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Updated: Oct 2, 2022

The story of the hare and the tortoise always seemed so ridiculous to me, but it comes up in work and life so often. We think that rushing into getting things done will be the most efficient solution, but sometimes, to work smarter not harder means to delay. It frustrates a lot of people that we aren’t just getting on with it, until they realise that had we started half cocked, we would’ve wasted a lot of time and effort racing toward the wrong finish line.

A key part of working smarter is listening to other’s opinions. It can be a painful experience that tests one’s patience, but put your desire to race ahead on the backburner, give the person you are struggling to listen to the time to speak. You may learn something or at least have some information that you can use at a later time. Best of all though, you will have honoured someone with your attention and built trust and respect into your relationship.

The devil is in the detail and talking things through with those in the know is a necessary step to getting it right and identifying potential obstructions. Getting input from others means burying your opinions and interjections. Opinions are a position that we pull together from our experiences, feelings, knowledge and facts. They are true to you and no one else. The only way to make them true to someone else is to build upon it with more and more influences. The point of these discussions is to take on board all of the information you possibly can to develop an intelligent and considered opinion.

Controlling when to speak and when to listen needs to come from a place of kindness. The desire to have fulfilling relationships where people are welcome to express their ideas and discuss a topic rather than defend it. Resist the urge to speak. Give others a chance to finish their sentences. Write their suggestion on the whiteboard even if it doesn’t make sense to you. Broaden your options. Cast a wider net over all of the possible ideas and flashes of brilliance.

These conversations will often start off with resistance, but we need a way to deal with friction to be able to maintain a relationship with people who have differing views. Differing views don’t have to be the end of the relationship if they are treated with a level of admiration for your counterpart rather than defensiveness or contempt. When you’re about to hammer a point home, stop yourself and ask what impact is this having on my relationships and what is to be gained by expressing my opinion in this circumstance.

Accept that you will never be right again. There is never a correct opinion. There is never an unworthy contribution. Change your role to one of being supportive, collaborative, understanding and compassionate. Let go of being right and instead look toward being informed.

Embrace the cranky person in the room and ask them what they think. Go with the negative spin and the weird suggestion. Thinking outside the box means challenging sensible and popular opinions. Good ideas in theory when put into practice are suddenly not practical. Dedicate time and imagination to follow the seemingly negative viewpoint through to the end. Revelations await and best of all you will earn the trust and respect of your peers for asking, waiting and listening.

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