Energy Drainers

Energy Drainers

Making a change – those who drain your energy

Energy drainers – if you are involved with any kind of change you will find it drains your energy. Energy will drain as you come to terms with new situations. energy drainersand deal with confusion. You will have to deal as well with anxiety – your own, and other people’s.  You will find yourself giving out lots of your energy in support of others.  But some people seem to take just a little too much – more than you can afford to give if you are going to stay fit for the task ahead.

We all feel insecure in the middle of change but energy drainers are usually people who are insecure and negative in their everyday life. Quite often they find it difficult to tolerate their own company. You may find people like this start to depend upon you to help them make all kinds of relatively simple life decisions.  They may phone or text you several times a day on any pretext – they can eat you as well as your time and sap your life force!

Energy drainers don’t know how to tap into their personal energy reserves to survive

Very often these sad people are stuck in “Survival Mode.”  They don’t know how to tap into their personal energy reserves to survive. Like children, they haven’t accepted responsibility for their own lives. But they find many ways, including emotional blackmail,  to persuade you to give them the emotional support  and the reassurance they need.  Life is frightening and they are very scared indeed!

We all know people like this. They might be old friends, family or work colleagues. You want to help but their needs are overwhelming.

So, what do you do?

Keep in mind that you may need to conserve your energy to manage a complex change.  If they are part of the change, you are certainly not going to be in a position to cut them out of your life.  Anyway, at the end of the day, most of us would actually like to be in a place to help.

The stance you take depends upon your relationship with the person and the level of your energy reserves. However, your first responsibility is to yourself. You, too, may have to adopt a “Survival Mode” attitude.

It is certainly much easier to deal with someone who is an acquaintance or a work colleague. You have no personal commitment to them and you have every right to say goodbye when you finish work.

Dealing with energy drainers

Always try to stay in a neutral space when talking to them.  Give neutral responses and try not to get drawn into their, or your, emotions.  When you deal with them, imagine you are wearing a breastplate to defend your energy – withhold your energy behind your breastplate. Deliver a neutral, and deliberately, low energy response. Offer no more and no less than is necessary to carry out the transaction.

As a personal survival technique, this approach is also applicable for family and old friends. However, you may choose to take a more compassionate and supportive stance by demonstrating “tough love.” Your goal here is to move them on from negative to positive. You want to move them back into using their own energy resources. In this way, you can help them to become self-sufficient.  Get them to think through their own options – to make choices and plan.  When they do so give them lots of quiet praise – move them on from whining to thinking about concrete ways they can help themselves!

Dealing with emotional blackmail

Be aware, though, that energy drainers will resort to many forms of subtle emotional blackmail to get access to your energy. Don’t let them! Let them know, through your actions, that your energy is no longer accessible to them. Encourage them to make decisions on their own and to enjoy their own company by simply not being available: physically or emotionally.

It will not be easy for you or them. You are breaking established patterns of behaviour and setting a new precedent. But eventually a new dynamic should be established. They should begin to take responsibility for their own life and their own decisions.

You may have to support them through a change as part of your role but do so in a managed way! With friends and family, if they will not take action, success will be impossible. So recognise when you have banged your head once too often against that proverbial brick. It may be the wisest step is simply to “let go.”

If you need help dealing with your energy drainer, please get in touch

Wendy Smith, Career, life and Business Coach
Wendy Smith, Principal Coach, WiseWolf Life and Career Coaching

Wendy Smith is a career consultant, life coach and business coach with depth of experience in organisational development, management, coaching and personal development. That experience means she is equally at home helping clients find a new career direction, starting-up new businesses or dealing with life’s more challenging personal issues. You can contact her at wendy@wisewolfcoaching.com

Wendy has written a little eBook on how to get on with your boss and a book on job search – you can find all her books on Amazon at this link

         

 

Are you going to listen to me? The delicate art of communication! Giving bad news!

This week my posts are going to be about Communication and I start here with how to give the bad news – in this case seriously bad news, for example, about redundancy.

About a year ago I published a version of the post below!  It has been one of the most popular items on this site!

I started my working life as a nurse.  In those days we were given no preparation for giving bad news.  I can still remember feeling totally undone by the prospect of having to tell a young husband that his wife had died!  I was the only person there to give the message.  I did my best but to this day, I know that I could have done it better! I still remember every moment of the encounter with that poor man! So here is the advice which is now usually given to medical students in the UK and I believe nurses in training receive similar advice! It can be equally useful in the workplace.  Don’t under estimate the sense of loss and pain that accompanies news of redundancy!

“THE DELICATE ART OF GIVING BAD NEWS
This post is going to be concerned with, what John Nettles’ character described in a recent edition of Midsomer Murders as, ‘the delicate art of delivering bad news’

I covered giving feedback in a recent post and this is closely related, so you may wish to read that as well.

On most occasions when you give feedback your hearer is expecting a message of some kind – good or bad.  Bad news often comes as a shock, even if it is expected!  The reality and the details may be very hard to bear!  There is, and should be, a lot more to it than just saying or writing the words!

If you want to ensure there is the best possible outcome then you will need to prepare and to follow-up, as well as delivering the message itself well!

Preparing

Preparing to give bad news is almost as important as actually giving it. For instance, where are you going to have the meeting?  Where you sit or stand in relation to the hearer and even what you wear is important, if the news is seriously bad.  If you have to write, then you need to think about the medium – this is not the time for a very brief email! You will need to think about how you are going to follow up and provide an opportunity to handle questions

When choosing a place, you should make sure it’s quiet with little or no chance of interruption. Make sure it’s some place you can make the person feel as comfortable as possible.  If possible, sit close to the person at eye-level with no barrier between you.  Studies have shown that many people feel isolated and alone if you sit behind a desk or some other barrier. They may also perceive you as cold and uncaring if you sit too far away.

Knowing how you should comfort really must come from what you know about the person!  For instance, if you’ve found they don’t like people sitting too close this may make them feel uncomfortable rather than at ease.

One thing that is important is for you to be very clear about the facts, the explanation behind a decision, for example, before you begin.  You also need to know the options open to the person.  In case of redundancy, what support can the person expect from HR?  In this example, identify an HR contact so that you can pass a name and telephone number onto the individual?

The worst thing you can do when giving bad news, is to give the individual the impression that you didn’t even care enough to find out the facts.  Know your material and don’t work from notes, if you can, on this occasion!  Notes can provide a barrier and you will not be able to judge their reactions so well!

Work out what your own feelings are about the situation before the meeting, and how to deal with them!  You want the person to know you are sorry but it isn’t fair to overwhelm them with your own grief!

Giving the news

Watching the person’s reaction and listening are very important while actually while giving bad news. Just from body language or the extent of eye contact, you can tell if they understand and accept what you’re saying and what emotions they are experiencing.   Be prepared for anger or despair with serious news.

It is really important to remember to speak clearly and slowly.  Don’t jump straight into the news – go through the usual courtesies at the beginning of the meeting.  In a letter warn them that you have bad news and say that you are sorry about it!

Throughout the meeting, ask them if they have any questions and if they understand what you’re telling them.    Don’t let your feelings weigh on the listener!

Following-up

After you’ve given the bad news, don’t end the meeting abruptly. Ask again for questions or if they need any information repeated. Offer additional sources of information like pamphlets or the names of support groups if they are available. Make sure to pass on that name and contact details for HR.

Most of us feel somewhat lost after receiving very bad news.  One way to deal with this is to schedule another meeting shortly afterwards or to ring them to discuss how they are going to manage the time ahead.

At the very least you will want to make sure they understood what you told them and that they can respond to it as necessary. Then you may want to allow them some time alone! Just don’t rush them out of your office or wherever the meeting is taking place.  Take time to be kind – compassion costs us nothing!”

I would very much welcome your own tips on handling bad news and to hear your own experiences

I hope to publish the next post in this series on Communication on Wednesday 2nd March 2011

Do you wear a mask at work? Can you be yourself at work or even at home?

I’ve always had a dilemma!  I have spent much of my life trying to reconcile the needs of my interesting and satisfying professional life as a manager and consultant, with my spiritual and creative life as a seeker and a poet! For many years, I would rarely let my work colleagues know anything about my other interests!  Even now I exercise a degree of caution in who I tell and how! But life running my own business does mean that I have greater freedom to make my own choices! I was lucky, as I say above I enjoyed my life as a manager and I now enjoy the work I do as a consultant.  I could express myself in both my worlds!

But there are many who are far less lucky than me! Some of us cannot be ourselves at home, let alone at work!  And there is a penalty to pay from the time we spend adapting to meet the needs of others; time we spend pretending to be someone we are not! We can damage our health far more than we probably realise!

Dr Katherine Benziger is a pioneer and leading expert in her field. She has given three decades of teaching and research in psychology working to help people understand, value and use their own and other people’s natural gifts! Her work has focused on the proper and ethical development and application of personality assessment in the global business environment. Significantly, Dr Benziger prefers the term personality assessing, rather than personality testing, to describe her approach. She is keen to distance herself from the ‘personality testing’ industry, which puts the needs of the organisation ahead of the individuals who make it up!

Dr Benziger believes, in simple terms, that there are four different areas of one part of the human brain (the processing section or neocortex) that equate to four different types of human behaviour.

SENSING/BASAL LEFT The fundamental goal of the Basal Left/Sensation Type is to have the fullest possible experience of what is immediate and real, in order to be able to produce dependably. For this reason, the Basal Left is said to contribute or be responsible for the productive foundations in life.

FEELING/BASAL RIGHT The fundamental goal of the Basal Right/Feeling Type is to create harmony, connectedness and good will in the community. For this reason, the Basal Right is said to contribute or be responsible for the peaceful foundations in life.

INTUITION/FRONTAL RIGHT The fundamental goal of the Frontal Right/Intuitive Type is to discover the furthest reaches of the possible, in order to perceive new patterns, invent new solutions, or solve “theoretically insurmountable” problems. For this reason, the Frontal Right is said to contribute or be responsible for the adaptive in life.

THINKING/FRONTAL LEFT The fundamental goal of the Frontal Left/Thinking Type is to create rational order and make sound plans and decisions based on logical analysis. For this reason, the Frontal Left is said to contribute or be responsible for the Directing or Prioritizing function in life.

She believes that each of us is born with a hard-wired connectivity in one of the four areas which usually leads to how we interpret the world around us and how we react to it.  It results in personality styles, thinking styles, behaviour styles or communication styles.

Dr Benziger’s work has focussed on the common tendency of people in work, whether being assessed or not, to adapt their natural thinking and working styles to fit expectations of others.   This can apply both at home and at work! It can be a particular issue for women as many of us strive to be good partners, as well as successful mothers and supportive carers for our elder relatives! The result is tension and stress.  People become increasingly unhappy and ineffective, if they behave in unnatural ways! Much of Dr Benziger’s work focuses on dealing with these issues and the costs of this pressure to adapt.

Dr Arlene Taylor has been a leading specialist in ‘wellness’ since 1980, and has collaborated with Dr Benziger for much of that time.  Arlene Taylor’s work has confirmed, and builds on, Benziger’s observations about the cost of adapting!  Her work has included identifying anecdotally a collection of symptoms. The complete family of symptoms which Dr Arlene Taylor identified within PASS (Prolonged Adaption Stress Syndrome), as linked to Benziger’s work the “Falsification of Type”, are:

  1. Fatigue
  2. Hyper-vigilance
  3. Immune system alterations
  4. Memory impairment
  5. Altered brain chemistry
  6. Diminished frontal lobe functions
  7. Discouragement and or depression
  8. Self-esteem problems

So what does this mean for us as leaders and managers of groups of people at work? Remember that any personality assessment or psychometrics test can be skewed!  This is particularly likely if someone is practised at falsifying their type and spends their time continually trying to be someone they are not. Don’t rely solely on the results of such tests when you are recruiting. Get to know the people who work with you, and for you.  Make sure they know that you value difference in your team!  Don’t put pressure on them to confirm to a stereotype – value the differences between them!

We need to recognise that we are cannot all be good at everything and it is legitimate for us to do less well at some things and better at others! It is also OK for us not all to like or want the same things!   Don’t increase the pressure with unrealistic expectations of yourself and others. Be aware of the people around you and learn to recognise when they are showing the signs of stress!  It could be that they are trying too hard to live up to your expectations and that is causing the problem!  Make sure your expectations of yourself and others are legitimate and that they are reasonable!

You can find our more about Dr Benziger and her work at this link.

WHAT IS BUSINESS COACHING?

Business coaching is a powerful approach for those wanting to develop their own careers, or those of their staff, and people facing career transition.

  • Improve leadership and management skills
  • Think through options and develop successful action plans
  • Communicate with people at all levels with authority and confidence
  • Motivate teams and turn them into high performing and highly motivated units
  • Increase commitment to organizational goals

HOW WILL I BENEFIT FROM COACHING? Coaching enhances your ability to learn, create, make desired changes, and achieve goals. In a coaching relationship, your coach works with you to:

  • Get clear about what you want to accomplish
  • Solve problems and eliminate obstacles
  • Set specific goals and make effective action plans
  • Learn new skills and techniques
  • Gain perspective, get feedback, and discover new ideas
  • Stay true to your vision, focused on your goals, and on track with your plans

WHO BECOMES A COACHING CLIENT? Business coaching is appropriate for any manager or professional who wishes to reach their full potential or manage an enforced change to best advantage.

Wendy Mason has depth of experience as a manager, consultant, coach and mentor.

She specializes in supporting people and organizations, particularly those going through change and transformation.  She provides a discrete business coaching service for those wanting to develop their own careers, or those of their staff and people facing career transition. She is used to working with people from diverse backgrounds and her experience includes public, private and voluntary sectors. You can find her full resume on LinkedIn at http://uk.linkedin.com/in/wendymasonwisewolf

WHEN DO I NEED A BUSINESS COACH? You should consider working with a coach when you are:

  • Wanting to improve the way you carry out your present role
  • Newly promoted
  • Moving from a professional/technical role to general manager
  • Taking on major new project
  • Getting ready for the next promotion
  • Contemplating a career change
  • Wanting to do career stock take before planning for the future
  • Starting a new business
  • Choosing to make significant changes in how your business or organization works
  • Having trouble managing people, projects, or time
  • Facing significant changes in how your business or organization works
  • Facing an enforced personal change like redundancy

IS COACHING DIFFERENT FROM CONSULTING? Yes… and no. Traditional consulting focuses on offering external solutions and prescriptive advice. Coaching facilitates the discovery of answers that are uniquely your own. Your coach provides guidance, expertise, recommendations, and skill-building techniques whenever they are useful, but doesn’t do things for you, nor tell you exactly what to do. Coaching is typically more allied to training or mentoring than it is to consulting, because the emphasis is on your own learning and experience rather than on specific answers provided by an outside expert. Your coach will supply you with ideas, resources, models, and systems that are proven to work, but won’t hand you a completed action plan nor assert that there’s only one right way to accomplish your goals.

HOW DO I GET STARTED? One-on-one coaching can happen in one to one meetings or over the phone. You may offer ongoing coaching or single sessions. You may also choose coaching for your management, project team or work group.
Ongoing coaching relationships begin with an initial session to create an overall strategy. Regular coaching sessions are the held weekly, biweekly, or monthly.
Single or “a la carte” coaching sessions are available at an hourly rate. Your first session has a one-hour minimum; subsequent sessions may be shorter if desired.
On-site team coaching is available in half-day or full-day sessions. You may also wish to consider follow-up group sessions via teleconference.

COACHING WORKS. Find out more about what coaching can do for you! To arrange a free confidential, exploratory discussion please email  wendymason@wisewolfcoaching.com or, if you prefer, call ++44(0)7867681439 and speak to Wendy.

THE DELICATE ART OF GIVING BAD NEWS

This is post is going to be concerned with, what John Nettles’ character described in a recent edition of Midsomer Murders as, ‘the delicate art of delivering bad news’   We covered giving feedback in a recent post and this is closely related, so you may wish to read that as well.

On most occasions when you give feedback your hearer is expecting a message of some kind – good or bad.  Where as bad news often comes as a shock! Even if is it expected in principle – the reality and the details may be hard to bear!  There is, and should be,  a lot more  to it than just saying or writing the words!  If you want to ensure there is the best possible out come then you will need to prepare and to follow-up, as well as delivering the message well!   The advice given here is based on that usually given to medical students in the UK as part of their training.  But it applies equally well if you are giving seriously bad news at work,  for example,  about redundancy!

Preparing

Preparing to give bad news is almost as important as actually giving it. For instance, where are you going to  have the meeting?  Where you’ll sit or stand in relation to the hearer and even what you will wear is important if the news is seriously bad.  If you are going to write, then you need to think about the medium – this is not the time for a very brief email!

When choosing a place, you should make sure it’s quiet with little or no chance of interruption. Make sure it’s some place you can make the person feel as comfortable as possible.  If possible, sit close to the person at eye-level with no barrier between you.  Studies have shown that many people feel isolated and alone if you sit behind a desk or some other barrier. They may also perceive you as cold and uncaring if you sit too far away.  Knowing how you should comfort really must come from what you know about the person!  For instance,  if you’ve found they don’t like people sitting too close this may make them feel uncomfortable rather than at ease.

One thing that is important is for you to be very clear about the facts, the explanation behind a decision, for example, before you begin.  You also need to know the options open to the person.  In case of redundancy, what support can the person expect from HR?  In this example, identify an HR contact that you can pass onto the individual?   The worst thing you can do when giving bad new is to give the individual the impression that you didn’t even care enough to find out the facts.  Know your material and don’t work from notes,  if you can, on this occasion!  Notes can provide a barrier and you will not be able to fully judge their reactions so well!

Work out what your own feelings are about the situation and how to deal with them before the meeting.  You want the person to know you are sorry but it isn’t fair to overwhelm them with your own grief!

Giving the news

Watching the person’s reaction and listening are very important while actually while giving bad news. Just from body language or the extent of eye contact, you can tell if they understand and accept what you’re saying and what emotions they are experiencing.   Be prepared for anger or despair with serious news.    It is really important to remember to speak clearly and slowly.  Don’t jump straight into the news – go through the usual courtesies at the beginning of the meeting.  In a letter warn them that you have bad news and say that you are sorry about it!

Throughout the meeting, ask them if they have any questions and if they understand what you’re telling them.    Your own feelings should be dealt with before the meeting and should not weigh on them!

Following-up

After you’ve given the bad news, don’t end the meeting abruptly. Ask again for questions or if they need any information repeated. Offer additional sources of information like pamphlets or the names of support groups if they are available. Make sure to pass on the name and  contact details for HR.

Most of us feel somewhat lost after receiving very bad news.  One way to deal with this is to schedule  another meeting shortly afterwards or to ring them to discuss how they are going to manage the time ahead.  At the very least you will want to make sure  they processed what you told them. Then you may want to allow them some time alone!. Just don’t rush them out of your office or wherever the meeting is taking place.  Take time to be kind – compassion costs us nothing!

SOME BASIC GUIDELINES FOR GIVING FEEDBACK

In all kinds of situations we may need to give feedback to someone about something they have said or done.  This may be an employee, a work colleague, a business partner.    But it may  equally well be a close friend or relative.  In my view the same principles hold good and they certainly work for maintaining a positive approach in change teams

McGill and Beatty (in “Action learning: A practitioner’s guide”, London: Kogan Page, 1994, p. 159-163) provide useful suggestions about giving effective feedback:

1. Clarity — be clear about what you want to say. Think before you speak!

2. Emphasize the positive —  this doesn’t mean you are endorsing the present behaviour!

3. Be specific — avoid general comments and clarify pronouns such as “it,” “that,” etc – be as clear and simple as you can!

4. Focus on behaviour or the words spoken or written rather than the person.

5. Refer to behaviour/approaches that can be changed.

6. Be descriptive rather than evaluative. Try to stay in the neutral ground emotionally!

7. Own the feedback — Use ‘I’ statements. This is your view!

8. Generalizations – be wary of word like “all,” “never,” “always,” etc., be more specific — often these words are arbitrary limits on behaviour.

9. Be very careful with advice!  People rarely struggle with an issue because of the lack of some specific piece of information; often, the best help is helping the person to come to a better understanding of their issue, how it developed, and how they can identify actions to address the issue more effectively.

I would add one further piece of advise – always put yourself in the other person’s shoes!  Think how you would feel receiving the same information!  No room here for humiliation!

MANAGING CHANGE – WHAT TO DO ABOUT ENERGY DRAINERS

If you are involved with any kind of change you will find it drains your energy as you come to terms with new situations, deal with confusion and your own, and other people’s, anxieties.  You will find yourself giving out lots of your energy in support of others.  But some people seem to take just a little too much – more than you can afford to give if you are going to stay fit for the task ahead.

We all feel insecure in the middle of change but energy drainers are usually people who are insecure and negative in their everyday life – quite often they find it difficult to tolerate their own company. You may find people like this start to depend upon you to help them make all kinds of relatively simple life decisions.  They may phone or text you several times a day on any pretext – they can eat you as well as your time and sap your life force!

Very often these sad people are stuck in “Survival Mode.”  They don’t know how to tap into their personal energy reserves to survive and like children, they haven’t accepted responsibility for their own lives. But they find a variety of ways, including emotional blackmail,  to persuade you to provide them with the emotional support  and the reassurance they need.  Life is frightening and they are very scared indeed!

We all know people like this – they can be old friends, family and work colleagues.  You want to help but their needs are overwhelming.

So, what do you do?  Keep in mind that you may need to conserve your energy to manage a complex change.   If they are part of the change, you are certainly not going to be in a position to cut them out of your ife.  Anyway, at the end of the day, most of us would actually like to be in a position to help.

The stance you take depends upon what your relationship with the person is, and upon the level of your energy reserves. However, your first responsibility is to yourself. You, too, may have to adopt a “Survival Mode” attitude.

It is certainly much easier to deal with someone who is an acquaintance or a work colleague. You have no personal commitment to them and you have every right to say goodbye when you finish work.

When you are dealing with them try to stay in a neutral space – give neutral responses and try not to get drawn into their or your emotions.  When you dealing with them, imagine you are wearing a breastplate to defend your energy – withhold your energy behind your breastplate – deliver a neutral, and deliberately, low energy response. Offer no more and no less than is necessary to accomplish the transaction.

As a personal survival technique, this approach is also applicable for family and old friends. However, you may choose to take a more compassionate and supportive stance,- demonstrate your love but it may be “tough love.” Your goal here is to move them from negative to positive and to move them back into using their own energy resources. In this way, you can help them to become self-sufficient.  Get them to think through their own options – to make choices and plan.  When they do so give them lots of quiet praise – move them on from whining to thinking about concrete ways they can help themselves!

Be aware, though, that Energy Drainers will resort to many forms of subtle emotional blackmail to get access to your energy. Don’t let them! Let them know, through your actions, that your energy is no longer accessible to them. Encourage them to make decisions on their own and to enjoy their own company by simply not being available: physically or emotionally.

It will not be easy for you or them.  You are breaking established patterns of behavior and setting a brand new precedent. But eventually a new dynamic should be established.  They should take responsibility for their own life and their own decisions.  You may have to support them through a change as part of your role but do so in a managed way! With friends and family, if they will not take action, success will be impossible. So recognize when you have banged your head once too often against that proverbial brick wall and when the wisest step is simply to “let go.”

GETTING ON WITH OTHER PEOPLE – 8 WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR SOCIAL SKILLS

Probably the greatest gift you can have in life is the ability to get one with other people.  We have already written about emotional intelligence and you can follow that up at the link. But this is simply a piece about  getting on with others – simple but very important.  Some of us are born with the gift;  for other our parents teach us how to do it.  Unfortunately, some people just slip through the net and they can’t understand why they don’t get on with others.  Going through change ,as in life, social skills are invaluable.  Happily even later in life you can learn some techniques to help.

1. Relax

You need to be able to concentrate on some one else and in order to do that you need to be relaxed enough to forget yourself.  We have provided a simple relaxation technique at the link which you might like to practice for 15 minutes before any really challenging social situation.  If you don’t have that much time, then take yourself to a quiet place, take some gentle deep breaths and just think of your favorite place in the world for a few seconds – one more deep breath!   Now you are ready for an adventure! Remember when you meet someone that you really do have lots of things in common already.  We all share the common human condition.  Most of us worry about our health, having enough money our families and what other people think of us.  The Dalai Lama thinks of everyone as an old fiend – that way he can relax and be warm towards them!  Try it – its very useful skill  and well worth practicing.

2. Concentrate on them

Here is this other person, with all their life history, before you!  They are an unopened book!  There are very few people who don’t like talking about themselves and their interests, if you give them the opportunity.  Don’t get too personal too quickly and its a good idea to relate your question to the even.  |You can always ask – have they been here before, why have they come, what is their special interest?  Parties you can always ask who they know?  Concentrate on them, listen to them and then ask a follow up question based on what they just told you – keep them talking!  Focus on them not you!

3. Use your listening Skills

We’ve already written on listening skills – more at the link.  But briefly – let the other person know you are listening   by making ‘I’m listening’ noises – ‘Uh-huh’, ‘really?’, ‘oh yes?’ Feed back what you’ve heard – “So he went to the dentist? What happened?” !  Refering back to others’ comments later on – “You know how you were saying earlier”.   Pay attention!

4. Empathise

Take an interest in what they saying – try to keep still,  make eye contact (but don’t stare) and smile (if they are telling you something neutral or nice and don’t if they are telling you something sad).   A fascination (even if forced at first) with another’s conversation, not only increases your comfort levels, it makes them feel interesting. Remember what I said about sharing the human condition – they are interesting – they have a whole life to tell you about!

5.Build Rapport

Rapport is a state of understanding or connection that occurs in a good social interaction. It says basically “I am like you, we understand each other“. Rapport occurs on an unconscious level, and when it happens, the language, speech patterns, body movement and posture, and other aspects of communication can synchronize down to incredibly fine levels. Rapport is an unconscious process, but it can be encouraged by conscious efforts.

  • Body posture ‘mirroring’, or movement ‘matching’  – stand or sit the way they stand or sit etc!  For example – if they cross their arms, cross yours.  But not obviously!
  • Reflecting back language and speech –  use the same words – if they are talking quietly – you do too.  If they are talking quickly speed up etc
  • Feeding back what you have heard, as in 3) above

6. Self Disclosure

You need to think about how much to talk about yourself and when.  Talking about yourself too much and too early can be a major turn-off for the other person.  Initially don’t tell them your family secrets, your politics, your religion, the details of your medical complaints or your divorce.  Keep those things for when you know each other a little better.  You can talk about the weather (in UK), television, films, the theatre, – ask them what books they are reading.  Keep it balanced and in the neutral space – let them take it on to more personal things when they are ready.   As conversations and relationships progress, disclosing personal facts (small, non-emotional ones first!) leads to a feeling of getting to know each other.

7. Appropriate eye contact
If you don’t look at someone when you are talking or listening to them, they will get the idea that: you are ignoring them or you are untrustworthy or you just don’t like them.  This doesn’t mean you have to stare at them – staring at someone while talking to them can give them the feeling you are angry with them. Keeping your eyes on them while you are listening, of course, is only polite and smile when its appropriate.  But note rules vary and  eye contact in particular varies between culture.

8. Practice

Remember this is a skill and you have to practice.  Do it consciously and do it often.  You will find you lose yourself in it and become really interested in the other person and therefore interesting to them.  It will become second nature and you will begin to wonder what the fuss was about.  Above enjoy your practice and begin to enjoy meeting people.

Good Luck –I would love to hear how you get on!

BE A GREAT BOSS IN A RECESSION – 5 WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR LISTENING SKILLS

Being a good boss is always the way to get the best out of your team.  This becomes more, not less, important during a recession when every resource available to you counts.  Even if you have to let people go, there is a right and wrong way to do it.  We have suggested 10 ways in which you can be a great boss. Listening is an important part of recognizing people and their contribution and making them feel part of your team.

To enhance your listening skills, you need to make sure the other person knows that you are listening to what he or she is saying.  lf if you’ve ever been engaged in a conversation when you wondered if the other person was listening to what you were saying – you will know how important this is. You begin to wonder if your message is getting across, or if it’s even worthwhile continuing the conversation.  It make you feel the other person doesn’t put much value on you and what you have to say.

You can acknowledge what someone is saying just with  a nod of the head or a simple “uh huh.  You aren’t necessarily agreeing with the person, you are simply indicating that you are listening. Using body language and other signs to acknowledge you are listening also reminds you to pay attention.  They help you to concentrate on what they are telling you and help you understand the real message.   Try to respond in a way that encourages the other person to continue speaking, That way you can get the information you need.   An occasional question or comment to recap what has been said communicates that you understand the message, as well as clarifying for you.

Here are five ways to improve your listening skills and to reassure the other person that you are really hearing them!

  1. Concentrate
    Give the speaker your undivided attention and acknowledge the message.  Look at the speaker directly and concentrate on what they are saying with an open mind.  Don’t let yourself be distracted by anyone or anything else.
  2. Use your body language
    Use gestures to show you are listening.  Nod, smile and use the appropriate facial expressions. Make sure your posture is open and inviting and make small verbal comments – yes, no and even uh huh!
  3. Give feedback.
    Our own prejudices and preconceptions can interfere with what we hear.   So reflect as you listen and then play back to the person what you think they just said – “ It sound like what you saying is”– followed by a short summary .  Or ask a question for clarification – “Is this what you mean..?”  Summarizing back to ensure you understood correctly reassures the person that you really are interested and listening
  4. Hold back on judgment.
    Don’t interrupt, its frustrating as well as discourteous – it wastes your time and theirs,  Let them finish – don’t role out counterarguments until you are absolutely sure they are appropriate.  Let the speaker finish their point first and make sure you understand it properly – concentrate on the speaker, not your self
  5. Treat the person and their message with respect
    Act with respect and understanding. The speaker is giving you a gift  – you are gaining information and perspective.  Be grateful – you may wish to dispute their argument but do it with respect.  Do not attack the speaker.  Be candid but constructive in your response

Above all treat the other person as you would wish to be treated!

Try the approach and then let us know if it worked for you!