I believe words are important. On reflection, the word “important” is weak. I believe words are critical! As time has passed, I have come to appreciate that the story and ideas behind the words are more important than the words are themselves. Putting it bluntly, does it matter if I get words that are precisely exact to what is needed yet fail to share a comprehensible story?
Yesterday I caught myself. Technically a colleague caught it for me. “You are repeating what you have already said.”
As my defenses jumped into action, part of me replayed my words. He was right. I was repeating myself. While I used words that were more precise and hopefully insightful, the second round of the conversation was essentially a replay of the first. I thought of trying again, only to realize that the story and questions were not being heard. In the end, I listened, pausing for reflection.
In my reflection I realized how I often miss the story for the details. The use of a word or phrase catching my attention and everything stops. I lose track (interest?) in the larger story, my focus diverted to a bit of trivia that is not critical to our conversation. The challenge is far greater than business conversations.
When someone talks of discovering the god within them, I focus in on the word god. Did they mean God with a big G or god with a small g? In the process, I miss the story of discovery! With my attention distracted, I miss the echo of the psalm; “See how close his salvation is to those who fear him? Our country is home base for Glory!” (Psalm 85.9) This was a story of awareness and Presence.
Yesterday I was able to catch myself, learning the lessons of listening for more.
Listen long and fully, there is plenty of time for judgment.
Let the story be the story, it belongs to the storyteller.
Try for the big picture; if you find the storyteller there, a journey into the details together may be possible.