Topics & Tools - May, 2005

Topics&Tools - Dec, 2005

Topics & Tools - Aug 2006

Topics & Tools - Jan 2007

Topics&Tools - April 2007

Topics & Tools - Feb 2008


Alan's Topics and Tools
December 2005


As 2005 comes to a close, thank you to all my friends and colleagues for your support over the past year. This has been a great year for me, with many new adventures and a great deal of professional growth. Best wishes for a great 2006!

in this issue
  • Listening: The Skill We Rarely Teach
  • The Twenty Dollar Bill Story
  • The 10 Habits of Highly Confident People
  • My New Website

  • Listening: The Skill We Rarely Teach

    We take listening so much for granted, rarely treating it as a skill. Somehow, we think that we are all excellent listeners because it must be an innate skill. In truth, to truly be an active listener is a skill that you have to practice. Developing the skill will pay off many times over in the business world, as you gain new respect from both your colleagues and managers because you really "listened" to them. So what are some of the keys to active listening?

    Focus on the Speaker We've all been there know you should be listening carefully, but there are just too many other things on your mind. The big deadline is looming, the car is in the shop, and on and on. We all seem to be operating on overload, and it's way too easy for our minds to wander. As an active listener, your primary responsibility is to focus on the speaker. This kind of focus doesn't happen automatically. It requires a conscious decision and intense concentration.

    Keep Your Eyes and Attention on the Speaker One key way to maintain your focus is to keep your eyes on the speaker. As soon as your eyes start to wander, so does your attention. Maintaining eye contact with the speaker will also send a non-verbal message that you're interested and care.

    Don't Jump to Conclusions You've heard it all before from Melvin, and the moment he opens his mouth you can guess what will come out. But it's not always necessarily so! By jumping to conclusions (and making sometimes incorrect assumptions), you may totally miss the message the speaker is delivering.

    Don't Interrupt This is in the same category as jumping to conclusions. Because you're sure you know what point is going to be made, you tend to interrupt. Give the speaker a chance to finish without jumping in!

    Paraphrase and Ask for Clarification Many people don't understand that active listening is a two-way process. It seems that we've been conditioned to think of listening as only receiving information. One of the most powerful tools in an active listener's toolkit is the ability to paraphrase information back to a speaker. By simply repeating back to the speaker in different words what you think he or she just said, you'll be able to confirm your understanding in a way that doesn't offend or threaten.

    The Twenty Dollar Bill Story

    A friend of mine shared this story, which she found anonymously several years ago. I've used it frequently when facilitating workshops for displaced employees, and as we start a fresh new year I'd like to share it with you: _____________________________________________

    A well know speaker started off his seminar by holding up a $20 bill. In the room of 200, he asked who would like this $20 bill? Hands started going up.

    He said "I'm going to give this $20 to one of you, but first, let me do this." He proceeded to crumple the $20 bill up. He then asked "who still wants my $20 bill?" Hands still shot up into the air.

    "Well," he said, "what if I do this?" He dropped the $20 bill to the floor and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe. He picked the bill up, now crumpled and grimy, and again asked who wanted it. Still, hands were in the air.

    The speaker looked at the audience and said "We've all learned a valuable lesson. No matter what I did to this $20 bill, you still wanted it. Why? Because it still retained its was still worth $20."

    Many times in our lives we are crumpled, dropped, and ground into the dirt. Sometimes it's caused by the decisions we make, sometimes simply by circumstances. We may feel as if we are worthless.

    No matter what happened or what may happen in the future, you never lose your value. You are still priceless to those who love you. The worth of your life comes not from what you do, what you have, or who you know, but from who you are!

    The 10 Habits of Highly Confident People

    In her book, Confidence, Rosabeth Moss Kanter draws some interesting conclusions about what gives some people so much more confidence than others. She hypothesizes that confidence is a function of our habits, and our ways of reacting to the world around us. Based on Kanter's interviews with hundreds of individuals and teams, what follows is a summary of those personal qualities that either enhance or destroy confidence:

    Confident People:

    • Are open to criticism or suggestions
    • Are honest about their own abilities or limits
    • Seek the advice and input of others
    • Learn from their mistakes
    • Set realistic goals and have realistic expectations
    • Work hard to achieve their goals
    • Take personal responsibility for their fate
    • Embrace challenges and take reasonable risks
    • Replace bad habits with good ones
    • Expect good things to happen

    People Who Lack Confidence:

    • React defensively to criticism
    • Are not honest about their own abilities and limits
    • Shun the advice and input of others
    • Tend not to learn from their mistakes
    • Set unrealistic goals and have unrealistic expectations
    • Use problems as an excuse to give up
    • Blame others for things that go wrong
    • Avoid new challenges and play it safe
    • Repeat self-defeating habits over and over
    • Expect the worst, and often get it

    My New Website

    I invite you to visit my new website. When you visit, you'll find detailed information about my competencies and workshop offerings. You'll also find links to my past newsletters, and to information and organizations related to the learning and communications fields. Take a look today!

    Alan De Back

    Alan De Back, Learning & Communications

    • Career Development
    • Management & Leadership Development
    • Communication Skills
    • Customer Service

    Quick Links...

    Alan De Back Website

    IWCC Training in Communications

    Join our mailing list!
    phone: 571-212-5405