Tag Archives: Listening

Be a Thermostat

This has been a very different winter in Georgia. We have had more instances of snow than I can ever remember (and I have spent 40 winters here).  It’s been very fun!

As a result, I have paid more attention to two very different tools than ever before: the thermostat and the thermometer.  Honestly, I haven’t given these two tools much thought in my life.  I always kind of put them in the same camp…you know, they have something to do with temperature.  But in actuality they are quite different…almost opposites.

A thermometer is used to measure the temperature. To passively “observe and report”. To not interfere or influence.

But a thermostat is just the opposite.  Rather than measure the temperature, a thermostat determines what it is going to be. Rather than passively “observe and report”, a thermostat actively engages and creates. Rather than stay in the background and not interfere or influence, a thermostat fully engages and influences.

Do you realize people have the same abilities as these two tools? We can sit back and measure everything that is going on around us and have no influence on the situation or we can get in there and make the changes that we want to see.

Reality Check: it is easier to be the thermometer, but much more rewarding to be the thermostat.

What is cool, though, is that we can be both!

Learn to “see” what is going on around you: the atmosphere at the kitchen table, the environment of the office, the climate of your relationships—this is being the thermometer.  Then, if you don’t like what you measure, change it—this is being the thermostat.

Here are two questions to help you:

  1. What kind of an environment would I like (in the office, home, relationship, etc.)?
  2. What do I have to do or be to help move things in that direction?

Can You Hear Me Now?

Ah yes…the famous Verizon Wireless guy…walking across the country and around the world making sure the Verizon network is working at optimum efficiency by asking the question, “Can you hear me now?”

Who doesn’t know the phrase? It has become a part of our culture (Verizon, I’m sure, is thrilled).

But a closer look at the question reveals a much bigger challenge: Are we really listening?

Are we really listening…
…to our kids?
…to our spouse?
…to our co-workers?
…to our friends?

Oh sure we are hearing a lot (blah blah blah), but are we really listening? You see many times the message is not in the words…WHAT is said(actually words sometimes get in the way). The real message is in HOW it is said.

For example, the smoke coming out of the ears, red-faced dad who shouts across the table, “I AM NOT ANGRY” is , obviously, exactly that—angry.

Now, while for most, the sense of HEARING is a gift (it comes with birth). But LISTENING requires a conscious choice we must make to fully engage in another person. As a colleague of mine says we are to be “in the moment –at the moment”.

I was putting a group of executives through a LISTENING test to see how they would do…only one passed—and he was wearing a hearing aid! He teased the others stating, “Oh man, are we in trouble…the only one who was really listening was the deaf guy!”

We all had a good laugh, but the point was well made. I had intentionally created a slight distraction, and only the executive who had honed his concentration on really listening was able to fully interpret what I was saying.

In this age of non-stop distraction (phones, emails, TV, radio, etc) it is easy to get “lazy” with our listening. Oh sure when our spouse asks, “Are you listening to me?” we can “parrot” back everything they just said, but were we really listening? Or were we focused on the ball game, or the email, or whatever.

The people in our lives deserve our best, so let’s give it to them. Can you hear me now?

To Some it’s Not “Just School”

This is the time of year when virtually every school system in the nation is gearing up for the start of a brand new year. I have the both the privilege and the opportunity to be the Convocation speaker at many of these events.

At one of those beginning of the year kickoffs this week I had a conversation with a lifelong educator who relayed this story to me.

She had been having a conversation with a student one day on the subject of year round school. The student had asked her if she was in favor of it. This teacher, with a mischievous twinkle in her eye, jokingly replied, “Oh, no! I don’t think I could put up with you all summer long!” They both shared a laugh but then the student said, “I’m for it.”

This teacher was surprised and asked him, “Are you serious?”

“Yep. I’d come every day if I could.” he said.

“Oh come on…even Christmas?” she asked.

“Sure would. Even Christmas.”

She pressed him, “But why?”

His answer is one that she has not forgotten in years, “Because here, I can eat. I am warm. And somebody cares about me.”

I submit that this little guy is probably speaking for thousands of young people who feel the same way. So to all you teachers and administrators out there, remember school might be the very best part of your students’ life. Take good care of them.