But .. its not about the nail (Do what’s right, not what’s right now)

Recently we friends got together to meet our coach after a long time. We discussed family … professional … social and many more relevant .. irrelevant topics while we were together for two days.

While conversing about the goals and objectives, coach showed us this one video . When the video was over, thoughts in our minds were conversing themselves with each other. This also impacted how to interacted to each other during the rest the days. Something strange happened whatever we tell, many of us were hearing it as only “But. It’s not about the nail”. Next moment we laugh it out and open the discussion about one more nail and laugh it out again.

We called it a day after two days of fun filled togetherness. At end of the day, this brought us closer and also sparked our thoughts on various “nails” in our lives – some imaginary, some real, some created, some fictitious, some temporary, some permanent. By the way many takeaways. The nail is metaphorically number of issues, worries, concerns or frustrations. This video resonated with me because it could easily have been me sitting on the left hand side of the couch with any one of my employee or friend or children at home, repeatedly rehashing an (obvious to me) problem.

Here is what the video about. Two friends in conversation . You can hear both of their frustration, and you can relate to both sides of this conversation. On his side, the problem seems obvious … there’s a nail in her head that’s causing those annoying sweater pulls and the headaches. He understandably wants to just fix the problem and take it out of there! Seems like a pretty obvious way to address her concerns, right? It would be, except she’s not looking for a solution to the problem. What she is looking for is a supportive ear to listen to her issues, and to validate how frustrating they are. She is looking to get emotional support, and she’s not quite ready to take action on the nail in her head.

Furthermore, by pushing the issue, he is actually pushing her into a more defensive and less flexible place with the nail.

My immediate thought was, if I had met the woman in this video, I think I’d have said, “You need to stop focusing on how the problem makes you feel and turn your attention to solving it. And if you don’t want to do that, then I have nothing to offer you, so go away and find someone else’s shoulder to cry on.” I doubt I’d be friends with a woman like that in the first place. I think this is response most of us give.

Psychology of a human being is reflexive action, try and help another person by providing solutions to their problems, even if the other person isn’t looking for it, or they aren’t ready to accept a solution. Or we judge by the irrational idiotic logic, yes it is rational and logical until we stop our reflexive action, being judgmental and showing more empathy. Or even I could say “It not about my nail, it is your nail”

While it often comes from a warm and caring place, the end result is that it can push someone away from actually making a change to the situation being discussed. Even look at the last scene of that video. When it’s obvious (even more painfully obvious, that is) that the nail is the problem, when the boyfriend was starting to say it, she turned away in frustration and was refusing to even hear or acknowledge there is an issue. She’s not ready to do something about the nail, and her boyfriend pointing out what a problem it actually is only serves to push her away from addressing the nail at all. In fact, in her mind, the problem is likely to become the boyfriend and his obsession with the nail, or the way he talks to her, when she clearly just wants him to listen to her. In other words, the nail becomes his problem, not hers!!

“We do not listen to understand. We listen to reply”

Perhaps our most frequent battle is over self-care. Whenever one of my friend or children melted down, felt overwhelmed or simply couldn’t cope, I zoomed right past tearful or angry vent, barely hearing more than the first sentence, and blurted out “I told You” “I warned you” You don’t listen to me” many more. The obvious response is “You’re NOT LISTENING TO ME”!! That has NOTHING to do with this”!!!! Followed by the classic twist of the knife “you just don’t UNDERSTAANNDD!!” Basically, I was saying ‘If you’d just take that nail out of your head . . . ‘instead of ‘life is really overwhelming for you, isn’t it? I am so, so sorry for what you are going through’. This is true to me as well when I vent out my concerns as an employee at office or to a friend or as a parent to my children.

In the video, the girl is looking to be understood. She makes the statement, “You always do this. You always try to fix things when I really need for you to just listen.” They guy expresses the sense that he can see the obvious problem and has a solution. The woman does not find his suggestion to be the problem in the first place. This creates a barrier between the two. She feels he is not listening to the deeper meaning of her problems. A method to use when trying to understand is to look at it, as if you were in the other person’s shoes, from another point of view. Once you can understand why someone may be struggling with a certain area of life, you can offer support. We will not always be able to relate with everyone else’s problems, but we need to realize we all have them. Sending them inspirational messages may brighten their day. It is helpful to check in on them as well, to show you really care by seeing how the situation has progressed in the past day, week, or month. To get to any of these points, we must first listen.

You know that feeling you get when you are the reason for someone’s smile? Maybe you helped them in the smallest way, but it meant the world to them. No matter the case, to help a friend move forward and relieve stress, you can always volunteer to lend an ear. It reminds me of a quote I once read, “The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand. We listen to reply”. Let us be the people who change that communication problem. Let us no longer hope they talk fast so we reply and push the problem aside. We can decide to take the time to understand. The next time when you are in a conversation with someone and they are sharing their feelings with you, remember that they just want you to listen. They do not want for you to come up with a solution, but to stand by their side. Remember “It’s Not About the Nail”.

So, how do you deal with this, from either end of the conversation? How does one get the other person to know what they want in a communication, and how do you help when the other person isn’t quite ready to accept the help you have to give?

“Listening Listening Listening”

Help the other person feel more heard, and even move them towards feeling comfortable to change by listening, asking Open-Ended Questions. Transforming questions into open-ended questions pulls the other person to give more information, and leads them to be reflective of their own situation. Give them the space to speak more and feel more heard, which can make them more willing to hear your thoughts as well.


· Most often we sympathize, feeling compassion, sorrow, or pity for the hardships that another person or employee encounters, while the need is empathy by putting yourself in the shoes of another. Reflections are just what they sound like, reflecting back to a person what you hear them saying. These can be as simple as repeating what you’ve heard the other person saying to something more complex, like reflecting back someone’s ambivalence This demonstrates that you’re listening to the other person and hearing them, and also gives them a little more time to look back at themselves and decide if they want to make a change (without direct pressure from you).

Empathy is, at its simplest, awareness of the feelings and emotions of other people. It is the link between self and others, because it is how we as individuals understand what others are experiencing as if we were feeling it ourselves. An example of empathy is feeling the same amount of excitement as a friend.

A good listener being empathic I think will sure have positive outcomes like :

“Improve relationships”

Being compassionate and sympathetic: Compassion and sympathy are about feeling for someone, seeing their distress and realizing that they are suffering. Compassion is an element of action that is lacking in sympathy. Empathy, by contrast, is about experiencing those feelings for yourself, as if you were that person, through the power of imagination. This improves the relationships at Home between spouses, between parent and child also sure gets better. Same in office between colleagues, between manager, team member and of course between friends and every person you meet in social life.

“Customer orientation”

Helps in increasing the customer orientation in the business. Mercedes-Benz believes that customer experience is so important that satisfaction is not enough. Instead, the company wants its customers to feel delighted by their experience with Mercedes The company’s president and CEO believe that engaging Mercedes employees is key to achieving that. For example, a recent company poll found that 70% of employees had never driven a Mercedes. They are now being given the opportunity to do so, so that they can better “empathize” with customers, and therefore engage with them more effectively.

“Develop Others”

Helps in becoming “employee first” means acting on their needs and concerns, and helping them to develop to their full potential. This is again true at home as well. Be it children or parent

  • Reward and praise people for their strengths and accomplishments, and stop feedback which brings down the motivation even the slightest. focus on how to improve with constructive feedback.
  • Provide mentoring and coaching to help others to develop to their full potential.
  • Provide assignments that will help their teams to develop.
  • Stop criticizing because you haven’t seen the actual nail

“Fuel the Performance, Create achievers”

Stop nagging on the failures. Encourage and support employees, parent, children, spouse, friends to take risk and fail. If you are expecting only success all the time provide them with magic wand to do so OR just get out of their life. We do not have right to bring down somebody if you have no ability to see though ourselves first or have no means of seeing goodness on others no matter what he or she has done. Stop giving examples of successful people and stop telling or advising that stereotyping successful people will create success (When You haven’t been to see the nails of person ahead of you and how can one expect to see nails of people whom you haven’t met but have read their stories through the writers or tellers perspective)

  • Claude Steele, a psychologist at Stanford University, did a series of tests about stereotypes. He asked two groups of men and women to take a math’s test. The first group was told that men usually did better in such tests than women. The second group was told nothing. In the first group, where people had been reminded about the stereotype, the men performed significantly better than the women. There was no difference in the second group. Steele suggested that being reminded of the stereotype activated emotional centers in the brain, resulting in anxiety among the women, which affected their performance. This shows how dangerous stereotypes can be, and how they can have a very real effect on performance.

If You Haven’t Seen “It’s Not About The Nail,” Do So ASAP. Listening has a much deeper meaning than what you may think. Do the right thing and stop being legally right. Be it business life, personal life, work life or social life Being right also means compliance. Doing the right thing might not be easy, but it will create humans, create leaders.

Some of the scenarios think of are

  • Scenario 1: Sometimes, the nail is not really there. Most times people complain for the sake of complaining. They really just want to vent. Respond for the sake of responding. Repeat their concerns back to them: “I can’t believe (insert name) did that. (Insert issue) can be very stressful. Just hearing about it is giving me a headache, too.” Really, it’s not “lying,” it’s called “empathy.” Even if you don’t 100 percent agree with him or her, you can still show you understand
  • Scenario 2: The nail is there, but I don’t want to do anything about it. You have been listening to the same complaints over and over. It’s the same old crap. As much as you want to pull that darn nail, don’t! They just are not ready yet. You can gently lead the conversation to a path that will hopefully help them realize the real issue. Turn one-way listening into two-way conversation. Help steer them to a place where they are ready to do something about it.
  • Scenario 3: The nail is there; I am ready to do something about it. pull the nail by offering 2-3 recommendations. Empathy still works. Have you considered doing this or that
  • Scenario 4: I did something as you suggested, but the nail is still here. Instead of fixing their nail, you feel that you have a nail on your own head now. Perhaps it’s time to seek suggestions from others, or professionals. Or maybe it’s time to acknowledge that the nail will never go away, but you did your best job to show your support. You learn to live with it. It’s not called “I hate my nail,” it’s called “co-existing with my nail.”

I think we should talk more about our empathy deficit – the ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes; to see the world through the eyes of those who are different from us – the child who’s hungry, the steelworker who’s been laid off, the family who lost the entire life they built together when the storm came to town. When you think like this, when you choose to broaden your ambit of concern and empathize with the plight of others, whether they are close friends or distant strangers; it becomes harder not to act; harder not to help Barrack Obama – 2006

We all have invisible nails on us. It can be our blind spots, emotional scars, chronic pain, professional issues, personal issues or other social issues. Some can easily be removed, some can’t. This could be either at office or home or in Business. Who you are is a balance of removing or embracing your nail. In the meantime, we can be a good listener, emphatic be it my children, parent, employees, friends, colleagues, customers or anyone

Thank You.

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