school, or you just got into a fight with your spouse over who should take the garbage out? (Spoiler Alert: It was you.)
Regardless of why we received the advice, the intent behind it is sound: You can’t work effectively, serve others, and be your best if you are still hung up on the past (even if the past was someone who cut you off in traffic or stole your parking space 10 minutes ago). And, while difficult to execute, we all intuitively know this to be true.
If you work in a service or sales organization, if you are in a relationship, if you have family or are in any position where you are required to listen - then there is a deeper layer to this piece of wisdom we often are told (or tell others). Just what is that deeper wisdom?
Leave “You” at the door.
How often have you entered a conversation with coworker or a significant other - often with the best of intention - only to hit that moment where you “know” the solution, just what to say, or the perfect pun or punchline? We all have! And what happens when we have this mental epiphany? If you are like me (and just about 100% of others that still have a pulse): you can’t wait to say our response. You sit there, half-paying attention to what the other person is saying as you bide your time so that you can interrupt and jump in with what it is “you” have to say.
And what happens? You get your victory, you might make them laugh or stun them with your fantastic idea, but that victory; that moment you so yearned for is a short lived one because the other person? They don’t care. They aren’t interested in your pithiness. They don’t want their problems solved just yet. What do they want?
They want to be heard. They want to be listened to. And, most importantly, they want to be validated.
When we jump the gun with our advice, our shared experience, or our humor we not only tap out of the conversation - missing key information and opportunities to support the other person - but we tap out of life as well.
So, how do we tap back in?
We do so by leaving ourselves at had door. When you are about to enter a conversation, stop for a moment and commit yourself to giving your singular focus to that other person. This is easier said than done because you will be tempted to share your insight and, if it’s you, your brilliance, of course. And when you have this temptation, stop, bite your tongue, and pinch yourself as hard as you can if need be. Then, redouble your efforts. Ask question. Ask them to go on. Give them the room to share all they need to share. They’ll be grateful to you, they’ll share more with you, and you’ll build a better relationship through trust. And, eventually, you’ll be able to share all that stuff you’re dying to share anyway - but - and this is the key - you’ll share it at a time when they are ready to listen and truly consider it.
Tap back in.