Note: This article was originally published January 4, 2019 for TechWell Insights magazine.
In a world where we are bombarded with information, we scan data constantly—but we fail to scan each other and ourselves to find out what is really needed. If we take the time to “listen with our eyes,” we discover that we all have the ability to solve business problems using fewer words.
Recently I attended a course in Austria hosted by the International Partnership for Transformative Learning. During this course we learned effective techniques for how to facilitate, moderate, inspire, guide, and empower teams during critical innovation phases and visionary development processes.
There were attendees from Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Sweden, and we all spoke different languages and dialects in addition to English. The highly skilled program facilitators encouraged us early on to learn to communicate with each other using our eyes and body expressions besides words.
This experience proved helpful when we were tasked with solving a real local business problem later on. Our newly learned nonverbal communication skills evolved into solid connections and mutual trust, allowing us time for a quiet space within to reflect on the problem. We successfully came up with many innovative and creative solutions for the business problem together.
This communication style of moving in and out of conversations is important in groups and teams. Talking excessively can draw our attention outward and not allow the time to translate the experience into ourselves and to understand our own perspectives around the situation.
This commonly happens in those “all talk and no action” meetings. When many people are speaking but it never translates into meaningful actions later on, it can leave us frustrated, especially for the introverts not given the time or space to express their thoughts.
But with some planning and collaboration, we can prevent the “all talk and no action” meetings:
- Have a group mind-mapping exercise conducted in silence, with everyone writing their thoughts on a shared map
- Use a reflecting team exercise: Person A speaks freely about their thoughts on a problem while Person B listens and Person C listens and records their own thoughts; then Person B and C have a conversation afterward while Person A observes and records their own thoughts
- Post a question in a shared space and have people offer ideas or add to the question over several days
A critical step for effective problem-solving is intently listening to what others have to say, and studies show that most of our communication with each other is nonverbal. This leaves a huge window of opportunity to gather information creatively from others.
I acknowledge that I use too many words. After my experience in Europe, I plan to work on talking less, listening thoroughly, and paying attention to the silent communication from those around me. My ultimate goal is to learn to solve problems with fewer words. Wouldn’t we all like to have less talk and more action?