Posted By: KP
Date: Thursday, 21 August 2008, at 7:07 p.m.
Valuing People: Value Their Opinions // Avoid Ideological Malice // Be Willing To Serve
I took the picture above on a recent visit with my mom at her home where I was raised in Carpinteria, California. The picture of the sunset is about 400 meters from her house and takes place about 300 times a year. I surfed this beach on a near daily basis and visits here are a strong link to some happy years. My mom is a wise woman whom I dearly love. She and my dad taught me to value people. I use the time at this beach for reflection and a primal connection with the ocean.
It is a goal of mine to continue to learn from my family, patients, clients and mentors (including those who don't know they mentor me). I first started using the internet in 1999. I recall having had a tendency to make readers defensive. I noticed that when sharing what I thought was a reasonable message some folks were reacting less than favorably.
About the same time something else was brought to my attention by a guy with whom I shared space in a Health Center that housed my chiropractic practice. He was an acupuncturist and practiced eastern medicine. A big white dude, he was also beyond Black Belt in martial arts (striped or polka dotted // something ridiculous).
After months of working along side one another we were talking face to face and he made reference to my 'challenging' stance. Subconsciously I was somewhat rigid and attempting to be my tallest self. He asked me why I had an attitude. I looked at him as he stood with knees slightly bent, hands loosely clasped behind his back, feet close together, one slightly in front of the other, eyes smiling. He was polite; but I still heard his message: “why are you posturing”.
I have thought a lot about that day and have examined other areas of my life to see where some posturing might decrease my ability to communicate. As a teacher and a doctor it has been my experience that if I want my opinion to be considered and well received; if I want to widen my reach and strengthen my message, I need to let others know that I am also listening. One step in the direction is letting go of the need to be continually right by assessing my own attitudes. In 1999 my attitudes were betraying my emotions and insecurities. No matter how I tried to disguise them, they leaked out with the openness of an anatomical chart. As I started searching for reasons for the friction I created I started finding things about myself I was not aware of; some of it I wanted to change. The good news; I can change my attitudes and behavior.
As well, if I am motivated to learn it is helpful for me to remain open minded; present my case and then listen to others who are willing to offer reviews, opinion and personal experience. I am more careful to avoid inflammatory statements than I was back in 1999 but still catch myself reacting instead of thinking. When I am conscious of wanting to communicate rather than be 'right' I use words like ‘often’ or ‘many’ or ‘some’ because there will always be a reader that notes an exception to my thoughts. When I render an opinion I try to leave room for dissent. Phrases like “with a reasonable degree of medical certainty” accomplish this and allow a well researched position to stand on its own when others see things differently. The result, hopefully, is that I am less defensive with regard to my own comments and more open to ideas that might strengthen my knowledge base; learning from others that may choose to help.
Making others feel valued means listening, letting folks express their opinion before rushing in to give an answer. It isn’t my job to fix people. That attitude may result in a reaction motivated by what I think over what is true. Considering role reversal, when I have something to say to another, it might just be enough that they hear what’s on my mind or in my heart.
When my daughters were infants it sometimes took a great deal of attention to understand what they wanted from me. Others times I could smell what they wanted; clean diapers. As they became old enough to make choices as children I had to change my tactics. Respecting them meant trusting them instead of assuming they would do a task wrong. As adults, we are quite similar. Valuing others is a way to help ensure they will do a task well. I recently read that one of the best ways to show respect is to simply listen. “We offer our presence and open our ears, listening to the hidden hurts and heartaches, the deepest dreams and desires of one another.”
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