That's what SHE said
The importance of building on what others say
The key to creating a culture of belonging is acting our way into new ways of thinking rather than thinking our way into new ways of acting.
Here’s how it works:
We begin by clearly articulating a simple action that could be helpful in building stronger relationships with a wide range of people. And then we practice that behavior until it starts to feel comfortable to us.
Take for example the practice of active listening, which is very different from the kind of passive listening that most of us default to.
It requires consciously disciplining whatever distracting thoughts pop into our minds whenever someone else is talking so we can really hear and consider what they are saying.
In addition to pushing back against our own distracting thoughts, it’s important also to consider that listening is an internal process that conveys information from our ears to our brain. Active listening also requires us to use an external process to demonstrate that we’re listening, so that others feel heard.
We do so by making eye contact, not racing to fill silences, and giving ourselves the time we need to thoughtfully respond. And by avoiding the common habit of over-confirmation- constantly saying yes, I agree, you’re right, okay in the mistaken belief that doing so signals our full engagement.
It’s also essential to later reference points that others have made when we do respond, whether we’re in a meeting, a brainstorming session, or simply a conversation. We’ve all experienced the glow that occurs when someone shows this generosity to us by noting, “I’m going to build on what Anne said,” or “I agree with Jahan’s observation.” We feel grateful to whoever does this, sometimes surprisingly so, because it lets us know that we’ve really been heard.
It’s therefore smart to take every genuine opportunity that comes our way to relate our own comments to points others have made. And it’s important to spread the love broadly rather than just building on remarks made by those who hold more senior positions. Done on a regular basis, this will only succeed in making us look like suck-ups.
So what holds us back from being active listeners on a regular basis?
Often, it’s simply that we’re preoccupied with what we intend to say next, or we’re in the habit of letting our minds wander while others are talking. These are typical symptoms of undisciplined listening.
By contrast, training ourselves to listen attentively, to show we are listening, and then to build on what we’ve heard by referring what others have said are three simple yet powerful practices for building stronger relationships. They’re effective at work, in our families and in our communities.
They can also help us to act our way into new ways of thinking because they open us to unexpected insights and help shift what we may imagine we feel about people we may have overlooked or judged.
You can pre-order my forthcoming book Rising Together at a discounted price before publication on February 28. Just click one of the links below. If you do pre-order, you will be invited to attend a free 60-minute Zoom workshop with me on April 11th.
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