Provision #228: Be Interested

Laser Provision

To act Neighborly • the first principle of nice • requires the second: we have to be Interested. Whether it’s at work or home, with colleagues, neighbors or friends, being interested in other people will make you much more attractive and successful. The more we take an interest in the experiences, welfare, and accomplishments of others, the more likely it is that they will take an interest in us. What goes around comes around, and that’s especially true when we are genuinely interested in what other people are saying and doing.

LifeTrek Provision

What does it mean to be nice? Last week I suggested that the “N” in N-I-C-E stood for acting Neighborly. Being nice means extending ourselves for others in ways that make them happy. That’s important in every arena of life. This week’s dimension stems from the “I”, which stands for being Interested. Simply put, nice people are interested in other people • their ideas, passions, welfare, problems, and pursuits. They put themselves aside long enough to pay attention and listen to others.

Earlier today, I experienced this dimension first hand while leading the 4-hour pace team, along with one another pacesetter, Steve Campbell, at the Columbus Marathon. We had a delightful time, on a wonderful course, with great weather. Together we successfully brought our pace team in, just under the 4-hour mark.

After the race I hopped on my bike and rode back to join one of my clients, who after six months of coaching and training realized her long-held dream of running and finishing a marathon. She had flown in from Chicago two nights before, with a healthy share of pre-race anxiety. Today, everything came together just perfectly. Congratulations, Nancy!

One comment made by Nancy as well as the members of our pace team was simply, “Thank you. It was so nice of you to do this. You did a great job getting us through the race.”

A lot of things made our actions nice. For one, we set our best time aside in order to help others achieve their best time. We also spent a lot of time watching the clock, answering questions, coaching runners, and lifting spirits. Nancy experienced this as a client for the past six months. The pace team took advantage of a similar opportunity for 26.2 miles.

There’s a lot of work involved with being a pace team leader. There’s no going into the zone here, leaving the crowds behind in order to focus on running your perfect race. As a pace team leader, you’re on call for 26.2 miles. At the beginning of the race you’re holding people back; at the end you’re pushing them on. They both take effort. One man followed me elbow to elbow the entire way. By the end there was a bond of appreciation and accomplishment: the man, after several tries, had run his first sub-4-hour marathon. It was a thing of beauty.

Another way to interpret the comment, “How nice of you to do this,” is in terms of being interested. By volunteering to play this role, we took an interest in the welfare and accomplishments of those who wanted assistance to realize their dreams. By interacting with them throughout the race, listening to their aches, pains, fears, and temptations, we encouraged them through to the end. By paying attention to what they had to say, entertaining their questions, concerns, aspirations, and dreams, we helped to make those dreams come true.

That’s what being interested can do for people. It can brighten their day and make dreams come true. It can also make you much more attractive and successful. This is not rocket science. People like it when others take an interest in them. Paying attention to people, listening to them, giving consideration and respect to what people have to say, what they’re going through, and what they’re doing, will produce huge dividends both for them and for you. It can actually change lives.

Unfortunately, many people fail to get this simple truth. Even if they acknowledge it intellectually, they may not be able to stop thinking and talking about themselves long enough to take an interest in others. Then they wonder why people are put off. I know many a relationship that’s ended in divorce over this issue. One person feels they do all the listening and giving, while the other never takes an interest in them. Eventually, this lack of interest • this lack of being nice • takes its toll.

At its best, being interested is a reciprocal relationship. One-sided relationships tend to be either co-dependent or condescending relationships. Mutual relationships experience the ebb and flow of interest, information, and energy. People take turns being nice because it makes a difference in theirs lives and the lives of others.

Remember that book by Robert Fulghum, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten?” Well this is one of those things. Take turns. Take an interest in others and they will take an interest in you. Don’t do all the talking and don’t do all the listening. Find a way to be acknowledged and to acknowledge. There’s no other way to be nice and no better way to live.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Reader’s Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. These selections do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. They do reflect the diversity of those who read Provisions each week for support and strength on the trek of life. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob.

The person who wrote last week, describing the perpetrators of the crimes against America as “animals” without “a soul” is taking the same extremist view that led to their actions against us. When will we learn that all people are created in God’s image and should be treated accordingly?

As an Australian, I was interested to read people’s comments, especially the Vietnam veteran. What a good point he makes. Every time I hear your President speak from such a place of righteousness I am saddened a little more.

You quote from Luke, which is in the Bible, but what is the Qu’ran? I know of the Koran but have never heard of the Qu’ran. (Answer: a more culturally sensitive spelling of the same sacred book).

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking over the past few weeks. It’s been hard for me to focus. My ambition has suffered. I’ve meditated a great deal on what’s happened, what I’m doing, where I’m going and what really matters to me. It’s taken this much time for the fog to lift and for me to gain clarity. Now more than ever, we need to strive for our best. We need to dig deep within ourselves to become the best we can be. We must be courageous. We must be steadfast.

I question whether we want other countries to respect us the way school children respect a bully. Is that our role in the world? If a bully is what we want to be then we must be prepared to face the same consequences that a schoolyard bully faces. On the other hand we cannot tell the world “leave us alone.” Isolationism is not what this world is built for.

America and the West must acknowledge our role in helping to create monsters in the world, find ways to contain these monsters without hurting more innocent people, and then redefine our role in the world. I think we must move from seeking to be respected for our military strength to being respected for our moral strength. We must focus our foreign policy on what is good for the world and how can we do the right thing to help the world become more peaceful.

I went to an interfaith meeting recently which was truly amazing. There were American citizens there born in Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Lebanon, and many other places. We heard heartfelt admissions of how Muslims feel they are misunderstood and how the schools often do not accurately portray who they are. A librarian asked if she might work with them to get more factual literature in the school libraries, offers to surround them with protection and safety for their families. One woman explained that her child is the only Muslim in her school and that they have been receiving vile messages on their answering machine saying horrible death threats and profanity from “Christians.” 

It was truly an evening of spiritual wonder, with the remark that even in tragedy God is in our midst and working through it all to bring many good things, even as we were experiencing together. It was a meeting that I will never forget.

May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School
Immediate Past President, International Association of
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

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