Listen for and speak to fears

My dad’s first words when I told him about my new job were, “It’s not very close to home.” I was in Missouri, he was in Maine and the job was in Pennsylvania. I heard his words but I didn’t hear the message. It seemed closer to me. I resisted his words, observed that he was right and moved with my young family to live in the greater Philadelphia area.

It sounds silly that I heard the words but didn’t hear the concern. My only excuses are youth and enthusiasm.

Today, now that my own children are out and on their own, I know what he meant. It wasn’t geography. It was relationship.

Everyday people speak partial truths. My dad didn’t say, “I want to stay connected with you.” He didn’t say, “I’ll miss my grandchildren.” He said the easier, less revealing truth.

Most of the time, everyone says the easier less revealing, less vulnerable truth. Most of the time, we speak to surface issues and protect our secrets. Usually that’s a good thing.

You’ll connect more deeply if you listen for and speak to fears. Not every time and not in public. But once in a while, dip below the surface and let those around you know that you understand their concerns.

The best time to do this is during tension and stress. When procedures are changing and support staff is frustrated, listen for and speak to fears. When business is down listen for and speak to fears.

You don’t have to give an answer or solve their fears. You don’t have to give reasons or make excuses. Sometimes it’s enough to let them know that you know.


How can you listen to and speak to the fears of those around you? What might keep you from doing this?


Leadership Freak

Dan Rockwell