Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Greatest Motivational Act

The greatest motivational act one person can do for another is to listen.
- Roy E. Moody, motivational speaker

Judging by Google search results, this Roy Moody quote ranks as his most popular. And rightly so. A motivational speaker (president of Roy Moody & Associates) giving his best advice about how to motivate others.

But listening? Don't we do that all day long anyway? People natter at us for one reason or another and we have to respond.

That's just the point. Most of us consider what we say to be of value, while what others say is, at best, mildly interesting.

More often than not, our most common form of oral communication would be labelled as small talk. Stuff we talk about but have little or no commitment to. The weather. The results of a popular local sports team. The mischief a well known politician or Hollywood star has been up to. Nothing to spill your coffee over.

Yet everyone we meet has a story to tell. It's the story of how they got where they are. For most of us, it's a tale sprinkled with tragedy, life lessons about survival, the consequences of misdeeds, broken and failed relationships and a few great stories about good things that happened to them. Each person is an expert on that story.

But we have our own story to tell and no one wants to listen to it, so why should we listen to the story of someone else we don't care about and we don't want to hear the story anyway?

Because everyone's story is interesting if we give them a chance to tell it in some detail and with thought given to the telling. And because giving someone your attention long enough for them to tell their story is one of the beat ways to make a friend.

For many of us, friendships are more like business relationships than true friendships. In today's world, friendships are as disposable as old toasters. When someone (a "friend") can no longer provide us with something of value, we find someone else who can. We tend to spend more time with those who can give us more of what we want than with those who may deserve our attention. That's business. That's the business model of life.

Giving someone our time to listen to what they believe is important is giving them our most valuable commodity, our time. People not only appreciate that gift, they treasure it in many cases.

We all have busy lives, which we use as excuse for why we don't have time to listen to the life stories of others. Their lives are busy too. When no one cares enough to give that gift of time and caring about another to listen to what they have to say, true friendships and even good working relationships are impossible.

It has truly been said that a smile can make someone's day. It makes them feel good. But listening to someone in a way that shows you care makes them feel valuable.

Most of us don't have many ways that we can feel valuable and worthwhile to others. If we want to have that feeling with someone, listening to them is a great way to begin.

And it's a great way to continue that relationship. When people stop listening to others who love them, the others feel they are no longer loved. Whether the loss of love is true or not, that is what they feel.

When no one wants to listen to us, we have no reason to think of worthwhile things to say. Think about how many people you know that really don't have anything worthwhile to say and you will understand how rare it is to find someone to listen.

When we give people our time to listen to them, we trust them with a valuable possession. That trust may be warmly appreciated the first time it happens. When it happens again, they know we care. They want to be associated with someone who cares about them.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents and teachers who want their children to grow to be competent and confident adults who feel loved and listened to.
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