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Category Archives: Discussions

It seems that, with each passing year, our country is becoming more and more divided and less able (or willing) to understand each other’s perspectives. That’s a shame, because a little empathy can make an enormous difference. When we understand where people are coming from, what they believe, and why they operate the way they do, we can build bridges, instead of putting up walls. We can make progress instead of becoming gridlocked.

I have found that I can find common ground with anyone, no matter how different we are. I can sit across the table from that person and have a perfectly civil conversation. We all have the power to do this, we simply need to follow a few simple guidelines:

Start with Common Ground

It’s always easier to ease into a conversation once you’ve established some rapport and some common ground with the other person. Are you both fond of cooking? Do you both have children? Do you enjoy hiking? Or artwork? Or gardening?

Ask questions and be willing to open up and volunteer information about yourself. Connecting with others takes a measure of vulnerability on both sides.

Ask Questions

Empathy starts with caring about the other person and their point of view. Be curious. Ask open-ended questions (instead of yes/no questions) and get the other person to open up. Be intentional about your question-asking tactics and don’t ask questions with the intention of picking a fight.

Listen

The other half of asking good questions is practicing active listening. It’s great to ask questions, but if you don’t listen to the answer, you’re not going to get anywhere. Oftentimes, we ask questions, thinking we already know the answer. But, it’s possible (even probable) you do NOT know the answer! In fact, it’s best to assume you don’t know the answer to a question when you ask it. That forces you to pay attention and truly listen to what the other person has to say.

Pick Your Battles

It is difficult to change another’s mind over the course of a single conversation. Besides, that shouldn’t be the goal of your interaction in the first place. The goal is understanding. Hopefully, once you’ve demonstrated empathy and a willingness to listen to another’s point of view, that person will behave in kind. If it seems appropriate to share your perspective, start with a bridge-building sentence. For instance:

“I understand you feel X about Y. I see the situation a little differently. This is my point of view…”

If the atmosphere begins to feel hostile and the other person starts putting up walls, that’s a sign that the conversation is going nowhere. If that’s the case, there’s no harm in changing the subject. You’re not giving up; you’re recognizing that traveling further down this road would be futile. Better to end the conversation with some mutual understanding and respect than to push it into hostile territory.

I firmly believe that empathy is the missing tool many of us need to build bridges and establish mutual understanding. Be the bigger person—extend empathy first. Aim for understanding, ask questions, be a tad vulnerable, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll start a dialogue and encourage people to come together to solve problems, instead of fighting across the aisle.


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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4 Ways to Stop an Interrupter

Are you dealing with a chronic interrupter? Whether in the workplace or your personal life, it never feels good for someone to talk over you, ignore you, or minimize what you’re trying to say.

How can you possibly deal with the strong personality of someone who constantly interrupts? Try these 4 methods:

1. Speak to the Interrupter in Private

Instead of getting mad, posting about the interrupter on social media, or fuming to your friends or colleagues, it is worth it to have a conversation with the offender. Though it’s never easy to have tough conversations (an issue I addressed in a past newsletter), there are tactful ways to approach the person and convey your message without sounding accusatory.

Make sure you schedule a private meeting with enough time to talk things out. Then, use the D4 model to address the issue:

Data: What are the facts? What actually happened?

Depth of Feeling: How did the instance make you feel?

Dramatic Interpretation: How are you interpreting the situation? What meaning have you given it?

Do: What do you want to do? What do you want the other person to do? Focus on actions taken and actions required.

In this case, the D4 model might sound something like, “I’ve noticed that you often interrupt me when I’m speaking. That makes me feel frustrated and belittled because I get the impression that my ideas and perspectives are not valuable. I wanted you to be aware of this so we could come up with a solution together…

2. Lean On Your Allies

If you’re too nervous to confront the interrupter OR you tried speaking with this person and nothing has changed, try reaching out to others. Let them know the situation and how you’re feeling (it’s possible others are feeling the same way you are!). Then, ask them to help by sticking up for you at meetings and saying, “Now, wait a minute. I’d like to hear what [YOUR NAME] has to say.” Be sure to offer the same support to them, if they need it.

3. Call Out the Interruption

If the interrupter starts talking over you, have the confidence to call them on their bologna! Immediately counter with, “Just a sec. I wasn’t finished,” and then finish what you have to say.

Part of this technique involves being confident that what you’re saying IS valuable. Know that it is. Your voice is important and deserves to be heard.

4. Change Up Your Meetings

If things are really bad, you may want to talk with your supervisor and ask about using a meeting moderator. This is someone who is designated to run the meeting (it may be your supervisor a designated point person), call on people for their thoughts, and stamp out bad behavior, such as interruptions. Though it may feel a bit like a teacher monitoring a Kindergarten classroom, sometimes that’s what it takes!

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. 
NOW LIVE: CHECK OUT MARGARET’S NEW ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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Image by madsmith33 from Pixabay

Article first published in 2016.

Psychologist Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth first noticed a correlation between success and grit when she was working as a school teacher in a difficult neighborhood. A child’s scholarly success was not necessarily related to their IQ; more often than not, it was related to their dogged perseverance, or grit.

Duckworth left teaching to pursue a career in psychology and made grit the subject of most of her research. She studied diverse groups of people—from military cadets to students to sales people—and, time and again, observed that grit was a key attribute to success.

The people who kept going despite failures or setbacks, the people who were committed to a job or task for the long-term, were the ones who usually succeeded.

How do you foster grit in your own life and your children’s? Duckworth admits that the research is lacking, but a few interesting ideas have cropped to the surface. One study shows that developing a “growth mentality” helps create a gritty personality. A growth mentality has to do with the belief that failure is NOT a permanent state. It is something that creates growth and helps us succeed next time. This kind of attitude puts people in a positive mindset, a “I can do it next time!” frame of mind.

What do you think? Has grit been a part of YOUR success? Is it something you need to work at?

For the full TED Talk, please click the link below:

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. 
NOW LIVE: CHECK OUT MARGARET’S NEW ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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