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Posts tagged ‘Active listening’

Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes

Leaders with poor people skills often find themselves in the middle of unnecessary conflict. This can be exhausting and stressful for all concerned, and it can destroy even the best of work environments. Many people are confident that they can develop new technical skills and knowledge through training and experience. However, there’s a common belief that “you are who you are” when it comes to people skills – or “soft” skills – and that there’s little or nothing you can do to change these. Fortunately, this is far from true. And a great place to start improving soft skills is by developing the ability to empathize with others.

Empathy is simply recognizing emotions in others, and being able to “put yourself in another person’s shoes” – understanding the other person’s perspective and reality. To be empathetic, you have to think beyond yourself and your own concerns. Once you see beyond your own world, you’ll realize that there’s so much to discover and appreciate! People who are accused of being egotistical and selfish, have often missed the big picture of who they are in relation to those around them.  If you’ve been called any of these things, then remind yourself that the world is full of other people, and you can’t escape their influence on your life. It’s far better to accept this, and to decide to build relationships and understanding, rather than try to stand alone all of the time.

How to use empathy more effectively:

  1. Step aside from your thoughts long enough to see things from the other person’s point of view. It is important for us to value other people and their opinions. As Leaders we must live diversity if we expect to have a well-rounded life or office. If we honestly stop and think for a few moments about our work life, even though fellow workers might mess up things occasionally, where would we be without them. As much as we might think, we cannot go it alone!
  2. Validate the other person. Once you better understand why others believe what they believe, acknowledge it. Remember: acknowledgement does not always equal agreement. You can accept that people have different opinions from your own, and that they may have good reason to hold those opinions, but it does not mean you have to agree with them. Validation simply means you recognize the different perspective and you let them know it is appreciated.
  3. Open your mind and attitude.Empathy requires an open mind and a welcoming attitude. What are you more concerned with getting your way, showing your “intelligence”, winning, or being right? A true Leader’s focus should be about finding solutions, building relationships, and accepting others? Without an open mind and attitude, you won’t have room for empathy in your life, nor will you value the enormous worth!
  4. Listen with many senses. Listen to the entire message that the other person is trying to communicate and pay attention to them when they are sharing with you.
    • Listen with your ears – try and relate to the content and not form judgments?
    • Listen with your eyes – much can be “heard” when being attentive to their body language?
    • Listen with your instincts – do you sense their might be more to the story that they might be leaving out?
    • Listen with your heart – is the person emotionally attached to the issue and if so, why?
  5. Seek explanation and input from the other person.Where lack of clarity exists, ask the person to explain his or her position. This is probably the simplest, and most direct, way of understanding another person. Often, this is the least used way to develop empathy.  Too many times Leaders feel like they have to be the one with all of the answers. They have to come up with all of the ideas. When in reality, you foster buy-in by allowing the other person or people in the office to participate in solutions. Remember, it’s fine if you ask what the other person wants: you don’t earn any “bonus points” for figuring it out on your own.

When you begin to implement these skills as you interact with people you will see your Leadership influence rise greatly. You will appear much more caring and approachable as you increase your interest in what others think, feel, and experience. The value of being willing and able to see the world from a variety of perspectives is impossible to put a price tag on! The really amazing part about this Leadership tool is anyone can develop it with time and focus!

Examine the Connection

Recently I was reading a Leadership communication forum and agreed so much with what was said I wanted to expand on it in my blog today. The subject of the forum concerned the difference between communication and connecting. The question was asked, “Do you communicate or do you connect?” In the realm of Leadership this is a crucial question! If all you are doing is communicating and not connecting with the Team, you may as well save your breath!

The key to Leadership is relationship and you can’t have a relationship without connecting with your Team. So much of a person’s communication is lost by how they deliver the message they are trying to get across. Too often we put little thought into how we say something while putting a great deal of thought into what we are saying. I would venture a guess that the rapid development of technology has some to do with this issue. We are living in a world of ‘super connectedness’. We “connect” via mobile phone, Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, Skype. However, I find it that we have many ways and means of communicating, but we are often never truly connecting.

Connecting is more than just communicating. Communicating is getting a message across. Connecting is how you get the message across. Connecting means that you care for and take an interest in the person you are communicating with right now. It has been said that if we would do more connecting, we would have less correcting to do! The more we connect to people, the better our chances of influencing them and making a positive difference in their and our outcomes.

Technology has made it easy to no longer have face to face communication. It is commonplace to see and hear misunderstandings because of a lack of connecting with a person in a face to face, or at least on the phone, complete conversation. When a Leader has a message to communicate he/she must take into to consideration that communication styles of the people they are trying to reach. The best way for this to happen is through an Extended DISC process for all involved. (PLEASE CONTACT ME FOR MORE INFO ON THIS WORKPLACE REVOLUTIONIZING TOOL!!) If you don’t take into consideration those who will hear the message and how they receive that message, half to two-thirds of your impact is lost!

Next time you have a message to communicate, think first about how you are going to connect to the people that need to hear your message. If you start there, your success rate with your communication will sky-rocket!! Remember: People may hear the words you say, but what they will remember much better is the attitude you displayed while saying those words.

Until next time, care enough to connect, don’t just communicate!

Rod

Say What? Part 2

So what does active listening entail? How do you do it?
Listed below are a few tips to help us all be better listeners and for those talking to know that we are doing more than a surface job of hearing what they say. Remember, hearing is what most everybody is able to do in a conversation, listening is what the sincere Leader does!
Pay attention.

Give the speaker your undivided attention, respect, and acknowledge the message. Recognize that non-verbal communication also “speaks” loudly.

  • Look at the speaker directly. Make eye contact if possible.
  • Put aside distracting thoughts. Don’t mentally prepare a rebuttal!
  • Avoid being distracted by environmental factors. Concentrate of what is being said.
  • “Listen” to the speaker’s body language. Observe the non-verbal’s but don’t let it take you away from the conversation.
  • Refrain from side conversations when listening in a group setting. Focus, focus, focus!

Show that you are listening.

Use your own body language and gestures to convey your attention.

  • Nod occasionally.
  • Smile and use other facial expressions.
  • Note your posture and make sure it is open and inviting. Don’t cross your arms or roll your eyes.
  • Encourage the speaker to continue with small verbal comments like yes, and uh huh.

Provide feedback.

Our life experiences and beliefs can distort what we hear. As a listener, your role is to understand what is being said and put aside prejudices. This may require you to reflect what is being said and ask questions for clarification.

  • Reflect what has been said by paraphrasing. “What I’m hearing is.” and “Sounds like you are saying.” are great ways to echo back.
  • Ask questions to clarify certain points. “What do you mean when you say.” “Is this what you mean?”
  • Summarize the speaker’s comments periodically, just don’t cut off the speaker to do so.

Tip: If you find yourself responding emotionally to what someone said, say so, and ask for more information: “I may not be understanding you correctly, and I find myself taking what you said personally. What I thought you just said is ***; is that what you meant?”.

 Defer judgment.

Interrupting is a waste of time. It frustrates the speaker and limits full understanding of the message.

  • Allow the speaker to finish no matter how you may feel about what is being said.
  • Don’t interrupt with counter arguments. This makes the entire conversation useless and puts those around you on edge and an understanding becomes farther away if not impossible.

Respond Appropriately.

Active listening is a model for respect and understanding. You are gaining information and perspective. You add nothing by verbally attacking the speaker or otherwise putting him or her down.

  • Be candid, open, and honest in your response but remain respectful. Remember that diversity is valuable in all areas of life.
  • Assert your opinions respectfully. Keep in mind that everyone has opinions and your’s is no more important that their’s.
  • Treat the other person as you would want to be treated in the same situation.
These are just a few ways to enhance your active listening skills, not to mention your personal and professional relationships.
Until next time, Listen, Listen and then Listen again!!!
Rod

Say What? Part 1

Nothing irritates me more than someone not listening to what is said or the information given. Listening is one of the most important skills you can have. How well you listen has a major impact on your job effectiveness, and on the quality of your relationships with others.

Given all this listening we are supposed to be doing in a day, you would think we’d be good at it! However, most of us are not. Depending on the study being quoted, we remember between 25% and 50% of what we hear. That means that when you talk to your boss, colleagues, customers or spouse for 10 minutes, they pay attention to less than half of the conversation. This is dismal! Turn it around and it reveals that when you are receiving directions or being presented with information, you aren’t hearing the whole message either. You hope the important parts are captured in your 25-50%, but what if they’re not?

Clearly, listening is a skill that we can all benefit from improving. By becoming a better listener, you will improve your productivity, as well as your ability to influence, persuade and negotiate. What’s more, you’ll avoid conflict and misunderstandings. All of these are necessary for workplace success!

Good communication skills require a high level of self-awareness. By understanding your personal style of communicating, you will go a long way towards creating good and lasting impressions with others. The Extended DISC Profile is key to this. Contact Ascend Business Strategies for information on this economical way to turn your workplace around!!

The way to become a better listener is to practice “active listening”. This is where you make a conscious effort to hear not only the words that another person is saying but, more importantly, try to understand the complete message being sent. In order to do this you must pay attention to the other person very carefully.

You cannot allow yourself to become distracted by whatever else may be going on around you, or by forming counter arguments that you’ll make when the other person stops speaking. Nor can you allow yourself to get bored, and lose focus on what the other person is saying. All of these contribute to a lack of listening and understanding.

To enhance your listening skills, you need to let the other person know that you are listening to what he or she is saying. To understand the importance of this, ask yourself if you’ve ever been engaged in a conversation when you wondered if the other person was listening to what you were saying. You wonder if your message is getting across, or if it’s even worthwhile continuing to speak. It feels like talking to a brick wall and it’s something you want to avoid.

Acknowledgement can be something as simple as a nod of the head or a simple “uh huh.” You aren’t necessarily agreeing with the person, you are simply indicating that you are listening. Using body language and other signs to acknowledge you are listening also reminds you to pay attention and not let your mind wander.

You should also try to respond to the speaker in a way that will both encourage him or her to continue speaking, so that you can get the information if you need. While nodding and “uh huhing” says you’re interested, an occasional question or comment to recap what has been said communicates that you understand the message as well.

As important as active listening is, read tomorrow’s blog to find out how to become an awesome active listener!

Until then, Listen Up!

Rod