What’s It Costing You NOT To Listen?: Build Genuine Credibility With Christine Miles M.S. Ed. | Ep. 169

 

How do you build genuine credibility? Eric Anderton presents Christine Miles M.S. Ed., the author of What Is It Costing You Not to Listen? and the founder and CEO of EQuipt. Christine talks about how listening is about hearing what’s not said, not just what is said. You build credibility because of what you understand about others, not what you tell them. And the more you learn how to listen, the more emphatic you become. Join the conversation to discover six questions that can sharpen your listening skills. Tune in!

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What’s It Costing You NOT To Listen?: Build Genuine Credibility With Christine Miles M.S. Ed.

What is the one leadership skill that, if you master, will have a tremendous positive impact on your ability to impact your team positively? That skill is listening. My guest is Christine Miles. She is the author of the book What Is It Costing You Not to Listen?. She is the Founder and CEO of EQuipt, a training and consulting company that helps leadership teams grow sales, develop people and create cultures of understanding. She has developed The Listening Path, which is a transformational workshop that she has taught to Fortune 100 corporations and other organizations.

She’s an expert in the skill of listening. We take a deep dive into why listening is important and how you can become more effective at listening even if you know that you’re a tremendous failure when it comes to that skill. The good news is Christine shares practical tips and frameworks in this discussion that, if you use and apply them, will transform your listening ability. Enjoy my conversation with Christine. Feel free to share it with other people. Thank you for reading.

Christine, welcome to the show.

Thank you for having me, Eric. I appreciate it.

You have a book with a title that struck my attention, What Is It Costing You Not to Listen?. In my life, I’ve struggled a lot with listening. It’s something I’m always working on. Tell me, in a conversation between two people, how much is retained by the parties in conversation?

The statistics are pretty bad to give you a heads up. There’s retention and what we hear. Remember, we’re not hearing everything that’s said. Of the things that we do hear, only 17% to 25% is retained. We are failing miserably, which is part of why I named the book what I did, which is the problem. What is it costing us? We know we’re supposed to be good at listening. We know it’s important. Universally, that’s a pretty common answer. I believe listening is important. We’re told that we need to listen but we’re not taught how. That’s a big problem. We’re all failing for very good reasons.

What do you mean when you say, “We don’t hear what is being said?”

There’s the verbal stuff or the things that we verbally hear. Our brains are the biggest enemy of listening. There is so much going on in our subconscious brain that’s a superpower that is distracting us and taking us off task. We’re in this digital world almost all the time, it seems, between phones and Zoom, Microsoft Teams or whatever it is.

There are a lot of things that are getting in the way of us being able to listen effectively anyway. We’re not hearing even the words a lot of the time. There’s a lot more to conversations. It’s about hearing what’s not said, not just what is said. It’s uncovering or discovering the meaning of the message, not just the words of the message. That’s very different.

How do I hear what’s not being said?

There’s an answer to that. We have made it simple. It’s not easy. It’s simple. You need the tools. You wouldn’t go in the woods for a couple of weeks to say, “I’m going to go hiking, camp overnight and not take any tools with me.” That would be crazy. You wouldn’t survive well. We’re entering conversations the same way and going in unprepared. The first is to understand what the tools are and realize this is a skill that needs to be learned and practiced. You can’t white-knuckle your way to being a better listener.

Listening is about hearing what's not said, not just what is said. Share on X

Let’s talk about that. What are some of those tools or skills?

I want to give you the solution. That’s important but I want to make sure that people also understand the problem because if you don’t know what you’re solving, you don’t know how to enact the tools anyway. One of the things that we have to be aware of is that there are so many things interfering. You mentioned, “I’ve worked very hard at being a better listener. It’s something I need to do.” That’s half the solution right there. It should be something we’re paying attention to.

I often say, “Even if you don’t go to the gym every day, by virtue of the fact that you know you should work out or go to the gym, your chances go up that you’re going to do something about it.” Most of us aren’t thinking, “I need to be a better listener. How do I go about doing that?” It’s because the brain is in the way. Some of us are rehearsing or practicing what we’re saying when we’re listening. We’re thinking, “What am I going to say in response?” Some people are trying to mind-read or think they know what the person should know.

This happens in our personal relationships, as well as our business relationships. Some of us are already solving the problem. We’re off to the solution right away and our brains are going overdrive. We start talking, telling and advising. That interferes with listening as well. We’re taught how to tell, talk and know. We’re not taught how to listen. We become the experts. That need to be the expert or even if we are the experts can interfere with the understanding or the listening, which needs to happen first.

You said you were taught to tell, talk and know. What does that mean? Can you explain that a little bit more?

You think about our educational system in the United States. There are zero years of education on listening. What do we teach kids and adults how to do? Even through college and grad school, we teach them how to be knowledgeable, give speeches, talk about things and give presentations. We don’t teach them how to listen or, even more so, to understand. It’s an assumed skill. We treat it like walking. You have legs. You will learn to walk. You have ears. You will learn to listen. We’re projecting, “We should help people learn how to talk more.” We’re wondering why the world is filled with so much noise instead of more listening.

When you say your brain gets in the way, I’m assuming that’s because of the dialogue that we all have running in our minds, even when we’re involved in a personal conversation. I find for me often, it’s not my brain so much that stops me from listening but it’s my emotions. Someone says something and I respond to it emotionally. That emotion then begins to affect the way I think and feel. What work have you done on the link between emotions, listening and responding?

First of all, it’s a very self-aware statement, which I appreciate. It’s also wise. We think of brains as being logical but simplistically put, we have two parts of our brain, the logical brain and the emotional brain. The subconscious brain is what we call the limbic brain or the emotional brain. That’s where decisions are made. We know that from neuroscience. Brain science shows that people’s brains light up. The part of the brain that lights up when buying and making decisions is the emotional brain. Something happens emotionally.

That subconscious brain is going into overdrive and taking you off the listening task because you’re filling in with your story based on those emotions. You have some awareness of that. Most of us don’t. Most of us aren’t thinking about the fact that we’re always telling ourselves a story or that it hit us emotionally. We go into autopilot. It’s slowing down, understanding and listening to yourself differently, “What story am I telling myself about what’s being said?” That’s part of how to become a better listener. That’s why we focus on both the self-awareness piece and emotional intelligence of listening to yourself as well as listening to others.

COGE 171 | Genuine Credibility
What Is It Costing You Not to Listen?: The Power Of Understanding To Connect, Influence, Solve & Sell

It seems like what I have to get good at doing is almost disconnecting myself from myself in a conversation so that I can observe myself and then make adjustments in the middle of a conversation.

The right tools will help you do that. You’re very astutely on to something. I often say, “I feel like I’m watching a movie and directing a movie at the same time.” It’s because when you’re in that awareness, you realize, “I have my emotional things happening. My story is going off. I’m thinking about what I’m about to say,” but it’s honing in on the other person rather than that. You are in a dual role. You’re not going to start going, “I’m going to stop that.” The brain is too powerful. This is also why preparation, understanding the tools, having those tools and then practicing them is so key to being successful as a listener. Only 2% of people have any listening training.

I’m a perfect example of that. I have a Master’s in Psychology. In my first career, I was a trained, certified Structural Family Therapist. I never had a course in listening. I started when I was 22. I used to go knocking on people’s doors at 22 as a family therapist. I don’t know why they opened the door. I was recognized as someone who knew how to listen in a way that built credibility. Even though I had no experience and children, I was able to build credibility with the families because of what I understood about them, not what I told them. It was a differentiator in terms of my success early because I learned very young how to listen differently from my upbringing.

Tell me about that. What was it about the upbringing that enabled you to be a good listener?

There were two primary influences like many of us have. My father was an entrepreneur. He grew up on a chicken farm, studied agriculture and sold chicken feed. They called him a chicken crap doctor. That’s what he told me, what you feed the chicken matters. It was so great. He cut his teeth selling chicken feed after being at Penn State. He parlayed that into a career in selling life insurance with Connecticut General. This was when they trained sales reps to understand their customers differently.

He knew everything about his clients. It was a personal sale. He talked about his clients regularly. I understood from his point of view how that drove his success in business. I had a mom who has psychological issues that she came by honestly. She lost her mother after being born. Her mother died from childbirth. She was set up for it. She was very warm, loving, beautiful and charismatic but underneath the surface, what wasn’t said was all this pain.

My job was to understand that from a pretty early age. Those two influences taught me how to listen. It was expected of me. It was part of our family norm. I started overachieving relative to my actual abilities at a young age because I had this other thing that other kids didn’t have, which was paying attention to things and what wasn’t said and understanding my teammates on the sports field and myself a little differently. The emotions of people all helped me be more successful than I ever should have been.

Were your parents consciously teaching you how to listen or pointing out when you weren’t listening? How did they do that?

There was a lot of dialogue around it. It’s funny because my father passed away in December 2021 and we had such a beautiful goodbye. What I was so profoundly struck by is even as he was getting closer to death how he was so able to control the conversation in a way that if he didn’t quite understand something, he would slow down, plug into it, ask questions and uncover things. He was listening so intently. I see that with my nieces. They listen to the way they ask what they say. I’m like, “This was foundational. It’s the way we were taught our family.” I’ve deconstructed what I learned very young and put it in a system so that anybody can do it.

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As you were describing what your father was doing, particularly in his life insurance, the word empathy came to mind. I’m assuming that there’s a connection between empathy and listening. What if I am not naturally an empathetic person? What can I do to become more interested in other people in a conversation so that I become a better listener?

We’re not all empathetic. It’s partially how we’re raised. It’s nurture. It’s partially how we’re wired. That’s nature. We all have the capacity. We know the brain is flexible so that we can improve our empathy. It’s a skill. Most people think you have to be empathetic and then you learn to listen. It’s listening that leads to empathy. It’s not the other way around. I talk in the book about how sometimes you have to imagine your way to empathy. The problem with the word empathy in the definition is, “I can feel what you feel.” A lot of us have a hard time making that leap. Maybe I could try to imagine what you might feel.

That’s different and at least a step in the right direction. When you’re in the moment, on a shared journey with the talker or the person that’s telling and through the tools, you get connected, the empathy follows. It happens. There’s not so much pressure to go, “I have to understand this.” There are things I possibly couldn’t imagine feeling. Look at what’s going on in Ukraine. Could we fathom what that feels like? It’s a painful place to go. I can’t feel it. It’s too deep and raw but I can certainly imagine what that must be like.

I find that very liberating that I don’t have to generate this whole heap of empathy that I don’t have but if I’m willing to listen, then the empathy will follow. Why is that? Why do I become more empathetic if I listen?

There’s something that happens in the subconscious brain that we as humans mirror one another. When I’m allowing myself to slow down, my brain is in a calmer place. I’m allowing your story to come to me. Those feelings are going to mirror one another. This happens all the time. We see it more around negative emotions. If you’re angry and I mirror you, I might feel angry. That’s a mirroring process. The same thing happens around when you understand somebody.

It is liberating because we put so much pressure on the listener. People feel like frauds because it’s like, “I’m faking it. I don’t know how to do that.” You don’t. You’ve never been taught. I happened to be taught when I was very young. It is how you get to success. As somebody who was an athlete, I was not a natural athlete. I willed my way into athleticism through practice, the right tools and coaching. To me, it’s the same thing. You may not be an Olympic athlete but you can be a great listener if you apply the tools and practice.

We’re going to get to the tools and the practice and I want to get there but I know that my audience is leaders of construction companies. Construction can be a very volatile, confrontational and difficult work environment. I would like to ask this. Why is it that leaders struggle with listening?

First of all, I’ve done a fair amount of work with companies in the construction space. I used to work for an employee assistance program. I did a lot of work with the trades and so forth. It is a different environment and the rules are different but that doesn’t mean that people don’t feel. We’re all human and it all matters. The reason it’s so hard is we’re simply not taught.

We are blaming people for not knowing how to listen when we don’t teach them how. I’ve talked with you a little bit and others. When you’re a leader, you think you have to be the one that has the answers. Leadership is about uncovering and discovering the insights in what your team brings to you. The heart of leadership is listening. The answers to the organization or the problems are within the organization.

COGE 171 | Genuine Credibility
Genuine Credibility: The first question is, “Take me back to the beginning.”

 

Let’s explore that. Many leaders think that they have to be right, smart and expert because they’re the leader. How do I shift myself as a leader into that role of listening and being more of a receiver as opposed to an initiator or a decider? Tell me about that.

I’ll give you another statistic. Seventy-seven percent of employees will tell you they will work harder and longer hours for an empathetic employer. We know empathy is part of listening. That’s an important part of it. It’s discovering how to do and making sure people want to feel understood and heard. You might ultimately need to come to the answer but being the expert interferes with listening because if you’re solving everything, why do you need your team?

You need to help them learn to solve problems. Through listening, people uncover their insights. Over my career, the number of people that have attributed me as being the smart one in the room when I’ve just helped them listen to themselves, that’s the real magic when that happens. It’s combining that expertise with what everybody else brings into the room, where you get something powerful.

Let’s talk about those tools. What is the first tool that I need to learn to use if I’m going to be a good listener?

There are a couple of things. The first one I’ll talk about is what we call the six most powerful questions. If your audience takes nothing else away, they can start to apply this right away. One of the principles that I’ll share that is important to understand about this is listening well is what I call a slow down to speed up. The number one thing that interferes with listening is wanting to solve the problem. We all want to solve problems and get things done quickly.

I’ll make a sports analogy. Most scoring on the sports field happens when you pull the ball back and go across the field and then down. You’re not running down the field straight all the time. That’s what can happen in businesses. We start running forward, sprint forward and forget to stop, pull back and take a look at the landscape. That’s what listening does and what these six questions allow you to do. I’ll run through them with you quickly and then we can break them down.

The first question is, “Take me back to the beginning.” It’s the number of times we start solving a problem when somebody makes a statement as a customer tells you a problem. “The room is too small.” A pretty generic answer is, “I’ll fix that. We can widen the walls and take it down.” Maybe that’s not the real problem. “Take me back. Tell me where that started.” You get more of the story. The second one is simple. “Tell me more.”

We tend to ask very diagnostic and prescriptive questions that lead the teller or the person sharing their story down a road that may have nothing to do with what they’re trying to share. When you open that up, they tell you what’s important. The next one may feel a little unsettling to some of your audience because, in general, people in business have trouble with this one sometimes. It’s so important. That question is, “How does that make you feel?” A lot of people say, “That’s a personal question. I could never ask that on a construction site or say that in business.”

The reality is feelings are flying all over the place, so you might as well ask it because rather than somebody venting or sharing, they will tell you how they feel and you will uncover something very important. Another question is, “Then, what happened?” You can ask these questions in any order you want and as often as you want. You will get much more from the person when you don’t try to shape the story. Here’s another question and it sometimes doesn’t feel like a question to people is this imperceptible, “Hmm,” when you’re talking with someone. You’re nodding.

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This is important virtually when you’re working on Zoom and the phone. That’s a prompt that says, “Keep going. I want to know more.” The sixth question is, “It sounds like you feel.” Sometimes we have an idea of how people might feel. We don’t have to ask them if they’re venting or angry. “It sounds like you’re pissed off and angry. Share that.” If you pay attention to good journalists or interviewers, they’re using these six questions all the time.

You’ve got, “Take me back to the beginning. Tell me more. How does that make you feel? Then, what happened? The Hmm. It sounds like you feel.” Which one would I start with?

If you’re starting a conversation and somebody is leading with a problem, it could be 1 of 2. It could be, “Tell me more. Take me back.” One of those two is a pretty good place to start. If you say, “Tell me more,” the likelihood is then you’re going to still have to go back. It depends on how much somebody shares with you, to begin with.

The goal is to get them talking rather than you telling but so often, customers in particular start with the problem or what they think is the problem. We start solving and we’re fixing the wrong thing because knowledge, experience and expertise are also enemies of listening. The more we have seen something 100 times, the more advice we’re going to be likely to give. Even if we know the answer, the person may not be ready to hear the answer.

How many questions do I need to ask so that I’m getting out of my way, expertise and insights?

You might have to ask those 6 questions any number of those 6 times in a conversation.

Let me ask it a different way. How do I know when I’ve gotten beyond myself and able to either give some useful insights or help this person in this situation?

When have you gotten the story is what you’re asking. When do you know it’s time to say, “I have the advice?” You’re not nearly there once you’ve got the story. This is part of the slow down. The next step and this is another tool, is to reflect on what you heard. One person says something and the other person thinks they hear it. Remember, 17% to 25% is heard. We go on to the future as if we’re aligned. I ask you, “Tell me more. Take me back. How do you feel?” You talk to me for 3 to 5 minutes. “Here’s what I’m going to do.” I’m going to go, “Hold on a second. Let me see if I get you.”

I’m going to repeat and summarize both facts and feelings in 30 to 90 seconds what I heard. This is very important for leaders. Think about how many meetings and conversations we have where this stuff does not happen. We assume alignment and there’s no alignment. What happens is, “I thought you said this. You thought I said that. We’re off.” There’s more miscommunication and wasted time. More products were ordered potentially. The customer is still not happy. The costs are inordinate all because we didn’t take that step.

COGE 171 | Genuine Credibility
Genuine Credibility: Knowledge, experience, and expertise can be enemies of listening.

 

As I’m reflecting on what I’ve heard, how do I present that question in such a way that the person is going to be honest with me?

You’re right about something. We call it three scenarios of how somebody may react when you reflect. If I reflect on what I heard, I’m also going to use another tool, which is I’m going to ask a question to affirm what I heard is correct. I’m going to say, “Do I get you?” I reflected. You’re either going to say yes or mean no. There’s a term in the Urban Dictionary that I read about. Look it up. It’s a sales term. It’s a Philly term. It’s called a grin f***. “I’m going to nod my head but I mean no.” Here’s the thing. When you genuinely are attempting to listen and reflect, that’s very rare. It’s people that do more talking than listening that they get the grin f***.

It does happen but that’s the nonverbal. The more common scenario and this is what’s so great, is that you will say, “Let me see if I get you.” I summarized in 30 seconds, “Did I get you?” You go, “You got me but.” You keep talking and then I get all that you missed. One of the members of my team said, “Sometimes I miss on purpose because when I say, ‘Do I get you?’ when I’ve missed, they start to remind me of what’s important. I know what their priorities are and what they want to focus on.” He uses that as a tool to make sure he is aligned and understands them.

As you’re walking through this, I’m reflecting on how it takes an incredible amount of energy to listen well and an amount of self-control. As a leader in a construction company, I can be running from 6:00 AM to 3:00 PM with nothing but these conversations and problems. There are different degrees of issues that I’ve got to deal with. How is it that I can perhaps marshal my energies most effectively so that I don’t go into an important conversation and miss what I need to hear simply because I don’t have the energy necessary to focus?

It’s going to take practice before it doesn’t feel like it’s an effort. If I said, “We’re going to run a marathon,” you wouldn’t expect to go out and do the 26 miles without running 1 mile first. We have to get ourselves in shape. That’s the first thing. The second thing is we got to know what’s in it for us. Partly that’s in it for us is when you give the gift of understanding. When you listen to understand, you get a lot more back.

In terms of a result, when you listen to understand first, you solve a lot of problems before they become real problems and get to solutions faster. I often say, “I can throw a football and so can Tom Brady but he can get it down the field a lot more efficiently and to the right hands than I can.” Listening is the same way. When you listen well, you solve the real issues and get ahead of things. Conversations become shorter, not longer, because we spend a lot of time talking about the wrong things a lot of time.

What does that mean?

It’s because we don’t have alignment. I don’t know what the problem is. We can beat our heads against the wall and handle a lot of miscommunication without even knowing that’s what’s interfering. I was with a client and a manager for an HVAC company. We were having lunch. She wanted to talk about warranties and how she had two jobs. She was trying to manage the people and the warranties. She said, “I don’t have enough time.”

The senior leader, through the process of listening differently realized you could salvage $10,000 a month in warranties but if you put your energy somewhere else, we will make $100,000 more easily. It’s a $90,000 shift all because she was focusing on the wrong thing but he knew how to listen and uncover that insight because he had practiced the tools and had used them. Otherwise, he may be like, “Let’s figure out how to get you more time to warranties.” Instead, he listened, pulled back, realized what the interferences were and said, “Don’t worry about spending as much time here. Let’s put that time over there.”

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Why do people want to protect their egos more than they want to get to the truth?

I’m an optimist about people. I certainly think there are some egos out there. I do empathize with people because they don’t know how to listen. The old joke for psychologists is, “How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb?” The answer is one. You just have to be willing to change it. If we create a common language around listening, understand the benefits and put time into tasks, then the adoption rate changes and we start to shift the paradigm. It’s nobody’s fault that the paradigm has not been focused on listening. It has been focused on telling. Any sales training that’s out there starts with how important it is to listen and then all they do is tell you how to talk about stuff.

You used the idea of a common language. We began with those six questions. The second tool that you gave us was reflecting on what you’ve heard. The third is, “Do I get you?” What’s another tool I might use in a listening conversation?

Another one is to realize. This will be helpful to your leaders. Listening is not passive. Part of why people have a hard time with it is they think, “I have to let the person talk and go. My head wants to explode.” I get that. That’s fair. I had a guy who said, “My ex-wife used to spend 9 hours talking about her 9 hours a day. I couldn’t take it.” I said, “You’re not married. I get it.” It’s a cautionary tale but an important thing. Interrupting to talk is a no-no. Interrupting to understand is critical.

This is what my father would say. I was mesmerized as he was going. He goes, “How was your week?” I go, “Wait. Slow down. Let me see.” He would help me slow down so that he could comprehend it. He was slowing down in his mind even though he was aware. He had to go even slower than I was used to. It was such a reminder of the power of that. I don’t know if any of your audience listens to Howard Stern but he’s miraculous at this and what he does from an interviewing standpoint. He will stop somebody cold and say something, “Hold on. Stop. Take me back. Tell me more.” He punctuates those moments, so there’s a clear alignment and understanding before you continue in the story.

Interrupting to understand is a very powerful tool. We call those mini-reflections along the way. If you’re the guide taking a trip in the woods and the two of you and your friend are backpacking, you have to help them stay on the main trail and not get lost in the woods as the listener. Being that force that guides and helps you and the teller stay on the same trail is how you create empathy and alignment and how you solve the problems the most quickly.

What about the role of physical cues? I’m in a listening situation. I have the best intentions but off I go into la-la land somewhere else. Are there any physical cues that I might be able to use that could bring me back into the situation without the other person noticing?

We’re going to have to practice our way to success, which is why we teach behavioral change. It’s learning to use the tools and be present in a situation. The tools do the work for you and calm your subconscious brain but you’re onto something with your eyes. Listening with your eyes is important because people send you messages about how they feel with their bodies and physical cues. We’re in a virtual world a lot of time. One of the things you need to use is your eyes to listen, which is, “You made a funny face there. What does that mean? Tell me more.”

It’s paying attention to those verbal cues to ask more or reflect, “Did that upset you? That seemed like that bothered you.” I was on a call with somebody and I said, “How are you doing?” He made some nonverbal gestures with, “I’m doing great.” I went, “That didn’t feel right to me.” He went on to tell me that something very personal was going on and he was dealing with a family crisis. I didn’t listen to his verbal answer. I watched his nonverbal answer, which was counter. You get more of the story sometimes by watching how people physically respond.

COGE 171 | Genuine Credibility
Genuine Credibility: You need to practice your way to success.

 

There are the observing others. Is there something that I can do myself physically? I’ll give you an example. I know that when I’m in a conversation and I feel myself wandering, I’ll ball up the toes on my right foot and say to myself, “Ground yourself.” I learned that from one of my mentors. That minor physical action that they can’t see helps me to come back into the conversation.

You’re practicing mindfulness activity there. Your body helps you do that. I’m not going to dispute that. That’s great. Although for those couple of minutes or seconds, you’re still off and you lose the person. Let me ask you this. If you’re watching a movie where the story is interesting, do you find yourself wandering off?

No.

We’re back to that directing. When you use the tools and you’re in the conversation differently, asking the right questions rather than chasing all these other things and getting all over the place, your attention follows and comes to you. You’re not white-knuckling it anymore. The reason we have been white-knuckling it is because we’re told to pay attention.

Let’s look at history. For example, I could ask people, “Did you like history?” It’s a very black and white answer, “I liked it or I didn’t like it at school.” There’s one reason, “My teacher taught me all about the facts and I had to memorize them or they told me stories and it made me want to learn more.” When you’re in a conversation and you’re using the tools, the map and the path, you’re getting the story. That story is more compelling and that’s what holds your attention.

For me, at least, that’s the second genuine insight there. 1) Your empathy follows and, 2) Your attention follows.

We can’t tell ourselves to pay attention.

We do that all the time.

It doesn’t work. We’re told to listen, not taught. Our brains have to want to pay attention. When you’re in control and you know how to guide the conversation, you’re much more interested in it because otherwise, you’re just waiting for the other person to talk and hope that you’re going to get something out of it versus, “I know exactly what I need to find out, how to do that, help the person feel understood, get out of the conversation and have something productive out of it.” It’s a total shift from where we have been operating.

We're all humans, and we have to help people feel better. Share on X

With great power comes great responsibility. Let’s say I have these tools. How do I use them in such a way so that I’m not manipulating people, getting my way anyway and making them feel good?

Managers have been asking me that for years. It’s like anything. You can use tools for good or evil. There is responsibility. Don’t ask these questions on an airplane unless you want to talk to the person you’re sitting next to. Once you start listening to somebody differently, they are hooked. That is a differentiator. The most powerful story you can tell somebody is their own. When you listen to somebody’s story, they are more inclined to want to follow you. I believe the world is thirsting to be understood and most people want to understand.

If I ask husbands, wives, children and parents what do they want, they want to feel connected, bonded, loved and give love to their families. The same is true in business. Most people are genuinely out to do the right thing. This is a way to do that more effectively and help people feel better through the process. When I reflect on your story, suddenly you matter to me because I took the time to listen to understand. You’re going to look at me differently. Think about our partnerships. Why do we have a 50% divorce rate? It’s because there’s a gap in how we understand each other over time.

As we’re walking down these tools here, we’ve got this idea of interrupting to understand. What’s another tool that I might use?

One of the things you can do along the way when you interrupt is that mini-reflecting that we talked about. I call this a listening sandwich. Rather than waiting until the end of the story when somebody talks for 3 to 5 minutes and says, “Let me reflect,” you can reflect along the way. You’ve done this throughout our interview. You said, “Hold on a second. Let me see if I understand.” You’ve repeated and made sure you got it before you moved on. That’s a very powerful listening skill. That’s more art than science.

Exactly what you’re doing is what the business leaders want to do, “Before we move on to the next item, let me see if I get you.” Reflect, “What did I miss? Now we will move on.” I work with a CEO of a pharmaceutical and orthobiologics company. He does this very well. He laughed and said, “You did teach me this years ago.” I said, “I forgot about that.” He moves incredibly fast but he makes sure that there is a reflection along the way so that everybody is aligned before he moves on. That’s another tool. Interrupt to reflect.

How will these tools help me to control my emotions? When I’m in a conversation with someone, and a lot of the folks that I work with don’t do poker face that well. I’m afraid sometimes that in a conversation, I want to listen and yet my face is telling them what I’m thinking or feeling. Will these tools help me with my emotional response in a conversation?

First of all, poker faces are overrated, frankly. There are certain settings where it’s helpful but we’re human. This is supposed to be a shared experience of a genuine conversation. The tools calm those emotions and feelings down. Don’t misunderstand. Listening is an unselfish act initially. You reap a lot of benefits on the other side. One of the main benefits is that when you listen to understand, you earn the right to do a lot of things.

I can’t tell you the number of times that people have said to me, “I don’t know why I don’t mind it when you tell me something I don’t want to hear.” I said, “It’s not for nothing. I’ve spent a lot of time making sure I understood you before I dared to tell you what you should do.” I learned this very early because, for the first five years of my career, I was a therapist. People would come into my office and say, “How do you want to help? Tell me what to do and how to solve the problem.”

COGE 171 | Genuine Credibility
Genuine Credibility: We have a 50% divorce rate because there’s a gap in how we understand each other over time.

 

I had some pretty high-level experience at a young age. I would go hook, line and sinker right down that path. They would go, “I can’t do that.” I was frustrated. I’m like, “This isn’t any fun. I’m giving you what you asked for and it’s not working.” Instead, I would listen, reflect, understand and say, “Is it okay if I tell you what I think and what I should do?” When you get permission, it’s amazing how much more likely people are going to follow that advice.

There’s a key concept there about earning the right to tell people hard truths after you’ve listened to them. You frame the question in this way, “Is it okay if I tell you?”

There’s a book called The Challenger Sale. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of it. This came out years ago. It talks about how you have to teach, tailor and control the conversation. The relationship sale is dead. We can’t do things because I like you or know you. We know things get done for those reasons but it’s not enough in a complex sale. One of the things they don’t talk about is that when you try to teach, tailor and control, you can piss people off because people don’t like to be told what to do.

It’s a fundamental human nature thing. When you understand them, convey that understanding and they affirm that you understand them, you’re in a different paradigm and have earned the right. In the leadership world, we call this social capital. How do you earn the social capital with our customers? Are we going to give them everything they want? Should you move the wall because they say so? No. Sometimes you have to be able to tell them no. It’s how you tell them no. That understanding first is an important part of it.

You could almost say this as a leader. If you were saying as a leader, “Why aren’t they listening to me?” Perhaps it’s because you are not listening to them.

It could be one or both of those things. It could be you’re not listening to them or they don’t know how to listen to you. We’re expecting people to come to the table when we’re not showing them how. The good news is the conversations transform immediately, even if you just use one of those questions. One of those questions changes the game. I had a friend of mine who read the book and she said, “I was coming home with my son from college.” This was at Christmas time. She said, “He hasn’t been talking a lot.” She and her husband went through a divorce.

He said something and she said, “All I could think of is, ‘Tell me more.’ It’s the only thing that came to my mind.” She was in the middle of the book. She goes, “He’s going to think this is so weird. I went, ‘Tell me more.’ I thought he was going to freak out like, ‘You don’t talk like that, mom.’ He paused and started talking for fifteen minutes.” She found out things that she didn’t know about him, what he wanted to major in and what he wanted to do. He hadn’t had a conversation all because of one simple question, “Tell me more.”

What haven’t we said that we need to say in this conversation?

Regardless of the industry, the world has changed. We need to put time into tasks. We can’t keep running at speed like we have been and expect that things aren’t going to create more consequences. The pandemic and the digital world have changed things. Customers’ expectations are higher. We’re under a lot of pressure to move fast. It’s counterintuitive to want to slow down a little bit and speed up but it’s incredibly necessary because we’re at a turning point where people don’t have it in them anymore to keep running at the speed without something shifting. People are breaking.

COGE 171 | Genuine Credibility
The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation

We talk about the Great Resignation. Why is it hard to find workers? It’s because people went, “I got one life to live. What do I want to do with it?” There’s a great quote from Maya Angelou that says, “People will remember how you feel, not what you did and said.” That’s true across every industry because we’re all humans. We have to help people feel better about the work, how they’re working and who they’re working with. They’re breaking.

I was reading Ecclesiastes and there’s this particular verse that struck me that says, “Better to have 1 handful with quietness than 2 handfuls with hard work and chasing the wind.” I’ve enjoyed our conversation. As we’re wrapping up here, give the audience 1 or 2 things they can do immediately to become better listeners. Feel free to summarize any of what you’ve said earlier, please.

Go home and practice it with a loved one. Take one of the things that I mentioned. I would suggest you start with those six questions. Gather a story. I’ll tell you what will happen. If you try it on your spouse, he or she will go, “What were you up to? That might mean we need to shift things a little.” You’re going to have a game-changing conversation. There’s a guy from a company that we were doing a workshop. He went home and practiced that. He said he got the first unsolicited hug from his daughter of 16 years old that he had in 3 years. This is powerful. That’s one thing.

I want people to read the book because it will help them learn how to transform how they listen. Start putting some time on tasks. The tools and the book are there to be a handbook for you. It tells the story of how to do this. I had somebody that I met. I gave her the book and she said, “I had to have a difficult conversation. I didn’t know how to do it. I thought the answers are here.” She flipped to the third section and said, “I took a couple of things away and it changed the conversation.” Give yourself the handbook so that you can start to have different conversations. This is a skill that needs to be developed.

Tell us what the title of the book is.

It’s called What Is It Costing You Not to Listen?. It’s on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. You can go to WhatIsItCostingYouNotToListen.com. Not everybody wants to read. The audiobook will be out at the beginning of April 2022.

How can people get in touch with you if they would like to connect with you and learn more about the work that you’re doing?

They can go to EQuipt-People.com or text me at (484) 252-1593. I would love to hear from your audience.

Christine, I’ve appreciated your time here. I don’t always ask this question but I’m going to ask you. If I’m visiting Philadelphia, what is the one restaurant I need to go to?

Most people would go to get a cheesesteak in Philadelphia. South Street is the place to go for that. I don’t know if anybody is interested in that. I live out in the suburbs of Philly. There’s a place near Valley Forge Park called Black Powder inn, which is historically rooted. That’s a cool place. It’s not far from me. It’s where Washington ate during the war.

Christine, you’ve been generous. The insights have been tremendously helpful. Thank you for coming to the show.

It’s my pleasure. Thank you.

Thanks again for reading. I hope you enjoyed my interview with Christine. Before you dash off, make sure that you get a copy of her book What Is It Costing You Not to Listen?. If you are a senior leader in a construction company, a vice president, the CEO or the president of an organization and you would like an outside voice to help you with some of the challenges you’re facing in your leadership role, I have a couple of spots open in my executive coaching practice but it’s only for people who are in the high level of their organization who have a specific issue or challenge in the realm of communication, accountability or leadership that they would like help with.

If that’s you, feel free to reach out to me on my website ConstructionGenius.com/Contact. We can book a short call to discuss if or how I can help you. My coaching is not cheap and I require a six-month commitment but if you have a challenge that you would like to address and you’re willing to make that commitment, let’s at least have a discussion to see if there’s a fit. I appreciate you reading this. Have a terrific day.

 

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About Christine Miles

COGE 171 | Genuine CredibilityChristine Miles is an author, professional keynote speaker, consultant, executive coach, thought leader, and entrepreneur. She is the Founder and CEO of EQuipt, a training and consulting company that helps leadership teams grow sales, develop people, and create cultures of understanding. She developed The Listening Path™, a transformational workshop on listening to understand, which has been taught at various Fortune 100 corporations, universities, law firms, and privately-held companies.

She is the author of What Is It Costing You Not to Listen? What Is It Costing You Not to Listen? will encourage you to examine how you are listening. You’ll discover that not only are many of the problems in your life due to not listening effectively, but listening helps to solve most problems. Christine Miles is a longtime expert in educating individuals and organizations on how to listen in ways that transform how they lead, sell, influence, and succeed in every aspect of life. Following the steps of her breakthrough Listening Path™ will provide you with a critical key to your success – understanding. Through Christine’s game-changing approach to listening, you will learn to:

  • Hear what is said and not said
  • Identify your listening persona and realize when it is unhelpful
  • Soothe your subconscious so you can listen differently
  • Listen with intent to gather others’ stories
  • Replace interfering direct questions with just six questions
  • Mini-reflect to speed up the listening process without getting lost
  • Affirm to create alignment, break down walls, and solve problems