Tag: listening skills

Want to be an Amazing Networker? Stop Doing These 3 Things.

Want to be an Amazing Networker? Stop Doing These 3 Things.

Networking is a hot topic.

Recently I asked our community members to tell me about the kind of networking behaviors that drive them crazy.

Their responses were overwhelming.

It seems we've all experienced some pretty lousy networking tactics over the years, and it's time to put a stop to it. Networking takes a lot of time and energy, so don't waste yours on ineffective (and totally cringe-worthy!) tactics.

If you want to get good results from your networking efforts, stop these behaviors immediately:

1. Making it all about you.

If you spend the entire networking event talking about yourself and your needs, you've missed an opportunity to develop connections and relationships with others (which, by the way, is the actual point of networking). If the majority of your sentences start with "I" you may be making it all about you.  

Veronica Staudt shared this experience: "It was when I was sold a 'networking' event where someone I wanted to meet/hear speak was the highlight. The person never showed up to the event. In fact, the organizers then said, 'You can still speak/network with her at an after party,' which was all the way across town. Even though I was a bit perturbed, I said fine, I attended the original event and the afterparty. Once at the Afterparty, said speaker networked with people for only 30 minutes because she had to leave for another event to emcee."

Kathryn Young said, "I think the very worst is to always have your hand out for help or sales and leads but do nothing to help others. I tell my group, be of service first. Build a relationship. Networking is a long game. Play it well."


2. Forgoing basic etiquette and social skills, both in-person and online.

Networking should serve to increase your know-like-trust factor with others, but if you are rude, obnoxious, or oblivious to social cues, you'll blow it.

"It's hard when you're trying to network at an event and the person you're speaking with is missing the social cues that you'd like to wrap up the conversation. At that point, you must become much more obvious (and potentially a bit awkward) so that you can have other conversations," said Suzanne Brown

Speaker and Author Sasha Gray said, "When you're at a networking event, and some people never get up out of their seat or off their phone to actually network, you wonder who is sending them to this event, and if they are just there for the food. When I go to an event specifically for networking, I want to meet as many people as I can, make connections with as many as possible, and be able to follow up with them that week. If I never see your face, I can't do that."

"I used to help facilitate the weekly networking group for our local chamber of commerce. The most frustrating thing we ran into was a complete lack of respect for time limitations. Each person was allowed 30 seconds for an elevator pitch. I had a timer set to go off at 30 seconds, then another 10 seconds and then another 5 seconds. I had the volume turned up all the way on my phone so everyone could hear, but there were always a couple people who felt those rules never applied to them. The same thing with the 15 minute presentations. Networking isn’t just about getting your name out there. It’s also about showing due respect to others, including honoring their time," said Susan Whitehead.

Robin Oakes added, "Getting a friend request from someone whose page clearly only markets their products and you don't have any connections to that person or interest in what they are marketing. I currently have one I haven't declined yet."

Use good manners, friends. The Golden Rule is still a thing.

3. Hard-selling your products and services to people you have no relationships with and whose needs you don't know.

Sunit Suchdev shared this example: "Getting a private message in my dm inbox on Instagram when I follow someone new- they instantly send me a robotic automated message thanking me for the follow and asking if I’d like to buy their product, join their group etc etc. It’s clear that they haven’t done any research on who I am or what I do- many times the product or service they sell is the same as me. Even if I politely decline, they’ll follow up a few months later and say 'I’m just checking in to make sure you’re still good,' and they obviously still don’t know what I do. I don’t want to take the time to explain that I already have a health and wellness business or already sell essential oils because if they took a minute and learned about me they would know that.... but at the same time, if I politely say no they follow up again. It gets really annoying. I get several of these a day."

Virtual Assistant Lori Evans added, "Two days ago I was invited to a group for curvy singles. I’m neither single nor particularly curvy. I declined the invite. Today I was invited again. So I had no choice but to unfriend the person who invited me. I’ve also never spoken to this person before."

Jen Snyder gave perhaps the most poignant example of a hard sell gone wrong: "Hi! I haven’t talked to you since first grade but I see you’re fat now. Would you like to try my MLM product?"


Networking is a vital business-building skill that we all need to master. Knowing which behaviors to avoid is essential to success. We've talked a lot here about what not to do when it comes to networking. For details on what to do, click here. Then head over to our Speaking Society to talk more about networking, public speaking, and other communication skills that will grow your business or career.

Want to be an Amazing Networker? Stop Doing These 3 Things.

Put Your Spouse Ahead of Your Kids

Put Your Spouse Ahead of Your Kids

When I was first dating Ryan, he was my whole world. I thought about him all day long. I would count down the minutes until our next date or phone call. We got engaged and later married, and he was my first priority. I wanted to spend all my time with him, do nice things for him, and make sure he felt important (because he was). He did the same for me.

Then we had kids.

I knew nothing about babies. As a teenager I hadn't done much babysitting for kids younger than 3, and I was pretty young when my own sister was born, so I really had no experience with newborns or babies. To say I was a mess when our first baby arrived would be quite an understatement. I had no clue what I was doing. I felt like a disaster and a failure.

When our baby was born, my OBGYN told us that when we came for our 6-week postpartum checkup he would ask if we had gone on a Date Night during that time. He told us that was our assignment. At some point in those first 6 weeks, we needed to go on a Date Night without the baby.

I laughed at him. I really did. Date Night had never been a problem for us. In fact, almost every night was Date Night before we had a baby! 

But the truth is we struggled to get that Date Night in before that 6-week checkup. Rather, I struggled to get that Date Night in. I didn't understand the importance of making sure my husband was getting my time. I didn't realize then that I needed to purposefully position him and our marriage as my #1 priority, even over our children.

I learned my lesson when we finally went on that Date Night. It felt so good to laugh together and focus on each other. It was a huge relief to get a break from a baby crying. We reconnected, and I remembered why I love being married to him. 

Since then, Date Night has been an important part of our marriage success. Yes, there are times that the children need us, and their needs at times must come first. Yes, there are times when too many days go by between Date Nights. But, getting time alone with each other, without children, is a vital part of our marriage. We make each other our #1 priority. We have five children now, and after they all leave home one day, we'll be left with just each other. I don't want to wake up after the kids are gone and realize I don't even know my husband. I want to prioritize him every day to keep our marriage strong.

I spoke about this topic on a podcast episode with Sunit Suchdev. I'd love for you to listen in as we discuss the importance of prioritizing your marriage over kids. Click here to tune in. It's Episode 3.

Ryan and Carrie Sharpe
3 Ways You're Not Listening

3 Ways You're Not Listening

Most people assume they are good listeners. They probably don't give listening much thought at all. It just seems natural to listen, doesn't it?

Unfortunately, effective listening is rare. That's why there is so much miscommunication in the world. It's why incorrect assumptions are made. It causes fights, conflict, and anger. If you think you're a good listener, it's easy to tell if you're right.

If you do any of the following, you might not be listening as well as you could be:

1. You formulate your response while the other person is talking. It's impossible to truly listen to what is being said if you are doing that. You'll miss vital details, and you won't be in tune to the other person's verbal cues. If you find yourself thinking while someone else is talking, shift your focus to the speaker. Don't worry about what you'll say next. Simply listen. You'll have plenty of time to think and decide what to say when the other person is finished.

2. You interrupt. If you finish other people's sentences or jut in to share your own stories, you can't possibly be listening. Interrupting is frustrating to the other person, and that person will stop truly sharing. It sends the message that your ideas are more important. Instead, bite your tongue. Wait until the other person is totally finished speaking before you say anything. You will have plenty of time to share your thoughts when the other person is finished.

3. Your cell phone is your priority. For the love of God, put down that darn phone. Nothing shows disrespect quite like staring at a screen while someone is talking to you. Shut off the ringer, and refuse to look at it. Even checking a message or answering a text is a clear indicator that you are not truly listening to the other person. No one can multi-task like that, and it's rude anyway. Your phone can wait.

If any of those ring true for you, it's never to late to change your habits and hone your listening skills. Pay attention to it and make necessary changes. It's worth it because effective listening shows you care and ensures that you'll truly hear other people.


Two Ears But Only One Mouth

Two Ears But Only One Mouth

Would you like to know the secret to becoming the most amazing conversationalist EVER?

LISTEN to the other person with genuine interest.

Most people enjoy talking about themselves (myself included!), but most people don't get to do that very often. They are swamped with work, kids, problems at home, and financial issues. Their usual conversations revolve around those topics, so they don't usually get a chance to discuss their interests, hobbies, or what is on their heart. If you take a genuine interest in those things and actively listen to what they have to say, you will be a great conversationalist and friend.

When I was younger, I mistakenly assumed that the way to have a lot of friends or be an interesting person was to impress everyone with myself and my accomplishments. It didn't take long to realize that most people do not care about that stuff. What they do care about is being heard. I learned to talk about myself less and ask more questions about the other person. I have been amazed by how easy it is to make friends and have great conversations when I turn my focus to the other person.

Quite honestly, this shift is not difficult! I truly like people and finding out more about them. It is astonishing how gifted and talented other people are. Everyone has some hidden talent that they love to discuss if asked! It's amazing to hear other people's experiences... some people have sure overcome some adversity in their lives! Others have achieved huge successes that surprise me and make me so glad I asked! I have found that I have something in common with everybody, and there is some way for us to connect no matter who I'm talking to. Other people are INTERESTING! Each one was hand-crafted by God; no wonder they are so fascinating!

Someone once pointed out that humans have two ears but only one mouth, and we should listen and speak in that proportion. Makes sense, doesn't it?!

By listening more, it's easier to understand why people are the way they are. When I know where they've been in their lives I can empathize with their struggles and offer encouragement when appropriate. By listening more, I can network more effectively. For example, by talking to a woman recently I discovered she was a retired artist who loved to create business logos just for fun now. I have a friend who popped into my mind who could benefit from her service and I was able to connect the two. Everyone excels at something and it's an awesome challenge to discover what it is and encourage them on their journey!

So the moral of this story is that the best way to be a friend is to listen more and be genuinely interested in the other person. The saying goes, "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." Care enough to ask questions and learn about someone else. That is more impressive to someone else than all the accolades on your resume!
Active Listening: 4 Ways to Really Hear Your Spouse

Active Listening: 4 Ways to Really Hear Your Spouse

When we think about communication, talking is what generally comes to mind. Talking, however, is only one component of effective communication. Active listening is another, and it's just as important as talking. In a marriage, it's absolutely vital. This type of listening is not passive; rather, it takes purposeful effort.

Unfortunately, most of us have quite poor listening skills. We tend to monopolize conversations rather than putting the other person first. We usually listen to hear what we want to hear, or we listen in order to formulate a response. These behaviors are deadly sins in the context of good marriage communication. Listening makes the other person feel important and respected, while lack of listening makes the other person feel unimportant, trampled, and ignored.

If your goal is to improve your listening skills and really hear what your spouse has to say, here are four ways to do that:

1. Zone in on your spouse. First, remove distractions. Shut off the TV and phone, have the kids go in another room, and put away work. Next, make good eye contact by looking directly at your spouse. Don't look at the floor, squirm in your seat, or look elsewhere. Finally, don't interrupt. Allow your spouse all the time necessary to tell an entire story. Don't finish your spouse's sentences or correct him/her. Be patient until it is your turn to speak, and don't daydream about what you plan to say next. Simply listen.

2. Use appropriate body language. To begin, uncross your arms. Crossed arms automatically make it seem like you are annoyed or defensive. Rather, sit forward to show interest and keep your hands in your lap. Your goal is to make your spouse feel comfortable. To that end, it's also a good idea to mentally check your face. If you are scowling or frowning, relax your face so your spouse will feel at ease. Next, stop talking. It is impossible to listen while simultaneously speaking. We have two ears and one mouth, and they should be utilized in that proportion. Finally, occasionally nod in understanding. This nonverbal cue lets your spouse know that you understand what he/she is saying and that you are interested in hearing more.

3. Interact and respond. First, make sure your spouse is truly finished speaking before responding. The worst thing you can do is jump in the moment your spouse pauses to take a breath. A good rule of thumb is to wait several seconds to be sure he/she is done. Next, ask a few questions that come to mind about what your spouse was saying. Ask for clarification on anything you weren't sure about. Don't assume anything-- ask instead. Finally, show your spouse you were listening by rephrasing and summarizing some of what was said. One way to do that is to say, "It sounds like you are saying... xyz." Your spouse will either nod in agreement at that point or will clarify the parts you did not understand.

4. Handle it well. Sometimes the hardest part of communication is handling what we hear. We may not agree with something, we may feel offended, or we may get angry. It is important in marriage communication not to attack your spouse. Instead, try to see things from your spouse's point of view. Just because you disagree does not mean that you cannot try to understand things from your spouse's perspective. Rather than attacking or reacting emotionally, say something like, "I'll have to take some time to consider that." That shows your spouse that you have been listening and that you care enough to think more about what they have said. Even if you never agree on a particular issue, that does not mean that you have to fight or argue about it. Rarely do two people agree on everything, even when they love each other. This can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you choose to handle it. Handling it well will ensure that your spouse feels safe enough to share with you in the future. If you attack every time you disagree, your spouse may eventually stop sharing.

These four steps to better listening skills are a good start toward making your spouse feel loved and heard. Listening shows you care. Practice what you've learned here, and you'll be well on your way toward better communication.