The Herald Bulletin

October 21, 2013

Jesse Wilkerson column:


The Herald Bulletin

---- — In my profession, architecture, one foundational tool makes one company better than another.

Aside from training and understanding of materials, manipulation of space, and overall problem solving, there is the need to develop a habitual discipline of listening.

You have to listen closely to what is being shared by your client. You have to listen closely enough to identify the problem in order to more adequately solve it.

During my college years, I was fortunate enough to solicit family and friends to assist in funding a study-abroad trip to Italy and Sweden.

While visiting architecture such as the Milan Cathedral from Piazza del Duomo or the works of world-renowned architect Mario Bolta, my challenge wasn’t expressing my own theory of design with peers on the trip, but listening intently to others’ perspectives.

I found myself listening to what others shared not to contradict them or to uproot their base of understanding, but for my own comprehension. I was listening with the aim of completely understanding their perspective.

Because of this approach, the tapestry of each conversation was less obtrusive and much more engaging. The conversation seemed more authentic and based on learning.

What I have experienced to date in interaction with peers in our community and internationally related to business has at times been similar. But I have also witnessed people who want to demonstrate their control, their authority, their education in such a way that it is plain to see they don’t really want to learn anything.

Life has a way of teaching all of us lessons. We experience things that speak to us with different intensities of volume.

The loss of life sounds at one level, while the experience of birth sounds at another. The day-to-day experience of work has yet another volume. It becomes so easy to take on a mental attitude of constant motion and constant expression.

Words and actions can lead us down a routine of responses that become disciplines of our trained emotions. People can offend us or rub us the wrong way. The more we listen — rather than responding negatively — the more we might see and hear their unspoken pain, their unique life perspective, or even their personal frustration.

Take time to listen. It’s not just the practice of not speaking, but also of hearing what is in your own heart and the hearts of others.

What difference does listening make? I guess it depends on what you hear.

Jesse J. Wilkerson is the principal of the local architecture firm Jesse J. Wilkerson & Associates. His column appears every other Monday in The Herald Bulletin.