4 Ways To Improve Your Interactions With Others
Have you ever read about an organisation and felt a little (or maybe a lot) of envy? Have you wondered how they could accomplish such great things, and how they find and retain quality employees? While there can admittedly be some competition in business, there’s also often a sense of camaraderie, but only if you reach out. Why not indulge your curiosity and interview people?
Leaders usually have a large toolbox of skills, including how to physically handle the logistics of day-to-day business and how to keep shareholders and clients happy. But, there are also many ‘soft’ skills which leaders should possess, especially if they want to cross the line from being a good leader to an exceptional leader.
Interviewing people is one of these important soft skills, but we shouldn’t only think of an interview as something we do for a new job. Interviewing people gives them an opportunity to talk, and you an opportunity to listen. We can learn so much from others, but only if we stop talking and truly listen.
WHAT HAPPENS TO YOUR BRAIN WHEN YOU’RE PART
OF THE CONVERSATION?
Neuroscience has shown that our brains do some interesting things when we converse. One particular study examined all the words heard by or spoken to young children (ages 4-6) for a 2-day period. These recordings were then analysed to count how many words were spoken by the children, how many words were spoken to the children and how many exchanges in conversation occurred (a back-and-forth conversation between the child and someone else). Brain scans were then taken, and researchers found differences in the number of conversation exchanges caused differences in brain physiology.1
Experts say children should be exposed to 30,000 words per day, even before children can talk themselves. Less talkative households expose children to around 4 million words by the age of three, but more talkative homes accumulate 12 million or more words by age three. This massive difference can provide children with an edge at school and later in life.2
The science is quite clear on how children benefit from conversations, both speaking and listening. But the positive effects don’t stop as we age. Having a swirl of conversation around us is good for our brains, and it encourages innovative thoughts. But, are you ready to interview others?
FINDING THE TIME TO SPEAK WITH OTHERS
Some people, even leaders, may be hesitant to speak with others. They may not want to disturb someone who is working, or they may think the other person doesn’t want to share any thoughts. But, if we never satisfy our curiosity about how things are operating, or what creative innovations are on the horizon, how can we keep up?
Perhaps the biggest hurdle for a busy leader is to find the time to speak with others–and to really listen. We often listen only enough to answer the question or to add a comment which includes our own experiences. How often do we stop what we are doing, stop mentally making lists, and honestly watch and listen to someone?
Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.
Stephen R Covey
CONSIDER THESE FOUR TIPS BEFORE YOU
STRIKE UP A CONVERSATION:
Listen with your eyes, too. So much of our conversation is nonverbal, so learning to pick up on body cues and facial expressions can help fill in gaps when we speak with other people. This is considered another soft skill, but leaders who can read others tend to be more compassionate and empathetic.
Try to not talk as much. Whether you want to ask someone how they organise their office space or how they make a perfect meringue, try to listen more than you speak. Your own body cues (smiling, nodding, eye contact) can help encourage someone to share their expertise.
Be humble. Again, try not to bring yourself into the conversation too much, especially if you initiated the conversation to find out information or learn about someone’s ideas. Nothing is more offputting than someone who loudly exclaims their own virtues.
Don’t be afraid to try something new. Even if it’s out of character for you to ask someone for help, don’t be afraid to reach out. A conversation you never partake in means all those thoughts and ideas will never see daylight, and you might miss out on future innovations.