• 8th May 2007 - By proteman

    In a previous post I wrote about bobble-heads in the workplace. These are people – your customers, employees or managers – who bob their heads as if they’re listening and agreeing while you talk.

    But they’re not agreeing. Their silence and blank stares are a cover for boredom, confusion, defiance, doubt or some other emotion they’re not willing to share with you.

    As promised, this post provides tips for communicating with head-bobbers and finding out what they’re really thinking.

    Know it when you see it.

    Could the problem be you? When you’re in a meeting, sales presentation or conversation and you’re doing most of the talking, watch for the steady head bob. Look for glazed-over eyes. These are signs that you might have unintentionally lulled your audience into a head-bobbing coma (they’ve tuned out or decided that they disagree with you). It sounds pretty basic, but you’d be surprised how many “talkers” (salespeople, presenters, managers) get in their groove and forget that other people may not be listening.

    Shut up (Let there be silence)

    Silence can be as powerful as a scream. Just stop talking. The head-bobber will snap to attention.

    Ask open-ended questions

    This is a good follow-up to silence…the old one-two combination. Pause and let there be a moment of silence. Then ask an open-ended question to reengage the head-bobber. Some of my favorite open-ended questions (that require more than a yes/no or one-word answer) are:

    • “How do you feel about this idea?”
    • “What are you thinking at this point?”
    • “What’s your perspective on this issue?”

    Ask them to summarize

    You’re leading a meeting. At the end, you wrap up by summarizing: “So here’s what I’ll do…and here’s what you’ll do…we’ll meet again at X date…etc.” And everyone else is head-bobbing while you rattle off your summary. Why not turn the tables and ask the other person to summarize what they’ve heard? Some good summary questions are:

    • “I’ve been doing a lot of the talking so far. What do you feel are the most important points?”
    • “What are three things that you take away from this meeting?”
    • “What do you think should be our next steps?”

    Look in the mirror

    Are you a head-bobber? You may be, without even realizing it. The next time you’re in a long meeting, listening to a salespitch or getting feedback you don’t agree with…check yourself. Are you nodding as if in compliance because it’s easier than speaking up? Ask a question. Disagree. Do yourself and the speaker a favor and just say something.

    © 2007. Phyllis Roteman, The Loyalty Group. All Rights Reserved.

  • One Response to “Beware Workplace Bobble-Heads (Part 2)”

    • Steve Roesler on May 14, 2007

      This is always a crazy one, Phyllis.

      I always assume that total silence is NEVER good, for all the reasons you mention.

      Interestingly, I see many managers and presenters declaring victory if there is silence. It is often taken as “no disagreement” and goes unexplored.

      In the sales world, silence is about the ugliest thing that can happen.

      I like the whole Bobble Head thing–it’s a memorable image.

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