Image courtesy of Renate Dodell via Flickr:
Image courtesy of Renate Dodell via Flickr:

In starting new engagements or meeting co-workers and team mates for the first time, one of the first interactions I seek is deep listening to two simple questions:

What do you feel?
What do you need?

These two basic questions contain so much potential for discovery: there is nothing so fundamentally human than our feelings and desires. And, as my experiences have taught me, these are two of the most often neglected (even discouraged) aspects of humanity in our places of work.

I plan to speak more about listening and behavior in future updates, but this short post is intended to highlight a third aspect of our conversations with people: sometimes, in the absence of action, so much emerges if only to be heard.

During this period of unemployment, I’ve been overcome with the burden of our dysfunctional-yet-accepted hiring process(es). Certainly a topic for future discussion, but in this context, I am feeling frustrated, misunderstood, and desperately need feedback. I have plenty to languish over, but the most helpful experience lately was the act of a valued, trusted friend and colleague that took time to simply listen to me.

While we spoke, I felt that he was not listening to his inner monologue, forming judgement, or drifting off to a topic more satisfying to his subconscious. I felt heard and, given the turmoil surrounding my feelings and needs, that realization was enough to help me take another step forward and feel a moment of relief.

This is presence and it is often forced, superficial, or outright missing in our conversations. Presence requires deep listening, empathy, and safety – things that require authenticity.

I provide my authentic presence to people I work with as a natural, intuitive response. After all, it’s a key principle to successful team building, thus there exists intrinsic motivation for me to do so. But here was a friend who did the same without any incentive or value to gain, other than just being present with me.

I’ve realized I am not present enough with my network of friends, colleagues, and people who inspire me. I’m sure they are feeling things and experiencing needs, too. What might happen if I make myself available, if only to be present and allow them to be heard?

My hypothesis is that increasing my authentic presence with them will lead to better relationships, increased discovery of knowledge, and even new opportunities to collaborate. Therefore, I will be trying an experiment where I reach out to people I value at least once each month – to check-in on their feelings and needs, to create a space to be heard.

Let’s see what happens next…!