Receptivity is the ability to take in feedback from others, your life experiences and your results. Each of us wants to be known and feel important. We want to be witnessed and understood. We want to be received…

There are 8 values needed to build trust: honesty, straightforwardness, respect, disclosure, recognition, keeping commitments, seeking excellence and receptivity. In my last article, I wrote about disclosure; letting others witness your strengths and vulnerabilities. Today I’m writing about receptivity, the ability to take in feedback from others, your life experiences and your results.

Each of us wants to be known and feel important. We want to be witnessed and be understood by others. If you’re determined to create a family, neighborhood, school, church, workplace or other community structure built on trust, becoming masterful at receptivity is critical. Like all values, the question is how do we make receptivity operational?

One way is using a three-step dialogue tool I learned from Harville Hendrix, author of Getting the Love You Want. The first step is mirroring, a process in which you listen and mirror back the words of another. You might say, “If I heard you correctly, you said…” or “What I hear you saying is…” Mirroring demonstrates to the speaker, “What you say is important and I hear the content of your words without judging you, blaming you, or finding solutions for you.” You ask, “Did I get it all?” and “Is there more?” until the speaker has expressed fully. When their content is complex or lengthy, signal a time out so you can effectively mirror back their information in stages. Mirroring is essential during conflicts and many issues are solved with mirroring alone. Mirroring makes others feel safe, important and valued.

Step two is validation, or letting the speaker know you understand the logic behind their words. To validate, you say, “What you said makes sense to me because…” or “I can understand your point of view.” When you validate, you stretch to understand the speaker’s thought processes and rationale.  Again, ask, “Did I get that right?” Validation is an advanced skill for effective relationships. You can only validate another person if you become more committed to understanding their viewpoint than expressing your own.  And validation is not the same as agreeing or condoning. It is however setting aside your opinions and logic in order to understand their private logic. Validation is a demonstration of respect for the other person’s unique, subjective interpretations, conclusions and beliefs.

Step three is empathy or expressing your best guess as to the feelings of another. Empathy is expressed when you say, “I can imagine you might be feeling…”, filling in the blank with an emotion. Feelings are usually one word such as mad, sad, glad, scared, ashamed, lonely or guilty, to name a few. To empathize with a speaker is to understand the feelings beneath their content and logic. If you’re saying, “I imagine you’re feeling that…” you’re probably stating an opinion or idea, not an emotion. Again, ask, “Did I get that right?” Many people neglect to notice the emotions present on the face of the speaker. Pay close attention to body language and facial expressions.

Another tool of receptivity is to notice your results and assume they’re accurately providing you important feedback. For example, I recently spoke with a client of mine who was confused by her results. She said despite her best efforts to give excellent customer service, within a month three separate customers lodged complaints against her to the better business bureau. With my help, she came to recognize that when problems and misunderstandings arose with customers, she became scared. Then in order to cope, she became politely defensive. First she lacked receptivity to her own fear. Then, receptivity to the fear of her customers took second place to her need to protect herself and feel safe. Lack of receptivity overall broke the trust.

If you practice receptivity, you quickly discover you’re provided many opportunities to evaluate the effectiveness of your communications. Commit to become sensitive to subtleties, non-verbal feedback in body language, tone, actions and words that indicate a neutral, rebellious or cooperative shift. When you tune in, you can then take responsibility for trying something new until you get the results you want.

Receptivity is about opening to the verbal and non-verbal feedback of others, a skill that takes a lot of practice to learn and exercise habitually. If you fail to practice receptivity, you send the message, “You’re less than me…I’m superior…I know better than you and what I say, think and feel matter more.” So…if you want my help, I’m here with receptivity to support all your goals and dreams!

Why People Hire LifeWork Systems

Business owners, community leaders, and educators hire Lifework Systems because they want the advantages of an extraordinary workplace and recognize a systems approach ensures consistency and sustainability in the transformation process. They know that conscientious employees grow your business and improve your reputation, giving you competitive advantages. We help organizations instill into every person a common language and toolset for how to participate in a responsibility-based workplace. Visit our website at www.lifeworksystems.com, and click the link at the bottom to complete a culture assessment and schedule your first consult to review a report on your feedback, all at no cost.

You can also contact Judy Ryan at 314.239.4727 or at judy@lifeworksystems.com.

As published nationally in Women’s Journals, June 2012