The conversation with a colleague was intense. As I stood on the street corner in Wellington New Zealand, I wondered what was going through the minds of the strangers around me. I had wisely moved out of sight and hearing range from my colleagues. It was as much for my protection as it was for theirs. I needed to get to the crux of an issue and it was not going to be easy.
As I look back, it was not the wisest time for this type of telephone conversation. It was the end of a long day of meetings followed by a late evening dinner with the team. We had gone for a long walk and were now enjoying the sights and sounds of Wellington on a busy night. Everything around me was loud – music, people, and even a car or two. I was a bit beyond tired. Amplifying my emotions was the simple fact that I did not think I was being heard.
As our discussion began, my fears came tumbling out. I had hoped that I was going to be able to control the conversation, but it did not look like it was going to work that way. Every response offered to address my uncertainties ended up amplifying them. I was looking for details and found myself holding clichés. I was hoping for understanding and found myself listening to judgment. I was searching for engagement while standing alone in the darkness.
As the intensity grew, I kept asking for facts. I thought I was bluntly asking for help. What I was getting was anything but. I kept reciting facts, challenging the warranty I had in hand. I kept repeating my punch line; “You’ll be able to verify all these accusations when you examine him yourself.” (Acts 24.8)
As we walk back to the hotel in the early morning hours, I wondered how many could tell of an experience with me like this one tonight. How often do I respond only to leave the question(s) unanswered? Am I willing to listen and engage?