1) Listen more.
2) Talk less.
The truth of these two rules was reflected to me in a management training class a couple of years ago. We sent out advance surveys to 10 co-workers to get their feedback on our strengths and “areas for improvement.”
On the day of the workshop the facilitator posted everyone’s results, without names, on the wall for the whole class to see. We were supposed to pick out our profile by reading selected comments on each sheet. I guessed correctly on which profile was mine, and was pleased to see several strengths recognized by my colleagues.
Then the workshop leader revealed the other side of the coin… comments that were not so positive on the same traits. For example, one person said “David is a passionate and articulate presenter. Another said “David just loves to hear himself talk.”
Many of you may not be shocked by this at all, but I was. After recovering from the temporary upset (how dare they not appreciate my passion!), I became appreciative of that person’s honesty. We rarely get honest, constructive feedback unless we ask for it. And even then, you have to pull it out of people. It took an anonymous survey to impress on me that sometimes I talk too much and do not respect other’s time in the workplace.
Now I make a concerted effort to stop and check the attention of my listeners, even when I think I’m on a roll. After all, it’s not really communication unless it is being received by my audience. I have also cultivated the habit of asking how I can improve, even if someone pays me a compliment.
Ever wonder what your family, friends and peers would say about your communication strengths and not-so-strong strengths? Maybe it’s time to just ask.
And if you do, get ready to have the question sent right back at you.