Be skeptical but learn to listen. This seems like an interesting agreement to use in navigating today’s world. By agreement I mean a treaty or contract that you have made with yourself. I can’t take credit for this idea; it comes from ‘The Fifth Agreement’ by Don Miguel Ruiz and his son Don Jose Ruiz. Whether you acknowledge it or not you use agreements in each aspect of your life – personal and professional. You believe that you cannot write or that you cannot handle stress. These are agreements and based on them you make decisions.

Right now let’s focus on how being skeptical can help you. If you have ever been involved in any kind of testing or auditing you know the value of healthy skepticism. You know what the product or process you are reviewing is supposed to do and a good test will reveal the truth. That is what you are looking for, the truth. And in using be skeptical but learn to listen, you are looking for the truth. The truth about yourself.

At work and at home you have been told many stories. Some of these stories are the truth and some of these stories are not. Some you have accepted and some you have rejected. There is nothing wrong with that; if you have tested those stories. Let’s take a look at one possible story.

You believe that you are inflexible. You have been told that because you like to make plans in advance and you like to be prepared that you are inflexible. Maybe you even buy into this because you are a project manager. Many people associate project management with rigid methodology. And sure, you expect your team to meet the agreed upon schedule. So there it is you have agreed that you are inflexible. Now when you work with a team member to meet a deadline you might even find yourself saying something like, “I hate to be inflexible, but we committed to having this to our customer by Friday and I need you to honor that commitment.”

Have you tested this agreement? Have you applied healthy skepticism to it? This means you need to doubt the words of others. Guess what? You need to doubt your own words and thoughts too. Why is that you have allowed yourself to believe you are inflexible? Have you really thought about whom you are and how you behave? Is it true that when things change you absolutely refuse to change too? Is it true that you make everyone do things your way? Maybe. Maybe not.

In the course of your work, did you ever have to update the schedule because of resource constraints or to meet a customer’s required due date? In the course of your work did you ever have to negotiate with a team member as to when they would work on your project vs. the other work piled up on their desks? Have you had to change the budget because funding requirements changed? Have you ever had your assignment change mid project? You had another project added to your portfolio to manage or you and another project manager changed places?

You are inflexible – really? The actions you took in the paragraph above do not seem to describe someone who is inflexible. Why did you accept being told “You are inflexible”? Why didn’t you test that with some healthy skepticism? Sometimes accepting is easier than testing. If the person or persons who labeled you inflexible where authoritative or in some way credible, you just accepted. Be honest, is being perceived as inflexible making your job easier? If the people around you are afraid to suggest changes then in theory you have at least one less thing to deal with. But if you are not inflexible you are not telling the truth to yourself or others and you are not allowing yourself to live truthfully. Because you have listened to and accepted a lie without applying skepticism you are blocking yourself from your real potential.

This is why the entire description of the agreement is be skeptical but learn to listen. And in part two of this discussion we will cover learning to listen.

Author's Bio: 

Margaret developed a passionate belief that it takes courage and skill to be human at work and that all individuals have a responsibility to treat each other with dignity, respect and compassion.

Motivated by her beliefs and the desire to make a difference in the lives of others, Margaret acted on her vision by founding Meloni Coaching Solutions, Inc. Her vision is to create a group of successful individuals who are at peace with their authentic selves; a group of people who help and support others; a group who bring humanity to the office and thrive because of it. Margaret sees a world where achieving peace and achieving success go hand-in-hand.

Margaret’s students and clients often find that what she really brings them is freedom to bring their authentic selves to the office. As a former Information Technology Executive, Margaret always knew her preference was for the people behind the technology. Now Margaret brings those beliefs to individuals from many professional backgrounds. The common thread across her client base is the desire to experience peace at work and the recognition that peace is not absence of conflict, peace is the ability to cope with conflict. For these people, Margaret Meloni is truly ‘A Path to Peace’. ™