Using listening skills and focus on others can increase influence, and confidence
It may seem odd to start a communication by asking the audience what they want to hear. But when we just start talking, it can be like talking into a void. Who hasn’t started a presentation or told a two-minute job history that (whoops!) turned into eight minutes and never really got to the point. It happens in meetings when we fear that we might not know enough. It happens in interview situations where the power feels imbalanced and we get nervous. Imagine how different the conversation would be if you listened first. You could tailor your message and have so much more impact.
Here are a few ground rules for effective listening.
- Set up the room, focus the participant(s) and turn off the devices.
- To break the ice, be as transparent as possible. Sometimes I just smile and say, “Where should we begin?”
- Listen with minimal encouragers – nods, yeses, um-hums, wow!’s – but don’t interrupt or take over.
- Summarize or reflect what the person said: “So you really want to know about our 2016 business plans.”
- Know your triggers. Do you tend to provide solutions, avoid confrontation, or become critical? Knowing what you do when you feel nervous can help you stay open, and calm.
Here’s my call to action: Would you really listen to a friend or colleague twice this week for 10 minutes each? Notice what happens and see if you’d like to try it again!
And for those who know my background…Vive la France!
Understanding the rules of communication can help you manage conversations and presentations
90% (my guesstimate) of confidence is how we feel and manage ourselves in the presence of others. Some people seem to respond appropriately no matter what the circumstance. We want that too, yet most of us don’t know that it’s possible to learn and use simple rules of human behavior. In fact, without those rules it’s like we are playing a piano concerto without knowing how to read music.
We all have behavioral preferences that directly affect our communication style. And, even with each of us being totally unique, those behavioral styles can be grouped so that it’s easier to predict what someone will say and do under different circumstances. Imagine if you could pull back the curtain on what people are thinking and feeling and then adapt what you say and do to improve the communication. What if you could:
- Understand your own communication preferences and how your habits can enhance, or inhibit, communication with others.
- Be able to easily read the style cues of others so that you can gauge what they think and feel about a situation and anticipate their likely response.
- Improve communication with others by flexing to their point of view, or sharing your point of view in a way that will carry more influence with that person.
My all time favorite is the Social Style (or the DISC assessment). I have used this tool with hundreds of clients and students and it is one of the aspects of our work that most stays with them. Recently I have been working with Strengths Finder 2.0, which also helps understand ourselves and people who are different from us. These tools are great for understanding our own preferences. They are also great for understanding the preferences of others, and that’s often where the juice is.
I invite you to learn more about these tools by writing to me, or grab the Strengths Finder 2.0 or People Styles at Work.
Good luck and enjoy the crisp weather!
Exercise, Meditation and Power Poses
This summer I spent three weeks in France with my family. It was wonderful…and so relaxing. I attribute a lot of that stress reduction to physical factors. Having less to do and letting time stretch so that the things I did do, I could do well. Letting the rhythms of nature — the tides, the sun, and our stomachs — guide the day. And finally, connecting with lots of extended family and friends. So nourishing and so restorative.
Scene change. Back in New York, how do you maintain that centered, resourceful, confident post-vacation feeling? There is no question that our bodies and minds are connected. Not all stress is bad, but you need to have the mental wherewithal to harness it, not get swamped. Here are some of possibilities to choose from:
- Exercise. Everyone knows this is key. As counterintuitive as it seems to stop everything for an exercise break, the burst of productivity it generates always pays back in spades. And, regular exercise makes it easier to withstand the bumps and bruises of daily life.
- Meditation. I wake up an hour before my family, sit on the couch and breathe, stretch, or just be with my own thoughts, uninterrupted. I like the meditation I use because it asks you to tense and relax your muscles, which keeps your thoughts from wandering. It is super effective: http://positiveintelligence.com/resources/pq-gym/
- Power Poses. If you haven’t seen this Amy Cuddy TED Talk please do. (And if you haven’t seen the parody of the power poses on the Kimmy Schmidt series, please do!) I use power poses when I go into interviews, have a call I want to be my best for, or just when I am brainstorming and need a little creative juice.
- Connecting with Others. Be grateful for colleagues, even those who occasionally drive you nuts! Being with others and having small, or big, conversations is key to feeling balanced and maintaining confidence.
Here’s to the beauty of fall’s changing leaves.
Based on several of you writing to me about the importance of faith in feeling confident, this post is about purpose and faith as lines of sight. To be honest, writing about faith is something I have dragged my feet on. It blends with religion, which is such a contentious topic. But with the recent Papal visit right here in NYC, I guess the time is right.
Last week the news media kept highlighting the Pope’s refusal to limit his contact with the public. I love that. True, it is making his handlers frantic and made my walk through Central Park twice as long as usual. But what I see in the gesture is a letting go of control. The Pope says that his safety is in the hands of the universe. In a “Just Do It” nation, that feeling goes against a lot of what we believe. The American Dream relies on the idea that you can make it happen, it’s all in your hands. While that initiative is admirable, it can make us highly anxious, and it can inhibit confidence. We do have to take action, but that action is best when it’s balanced with some easing of control.
When I work with clients on public speaking I tell them not to focus on their feelings of nervousness, but to think about why they are up there and what they are wanting for the audience. With intention and purpose, they can let go and trust that their efforts will connect them to the room. When the sense of purpose is bigger than the fear, we take action and that action in turn increases confidence. At networking events I tell myself that there is at least one person in the crowd who would love to get unstuck with a challenge at work. I was put there to connect with them. That perspective makes the awkward, even scary, hellos and small talk so much easer.
What would it do to your confidence to let go a little?
All my best,
When I was 28 years old I traveled alone to the Banda (Spice) Islands in Indonesia. I had heard you could pick nutmeg and cloves directly from the trees and that the coral reef was unmatched. It’s where Columbus was headed when he discovered America. It was also as far from home as I could imagine going and I loved the idea of seeing the Southern Cross instead of the North Star. I was fearless then.
Being fearless is a wonderful thing. Yet so often our experience is managed by negative voices and limiting beliefs. Ideas, mostly in our heads, that tell us that we can’t do something we want to do. That we can’t have that difficult conversation. We won’t be good at leading a team, or that someone will eventually see that they made a mistake in promoting us. These voices are an absolute confidence killer.
Last year I discovered an amazing book about those negative voices, also known as saboteurs. It’s called Positive Intelligence by Shirzad Chamine. According to the author the pressure we experience from the fast-changing, high-tech, over-scheduled lives we lead causes us to be in our “fight-or-flight” thinking most of the time. So the voices that are meant to protect us, and that should be occasional, are actually making most of the decisions. It takes enormous effort to stay in our clear and creative thinking. To gain access to clear and creative thinking, we need to slow down, meditate and challenge our thought process as we make decisions.
Please take a moment to experience this book and the website. The assessments and the resources in the PQ Gym are great. I don’t have any connection to the author. I just use the exercises myself and with my clients. It has been a game changer for me.
This summer I am focused on enjoying myself. I wish the same for you too!
When I asked what makes you feel confident, the responses couldn’t have been more different. This response reflects a feeling that resonated with many of you — to feel good without the need for external validation:
“For me confidence is knowing the heights one’s self is capable of without the requirement
of external validation. It’s probably a lot like what it feels to sky dive, or float on top of the ocean.
A letting go of the ground and everything it stands for. And maybe a letting go of all the expectations,
all the mistakes, all the experience, all the “proof”, but instead just ‘knowing’.”
I have a particular perspective on self and other-awareness. Knowing what you need and bring to the table is only part of the game. When you also know the spectrum of talents, skills and behavior that are required to make things work, you don’t have to be all things to all people. You can just be yourself, let go of the rest, and adapt situationally when someone has a different approach. Take a football team. There is a quarterback, a defensive lineman and a wide receiver. One will think that the answer to most challenges is to run, another to tackle and the third to pass the ball. Each of those solutions brings something, and is right at a different time. Spend as much time as you can in the role that gives you the most confidence, then respect the other perspectives and let them lead when it feels right.
As for resources, most of you know my favorites by now: Myers-Briggs, Social Style or DISC and Strengths Finder. When you read these, look at the styles that are not you. See what you notice and what that awareness can bring to your work with others.
Wishing you wonderful summer fun!
In corporate environments that ask us to be professional, being yourself can feel tricky. I’ll share a client story that captures it. Karen’s job consisted primarily of presenting new concepts to clients for the adverting agency she worked at. Bubbly, energetic and very creative, Karen was great at the product part of her job. Where she struggled was in being authentic. Her agency was one of the largest in the industry and fairly corporate. She, on the other hand, was quirky, high energy and loved to capture new trends that a lot of people weren’t ready for. She felt torn. Would being her authentic, quirky self hurt her in this conservative environment? On the flip side, would being more corporate get her promoted, but make her feel like she’d “sold out” her hipster ways?
Together we created a process that allowed Karen to take risks in the right ways. Focusing on smaller, more cutting edge fashion clients, she developed presentations that let her quirkiness come through. And it worked. They loved her style! The small, innovative clients felt like someone in this big organization understood them. Karen was able to leverage these successes and increase her influence. Her supervisor gave her more autonomy and stood behind her more, and she gained the confidence to be herself with the larger more traditional clients. Over the next four years she got two promotions and ended up head of her department.
Being yourself is like a magnet. It’s also hard to do. Like for Karen, there are so many voices telling us to “be professional.” What’s the best way to navigate? First, give yourself permission to be just as you are. This means throwing out the “shoulds” about how or who you are supposed to be. Then, take time to really understand how your strengths impact your team, and your organization’s bottom line. As a next step, you can learn about the various behaviors that are exhibited by effective leaders (“The Leadership Challenge” is a great place to start). With that consider where to learn to stretch into the behaviors that don’t come as naturally to you, without seeing them as personal weaknesses. Being grounded in your authentic self, and stretching when you need to. That is authentic leadership.
I hope you are enjoying the fantastic spring weather!
When my kids were small, someone told me to combine acknowledgement of their accomplishments with small challenges just out of their comfort zone. That is how children learn. It makes them feel confident.
While adults are not much different, today’s world is not set up that way. We have a more diverse workforce than ever before and more people have more opportunity. On the flip side, that makes for an extremely fluid and competitive workplace. We have less job security and have to spend more time on career management. On top of that we are constantly reminded, on our 3-6 devices, that today’s most successful people have rejected the world’s top academic institutions and traditional career paths. The road to success is not clear, but the pressure to succeed BIG is greater than ever. And the secret sauce being sold to us is confidence.
It’s normal to wish for that goshdarnit, once-and-for-all, permanent state of confidence! It’s also normal to slip in and out of periods of confidence, and to feel confident in some areas of your life more-so than in others. It’s even normal to compare yourself to others. In the public speaking coaching I do, students often express feeling like they are the only one who is nervous because others look so calm. Yet when they see themselves on video, they realize that they too look calm. Like the students, you probably look more confident than you feel.
As we explore this topic together, here are a few questions to consider:
- What do you want your work & life to look and feel like in 20 years? Is it the same as the “Joneses?” In what ways is it your own?
- What are you most proud of, not just in what you’ve done, but in who you are?
- What areas of work or life do you feel pretty good in, and where would you like your confidence to grow?
- What beliefs hold your back?
- What do you do in the gray zone?
- When do you give up?
And finally, if you had to give your confidence a number from 1-10 today, what would you give it and why?
More to follow and have a great week,
Thank you again for all of the wonderful responses about confidence. It has taken time to condense, expand and enhance with some coaching solutions. On a funny note, I wanted to do a bit of research about Confidence. It took about two and a half seconds to discover that there is a major best seller out right now called, “The Confidence Code.” It must be in the air! Well according to authors Claire Shipman and Katty Kay, confidence increases when we take action. In that spirit, let me pull the trigger on the titles of the posts I am planning, to be followed shortly by the first. If I’ve missed anything you’d like to hear about, please let me know.
- The Zuckerberg Effect
The distorted value of confidence in an incredibly fluid employment market
- “Just be Yourself”
The importance, and challenge, of being authentic
- It Takes All Types
Understanding what makes each of us feel confident
- Scary Monsters
The role of negative voices and limiting beliefs
- Confidence and the Universe
The role of faith and purpose as lines of sight
- The Physicality of Confidence
Exercise, Meditation and Power Poses
- Know the Rules
How understanding the rules of communication can help you manage conversations and presentations
- It’s All About Them
Using listening skills and focus on others to increase influence, and confidence
- It is What it is
Covey’s “Circle of Influence” and how simple things like grooming and appearance make a difference
- Confidence and Action
The role of “Just Do It” in increasing feelings of confidence
I am looking forward to sharing this with you all, and please do share your thoughts!
Watch for the first post, The Zuckerberg Effect, this Thursday.
Last week’s post on Confidence had an overwhelming response! It seems like we all have strong feelings on the topic. Thank you to everyone for the incredibly thoughtful and varied replies. If you’d still like to send me ideas and haven’t yet, please do so this week. There are just a few days left before I begin compiling and expanding on the ideas.
Thanks again and stay tuned,