Some verbs and phrasings we use when we communicate in business, in leadership roles and generally in our lives can have a subconscious (and maybe even conscious) affect on how people perceive what we say but perhaps even our overall character.
One such verb or phrase is “think” or “I think.” This is an easy one to get rid of as it is a throw away phrase anyway. When speaking or writing it is somewhat redundant to make the statement; if it were anyone else’s thinking 99% of us would describe who the thinking belonged to. So, there is no need to say it in the first place. But why skip the “I think?” It is because it can come off as the speaker being uncertain or still going over things in their head. Plainly speaking your opinion and why others should consider it sounds stronger both in person and on the page.
“Need” is another word one might consider dropping in their phrasing. It may sound silly but when used by a leader when requesting something from subordinate it makes the leader or the one asking sound like they are dependent on that other person entirely. If you are scoffing, consider that these are subtle, subconscious cues that don’t work on our active thinking. “Want” works in a similar way. “I want you to improve the quality of your work” versus “Please, improve the quality of your work” or even “Improve the quality of your work.” Notice the subtle difference in tone that shades the meaning of the statement in all three cases.
“Guess” is another one to watch out for—we all want to be heard as confident and sure. Using “guess” in your language does not accomplish that tonal goal. Likewise, “hope” can add a touch of uncertainty. Don’t hope for things, know that they will happen; make things a will to power over your goals, don’t hope.
Consider making some of these changes to your speech pattern and note if it changes the way people see you and your ideas.
Most people would consider themselves good listeners. As with many things people’s self-assessments of themselves is much higher than the reality. And being a good listener is an essential part of being a good leader. Take a moment to set ego aside and assess whether are not you are listening as well as you could be.
Many people believe that good listening comes down to three simple items: not talking when others are speaking; letting others know you’re listening through facial expression and verbal confirmations (“mmmhmm”); being able to repeat what others have said, maybe even word for word.
A lot of managing advice given about being a good listener specifically instructs that managers do these things. Remain mostly quiet, nod with the obligatory “mmmhmm” and repeat back what the speaker has said. However, many believe this falls short or is at best just the beginning of good listening.
Consider the following as well.
Good listening isn’t just about polite silence while the other person talks. In fact, many believe the opposite is true. Many think that those who periodically ask questions that encourage exploration of the topic to be good listeners. These listeners ask questions that challenge the status quo in a constructive way. Sitting, nodding and making little sounds is no assurance that someone is really listening but when someone hears that their listener is critically analyzing what they say and asking critical thinking questions they know that person is really listening.
Good listening should include some kind of interaction that helps build the speaker’s self-esteem. A good listener makes the conversation a positive experience and this can’t happen through silence or negative criticism. Good listeners make people feel supported and that the listener has confidence in them.
The best listening is seen as a just a part of cooperative conversation. Feedback should be a back and forth with neither party becoming defensive about what the other has said. Looking only for errors in what another is saying might make you good at academic argumentation but not a good listener. The speaker should feel you are trying to help.
Just listening isn’t enough.
Good listeners do make suggestions. If a listener says nothing the speaker might as well journal their problems as the blank page is as responsive as a listener who says nothing, suggests nothing and doesn’t actively support the speaker.