Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood.
~ Stephen Covey
Every so often, you will notice this woman, or man, walks quietly into a room full of people. This person looks around for a familiar face, an interesting person, a comfortable space. This person could be a social introvert or extrovert that does not like socializing.
I have been walking into this situations again and again all my life. I can feel the butterflies in my bellies by just thinking about it. Everyone seems engaged in a lively conversation about subjects that had little meaning by any definition.
Human beings are build with the need to connect, and to contribute to something or just anything. It was the same for me. And I was really longing to be heard. I was hoping to be understood without having to say any words.
Several years ago, I often felt overwhelmed by the chatter at work events that felt meaningless to me. Those conversations felt like empty noises that did not contribute to anything. I preferred meaningful conversation over chatter about lawn mowers.
Everyone seemed to know what to do but I often felt loss. Was it because of me not fitting into the culture? I asked myself a lot of tough questions.
I had no answer and only doubted my abilities even more. I felt left out most of the time. I started to behave in ways that suited the social behavior but just did not make sense to me. I usually left these events feeling drained.
Soon after, I pushed myself through by speaking to a mentor about this personal challenge of mine. What she told me next changed my perception about social behaviors at work from networking to speaking at work events.
“Me too. I’ve been going through the same problem”, she said.
Wow. I realized I was not alone. We supported each other through the following few months to be more present at work and especially the events that we would be invited to. I started to speak up. The energy around me changed.
Looking back, I would say that it was me that went through the transformation instead of the room full of people changing for me.
So, if you’re like me, you love being quiet, walking in a room full of noise with the hope to contribute. What would you do? Here are some tips what my mentor and me have been doing over and over again that helped us to survive and even rise above the noise.
1. Be the speaker
Volunteer to speak for 5 minutes about any relevant topic. When you’re in the center of the room, on the stage, you’re in charge. If you have played the ‘talking stick’ game, you will know this is the exact same thing.
The microphone puts you in charge. Feel the powerful microphone in your hands. Stand there, stay quiet and the room will listen.
2. Be authentic. Be real.
Say what you mean and mean what you say from your heart. You’ll then be in for a surprise of how easy others will open up to you in no time.
When you reveal something more about yourself, eg: your opinions, your hobbies, your family, you allow someone to see the world from your point of view. You’re giving the other person a chance to relate to you. That is the moment when connection between human beings are made.
3. Use body language
Whether you’re the speaker or the guest, your body expresses more about yourself than your words. Take notice of your posture and gestures. Your hand gestures have the power to support your words without you raising your voice.
Focus your energy on your presence and not your voice. Your presence will be as powerful as the thunder and you will feel amazing.
Use your hands to help you describe how bad the situation your were in. Animate your thoughts. Relax your facial muscles. Smile and laugh as your feelings guide you.
Be mindful of your energy level. Remember the most valuable asset everyone has in them. Listen and pay attention to what the person is expressing.
Understand the key message well. And you’ll be able to give a meaningful response. As Stephen Covey said, seek first to understand then to be understood.
I’ve been running workshops and meetings as part of my day job for the last few years. I’ve seen how powerful these four simple principles can turn any erratic engagements into something meaningful. If you start with one tip, and continue practicing them over time, you’ll notice how the world starts listening to you.
Do you have any personal tips to get yourself heard when everyone is busy focusing on themselves? Please tell me because I would like to learn from you.
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