Wrap honesty in Love and hand it over gently. Otherwise? Don’t give it.
Hand it over with appropriate timing and wording. Otherwise? Don’t do it.
When Truth is meant to be shared, courage is a non-issue. The words will rise naturally out of a honey marinade, engage the heart’s tongue and fall with angelic delivery.
When there is no selfish motive, the other person feels Love’s energy. It ignites the ability to hear and, hopefully, accept.
All of us have at least one blind spot, tic or habit that escapes our radar. We blame status, size, gender, intelligence, colour, appearance, race, or disability for robbing us from having perfect relationships. We’ll buy expensive clothing instead of learning essential listening skills.
Imagine the power of someone caring enough to help us see the truth – that our obstacle is actually a silly impediment.
I saw that power in action.
In the early 1970s, I facilitated an Effective Reading course for managers in our financial corporation. Increased print material robbed our time. We needed newer and faster reading techniques.
One of the managers, Tom (not his real name), signed up for my next Effective Reading course. Tom’s time with the organization had given him a strong and steady rise in his career, but not without a struggle. Something prevented him from working easily with others. When I saw his outstanding results and heard others discuss the excellent support they received from his department, it didn’t make any sense.
One day in the cafeteria, a colleague pointed to where Tom was sitting, “He’s always alone. Kind of a funny little guy.”
I took my tray to Tom’s table and introduced myself, “May I join you?”
He smiled, cleared his throat and gestured, “By all means. Have a seat.”
Although he looked confident, he continually cleared his throat with a loud, heavy cough. I wondered if he was nervous about a single woman sitting at his lunch table. The cutting coughs continued throughout the exchange. I tried to imagine his wife living through this disconcerting condition. What about his employees? The light went on. Could this be the cause of the reported interpersonal difficulties?
As I was gathering my tray to leave, Tom said, “Thanks for joining me. (cough) The course should be (hoorumph) a great help.
How on earth was I going to spend a day with that irritating habit? What about the other participants? In-company training sessions created great opportunities for feedback. However, Effective Reading wasn’t geared toward discussions over a discombobulating, ever-present bombardment of throat clearing.
The session began with each person briefly describing what they wanted to achieve in the course. Tom coughed throughout his turn. The other participants, listening intently, seldom looked at Tom when he spoke.
While the participants took time to refresh coffee cups, I decided to add a step to the process. I did a quick self-assessment. What was my motive? I wanted this gentle man to succeed. Tom cared, he worked harder than most and his achievements surely spoke well of his determination.
The program required participants to practice different reading techniques with a variety of reading material and complete a comprehension exam after each technique. The tests consistently proved how much a reader can comprehend with a skim or a scan while searching for data we need.
Today, I decided, we would tape the verbal responses. Tom would be second.
We listened to the first person’s audio: first his reading objective – given before he read the article – and then his verbal summary. Amazed at his retention level, the man laughed, “Yah, but I probably won’t remember any of it tomorrow! Guess it doesn’t matter. That wasn’t the objective.” He got it.
Tom’s recording was next. He leaned forward in his chair as I hit the replay button. We listened, “My objective (cough) is to skim the article to see ( humph) if the material would be (huuut) of any use to my assistant.” Then, the pause indicating he had been skimming.
The group had listened patiently. The room stayed quiet during the pause. Tom’s voice began again with his comprehension summary. The guttural interferences continued.
“Amy,” Tom interrupted. “Stop the recorder for a minute, please.”
“What’s wrong with that machine?” he asked.
“The machine? Nothing. What makes you ask?”
“Well…what’s that noise?”
“What noise?” I had heard no squealing or static.
“All that interference.”
“Tom…are you talking about the coughing?” I said.
“Well, whatever that noise is…”
“That’s you…you cough when you talk.” I held my breath.
“All the time?” He turned to his colleagues, “Is that the way I sound?”
The other managers nodded their heads. One spoke up, “All the time, Tom. You didn’t know you do that?”
The room became a scene of a downed comrade. He was carried to safety and recovery by a conspiracy of compassionate mates. Each person sensed the man’s agony as each piece of a mighty puzzle fell into place. Tom listened with dignity. He held eye contact with each speaker. He nodded occasionally.
He lowered his head and spoke with strength, “Thank you, everyone. I had no idea. It stops now.”
In my observations over the next six years, I did not hear him cough. Nor did I have another chance to have lunch with him alone.
Do we all have a blindspot that no one loves us enough to disclose?