Self-Awareness Workshops

Effective Communication

Effective Communication: Talking Versus Listening

Many leaders think that effective communication means talking a lot. Perhaps you’ve worked with someone who is in love with the sound of his or her voice and rarely lets people join the conversation or share their ideas. All you hear is the sound of one person talking.

Communication is over 90% non-verbal, which suggests that talking is just a small part of what we’re supposed to be doing, yet many people continue to talk until everyone’s exhausted. It’s as if they wake up each day ready to talk at everyone instead of learning about others. They spend their time telling everyone about themselves and their perspective rather than learning about others.

Think about your own communication style: Do you talk or listen more? Effective communicators understand that interacting with people is as much about understanding someone else’s point of view as it is putting their own ideas into the mix. The key is to understand when you’re talking too much and might benefit from adding some listening.

Here are some practical tips to help you practice effective workplace communication:

  1. Listen more than you talk.
  2. Ask open-ended questions when you don’t understand something the other person is saying, not to interject your thoughts.
  3. Focus on the other person rather than thinking of the next thing you want to say.
  4. Stay away from trying to rebut or contradict the other person.
  5. Avoid asking questions that lead to a yes or no answer or steer the conversation in a pre-determined direction.
  6. Allow people the time and space to say what they want to say.
  7. Listen actively by paying close attention to the other person and trying to understand what he or she is saying without adding your point of view.
  8. Did I mention listening?

Listening is so frequently ignored in the workplace that leaders can spend their entire careers talking over people. What they may not realize is that they can lead more effectively when they take the time to really listen to others. Listening offers them an opportunity to understand people better and make decisions based on deeper information. They avoid misunderstandings and connect with people on a more meaningful level.

Listening improves your work life because it allows you to breathe. You don’t have to talk all the time and work hard to fill up space. You don’t have to think of the next brilliant thing you want to say. You get to sit back, relax and encourage others to share their ideas. You’ll build trust and encourage people to participate in the conversation. What will you do to listen more in your workplace?

Take care,

Guy


Empathy and Effective Communication

Leaders often become so consumed with their own day-to-day experiences and perceptions of their environment that they forget that other people exist and have needs too. This behavior leads to a communication style based on a lack of meaningful connection and understanding between leadership and employees.

A frequently overlooked element of effective communication is empathy; the ability to understand what other people are going through from their perspective. When you master this skill, you communicate on a much deeper level because you’re connecting below the surface. It’s the difference between having civil but superficial conversations and genuinely understanding people.

Participants in my workshops often ask me why people behave the way they do and what they can do about it. That’s where empathy and effective communication come in. When you communicate on a deeper level you move from being surprised by what people do to understanding their behavior. That’s because you’ve made a shift from assuming you know what they’re thinking and feeling to finding out what they’re really going through. How can you develop this skill? Try the following ideas:

1. Stop talking and listen actively instead.

2. Put yourself in the other person’s situation and imagine you’re experiencing the same thing from their vantage point.

3. When the other person is done talking, ask open-ended questions to encourage him or her to tell you more.

4. Remind yourself that what they’re saying isn’t about you, it’s about how they experience the world.

5. Strive to accept anything the person says as their perception rather than something that threatens you or must be changed.

When you use empathy as part of effective communication you move beyond being in the room with someone and saying words. You connect with them in a more meaningful way. Think in terms of how you feel when someone really values and appreciates what you’re thinking and feeling.

Empathy is about demonstrating that you value other people’s perspectives. They may not think exactly as you do but their thoughts mean as much to them as yours mean to you. Once you can empathize with someone else’s experience, you’re communicating in a way that shows them you respect where they’re coming from. What will you do to practice empathy and effective communication?

Take care,

Guy


Tips to Improve Your Listening Skills

Most of us say that we’re good listeners. Let me give you some ideas of what good listeners do so you can see how you’re doing. Good listeners do many of the following things:

1. Don’t talk.
2. Nod and prompt the other person to say more.
3. Ask open ended questions that don’t have yes or no answers.
4. Lean forward and look interested.
5. Don’t talk.

How many of these do you do? Really listening means listening for meaning. We all understand words but do we really understand what the other person is feeling. Pay attention to what the other person looks like when they talk. Do they look upset, do they look confused? Ask questions that help the other person talk more.

If you try some of these you might find you learn a lot about the other person. I also encourage people I coach to try conversations where they don’t talk at all and just nod. It’s amazing what we can learn when we don’t talk.

Take care,

Guy

Communicating without Defensiveness

A communication skill that will help you improve almost any workplace interaction is to learn how to have a conversation without defensiveness.  I often hear from my clients that it is very difficult to not take things personally.  It’s natural for us to think that everything another person says is about us but, in reality, what other people tell us is simply their perception.

Communication in many workplaces often transpires like this:

Person A:  I wish you wouldn’t get angry at me so often.

Person B:  I can’t believe you’re saying that to me after all the hard work I do for you and this department.

The standard reaction for the person on the receiving end of exchanges like this is to get upset and feel threatened or hurt by the statement so they get defensive or feel they have to fight back.  When they do that the other person gets defensive and chaos ensues.  The result is ineffective communication and constant conflict.

I prefer to look at what people say to me as an opportunity to understand the other person better.  The next time someone says something that you normally would fight back against or that makes you feel defensive try the following strategies:

1.  Think of the statement only as words and information.  In this case the person said they would like to see less anger coming from you.  Even if their statement has no basis in reality just look at it as their perspective.  This allows you to take what the other person has said, learn something about them and think of ways to improve the situation without getting your stuff mixed up in it.

2.  It’s not about right/wrong, win/lose, it’s about effective communication.  Think of the statement as window into the other person’s thoughts and take the opportunity to learn about them.  After all, they’re only telling you about their perception not about how they want to destroy you.

3.  Ask open-ended questions to gather more information.  For example: What are the reasons you think that?  Listen actively and gather information only.  Don’t judge, get upset or fight.  Ask open-ended questions until the tone of the conversation changes from tension to calm.

4.  Listen, listen, listen.  Try not to comment, rebut, challenge or change the other person’s point of view no matter how much you disagree.   Don’t interrupt and stay with them until the conversation becomes more tranquil.  You will know when you have listened enough because the other person will be calmer.

5.  When the other person is finished thank them for the information and tell them you will consider it.  If they ask you to, paraphrase what they’ve said and tell them their point of view is important to you.  Invite them to share their ideas with you again if they think of anything else.

When you practice these behaviors you give the other person the opportunity to tell you about themselves.  You also show them what it’s like to be listened to in the workplace and have their point of view accepted for what it is: their valuable point of view.  This sets up a very important dynamic because it introduces the concept that both people can express themselves without reacting negatively.

Try this approach the next time you find yourself in a situation where someone is telling you something that sets you off.  If you practice these skills, the other person will notice that you are giving them the chance to speak and will be more likely to do the same for you.

Even if the other person is trying to upset you you’ll be able to get information directly from them to clarify what’s occurring.  People often say things they don’t mean because they don’t feel heard or don’t think it will matter to the other person.  What will you do to reduce the defensiveness in your workplace communication?

Take care,

Guy

Talking without Defensiveness

A skill that will help you evaluate almost any relationship issue it to learn how to have a conversation without defensiveness. I often hear from my clients that it is very difficult to not take things personally. It is natural for us to think that everything another person says has to do with us but, in reality, what other people tell us is simply their perception.

Take for example a couple where one person says to the other that he can’t stand the way the other person treats him. Let’s examine the statement in a brand new way. The natural inclination for many people is to get upset and feel threatened or hurt. Try these ideas next time someone says something that you normally would fight back about or that gets you defensive:

1. Examine the statement only as words. In this case the person said they can’t stand the way we treat them. Look at this as simply a statement by the other person that reflects how they think. Take yourself out of the picture by making the statement about them and not you. In this way, you have just created an opportunity to take what the other person has said and learn something about how they think.

2. Think of the statement as window into the other person’s thoughts and take the opportunity to learn about the other person. After all, they’re only telling you about their perception.

3. Ask open ended questions to gather more information. For example: What are the reasons you think that? Gather information only. Don’t judge, don’t get upset and don’t fight. Ask open ended questions until the tone of the conversation changes from tension to calm.

4. Listen, listen, listen. Try not to comment, rebut, challenge or change the other person’s point of view no matter how much you disagree. Don’t interrupt. Hang in there until the conversation goes from being confrontational to calming down. You will know when you have listened enough because the other person will be calmer.

5. When the other person is finished, repeat what they have said. Thank them for the information and tell them you will consider it. You don’t need to do anything else at this point.

What you have just done is given the other person the chance to tell you about themselves. You have also shown them what it is like to be listened to in a relationship and to have your point of view accepted for what it is: your point of view. This sets up a very important dynamic because it introduces the possibility that both people can actually express themselves without always getting mad.

Try this approach the next time you find yourself in a situation where someone is telling you something that sets you off. If you practice this approach, the other person will notice that you are giving them the chance to speak and will be more likely to do the same for you.

Even if the other person is saying things to try to upset you, if you use this approach, you will be able to get information directly from the other person to clarify what’s going on. Often people say things they don’t mean because they don’t feel heard or don’t think it will matter to the other person. I hope you will use this approach to help defuse the amount of defensiveness in your relationship.

Take care,

Guy