By now, most of us have found ourselves back in familiar territory. A return to some semblance of what might be called our previous normal. Maskless hellos. Face-to-face meetings. Crowds. Handshakes even.
Our SNP team has now facilitated a number of offsites, team meetings, and taught classes. In theory, we’re back to normal. Or are we? It feels weird right? Tentative. Anxious. It’s like showing up in your family home after years of being away. Everything is where it was but something’s different.
Consider this. You’re different.
This moment of global reflection has changed you. The world, though, really hasn’t. Larger global changes are generally gradual, moving in slow motion. But you’ve been forced to change quickly which introduced different priorities. Different concerns. Different expectations of yourself and others. Those months which turned into years have given you time to consider your life’s choices. And you, and most everyone you know, have done just that.
So now what? Of course, there’s always the great resignation. While many people have made that choice, most of us haven’t. We’ve decided to stay the course. Go back to what we know. Love even. After all, our previous life choices weren’t all wrong.
Some years ago, our son asked to work for our company. He’s a musician. Committed to his art. His mom and I were surprised but agreed. Up until this request, we had kept our children distant from our passion for communication and leadership. Our son was assigned to one of our most seasoned leaders to learn the basics. Message development, presentation skills, active listening, and the many nuances of human engagement.
After a few weeks of challenging moments, we were surprised when at dinner one night he asked, or more accurately, chastened us, “Why didn’t you teach me these skills when I was a teenager? I wouldn’t have the level of anxiety I have.”
He went on to explain how the skills, particularly active listening, allowed him to focus on others instead of his own distorted perceptions and self-absorption instincts voiced with words like “what about me, my feelings, my opinions, my concerns.” Instead, he asked questions. Considered the audience. Their concerns and opinions. To his surprise, it relieved his anxiety but did a lot of good for the people he listened to.
This comes to mind because our son’s experience might be useful for all of us right now.
We’re all anxious.
As we step back into our offices and see our Zoom relationships in person, know that everyone is feeling some level of anxiousness. They may not know why. But know they feel what you feel. And you, like our son, can serve them best by focusing on them.
Ask questions. Listen actively. Repeat back what they say without editing or judgment. Be curious. Interested. Learn something. Or as the mystic philosopher, Simone Weil reminds us in her book, Gravity & Grace, pay them full attention. It’s the greatest gift we can give to others.
This moment in our collective history screams for it. As we return to our new normal, let’s look at our co-workers, friends, family, and environment with our new eyes. And show them the respect they deserve, our full attention. Then maybe we’ll discover something new about ourselves as well as serve our collective social need.
As I’m reminded from the 1990s movie Angels in the Outfield, “it could happen.” You didn’t think I would end without a random movie reference, did you? Some things don’t change.