Tag Archives: Active Listening

Communication - Meaningful Conversations - Workplace

Want to be heard? Stop Talking.

You probably don’t believe that silence is one of my favorite tools. Certainly when I taught a presentation skills class to Johns Hopkins graduate students, they did not expect me to talk about silence! But I did. And at the end of the week, their final presentations showed how silence can be so effective.

When Mariah began her program, we all saw how powerful silence can be. She paused. She made eye contact with her audience. She waited. Only when a room full of curious eyes were focused on her did she begin to speak.

We saw it when Kristin began her meeting with a question — neither simplistic nor overly complex — designed to transform an audience into a group of participants. She asked. She waited. Sometimes she waited five to eight seconds, and five to eight seconds of silence is longer that you might think! It’s very hard to listen to silence.

We watched Tad use silence in a marketing brainstorming session. There was a blizzard of ideas, but when the flurries slowed and then stopped, he didn’t move on. He waited, in silence, for a full 60 seconds. The best ideas of the session followed that silence.

And I know that skillful negotiators, like my colleague Michael, use silence in their work every day. I’ve heard Michael say, “The person who speaks first, loses.” I think he’s right, and how-to books on negotiation concur.

I like to use silence in the appreciation segment of a teambuilding session (my favorite part of these workshops!) when colleagues tell one another what they genuinely like about working together. The inevitable lull comes, and everyone looks at me as if to say, “Well, we did it. Can we go home now?” I just smile and wait, knowing that my silence will give them time to appreciate one another in a deeper way.

How can you use silence in your work and life?

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Communication - Meaningful Conversations

The Bat on the Table

Sometimes, or is it all the time, we get so wrapped up in our own little world that we fail to grasp what’s going on around us.

A few years ago, I rushed home after work to pick up my son for a chiropractic appointment. “Jeffrey, get in the car!” I bellowed. Since I am not one to waste time, on my way out the door I grabbed the baseball equipment in the foyer and stashed it in the garage where it belonged.

We were on time for our appointment, but the chiropractor was not. As we languished in the waiting room, I received a text from my husband, Bill, that said, “You must have left in a hurry, the TV was on, there are dishes on the counter, and there’s a bat on the table.”

Slightly insulted, but deciding to take the high road, I responded,“Thanks for cleaning up and starting dinner.”

He replied, “Do you want fish or hamburger? And, what do you think I should do with the bat?”

 

What was his preoccupation with that darn baseball bat? I typed back, taking a deep breath and remembering all his many amazing qualities, “Put the bat in the garage with the cleats.”

To which he responded, “But I’m concerned about rabies.”

Wait. What? All this time he was talking about a flying rodent in our kitchen? I’m concerned about rabies too!

He referenced the bat several times, but I was so wrapped up in my own concerns — being tired, hungry, and frustrated — that I failed to truly understand what he had said.

Miscommunication happens all the time in business, and in life. And it’s often the result of not looking outside of ourselves and truly appreciating the efforts and words of those around us. I bet you have had a miscommunication today, and certainly this week. Pretend that I am Ellen Degeneres and send them to me. I can’t wait to read them!

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Employee Feedback - Meaningful Conversations - Workplace

A Thimble or a Beer Stein?

You’ve followed all the rules for a effective performance review with your assistant:  you found a time that works for both of you; you booked a private spot; and you made sure you wouldn’t be interrupted.  It all seemed to be going well until he suddenly turned defensive and withdrawn. What went wrong?
You may have misjudged his capacity for feedback.
feedback-graphic
I like to think of feedback as being something you pour.  Some people have a huge beer stein-sized capacity for receiving feedback and they are appreciative the more you fill their metaphorical glass (to a degree). Others have a tiny thimble – and if you overpour, all you do is make a big mess. So how do you tell whether someone is receptive to what you’re saying? It’s all in the body language.
Keep talking if:
  • they are asking questions such as, “Can you tell me more?  Can you be more specific?”
  • they thank you for sharing your insights
  • they appear relatively calm
  • they are attentive and listening
Put a cork in it if:
  •  they start giving excuses
  •  they aren’t making eye contact
  •  they appear agitated
  •  they are red in the face
  •  they tell you why they did what they did
The key is to not let the session turn into an argument, or even a milder form of disagreement…
You’re going to lose their respect and it won’t be a productive dialog.
Understanding a person’s ability to handle feedback is a valuable tool for productivity, retention, and the bottom line.  In fact, it’s so pivotal – and so hard to get right – that we offer training on the art of giving feedback.
When have you been on the receiving end of positive feedback?   How has someone enhanced your career by sharing their observations and suggestions?  Feedback really can be a gift.
I would love to hear your experience.
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