When we were children, we had lessons on a variety of different topics including math, history, science, and English. Depending on what kind of student you were, you may have preferred some subjects over others and excelled in areas that you never thought possible.
As we get older, we may think that we don’t have lessons but that is not true. I tell my clients, especially the ones I am career coaching, that you can learn from every person you encounter and that every life experience is a learning lesson. You just need to embrace it and see the value. Now I agree that you may learn how NOT to do certain things or handle a situation in a particular way but just having that experience is a great lesson learned.
What is the most effective way to do that? Another L word is LISTEN. As Stephen Covey talks about in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, empathic listening is a critical factor in being successful. The way to do this is “to reflect what a person feels and says in your own words to their satisfaction so they feel listened to and understood.” This is not an opportunity to advise and counsel. Instead it is for you to truly understand what the person is trying to convey and to understand their needs and desires.
It may take some practice but once you master it, you will better equipped in handling a business meeting, dealing with a child or spouse, or purchasing an item. Empathic listening makes you more sensitive to the way others behave which in turn makes you react to them more effectively.
Keeping an open mind about things outside your comfort zone is also an art and may need to be practiced. We tend not to reflect first and then react but do the opposite. When we are in a conversation with others, we are already formulating in our mind what we want to say next versus really paying attention and maybe learning a few things. To keep me from falling into this trap, I ask many questions and have others also share their opinions. I still may not agree but just hearing another viewpoint makes me see things in a whole new light. Some of these discussions have given me ideas for blogs and articles as well as new techniques on how to run my business.
I suggest to my coaching clients that they attend at least one networking event a quarter. These are wonderful events to meet new people, go to different venues, and learn new things. It is not necessarily a place to get a job or close a business deal…yet. It is more about relationship building which is a tough lesson to learn for most people. Even I who have attended many of these types of events learned something new recently. In a seminar about how to network more effectively, the speaker strongly suggested not approaching a “closed” circle group or a two person conversation. I am now more cognizant of the positioning of groups as I walk around the room.
The bottom line is that you can have a much more fulfilling life if you are constantly learning. Life lessons may challenge us but they can also be exhilarating, fun, and informative. The ones that say “this is the way it was always done” or “why change things?” are the ones who are missing out on opportunities and that is not the life for me.