In order to be heard, we have to learn to listen. Listening can be simple, painless and easy; it can also be complex, painful and hard. Either way, we have to learn to listen if we want to get past just hearing what is being said.
This is how to listen to others:
Open my heart and mind to others
Release my assumptions about others and their interest and ability to speak for themselves
Make space for others to speak for themselves
Be quiet and listen
Ensure opportunities for others to speak for themselves always exist in perpetuity
Continue always to stay mindful about my voice, my listening and my actions that affect others
Be aware of my conscious and unconscious impact on others
Step aside so others can speak for themselves
Advocate for others to speak for themselves
When they are absent, speak for others who cannot speak for themselves
Build my ability to listen
This isn’t meant to be completely comprehensive; instead, its intended to hold space for people who want to learn what they can do for themselves and others in order to build their ability to listen.
What would you add? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Let me start by saying that I don’t know what humility is. For more than a dozen years I’ve consciously struggled with the word and the concept of humility, and I’m still not sure. I do know this: If you want to change the world, humility is definitely a requirement.
The dictionary says humility is simply defined as the quality of being humble. It also says that to be humble is to lower something in importance.
This means developing and maintaining a modest view of our own importance in public and personal regards to who we are and what we do. Sometimes, we are given struggles that humiliate us, cause us to get humble and send us down the road with compromise in our hearts. That is the core of humility: Accepting that everyone, everywhere screws up and is screwed up.
That doesn’t mean we can’t make a difference in the world, and that doesn’t lessen our responsibility to make a difference in the world. It does mean that while we’re working for social change, we shouldn’t be arrogant. Being proud and selfish can mean not seeing our faults and hoarding our accomplishments without sharing props with the people we worked with. That selfishness is typical in a lot of activist campaigns, where peoples’ egos and conceits become obvious. Its selfish to think the world owes you anything; to think the good guy always wins; to think the world works in a balance that will benefit you particularly.
Being right is the enemy of understanding. There’s a difference between knowing what you know and knowing what you don’t know; one suffocates curiosity while the other leaves the door open to possibilities. In the same way that being perfect is the enemy of being good, so it holds true that being right is the enemy of being humble. Screwing up and being wrong, as well as tripping and falling, are all pathways to humility. They won’t automatically make you humble, but they can help you get there quickly.
Despite all the things we may have accomplished in the past, there will always be opportunities ahead. Our ideas, activities, outcomes and struggles do not make us better than anyone else, more correct than anyone else, or less faulty than anyone else. Being humble means acknowledging our mistakes, accepting responsibility for our inabilities, and working in earnest to make progress within ourselves as well as throughout the world around us.
Its a leap for some people to understand, but just to check whether you’re paying attention, I’ll say the reality for me: True humility means accepting our equality with everything else on Earth, including past and present, old and young, rich and poor, human and animal and insect and plant and dirt. All of it.
No matter what happens, in trying to change the world we should always really, really try to be respectful towards everyone, all the time. Humility is an absolute requirement for changing the world. Look at yourself honestly, strip yourself of your pride, puffed up chest and closed eyes. Look at yourself and what you’re trying to do and allow yourself to develop a humble attitude. Then, correct your defects, ask others for help and keep taking action to make the world a better place.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t celebrate our successes, but it does mean that we shouldn’t be arrogant or boastful. Don’t brag. Feel quiet confidence, because in the long run your character will speak for itself. C.S. Lewis once wrote “If you think you are not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed.” Understanding that is a pathway towards being humble.
6 Ways to Be Humble
Learn to be humble and always strive to become a better person.
Find your moral compass and strive for constant conscious contact with what matters most to you.
Stay humble while you’re trying to change the world.
Stop being selfish and start being selfless.
If you want to change the world, be humble.
Oh, and if you think you are humble, you’re not. If someone else tells you you’re humble, you lose it. If you are striving for humility everyday in every way in everything you’re doing, you cannot become humble.
There are many skills that you should build within you in order to change the world. In more than two decades of training adults who work in nonprofits, government agencies, schools and communities, I have identified more than 30 different skills that are important for anyone who works with youth, including mentors, tutors, coaches, teachers, counselors and others to possess. I’m going to post a series of articles over the next few weeks exploring these.
When the Stuff Hits the Fan
The first skill I want to call out is called Change Management. Its first on the list because it may be the most important skill for change agents of all kinds. Usually applies to nonprofit leaders, public officials and other figureheads, change management is important to individuals, too, because it applies to all aspects of their work:
Youth—Given their ages, the lives of young people are inherently transitional and almost never stagnant. While this can be exhilarating and challenge adults to feel alive, it can also be frustrating and feel defeating
Program—Whether you are on the frontlines all the time or in the back office making the policies, practices and positivity work, program change management affects your daily realities.
Social—Communities, cultures, societies and our planet are all changing all the time, whether or not we see it. Social change challenges us to stay alert, attentive and aware of the possibilities to change the world.
Personal—Within yourself, there are countless things changing right now. Making sense of these changes, staying on top of the challenges and opportunities in your life, and being real with yourself are essential.
Being aware of these different types of changes in social change can be the key to successful change management. The next section shows exactly how to manage change, no matter which type you’re facing in your efforts to change the world.
Steps to Manage Change
When you’re working to change the world, there are several steps to manage change. Whether you work in a small community-based charity, large state agency or any other scale, your program, activities or entire organization can benefit from looking at these steps specifically.
Source: Identify what the source of the change is by looking at whether its youth changing, organizational change, social change, or personal change. After you’ve named that, find the catalyst who is making change happen. Is it a parent, a program director, an executive or is it self-driven? If you can, connect with that catalyst to see if you can support the change, how and whether its your responsibility.
Buy-in: If it’s your job to implement change, get buy-in for the changes from youth and your co-workers. You can do this directly or indirectly, ensuring success and opportunities for everyone as change happens.
Meaningful Involvement: Involving the right people in specific ways can make sure the right changes are made in good ways that benefit everyone.
Readiness: Getting young people ready to implement and adapt to change; working with adults to ensure everyone has the best information; and providing training and assistance along the way is essential.
Two-Way Communication: Tell everyone about the changes, answer questions and prepare your youth program or organization as effectively as possible.
Evidence: Look for practical, purposeful evidence of what is happening, and assess how the changes will affect young people and adults.
Reflection: Change can’t happen in a vacuum, whether its among youth, in our organization, throughout our society or within ourselves. Adults and youth should take responsibility for change management by engaging in conscious critical reflection.
When a program, individual, organization or community has completed these steps, they will have successfully managed change.
Most people working to change the world know that change can’t happen without people—whether young or old! Unfortunately, a lot people get stuck in plans and processes without actually talking with youth, or even other adults. Facing up to changing the world means accepting the emotions, ideas, challenges and criticisms that inevitably come with change intentionally and with grace.
Its not a mystery, and may represent the greatest possibility of changing the world: If we can help young people manage change by conscientiously practicing change management, we can change the world!