I’m an impatient guy, and at times that propels me to do great things, but like most things that are great on one end, they are a handicap on the other. One day, I decided to practice patience. I didn’t allow myself to walk pass anyone, sure enough I got stuck behind people and I wouldn’t allow myself to walk around them, I just walked behind them…slowly. It was painful.
I was practicing, when you want to interrupt or speed up a conversation w/ a co-worker, learn to sit, listen, wait.
I am the proud dad of a newborn boy. I hate the sound of kids crying, always have. I’ve practiced listening to his crying so much, that when it's his turn to cry on a plane, I don’t even feel that pressure of trying to shut him up. I mean I try to, but my anxiety doesn’t go up. Whereas I see parents who are the super apologetic & get worked up in such a tizzy that they just pass that anxiety right on the the kid, I’m able to stay cool, calm, collected…why?
I practiced dealing with a situation before I had to do it.
So I got a great chance to practice this recently, an 8 hour flight from Barcelona to Philadelphia, my wife and I got 1 upgrade, I decided to take it…and take him…nothing like sitting in business class with 16 people who hate you for bringing a 1 year old up. I had my son for about 4 of the 8 hours of the flight. I got a lot of stares, I also got to practice being disliked and not in control of a situation.
Someday that will help me get through something tougher, sitting there, knowing you are disliked for 8 hours.
People ask me to speak all over, yet I wanted to practice taking the spotlight off myself, and improve at asking questions, Listening, asking deeper questions. I decided to have an event on company culture, where I was the interviewer, not the speaker. I want to become a better facilitator, getting stories and opinions out of others. I think I did OK, I have a lot of work to do, but it has made me better at asking questions.
The inspiration for this post comes from the time when I was taken aback because I got this email from a CEO I had never met before after interviewing 2 of his team mates.
Yes, I did offer to pay people to interview, because I was asking a LOT in the interview and wanted to show them I respected their time.
So If you know anything about me, you know my first thought was:
F**K this Mo*******ker, you ain’t my daddy!!
Then I breathed, and thought…I’m deleting the freaking email, stay positive and don’t get dragged into the crap.
Then it hit me, don’t delete this email, respond, this was an opportunity to practice resilience once again.
I could call this person and try to stay calm the whole time, never raising my voice. It was a RARE opportunity for me to practice staying 100% calm with someone who was irate with me vs giving it back to them. I haven’t had to take that kind of abuse since I was a server in college.
So I wrote down 7 questions I was going to ask, since I want to practice asking questions / listening better, this was a chance to do that with someone who was irate. I decided to ask the following questions, totally inquisitive, not one ounce of anger in my voice, as that is exactly what I wanted to practice.
So I asked questions like:
- Help me to understand, are you asking me to join a pact with a group of people I don’t know?
- Do you typically join pacts with people you don’t know, who send you strongly worded emails?
- You know you are asking me to do something illegal for someone I have never met, right?
- So tell me, if you are in my position and you have a client who is expanding, you’d want me to turn that business away to preserve a business relationship with you while risking the relationship with my client. How do you manage that issue?
And on and on. I’ll spare you the details, but needless to say, the person very quickly went into “I’m not a bad person Wil” style apologies. Yeah whatever man.
I used him. I used him to make me better. He was my practice.
Anyway I share these four anecdotes to remind you that sometimes, take the things that are against your typical behavior and DO IT, practicing patience, speaking up, quieting down, whatever it is, use the things that piss you off as opportunities to learn how to control your own communication shortcomings. Be ready for gametime, and the best way to do that is with practice.