Listening with all your heart and senses

Listening with all your heart and senses

Giving someone your undivided attention as you listen intently is both difficult and INPowering. Listening without getting distracted by your own thoughts and self-conversation is akin to a super power. And you can develop it.

listening, assertive listening, Garland McWatters quote

Like meditation, INPowered listening requires you to empty your mind and concentrate on a single focus. In this case that focus is what the other person is communicating.  Doing so will develop your capacity as an intentional and mindful listener.

The goal is to lose yourself in the speaker’s message. It’s a way of getting inside the bubble of their life with them. When I find myself in this mode, it’s like I’m trying to imagine their life and message from inside them. I totally lose myself in that moment.

Listen to what is said and how it is said

Listen for content and context. They are telling you their story at the moment. When you find yourself anticipating what they might say, or judging what they said, you have stopped listening to the message. Refocus. Just listen to the words and the story that is unfolding. There is context in the story that will help you to remember and understand.

Listen to tone of voice, volume, pauses and hesitations, inflections. There is a rhythm to their speech that conveys something about the meaning of their message: excitement, fear, hope, expectation, happiness, all the range of emotions an individual is capable of.

Watch for the non-verbal cues

Watch eyes, gestures, muscle tension, the rhythm of their breathing. This is part of your focus. Pay attention to every detail. This will keep you from focusing on yourself or about what you will say next. When the speaker stops, you will find yourself having to pause and process what they said before you can respond. This takes discipline. You will have to practice.

Feel the emotions being projected by the speaker

Try to get inside their head about what they are communicating about their hopes, dreams, expectations, disappointments, and so forth. You will find yourself feeling with the speaker–whatever emotions they are expressing.

This skill develops your empathy. When you can listen this deeply, you are finally in communion with them, which is the root of communicating.

Remember, everyone at any point in time is always exactly right. Try to sense that feeling of what it must be like to be them at that moment.

Others are INPowered to express themselves and share at a deeper level because they sense you are really into them and not just waiting your time to speak.

Listening with all your heart and senses
developed your ability to be
Garland McWatters, leadership development, leadership training, Dallas, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Related posts:

What is an assertive listener? 

Can we talk?

Do your words build or destroy self-confidence in others?

Prejudiced? Who me?

There is no room for prejudice in an INPowering leader. The second tenet of the INPowered2 LEAD philosophy is, “Everything is personal, and everyone matters . . . Every human is equally valuable without exception.”

compassion, prejudice, Garland McWatters quote

You would be offended if someone pre-judged you negatively without knowing you as an individual. Yet, we do it frequently. Prejudice can seep through even when we try to remain untainted by it. It’s almost reflexive–a kneejerk response that lingers unless we recognize it, isolate it, and purge it.

Prejudice comes from sloppy thinking

More often than not, our prejudice comes to us second hand. We adopt the opinions and attitudes of the group we run with. We absorb that culture and norms for our own without testing the facts of what others are telling us we should believe.

The prejudice is confirmed when our own experience or observation supports it. What we don’t realize is we experienced what we subconsciously expected to experience, so our expectations are affirmed. It’s a vicious cycle of compounded misperceptions. Our misperception is our reality.

I can understand forming an opinion of someone after taking the time to get to know them. But doing so without first-hand individual information, or on hearsay, is foolish.

Beware those who peddle prejudice

Flagrant prejudice borders on a character flaw. Bigotry is its natural evolution. It is the making of the hardhearted and stiff-necked. It leads to deeper suspicions and discord that are largely unfounded in reality. The natural consequence is mass paranoia toward classes of people who are, for the most part, no different at their core than you or I.

Humorist, Will Rogers is famous for saying, “I never met a man I didn’t like.” Why do you suppose that was? Do you think, perhaps, he looked for the likeable qualities in each individual instead of dwelling on their flaws or quirks?

What if we did likewise?

The INPowered cut through the prejudice

The INPowered leader helps us find comfort in a world that is less prejudiced and more understanding.

The INPowered leader holds individuals accountable for individual acts instead of labeling classes of people for individual acts.

The INPowered leader seeks out the facts behind events to accurately determine the true nature of those events and the threats or opportunities they pose.

The INPowered leader is honest about his or her own prejudiced tendencies and strives to become more understanding and tolerant as they learn how to govern their own biases.

The more you strive to work through your own prejudices,
the more you will be
Garland McWatters, leadership development, leadership training, Dallas, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Oklahoma

019: Daniela Perieda-The compassionate entrepreneur [Podcast]

Daniela Perieda, diversity, spanish classes, private schools

Daniela Perieda
Founder, Bilingual Family

We all have a powerful passion, a purpose, a dream, a responsibility to the world. Daniela Perieda calls herself a compassionate entrepreneur. She exemplifies the Spirit of Leading as a young business leader who dared to pursue a dream larger than herself.

In this episode of The Spirit of Leading, I ask Daniela to share her INPowered approach to living that led her to found Bilingual Family, a Spanish immersion school for children in Oklahoma City. She reveals how she used her elements of Dream, Do, Review to redirect her life ambition while in college and start a business.

Daniela also shares her thoughts on best ways to educate children and how to immerse anyone in learning another language.

See more about her school, Bilingual Family.Leadership, podcast, Garland McWatters, leadership development


The danger of one good idea

The danger of one good idea

Can you imagine a stew with only potatoes in the broth? Or only peas? And no other seasoning.
Yuck! Borrrrrrinnng.

Diversity, Ideas
How many shoppers go to the produce market and buy only one vegetable to make a stew? Instead, they select a variety that they can blend and season to make a savory meal.

Bland. That’s the word we use to describe something that lacks savor. It’s dull, lifeless, insipid.

That’s my assessment of most political debate today: arguing over which is better–potatoes or peas.

I say, “let’s spice it up.”

I like the stewpot of ideas–a cauldron of possibilities. When flavors mingle and marinade, the meal gets interesting and worth savoring.

When ideas mingle and marinade, imaginations engage, possibilities emerge, movements take shape, creative energy takes over, and the world gets better.

Change and diversity are life-giving processes. It’s the unusual, unexpected, and odd that surprise us, thrill us, and renew us. Welcome it, and be stimulated by it.
6th Tenet of the INPowered2 LEAD philosophy.

So, the potato heads can debate the pea crowd over which is the better veggie. The onion, carrot, and zucchini factions might join the debate, each lauding the rightness of their particular variety.

Emile Cartier said, “”Nothing is more dangerous than an idea when it is the only one you have.”

Albert Einstein, a man who had a lot of ideas in his lifetime said, “If at first, the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.”

So, I’m lining up for stew . . . with a dash of absurdity.

I think that’s a recipe for being
Leadership training, leadership development, Garland McWatters

What if I tried something different?

What if I tried something different?

Everything you need to find joy and fulfillment in life is within your reach–literally.


Eye peaking

All you have to do is get off your seat, and put yourself in position to grasp it.

I’ve learned over and again that when I put myself out there, good things are more likely to happen for me than when I sit on my sofa and wonder why I’m not getting anywhere.

You, too, huh?

I drift into routines. Routines have benefits, but they can result in mindless, rote behaviors that dull our sensitivity to what’s happening around us.

So, let’s shake it up a bit.

I discovered Jessica Hagy’s work on such an outing. Here’s the story.

I was visiting a friend one weekend and we were about to settle into our routine of watching our favorite political pundits on cable TV. When I said, “I’m bored. Let’s do something different.”

“Like what?” she asked.

“I don’t know. Let’s just get in the car and drive somewhere,” I said.

“OK,” she agreed.

So we did.

Within the hour, we drove into a small town a few miles down the road where we found a combo coffee shop and curio store and decided to stop for a cup of coffee.

While milling around, sipping my coffee, I spied a book title displayed on an old crate used as a merchandise display (a technique often used in curio stores). The title read, How to Be Interesting (in 10 simple steps).

I so want to be interesting, and if I can do it in 10 or fewer steps, so much the better.

I was curious and bought the book. And that’s how I discovered Jessica Hagy, the author, and her work. Click here and save yourself the trip to the curio store.

The very first chapter is, “Go exploring,” (See how that works?). She offers some ways to be creatively curious. I’ll not spoil the fun of learning her secrets for yourself.

There is, by the way, a direct correlation between being interested and being interesting.

Henry Miller, a trendsetting author, advised, “Develop an interest in life as you see it; the people, things, literature, music – the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself.”


Then, share your interests with others. It encourages them to share their’s with you. Before you know it, everything just got more interesting.

Curious . . . how that happens.

The INPowered are seekers. They want to know what’s happening in the world around them. They want to engage with different ideas, people, cultures, tastes, nature, and ways of understanding and knowing each other.

Take an interest in becoming more creatively curious.

And you will be more
Leadership training, leadership development, Garland McWatters


016: Whitley and Ranya O’Connor-INPowering the homeless to be self-employed [Podcast]

016: Whitley and Ranya O’Connor-INPowering the homeless to be self-employed [Podcast]

The Spirit of Leading podcast, Leadership podcasting, Garland McWatters Tulsa OK, podcasting, author

Ranya O'Connor, Curbside Chronicle, homeless, street papers

Ranya O’Connor (rt) accepts award for Curbside Chronicle from International Network of Street Papers

What can you do to make things better in your community for yourself and others? What can you do to live INPowered?

Whitlley and Ranya O’Connor are helping the homeless of Oklahoma City become self-employed.

In this episode of The Spirit of Leading, they tell their story.

Their project is called The Curbside Chronicle, a street newspaper written and sold by the homeless and unemployed population of Oklahoma City. It’s going into its third years of production.

Whitley and Ranya’s interview revealed several enlightening aspects of their project to anyone considering whether to launch an ambitions project of their own.

  • Crazy ideas get traction
  • Create partnerships with those who bring skills and expertise you do not have personally.
  • Learn from those who have done similar projects.
  • Prior experience is not a prerequisite. When you believe in your project, you can learn how to make it happen.
  • The best advocate of your service or product is someone who had directly benefited from it.
  • Age is not a factor. Passion creates believers and advocates.
  • Passion never makes anything any easier. It just makes the hard work worth it.
Whitley O'Connor, Curbside Chronicle, street paper, homeless

Whitley O’Connor (second from right) with Curbside Chronicle vendors at a baseball game

For his leadership, Whitley was recognized by iON Oklahoma online magazine in 2014 as one of it 30 Under 30 Next Gen leaders. Ranya was selected to the 2016 NextGen Under 30 class.

The Curbside Chronicle, view online issues

More information on homelessness

Homeless, Street newspapers, Street magazines, Empowerment, Garland McWatters

The Curbside Chronicle
Oklahoma City street magazine

Report: The State of Homelessness in America 2015

The National Alliance to End Homelessness website

The Oklahoma City Homeless Alliance website


015: My favorite heretic [Podcast]

015: My favorite heretic [Podcast]




Heretics are non-conformists. They are outside-the-box thinkers who rub authorities and protectors of the status quo the wrong way. And we need them.

In this episode of The Spirit of Leading I talk about some of the world’s better known heretics and the contributions they made.

I reveal my favorite heretic and what I take away from his example that will make for being a more INPowering leader. Listen, and hear what I mean.

Then, think about your favorite heretic. What are the qualities that person demonstrated in his or her experience and example?


Four life changing words: Maybe I was wrong.

Four life changing words: Maybe I was wrong.

No one likes to admit he or she is wrong because of the stigma attached to it. But most often, the right thing to do is fess up. The problem with that is, even though confession is good for the soul, it goes against our nature.

However, once we admit the error of our ways, we can get on with setting things straight–improving, learning, and growing.

Red blur dots 900w

There are two things working against making meaningful personal change: blind spots and self-justification.

Blind spots

We have a physical blind spot in our visual field–that place on the retina where there are no photoreceptors. Anytime the eye lens focuses an image on that spot where the optic nerve exits the back of the retina, objects disappear right before our eyes.

We also have intellectual blind spots–those places in our mindset that are simply unreceptive to any ideas or points of view that are contrary to the way we have learned to see the world and position ourselves in it. Our idea receptors are missing. Because we cannot see any other variations on our reality, we cannot fathom that our view of the world could use any adjustment.

By the way, our blind spots cleverly delude us to believe we don’t have any, although everyone else seems to.

Such a blind spot can cause some vexing ethical problems. In their book, Blind Spots: Why we fail to do what’s right and what to do about it, Max Bazerman and Ann Tenbrunsel write, “Ethics interventions have failed and will continue to fail because they are predicated on a false assumption: that individuals recognize an ethical dilemma when it is presented to them.”

It does not occur to us that we could have intentionally been wrong, irresponsible, or corrupt. After all, we are good people with good intentions. Bazerman and Tenbrunsel contend that ethical judgments are based on factors outside of our awareness. In other words, they manifest from our intellectual and ethical blind spots. How could we have possibly been wrong?

Blind spot fixes

Step one: admit that blind spots exist. We can physically find the blind spot in our vision field. Finding them in our intellectual and ethical field is more difficult. Just the awareness that we are susceptible to them will put us on guard and open us up to those who try to help us see what we are missing.

Step two: aggressively seek other points of view so we can see issues from many perspectives. We can expand the field of view by expanding our sources for information.

Step three: accept the idea that everyone’s view of the world is real and legitimate to them. It is no more or no less real to them than ours is to us.

I have come to believe that everyone, in his or her own mind, at any point in time, is always exactly right.


If we end up with two ideas in mind that contradict each other, we are experiencing cognitive dissonance. This creates a psychological tension that throws us in disequilibrium. It must be resolved so we can find internal balance and feel good about ourselves again.

Psychologists Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson explore self-justification in depth in Mistakes Were Made (but not by me). They explain the connection with blind spots. “(D)issonance theory is a theory of blind spots–of how and why people intentionally blind themselves so they can fail to notice vital events and information that might make them question their behaviors or their convictions,” (p. 42).

The goal of self-justification is to tell our stories to ourselves so that we always come out OK. We are always the hero of our own story, never the villain.

The notion that one might be mistaken never enters their mind. If it does, it quickly evaporates. No change required.

Self-justification manifests in debates of all types: religion, politics, whose version of an incident is correct, personality conflicts, customer complaints, employee disputes, and on and on. Usually neither party is willing to accept blame, and all parties want to be vindicated.

I repeat, everyone, in his or her own mind, at any point in time, is always exactly right.

But what if one said, “You know, I might have been wrong about that”?

Fixing self-justification

Step one: as with blind spots, admit that this happens and that we all are guilty of doing it.

Step two according to Tavris and Aronson: find a few trusted naysayers who will help us avoid operating in a hall of mirrors, “in which all we see are distorted reflections of our own desires and convictions,” (p. 66). Their job is to keep us honest with ourselves.

Step three: find new explanations that take into account honest appraisals of situations that lead us to more constructive solutions. If our need is to maintain self esteem, wouldn’t our self esteem be strengthened by knowing that through self reflection we can come out wiser, more inclusive, more balanced, more aware, and more able to deal with the complexities of our world?

Now, that’s a self I can justify.
That’s a self that is
Leadership training, leadership development, Garland McWatters