awareness

Listen Again

Sometimes KT writes a line that really sticks with me. To be clear, many of her posts make me think differently and many prompt me to make a change in how I approach life or how I act. This is a little different…here’s my take on her recent post about listening and what a gift it is.

Here’s the line (and I encourage you to read the whole post): Listening is the greatest gift you can give to another human.

Being a more intentional listener found its way into my goals this year. A series of conversations made me realize that I don’t sincerely listen to people as often as I should. I reflected on the fact that although people ask me all the time “how are you?” and I answer, I don’t often ask them how they are. I’m often so caught up in what I’m doing I don’t even look up. I may make a brief comment but not much else.

What am I telling people as I just let them walk by? I don’t look them in the eye. Sometimes I don’t look up from what I am doing. Sometimes I probably seem annoyed at the interruption.

I’ve been trying to reverse since since it caught my attention. When I think about it, I take the time to put down what I am doing and ask the person how they are. And then follow up with another question.

What I have noticed is that more people than I realized are hungry to share. Excited to connect. They want to tell me a bit about how they are.

I thought I was a decent listener. Now I see that I need work. The invitations to listen are everywhere. How many have I blown off because I didn’t make time or was just too into what I was doing to notice them? From my friends, my co-workers, members of my family?

Among the other unfolding lessons, the pandemic has taught me that people matter more than pretty much anything else. We can’t replace people or the opportunities we have to share with them. I have missed many, but I am committed to doing better moving forward.

I’m also on the lookout for the people who are dropping out of sight. Who haven’t I heard from in a while? Different schedules and limited opportunities to be out and about make those happenstance meetings less frequent. Who is telling me through their silence that they may need a friend? Who can I text to check in with? Who can I lift up with a funny post, a quote, a kind word? Who can I (re)start a conversation with? As KT often says, hope is free.

The motto of the StoryCorps podcast is: listening is an act of love. Who can I love today by listening to them? Who can you?

working women

Wah

Work at home or wah has been something I have been accustomed to for over 20 years. I am not a newbie to juggling work and home life. Wah requires a certain kind of discipline.

School holidays, summer vacations and digital learning days have always added a layer of distractions over the years but they were managed with care. Even when the pandemic popped up tolerance was built up and grace was given across the board. A juggling act of sorts began. The tolerance was temporary.

Fast forward four months and patience weakens when the reality sets in that one’s wah environment changed permanently. The distractions become coworkers. A teenager, a spouse, a token visitor, and a dog are now fixed figures much like a coworker. Don’t be fooled. These coworkers are not on your team.

Their output doesn’t impact your quota or goals. In fact, their production counts against you in ways that are hard to articulate. Their mere presence over time can counteract your goals.

Each new coworker has needs. It could be bandwidth for zoom meetings. Background noise for calls. Your favorite snack in the pantry. The list could go on and on. Now let’s compare that commotion to the once quiet and peaceful singular employee wah environment one was used to. There is no comparison!

The world around us has changed as well. Neighbors are also working at home due to environmental conditions. They may now mow the lawn more mid-day. They may let their dog(s) out in the yard during the day more. There may be neighbors talking over the fence more. There may be kids playing in the pool next door. There may be more UPS deliveries next door more often. That means noises, distractions, and so much more.

A chain reaction can start quickly. One dog barks in the area then five dogs bark. One toilet flushes then another, then another. School starts at 6:20 am for one. Work starts at 8 am for another. Work starts at 10 am for another. End times, lunch breaks, naps, and meetings all fluctuate between the pop-up mini-team. The poor dog is like a ping pong ball. No more daytime naps for the dog. Too much stimulation.

Somebody turns on the laundry mid-day. Somebody has a visitor pop over. Somebody burns something in the kitchen. Somebody takes a TV break and turns the sound up too loud. How does anyone get anything accomplished?

Work conference calls. School zoom classes. Chaos on the home front. Home and work is now mixed without barriers. Temporary is now more permanent.

I almost forgot the annoying coworker. The one who reads an article and wants to discuss it with you. The one who can’t focus on their own work so they ask you irrelevant questions. A coworker who looks to you for motivation or that mental push. Remember your coworker isn’t on your team but they need you to solve their perceived problem. Today it could be motivation. Tomorrow it could be world news they want to have a chat about. The complexities of wah with coworkers that have independent goals and objectives are many especially if they are related to you.

Was your home office really designed for one or four? Do you have additional responsibilities during the pandemic to keep your job? How is your performance holding up? How is your mental toughness?

How will businesses survive when employee productivity declines even further because their impatience and stress at home become too much? How will kids develop when we take away their social environment and replace it with forced digital environments that  are unhealthy in the best of situations?

So much chaos today. I didn’t even have to mention the fact that no masks are required at home. But is home really home when you make it a workplace, a school, a gym and force so much change on everyone within the home walls that the seams are ready to bust?

Wah no longer means work at home to me. It now translates to what a haze. A haze not traditionally discussed. One that will cause some to revert to drugs, alcohol or other self- medicating or self-harm measures to cope.

Each of the above coping mechanisms present another layer of negativity in the home which is now the school which is now the conference room and maybe even the church and so on.

I can’t wait to see the statistical reports in about 3-5 years. The data that will show all that was lost and learned in 2020 during the pandemic. Statistical data is going to pack a punch down the road. Many are in the moment not thinking about long term consequences.

There will also be stats on kids’ vision and how it was impacted. All the screen time between video games, social media and now online schooling. I know in our wah environment we have made adjustments from varied background screen colors to glasses to keep up with changes in digital hours.

2020 is definitely a year for the record books. Wild, crazy, unpredictable. I think I’m going to work at the office. I have that choice, many don’t. It will most likely be less chaotic.