Momentum Podcast: 74

Making Sure You Are Heard

by Alex Charfen

Episode Description

George Bernard Shaw said The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. As a consultant, I saw first hand when he meant. It was shocking how often meetings were held, things were communicated, people thought they had a meeting of the minds, only for everyone to pull in different directions. This was in Fortune 500 companies with established communication Systems and structures. 

In entrepreneurial companies, it is much worse. Entrepreneurs are notoriously challenged to be good communicators. Our excitement is often taken for aggression, our confusion is often seen as irritation, are need to ask questions can often be seen as insulting. I have watched some of the wealthiest people in the world in each of these situations.If they can happen to them, it can happen to you.

Even though I am a speaker and I'm able to record a podcast like this, I am often misunderstood one-on-one and have a difficult time being heard.As a result, I obsessed over the processes and strategies I can use it to improve my communication. This is one of the most important I have.

Full Audio Transcript

I'm Alex Charfen, and this is the Momentum Podcast, made for empire builders, game changers, trailblazers, shot takers, record breakers, world makers, and creators of all kinds, those among us who can't turn it off and don't know why anyone would want to. We challenge complacency, destroy apathy, and we are obsessed with creating momentum, so we can roll over bureaucracy and make our greatest contribution. Sure, we pay attention to their rules, but only so that we can bend them, break them, and then rewrite them around our own will.

We don't accept our destiny. We define it. We don't understand defeat, because you only lose if you stop, and we don't know how. While the rest of the world strives for average and clings desperately to the status quo, we are the minority, the few who are willing to hallucinate there could be a better future, and, instead of just daydreaming of what could be, we endure the vulnerability and exposure it takes to make it real. We are the evolutionary hunters, clearly the most important people in the world, because entrepreneurs are the only source of consistent positive human evolution, and we always will be.

Welcome to the Momentum Podcast. This episode is called "Making Sure You Are Heard." I love this quote by George Bernard Shaw. He said, "The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place." I think this is so true. I want to give you a strategy that has helped me get past that illusion that communication takes place and be heard an extraordinary percentage of the time, and be able to communicate in a way where I've built teams. I've created massive margins and movements that have changed industries, I think, in part, because when I practice this, I am heard.

Now, here's the challenge for most entrepreneurs. I worked in Fortune 500 companies. They have established communications systems. They have processes. Even in those companies, I used to watch meetings where everyone thought that there was some type of consensus, some type of an agreement. Then, they would leave the meeting and all pull in different directions. This would happen constantly. This was in Fortune 500 companies with a system. Entrepreneurs are notoriously challenged to be good communicators.

I'm the same. I have a hard time getting heard one-on-one. I have my whole career. I've been misinterpreted, just like many of you. Think, how often has your excitement been taken for aggression, or your confusion seen as irritation, or your need to ask more questions seen as being insulting or frustrating for someone.

I've watched some of the wealthiest people in the world in each of those situations. I've watched them deal with those challenges. If it can happen to them, it can happen to you, and it happens to me. I've had to adopt strategies and tactics that actually help me be a better communicator, because I want to be heard most of the time.

One of the biggest challenges we face, as entrepreneurs, is that we communicate, and we don't get what we want. I hear from entrepreneurs constantly, and it doesn't take long to be around a group of people like us, and you hear a conversation that sounds something like, "Oh, I have to keep telling my staff the same thing over and over again," or, "I had to have the same conversation with my GM."

Well, guys, when we're communicating more than once, when we're communicating more often than we feel like we need to, it's because we weren't heard in the first place. As an entrepreneur, I know a lot of you are gifted communicators. A lot of people who listen to me are gifted copywriters and gifted marketers and incredible speakers and authors. However, most of them are challenged in interpersonal communication, in just the one-on-one, in being heard, in being misinterpreted, in having people be afraid of them.

I have some of the nicest clients in the world, and their teams are terrified of them. If you are one of those people that has this happen to you, then I have a strategy for you. I've studied psychology extensively, and, oh, there's so much about that entire world, psychology and psychiatry, that I can't stand, the labeling of people and the pharmaceutical industry, how it is today, and so much, but every once in a while, there's a diamond in the rough. I think one of those is John Gottman. He's written a bunch of books on communication. Now, they're marriage books, but they are incredible books to read to be a better communicator in a business.

Now, this is going to expose me as the guy who read marriage books, because there's been times where ... Cadey and I have been married 14 years, 13 ... We've been married a long time. I'm going to get in so much trouble for this, but there's been times, like the one that might happen soon after this, where we've had challenges. I've read marriage books. We've bought marriage products. Marriages are not easy. They're worth it, but they're not easy.

One of the series of books I've turned to is John Gottman, because Gottman's different than most people in psychology or psychiatry. He actually breaks conversations down. He looks at data. He studies people obsessively. He looks at them in their natural environment. He listens to how conversations deteriorate. He can predict what will happen next in a conversation. Guys, I'm talking about all of that in the context of marriage, but it's also in the context of your business.

I've read, I think, all of Gottman's books, and his strategies are just incredible, and the way he explains them really helps you change the way that you react in conversation, especially in your marriage. One of the strategies is about how other people react to you in conversation. It's called the five-to-one rule. If you want to make sure that you're heard, then there has to be contrast in your conversation with people. There has to be contrast in what they hear from you. H

ere's one of the biggest challenges for entrepreneurs. Most of the time, what we're doing when we're communicating with our teams, is we are correcting or changing or imposing something. This is not how it should be, and it's not how it has to be. Here's the problem. If you're always correcting, changing, or imposing something, it's hard to tell what's important. If that's all they hear from you, there's no contrast in the relationship, and it's difficult for them to hear you, but it's also all they hear from you.

When human beings just hear negative--now, this is in a business or in a marriage--they tend to start feeling negatively about the relationship, it breaks down trust, and it makes things really hard, because people don't hear you. In a marriage, it's five positive to one corrective comment. I think in managing people and working on a team, it's five positive to one corrective or directive comment. Every time you tell someone to do something, it's a little bit corrective. If you do this in a business, it changes everything.

I'll tell you a quick story about a client I had, who was terrified of the five-to-one rule. I shared this in a conference or in a small group seminar that I did in 2011 or '12. One of our clients, a long-time client, was in the room, and I shared the five-to-one rule. I said you have to have five positive for each corrective exchange, each time you direct or correct someone. She said, "Oh my gosh, if you told them that much positive, they would stop trying. They'd stop working. They'd stop trying to do anything. You're just telling them they're doing the right thing all the time."

That is the saddest way to look at things, because it's us internalizing that if we tell somebody they're doing well, that they're going to stop, and that means that we've got the wrong people around us. When she said that, I had to slow her down and walk her through the fact that what she was saying was that if she treated the people around her positively, they would have a negative result. I had to explain to her that in my entire career, I had never seen people in communication treat people more positively and get a negative result. It just doesn't happen.

Now, I've seen people treat people positively and have the people quit, because they couldn't deal with having somebody be positive. There's some people that like to be around negative people, but when you treat people positively, you get a positive result. We talked through it in front of a group of people, and she committed to going back and trying to do the five-to-one rule. I told her, in her case, "I don't normally have entrepreneurs write hash marks, but I think you're going to have to, because I don't know when the last time you told anybody something positive was. You're going to have to really keep yourself accountable to this."

She did, and she called us three days later and said, "You're not going to believe this, but my team just pulled me in a conference room and asked me if I was dying, because they didn't know why I was being so positive."

We said, "Are you doing the five-to-one rule?"

She said, "I think I'm doing about two-to-one."

We just told her, "Hey, this is how it's going to feel. They've dealt with negative for a long time. They're probably shocked. Explain to them that we talked to you about communication and telling people what you liked, along with what you wanted changed, so that they would understand what was really going on, and that you didn't want to be seen as somebody who was just negative."

She did. She went back to her team and explained it to them. She had kind of said something like that right when they asked her if she was dying, and then she called us to see how to handle it. She just explained to them what was going on and how she felt about them and that she didn't think negatively about them.

Let's be honest. What those things are, are childhood patterns that we have, where we didn't hear enough positive, or we didn't know how to communicate positive, or it wasn't given to us, or we don't know what it feels like to receive positive reinforcement, because in near 100% of cases, you get a more positive result. When she went back to her team and communicated with them, and they understood what she was doing--and we worked with her on a lot of other things, on a communication structure and a cadence, like I talked about in the last podcast, and being more predictable with her team, and words didn't come from on high, and all the things that we work with our private clients on--and her business more than doubled. It was in real estate, in a territory where she already had most of the business. She was already a top agent. It's just this small change in being heard.

Now, if you want to see where this will affect ... That's where it will affect your business, that type of behavior with your team. Let me make it easy, because I want to tell you where it's going to change your life is with your marriage and your kids, but for your business, here's what you should do. Find people doing the right thing, and let them know, "Hey, this is exactly what I want you to do. Thank you. This is what I'm expecting from you." When they hear that, they lean into the places that you highlight, and that's what you want. Find them doing the right thing, and then tell them about it.

Set up places where you can get leveraged accolade. You want people to hear what they're doing right in your company. We have a daily huddle, and we have a section called, Who Got Caught Being Awesome? We all share who did something that was great, and that lets people be recognized. I want them to hear that positive.

One of the things you should do if you have people working with you is get excited when they're excited. Excited people are in momentum. People in momentum create massive outcomes. If your team's excited, you get excited with them and figure out why they're excited and lean in and be there with them, because that changes the way they look at you, as an entrepreneur, and it changes that they'll actually start hearing you.

Now, this is going to make you a ton of money if you have a team. If you don't, this is going to be a game changer for you with the people that you do bring on, the contractors, the people who are helping you. If it's a family member, this may save the relationship with the family member, because we get so hyper-focused, we forget to tell people the positive. We get so hyper-focused. We think so hard or so clearly around the outcome that we don't think about the process, and we don't tell people they're doing the process right. As a result, we end up having to communicate way more than we want to about things we don't really want to talk about over and over.

One of the places where this happens is in a marriage. We can get to a place in a marriage, where all we do is tell our spouse what we think they should change or what we think they should do different or something we need them to do. If you don't create contrast with how things are getting done or where you're winning, then you're going to have a really hard time in being heard in the marriage. We all know ... Every entrepreneur just needs to give it up and admit that the most important relationship in their lives is their spouse, and the relationship with their spouse dictates success in momentum in all other areas of our lives. That's a place where we should be really cautious and make sure that we add a little bit more effort, and that we do.

Make sure we're telling our spouse positive things. We're celebrating wins that we have together. We're talking about where we're achieving goals, moving forward, what successes there are. Otherwise, you get into this place where the marriage doesn't have the five-to-one, and it's just on the other side. Guys, I've watched it my whole life, and it's always shocking. It's jarring, because I've had friends that say things like, "After nine years, we just realized we were just too good of friends. We were like roommates."

You think, "What does that even mean? Where did that start? What was the genesis of that? You guys used to be in love, and we knew you when we were at your wedding. I've watched that whole road so many times," or it's, "There was just too many differences. We couldn't overcome how often we were not getting along around" whatever it is. What's the genesis of that? Where did that begin? Where did that feeling of, hey, I'm not going to be able to fix this, begin?

In my experience, that feeling is from day after day after day of having nothing but what feels like negative conversation with your spouse. That's why we talk about spouses nagging, and how it's kind of like a comedy line in a lot of TV shows, and there's always a character that's like that. It's because it happens, because it gets to the place where all our communication is negative. One of the places ... If you just start focusing on improving the communication in your marriage, your business will get better. Apply the five-to-one rule. Tell your spouse what they're doing right. Celebrate wins with them. Let them know what's going right for you.

We don't do enough of this, and they don't ... We have to offset positive with our spouse. I was just going to say, the other place is with your kids. Man, this one's so important, because I've watched, and you can go out to dinner and watch people talking to kids, and for an entire hour dinner, all they do is say corrective things to the kids. They don't have a conversation with the kids. They're just telling them, "Hey, sit down," and, "Stop wiggling," and, "Stop throwing food on the floor," and stop doing this and stop ... but there's no conversation, and so the kid's just hearing negative. There's no contrast. They don't know whether they should or they shouldn't.

It's like, if you just yell at a dog, the dog's still going to pee on the floor, because it's going to get yelled at anyway. With kids, they have such little attention span that if it sounds like the same thing three times in a row, do you really think they're listening to figure out what you're saying? There's a reason why kids do things over and over and over again. They just get corrected constantly, and Gottman will tell you, it mutes out the detail of the conversation for most people. Imagine what it does for kids.

This is a game changer. If you go to your business and start looking for opportunity to tell your team where they're doing something right, if you do it in front of the rest of the team, when you're on a huddle and when you're in team meetings, and get excited when your team's excited, and make sure that, in your marriage, you're thinking about how often are you sharing wins, being positive, sharing gratitude with your spouse, telling them what you're grateful for, you telling the other thing, that rewires your neurology. It's not just a gimmick.

With your kids, start giving them contrast by letting them know when they're doing the right thing, when you're excited about what they're doing, when you're appreciative about what they're doing, and then they'll hear you more often. Gottman is a genius. You guys should check him out, and use the five-to-one rule, five positive to one corrective, to make sure that you are heard.

Thanks for being here with me tonight. We just hit over 62,000 downloads on the podcast. It's super awesome and inspiring. I want to thank you, as a listener, for helping us get the word out there, for sharing these with your friends, for telling people about the Momentum Podcast. This has been one of the most fun projects I've ever had in my life, and if you could take a minute now and subscribe, that would be awesome. Leave us a review on iTunes, and, if you haven't yet, download my book, The Entrepreneurial Personality Type. It will tell you more about yourself than anyone ever has. Go to

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