This month’s list is our top 10 of ways we can behave that, although small, can make a big difference.
1: be level headed: keeping your head level (ie parallel to the floor) helps you look confident; if you tilt your head too far down or up, you look either submissive or coy (chin down), or arrogant (chin up)
2: look away, look back: many people break eye contact while they are thinking; if you do that, return to eye contact when you speak
3: remove ‘erms’: some people know they ‘erm’, but don’t know why. In most cases, it’s to do with covering the pause (while they think), or as they take a breath. If you ‘erm’, check which of these it is, then either stay quiet while you pause, or stay quiet as you take a breath…
4: substitute questions for statements: questions are more inclusive than statements. Statements tend to be telling, directive; questions invite a response, and involve the other person. So you can either frame your comment in the form of a question; or before making a statement, offer an ‘announcing’ question first – eg “can I just suggest something here?” or “I wonder if this might be worth considering?”. Announcing questions not only help others focus on what you are about to say, so they are more in listening mode, they also soften your intervention.
5: adjust your tempo: people talk at different rates. Some are quick, some are slower. Match your tempo of delivery to theirs – otherwise mismatches are uncomfortable, and possibly destructive. Either the quicker person might feel the slower person is – slow, or the slower person might feel intimidated by the quicker pace. Once you have matched their pace, you can always then try to lead them to a different pace….
6: acknowledge and build on contributions: how often, in a meeting, have you offered a comment, only for it to disappear into the ether? This is likely to discourage you from contributing again (why bother?). So make sure you acknowledge the other person’s contributions (if only by nodding), and where you can, agree and take the idea forward: “I agree, and one way of doing that would be….”. The other person will value your support (and thus value you), and be encouraged to contribute further.
7: challenge ‘either/or’: any ‘either…or’ comment sets up a win/lose outcome. If it’s either A or B, then if A gets the vote, those supporting B will feel the loss – and vice versa. So see if you can substitute ‘either/or’ with ‘and’. ‘And’ sets up a win/win.
8: recap: recap (or summarise, or clarify) are all excellent ways of showing you have been listening. They also give you an opportunity to regain control, because while you are recapping, they will be listening – because you are still on their agenda. Then, when you have finished, check they agree (“have I got that right?”), and (if they say ‘yes’, follow immediately with “in that case, can I suggest…?”, and you have the agenda again.
9: use their language: again, this shows you have been listening; if they call it a spade, don’t call it a shovel.
10: offer choices: this is a classic ‘win/win’. They will like having the control that a choice gives them: you control the choices offered.