Listen Without an Agenda: A Lesson from a Legend
By Andy Grant
Posted: Monday, September 25th, 2017.
Filed under ATHLETeX, Community
Almost a year ago, I was blessed to be introduced to a true legend in the coaching world. Coach Susan Teeter, the long-term Women’s Swim & Dive coach at Princeton attended a work event we hosted, and months later I found myself with the opportunity to partner with her and support her team through the consulting approaches our company utilizes with athletics teams.
After finishing a session with the swim and dive team, we headed to dinner so that I could experience one of the best burgers in town. I may not have expected to spend three hours at dinner, but I believe I could have sat and listened to her wisdom for many more. What came out of our conversation was insight into the athletics world, personal lives, and parenting. I was just hoping to soak it all in, so much so that after I got back to my hotel, I wrote down everything I could remember from our conversation. There was one consistent theme and message Coach wanted to make sure I got, and that was to LISTEN. To her, listening was one of the most fundamental and important things she could do as a coach to better understand those she was working to grow and develop.
Now the idea of listening to others seems pretty simple and even more so, respectful. The problem however was that when Coach shared this idea with me, it was not only advice, but a challenge to our time at dinner. As we talked about life and she shared why it is so important to listen to your significant other, teammates, coaches, anyone in your life she put with it a small caveat that, sure enough, turned on the light bulb in my brain. At 32 years old, I can honestly say that I was not a great listener.
The advice: Listen without an agenda, listen without thinking about how to respond, listen without thinking how to get something out of the conversation. Simply listen. The hardest part while at dinner was to respond to the challenge of listening as she talked. I had my phone with me, my wife was calling, and I had questions in my mind I wanted to ask. As I fought the urge to speak up, or look at my phone, I simply sat and listened. It was so rewarding to invest in what she had to say and share while not working on how will I respond, or what can I add to the conversation. I was able to listen with a focus on learning more about her and more from her. While in our professional life or personal life, how often do we take time to just listen? I know for me, at that point it was not enough!
I would venture to guess like others, we all feel busy, and our minds are jumping throughout the day to different thoughts, ideas, and things we need to get done. Ask yourself this: When was the last time you went to someone you care about, asked them about their day, and just sat and listened to them? That means listening without the intent to get to something you want to share about your day, or something you want to do after you talk to them, but just sit quietly and listen to what they have to say. This is similar to the idea of breathing exercises — as we focus on our breath, in then out, we can only focus on that, our brain will not let us think about anything else. If we can listen with that intent, the focus will be on what we hear, and not what we think should come out of our mouths next.
Imagine what you could hear, learn, and take in if we all took time to listen without an agenda, listen with purpose, and listen with the intent to hear someone. I know for me, being able to do that left me with many more life lessons from that dinner, and great insight into those I care the most about in my life. So now I challenge you, go listen to someone today!
This post was written by HUMANeX teammate Andy G.