Last week, we talked about the value of spending time looking inward. Taking stock periodically of what motivates you is essential for remaining connected with your “why”. Well, investing in the relationships around you kinda works the same way. It pays in many ways to make sure you really understand the people around you. When is the last time you stopped to ask how well you understand what motivates them?
We’re all shaped by our experiences. We get our values and beliefs from them. We develop our guiding principles or personal mission statements from them. We learn what helps us be inspired, what helps us be successful, and what doesn’t, all from our experiences.
How do you pull that out of someone else?
You ask. Respectfully. With some ground rules.
- Ask for their time. Walking up to someone and asking them to tell you their life story won’t go over well in most instances. What does work, in my extensive experience with this, is asking for their time. “I’d like to learn more about you so we can work together even more productively. Would you be willing to spend about 30 minutes with me?” Then schedule it.
- Start simply. If you don’t already know their history with your shared current employer, start there. If you do, ask about where they came from before this job. Work experiences teach us a lot about how to navigate the professional space so don’t underestimate what you can learn about what motivates them, and what doesn’t, from these.
- Follow their lead. People very often mention other things you can ask about as follow up. Perhaps they mention their family, a hobby, or a cause they care deeply about. Listen openly to what they are telling you, and follow them to what comes next.
- Be courageous. People don’t usually mention things they are unwilling to reflect on. Perhaps they bring up a loss. We’ve all been affected by our losses. What we don’t often do is talk about how we’ve been affected. We usually just talk about the loss itself. Connecting the loss to how it has impacted a person’s life can be very powerful.
- Listen without judgement. You will hear perspectives with which you don’t agree. You’re not there to persuade them of anything. You’re there to listen, be curious, and learn more about what motivates them. It may be difficult at times. But we have an opportunity to create space for one another to tell our stories, whether or not someone’s experience mirrors our own. Listen anyway.
Engaging in this kind of conversation nearly always brings people closer together. Especially in today’s fast-paced world, we don’t do it intentionally often enough. A wonderful byproduct of these conversations is trust. Just listening with courage and without judgement can do that.
So then what? Well, that’s for next week. Stay tuned.