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The powerful skills of listening, empathy, curiosity and vulnerability are what school never taught us and here’s why it’s now important to learn. The amount of disconnection and loneliness that there is in the world at the moment has only continued to grow since the pandemic. The question however is, where does one do that?
It’s been 10 years since I first started coaching. Over those years I’ve read many books and taken many courses to learn more about who we are as humans. How we interact with each other, what works and what doesn’t. How we create connections, make friends, find partners. And how we keep them once we have them.
From Bréne Brown, to Simon Sinek, to John Gottman to Esther Perel. These are just a few of the people who have taught me what school never did.
THE DIARY OF A CEO
I recently watched a podcast where Simon Sinek was the guest. I admire Simon and his mission to change the workplace, corporate America and the beliefs around leadership. But this podcast wasn’t about his usual spiel. This one was personal. About himself, personal struggles and life lessons.
The Diary of a CEO podcast takes a candid look at the human, personal side of some of today’s influencers and famous people and does a deep dive into what some may call philosophical questions and conversations.
What drew me into this one was Simon’s personal discussion around the topics of loneliness and what he calls mental fitness.
As he began to speak about relationships, both personal and intimate ones, several words began to pop up. Words that, as a coach, I am passionate about.
He spoke about having friends who were fixers, and how those would not be the ones he reached out to when he needed support and understanding. (Even though most of us feel the same way, we still jump right into fixing when chatting with another person.)
The strong desire to fix the other person’s problem is a huge reason why many of us are not feeling connection in our worlds. Hence the result can be loneliness. We aren’t good listeners, we don’t know how to practice the skill of empathy and too many of us lost our sense of curiosity back when were are about 7 or 8 years old.
If we want to break this pattern of behaviour then what should we be focusing on instead?
LISTENING, EMPATHY, CURIOSITY
Simon spoke about his personal experiences of needing people in his life who could “hold space” for him when he reaches out. (You find this in coaching relationships also, it’s part of why it’s so powerful.) He wants people who don’t try to fix his struggle but rather just “sit in the mud with me.” He’s not the only one who feels this way.
Holding a safe space for someone looks like listening deeply to what the other is saying and not saying. Keeping your mind 100% over there on them, not on your own internal dialogue. Empathy looks like not sharing your experience but instead it might be saying something as simple as, “I don’t even know what to say right now but I’m just so glad you told me. Thank you for trusting me, this must be hard for you. “
Curiosity is the opposite of trying to fix. It means asking open ended questions and really listening to the answers. Never judging if the response is right or wrong but staying in that child like space of wonder versus assuming you know what’s happening for the other person.
Sinek commented that he wished he had these skills 10 years ago. Understanding now how much they make a difference when both he and the people in his life have them. This again is why it’s now important to learn them, because they are the key to decreasing our sense of loneliness, disconnection and possibly even depression.
The key, for me, to this podcast was the vulnerability displayed by both Simon and the interviewer. We just don’t see this enough in the world, especially when it comes to males. This is part of what drew me in to watch the entire 2 hour podcast. It was refreshing to see this level of vulnerability being publicly displayed. Ie: it created a sense of connection, of not being alone in the world.
Brené Brown, Phd. LMSW, is the queen of teaching us about vulnerability. I’ve written many posts about her TedTalks and her books. If you know this is an area of growth for you, her teachings are the best place to begin to learn. This skill is another part of what school never taught us.
Learning these skills, that school never taught us, and teaching others about their value and how to display them has become my passion.
Through the skill of coaching coaches exemplify strong listening skills, empathy and compassion, great curiosity about their clients and, they create a safe space for their clients to finally be vulnerable.
It’s through the coaching relationship that they learn to be better friends, family members and coworkers out in the world. This is my passion, to help my client’s learn what school never taught us. And why with the state of our world, learning how to truly connect with other human beings to give us all of sense of belonging, is why it’s now important to learn.