Last Monday, I gathered in a circle with my fellow athletes for the 7pm class at CrossFit Kingfield. The 6pm class was still finishing the WOD and so Coach Caitlin welcomed us amid a cacophony of clanging barbells, thumping beats and strained grunts.
She was asking us how our day was and truthfully mine had not been great. I was standing next to her but was distracted by all the surrounding activity.
I asked, “Can you speak a little louder?”
She quickly replied, “I can speak as loud as I need to, but I also need you to be a better listener.”
Well, good day to you too!
I was a bit taken aback by her blunt response and it sat with me for throughout the warm-up. It had rubbed me the wrong way but I ultimately grinned and moved on and had put it out of my head by the time we got to the main workout.
The next morning, after my boss and I had just finished a property tour with an important, he stopped me in the parking lot to talk.
Recently at work some mistakes that I had made over the last few weeks bubbled up to the surface. He wanted to take a step back and discuss what was going on.
He said, “I really appreciate your passion and your excitement for the job, but I need you to start listening more.
I feel like when I am telling you things you are thinking ahead to your response or the next action. You have a superior intellect to most and I can see that you are just in your head about stuff, going quick, but you still need to learn.
So I need you to just listen and take a breathe and make sure that when I am telling you something that it is sinking in.”
I am not going to lie, it was difficult to be standing there in the middle of a parking lot getting this feedback. I don’t like being told that I’m not doing a good job and that I need to improve.
I have an ego about these things and am a perfectionist. I get immediately defensive when I hear negative comments.
However, in this case I just took it all in. When someone is telling you to be a better listener, the appropriate reaction is to make it clear that you are listening. Especially when it is your boss.
That evening I went to my first yoga class in probably two months. I had been running around with work and the Granite Games and social events and I wanted to be back on a mat in a calm setting for an hour or so.
I decided to try out Yess Yoga as it is right around the corner from my house. My friends Jake and Chelsea met me there and it seemed so did everyone else from the studio. The room was packed.
I wasn’t sure what to expect and was a bit out of habit. And now, not only did I not know the instructor, but I didn’t have a clear sightline. Suddenly the yoga class was going to be exactly what I needed – a lesson in listening.
In the countless yoga sessions I have done with my friend Wendy as an instructor she has always spoken about how in yoga we have to listen to our bodies.
We must be mindful of our breathe and we must be must mindful of our body and make sure we respond in kind.
If our hips or our shoulders or even our head is saying that where we are is where we are supposed to be or that we need to take a break and go into child’s pose, then we are advised to listen and act accordingly. We must listen to the internal dialogue.
But I realized that evening that yoga also tasks everyone with being a strong listener to the external.
The instructor goes through the flow and as he or she tells you to transition from downward dog to a forward lunge to a small twist we often can’t see them or necessarily any of the other students.
We have to listen carefully for where to move our feet and our arms. You quickly ruin the flow if you think ahead and assume what’s next.
So for the hour I worked on waiting for each instruction and listening to the clear direction of the yoga instructor but it was hard. I had so much in my head that I was trying to work through.
Life is weird. I’m not sure why Coach Caitlin decided to make such a strong statement about my listening skills or why her comment was so loudly echoing the feedback that I was getting at work.
I’m not sure why I then found myself at yoga connecting all the dots. But the message was clear and it was honest and it was true. I need to be a better listener.
Any of my coaches who have taken the time to work closely with me have identified that I think too much.
I am in my head going through ever bit and piece of information they have given me, ripping it apart and putting it back together and trying to place it in some larger context.
Instead, I should just quiet myself and take in the valuable advice that is being given.
As my other senior teammate at work said to me this week, “I am giving you advice for a reason and I assume that if I am taking the time to help you and point out these things that you are listening and following through on them.
If not, then why I am bothering. It doesn’t bode well for our relationship and our success.”
I’m not purposefully ignoring what she or my boss are saying to me with any ill intent. They advise me and for some reason, some flutter of activity, some misguided reasoning, I make a decision that steers me in the other direction.
I think about what they say and then think about twenty other reasons why to act differently. It leads to mistakes and they are biting me in the ass.
And I don’t progress like I want to. I want to be great at my job and for my clients and peers to see great execution, not hiccups and flaws.
I have had the same downfall in the gym. My coaches give me clear advice about my lifts or workout schedule or nutrition.
I take it all in but am not truly listening because then I go and read a whole bunch of articles that contradict and I make assumptions and ultimately don’t see the progress that I want. I sputter in the same gear rather than progressing in my lifts and achieving the results that I keep aspiring to have.
My boss said it best yesterday morning as a follow-up to our conversation about listening. He told me on an early morning phone call, “You need to be humble.
You need to be a soldier before you become a general. You’ll get there but for now listen and execute and learn.”