Listen & Learn

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I often listen to podcasts throughout the day to keep up with the changing trends in my industry and to expand my professional knowledge base. Today, I came across this episode by “People & Projects” that really hit on some good points and elaborated on various techniques that every project manager should practice when communicating with stakeholders (and anyone else).

“Everyone has something to teach me, if you can find it within yourself to stop using conversations to convince people you’re right, you’ll be stunned at what you’ve been missing. A flood of information will rush in to fill the vacancy left behind by your ego.” – Celeste Headlee

Celeste advises that we need to be aware of and avoid “conversational narcissism” (which we are all guilty of). The podcast also delves into the idea that empathy is different from compassion, how to use empathy to build better relationships, and how to use empathy to communicate with difficult stakeholders.

My biggest takeaway from the podcast? Listen & Learn.

“Listening to someone does not mean that you’re agreeing with them. Listening is to understand, not to endorse.”

Some key communication techniques I gathered from listening to this podcast are:

  • Stop talking and just LISTEN. Stakeholders want and need to be heard. You need to understand their concerns, requests and expectations but the only way to achieve this is to listen.
  • Instead of guessing, tell your client, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.” This will help build trust and credibility because, let’s face it, the stakeholder is aware that you don’t know everything and will not appreciate you guessing when their project and business depend on it.
  • Avoiding a conversation that you think might cause an argument is NOT the way to handle a confrontational situation. Stop trying to avoid; instead, just have the conversation and learn how NOT to make it into an argument.
  • How do you do that? Go into a conversation hoping to LEARN rather than change someone’s mind.

You can find the People & Projects podcast on iTunes:

PPP 195 | How to Have a Conversation With That Stakeholder Who Drives You Crazy (And Anyone Else), with NPR Host Celeste Headlee.

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