If you engage in communication or negotiation with individuals or groups you generally spend about half your time listening. However, studies show that most people are poor listeners, who don’t retain much of what they hear.

Active listening is a communication technique that allows people to become better listeners through understanding, interpreting and evaluating what they hear. Anyone can become an active listener by practicing some basic techniques, as follows:

  1. Prepare in advance. Think about the points you want to make, and plan your conversation strategy and the questions in advance. Planning ahead frees your mind for listening.
  2. Hold your conversation. When you talk you don’t learn anything new. Be more interested in what the other person has to say. Encourage the other person to talk – the more they tell you about their needs or problems the better informed you are to respond or find a solution.
  3. Concentrate. Shut out all distractions. Close your ears to everything except the person to whom you are speaking. Focus on the key points of the discussion and lock them into your mind using memory triggers so that you can respond appropriately to each point. This is the most important component of active listening that always needs more practice and attention.
  4. Don’t interrupt. Hear the speaker out. Pause a second or two before you respond. Don’t be afraid of a moment of silence. It shows that you are thinking about what they said.
  5. Take notes. This will help you remember the important points. However, be selective. Trying to write everything down may cause you to miss important points.
  6. Ask questions. If you don’t understand something or you require further clarification then ask questions. This will also get the other party involved in the conversation. Also ask about their needs, problems and personal interests. People will open up about things that interest them.
  7. Don’t jump to conclusions. Avoid making assumptions about what the speaker is going to say, even if you have heard similar comments and complaints before. Treat every person as a unique individual.
  8. Visualise the person. If speaking to someone on the phone, try to picture the person. It’s easier to become interested in people if you can relate their words to a face.
  9. Use conversation cues. An occasional “Yes”, “I see” or “I understand” shows that you are paying attention and encourages people to keep talking.
  10. Listen between the lines. You can learn a great deal about the people and the central issue by the way they say things or the body language they display. Pay attention to emotions, not just words. Fear, frustration and enthusiasm can be easily detected in a person’s tone of voice, facial expression or body language.
  11. Practice, practice, practice.  Rehearse with family, friends and colleagues. Use everyday conversation as a tool for improving your skills.

The ability to listen actively will improve your communication skills through:

  • a better understanding of the central topic and issues,
  • reduced conflict,
  • improved concentration and memory retention;

thereby fostering better collaboration, and achieving desired outcomes.

Dr John Kapeleris

Did you like this? Share it:

In establishing your life purpose and lifelong ambitions the best way to start is to think about your passions and interests in a world without limitations or constraints. For example, if you were given the option of any position or career in the world what would you choose?

However, we generally find ourselves in a paradigm that is familiar to us, has clearly defined boundaries and has become comfortable. We have learned to become complacent with what is presented to us and we don’t generally challenge the status quo. As a result we get the same thing out of life that we have always gotten, because we don’t do anything differently and many of us try to avoid change.

The world is changing at such a dramatic rate that we must also adapt to the changing environment. We must stop and think about our current situation, and determine whether our life path is being driven by ourselves or influenced by external people. We therefore need to re-evaluate our purpose and ambitions in life.

Following are a set of questions that I have used to identify my passions and desires in a life without limits. Try answering the questions below as an exercise to better understand your defining purpose and your ambitions in life.

1. If I wrote a book, the book would be about…

2. If I produced a movie, it would be…

3. If I painted a picture, the subject would be…

4. If I wrote a stand-up comedy routine, I would tell stories about…

5. If I composed a song, I would write about…

6. If I was going to do something nobody would expect me to do, I would…

7. If I was going to cook a meal for a number of friends, I would cook…

8. If I won $5000 to throw the party of the year, I would make it memorable by…

9. If I designed my dream home, it would have…

10. If I designed my ideal vacation home, it would certainly have…

11. If I could be paid to study any subject for a whole year, I would study…

12. If I could spend two months anywhere in the world, I would go to…

13. If I could live anywhere in the world, I would live in…

14. If I could have dinner with anyone on the planet, I would want to dine with…

Don’t hesitate. Give the task a go. You will never know what new ideas or opportunities emerge.

To your success!

Dr John Kapeleris

Did you like this? Share it:

The year 2011 is technically the start of a new decade. Therefore, one of the questions on my mind has been, “What will be the focus or trend for the new decade?” I spent some time doing some research online to identify the new trends and found that three things will definitely occur in the new decade:

1. There will be more change in the world than ever before
2. There will be more competition
3. There will be more opportunities available.

I also identified that the emerging theme or trend, particularly in the complex digital age, will be “thinking”. The use of computers and the escalation of digital handheld devices has removed the human element from interactions and transactions. Technology in the last decade has limited our ability to take time out to spend on thinking – thinking about our current situation, thinking about our goals, and thinking about the future. Instead we spend significant amounts of time watching shows in front of flat-screen TVs, playing games or surfing the internet on computers, and tapping away on handheld devices.

Many decades ago Thomas Edison stated, “There are few people who think, a few people who think they think, and then there are the great majority, who would rather die than think“. Interestingly, this quote is still relevant today. We either avoid making the effort to think, or we have essentially allowed technology and computers to do our thinking for us. Humans, in general, have also become more complacent by focusing on the present rather than thinking about the future. Thinking provides the ability to make better decisions which translate into better actions, and ultimately better results.

One of the characteristics of successful and insightful people is that they are future-oriented. They set aside the time to think about changes and trends that will impact on the future. They use these trends and factors to identify new opportunities providing first-mover advantage. Future-oriented people believe they can create their own future and influence their destiny by taking advantage of these opportunities.

Thinking can also change the way we perceive a problem. We can think of a problem as an undesirable situation that needs to be rectified. We can also take this undesirable situation or problem and view it as a challenge that can stimulate motivation for us to take action. Ultimately, we can perceive a problem as an opportunity and take advantage of what it can offer.

John C. Maxwell in his book “Thinking for a Change” describes the eleven different styles of thinking that can change your life:

  1. Acquire the wisdom of big-picture thinking – holistic thinking that extends beyond your domain
  2. Unleash the potential of focused thinking – concentrated thinking to clarify the issues
  3. Discover the joy of creative thinking – thinking laterally outside the box to identify breakthrough opportunities
  4. Recognize the importance of realistic thinking – asking whether your thinking has a solid foundation
  5. Release the power of strategic thinking – thinking about the future and the potential opportunities it brings
  6. Feel the energy of possibility thinking – possibility thinking can help you find solutions to complex problems
  7. Embrace the lessons of reflective thinking – thinking about the past or your current situation to better understand and learn from your experiences
  8. Question the acceptance of popular thinking – understand the current trends of common thinking in society
  9. Encourage the participation of shared thinking – engaging others to expand and sharpen your thinking
  10. Experience the satisfaction of unselfish thinking – considering the needs of others in your thinking
  11. Enjoy the return of bottom-line thinking – staying focused on results and outcomes from your thinking

To engage in the thinking process, set aside some quiet time in the right environment with a clear and relaxed mind, together with pen and paper, using the following step process:

  1. Determine the purpose of your thinking – What is the objective that you are trying to achieve?
  2. Focus on the topic, issue or opportunity – Take the time to focus so that you can achieve clarity.
  3. Explore the possibilities using some of the thinking styles above – Identify the different alternatives available by using different thinking styles.
  4. Synthesize your thoughts and ideas – Combine, adapt, modify, substitute, eliminate or reverse your thoughts and ideas to create new opportunities.
  5. Record your thoughts and ideas on paper – Think on paper! Get back to basics by using a pen and pad or journal to write down your thoughts and ideas, also allowing you to get things out of your head.
  6. Act on the outputs and opportunities resulting from your thinking – Take action and implement your ideas.

If you focus on thinking about the future an unlimited number of possibilities and opportunities become available that can create a new direction and a more desirable life.

Dr John Kapeleris

Did you like this? Share it:

Whether we like it or not we are all sales people. On a daily basis we are involved in some way with either selling our capability (ourselves), selling our ideas or selling our point of view. Therefore, one of the key success factors to personal development and career progression is the power of persuasive communication. Persuasive communication is the process of guiding people toward the adoption of an idea, attitude, or action by rational and emotional means.

Most of us have excellent communication skills which is a requirement of our daily work and personal lives. However, the ability to influence people through persuasive communication is a rare attribute that isn’t generally taught in our education system. This skill has to be learnt either through specialised courses, mentors, self-education or on-the-job training. Following is a list of the key elements of persuasive communication:

  1. Establish credibility and rapport
  2. Connect emotionally with your target audience
  3. Communicate the compelling value proposition for the audience
  4. Reinforce your position with compelling evidence and expressive, vivid language

One of my favourite books is Jeffrey Gitomer’s Little Green Book of Getting Your Way which focusses on how to speak, write, present, persuade, influence and sell your point of view to others. Jeffrey describes a number of key elements that reflect your persuasive ability:

  1. Explaining what, why and how – people need to better understand your offering by knowing the what, why and how.
  2. Explaining what’s in it for them – people want to see how they win as a result of your persuasion. That is, your compelling value proposition.
  3. Your sincerity – your conviction is part of their acceptance
  4. Your believability – your statements must be true and conceivable
  5. Your questioning skills – persuasion starts with powerful questioning. Don’t tell, ask.
  6. Your communication skills – practice what you will be presenting
  7. Your visionary (storytelling) skills – it’s the stories that people remember. Paint a picture that is clear and vivid.
  8. Your reputation precedes you – an exceptional and honest reputation will lead to a yes
  9. Your history of success – the more wins you have had in the past, the stronger your persuasive strength

Your ability to master each of the elements above will help you to be more persuasive.

Dr John Kapeleris

Did you like this? Share it:

The interaction with people throughout your life can influence and determine your future path. My parents and grandparents were a strong influence in my younger years, guiding me and providing me with direction and knowledge. Many of my values and beliefs originated from my parents and grandparents, predominantly through story-telling in the evening and during bed-time. My parents and grandparents were my mentors in my early life.

Throughout my education and career I would source new mentors who would continue to influence me and guide me through my learning and development. One of my career mentors was Dr David Wyatt who was also the Chief Executive of a company where I worked as a senior manager. He was a person who could inspire you to seek new ideas, and continually learn and develop. He would motivate you in your work and make you feel positive and energised. David was also a wealth of knowledge and creative inspiration. He provided me with frequent articles of useful information that would challenge my thinking and provide me with new knowledge. David would also challenge me to think beyond the immediate problem or opportunity. When I was working for David I just couldn’t wait to get to work on Monday morning so that I could experience something new, exciting and motivating. My personal development at that time in my life soared significantly.

In another example, after leaving a company that I worked in for 12 years I employed the services of a personal development mentor to guide me through my next career transition. I would meet with the coach on a weekly basis over three months and discuss my progress in building and enhancing my skills for my next challenge in life. My mentor would give me self discovery exercises, references to read and small development projects to complete between the meeting sessions. My mentor also opened my mind to a wealth of opportunities that I would investigate and develop in later months and years.

Finding the right mentor or business coach can have a significant effect on your life. A mentor can teach and guide you through your life journey and can be one of the best ways to achieve personal success. For example, a business mentor can provide you with the tools and resources to grow your business or to teach you the strategies and processes (tricks of the trade) for a new business opportunity. In a recent experience, without the influence of an internet business coach I would not have been able to develop my internet-based business skills. Can you identify a person in your domain or area of interest who has been successful and would make a great mentor? Your next step is to contact the person via telephone or a written letter and request whether they can be your mentor. Don’t be afraid; the worst thing that can happen is that they say “No”. If this occurs you then look for another possible mentor. For additional mobile information, consult the experts when it comes to samsung galaxy specifications.

Building networks of people who can add value, share ideas and build collaborations or alliances should be one of your key goals, if you are going to succeed in any business or creative endeavour. Your networks will become a source of ideas, knowledge, support, motivation, channels to other networks, access to markets, and even revenue sources. How do you then set about building a network? The first step is to become a better networker by improving your networking skills and overcoming fear and low self-esteem. Following is a simple six-step approach to networking:

  1. Identify networking opportunities and events such as meetings, luncheons, seminars and conferences. Target specific events with a topic of interest related to your definite purpose or goal.
  2. Take the responsibility to interact first. Remember the worst thing that can happen to you is a polite rejection. Network the room as much as possible. Don’t stick to a single person, or remain alone at the outer perimeter of the room, which is common amongst people with low self-esteem. Try to join a group of people who are already interacting or look for someone who is alone.
  3. Have a topic of interest to discuss e.g. a topic from the seminar or conference, or ask the other person a question about their job or work. I always like to begin with “Hi, my name is John and I work for …”. After the other person responds with their name and organisation, I immediately follow with a question or statement related to the seminar or conference. If the networking occurs before the event I tend to ask a general question such as “Are you looking forward to listening to the speaker?”, “What attracted you to this seminar?” or “What do you do for a living?”. It is also a good idea to have a prepared 2-3 minute “Elevator Pitch” describing what you do. For example I say, “I put money into people’s pockets by helping them take their ideas to market”. This generally grabs the person’s attention.
  4. Exchange business cards or contact details. This is generally done during the introduction or after you have found out more about the person. Ensure that you offer your business card first as the other person will generally reciprocate. If the other person does not have a business card write their contact information in a notebook or on a piece of paper. It is also a good idea to write where you met and any follow-up action items or notes about the person on the back of the business card. Don’t forget to record their details, as soon as possible, in a contact database together with notes about the person, where you met and any follow-up actions.
  5. Cultivate your relationship through maintaining regular contact. This could be done through the use of a combination of tools and processes, such as regular email, the online tool LinkedIn, a contact database or by periodically catching up face-to-face for coffee, lunch or at upcoming meetings and seminars. I use LinkedIn quite extensively as this allows me to build a network of people very easily. It also has an email function that allows me to send individual or group messages, and also includes a short message function linked to Twitter. For more specific profile building of my contacts I use a database such as Microsoft Business Contact Manager which is linked to Outlook. I like to use a Relationship Maintenance Schedule (in spreadsheet format) for my more important contacts where I build in a schedule of activities, including periodically sending my contacts articles of interest, links to interesting internet sites, or provide them with business leads and new opportunities.
  6. Become a network architect for others. The ultimate goal is to become the “go-to” person for introducing others to people you know. You essentially become the “intellectual gravity” or thought leader for a given domain and its networks, by attracting like-minded individuals or people seeking knowledge and inspiration.

Napoleon Hill in “Think and Grow Rich” described the power of the Mastermind. The mastermind principle is defined as the coordination of knowledge and effort, in a spirit of harmony, between two or more people for the achievement of a definite purpose. A mastermind group can be a powerful way to achieve your definite purpose or goal. I have joined a few mastermind groups each having a specific purpose or goal where the contribution of the knowledge, experience and united spirit of all members can catapult you to the next level of achievement. Members of a mastermind group will have a common interest where each person is willing to discuss topics openly and contribute knowledge and experience. The mastermind groups that I belong to meet regularly and have formal and informal agendas for prior preparation and subsequent discussion. A number of outcomes have emerged from my mastermind groups, including sharing knowledge and ideas, creating new start-up businesses, identifying new commercial opportunities, and developing solutions for business and community problems. Some of the most successful people in the world (e.g. Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie) have relied on their mastermind groups to guide them or provide wisdom and inspiration.

Another example of a mastermind alliance is that of the creative community which dates back to the Middle Ages. For example, Leonardo da Vinci worked in a master’s studio (Verrocchio’s workshop) with like-minded people to learn his trade, and share knowledge and technical skills, including drafting, chemistry, metallurgy, metal working, plaster casting, leather working, mechanics and carpentry, as well as the artistic skills of drawing, painting, sculpting and modelling. The Parisian Salons of the 1920’s and 1930’s are other examples of creative communities, where people like Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso and Thornton Wilder would get together informally at the Parisian apartments of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, to fuel their creative inspiration. You can also locate and join a mastermind group or creative community that focuses on your domain or area of interest. Searching the internet, reading trade journals or popular magazines can identify mastermind groups or creative communities. You can also ask your contacts through your networks if they belong to any mastermind groups or creative communities. If you cannot locate a particular mastermind group or creative community then you might consider forming your own.

Make it a great life!

Dr John Kapeleris

Did you like this? Share it: