Stop listening to the sound of your own voice
Stop listening to the sound of your own voice
Tell me about the last meeting you attended? I don’t mean the impromptu call with your co-worker, but a meeting where your boss or another manager formally invites you with a bulleted agenda. You naturally accept what other options are there. Are you excited? Curious? Or do you immediately have a sinking feeling of another long ‘talk at you’ meeting?
When we unpack the connection of our emotional response to a meeting invite. It often has more to do with how the leader ‘shows’ up at the meeting, then the content base. As leaders, we talk a lot. It’s part of the role, giving feedback, communicating projects, goals, outcomes, and lately, more than ever managing a crisis.
Whether we are in a leadership role within our organization, being a good listener is a skill. It’s one skill that continually needs attention.
Question Your Questions
It’s easy for an SME, Subject Matter Expert, to teach and share what they know. And it’s even more natural for a leader to want to fix, save, advise, coach, convince, guide, maneuver, or whatever other words we might like to associate, with what is referred to as “positioning questions.” These are questions that have an underlying plan and are used to guide the conversation back to the individual and their viewpoint.
Questions play a pivotal part in a conversation when used to engage and open up discussions for everyone to participate. Questions also allow us to stay curious and help expand the viewpoints of others. Through the use of questions that start with “what” or “how,” we draw out the participants and engage in knowledge sharing. However, when we use questions that begin with “why” and “when” they tend to have a more limited vantage or possibly border on accusatory.
Staying curious and looking at the situation through a new lens, using “what” and “how” questions, we are opening ourselves and others around us to share and express experiences, knowledge, and learning.
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” –Victor Frankl
In the natural flow of a conversation, there is a small space between what is said and how we react. Victor Frankl put this beautifully as the ‘space between stimulus and response.’ How we choose to use this space affects if we are going to react or reflect. The use of this space can be the difference between growth and freedom, the difference between attraction and commitment, the difference between shut down and shut off.
When we choose to use our space, our breath, for a moment of reflection, amazing things can happen in our conversations as well as our connections. When we allow time to reflect, it enables others to share the space. When we become a reflective listener instead of a reflexive listener, we are shifting our approach. We will start to experience more understanding and see the unspoken needs of those around us.
Try using reflective questions to help the practice of holding space:
- What hope, fear or concerns are they trying to tell me?
- What assumptions am I making?
- What reasoning is being offered?
It’s not what you say, instead what you Do
How others make us feel is a large part of how we show up as listeners. The nonverbal cues reveal the true feelings in both us and others. Being an active listener isn’t merely about hearing and being slow to respond; our physical tells impact the receiver more than anything:
- Do you speak in a slow, monotone voice or high pitched and fast?
- Do you slouch? Lean back in our seat? Rest our head on our hand?
- Do you look solely at the computer or note pad in front rarely looking at the person speaking?
- Do you practice smiling, opening your eyes wide and chin level with the ground?
- Do you lean forward, giving full attention?
- Do you rest our hands comfortably on the table in front of you?
Giving attention to our non-verbal cues could mean the difference in being a leader or a manager, being someone others attracted too, providing the ability to rally others in support of a project or capture the audience before us.
As leaders, it more about what you do, the questions you ask, the way you make others feel, and the space you hold, then the words you say. Learning these skills takes practice, patience and sometimes a trusted colleague to help remind you of who you want to be, where you are going on your journey as a leader and hold you accountable.
Change Your Leadership Language
Recently a very successful CEO shared a list of 24 phrases with me. The list is a compilation of simple phrases, questions and one-liners that change how your team and others react. They might seem obvious once you get a copy of the list; however since I don’t know the original source I am hesitant to post it openly on the internet.
Would you like a list of phrases that will inspire, praise, encourage, build trust, and motivate?
If yes, please email me and put in the subject line “24-Phrases” I will share the list; with a little time and practice, these saying will become part of your natural vocabulary and help change your leadership language.