By Lindy Earl   

If you’re clued into the real world, you’re well aware of the shorthand used to text.  You would therefore know that LOL means Laugh Out Loud.  I have another meaning for LOL and why it’s in the order it is.

            I think LOL means Listen, Obey, and Learn.  From our earliest years, we are taught to listen.  If we obey, we are rewarded—with knowledge, with approval, sometimes even with a cookie or some other treat.  It was true when we obeyed our parents, our teachers, our bosses, even our friends.  And in so doing, we learn.  We learn our numbers, our letters, history, math, and we learn the importance of obedience so we can learn.

            So how do we listen?  First, and I fear this sounds harsh but needs to be said, with our mouths closed.  You can’t be listening if you’re speaking.

Second, listen with an open mind.  Don’t worry if you like the person, or how they speak, or what you think they’re going to say.  Be open minded when you listen.

Third, listen with all your senses.  Turn to the person, look at them, make eye contact; notice non-verbal communication—hands, face, body language.  Are they begging you to listen to them?  Are they defensive?  What do you think about what they’re saying?

Consider the timing.  It’s possible the person doesn’t know company resources, so what may be a good idea yesterday doesn’t work today, or vice versa.  Even the time of day may be off.  If you’re trying to get to a child’s soccer game, you may not be attentive to a good idea or instructions, even though you’ll say you are.  Distractions happen to everyone, so please be open to nonverbal clues suggesting whether or not someone is giving you full attention.

Consider the source—is this someone you like and respect?  Would you be paying more attention if the information were coming from your boss?  Be open to everyone!

            Back to LOL, how often do we want to rearrange these?  Remember it’s listen, obey, then learn.  But how often are you asked, especially by children, “why?”  We’re trying to put the learn before the obey.  We hear the call, even something as simple as, “Please come here.”  The appropriate response would be to obey, and go.  But instead we query, “Why?” or “What do you want?”

Another reason to listen:  respect.  You would want someone to listen to you, and you should listen to others.

Obey:  this means act.  If you say you’ll call, then call.  If you left it nebulous, then take some action the next day to confirm the next step.  If you agreed to a sale because you were distracted, own up to it, and either beg off or make it work.

Be responsible in obedience.  If your boss tells you to do something that you don’t like, but it’s legal and moral, then do it.  Don’t complain, do it.  Do it without whining, because lack of complete obedience is disobedience.  If it’s illegal or you’re really against it, then you can quit or do whatever you have to do, but be aware that it could cost you your job. 

I had this challenge as a young girl.  My boss, who didn’t own the company, told me to do his personal banking.  Thanks to some friends I’d already made in my first few days with this new company, I was forewarned that he would have me running personal errands for him.  I do make the point of saying that it wasn’t his company.  Being forewarned, I stated that I couldn’t do his personal errands during work time.  I was told to just do it, and I did.  It wasn’t illegal, but I thought it was, at the very least, inappropriate.  At the same time, it wasn’t worth quitting a new job.  But, he never asked me again, so the problem was solved just by my statement.

Learn—you don’t have to do anything here!  If you listen well, with all five senses, and if you follow up the way you should, then you’ll learn something.  You might learn a new task, or how to handle people better, or even what not to do in the future.  There are no experiences from which you can’t learn something! 

I like to do post-mortem evaluations and learn what I learned.  It can be formal or informal, but realizing what we learned helps in the future.  Any opportunity to learn is an opportunity to grow.

            Keep Listening, Obeying, and Learning. LOL.

Lindy is a Business Consultant and Speaker.  You can contact her at as a consultant or to speak at your next event.