“Younger people just don’t want to listen anymore.”
That lament was voiced to me by a relatively successful retired businessman several weeks ago. “They are all just off in their own worlds doing their own thing. How come you seem to have so many younger folk talking with you?”
In many ways this is a good man. He’s been generous with his finances. He and his wife have raised a fine family, have grandkids, and yet there is this longing in him for better connection to those younger than he.
My assessment? He makes an “easy mistake” that people want to hear what he has to say before he has listened to them. I observe this often with people 50 and above in age. Of course, not everyone, but too many.
At 73, I am in the Third3rd of life as we propose in our Circle of Life Mentoring Model. Those of us in that age group were schooled to be “tellers,” not listeners. I was raised in the “unique” environment that children were to be seen and not heard. We were to do as we were told by parents, teachers, others in authority. That was just the way of much of the western world back in the day.
There is not any necessary “magic” to being a person of influence later in life. However there are two clear actions to move toward for those who sincerely want to be a person of influence in their later years. Frankly, if you want to be a person of influence at any age, these actions are crucial.
To Remain a Person of Influence, Listen.
There is an old adage that the reason God gave us two ears and one mouth is to illustrate that we are to listen twice as much as we talk. There is a creative art to healthy, active listening. It is a learned, acquired skill that does not come naturally to most people.
Talking is what we are most used to doing. If one has influence or authority in any way, at any age, then telling others what to do and/or think is fairly normal. But I would venture a guess that some of the people in our lives we respect the most are those who listen to us, not just ones who talk at us.
How does one learn to listen? The best listeners I’ve known over seven plus decades are those you know how to ask the finest questions that draw one out.
But, it’s what happens after a question is asked that engenders dialogue and growth in relationship. Push the pause button. Don’t rush to speaking up. Pause. Ponder. Allow the moment to gather focus, to really hear not just what is being said, but to sense what is even beneath the words. One of the best ways to do that is to learn to…
Not only is there an art to being a good listener, there is also an art to asking questions. A first step in being a good question asker is to pause when the question has been asked and allow the person to respond from their own place of engagement. Don’t keep talking. Don’t ask multiple questions. Focus on the question at hand. And how do we do that? By an intentional focused willingness to…
Listen Some More.
Our team proposes that mentors of any kind read an excellent book titled Power Questions by Andrew Sobel and Jerold Panas. In no way does the word “power” in the title imply control. But the book gives 337 essential questions to help navigate life, whether mentor or mentoree. The power spoken of is the power in a relationship, a friendship, a mentorship to give new life to conversations in unexpected and delight-filled ways.
In the mentoring workshops we offer through Leadership Design Group we talk about this at some depth. No matter the age, you will become a person of influence as you continually learn to actively listen, to be curious and ask questions, and to listen some more. This is a part of the circle of life in any meaning-filled relationship.