Up until this point, we have explored several different techniques proven to help you become a better communicator when practiced on a regular basis. This week, I am going to talk about something broader: getting to know people better. You might be wondering what this has to do with improving your communication skills. Trust me, when you learn how to make genuine connections with those around you, they will think of you as an amazing communicator!
GO FOR WALKING MEETINGS AT WORK
One of the best ways you can get to know people better is to take a walk with them. Yes, you can even do this at work! Next time you need to have a meeting with another person (or a few people), consider doing something that Steve Jobs was known for doing: go for a “walking meeting” instead of booking a conference room. If it’s a nice day, you can take the walking meeting outside, or if you’d prefer to keep it indoors, identify an area in your office building that might work well for this idea. Walking meetings take the formality out of communication and give you the freedom to not only get the work done but also to get to know someone on your team.
Peter Economy’s article 7 Powerful Reasons to Take Your Next Meeting for a Walk discusses why walking meetings are so beneficial:
Walking meetings tear down walls between management and workers
Says Western Union CEO, Hikmet Ersek—a big fan of walking meetings—”People become much more relaxed, and they talk from their hearts if you go for a walk with them. And they get to the point they want to make much more quickly.”
Is there someone at work whom you have been wanting to build a relationship with? Is there a working relationship you want to nurture because you haven’t given your energy to it in a while? Maybe it’s a coworker, employee or client whom you would like to get to know better so you can gain a deeper understanding of their goals, needs, and problems they are trying to solve. Identify who these individuals are and make a note of it on the Week 8 Communication Challenge Worksheet.
If you’re working on a project with a few other people and the team has become stuck in one area, suggest going for a walking meeting. The article points out that “walking meetings are more creative” and “researchers at Stanford University found that the creative output of people increases by an average of 60 percent when they are walking.”
Other benefits of walking meetings? Research shows that employees have more energy, are happier and become re-engaged in their work when meetings are occasionally held outside. And if you’re worried about how to keep notes during a walking meeting — don’t be! There are many free apps you can download on your smartphone that will record and transcribe your conversations so you have notes and can assign follow-ups and action items, just like you would do in a traditional conference-room meeting (for example, Otter Voice Meeting Notes or Apple Dictation).
TAKE WALKS WITH LOVED ONES
Walks can help in your personal life, too. Go for a walk with your family, neighbors or a friend. Get to know what’s going on in their lives at that moment. Keep your phone at home or in the car and focus on the person/people you’re walking with and the connection you’re making with each other.
“Walking can inspire conversation [and] improve relationships,” explains author Simon Ash in his article The Surprising Power of Going for a Walk. Think about the people who mean the most to you and block out some time to go for a walk with them. Even if it’s just 20 or 30 minutes, dedicate this time to spend with them in an effort to go deeper into a relationship with them. Try to learn something about them that you don’t already know.
Nurturing your connections is an important part of self-care — and that includes the relationship you have with yourself! Yes, you need to get to know yourself better on a regular basis, too. Going for a solo walk as often as you can has many benefits. Simon Ash writes that walking can “unlock creativity, foster mindfulness, reduce stress and increase productivity. Walking also improves physical health and overall mental wellbeing.” When you need to clear your mind, re-energize or simply slow down to hear your own thoughts, go for a walk!
Your challenge this week is to identify the people you want to get to know better, both professionally and personally, and decide on a few different ways that will help you do that. Use this week’s worksheet to map out your plan and make any notes that come to mind as you go through the challenge. In addition to taking walks, consider some of these ideas to include in your plan for the week:
Have your next 1-on-1 meeting with your employee at a coffee shop
Meet a friend at your favorite bagel shop for breakfast before work
Commit to spending time with a family member by sharing an experience together, like shopping or going through family photo albums
Set aside time to call one person you haven’t talked to in months (e.g., friend, family member, professional contact, mentor, mentee, etc.) and spend as much time as you can talking to them
My hope for you is that by the end of the week, you will have gotten to know at least one person better in your professional network and in your personal life!