Search Results for: empathetic
I love Monday – one of my favorite days of he week.
Today, we are doing a down and dirty lesson on empathetic listening or a fancy way of saying – pay attention. Empathetic listen is active listening or seeking first to understand and then to be understood. The goal being two-fold – listen on an emotional level as well as a cognitive level. In other words you aim to get a sense of how they feel and what they are thinking. And, remember empathy is not sympathy. Empathy speaks from experience; sympathy is there in support of.
When communicating with any one of your apartment residents over any issue, good or bad, use the following two questions to go deeper. If they are in your office complaining about a leaky faucet for the third time this week [and, presupposing you have experienced a persistent leaking faucet in your lifetime], stop and listen. Once they are done talking ask, “how does that make you feel. Or, suggest, “I can imagine that makes feel very frustrated or angry.
It seems obvious but many times, in our haste to get the cranky people out of our office, we don’t take time to validate their feelings. Guess what, that makes a person even more frustrated or angry. All that most people are after is an outlet to vent their anger, frustration or the such and they want the problem fixed. That is where the second question comes in. It is more cognitive in nature.
At the end of understanding their emotion; repeat the reason for the anger or frustration; “I see Mr. Ineedamyfaucetfixed; this is the third time this week you have been in to report your leaky faucet. Our service person has been over two times and still you have a leaky faucet. It bugs you because you are a light sleeper and the persistent drip against the aluminum sink keeps you up. And, you don’t think you should have to put a cup or a rag under the drip to soften the sound. You just want it fixed.”
Your – seeking first to understand – multifamily maniac,
This true story below shared by Sharon Cauthen.
“A single mother recently fell ill and went to Urgent Care with a sore throat, headache, and a fever of 101.5 degrees. The busy doctor ran covid & flu tests (both negative), looked at her throat, and said, “Your throat looks fine so that’s not bothering you, right?” The patient replied, “Yes. It is very painful, so much so that swallowing is difficult. It’s why I came in.” The doctor sent her home with instructions to take Tylenol for the fever.
After a very pain-filled night, she felt much worse. So much so that driving felt almost impossible, so she tried her tele-med option. That doctor said, “I’m sorry but I can’t see your throat well enough to make a diagnosis. Call back if you need anything else.” and the call ended. Again, she crawled into bed feeling defeated – in tears and in pain – not sure what to do next.
Later that day, she went back to the same Urgent Care. She could barely sit up and curled into the fetal position on the exam table. A different and very kind doctor took one look at her, listened to her story, and said, “I can see that you are very sick and in obvious pain and we are going to figure it out and help you get better.” Tears streamed down her fever-reddened face. A positive strep test, a steroid shot, and a strong antibiotic later — She started the road to recovery. But before the shot and antibiotics ever entered her body, she could feel the relief of having been heard – at last.”
It is not my goal that this conversation devolves into a healthcare system argument. Because this isn’t about politics, insurance, access to healthcare, or over-capacity medical staff. Those are important topics for another day. At its core, this story represents a simple failure to listen.
Over the last several years (and in all its iterations), the Multifamily Collective has been ringing the bell on the topic of human-centricity. The need to see, hear and understand the people who work with us. Team members are people first with all the multifaceted needs that come with the species. If you live and breathe a human-centric culture, you will inevitably experience a team member exhibiting the hallmarks of distress.
The thing that people in pain, be it emotional or physical, need more than anything is for someone to listen and validate that what they are experiencing is real and acknowledge that it is hard. Being an empathetic listener is key to helping someone feel heard.
The ability to listen is a superpower that each of us can improve with dedicated practice.
I encourage you to do the work and to develop your skills in how you engage in empathetic listening – not just hearing but truly seeking to understand. I am guilty, too, of being distracted by a full calendar and other pressing issues but how I engage with a person in distress in front of me is one of the most important measures of my humanity and my leadership.
Do you have tips that help you remember to listen intently with compassion before offering a response? Please share them with us!
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Just Shut UP
Mark Twain was a man of many (often acerbic) words. One of Twain’s quotes that resonates for me today is, “Never miss an opportunity to shut up.” It is hard to overstate how important those seven words are to the success of people in leadership positions and to the business outcomes for an organization.
Too often, leaders are great at pontificating and speech-making but absolutely awful at listening. In Tom Peter’s book; Excellence Now: Extreme Humanism, he cites a startling statistic: on average, doctors interrupt patients after just 18 seconds, cutting them off – a wound made worse by its frequency.
I don’t think it is too much of a stretch to acknowledge that this same leadership behavior occurs across our industry as well. These doctors and business leaders typically have packed schedules and big demands on their time and therefore feel justified in moving the conversation along to a rapid end. “I don’t have time for a long-winded conversation…” On the one hand, that position is understandable. But, on the other, time invested in intentional listening pays unexpected dividends in psychological safety, feelings of compassion, and trust.
Listening is hard work. Reflecting back to my thoughts on this topic in a prior post, hearing and listening are two different things. Intentional empathetic listening is one of the most powerful tools in the leader’s arsenal.
Listen with Intention…
I encourage you to develop your active listening skills. Engage with others with intention. Listen carefully for what is said, what is unsaid, and to the body language of the speaker. When you do speak, use the time to reflect back and confirm what was said. Ask questions that probe for more information. Resist the urge to give a quick answer to “solve the problem” because those rapid responses may move the conversation to a premature end and worse, they send a message to the speaker that your primary motive is to shut them up. The fallout is a disillusioned employee who learns not to raise their hand or speak out, and whose belief in the culture of the company is damaged.
It takes less time than you think to engage in empathetic listening. One study showed that doctors of oncology, whose practices are filled with patients engaged in the fight of their lives against cancer, spent just 33 seconds directly engaged in compassion and empathy with their patients. Those doctors and patients had better relationships. The patients felt heard and their struggle validated. It didn’t require an extraordinary investment of time on the doctor’s part – just over half a minute – to ensure the patient’s safety and trust in the relationship. Patients who feel safe and heard are more likely to share sensitive information which is crucial to better outcomes.
The same is true in the multifamily space. Imagine the benefits for those leaders who actively make time and space to genuinely listen.
Ultimately, connecting through active empathetic intentional listening comes down to recognizing the humanity of the person in front of you. When you acknowledge that each of us share the familiar burdens of life, of love, of loss, and more, then the things we have in common become far greater than the things that separate us. Much of what separates people is artificial – it’s man-made. When you embrace the truth of our shared humanity, listening becomes less of a burden and more of a gift.
Do you have just 2-3 minutes to build relationship? The time it takes you to walk down the hall and catch the elevator? Even that span of time is enough to send the message, “You are important to me, and I want to hear what you have to say.”
Everyone needs to feel heard. If you don’t take the time to build relationships through active listening, then the quality of your connectedness will degrade. It should come with little surprise then when your trusted employee decides to go somewhere else to be heard.
I know this to be true. When others have something on their minds/hearts to share, then my job is to just shut up and listen.
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TheHamilton Mausoleum is located in Hamilton, South Lanarkshire, Scotland. It was the resting place of the family of the Dukes of Hamilton. A place of ethereal beauty, its massive dome and high stone once held the record for the longest echo within any man-made structure in the world, taking 15 seconds for the sound of a slammed door to fade. The record was broken in 2014 at the somewhat less notable Inchindown oil storage tanks in the Scottish Highlands when an official fired a pistol blank inside one of the tanks and the sound reverberated for 112 seconds!
Fascinating! But neither of these historic echo chambers holds a candle to the ones we find ourselves trapped in these days. Contemporarily speaking, an echo chamber is defined as an environment in which a person encounters only beliefs or opinions that coincide with their own so their existing views are reinforced, and alternative ideas are not considered. Google any current hot topic – religion, politics, climate change, or social justice and in the blink of an algorithm you are likely to find yourself in the company of people with like-minded views without any particular effort on your part – thereby reinforcing the rightness of your opinions.
How does that affect your relationships at work? When you hire, coach, mentor, discipline, and even exit employees? Without serious effort, it is possible, even probable, that you may find yourself more drawn to people who are aligned with your personal worldviews and somewhat distrustful of those who aren’t.
As businesses work to intentionally attract and retain a more diverse and inclusive workforce, it is essential that we examine the pitfalls inherent in our personal biases.
Genuine curiosity is key. Encouraging curiosity across the workplace often results in more creativity and better business outcomes. Curiosity is also associated with less defensive reactions to stress. It can encourage people to understand each other’s perspectives and to take an interest in other’s ideas. Try this – when engaging in conversation, don’t come with a list of points you want to make but rather with things you want to learn.
In such divisive times as these when the work of inclusion is more important than ever, healing begins with empathetic listening. Listening – deeply listening – is a vastly underrated life and leadership skill. Listening is hard work, made harder still in a world where our attention is fractured by constantly competing demands. Like any skill, it can be learned and improved upon with practice.
I close with something wise that Bryant McGill had to say on both these topics:
“Curiosity is one of the great secrets of happiness.” and “One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.”
Our guest post today comes to us from Lisa Zagoren, property manager at Oak Park Apartments – managed by Mills Properties in St. Louis Missouri. Lisa also serves as a blogger at Real Life STL, a blog focused around über cool neighborhood-centric conversation.
In my travels as a property manager, I’ve come across some really crazy, bizarre, funny, sad (you get the picture) things. I read a blog post the other day that reminded me of how $5 could cost you a resident, which in turn costs you thousands in vacancy, make ready expense, advertising, etc., which brings me to this post….The Apartments Doormat.
I have a crazy, over-the-top, insane property consisting of 756 units. My resident services side team deals with a lot of negativity on a daily basis. As you can imagine, it’s hard to keep them positive at times, when everyone around them is so negative. They get called names (really bad names that I can’t put in this post). They get threatened. They get spat at.
Do You Care
I had a resident give the resident services team her notice to vacate last week. During the resident’s tenancy, her doormat was stolen not once, but three times. When she came to the office to inform us, we were apparently not that empathetic to her situation. We basically stated, sorry, there is nothing we can do.
According to my resident, there were things we could have done. We could have been empathetic; “I am so sorry that this happened to you Ms. Jones. Is there anything you can think of that we can do to try to prevent this from happening again”? My resident also stated in her letter, why did we not put a notice in the hallway stating someone is stealing doormats and to call management if they know who is doing this or just keep an eye out for each other in the building, because we put notices in the hallway for everything else. Everything that’s important to management, but not necessarily important to the residents.
Lesson learned. Had I known of my residents situation, I probably would have bought her a new door mat ($10), apologized empathetically, and would have saved a notice to vacate that I had no idea I would get over stolen doormats.
I know my resident services team deals with a lot of negativity and stress on a daily basis. I get that. I just need to constantly remind them of the “one” resident that is not like that and they need to be treated with respect and be empathetic when they have an issue that is serious to them.
We all need to be cognitive of how the day-to-day stressors can affect us. This one notice will cost me thousands in vacancy, turn over expense, advertising, etc.
Your property manager point of view for the day….