An organization I belong to has recently completed an amazing strategic planning program designed to help us experience growth and greater success as we assist people in moving toward more meaning in life and work. “I Hear You” is a mantra those of us in leadership positions would do well to adopt as we are bringing this important plan back to our membership.
Growth always brings change and change is very often accompanied by fear and doubt. As the leadership team is working with committee chairpersons and their teams we are seeing, feeling and hearing, loud and clear, the resistance to change. Some who have been with the organization since its inception are exhibiting very territorial tendencies almost to the point of shutting down to the new ideas being presented. They are being asked for input; they are being encouraged to enhance the status quo, massaging it into something new and dynamic and forward thinking. But the appeal of that comfort zone appears to override the brilliance of these creative and dynamic folks.
The big picture is that without change our community becomes stagnant and potentially begins a decline; the very reason our awesome members were originally drawn to the organization becomes weary, unimaginative, unappealing. No matter how frequently we repeat our “I Hear You” mantra, it seems to fall on deaf ears – What to do? What to do?
After truly listening for a while, we learn that every party to a conflict is suffering. Few want their program to change. The Leadership entity is clear on things that must change in order to survive as a vibrant entity to the community. The resistance to change allows only a few to see the potential value of enhancing what we offer to the community at large. The leadership team strives to learn to stretch their capacity to be present to another’s pain, to affirm their humanity and worth at the deepest level.
You all know it is easy to listen to people with whom we agree. It’s when we listen to those with whom we disagree that listening becomes a challenge. It is no simple thing to do this. It calls for seeing through any masks of fear or hostility to the sacredness of each individual. Sometimes we listeners must dig deep within ourselves to move beyond our judgments and opinions while at the same time presenting a united presence, gently yet firmly guiding everyone forward. We must keep in mind that each person within our organization is unimaginably interconnected, that each brings value, that each is to be honored, and that each has a choice in how they react or respond.
Each must continually ask if they can hear the others’ concern regarding change, feelings of fear, despair, failure. Each must recognize how important it is to listen, for a day, an hour, a moment, lest the other experience the feeling of abandonment as they question “Is there no one to listen?” Isn’t it the cry of everyone’s heart to hear someone say, “Yes, I hear you. I feel what you’re feeling. I understand.”
In listening to others, negotiation and compromise is both presenting your views and defending their validity. It is being certain others understand the importance and the worth of what is being asked of them. It is being willing to listen, explain, listen again, examine, listen again, and come to a conclusion, moving forward to the implementation of that conclusion.
When we come close to those things that break us down, we touch those things that also break us open. And in that breaking open, we uncover our true nature and the amazing opportunities available to us for growth and success. Let “I Hear You” guide you today.