We are all Human Beings with our Own Story

“There isn’t anyone you couldn’t love once you’ve heard their story.”

Mary Lou Kownacki – Author

Today I was graced with the presence of a British Gas Engineer.

It is interesting how organisations are embracing technology and using it to help their clients have a better experience. On booking the visit, I was been told to expect the engineer during the morning. I have since been reminded by text when they will be coming and again yesterday. This morning I received a personal call from the engineer and a voicemail to tell me when he would be arriving and to call him if there were any problems. He used his name and his mobile number was shown on my screen, increasing my trust. All this setting things up for a positive experience.

He arrived on schedule, professional, with his ID being offered. A pleasant chap, keen to make sure all my equipment was as it should be before he started working. We had a short conversation and gave him his cuppa, and we both carried on working. He was polite, knocking on my door, to ask a question, and again to say he had finished. There was the paperwork to complete and sign. All of which was done.

It was obvious to him that I worked from home, so he asked about my work, or ‘my story’ as he called it. I explained I was a coach and my speciality was listening. He pondered on it for a moment or two and reflected that he had not heard of that before. We talked about listening and the differences between listening and hearing, and how we can create safe places at work so that people can speak up without fear of being bullied or humiliated. He related to what I had said and shared that it can be quite tough to do, especially in an industry which is male orientated. He went on to say that he had been brought up to believe that men should not show their feelings or their vulnerability, which, as he has got older, with a partner and three young children, he is beginning to realise is not the best way to be.

He had joined British Gas because of his skill in engineering but more so because of his love of people. As he said he never knows who or what to expect when he arrives at the customer’s door. So he works on adapting his communication style to fit the needs of the customer, which was lovely to hear. I was able to introduce him to Brené Brown’s TED talks, and also to the work of Marisa Peer and her thinking that, “We are enough”, and the shift that can quickly happen in an individual when they accept that they are indeed enough.

This all reminded me of a midwife I knew a while back. Here the stakes are even higher, she literally has no idea who will open the door and how they will be.   All she knows is the name, address and that they are pregnant. She has no idea if they are single, separated or married, happy or sad at being pregnant, whether the child is wanted or not, what social and family condition and/or constraints she is under, her experience and knowledge of pregnancy, and so on.

A midwife has to notice so many things, yet remain as non-judgemental as humanly possible. No easy task. She has to actively listen to everything that is being said, or not being said. Not just the words, but also the body language, the tone, the silence, the feelings and her ‘gut feel’ or instinct, she has learned to trust. She knows that being able to make that deep connection, to build that close relationship is paramount in the quality of the childbirth experience. If it feels safe and there is trust between them, the mum will feel comfortable in confiding in the midwife, her hopes and fears, her situation, her challenges and in doing so will be able to relax more, and because she is less stressed will be able to take in all that the midwife says.

Listening and being aware was also true during a recent call to the Government department, the DWP. The very amiable, professional and helpful lady listened to me well and was particularly supportive as I was unable to easily find my NI Number. Reassuring me that it was fine, to take my time, took all my self-imposed pressure off me. The paperwork was found in a sensible place, just not logical…well, that’s my excuse. I appreciated her kindness and caring at the end of the call, also saying that I had felt as though it was a human being talking to a human being. Something quite rare, yet thankfully appearing more and more in business.

Listening Tips

  1. Be fully present from the start.
  2. Suspend your judgements.
  3. Listen first, their words and tone.
  4. Listen some more, notice their breathing, pauses, body language, what’s not being said.
  5. Notice how you are feeling.
  6. Trust your gut and intuition.
  7. Above all, be human, because the other person is a human too.

Whose story will you listen to today? 

Who will hear yours?

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