Our hearts are hopeful, our minds hungry. We want to serve more, and free ourselves of our own selfishness. To listen, to see the other, to understand better and to love. To be courageous, clear minded, to discern the truth, to love the Truth.

I wrote this in one breath as we stepped into 2019. It is my heart’s prayer. Within a day or two I was presented with ample opportunities to exercise what I declared with my words.

It is not easy. I need practiced humility to stop and listen openly. I have learned so many things in my professional experience that flash back into my mind. “I want to understand where you are coming from. Tell me more.” Then listen without nodding enthusiastically. Another big one that is not as obvious as making eye contact, not fidgeting, keeping an open stance… Here it comes: keep your mouth closed as you listen. Not even slightly open. Words will escape, even if just to agree, to offer encouragement, to complete a thought. Silence and pondering is what the interlocutor needs, especially on subjects that are hard to grasp.

There is a Romanian tradition, right at the beginning of the year, the orthodox priest in our parish comes to bless the homes of everyone welcoming them. It’s called “boboteaza” – Jesus’s baptism.

The customs and traditions of Romania can be weird to anyone not growing up with them. But Romanians never question why they do certain things. “Tradition!” – We’ve always done them. Plus, choosing or being different is uncomfortable and less acceptable.

I hate to admit, but I feel caught in the middle. I see clearly now how certain traditions are plain weird, uncomfortable, while others are just different. So I had to sit down and listen to Conrad’s perspective. And be wiling to hear. To just listen. And hope that my point of view will be of some interest or value sooner rather than later. We need to decide what we want to do for ourselves while we still live here. I admit, moving to a totally strange place right now seems more appealing to me, than staying in the familiar, and be a not so effective liaison.

Right now I’m pretty tired of customer service issues as well. Me as a customer, as well as me dealing with entitled customers.

We always find an amiable solution, because it is one of our core values. But the satisfaction of making one customer happy doesn’t last a few minutes. In the grand scheme of things, our hearts get energized by other type of work.

I have had two managers in my formative years, Mark and Mike. Their example of leadership rings true and vivid still in my mind. Mark seemed to have an endless supply of time and attention for everybody, including terribly rude customers. He would sit right there with them, smiling kindly, and inviting them to share with him what was on their mind. That he wanted to understand. His solutions were creative and generous. He never saw the customer issues as burdens to rid himself of as soon as possible and with as little loss on his part. He stepped into any conversation completely open. Sometimes the answer was no apparent solution, and other times customers would leave the store with a brand new computer just because it was the right thing to do. But even when customers left without a tangible solution, they left satisfied. They had been heard and someone took the time to understand. In my role, at that particular company, I tried to follow Mark’s example, and I are say I most often succeeded. He would say that most dissatisfied customers come to us angry, on edge, because they are pretty certain nobody cares. They are afraid. Our job is to make the world a little better not to hoard goods for a company. And I dare say, his approach has given me great courage to do the right thing, even when it seems it is at a loss to me. It never is in the grand scheme of things. Mike mentored me as a lead, and his genuine care for my development has helped me genuinely care for my teams. During the time I led a large team, I got the highest marks of satisfaction of my team in their jobs, and development for them. I didn’t care for the metrics, I learned about them as I got recognition from my own leaders about it. As a novice, Mike said that “I’m a diamond in the rough” and gave me clear pointers to develop. I’m forever grateful.

I’m often too tired to want to truly listen in order to understand. But the less I do it, the harder it gets. So I’m committed to start again. In earnest. To listen to those whom I seem to not see eye to eye, no matter how outrageous the differences between us seem.