Listen to understand

Feb 24, 2015

Arlington is a city in Virginia, famous for the Arlington Cemetery and the Pentagon.  It lies on the River Potomac, directly across the nation's capital Washington DC. In fact, they're so close to each other that to me, they seem to be one city - Washington DC. But they are not, I've been told. So I took a bus to DC and then the metro to Arlington's Crystal City, where the American Management Association has its offices.

The seminar that I chose to attend was The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I believe everybody has read the book by Stephen Covey, watched the videos, tried to follow the advice more or less successfully and so have I. But I wanted to find more about how to be more effective, communicate effectively, how to build good relationships with people, good rapport with colleagues, how to model the way, how to motivate and be motivated, how to say no, how to balance the private and professional lives.

There were only six of us and I really enjoyed working with the participants  from different walks of life. Our instructor was Franklin Covey's Vicki Nartker,  who skillfully led this three-day workshop and made us feel comfortable and relaxed, even though she assigned us an evening opportunity (a. k. a. homework) after the end of each of the three  full  days. No one can develop a habit in 3 days, so we were paired up so that we can support each other and help each other build the habits and make sure we complete our contract - our big rocks over the next 7 weeks.

The most revealing for me was emphatic listening. S. Covey writes in his book:

"Seek first to understand"  involves a very deep shift in paradigm. We typically seek first to be understood. Most people do not listen with the intent to understand, they listen with the intent to reply. They're either speaking or preparing to speak. They are filtering everything through their own paradigm, reading their own autobiography into other people's lives."

We've all been there and we've done that. How often have you said "He just doesn't want to listen to me!" - when in fact,  he does want it, he needs you to listen to him, he needs you to hear and understand him. He doesn't want you to do anything, but listen. Don't talk, don't give advice, just listen and reflect his feelings and words, not yours. For most of us this is difficult. Most of us listen with the intent to reply. That's autobiographical listening - we see other people's problems through our own glasses. Emphatic listening takes time and it requires both intent and skill, but it is worth it.

Perhaps we should use talking sticks for listening. Only a person holding the stick can speak for as long as they're understood.

My take-aways from Habit 5 are these three great tips for emphatic listening:

Focus on your intent.
Don't worry about the correct response.
Don't be afraid of silence.

Weeks 26 & 27: From the East Coast to the West

Feb 17, 2015

Humphrey Fellows are provided with a wonderful opportunity to attend conferences anywhere in the US. With so many educational conferences taking place all over the country we're spoilt for choice. The budget however is not unlimited so careful planning is necessary. I planned a bit too carefully so my conferences didn't go as I had originally planned. As a matter of fact, less than three weeks ago I felt totally discouraged, depressed, pessimistic and let down.

Yet in the end it all turned out well. I just arrived home from my trip across the US - from Washington D.C. through Nashville to San Francisco. Each of these cities, conferences and visits deserves a post of their own, so stay tuned.

Week 25: Wisecrackers and Superbowl

Feb 3, 2015

I don't have a TV in my apartment, but Super Bowl watching was organized in the commons area of our community. So with chips and dips, a cosy fireplace and comfy easy chairs, Humphrey fellow Wafaa and  I spent nice 3,5 hours trying to understand the ins and outs of this still incomprehensible sport. Luckily, Croatia won - the coaches of both teams have their family roots in Croatia and the winner will be treated to a vacation in Croatia by the Croatia Tourist Board.

Anyway, the commercials and Katy Perry's halftime performance along with Lenny Kravitz were spectacular and really worth watching. The commercials are unbelievably expensive - my friend Myra told me that the placement cost is $1,500,000 for 30 seconds!!!

This week I was invited to a fundraiser for the Mid State Literacy Council (where I've been doing my community service). It was held in the Wisecrackers Comedy Club where three stand up comedians performed. One of them was Billy Garan, who is extremely talented, performs so naturally and with great ease. His show was hilarious and I laughed all the time while he was on stage.

In the meantime in State College, it hasn't stopped snowing since I arrived. Or better to say snow alternates with sleet, flurries, freezing rain, black ice and blizzard (that wasn't really), providing me with a great opportunity to learn snow vocabulary. It seems there'll be even more opportunities for learning as Phil predicted 6 more weeks of winter!

Last but not least, I just got an email from the IIE that I was selected for participation in the Community College Residency Program and will be spending one week in Boston! In spring!

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