Monday, December 30, 2013

Listening with Empathy speeds up Problem Solving

In our frantic "every second counts" world, taking a moment to listen empathetically can seem unnecessary or a poor use of time.  But empathetic listening can save time.  When people believe that we truly understand their frustrations, they stop repeating themselves,  trying to "make us understand."

As we listen empathetically, we acknowledge what we hear -- both verbal and nonverbal messages.

Try an experiment.  Listen deeply (especially if someone is upset) and watch for subtle (or sometimes large) shifts in the conversation.  Voices raised in anger (a symptom of trying to be heard) often soften to normal levels.  The speaker (a customer, colleague, spouse, or child) may stop repeating their complaint and move from being stuck in the problem to focusing on solutions.    © 2013 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved

Friday, December 20, 2013

Don't look Down. Can you guess the 5 statements that customers hate?

That's not my job.

I don't know.

That's our policy.  Sorry.

I'm not allowed to do that.

You'll have to come back later when someone can help you.

Customers love initiative, creativity, and caring.  Even if we can't solve the problem, we can make a commitment to find the answer or the person who can help them.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Why Don't We Study This in School?

 George has 3 dollars   $$$
-If Rick takes 2 dollars  $$
How will George feel??

Empathy is one of the most vital skills in Emotional Intelligence and it is a skill that can be learned.  Like math, it must be practiced to gain mastery.  We can cultivate empathy on a daily basis by imaging and observing how others feel.

Friday, November 8, 2013

More on building empathy

This video is amazing.  Sometimes sad but incredibly powerful and a great reminder of building empathy.  Designed for healthcare providers, this can be a reminder to imagine the experience of your customers.  

Monday, November 4, 2013

Cultivating empathy

Empathy is the WD40 of relationships.  We can become more empathic by:
•  Increasing awareness of our inner emotional states. It's easier to recognize feelings
in others when we are familiar with feelings in ourselves.
•  Teaching ourselves to pay attention to the emotional states in others.
•  Looking for similarities between ourselves and others and remembering times that we felt similarly (even if the circumstances are very different).

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Tips to Stop Procrastinating. Do it now!

Just had another Time Management workout and have heard again the Procrastinator’s Refrain:  “I work best under pressure.”  Research suggests that this isn’t true.  While deadlines can dramatically increase our focus, how can we know we’re producing “our best” work if we don’t have an option of revising or refining?  Pressured thinking may work for some projects but for highly complex or creative work, the brain needs time to mix, blend, and percolate ideas. 

Joseph Ferrari, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at De Paul University in Chicago identifies three basic types of procrastinators:

  • arousal types, or thrill-seekers, who wait to the last minute for the euphoric rush.
  • avoiders, who may be avoiding fear of failure or even fear of success, but in either case are very concerned with what others think of them; they would rather have others think they lack effort than ability.
  • decisional procrastinators, who cannot make a decision. Not making a decision absolves procrastinators of responsibility for the outcome of events.
              • (from a Psychology Today 2003 article)

In my workshops, participants who label themselves as perfectionists report a high degree of procrastination.  The project that demands the most from them will be the one that is ignored day after day.  If new, unforeseen priorities emerge—they may miss their deadline entirely.  This may provide a “good excuse” but they will also miss the opportunity to shine at work.  These same participants admit that their delays greatly increase their stress at work and at home. 

Using emotional intelligence to overcome procrastination. 

As a writer I well understand the difficulties in starting new projects.  Strong emotions often emerge.  Simply noticing the emotions and enduring them is a form of emotional intelligence.  Trusting in our own skills and the creative process requires positive self-talk, another EI skill. 

Here are some steps have helped me overcome procrastination when I’m faced with blog posts, training proposals, and even screenplays.  Try it on yourself or a member of your team. 

1.    Identify the looming project that needs completion.

2.    Arrange for 10-15 minutes without any interruptions:  phone, email, visitors.

3.    Sit with the blank page or forms that need attention.

4.    Allow yourself to feel any emotions that might emerge:  fear, anger, overwhelm.

5.    Give the project your attention, even if that consists of sitting and staring at the page.

Within 15 minutes I’m betting that you’ll discover some preliminary ideas.  Write these down.  Don’t expect perfection. Every writer knows that the first draft may be disastrous but it is the only way to get to the next (much better) draft.  If possible, continue to allow yourself undisturbed time (30-60 minutes) to make some headway on the project. 

Remember, those 15 minutes of staring at the page are NOT a waste of time.  Sitting in front of the paper sets the intention and alerts our larger mind (both conscious and unconscious processes) to the project/problem that needs a solution.  Allowing random thoughts to kick around our mind (doodling might help here), primes the pump for our creative process.    
© 2013 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Improve your listening, improve your life.

At a recent workshop I gave my participants time to simply listen to each other.  The experiment was for one person to talk about a concern while their partner listened intently but didn’t say a word.  The listener remained silent for a long 4-5 minutes and then summarized what the speaker said.  The speakers remarked that it felt “weird” to talk without interruption for that long.  The listeners said that they had never sat that long without interrupting.  Some of the listeners doubted the worth of such prolonged silence. However, when we reversed roles, these listeners-turned-speakers realized the power of uninterrupted speaking.  At the end of the 4 hour workshop, most participants agreed that the simple “listen without interrupting” experiment was the most important part of their day.  Many felt that the silence helped both the speaker and listener learn more about the issue.  Many vowed that they would strive not to interrupt others at work and at home. 

Ready to try this experiment?  Set a goal of listening to someone speak for 5 minutes without interrupting.  Make sure to keep eye contact, nod and/or make sounds to show you are listening.  In some cases this may make the speaker uncomfortable.  We aren’t used to receiving such rapt attention.  If necessary, summarize what the speaker has said to reassure them that you are listening.  After listening you may find that you’ve discovered deeper insights into a problem, situation, or another person.In addition to helping with creative problem solving, deep listening develops empathy for others and helps build teams. 
© 2013 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

How body habits affect the mind and emotions

I've been very interested in a field called "embodiment" which looks at how posture and other body habits affect the mind and emotions.  The info on this video may seem a little "woo woo" but it is based on science.  Finding ways to alter how/when/how often we use technology may be helpful in our daily lives.  An experiment:  on a day off, leave your technology at home and spend the day in nature.  Research says that this can help our minds and even immune systems.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Benefits of handling conflict well

Learning how to handle conflict well yields enormous benefits.  Here are some to consider:
When we bring up opposing ideas, we know that others will listen.
·         When we argue ideas everyone feels safe to be honest.
·         We find the best creative solutions to problems by examining opposing viewpoints.
·         We respect each other and are not troubled when we don’t agree. 
·         We are able to respectfully critique each other and hold each other accountable for stellar work.
·         We are more productive because there is less time wasted on grudges or gossip.
·         We have much better working relationships. 
·         We know and understand our colleagues better because we don’t shy away from difficult discussions. 
·         We enjoy our jobs more, and are able to challenge each other to do better work. 
·         Our teams are stronger.
© 2013 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved