Have you ever experienced a person on a plane, train or bus who just wouldn’t be quiet whileyou were trying to sleep? Well here is what I learned on my most recent journey. On Wednesday I was leaving Jackson, MS by plane headed on a speaking trip where I would be speaking at 5 places in 5 different cities in 5 days, so naturally I needed to get some sleep on the plane. To add to it, I slept only 2 hours the night before (not sure why, maybe I was watching Frozen – don’t judge me). All I could think about was sleeping on the plane, and I promptly sat in my seat, put my earplugs in (not the noise canceling kind) and gave a sigh of relief as I closed my eyes.
It wasn’t 30 seconds later that this little kid that was 8 or 9 years old was talking to the person next to me and he just kept asking questions. I began to get a little frustrated because obviously he hadn’t perfected his “indoor voice” yet. After several moments of frustration I did what anybody would have done – I began to listen to what he was saying
I found out he was traveling alone, and it sounded like his parents were divorced and he just came back from spending time with his dad (that was my story too so it resonated with me). He was talking to the lady next to me, who was from Laos (a country in Asia), and he was asking her a ton of questions like, why she was here, what Laos was like, why does she enjoy her country, what he should know about Laos. You see, he wasn’t asking them in a way that’s like “You’re obviously not from America so where are you from.” He was asking them in a manner that I call Courageous Curiosity.
That began my journey of learning from this kid. Before I finally fell asleep (with my mouth open I might add) I learned:
1. Courageous Curiosity: His tone of asking questions had an air of sincerity and authenticity to it. He really wanted to know what he was asking. He wasn’t asking to set her up to get to the point he really wanted to make, but he was asking to find out more and dig deeper. He was exploring and I loved it. I realized that I needed to do more person exploring (not in a creepy way), but just asking the stories of others and understanding their perspective. Trust me I get this all the time with my daughter when she asks “why” a gazillion times a day, well maybe I am exaggerating a bit, but rather a million times a day. He just wasn’t asking surface questions either, but he was asking very real questions. He took the courage to be curious about someone else.
2. Active Listening: Not only was he asking some great questions, he was following up the questions with relevant questions based on her responses. It’s amazing that he was doing this naturally and did not need to attend an “Active Listening” workshop at the cost of $1,999. He was genuinely curious and wanted to know more about what she was saying. I think he was doing this because kids realize they don’t know a lot about anything and therefore they take that posture. As adults, when we really do not know a lot about anything, we think we have all the answers and therefore don’t listen like we used to when we were younger.
You and I could stand to be a lot like the kid that just wouldn’t be quiet. We could engage in more conversations where we had courageous curiosity and took a posture of active listening and seeking to really understand what the person was saying. This could go a long way in current issues like Ferguson, the Criminal Justice system, and even the “P” word (Politics). After all, don’t you feel more respected when you are genuinely listened to and asked about you, because someone authentically cares? Let’s do that for others.
You see on another flight that day I was the “kid” who would not shut up. I was sitting next to a guy and we were talking about what’s happening at Ferguson, MO. We had different perspectives on it but we were really listening to each other. I understood why he thought the way he did, and he understood the depth of the issue that I was communicating. We didn’t walk off the plane holding hands and singing “Kumbaya” but we did have a better understanding of each other’s perspective and will be getting together for lunch in the next month.
I am glad that the 8 or 9 yr old kid did not shut up, because I learned a lot about dialogue from him before I eventually fell asleep for the long 30 minutes of the rest of the flight.
QUESTION: Share your stories of unexpected learning and/or what you will do to be more like the 8 or 9 year old kid.
President/Chief Inspirational Officer, Justin Inspires, LLC