A communication tip for leaders and for life – part 2: HOW to Take a Step Back

In my last article, I shared with you a communication tip that I called “take a step back”. This technique involves creating a space of mutual understanding between you and those that you are communicating with.

Taking a step back has had a positive impact on my life as a leader, team member, family person and friend.

I had a number of responses to that article saying, “Great idea, George…but it’s a challenge for me!”

So, in this article, I will focus on HOW to take a step back.

Okay, fasten your seatbelts. We are about to take off!

Shift your focus from “ME” to “YOU”

I once lived in a communication world which could be described as “a battle of ideas”. It was your idea versus my idea. On this battleground, my weapon was my ability to get MY view across persuasively.

I often wasn’t that interested in really understanding what the other person was trying to communicate to me. I had a habit of cutting in when the other person spoke…except when he or she agreed with me, of course!

In the workplace, this had negative impacts on my team members. I was the leader. Team members would simply say, “George is going to get his own way, so why bother?”

I thought that I had persuaded people to my point of view, but in fact I had conditioned them to give up.

A new communication default: seek to understand 

My new default is to seek to understand the other person’s point of view: before I am ready to state my point of view, I want to understand yours. Perhaps there are points that I can build on. Perhaps we can find common ground as the basis for the communication. This is when we truly create a space for mutual understanding.

The practice of “seeking first to understand” was eloquently stated by Steven Covey in his classic book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

A simple way to let the other person know that you are seeking to understand is to use simple phrases such as, “What I hear you saying is…”  People feel validated when they feel listened to.

From firing off points to firing off questions

When you focus on seeking to understand what the other person is trying to communicate, you will hold off on your natural tendency to cut in when he or she is speaking. You will ask questions instead.

You will shift from firing off your point of view to firing off questions to understand the other person’s point of view! Wow! So simple, yet so powerful!

The good news is that you will find that people are more willing to listen to you when you listen to them!

Apply the 6 second rule

So, how do we shift from a “me” focus to a “you” focus?

One simple technique is to apply the 6 Second Rule. Very simply, this means that you leave a space of 6 seconds after the other person finishes speaking.

Many people find this difficult to do at first, as they feel that they need so say something absolutely immediately after the other person finishes a sentence. Change your thinking. You are better off giving space after a person speaks rather than shooting back immediately.

By applying the 6 Second Rule, you will be assured that the other person has finished speaking. The other person will feel respected.

That 6 seconds will give you time to process what the other person has said, to think about questions to understand their point of view better, and to think about your response. And, as you are no longer talking over each other, you will find that it will help keep your conversations calm and non-emotional.

If you are one of the people who find it challenging to really listen, try applying these simple tips…and you may be pleasantly surprised at the impact that it makes on the quality of your relationships, your influencing skills, and the quality of your leadership.

Let me know how you go!

Until next time.

 

George Aveling is the Australian-born CEO of TMI Malaysia (www.tmimalaysia.com.my), a global customer-experience transformation consultancy. He is CEO of two sister companies, TACK International Malaysia, a global leadership and sales training company, and Elementrix, a digital learning consultancy. TMI and TACK have offices in 45 countries of the world. Between these companies, there is an unparalleled range of intellectual property to improve individual, team and company performance. If you would like to contact George direct, feel free to email him at george@tmimalaysia.com.my