Anyone who travels regularly by train knows only too well the irritation of that tinny sound emanating from someone else’s headphones.
Today I had that pleasure.
First of all, the repetitive delights of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" followed by some kind of game that necessitated repeated meowing sounds. Delightful to the toddler listening to it; less so to me!
With adults, I usually ask them to turn down the volume. But it seemed a bit churlish to do this with a two-year-old.
Plus the potential for the noise that emanates from an unhappy toddler had the potential to be so much worse…
So, all things considered, I decided to ignore it as best I could and put up with the repetitive meows.
Damage limitation all round.
It reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend some 15 years ago – one to do with an apparently irritating, repetitive sound in my own head.
The sound was actually a sentence – the sentence was, ‘I am exhausted.’
One day my friend said to me: ‘You know Heather, we've all heard you saying that. There's only one person who needs to hear it – and that's you. You aren't listening to yourself.’
Her comment was powerful. I realised that the tinny sound repeating in my head was truly only for me to hear and I was ignoring it as if it was simply an irritation.
Yet I still refused to pay attention.
And as a result I ended up in hospital a few weeks later with a nasty bug. I was so run down, I had limited energy to fight it off.
It wasn't a pleasant experience – but I did learn from it.
When the brain keeps repeating the same message, it's doing so for a reason.
We are told that we need to be better at listening to others, but are less regularly advised of the importance of listening to our own internal voice.
When coaching business leaders, I often point out to them the repetitive messages they share about how they are feeling or what they are worrying about.
'Tired' and 'stressed' are two of the most common adjectives found in these messages.
But they don't really need me to listen. They need to listen themselves. And, crucially, they need to value them and act on them.
Just because the message comes from within doesn't mean it should be ignored.
CommsMasters are specialists in enabling individuals, teams and organisations have the difficult conversations and tackle the sensitive topics that are too often left to fester – at the expense of individual, team and organisational performance. Find out more here or call Tor on +44 (0)141 419 0183.