Don’t answer my question!

Don’t ask me a question if you don’t want to know MY answer.

Don’t you just love it when people ask you a question and proceed to make assumptions and try to answer it for you or worse, only give you a couple of options as replies, influencing your thoughts and closing down any chance of an authentic unadulterated reply.

I don’t know if you have noticed but UK chat-show host Jonathan Ross does this all the time.  It’s not called “The Jonathan Ross Show” for nothing – because it’s all about him!

It’s not just irritating to watch it’s exasperating when it happens to you in conversation. In my experience I notice it in networking situations, meeting new people who have, of course already made some assumptions about you based on what you look like and your voice/accent in the first few seconds.

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Why do we ask questions?

Surely it is to find out information we didn’t previously know.  Why, then, would anyone try to guess the answer, or make assumptions (which are often wrong)? Is it because we hope to show the person we are talking to that we are able to guess accurately what they will say? Is it because we think we might make a connection by showing we are intuitive?

Maybe no-one thinks much before doing it, it’s just a nasty habit they have picked up. The trouble with habits is they are hard to break.  You have to form a stronger new habit to override that behaviour or action.

Here’s a question, “Do you care enough about good quality conversations to form a new habit?”

Becoming self aware isn’t an easy or swift practise.  Listening skills can be applied to yourself as well as to others. In any and all conversations, try to listen to what you say, what questions you ask, and if you stop talking immediately to hear the real answer.

Successful people listen, remember details and use their charisma to win people over and build strong relationships. They don’t spend their time telling people things or sharing information out.  They are gatherers of information and by remembering details along the way, they can make people feel special by mentioning those details when next they meet. For example, when someone asks you how your spouse and children are by name, or how you got on at important event you mentioned last time you spoke.

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Here’s another question, “Would you give someone feedback if they were doing it to you?”

Most people baulk at the idea of giving someone feedback.  Especially if they have been given poor feedback themselves from others in the past.  I wouldn’t expect you to or advise you to give feedback to a new acquaintance but you can give feedback to those you know well.  Friends and family and co-workers should be able to receive feedback given kindly, privately and at an appropriate time.

Receiving feedback is an art. I’ll be writing a whole blog about giving and receiving feedback, soon.

Sam Warner 07973 490150              Email: sam@get-your-message-across.com

Sam’s website: www.get-your-message-across.com  

www.toastmasters.org     www.shropshirespeakers.org.uk       www.ludlowspeakers.org.uk

Because Communication is not optional.

Are you really Listening?

Listening skills are so underrated.

I’ve learned a lot of useful stuff over the last few years. I used to dominate the conversation, I would interrupt because I was desperate to say what came into my head before I forgot, I used to talk too much and I would forget to ask people questions and wait to really listen to their answers.  It meant that people didn’t really enjoy spending time with me.  I wouldn’t have enjoyed spending time with me if I had met me.

Have you ever asked yourself, “Am I really listening?”

I bet you have personal, first hand experience of meeting someone new and they monopolise the conversation. They either want to tell you their life story or everything about their amazing new opportunity and they forget to ask you any questions, or to listen to any answers if they did ask you a question. It can be very draining. I bet you’d avoid them if you saw them again….?

I’ve been in many situations in networking recently where I feel like I’ve been grilled, it’s like the other person has 50 questions they needed me to answer before I was allowed a chance to ask them about themselves, and have, you know, a conversation! I feel violated and exhausted, and it doesn’t make me feel valued and accepted.

I don’t know if that’s nervousness on their part, or a way to control the situation, or a way of filtering out people who are useful/useless to them. Whatever the reason, it still leaves me feeling a bit cheated and disrespected. Another person that I’d probably avoid if I saw them again.

Don’t you feel great when you feel listened to?

There’s something lovely about having a real conversation, that gentle to and fro, your turn, my turn, sharing of anecdotal stories, the asking of a question and a listening to the answer, and asking a follow up question based on and directly related to the answer. This is building rapport, a relationship and getting to know someone.

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People buy people remember; and even if the person in your conversation isn’t someone you will find yourself working with in the future, you might meet someone else who could use their products or services and with your hand on your heart you will be able to recommend them based on the relationship you built in your conversation.

The other kind of listening that is often missed is looking out for details; names, dates, places, anything that you can repeat back to the other person so they know you really were listening. There’s a technique I use where I repeat what the other person is saying in my head almost like I’m talking at the same time, but it’s a discipline that helps me to block out the rest of the room. Its especially helpful in noisy networking situations when it can be hard to hear clearly or for a sustained amount of time.

What’s your listening technique?

Once out of the meeting, make some notes whilst the info is fresh in your mind about the people you have met. How good will that person, that you just met briefly, feel, if you remember they said their child was going to win an award or they had achieved a big contract, and you ask them how that’s going. They will feel really respected that you bothered to remember. It’s one of the key techniques employed by top charismatic and charming leaders who are extremely successful.

So, don’t be that other person in the conversation that interrogates or won’t take turns; relax, enjoy the dialogue, listen to the way they speak and words they use. Be genuinely interested and offer relevant information. Listen out for an accent, unusual turns of phrase, silently acknowledge if you think they are confident, or shy, or if you think they are just starting out or dab hands, you can modify your language accordingly, (but don’t make assumptions).

It is within you to give the gift of respect and listening.

They might also use similar words in their dialogue like “Do you see what I mean” “Let me paint you a picture” or feel the need to grab a pen to illustrate their point.  Chances are that this is a good indication they will respond to dialogue from you with similar visual references, and you know they will love to see some slides if you are presenting to them.  They might also be influenced by how you dress.  On a similar note, auditory and kinaesthetic people will use different dialogue which will help you understand how to connect with them on an emotional and personal level.  I’ll be doing another blog covering this whole subject soon.

When communicating at home, often the TV or computer will get in the way of communication.  It’s useful to say the person’s name and wait for them to acknowledge you before diving in, so that you know you have their full attention.  “Dave, can I ask you something?”, I wait……….. he pauses TV, looks at me “Go on then, yes”.  Now I know he’s listening and not distracted I can deliver my question or message. If I tried to speak whilst he was in full flow (watching TV for instance) he would not be able to listen to me, or respond to me.  There’s no point getting huffy with someone for not listening if you didn’t give them time to connect with you, and be receptive.

If you know someone else that dominates conversations perhaps you could give them some kind and supportive feedback to help them understand their impact on others. I’ll cover giving and receiving feedback in a future blog.

Remember to ask yourself occasionally “Am I really listening?”

Hope you find this info useful.

Remember – communication isn’t optional. http://www.get-your-message-across.com