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Sharon Steed - Empathetic communication: why vulnerability is the key to collaboration

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    Hi, everyone.
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    This talk is about communication.
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    First thing, I stutter.
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    I've stuttered since I was 3 years old.
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    Around this age. I know, I'm adorable.
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    It's okay. You can tell me. [Laughter]
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    Stuttering has shaped how I communicate
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    since I was that person right there.
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    I began stuttering when I was 3 years old.
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    I was talking to my parents about it
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    and they said they weren't that concerned
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    because many kids stutter at that age and
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    they grow out of there when they're 5, 6.
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    I had cousins who stuttered, my brother,
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    my parents, they grew out of theirs when
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    they were 17. People thought, it's a thing
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    that happens but it'll go away on its own
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    and that will be the end of that.
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    Well, I'm 32, and it's still here.
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    I guess it's just here to stay.
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    A person who stutters develops coping tools.
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    So I did pretty much so many things, that I did.
    That were kind of odd work because of my stuttering.
    So I would try to conceal it I'd say things kind of I would try to just stay away from situations where I knew that I was going to have to talk to people.
    Because I was so terrified of stuttering I would change words because when you stutter, you are keenly aware of of the words that are going to give you some trouble.
    So before I would have to say the word, I would quickly think about a different word to say so I wouldn't stutter.
    And so I came to a point where I knew that stuttering and the ways I was coping it was pretty much taking over my personal life A well as my professional life and so I decided that I was going to try to face this fear of talking by pursuing, you know, just smaller opportunities, to speak in front of people.
    And I know that sounds insane, but I'm the type of person who, like if I'm afraid to swim, I'm just going to jump in the deepened and see what happens.
    Hopefully, I don't drown and see.
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    And so when I begin pursuing public speaking, the views that I had, had of communication came pretty much drastically.
    So McKeown 6:12-01639 occasions supposed to be an act of incredible empathy.
    The problem is, it definitely isn't.
    To talk about communication, we have to kind of talk about conversations.
    So the way that we approach conversations is typically, pretty bad.
    That's you, and you come up with this cool, you know, thing that you want to tell people.
    So you have an idea.
    That's you.
    That's the thing you want to tell people, and you get really, like, pumped about this idea, right?
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    But you don't want to drag anything am but you think that this thing that you want to tell people it could have legs, right?
    So you're pretty excited about the thing that you want to share.
    So you think about the thing.
    You think about the words that you want to use.
    You think about the way that you want the other person to feel.
    You think about the way that you want to feel as your explaining the thing that you want to share, right?
    And you expect them to be wow, I think that's the best idea I will probably ever hear in my entire life and they don't act like that.
    They're like, okay.
    I have to go to lunch now.
    And so you're confused as to why this person isn't as excited as you are about this thing that you think is so, you know, great.
    Well, the problem is, is that you don't care about them.
    You don't want to have like a two-way conversation you want them to love your idea, the way that Kanye loves can yeah.
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    And this self-focused approach to communication is a breeding ground for lack luster conversations and it can even cause problems on teams.
    So what do you need to do and how do you fix the problem?
    You need to think about the other person.
    You had to be empathetic much the reason why is because, you know, is because empathy fuels connection if this is true, empathetic communication is going to drive collaboration and when it comes to building teams, to building products, one of the most important things that has to be positive is the way that you guys collaborate, as a collective.
    This presents us with a problem.
    In 2016, the way that we collaborate is almost exclusively Vee A you know, flowing screens, software and text.
    Which is fine, because there are benefits to communicating in this way.
    Teams have said because being able to talk to each other.
    Via twitter, you know, it helps sharing.
    It helps people feel connected and it also helps to build a common ground.
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    When you are communicating exclusive via text, you know, being the empathy that you have to have in in order to connect is oftentimes, lost.
    So technology is extremely helpful.
    But it can't replace the social aspect of face-to-face communication.
    Failure of communication can't just be automated away.
    You have to confront things face-to-face.
    If you take away the technology, take away your cellphones, take away computers, take away software, then what do you have left?
    You have people.
    So we are presented with a second problem.
    And it's that people hate talking to each other because talking is hard, and conversations are difficult and collaboration is extremely hard.
    And that's why collaboration, it does fail because it's so hard to talk to people.
    So let's figure out a couple of reasons why collaboration does fail.
    And the biggest reasons are, because people are afraid of being wrong, and people are concern they aren't going to be able to communicate their thoughts and their opinions in a clear way.
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    The fear of being wrong is the fear of being judged, right?
    I can't tell you the time when is I have had an idea, and I wanted to share it, but I was so consumed with the thought of of being judged, but I just remained silent.
    And being misunderstood, you know, this happens pretty much every day.
    You know, you guys are all highly technical people, and you work with people who are probably, you know, nontechnical people.
    And so having to explain things can often end up in just, you know, frustration and irritation and so, it's just a lot easier to, you know, just not collaborate.
    So how do we fix this?
    The first thing is, that you have to speak up and encourage people around you to do the same.
    Because silence kills collaboration.
    You know, hearing what another person has to say, it didn't make your thoughts and your opinions any less valid.
    All it does is enhance conversations.
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    Next thing you have to do is think about the person that you were talking to all of us are on didn't plains, and intellectually, emotionally, and that's okay.
    Speaking to people on their level, doesn't do anything to compromise your level.
    Next thing you have to do is think about the speaker.
    Now, you know, when you do come to a place of having a conversation, where the speaker is beginning to struggle in explaining something, just kind of think back to hearing me speak now, right?
    I know that it can be incredibly difficult to completely understand the things that I'm trying to communicate and you have to, you know, be patient.
    You have to, you know, really pay attention.
    So when you discuss your ideas from a place of great empathy, and you pay attention to, others' ideas from that same place, you are going to create something that is bigger and better than the things you could have created, you you know, by yourself.
    That takes vulnerability.
    It's the it is the vulnerability to embrace silence or to discuss the things that going to be, you know, an uncomfortable conversation.
    And that also takes courage.
    It takes the courage to listen to people when they are struggling to communicate.
    The things that they're trying to say.
    And the courage to, you know, kind of embrace them being vulnerable to you.
    So to be empathetic communicator, you need to be courage, you need to be courageous.
    You need to be vulnerable and you need to be patient.
    And that's going to be the foundation of a positive and effective team collaboration.
    Thank you.
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    RYAN: Thank you for sharing your story with us.
    We do have time for questions as well.
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    So if anybody have any questions they would like to pose.
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    >> AUDIENCE MEMBER: So I was really struck early on, you made the point about how people are often afraid to speak up because of either a fear of being wrong or they fear being misunderstood.
    I wondered, which one of those two things Do I fear most.
    I'm still wondering about that.
    But when I was reflecting on that further, I realized, some of the biggest jerks that I've known, we're talking about geniuses, but quite often, jerks, who do feel of being wrong, but they don't care at all.
    They deliberately choose their words to ensure they can't be wrong they have representations and they don't care about being misunderstood, they're leaving it up to the audience to misunderstand them.
    Maybe they have legitimate reasons for behaving that way, but I'm source of curious.
    I don't know what you think about this in terms of the kind of personalities that stops caring about whether their audience misunderstands them or not.
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    >> SHARON STEED: I'm pretty sure we call those people sociopaths.
    Like, they don't feel.
    They just don't care so they can live their lives in a way that doesn't like, yeah, like it doesn't matter if I hurt your feelings because I don't have feelings any way.
    So, I mean, in terms of the personalities for, you know, people who do have feelings, I think those people are a lot more thoughtful, like, they think about the things that they are going to say.
    And then they make sure the way they communicate them is going to both be positive, effective and it's probably not going to harm, you know, the other person.
    Because it's that's also really important, too.
    The way that we talk about things, and the way that we say things, has, you know, has a very large impact on the way that things are perceived.
    And so yeah, I think those people that care, talk to people in the way that the person has to be spoken to.
    Everybody else who's on the ends, you know, you probably don't really want to be talking to them any way, because they just don't care about your feelings.
    Unless you have to go to work with them.
    And then, you know, yeah.
    I don't know.
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    >> RYANN.
    Anyone have anymore questions?
    Thank you very much.
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    >> SHARON STEED: Thank you.
Sharon Steed - Empathetic communication: why vulnerability is the key to collaboration

In business as well as in life, few things are more important to your success than building relationships. But so often, relationships fail before they get solid footing because we as humans sometimes have a difficult time connecting. That connection begins with empathy. And the key to empathy? Vulnerability. Sharon is a stutterer, and she knows how valuable one’s voice is. She also knows how it feels to attempt to share an idea only to fail miserably as a result of a communications breakdown. After years of struggling to join the conversation, she finally learned how communicate her ideas in a way that forced people to listen. And that’s what she’s going to discuss with you. The takeaways from this talk will be learning how to value the listener, improved collaboration at the office and becoming a master at building a relationship quickly and effectively.

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