Sometimes you can discover the most amazing things in your own back yard...maybe even the secret to peace on Earth.
A couple years ago, I was walking a few blocks from my home in Los Angeles when I strolled in front of two bare chested, beer laded "surfer dudes" who were bantering to each other while mowing the lawns on their adjacent homes.
As I walked in front of surfer dude #1 he suddenly barked out at me: "Hark yee there! Pray tell me the secret to peace on Earth for yee to pass."
Little did they know that after having trained FBI and police hostage negotiators and appearing on hundreds of television and radio shows on the day of such crises as 9/11, the Oklahoma City Bombing, or the shootings at Columbine that I was pretty quick on my feet.
In less than five seconds I was in front of dude #2. By this time they were back to their inebriated conversation. At that point I stopped and turned to dude #1 and shouted back, "I have it!"
He looked at me and said, "Have what?"
"The secret to peace on Earth," I replied.
Apparently in those few seconds they had forgotten even asking me.
Vaguely recalling his challenge, dude #1 said: "Oh yeah. And what pray tell is that?"
"Listen more than you talk," I replied beaming with confidence.
Dude #1 looked at dude #2 and their looks indicated that they agreed that I had indeed told them that secret, whereupon dude #1 proclaimed: "Yee may pass."
It's amazing where you can find inspiration. As a psychotherapist, suicide and violence interventionist, executive advisor, writer, author not to mention husband, father and son, listening has long been my greatest skill.
Yet a silly incident like that is what triggered the inspiration in me to write my upcoming book, Just Listen" Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone.
Naturally I have given the topic of listening a lot more thought with the publication of my book. In an an interview today, I was again quick on my feet when asked to elaborate what I meant. My response: "It means listening to others with the sole purpose of identifying what is most important and critical to their success and happiness and possibly peace of mind and then helping them achieve all of them. What it is not is having an agenda that blinds and deafens you to what matters to them.
It reminded me of one of my most favorite quotes which comes from psychoanalyst Wilfred Bion who said: "The purest form of listening is to listen without memory or desire." What I believe he meant was that when you listen to others with memory, you have an old agenda that you are trying to fit them into and when you listen with desire, you have a new agenda you are trying to fit them into. In neither case are you listening to their agenda."
Imagine the effect it would have on our marriages, families, communities, companies and the world at large if we did that.
It couldn't hurt.
"And that's the way it is," maybe even Walter Cronkite would agree.
Rest in Peace Walter, you were one helluva listener.