Resisting Temptation: the Urgent and the Loud

 In Pei Blog

The last few weeks have been really full… it’s almost like everything happened at once for us, from work and family matters, to people visiting from out of town, people asking for help, and so on.  During these times, it’s tempting to let two things take control: the urgent, and the loud.  As someone who likes deadlines, they often provide a way to justify what I tackle first, because I want to be responsible.  But I guess you can put a deadline on anything, regardless of how important it really is.

Each morning, I wake up with a To-Do list of deadlines, but I try to ask myself, “What is the most important thing for me to do today?” It’s similar to something our work team discussed based upon a seminar by Susan Scott, entrepreneur and author of “Fierce Conversations.”  She says she tries to begin meetings with her employees with the question, “What is the most important thing we should talk about in this meeting?”  It’s a good listening model, as opposed to a top-down approach of running through a predetermined list of projects.

In addition to the urgent, my attention is often drawn to the “loud” – people who are the most vocal and assertive, in wanting to get together, or asking for help or advice.  But I’ve found that the loudest noise doesn’t necessarily correspond with the greatest need. So many times, those who are hurting won’t reach out, and are withdrawn in a suffocating and paralyzing silence.  I’ve felt that way before, and it’s especially true for Asian Americans and other cultures that experience great shame in asking for help, or admitting their struggles.

But these are the gems: when somebody tells you, “Thank you for your call or note; I didn’t have the energy to pick up the phone or do anything, and nobody seemed to care.” If we only gravitate toward the vocal masses – to those getting the most attention – we will miss the silent few.

So as you look forward to the rest of your day, what is the most important (non-urgent) thing for you to do today?  Who are the “silent” people in your life who might need the most encouragement?

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