16 October 2020
Friday night after a 2nd day of learning over Zoom. I feel good, a nice tired, after having packed a lot into a day and learnt a lot. Getting to know people, who shared deeply personal stories and feelings – it was a privilege to listen.
My day started in darkness, with my now usual Friday morning mountain run. I started with Luke months ago as a catchup chat over the bright summer mornings. Now it’s darker, Luke is gone back north and the headtorch is my company. I really enjoy the calmness and creeping brightness in the sky.
Back home for an 8am work call with a colleague in Carlow. Trying to squeeze in breakfast before another call with engineers in India. Ok, just about done, now a quick shower then onto Zoom for day 2 of our coaching course.
The power of stories
Today we covered so much. I got to know people, just by listening to them tell stories that mattered to them. We covered topics like listening, questioning and judging. Simple topics you might say, yet we unpacked them and took time to explore and practice them.
I liked the time we took, never glossing over a few key facts, but allowing us to breakout into small groups, either 1:1 or small groups of 4 or 5 people. Compared to sitting together, the artificial feel of Zoom was diminished by people using cameras well and more importantly by opening up and trusting us completely.
I really enjoyed just listening to other people tell their stories. One practical session was to talk for 5 minutes on a topic that’s important to you, or that matters and you have passion for. While I chose something more light, others shared deeper insights. I respect that and I hope I will do the same over the coming weeks.
My topic was cooking, as I realise over the past 5 years I’ve really flourished when in the kitchen. It’s the total immersion in the task at hand: no multitasking is possible – try texting on your phone with flour on your sticky fingers. It’s also the sense of satisfaction and achievement at seeing an end result – it’s tangible and all your senses are involved. There’s also the challenge of trying something new and the delight when it works out. Or the disappointment when your baking doesn’t rise, or you burn something to a crisp.
The task of the others was to just listen and then, without notes, recount what I had said. It was interesting to hear what resonated with them. What they picked up on, as either words I said or themes or emotions I displayed. Not always things I thought or felt I even mentioned. We can all fill in gaps too and suppose or assume, but overall they noticed so much, by being 100% attentive to the task in hand.
We’re all living Covid differently
After my levity, I was struck by the deeply personal stories people told about family, loss, work stress – the common theme being the past 6 months of Covid. Many people are working in the health sector and really close to the front line, working under relentless pressure. Others have faced bereavement in these difficult times, or are just coming to the realisation that life is about more than work.
Their stories were captivating, sad, positive and inspiring. Everyone has my utter respect. It’s amazing as a listener how now I recounted some facts while completely missed others than the group heard. We all listen differently or focus on different things – I didn’t notice names, ages, dates, numbers as much as how people felt (pride, love, loss, stress).
The power of questions
After lunch we looked at questions an watched an interesting TED talk about the value of questions. Apparently a 4 year old girl is the most curious, asking nearly 400 questions a day. Why are children so curious about everything from clouds in the sky to pointing out body parts to noticing how people behave? We lose that curiosity as adults and move into a know it all, or seen it all before attitude, or just don’t have time to notice the little things in front of us.
End of the day
The day was tiring. By 4pm it was over – 6 hours looking at faces on Zoom is engaging but also tiring. Just listening and paying attention is draining. The stories at times were emotionally draining. But overall a very rewarding experience and journey I’m delighted to be on. Especially in these times. We don’t have as many safe outlets to share and open up without being inflicted with opinions or counter opinions. It was nice not to be challenged. To be accepted.