Learn these two critical communication skills for Connecting with Others.

 

Daily Quote: ” Sometimes the most unique connection and learning happens when others are encouraged to talk about themselves. Questioning and active listening are the best and most appreciated way to show others you care”. Mark W. Hardwick, Ph.D.

Reflection: Questions can be an effective way for you to show others that you curious about them and want to get to know them better. Effective questioning and active listening promote unique connections, progress and possibilities, and typically lead to two-communications, discoveries, understanding, and solutions.

A powerful question, for example, might be, “What are your goals for this year?” “What are the critical responsibilities for job”? “How do you show gratitude for others support”? and “What do you think our customers need to refer us to other companies”?

When the right questions are asked we can connect with others and have the possibility for problem solving and opportunity finding.

In the following, I will discuss some ways of questioning that lead to connections and  open-up conversations. Also we will examine the other side of the coin where the wrong type of questions shut down conversations and move others away from us.

Let’s review a few types of questions to see which ones work better in developing rapport and connections with others.

  1. Open ended questions. Are used so the other person can explain or provide more information which creates more of a two-way conversation and unique connect. Most open questions start with What? or How? Questions. For example –What are we going to do with our credit card debts? How are we going to pay for the kid’s college tuition?  Another way to open a conversation up is to say – “tell me” more about your ambition to be a doctor…
  2. Closed questions. Are questions that  can be answer with a simple “yes” or “no” and actually close down dialogue between to people. For example, Are you going to the game today?
  3. Exploration questions.   These types of questions generally, start with What? How? Where? or When? They facilitate exploration and provide an opportunity for learning more about the other person who you are interacting with. They provide more opportunity to gather information and lead to more understanding which is the basis of empathy.
  4. Judgmental questions. By contrast, a question that is classified as a “judging” make others defensive and less forth coming. Questions like this are more closed-minded, snarky and critical which lead to withdrawal a very little productive dialogue. They focus on problems rather than solutions and often lead to unproductive outcomes. Judging questions lead to negative energy and stop conversation before it has a chance to really get started. For example, “Are you responsible for this mess?  Or “Why aren’t we selling more in this quarter? By the way most people find Why? very difficult to answer and most of the time “just make shit up” to get the person off their back And so on.

Self-Coaching Challenge. Ask a colleague to make note of the kind and frequency of questions you ask at your next staff meeting. After you get the feedback decide what you are going to do to improve the openness and flow of your questions.

Part I. Leadership Research: # 1 skill for Becoming Extraordinary Leader

High-Resolution Leadership a research study conducted by DDI identifies that “the single most important skill of a good leader may not be what you think. Although it is important to be visionary and a strategic thinker, a new study suggests that it’s more rooted in their daily conversations and interactions with people”.

According to DDI research on leadership, the leader who’s most effective in having successful conversations is most likely to do the best in developing their team and creating a successful business. “By the end of each day, leaders likely have had multiple conversations with a range of their constituents,” DDI’s researchers write. “Each of these interactions will collectively determine their ultimate success as a leader.”

This conclusion comes from a report called High-Resolution Leadership, which is the result of synthesizing assessments taken by 15,000 participants being considered for leadership from the front lines to executive levels at 300 companies in 18 countries. DDI evaluated the data from personality and intelligence tests as well as from “day-in-the-life” simulations that allowed participants to demonstrate their skills.

 

Avoid Derailing your Career: Pay attention to Blindspots and Other People’s Perceptions.

How other people see us impacts our identity, reputation and sense of worth. It can also derail a promising career. Here are some examples from my Leadership Coaching experience–Some people may see you as a “softie” because of your hypersensitivity to any comments that you perceive as criticism. This leads to less feedback because they are afraid of offending you and this leads to less feedback and others avoiding being straight with you. Others may see you as hot, impulsive, explosive, to quick to react emotionally or overwhelm them with your arguments. This leads to people seeing you as a bully or intimidating  because you are experienced as having always to  win with your idea or point of view. This type of style can be improved by being more open to other points of view and actively listening to understand people’s position and feelings.  Also, some withhold feedback because you are seen as to strong, rude or very opinionated; not getting feedback in any of these situations leaves you with many “blinspots” that can stall your career and raise undue tension and conflict in your management team.

These blindspots are not to be considered personality flaws but only areas for more training and development of your interpersonal communication skills. Blindspots generally signal a need for more self-understanding because people are experiencing you in a way that is not productive for you or your organization. A blindspot  area could also include issues that others are deliberately withholding information from you and this might lead to your inability to manage and lead the team.

Self-Coaching Challenge:  To reduce the blind spots that may de-rail your career or interpersonal relationships you need to seek more input and information from others. To do this you need to model and support more listening and less judgmental feedback. Modeling openness and support for  more individual disclosure, reduces fear and therefore encourages honest feedback to flourish.  The extent to which an individual seeks feedback, and the issues on which feedback is sought, must always be at the individual’s own discretion. Some people are more resilient than others – care needs to be taken to avoid causing emotional upset. The process of soliciting serious and deep feedback relates to the process of ‘self-development and growth as a leader.

If you are committed to seek more feedback the question becomes– how do you go about getting it?

Sometimes people describe blind spots as perception disconnects – when the people around us don’t perceive our words and behaviors in the way we intended. We might believe that our calm, composed demeanor is a serious advantage in a high-stress workplace. Unfortunately, our co-workers perceive us as robotic, uncaring and even bully. Our goal might be to appear decisive and candid, but others actually think we’re abrupt and insensitive. Are we energetic and driven? Or relentless and annoying?  Are we methodical and systematic? Or inflexible and overly cautious? Sometimes there’s a very fine line there. But, at the end of the day, perceptions trump intentions. Despite our goals and the impressions we intend to make, our career success is determined by our reputations and the perceptions of us held by others.

Over the next three weeks take time to inform others that you want more feedback. Ask a close associate to observe and provide feedback on your blind spots– Be careful to be concrete in your request–by saying something like this– during the next few staffing meetings would you mind observing and documenting my ability and manner of listening or not  with team members and after the meeting we can talk about what worked, what didn’t work and how I might improve my listening skills.

Remember in trying to get feedback and uncover your blind spots you need to be supportive when this person provides their feedback on areas for improvement. Good Luck and be sure and share with us how it your personal development goes.

Daily Quote and Reflection: Are “SOFT SKILLS” and Emotional Intelligence the Missing Link for Your Life and Job Success in 2014?

Daily Quote:  “In the last decade or so, science has discovered a tremendous amount about the role emotions play in our lives. Researchers have found that even more than IQ, your emotional awareness and abilities to handle feelings will determine your success and happiness in all walks of life, including family relationships.” —Dr. John Gottman–From the book:  Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child

“Let’s say you work at a place that’s saturated with smarts. If all of your colleagues were always the brightest person in the room growing up, then what makes you stand out? One of the key factors for differentiating yourself from others in the workplace is the concept of emotional intelligence and self-awareness”. Drake Baer,  from Fast Company 

Reflection: Many studies are now pointing to emotional intelligence as a strong predictor of  productivity, effectiveness and success for people and the companies they work for.

To be emotionally intelligent, Goleman and other researchers say, you need to have confidence. To have confidence, you need to know your strengths and weaknesses. Yet what does it mean to have confidence? It means to understand and believe you have the ability and belief that you can do the things that produce positive results. When faced with a decision or choice of what to do to be successful at a task or activity you believe you have the wherewithal to use your focused concentration, experiences and talents to complete the job successfully. This underlining insight is based on what Arthur Bandura calls self-efficacy. Working from a basis of belief in yourself provides a behavioral framework or platform of “I can do this”.

Self-Coaching Challenge: So your challenge for the New Year is to assess where you are on the Emotional Intelligence scale and then put together a plan for personal and emotional intelligence. Remember you can change your level of emotional intelligence because unlike IQ and other fixed variables our EQ is malleable but it will take more self-awareness and deliberative practice to improve you EQ level.

Want to learn more about EQ read this powerful article in Fast Company called: Emotional Intelligence predicts Job Success Do You Have It?  by Drake Baer.

http://www.fastcompany.com/3023335/leadership-now/emotional-intelligence-predicts-job-success-do-you-have-it#

 

Part I : Listening and Building Relationships with the “Third Ear”

Daily Quote:  “When people are listened to sensitively, they tend to listen to themselves with more care and to make clear exactly what they are feeling and thinking.” Dr. Carl Rogers 

1. Communicate so as to build rapport by showing interest, respect and responsiveness.Show positive regard and respect by greeting and attending to others needs.Trying to find common interests creates unique and supportive connections. For example, pay attention to what the other person is wearing and how they carry themselves. Always be ready to pay sincere compliments and ask open ended questions.

2. Be in-synch. With words, voice tone, body language ( use high and low tones, open gestures, eye contact) aligned with clear and concise message. If you find the place in you that is really pleased to speak with the other person and truly interested in what they have to say, you will be congruent in what you say and how you say it. People will clearly see your warmth and caring concern through your eyes, voice tone and facial expressions.

3. Tune-in with the Third Ear-eliminate external and Internal distractions
We can all sense if someone is fully “present” with us or distracted by other things going on in the environment.  Listening with the “third ear” means that you focused not just the other person’s words or content, but you are truly trying to content and emotional intent of what they are saying. To do this you must be sure that your mind is not distracted. Active listening requires you to stay with and be there for the other person, so please eliminate al noise distractions such as cell phones, televisions and other conversations or activities.
If possible, find a place with minimal distractions away from other people and activities so that you can fully concentrate on listening and responding. If you are doing something else when someone approaches you to share, choose to “drop” what you are doing and actively fully focus on listening to show the person they are important and valued.

4. Acceptance of others and building trust. No one has said it better than Carl Rogers in his book Freedom to Learn “When I do truly hear a person and the meanings that are important to him at that moment, hearing not simply the words, but him, and when I let him know that I have heard his own private personal meanings, many things happen.  There is first of all a grateful look. He feels acceptance.  He feels released.  He wants to tell me more about his world. He surges forth in a new sense of freedom.  I think he becomes more open to the process of change.”

It is easier to eliminate external noise than the internal noise in your mind that is thinking of other things, worrying about the past or future conversations or problems.  Eastern psychologists warn us that the mind is like a bouncing ball going in one direction or another. So we need to learn to quiet our mind, stop randomly jumping around  and to focus on where we want the mind to go and then the behavior will follow.

How to stop the “bouncing ball” and be attentive and actively listen? 
Many neurologists and psychologist suggest the practice of meditation, mindfulness and/or other western methods of focusing the mind with discipline, people begin to become the master of their minds and in control of the vast energy and power of the mind.  The mind focused on one-to-one communication is “mindful” and gives the person an immense power of “presence”, the power of focus, of attention, and really being fully present with another person in the moment

ELIMINATE INTERNAL PERSONAL JUDGEMENTS
We are often distracted by our own views and values, our own perceptions that cause us to judge another person from our own personal experiences and histories.  We cannot fully listen to another person if we are really listening to our own “mind chatter.”  We tend to listen “autobiographically” and perceive what the other person is saying through filters based on our own lives and personal experiences. We need to be less self-centered. The key concept is listening with a mind-set of non-judgment. Often we “selectively listen” to what the other person is saying with personal bias, listening for affirmations of our own views or judging negatively when we find differences. If we eliminate our own judgments based on our own lives, we can have the opportunity to experience empathic understanding of the other person and enter into their world, their perceptions and reality.
Be sure you are listening to the other person and not to yourself and your own perceptions of the world.  Full respect, positive regard and unconditional acceptance of the other person are necessary conditions  for becoming a empathic listening.

ACTIVELY LISTEN FOR UNDERSTANDING
As you listen carefully, what do you want to know to understand more fully the other person’s perspective?  Invite them to share more to deepen your understanding.  Ask “open questions”  and “door openers” that invite the person to share more.   “That is very interesting, . . “  Tell me more about . . .” How do you feel about . . .”

Let your body express that you are “following” and interested in what the other person is saying and that you would like to hear more.  Show excitement and genuine interest by using “encouragers”, allowing your body to express attention through positive and encouraging head nods, caring voice tone, warm eye contact and expressive facial expressions.  Convey genuine interest, enthusiasm and joy in trying to connect with others.

Practice:  Clarification, Restatement and Reflective RESPONSES
Once you have begun to sense the world of the other person, begin to reflect back their significant thoughts and feelings.  Listen to what they have just shared and find the most important feelings that the person has shared or the deeper meaning that may lie behind the words.  Use reflective statements to paraphrase or summarize what the other person seems to be thinking or feeling.
Check your perceptions by reflecting back what you think you have heard the other person say or perhaps what they might like to say or explore..  “Perception-checking” often starts with statements like “You seem to feel”, “I imagine you must want.”   You are not sure so you give “wiggle-room” for them to agree or clarify more fully how they do feel etc.  Your clear interest allows the other person to share his/her feelings at a deeper, more accurate level that fosters real contact and genuine communication.

FACILITATE CLARIFICATION AND CONCRETENESS
As you actively listen and respond, you will clarify the feelings and meanings of what the person is expressing or trying to express.  When you do not understand exactly what the other person means, paraphrase or summarize what you think they are saying and they will clarify their feelings for you.
In your reflections, strive to use clear, specific, “concrete” descriptions to deepen the level of understanding.  Being clear and descriptive communicates true understanding and leads to deeper levels of empathic two-way communication and sharing that can lead to improved  interpersonal connections and relationship development and growth.

Self-Coaching Challenge: Identify one person who you would like to connect with and understand more fully, then choose to practice one of the techniques listed above like clarification, reflection or perception checking. Take notes in your journal on what worked, what didn’t work and how you can improve your listening skills.

Third Ear–Active listening Techniques for Connecting with Others

” Listening is an attitude of the heart, a genuine desire to be with another which both attracts and heals”. Carl Rogers

Active listening is a critical skill for leaders and coaches. As a an effective listener you show interest and are demonstrating the “golden rule” of listening: MMFI (Make Me Feel Important).  You will encourage people to more fully develop their answers and this will provide you invaluable information, understanding and insight.  Setting your concerns and self-interest aside and “being there” in the “here and now” with the other person is rare and powerful.  If you are truly listening you not only hear the words, but also the emotions, fears and issues of the other person.  This provides a unique bond of empathy and an opportunity to learn and connect with others. 

CPR Technique for better understanding and personal connections 

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

Clarifying

Ask questions to check your understanding of the meaning of the person’s words or ask person to clarify by telling you more… use open-ended questions.

  • Please tell me more about that issue….
  • “When you say __________, what exactly do you mean?”

Paraphrasing

In your own words repeat or restate what you think the other person said.

  • “Let me see if I understand you correctly…”
  •  It seems to me, if I understand you correctly,  that you want to find a new job. Have got it right?

Reflection

Use reflection to display empathy and to check your perception of the person’s emotions.  There are two components of reflection:

  • Tentative statement (“It appears that you are overwhelmed with forms”)
  • Attempt to identify the feeling (“You’re frustrated with…”) Identify the feeling being expressed, if you are wrong the person will set you straight.

Additional Active Listen Tools   

Focused Attention

Tune out distractions. Concentrate.  Look the person in the eye and turn toward them to clearly communicate your interest in what they are saying. Do not multitask when talking with others. Resist need to respond too quickly or interupt the other person.

Silence

Give the person time to collect their thoughts and continue.  Use non-verbal cues to demonstrate your receptivity.

See more at TED talk on Importance of Listening 

Part I: Meaningful Life principle #2 –Learn to be a Great Communicator and Presenter

Author’s note: On this post I will flush out in more detail the number #2 principle from the Handbook for Creating and Living a Meaningful Life: 30+ Rules of the Road .

Meaningful Life Principle #2: Learn to become a “dynamic” communicator.   

Relevant thought trigger and quotes : Not only is there an art in knowing a thing, but also a certain art in communicating and teaching it. Cicero 

“The problem with communication… is the ILLUSION that it has been accomplished.”—George Bernard Shaw

A Presentation is a Performance Act. You are an Actor. Tom Peters

To be a great a communicator requires high performance (self3) behaviors  and takes “Truth Telling” which begins with clear thinking, courage and belief in yourself and the ideas you are trying to get across. Learn to be an active listener when preparing for the presentation, so you can identify your audience needs ( something you didn’t learn in school)–So if you want to come across to others as authentic and be perceived as “star presenter” practice the mental set, attitude, and actions listed in my “ten rules for excellence in communicating” they will speak volumes of who you really are and transform how you think about interpersonal communications and how you connect with others when presenting.

Dr. Mark’s 10 Tips Becoming a passionate communicator and public speaker:                                               1. Be clear and concise, confident and compelling about your purpose and goals for the interaction or presentation. Don’t present anything you would not want to hear if you were on the other side of the desk or in the meeting room.

2. Learn that “Connecting with Others” is the most important factor to consider when communicating and delivering you message. Do you believe in what you are talking or spouting off about? How comfortable are you in presenting ideas and information to others? Are you open to other points of view? Can you communicate in conversational tones and gestures? Can you manage your nervous energy?

3. Believe in your self—Know your strengths and become a high performer by using them when communicating 1 to 1 or to an audience of 1000 people. This will allow you the freedom to overcome nervousness and self-doubts.

4. You must become a serious and formal student of communication and listening. Yes, the likes of presenting, conversing,  talking and listening can be studied and practiced with the same thoroughness with which you studied mathematics or science that is the bedrock for becoming a physicist or medical doctor.  There’s no more need to be casual about developing these soft skills of interpersonal communication than there is concerning mastering the job of doctor or lawyer. Granted formal schooling for the hard stuff is more available to aspiring professional presenters and students. Yet it can be done—and as I said before, the benefits of undertaking professional study in the art of communicating and presenting and listening is critical to your success in business and life.

5. Give as many speeches as you can—of all shapes and sizes. “Hey, Coach Mark, how did you get to where you are with your presentation skills?” “I’m a lot better after 2500 speeches than I was after 2 or 3.” Meetings are a great training ground for both watching and learning about performing; for example, observe how people react to this or that approach taken by a speaker.

6. The One Big Secret I have learned over and over again in my 40+ years in public speaking and giving presentations is that they are personal and open conversation whether it is a 1 to 1, face 2 face conversation, small staff meeting, conference key-note to 500 people. Make it personal and create closeness by being self-disclosing and truthful–tell stories… Remember an effective speech to 1,000 people is an intimate, 1-on-1 conversation so engage them and surprise them so they are interested and curious about what you have to say.

7. Speak with passion–be energized and excited that you get the privilege of presenting  what you know that can help the audience members live a more fulfilling life.

8. Stay focused but flexible on interests and needs of the other person. Be ready to change topis or re-focus speech if you get feedback or body language that the audience is not with you. Don’t be bound or married to your agenda, always remain audience-centered.

9. Don’t worry about what is going to happen next or be preparing to respond stay in the moment observe, respond and focus on the process of conveying your message and connecting.

10. Close with a bang. Let the audience tell you what they learned. Check for audience AHA’s,  discoveries and learning. Check on commitment for action and personal change.

Bonus Idea for getting ready to speak– Use “relaxation and release” tools to start in a great state of mind and energy…   be open to whatever arises, and be confident you can handle whatever comes-up.

Remember as JFK said,“The only reason to give a speech is to change the world.”