Quietly Powerful

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The Silent Hero, Part 1

Voices waft into the air around us, expressing joys or sorrows. They tell of new information or sudden challenges. We listen without comment. No words are needed, after all. Our peers came to us not looking for advisement, but simply for the connection offered by our open ears.

We are the silent protagonist, the quiet hero who inspires and supports others through quiet empathy as others would try with words. Like Link of Nintendo’s epic Legend of Zelda video game series, or the quietly powerful Mr. Miyagi of The Karate Kid, the heroic mime has been a popular trope in entertainment media for decades.

Somehow, despite the absence of active dialogue, these quiet champions have risen to soaring heights in the pop culture zeitgeist. They are among the premier echelon of iconic heroes, all while lending quiet support to those around them. Yet many of us still presume that there dwells greater importance in speaking—in advising and instructing.

Leaders speak and instruct, yes, but they also champion their people. They listen and they empathize. As conveyed here by MIT Sloan Business School, listening with an empathetic ear is vital in enhancing the culture and cohesion in our organizations and individual teams alike. Surpassing even active listening, this is a quest in search of the dialogue between the lines—a journey from what is being said to what is being felt.

In this video clip, the Disney/Pixar film Inside Out aptly captures the poignant distinction between listening and empathetic listening. Listening to others—listening well—goes beyond words and advice. Sometimes those around us, maybe even we ourselves, aren’t looking for nods of agreement or problem solving. Sometimes we just want to know that our feelings are valid—that we are understood.

Lend our open ears to team members or loved ones. Listen with the wizened silence of a champion not just to the words being spoken, but to the buoyancy or depth of emotion interwoven through those words. Tending to the needs of others is how we, too, can become heroes worthy of Miyagi-do or the legendary Master Sword.

“The word listen contains the same letters as the word silent.
Alfred Brendel

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