The Key to Successful Communication

Why Internalizing What We Hear Is Important

 

Between 70 and 80% of our day is engaging in some form of communication with about 55% of that time dedicated to listening. Even so, most people can only actually remember between 17-25% of what they hear. 93% of all communication is nonverbal. (recent report)

 

I’ve come to realize that there are three levels of listening: listening, hearing, and then there’s internalizing.

 

Hearing:

We chunk information as quickly as possible

  1. What is this information?
  2. Is it worth my attention?

Listening:

We make connections and make-meaning

  1. What does this information really mean?
  2. We listen before reacting/defending (Put Out The Fire: Stop think respond)

Internalizing:

We take the time to really reflect and process:

  1. What else is going on that maybe isn’t being said?
  2. Do I connect with and resonate with this?
  3. If not, what information is needed in the moment?
  4. Empathize – Can I imagine what it’s like to be them in this moment?

 

As a coach, I see internalizing is missing in a lot of conversations, and it is holding us back as leaders with diverse teams who need to process nuanced information.

 

Roger O. Crockett wrote for the Harvard Business Review that “Some call this sort of multicultural interaction “listening with empathy.” Janet Reid, a multicultural expert and managing partner of Global Novations, which does corporate diversity consulting, describes it as listening to connect with a person’s feelings and thoughts. “To do so, you not only have to train your ear,” she says, “you have to build your multicultural muscle. You have to slow down your knee-jerk reaction to talk over people and listen in the cadence and rhythm [of their culture].”

 

If the person we’re listening to is frustrated, I have to remember that underneath all frustration is something deeper. It’s my responsibility to listen carefully and try to understand what is driving the frustration.

 

Internalizing means being transparent in our processing. It’s okay to say, “I’m still processing and trying to figure out how I can help.” or “I’m working on being a better listener and I don’t want to make assumptions. What do you feel you need right now?”

 

2 things that we always can do to be better listeners:

  1. Hold up the mirror: reflect on your own reactions, tone, body-language, and try our best to empathize
  2. Speak with intention: say some version of “I hear you. How can I support you?”

 

Because, to be listed to–fully, to be heard, to have space held for us–is a powerful thing.

 

We support leaders not only to be better listeners, but also to be conscious, courageous communicators in our  SPARK Leadership courses.

 

Now, it’s your turn to reflect on your listening…

 

One question to reflect on on your own:

–> When was the last time you felt FULLY heard, seen, & understood? How does that make you feel? 

 

One question for you to respond to below:

–> What’s something you can do today to be the listener you hope for? 

 

If this topic interests you, you may also resonate with three of my other blogs:

 

Rachel Rosen, the founder of S.P.A.R.K. Community and S.P.A.R.K. Leadership, is on a mission to start a global conversation about inclusion, empathy, and racial equity. With a Masters from Stanford, and extensive training in leadership, coaching, team and organizational development, S.P.A.R.K. experiences are grounded in theory and practice–all in service of making the world a better place. With love. For justice. Want to know your SPARK Leadership strengths and growth areas? Check out our self-assessment here

 

PS- For the next few weeks I have carved out space to support more leaders. If you’d like to talk more about working on effective communication strategies and/or what SPARK Leadership looks like, it would be my honor to support you. Feel free to book your 20 minute complimentary strategy session here.  

Are You A Catalyzer or Controller?

What Basketball Coaches Can Teach Us About Inspiring Communication

 

The language we use matters. So does the delivery of it.

 

As a basketball fan, I’ve come to realize there is a spectrum of two types of coaches: Catalytic champions and Controlling directors.

 

Controllers <——————————————————————————————> Catalyzers

 

Controllers need order. They focus on what’s not working. Power, attention, and ego drive their moves.

 

Catalyzers acknowledge progress. They praise the team, encourage reflection, and champion other people’s ideas.

 

I remember watching a middle school basketball game and observing the stark contrast of coaching styles. One coach was screaming, pacing, red in the face, and even got a technical foul for yelling at the referee. The team mirrored back the energy of their coach; several players fouled out, the team ran fewer plays, with more players putting themselves (and their layup, their jump shot, etc.) first before the success of the team. At one point the coach yelled, “Take down the shooter!” There was no respect, sportsmanship or civility.

 

The other coach, however, was calmly encouraging and smiling, while sitting on the bench. His team gave each other more high-fives, smiled more, and executed more plays.

 

These were middle school students.

 

His quiet, yet profoundly impactful presence reminded me of a Richard Smith (of Wild Ink) quote, “Whispers are often thunderous.”

 

I recall a very specific incident when I was teaching. I found myself at a stand-off with a 14 year old student one day.

 

“Stop talking. Sit down and listen up!” I yelled at the class

“Dang, why are you yelling, Ms. Rosen?” the student asked.

“Because y’all are so loud. I need your attention so we can finish the lesson”

“Why do you look so irritated though? Somebody woke up on the wrong side of the bed…” she said as other kids snickered.

“We don’t respect you when you yell at us all angry and stuff. You should go watch how Ms. Dixon teaches”

 

I was trying to control my classroom. I was frustrated and triggered and found myself wondering:

  • Why was I yelling?
  • Did I not sleep enough?
  • Was i projecting my issues onto my kids?
  • Why was I doing all the things I knew not to do?

 

When I held up the mirror and reflected on the situation, I didn’t like the controller I had become. I had always wanted to be an inspiring, loving teacher. I never wanted to be perceived as angry. I had to humble myself and go see how Ms. Dixon handled her classroom management.

 

In my experience, at some point, we teachers/leaders/coaches inevitably project our stuff onto teams they support.

 

We’re imperfect human beings with complex and multifaceted pains, experiences, and struggles. At some point our pain is going to seep out into our communities. How we navigate and work to minimize those moments matters.

 

Ms. Dixon (as well as numerous, brilliant basketball coaches) taught me that being a calm, catalyzing champion for your team’s success means that you win every game–no matter the score. I made a commitment that day to be a leader who supports, uplifts, and who is a guide on the side for my champions. I hope to always allow my team to discover their unique strengths…without projecting my issues.

 

The spark acronym helps us remember how to consistently be a catalytic champion:

 

S– Show up authentically. Share your intentions, values, and hopes in a real way.  Remember to show up as you.

P– Pause and breathe. Distance yourself from your ego and ask “how do I want to be experienced right now?”

a– Ask questions and stay curious. With yourself first, and then others. (ie: why am I triggered right now?”)

R-  Respect diversity. Let the differences on the team harmonize like a good song.

K– Kindly expect tension. Messiness is a part of the game. Control and order don’t drive transformation.

 

The world needs more catalyzers.

 

Through intentional habits, decisions, and moves we can move closer to being the leaders we desire to be.

 

Leave a comment below with the answer to these questions and what they bring up for you as inspiration or motivation to make a change in your own leadership style.

  • Can you think of a time in your life when you taught/led/coached/parented from a place of control / frustration? How did it make you feel?
  • Now, can you think of a time when someone helped you learn and grow with grace?

 

Rachel Rosen, the founder of S.P.A.R.K. Community and S.P.A.R.K. Leadership, is on a mission to start a global conversation about inclusion, empathy, and racial equity. With a Masters from Stanford, and extensive training in leadership, coaching, team and organizational development, S.P.A.R.K. experiences are grounded in theory and practice–all in service of making the world a better place. With love. For justice. Want to know your SPARK Leadership strengths and growth areas? Check out our self-assessment here

PS- For the next few weeks I have carved out space to support more leaders. If you’d like to talk more about what SPARK being a Catalytic Leader  looks like, it would be my honor to support you. Feel free to book your 20 minute complimentary strategy session here.  

Put Out The Fire

3 Steps To Intentional, Effective Communication

 

The community meeting was getting heated. Tempers were rising, accusations were cast, insults issued, and disruptions were spiraling the meeting into chaos. The leader, trying to take control of the situation, demanded everyone to take their seat and listen (or not only would the meeting would end immediately, there would be no further meetings). Silence returned, but defenses were raised and communication had broken down. Those in attendance did not feel heard or respected and progress was detoured.

 

Sound familiar?

 

While this is a generalized version of a community meeting that happened recently, it could have happened anywhere. You may even have your own version of it. Perhaps it’s even happened on a smaller scale within teams you’ve worked with.

 

Well my brilliant partner, Lia Joy Shepherd, shared with me the other day a strategy she uses in her work with youth, and I instantly recognized the brilliance of it. Thankfully, she’s given me permission to share it with you.

 

 

Stop, think, and respond.

 

“That’s what I’ve been doing and telling the kids to do before reacting/interrupting. It really works. Especially when I’m triggered. Rather than react and say ‘sit down,’ ‘listen up,’ or ‘stop doing___,’ I just stop, think about what is really going on, and respond–rather than defend or react right away”

 

The fire department used to (and may still) teach the saying, “Stop, drop, and roll” in case you found yourself on fire. In the heat of a moment, tempers and words can often feel like flames, right?

 

Stop, think, and respond helps to de-escalate the emotions.  

 

As I thought even more about this simple, three step process, its brilliance began to shine.

 

This tool is useful for leaders, certainly, but this is a game changer for anyone willing to employ it. Here’s why:

 

  1. Stop. This first step illuminates the power of the PAUSE. We’re all moving so fast, absorbing so much information, and hearing so many messages, it’s imperative that we pause and breathe. Pause and check in with ourselves. Pause and pay attention to the nonverbal cues. The pause also shifts our brain from the limbic to the frontal cortex so we can process more effectively. It takes us out of the immediate action of fight, flight, freeze, or submit mode.

 

  1. Think. It is easy to bypass this step. I know I have. Often we don’t feel we have time to think. There are always a million things to do at any given moment, so to pause and THINK? That felt like a luxury. Yet, we need to digest what really happening before we can mindfully and intentionally take action. You know what it feels like when you’re out of the heat of the moment and all the “shoulda, coulda and if only” thoughts start spinning through the highlight reels in our mind.

 

It’s amazing what happens when we take the pause, and choose not to jump in, make assumptions, or be defensive.

 

If we all asked ourselves these two questions, I think our relationships would change in transformative ways:

  • What are my intentions in this moment?
  • How do I want the person in front of me to experience me, given what we both need?

 

And, as synchronicity would have it, I love that I found this post on LinkedIn right as I started writing this blog too! Good reminders, and I love acronyms. Thank you Some’ McCowan. 

  1.   Respond. The difference between reacting and responding is a subtle but major deal. If I’m listening to the other person to truly understand where they’re coming from and then I respond with my thoughts/questions, that’s very different than reacting to the emotional affect or tenor of the conversation.

 

Here are a few sentence starters that I always have in my back pocket:

  • What I heard you say was… (when I want to clarify to makes sure I’m understanding correctly)
  • Thank you for sharing. That makes me think of… (when I want to make a connection)
  • I hear you. Are you open to hearing another perspective? (when I want to offer some feedback)
  • Say more… (always a go-to. If I’m triggered this allows me to calm down. If I’m genuinely curious and want to hear more. If I’m confused and trying to make sense of what I’m hearing, this always helps.

 

Will you give this a try? First, take immediate action. Somewhere you can see it throughout the day, write “Stop, think, respond.”

 

If a situation occurs today, try this method. If you don’t get to try it, write it again each day until you do.

 

Then leave a comment about your experience. Tell a friend about it and ask them to take the challenge with you. I can’t wait to hear all about it.

 

Also, our upcoming 10 Week Online Leadership Program goes in-depth around communicating with cultural consciousness and emotional intelligence. If it’s something you’re interested in, check it out here.

 

Until next time,

Rachel

Rachel Rosen, the founder of S.P.A.R.K. Community and S.P.A.R.K. Leadership, is on a mission to start a global conversation about inclusion, empathy, and racial equity. With a Masters from Stanford, and extensive training in leadership, coaching, team and organizational development, S.P.A.R.K. experiences are grounded in theory and practice–all in service of making the world a better place. With love. For justice. 

 

 Transforming Feedback

with intentional leadership 

When I stepped into a leadership role seven years ago, I strived to be a “great” leader. I understood that relationships were at the core of a well working organization.  I had read and studied leadership and organizational development from the greats such as Jim Collins, Steven Covey, and  Steve Zuieback (to name a few).

Though I continually worked on being the best coach and manager I could be, I found myself struggling with the “feedback conversation”. My personal experiences with receiving feedback lacked integrity and thus, did not lead to good models for me to follow.

When I first began, I wanted to be everyone’s friend and make their life easier, since I thought I knew what it was like to be in their shoes. I wanted be a leader they liked and respected. Feedback is ultimately about the person giving it. In my case, I now see it was more about wanting to valuable and helpful than driving the objectives of our mission.

To make the feedback process more complex and nuanced, when a person who is of a different race/gender/generation/sexuality receives feedback, their brain is triggered into high alert (fight/flight). The latest research by Inge, Cheesebrough, West and Rock demonstrates this.

Truly transformative, confident leaders understand that feedback is a small part of a communication and requires several steps before it can effectively happen. Leaders operating with the following five steps to craft effective feedback:

  1. Data: What was observed (seen, heard) about the experience?
  2. Feelings: How did the experience feel?
  3. Interpretations: What assertions have been made? What beliefs are being operated upon? What interpretations are influencing the situation (both yours and the other persons)?
  4. Desires: As a leader, what do you want for yourself, the situation, and the other(s) involved?
  5. Willingness: This is a request for the desired behaviors and changes.

Utilizing these steps maintains our quest for learning and growing, bringing humility (and hopefully empathy) to our leadership. It allows us to model for our community. It shows a genuine desire to support our team members to learn, grow, and develop so they can be their best, most productive self with maximal impact.

My application of those five steps looks like this:

  • Ask for permission to share your observations before sharing. Before beginning communication, ask the person if you can share your observations. This assumes some ego-distance.
  • Be human. Show up as your authentic self so they feel at ease.
  • Affirm what they are doing well. For example, “First I want to start by appreciating…”
  • Share some specific observations. For example, “I noticed a pattern…”
  • Get personal. Share your experience with vulnerability. For example, “I’ve experienced this myself. Would you be interested in hearing what worked for me (and what didn’t)?”
  • Offer the feedback with integrity and compassion.  For example, “For you, I’d offer that____is the most important next step. If you do nothing else, shifting this one small thing to start (something to experience a win)”
  • Pause for reactions/reflections/thoughts
  • Loop back. Set a time/date when you’ll revisit

Bottom line: it’s imperative that we’re intentional as leaders in HOW we ask for and offer feedback.

To really make your communication a home-run, remember these additional skills:

  • Be specific. Use direct language and get to the point.
  • Be a leader. Even if you are friendly with them or their friend, it’s helpful to say “I’m going to put my manager hat on now so we can have a transparent, productive conversation”
  • Be succinct and speak in a calm pace. Create space for processing  
  • Be focused. Remember, about 93% of what we communicate is nonverbal

 

If you’re interested in learning more about our approach, and the promising practices, stances, and adaptive leadership habits that we work on intentionally to communicate and lead with integrity, check out our upcoming 10 week leadership program!

 

Application doors are open, and the program starts on January 22nd.

If you would like to apply and/or schedule a 20 minute Strategy Conversation to see if you’d be a good fit, click here.

 

 

Now, it’s your turn to share.

Comment below and let me know your answer to any of these questions:

  • What do you think about feedback?
  • When does it get challenging to “hold up the mirror” for you?
  • Have other resources to share?

I’d love to hear from you!

Rachel Rosen is a seasoned Facilitator, Executive Coach, Consultant, Racial Justice and LGBTQ activist, and the Founder of S.P.A.R.K. Leadership and S.P.A.R.K. Community. Rachel is on a mission to start a global conversation about inclusion, empathy, and racial equity. With a Masters from Stanford, and extensive training in leadership, coaching, team and organizational development, S.P.A.R.K. offers experiences that support leaders and teams to unleash their potential to facilitate powerful experiences, collaborate, and build trust–all in service of building a better tomorrow.