November 03, 2012

small things

Would you like a flower? the clerk asked.

I nodded and he handed me an aromatic orchid bloom. His gesture gave me a smile as I walked back to the car.

Sick shirt! commented the young man carrying my heavy cat food bag.

I love the attitude, I responded. This shirt always makes me smile when I put it on. 
What's the story behind the design on your t-shirt? the man in front of me asked as he surveyed my Moreland & Arbuckle shirt.

Oh, it's one of my favorite rock bands from Kansas City, I grinned in reply.

Wow, looks like a Derringer, he laughed.

The band is as hot as a pistol, I responded, both of us now laughing as we walked to our cars.

Completing my errands, I drove into my cul-de-sac neighborhood slowly, top down on my Boxster in the sunny 75 degree day enjoying the activity in the front yards. I compliment one neighbor on their new landscaping. They beam with pride. Chat with another about her turquoise classic Chevy, two girls passing in the sunshine driving by in cars we love. More smiles.

These are the small moments of our days. A sampling of mine in the past two. When we discover a smile in a brief conversation with a stranger or neighbor. Or over the phone or from a Facebook comment. These are the simple, "no charge" moments that spark the brightness of life. Like glue, we may hardly notice they're there. But they hold the upturn in our smile and the lightness in our step. We connect.

The power of a smile; it's not such a small thing.

October 28, 2012

do you really get it?

the survey results rang with truth yet made me giggle. the older we get, the more sure we are right. yet more often what we know we heard or remember is wrong. gulp.

we compound error by making assumptions and prematurely crafting decisions based on conclusions drawn from what we perceive, not what is real. then we nail the coffin with our pride ignoring evidence to the contrary, sticking with what we originally believe because, well, we couldn't be wrong. could we? gulp.

how does that happen? we don't listen well. we filter everything we hear through our frame of reference, not theirs. we listen, preparing to reply rather than listening to understand. then when we miss the meaning entirely, our ego digs in to shield us against the idea we could possibly be wrong. oh geez...

stephen covey nailed it with habit #5 of the 7 habits of highly effective people: seek first to understand, then to be understood.

for years, i've sought to embody that in my business. the second i find myself thinking that the client clearly doesn't get it, it really is a huge signal that i don't get it. i've missed something in their concerns, behavior, needs and wishes. when i refocus on drawing them out to understand what i'm missing, a bridge of understanding forms. only then am i able to reshape my ideas and solutions to truly meet, even exceed, their expectations.

last week, i felt pain from a significant interaction i thought i understood. i didn't. i applied my autobiographical frame of experience. i didn't listen. i drew the wrong conclusion.

as the incongruence surfaced, i could not rationalize and neatly align everything i heard against my conclusion. i re-opened the door to communication. even though i fumbled at it, we engaged in an open dialog, asked questions explained. sought to understand.

as we engaged in compassionate listening, puzzle pieces finally fit. genuine understanding, respect and renewed trust emerged. friendship deepened into a stronger bond. we got it.