Getting to Know You

My favorite part — maybe just one of my favorite parts — about speaking to an appreciative audience is getting to know some of them.

The older woman in the back row who can’t stop asking questions, or the latina lady up front who is working on her first book, or the African immigrant with the melodious voice who (like me) is a professional speaker — by the time my time is up, I’ve gotten to know some of you.
And at many of my talks, if it’s appropriate, I’ll offer 30 or 60 minutes of my time, free, to the folks who have attended.
One of my audience members from this past Saturday took me up on this offer (as too few do) and by the end of coffee I’d had an insight that left her in tears, and both of us looking forward to working more together.
She’s in sales and has a hard time, sometimes, listening to people. And her husband of 30 years was an abusive alcoholic (they divorced then he died) which affected her deeply.
She viewed this difficulty in listening as something holding her back. Which it obviously is. So I asked what for me was an obvious question:
“While you were married to this guy, was ‘not listening’ ever a useful skill for you?”
“Every day,” she said.
Then it hit her — she was very good at not listening, because for years it was a survival skill. And a skill that well practiced can be hard to switch off.
And that’s when she started to cry.
The moral here, I think, is that the problem you have may stem from a strength, or may be a skill that worked in other circumstances — and now that circumstances have changed, you get to change too.
She’d shopped around and met with some other potential coaches, the last of which “left her cold — we didn’t connect.” I don’t think that’s a problem this time around. If I’m lucky, I’ll get to spend more time with her.
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