Mother Teresa on Life, Love, Loneliness and Hurt

Over 100 years ago this month Mother Teresa was born. She was a woman who had incredible wisdom, dedicated her life to a very selfless mission, and taught the world a lot about love. As I was considering her life, I happened upon a few quotes that speak to some insights on how we may be able to help the world heal from the tragic events that have unfolded around the US and world in the past few weeks, not to mention those that are ongoing situations. These situations can’t be resolved with a simple shaking of hands or trading of objects, these are issues that have remained and repeated in one way or another for decades, if not centuries. Resolution will take time, effort on everyone’s part and ultimately a decision that the world is a better place if things were different. Mother Teresa said:

“One of the greatest diseases is to be nobody to anybody.”

“If you want a love message to be heard, it has got to be sent out. To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it.”

“I want you to be concerned about your next door neighbor. Do you know your next door neighbor?”

“Even the rich are hungry for love, for being cared for, for being wanted, for having someone to call their own.”

“The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.”

“Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.”

“Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do… but how much love we put in that action.”

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”

“Peace begins with a smile.”

“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.”

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

“Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.”

No war is won or lost by the actions of one person. No one person could have won WW2 or the Civil War or the Trojan War by themselves. But without each of the individuals who participated in those wars on the winning side, the history may have happened much differently, likely creating a much different today. If the world is to become a healthy, fulfilling, thriving place, we have to start doing something different and treating each other different, starting with ending the violence. Yes, there will always be violence, but in the majority of the time, a simple, quiet word can do more than an abrasive, violent tantrum.  I encourage you to take a deep breath the next time your first reaction is to be nasty or overreact, and see if you can’t communicate with a little more patience, peace, respect and love first.

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Trust in Listening

I’ve shared on several occasions this month about the connection between listening and success. As I think about some of the people I’ve interacted with or worked with, I’m struck by the challenge that listening can present, even becoming a barrier for success at times. I don’t believe that you can reach your full success potential without listening to others and getting feedback on your actions and direction. In fact not only can you hinder your success because you’re not listening, you can isolate yourself from others and hurt your relationships with them.

Ignoring what people tell you, ignoring what people ask you, ignoring their opinions, second guessing everything that anyone tells you, and asking for second and third opinions all the time on everything are just a few of the indications that you’re not using your listening skills well and an indication that you may have some trust issues with people. I’m not suggesting that everyone is to be trusted or all answers believed as fact, but first to give the benefit of the doubt rather than just judging someone based on a first impression or opinion. And second if you’ve known or worked with someone for many years and you still don’t trust them to give you an educated, researched or complete answer it may be time to part ways or have a serious discussion.

I can tell you from being on the other side of the conversation, that it’s really difficult to constantly have your answers questioned or questions ignored. I can remember times when multiple people in the same office were asked to research the exact same item, and not because it was difficult, obscure or an extensive topic. I can also remember many times when I’ve repeated the same question over and over in an email correspondence to have the question ignored or not directly answered. It’s incredibly frustrating to be an adult and be treated as a small, irresponsible child for no particular reason.

I get that sometimes you can have a difficult day, but these situations we’re talking about aren’t one-off situations, but rather things that go on day in and day out. If you’re in the situation of being questioned constantly I encourage you to take time to really consider if the situation is that beneficial for you or if it’s time to move on to where you’re more respected and valued. I’d also suggest if you’re constantly being questioned that you sit down with a trusted friend to talk about whether your communication skills (or lack thereof) or communication style could be a factor in the issues you’re facing. If you’re someone who struggles with listening, I’d suggest taking a serious look at your life and relationships and evaluate if you’re feeling fulfilled, frustrated, challenged and/or valued. If your life is not all you want it to be it’s time to evaluate the people in it and the habits and practices you have.

While it can be challenging, communication is one of the most valuable skills we have as humans in 2017. If we all worked a little harder at communicating with each other with respect and clarity and taking the time to really talk things out, we’d solve many of the world’s issues quite quickly, or at least put a plan in place for resolving them with less anger, confusion and bloodshed.

Listening in Business

This month one of the topics we’re talking about is listening. It’s so important if you want to be successful in business to be listening. Let’s take a minute today to talk about the important things you should be listening to if you want to be successful.

Your customers: what are they saying? They will let you know about their dissatisfaction and the things they love. The internet is a great place to find reviews about your products and services, and you should invite your customers to give you feedback directly as well. You can also listen to their silence and their lack of return to your business and products/services as a clue as to how much they don’t like you.

Your suppliers: are your suppliers constantly raising prices? Are they hesitating on delivery? Do they tell you it’s difficult to get what you ask for? If so it may be a clue that there’s something broken or not working right in your supply chain.

Your employees: your employees are often your first line of interaction between your customers and your products/services, so it’s important to listen to what they have to say about what you offer, what customers are saying to them, things they’re feeling challenged by and what they would like to see changed. If your employees aren’t happy, aren’t respected and don’t think your product or service is worth what you’re charging then you’ll have some difficulty getting them to work at their best for your company.

Your marketing: I know it can sometimes be difficult to understand all the metrics and know exactly what things mean, but it’s important to be in touch with your marketing team to see how people are responding to your marketing. If they’re not responding and you’ve done the proper a/b testing, and tried different marketing opportunities for a consistent period of time, maybe the marketing isn’t the issue.

The market/business world: are you in tune with what’s going on in other businesses? With how they’re marketing their products? With what’s going on with your competitors? With how others are marketing? With government or industry changes that might affect you? I know it sounds like a lot of work but it’s important to be aware of what’s going on outside of your company, not just inside your company.

How good of a listener are you as a business leader? Take time today to really listen to what’s going on in and around your business.

People Focused Success

Something that we often talk about when we talk about business is how important it is to remember that behind every credit card payment or sale is that there is a human making that purchase. As I was thinking about the topic of success in general today I realised that that same truth applies: if you really want to get ahead in life, be successful in a relationship, have a great relationship with your kids, or make a difference, it starts with being considerate of others.

I know it can be hard to miss the fact that you’re surrounded by other people. They drive their cars in your lane, they make noise in the cubicle/room/apartment/house next door, they talk, they do crazy things, they hurt people, they pollute the environment, they cook your food, they refill shelves at the stores, they deliver your boxes and countless other ways they worm their way into your life that you both appreciate and find frustrating. I know most of us occasionally have had the thought about how grateful we are that someone invented something (like the toilet) or did their job (like flew our plane safely), but often we take it for granted or even try to ignore it because we’ve got so much going on in our own lives that we can’t possibly keep up with what the rest of the world is doing as well. But the fact is that without many other people our lives would not be what they are today.

This month we’re talking about the topic of listening which really is one of the first steps to success in relation to others. If we’re able to listen with our ears, our eyes and our bodies to what’s going on around us, we’re able to figure out what other people want, what their issues are, what their dreams are, what hurts them and what’s challenging them. We can even find out how they want to resolve things or move forward in their life. Can you remember the last time you were trying to tell someone something important and it took forever for them to register your issue or even you? When they finally did your relief was overwhelming, right?!

If you’re looking to be more successful in life, and most of us are, yes, you should think about what you see success as and how you want to get to that success, but then you should take into account the other people who could help you achieve this vision, who is already doing something similar you might be able to work with or support, who will be affected by or benefit from your success, and how it will affect the people closest to you. What role are others playing in your success journey?

Listening for Success

This month we’ll be talking about listening, so today I wanted to start off talking about why listening is such an important skill for your success and how to be most successful at it. First of all, listening is a skill, it’s something you can improve. There are also layers to listening which means it’s not that boring inactivity that you really have no responsibilities during. An important part of listening is asking clarifying questions to better understand what is being communicated.

I believe you can listen while taking notes, but you can’t listen while replying to emails on your phone or playing a game if you really want to give the person speaking the respect they deserve and get the most benefit from your listening. You also aren’t fully listening if you’re too busy coming up with counterarguments and not fully hearing what they’re trying to tell you.

So why is listening so important? Because when we don’t listen some epic mistakes can be made, people can be let down, you can have to do things multiple times to get them right, you can embarrass yourself, you can share something that wasn’t meant to be shared, and you can miss out on really important information. Also, if you really want someone to listen to you, it’s only right that you listen to what they have to say.

But as I mentioned above listening is just the first step, actually the first step is being willing to listen and being open to what you hear. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with what you hear, but it does mean that out of respect for the other person you’re going to hear them out and after you’ve heard it all if you’re not in agreement with what they’ve said you’re going to agree to disagree.

After you’ve listened then it’s important to ask clarifying questions. These questions can help you avoid doing things multiple times because you didn’t get sufficient information in the first place, but they can also help you make sure there are no misunderstandings in what you’re hearing and the other person is trying to tell you.

After listening comes either action or talking then action. Sometimes there’s nothing more to discuss, the other person has laid out their plans, you’ve heard them, understood and agreed, and they can go and do their thing. But other times further discussion is necessary to figure out what each person involved is responsible for and what they are or aren’t willing to do, before any action can be taken.

As we finish out this week and enter into this new month I encourage you to practice proactive listening. When was the last time you really listened?