If You Could Do Only One Thing

An unexpected question can sometimes pull unexpected gold.

Posted Jan 18, 2019

Gold comes in many forms

I am on the radio each week where I speak about resilient leadership. I have found the experience remarkable. When you are live on the radio, you have to be ready to speak. They can’t turn the broadcasting off while you compose your answer. So, you prepare and prepare, and then you have to pull together your thoughts and respond clearly to any question. After 30 plus of these shows, I find that I can answer just about any question thrown at me. That’s mainly because at one or another of these shows, some form of the question has been posed. Moreover, knowing that I have handled that many questions successfully has given me a sense of confidence. So when Jim Masters, the host on that show, asked me toward the end of the half-hour, “If someone listening could do only one thing to build his or her resilience—just one—what would you tell them to do?” 

New Questions Require Thinking

I had never been asked that question or any form of it before. I couldn’t rely on earlier answers on possible actions as I usually had the luxury of talking about a set of practices that indeed build resilience. So, I took a breath, complimented Jim on his good question (always a great way to buy a little time), and thought furiously. What could build their resilience in only one act? My thought process went something like this. 

  1. In my research, resilient people know who they are. They have a good sense of their values, their strengths, their weaknesses, and a good measure of self-confidence. 
  2. Focusing on a problem tends to just reinforce the problem, but focusing on what works, almost immediately offers options and even energy to achieve solutions. 
  3. We learn a great deal about ourselves when others speak to us honestly about what they see in us. 
  4. When people say something that contains positive information about a person, they are most likely to tell the truth. 

Once I went through these points in my mind, the answer was blindingly obvious. My answer came in the form of a story. 

The Answer Was Hidden in a Story

I participate in several, virtual group meetings via teleconferences or simply group phone calls. One day, a participant in one of those meetings called me afterward and told me how he appreciated how I always listened to the discussion and then offered a short summary of the discussion that allowed the group to focus and come to a decision. He went on to say that my summary always seemed to capture each point so that everyone knew they had been heard. 

I was stunned to hear this. I was not aware of my behavior let alone aware of my skill at listening and integration as he described it to me. I certainly thanked him for his observation and then found that it made me glow with a sense of accomplishment. As my self-knowledge grew from this observation, my self-confidence grew as well. Confidence and resilience are linked!

A Single Action Had a Simple Answer

So, when I heard the question about only one action to build resilience, you can imagine my answer. I said to seek out a friend or family member and ask them,

"What have you seen in me that you value and appreciate?” 

That single action is one that focuses on what is beneficial to the teller, it is likely to be perfectly honest, it is likely to be truth to the teller, and the effect will be like a gift to the receiver in a form that leads to increased self-knowledge and self-confidence. At the very least, it would ‘do no harm.’ 

As I continued to think about my answer, I realized that someone might actually offer an appreciation that the receiver does not value. However, the authenticity of the response (it is the teller’s truth) would mitigate the possible negative aspects. As I write these words, I’m able to think of times when I have used this approach when I am facilitating a group.  And, indeed, it is the authenticity that always calms any comments that might be construed by the listener as negative. 

Try It Yourself

I’m still amazed at the idea of doing only one thing to build your resilience. I’m still amazed at the power for good that a single question can produce. If we each asked a friend this simple question, imagine how self-confidence would grow. Better still, imagine if we volunteered that information to someone we know who would benefit from our observation of what we appreciate about them. 

Speaking of appreciation, I very much appreciate readers who take a moment and make a comment on what I have written.  It’s a real gift to me.  


CUTVNews, Where Ideas Matter, with alternating hosts Doug Llewellyn and Jim Masters, Tuesday at noon ET – live and also archived. blogtalkradio.com/cutvnewsradio/ 

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