Sunday, March 29, 2009

Slow Down, Stop to Think..and Listen!

This week I had a wonderful opportunity to coach 2 very different indivuals, with almost the exact same need - patience and appreciation for others.

The first person is an engineer for a power company. Having the wrong answer costs millions of dollars in his business. As an engineer, its his job to ensure that everything is as accurate as possible. When people come to him, its his job to shoot holes in the ideas.

For the most part this guy has good relationsihps with others. He is tired however, of people coming to him because they 'have to'. He would like for people to see his value and come to him because they want to. He admits that sometimes the way he acts gets in the way. Regularly he thinks to himself, "they should have already realized this before come to me!!!! Don't they realize their idea isn't very good? They should do a better job of thinking things through before coming to me!!!!"
When he has judged them for being 'wrong' - frustration sets in and he controls the conversation to the 'right' answers.

The second person is 75% more productive than the entire sales force put together. Time is money. If a conversation doesn't make sense ($ and cents), it may not be worth having. Getting to the point quickly matters. This guy recognizes that he can shut down a conversation by interrputing others. In his head he thinks, 'yeah, yeah, yeah...c'mon. Let's get on with it, you're going to slow." He misses half the conversation. When he judges the conversation as a waste of time, frustration sets in, and he controls the conversation.

When our minds are working on being right, and getting to the point the ability to stop and listen to others without analying requires us to use the bottom right side of our brains.

The first client is constantly using the top left side of his brain to poke holes at "theories" (analytical problem-solving and critique). Its all about accuracy.

The second client is analzing information (again left side) to prioritize what maters most to his plan (using the bottom left side of his brain for creating order & structure). He then dominates the conversation so that he can move on to accomplishing whatever is next on his list. Its all about efficiency.

In order for them to get what they both need - they must buck their mental system. Look at the picture on this post titled "Main that Tune" . Basically - these two need to be quiet in their heads long enough to listen to their inner dialogue. This requires that they go to the bottom right side of their brain. The challenge; they both have to use the top right side of their brains to get there...and this is their LEAST USED part of their every day brain!!!

In otherwords, they guys have to imagine the possibility that the person across from them has something worth listening to.

Each conversation lasted 1 hour. The first client...was able to recognize that listening didn't have to mean proving anyone wrong. He realized that he needed to understand their stories first, then find common ground for what everyone was trying to achieve instead of asking them questions that left them feeling miffed and stupid. Appreciating others means guiding your mind over to the right side, seeking what you have in common with one another.

The second client tried an exercise where he crossed his arms. This is a physical technique for slowing down the processing of the brain. People who make many hand gestures when they talk, usually think at a very fast pace. By limited his hand movement, his brain is forced to slow down reinforcing him to be less expressive and much more passive. Slowing his physical body, slowed his mind enough to 'stay with me' at my pace. He recognized that as I was talking, his mind would wander...and he repeatedly caught himself wanting to finish my sentences for me.

At the end I asked him, "Are you thirsty?" His eyes buldged and he said, "Yeah! How'd you know? I'm exhausted! This is VERY, you don't understand, its, just that, this isn't how know?" (hee, kidding, this sentence is not me being dramatic...its that his brain processes so fast his speech ability doesn't catch up and he leaves his listeners with having to assume what he means.)

At the end of the first client's meeting, I asked "are you mentally tired" and the answer was similiar...although he laughed a little at himself. The reaction of being surprised was the same.

For nearly an hour they had both practiced using the right side of their brains; allowing my ideas to be possible, listening to me, not coming up with answers - connecting and showing an appreciation for what I had to offer. They practiced being calm, objective, and open.

Our brains are mostly water which is used to support the synapses triggering. Since they were triggering an entire portion of their brains rarely used for long periods of time...they got a great mental workout.

Here are the steps we took to get there:

  1. Notice the tiny dialogue you have with yourself when others are talking (You know like the one in your head that just said...what tiny voice...what is she talking about?) :-)
  2. Get a notepad and take notes of what you are thinking in meetings when others are talking and you start getting frustrated. Practice seeing your thoughts on paper. What do you notice?
  3. Paraphrase what the other person just said. If you can do this, good! It means you were listening. If you can't you'll be able to tell when you zoned out AND that you weren't listening.
  4. If you weren't listening - acknowledge it, for example "I'm sorry, I zoned out for a moment. Would you mind repeating that. I really do want to hear what you're trying to tell me."

I'll put another post up next week to share what progress is being made. My prediction is that these two will share:

  1. They didn't realize how much information they were missing in conversations
  2. They didn't realize just how much time they spent judging other people
  3. Ultimately...they feel more connected with the people who typically frustrate them at work.

No comments: