Do You Hear What I Hear?

Did you see the recent Oval Office meeting that included the President, ”Chuck and Nancy”, Mike Pence and a host of live news outlet personnel? Did you watch how the parties in this meeting communicated, or not, with each other?

Listening is an easy thing to do poorly, and a very difficult thing to do well.

One could surmise that the three active talkers wanted to make their points known, over talk and interrupt their counterparts, and make the best impression they could in the reality TV type environment. Stands were made, flags were planted, lines were drawn in the sand. The news media was more than happy to document the sausage being made live.

I don’t think I need to belabor the already made point that this meeting was not very productive.

What does it teach us, or remind us, about listening?

First of all, it must be active. If you really want to listen to someone, and make them feel heard, do these things. Put down everything else for a few minutes. Cell phone in pocket. Newspaper set down on the countertop. Make direct eye contact with the person you want to communicate with and listen to. Did you notice the way the President kept playing to the television cameras? Don’t do that. Look at the person you are talking to.

Listen to the other person’s complete thought before you start talking. Do not interrupt. Sometimes, we are so focused on what we are going to say and how profound it’s going to be that we completely miss the other person’s point!

Seek first to understand, then to be understood. You’ve no doubt heard this before. It works. Get what your companion’s premise is before you try to make them understand yours.

Try to communicate, but not necessarily to persuade. Short of being in a court of law or on a debate team, this is usually the right way to go.

Do not talk over the other person, interrupt the other person, or shout the other person down. I honestly cannot watch some news shows simply because no one on the show has learned to take turns and be polite to others. Sometimes,it really does boil down to what we learned in kindergarten!

Don’t blame.

Take the high road.


Accept responsibility for your own actions and expressed opinions.

That recent Oval Office meeting was a perfect example of how not to communicate effectively.

Learn from it.

Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda

There are some things that are expected of all of us. Some that are expected of most of us. Some that are not really expected at all, but if we do them, we leave a lasting positive impression. Just a few recent thoughts, reflections and musings about some of these in light of the recent days, weeks, months, two years. Not directed at any one person, per se, but maybe applicable to some of us more than others.

If your tie unravels, becomes untacked, or otherwise is in need of repair, sew it up yourself, kindly ask your wife or someone else who is good with a needle to do it for you, or retire the tie. Never, ever tape it.

Walk with your wife. Let her walk beside you. Do not leave her at the car, forget her, let someone else accompany her, or hold the umbrella over her head. Are you proud of her? Do you want everyone to see her at your side, as your equal partner? Then walk with her, not a dozen paces ahead.

When you need to confront someone about a difficult issue, such as the fact that you are firing them, do the right thing and speak with them face to face. Confrontation and dismissal by tweet are for cowards.

Sleep. For the love of God, get some sleep.

When a very simple but profoundly meaningful act is expected, do it gladly. It costs you nothing and may mean everything in terms of positive exposure, compassion and overt patriotism. By the way, those men of The Old Guard walk the same twenty one paces back and forth every day, in blazing heat, drenching rain, swirling snow or under threat of hurricane. Twenty four hours a day, three hundred sixty five days per year. Your worrying about a bad hair day in a little rain is meaningless to them.

Do not shove your peers. Not to jockey for position in a photo op. Not to express discontent with their policies or beliefs. Not in jest. Do not shove.

Calling someone a loser, a week person, slick, a liar, or dumb as a rock is not the way to forge any kind of alliance or even shore up an existing base. Doing so only provokes others, distances, creates rifts in already tenuous relationships, and showcases a profoundly limited descriptive vocabulary.

Watching the events unfold around you is a pretty good way to gauge the temperature of a room, an auditorium, or a church. When people with extensive philosophical, political, and personal differences are chatting amiably with each other, but stare straight ahead in dead silence after you enter the room, that should be your first clue that you are not a welcome member of the club.

Surround yourself with very smart people who you can trust. Then listen to them. Otherwise, they are worthless to you.

Respect history. As we all know, it does not always repeat itself, but it rhymes.

Do not reinvent the wheel. Others have sacrificed personal comfort, honor, blood and treasure to come up with a damn good blueprint of how democracy should and can work. Use it.

Do not consort, cavort, comfort, or collude with the enemy. He is real, and he has nothing but contempt for us.

Even if you are in over your head, act the part. There are people who will coach you. There is usually a script. There are expected duties close to home. Do them. Look the part. Salvage some respect, if not for yourself, then for the office.

Lastly, read. Then, read some more. There is always more to be learned and understood.