“What did you say?”

By: Pat Nelson, Chairman and CEO

I am probably safe in assuming that most organizations struggle with collaboration and communication in some form or fashion. Why is that? Communication is a human phenomenon to which most of us bring our biases, distractions, and personal garbage. Yet, one of our company core values is humility, which we represent by saying that we “listen more than we speak.” For many of us, I am sure that we are well acquainted with the tactic of preparing a response while someone is speaking to us.

One of my long-time mentors, Michael Hyatt, recently posted a blog on listening well. I found it worth sharing. There are some valuable basics here that few of us do well.

  1. Be fully present – Put the device down! It is impossible to listen to someone else while reading a text message. We are all guilty of this. Getting a healthy distance from your phone, iPad, computer, or other distraction sets the stage for good listening.
  2. Ask a question – Try not to comment or offer an opinion first. Offer a question that probes more deeply or further explains the topic being discussed.
  3. Then, ask a second question – Keep digging deeper. “Great questions are the prerequisite for great conversation.”
  4. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes – A little empathy often goes a long way in creating understanding. I call this “getting on the same side of the table.” If you can get some perspective from the other side, it helps show that you heard what the other person is saying.
  5. Validate their thoughts and feelings – Offering any judgment as to why someone would feel a certain way is a conversation stopper. Reserve your determination and go one step further and validate the feelings. You don’t have to agree; just validate.
  6. Repeat what you heard back – The best listeners can paraphrase and offer the “this is what I heard you say.” There is no better way to show someone that they were heard.

To grow in our collaboration and communication, we must first be good listeners. Suppose each of us practiced a couple of the tips above. In that case, my guess is that it would positively move the needle very fast in our journey to communicate and collaborate with excellence.