Category: Listening

Recognizing and Understanding How Other People Feel – An Empathic Approach to Success

By , November 7, 2012 4:17 pm

“Empathic people are superb at recognizing and meeting the needs of clients, customers and subordinates. They seem approachable, wanting to hear what people have to say. They listen carefully, picking up on what people are truly concerned about, and they respond on the mark.”

 ~ Daniel Goleman, Author

Thinking that you can do everything yourself is a myth. Our own power actually comes from the self-awareness that we can’t be in control of everything. We must depend on and interact with others if we want to succeed.

Relationships are an essential part of our daily life and work. The quality and effectiveness of our connection with others makes a huge difference to our success as a people manager, coach or business owner.

Do you genuinely care about the people that you work with?

Your clients? Your team? Your colleagues? Your customers?

The relationship is important, but it’s often ignored, not considered or neglected. Many of us have heavy workloads and pressure, which limits the time available to focus on building relationships. Instead we focus on WHAT needs to be DONE. Empathy and rapport are seen as luxuries. It’s quicker to make assumptions and fill in the gaps, especially if you feel you are the expert in the conversation.

This can leave the other person feeling manipulated and not listened to, even attacked.

I’ve known leaders who use a telling style and jump straight in with a solution, once they get a glimmer of an idea about what the other person is talking about (even if its not wanted!).

You may start a conversation about a topic and the other person railroads it, taking over to share their example or experience, with little interest for what you have to say. The conversation ALWAYS ends up about them… (Does this sound familiar?!).

This is what I call the ‘me’ Factor: Minus Empathy!

‘I’m going to talk about me…then I’d like you to talk about me!’

Talking all about me creates a lack of trust, openness and honesty. It’s usually when our ego kicks in to help build us up and make us feel more superior.

No one wants to listen to someone who is ONLY interested in themselves, their issues or their achievements.  It drains the other person, who gets tired of listening and walks away.

One of the essential elements of Self-Leadership is empathy.

Empathy is created from self-awareness:

1. Stepping back and knowing what it’s like being on the receiving end of you… Being attuned to your inner signals.

2. Developing the ability to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and view things from their map of the world.

Here are some tips on using a coaching style to create empathy if you want to build better relationships and empowering experiences for your clients, team or customers:

  1. Listen first before reacting or jumping in with feedback or solutions, allowing the conversation to flow. Listen with an intent to understand, not respond. This is the greatest gift you can give to someone.
  2. Focus on their intention, not yours. What is important to them? A good question to ask yourself is: ‘Am I making this about me or about them?’
  3. Be Authentic. Any advice given is genuinely in the interest of the other person and you’re not trying to manipulate them to your agenda, or fit them into your model of thinking.
  4. See their potential to work it out for themselves with your support. Hold that space encouraging and motivating them to think for themselves and own their solutions.
  5. Show you care by communicating that you believe in them. Demonstrate that you prepared to invest time in what they have to say. Be fully present and they will sense that you care. They’ll open up more and relax, the conversation will flow easily and they’ll feel motivated and accountable for their results.

Self-awareness and empathy together help you to become an authentic leader. You create a genuine sense that you truly want to hear the other person’s thoughts and concerns and that you understand them.


Why Interrupting Someone Could Be Ruining the Quality of Their Thinking

By , February 2, 2012 12:18 pm

“The quality of your attention determines the quality of other people’s thinking.”

Nancy Kline – Author.

Many years ago I used to have a boss who liked the sound of her own voice so much that she wouldn’t let you speak. If you did get a chance to talk, she would talk over you and finish your sentences.

She used to equate talking with being the manager. She was a poor listener jumping in too soon with her own ideas. It was suffocating to be on the receiving end because she’d never give you any time to think. She was too eager to give advice.

My attention was splattered every time I was interrupted. I’d avoid speaking with her unless it was really necessary because I always felt drained by the experience.

We are all guilty of tailgating someone else’s conversation. In some way interrupting seems irresistible. For a few of us, interrupting has become a habit – it’s hard not to do it.

This was true for one of my coaching clients who realized that when he finished people’s sentences he was making these assumptions:

  • I’m the boss so I’m more important
  • I knew what they were going to say
  • The other person was over-talking so it was the only way to get my idea across
  • I was saving time
  • My solution was better than theirs
  • If I didn’t say my idea in the moment I would forget it

When you finish someone’s sentence for them, you’re usually making one or more of these assumptions:

  1. That they can’t finish it for themselves
  2. That you know the exact words they are about to use.
  3. That your choice of words will be better!

You may recognize some of these…

How often have you finished someone’s sentence and got it wrong? You may have chosen the wrong word or totally changed the ending of the sentence and said the opposite to what they were about to say!

We’re often too focused on our own self-importance to notice how our interruption affects the other person.

Their internal experience changes the moment you started thinking for them rather than allowing them to think for themselves. Their attention is lost because your interruption cuts them off from their own understanding of what they were saying.

The important thing is that they were saying it.

One of the greatest gifts you can give someone is to listen with respectful attention and without assumption.

As a coach and people manager, I have come to realize that listening with attention is hugely important because the quality of my attention impacts the effectiveness of the other person’s thinking.

Allowing someone space to search for their words adds quality to their thinking. You’re allowing people to think for themselves rather than imposing your own thinking upon them.

Most people have ideas that matter whatever their status or position. Don’t judge them with your assumptions. By ‘getting out of their way’ you are creating a space for their thoughts to be fully developed. This opens up new possibilities that could make a difference.

Next time you feel the urge to interrupt or finish someone’s sentence:

  1. Notice that you’re about to interrupt them.
  2. Shut up!
  3. Step back and allow them some space to search for the words themselves.
  4. Stop trying to think for them.
  5. Allow them to play in their own dog park! I LOVE this metaphor: It’s safe environment where they know you won’t keep interrupting them. Where their mind can be allowed to roam around freely to imagine, create and explore things without being on a leash! In other words: without being manipulated by your assumptions!

LiveBrilliant Women’s Retreat – Coming Soon!

By , August 14, 2011 6:22 pm

Dealing with Uncertainty

By , May 24, 2011 12:01 pm

“Intuition is not a single way of knowing – it’s our ability to hold space for uncertainty and our willingness to trust the many ways we’ve developed knowledge and insight, including instinct, experience, faith, and reason.”

Brené Brown, Author and leading expert on shame, authenticity and belonging.

Two of the large corporate organisations I’m working for are currently going through big transitions. One of them has merged with another company. Another is working through a merger of internal business units. Both are working through due diligence exercises and looking for ways to remove duplication in roles and working processes.

It’s interesting to observe the different view points of people working in this uncertain environment as the organisation revises it’s business strategy and re-structures. Some people see the ‘opportunities’ others bury their heads and just hope that they ‘survive’.

Senior executives may not fully know how things will be changed yet or who, if anyone, will be laid off. All they can communicate with certainty is the end goal. The fog of uncertainty shrouds the work environment while key people run the numbers and look at working practices to gather data to make the final decisions.

Human beings like certainty. Most of us aren’t very good at not knowing.

We crave for the facts, guarantees, assurances and can become anxious if we don’t have enough information. We often look externally for this source and ignore our own intuition. Instead of listening to a strong message from our inner voice we’ll go and get a second or third opinion from others because we don’t trust our own knowing.We ignore our gut feeling and instead become wrapped up in the uncertainty and not knowing.This fills us with fear and worry.

If you’re stuck in the dis-comfort of not knowing it can be easier just to make a quick decision to get it over with. This might be a decision you regret later.

Using your inner wisdom as a guide can be really helpful in uncertain situations. The key is to take time out to really listen to it…

Intuition isn’t just about getting THE ANSWER from a voice within! Yes, sometimes you’ll have a clear gut instinct about something, other times you listen you can tap into your inner wisdom and it will guide you to take logical steps, check things out and to fact-find. It might even advise you that now is not the time to make a decision.

Here are a few ways to deal with uncertainty:

1. Listen to your intuition – What is it telling you? Are you being steered to fact-finding or is it telling you what you need to know? Tap into your inner wisdom. Listen to your deeper voice. Use this as a tool to help guide you.

2.What do YOU want? Sometimes when things are uncertain we forget that we always have a choice. What do you want to happen? What is important to you here?

3. What can you influence? Consider what is in your circle of influence that you can do. It might be becoming more involved in the process fact finding and even become involved in shaping the outcome. Look for any opportunities that might present themselves. Take one logical step at a time.

4. It’s okay NOT to know – Sometimes it’s okay to recognise that for now, you’re not going to know the answer. Set yourself short term goals and focus your attention and energy there. Review the situation in a month (Re-check in with the bullets on this post!)

5. Do a GREAT job – Focus on business as usual and look for oportunities to continue to do a great job. Consider your own marketability and leverage – What do you have to offer here? How can you play to your strengths to really make a difference in the short term. Look for solutions – don’t dwell on the problem or get sucked into whining, moaning or colluding about how bad everything is!

Listen with an Intent to Understand…

By , February 12, 2011 4:24 pm

“If you make listening and observation your occupation you will gain much more than you can by talk.”

Robert Baden-Powell, writer and founder of the Scout Movement.

Listening is one of those skills that we’re not really taught how to do. Most of us could be better listeners.

I was coaching a client this week who wanted to learn how to be more empathic at home and at work. He wasn’t sure where to begin…

I often ask clients the following question:

“When you interact with someone, do you listen with an intent to understand or with an intent to respond?”

Their answer is often:

‘Oh! What a good question!’

My client responded in this exact same way. The question got him thinking…

Whether you are a manager, employee, parent or friend you can find that you’re dealing with a constant challenge to step away from your natural instincts that you:

  • Know the answer
  • Want to solve the problem
  • Take control of the situation

We often feel that we should know the answer to the other person’s problem. That’s why they’re talking to us about the situation, right? So we hear the basics and feel that we should jump in with a response. After all, as a human, our ego ultimately likes to be in control!

There’s a huge difference between listening and hearing and our body language ALWAYS gives us away! You already know if someone isn’t listening to you and how that makes you feel.

Some people are also more interested in themselves than they are in the person that they are supposed to be listening too! Have you ever met anyone like this (You might even be THAT person!)? You can easily spot them because they NEVER shut up (except to occasionally breathe!). They want you to know that they are successful by showing off their knowledge, experience and opinions. They don’t realise that their behaviour is having a negative effect on the other person. No one wants to be around them for very long!

Listening is one of the greatest gifts that you can give someone.

Being genuinely interested in the other person, giving them same value, worth and dignity as you give yourself, really makes a difference. If they feel that you are genuinely interested in what they have to say, how they think and what they feel they will relax, open up more and share their true feelings and opinions with you. The conversation will flow better and you’ll engage at a deeper level. They will respond positively to your interest in them.

Good listeners do the following:

  • Show that they are interested in you
  • Make you feel like you are the most important person in the room
  • Care about your success
  • Help you to relax
  • Are patient
  • They don’t interrupt you
  • They concentrate on what you are sharing with them
  • Ask great questions
  • Make understanding you their priority
  • Are not frightened of silence
  • Don’t allow distractions to interrupt the conversation (Such as phones, other people etc)

Do you take time to truly understand the people that you talk to?

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