Simple Tools for Effective Communication

“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.”

Peter Drucker

Effective communication requires effective listening. You can’t have one without the other. Unfortunately for most of us, active listening skills don’t come naturally.

If you are like me, you like to be understood. You like it when people hear and understand your perspective on things. And you probably will find yourself defending your point of view when people challenge your position on important topics.

ONE-WAY COMMUNICATION

listen_up_and_develop_more_effective_communication_skillsWe are all accustomed to one-way communication where our objective is to be understood by those we are talking to. The problem with one-way communication is that there is typically no room for dialogue. It’s just two people talking at each other rather than to each other.

You see this play out in relationships and home and at work a lot. People can get caught up talking at each other, and it usually causes friction in the relationship. Usually both parties walk away from the conversation frustrated and are not as willing to engage in future conversations. After all…what’s the point! They won’t listen anyway!

TRY TO UNDERSTAND FIRST

As we work on our communication skills, it is important to realize that the failure to understand will result in a failure to be understood.

If we put more attention on what the person is trying to tell us, they will also be more inclined to hear our perspective as well. You will also discover that you will be able to unpack more of their thoughts and feelings when they know you truly care about what they have to say.

Remember what Proverbs 20:5 says, “Counsel in the heart of a man is like deep water; but a man of understanding will draw it out.”

Using these simple tools for effective communication will help you draw out the hidden thoughts and feelings of those you communicate with.

  1. Questioning. Asking open-ended questions can be a powerful way to help the person you are talking to unpack more of their thoughts and feelings. You will be amazing with how effective a simple question can be in helping a person articulate how they really feel. Asking questions also communicates genuine interest in what they have to say, rather than being focused on what you want to say to the person.
  2. Encouraging. Sometimes people need to know that it’s safe to share how they really feel. Encouraging someone to be honest and open reiterates your genuine concern and interest in what they have to say.
  3. Paraphrasing. Paraphrasing their statements is a great way to make sure you are hearing their intended message rather than your interpreted message. Paraphrasing requires you to use their words and phrases as you recap what they just said. This allows them to clarify themselves if necessary and keeps both of you on the same page.
  4. Reflection of feeling. Reflecting the feeling of someone is a wonderful tool to engage and connect with someone. Imagine if someone just got bad news about a loved one and they are grieving. Acknowledging their feeling, and being present with their feeling at the time allows them to know you really care. Think of a time where you were extremely excited about something and you wanted to share it with someone, but they seemed uninterested. Didn’t it make you feel disconnected from that person? Reflecting the persons feelings, whether they are happy or sad, will allow you to engage in an effective way.
  5. Summarize. At the conclusion of your conversation it’s always a great idea summarize what you believe was said. Much like paraphrasing during the conversation, summarizing allows you to share what you understood, and for them to give you more clarity in case you misunderstood something.

VISIT www.freddiescott.org to connect with Freddie and find out more about his work in the community.

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5 Ways to Stop Tuning People Out

“There is a difference between listening and waiting for your turn to speak.”

Simon Sinek

Not paying attention to the person talking to us is something we have all been guilty of. Thinking of the perfect response, and waiting for our turn to share our witty reply is a common communication mistake for most people.

It’s so bad that we tend to disregard the final words of what someone is telling us because we assume that we already know what they are going to say.

FOCUS

screen-shotRecently, while I was at a coaching training for the work I do with the NFL my instructor, Dr. Taunya Tinsley, shared with my group a simple but easy reminder to help me not only pay attention, but be more of an active listener by engaging in what they are saying to me.

She simply said that we need to F.O.C.U.S. Though it sounds simple, it’s amazing how challenging it can be to simply focus on not just what is being said, but to be able to discover what isn’t being said.

Mastering the skill of listening is becoming more and more challenging today. Especially when considering the fact that our attention span is getting shorter and shorter. We are getting used to people speaking in sound bites, or in 140 characters or less. Even videos that are longer that 2 minutes are becoming more challenging to stay engaged with.

If you want to be a better leader, spouse, parent, or mentor, you will need to exercise your listening skills by staying engaged during conversations.

Here are 5 ways to F.O.C.U.S. to keep you engaged during your conversations from Dr. Tinsley.

  1. Free your mind; block out other thoughts. Removing distractions, and not allowing your mind to drift during conversations is vitally important. Make sure both of you are not preoccupied with work or other things so you can give them your undivided attention.
  2. Observe and make eye contact. More is being said than just the words that they are saying. A person’s eyes can say a lot. Look to see if their eyes are matching the emotion of what they are saying. If not, it gives you an opportunity to engage what they are really feeling.
  3. Comment on what you heard by paraphrasing or repeating back what was said. Paraphrasing is a great way for you to check-in throughout the conversation to make sure you understand what they are sharing with you. It also gives them a chance to clarify what they are saying during the conversation.
  4. Uncover facts and feelings. Asking additional questions, or acknowledging the feelings and emotions that they are sharing is a great way to get people to open up even more. There is always more to the story that can be shared, and your questions or reflective statements are great ways to show you are listening and that you care.
  5. Summarize and gain agreement. Summarizing the conversation shows that you listened the entire time. It also gives you an opportunity to clarify what they want and need from you as a result of the conversation.

VISIT www.freddiescott.org to connect with Freddie and find out more about his work in the community.

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5 Keys to Mentoring Effectively

“A mentor is not someone who gives you advice. A mentor is someone whose advice you follow.”

Aeneus Williams

Being a mentor is one of the most unique and beneficial relationships one can have. It’s unique because it requires both individuals to willing to accept their role as the mentor or mentee. This is not something that can be forced. Rather, it is a relationship built on the mutual need to give and receive advice and support.

Even though most people will agree that there is value in being or mentor or having a mentor, most people do not have an intentional relationship with a mentor!

personal-mentorWe all admit that we need help, and don’t want to allow other people rear lights be our headlights. But in reality, most people do not make themselves vulnerable enough to admit that they need a mentor. And even worse, people tend to devalue their life experiences and shy away from being a mentor to other people.

I love what the late Dr. Myles Munroe said, “Success without a successor is failure.” What good is knowledge if it is not shared with future generations? What good is success if it can’t be replicated? Who will be able to start their life journey based on the knowledge of yours?

Here are 5 Keys to Mentoring Effectively to help you start your mentoring journey.

  1. Empathy/empathetic understanding. One of the most effective was to establish trust, and allow people to open up to you is to show empathy. Empathy is simply the ability to understand and share the feeling of others. This does not mean that you have had to have the exact same experience as the person you mentor. But it does mean that you can relate to the feelings that they are expressing. Acknowledging their feelings, and reflecting on a time where you felt a similar emotion is a great first step in establishing trust.
  2. High positive expectations. Everyone needs a coach. Everyone needs someone who can call greatness out of someone, and hold them to a higher standard. A great mentor will have the capacity to see the greatness that is inside their mentee and not allow them to settle for anything less than accomplishing the goals they have mutually established.
  3. Advocacy. Knowing that someone believes in you, and will go the extra mile to support you is something that is rare these days. Having a support system of people who are on your side no matter what is something that provides fuel to any relationship. Especially to the person you are mentoring!
  4. 12-months or longer and frequent positive contact. Consistency and commitment tend to be to the biggest issue with mentors. Being a mentor requires being intentional in the relationships that you spend time with, and with assessing what is important to you. Remember, a person is a mentor because that’s who they already are, not because its what they are trying to do. The mentoring relationship should be a natural extension of who you already are.
  5. Relationships focus on strengths rather than deficits. The last key of focusing on strengths rather than deficits can be challenging. It can be easy to see what’s wrong, and what to address the issues that need to be developed in a person. But if you truly want to be a transformational mentor, focus on the strengths of the person and what they are doing right. By focusing on their strength you reinforce their self-esteem and belief in their potential. Remember what Proverbs 18:16 says, “A man’s gift will make room for him, and bring him before great men.” Your mentees gift and strengths will open doors for them. Therefore, you should focus on developing their strengths, rather than being frustrated with their weakness.

VISIT www.freddiescott.org to connect with Freddie and find out more about his work in the community.

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Easy Questions to Help People Open Up

“A plan in the heart of a man is like deep water, but a man of understanding draws it out.”

Proverbs 20:5

Mastering the skill of not just listening, but also asking questions that draw out the thoughts, feelings, and concerns of people will allow you to have more influence in the lives of those you love and lead.

The level of open and honest dialogue in your relationships is an indicator of your relational health. The more people feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings, the more healthy your relationships will be at home or at work.

Knowing what you want to do is one thing. Having the tools to do it effectively is something else.

Teenager with parent

Remember, these questions will only be effective if you are intentionally creating an atmosphere that is safe and non-threatening for them to share. You may need to model vulnerability by opening up first, in order for them to feel comfortable being more transparent with you.

Opening up, and sharing your feelings may not feel natural for you or the person you are talking to. Children may feel comfortable wanted to share everything about their day and how they are feeling, but as we grow older, we learn to withhold our thoughts and feelings, and even censer them.

As a result, most people need to know it’s ok to be a child-like again by opening up and sharing what really on their mind.

Here are a few statements and questions to help you give people permission to share what they really feel, and to allow you to get people to open up.

  • “Tell me more.”
  • “What is that like for you?”
  • “How did you feel when that happened?”
  • “How did you handle it?”
  • “Could you give me an example?”
  • “It sounds like it was a difficult time for you.”
  • “What does this all mean to you?”
  • ‘Could you tell me generally what is going on?
  • “This is what I hear you saying…does that fit for you?”
  • “You sound like you feel…? Go on.”
  • “How do you feel as you talk about it now?”
  • “Right now you seem…”
  • “Let’s see if I can put together what you are saying.”
  • “How (why) is that important to you?’
  • “What are some of the reasons you think that happened?”
  • “I understand.”

VISIT www.freddiescott.org to connect with Freddie and find out more about his work in the community.

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The Best Counseling Skills for Communication

“A plan in the heart of a man is like deep water, but a man of understanding draws it out.”

Proverbs 20:5

How many times have you tried to communicate to someone about something important, only to have the conversation go off on tangents and the real issue is never addressed? This makes communication extremely difficult.

I’ve had countless conversations that started off on track, but as soon as I brought up the issues that I wanted to confront, the person got defensive and would bring up other issues. After a while, we would find ourselves talking about everything but the reason why the conversation started in the first place, and the issue is still unresolved!

This is a common issue that happens in communication. People will defend themselves or their points of view when they feel attacked or confronted.

So how can you address the important issues that need to be confronted, and bring about resolution without it turning into an argument?

rehabilitation-counselorCounselors have been using a simple technique that allows them to influence the conversation, and focus the communication around the issues that need to be addressed.

This approach also allows you to state the facts of what you’ve observed rather than your opinion and feelings, which is instrumental in being able to guide the conversation effectively.

Using ‘I” Statements is a simple technique that allows you to state your observations and focus on the facts of what’s happening. It is an effective tool when you want to deal with something that the other person may be prone to deflect from talking about the topic.

Statements like:

  • “I notice that you smile each time you talk about something sad.”
  • “I believe you just contradicted what you said earlier when you were talking.”
  • “I’ve heard you say that you can’t wait to get here, but you are always late.”

Using “I” statements is a great way to address a topic in a way that is less confrontational because you are referring to yourself, and not them. Even though you are referring to something that said, or did.

Here are a few “I” statements that can help you state facts and keep the conversation focused on the issues that need to be addressed.

  • I’ve noticed…
  • I observed …
  • When I saw …
  • I think that _________ indicates that …
  • I discovered …
  • I get the sense that …
  • I’m worried about …
  • I need to discuss …
  • I want to hear what you have to say about …

VISIT www.freddiescott.org to connect with Freddie and find out more about his work in the community.

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How to Handle the Silent Treatment

“A plan in the heart of a man is like deep water, but a man of understanding draws it out.”

Proverbs 20:5

The silent treatment is something we’ve all experienced. It doesn’t matter if it your spouse, your child, or an employee. People have used this approach when they are dealing with how they feel about a situation.

Learning how to deal with people with they are giving you the silent treatment can be the difference between bringing about resolution to an issue, or the silence driving a wedge in the relationship and making things more difficult.

The first thing to be mindful of when a person is giving you the silent treatment is to see if they need time to cool off before talking. One of the biggest mistakes people make when dealing with confrontation, is to try to make someone talk before they are emotionally ready to have a conversation.

If a person says they need time to calm down, or they are angry and trying not to say or do something that they will regret, please honor their request. Give them the space they need to calm down. But the time needed to calm down is not an excuse to not address the issue. Ask for the opportunity to continue the conversation when they are ready.

For some people, the silent treatment is just that. For others, they may resort to a range of behaviors that detract from being able to address the issues at hand. The silence treatment can range in reactions from:

  • silence,
  • incessant talking,
  • slow to offer a response,
  • lack of interest,
  • anger, pessimism and cynicism,
  • blaming and making excuses,
  • and violence

Here are a few ways to handle silence or little communication.

  • Ask open-ended questions to get more of an explanation from them. Statements like, “Tell me more about that…” Asking open-ended questions gives people a chance to slowly open up, which gives you a chance to hear what they are really thinking and feeling.
  • Do not be afraid of silence. Count to 20 before you talk again. A great statement could be, “I’m not sure what your silence means. Tell me what you’re thinking.” Dealing with silence is not easy. But realize that just because they may not be saying anything, it doesn't mean they are not thinking or feeling anything. Give them the space they need to share knowing you are there to listen and support them.

VISIT www.freddiescott.org to connect with Freddie and find out more about his work in the community.

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Key Ingredients to Credibility

“I think credibility, irrespective of what you do, if you are in public life, then it is important.”

Rahul Dravid

It’s impossible to be an effective leader, or have a happy relationship if you aren’t seen as credible. Credibility is the filter that we use to determine if the person or information given to us is reliable.

Out of the countless stories that are leaked on the Internet we tend to rely on the credible news sources (ABC News, CNN, Fox News, etc.) in order to determine if the story is real or not. Even though the data may be accurate, if the source of the report isn’t credible we tend to not trust the story.

nfl-draft-football-c046fda5b7fb453aLawyers understand this during trials. They will question the credibility of the person based on their past to taint the validity of their testimony. Even if the person was an eyewitness to the incident, the credibility of the witness will either support the case, or hinder it.

The reality is that we all have to deal with our credibility at work and at home. Our past either makes it easy for people to trust us, or it can be an obstacle that makes it more difficult.

Learning how to rebuild credibility when we have made mistakes is the key to effective leadership. Not understanding how our past actions or decisions impact our leadership or relationships is a mistake too many people make today.

Here are a few ways to assess your credibility with others.

  • Integrity: Are you congruent? Integrity includes honesty, telling the truth, and leaving the right impression. When a person has a track record of either not telling the truth, or consistently misleading people, it makes it almost impossible to be seen as credible. It’s important to acknowledge the impact of the integrity issues of the past, and begin to rebuild trust daily by being consistently honest.
  • Intent: What’s your agenda? Isn’t it interesting how skeptical people are? People who have been disappointed in the past will try to not get burned again. Intent is about your motive, agenda, and behavior. If people question your intent, the most important thing to remember is to be patient, consistent, and transparent. The more you show you are focused on serving, loving, and leading by putting other’s needs ahead of your own, the more receptive they will be over time to see you as credible.
  • Capabilities: Are you relevant? Credibility also incorporates your talents, skills, knowledge, capacities, and abilities that allow us to perform or give advice. People always look to see if you have knowledge or experience in the area as a form of validation. Do people see you as an expert, or knowledgeable in the area you are trying to support? A lack of history or success in an area will cause people to hesitate in trusting your insight on the topic. Make sure you aren’t just sharing accurate information, but you also have demonstrated the skills and capabilities to be a trusted source.
  • Results: What’s your track record? Could you imagine listening to Johnny Manziel talk about leadership and decision-making? How about listening to Lance Armstrong discuss the importance of integrity in athletics? Of course not! A persons track record is their report card. Your report card is either making your voice loud in the ears of those you lead, or it is operating like a muzzle and making it hard for people to hear what you are saying. Be mindful of your past, and if you need to address something that you haven’t be successful in, make sure you acknowledge it, and share what you learned from the mistake.

You don’t have to be perfect to be credible. But you do need to acknowledge your imperfections to have influence!

VISIT www.freddiescott.org to connect with Freddie and find out more about his work in the community.

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13 Ways to Rebuild Trust

Trust is the glue of life. It's the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It's the foundational principle that holds all relationships.

Steven Covey

Trust is the foundation to every relationship. Once trust is broken, it makes having a healthy relationship difficult. Trust is the glue that allows people to give each other the benefit of the doubt. Trust allows people to be vulnerable with their thoughts, feelings, dreams, and concerns. Trust is what makes bonds of friendship special.

trustSo what do you do when trust has been broken? How do I rebuild what has been broken? Is it even possible?

Though it may be difficult, it is possible to rebuild trust. It may not happen overnight. But it is something that can be reestablished if both people believe in the potential of the relationship and are willing to work to make things work.

Trust is a two-way street. Both people must be willing to see each other without the filter of pain, and disappointment. It is not always easy, but it is possible.

Many times people want to get things back on track, but “want-to” isn’t enough to rebuild trust. Understanding the key ingredients that must be done consistently and applying them is what will give you a chance to win the heart of the person again.

Here are 13 ways to rebuild trust in your relationship from my friends at Felicia Hall Allen & Associates:

  1. Talk Straight. Be honest. Tell the truth. Let people know where you stand, and call things what they are. Let “your yes be yes, and your no be no.”
  2. Demonstrate Respect. Treat everyone with respect. Show kindness in the little things. Behave in ways that demonstrate caring and concern.
  3. Create Transparency. Transparency is about being open, real, genuine, and telling the truth in a way that people can verify.
  4. Right Wrongs. Make things right when you’re wrong. Apologize quickly and demonstrate personal humility. Don’t ever cover things up!
  5. Show Loyalty. Go out of your way to give credit freely.
  6. Deliver Results. Before you make a commitment, make sure it’s realistic. Don’t over promise and under deliver.
  7. Get Better. Two strategies that are helpful in maximizing your effort: seek feedback, and learn from mistakes. Many times we don’t get better because we don’t ask for honest feedback from others.
  8. Confront Reality. Confronting reality is about taking the tough issues head on. Avoiding tough issues won’t make them go away. In fact, it tends to make things worse.
  9. Clarify Expectations. Create shared vision and agreement about what is to be done up front. This allows for everyone to be on the same page, and have a common interest in making things work.
  10. Practice Accountability. There are two key dimensions to practicing accountability. You must be willing to hold yourself accountable for your personal goals and values, and be willing to be held accountable by others for mutually agreed goals.
  11. Listen First. Listen before you speak. Failure to understand typically results in a failure to be understood.
  12. Keep Commitments. The quickest way to build trust in any relationship is to keep commitments. Every time you keep the commitment, you take a step closer toward rebuilding the trust you are aiming for.
  13. Extend Trust. Give what you want to receive. If you want people to trust you, you must also be willing to extend trust to others. Giving people the benefit of the doubt is a powerful way to change the tone of the relationship, and makes it easier for them to extend the same courtesy to you.

Why Every Man Must Learn to Show Empathy

“Empathy is about standing in someone else’s shoes, feeling with his or her heart, seeing with his or her eyes. Not only is empathy hard to outsource and automate, but it makes the world a better place.”

Daniel H. Pink

If you want to have a successful marriage, enjoy a great relationship with your children, and be a respected leader in the community, you must learn how to develop empathy.

Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. This tends to be a problem for most men.

If you are like me, you were raised to think emotions are irrelevant, and showing emotions would be a sign of weakness. I always thought that the harder and non-emotional I was, the more of a leader I was showing myself to be. Especially on the football field!

What horrible advice to give someone! Conditioning myself to turn off my emotions is actually what cripples my ability to lead effectively.

Why?

It’s because if I’m conditioned to ignore my feelings, I will also be conditioned to ignore the feelings of others.

6e1Meet the Jones’

My wife and I had a chance to meet with a couple that needed some counseling and marriage coaching. The wife was drowning in despair and was on the verge of filing for divorce. She felt as though her husband didn’t care about her, and what she said was important to him. The kicker was that fact that the husband didn’t even know the extent of her frustration!

As they talked, she immediately began to cry as she expressed how she was feeling. To my surprise, the husband never acknowledged her emotions or tears. He seemed numb to her pain, as if it didn’t exist. He chalked it up to, “She’s just being emotional right now. This is a logical decision we need to make, not an emotional one.”

Wow! Your wife is sobbing and in tears because of your decision. And you aren’t even going to acknowledge her pain?

This is the case for too many men. We tend to stay logical while trying to lead, and forget that the most important aspect of leadership is being able to connect with those you lead. People won’t be able to follow the lead of someone that they feel you can't relate to them.

Here are 3 ways to develop empathy.

Know your emotions. According to recent studies, 80% of people are not aware of their emotions throughout the day. The first step in being able to show empathy to others is to be aware of your own emotions. One easy way to do this is to make a journal of your emotions throughout the day. How many emotions do you think you experience daily?

Look for meaning engagement. Look for opportunities to make a meaningful connection with your family daily. This can be done by making sure you create uninterrupted times to check-in. Having a conversation while being distracted by TV or your phone gives a nonverbal message that what’s on the TV or phone is more important than the person. It also keeps you from seeing their body language, or the expression in their eyes that can give you clues to how they are really feeling.

Be vulnerable and transparent. Vulnerability is not a sign of weakness. In fact, it is a sign of strength for a leader. Vulnerability allows for your family to see that you have felt what they are feeling, which allows them to know you understand what they are going through. Taking a moment to share a story of how you have experienced the same emotion that they are experiencing puts you on their level, and makes it easier to know you truly care.

VISIT www.freddiescott.org to connect with Freddie and find out more about his work in the community.

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Creative Ways to Create New Culture

“If you are building a culture where honest expectations are communicated and peer accountability is the norm, then the group will address poor performance and attitudes.”

Dr. Henry Cloud

My friend and mentor, Dr. John Townsend once said, “Culture eats strategy for lunch.” Failure to understand the culture of your family or business can short-circuit your efforts to accomplish the goals that you desire.

Culture is defined as the beliefs, customs, or ways of life of a particular society, or group. Your culture involves your way of thinking, behaving, expectations, and working that takes place.

Your culture cultivates your productivity, or it strangles the opportunities of success and productivity.

Because most behavior is learned behavior from your family of origin, most people don’t assess whether their culture is healthy. There is a difference between things being normal, and things being healthy.

Normal simply means the way things are always done. It is the standard or expectation of how to communicate, what we can accomplish, and what I expect from others. Healthy on the other hand refers to what is optimal, and addressing anything that is preventing things from being optimal.

cultureI remember that first time I heard a veteran in the NFL tell me to “take it easy” in practice. There had be a norm established of how we should practice, and it was not to get the team better. It was about making sure we did enough to get the next paycheck. That environment earned the team a 3-13 record!

If you focus on your values, and build an environment at home or at work that have honest expectations for a common goal, you will see success.

Here are 2 ways to create new culture:

  1. Make the un-discussable, discussable. If you want to change the culture at home or at work, you will need to get the courage to talk about the pink elephant in the room. Be clear and direct. Don’t talk around issues hoping people will read between the lines. Let people know how the issue has made you feel, and discuss how “we” can move forward. Avoidance and denial never accomplish anything.
  2. Create 200 percent accountability. In order to change your culture, you will need 200% accountability. 100% from you, and 100% from the team. Shifting the environment won’t work if everyone hasn’t bought in to the dream of what could be. Once everyone is in agreement with vision, allow everyone to have a part of owning their part in making it happen. The strength of the new normal will be based on the consistency of the entire group being willing to speak up and protect your new culture.

Creating behaviors and expectations aren't easy. But it is worth it. Your culture will fuel and energize everyone around you, and you will accomplish more as a group, than you could have ever imagined!