Why can two different people communicate the same message but have different results? The key is making a connection. Covey’s fifth of his seven habits of highly effective people is, First seek to understand then to be understood. Without connection there is an absence of trust and without trust the message may not have its intended response.
Build your connection with empathy. Actively listen and ask questions and show genuine interest. How well you listen has a major impact on your job effectiveness, and on the quality of your relationships with others.
For some reason people place a high priority on speaking and presentation skills but do not place the same emphasis on listening skills. Most people are thinking about what they will say next rather than seeking to understand by actively listening to what others are saying. If we believe that empathy is an important trait, then we should realize that is impossible to understand what someone is thinking or feeling if we are constantly talking.
For example, you want to convey the message to an associate that you want him to be on time for meetings. You could tell him that you are frustrated with his lack of punctuality and that it is affecting the way you manage the meeting. That might arouse resentment and he may feel that you don’t understand his reasons. You have not made a connection and you probably won’t get the desired result. On the other hand, you might ask him how being late affects his rapport with the other members of the meeting. Wait for the answer. Then ask another question such as how does that make you feel? Keep actively listening and asking questions. Your colleague will get the message and might decide that he does not want his reputation affected so he will begin coming to meetings early. You connect to him be having him see the importance to him.
As you communicate you might consider these 10 tips for active listening, communicating, and connecting:
1. Stop Talking. You can’t talk and listen at the same time. And you have two ears and one mouth for a reason.
2. Focus on the other person. Give the other person your undivided attention.
3. Show active participation. Ask questions, listen, and ask another question based on what you just heard.
4. Empathize. Take a moment to understand the other person’s viewpoint even if you disagree.
5. Keep an open mind. Be very slow to disagree or criticize. Ask questions to probe for understanding.
6. Have patience for people who take longer to express themselves.
7. Nonverbal signals have more meaning than the words. Are the nonverbal signals in sync with the words?
8. Watch for your nonverbal signals and control your emotions.
9. Provide feedback. For example, paraphrase with, "What I'm hearing is," and "Sounds like you are saying."
10. Lighten up. Sometimes we take ourselves too seriously. Appropriate humor can help to insure positive outcomes.
Your ability to connect will directly influence your results in your business, in sales, in leadership, and in your personal life.
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