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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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    The first thing I'm going to tell you
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    is that 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.
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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 it when they're 5 or 6.
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    I had cousins who stuttered, my brother,
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    my parents; they all grew out of theirs
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    by the time they were around 17.
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    People thought, it's a thing
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    that is happening right now,
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    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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    Those who stutter develop coping tools.
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    I did... So many things that I did
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    that were kind of odd
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    were because of my stuttering.
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    I would try to conceal it
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    by saying things... Sorry.
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    I would try to stay away from situations
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    where I knew that I'd have to talk
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    because I was so terrified of stuttering.
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    I'd change words because when you stutter,
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    you are keenly aware of the words
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    that are going to give you some trouble.
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    Before saying the word, I'd quickly
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    think about a different word to say
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    so I wouldn't stutter.
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    I came to know that stuttering and
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    the ways I was coping were taking over
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    both my personal and professional life
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    so I decided to try to face this fear
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    by pursuing smaller opportunities to speak
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    in front of people.
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    It know it sounds insane
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    but I'm the type of person who,
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    if I'm afraid to swim, I'm going to jump
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    in the deep end and see what happens.
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    Hopefully, I won't drown. [Laughter]
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    When I began pursuing public speaking,
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    the views that I had had of communication
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    drastically changed.
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    Communication is supposed to be
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    an act of incredible empathy.
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    The problem is that it definitely isn't.
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    To talk about communication,
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    we have to talk about conversations.
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    The way we approach conversations is bad.
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    That's you, and you come up with
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    this thing that you want to tell people.
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    You have an idea. That's you.
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    That's the thing you want to tell people
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    and you get pumped about this idea.
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    You don't want to brag, but you think that
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    this thing could have legs.
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    You're pretty excited about
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    what you want to share.
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    You think about the idea,
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    about the words you want to use,
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    about how you want others to feel,
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    about how you want to feel as
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    you're explaining the idea.
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    You say it, you're excited, and
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    you expect them to be "wow",
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    that was the best idea
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    that I think I will ever hear in my life,
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    and they don't act like that.
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    They're like, "Okay, great.
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    I have to go to lunch now."
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    You're confused as to why this person
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    isn't as excited as you about this idea
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    that you think is so great.
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    The problem is you don't care about them.
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    You don't want to have
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    a two-way conversation.
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    You just want them to love
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    your idea the way that Kanye loves Kanye.
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    [Laughter]
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    This self-focused approach
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    to communication is a breeding ground for
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    lackluster conversations and it can even
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    cause problems on teams.
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    What do you need to do,
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    and how do you fix the problem?
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    You need to think about the other person.
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    You need to be empathetic.
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    The reason why is because empathy
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    fuels connection, and if this is true,
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    then empathetic communication is going to
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    drive collaboration.
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    When building teams or products,
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    one of the most important things
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    that has to be positive
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    is the way you collaborate
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    as a collective.
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    This presents a problem.
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    In 2016, the way we collaborate
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    is almost exclusively via
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    glowing screens, software, and text;
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    which is fine, there are benefits
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    to communicating in this way.
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    Teams have said that being able to talk
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    to each other via Slack and Twitter
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    helps sharing.
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    It helps people feel connected
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    and to build common ground.
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    The problem there is that,
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    when you are communicating exclusively
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    via text,
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    the empathy that you must have
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    to connect is oftentimes lost.
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    Technology is extremely helpful
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    but it can't replace the social aspect
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    of face-to-face communication.
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    Here is another truth.
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    Failures of communication can't just be
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    automated away.
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    You have to confront things
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    face-to-face.
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    If you take away the technology,
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    cellphones, computers, software,
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    then what do you have left?
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    You have people.
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    There's a second problem.
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    People hate talking to each other
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    because talking is hard,
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    conversations are difficult, and
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    collaboration is extremely hard.
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    That's why collaboration does fail,
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    it's hard to talk to people sometimes.
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    Let's figure out why collaboration fails.
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    The biggest reasons are that people
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    are afraid of being wrong and
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    concerned they aren't going to be able
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    to communicate their thoughts and
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    opinions in a clear way.
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    The fear of being wrong
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    is the fear of being judged.
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    I can't tell you the times when I've had
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    an idea and wanted to share it,
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    but I was so consumed with the thought of
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    being judged,
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    that I just remained silent.
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    Being misunderstood happens almost daily.
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    You are all highly technical people
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    and you work with nontechnical people.
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    Having to explain things can often end up
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    in frustration and irritation,
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    so it's just easier not to collaborate.
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    So how do we fix this?
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    The first thing is
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    that you have to speak up,
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    and encourage the people around you
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    to do the same
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    because silence kills collaboration.
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    Hearing what another person has to say
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    doesn't make your thoughts
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    and opinions any less valid.
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    All it does is enhance conversations.
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    The next thing that you have to do is
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    to think about the person
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    that you were talking to.
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    All of us are on different planes.
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    intellectually, emotionally. That's okay.
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    Speaking to people on their level
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    doesn't compromise your level.
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    Next thing is to think about the speaker.
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    When you're having a conversation where
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    the speaker is struggling while talking,
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    think back to hearing me speak now.
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    I know that it can be incredibly difficult
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    to completely understand what I'm trying
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    to say, and that you have to be patient.
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    You have to really pay attention.
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    When you discuss your ideas
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    from a place of great empathy,
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    and you pay attention to
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    others' ideas
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    from that same place,
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    you are going to create something
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    that is bigger and better than the things
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    you could have created by yourself.
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    That takes vulnerability.
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    It's the vulnerability to embrace silence
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    or discuss the things that are going to be
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    an uncomfortable conversation,
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    and that also takes courage.
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    It takes the courage to listen to people
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    when they are struggling to communicate
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    the things that they're trying to say,
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    and the courage to embrace them
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    being vulnerable to you.
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    To be an empathetic communicator,
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    you need to be courageous,
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    you need to be vulnerable and patient.
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    That's going to be the foundation
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    of a positive and effective
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    team collaboration.
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    Thank you.
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    [Applause]
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    RYAN: Would you like to take questions?
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    SHARON: Sure.
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    RYAN: Thank you very much
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    for sharing your story with us.
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    RYAN: It's a very powerful talk.
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    We do have time for questions as well
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    if anybody has any questions that
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    would like to pose...
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    AUDIENCE MEMBER: I was really struck when
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    you made the point about how people
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    are often afraid to speak up
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    because they fear either
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    of being wrong or they fear
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    being misunderstood.
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    I really reflected on that.
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    I started to wonder which one
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    of those two things I fear most.
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    I'm still wondering about that,
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    but when I was reflecting on that further,
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    I realized that some of the biggest jerks
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    that I've ever known, we're talking
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    about real geniuses but quite often jerks,
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    who do fear being wrong
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    but that don't care at all
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    about being missunderstood.
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    Oftentimes, they deliberately choose
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    their words to ensure they can't be wrong
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    because they're ambiguous,
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    they have many interpretations.
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    They don't care about being misunderstood
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    because they leave it up to the audience
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    to misunderstand them.
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    Maybe I'm being unfair to those people, or
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    maybe they have legitimate reasons for
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    behaving that way, but I'm curious about
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    what you think about this in terms of
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    the kind of personality that stops caring
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    about whether their audience
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    misunderstands them or not.
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    SHARON: I'm sure we call them sociopaths.
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    [Laughter]
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    They just don't feel, they don't care,
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    so they can live their lives in a way that
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    it doesn't matter if I hurt your feelings
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    because I don't have feelings anyway.
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    In terms of the personality for
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    people who do have feelings,
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    I think they are a lot more thoughtful,
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    and think about what they're going to say.
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    They make sure that the way
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    they communicate is going to be
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    both positive and effective, and
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    it's not going to harm others
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    because that's also really important, too.
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    The way we talk about things,
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    and the way that we say things
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    has an impact on how things are perceived.
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    I think that people who care
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    talk to people in the way that
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    they have to be spoken to.
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    Everybody else who's on the ends,
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    you probably don't want to be talking
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    to them anyway, because they don't care
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    about your feelings.
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    Unless you have to go to work with them.
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    and then... I don't know.
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    RYAN: Are there any more questions?
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    Thank you very much.
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    SHARON: Thank you.
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    [Applause]
Title:
Sharon Steed - Empathetic communication: why vulnerability is the key to collaboration
Description:

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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Video Language:
English
Team:
Mozilla
Project:
Rust
Duration:
25:50

English subtitles

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