Impact and connection are universally sought-after traits that show up ever so often in business and self-help books. What does it mean to have an impact on a fellow human being? How do you develop a strong bond?
I define impact as the quality of a person who leaves you feeling upbeat and energized.
Throw your mind back to the last time you had a conversation you truly enjoyed. Time seemed to flow, the conversation was effortless and you felt energized or maybe even inspired to take action.
Now think back to why you felt that way. What was special about these people and the conversation you had?
Did they have the wittiest repartees? Some earth-shattering insights? Did they impress you with their knowledge?
The unexpected truth here is they actively listened and were able to respond with what you needed at that moment.
Whether it is a work colleague or a family member - your spouse or your kid - we underestimate how much listening plays a role in building rapport and connection.
Let's look at Joe and Shelly. They were contemplating their first major purchase in their marriage - their house. This is a big expensive purchase and they both are excited to go check open homes. Shelly comes home one evening from work and excitedly shows a home she loves and found on Zillow. "Joe, it has a big backyard so we can add rooms down the line, check out the light in the living room - it's perfect! It has the 3 bedrooms we wanted and I love the space in the kitchen! Yes, it's older and needs some finishing but it has great bones! Did you see the link I sent you?" Joe takes a quick look and responds with "It's not my style really, it only has 2 baths I wanted at least 2.5. Let's see some other options ".
End of discussion for Shelly --- What a let-down!
We've all been through situations like this. Shared something exciting or important with a friend/ spouse/ colleague and not had the reaction we are looking for.
Now, What if Joe had responded a different way? Rather than taking a quick look and dismissing it - what if he had invested a bit of time to listen? What if Joe had said, "I see why you like it so much. Tell me more. Do you think we have enough bathrooms - I thought we were hoping for at least 2.5". "Well yes, but there is a spot am thinking we can add a bathroom down the line".. Shelly says goes on to describe a few more ideas and they both brainstorm.
Can you feel the difference between the two interactions?
In the first, Shelly had her ideas summarily dismissed. She leaves the discussion feeling dissatisfied, maybe even angry at Joe for not seeing her point of view. Maybe Joe is also feeling dissatisfied because Shelly just doesn't "get" his criteria.
In the second Shelly feels heard, she relishes the discussion with Joe and feels rather than shutting her off, he partnered with her and encouraged her to develop her ideas.
While the end might be the same e.g they mutually decide to pass on the house - how they arrived at this decision makes all the difference.
I loved this piece of wisdom from Brady Wilson
"People rarely leave your presence neutral - they leave it engaged or depleted."
When do they feel engaged? When they get what matters most to them in that situation.
A 6-year-old boy explaining a game to his friends, a teammate looking to push themselves with a challenge a friend who wants to share a bad experience at work, a spouse who just spent time cooking up a new recipe they all want something in that situation. Maybe it is just to feel heard, feel supported, experience acceptance and belonging, or feel acknowledged for a job well done.
The quickest way to build rapport and connection is therefore to listen, understand what the other person wants, and give it to them
Shelly at that moment wanted to be heard - she wanted Joe to share her excitement.
A person who listens to us and invests the time to give us what we are looking for at that moment unlocks a wealth of good feelings - rapport, trust, and bonding.
This is why it is important to cultivate the habit of listening. however, people don't get listening right. Here are some reasons why :
1) "If I were in your shoes" mentality
Sometimes we assume the other person has the same needs and desires as we do and this influences how we process what they are saying. This causes us to jump to conclusions and miss the underlying message.
2) Let's cut to the chase, I know this
I get it - we are all strapped for time. If you are a problem solver and a get-it-done kind of person - you tend to get impatient and rush to solutions. However, remember sometimes people just want to be heard. They don't want a solution but an outlet to vent. Rushing to a solution or switching topics like Joe did to Shelly stops ideas from flowing and prevents critical discussions.
So how can you listen better? A few things to try :
1) Have the right intentions
You listen to another individual because you respect their time and confidence. Ensure you give them due attention and focus and are not treating listening as an inconvenience.
2) Just ask don't assume
You don't have to be a mindreader / psychic to understand what matters most to the person in the moment - you just have to ask. If a friend seems down and out and not in the mood simply ask what's the matter, listen, and go from there.
3) Stop Formulating a response prematurely
Sometimes we tend to start formulating a response to the other person's comments even before they are done "Wow, something very similar happened to me ", " But the other day you said....". When someone is speaking treat it as a judgment-free zone. Once they have completed take time to process and then respond. This will ensure you have given their thoughts due consideration and prevent any misunderstandings
In conclusion, being present, and listening so you can partner better is the key to what experience people have in your presence. Invest time to do this and you will soon begin to build powerful connections that stand the test of time