Recently I’ve had a good friend ask me if I was going to start writing self-help books as some of my more recent writings were about bettering one’s self or work. This got me to thinking about what I write, but from a different perspective.
I’ve written over fifteen technical books over the years. Thirteen were for commercial publication, while the rest was for free distribution. All of these books focused on teaching people how to use something and all of them were created with the base assumption that a person would pick them up in order to teach themselves how to accomplish something. I guess that in a way I’ve always written self-help books.
This odd realisation again got me into thinking about what I do and how I do it. It’s interesting how a simple question, asked in jest in this case, can lead you to profound reflection, if you truly listen to what people say.
“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.”
– Bryant H. McGill
You don’t exist in a vacuum. You are surrounded by people all the time. When you are at work, when you are on the streets and for most even when at home, there are always people around.
Some of these people may know you well, others have no clue of just who you are. That is okay, sometimes you probably don’t really know who you are either.
In order to become a better person, a better professional or a better leader, you should try listening to what all these people are saying. When at home you should listen to your family. When at work you should listen to your coworkers. Not just hear what they are saying, but really try to listen.
What are people complaining about? What are people happy about? What are their opinions and suggestions about the next family trip or the new product your company is going to launch?
To many responsibility is a huge burden they must bare alone. Responsibility for their family’s well being, responsibility for the company’s quarterly results or even the responsibility for the safety of the jobs of those that work for them.
When you listen what other people have to say it helps you make more informed decisions, which in turn helps alleviate some of the burden of having to make decisions which will influence the lives of others. It also helps you become a better person over time as you learn to value the opinions and counsel of those whose ideas proved helpful in the past.
Listening also makes you more accessible to your family, friends and coworkers. As you listem more to what they have to say, or perhaps start to ask for their opinions, people will feel more at ease to approach you whenever they have an idea or concern they think you should be aware of.
“I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.”
– Ernest Hemingway
Once you are truly listening, you will start to notice who else is doing the same.
If you are part of the team running a company, you should always try to make sure that your company is listening to those around it. A company should listen to its business partners, to its customers and most of all to the market as a whole.
Sometimes companies get fixated on internally created goals, just as people get fixated on their pet projects. It is important to ensure that the company is listening to what is going on on the market so that you don’t end up building yesterday’s product, tomorrow.