Angel and I receive dozens of emails every week from new course students who generally want to know how to thrive in life, love and business. They share their personal stories with us and then ask questions like:
- How can I attract more positive opportunities into my life?
- What can I do to improve my relationship with my husband/wife?
- How can I advance my career/business?
Obviously, there are no one-size-fits-all answers to questions like these, because each person who asks them has a unique life situation. There is, however, one piece of advice Angel and I universally share with these students regardless of their situation – and we honestly believe it’s the greatest secret to success in all walks of life.
Want to know the secret?
It’s time for a quick true story…
In the early Spring of 1974, the now world-renowned photographer Stephen Wilkes was a 16-year-old reporter and cameraman for his high school’s television station. His best friend was also a reporter for the station, and together they came up with the wild idea of interviewing some of the great news anchors and broadcast journalists of the era. So they wrote personalized, hand-written letters to dozens of them…
In an amazing twist of fate, nobody replied but perhaps the greatest news anchor and broadcast journalist of them all: Walter Cronkite, who graciously offered to spend a full hour with the boys. Stephen and his friend understood that this would be the most important reporting event of their lives, and so they prepared carefully for it.
They gathered dozens of thoughtfully crafted questions and rehearsed the questions over and over again. When the day of the interview arrived, they were ready. They sat with Mr. Cronkite and asked him one question after the next… meticulously checking off each question on their notepad. And Mr. Cronkite was incredibly thorough and patient with his answers for the entire hour.
Then, as they were wrapping things up, he said, “Boys, I’d like to ask you both an important question: Do you know what makes a great interview?”
Stephen and his friend were caught off-guard, so they quickly began shuffling through their notepad, which didn’t provide an obvious answer. Mr. Cronkite smiled and quickly rescued them, explaining: “Being a good listener, boys. That’s what truly makes a great interview. Being a good listener will always lead you to the next best question.”
The boys looked up at the legendary anchorman and suddenly realized they had spent their whole hour robotically asking one scripted question after the next… but not truly listening or responding to a single answer. And if they had listened, they could have allowed Mr. Cronkite’s answers to guide their questions, and guide them to a far more genuine and meaningful hour together.
REMEMBER (the secret):
Walter Cronkite was exceptionally proficient – a master – at his craft because he never pretended to have all the answers, and thus he didn’t assume he knew how everyone he interviewed would answer him. During his one-hour interview with Stephen and his friend, he taught them that listening is a powerful art. It involves being fully present and hearing what people are saying, first and foremost, and then adjusting our words and actions in response to the stories, ideas and meaning we hear.
When we take Walter Cronkite’s advice and master the art of listening, it will inevitably open doors for us that we never even knew existed. This one kind gesture can literally change our lives. For there’s nothing more life-changing in the long run than the relationships we nurture with those around us, and there’s no gesture more appreciated than the willingness to truly hear a person out.
In order to thrive – in life, love and business – we have to know what people need, which only happens when we take the time to mindfully open our ears. (Angel and I build mindful communication rituals with our students in the “Love and Relationships” module of Getting Back to Happy.)
Please leave a comment below and let us know:
How has the art of listening (or forgetting to listen) affected your life and relationships?
Anything else to share?
We would love to hear from YOU. 🙂
Also, if you haven’t done so already, be sure to sign-up for our free newsletter to receive new articles like this in your inbox each week.
Photo by: Bruno Abarca