I must confess, for me it happens more than it should. I like to think that I am exploding with enthusiasm about the topic at hand and need to join in. I like to think I am guiding to dialogue about a different perspective or augmenting the one being discussed. But after doing some reading about interrupting, interrupting is most often not perceived as well intentioned. Generally it is seen as interfering, hindering, trying to take control, or (eek!), just plain rude.

There are many reasons why we need to listen and stop interrupting:

  • In 1995 Haas & Arnold demonstrated that listening is an important component in how people judge communication effectiveness in the work place
  • Bechler & Johnson went on to demonstrate that listening is linked to effective leadership

In my own defense, I can be extraordinarily disciplined in my listening when I make a conscious choice. Like in our interviewing for projects, I am hanging on every word the person who has agreed to talk to us says, I would never dare to interrupt them. I am there to listen and encourage them to talk to their heart’s content. And they do, and they love it. There is hardly an interview completed at PROVOKE when the person who has given us their time, does not thank us for the interview. I know first hand the power of listening, and the positive impact it has in terms of connection, validation and relationship building.

Meekly, I do take some tiny bit of relief in knowing I am not alone (And yes I get that common does not mean right). Research suggests that men interrupt on average within 24-30 seconds of listening to someone, and women interrupt within 30-53 seconds. And on average we interrupt 50% of the time.

Evidence points to this being one of those not so productive habits many of us share more often than we may notice or care to admit, and that few are not guilty of at some point.

So why is it so prevalent?

Our thoughts can move four times faster than speech, so we are only using 25% of our mental capacity. SO what are we going to do with the other 75% of capacity available to us? We get distracted, with our own thoughts/responses. We either totally check out or in effort to remain engaged we start thinking about questions to ask, points to make, suggestions to offer.

We interrupt because most of us have not been taught this specifically (Funny we get lots of training on the outgoing like writing and speaking but not the incoming).

  • Only 2% of us have actually been trained to listen effectively
  • Only 1.5% of articles in business journals deal with listening effectiveness

So, to follow up on my last blog about listening, I thought I would try something new in hopes of creating a new habit.

  • I will listen, without speaking, eye to eye, fully attentive for at least one minute to start (try it, a minute can feel VERY long!), and slowly grow that time to when a person stops talking.
  • My specific strategy is to either take a sip of something when someone talks (extra fun at a dinner party with libations!!), or physically put my hand over my mouth to stop my lips from engaging (I can strike a pose reminiscent of The Thinker pretty well)
  • And when I do speak I engage my PROVOKE skills, and follow up with  comments like “Tell me more” or “What’s next?”.

As leaders, perhaps this is something we can all try. Imagine a client that gets your full, purposeful, intense attention. Or a co-worker, spouse, child, friend… will be interesting to see how people react. I know one thing for sure, it will build more goodwill than you could ever imagine in such a short time.


Too Much got the Gimmies

by Trudy on January 17, 2014

I observed something over the holidays. Some a little too up close and personal.

This past holiday it seems that there were too many organizations suffering from the gimmies, otherwise known as greed, or making hay. Or at least that is certainly how it appears.

What do I mean?

I ordered my personal Christmas cards in early December, paid extra for rush shipping to ensure I had them in plenty of time, and they ended up being delivered on January 4th! (Sure made the ho ho ho message seem rather passé!). It seems this company was exulting so much in their prosperity this holiday season that they watched as it kept it coming in, forgetting that they would have to fulfill their sales too.

I experienced being bumped from an airplane for showing up 56 minutes BEFORE the flight left because I missed the closing cut off. They gave my and my family’s seats away to some of the MANY people they had overbooked on the flight. To get on a flight sooner than 5 days away I had to pay AGAIN for my tickets. Personally, this felt a lot like extortion vs. greed, but definitely a company making hay when the snow was falling.

Then the UPS shipping situation occurred, where they were unable to meet the demand for shipping over the holidays leaving sad faces all around on Christmas day. The growing online sales opportunity completely overwhelmed the UPS system. Again, just keep taking in the packages, let the revenues explode, and we will figure it out somehow did not seem to work as a strategy. I expect that UPS will now learn how to read its own capacity better, and create systems that allows it to scale up to meet the capacity or manage delivery date expectations at the engagement point.

A favourite family tradition of participating in a gingerbread-making event was unusually disappointing because they ran out of supplies because it was so “popular” this year. Now this one is a really bad case of the gimmies, because you had to book in advance, so they knew how much they would need for supplies.

Friends came for a visit on New Year’s Eve, arrived at the car rental location to get their car, that had been booked long ago, and they had to wait 3.5 hours to get a car. Why? Because they overbooked! And not only that, they were letting people walk up with NO reservation and get cars too. This is the most egregious case of the gimmees, a slap in the face to the bird they had in their hand (aka the customer with the reservation).

I have pondered this at great length. I have wondered, what the heck is going on here in business today?

Ultimately what it comes down to is that each of these organizations chose to take on more than they could handle, and they did this at great inconvenience and cost to customers.

And do you know who else pays in this situation? They do.

They made a conscious decision to follow the money, when what they really should have followed was the relationship. The cost of ATTEMPTING to repair a relationship is very expensive.

The level of ill will that is created through these actions does not sit well with the people who give them business, or at least have given them business in the past. I am certain many will rethink their choices going forward, I certainly will.


Happy New Year!

by Vicki on January 10, 2014

Happiness. We all seek it.

We include it in many of our greetings. Some of us seem better at achieving it than others.

What is it? A mindset? A mood? A way of looking at things?

Over the Christmas break, I watched a documentary on Netflix called HAPPY –

HAPPY is a feature-length documentary that leads viewers on a journey across 5 continents in search of the keys to happiness. The film addresses many of the fundamental issues we face in today’s society: how do we balance the allure of money, fame and social status with our needs for strong relationships, health and personal fulfillment? Through remarkable human stories and cutting‐edge science, HAPPY leads us toward a deeper understanding of why and how we can pursue more fulfilling, healthier and happier lives.

HAPPY takes the viewer from the bayous of Louisiana to the deserts of Namibia, from the beaches of Brazil to the mountains of Bhutan. Listen to the wisdom of a Kolkata rickshaw driver, the compassion of a volunteer at Mother Teresa’s Home for the Dying and the knowledge of some of the world’s leading happiness researchers. Witness as middle school students applaud the bravery of their classmates during a moving presentation on bullying. HAPPY combines real‐life human drama and cutting‐edge science to provide insights into the mysteries of happiness.

In 2005, director Tom Shadyac (Liar Liar, Patch Adams, Bruce Almighty) handed Roko Belic a New York Times article entitled, “A New Measure of Well – Being From a Happy Little Kingdom.” The article ranked the United States 23rd on its list of happiest countries. Shadyac, himself dissatisfied with his luxurious Beverly Hills lifestyle, asked Belic to make a documentary investigation into the origins of human happiness – – and why the U.S. ranks so low. This simple inquiry led to a global exploration of happiness research.

Happy – A Documentary Trailer from Wadi Rum Films on Vimeo.

If you are seeking to increase your happiness in 2014 and don’t want to take the time to watch the documentary, here are the keys points to know about happiness according to the filmmakers:

• Connectedness: Strong relationships with friends, family and community make people happier
• Generosity: Giving increases happiness
• Novelty: Breaking out of routine makes people happier
• Play: People who experience physical aerobic exercise are happier
• Flow: Engaging in a fully absorbing hobby makes people happier
• Health and longevity: People who are happy are healthier and even live longer.
The formula for happiness is not the same for everyone, but research shows that almost everyone can become happier.

I found the film to be both humbling and inspiring. Humbling in the sense that it portrayed people living in very very challenging environments and circumstances relative to the average Canadian. Inspiring in the sense that many of the people portrayed still managed to find much to be happy about in their lives.

The documentary offers much food for thought and practical suggestions for action to increase your happiness going forward.

I wish all our readers a very HAPPY 2014.



Dunbar’s Number

December 6, 2013

How many friends do you have on Facebook? Followers on Twitter? Connections on LinkedIn? How many social groups do you belong to? How many co-workers do you connect with? How often do you meet with family and friends? Connections to other people matter. In fact, research suggests that one of the greatest predictors of happiness […]

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This is Water

October 25, 2013

Every once in a while I come across some tidbit online that I really connect with – a photo, a video, a posting. It might connect the dots for me, help me understand my view of the world or really make me feel something (good or bad). Yesterday morning, I followed a link to a […]

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