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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Help Me Understand

I worked for many years for a wonderful boss. I loved going to work every day and that says a lot. I felt appreciated, valued and enjoyed. And I had fun. All the time. The office “crew” I worked with was composed of delightful, bright, fun-loving and creative people who embraced life with a passion. And my boss recognized, rewarded and even inspired this. One of his favorite sayings was, “What am I running here…a country club?”. And that’s exactly the kind of work atmosphere we had. Open, creative, silly, passionate, caring and, most of all, hardworking. We would do everything it took to get the job done and get it done superbly but we had so much fun it didn’t feel like work.

My boss and I gave many gifts to each other as we collaborated and negotiated our way through our work life. Whenever something urgent appeared, we went quickly and very efficiently into action. And one of the many other important ways we helped each other was to advise the other when it was time to "Cool Your Jets." Not that either of us wanted to hear it at the time, but it always came when it was most needed and most helpful for stabilizing the situation.

Of all of the many things I appreciated about my boss, the greatest for me was his use of the beautiful phrase, Help me understand. Whenever we had locked horns over an issue or I felt misunderstood I would invite him to join me in a conference room for a private conversation. And he was always eager to comply. As I explained to him (usually with intense emotion) what my issue or problem was, he always sat close to me and gave me the most exquisite eye contact, following my story and letting me explain everything. Afterwards, he would almost always say, “I was not aware you felt this way at all. Help me understand.”

.three words which became for me one of the biggest lessons of my life. I found this phrase to make such a difference in the feeling I had about my work life. And I find this phrase to be so important in the context of interpersonal relationships. The potential applications are unending. I have so admired the ability of my boss to drop into that beautiful state of caring and I have come to realize how important that message is, especially to someone who is feeling lost or misunderstood.

Is there someone in your life who would love to hear those words from you?

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