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Category Archives: Communication

friends having coffee

Let’s say you’re sitting down with a few friends over cups of coffee. One friend is sharing the details of a recent trip she took with her family, and her story is reminding you of a trip you took not long ago. Instead of listening to your friend, your mind drifts to your own vacation and you begin thinking of all the details you want to share. As soon as there’s a lull in conversation, you jump in and begin telling about your experience.

When the coffee date ends, you head home and your significant other asks, “So, how did it go? How is everyone?”

“It was fun,” you say. “Sam went on vacation recently to the Maldives…or was it Morocco? One of the kids fell ill from…food poisoning, I think? Or maybe they caught a bug on the airplane? Umm…anyway, everyone’s fine and it was nice to catch up.”

Then, you whisk away before your significant other can ask any more questions!

If you find it difficult to recall details of conversations, your memory might not be at fault. Rather, you might need to tune up your listening skills. Active listening takes work. It’s a skill that many people lack these days (likely thanks to our short attention spans!), but it has always been a worthwhile skill to have.

If you’re wondering if you are, in general, a good listener, it’s a good idea to ask yourself one key question:

“Do I truly listen, or just wait to speak?”

If you’re crafting a response in your head, you’re not really listening. Instead of focusing on what you’ll say next, commit to being fully present for the speaker. Put away your distractions and think about what they’re telling you.

It helps to ask questions, too. You might ask a clarifying question or ask for a few more details. If you want to develop an even deeper understanding of what is being said, try asking a thought-provoking question that goes beyond a yes/no response (How did you feel when_____? What was it like to______?)

Another technique for practicing active listening is to repeat back some of the information you’ve learned and then, perhaps, ask a follow-up question. For example: “Wow, Sam, it sounds like Sophie was pretty sick in Morocco. Was any of the trip salvageable? Do you think you’ll go back for a “do over”?

Above all, you have to want to listen. Listening is a humble act. You have to be okay with not being the center of attention and investing your time and attention in others. So, do others a kindness: practice active listening!

Looking for a job change? Or, hoping to accelerate your current career? Check out the career resources (both FREE and paid) on my website!

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE. 

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We all know that giving advice can help others. You might offer valuable guidance that helps someone through a sticky problem, or you might provide a sought-after opinion. But, did you know that giving advice can actually benefit YOU as well?

Katy Milkman, a professor at the Wharton School of Management and the author of How To Change, has studied advice-giving and discovered that the advice-giver can reap as many benefits as the advice-receiver. The parameters are specific, though. You must give someone advice on the SAME goal or aspiration that YOU are trying to achieve.

Trying to write a book? Tell someone else how to go about doing it.

Trying to lose weight? Give someone advice on an exercise and diet regime.

Want to save more money each month? Advise someone else on how to tuck away those extra dollars.

By giving others advice on the very thing you want to accomplish, you’re building up your confidence, solidifying your ideas by bouncing them off others, and keeping this specific goal top of mind. Milkman also says that once we advise others on a specific objective, we want to “want the talk” and make the goal happen, since it would be hypocritical if we did not.

I have talked quite a bit about goal-setting on this blog, and I DO believe there is more to accomplishing goals than simply talking about them or giving advice, but still, this is an interesting piece of insight. By talking out your goals, you keep them top-of-mind and you (either subconsciously or consciously) are continuously problem-solving around them.

So, keep talking and keep giving advice! Here’s a video of Katy Milkman talking with Daniel Pink about advice giving:

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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Work relationships are important, and yet, how often do we truly offer others our thanks and appreciation? Oftentimes, we take for granted the little things people do to make our lives a bit easier. And then there are the big things–the time a co-worker stepped up and covered your work when you had an emergency, the co-worker who took on extra work so the team would succeed.

How can you show your super star co-workers your gratitude? It’s not always as easy as showing appreciation to a friend, a significant other, or your child. Relationships with co-workers are (usually) different, even if you consider them friends. Even so, there are several ways to recognize a co-worker’s good deeds.

Here are 10 ideas:

1. Send a hand-written thank you card

A thank you card is a simple, classic gesture that I’ve used many times. Be sure to make note of something specific your co-worker did and don’t just give a generic “thank you.”

2. Give a car wash punch card

This is a practical gift that almost anyone could use. Especially appropriate for the co-worker who does a lot of driving.

3. Recognize them during a team meeting

Unless your co-worker doesn’t like being singled out, it can be fun and uplifting to be recognized in a team meeting. Keep your statements brief and, if you’re not running the meeting, make sure to get permission for your shout-out.

4. Treat them to lunch

Express your thanks by taking your co-worker to their favorite lunch spot. Be sure to let them know why you’re treating them and make it clear that the tab is on you!

5. Recommend them for a reward

If your workplace gives annual rewards, consider nominating one of your co-workers. Unless the co-worker asks, there’s no need to let them know you were the one who nominated them. After all, this is about them, not you!

6. Fill in your boss

Send you boss an email to let them know about the stellar work your co-worker is doing. Be sure to mention specific instances when your colleague truly shined or went the extra mile.

7. Offer to help

A simple offer to help a co-worker can convey your appreciation for them. Don’t make a big deal about helping. Just help.

8. Say thank you

Really. It’s as easy as it sounds and it doesn’t happen often enough. Simply giving someone a sincere ‘thank you” can be powerful, especially if the “thank you” is followed up with a specific reason for showing your appreciation. For example, “Thank you, Sam, for working late yesterday and making sure our sales figures matched the spreadsheets. I appreciate it.”

No matter how you choose to show your gratitude, it’s important to DO IT. Your appreciation can make a big difference in someone’s day.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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