When I first began my career as a recruitment consultant, it was a struggle to differentiate myself from other consultants in my space. I remember feeling one-dimensional; whether this was because I was using the same pre-rehearsed questions, my lack of subject matter expertise, or even my tone of voice, the result was the same. People weren’t interested in listening to what I had to say.
Could I blame them? How many calls, emails, texts and direct messages would they receive from other recruiters selling the world?
Irrespective of the communication channel, I wanted my exchanges with active and passive candidates to be engaging. I’m a curious person by nature and I enjoy learning from other people’s experiences (I’m a reflector). However, that wasn’t coming across in my interactions. Within certain ideological frameworks, there is a belief that businesses or individuals, who focus their purpose beyond mere profit are vital for inspiring, engaging and energising stakeholders (who, in this instance, are candidates).
Through the lens of Emotional Intelligence, I walk you through the theoretical framework I used to transform what was one of my weakest attributes into a valuable asset in driving engagement with my network.
Seek First to Understand, Then To Be Understood
Derived from Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, these habits highlight the importance of relatability. Often, people try to get their point across without explaining or conveying why. When you approach communication without this critical consideration, you tend only to listen selectively, and consequently fail to hear the other person’s perspective. As humans, we filter through our own experiences and frames of reference, which, if left unchecked, can lead to a premature evaluation of what a person means before he/she has even finished communicating. The effect, in my case, candidates felt less engaged and more like a product than a participant, which ultimately undermined my ability to influence – a critical component in candidate process management.
To ensure that the conversation feels organic and that your point-of-view is acknowledged, an effective way of communicating would be:
- Evaluate: Listen and determine whether you agree or disagree with their rationale
- Probe: Ask further questions to reaffirm and compare with your objective
- Consult: Provide counsel to provide a solution to the situation
- Interpret & Action: Analyse other’s behaviors and experience to serve as the basis of your own experience
In short, your influence will be at its strongest when you understand where the other person is coming from.
The level at which you listen has a significant impact on the success of the interaction. The levels are as follows:
- Ignoring: Not listening to the person (don’t do this)
- Pretend Listening: Adding “ums” and “ahs” without providing any meaningful responses
- Selective Listening: Waiting to hear a specific phrase or answer while ignoring all of the noise in between
- Attentive Listening: Giving your full attention to the conversation
- Empathic Listening: Giving your full attention AND being able to understand another person’s situation or perspective
In this instance, in the fifth level, empathetic listening has the most significant impact. This is defined as the ability to discern another person’s thoughts and feelings with accuracy and intuition. Empathic listening allows someone to understand another person’s situation and therefore, offers better consultation.
Though there are three types of empathy, the objective is the same – to be able to understand or feel what another person experiences from their frame of reference.
It is imperative to talk less and listen more while acknowledging what the person is saying to better position your line of questioning.
Feel, Felt, Found
An extension of empathic listening, being able to draw comparisons from what other people are saying can make your points come across more objectively.
In principle, the Feel, Felt, Found (FFF) method can be broken up into three sections:
- “I understand how you feel,” empathizing with how they feel
- “Initially, person X felt the same way,” highlighting how someone else felt
- “What they found was,” an objective solution to solve their concerns
Using real-life case studies reaffirms the information you have presented. The FFF model works so well because the focus is shifted away from you to a more objective place while validating the person’s feelings. Therefore, this makes it more likely for trust to be established. This is also a chance to showcase subject matter expertise to build your credibility.
Self Determination Theory
Self Determination Theory – the world’s leading model for understanding human motivation – defines three basic needs to drive personal fulfillment, well-being and success. These are mastery, autonomy and relatedness. Once these constructs are understood, your ability to exert influence (in and out of work) becomes significantly easier. How? By understanding what truly motivates people – and to what extent their core needs are being fulfilled and supported – you can tailor your approach accordingly. Of course, this is impossible to do without the ability to listen empathically.
To conclude, emotional intelligence is an essential tool to have in your arsenal to drive engagement and meaningful interactions in your work life and personal life. It also can be a massive differentiator for you!
- Covey, S.R., 2014. The 7 habits of highly effective families. St. Martin’s Press.
- Cialdini, R.B. and Cialdini, R.B., 2007. Influence: The psychology of persuasion (pp. 173-174). New York: Collins.
- Bellet, P.S. and Maloney, M.J., 1991. The importance of empathy as an interviewing skill in medicine. Jama, 266(13), pp.1831-1832.
- Mackey, J. and Sisodia, R., 2014. Conscious capitalism, with a new preface by the authors: Liberating the heroic spirit of business. Harvard Business Review Press.