Real Communication. Real Results.

Author, speaker, and coach, Betty Lochner is a passionate leader, with over 25 years of experience specializing in improving interpersonal skills, building and leading teams, training supervisors, and working with different communication styles and generations. 

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How to Improve Your Listening Skills | 5 Strategies

by Betty Lochner on May 6, 2015

Eighty-two percent of people prefer to talk to great listeners, not great speakers.
- Ten3 Global Internet Pol

Being an engaged listener is one of the most important communication skills you can have.  

Think of one person who you feel doesn’t listen to you.  How do they make you feel?

We’ve all had that experience, but are we creating that experience for others?  To take a quick listening quiz to see how you are doing.

Now, check out these 5 strategies you can practice that will improve your listening skills.

1. Slow your listening down. Take a minute to breathe and think about listening and to be aware and present. Listen from your head to your toes. Listen as if what you are hearing could change your life.

Factoid: We speak an average of 120 words per minute, but listen four times faster. Your mind fills the gap by thinking of other things and wandering off. Stay focused. Slow down your listening and listen more than you talk.

2. Pay attention. Watch out for shiny objects!

Stay focused. Don’t get distracted, but rather offer a statement of observation. For example: say, “It sounds like you’re angry” (or sad/upset/frustrated, etc.). Listen and watch for the tone of voice, body language, and facial expressions of the person you’re talking to.

3. Get clarification. Listen first, then, ask questions. Find a way to understand their story – their facts, their feelings, and their perceptions.

Say, “Tell me more,” or clarify by saying, “help me understand,” or “do you mean to say that…?”

If you still don’t understand, ask again in a different way. Sometimes you may need to ask for different words. My daughter may say something like, “the thing didn’t work and it’s just not fair!” I may have to ask her to find a different word to use for “thing” to understand what she is trying to communicate.

4. Validate the speaker.   Show some compassion for how they are feeling. 

Say things like: “It sounds like you are feeling left out,” or, “It sounds like you are feeling tired and don’t want to go.”

5. Paraphrase. Repeat in your own words what was said to make sure you understand. Try this paraphrasing technique: “What I hear you saying is…” or “So you are saying that…” And then check for understanding. Say, “Is that right?”

After listening carefully, respond genuinely. Don’t fake it. An insincere response is worse than no response. Give non-verbal communication. Use eye contact and head nods to show your concern and interest. And, here’s a tip: a response that demonstrates you really weren’t listening is not a good response.

A simple change in the way we listen will change the way we understand and how we respond. Active listening will increase the odds of success at understanding what the real issue is. This may take some practice, but you will get better at it, and it may even transform a relationship or two.

photo credit: shootinforfun.com

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Betty Lochner is the Owner of Cornerstone Coaching & Training. She specializes in personal and organizational transformation and is the author of Dancing with Strangers: Communication skills for transforming your life at work and at home.

To find out more about Cornerstone’s services and offerings visit our website:

http://www.cornerstone-ct.com

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The 5 Alarm Morning

by Betty Lochner on May 5, 2015

PennyI’m not a morning person. My husband would say that is an understatement.

I confess – I often stay up later than I should because that’s when my brain is wide awake and I feel most productive, or at least that’s my story. When I do that, it makes getting up early a challenge. So, I’ve come up with a new system for getting out of bed. I call it my 5-Alarm system. It works like this:

1) First alarm goes off.

2) 10 minutes later a second, and much louder, alarm goes off in another room.

3) Husband gets up, turns on light, TV, makes a bunch of noise and goes downstairs to let our dog, Penny, out.

4) Penny runs upstairs and barks at the side of my bed. I fling my hand over and she licks it then runs downstairs to go outside.

5) About 5 minutes later, Penny returns and barks, scratches, and jumps up until I get up and give her a treat she knows I have nearby.

 The whole process takes about 20 minutes. And it works!

Coming up with my 5-Alarm system was a way to respond to a situation that I know will happen when I stay up late. I know that going to bed earlier will solve the whole problem, but I’m also realistic in knowing from experience, and knowing myself, that I’ll choose not to do that quite frequently.

It’s that way with communication challenges too. When you do or say something that you know needs a different outcome, have a plan ready. Think about how you’ll respond.

It comes down to this simple process: If something is working for you, do more of that. If something’s not working for you, then try something else. 

Do you have a challenge you need to address? Here are some steps to help you get started:

  1. Identify the challenge. Pay attention to feedback from others.
  2. Decide you want to address the challenge.
  3. Commit to making a plan – maybe even write it down (this will greatly increase your chance of first time success).
  4. Get others involved in ideas and help implementing the plan. This will help others understand that you are trying to work on something that quite possibly is irritating or frustrating to them and makes them part of the solution.
  5. Stick to the plan. Adjust as needed.
  6. Repeat as necessary.2015-04-23 19.14.23
Coming up with a challenge/response plan can turn a communication or life challenge into a new, more positive outcome. And, you may even inspire others to work on some of their issues.
Or, in my case, inspire my husband to try to get me to stop throwing my bag down the minute I step inside the door. So far, it seems to be working…
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Betty Lochner is the Owner of Cornerstone Coaching & Training. She specializes in personal and organizational transformation and is the author of  Dancing with Strangers: Communication skills for transform your life at work and at home.  To find out more about Cornerstone’s services and offerings visit our website: http://www.cornerstone-ct.com
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Authentic Communication Starts With an Authentic Self

by Betty Lochner on April 6, 2015

I met with an organization to talk about delivering a staff training on communicating with difficult constituents.  At some point in the conversation the person organizing the event looked at my necklace and said,  “We are a very liberal organization.  Wearing a cross could makecross necklace some of our employees uncomfortable.”  My immediate, without thinking, response was, “I don’t always wear my cross.”

I’ve thought about that exchange a lot. Why didn’t I ask her what she meant? Or explain that my cross represents a part of who I am?

I’m a believer.  I’m all in.  I hope I demonstrate my Christian faith in my everyday living.  And, while I do use Christian principles in all of my work, (building relationships, showing appreciation, and gratitude, and communicating effectively  to name a few), I don’t “preach” when I teach. Those that know me well know my faith is my stronghold. But I have never been told that my faith is wrong or offensive to a general audience.  That was an eye opener for me.

The experience prompted me to take a step back do some review work on owning who I am and, when I choose to, displaying it without fear of rejection, or criticism, or even losing a job. In other words, to practice what I teach!

Discovering your authentic self can be a lot like peeling back the layers of an onion. You start with examining your outer self and how others may see you through your appearance, your body language, and your communication style.

Understanding your outer self is the first step to going deeper to really understand your inner self – who you are, what your core values are, what motivates you, and what your place in the world is. One of the resources I use in my teaching is the workbook “Understanding Your True North” by Bill George.  The book takes you through a process of self-reflection to discover your authentic self.  When we are our in sync with our authentic self,  we can learn to really communicate authentically.

Whew.  And it all started with a necklace!  Here’s what I know about me: authentic communication, building relationships, gratitude.  That’s what I teach. That’s what I do.

I eventually did get hired to do the training and I wore my necklace pictured here. It represents the cross I bear and the connection I have to the beach. Both me and part of who I am.

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Betty, Ruben and Penny Betty, Ruben and Penny

 

Betty Lochner is a communication specialist, author, and professional speaker who teaches individuals and organizations how to make small changes that make huge differences in their relationships at work and home – improving morale, confidence and productivity. She is the author of Dancing with Strangers: Communication skills for transforming your life at work and at home and 52 Communication Tips. Both are also available on Amazon.com.

 

 

 

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Public speaking is not only in the top 10 list of things people are afraid of doing, it’s #1!

The 14 Worst Human Fears

When a team of market researchers asked 3000 Americans “What are you most afraid of?” many fears were named — Speaking before a group comes in as #1

Biggest Fear (with percentage of the group that named it as their biggest fear):

1 Speaking before a group 41
2 Heights 32
3 Insects and bugs 22
3 Financial Problems 22
3 Deep water 22
6 Sickness 19
6 Death 19
8 Flying 18
9 Loneliness 14
10 Dogs 11
11 Driving/riding in a car 9
12 Darkness 8
12 Elevators 8
14 Escalators 5

So, it goes without saying, most of us  could use some tips to help us get over our fear.  Getting comfortable with what we are uncomfortable is what good communication and presentation skills are all about. .

I’ve been working with a client over the past few weeks to get her ready for an hour-long presentation for a conference (her first big presentation.)  We’ve been working on the basics, and are now working on the details that make a good presentation a great one.  The more comfortable you are with the little stuff, the less scary the experience will be.

There are some small and easy things you can do that  with your body language that will that take your presentation to the next level of excellence.

Putting it all together

Here are my top tips for using body language skills to help you deliver a great presentation.

1. Make eye contact.

People tend to pay more attention to and like people more when they look them in the eye.   So, look up and look into the eyes of your audience.  You’ll feel more connected and less nervous and they’ll stay better tuned to you.

2. Use open body language.

Open your chest and arms, and keep your back straight.  This will give you confidence and demonstrate credibility.   And, by the way, taking a minute to make your own power pose before your presentation is also good confidence builder..

3. Point.  

This is one time it is appropriate to point. Point at what you are emphasizing to draw your audience in.  Use gestures to make a point.   Point, point, point away!  Your audience will focus more on what you are saying when they see you connect it with a visual gesture.

4. Walk around.  

Don’t stand in one spot. Move around. Walk up to your audience.  Engage with them and they’ll engage right back. Relax and have fun with the group.

5. Be positive.  

And, probably the best tip of all — Smile, nod, and use open movements throughout the presentation.   A smile goes a long way to help you break through your own nervousness and show that you are approachable, interesting and fun!

Here’s to your next successful presentation!  Use the power of good body language to make it a great one!

 

Betty Lochner

 

Betty Lochner is the Owner of Cornerstone Coaching & Training. She specializes in personal and organizational transformation and is the author of  Dancing with Strangers: Communication skills for transforming your life at work and at home.  To find out more about Cornerstone’s services and offerings visit our website

 

 

 

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Train Your Brain: It’s All in a Name

by Betty Lochner on March 18, 2015

Memory TipsThis week I watched as a colleague painfully tried to avoid someone because they couldn’t remember their name. Then, she beat herself up over not remembering their name.  And, the worse part was that she didn’t get to connect with someone who she wanted to connect with.

Has that ever happened to you?  Do you suffer from the bad name rememberer syndrome?  You are not alone. Most of us find that when we meet someone we quickly forget their name. Sometimes instantly.

The power of knowing a name and using it is huge. Names are what makes a relationship personal.  It says: “Hey, I care enough to remember your name!” and, it’s great communication connector. In fact, studies show that a person’s first name is their favorite word to hear. So, it makes sense that you will more easily connect with someone, and make an stronger impact, if you remember and use their name.

Here are my top five tips to help you improve your memorization skills:

1. Tell yourself you are good at remembering names

Your brain listens to your self talk.  If  you tell it you can’t do something, then guess what?  You probably can’t.  If you tell it you can do something , then the chance of doing it goes up by about 75%.  Self talk is a powerful tool.  Use it for good.

2. Use the name as soon as you hear it.

When you meet someone repeat his or her name immediately, then use it often. When you repeat a name, you give your brain some clues that you want the information stored longer term.

Example: Nice to meet you, Betty. So, Betty, what do you do here?

3. Make up a rhyme.

Notice my clever title for this post? Rhyming makes remembering names easier by giving us clues.  Penny likes pancakes from Denny’s.  And even if she doesn’t, you’ll probably remember her name because of your cleverness.

4. Exercise your brain by people watching

You can improve your memorization skills with practice. Try this game:

Pick out someone in a crowd and study them. What are they wearing and what are they doing?  Pay attention to each detail—from their clothing to their actions and body language.

This exercise gives your brain more data to sort and store, making retrieval easier at a later date.  The longer your brain gets to process the information you are giving it, as in giving more details and specifics, the better.

5. Ask for forgiveness and move on

And here’s one last tip.  If you do forget a name, it’s okay to ask forgiveness, even if it’s someone’s name you should know. Be an authentic communicator and say “I know I’ve met you several times, but I am totally drawing a blank on your name.”  Unless they are cruel at heart, they will jump right in and help you out.  Then, use one of my earlier tips to do better next time.

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Betty Lochner is the Owner of Cornerstone Coaching & Training. She specializes in personal and organizational transformation and is the author of  Dancing with Strangers: Communication skills for transform your life at work and at home.  To find out more about Cornerstone’s services and offerings visit our website: cornerstone-ct.com

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Through My Sister’s Eyes

by Betty Lochner on March 12, 2015

This morning, as I got out of bed, I stepped on my glasses, smashing the frame and cutting my foot.  I was thrown into a mini-crisis of looking for my old pair to get me through the day.  Did I even have an old pair of glasses anymore?

I went into my office and on the bookshelf in a pile was a glasses case.  I was so pleased that I had found my old glasses so quickly.  But, as I opened the case, I realized they weren’t my old glasses.  They were my sister, Jody’s, glasses. Jody died in November and I must have put them on my shelf as I was sorting through her things. I started to put the glasses back and decided to try them on. In a strange, surreal moment I realized I could see.  I could see pretty darn well.  Not perfect, but well enough that I was sure I could drive and get through my morning.

As I got busy at work, I realized my eyes were adjusting and I could see even better as the morning went on.  Only one person even noticed I had on different glasses. I found myself thinking of Jody. Remembering her smile, her face in those cute glasses, and the funny things she said and did.

In the afternoon, I went to the vision center and they repaired my glasses.  I put Jody’s glasses back into the case and put mine on. I spent the rest of the afternoon readjusting to my glasses and thinking of the strange day I had.

I thought about how, sometimes, if we take a minute to slow down and pay attention, we may find what seems like a disaster can turn into something pretty special.

Thank you, sis.

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Betty Lochner is the Owner of Cornerstone Coaching & Training. She specializes in personal and organizational transformation and is the author of  Dancing with Strangers: Communication skills for transform your life at work and at home.  To find out more about Cornerstone’s services and offerings visit our website: cornerstone-ct.com

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