“Here’s …. need …. I saved a file in …. take a look and …. It’s important.”
I was so frustrated. It was my daily huddle call with my colleague Jill, and I was barely catching every other word she was saying. I didn’t know if it was my cell phone or hers, but something in our connection was not working.
Jill. You cut out again. Can you repeat that?
Let me move… Can you hear me now?
Yes! Ok. What did you say?
Take… page 5 needs….
I stopped her again. I moved. She moved. After a few more “How about now? Can you hear me now?” we finally decided to stop and try again later.
Bad connections go beyond poor cell signals
Can you relate? How many conversations have you had like this? If a poor cell signal is getting in the way of the conversation, we don’t hesitate to stop until we can create a better connection.
However, bad cell signals aren’t the only thing that can cause a disconnect in conversations. People not listening to each other creates even more disconnection than cell signals. The impact? People aren’t on the same page. One person assumes all is well, while the other person feels exactly the opposite. It’s just a matter of time before the people problems pop up.
Here are two questions that can set your conversation up for success (that are better than “Can you hear me now?”).
Is this a good time?
A lot of conversations get off on the wrong foot because one or both people just weren’t ready to have the conversation.
For example, have you ever picked up the phone while you still had someone else in your workspace or are in the middle of writing an email? What happens when the other person just dives right into the conversation? It can take a minute for your brain to transition (and maybe get the other person out of your office!). During that transition, it’s hard to listen to what the other person is saying.
When you ask “Is this a good time?” you are giving people the chance to get ready to really listen to you. They might just need a minute or two to get ready, and it will pay off in the long run.
Can I share what I’m hearing you say?
There’s a Stephen Covey quote that I love: Most people don’t listen with the intent to understand, they listen with the intent to reply.
It is such a gift when you demonstrate to someone that you are listening to them and that you want to make sure you heard what they said. It also can save you a lot of time, in the long run, to make sure you are on the same page.
So instead of just jumping in to respond to what they said, ask if you can give a quick summary of what you heard. Then check if you heard them correctly. They will likely provide clarification. No need to defend what you thought you heard! Take the clarification as a gift that will help the conversation be more productive.
It takes some effort
Just like Jill and I both had to find another time to finish our conversation, you might find that it takes a few tries and some adjustment before you have a solid connection. But it’s worth the work. Add these questions to your conversations and see what happens.
P.S. Have you always wanted to learn how to use coaching skills in the workplace? Here’s your chance to participate from the comfort of your own home or office! Jill Mueller will be teaching “Take a Coach Approach: Increase Employee Engagement Remotely and Face to Face” at UW-Milwaukee completely online Sept. 29, 30, Oct. 6, and 7. Register here.
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