Advertising
Advertising

Learn to Finish Conversations Well

Learn to Finish Conversations Well

We managers can get ourselves into far too many situations where we unwittingly set others up for disappointment because we haven’t learned to finish our conversations well.

Last week I encouraged you to add The Daily Five Minutes (D5M for short) to your management toolbox because it creates more workplace conversations. The intention of the D5M is to give your staff the gift of your attention, five minutes on a recurring basis where you listen well, truly focusing on getting to know them better, and engaging them in dynamic conversations.

This week, I want you to consider how you wrap it up: How do you finish those conversations? Do you both walk away from each other with a clear understanding of who will do what about whatever you’ve just talked about — and when?

Advertising

Too often, managers use “safe” sentences so they don’t make promises they can’t keep. They’ll say things like, “thank you for letting me know,” or “that’s interesting, I wasn’t aware of that,” or “yes, I see what you mean” clueless to the possibility that they’ve given the other person the impression they now own the information and will do something about it. But what? And do they own the issue, or do they think they’ve skirted it?

Skirting issues and playing it safe is for wimps. Great managers rise above those tactics because they seek to get stuff done. However, that doesn’t mean that they own everything they’ve been told either. They’re clear. They’re clear on what they will do, and what they will not do, and why.

You can’t fix everything, and you know that you can’t, but you also cannot assume that the person you’re talking to understands that too. As a conversation ends, if you aren’t clear on what you’ll do with your new tidbit of information, you could be giving an employee the impression you will fix it (whatever “it” is), especially when they’re assuming it is in your power to do so. After all, you are the manager, and isn’t that what managers do?

Advertising

Maybe so, however great managers do with their staff, they don’t necessarily do for. They work with employees to bring their strengths and talents to full employment, and they try to eliminate all the “I can’t” thinking and other obstacles which stand in the way of engaging performance and optimal productivity. They get employees to be part of solutions as much as possible, coaching their staff to participate in decision-making. Great managers facilitate way more than they expedite. They understand that the quickest way now is not always the fastest way for keeps, nor is it always the best way.

No more vague.

If an employee walks away from your conversation hearing something as vague as “I understand, I’ll give that some thought” you must understand that they are waiting for you to take action. The longer it takes for that action to happen – or heaven help you, you forget about it, or hope the issue goes away on it’s own eventual resolution – the more damaging the hit to your credibility and reputation as a manager who cares and effectively gets things done. The less you get things done, the less employees will talk you, thinking to themselves, “What’s the use?”

Advertising

Finish conversations well by coming to agreements on what your next actions are, “your” meaning both of you.

Seek partnerships and reach for synergy.

  • Clearly state what you plan on doing next with the information you’ve just been given, and if you expect or wish to have that employee participate and remain involved in some way.
  • State what your next action will be, and ask for or suggest a next action for them, thereby creating collaboration for resolution between you.
  • Ask if they agree, or if they have a better idea (they often will! They’re closer to the problem!)
  • Last, set a time when you’ll have a follow-up conversation to update each other; set a date for another D5M.
  • Before it arrives, take the action you agreed to take.
  • When you have your follow-up conversation, speak of another agreement on the next step in the process until the issue has been taken care of.

You’ll walk away with a new partnership, and you’ll be yet another step closer to being a great manager.

Advertising

Post Author:
Rosa Say is the author of Managing with Aloha, Bringing Hawaii’s Universal Values to the Art of Business. She fervently believes that work can inspire, and that great managers and leaders can change our lives for the better. Rosa writes for Lifehack.org to freely offer her coaching to those of us who aspire to be greater than we are, for she also believes in us. Writing on What Great Managers Do is one of her favorite topics. You can also visit her on www.managingwithaloha.com.

More by this author

Rosa Say

Rosa is an author and blogger who dedicates to helping people thrive in the work and live with purpose.

12 Rules for Self-Management The Six Basic Needs of Customers What’s the difference between Mission and Vision? 7 Steps for Resolving Customer Complaints Reap Joy from this Thanks – Giving Holiday

Trending in Communication

1 Is Living Together Before Marriage Good or Bad? 2 How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication 3 11 Facts About Volunteering That Will Surely Impress You 4 I Hate My Wife – Why a Husband Would Resent His Spouse 5 How To Spot Fake People (And Ways To Deal With Them)

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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

Read Next