When I walk through the gym doors for those Friday night basketball games, I feel at home. The aroma of hot dogs on the grill fills the air as the sound of basketballs bouncing fills my ears. Cheering, chanting, joyful laughter, kids hamming it up, and parents taking pictures fill the evening. It takes a multitude of volunteers to ensure the evening is successful, and yet I have only one job — to sit and listen.
This is a basketball league for kids with disabilities, and my only job the entire evening is to sit with various families and listen to how their week has been. I ask them about the highs and lows of their week. I might hear about a good day at school, or a not so great outing to Target where a tantrum has ensued, and the family feels embarrassed. I might hear about an encouraging note they received, or about their child being called mean names on the playground. I hear about fun days and hard doctor’s appointments. By sitting and listening, I learn about their lives and their perspectives. Sitting with them helps me to learn where I can stand.
As it’s been said, where you stand depends on where you sit. While this phrase has probably been around since Plato, back in the late 1940s there was a manager at a company, and one of his employees left the company for another position. Allegedly, the story goes that the rest of the employees weren’t pleased the person left and began to complain to the manager. The manager’s response – “Where you stand depends on where you sit.”
I wonder if the manager was trying to model for his team that we form judgments and beliefs from our own perspectives? The employees weren’t pleased their workload would increase. The person that left had an exciting position that was now available to be filled. Two perspectives based on where they sat. Perhaps the manager was trying to show that we need to open ourselves to see things from other vantage points? To sit with someone and listen.
When we listen and connect with grace and empathy, we can gain a different perspective of the truths and beliefs of others. By listening and sharing, we exchange ideas and challenge and expand our thoughts. We can get curious, ask deeper questions, and gain a better understanding of how others see the world through their own lens.
The next time you are in a conversation or meeting where you think things should go just like you want them to, remember there are others out there just as passionate, and maybe just as right as you are. Dive into that. Say, “Tell me more about that.”
Who do you need to sit and listen to? What questions do you need to ask? How can you connect with grace and empathy? Whether you’re at the dinner table, seated around a board room, in a zoom meeting, or at a basketball game, who can you sit with that might make a difference on where you stand?
I’m learning to stand in awe of everyone who is working to build their own self awareness and realize the unlimited potential they truly have.