A few weeks ago, I had a great idea for a side hustle. By day - I am a marketing, communication strategist and outside of raising a family, grad school and sleep - I thought I would become a professional listener. Yep, a professional listener. It may or may not be a real thing. Check it out - you talk, I listen because I believe most people just want to be listened to, not necessarily talked at. I thought I could counter all the talk, talk, talking in this world with a little listening. I'm told I'm a good audience.
And then I heard myself say to my kid - "Stop talking, I'm talking!"
Listening seems like a good idea until I have something to say, and I have so much to say - all of the time. I have opinions and ideas and thoughts and questions and years of experience to share. You see, I have this uncanny ability to pre-listen to what I am certain you are going to say, saving you the time of voicing the words out loud - then, I respond to what you didn't actually say. (If you followed that sentence we are both in big trouble!)
Real communication - personal or professional - involves strategic purpose. Talking and listening and Slacking and emailing and texting and gesturing and document sharing and receiving information - with purpose.
When my kid and I heard me exclaim, stop talking, I'm talking - we both paused, my words ricocheting off the walls and then together, we laughed. My ego (I know best) and fear (I'm afraid of what will happen if you don't listen to me) crept into our conversation and we both recognized the dynamic duo. How? Because in my house we have sort of a - communication plan. Because ego and fear often drive communication exchanges between family members, co-workers, friends, and fellow drivers in the Trader Joe's parking lot. So we communicate about how we communicate. It's very civilized. But having a strategic communication plan at home or in the workplace is only meaningful if we are all in agreement about the application of the plan.
My boys are the ones who nixed the idea of me becoming a professional listener. They said I talk too much. They said I would be setting myself up for failure because even if I sat there quietly listening to the world, my facial expressions would expose my thoughts. I humbly, and quietly agreed.
How do I change - without changing? A question that I encounter on a daily basis, both professionally and personally. However, the question is rarely posed in such a clear and direct manner. People usually back into it without realizing - usually when replying to an innovative solution to a pesky old problem.
Personally, I want to be thinner than I am - and have visited that desired area of the scale several times in my life. For years I wanted to blame my thyroid (nope, normal) and my big bones (nope, normal size bones) and my personality (nope, introverts are not inherently big or small). Basically, I want to change, without changing. Once I realized that, the path forward cleared right up. I like the idea of being thinner, but turns out, I don't actually want to be thinner, because I am not taking the actions to be thinner.
Professionally, I serve by bringing innovative solutions to new and existing businesses. I don't go smashing through their doors, demanding my way or the highway. I am invited in, asked for my expertise and collaborate on a new way to solve an old problem. Here is how it often goes down:
Said Business: How can we streamline our communication process?
Me: How about this innovative process, that innovative process, and the other innovative process.
Said Business: Oh. But that's not how we do things around here.
Me: Yep, I know. Innovation is a new method or idea.
Said Business: I know. But I wanted you to tell me how to change without changing.
Me: Yep, I know.
Some businesses promise this nonsense to their customers. I know because I have bought into their marvelous marketing messages - lose weight in 90 days. But what happens on the 91st day? I know, chocolate chips happen! We all have to walk down the idea-of-change path before we can commit to the reality-of-change path. I have people in my life who met me at that very fork in the road, when the idea of my life changing met the reality of my life changing. That is where I serve best, constructing the bridge from innovative idea to innovation reality. Our collective problems are not lacking ideas to solve them. Our collective problems are lacking a plan of action to implement those ideas into lasting change.
Lori Ann Dinkins
One blog at a time, I write the truth about my life as it is, as I hope it will be, as I wish it would have been. Business insights and personal triumphs. Thank you for joining me.