• Are you fed up with blogs that start with thought-provoking questions?
  • Does a bulleted list give you the vapours?
  • Have you been given so many tips and tricks that in the end all you want to do is just be told what to do?

As it happens, not many of us like being told what to do. It can be the number one irritation in businesses too, where we are not given enough scope to make decisions for ourselves. It makes us feel that we are not being taken into full consideration. But when it comes to communicating our wants and needs, employer, employee and contractor can often miss the mark. This is what we can do about it.

Make listening your superpower

Communicating isn’t just talking. It’s not just a question of you being able to talk effectively, using the right words and getting people to do what you want.

Listening skills are at the heart of good communication. In fact, effective communicators do more listening than talking.

Let’s take complaints as an example. How many times have you or people you know complained about a product or a service and felt worse afterwards? Do you know why? Because you felt you weren’t being listened to. As a customer, a client or a friend, when we need to talk about our experiences, our one desire is to be listened to and to feel that what we have to say is legitimate.

What can I do? Listen until the complaint is exhausted – keep eye contact, nod and say, “I understand”. But for goodness sake mean it! Apologise, clarify points, and make suggestions at the end. Be prepared to acknowledge you don’t always know the answer, but don’t ask your customer what they want you to do. Make it a collaboration – “here’s what I think we can do…does that sound like a satisfactory solution to you?”

The destructive power of judgement

If we are busy judging others and their actions – what you did was wrong, you’re bad for saying that – we don’t have the capacity for empathy and are unable to focus on solutions.

When we are in this state, we only see things from our point of view, we only see what is wrong with others – she’s obsessed with detail, he’s too opinionated and disorganized.

What can I do? Did I mention that listening is a superpower? Empathy is too. Understand that by judging we give others’ actions a value based on our viewpoint. But remember there is more views than just yours. Listen to other sides of the situation, without adding your story to it, and solutions will reveal themselves.

The way we frame language is very important

But how do I get people to do what I want? I hear you cry. This is all very well, but listening isn’t going to get things done. Good point. But there is a difference between demanding and requesting.

What can I do? Use the word “I” – I feel, I’d like to see, I want you to do. It’s less judgemental and less accusatory. Let’s take some short scenarios using “I’ and “you”

  • “You haven’t been doing this right…” – this is accusatory and judgemental and is never effective.
  • “I need this to be done…” This is commanding and often effective when all else fails, and is tempting to do when the other person isn’t listening, but it instils fear and guilt in your co-workers/employees to do something out of a sense of obligation
  • “I want us to look at…” This is collaborative and inclusive. You don’t need to beat about the bush. You can be clear and still get your point across, but framing it with language that starts with you is an effective approach.

The healing power of empathy

I want you to remember one thing, whenever you speak to anyone, whenever you write to anyone, whenever that text or that email feels really important to get off straight away, don’t send it. Instead, send it to yourself. Seriously, write Dear [your name] and copy the body of it. Is it an effective way to communicate your wants and needs? Now you have stepped into the recipient’s shoes, how do they fit?

Many thanks to Esther for this guest blog. If you want to find out more about Esther and Inkwell or get in touch with her, go to esthermary.com for more information.

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