I was in a deep conversation the other day with an executive I am coaching, discussing communication behaviors, leadership styles, and what are the non-negotiable characteristics of great communication and leadership.
And at the top of the list we were putting together was this… as often as possible, it pays big dividends to be able to look at things from other people’s perspectives. When we are able to do this, we will have a much better chance of demonstrating empathy, respect, listening and hearing, and building the connections that are vital to success in the workplace and at home. When we can demonstrate to others that we are doing all these things, you know what happens? When we show others that we are interested in what they think, skepticism and defensiveness drop, communication increases, connections are formed, and ultimately, we ourselves are more likely to be heard as well. When we can show that we are interested in what they think, we are more likely to have them be interested in what we think.
It is so counterintuitive. But the key to being heard is very rarely about speaking louder. The key to being heard is about hearing others. Respect is likely to be met with respect. Listening is likely to be met with listening.
This is especially true when you are a leader in the organization. Because when the leader(s) do this, it has a trickle down impact on everyone and everything else in the organization.
I have often heard statements from people I know that have suggested a misperception about all of this. Many people seem to think that being a good listener, and leading with empathy and respect is somehow a demonstration of weakness. That to be perceived as strong, you have to have CONVICTION, and STRENGTH, and SPEAK WITH CONFIDENCE. And this somehow gets falsely equated with being dominant. Well, I agree conviction, strength and confidence are all good things to have. But I disagree with the seeming false equivalency that being empathetic and a good listener is somehow a demonstration of a lack of those things. The ability to see other perspectives, to be patient enough to listen to what others think and believe, and to have empathy for others are not signs of a lack of strength. Quite the contrary.
Many people come to me looking for help with their communication skills, and there are lots of things we end up working on. But it always surprises me how frequently I need to spend some time debunking this misperception that listening is about being too deferential. You can be a good listener and have conviction in your own beliefs. You can be empathetic and confident. You can be able to see another perspective and have your own take.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that empathy, listening and a willingness to see the other side is somehow a weakness that will get in the way of your advancement. I want everyone on my team to have their own opinions and also be willing able to hear everyone else’s. Both things matter. And it is the combination of those two things that lead to great contributions on any team.
Think about what a different world we would be living in if more people leaned into hearing the other perspective, without fear that they are somehow lessening their own. Think about all the elements of our society that would feel different right now.
Have a good day. Cheering for your success, from Wallingford, CT.
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