A couple years ago, I volunteered my time directing traffic in and out of the ATP Tennis Tournament. If you’re wondering how I ended up in this predicament, let me explain. At the time, my son was on the High School Cross Country Team and the parents and kids were asked to donate their time in order to raise funds. If my memory serves me well, that day was one of the hottest days of the entire summer, with highs reaching triple digits. Am I painting a clear picture for you? Imagine working in the blistering sun all day, directing cars into their makeshift parking spots (which were actually grass and dirt).
The day was exhausting but fairly uneventful until the Tournament officially ended. All of a sudden, thousands of cars wanted to leave the massive parking lot at the very same time. As we began to direct the cars out of the fields, an accident occurred on the road facing the field. This meant that everyone’s access to leaving the lot was blocked. The cars were gridlocked in the field and no one could move an inch. That’s when things really began to heat up.
People in their cars were honking, yelling and cursing at me. I would try to explain to each one what was going on, but nothing seemed to help. People wanted out of the field, and they wanted out now. Screaming, men and women told me I was stupid and I didn’t know what I was doing. I found the whole experience amusing since I view everything that happens to me as a learning experience for better understanding human behavior.
There was one older woman that actually got out of her car. She was screaming at a man who was also volunteering his time. From where I stood, I could see that he was talking to her, and the more he talked, the more she screamed and cried. A woman in charge came over to her and began trying to defuse the energy. Again, I could see that the more they conversed, the more agitated she became and the more she cried. After 10 minutes of witnessing how things were spiraling down for her, I walked over to try to help.
You might question why I didn’t take charge earlier. Frankly, this wasn’t my thing and I didn’t want to interfere with people that were actually in leadership roles. Seeing that things were getting out of hand, I decided to step in. I walked up to her, put my hand on her shoulder and asked her what was wrong. She screamed, cried, and explained her frustration and I replied that I totally understood it. Basically, I validated her— I agreed with everything she said. Then softly I explained to her why our hands were tied.
You know what happened? She immediately began to calm down. Knowing that someone understood her was all it took. She got back in her car and the two of us even had a little laugh at the end of our talk.
So here’s my point— so many people fail to learn this extremely valuable communication strategy in life: just listen and validate. Let’s face it, you will come across many people in your career that you feel are out of control. Just repeat their concerns and watch them slowly calm down and begin to listen better. You will experience this in your family and with friendships— don’t let it throw you. Just listen and reflect back to them what you believe they are trying to tell you.
Our needs in life are pretty simple— we want to be heard and understood. If you can internalize this fact and incorporate it into your communication skills, you are sure to be a successful girlfriend.