Like many, I’m subjected to some needlessly lengthy meetings during my work week. Why? Today’s meeting spent 20 minutes as an employee, his supervisor, her supervisor, and a supervisor of another group (still with me?) tried to hammer out why the original employee needed help. The volley of conversation that ensued was a clear indicator that none of these people were communicating with the others. Hello left hand. It’s me, right hand. What are you YOU doing? Not only that, but the “important people” wanting to be heard started talking at once which lead to a cacophony and no one could be understood. Conference calls are difficult enough without people trying to talk over themselves to get their point across. I’ve never understood why some have such a hard time listening.
Sometimes it’s a simple matter of arrogance – their ideas are better than yours, so they’re going to talk over you so everyone knows who has the power. Sometimes it’s a matter of fear – fear of being thought a fraud – so they speak from a perceived position of importance even if they don’t really believe the things they’re saying. Sometimes it’s a simple matter of nerves – which may or may not lead back to fear – in which silence must be eliminated with any sound lest it lead to their discomfort. I’m sure there are more reasons why, but I think you get the idea.
The Dalai Lama had an apt quote that said:
When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know; but when you listen, you may learn something new.
This also applies to grief. In light of recent events (detailed in previous posts), our company brought in a grief counsellor who spent an hour talking to anyone who wished to attend the meeting. He spoke in broad terms regarding best practices for addressing the impact of loss upon each of us. It was reassuring to see that people were willing to both open up and share their experiences, but also quiet down when it was someone else’s desire to speak. There was an extreme focus on listening (and empathizing) from which the aforementioned “frivolous meeting people” could have learned a great deal.
Not only was there discussion regarding how to listen, but also how to engage someone who has recently suffered a tragic loss. Allowing them to take the lead or follow (if they desire) in their own way in a typical situation is key. It’s important for those surrounding the grieving coworker to normalize the work environment as this may be their sanctuary to distance themselves from their loss or for them to return to a baseline behavior. Often coworkers are a second family and treating the grieving coworker as you normally would is beneficial. If you’re worried about saying/doing something wrong, take your cues from your grieving coworker. Allow them time and space if needed or engage them in dialogue or activities as normally as possible.