Let’s be radical – How to make hope possible rather than despair convincing

“To be truly radical is to make hope possible rather than despair convincing”  Raymond Williams (Welsh novelist & critic 1921-88)

I found this quote at the Eden Project last week during our road trip through England.  Talk about making the impossible possible!  What an extraordinary and inspiring place.  So much of what makes hope possible or despair convincing is in the words, messages, and body language we use, hear or interpret in our communication and building of our relationships.  With the listening skills we have covered over the last couple of weeks (“How well do you really know yourself, “What does your listening style say about you”, “How to listen so people will talk”), we are interested to know what you have found possible and different?  What changes have taken place for you? What have you learned about your style of communication and how it affects your relationships?  What tools have you been using?  What’s worked and what has been a challenge?

With the Olympic fever running through the UK and around the world, it is a great reminder that anything is truly possible and mindset plays an enormous part in our success of what we achieve.  We invite you to be mindful of your communication and listening skills over this next week and be aware of how often you are making hope possible as well as how often you are making despair convincing.  How is your mindset and use of communication skills serving you and affecting those around you?

“If you want something you’ve never had, then you’ve got to do something you’ve never done.”

 

Join us in being truly radical and making hope possible by creating Coaching Cultures in your community and communicating in the language of the 21st century.

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How to listen so people will talk

With all the advances in technology, some would argue that the art of conversation is slowly dwindling away.  With email, texting, twitter, Facebook etc it is easy to go throughout the day without having a conversation with anyone, yet still having communicated with everyone.  As our communications are becoming more directive to meet the efficient needs of technology, our conversations are following, leaving us with the feeling that we don’t have time to talk with others, others just don’t get or understand us, or that we can never get our point across in a way that people comprehend.   Part of our new “effective” directive communication is that we no longer take the time to listen to others, nor do we take the time to be curious about what they have to say or the reasons they are sharing it.

Last week we covered COACHING CULTURE™ Listening Choices 1 and 2 in “What does your listening style say about you?”.   Both choices can come off as directive, telling, judging, critical, right/wrong.  While Choice 2 is effective and necessary in certain professions, both Listening Choice 1 and 2 lack curiosity which leads to understanding, collaboration, and innovation – the language of the 21st century.

Below we outline COACHING CULTURE™ Listening Choices 3 and 4.  We are continuing to use the same example as we did in Listening Choices 1 and 2 – the example is based on a client’s experience.

 

COACHING CULTURE™ Listening Choices: From “Me” to “We”

Listening Choice 1 : It’s All About Me – “I”

In the first choice of listening, we listen and think only of ourselves, not the speaker.  Everything that we hear comes through our own lens and experience rather than listening to the experience of the speaker.   When using this approach, we are inclined to use the word “I,” and will often preface our responses with, “I think you should…,” “I would…,” and “I know…”

Listening Choice 2: You Should…

In Listening Choice 2 we are only focused on the speaker in a way that makes us feel we can help them so they can do the right thing. In this choice, we are trying to fix them, and tend to be judgmental or critical, since we know what is best for them.

When using this approach, we tend to use the word “you,” and often say, “You should…,” “You need to…,” “You have to…”

Listening Choice 3: Being Curious…

In Listening Choice 3 we are truly active in how we listen. We focus on information from all sources, including words, tone, facial and body language.  We are free from blame, and curious and open to what is important to the speaker. We remain objective in our listening.

The employee says to her manager, “I want to take a course on time management to help me be more effective.” The manager’s response could be: “It sounds like time management is something you would like to work on. What are your reasons for wanting to take this course? How do you think it will help you?”

The manager’s response was curious, wanting to know more about the reasons his employee feels she needs this course while also keeping the focus on her. This allows the employee to respond, for example, “I feel like I have been ineffective in my time management and have found myself struggling to get my work done. I feel unprepared for meetings, I never know what to complete first, and feel like this is affecting my work performance.” The manager might respond with, “What courses are you considering? When are you interested in doing this?”

The use of open questions enables the manager to remain open and curious without judging/ blaming/ or “fixing” the employee, while maintaining the focus on her and her needs. This choice of listening allows the manager to dig deeper, learn what is really going on, and the employee feels seen, heard, and understood. This approach is more objective, with little emotion involved. It can be used as a strategy for someone who begins to feel an emotion creep into their body during a conversation, one they think could sabotage their part in the conversation.

When using this approach, our questions are open and begin with who, what, where, when, and how.  Tell me more is also a great way to gain understanding of another’s perspective.

Listening Choice 4: WE Collaborate and Innovate

In Choice 4, each party comes to the conversation with a vested interest, something they want to discuss and move towards concluding.  Once again there is an opportunity for both parties to be open and curious about the other’s perspective and experience, creating in both, a new awareness, deeper understanding, and empathy – a collaborative conversation.  Once again, we see this as a choice for the 21st Century.

The employee says to her manager, “I want to take a course on time management to help me be more effective.”  The manager could respond: “I have a limited training budget this year and need to make sure all of it is used effectively.  It sounds like time management is an issue for you. What are your reasons for wanting to take this course? How do you think it will help you?”

The employee’s response: “I feel like I have been ineffective in my time management and have found myself struggling to get my work done. I feel unprepared for meetings, I never know what to complete first, and feel like this is affecting my work performance.

The manager might respond: “It looks like you are organized and prepared for meetings. I feel you are able to meet the deadlines I set.  It sounds like you don’t have the same sense of your effectiveness as I do.  I would like to support you in this. Together I would like to explore options and develop a strategy to help you feel more commitment in time management and from that we can determine if this course is the best option for you.  What would it be like for you if you felt you were effective in completing your work?   

Listening Choice 4 allows both parties to be seen, heard and understood.  Through open questions, being free of judgment and good old fashion curiosity, Listening Choice 4 creates a collaborative conversation where both parties are open to hear new perspectives – the language of the 21st century.  This choice nourishes conversations, builds relationships, and creates empathy and understanding in others.

We know we can intentionally choose to listen in a way that is inclusive of both the listener and speaker, in which we are open and curious to the perspectives of the speaker, encouraging the exploration of possibility and creating collaboration, ultimately leading to innovation.

We all listen at choice 1 and 2.  Choosing to listen at 3 and 4 takes awareness and practice.  We invite you to bring your awareness to your daily conversations, setting intention around your choice of listening.   Where do you find yourself the most?  How are choices 3 and 4 different from 1 and 2?  What do you notice about your conversations and the building of your relationships?    What daily practice can you set to bring your awareness to how you choose to listen?

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Property of COACHING CULTURE™, founded by Katherine Taberner and Kirsten Siggins.    www.mycoachingculture.com

What Does Your Listening Style Say About You?

Last week we introduced a few basic listening skills in “How well do you really know yourself?”.  As we discussed, having awareness around HOW you listen will shape the outcome of your conversations, the building of your relationships, and how you make decisions in your life.  We believe that we choose how we listen at any given time.  How we show up to a conversation or a relationship is a choice that we make.  Although we may not have much awareness around the choice we have made, it will ultimately shape the outcome of our conversations, relationships and lives.  We believe  there are 4 choices of listening, and have developed a model of awareness around the 4 choices of listening allowing us to be intentional about the way we choose to listen.

The example below is based on a client’s experience.

COACHING CULTURE™ Listening Choices: From “Me” to “We”

Listening Choice 1: It’s All About Me – “I”

In the first choice of listening, we listen and think only of ourselves, not the speaker.  Everything that we hear comes through our own lens and experience rather than listening to the experience of the speaker.  In the first choice we tend to be “the fixer/ problem solver” using our lens to tell the speaker what they should do – what YOU would do, rather than listen to what the needs are of the speaker and what they need/ want to solve their own problem.

Example: An employee says to her manager, “I want to take a course on time management to help me be more effective.” The manager’s response: “When I started working twenty years ago, I didn’t need that. I was able to manage my time without taking some course. I don’t see why you need that right now. Our budget is limited and this is not a place where I want to spend money.”

The manager isn’t listening to what the employee has to say, and is only thinking of himself in their response.  He is using his lens and experience to determine what’s best for his employee rather than listen to the needs that the employee feels they have and how they feel they would like to solve it.  By telling the employee what the manager thinks is the best way to solve the “problem”  implies the manager knows what’s best for his employee, and that they are incapable of solving their own problems or understand what’s best for themselves.  Choice one tends to cast blame/ judgment/ criticism when often the listener thinks that they are actually “helping” and “fixing/ problem solving”.   The speaker is normally thinking “wait, I thought this was about ME not you”.

How effective is this Listening Choice when building relationships?

When using this approach, we are inclined to use the word “I,” and will often preface our responses with, “I think you should…,” “I would…,” and “I know…”

Listening Choice 2: You Should…

In Listening Choice 2 we are only focused on the speaker in a way that makes us feel we can help them so they can do the right thing. In this choice, we are fixing them, and tend to be judgmental or critical, since we know what is best for them.

The employee says to her manager, “I want to take a course on time management to help me be more effective.” The manager’s response might be: “You don’t need that right now. You aren’t late for meetings and you seem to be organized. Besides, I can teach you anything you need to know.”

Again, the manager wants to solve the problem for the employee, helping in a critical/judger way while holding the focus on the employee and her problem.  Like Choice 1, the manager is “listening” through their lens and experience only still not hearing the needs of the employee and telling the employee what they think is best for them under the guise of “helping/ fixing” the issue. How heard do you think the employee is feeling?  What kind of message is this manager sending to his team?

Choice 2 is also used by professionals when providing advice; they use their expert judgment to solve a problem. This is also seen with health care professionals who provide a diagnosis and prognosis, and recommend (sometimes in conjunction with the patient) a treatment plan. This is also typically seen in the legal, financial and educational communities. This approach is used when a friend, colleague or family member asks for our opinion and advice on an issue or problem that needs to be solved. This sends the message that the requester respects our opinion. When using this approach, we tend to use the word “you,” and often say, “You should…,” “You need to…,” “You have to…”

 

In the next week we invite you to bring awareness to your conversations and how you choose to listen.  Where do you find yourself and how are you choosing to listen to others?  What are the outcomes of your conversations?  What does choice 1 and 2 feel like and how are they different?  How do you know when you choose choice 1 and choice 2?  What do you notice about others and their listening, what choice are they making and how is it affecting your conversation?

Love what you see and want to share it with others, no problem!  Here is what you MUST include:

Property of COACHING CULTURE™, founded by Katherine Taberner and Kirsten Siggins.    www.mycoachingculture.com

 

 

How well do you really know yourself?

One of the biggest AHA’s we have had over the past few years is the feedback and realization from others that so few of us have awareness around how we communicate – specifically how we listen.  We have found listening to be fundamental to effective communication.  How we listen will determine the outcome of a conversation or of a relationship.  The lens that we listen with will affect how any conversation progresses, how a relationship is built, and how a decision is made.  While little value is often placed on listening, it is a skill that can make or break various aspects of our lives, both personally and professionally.  How we listen to our clients determines the success of the outcome of the job, how we listen to our friends/spouse/ family determines the success of the relationships built and the culture created, how we listen to our leaders determines the success in our communities.  Rarely do you hear of anyone succeeding in life because they didn’t listen to others.  More often than not, it is those who take the time to listen to others and their needs who are the ones trail blazing their way to where they want to be.  However, it’s not just that we take the time to listen to others it is HOW we listen to them that makes the difference.

While training to become executive coaches we went through a process of becoming reacquainted with basic communication skills, including listening.  These skills are all fundamental in effective communications, and effective coaching.  We practiced these skills and eventually they became automatic, just as they were the skills we automatically went to as children.  Using them helps us to be transparent in relationships where trust is built and honesty is an expected outcome.

As facilitators, we have reacquainted hundreds of people with these skills and shared in their delight as they practice and realize the fruits of their labour.

Today we share with you some basics in HOW to listen to others:

  1.  Active Listening:  We are all guilty of sometimes listening to others and sometimes tuning out what is being said, not really paying attention to the words or non-verbal cues being communicated to us.  Time to stop this and pay attention!  Giving our full attention to the speaker and listening is respectful and helps us gain a clear understanding of what the person is saying.  This way we ensure we see, hear and understand their perspective, their ideas, and what they are about.
    1. Focus:  Stop doing all the tasks like texting, working on a computer, talking on the phone, making to-do lists or having that conversation in your head AND take the time to listen to your child, a colleague, a friend, or anyone who wants to talk to you.  Focus on what is being said.  BE really present in the conversation and pay attention to the non-verbal communication they are messaging.
    2. Paraphrase:  Paraphrase back in your own words what you have heard them say.
    3. Make time:  If it is not convenient for you to talk when approached, schedule a time when you can be ‘all ears’ and actually hear what they have to say.
    4. Have awareness:  Be aware of when you are listening and when your mind wanders.  Who are you with?  What are you doing?  What’s going on for you? When you find yourself not paying attention to what is being said bring your awareness back to the conversation so you can begin to listen.   Pay attention to how often this happens and what the reasons are for not taking the time to listen.

 

Looking at the basic listening skills above, how many of those skills are you practicing everyday in your conversations?

What’s missing?

How will applying these skills and awareness help you build relationships with others?

 

We invite you to bring your awareness to your daily conversations and set an intention to be deliberate and purposeful in your listening.  Have awareness around when you listen and when you drift off – Who are you speaking with?  What kind of conversations are you having?   Notice what stops you from applying the skills above.

 

Being mindful and intentional in your listening will create change.  Share with us what’s new and different.  What have you learned?  How are your conversations and relationships different?