Generosity – how generous are you? I am sure you are generous. Many of you will give donations to charities, sponsor colleagues, help friends and there are many more ways in which you can be generous with your time and money.
So the question how generous are you may not seem difficult to answer. Wait. Change the context. Think about applying that question to the way we communicate with others; say in meetings or in one-to-one conversations. That got me thinking about how generous I am in the way I speak and listen …
Let’s start by imagining we are selfish. What would being selfish in communications look like? What would it feel like to the other person? I guess it would feel unpleasant and uncomfortable. I would feel ignored and not listened to, I may resent not being offered the space to speak and to share my views. Have there been times when this has been your experience? I know I have been in situations where I have felt ignored or interrupted.
This raises for me two questions:
- How can I be generous in my communications with others?
- What can I do when I sense that another person is not being generous?
Being generous in my communications
Being generous is about respecting each other[i]. It can help to:
- Be present and listen. Be honest, do you sometimes let your mind wander and think about that shopping list? I know I do, and equally I know I would not wish other people to do it when I am speaking. Respect and listen.
- Give yourself the right to speak and offer space to the other person / people in the dialogue. Think of it as give and take.
- Ask for time to express your views and ideas. It will help to remind others that you too have valid points to be heard.
This all sounds fine, but personally I have come across people that don’t naturally seek to be generous in their communications. My gran used to say ‘that person is too keen on the sound of their own voice;’ like me, I guess you too have met such people.
Encouraging give and take
If some-one is not allowing you space to speak, then you may need to suggest time for each person to express their views. This can feel structured but it does start to set out the requirement for give and take.
I once worked with some-one who was for ever interrupting and not letting me finish my sentences. This was certainly not generous and made me feel frustrated and I often withdrew into myself. Come up with a phrase that feels comfortable to you that states that you wish to finish, not to be interrupted and acknowledges that you have listened to them.
You may also need to develop your ability to speak up and share your views. I find the following phrase useful: ‘I agree with that and have you also thought of … ‘. The result may be an even better idea that emerges from your different ideas being shared.
Avoid that bad behaviour!
We all know that bad behaviour and know it is not generous or respectful. Even so, some people may tempt us to want to behave badly: interrupt, judge too quickly without really listening, sigh and look away. Let us all aim not to indulge. Generous and respectful communications are based upon good behaviour, it’s about give and take.
Being generous is like gratitude, it has a positive impact upon us and upon those around us. Generosity in giving is something that we all do, let us also aim to be generous in our communications – give and take. Enjoy those conversations, even the ones that you may perceive as challenging.
Generosity to charity
I continue to be grateful to those who are generous to the charities that I support through my talks delivered to social and professional groups. Over the last few years I have succeeded in raising hundreds of pounds for Alzheimers Research UK; now, for personal reasons, I am supporting Cancer Research UK. If you know of any groups who book speakers, please pass on my details and support the generosity that supports vital charities.
[i] Based upon a section on Generosity (pp. 106-109) in ‘The Right to Speak’ by Patsy Rodenburg (2015).