- Posted by Kaycie Miller
- On June 11, 2020
- 0 Comments
One of the most important parts of the role of a Caring Team Member is listening to and engaging with the employees they represent. Although it sounds simple, Caring Team Members aren’t just engaging in small talk (although that can be part of it). They’re also often listening to needs that can be challenging to hear. Knowing how to handle these challenging conversations is a skill you as a Caring Team Facilitator or Caring Manager can help your Caring Team Members build overtime. Here are 6 quick tips you can share with your Caring Team Members to help them grow their listening skills.
Lean into the “yuck”.
When employees bring forward their needs, these needs can be very personal and sometimes difficult to hear. In uncomfortable conversations, you may feel tempted to get out of there as quickly as possible or you may not know how to respond. By staying there and really listening you show them that they are not alone and you care for them.
The first thing you can do to learn to “lean into the yuck” is to just acknowledge to yourself that it feels yucky or uncomfortable to you. If you recognize your discomfort, it can be easier to fight your instinct to flee or change the subject and you’ll be able to make a more conscious decision to be present with them. When you ask how someone is doing, really listen and fight the urge to respond to everything with a solution. Often, people aren’t looking for solutions. They just want to be heard.
Involve others when necessary (and always with permission).
As a Caring Team Member, you can’t and shouldn’t try to solve every problem on your own. If an employee confides in you about a mental health problem, addiction, etc, the best way you can help is to connect them with the appropriate resources. If they’re not aware of the resources available to them, this may be as simple as telling the employee about them. However, people are often uncomfortable reaching out to someone they don’t know for help themselves and are grateful to have someone act as a connector.
If you perceive that someone might be more comfortable having you connect them rather than reaching out alone, you never want to do this without first asking for the employee’s permission. To involve others you can say something like, “Our Chaplain is a really great resource and has really helped me in my personal time of need. Do you mind if I share with him what you shared with me and ask him / her to connect with you?”
Relationships and trust aren’t built overnight. It is unrealistic to expect someone to be vulnerable and open their heart about their deepest needs in your very first conversation or interaction. Take time to check in to ask how someone is doing today or how their family is doing. Get to know them. Your consistent presence in their lives will tell them that they can count on you when a true need arises.
Sometimes these regular touchbases can feel like you’re being nosy, but people like to be checked on and want to be heard. Just be sensitive to their reaction and adjust to their comfort level.
Take note of what they’re not saying.
Studies show that more than 90% of communication is nonverbal and body language, and less than 10% is the actual words we say. Good listening is not just about listening to the words being said, but is also recognizing body language and nonverbal communication.
We’ve all been there when we asked someone how they were doing and they responded with “Good,” or “Fine,” but they meant just the opposite. Their body language and nonverbal communication says what they really mean: “I’m hurting but it’s hard to talk about,” or “I don’t want to burden someone else with my needs.”
Sometimes, it’s pretty clear that the person is not good or fine and needs a friend, but often it’s not so clear. Look for subtle cues. Does the person have their arms crossed or relaxed at their sides? Is their jaw clenched with stress or relaxed? Are they looking at you or looking away? When they smile, do you see their smile in their eyes too? You may not be able to tell exactly what they’re thinking or feeling by watching for nonverbal cues but they are a good indicator to ask more questions or continue the conversation.
Engage after the fact.
So you’ve been present in their life, listened in their time of need and connected them to other resources when helpful / necessary, now what? Follow up! Few of our greatest needs will be solved in one conversation or with one action. Continue checking in so they know you’re still there for them.
Now go out and practice, practice, practice!
No one was born a great listener or communicator. These skills are learned and strengthened over time and the best way to grow them is to practice. You might try practicing first with someone who feels safe like a fellow Caring Team Member or a loved one.
Finally, as a Caring Team Facilitator or Caring Manager seeking to help your team grow their listening and communication skills, a great resource to share with your Caring Team Members is this specialization from RightNow Media@Work. The first video in the series focuses on improving listening skills. The other videos focus on other crucial skills that can help your Caring Team Members better communicate with those they lead. You can watch these videos and discuss them in your monthly Caring Team meeting or ask members to watch the videos on their own.
What challenges do you and your Caring Team face in listening to the needs of your employees? How are you working to overcome these challenges?