Eye­ing off an ad­van­tage in work­place

The Courier-Mail - Career One - - Classifieds -

AN age-old chil­dren’s game could be the se­cret to build­ing a high per­for­mance team as so­cial skills be­come in­creas­ingly sought in the work­place.

Re­cruiter and lead­er­ship per­for­mance coach Mike Irv­ing be­lieves a ver­sion of the star­ing con­test – where eye con­tact is re­cip­ro­cated be­tween two peo­ple un­til one per­son blinks – is a great way for both chil­dren and adults to learn em­pa­thy.

“Mo­bile devices and tablets are tak­ing our at­ten­tion away from hu­man in­ter­ac­tion to fo­cus on screens, los­ing our abil­ity to recog­nise non-ver­bal com­mu­ni­ca­tion cues from other peo­ple,” he says.

“Chil­dren aged 5 to 16 spend on av­er­age 6½ hours a day look­ing at a screen and adults more so.

“This is hav­ing a huge im­pact on re­la­tion­ships at home and in the of­fice, par­tic­u­larly as work­ers with ex­cep­tional so­cial skills will be the most sought-af­ter in the next 10 years, over­tak­ing those with qual­i­fi­ca­tions.”

Irv­ing says if peo­ple don’t learn to ob­serve and de­ci­pher fa­cial ex­pres­sions, tone, pos­ture and body lan­guage, they can lose the abil­ity to cre­ate mean­ing­ful re­la­tion­ships, par­tic­u­larly in the work­force with col­leagues and cus­tomers.

“A US study on a group of sixth graders tested their em­pa­thy be­fore a five-day camp­ing va­ca­tion in the bush with no tech­nol­ogy and then again af­ter­wards,” he says.

“The re­sults showed not only no­tice­ably im­proved lev­els of em­pa­thy but also in­tel­li­gence as a lack of hu­man in­ter­ac­tion has a dumb­ing down ef­fect on all of us.

“Be­ing will­ing to make eye con­tact is a great start­ing point. This helps you im­prove your abil­ity to ob­serve their emo­tional ex­pe­ri­ence and get to know when they’re en­gaged in the con­ver­sa­tion. It also helps to know when they are not and how to get their at­ten­tion.”

To avoid seem­ing too child­ish, Irv­ing rec­om­mends a slight change to the star­ing con­test. In­stead of star­ing un­til some­one blinks, just make eye con­tact for 10 min­utes.

“It’s not a com­pe­ti­tion that way. In­stead, it’s a way for adults to re­ally see and be with an­other per­son, help­ing to un­der­stand their emo­tions and even the abil­ity to im­prove prob­lem solv­ing with that in­ter­ac­tion,” he says.

Other ways to im­prove com­mu­ni­ca­tions and em­pa­thy skills in­clude be­ing present, turn­ing devices off, ob­serv­ing, be­ing in­ter­ested and not judg­ing.

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