You are the Message

"As a leader, you have to be a really good listener. You need to know your mind, but there is no point in imposing your views on others without some 
debate. No one has a monopoly on good ideas or good advice. Get out there, listen to people, draw people out, and learn from them."
~ Richard Branson

Effective leaders and influencers master the art of listening, and they understand that people want to be understood. In our fast-paced world, active and empathetic listening is a rarity, and it's not as simple as it sounds. Even if we know how to listen, we often don't for many reasons.

5 Levels of Listening:

1. Empathic Listening - Listening/responding with both the heart and mind to understand the speaker's words intent and feelings. Listen 
to what is not said. 

2. Attentive Listening - Paying attention, focusing on the speaker's words/comparing to your own experiences.

3. Selective Listening - Hearing only what interests you.

4. Pretend - Giving the appearance of listening.

5. Ignore - No effort to listen.

What level of listening do you relate to most of the time? 

Being a great listener includes how you respond to what you hear!

Common responses to information (general conversation, problems, situations, and conflicts.

1. Telling you what you should do to fix it. 
2. Comparing your situation to something that happened to them which pulls the focus away from you (which may or may not be what you need 
to feel supported!) 
3. Trying to cheer you up or shift your mood distracting you from what you are thinking and feeling.
4. Asking so many questions, it feels like an interrogation.
5. Interruptions that control the direction of the conversation.

If you have experienced any of the above responses, how did you feel? Did you feel you were someone who listened to you in the way you needed?

The most power-full kind of listening is empathic listening. If you have the desire to listen with empathy, some simple physical adjustments immediately get you ready. 

* Stop what you are doing.
* Turn your body to face the person. Invite them to sit, and if possible, sit near them. If they stand, you stand.
* Make eye contact as you listen and speak. Focus on the person and their body language. 
* During the conversation, resist the urge towards distractions (looking through papers, taking a call etc.) 
* Monitor your focus of attention. If you notice your thoughts wander, return to what they are saying, listen for their tone of voice, and notice their 
posture and facial expression. Let go of thinking about what you are going to say next and be willing to be fully present! 
* Learn to be comfortable with pauses and silences. Summarize what you hear them saying. "What I hear you saying is..."

With practice, you'll have a much better understanding of how you listen, and when to move your listening to a higher level. Having empathy for others is not possible if you are unable to listen with empathy. 
Recall a time when someone listened to you - how did you feel?

How to Talk Intelligently on Any Business Topic

Let's say it's 8 a.m. and you've just settled at your desk. You're about to get the agenda ready for your boss's upcoming meeting when your boss passes by your desk and asks, "Did you take a bath in mutual funds? Man, the markets
crashed yesterday." If you don't play the market, have no idea what a mutual fund is, and don't follow the financial news channels, you may find yourself nervously shuffling your feet, looking down and muttering, "Ah, well, er, no." 
That's a tough spot to be in, but there is a way out. 

There are several techniques you could use. 

Immediately Try to Shift Back to a "You" Focus 

When someone asks a question about a topic that you know little or nothing about, one successful strategy is to immediately shift the focus back to the other person by appealing to one of three things: 

1. The Other Person's Current Situation As It Relates to the Topic 

In the example above about the mutual funds, you could respond with an empathetic, "Oh, sounds as if you did. Did you have a lot invested?" 

2. The Other Person's Opinion About the Topic 

Again, from our mutual fund example, you could say with a very interested tone, "It's interesting you should bring that up. I'd like your take on the stability of the overall market. Where do you think it's going?" 

True, in this example you're dodging the question, and they may call you on it. Or, they may assume you took a bath and didn't want to talk about it. 

Either way, you're keeping the conversation going. 

3. The Other Person's Experience or Expertise 

You may prefer the more direct approach such as, "I didn't invest in mutual funds, but I'd like to know more about them. What can you tell me about them?" 

When you shift back to a "you" focus -- and especially when you appeal to someone's expertise (whether they have the real expertise or they think they do), you'll get them going into a commentary about their experiences, their 
opinions, or their involvement. 
Ask Questions 

As you've probably already assumed, this goes hand-in-hand with shifting the focus back to the other person. The easiest way to shift that focus back is to ask a question about their situation, their opinion, or their advice. 

After you have redirected back to a "you" focus, listen very closely to the terminology used and what is said. In nearly any comment you can pick out a piece of information to ask another question about. Eventually, after you ask two or three questions, you'll gain enough understanding on the topic to make an intelligent comment. That way, your conversation partner will perceive you as knowledgeable about the topic.

Fail-Safe Phrases to Win Trust and Goodwill in the Office

Strangers, acquaintances, friends, and trusted colleagues - all use different language. Unfortunately, many people in the office use "stranger" language when talking with bosses and supervisors. Your goal is to talk to everyone in your office - whether peers or bosses - as if they are trusted, colleagues. 

But how do you do that? Follow the tips below: 

Use the Phrases and Words That Trusted Colleagues Use 

Most people in offices use language that sends a message of distance. In other words, they use words and phrases that highlight the differences between the two people. 

Some examples are: 


Strangers use clichés. Clichés are safe, non-threatening, and are fillers.

For instance, if you were talking about the Internet economy, a cliché would be "The Internet is the place to be today, isn't it?" 


Acquaintances usually speak in "fact-ese." Facts reinforce your mutual understanding of your topic, industry, or company. Continuing with our Internet economy example, a fact statement between acquaintances would be, "There are 1,543,333 active Web sites today," or "40 percent of holiday gift purchases were made online last year." 

Emotional Statements 

Emotional statements are used between friends. They indicate a deeper bond than either strangers or acquaintances have. Friends feel safe making emotional statements to each other. Once again with our Internet example, a comment from a friend may be, "I just love being able to do everything online!" 

"We" Talk 

"We" talk sets the stage for anticipated future events shared between two business colleagues. It may also refer to past events or current situations. With the Internet example, a "we" statement could be, "We'll have so much fun starting this new Internet partnership, won't we?" or "Our company will really grow fast once we get our online retail outlet going." 

Fast-Forwarding Rapport with "We" Talk 

Using "we" talk is an excellent technique for fast-forwarding rapport, so the other person thinks of you as a colleague. It's simple to do! When you're in a conversation with a person you're meeting for the first time, look for opportunities to insert the word "we," "us," or "our" into the conversation. It will scramble the signal, and get the other person thinking you're closer than you are. This works well if you're talking to a boss, the company CEO, or someone in a higher position within the company. 

Some examples: 

"We are in an exciting industry!" 

"That new anti-trust law is interesting and a challenge. What do you think about the changes?" 

"We're in for an exciting ride if the industry trends continue the way they are." 

"Our greatest opportunities will come from support from the City Council." 

"The new Better Internet Bureau certifications will help us establish credibility for our online operations." 

Don't Forget to Maintain Your Non-Verbal Image 

Just as you can fast-forward rapport through your words, you can also fast forward rapport with your body language. The acronym PALS NOW will help you remember the body language tips that fast-forward rapport. 

P = Proximity. Stand about an arm's length from the person with whom you're speaking. Research has shown this to be the most comfortable personal space area. 

A = Animated. Does your body posture show animation and enthusiasm? Or, are you hunched over and slouching? 

L = Lean in. If you lean in toward the person who is speaking to you, they will think you are hanging on their every word, and they will like you more quickly. 

S = Smile. Remember to smile, when appropriate, while the other person is talking. 

N = Nod. Nodding while the other person is speaking sends a visual cue that you're listening to and comprehending what they're saying. 

O = Open body posture. Are your arms folded? Do you have your hands in your pocket? If you are seated, are your legs crossed away from the other person? Keep an open and welcoming body posture throughout the conversation. 

W = Watchful eyes. Maintain eye contact throughout the conversation.

Tone and Tempo: When to Slow It Down and When to Speed It Up

The sound of your voice may be less than music to the ear, and people have a tendency to assign a personality type to you based on the sound of your voice. Have you ever "met" someone for the first time via telephone, and then formed a mental picture of what the person looks like? Sure! We all have. Doing so is natural. 

Your voice may sound fine to you, but not to others. Tape-record yourself - preferably during a conversation - to find out how you sound. You may be surprised. 

Adjusting Your Tone to Fit the Person 

Without completely abandoning your personality or your vocal uniqueness, it's important to adjust your tone, speed, pitch, and volume based on your listener.

In general, people like other people who are like themselves. 

A subliminal way to show the other person that you're "like them" is to mirror (not mimic) their vocal patterns. For example, if the other person is speaking more slowly, with a lower voice, and you are typically a high-energy, fast-paced talker, you may want to bring your rate of speech and pitch down a few notches. Conversely, if the other person is talking quickly and you're more of a slow talker, you may want to crank it up a notch. 

Sincerity Counts 

The most important thing to remember when mirroring someone else's tone is to be sincere. People can pick up on insincerity. The main point of this section is to bring to your attention the importance of focusing on the speech patterns of the other person. 

Too often we're so "me-focused" in conversations that we completely overlook the other person. 

Good listening skills take practice and a true desire to connect with another person. Appreciate the value face to face conversations bring to the quality of your life.

Business etiquette is essentially about building relationships with colleagues, clients or customers. In the business world, these people can influence your success or failure. Etiquette, and in particular business etiquette, is simply a means of maximizing your business potential by presenting yourself favorably. Remember You Are The Message 

Ellen Reddick, CEO of Impact Factory Utah, provides business consulting and process improvement, custom-designed leadership training, executive coaching, professional presence, customer service, soft skills and business etiquette.

Our expertise is helping companies develop their most valuable asset that differentiates them from their competition - their people.

Ellen's corporate experience includes National Process Improvement Director for Lucent Technologies and Director for the Utah office of Fairchild Industries.
Ellen is the author of several business books and articles and participates in several business blogs. She is a noted expert and often interviewed for national articles and publications. 
She is a regular on Fox 13 The Place as their Etiquette Expert.

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