The legendary management consultant Peter Drucker once said that ‘the most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said’. This has always resonated with me as a Leader and as an Executive and Organizational Coach. Today it is a challenge to manage the fast pace of the workplace. We are all busy with full agendas and back-to-back scheduled meetings. I have often wondered how this agile working in the VUCA world impacted on our listening skills and on our skills to assess what was not being said in a conversation.
Sometimes in a conversation we can be so busy thinking about what we want to say next that we are not fully listening to what the other person is saying and we are missing out even more on what is not being said. That can lead to a conversation with no impact.
One study at UCLA indicated that up to 93% of communication effectiveness is determined by nonverbal cues. Another study indicated that the impact of a performance was determined 7% by the words we used, 38% by voice quality, and 55% by nonverbal communication. So nonverbal communication serves as the single most powerful form of communication. As a result, we need to be sensitive to the power of emotions and thoughts that are communicated nonverbally. We can learn to listen with our eyes.
As an Executive and Organizational Coach, I have developed some strategies that are helping my clients to understand the power of non-communication and what they can learn from it.
I always ask for their permission from the beginning of our coaching relationship to point out characteristics they exhibit that they feel are not aligned to what they truly are such as body, facial expression, tone of voice, posture, movement, appearance, eye contact and emotion. This may be because they feel anxious, nervous, tired, overwhelmed, unsure.
This conversation clearly shows that sometimes we don’t know what we don’t know. We need to figure it out. We go through the inventory and look at the gap between how the client behaves now and how the client would like to behave. Nick Morgan, author of ‘Power Cues’, explains how to master your unconscious behaviour to command influence.
When the behaviour occurs during a session (as it inevitably does), I point it out to my client and we explore further what was happening at the time that led to the look, body language, gestures…Ultimately, what I have noticed is that the nature of this work increases self-awareness and helps them to make changes.
I get into a habit of asking questions to ‘draw out’ what isn’t being said. My favourite question is ‘what if’: magical two words that are so powerful. Try it!
Other powerful questions can be:
· ‘Tell me more’ and pause with silence
· ‘I sense I am missing something that you are meaning to tell me: what may that be’?
· ‘What are you not saying here’?
Or, considering Peter Drucker’s quote, I might say ‘I want to be sure I heard what you just said’ and I repeat what I heard. The client corrects me or not. If the client corrects me, I can pursue further and add ‘I heard that to mean…did I get that right’?
‘To hear what is not said at first’ is a journey that we can all explore. It takes a little rigour and practice and it opens the future of a conversation to a new direction with new possibilities.
Please contact Nadine Powrie to discuss how her services can assist you or your organization at firstname.lastname@example.org