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Lean in to Respect

May 29, 2013 0 Comments
“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually respect
listening to what another has to say.”
– Bryant H. McGill
Some years ago, I was consulting in a middle school in East Harlem, demonstrating active and engaging tools for learning. I was showing a class of 8th graders how to understand a concept, respect, using a thinking map as developed by David Hyerle.
Each group of four students had a large piece of paper and four markers. They were to draw two circles on the page, one inside the other. The task was to put the word “respect” in the center circle, then, to gather their ideas about that concept and write them in the larger circle. Just snippets, phrases, situations. Later, we would construct a definition, but now we were just capturing impressions and ideas.
One group of very tough girls was ignoring the task completely. So, I leaned in and said, “How’s it going?”
The leader deflected my question with “Fine.”
Undeterred, I asked, “So, what’s respect?”
And the leader gave me a canned answer that had something to do with listening to the teacher.
“Ah, I said.  “Is that what you really think?”
No response.
“OK,” I said, “do you think I respect you?
The girls’ jaws dropped as they sized me up in surprise and disbelief.After a pause, the leader perked up and said firmly, “Yes.””Oh,” I said.  “So what makes you think that I respect you?””Well,” she thought… “You’re looking right into my eyes.””Great,” I said.  “Write that one down.”  She did.”OK, what else?””Well, when you say my name, it sounds like music.”I paused briefly, touched by her presence, and said, “OK, add that.  Now you’re cooking. Keep going.” And I walked to the next group.This encounter remains with me as vividly as if it had just happened.In an instant, this young woman was able to put down her shield and open to a moment of real listening and connection. She was available to channel her very real power and strength to think and work with her team to construct a meaning, an authentic meaning, that came from their experience, their observations, and their creative capacity.As I remember and retell this story to you, I am inspired all over again to be witness to that power we all have but that we don’t always access or even believe in.Sometimes, we need someone to see us and call us in. Often, we can do that for ourselves, if we remember.Today, I invite you to take a moment to really listen. Right in the middle of a conversation, what are you hearing? How does it strike you? Can you respond to what’s really there rather than what you assume, imagine, or expect? Can you allow yourself to engage in real time from a real place in you?

I join you in this, reminding myself whenever I remember, to really listen not to the whirling pre-set narratives in my head, but to what’s in front of me right now.

Have a great day!


© 2013 Naaz Hosseini. All Rights Reserved. Copying or resposting this content without written permission is strictly prohibited.

About the Author:

Naaz Hosseini

Naaz Hosseini is a communication coach and voice empowerment coach. She developed Powerful Presence™ coaching to help corporate and entrepreneurial women step into their vocal power to command the attention and respect they deserve. As a NYS Licensed Psychoanalyst and Qualified Gestalt Therapist, she supervises and trains mental health counselors at Teachers College Columbia University and therapists at the Gestalt Center for Psychotherapy and Training. She served as visiting faculty at the Harvard Graduate School of Education Project Zero Summer Institute for ten years where Howard Gardner has said, “With enthusiasm, I recommend Naaz Hosseini, a pioneer in using the voice and the body for understanding.”

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