Phoebe: “Okay, so just repeat after me, <Je m’appelle Claude>”
Joe: “Je de coup, plau.”
Phoebe: “Well, let’s just… let’s try it again. <Je m’appelle.. Claude>”
Joe: “Okay. Je de ple, mloo.”
Phoebe: “Huh! It’s not quite what I’m saying.”
Joe: “Really? Sounds exactly the same to me.”
Phoebe: “It does? Really? Alright, let’s just try this again. Really listen <Je.. m’appelle.. Claude..>”
Joe: “Je da flup, flee.”
Phoebe: “Oh, mon dieu”
Joe: “Oh, de foof.”
If you know these characters, you’ve been an all-time fan of the popular comedy sitcom called Friends. As disheartening as it was to hear about the passing of one of its beloved actors recently, we honor this journey forward with the good memories experienced through this show.
Joe has lied in his resume about being fluent in French but now he has been assigned to audition for a French show for which he needs help. The scene above depicts how Phoebe decides to help Joe learn French so he can ace an audition.
Phoebe wants to help him but when she does, Joe seems to process it differently. While the events unfold in a rather hilarious manner, it succinctly depicts our listening skills as leaders, if not literally.
Joe was a rather goofy yet lovable personality in the show. His lack of intelligence often put him in embarrassing situations. He had a childlike approach to life with the occasional misunderstandings in complex situations. While there is more to Joe than his comic timings, we also observe how he translates any message incorrectly. He often misunderstands the individual speaking with him. Does this in any way feel true to life? I believe it does!
The Virtue of a Leader: Silence
Leaders wear many hats, from delegating to leading, resolving conflicts, strategizing, and so on. At the same time, managing all these hats requires a certain sense of maturity. A maturity that sets you above the rest. And for this, the virtue of silence is a leader’s best embodiment.
Now, in silence comes the act of listening which not many people know how to do. I will say that silence is the cause for which listening is the effect. Not just any kind of listening but ‘listening to liberate’. This means that you can listen effectively because you are silent, and the conversation or situation you face can be efficiently managed. However, if your mind is not at peace then you cannot actively listen to any conversation, question, or message conveyed. As a result, neither you nor the person you are in a conversation with can truly benefit.
Without silence, one might experience panic and frustration as Phoebe did when Joe could not process any French word she uttered.
Phoebe: “One syllable at a time. Okay, so repeat after me. < Je… maa… pelle...>”
Joe: “Je… maa… pelle...”
Phoebe: “Great. Okay, faster. < Je… maa… pelle...>”
Joe: “Je… maa… pelle...”
Phoebe: “<Je m’appelle>”
Joe: “Me poo poo”
Phoebe (starts to walk away fast): “It’s too hard. I can’t teach you. I have to go before I put your head through a wall.”
Silence is the cloak of a steady mind. It can help you manage any complex situation with a calm demeanor rather than losing your mind. Therefore, silence is a major leadership attribute and is the cause for putting into effect the impact of focus.
“Out of Silence is born concentration, and from that comes learning.”
~ Stephen Hough
Silence takes place in three forms – Verbally, Mentally, and Physically.
· Mental Silence is when you listen to someone as your mind is quiet (less internal chattering of the mind).
· Physical Silence is when your body is calm and is not reacting to anything. (fidgeting, shaking your legs, etc.)
· Verbal Silence is when you are patient until you can speak rather than interrupting eagerly.
But do understand that listening is not about consistently questioning others as it is believed to be so. Having a list of questions does not mean that you’ve accurately listened. It is the silencing of the mind (eliminating the chattering of the mind) that can help you identify the context rather than the content of a situation or a conversation. Silence can take you to the backstage of a scene and reveal to you the forces at play. However, this silence is powerful and is not meant to be misconstrued for disinterest or indifference in a person’s conversation.
Without silence, listening simply becomes an act of hearing something or someone without understanding the context.
For instance, a person’s words and tone can come off as rude which then offends the individual receiving this tone or rude words. If the receiver does not have a silent mind, they will never be able to go beyond the words and the tone. They will continue to stay offended and recall its happenings repeatedly well into the future. On the other hand, if the receiver embodied silence, they would have attempted successfully to read between the lines. So, rather than focusing on what was said, the receiver will focus on ‘why’ it was said. Therefore, your focus is the effect of listening through the silence of your mind.
Let’s assume that Joe did not embody the profoundness of silence. He was too agitated, nervous, and impatient because his audition was scheduled for the next day. So, if his mind was not at peace, neither his body nor speech would feel calm. Hence, he could not process whatever Phoebe was trying to teach him.
Therefore, as a leader, when you answer a question, let’s work toward answering the reason behind the question.
A leader’s response can be fortified with the enlightenment of what is more valuable to a conversation rather than simply the nod of a head or a yes and no reply. Being mindful means observing in silence in a natural form with no eagerness to revert impulsively.
This reminds me of a wonderful poem on ‘Listening with the Mind’ by David Johnson.
Listening with the Mind
Instead of your ears
You will hear the voices
The sum of all your fears
Listening to those fears
Will help you decide
Which ones to tackle
And those to cast aside
Casting them aside
Will liberate your mind
Letting your break free
Released from their bind
Bound by them no more
You are free to think
Free to roam
Free in this life, to drink
To drink from the well
And have new experiences
To go about your dreams
With less interference!