Two years ago, for reasons I won’t go into here, I bought a turntable. It was quite accidental, but now I find myself scouring e-bay and other sources for records. My wife thinks I’m crazy (or it’s another reason for her to think I’m crazy) but I now am totally into vinyl. Some say the musical quality is better, but what I really like about it is that playing records actually causes you to pay attention to the music. You can only listen to one at a time, you have to be ready to flip the record when a side is complete, and you need to be in one place to listen to the music (you can’t throw the turntable in the car or your briefcase or on your back as you’re jogging). Record handling requires attention which also creates, at least to me, a sense of increased attention to the music being played. The used records are especially cool — the rich musty smell of the cardboard cover and the hissing and pops bring you a sense of history and, as you listen to the music, you wonder about who else listened to this same album: were they happy or sad, dancing or contemplative, in love or in angst, sitting in a nice surburban home or partying in a rowhouse.
I know I live in an IPod (or should I now say ‘IPhone’) world. We have so many ways that make it easy to be connected anywhere at anytime. But I also wonder if the ease of connection sacrifices the quality of that connection. How often have we dashed off a rash e-mail only to wish seconds later that we could reach into the computer to take it back? Or have we had a flare-up during a phone call when someone happened to push one of our buttons? Or how often do we decline to say something to someone, because we don’t have the time to really explain what we’re feeling or to really listen to what they’re saying because we have a hundred other things to get to that day?
Now, we can’t go back to the “turntable times” of business and type memos on typewriters or fumble through “While you were out” messages. But we can focus more on the quality of our interactions. It’s extremely hard, but it can be done. If we treat each interaction we have like we’re listening to a record, really listening to what’s being said, really making sure that we are understood, we can be effective and successful.
Imagine that every meeting you’re in, every e-mail you’re reading, every phone call you make, is being done in the living room of your own home. It is twilight and there’s a soft breeze coming in off the porch. You’ve just turned on a lamp and the light flows into the shadows. The person (or persons) with whom you are speaking is like an old jazz album which you’ve just placed on the stereo. Listen to what’s being said, listen to how you’re feeling as the conversation grows, listen to the hisses and pops of that other person’s history and experience and also the hisses and pops of your own history and experience. Pay attention to nothing else.
The average track is 2 minutes and 57 seconds and in that time, the best music can stir our souls, create love, cure heartbreak or change our lives. Just think what you can do in business if you treat each interaction you have in the same way.