A piece of advice my grandma gave to me before my wedding is what inspired this episode. I asked her, What do you think the key is to a long-lasting marriage? And she said, Well, I think that it’s sometimes you need to not say what you’re thinking. This got me thinking about how much focus we place on speaking well, on communicating our own thoughts in speech and in writing, and on being heard. But just how much do we invest into learning how to listen well? I think listening is a key foundation in building relationships and business, and it’s what I talk about today.

There are many ways we undermine what other people are communicating to us without even meaning to. Some of the ways in which we fail at listening are obvious. Interrupting is one of those obvious rude behaviors. So is talking too much, monopolizing the conversation. We understand those aren’t ideal behaviors yet we still struggle with them. And what about the less obvious ways in which we aren’t listening? Rushing people, hurrying to give advice, overtaking their story with our own. 

How can we truly enter into a conversation in which we speak and listen in equal measure? How do we become good listeners? Are there ways to train ourselves out of the bad habits we have that damage our listening skills? There are ways. I’m guilty of all of these things myself but I have found ways to teach myself to listen. Little things I picture or questions I ask that open people up for me to listen to. That’s what I share with you today because listening is just as important in communication as speaking. Are you ready to work on it together?

Key Moments

04:46 Interrupting and speaking too much

07:44 Rushing someone else’s story

13:02 Jumping into somebody else’s story with our own

  • What is a conversation pizza and how can it help?
  • How do we redirect a conversation we’ve hijacked back to the original speaker?
  • What is the objective of a conversation?

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Resources mentioned in this episode:

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Contact Kari Lotzien | Be the Anchor: 

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Transcript:

Kari Lotzien: [00:00:01] Welcome to Be the Anchor the podcast. I’m your host, business and leadership coach Kari Lotzien. When the seas of life get stormy, and they always will, it is not up to us to captain anyone else’s ship or to try to calm the waters of the ocean. It’s up to us to set our own destination for what we really want, and to learn how to navigate those waves of life together while finding that place of security and stability with others. I call this being an anchor. If you are a dreamer, a visionary, an entrepreneur, whether you have an idea, big or small, that you think might just make the world a little bit better, kinder, gentler place, you are in the right spot my friend. We are going to talk about everything from big ideas to mindset and strategy, and sometimes just how to get through the day. I don’t want you to miss an episode, so be sure to follow and subscribe to the podcast so that we can stay connected and keep doing this journey of life together. Thanks so much! 

Kari Lotzien: [00:01:12] Hello my friends, I’m so glad you’re here. Today I am sharing an episode with you that was inspired by my grandma. She is going to be 99 years old this year and was married for over 60 years. She is a long standing decades of volunteering and leadership, so I think she might know a thing or two when it comes to communication. And I remember the advice that she gave to me before my wedding. And when I asked her, what do you think the key is to a long lasting marriage? She said, Well, I think it’s that sometimes you need to not say what you’re thinking. And I kind of laughed. And yet here I am, more than 25 years later, and I still struggle to not always say what I’m thinking. And I’m thinking maybe this is something you struggle with too. And we could chat about it today. Because what I have noticed is that we focus a lot of energy on speaking well, on leading meetings, on public speaking, sharing our ideas in different formats, we spend so much time learning how to communicate our thoughts in writing, writing newsletters, writing ads and marketing. But how much time and investment have you given to really developing your listening skills? I have not read much about it when it comes to leadership books and management and training, and yet I think this is something that we need to come back to. I think it’s one of the key foundations in building relationships and business. And it’s not one that comes naturally to many of us.

Kari Lotzien: [00:02:56] Something that I noticed for myself is that I tend to be a better listener with strangers or people that I don’t know very well. I think this is because simply, I just don’t know much about them. So there’s more things that I can learn that I’m naturally interested in so it’s easier for me to stay engaged, to ask more questions, and to be more of an observer and a listener. I’ve also noticed that I tend to be a worse listener when it comes to either people that I know really well, my own super close family, friends, my husband, but it’s also worse when there’s a power differential. So when I’m talking to my own kids, I find sometimes I’m not as good of a listener. Or there were probably times when I wasn’t as good when I was speaking with my own team and when I was in a management or an ownership position, and I felt that it was my job to tell people what to do, or to give them advice, or to share my thoughts and almost insert my ideas into their mind. Now, I mean, that sounds terrible, but that’s why we’re here. Self-reflection, safe spaces, I’m going to lead, we’re going to do this together. That’s just kind of what it’s all about here. You might not even recognize that you struggle in terms of listening. I think most people, if we were to ask, are you a good listener, would say, oh, yeah, I’m a pretty good listener, I don’t interrupt. But there’s more subtle cues to that. So I’m going to share a couple of the things that I’m really working on in noticing myself, and then some tips and strategies on how I’m working through that that might be helpful for you too.

Kari Lotzien: [00:04:46] Now, as I referred, interrupting was something that I was terrible at, and it’s honestly something that I can tell you with my husband and I, we both do it and we’re both trying to be more aware of it. I don’t think it’s because we don’t respect the other person. I do not think that it’s because we feel that our ideas are better. Often we just get going and we get excited and there’s this interrupting over top of one another as we share more ideas, or we reflect back on a story, or we apply it to a situation. But the bottom line is, when you’re interrupting someone else, you’re not allowing them to finish their own thought and to get their space in the conversation. No matter how you look at it, no matter who you’re with, interrupting is rude. And it’s something I’ve been working really, really hard on. The analogy that has helped me when it comes to interrupting or talking too much, which, if you listen to the episode on networking for the socially awkward, I am one of those people. Sometimes when I get anxious or I get nervous, I talk too much and I will overtake a conversation and it’s like anxiety that takes over and it just comes out of my mouth and I’m not really sharing anything of value, I’m just talking. So now I imagine that when I go into a social situation, whether it is a meeting, whether I’m having a one-on-one conversation with someone or I’m in a large group setting, I imagine that there is a pizza in the middle of the table, and I imagine that this pizza is for everyone in the group. So I’m conscious when I speak, it’s like I’m taking a piece of that pizza from the pizza of conversation in the group. When I take a piece, that was my turn to share a story, a thought, an idea, and now I should share the rest of the conversation pizza with everyone else.

Kari Lotzien: [00:06:50] We’ve all been in situations where one person takes over the whole conversation and no one else talks. If you can imagine it like a pizza, which to me is a very tangible thing, it would be rude to eat eight pieces of pizza if there was only ten, and then someone else takes one, one other person takes one, and maybe four other people at the table don’t get any at all. For me, when I make it tangible like that, I think, okay, that was my piece of pizza. Now, I imagine handing pieces of pizza to everyone else and encouraging them to share, either asking them a question to get them to share in the conversation, or I’m just inviting that feedback. I think interrupting and talking too much, those ones are a little more obvious. These next ones, I think are more subtle and where I want to lean in a little bit.

Kari Lotzien: [00:07:44] Something I notice for myself is rushing. That non-verbally when someone is sharing a story, whether it is my kids or my spouse or a colleague, that sometimes I find myself rushing them. And the way this shows up is you might give someone words. So if they get stuck on a word and you notice that and you immediately fill it in, or you finish their sentences for them, or non-verbally you notice yourself doing this yep yep yep. You might think that you’re encouraging them, that you’re, Oh, yeah, I understand. But when you reflect back on it, there may be a tone of hurry it up, I want you to be finished so that I can have a turn to talk. So even things when you’re listening back to yourself, if you see that yep, yep – and it’s even worse if it comes with you’ve diverted your eye gaze or you’re looking somewhere else – what that says is hurry up and finish talking, because I have something else that needs my attention, whether that is an email or your phone’s going off, or you’re noticing something else that’s taking your attention, what that says to the other person is that whatever they’re saying isn’t holding your interest, and you want them to just hurry up and finish. 

[00:09:10] One of the best things I did last year was launch the Anchored Leadership Academy Group coaching program. We had our first group go through in the fall of this year, and let me tell you, it was incredible. We gathered a group of established entrepreneurs who really want to move forward in their leadership. So developing their teams, being able to give great feedback, delegating well to move to that next stage of business. The next cohort is going to start in February and doors are open now for applications. All you need to do is click on the link in the show notes, have a read, see if it feels like a good fit for you, and then book an inquiry call. That’s it. Hope to see you there. All right, back to the show.

Kari Lotzien: [00:09:56] The next one is rushing to give advice. And I have to tell you this one I am terrible for. I think it’s all the years that I spent, uh, working in the therapy world where people would come to me and they would pay for me to give them advice. Now, that’s maybe just an excuse, but what I notice, especially with my own kids or with people that I am supervising or kind of giving advice to, is that I will rush too quickly to share my own thoughts instead of allowing space. So imagine that one of my kids is bringing me a challenge that they’re going through. So maybe it’s with a friend, or maybe it’s with one of their bosses and they’re feeling frustrated and they’ve shared the situation. How many times I let them share the situation, and then I jump in to tell them what they should do. Or I give them my analogy, or my thoughts, or my ideas of what’s going on. What I’m really focusing on, and I think the important thing with all of these strategies is it’s really difficult to change a habit unless you have something else in mind to replace that with. Right? It’s way harder to just stop interrupting someone or to stop finishing words. Whereas if you say okay, instead of saying yep, yep, yep, or giving words or finishing sentences, I’m going to consciously just slowly nod my head to encourage them to keep talking without feeling rushed. When I rush to give advice, and I noticed that in myself, I will now intersect and say, Okay, what are you thinking? What do you think you’re going to do about that? Or I’ll ask, How are you feeling about that? What this does is it allows them to go deeper. And more than nine times out of ten, they actually don’t want my advice at all and they’ve already got a great solution, they’re just wanting to share their thoughts and their ideas, and sometimes what they need is just that sounding board the same way that I do and that you do. We just sometimes need to talk it out to be able to reflect on what we’re already thinking and to kind of sort out our ideas.

Kari Lotzien: [00:12:13] We really don’t want the input of the other person because, you know, you know there’s nothing worse than when someone gives you advice and you’re like, yeah, I already did that. Or yep, that’s already what I was thinking. It feels like they’ve taken your power away and they’re not giving you credit for the idea you already had. So make sure that we’re not doing that to anyone else. Because when we insert our own ideas, it’s like we take their power away and we show that we don’t value the thoughts that they already had. So substitute that by staying curious. The two questions that are my go to are, What are you thinking about that? And, How are you feeling about that? And it often just allows to go one step past describing the situation and just reflecting on their own piece. 

Kari Lotzien: [00:13:02] The next is someone is talking, they’re sharing a story, and that little voice inside of your head goes, oh, that reminds me of a situation in your own life. And we naturally will go and start sharing our own story. We might interrupt the other person, or we just interject our ideas, and the next thing you know, we’re telling our own story and taking that piece of pizza. I imagine in this situation, I imagine that that person is holding the piece of pizza, they’re telling their story, and then I literally grab it out of their hand and I take it back, and then I start sharing my own. It is that rude. It is as rude as pulling the pizza out of someone else’s hands. Now, I don’t think that anyone does this because they’re trying to be a jerk, or they’re egocentric, or they’re trying to be the center of attention. I really think that in most situations, it’s because we want to relate and we feel like we have this common experience or a similar thing that’s happened to us and by telling that story, we feel a sense of connection. But I don’t think that’s how this always feels for the person that is originally telling their story. So when I notice myself doing this, when I’ve taken the story or I’ve taken that conversation pizza out of that person’s hand, what I will then do is say, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to take over the conversation, and then I’ll ask a question, I’ll just say, oh, but it reminded me of this situation, and I know that that made me feel really frustrated. Or, you know, I was so excited when that happened too. I give the common thread, the common emotion, I connect it, and then I ask them a question back. And I imagine, like apologizing and giving their pizza back to them. This is probably one of the hardest ones, and it’s taken me a long, long time to stop doing it. It irritates me when I do it, and I think it’s just developed over so many decades that it’s something that I have to consciously stop myself. And sometimes the train has already left the station by the time I’ve realized, oh shoot, I did it again. So I have to stop, say, oh, it just reminded me I was so excited when that happened as well. And then ask a question and imagine giving that back. So I do, I do try to apologize when I do it.

Kari Lotzien: [00:15:30] The other piece that I think is kind of next level when it comes to listening, that I think really allows people to feel heard at a deeper level, and I think that once you’ve mastered not rushing people when they’re sharing, not rushing to give them advice or sharing your own story when they share, once you’ve got through those foundations that I think are critical to having better conversations and better relationships, then I think the next piece of this is when you spend time starting to notice non-verbal cues. When someone tells you a story, or they make a comment and you notice that what they say and their body language don’t quite match. So, for example, they might say, yeah, you know, I’m really excited about this. When that excitement doesn’t come through in their tone of voice or in how their breathing or their body language, when you comment on that and say, oh, you said you were excited, but it doesn’t really sound like it. What’s going on? What that does for the person that you’re talking to is now they feel so much more seen and heard because now, not only did you hear what they said, now you’ve also observed how they said it. You’ve observed their body language. You’ve observed maybe the story behind it. This will create a much deeper connection every single time. So just noticing that and then commenting, not in judgment, but in a place of curiosity, I think all listening is a matter of not going to judgment, not going to advice, not going to decision making, but holding back in a place where you can stay curious and pause and just reflect back.

Kari Lotzien: [00:17:35] The big picture in all of this, as we develop listening skills, is to understand that the objective of a conversation is to learn and to clarify. Someone’s telling you a story. What else can you learn? What could you learn about them, how they’re thinking, how they’re processing that, how they feel about that? Or did that have an impact on another area of their life? That is the objective of a conversation. The objective of a conversation is not to share as many thoughts and ideas as you can. That is public speaking. When we are just demanding our attention or time, that is standing at the front of the room teaching. But most people are not your students. Most people are not sitting back and just wanting to learn from you. And even a good teacher is exceptional at asking questions. A true leader has exceptional listening skills. We coach people to that next level of understanding and moving forward, but they already hold the key to their own story and their own success. They’re not looking for advice, and when they are, they generally will ask for it. Or they’ll directly ask, do you have any advice for me? Then by all means share your own experience. Share your own advice. But I do think it’s better to wait until you’re asked until you share it, no matter what position you’re in.

Kari Lotzien: [00:19:34] I hope you’ve really enjoyed this episode that was inspired by my grandma giving me advice on not telling my spouse what I’m thinking, and I can tell you I still struggle with that some days, still working at it. I know that this is something that has improved my relationships, and I hope it does for you too. If you have not liked and subscribed to the podcast yet, I would love for you to just go click on those three dots at the top. Follow along so that you don’t miss an episode, and if it inspires you, please take a screenshot and share this link with a friend or someone that you care about that you want to improve your relationship with. And if you notice that maybe one of these things is something that you do, you could ask them that, you know, I noticed that I do this when I’m in conversation with you, and it’s something I want to get better at. I just want to let you know I’m listening. All right. Thanks so much for being here. Love you lots. See you next week.

Kari Lotzien: [00:20:50] Please know that this podcast is meant for entertainment purposes only. It is not a substitution for medical or professional mental health advice. If you require support, please do reach out. Thanks so much.