From Now to Then, From Here to There, From Why to How
“Not everyone grows to be old, but everyone has been younger than he is now.”
Evelyn Waugh, the 20th century English Novelist, Biographer, and Journalist gave us these precise words of wisdom that nobody can refute. But, the big question is where do we see any sense in this quote.
For the layman, it might be a simple fact of life. For the discerning, however, there is ample amount of caution regarding the direction our life has taken. These words also tell us to be watchful of the future by learning from others’ mistakes as none of us will live long enough to commit them all ourselves.
Paying attention to this small sliver of intelligence can help us determine the gap between our current state and the desired level of success (from now to then.) The next best advantage lies in our thoughts that shall help us chart the course to the goal (from here to there.) For those determined enough, these words will offer the justification for the chosen path (why,) and the process to address oncoming challenges (how.)
“I keep six honest serving men: They taught me all I knew: Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who.” – J. Rudyard Kipling, the late 19th and early 20th Century, English journalist, short-story writer, poet, and novelist explained the significance of the 5W’s in our lives so eloquently. Coupled with the process to initiate action in his “how’ we can solve almost any problem and face any challenge. Anyone desirous of success in life must learn to practice the above 5 W analytical skills, before taking a major decision (the ‘how.’)
“To listen well is as powerful a means of communication and influence as to talk well.” -John Marshall, one of the longest-serving, former Chief Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States gave us this valuable lesson in effective communication. How can anyone become successful without this essential skill? Justice Marshall tells us to stop talking and starting to listen.
Although we all know the significance of the fantastic magnetic capability of empathy, the power to attentively listen to the speaker yet, we often forget it and resort to interrupting the speaker. Such an act sends out an unmistakable message of disrespect thereby alienating us from the speaker as well as any or all others not interested in our reasoning.
Let us take a practical approach and analyze how keeping silent can help us advance towards our future goals. First of all, we express our open-mindedness by giving the other person a chance to share his/her opinion without interruption.
To take this message of active listening a bit further, let us pay attention to the following quote from Jean de la Bruyère, the 17th Century French satirical philosopher, and moralist: “It is a great misfortune not to possess sufficient wit to speak well, nor sufficient judgment to keep silent.”
Although born more than a hundred years apart, both of the above-quoted individuals found consistent value in the power of listening skills.
Let us take a practical approach and analyze how keeping silent can help us advance towards our future goals. First of all, we express our open-mindedness by giving the other person a chance to share his/her opinion without interruption. At the same time, our attention to the speaker’s message can, and it almost always does, give us a few valuable pointers, both for and against our position that we are going to suggest.
Gleaning the above relevant points from the other person’s message makes our submission all the more powerful as we can add more in-depth analysis. Our message will be direct and consistent rather than a shot in the dark. We can thus add to our information database and fine-tune our strategy as a result.
One of the most unfortunate examples of lack of this skill is found in our governments the world over. If you have ever watched a live session of the U.S. Congress or the Parliament in any other country, chaos created by the Opposition benches almost always creates the environment of a mad-house. No wonder, there is not much public welfare coming out of these wasteful practices. Why, because there is an utter lack of discussion forced by the abundance of arguments.
Thankfully, we as individuals, are not bound by any party guidelines that we must tow to retain our highly coveted seat in the government. As individuals, we are obliged to look after our own as well as our family’s concerns first and foremost. In business meetings, it is the organization we respect that must be our priority.
Once you have mastered the skill we call empathy, you have already half-won any battle because now you are empowered to see your opposite party at eye level. Your keenness to let the other person speak shall help you take notes of points of his/her highest consideration and thus give you sufficient leeway to negotiate from a position of authority*. Since it is an essential component of artful negotiations, I would much love to cover the same in greater detail in a future post.
“People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, make them.” –George Bernard Shaw unravels the secret to success in no-holds-barred fashion by calling out all complainers to take the initiative and create their niche rather than make noise about what isn’t. His explanation of the final step, the “how” gives us the guaranteed recipe for progress in pursuit of success.
I remember an age-old French proverb that translates thus, “The first half of life is spent in longing for the second – the second half in regretting the first.” Will it not make more sense to save and properly use what we have rather than regretting later, once we are past the mark of ‘no return?’
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