It's Not About You


This week’s challenge is to be interested instead of interesting, which is great, because I’ve never been convinced that I’m interesting, but I’ve found most other people are. The FAST action steps suggest having a few “one-sided” conversations where you just listen and ask questions without offering any information about yourself. The suggestion is to do this with a relative stranger, as well as someone you know.

A bit of geekiness

I often joke that I wasted $72,000.00 on a degree I’ve never used, but my training in cognitive psychology informs my work and my life a great deal. That said, you could save yourself all that money and follow Dave’s advice with a similar result.

Whether consulting with a new client, interviewing a potential employee, or conducting market research; I tend to strictly follow the training I had in graduate school. When conducting research it’s important to ask open-ended questions and consciously avoid any personal thoughts, commentary, etc. Generally you paraphrase back what the person said to clarify and ensure that you understood them, then you ask additional questions to go deeper and get a better understanding. In research we do this to prevent our own personal biases from influencing the research outcomes, but I’ve found that in life the same technique is very useful for those exact reasons.

Why? Well, because in most of your work and personal dealings it just isn’t about you. Great companies serve their internal and external customers, not themselves. Good people are the same way. Last time I checked nobody admired Mother Theresa for “looking out for number one.”

What about the barista?

In the FAST action steps Dave suggests talking to a stranger on a train, plane, etc. There isn’t a lot of public transit here in the Rust Belt, and I didn’t happen to be traveling this week. I did have a nagging feeling that I’m surrounded by people whom I see every day, but are relative strangers, and I can’t say I feel too good about that.

Last week I learned that a barista, who I see more often than my own mother, is a photographer who could benefit from my startup, Tog Loft. One of my most dedicated members at Tog Loft, Leonarda, made a brilliant suggestion--why don’t we invite him to the loft to pick his brain and give him something nice in exchange for his insight and his time?

Everything old is new again

It turns out that our new friend Thorn is really into shooting on film and processing his own prints in a darkroom he built in his basement. I keep hearing about these millennials who are fascinated with all that old analog stuff, but I’ll be honest, a part of me was pretty sure that it was more for show than anything.

I can wax philosophical about the “lost art” of photography, and I am convinced that learning on film and in darkrooms made me a better photographer, but I’m still not going to go to all that effort now--I don’t have to. Whoever said millennials are lazy hasn’t met the ones I know.

Thorn had a lot of solid advice about supporting photographers like him, and we walked away with a list of great ideas. For example, who would have thought anyone would be curious about the history of photography? He walked away with a $100 gift certificate that he can use at Tog Loft in whatever way suits him.

Nobody listens to kids

Mornings are frequently difficult at our house. Well, at least for 3 out of 4 of us. Magically one member of the family is a “morning person,” but the rest of us, not so much. The one who does mornings effortlessly--the 13 yr-old.

One day last week my son, who will be 5 in August, threw an epic tantrum. This is a common occurrence, and I can’t say we do the best job managing or preventing this. The reason for the crisis--shoes. A very active kid, he had worn holes through the toes of his sneakers, and as a result didn’t want to go to preschool until he had new shoes.

From the other room I could hear my husband attempting to have a rational discussion with him. “Well, I’m sorry buddy, but there aren’t any shoe stores open at 7:00 a.m., so you’re just going to have to wear these today.” Child’s response--whining and crying.

Who wants to wear shoes with holes?

Suddenly it occurred to me that I wouldn’t go to work in shoes with holes in the toes. I could see why he wouldn’t want to go to school like that. I walked into the room and sat down on his level.

“I wouldn’t want to wear those either buddy. I’m so sorry, Daddy and I didn’t even notice that your shoes were worn out.” He paused and made eye contact. “Why don’t we go get some new shoes tonight?”

“I want them now.”

“I’m sorry buddy, the shoe stores aren’t open right now. I promise we’ll go tonight when they are open.”


“What kind of shoes do you want to get?”

We went on talking about what the shoes would look like, where we might get them, and so on. Tantrum over. He just needed us to listen, to understand. Isn’t that what we all want? (Well, that, and new shoes--I’m happy to report that we found the perfect pair too.)

Being interested is a whole lot easier than being interesting

Most people don’t feel like they are heard. It’s pretty rare for someone to slow down and really listen to another human being, and as a result we’ve grown accustomed to noise. Whether it’s advertising or a co-worker we tend to just tune it out.

Thorn had never been to Tog Loft because as a brand we’d never bothered to listen to what he needed. And my kid threw a tantrum because we were more focused on getting him to school on time than we were his feelings.

It only takes a moment to truly listen, and it’s a whole lot easier than being the noise that people have to tune out.

Join me!

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I’m @GrazianiTJ on Twitter and I’ll be using the hashtag #ArtOfPeopleProject, I’d love to hear how your #ArtOfPeopleProject is going.