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Understanding

“Do you understand what I mean?” he asked.
In many relationships, one of the big barriers to understanding is a lack of communication, a lack of talking things out, a lack of keeping things in the open. Oftentimes whilst counselling, one half of a relationship will sit in brooding silence, hugging any grievances close to their heart, rather than being open and honest.
Pressures can mount, small things are magnified and frequently much more than is true can be imagined in their minds by either party. Fragmentary listening, misinterpretation of ideas, and mistaken meanings of words can cause misunderstandings. And so there is much not knowing, much mistrust, much heartache, much unhappiness and sitting hurting, in silence. Happiness will not survive in pent up places.
So how do we strengthen these relationships?
We need to engage in meaningful conversations.
It all starts with the greatest of all the communication skills, and that is being an effective listener. That means slowing down. Being listened to is one of the highest forms of respect and recognition. Really listening is not about gaining information, rather it is to gain understanding.
Some years ago Marvin J. Ashton said “Communication is more than a sharing of words. It is the wise sharing of emotions, feelings, and concerns. It is the sharing of oneself totally.”
Regularly setting aside time to talk where there are no distractions can help to solve problems.
Why not start today and resolve to listen a little more.
When will you set aside time to communicate and really listen?

Eye contact – connections!

Why is making eye contact so important?

Yesterday, I recorded a video for the British Heart Foundation with tips for audience engagement and presentations. I shared a few ideas, but it struck me how really valuable eye contact is!

In every instance and often unwittingly we use our eyes as a means of communication with other people. It’s a very important form of body language. In fact, when you have good eye contact with another person, it demonstrates that you are paying attention and listening.

Using your eyes is a powerful way to really connect with another person, whether with members of an audience as you scan their faces one by one, or in our virtual world by actually looking into the camera! Sharing yourself openly with an audience, builds trust and is literally the window to your soul and theirs!

As you maintain eye contact with the person you are talking to, it denotes your interest and expresses that “You are important and I am listening.” When you don’t look people in the eye, they are much less likely to engage with you. Conversely, when you look someone in the eye, they are more likely to engage with you and much more likely to listen!

Making eye contact builds rapport and always helps to connect. Give it a go today!

Are you listening?

This past week it struck me that the word listen is made up of the same letters as silent. Coincidence?

Maybe we need to be silent to really listen a little more perhaps?

Yesterday I was busy redesigning a virtual learning workshop. As I was reflecting upon how much listening I do in my coaching career and as a facilitator, I realised… I listen a lot!!

Here are my top tips on active listening from my design work yesterday…

– Pay Attention! Don’t just listen to the words, or simply respond…hear the complete message, as Stephen Covey always used to say, listen to understand.

– Show that you are interested – nod, use facial expressions, use eye contact, make verbal comments like “uh huh” or I see.

– Listen to the other person’s story without being judgmental.

– Use empathy to understand and feel what the other person is feeling.

– Ask open questions to probe further, check for understanding and summarise.

– Don’t be afraid of silence – frequently that is when the most is going on.

How can you listen a little more today?

One by One

Over the last 30 + years, I have had many opportunities, with 1000’s of individuals to provide coaching, counselling or to share in a mentoring session together.

There are numerous articles, suggestions, models and books outlining what makes a great coaching conversation. In addition, I have also contributed to many discussions in lots of forums on the topic too.

I was however recently reminded again of a blindingly obvious point, it is this – simply stated, these conversations happen 𝙤𝙣𝙚 𝙗𝙮 𝙤𝙣𝙚.

Intimate one by one conversations enable the most effective and powerful opportunities for change to occur. Giving someone your undivided attention for 30, 60 or even 90 minutes creates a powerful, meaningful, candid and insightful crucible for change. It is distraction free time.

Frequently, during these one by one moments a “reality check” occurs for the coachee. Indeed, a coaching conversation is perhaps the most personal and powerful form of communication and change that there is.

If you want change to happen, then you need to slow down, make time, listen to understand and consider the power of a coaching conversation, 𝙤𝙣𝙚 𝙗𝙮 𝙤𝙣𝙚.

Who will you hold a coaching conversation with today?

Intuition

At the start of my coaching career I often thought – “I can’t say that” – but now as the years have gone by, I always do.

One of the great lessons I have learned in my coaching practice is to trust my intuition. “A thing that one knows or considers likely from instinctive feeling rather than conscious reasoning.”

In the beginning, I’d worry about where that may lead a coaching session, I guess it felt a little risky. Oftentimes, it does take the flow of the session in a new direction, but never a wrong one, simply a different one. On reflection those moments frequently turn into the most meaningful and insightful learning opportunities.

My philosophy now after years of practice, is to listen to that still small voice, its a feeling that always comes. Paying attention to and observing what is really going on, is a powerful enabler. It brings clarity. There are lots of different names in the coaching world for this, but experience has taught me to always follow and trust your intuition.

My invitation – start to take notice of yours and good things will happen too.

Suspend Judgement

Have you been too quick to judge or too slow to listen lately? Suspend our judgement – easy to say, hard to do perhaps?

Whilst facilitating a recent coaching workshop one of the core topics addressed was suspending our judgement. As we discussed the topic, at first there was some hesitancy about what we meant by it, but eventually settled on the tendency to make judgements about what we are hearing as we hear it.

When we listen, the messages we receive have to compete for attention with the aggregation of all the other information that we have ever received. The accumulation of this information, acquired over our lifetime, makes up our view of the world – in essence our basic belief system.

I love this quote from David O. McKay consider this… “‘Words do not convey meanings; they call them forth. I speak out of the context of my experience, and you listen out of the context of yours, and that is why communication is difficult.”

Active listening means suspending that judgement until you are sure that you have understood exactly what someone is saying, through questioning, probing, checking and summarising – it requires an open mind. As a listener and a leader, we should be open to new ideas, new perspectives, and new possibilities. Even when good listeners have strong views, they should suspend judgement, hold back on any criticisms, and avoid arguing.

Developing the habit of choosing to suspend judgement, even just for a moment, is tough to do. If we want to communicate effectively however and get really good at listening, then it is essential. Stephen Covey said that “the quality of life depends on the gap between stimulus and response”. What we do with that gap is how we improve our experiences, and our lives. Sometimes its really tough – isn’t it? Or is it just me? I know on many occasions I haven’t done too well. But I can improve! Creating this gap in the first place is essential. We can’t choose our response, nor can we improve our response if there is no gap in the first place! I am certain that as we choose to slow down, pause, step back, allowing our minds to unclench and open up to new ideas, we can suspend our judgements. Good luck – give it a go today!