Do You Really Want to Know?

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“People won’t tell you how they feel until they believe you want to know.” – Sheila Heen

I am often reminded of this quote when people ask me questions. Any question that asks for my opinion or thought. These questions could fall under any category: general work, design, business, news, politics, books, media, life decisions, sports, whatever. Because many struggle to be vulnerable or live out their truly authentic values, it’s common to reply with an auto response to questions in order to brush them away. We may cover it by replying with a vague answer, a safe answer, or perhaps an answer you “think” the asker wants to hear. I am not perfect by any means and have done, and still do, this often.

Take for example the question “How are you?
Good.” —This is likely your typical response.

Or, “Where do you stand on [this] issue?
[The side that you’re on in order to block false judgements or retaliation back]” —This is an easier route to take.

Or, “Do you have ideas for [this]?”
Yes, I think it…“—But you’re interrupted by the asker and choose to just keep quiet instead. —Again, easier.

So, let’s go back and dissect Sheila Heen’s quote: “People won’t tell you how they feel until they believe you want to know.”

Until they believe“. Wow, that could take some time.

It’s a tough task to get someone to believe and trust you. Advertisers try to do this on a daily basis with the brands they are selling. But set aside advertisers, let’s look at you. Are you trustworthy? Believable?…to your employees, friends, family, colleagues? What are your true motives?

How do you get to be believable? Each scenario is different, and I don’t claim to have the answers to this, just the curiosity of exploring it. To start though, I think it comes down to having compassion, open-mindedness, and a listening ear to build this trust.

The next time someone asks you a question about your thoughts and opinions, ask yourself your own question first: Am I filtering my thoughts to plan the best answer outcome for the asker, or am I representing my true values?

How are you?


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Add Value to Your Followers

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Leaders need to add value to people, not just receive it.

John C. Maxwell emphasizes the humanization of leadership when he says that before you lead people, you must find them as a person. They need to want to get there. Maxwell explains that followers internally ask leaders three things:

  1. Do you like me? –This identifies if the leader has compassion.
  2. Can you help me? –This identifies if the leader is competent.
  3. Can I trust you? –This identifies if the leader has good character.

Adding Value is a Two-Way Street

It’s the leader’s job to add value to people, not just to receive it from them. Adding value goes both ways, so look for how you can add it back to your team. It really is common sense isn’t it–do you like being around just “takers”? No. So be diligent, and develop the self-awareness to give back, especially if you want your employees to stick around.


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Your Emotional Bank Account

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Invest into other people’s mission statements.

Forming stable relationships is important not only in life but also business. In the book The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, I like Stephen Covey’s metaphor where he describes relationships as having their own bank accounts. The greater the trust within the relationship, the greater the balance and wealthier you will be. You want to make regular payments to the account, but you should only withdraw rarely. You make payments by investing into other people’s mission statements.

This too makes me think about how hard it is to invest into others if they don’t make their mission statement be known. You should be open about sharing your goals and personal mission, vision and values so that others can help you achieve it.

In addition, it’s hard to invest in other people’s mission statement if you are only investing in yourself. Sometimes you need to step back and create an awareness of your own behavior to see if you are taking the time to also help those people helping you.


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