If you are like most people, you want to be heard. Even more than heard, you want someone to listen, to pay attention to you, to verify your identity and recognize your thoughts and ideas. You want to make an impact. Like the old investment firm commercials that mention the name “EF Hutton” and a hush falls over the room (because “when EF Hutton speaks, people listen.”)
Commanding that respect is easier than you think. With a little knowledge, awareness and effort, you can expand your influence and make a lasting impact on those around you. How would you feel if people took you more seriously; if they truly heard and understood what you had to say?
We are investing the bulk of this week to being heard, understood, and taken seriously; the three ‘up’ rules to making an impact. No matter what position you hold, from parent to C-Suite, these three steps will help you make more of an impact.
Step 1- SHOW UP
Have you ever been in a conversation with someone who seems distracted, on their phone, or blankly nodding to your comments? Doesn’t that make you feel unimportant; like you’re talking to a wall?
This is the situation we want to avoid. In order to make an impact, you need to be willing to invest your attention into the conversation. There is no shortcut, no magic bullet. You must be willing to SHOW UP.
Being fully present, showing up, is the first step in making a bigger impact with those around you. When I say ‘presence’, it’s much more than physically being in the room. It is devoting your energy and attention to those in the conversation.
In certain cases, you may need to remember the details of a conversation. When this situation arises, ask if you can jot a few notes. Write as little as possible, write in pencil or pen (as opposed to tapping on a device), and keep your face up as much as you can. This will help keep you present in the conversation and connected.
Showing up and be emotionally present in a conversation is not natural for most people. It will probably require practice and you might not get it right every time. Like everything else, the more you practice the better you get.
- Make eye contact as much as possible
- Minimize distractions: turn off the TV, put the phone in your pocket or face down
- Put yourself in their position
- Allow yourself to be distracted
- GIVE UP! Keep practicing; the effort will be worth it!
Tomorrow, we will unpack part 2. Today, start practicing SHOWING UP!
Step 2- Listen Up
We all know people who are good listeners. They practice Step 1 and show up physically and emotionally to a conversation. They come without distraction, ready to participate. Good listeners give you their full attention, take in every word, and offer (not force) their view.
First, we must view listening as a skill. It’s a skill that goes much deeper than simply hearing; it’s is the process of allowing words or music to soak into the brain. Like a golf swing, it’s a skill that we must study, practice, and refine if we expect to be successful.
Second, listening requires effort. We must be willing to engage in listening with energy. Listen with the goal of understanding where the words are coming from; is this person worried? Downhearted? Excited? Put yourself in their position. Yes, it’s difficult, but true listening requires empathy.
*WARNING:* Being completely present in a conversation may lead to increased desire to give advice.
Finally, try to avoid sharing your opinion and ideas unless they are specifically requested. Showing up in the conversation partially means allowing the speaker to have the spotlight. This is their time. Affirm their identity with facial expressions and nods. (This is especially challenging when you feel yourself getting defensive or when you personally disagree with what’s being said.)
I never said it would be easy. But I will say it’s worth it.
Step 3- Speak Up
Let me begin by repeating part of step 2: listen intently for meaning and understanding, NOT to formulate a response. Otherwise, ‘making an impact’ gets derailed into rebuttal and defense.
Speaking up is more art than science. First, guaging the conversation while involved in the conversation requires energy. It’s difficult to be empathetic and try to see the world through the eyes of someone else. Second, carefully measuring words as to not sound demanding or condescending requires a rich vocabulary. Finally, it’s all about timing. If your thoughts are requested, that’s simple. Otherwise, there are ways to open a response. For instance, you can restate what you heard. (This is as much for meaning and clarification as it is for understanding.) You can also simply ask if they would like your thoughts, or if you have been in a similar situation, experience.
No judgments. No degredation. Affirm their humanity, empathize with their situation, and offer support.
Making an impact takes time and effort. But I promise you, it’s time and effort well invested.