Mentoring, humans, communicating – a treasured skill
We are taught that what separate the human and animal worlds is our ability to communicate. This is a precious skill, which must not be abused.
In mentoring sessions, I am accustomed to explaining to people how they can use their words more pertinently and how they can understand others through questions rather than assumptions. In parallel, I have to encourage my clients to look beyond the barbs which they may receive from their own customers.
In modern parlance, social media has become an excellent platform for attacking somebody without having to show your face. Sad, cruel, but nothing new. For example, two thousand years ago, a leading rabbi of the period, described the biblical phrase of ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ as a summary of the Bible. And yet tens of thousands of his own students were later to die in a plague, because they were unable to respect each other. (Was it a coincidence that they were reported to have died through some form of throat constriction?)
Last week, I read a fascinating anecdote in the paper, which featured two of Israel’s leading retailers, the CEOs of the clothing chain, Fox, and of the super stores, Hamashbir. To cut a long story short, they found themselves in court suing each other, due to a dispute affecting who had rights to a lucrative space in a large shopping mall.
Surrounded by lawyers and in the heat of the moment, they fortunately had the good sense to listen to each other. At one point in the arguments, the gentleman from Hamashbir departed from his spin or ‘script’ and spoke from the heart. Unwittingly, what he ended up doing was to abandon legal drivel and to talk in a manner that allowed his rival to understand him.
Within a few minutes, the lawyers had been told to stand down. The opponents are now good friends, while remaining competitors for the pockets of the public. By talking to each other, they have learnt what each other is thinking, and by definition this promotes understanding.
We are too quick to use our tongues to lambast and to criticise. Those same physical abilities are better employed to ask, to praise and to encourage customers, suppliers and our own colleagues.