Season 2 – epiBLOG 6:
AUGUST THEME – “BACK TO SCHOOL”
Before I get into this week’s blog, I’d like to say…
Happy 6th Month Anniversary to the Uncloseted Professor Blog! It was launched 6 months ago to the date on February 9, 2016! I’m super excited to have been bringing you nuggets of wisdom, lessons, and fun assignments based on my personal life as an artist and as an educator. I’m proud of the growth of our readership and looking forward to reaching even more people over the next 6 months! Thank you to all who support the blog weekly! You’re appreciated and loved!
Keeping in line with the “Back to School” August theme, I felt it would be great to discuss the skill of LISTENING. This is a skill that seems to have been shoved down our throats – or perhaps our ears – in school through cold, hard stares from a pursed-lip teacher who caught us daydreaming about a life that didn’t resemble the hell that SOME of us thought we were experiencing at that moment. Or by getting shushed when caught giggling over some silly joke with our best friend in the back of the classroom.
I’m sure you’re all thinking that everyone with an IQ that registers knows how to listen. Not so. I witnessed this recently. I was specifically speaking to an adult who was asking ME questions on my new business endeavors and how I OVERCAME working through feeling like I wasn’t experiencing the success that I felt I had worked so hard for. These questions came up because these are issues that SHE is currently experiencing in her life. She’s asking me personal questions on how I’m making things happen for myself and blatantly ignoring my response after about 30 seconds or so of me talking. Directly in front of me. This is a one-on-one conversation! I mean, come on! Apparently, this was one conversation that I was having with myself. With her eyes glazed over and finding interest in everything around her, with the exception of my advice, it was obvious that my words were falling on deaf ears.
After this happened on about 4 occasions, I knew when to give up the conversation and to choose not to waste my breath on her. Now, I don’t claim to be the most eloquent of speakers, but I’m pretty sure that my delivery was enthusiastic enough to hold an adult’s attention covering topics that SHE’S interested in, longer than it takes for a commercial ad to play out on television.
Listening was probably a skill that was acquired at home and at school during our childhood, and that’s where I’m sure a lot of it had developed for most of us… or some derivative thereof.
But how often were we in class looking at the teacher as he/she were talking while we fantasized about any and every thing in a not-so distant land? How often did we pretend to pay attention to our parents when they lectured us after some bad choice or mistake that we had made? How often have we feigned interest in listening to our spouse or significant other discuss their day when we returned home or when we sat down to dinner?
Any time we do this, we are deceiving the other person by pretending to listen to them. Many of you are probably saying to yourselves: “What’s the big deal? They think I’m listening and I’m not actually having to suffer through a conversation that I’m not interested in.” Good point. However, just think about how much more we can learn if we took the time to pay attention to what someone else is saying and how much more respectful we would be to that other person.
Artists, and educators alike, need to be aware of their environment and the people that surround them. Human connection breeds stronger art in my opinion. One of the best ways to achieve this is to simply listen. Being in your own world and with your own thoughts only gets you so far. Just imagine how much further we can be in the world by expanding our horizons through listening to others, reading books that help us to be better versions of ourselves, etc…
In all honesty, whenever I find myself drifting away from the words that someone else is speaking in a one-on-one conversation for whatever the reason, I force myself back to that conversation and I repeat information back to them to make sure that I’m understanding what they are saying. Sometimes, I’m even bold enough to say that I was distracted or that I lost what they were saying, and I ask them to repeat the portion of the conversation that I feel I missed. For me, honesty works. The other person feels respected and heard. And isn’t that what we all want?
Remember, listening doesn’t just include HEARING that someone is speaking, but understanding the message that the other person is conveying to you. How is any of this information pertinent to artists advancing within their career endeavors?
Simple. Here are 3 valid reasons:
1 – When you attend networking groups, mixers, and events, you better be prepared to be sincerely LISTENING to others so that you can have authentic business relationships with people that you’re wanting to connect with.
2 – When you’re taking classes, seminars, workshops, listening in on podcasts, and/or webinars where a speaker is TELLING/SHOWING you how to improve your skills in certain areas as a sculptor, musician, screenwriter, director, author, painter, etc., you need to LISTEN and understand their words so that you can apply the meaning of those words to your art.
3 – LISTENING to others gives you a deeper meaning of the human condition, and developing a deeper understanding of humanity mixed with creativity enhances your art to the point that it can connect with so many people on a level that you can’t even imagine.
Today’s LESSON is to pay attention when people speak; you never know what you will learn.
FUN ASSIGNMENT: Think about someone that you would like to have a genuine conversation with. It can be someone you lost touch with for whatever reason or someone that you see on a regular basis, but you just haven’t taken the time to really “feed” that relationship recently.
Reading Jack Canfield’s book: The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be, as you know, has opened my eyes in so many different ways. In that book he suggests asking someone the following 4 questions in order to establish rapport and to create a feeling of connection with the other person:
(1) If we were meeting 3 years from today, what has to happen during that 3-year period for you to feel happy about your progress? (2) What are the dangers you’ll have to face and deal with in order to achieve that progress? (3) What are the biggest opportunities that you have that you would need to focus on and capture to achieve those things? And (4) What strengths will you need to reinforce and maximize, and what skills and resources will you need to develop that you don’t currently have in order to capture those opportunities? Canfield (2005).
Meet for coffee or lunch with this friend, sibling, spouse, significant other, daughter, son or parent. Ask them the questions and listen to their answers. Your only 2 jobs during that meeting is to ASK and LISTEN. Nothing else. And see what magic unfolds…
Jack also recommends that you answer these questions for yourself on your own. I did. And it’s made a difference in how I’m moving forward.
Canfield, J. (2005). The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You
Want to Be.