In November I had the opportunity to get to know a wonderful young man better. I first met him at my niece’s wedding when he was dating my other niece, the bride’s sister. In November I got to spend some time with him during the few days we spent in Mexico for his wedding to my niece. In one of our conversations around the pool I asked him about his tattoos.
Before I go any further I must tell you that I’m pretty old school when it comes to tattoos. When I was growing up the only people with tattoos that I ever heard of were Hell’s Angels or sailors that got drunk on leave and had something questionable permanently put on their body. Tattoos have taken some getting used to for me…as my tattooed son will testify. Now back to the topic at hand.
One of the tattoos I asked about says “Arriba y adelanye.” He explained that it was something his grandfather always said and was copied in his grandmother’s handwriting for the tat. The words “up and forward” or “above and ahead” (as I’ve seen the phrase translated) seem perfect for him and for my niece he married. They are always looking to the future and excited about the possibilities.
As inspiring and perfect as that sentiment is and all, it was the second tattoo that really enthralled me. Three simple boxes which he explained were check boxes like you would have on a survey or menu. It seemed a bit odd until he explained. I wish I had his explanation on video because his words were so eloquent, profound and heart-felt, his voice resonated just how much he meant what he was talking about, and (as usual for him) his face was lit up and animated as he spoke. Each box represented something about himself that he wanted to work on.
The first stands for “slow down.” I could certainly see that one. He is a live wire ready to take on every adventure, possibility, and future. He said that he wants to make sure that he slows down enough to enjoy the present and live in the moment. He wants to not just enjoy it but to be fully present in every conversation, interaction, and day of his life.
The second box stands for for “shut up.” That’s what he said, but then he went on to clarify that he means listen more. You know the old adage, “if you’re talking, you aren’t listening.” This goes hand-in-hand with being present. But he talked about the need to not get so excited that he talked and forgot to listen. He spoke of looking someone in the eye, taking a breath and really listening. He wants to be sure that he is both the listener and a speaker within conversations…asking questions, being interested, and looking someone in the eye rather than allowing distractions to take over
But it was the third box’s meaning that wowed me. He said it stands for empathize. It through me for a loop because he is empathic. He has a huge heart and makes everyone feel like the most important person in the room when you are together, Seeing him with the people at the first wedding who were from a different state, his girlfriend’s family, and later his own family and friends, it is easy to see how much he cares. But, he went on to explain that in addition to slowing down and listening more, he wanted to make sure that he really understood someone. He wanted to really hear them – to hear what they mean and to listen to their hearts. I loved when Miguel talked about this one. He said it isn’t what you mean when you talk that matters but how it is heard. If your meaning is not clear, you have failed to communicate effectively. Conversations should involve give and take, speaking and listening, and full understanding.
It dawned on me that these are three things that I sure could work on. They are three things I think most people could work on. And you can’t work on any of them by communicating online only. You have to be physically present. And they can’t be attained when you are so busy reacting and responding to what you think you heard that you don’t really take the time to listen. They also can’t be attained when you are too busy pressing your point and too emotional to hear not only what the other person is saying but also what they hear you saying (and how).
We defend instead of hear. We want to be right and to be heard but don’t always extend that to others. We don’t hear our own tone of voice and sometimes miss the nuance in someone else’s or don’t see the emotion in their eyes. Sometimes we are far more worried about being judged than if we are judging. We are more worried about being judged, more caught up in our own egos, than whether what they are saying is true. We don’t take the time to think and measure our words to make sure we are conveying what we think we are. We don’t listen deeply enough to what someone else is saying to hear the meaning behind the words, to listen to their hearts. Imagine what a change there would be in the world if we all took it upon ourselves to work on these attributes my new nephew is so consciously striving to improve that he has it right there on his arm as a daily reminder.
Slow down – be present.
Shut up – listen more.
Empathize – use your heart in communicating.