Some skills are not less important, they are just more essential
Some call it soft skills
I have a few wishes on what I hope can be engraved on my tombstone when I am gone and in my family and friends’ memories when my time is up. “He listened” is something I hope will be there.
I am rarely a man with answers, but I will always offer two things:
- a “we will manage.”
- and the undivided attention
Many years ago, a friend of a friend trained with me for a local triathlon. She had some races under her belt, but this was my to be first. Weeks of training and punishment, and I had to walk away a couple of weeks before the race. During the training regime, I had numerous conversations with my training partner, including others who used to join. If my memory serves me right, I’ve never met up with this friend outside our training schedule.
The night before the race (race starts at sunrise), I get a call from this training buddy, asking if I can meet her under her apartment. It was a short drive, and I was there within the hour, I guess. We sat on the curb for 2 hours, which I don’t remember much of right now, but I remember a couple of moments. She called me because she was having pre-race anxieties, fears and doubts. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do, so I did what came naturally to me in such moments; listen.
I remember when I felt useless, I had nothing to say, no experience of a race to share, or anything immediately related to her pain. Then came another moment, at the very end of our primarily one-way conversation, when I apologised for not much help but glad to see her calm…etc. Then she replied: I didn’t call you here expecting you to do anything. I called you because “you listen”, and you would touch my shoulder right when I needed that. You are the person who would hold my hand when others think I need a piece of advice.
I don’t know who helped who back then, yet it doesn’t matter. What mattered moving forward was moments of trust like this one. Trust that you are being heard by your friend, partner, team, boss, client…etc. It takes character and courage to open up, but standing still and listening takes maturity and wisdom. I believe we live in times where such treats are essential: Undistracted, unjudgmental, and nothing to sell-back moments of silence and listening.