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How Can Vulnerability Lead to Success?

How Can Vulnerability Lead to Success?

How often do we open up to those around us?

Do we do it on a first date? Heck no. That person is nothing like the slob we really are. It will be at least a few months before the unsuspecting person across the table discovers that you are the kind of person who never puts the new roll of toilet paper into the toilet paper holder. You monster.

How about at a job interview? Double heck no. You are a high achieving go-getter who wants nothing else but to be the best employee ever and you are going to stay this way until at least you qualify for full benefits and vacation pay.

What about on Facebook and other social media? Are you kidding me? Reveal our true selves on there? Isn’t Facebook meant to help make your friends jealous of the types of food you are eating and the awesome places you take a vacation?

How much of your life is really an illusion?

Your façade of lies is carefully plastered all over your ugly truths like a baseball cap covering a bald spot. A bald spot everyone already probably knows about yet one we still feel the need to pretend doesn’t exist.(In fact, we all have these bald spots!!)

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Why do we hide behind these false fronts? The answer is pretty simple. It’s our human nature. We tend to feel the need to present these idealized versions of ourselves because we think that if people find out about our true selves, they will go running for the hills.

The ironic thing is that…

Vulnerability is the key to success.

In 1997, a social psychologist named Arthur Aron and his research team performed a study that helped to demonstrate the strong connection between vulnerability and deeper connection.

They paired together students who were strangers to each other and had them spend 45 minutes together asking questions that they were given. Half of the students were given typical small talk questions such as “favorite television show” or “favorite time of day”. The other half’s questions started off shallow but then gradually got deeper and more probing. These participants were asked to share with each other very self-disclosing questions such as the “last time they cried in front of someone?” or “which family member’s death would you find most disturbing?”

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The Results:

When asked to rate how close they now felt to their partner after the 45 minute interview, the second group was found to have formed much deeper bonds. In fact, some of these newly formed bonds were actually rated as just as intense as what students from another study rated the closest person in their life as. In just 45 minutes, some of these students ended up forming a bond on par with that of a lifelong friendship.

It was not because they revealed some idealized version of themselves. Instead, it was because they were forced to dig deeper and reveal their more vulnerable side. Two of the participants even wound up becoming engaged after the study was over!

Research supports vulnerability leading to success

Opening up helps you connect to others and not just in a romantic or emotional sense. Sharing your vulnerabilities can actually help you achieve better success in all facets of your life, including your career.

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In recent research from NewsletterBreeze, Javier Sarda analyzed the effects of opening up and displaying vulnerability in a blog post.  Javier decided to compare the number of shares and comments that a post in which the author displayed vulnerability to other posts where the author just delivered value and actionable tips.  He discovered that posts with vulnerability had many more shares and comments than the other types of posts.

In his newsletter, entrepreneur Tim Ferris decided to open up about his thoughts on suicide and his own struggles with depression. Well admitting to such dark thoughts would seem counterintuitive, the post ended up connecting with his readers on a much deeper level. In just two weeks it garnered almost 10,000 more “likes” than his previous posts and had ten times as many comments.

Derek Halpern, the person behind Social Triggers, also found out how opening up can help to connect with his subscribers. In one revealing post, he opens up about his troubled childhood surrounded by drug abuse and alcoholism. It is a story that reveals a very different side of this successful entrepreneur and one that actually makes you like him even more. It is also a post that helped to increase his overall exposure with 4 times the shares of an average post.

Take action today

While you still might want to hold back on something on your first date or at that job interview, showing off that vulnerable side is not really a disaster in the making that you think it is. In fact, opening up and revealing that you are just as human as everybody else can be very rewarding.

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It can help connect with those around you on a much deeper level. This can lead to more sharing and more trust. You might find yourself forming an even stronger bond with the people that you share your life with that can help yield positive results in the near and far future.

Featured photo credit: How being vulnerable can lead to success via google.com

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Published on May 18, 2021

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.

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Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.

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Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.

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Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

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This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

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Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

More Tips Improving Listening Skills

Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

Reference

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