Our response to COVID-19: Online Coaching
During this time of the coronavirus (Covid-19) worldwide pandemic we’re obviously not easily able to deliver our courses in the traditional way in groups because of travel and social distancing restrictions, however all our training can be delivered online through video conferencing, or over the phone.
Might this London UK listening skills course help you be
more successful as a manager?
YES if you're keen
- not just to listen, but to listen in a way that wins people's trust by making them feel genuinely understood,
- to achieve this in difficult and tense situations when both you and they are under emotional pressure,
- to get the balance right between listening to them and getting them to listen to you, so that you create an atmosphere of mutual understanding.
Video - An introduction to our listening skills training course (3 minutes)
What will you learn on this listening skills training?
You'll be able to win the trust and cooperation of people at all levels. The ability to listen in a way that makes people feel understood is as crucial for managing upwards as for managing downwards or working with peers. A manager who fails to achieve this inevitably meets with a lot of resistance, gets into a lot of arguments, and is probably unaware of the reason why.
Listening with empathy is one of the two basic skills that will make an enormous difference to your success as a manager. The equally crucial companion skill is speaking assertively. On this course we'll help you master both the listening skill and the speaking skill, and to use them together. Together they give you a simple but powerful way of connecting better with people and having more influencing. There are few situations you'll be unable to manage successfully with these two skills.
The thinking and philosophy behind this listening skills training course
Having great listening skills is not enough on its own to make you a successful manager of people. You need to be equally successful at getting others to listen to you. What most of us need is to get the balance right between listening and talking. Here's the reason why:-
- It’s very easy for us to misunderstand each other even when we speak the same language. Telepathy is science fiction. Tuning in accurately to each other's thoughts and feelings is difficult because they're essentially private. We have to make do with verbal and non-verbal clues. But these are often misleading and reliable.
- Unfortunately, misunderstandings can be serious obstacles to influencing each other, winning each other's cooperation and trust, and working successfully together.
- But all is not lost. If I want to connect better with you and improve our understanding of each other there are two things I can do. One is try to make sure I understand you, and the other is to try to make sure you understand me. The first is to do with how well I listen, the second with how well I speak.
- The main listening skill we'll help you master on this course is called listening with empathy. The speaking skill is called speaking assertively. These two communication skills are crucial for managers, and it's never too late to develop them.
- They fit together very comfortably to form a powerfully persuasive, honest and difficult-to-resist approach to managing people. Neither of them will bring you total success on its own because in most situations they each need to be balanced by the other.
- The reason they work so well in combination is that they echo a tried and tested ancient principle accepted down the ages as the key to getting on well together: “Treat others as you like to be treated.” With these skills you can create an atmosphere of mutual respect, understanding and trust. There are few situations in the workplace where this will fail to resolve conflict and win people’s cooperation.
- But simple isn't necessarily easy. These skills may conflict with the habits of a lifetime, and if they do, as well as developing the skills you may have some unlearning of old habits to do.
We’ll train you in the two crucial skills, and then help you combine them and use them in the tense and emotional situations where you encounter your greatest challenges at work. We’ll also help you spot and unlearn some of the lifetime habits that may be getting in the way.
On this course you'll get feedback about the effectiveness of your listening skills
What better way to assess the effectiveness of your listening skills than to ask how understood the person you're listening to feels? If they feel misunderstood you're unlikely to win their trust and cooperation even if you do understand privately everything they say. There are two ways of knowing how understood you're making people feel, and on this course we'll help you become familiar with both:-
- The experience of being well understood is so satisfying, relieving, unusual and surprising that when you show understanding people often respond spontaneously by saying, “Exactly!” (or words to the same effect). If you get this kind of response you know you're doing a good job.
- You can ask, "How understood have I made you feel on a scale from 0 - 10?” The answer, though subjective, is both easy to give and reliable. You can then judge your listening for yourself by the score you get on this scale. A score of 8 or above says you are doing okay. 7 or below says they'd like it better if you paid more attention.
You'll develop the skill of active (or reflective) listening
Active listening is reflecting or mirroring back in your own words what someone seems to be telling you. Sometimes, but not always, it helps to have a verbal handle for this, e.g., “Let me make sure I've understood you .. ”, “What you seem to be saying is ..”, “From what you say I get the impression that ..”. Behind an active listening statement is an implied invitation to correct you if you're wrong.
Of course takes less effort just to ask, “How do you feel?”. But there are three advantages in taking the trouble to listen actively:-
- If you're paying close attention you'll almost certainly have picked up non-verbal as well as verbal clues about how someone feels. Why pretend you haven’t? Your active listening is an open display of your attention, and gives them an opportunity to correct you if you’re wrong. In your active listening you're not leading them – putting thoughts in their mind – you're following them and trying to keep up with them.
- If you ask them how they feel, they start thinking about it and analysing it. This kind of thought process takes place on a different part of the mind (and brain) from the part where they experience feelings. But if, instead, you say, “I get the impression from the expression on your face that you're not very happy about this”, they're much more likely to let off steam spontaneously, because an active listening observation like this bypasses the analytical part of the mind and touches their feelings more directly.
- Sometimes people find questions invasive, e.g., “How do you feel about …?” There's less danger of this with active listening, provided its tone implies an invitation to correct you if you are wrong.
You'll learn the skill of listening with empathy
How is listening with empathy different from the way we usually listen to people? To understand the difference let's indulge in a spot of introspection. What goes on in your mind when another person is telling you something about what's going on in their world, or asking you a question?
For most of us our minds instantly get busy with our own thoughts ... thoughts about how similar or different their experience is from our own ... memories of our own ... advice we would like to give them ... or, perhaps, thoughts that have nothing to do with them at all. Our attention is mainly absorbed with what's going on in our own mind. We've very little to spare for what might be going on in theirs.
And that's the difference. You can't listen with empathy without turning your attention from your own thoughts to the other person's. It's like flicking a switch. It's a deliberate decision to switch attention for a moment from your own thoughts to theirs. To many people the possibility you can do this is a surprise. But you can, and this empathy training for managers will enable you to master it.
What to actually say to show you're listening
In a nutshell, here's the technique you'll learn and practise on this listening skills course:-
- After hearing what the other person says, respond by saying in your own words as accurately as you can what you think is going on in their mind. For example, "I get the impression that what's really bothering you is .... and that the reason why you're so bothered about it is ... ".
- Then pause to give them a chance to say more. For example, they might say, "Exactly", or "Not exactly, what's really bothering me is ...."
using this listening skill in everyday conversation
In this brief conversation the man, instead of capping the woman’s story with one of his own or giving her quick advice, pays attention to her thoughts and feelings. He puts a big mental effort into trying to imagine what it must be like in her shoes. He uses the skill of with active listening with empathy. This makes her feel understood and enables her to let off steam. This rapidly calms her down and gets her into a rational frame of mind for dealing with her problem. The conversation doesn't take him long, but it's an enormous help to her. This illustrates how you'll learn to listen on this course:-
HE: How was your day?
HE: Sorry to hear that.
SHE: My boss was in a bad mood again.
HE: You're obviously upset.
SHE: I am! I’m beginning to think I should get another job.
HE: It’s pretty serious, then.
SHE: It is! It feels awful being shouted at when all you’re doing is trying to help. I’m nervous every time I go in to work.
HE: I get the impression you're thinking, why should I put up with this - surely I’m worth more than this!
SHE: Exactly! (thoughtful pause) I’ll start making enquiries about other jobs in the morning. Thank you. My mind’s made up. I feel better now. How was your day?
In contrast, here's the conversation again
But this time he's totally self-absorbed with no attention for her at all and no listening skills. This way of carrying on a conversation is extremely unrewarding for both parties:-
HE: How was your day?
HE: Me too! The car broke down.
SHE: I’ve been telling you for weeks the car needs a service.
HE: Haven't had time.
SHE: You should be more organised.
What are the benefits of this listening skill?
- It trains you to keep your attention focussed on the other person's thoughts and feeling instead of being distracted by your own. The more you practise it the better at it you become.
- It also makes you more aware of not only of what they're saying but also of their body language.
- It encourages and allows the other person to let off steam, which helps them calm down get themselves into a rational state of mind.
- It allows them to judge for themselves how well you understand them, and it gives them a chance to correct you if you've misunderstood.
- It wins their trust, because it's much easier to trust someone who who makes you feel well understood.
- Therefore It makes you a more powerful persuader, because when people are satisfied you've understood them they become much more open and receptive to your point of view.
Common obstacles to good quality listening skills
Connecting well with others isn't easy. You may encounter obstacles. Here are some common ones - mental habits that prevent us from using our listening skills - that make it hard for us to listen with an open mind and pay full attention to other people's thoughts and feelings. The trouble with habits we are unaware of is they exert hidden power over us. The first step in overcoming them is becoming aware of them. This listening skills course will help you be more aware of them and think about how you can overcome them:-
- Inability to be assertive. It may seem a strange idea that people often fail to listen with empathy simply because they don't know how to be assertive. But here's why it's often true, particularly when you're trying to resolve a disagreement with someone ..... You're unlikely to succeed in persuading them to your point of view unless you can first make them feel you've fully inderstand theirs, because only then can they relax and open their mind to your point of view. But you're unlikely to be able to do this unless you're confident you'll be able to defend your own point of view clearly and effectively afterwards, in other words, be assertive. That's why the two skills, listening with empathy and speaking assertively, need to be learned together as a pair.
- The belief that since you are not much good at empathy there’s no point in really trying. This belief is obviously a self-fulfilling prophecy. How about simply laying it aside? You'll find listening with empathy very rewarding once you start practising it as part of your listening skill.
- Preoccupation with one’s own thoughts. Some people only understand others whose thoughts coincide with their own. They have yet to learn that they are perfectly free to flick the switch – lay aside their own thoughts and focus completely on someone else’s. The more you practise this listening skill the better you become at doing this.
- The spectacles through which we see another person are rarely pure and clear. They are very often tinted or contaminated by our own opinions and prejudices. Usually we're oblivious of this and assume people really are as we think we see them. The thought that perhaps they are not, and that the image we have of them isn't really them at all but an interpretation of them, a picture painted by us, may be unwelcome. But we all have this tendency, and it helps if we are aware of it. Again, the more you practise this listening skill the clearer you're able to see past your own pre-conceived ideas about people and see them as they really are.
- A sense of similarity with the person one is listening to or with what they are talking about. It's very easy to make assumptions. One is that the problem one is listening to is similar to a problem of one’s own. Instead of listening with an open mind, one listens selectively for evidence to support the assumption that the problem is similar to one’s own and that one’s own solution will be useful to the other person – but it rarely is. Practising this listening skill trains you in keeping your mind open.
- Some people are so keen to offer a solution that they jump prematurely to the wrong conclusion about what the other person’s problem is. Instead of keeping an open mind they try to make the problem fit the solution they already have in mind. We call this solutionitis. The practice of listening with empathy is an antidote to solutionitis.
- Fear of hearing a problem to which one doesn't know the answer. Some people believe if they can't produce an answer they're failing to live up to expectations. The result can be that they try to relate everything they hear to the things to which they already know the answers. They're afraid to hear anything unfamiliar. It takes courage to listen with empathy, the courage to venture into unfamiliar territory.
- Discomfort in talking about feelings. Some people aren't used to talking about feelings, are uncomfortable about it, and rarely do it. Perhaps they're assuming others will be embarrassed, but actually people normally find talking about feelings a relief.
- Lack of awareness of feelings. Some people have trained themselves to avoid thinking about feelings. They've a strong drive to be rational and logical. They believe that talking about emotion clouds reason. This is a mistake. What clouds reason is the suppression of emotion. But the result of this belief is that they are out of practice at recognizing feelings, not just their own, but other people’s too. As soon as you start practising this listening skill your awareness of feelings, in other words, your emotional intelligence, starts to grow.
Additional reasons why you might benefit from this listening skills coures
- Your mind sometimes wanders when you're listening to people. You'd like to know how to focus attention on what they're saying and not allow it to keep drifting off into your own thoughts.
- You need to be able to listening in a way that calms people down.
- You'd like to be able to receive criticism without being defensive.
- Sometimes you realise an argument has degenerated into a dialogue of the deaf, but you don't know how to stop.
- When your boss asks you a question you rarely try to focus your mind on understanding the concern behind the question. If you did you'd probably be able to give a better answer. This doesn't apply just to conversations just with your boss but with lots of other people, too.
- You'd like to be able to listen with a more generous attitude. If you did it would often affect what you hear.
- When you're dealing with people's doubts, skepticism or hostility, you'd like to be able to tune in to the genuine concerns behind their questions or remarks. This might be more successful at making them feel understood, calming them down and winning their cooperation.
Interested? Arrange a FREE exploratory coaching session
If so, you can have a FREE exploratory coaching session. It'll give you a foretaste of what you can get from the course. You make no commitment to proceed beyond this until you're sure this training is relevant to your own particular need.
How to accept this offer
Simply contact us for a preliminary chat and to arrange your free exploratory coaching session.
What this session will do for you
In this session we'll aim to give you something practical you can use right away that'll help you handle a difficult situation more successfully at work.
Price, dates and location of our upcoming public courses
For details of our upcoming public courses see course dates.