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Big is the Torah

My good friends at Google sent me an email this morning, suggesting that I play with a new gadget from their world domination toy box: voice search. It seemed pretty cool to me so I went over to Google, clicked the little microphone, leaned in to my laptop and said my name aloud.

Within .15 seconds, a long list of sites with headings like “…the big bang theory of Torah” and “The Velveteen Rabbi (which I thought was hilarious, by the way) popped up. So…what I said was “David Vittoria”, but what the little Google gremlin heard on the other end was “big is the Torah.” A classic case of miscommunication which lead to my unmet expectations and ultimately, poor results. 14,500,000 of them to be exact.

Consider how often this happens to you. You think about what you’re going to say, say it as clearly as you know how, and the receiver of your message translates it into something wildly different from what you actually said. Happens all the time, right? Sure it does; and my little Google experiment today highlights this enormous challenge that is eroding relationships and seriously impacting outcomes in workplaces (and homes) today:

  1. We don’t fully grasp all of the different ways people actually listen to what we say.
  2. We then assume our message was universally understood and will be acted on accordingly.
  3. And we’re later disappointed to discover that our message had, in fact, been misinterpreted and now things didn’t turn out the way we’d planned.

Here’s the thing …

Hearing is a constant variable. Whoever you are, wherever you’re from, whatever the content of the message – hearing is universally understood quick forum readtopic propecia none generated to be “the ability to perceive sound by detecting vibrations through an organ such as the ear”. Listening is more complex; and the way we make meaning out of those “vibrations” depends on our personalities and our prior experiences which, in part, determine our most comfortable listening approach.

Some people are most naturally appreciative listeners – their focus is on relaxing and enjoying the listening experience. Others are more empathic (like me) in their approach to listening – we look for ways to support the speaker and better understand their emotions. Many people are discerning listeners – their main goal is to gather complete and accurate information and to review the “data” later. Comprehensive listeners want to organize all the information they’re taking in and really seek to understand the meaning of the message. And people who are evaluative listeners want to critique the information they’re receiving and then they get prepared to act on it right away.

Consider how you most naturally listen and think about the people you interact with everyday and how they tend to approach the listening experience. I often suggest to teams (and individuals, couples, families and even entire companies, for that matter) that they meet every once in a while and identify not just what is being communicated and expected, but also talk about how things are being said and how information is being processed with everyone involved.

We can’t always readily identify someone else’s listening style; nor should we be expected to constantly alter our message depending on who’s listening and how they’re most “comfortable”. But awareness goes a long way and it often leads to greater understanding and more predictable (and positive) results.

Now you’re aware.

Everyone Has a Story

I live in Miami, Florida and it’s a city I’ve loved for forty years. One decidedly unlovable consequence of being here though, is the apparent overrepresentation of completely clueless drivers compared to other cities I’ve been in. As an example of how treacherous the roads can be here, a few weeks ago I was driving home after a softball game when the person in the lane next to me decided to switch lanes – right into the side of my car. The driver accepted responsibility as she admitted she was texting when she hit me. Luckily, we were all unhurt. But boy was I upset.

My friend Pete once told me a story about how a similar experience happened to him; how we was just driving along (on the exact same street, coincidentally) when he, too, was run onto the median after being broadsided by the car in the lane next to him. Pete sprung out of that car “like a bat outta’ hell” (as he tells it) and started to launch into this guy with a full-force verbal assault; not smart in Miami, for many reasons. Pete learned his reason when he neared the car during his tirade and saw that there was a crying little girl in the backseat; the driver’s daughter. The dad was out of his car and opening his own back door as he apologized profusely to Pete and checked on his little girl who was about eight years old. The driver, noticeably shaken and in tears, told Pete that he was rushing to the hospital because his daughter had a fever, hadn’t slept and had been vomiting all morning. Pete looked in the backseat at the sweaty, crying, scared and frail-looking girl and his heart sunk.

Quickly, Pete got on his cell phone casino gratuit en ligne and called the local ER’s back line (he’s a physician there) and after doing a cursory examination of the little girl (and both cars), told the dad to head safely to the hospital – that the nurses would take his daughter right in and that she would be okay. Pete went by the ER an hour later. The girl had a bad stomach virus but she was going to be fine. Then Pete made his way over to the frightened father and they eventually exchanged insurance information. That’s when Pete was the one profusely apologizing for his inappropriate outburst. “Everyone has a story…” is the moral he shares from this experience. As Pete reminded me after my accident and about $4000 worth of damage to my brand new car: “We have to remember that – even in the most frightening and disappointing situations, Dave. Everyone has a story.”

In my work as an individual and organizational coach, I’ve learned that there are some empathetic companies out there; organizations that “get it” and understand that every employee and every customer has a story. Chick-fil-A – a company we’ve partnered with in the past – is one of those great companies and they actually made a short movie on the topic. Enjoy it; it’ll be worth the three minutes, I promise.

Every Life Has a Story

You have a story. Your colleagues and your friends have stories. Your customers have stories. So when someone “broadsides” you at work, your boss “cuts you off” in a meeting, a customer “blindsides” you or a family member “dings” you during Christmas dinner, remember…there’s a story in there.

Be patient.

Respond, and don’t be too quick to react.

Open up the story and read it. You’ll probably be glad that you did.

Getting Out of Line

Every year, the school my children attend holds a festival to celebrate the holidays. There’s always a ton of great food, games and rides for the kids. This year, responding to a great suggestion from one of the parents, the school decided to reach out to two local homeless shelters and invite some less-fortunate families in our community to join in the fun; with all of the ride tickets and food they wanted at no cost to them. About fifty or so men, women and children from the shelters showed up and boy, did they seem to have a wonderful time.

At around 8:50PM, ten minutes before the rides were to shut down, I found my ten year-old son Kevin in line at a bungee ride with three of his friends. Then the man overseeing the attraction began counting heads in line: “Eighteen…Nineteen…Twenty. Sorry, kids…” he said, looking at the twelve or so children behind the twentieth head tapped, “…we only have time to allow these first twenty to ride, then we’re shuttin’ ‘er down”. Kevin was the twentieth, right behind his three friends, and I could see him quietly mouth his joy…”Yesssss!” he whispered to himself, as he and his buddies exchanged high-fives and wide smiles.

For numbers twenty-one through thirty-two though – the children in line who weren’t tapped to ride – there was no celebration, just tears and many long faces. That’s when I happened to notice that all of the kids who were going to miss the ride had red paper wristbands. They were our guests from the neighborhood, many of whom had most likely never even seen this bungee ride before, let alone gone on it, as many of the school’s students in line had done each year. “Wow…” I thought to myself, “…this is not good.” So I stood and watched. I watched as the adult chaperone who was escorting the children from the local shelter asked the attendant if he could make an exception. And I watched as he (and not too politely) said “No”. Then, I watched something beautiful happen.

As Kevin and his friends talked about how fun the ride was going to be and how lucky they were to make the cut, I watched Kevin turn towards the children that had been in line behind him as they walked away with their heads hung low. There he was – the last boy standing, the lucky one – and he was going to enjoy the only ride he talked about for a week leading up to the fair. Then, with no hesitation, that last boy standing got out of line and walked over to one of the children walking away. “Hey, come on back”, Kevin said; “…there’s space for you!” Kevin’s friends were yelling at him: “Kevin, wait! Where are you going?!” And Kevin walked back the twenty feet or so and all of the twelve shelter kids were beaming right behind him. “Guys…”, Kevin said quietly, “…we need to get out of line and let casino en ligne quebec them go. We’ve gone on this thing a thousand times. Come on.”

Two of Kevin’s three friends stepped aside. One stayed in line (he won’t be coming over to our house anytime soon) and then the sixteen kids in front of them saw what has happening. So did their parents who were watching with me. One at a time the parents called their children out of the line; some leaving without even being asked. One at a time their place in line was taken by one of our guests at the fair. Within about a minute, all twelve children who would have otherwise missed the bungee ride were in line, exchanging high fives and wide smiles. And the students who gave up their spots…some were walking away with their heads hung low.

But not Kevin.

Kevin came over to me and said “Dad, let’s go get something to drink, I’m dying of thirst.” And he ran off with his buddy Justin to the drink stand. I just stood there. Utterly amazed. Incredibly moved. Fighting back tears. As I followed Kevin I shook hands with a few of the Dads that had been standing there with me and one of them said, “Dave, Kevin did that.” “I know…”, I said, “…I know.” I was speechless.

I wasn’t shocked though. Kevin (and I say this as humbly and as objectively as I possibly can) is a very kind, compassionate soul. That he would make the sacrifice – and lead others to follow his decision – did not surprise me. I’d seen him lead before, on the baseball field and in our neighborhood. What was so moving to me was not just what he, his friends and other students and families did. What moved me was how he did it. No fanfare. No hesitation. No glory-seeking. No sulking. Not even a word about it…just a run to the drink stand. Man…I wish I could be more like my son.

Later on, when we all got in the car together and headed home, I turned to Kevin in the backseat as he glanced out the window at the ferris wheel. “Kev, I’m so proud of you. You got out of line for the kids from the shelter and let them go on the bungee ride. I love you so much right now and I want you to know that you did a great thing tonight.” “Thanks Dad. They were from one of the shelters you think?”, Kevin replied quizzically. “Well sure, buddy. Didn’t you see their wrist bands?” I asked. “Nope.  They just looked upset and I didn’t want them to be sad. Plus…I’ve gone on that ride a thousand times.”

He didn’t even know. I REALLY wish I was more like Kevin.

So…are you in line right now? Is there an opportunity for you to step aside, to lead, to allow someone else to have the glory?

Let’s look for the opportunity to share some joy – during the holiday season and year-round.

Let’s get out of line.