I feel that good listening is the ability to provide the proper supportive reaction, whether it is empathy, advice or admiration/condemnation, to fulfill the needs of the communicator. Being empathetic could be a matter of simply sitting down and attentively nodding occasionally, accompanied with an empathetic "Mmm...yeah, I understand." Good listening could also be a matter of addressing an individual's situation by providing advice: "Based on what you've told me, I see a couple options that you could proceed with." Lastly, sometimes we get into a case of ego, split into a dichotomy of admiration or condemnation. When someone hints or even boasts of a personal accomplishment, good listening through admiration may be to flatter somebody's ego, where they need to be heard and then cushioned with lavish compliments. The opposite is also valid, where good listening is a condemnation of a person's actions, when they are wrong and need to be chastised for our actions. We chastise them because they need it; in turn, they respect and appreciate such feedback because they are seeking our honest opinion. The importance here is a balance between reading the other person's intention and our discretion of how honest we should be with what we are thinking. Often times, what the other individual wants to hear at that point in time with the idea he/she intends through his message is polarized with what the individual needs to hear. Good listening is not an absolute where we provide either what they need OR what they want, but providing either or at the proper time. Good listening is indeed difficult to compartmentalize, especially when we work under a contextual definition like the one I've provided. After all, how do we make the judgment of when it's the right time to sit down and listen versus speaking our mind? I provide examples of two of my close friends, both whom I consider to be good listeners. I've known both friends for ten years now and consider both to be confidantes, people I can trust and talk to about any situations in my life. However, the types of situations I confide in them with are different.
For instance, I talk to my friend, Josh, because he does an amazing job of sitting down with me and saying the absolute minimum. He does this both when I need to unload either my complaints about the world and when I unload my recent accomplishments that I'm proud of. Providing advice is not something he does, but what he does do is provide a sympathetic "Ah" or "Mmm" in between my sentences that lets me know he's still attentive. Furthermore, he mirrors my emotions with precise accuracy and I feel as if he gets it, even if he's never experienced that situation before. He is proud of me when I'm proud of myself and he is mad when I'm mad.
When I met Josh at Tim Hortons recently, I instantly started complaining about a bad driver that cut me off from merging on the highway. "What a loser," he commented, stirring his sugar in his coffee, "people like that shouldn't be on the road." I thought to myself, "Exactly! That's what I was thinking." Our conversation continued and it turned to school. I boasted, "Josh, guess what? I dominated that finance exam I had. It turns out I got 87% which got me an A for a final mark!" "Haha, NICE! That's just like you," he remarked with a knowing smile. I nodded in agreement, my ego satisfied.
Compare that with my friend, Michael. I was over at Michael's place, conversing in the kitchen about my latest business plan. "Mike, do you remember tutoring in high school? I had the worst chemistry tutor ever. He had all the qualifications and yet he couldn't communicate. It was pretty frustrating back then, especially when my grades were linked to applying to university. I came up with an idea of a tutoring company where we could motivate students, be tutors, and market ourselves as being strong communicators!" Michael listened attentively, and then proceeded to shoot a barrage of questions at me about the business. "Who is in your primary target market? How will you market yourself and gain clients? Where does your credibility lie?" I stared at him blankly and shook my head, "I haven't thought about any of that yet..."
Michael is a very good listener, but I would never approach him with complaints and neither would I search for flattery during our conversations. He is very analytical, so he will take a situation and dissect it; that's why I go to him for advice. Josh, my first friend, takes a more understanding approach to listening where empathy plays a big part on how he reacts. I find it frustrating when I talk to Josh when I need feedback because he rarely comes up with advice.
As one can see, both individuals are excellent listeners in different contexts. A good listener would be somebody that can be a chameleon and react like Michael or Josh in appropriate situations. They are emotionally mature enough to ask proper questions that will let them know what kind of listening they should be doing. This would allow them to mirror the person adequately.
To summarize, good listening stems from care for the other person. The level of focus and intensity of listening varies with how much you actually care about a) the other person as an individual, b) what the other person is saying, c) how relevant the conversation topic is to you. That's why bad listening is simply using any listening reaction at the wrong time. When our focus on the other person's needs decreases, we are less likely to be a good listener. This is why good listening is so difficult because we are generally more self-centered than caring. The best listeners I have met are fully present 100% of the time with the person they are with.
Week 4, Day 2, in the midst of marathon-training
Six am. I've got a job to do. I call up Arash and enthusiastically yell at him, "AW YEAH IT'S GONNA BE A GREAT DAY!" We spend one minute saying positive affirmations back and forth, before finally ending with "Have an outstanding day! Go get em" I get up, feeling vibrant and energetic, having forced myself to be so.
I get dressed into my running gear and grab my phone again. I check the weather, and it tells me that it's -6 degrees outside. All at once, my thoughts race and I think "man, maybe I'll just run tomorrow, I may slip on the ice."
I start talking aloud again, "Jay, you need to train properly to do this marathon. You're gonna ready and healthy by the time it rolls around if you follow through with your training schedule. Get out of the house, get out of the house, get out of the house, go, go, go!"
I head out the door and am immediately hit by how freaking cold it is. I think my nose fell off somewhere near the start of my run. I hadn't checked before running how far I was supposed to go today, but I start running amidst doubts of how long I actually want to be out here. I start to rationalize, "maybe I'll just do one kilometer and he'd back, it's too frigid out..." My pace is decent for my first kilometer, at about 4:28min. I'm feeling pretty lively, taking into account the ice on the road and placing my steps with care.
Then it hits me again. I'd been running with a bum knee for about 2/3 weeks on and off, where a sharp pain in my left knee would arise while I ran. 5+ minutes into today's run it happens again. I grimace in pain and see the next major intersection 50 meters in front of me. At this point, I know I can either turn left and head home to save my knee or keep going and do my minimal 5km according to my marathon training schedule. Let's do it.
I keep going, the pain ebbing and flowing throughout. I feel invigorated, fighting the pain mentally by affirming to myself that I am stronger than I know, that I'm more healthy than I have ever been. The music on my iPhone pushes me, so I focus on it to take my mind off my knee or the run. I make it to 4.44 kilometers when I stumble.
My left knee buckles and I stagger. I cannot support my body with my left knee so I limp. The pain is intense and I don't want to keep going. Stupidly, the only thing I truly want is to finish the run strong. Flashes of my roommate, David, telling me to go to a physiotherapist before I kill myself running come across my mind. Too late now. I know that I can finish the run in less than 3 minutes easily under normal conditions. I get back up and continue my limp-jog, staring ferociously down the path that I'm almost done with.
I push through, half-limping, half hopping, and turn the corner to the home stretch. It's about 75 meters to my house. I push harder, my affirmations louder than ever. "I am stronger than I know. I am stronger than I know. I am stronger than I know. I am healthy and fit. I am healthy and fit. I am healthy and fit."
I finish strong and am glad I didn't quit at any of the points I wanted to: when I saw the temperature on my phone, when I felt the cold wind rush down my hoodie, when my knee buckled like crazy (lol), or even at the end of my first kilometer when I had completed a decent time.
I know I will run May 6th no matter what. I will train like hell for it, and i will do the daily things I strongly dislike to get myself to that physical shape. How bad do you want it?
PS. I do not recommend doing what I did. If you're a runner, you know the smart thing to do is to fix your knee up through stretches and strength training exercises before you go run long-distance again. This was a crazy stupid case of mental willpower where I had to prove to myself that no matter what, I would keep going. But I did it and I feel absolutely FANTASTIC.
To quote Mohammed Ali, "I hated every minute of training. But I told myself - suffer now, and live the rest of your life as a champion."
If you've ever been in a business class, you've probably heard the term: key success factor, a factor/input that generates a positive result related to your goals/plans.
Today, here is one that applies to success in EVERYTHING: Accepting inconvenience and acting anyways.
When you set new goals, guess what? The actions necessary for you to hit those goals are NEW as well.
When we try to implement new habits, they are not already part of our lives. Actions such as waking up earlier, going for a run, going to class regularly, starting daily reading, starting yoga or improv classes are not part of our routine. The classic example of New Year's resolutions such as becoming healthy by going to the gym is not already part of our lifestyle on a consistent basis. Even venturing to eating regularly may be difficult to keep consistent.
Going to the gym is inconvenient.
Cooking lunch or dinner for the next day is inconvenient.
Commuting to a yoga class is inconvenient.
Waking up early is inconvenient.
The reason people are SUCCESSFUL with their goals is because they continue on DESPITE the inconvenience of it all. Inconvenience is going to come with every new thing you throw yourself into, until it becomes regulated and incorporated over a length of time (21-40 days normally). Accept inconvenience and act anyways.
Don't gripe about it, just do it. Food for thought. ;)
Self-confidence is a good thing to have...right?
Perhaps. After all, we both respect and look up to those who have a strong sense of who they are, because not many people do.
Recently, it has been brought to my attention that there is a significant difference between two types of self-confidence/assurance: self-esteem and self-ego.
Consider these two individuals: Bill and Josh.
Bill and Josh are both charismatic, easy-going, and secure about themselves. In social settings, they can hold conversation and make friends easily. Both have a multitude of life experiences that they regularly draw upon and can relate to others with, including traveling, relationships, work and school. For people discussing their first impression of Bill or Josh afterwards, they would always mention that both were really cool, chill guys who seemed sure of themselves. Description words used to describe the two guys would include charismatic, outstanding, memorable, and positive. While not necessarily always the center of attention in a group, Bill and Josh are able to hold their weight, contributing when they want to, uninhibited of social pressure.
Bill was raised in an upper-middle class family, and has never worried about food, housing, or paying the bills. He is on the executive board of a student organization and holds a spot on the Dean's List. He keeps healthy by exercising often and maintaining a balanced diet. His lifestyle is one of comfort, but not of excess. He travels regularly on holidays with his family, goes shopping whenever he feels like it, and always snags a daily Starbucks to help him stay awake in class. He works hard, having finished a co-op internship from a family friend overseas, and although his parents pay for his rooming and tuition, he pays for the rest of his expenses by himself.
Josh is exactly the same.
The only difference is how the two guys see themselves and the world.
Bill's self-confidence and level of comfort comes from what he has accomplished (Dean's List, travel, family ties) and what he has (money, car, exec role) in constant comparison of himself to others. He feels a sense of entitlement because he has worked hard to get where he is, and is unapologetic for his levels of success. He views himself as an outstanding individual, considering that this is what he has been told the past few years from others.
Josh, on the other hand, has a self-confidence that stems from himself, what he values and what his personality traits are. His self-worth is intrinsic as opposed to extrinsic; he does not feel better or worse about himself when looking at others. He views the world and humanity with an openness. He embraces change and is indifferent to social conditioning. He knows who he is and his actions do not change in different social environments/settings.
Are you more like Bill or Josh? Are you defining your identity in comparison with other people? I posit that it is far better to work towards having a sense of self-esteem that is stronger than a sense of your self-ego. Don't mistake me, I am not saying to not develop your self-ego, but instead to watch out for how prominent it becomes in your attitude towards society. A overinflated self-ego can cause arrogance, entitlement, and bitterness toward society.
Self-esteem: having a strong sense of identity, based on what you value, who you are, regardless of social conditioning and materialistic ownership.
Self-ego: having a strong sense of identity, based on who you are/what you have (status, power, money, cars, materialistic, friends)/what you've accomplished (winning, results/past performance).
I had finally come to that point. A university student's nightmare. I had conquered college through gaining exponential experiences, leader titles, and personal exploration, and now it had all come down to this.
It hit me in the portrait studio.
I was graduating.
I was actually here, getting my graduation pictures. Oh. My. God. What will I do? Where will I go? Where will I work? I thought I had a plan, a career, everything set out, but is that what I really wanted?
Over the past two weeks, I've been messing a lot with notions of 'growing up and getting a job.' To be completely honest, it scared me immensely. There were so many unknowns. Looking back on my decision in September to make my motto for the next 12 months 'pursue excellence', I wanted to make sure I hit everything I had worked so hard for throughout my 5 years of university. After all, I had beefed my resume up to get a über-awesome starting salary. And pursue excellence I did, and will continue to do, as today marks the 1st of the New Year.
But then that quote hit me - "growing old is mandatory, growing up is optional.'
I only live once, so why focus on conquering a career so immensely that I miss everything else?
I came up with a secondary motto that works beside the one of 'pursue excellence'
The secondary motto is... *drum roll*....."GO BANANAS!!!"
I want this year to be CRAZAYYYYYY, full of fun and completely nuts. I want to do things I've never done, learn more from everybody I encounter, EMBRACE everything and keep on growing as a person, while HAVING THE MOST FUN OF MY LIFE.
The last idea to cement this phantasmagorical year together is to go for picture perfect.
We all have ideal pictures in our head of the way things should be, how we want things to happen, from first kisses to precise live performances to perfect ski & snowboard runs. We dream, and man, do we dream big.
For me, I just came to the reasonable conclusion, that if I'm picturing something, I should make things happen the way I see it, without self-doubt or fear. I should be EXCITEEEDDDDDDDDDDD =D
It is what it is, but it is what we make it too.
I have a strong feeling that my year is going to be picture perfect, what's your 2012 looking like?
A blog on my continuing journey through life, covering self-development and success strategies, but also personal reflection.