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What’s really going on for them?

Finding out what’s behind the words

We make so many assumptions when it comes to communicating with others.  We have to, as we generally don’t have time to read between the lines.  This leads to snap decisions and judgements.  Much of the time, this is OK and no harm is done.  However, if we make a snap decision that someone doesn’t like us, or is moody or ungrateful , or whatever… it is very unlikely that we will change our minds on this.

On good days. we might give people the benefit of the doubt and won’t come to such a decision, but at stressful times (like Christmas!), we are so much more likely to jump to conclusions and misinterpret the words and behaviour of others, making assumptions quickly that may be detrimental to relationships (and our enjoyment).

Stressful situations don’t help….

Stress doesn’t bring out the best in us and if time is against us, we are loathe to find out what’s really going on for others. Too often, misunderstandings happen and nobody stops to find out the reasons behind a person’s behaviour. If someone is behaving badly, this is all that we see.  This is the story that we have about them. It happens far too often in the workplace. Someone might be behaving badly – their attitude, time keeping, performance etc and this might get as far as a disciplinary or actually being asked to leave. In some cases, fortunately, someone sits down and asks them what’s going on, only to find out that they’re experiencing some difficult circumstances at home that are causing them to behave like this.  Once support is offered and put in place, the behaviour changes.

Taking people at face value means that we only get to know a tiny part of them.  Have a look at the cartoon below and consider what’s going on.

coaching people

Two people are speaking to each other.  If they are moderately good listeners, they will hear what the other is saying.  Each will interpret the words in their own way (usually according to their own personal way of interpreting the world – see this article on “we see the world as we are not as it is”).  What they don’t hear is what is behind the other person’s words (illustrated in the large orange bubbles).  All their experience, thought processes, their own interpretation of the world and events, what happened to them that morning, what’s going on in their family, what drives them, what they value etc). If we can access this information, or just a small part of it, we would have a better understanding of what the other person is saying and would be in a better position to make fewer assumptions.

So what can we do?

  • Firstly, notice that you’re making assumptions about the other person. What effect is this having on your relationship?
  • Take a step back and consider what might be going on for them – here it’s difficult not to make assumptions, but imagine you are an innocent bystander, watching the conversation. Picture the cartoon and remember we only see a fraction of what is really going on.
  • Ask them some open questions to find out what’s behind the words.  Let go of your judgement (this can be easier said than done!).

Hopefully you will gain some insight into what is behind their words. At the very least, this new perspective will help you understand them a bit better and you might feel a better connection as you learn more about them and they see that you are genuinely interested.

This is a strategy that works well for many of the people I coach. It is definitely worth giving a go and I’d love to hear what you think.

 

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Listen better to improve relationships

As an executive and business coach, I work with a broad range of clients, be they part of a large organisation or agile, ambitious start up, and everything in between. I constantly reflect on what value I might add. I realise now that one of the most valued services I offer is that of genuine listening and hearing what clients say. It seems simple and perhaps even obvious, but the more people I come across, the more I realise how few people there are that do genuinely listen and hear what you say. This lack of attentiveness creates a host of misunderstandings, lack of engagement and breakdown in relationships even, that could, I believe be avoided if we all learned to better listen and hear what is being said.

Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.  Stephen R Covey

When you genuinely listen to what someone has to say as opposed to waiting for a gap in conversation to get your point or response across, you will find that not only do you gain an insight into how they think, what drives them and what they want, but you will find that you can achieve a deeper level of communication and trust.

It is wiser to find out than to suppose.   Mark Twain

We make so many assumptions that can be damaging to business and relationships. So often, if we changed the way we communicate and listened to people in order to genuinely learn from them, we would make fewer assumptions and actually find out what is really going on. Imagine how much time this would save and how misunderstandings and conflict could be minimised.

Genuine listening builds better relationships

By not listening properly, we miss out on a great deal. We miss out on information to start with. We miss out on all sorts such as how people are feeling, what their mood is like, what their attitude is towards us, the business, others. These factors all enhance our knowledge of others and how we can better work and interact with them. By really listening, we can promote engagement and others feel that their words are worth something.

Make people feel valued

If we allow our own thoughts to elevate as others speak, we shouldn’t fool ourselves that they won’t pick up on this. Humans are very sensitive to how others behave and we all know what it’s like to speak to someone who is physically present but not hearing anything. Think of a time when this has happened to you. How did that make you feel? Perhaps you felt the other person showed a lack of respect, you may not have felt valued. It is highly likely that you went away thinking “well that was a waste of time, I’ll avoid approaching them again”. This sort of behaviour builds negativity and resentment which could potentially have been avoided.

What is your default when it comes to listening?

All behaviour change starts with actually realising where you are now. Then you can work out where you want to get to and how. What do you tend to do when in conversation?

Are you a broadcaster?You have an agenda, something to say and you want to get it out there and get on with it. How does the other person feel? Try considering things from their perspective and the benefits of a two way conversation.

Are you a mind racer?

Your focus is internal rather on the person speaking. How do they feel? What are you missing out on by not being present? How can you tame your thoughts and bring your attention to the speaker?

Are you a jumper to conclusions?

Do you listen to the first few sentences and then make up your mind regardless of what comes next? What sort of pattern will this create for you and your business? How can you let go of your assumptions?

Are you easily distracted?Whatever else is going on in the room or outside the window, that’s where your focus is. You might have your phone or laptop at hand and be glancing over at them. You leave conversations thinking you’ve heard it all, but will have missed so much. Ask yourself what you can do about this? Putting the device away would be a good start!

What can you do now?

Most of us can relate to some if not all of the above. Ask yourself what small change can you make to improve your listening. There will be something, no matter how small. None of us are perfect listeners all of the time. There are so many benefits to getting good at listening, why not start today and notice the positive changes that take place.

Did you know I run workshops on better listening? Get in touch to find out more.