In my last post, I talked about how even a CEO can feel anxious and disconnected from people in her organization. I suggested some questions to get out from under your concern for how you look and feel by connecting to your purpose. Asking questions interrupts the monologue and opens the possibility for discovering an authentic basis for connection.

  • Who is this person (or who are these people) for me?
  • What is important to them?

What’s important to someone else provides our most direct access to a connection. Being truly curious and interested in what’s important to another person is an offer of respect. Listening to hear an intersection between what is important to them, to you and to the mission is the art of authentic connection. It opens a doorway to collaboration.

This takes a lot of concentration and focus. It’s easy for me to fall into the trap of making assumptions about what’s important, rather than truly listening and discovering what a person values. When I am successful, the person I am listening to seems to be discovering what is important to her through our dialogue. Somehow my attentiveness lets her overhear herself. This takes patience, so as not to fill in the blanks with my assumptions. I must trust my ability to understand, to explore with the individual, and to hear something new and surprising. I must have the confidence not to demonstrate how smart I am. That would be off purpose, and unlikely to create an intersection.

Listening to another with true intent, patience, and humility provides a safe environment where someone can disclose their authentic purposes and concerns. When someone senses that I am genuinely interested in what it’s like to be them, it spawns relief…they relax and open up. When they are at ease, I’m more apt to open up as well. We co-create a conversation space that contains trust, empathy and affinity.

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