How to Use Silence with Others

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Photo by the author

Silence is something more of us should do.  The more social media that I read, the more I think that humankind has a need to be heard, to always respond.  Despite the need to respond, we don’t always want someone to give us feedback.  Feedback is sometimes the hot button that just makes a person clam up.

The opportunities around silence are immense.  

  • Silence from others, allows us to process what is affecting us.  Immediate feedback only disrupts this process.
  • Silence communicates a respect when you are listening.  It allows others to know you are present with them, not discounting what they are saying.
  • People in pain, don’t need automatic response.  They need presence.
  • Silence keeps us from sometimes saying something we should not say.  It keeps us out of hot water.

Knowing when to be silent and when to respond.

  1. Respond when the person appears ready to accept your response.  Keep your eye contact focused on the other person.  Keep a safe but engaged distance
  2. Silence means you are processing what is being said.  Respond only when you are expected to respond, ask questions, configure your language to reflect what is being said
  3. Responding is not always necessary.   Respond in ways that you would like others to respond to you.  Take time to focus on other’s immediate needs.

Asking permission to respond is a respectful transition.  The other person will let you know when they are ready to receive your response.  Then they will be ready to complete the transition.

Mentoring is Not About Showcasing Your Superiority 


When you’re charged with the responsibility of teaching or mentoring others, the way you proceed may result in developing or hindering others.

A Story: “I was once a customer in a well known fast food establishment.  The main customer service staff was mentoring a new staff member.  The lines were long and the veteran staff member shouted orders to the new staff member, but showed him little about the task at hand.  At one point he said: ‘Now for a test…let’s see if you can make one of these….’  As the mentor provided a dramatic showcase for waiting customers concerning his superiority, the new employee looked at us with a frustrated desperation of: ‘What have I got myself into?'”

The lesson: I walked away embarrassed.  As a manager myself, it appeared repulsive that the veteran employee would substitute a teaching moment where support is offered, with a selfish demonstration of how good he was.

Making a Good Mentor: The lesson is that good mentoring is about (or any teaching) is delivering assistance with support, not showcasing your superiority.  

  1. As a mentor you are as much a learner, as a teacher.
  2. Superiority is about you, not the development of others.  It means if I have to look better than you, I must feel pretty weak.
  3. Mentoring is not about discouraging others 
  4. Good mentoring should make others feel more confident.
  5. Teaching others is not about testing them, especially in front of customers. That makes your customers doubt your organization’s capacity.

The sad lesson from the story above is that the veteran employee in all his confidence actually made himself and the organization look bad.  

Teaching capacity in others is about being humble, supportive and caring.  

If you don’t care about the people you teach, how can you expect them to take care of the organization?

Leading and the Act of Loyalty

  
The act of leading is more than being the visionary, or acting thoughtfully for others.  It is predicated also on how loyal and unconditionally helpful you are to others.

In many ways people cannot follow you if they can’t trust where you’re coming from.  

Great ideas are best acted on when others in the room know where you stand with them.  Teams stall when they don’t know what to expect from you.

Ways loyalty drives others

  1. When others feel you truly respect them.
  2. When you create a clear vision.
  3. Going out of your way to help.
  4. Taking interest in what people want to do.
  5. Being consistent

Servant Leadership, unconditional positive regard, and thoughtful patience are all specific behaviors that can engage your loyalty to others.  

Each time you consider the little things with others, you amplify your influence, and enlarge your leadership footprint.  

The 4 Stages of Influence

Influencing others is a humble and respectful enterprise.

   
Influence is an easy to understand but hard to implement strategy in interpersonal relationships.  The opposite is ‘resistance’, and a close cousin is ‘change’.  The confusing thing is that the meaning of influence sometimes gets mixed up with ‘manipulation’, a less than desirable behavior.

Influence is generally regarded as the ability to change something or someone because you’ve built the trust needed to make it happen.  Influence just ‘doesn’t’ happen, so how does it occur?

The 4 Stages of Influence 

Those that influence the best are those that have the most humility.  

  1. Letting yourself be influenced by others.  When you open yourself to learning, listening and replying, you have begun the process of influencing another.  Going where someone is communicates their importance to you.
  2. Engaging in trusting actions.  It’s hard to influence others without being trustworthy yourself.  This step takes patience and time.  If you’re rushing this, then you’re likely engaging in subtle manipulation.
  3. Having a valued skill or behavior. A component to influencing another, is having knowledge, skill, or behavior that others legitimately value in some way.  Using this in ways that help others is often the glue that builds your ability to build influence and build confidence in your actions.
  4. Showing humility.  Those that influence the best are those that have the most humility.  A person that makes a lot of noise around themselves, creates a shallow outcome of manipulation.  Influencing others is a humble and respectful enterprise.  One meant to build others up, rather than build one’s ego.
  • Which steps may you be using? Which ones are absent as you work with others?

5 Ways Being An ‘Expert’ Can Cause Failure

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(Photo by the author)

Being an “expert” implies that one has reached a certain level of competency. Having reached a stature of ‘expertise’ requires a good dose of humility to prevent failure in social and business endeavors. Being an authority at what you do can be hollow without the corresponding character that is needed to make it successful.

A Title, But Not Always Reality
Titles are easy to come by, but knowledge + character is a much harder combination to acquire. There are sure paths to failure for experts that avoid acknowledging their weak spots…still more ways to fail when our confidence squelches out important messages that we receive from those that seek our assistance.

5 Paths To Failure As An Expert
1. We stop listening to those we are supposed to help.
When we focus only on knowing we will lose our credibility to help. We need to work hard to continuously understand, and understand needs, rather than jump to predetermined conclusions.

2. Our Agendas are Stronger than Meeting A Need.
Humility is absent, and we fail to understand the client’s need clearly and adequately. We can’t move past our own autobiography.

3. Being an Expert Can Lead to Missing Out on Other’s Ideas
Chances are, the more we espouse our own expertise, we have the potential to miss out on important lessons our clients teach us.

4. Having ‘Expertise’ Is A Privilege and Part of the Journey, Not A Final Destination.
Having expertise is a journey, not a destination. It requires ongoing development and constant learning. If we feel we have “arrived”, we really haven’t.

5. Without Character, Our Expertise, Has Less Meaning.
Arrogance and having disregard for others creates the perception you really don’t know what you’re doing. Talking a good story, without the personal character that goes with it, will eventually degrade your effectiveness.

Evaluate
Think about whether your expertise is going in the right direction, or is set for potential failure. Being good at what you do is only half the requirement. Being mindful that you don’t know everything is an important attribute to building competency and confidence with others around you.

The Importance of Brevity

When is too much, too much?

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Photo by the author

Complexity is often a function of a number of things:

1. ) Obscuring the message.
2.) Creating an air of superiority
3.) A lack of knowledge
4.) Not knowing what to look for

Simplicity’s Impact
Developing a simplicity approach is often desirable and presents more information and insight than communicating a complex message. It may seem a paradox, but the shorter, and more focused a message is, the more the message carries.

Knowing what to look for
Knowing what to look for is an important precursor to knowing what to communicate in a simplified and targeted way. Inexperience in knowing what is important, leads to the need to communicate more information than what is needed, and likely an uncertainty in the communication.

Ways to build brevity into your life
1. Avoid constant second guessing. Learn to trust your intuition.
2. Build skills where you identify your weaknesses.
3. Learn more about what you’re working with. Increased knowledge brings with it increased ability to simplify what you are saying.
4. Where further information is needed, you can expand the message.

When working with new employees, and individuals learning in an area for the first time, be patient, and teach the skill of brevity. Anxiety about a situation needs to be managed. Keeping in mind that having all the information is not necessarily desirable, and that follow up can be a regular and routine part of the communication process.>

Expectations and the Art of Transparency

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Photo by the author

One of the challenges of communicating is managing expectations. Expectations can be “managed” per se, if the message communicated is clear and is free of residual meanings.

The idea of Transparency clarifies what one can expect. The alternative usually results in:

1. Co-dependent communication where we are simply saying what we think others want to hear.
2. Manipulation. We are saying something in purpose that is not really real.
3. Excuse making. We have to justify our positions rather than own them.

How many of us have been in any of these positions?

Making our communication explicit communicates a level of respect for others, even if it is not the kind of message we would prefer to present, or what others would want to hear. Being transparent, means that we are willing to take the appropriate risk to communicate true meanings, specific opinions, and bare bones knowledge, that leaves no questions, and leads not to misconstrued messages, which lead to unmet expectations.

Ways of being transparent
We exercise transparency, when we say what we mean. We help others with hard truths. It may not be immediately comfortable, but it communicates an understanding and reality to others, that suggests that you respect the other person despite the message itself. It also saves you a lot of further defensiveness and justification later, when others “find out” what the factual reality really is.

When Helping is Not Helping

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Having the desire to help others is the calling that brings many into the “helping professions.” For others, it is the day to day service that we do for our families, children and others we work for/or/with.

There is a fine line however when helping is not really helping, but rather a barrier that leads to stagnation or worse yet, fosters an unhealthy dependence.

Indicators of when helping is NOT helping:
1. When the help we provide is not accepted by others

The term I’ve used for years is when helping leads to “help rejecting complainers.” When our helping leads others to excuse themselves of embracing the help, then rejecting it, or avoiding it. This is not a judgment of our help or our intent, but of others’ readiness to change. They may simply not see the same way as you do. They may not value the same things.

2. When the help leads others to make the same poor decisions

Any change effort has to be embraced as well as given. It is hard to understand why what would seem to be needed, is often not chosen by another, and is rejected. The help that is given, only leads others to choose the same poor path. It is helpful to preferably accept that sometimes others are either not ready, have other motivations, or are too fearful to accept the implications of a change.

3. Fear

One of the biggest factors is the fear of the unknown or that accepting the help will actually lead to new experiences. Unless there is great fortitude to change, and a readiness, we will not embrace the help or opportunities provided without an “experience” that drives them toward embracing them. Sadly, fear is the final determinant to changing. We “fear” something else, and it leads to a crisis…which then leads to receiving help. Sometimes humans react when there is a need for rescue, rather than prevention.

Don’t take it personal
Helping others doesn’t always lead to successful results. It is nothing personal, but you will fail to provide others help they need. It is a joint venture not an individual helping effort. Developing a “preference” to see others change rather than an attitude that others “must” change or accept help is a good starting point for the helper which can prevent burnout.

Thoughts:
Are there times when you don’t accept help? Why?

(Photo: By the author)

Dealing With Hollow Commitments

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Everybody knows it is important to invest to get results. The opposite is true when commitments are empty and we still want to get results.

It’s easy to make commitments, but painfully hard to invest and follow through.

In principle: Those that are truly committed pay their way. There are many that believe a lack of investment will still get a result. How can this be?

Why we think hollow commitments will succeed –
1. We delude ourselves.
2. We become sincerely good rational liars to ourselves.
3. We tell people what we think they want to hear.
4. We actually make up things.
5. We have a rescue fantasy that somehow, it will work out.

The effort we exert is hollow, and half-hearted. The results spotty.

What do we do to curb the hollow committ-ers?
1. We smoke them out. Ask them to prove what they have said they’ve done.
2. Measure results
3. Lay out the discrepancy.
4. Identify the co-dependency.
5. Point out reality.

Hollow commitments are just short term survival tactics for those without enough self-esteem, credibility, or resources. It is a delay tactic to create something that is not real, and it can lead to substantial set backs for others.

How do you handle hollow commitments?
What do you do when people disappoint you, and don’t invest?