Thursday, May 30, 2013

Hearing vs. Listening

So I guess I totally missed last week. I intended to write and it just didn't happen. The thing is, I felt like I didn't write. It really is therapeutic. So the topic on my mind right now is communication. I seem to like this topic. I guess its because we all do it, some more effectively than others, and most of us think we are pretty good at it. At least we mostly think we aren't bad at it. The truth is, most of us are bad at truly communicating. We are all pretty good at talking and sending out messages, but that is not really communication. Good communication involves more listening than it does talking. And, I am finally realizing, listening is not the same as hearing.

Hearing means someone made a sound and your brain registered it as such. Listening means you heard it, processed the message and applied some sort of reaction to the message. Perhaps the message instigated a change in behavior, perhaps it elicited an emotional response, perhaps you gave a verbal rebuttal. Either way, you reacted to the message that was sent to you. Really listening is a step deeper than that. You react appropriately to the message that the sender intended to send. That is where I have a hard time still.

I tend to react to the message I thought I heard. I do not always really listen and thus I do not always react to the message the sender intended to send. This is a fine but VERY important distinction and one I am working desperately on making part of my every day routine.

I would love some advice on this topic. Are you a good listener? Do you practice some kind of technique to be better at listening? Please share!!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Inconsiderate vs. Lack of Consideration

My wife and I had a conversation yesterday that was pretty interesting. It was sparked by the people dropping their kids off at my son's school. On the surface, it seems like these people are completely devoid of any kind of courtesy, forethought or consideration. Yes, I know that is a big statement to make in the context of such a small task as dropping off the kids for school in the morning. Without drawing you a map, it is hard to explain but I will try. The drop off area on the side of the school is in 2 lanes. When you leave, you go either right or left depending on which lane you are in. This layout has not changed in several years so its not a surprise to anyone. Inevitably, however, there is always someone who held up the line at 7:25 (school starts at 7:30) to make sure they got their kid in the left lane because it is 2 steps closer to the school entrance and then had to make a jump into the right lane to leave that way. It is aggravating to me because that person could have planned ahead a little and started in the right lane and made the kid walk an extra couple of steps. They seem to be oblivious to the headache it causes others and that it holds others up.

At first I thought it was stupid, thoughtless, and rude. Now I am not so sure. I think people, in general, are so focused on their own position, their own "world", that they are not inconsiderate but instead completely lack consideration. I know that sounds the same but it is, in fact, very different. Being inconsiderate means they do it on purpose. They know that what they are doing is selfish and just don't care. Lacking consideration means they never even gave it pause to think that what they are doing could cause others some frustration. They truly are oblivious to how their decision (or lack of decision) impacts others. I think being inconsiderate is worse because there is intention behind it. The only thing behind lack of consideration is ignorance. Ignorance can be helped, if you can get to them. On the flip side, there are so many people that completely lack any level of consideration that we have become an inconsiderate society. That is not good either. I remember in grade school having "guidance" and other "classes" where they discussed citizenship and being a good citizen. I don't know if that is part of any school curriculum anymore but it certainly should be. Try to teach children that other people exist, have places to be, have families, have feelings--just like you do.

I know people like this on a more personal level too. Much like the parents in the drop off lane, they don't seem to make a connection to the idea that  the words they use, the way they talk to other people, the attitude they present themselves with drives people away. They drift through life oblivious to the effect they have on other people. Group sizes dwindle and they say stuff like "oh those stupid people quit coming". It never even crosses their mind that perhaps they were a big contributor to that. No one likes to be around a bully. Even if the bully doesn't target them specifically, people don't want to be on the radar, so they stay away. The only way to protect a group when one of these toxic people is in it is to either convince them to look at themselves or to cut them from the group. Neither of which is easy!

What are your thoughts on this? Do you know people that lack consideration? How have you dealt with it in the past? What are some conversation starters to try to approach this topic with a toxic person?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Signs, Churches and Rapport

What's in a name? Most of us would like to say we don't put much stock in a name. That is the cool way to be--we are able to look past a word and be open minded about things. Is this really true though? I don't think it is. I think we all get caught up in names and labels. I think we especially do it when it comes to churches. I attend Smyrna Church of Christ. One reason I attend there is because, for the most part, I agree with the views and interpretations of the Bible that are taught by the majority of other folks that attend there. The main reason, however, that I attend this church is because of the relationships I've developed over the years that I've attended. I have friends, trusted advisers, mentors, mentees, etc. that know me, love me and accept me as I am. That's a good feeling. I also have a place that I can work and have people work along side me to make others' lives better. That's also a good feeling. At this point, I would not care what name they put on the sign because I know the substance of the people inside the building.

Is that true for others as they relate to my church? I have spoken to many people who have a negative opinion of "churches of Christ" because of some bad experience they had with someone who "represented" to them ALL churches of Christ. Its the cliche "one bad apple spoils the bunch." On the flip side, if I were in a strange place looking for a church, I would probably look for another church of Christ. The likelihood that I would go to a Catholic church or a Presbyterian church is extremely small. My question is why? Why would I choose to miss out on very likely great people just because the sign at the door doesn't have the exact words I am looking for? Does that make me closed minded?

I don't know if it is closed mindedness or just an innate tendency to flock to "like minded individuals". We constantly look for clues, any clues to tell us that someone is like us. We train ourselves to search for similarities when we are trying to build rapport with someone. What if we didn't do that? What if we looked for differences in people and built rapport by asking them to tell us about themselves? We built rapport by listening and learning about people that were different from ourselves.

I know this sounds cool and I know that the majority of people, including me, will not do this. I guess I am just feeling a bit philosophical right now. Maybe there are small ways we can start making this into a character quality. What do you think? Offer some advice on how we can bond with people over differences instead of just similarities. If you think I am completely wrong, tell me that too.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Self Employment Fact or Fiction

There is a lot of "common knowledge" things out there about being self-employed. A whole lot of them are absolutely false. I would like to spend a bit of time affirming some and debunking some others.

1) Self employed means you "set your own hours." I could maybe see this for some professions and for some people within those professions. I, however, have NOT found this to be true. Granted, I can schedule stuff whenever I want but I certainly don't set my own hours. I work when my clients want me to work and then some more after that. In my job, I am typically working when others are not. My busiest time of day is lunch and after "work". I know plenty of other people that are self-employed in other lines of work and guess what, they work when there is work to do, not "when they want to."

2) Being self employed means you keep more of what you actually earn. I see the logic in this--you work hard, you bring in the money and you don't have to split it with the employer. You do, however have to split it--a lot of it--with your favorite Uncle. It is surreal the first time you pay in a quarterly tax estimate and you realize just how much goes to the guvment. You never really realize it when you never actually touch it to begin with (i.e. automatically drawn from your paycheck).

3) Being self employed is more risky than a "real job." I love this myth. I had a real job--a real job that allegedly had job security. I got fired. I can't get fired from this job. I could quit. I could get fired by individual clients but I would still have my "job." My job security depends 100% on how well I do it. If I do well, I will never again be unemployed. As long as I do well, I will never have to ask for a raise or promotion. There is real job security in being self employed if you do it well. It's more than self employed, its self sufficient.

4) You are on your own when you are self employed. This could be true but not if you are smart. Almost every profession in the world has some kind of trade association. You would do yourself a huge favor to join that. You would also do yourself a favor to join a networking group of some kind. It can get lonely and kind of depressing to not have at least someone to bounce ideas off of. Surround yourself with good people. People that care about your success, care about you. Get an employee, a good accountant, a networking group or someone that could be your sounding board.

5) You have to have money to start a business or only people that are already rich get to start businesses. Not true. You can definitely do it. You just might have to get creative as to how you start it, how big you are at the beginning, etc. You might not enter the retail store world by opening your first store the size of a super Walmart or something. Start smaller. Stick to something you already know and perhaps you are already doing as a hobby and grow it.

These are just a few. What kinds of things do you believe about being self employed? What have you heard? What are some things you want to know about it? Are you interested in starting a business? Do you dream about being your own boss but don't know how to make the leap?