This is a Guest Insights blog by Chris Collett, founder of Spire Coaching & Training in Salisbury. Life is full of powerful moments created for us by others. Chris asks, what powerful moments have shaped your life?
It’s not often that I am moved to tears but the simple gesture of being presented with a leaving gift once had me choking with emotion.
Without doubt, the best job I have ever had was working at a military Personnel Recovery Centre, Brydon House in Germany. Primarily, my role involved the training, education and coaching of wounded, injured and sick military personnel either back into Service or as part of their transition into civilian life.
In my naivety, I set about my task designing complicated training interventions, a state-of-the-art delivery suite, and excursions to theatres, Alpine regions and activities with bells and whistles adorning them. The feedback I received during and after my time at the Recovery Centre suggests that I did a good job and I have to say I’m extremely proud of what we all achieved there but the greatest feedback I received was when given a leaving gift.
A particularly unwell soldier who suffered from severe PTSD, took the time to fashion a pen for me from a spent 7.62mm gun cartridge that he had brought back from Iraq. Whilst this in itself was moving, that he had taken the time and effort to do so, it is what he said that brought tears to my eyes. I thanked him for the gift and said that I hadn’t done anything to deserve it. His reply was simple, heartfelt and for me, profound. He said, ‘you have no idea how much you have helped me; you listened’.
Life can pass us by with little thought for the lessons that are there if we take the time to look but occasionally one just leaps up and slaps you in the face. ‘You listened’ was one for me. I thought that what was required of me was to create great experiences for the wounded, injured and sick, and to a degree it was. More than that though, it was simply to be there for people who needed someone to listen to them.
I have since reflected many times on that moment and used it as an example when talking about leadership, communication and mental health first aid. What that moment highlighted to me was not just the obvious power in listening, but the subsequent reflections make clear that the real lesson was that it is not enough to just listen, you must do so in such a way as to ensure that the speaker feels truly heard.
I was fortunate in that whatever I did, born of my beliefs, attitude, skills, Knowledge, experience and talent (my BASKET, see David’s previous blogs) led me to a point where I intuitively understood the good that comes of listening to people.
Stephen R Covey teaches us that we must ‘seek first to understand then, to be understood’ but sometimes perhaps that isn’t the case. Looking back on the many conversations I had with wounded, injured and sick personnel, I think that a great many of them were simply looking to be listened to, to be heard, to be understood but with no need for them to understand me and my thoughts. Perhaps our ego, our desire to respond, to solve problems, to appear clever inhibits our ability to really hear and so the benefits of listening are lessened. Sometimes no response is required and that’s hard.
I am convinced by Covey’s writing on listening and do strive to be empathic when listening to other people, but it is a struggle. It’s a pleasant struggle though as a glance at my 7.62mm pen reminds me. In trying my best to listen, people will hopefully feel that I have heard them, and that’s what really counts.
I would love to hear about the powerful moments have shaped your life, reach out and connect :-)
Check out our new Unplugged Connectivity gear in the Good Life Shop!