The Oprah Winfrey TV show started on September 8 1986 and ran continuously for 25 years. In the final show Oprah said that over the 25 years, she had spoken to nearly 30,000 ‘hopefuls’ – in other words, people who wanted to be on her show. Obviously, very few made it through the series of interviews culminating in their being chosen to appear on the show.
She said: "I've talked to nearly 30,000 people on this show, and all 30,000 had one thing in common: They all wanted validation. If I could reach through this television and sit on your sofa or sit on a stool in your kitchen right now, I would tell you that every single person you will ever meet shares that common desire. They want to know: 'Do you see me? Do you hear me? Does what I say mean anything to you?'
"Understanding that one principle, that everybody wants to be heard, has allowed me to hold the microphone for you all these years with the least amount of judgment…it's helped me to try to do that with an open mind and to do it with an open heart. It has worked for this platform, and I guarantee you it will work for yours. Try it with your children, your husband, your wife, your boss, your friends. Validate them. 'I see you. I hear you. And what you say matters to me.'"
This is a powerful lesson. Can you imagine how much better the world would be if every man, woman and child felt that they had been seen, heard and that what they said mattered. Isn’t that a huge lesson for each of us? We have a role to play, even if we don’t agree with what the person is saying.
Let me share a specific example: Geoff lives this principle in an effective way. I used to smile when our grandchildren were young and came to him complaining about each other. He would listen intently, and quietly say, ‘I have taken note of what you said’. He gave them the impression that he had seen them, he had heard them and what they said mattered. Usually that was the end of the conversation! They felt validated and were satisfied.
Practice this principle and you will be helping to make the world a better place for everyone.
My questions for you are:
- How powerfully do you feel the presence of others?
- In which ways do you acknowledge a person’s presence, even if you aren’t able to attend to them immediately?
- How open and non-judgemental do you appear?
- What could you do to focus more intently on the person speaking?
- What do you practice in order to minimise barriers to your being more receptive to what the person is saying?
- How can you show the speaker that what they say matters – even if you don’t agree with what they are saying?
For more information on Executive Coaching, either ‘in person’ or via electronic means, please contact Brenda Eckstein, firstname.lastname@example.org or phone +27 82 4993311, www.strategy-leadership.com
Marie V says
Your story about listening is exactly what I needed to hear and think about. Last night my 13 year old son and I were grocery shopping and he was talking, and talking, and talking about things I had no interest in (grenades and war planes, etc). I was shopping without a list, trying to figure out what we needed, while knowing the grocery store was about to close. At one point I asked him a question about something he had wanted and he stopped talking about the specific thing on his mind. As we drove home he wanted to continue the conversation and asked me where he left off. I had NO IDEA!!! This upset him as he thought I wasn’t listening. I tried to explain to him that conversation goes both ways, and tried to back track the conversation with him but we still could not remember. So, I did a terrible job of validating him and his words. I haven’t yet answered your questions following the article, but I definitely need to, and to have a plan in place next time something like this happens!