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Putting others first

Recently Lance spotted an example of how putting yourself before others made things go terribly wrong.

In our occupation there are often times when we need to use the facilities of a conveniently placed hotel and we end up working in the reception/bar area. Some of you may be familiar with what these places are like during the day. For those who aren’t, let me describe the scene I encountered recently.

It was a typical hotel reception/bar area. Lots of square tables placed relatively close to each other. Virtually all of them occupied and the whole room was a hive of activity. Laptops were bleeping, phones ringing and people talking (some even trying to over-talk each other).

Sat at a table to one side of all of this were two rather uncomfortable looking people. The conversation on this table was mainly all one way and if you were within 10 metres of it, you would have soon realised the quiet chap’s performance was being questioned by the uncomfortable looking talker.

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Let’s have a look at this piece of communication in a bit more detail. For simplicity I’ll call the person doing most of the talking ‘the talker’ and the other guy ‘the listener’.

The talker

He’d thought about the communication in advance, he’d planned it and he may have even practised it. The reason why I know this is because he had a list of key points he wanted to cover. He even ticked them off once he’d covered them. For many of the points, the talker gave examples of something that had happened in the past, explained what was expected in the future and checked the understanding of the listener.

The tone used seemed appropriate and he stuck to the facts rather than offering opinions. He had forms to make notes on, a laptop full of charts and graphs, and a spare pair of glasses. In fact this chap had thought really carefully about what he’d need to deliver this communication.

The listener

Well, during the conversation this chap often looked out of the window, or looked around to see who was listening in. Although he appeared distracted and wasn’t making notes, he always said a very quiet, ‘yes’ when asked if he understood what was being said to him.

He declined a coffee, toyed with a spoon whilst been spoken to, and looked as though he simply wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible.

 

Now, I really don’t know how long these two people had worked together, what experience they had, or what the working relationship was like between them. However, I do know how successful this piece of communication was, as I’m sure you do too even though you weren’t there.

Later, the more I thought about the conversation, the more I realised the scenario I’d witnessed would make a great communication mini-workshop. All you’d need to do would be to get your group to read the above and then use the following bullet points to get them talking:

  • how did the talker take into account the needs of the audience (the listener)?
  • if you take the needs of the audience (the listener) into consideration, what would you do differently as the ‘talker’?
  • explain how you truly consider the needs of your audience when communicating

If you have a challenging conversation to deliver, it’s really easy to start by thinking of your own needs. It’s very tempting to make it as easy as possible for yourself. However, it’s vitally important to make sure your message is received and understood by the audience. This means you need to start by thinking about the needs of others (your audience). Putting others first will help you get it right…

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