[Communication Challenge] Day 6: Be Interested
Have you ever been in a conversation with someone, and they get that glassy look in their eyes–as if they’re pretending to listen to you, but they’re actually just waiting for you to stop talking so they can say something about themselves? And what about those people who get a glassy-eyed stare, and a dim-witted smile while they pretend to listen to you, but you can feel they’re not really listening because their attention is on something or someone else?
A lot of people think communication has to do with how you speak or articulate your ideas, and while that’s certainly a very big part of communication, it’s at least as important to understand whether or not the things you express are understood and able to be received by others.
In order to really truly be a good communicator, you have to be interested in the other person. Check out the podcast which accompanies this blog post for some super helpful insights, and then keep reading below for more tips and into this powerful tool to improve your communication with others.
“The quickest way to become an interesting person is to show interest in others.”
― Jarod Kintz
Ron Clark’s Secret to Success
Remember Ron Clark from Lesson 1? In an awesome interview with Oprah, she asked Ron Clark how he did it. She explained that she knows the way to transform a child’s life it to get them to see and understand that you are there for them, to help them and to earn their trust. And she asked him how he did it!
If you watch the made for TV movie, you’ll learn a lot about how to effectively parent, or teach, but the truth is that if you’re trying to be a person of influence–if you’re trying to be among those who are committed to making the world a better place and lifting the human spirit up out of the mud, then you need to see the whole picture so you understand just what he did that is so remarkable.
Ron Clark didn’t have your “average” high school class in Inner Harlem to teach. He was teaching the most rowdy and disruptive class in Inner Harlem and he got the job by breaking up a fight the first day he arrived. Ron Clark had only been teaching four years, while living in Aurora North Carolina, when he saw an emission on TV talking about the students struggling at schools in Harlem because of poor teaching. He decided he was going to go there, and within a week packed up his life in a car and hit the road. He didn’t have an interview, he didn’t have a particular place he was going, he just walked around inner Harlem and started knocking on school doors in areas he thought needed help.
On his first day arriving at one school, he broke up a fight between a six-year old and a resource teacher. He asked the child what had been happening, and why there was upset and the child said, “If there were teachers like you in my school, I wouldn’t be in trouble.” That was his sign! He applied for a job and at that school they gave him the class that nobody else could handle!! The class had experienced more than 6 teachers in the previous year! They all gave up when the going got tough, and not even the school administration believed that class would pass!
Being a white boy in the heart of Harlem, he knew he would have to go above and beyond to be taken seriously. So he spent his whole summer personally visiting the families of each of the students in the class–he saw first hand what they were facing at home. In every home he was welcomed with open arms and said he would “hug” them as soon as they would smile and greet him!
When he started, he told the class, “We are family. I’m not going to leave, and you’re not going to leave.” At first, the students tore his classroom apart! He wanted to quit the first day! They ridiculed and tortured him! They did everything they could to get rid of him, but he never gave up.
- created a game where he was willing to drink so much chocolate milk he almost puked!
- was willing to be vulnerable–he offered to learn how to double Dutch skipping rope with them, if they would in turn learn everything they needed to pass Grade 7.
- went to their homes and met them for lunch and helped them in his spare time.
- wasn’t afraid of looking silly or stupid.
- believed they would be successful and and he persisted in the face of ALL the obstacles.
- never gave up or backed down from any of them.
- validated and celebrated their skills and abilities and brought more of them out.
- rewarded success and raised their level of courage and willingness to take on more.
- was genuinely interested, committed and truly cared about every single one of them.
- And he brought that class–the class that even the school administration believed would fail, to achieve the highest marks for Grade 6 in the District–even higher than the honours class!
“If you have zest and enthusiasm, you attract zest and enthusiasm.
Life does give back in kind.”
-Norman Vincent Peale
Are You Truly Committed?
I’m not sure what brought you to this 10-Day Communication Challenge, but if you’re truly committed then start to think now about the lives that can change because of what you are about to learn and do here. Ron Clark did what nobody else was willing to do, and now he has taught countless others how to do it, too.
Whatever it is you want to get to the other side of, you’re going to have to brace yourself for this adventure. It’s not going to be easy. The reason you have challenges in your relationships, or your self-confidence, in general, is because there are likely things you’ve been putting off, or avoiding–things that haven’t been easy to face.
ALL the teachers before Ron Clark gave up. Many trained and qualified people backed down from helping the children in that class because they didn’t have tools or persistence, courage or commitment enough to handle them. But that didn’t mean they weren’t able to be handled!!
Ron Clark didn’t turn that class around to the highest performing class in the district overnight, but he did to it in a year, and from that point on, everything changed. Not just for Ron, not just for that school, but for now millions of children are being taught better because of what he did and shared with the world!
Interest Is Your Paycheck for Being Present to Life
One of the biggest reasons people struggle in communication is because they have a lot of attention on themselves–how they look, what other people will think of them and their ideas. This is like putting communication on crutches. It’s VERY hard to be interested when you’re trying to be interesting!
Knowing that, one of the very best things you can do to improve your communication is others, is take your attention OFF of how you look, and get busy LOOKING at other people. If you honestly did the exercises for Day 5, then you would have had a bit of practice. And now you know a little more why and being genuinely interested.
Today, we want you to take the time to be genuinely interested in other people, and see how it feels. How does it change your ability to talk to anyone when your primary goal is to learn about the other person? Does it feel easier? Less intimidating maybe?
All it takes is to just start smiling and talking and connecting to find out how much you can learn by being genuinely INTERESTED. Then notice how you feel. Notice how you feel when you’re trying to be interesting compared to when you’re being interested. You could even just stop and take the time with someone in your home to really SLOW DOWN and learn more about their day.
Put aside your distractions and things and just CONNECT and be interested. Then notice how YOU feel. The more present you become, the more interested you are; the more beautiful and enjoyable life becomes.
Here are some ideas of places to strike up conversations:
- someone in an elevator
- at the cashier’s checkout
- the waiting room at the Dr’s office
- at a park
- the mall
- a sporting event
The list is endless. Anyplace there are people is a good place to try this out! Be sure to do this action step and let us know what you did and how it went! This tool is one of the best for handling social anxiety and it’s the most often missed detail for public speakers and entertainers. The most interesting people are the ones who are interestED in others and in life!!
I’m excited to hear your stories and so grateful for your continued participation and ENTHUSIASM!! 🙂
To be successful on this program, chances are you’re going to need to lose your fear of what other people think of you. You’re going to have to be brave, committed, persistent. If you do it, everything is possible!