In a way, this whole post can be summed up in one suggestion: meditate.
Usually, we have the keys to success in our own hands, but we don’t see them because we’re too busy focusing on our fears to even check. By meditating, you notably increase your clarity and peace of mind to think and, with that, to act.
One of the largest stumbling blocks for an expert’s professional development is their own feelings and fears. Because we fear failing, losing face, being rejected, feeling embarrassed, being revealed as incompetent and making mistakes, we dash around uselessly. Even though we know better, our fears and feelings get us to act foolishly.
When we calm down, we see the possibilities, find the answers and – above all – have the patience to be quiet and listen.
A professional controls their feelings and desires
In their book The Trusted Advisor, Meister, Green and Galford write that a professional must learn to control these feelings and desires:
- the desire (or need?) to get the credit for an idea
- the desire to fill the silence with something
- the desire to give in to uncertainty and to display all of our accolades
- the desire to end the discussion around a problem quickly so that we can solve it at our leisure later
- the desire to protect our answers just in case we’re wrong
- the desire to tell our own version of the client’s story or problem (too quickly)
At the root of all of these, we can find different needs and fears about having our needs unmet. We grab for glory because we have a need to be worthy and accepted. We fear losing credibility and respect. Behind our need to fill the silence, there is a fear that we’ll be revealed as incompetent or that the client will be dissatisfied with us. Behind showing all of our accolades, we find that same need for credibility and respect and, on the other hand, the fear that the client will reject us if we don’t convince them of our abilities.
The desire to solve problems in peace and the desire to protect our answers link to, for example, fear of failure and the need for certainty. And on the other hand, the desire to tell our own version links to the need to be seen and get attention, to the desire to be important and useful, and the fear of our own insignificance.
A professional keeps their cool amidst their needs and fears
When a person knows their own needs, desires and fears, they can act despite them. They can put their own needs aside for a moment to be present for the client and the client’s needs. A professional knows that they have an innate need to rush, to confirm, to get credit, to be right and to appear capable. Because and despite of that, they breathe and calm down.
The first component of the key to successful communication is admitting that we fear that our communication might fail. Because we fear failing at communication, we panic about our responses, we don’t admit that we don’t know or understand, we try to be too quick and as right as possible. All this shifts the focus from the situation at hand and the things the other person is trying to tell us to ourselves. However, the answer is not within us.
Instead, you can find the answer:
- usually in the situation itself
- by asking good questions
- by delaying satisfying your own needs and
- by focusing on the desired outcome.
That sounds simple, but is surprisingly difficult. That’s why my simple advice is: meditate.
The simplest way is to close your eyes right where you’re sitting right now and to focus on your breathing for a moment. When your mind begins to wander, return gently and without judgement to your breathing. Do this for three minutes at first. Repeat the exercise every day, but slowly increase the time until you get to ten minutes. Do ten minutes every day, don’t break the chain. If you need more specific instructions, you can get help from, for example, Sam Harris. Eventually, you’ll notice that you can see the keys in your own hand.