Tips for Being Heard at Work

Be Heard

When we feel we aren’t being heard, a common reaction is to talk louder. Or interrupt. And if you’re an introvert, you might lean the other way and keep your comments to yourself instead of trying to share them with those who need to hear them. 

Your voice counts. Considering how your brain operates in certain situations as well as how the specific people you communicate with listen and process information will help you be heard, and more importantly, understood. 

Here are some tips:

  1. Let kindness lead the way. You can never go wrong by being kind, and doing so diffuses tension and helps others avoid feeling defensive. Even in the most difficult conversations, when you show the other person that you care, you make your communications more tailored to their needs—and more effective. 
  2. Read the room. If you have experience with the people in the room, you likely know how they operate. Some may just want the facts quickly while some may like to dive in deep and understand the background. Whenever possible, try to tailor your communications to the needs of the people in the room and give them what they need to be able to connect with, and understand, you.
  3. Listen now and speak later. If you can’t formulate the right response on the fly, give yourself the time you need to process everything and craft a response that you can feel good about. You can always have a second conversation later when you’ve gathered your thoughts, or send a follow-up message with your response after the heat of the moment has passed.
  4. Don’t hide or procrastinate. It’s easy to hide behind emails or text communication because you can lob your thoughts over the fence to get it off your shoulders/mind/plate and plop it in their court. Consider when you need a call, videoconference, or meeting to discuss a topic, move something forward right away, or put an issue to bed. 
  5. A good visual can make all the difference. Some people need a visual aid to help them grasp a concept. Consider when a topic might benefit from something people can see to help them connect the dots. This can be something you prepare beforehand, or a quick sketch you create on a whiteboard to help people grasp the idea.
  6. Sometimes you just can’t beat a blowhard. There are people who need to hear themselves talk and refuse to listen. Don’t try to win. Instead, figure out how you can slowly persuade them over the longer term. Share your perspective but don’t expect to convince them to agree with you today.
  7. Let others be heard. Listening is probably the most powerful tool you have in your communications toolbox. Everyone wants to feel that their voice matters. 

And don’t forget, most people never get thanked for the good work they do—and it means a lot when they do. Thank people for contributing and validate when you hear something that contributes to the conversation.

What else should we add to this list?

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Too Many Emails from Brands

You Could Have Kept Me if you Gave Me a Choice

There are many companies that I like to hear from through email. I like a good deal, and want to know about upcoming sales. I also like to stay in the loop on new technology, and trends in the world of branding, marketing, and communications. However, most brands don’t let me control the amount of content they send to me.

That’s a shame, because I often want to stay in touch. But I get too much email at home and at work, and I’m tired of weeding through the marketing emails in order to get to the messages that truly need my attention. Retail brands are especially aggressive in this regard — does anyone really want a daily marketing email from a company they just bought something from?

So, unless you give me the opportunity to limit the amount of email you send me, I’ll unsubscribe. The brands that give me the option to reduce the frequency of communications as part of the unsubscribe process usually keep me as a subscriber. Those that don’t lose me forever.

If you’re a marketer, consider the power of choice and give it to your subscribers. You’ll keep more of them engaged over the long term.

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Brand Messages Need to be Focused

Don’t Be Afraid of Focus

Focus is sometimes scary because it means potentially missing out on something else. 

But if you’re not focused, you won’t connect with the human beings you want to connect with on the level that makes you engaging and credible. This is true in business and life in general. 

Think about it. When you’re distracted, you can’t participate fully in the task at hand, whether it be a conversation with a loved one, or a personal project you’re working on by yourself. 

In business, when you’re distracted, the noise you create makes your messages unclear. Clients and customers won’t spend much time figuring out if you’re the right fit for them. You need to tell them clearly and quickly.

I’m not saying that we can’t be visionary, entrepreneurial, or open to new opportunities. Just be sure that your communications with colleagues, prospects, and customers are focused and tailored to the human beings receiving them.

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Parents are a Model of Leadership

Parents and Leaders

I was recently asked a simple question by a colleague: “Who do you admire?”

Wow, what a loaded question. I admire many, many people—they are mentors, good friends, and talented colleagues. I also admire several artists, musicians, writers, athletes, and educators. The people I admire most are those I find talented, honest, kind, and giving. I also admire people who have the courage to lead, whether they are the type that does it quietly or the kind that enjoys the spotlight.

But when I think about who I admire most, it’s probably parents. I don’t have children myself, but when I look at parents today and consider the magnitude of the task of raising children in a world that seems to be moving faster than they can possibly keep up with, I have to give them kudos for being the leaders that they are.

Parents love through the times when those they lead are the most unlovable, guide their children to do what’s right even when it’s not easy, and sacrifice their needs for the health and success of the family. They show up every day, teach and train, troubleshoot, motivate, and lead by example. 

A good business leader shares a lot of traits with a good parent, don’t you think?

And while there are some essential things that make a good parent, everyone finds their own unique way to perform the role. Just like the best leaders.

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Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication

I love shopping with Zappos. They make it easy and fun to shop with them, and very easy to return things (which is important when I buy shoes because I have oddball-sized feet).

And their packaging sends me messages that make me want to give them more business.

“Build open and honest relationships with communication.”

Agreed.

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Listening to Nonverbal Communication

Listening With Your Eyes

What’s not said is sometimes more powerful than what is said. Some experts even suggest that nonverbal communication represents nearly two thirds of all communications. That’s a lot of messages that are largely available to your eyes (not to mention your other 4 senses).

That’s why I prefer to meet with people in person or through videoconference whenever possible. I am more effective at listening when I can see the people I’m speaking with. Their nonverbal communications give me much more insight into what I’m hearing and I can read more deeply into what is being said — which often gives me a better sense of where it’s coming from. And when I can see how they are reacting to what I’m saying, I can tailor my communications in real time to connect with them on a deeper level.

Speaking of being face to face with other people in real time, studies show that during social interactions people’s movements tend to become coordinated, which enhances rapport and fosters cooperation. Research also suggests that this “nonverbal synchrony” makes people more likely to successfully pursue joint goals. Interesting, right?

Think about a recent conversation you’ve had with someone through emails or text messages where the outcome wasn’t what you wanted or expected. Then think about how that conversation would have been different if you could have heard the other person’s voice or seen his or her facial expressions and body language.

Considering the value of nonverbal communication going forward will help you determine when a face-to-face meeting is in your favor.

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Face to Face Lunch Meeting

When You Need Clarity, Have Lunch

A few weeks ago I had lunch with a colleague, who is also a friend. It happened to be on a day when I was feeling a bit frustrated over a few things, but I was trying to stay positive so our lunch would be fun (like it usually is when we get together).

She could tell something wasn’t right with me, and she opened the door to let me air my frustrations. I did (but reluctantly because I didn’t want to be a downer)—and then she felt comfortable doing the same. 

The result was that we had a brutally honest conversation with each other, which helped us be brutally honest with ourselves. In less than an hour, we both walked away with more clarity on the issues we both faced, ideas for finding potential solutions, and a positive outlook that was energizing. 

If you haven’t done it in a while, get away from your desk and have lunch with a trusted friend, colleague, or mentor. I highly recommend it.

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Phones and Business Meetings

Why I Don’t Bring My Phone to Meetings

“I wish this conversation was as important as your phone.” That’s what I said to myself recently when a colleague kept looking at his phone with each buzz that came through during our 15-minute conversation. I was giving him what I thought was pretty valuable free advice, but I had to repeat myself so many times that I simply stopped being giving with my time and defaulted to meaningless chit-chat. I was annoyed, but then this experience did make me think about my own behavior.

My mobile phone usually sits face down beside me at home at the dinner table and lives in my pocket during meetings at work. Like almost everyone else, it’s nearly impossible not to look at it when it does that glorious ding or buzz that lets me know someone on the other end has something to say to me. At work, my excuse for having the phone with me at all times is to ensure I don’t miss a meeting (I live by my work calendar and its notifications).

I love my phone. I was one of those people you saw on TV back in 2007 waiting outside an Apple Store to ensure I got mine on launch day. However, I don’t like what all of these mobile screens have done to face-to-face communications. Last weekend, I observed a family of four at a restaurant (two parents, one late teen, and one early teen). They were all texting with others on their phones instead of talking with each other. (Maybe they were texting each other!) In business, I’ve had to pause meetings and sit and wait for clients to answer emails, calls, or texts on their phones before continuing our conversation. Are all of these interruptions really worthy of harpooning the momentum of a conversation with another human being who is in your presence?

Of course they aren’t. The rare emergency is understandable; the constant interruption is disrespectful. We can do better.

So, two months ago, I stopped bringing my phone to meetings and it’s been wonderful. I also leave it in another room when I have dinner at home. I was never the type who would take a call or respond to a message during a meeting or during dinner, but my phone would still buzz in my pocket taking my mind off of the conversation for a brief moment. That brief moment was enough to throw me off the path of what I was saying or what someone else was sharing. Without the phone there, I’m fully present and not distracted.

Try it.

Leave your phone behind during work meetings unless you’re expecting that rare, critical call. And when that’s the case, tell the people you’re with why your phone may need to trump your time with them. It’s a simple thing, but it will make people feel like you care about them more than the other person vying for your attention through your mobile device—one that likely doesn’t truly need an immediate response.

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Social Media and Real Life

Social Media Sparkle

Life is amazing. It’s also messy.

Social media connects us in wonderful ways that make keeping up, touching base, sharing, and meeting new people fast and convenient. It also often portrays the lives of others with a glistening cleanliness that isn’t reality. 

Don’t try to compete. Just be you, and work on being the best you that you can be. And be proud of that whether someone “likes” it or not.

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Branding From The Inside Out

Branding from the Inside Out

All brands start with an idea. When that idea is something that can help or inspire others, it has the potential to be a brand. At Imbue, we spend a lot of time working to understand the true essence of a brand so we can help tell its story in a way that connects with the right people. In some cases, brands that are growing fast begin to fragment because they try to broaden their reach rather than focus on the one thing they really do best. 

In other words, we see a lot of organizations try to help everyone, rather than focusing on the ones they set out to help from the start. That’s noble. You’ve got a great product or service that can help almost everyone, why not tell everyone about it?

Here’s why:

  1. You’re more likely to see how your product or service can help the masses because you see the potential, but the general public doesn’t (yet).
  2. You likely can’t afford to tell everyone.
  3. You’ll waste a lot of time and money talking to people who really aren’t the right fit or aren’t ready for a conversation with your brand.
  4. When you try to talk to too many audiences, you risk confusing the one you really should be speaking to with great clarity.

Whether we’re talking about a personal brand, or a company or organization, focus on what’s inside first. Why was the brand established? Who was it created to help? What does the brand stand for in the hearts and minds of the people who created it (and work for it)? 

With those questions answered and with everyone aligned internally, you’ll be better positioned to tell a clear and powerful story to the people you want to serve. 

And remember, focusing on what your brand means to you right now doesn’t mean it can’t change later. Brands evolve as audiences change, competition grows, and new products or services are launched. However, focusing on what the brand means internally, and precisely who it helps right now, is the first step in engaging with a real person who will feel it matters to them today.

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