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It’s been too long since my last article, so I’ve decided to squeeze one in from my WP app for Android.  I’ve already mentioned my reading of, The Third Alternative, by Stephen Covey.  A big part in the 7 Habits, as well as the 3rd Alternative is “seeking you”.  There are always, at least, two involved in any conversation and it is imperative to truly understand what the concerns of the other person are.  Active listening is essential to obtain a true understanding of these concerns.  I’ve remembered a time where I didn’t realize I was using any particular method, but active listening produced relationship changing results.

In 2006, while deployed to Fallujah, Iraq, I noticed that one of my Marines and best friends, was acting out of sorts.  Something was bothering him and it was visible in his mannerisms, quality of work, and the look in his eyes that he couldn’t hide.  I knew I had to talk to him, but didn’t know what to use to get him to talk about what was going on.  I soon found, he didn’t need me to talk to him. He needed to talk to me…. I just needed to listen.

We sat down, and I tried to open the small talk. Dead end.  I asked questions trying to get something I could then ask follow on questions… Dead end.  Then I looked at him and said, “Charlie, what’s going on?”  He just looked at me, then looked away.  I insisted, “C’mon, what’s going on…here, home, outer space?  I know you have something going on inside and it’s killing me to see you deal with it on your own.  It’s just me and you here, What’s going on?”

He started talking. At first about random things that were frustrating, “why are we even here (Iraq)? I mean, c’mon Bert (my nick name), what are we really doing here?”  I responded, “Well, I don’t think that is what you really want the answer to…but it is clear what we are doing here seems insignificant compared to what you feel you should be dealing with.  Where do you feel like you need to be?”  He looked at me, his eyes welled up… I could tell he felt vulnerable, but he trusted me.  The tears came, and it all came out.  He was truly concerned about some concern-worthy issues back home.  My throat gets tight and my eyes still water remembering the occasion.

I could have “gone after him” and talked at him, telling him how he needed to fix his attitude and step up his performance (typical Marine counseling session).  But I never was a fan of that approach, and I knew he didn’t need to hear anything from me… He needed to know someone wanted to hear from him.  When it comes to active listening and being an effective communicator and leader, I had a whole new door to communication opened for me.  Not to mention a deeper connection with one of my best friends.

Posted from my Droid RAZR

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