Active listening at a distance

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Building a relationship with someone over technology (telephone, Skype, email, Twitter) can be incredibly difficult, but it’s not impossible.

I have a mentor (and now close friend) who I met over Twitter and email. She offered advice and support over email and telephone for 6-12 months before we even met in person. Years later we still call, email, and support each other. She has become an amazing friend who I can always rely upon for honest advice and support.

Technology is an enabler. It helps us build connections that support and brighten our face-to-face interactions. BUT how we do this, must be embraced with careful intention.

We must be actively listening, applying and considering the advice provided to us as mentees. It can be bloody tough. Yes, I’ve failed at this. But the more I fail, the more I learn.

This section will give you an overview of my learnings, so hopefully you can build and nature mentoring partnerships no matter where you are in the world - and support our teams to do the same

  • Keep notes of the conversation. Helps provide context for discussion and provide accountability
    • I use Evernote, some people like paper and pen, others LOVE Google Docs. Review and reflect on what has been discussed, then if you need clarification send through some questions (mentors LOVE questions!)
  • If you're using Skype, give a guided tour of your workplace, home office, or introduce them to your dog. Make yourself human and show your mentor you are more than work.
  • Eliminate distractions. Turn off the TV, remove background noises, and don’t check facebook/emails while you're chatting away.
  • Be flexible with time zones, living in an isolated city, and have mentors from all different time zones. I am always mindful of being very clear on what times do/don't work for me. My job is just as valuable as my mentors. They are here to support me, so I ensure I don’t over-schedule myself or burn myself out to make a meeting work.
  • Embrace the silence. Don't fill the void. All of my mentors love to talk and offer advice, and silence is sometimes an excellent way to reflect on what had been said, formulate questions, and get new perspectives.

Below, are some great TED talks to help you communicate and listen better with those around you.