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This means showing that you are listening:
In other words, look engaged – it will encourage the other person to continue talking.
Questions always engage. We are hard wired to answer questions, at least mentally. If I ask you: “what’s 3 + 2?” you’ll almost certainly have thought “5”. So you are engaged. You are connected. Maybe even despite yourself.
Questions not only engage – they are a useful control device, in that they direct people’s thoughts, and therefore help you set the agenda. It absolutely doesn’t matter what you are thinking about NOW – just at this moment…but:
Will stop you, momentarily, from thinking about what you were thinking, and put you onto the agenda of shopping…
Turn to face whoever you are speaking to, or is speaking – or you want to pay attention to. If you turn your whole body to face them, rather than just your head, you will appear more focused, more committed to them – because you have ‘let go’ of wherever else you had been focused, and have now decided to focus on them. Which they will appreciate (so long as you don’t overdo it, and become intimidating with your intensity!). Also, keep your body open – no folded arms or crossed legs – and equalise heights – height differentials are evened out through sitting…and when standing, taller people can unintentionally intimidate shorter people.
Keep your head parallel to the ground – ie be level headed. Othewise, if you tilt your head downwards, you will be looking at the other person severely – down your nose at them; or perhaps, and unintentionally, look coy – and if you tilt your head back, you will look dismissive, superior….
Recap is the best way of showing someone that you have been listening. Also, it’s a useful way of regaining control if a conversation or meeting is moving away from you or the agenda. Because when you recap, the other person or group will be quiet, wanting to see if the recap is accurate (and if it isn’t, then that can be helpful, because you are genuinely checking understanding). But by using the recap, you can change the tempo of the conversation, and refocus the conversation….
Listen carefully to what others are saying – they will provide cues and clues. Not only about themselves and their life, but also about the language and terms they are comfortable with. So if you play any of these back, later in the conversation, they will notice (at least unconsciously) and probably give you credit as ‘someone who listens, and pays attention – and also who takes an interest in me…’
A + B: in any conversation, look to acknowledge the other person’s contribution, and where possible, build on it. This will make them feel listened to, and valued. Wherever you can, say ‘and’ to build, rather than ‘but’, to object….
You can show empathy without necessarily agreeing with the other person and their point of view. Empathy means appreciating the other person, their world, and their views of it. Knowing that others have, and are entitled to, their opinions, and being able to acknowledge that, and work with them, without necessarily sharing or supporting their views.
Everyone has their own ‘tempo’ for speaking; this may be context dependent – they will speak more quickly or slowly depending on the situation. Your job is to sense their chosen tempo, and where possible, match it. If they are in reflective mode, and speaking more slowly, more thoughtfully, then give them that space. Do the same, and don’t hurry them….
More about this in the next podcast – but for now, remember that little things can make a big difference. I’ve already referred to the difference between ‘and’ and ‘but’. ‘And’ is a conjoining word, bringing things together; ‘but’ is a separating word, raising objections….Notice the difference between saying:
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