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September 13, 2017

Understand Others & Listen Empathetically – Courageous Communicator Quest Challenge 10


During last week’s Challenge, did you notice the impact emotionally connecting with purpose had on your employees? How did they respond? Tapping into people’s emotions allows us to command an audience’s attention and helps drive your organization’s strategy forward. 

This is one of my favorite challenges. To get work done through others, you’ll need to develop an understanding of how others think and why they think the way they do. The Courageous Communicator knows that empathy, or the ability to put oneself in someone else’s shoes and see the world from their perspective (which is not to say that you have to agree with or condone their thoughts and actions) is an essential component of great leadership. 

Challenge 10: Understand Others & Listen Empathetically 

The Myth 

Great leaders know there’s no value in worrying about how employees feel or trying to understand their concerns and where they come from. 

The Truth 

It’s easy for leaders to hold court, however, exercising power or control isn’t the same as actually leading. In myth, understanding others is often portrayed as weakness, yet in reality, truly effective leaders find strength in listening to their employees, gaining an understanding of their perspectives, and in communicating in a way that shows respect for their beliefs. Listening empathetically lets your employees know you care because it taps one of our strongest human drives – to be heard and understood. Remember, you don’t have to agree with how someone else feels. Your reaction might be the exact opposite, but empathy inherently isn’t about you – it’s about the other person. Listen fully and play back how someone else feels. 

The Courageous Communicator Challenge 

This week, you have a two-step assignment: 

Step 1: Do you understand how your boss/assistant/other person you regularly work with thinks? Choose a person with whom you have daily interactions. Think about what information this person needs to do his/her job well and how he/she likes to receive information. Make a list, and put that list into use every time you communicate with this person during the week. 

Step 2: Focus this week on asking the same person an open-ended question with the goal of learning something new about him/her. Specifically, ask a “what” question, and then follow it up with a “why?” and “to what end?” Actively listen, avoid taking things personally or getting defensive, and then paraphrase back what you’ve heard the person say to ensure you’ve understood their point of view. For example: “What I hear you saying is…” or “I understand you’re feeling…” This conversation should be entirely about the other person, and not about you or advancing your opinions. 

Responding with empathy, and reflecting back feelings when appropriate, not only demonstrates good listening, it shows you are sincere and care. The payoff is an employee who knows you value what they have to say; and at the same time, you gather information that’s useful for you. 

How can you show you care by listening and responding with empathy? 

—David Grossman 

We’ll see you next week for the final leg this journey and the 11th challenge where we’ll focus on leading through honest communication and valuable dialogue. 

If you are just joining us in our Courageous Communicator Quest Challenge, take a moment to start from the beginning here. 

Refer back to previous challenges here:

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