Yesterday I was in a rush. Meetings, calls to return, proposals to write and clients to help.
In that mix, one meeting stands out. I wasn’t much interested in taking the meeting. Don’t know why I did really. I knew right away the person wasn’t for RNC.
I was about to excuse myself when I caught a look in the person’s eye. A fleeting look speaking of desperation and despair.
It was enough for me to think twice. I took a breath. Flicked my ‘phone to silent. Assumed an engaged pose and invited a response to my question, “how can I help?”.
What started was a life story. Then, after about 2 minutes, he stopped and said: “you probably don’t want to hear all this”. I leant forward and said, by now genuinely, “actually I really do”.
Twenty minutes later his story was told. A story of twists and turns and hard times and adventure and good times. A story telling me lots about the person. It was a good story.
I inquired as to why he came to see me. His reply? “I’ve contacted lots of people and either they don’t reply or won’t see me, you said yes”.
My initial instinct was right. This guy is not a good fit for RNC. Neither in temperament, experience or skills.
Why am I writing this post? Because as we were parting he said, “thanks for the meeting, it’s been a great conversation, you’re a fascinating person”.
I shook his hand and we parted. But I couldn’t get him out of my mind. This guy had just reminded me of two of the biggest and best lessons I’ve ever learned.
Seek first to understand, rather than to be understood.
I hadn’t told this guy anything about me or RNC. Nothing. He’d done all the talking. Despite my instinct to shut him down, to tell him there was no hope of work from this meeting, and to stop the meeting quickly, I’d stayed with it and really listened.
I remember his story. It got to me. Hopefully, I’ll remember for a while the power of listening.
I could see he felt better than when he came and I remember how I felt when he left.
People may not remember what you said but they will always remember how you make them feel.
It’s good to be reminded. Can’t always do it but the lesson persists.