Big Ed

Big Ed

From Chicken Soup for the Soul 20th Anniversary Edition

Big Ed

Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d have preferred to talk.

~Doug Larson

When I arrived in the city to present a seminar on Tough-Minded Management, a small group of people took me to dinner to brief me on the people I would talk to the next day.

The obvious leader of the group was Big Ed, a large burly man with a deep rumbling voice. At dinner he informed me that he was a troubleshooter for a huge international organization. His job was to go into certain divisions or subsidiaries to terminate the employment of the executive in charge.

“Joe,” he said, “I’m really looking forward to tomorrow because all of the guys need to listen to a tough guy like you. They’re gonna find out that my style is the right one.” He grinned and winked.

I smiled. I knew the next day was going to be different from what he was anticipating.

The next day he sat impassively all through the seminar and left at the end without saying anything to me.

Three years later I returned to that city to present another management seminar to approximately the same group. Big Ed was there again. At about ten o’clock he suddenly stood up and asked loudly,

“Joe, can I say something to these people?”

I grinned and said, “Sure. When anybody is as big as you are, Ed, he can say anything he wants.”

Big Ed went on to say, “All of you guys know me and some of you know what’s happened to me. I want to share it, however, with all of you. Joe, I think you’ll appreciate it by the time I’ve finished.

“When I heard you suggest that each of us, in order to become really tough-minded, needed to learn to tell those closest to us that we really loved them, I thought it was a bunch of sentimental garbage. I wondered what in the world that had to do with being tough. You had said toughness is like leather, and hardness is like granite, that the tough mind is open, resilient, disciplined and tenacious. But I couldn’t see what love had to do with it.

“That night, as I sat across the living room from my wife, your words were still bugging me. What kind of courage would it take to tell my wife I loved her? Couldn’t anybody do it? You had also said this should be in the daylight and not in the bedroom. I found myself clearing my throat and starting and then stopping. My wife looked up and asked me what I had said, and I answered, ‘Oh nothing.’ Then suddenly, I got up, walked across the room, nervously pushed her newspaper aside and said, ‘Alice, I love you.’ For a minute she looked startled. Then the tears came to her eyes and she said softly,

‘Ed, I love you, too, but this is the first time in 25 years you’ve said it like that.’

“We talked a while about how love, if there’s enough of it, can dissolve all kinds of tensions, and suddenly I decided on the spur of the moment to call my older son in New York. We have never really communicated well. When I got him on the phone, I blurted out,

‘Son, you’re liable to think I’m drunk, but I’m not. I just thought I’d call you and tell you I love you.’

“There was a pause at his end and then I heard him say quietly,

‘Dad, I guess I’ve known that, but it’s sure good to hear. I want you to know I love you, too.’ We had a good chat and then I called my younger son in San Francisco. We had been closer. I told him the same thing and this, too, led to a real fine talk like we’d never really had.

“As I lay in bed that night thinking, I realized that all the things you’d talked about that day — real management nuts and bolts — took on extra meaning, and I could get a handle on how to apply them if I really understood and practiced tough-minded love.

“I began to read books on the subject. Sure enough, Joe, a lot of great people had a lot to say, and I began to realize the enormous practicality of applied love in my life, both at home and at work.

“As some of you guys here know, I really changed the way I work with people. I began to listen more and to really hear. I learned what it was like to try to get to know people’s strengths rather than dwelling on their weaknesses. I began to discover the real pleasure of helping build their confidence. Maybe the most important thing of all was that I really began to understand that an excellent way to show love and respect for people was to expect them to use their strengths to meet objectives we had worked out together.

“Joe, this is my way of saying thanks. Incidentally, talk about practical! I’m now executive vice-president of the company and they call me a pivotal leader. Okay, you guys, now listen to this guy!”

~Joe Batten

You are currently enjoying a preview of this book.

Sign up here to get a Chicken Soup for the Soul story emailed to you every day for free!

Please note: Our premium story access has been discontinued (see more info).

view counter

More stories from our partners