Readers of this blog know that we often write about Intimacy in a business context. And two of the three elements which make up that invaluable quality are empathy and discretion: creating a cocoon of safety in which another person can talk to us.
I have never heard a more poetic description of this than the one from Gay Talese in “A Writer’s Life”:
“I learned [from my mother] … to listen with patience and care, and never to interrupt even when people were having great difficulty in explaining themselves, for during such halting and imprecise moments … people are very revealing—what they hesitate to talk about can tell much about them…
I have also overheard many people discussing candidly with my mother what they had earlier avoided—a reaction that I think had less to do with her inquiring nature or sensitively posed questions than with their gradual acceptance of her as a trustworthy individual in whom they could confide.”
Lovely words: “…to listen with patience and care.” If we can do even this simple yet powerful thing in all of our business conversations, we’ve accomplished something nearly miraculous.
We’ve shown respect and empathy.
We’ve allowed another person to reveal something troublesome or difficult or embarrassing, and gently received their secrets.
And we’ve taken steps to becoming, like Talese’s mother, “a trustworthy individual in whom they could confide.”
Listening is indeed a gift, not a tactic, and let us give this gift with patience and care.