Though unintended, and often unconscious, we often communicate in ways that interfere with our professional interactions, and our desired business objective to attract and retain clients.

In this experiential webinar program, participants will be provided with the know-how to identify these obstacles and replace them with communication tools that enhance client engagement and retention, and skills for improving any communication transaction.

Join Lee Broekman and Judith Gordon, co-principals for Organic Communication and co-authors of the book, Successful (Happy) Lawyering: Increase Your Bottom Line and Well-Being One Insight at a Time, and discover:

  • How to identify these common communication obstacles
  • How to use communication tools that can enhance client engagement and retention
  • The latest research on how to create connections that turn current clients into referral sources



Lee Broekman
Organic Communication

Lee Broekman is an expert in persuasion, presentation and interpersonal communication, and she provides communication, management and leadership guidance to lawyers, law firms and other professional services firms and organizations. Lee was in academia for 15 years, and she taught at USC's Annenberg School of Communication and Marshall School of Business. 

Judith Gordon
Organic Communication

Judith Gordon provides communication, leadership and professional development training to lawyers and their firms. She practiced law prior to her segue into business communication and she is on faculty at UCLA School of Law.

Organic Communication is a leader in providing communication, collaboration and leadership training to law firms, businesses and other professional service firms. Participants acquire deep and rapid learning through exceptional experiential programming, and take away new, memorable and immediately actionable skills. Attorneys receive CLE credit.

Jaron Rubenstein
Founder & President
Rubenstein Technology Group

Video Transcription

George: Good afternoon everyone, and thank you for joining us for the 14th entry to our RubyLaw Thought Leadership Series, "Stop Blocking and Start Communicating" webinar. For those not familiar, RubyLaw is a Rubenstein Technology Group product. It is a customizable, enterprise level, web content management platform that empowers user experience for both legal marketers and the firm audiences alike. It is designed to meet the web, mobile marketing, proposal generation, and experienced management needs of leading, big law firms. The RubyLaw Thought Leadership Series is Rubenstein Technology Group's effort to support a big opportunity firms have to create a competitive advantage by adjusting to how and where law firm stakeholders expect to consume content. For those interested, all other 13 entries of this series are up on the Rubenstein Tech site for viewing, with topics ranging from brand strategy, content strategy, and integrated marketing. Today, our talk isn't so much of a talk, but an experiential, interactive series of role plays to clearly highlight common communication obstacles, which we are calling blockers. Taking us through today's webinar are Lee Broekman and Judith Gordon, the co-principals of Organic Communication and co-authors of the book, "Successful, Happy Lawyering: "Increase Your Bottom Line and Well Being "One Insight at a Time." Welcome, Lee and Judith! How are you?

Lee: Thank you! First I want to apologize for not advancing the slides properly. We had a little bit of a technical glitch at this end, but hopefully you're okay with where it is right now.

George: It's okay. I did enough promoting at the front end for all of us. So just let me say how excited I am. We've done, as I mentioned, 13 of these webinars, and I'm excited about the format we're using here, and without giving too much away, I love what you're doing, and I know that the attendees will, as well. And part of that format is asking attendees to be active participants here. So for those on the line, please, please, do participate. When prompted, please send commentary via chat to Jaron Rubenstein, who should show up as a panelist or presenter on your end. And with that, I will hand it over to Lee and Judith.

Lee: Thank you, George.

George: Thank you. Well, welcome everybody.

Judith: This is Judith Gordon, and Lee Broekman.

Lee: Lee Broekman, and we have done this training many times with multiple firms and participants, and excited about sharing it with you. This first slide you're looking at is our coaching compass, and we created it to just remind people that when we communicate, we're navigating in all directions. We communicate with our managers, with our colleagues. We communicate with clients. We communicate with people who report to us. And we need to be clear with ourselves about what it is that we're communicating about, and so today, as we talk about blockers and connectors, there are ways in which we can really connect with others, there are ways in which the communication is blocked, and that shows up in all these different directions when we work with people more above us, below us, and people who are our coworkers.

Judith: So, we see this show up in all different kinds of interactions and communications. We see this when we're giving and receiving assignments. We see this when we're in an evaluative situation. Sometimes, it's not easy to give evaluations or feedback, and so oftentimes, we're trying to connect or we're trying to communicate in a positive way, but instead we end up blocking the communication, and you'll see what that entails in a few minutes. Other scenarios in which this shows up is in workload and managing your team. I remember for years I worked with a very creative, young designer, and our brains could not have been more different, and no matter how hard I tried, I would communicate one thing, and I would always get something else in return, and oftentimes it was better than what I asked for, but it just showed that what I intended and what she did were two different things, and we were finally able to meet in the middle, but the point is that oftentimes when we communicate, the communication is not the same at both ends. I'm gonna let Lee tell you a little bit more about that.

Lee: So I was a communication professor for many years before I entered the organizational development and training world and started coaching communication in a law firm setting, and this is basically straight out of communication 101. Every communication is a transaction, and the idea is, there is a sender, there is a message, there is a receiver. Simple enough, right? So what can go wrong? And we all know so much goes wrong, and so much drama and dysfunction takes place, why? Because the way I encode my message is not the way that my receiver decodes it, and to put it in more layman, non-scholarly terms, my intention is not always, and oftentimes, not the other person's interpretation, and that's where the breakdown in communication happens, and that's what we're going to reveal today with the blockers and the connectors. When my intention and your interpretation are aligned, great! We connect. That's when we're on the same page. That's when there's a harmonious exchange and we feel like this was smooth, this was successful, and that's what you see on the bottom half of this slide. There was a constructive, positive, and productive exchange. When we walk away from a situation feeling like, "I don't know what just happened, "but I felt like there was a downward spiral, "I was triggered emotionally, "I don't feel like I wanna talk to this person "or go back to them," the blocker took place.

Judith: So we're going to role play our first communication blocker, and what we're going to ask you to do is listen carefully, and anytime you think you recognize what the blocker is, just jot it down, and so we're going to do a little game show role play here. So, our scenario is, right now, this is Judith speaking, and I'm going to block Lee. So Lee is coming into my office with a problem, and listen to what happens. And we're gonna keep this scenario consistent, just so we're focusing on the blocker, and throughout this webinar today we're going to reveal the eight common blockers, and each time, we'll show you, how do we connect instead of blocking? So in this first blocker, again, just jot down what you hear Judith doing as Lee is stepping into her office, hoping to connect.

Lee: Hey Judith!

Judith: Hey Lee, good morning! Come on in.

Lee: Good morning. So, really need you to listen, because I'm just feeling so stretched and stressed, I have so many projects--

Judith: Here's what you need to do. Here's what you need to do. You need to get up an hour earlier, you need to go to sleep an hour later. You need to spend a lot more hours in the office. Cancel all your personal plans. I'll be viewing your work over the weekend. Organize your files. I'm not sure your files are really well organized.

Lee: But, but--

Judith: And buy a new planner. I've seen your planner, and I really think that you need a new one. And I'm not really sure that you have an action plan. I haven't heard you say anything about an action plan yet.

Lee: And cut scene. So I feel quite, very blocked.

Judith: And that was little bit of an over, of course, acting and overacting, but what was I trying to do when Lee came into my office with her problem? So please write down what you think you heard, when Judith was acting and overacting for the purpose of our just learning here about this. I think she was trying to be helpful, absolutely. Didn't you feel like I was helping you?

Lee: Uh, no. I felt quite... So George, did somebody share with you, what did they hear there? What was the block?

George: Yep, I jotted down some of my own and I gathered some feedback from folks. I heard helping, covering for, directing, and not listening.

Judith: Ah, very good.

Lee: Yeah, so all of those are true, and all of those are offshoots of the blocker, fixing. So when a person tries to get into the fix it role, the problem solver, you came to me with a problem, I'm here to solve it, right? In gender based communication, this typically falls into the male kind of role, but not always. But this is when Judith didn't even get to hear my problem, and actually, I walked away feeling even more anxious by her solving my problem. And why is it a blocker? I never actually said, "Hey, I'd love a solution "to a problem that I have," or, "I need you to fix this issue that I have."

Judith: So the connector for fixing is empowering. When somebody comes to us with a problem, instead of fixing it, and I have to admit that I am a champion fixer, the way to connect is to empower that person, and help that person arrive at his or her own solutions. So encouraging them, asking them appropriate questions, reminding them of past successes, and if they do need some advice, I can share what's worked for me in the past, but that will not necessarily resonate with the other person. So we have to avoid that tendency to just jump in and fix that person's problem. But of course, when we're busy and in law firms, what we wanna do is just give that person a solution and get them outta the office. What it does is it creates breakdown, barriers in communication. It discourages people from seeking help when they really need it, and it just creates uncomfortable working situations.

Lee: Okay, so now that you're getting the hang of this, we're gonna do this again, and blocker number two, and we're going to reverse the roles. We'll keep the scenario consistent. Judith is now stepping into my office, and I am going to block her. Again, jot down what you hear me doing and saying as I act and overact this particular blocker that shows up in our daily interactions.

Judith: So hey, Lee, how are you this morning?

Lee: Good morning, Judith. How are you?

Judith: Well, I'm glad you asked. I'm really feeling stressed and stretched. I have five projects with deadlines today--

Lee: Oh my gosh, I know. I have ten projects with deadlines yesterday.

Judith: Oh, oh, I'm sorry to hear that. Anyway, I got called this morning before eight o'clock in the morning--

Lee: Oh my gosh, I know, I got called at 5am. Seven calls, yes, yes, I know.

Judith: Well I turned my phone off, but I did turn it on again at seven o'clock, and by eight o'clock I already had calls from three different partners, asking for research projects, and not just research projects here in California, but they wanted national information--

Lee: I know what you mean, because my five partners that were calling me wanted global information.

Judith: And cut. So what was Lee doing that was not very helpful to me?

Lee: If you could only see how she's looking at me right now.

Judith: For the purpose of everyone learning, we're just acting here. What was Lee doing to make my situation not much better than it was?

Lee: My intention was to connect, but how did I block? So George, what are some of the guesses?

George: Comments? We have one upping, downplaying, and then one comment is, "Me, me, me."

Judith: Yes, that was perfect. And let us reveal, you get 65,000 learning points for getting that. So it's topping, right? The one upping, me, me, me. I made it all about me. And sometimes we do that. Judith was being honest and saying before she's a fixer. I've noticed I top, not necessarily intentionally. I'm trying to relate to somebody else, and trying to also make 'em feel like, "You know, it's not so bad," and what I'm doing instead is blocking the person by topping, and dwarfing their issue and shifting the focus to me.

Lee: And again, we're acting and overacting, but this comes up all the time in conversations, where somebody says, "Oh my gosh, I'm overwhelmed," and the other person says, "Oh, I know, I'm super overwhelmed. "You think you're overwhelmed?" And it really doesn't feel good. So, shall we reveal?

Judith: Yeah, so instead of blocking by topping, the connector, again, the idea of having the conversation go toward the positive and productive exchange and not this, "Okay, great Lee. "This is the Lee Show. "It's all about you." We wanna listen, and we wanna listen in a different way than we normally do. Not listen to respond, which is what we humans are habitually fabulous at. We wanna listen to understand, and focus our attention on what the other person is saying, avoid jumping in with our own experience, and not shifting the focus to us, not one upping, not comparing. And the way to relate oftentimes is just by non-verbally listening, nodding, understanding.

George: Great.

Judith: So, ready to move on to our next blocker? This time I'm going to block Lee, and I'm going to grab a prop here, excuse me.

George: Uh-oh, uh-oh.

Judith: Uh-oh, get ready.

Lee: Yeah, you can't see it, but you'll hear it, and we do this often, and a quick point about these, we are revealing these individually, one by one, just for the purpose of our learning and growing about this, but really, we call it jiu-jitsu blocking, or simultaneously fixing, and one upping, and doing this third thing we're about to do. So Judith, how are you?

Judith: I'm great, Lee, come on in.

Lee: Okay, uh--

Judith: You can talk, I can listen and type at the same time, no problem.

Lee: You look a little busy, but--

Judith: It's fine, it's fine. Just talk to my left ear. You're perfect.

Lee: Okay, so remember I was telling you all those projects were going on? I have a deadline today, and--

Judith: Oh, hold on a second. Gretchen, can you do me a favor and call Delta? I need to fly to Boston next week, and they would be great anytime between 10am and 2pm. Perfect, thank you. Okay, go ahead, Lee, gotcha. So the projects, you were talking about all those projects you have.

Lee: I was talking about projects that you asked me to bring in today. I wanted to know--

Judith: Yeah, sure, sure. You can get them to me--

Lee: If there's a priority. I can't do all three--

Judith: Well you're smart. You can handle it.

Lee: Cut, cut. That didn't feel too good. What was Judith doing?

George: I felt awkward for Lee.

Judith: You felt awkward for me, right? Thank you, George, because, why?

George: I'll tell you. I wrote down not paying attention, and somebody actually wrote in multitasking.

Judith: This is a very advanced group. They're absolutely right, and so are you. Look at the first thing on here. Divide attention, she was not paying attention, and she was multitasking, and again, one of the things we do in our trainings is, we put a name to something you already know you're doing. And so, this happens constantly. You felt awkward for me because I felt ignored, alienated. She's booking a flight, she's typing, she's telling me to talk to her cheek.

Lee: Left ear.

Lee: Left ear.

Judith: That didn't work for you, Lee?

Lee: And as ridiculous as this sounds, it happens so often, and we see this in the workplace all the time, especially among lawyers who are really attached to their phones. Their clients expect it, and are constantly texting them or emailing them, calling them, and they feel an obligation to respond immediately. So you can be in a conversation with a shareholder or with an associate, and their intentions may be really good, but they feel pulled in another direction, and they feel required to be responding to that email right away, or to be responding that text. So it is difficult, but there are definitely ways around this. So let's reveal the connector.

Judith: Yes.

Judith: Focusing, notice the eye contact and the body language and the non-verbal of the person in the image, and it is all about making eye contact, avoiding distractions. I was trying to be proactive by saying, "Is this a good time?" And many times we say, "It's never gonna be a good time, "so you might as well speak now." We're not connected with the other person. A quick, two second anecdote, I was coaching an attorney at a law firm who said, "I don't understand why people feel like "they're not connecting with me every time I speak to them," and I asked her to bring me into her office. She showed me that the setup was in such a way that people come in, take a seat on the couch, but her back is turned to them, and her face looks at a computer screen.

George: So they're talking to the back of her head.

Lee: Yes, yeah, that doesn't generally work. So that's a major blocker, and is probably the most ubiquitous of the blockers.

Judith: The other point about focusing is that we actually save time when we focus. Sometimes we think that we're being more efficient by typing the email while talking to somebody else, but the bottom line is, and the research bears this out, that we make more mistakes and it takes us longer when we're trying to accomplish two tasks at once. So, turning away from your computer, turning away from your email or your phone, and actually focusing on the person who's speaking will get that issue resolved much more quickly and with a much higher quality outcome than if you tried to multitask.

Lee: So you guys are getting the hang of this. We are moving on to blocker number four. I'm going to block Judith this time.

Judith: All right. Hi, Lee.

Lee: Hello.

Judith: Do you have a minute?

Lee: I do.

Judith: Great, so I just need to unload here. I am super overwhelmed right now. I have so many projects on my plate, and I keep getting calls from attorneys who... We just brought on three new attorneys in IP department, and they're really excited about doing a lot of new biz dev, but I need to reign them in a little bit. I'm really feeling like, I just don't know what to do.

Lee: Well, you know, you've done this before, so I believe in you. You'll do it. Don't worry about it so much, right?

Judith: Yeah, I mean, I have done it before. It's not, I mean, I've been doing this for a long time. I've definitely experienced--

Lee: You're very smart, and it's all gonna work out, but I know you've got plenty of help and resources at this firm, as well, right?

Judith: Well, not really, because everybody in my department is out on maternity leave, or sick, or--

Lee: But you've handled this before. You know, you came to me last week with something like this and you handled it. It's gonna be fine. Hey, who better than you to make it happen? You always worry, you always get it handled. You know, take some vitamins.

Judith: 'Cause I can't even get the words out anymore, I'm feeling so blocked, and--

Lee: Okay, so this time, I was, if you could see me, fully focused on Judith. I wasn't on my phone, I wasn't on my computer, and yet she still felt blocked. So, take a second to write down what that blocker was. And then share with us, George, what some of the responses are.

George: Gotcha. We have, "Making someone insecure," and downplaying.

Lee: Okay.

Judith: Yeah, definitely.

Lee: Does that make sense?

Judith: Yes.

Lee: It does. And what do you think it is, George?

George: That's not fair. I know the answer.

George: You're so on it. Okay, keep calm and don't worry. Trivializing, yeah, downplaying.

Judith: Perfect. We were at a law firm recently leading this training, and one lawyer was nodding and saying, "Oh my gosh, that is so my experience," because it's kind of like saying, "I'm drowning," and everybody else says, "You're a great swimmer. "Just come up to shore." You're not acknowledging people's feelings. You're making them feel more lonely or anxious, so the person who said, "Making them feel insecure," absolutely. And a lot of times, we also do this blocker to ourselves, you know? We tell ourselves, "Oh my God. "I've handled much worse than this before. "I can do it," and what it does is actually just make us feel even more anxious, and doesn't acknowledge. So, the way to connect instead is to--

Lee: Validate.

Judith: Yes, to remember what it was like not to know. What was it like when we were in that situation before? Most of the time, people know that they can handle it. People know that they can overcome, but they really just need to unload. Next time somebody comes to your office and is looking for this kind of communication, just ask them, "Do you need me to listen, "or do you need me to solve your problem? "What is it you're looking for?" Most of the time, people just need validation. We don't wanna diminish it. Recognize the legitimacy of their concerns, and acknowledge that perhaps you've been in this place as well, but you don't want to overcome or trivialize another person's experience.

Lee: Yeah, and because they're coming to us and we've done this before, we know they've done it before, we're no longer in that place of the unknown, and it ends up making the other person feeling exactly what Judith just said, insecure and not validated.

Judith: Yeah, I think that's a good point, too. We do need to remember that one time, this was new for us as well. Maybe the who's coming to you is not as experienced, and could just use some words of support, as opposed to, "It's not a big deal." Well, not for you. So, okay, great. We are going into blocker number five now.

George: Hey Lee and Judith, now that we're sort of at the halfway point with the blockers, I wanna put you on the spot a little bit and say, these are great in terms of identifying what blockers somebody might be using on you. But, what is the advice for actually giving feedback, right? Maybe there's managers on the line that can empathize and say, "Okay, I do that," but there's also junior folks on the line that say, "Okay, well if my manager is fixing, topping, "multitasking, how do I let them know?" Like do they say, "Hey, I saw this webinar "with Lee and Judith. "You should really watch it."

Lee: "You are doing blocker number three." And that's just like when people say, "I've read this psychology book, "and page six, that's classic you," right? Talk about a major blocker. So, thank you so much for posing that question, because these are meant to number one, get us not to block or realize where we're blocking, but also name, as you said, where we get blocked, and how can we preempt and prevent that by, and Judith was kind of naming this a little bit before, be clear about what you want out of the situation so you don't get blocked. If you realize, "Oh my gosh, something doesn't go right "every time I go and try and speak to this colleague of mine "or this supervisor of mine. "What is it?" And then you can name it following this training, and realize, "They're fixing my problem "before they heard it," or, "They're constantly multitasking, "and on the phone and on the computer, "or doing whatever else. "How can I preempt and prevent that?" Now that I've named it, now that I'm aware of it, it's been brought out of my unconscious unawareness to a place of awareness, which is what training is all about, I can take some conscious action proactively and if I know Judith is constantly this busy person who is gonna multitask, but that blocks me, I can preempt and prevent by going into her office and saying, "Hey Judith, I really need your undivided attention, "and I know you're busy. "Is this a good time, or can you find five minutes for me "in which you can really help me focus on this problem?"

George: Got it.

Judith: So I named the issue, and I handled it really proactively as opposed to, "You're always on the phone or on the computer, "and this is why we don't interact well."

George: Gotcha. By being able to identify, you're able to preempt it.

Lee: Yeah.

Judith: Okay.

Lee: Yes, we find that, in a lot of the trainings that we do, many of the interactions are intuitive. We are aware of them, but because we put a name to them, then we're able to act on them proactively. Until we name them, it's difficult to resolve them, but once we can identify what the issue is, then we're able to resolve it.

George: Got it, okay. Sorry for interrupting.

Judith: No, we're glad you did.

Lee: Thanks for your question. Moving right along. Okay, so I'm coming to you now, Judith, right?

Judith: Yes.

Lee: Okay, so block me.

Judith: Hey Lee, come in. You're looking a little peaked today.

Lee: Yeah, so I, yeah. You know, I just can't complete everything I need to by tomorrow. I took on so much work. I wanna make sure that I'm really pleasing these partners--

Judith: Now aren't you the kind of person that always takes on a lot of work? Is this something that you do regularly?

Lee: Yeah, it's kinda part of my job.

Judith: Is that something that you were taught to do as a child? Did your parents impose it on you, or your teachers? Was that something that, as a child, you learned to take on too much more than you could handle?

Lee: I don't really have time to think about my childhood right now, and--

Judith: I'm sure. Sounds kinda like your whole identity is wrapped up in being busy and over occupied and having a lot to do.

Lee: Um, perhaps. Cut. I don't wanna have this conversation anymore, but Judith, what was she doing, everybody, and George?

George: I wrote down, "laying blame and increasing negativity."

Lee: Ooh, okay. Was that your intention, Judith?

Judith: Oh, absolutely not. Lee, didn't you feel better? Didn't I really help?

Lee: Yeah, she said, "Come here and sit on my couch.

Judith: "You look a little peaked today."

Lee: Now, so if you've been on the giving or receiving end of this, this one is analyzing, right? A lot of times, we judge the person, prejudge the person. We already have a preconceived notion, and we, whether we intend to or not, our judgment gets into our conversation, into what we say to them, and they end up feeling analyzed and like we're blowing up the problem to be much bigger than it really is. It's about your identity and it's about childhood and it's about who you are in this world and how you carry yourself and your whole being, as opposed to, "Hey, is it not okay for me "to just identify I have this issue "without feeling like you're my therapist?"

Judith: And again, I overacted, but we do this in much more subtle ways. Obviously, I was really jumping in there and making her feel belittled, but we do this in much more subtle ways. So somebody comes into our office and we make them feel a little bit like, "You know what? "You tend to do this. "This is your thing. "You're always making a mountain out of a molehill, "or you exaggerate." So we have other more subtle ways of letting people know that we're judging them or analyzing them, and we really want to become aware of that and take a step back and notice what language we're using and what our behavior is like.

Lee: Yeah, and the connector here instead is appreciating. And again, George you were saying before, what if you're on the receiver end of this transaction, not on the giving end, you wanna be appreciated, and you realize this person has a judgment about me, and they're analyzing me or their making it about something bigger than the substance or subject of what I'm saying, they're making it about me as a person.

Judith: Plus, you know, we work in law firms, and law firms are very high pressure, very busy environments, work environments. And so we do feel overwhelmed and overextended and too busy, et cetera, et cetera, so it's natural and appropriate to feel that way. It's in the interaction with our colleagues that we wanna become aware of how we are communicating and how are we responding?

Lee: And I'm gonna quote Judith here, who I often hear saying, "In order to remove judgment, "suspend judgment, replace it with curiosity." You know, try and get yourself, if you are, "Oh boy, they're coming to me again with this. "Let me get out of that mindset and get curious "about where they're coming from, and their approach, "and their way of seeing the world "or their particular experience." And that will allow the conversation to be one of connection and not one of this blocking downward spiral.

Judith: All right.

George: Excellent.

Lee: All right, blocker number six. Here you go.

Judith: Okay, hey Lee, do you have a minute?

Lee: I do.

Judith: Great, thanks. I just wanted to--

Lee: What happened to your watch?

Judith: Oh I left it at home today.

Lee: Oh, okay, because you asked if I have a minute, I noticed you didn't have a watch.

Judith: No, I guess that's right. Anyway, so I just wanted to ask you about this matter that I've been working on, and--

Lee: How long have you been working on it?

Judith: Well, it's a new one. It just came in. I was just asked to do some research on the issue, and I thought maybe you'd have some feedback for me. So, is this a good time to talk to you about that?

Lee: Yes.

Judith: Okay, great. So anyway, this new matter just came in and I have a whole bunch of other issues to be talking--

Lee: Oh, what issues are you working on? What did you have for breakfast today, by the way? You look a little bit hungry.

Judith: Um, well, I um, I don't remember what I had for breakfast.

Lee: I forgot to ask you, how long have you been working at this firm?

Judith: I'm going on three years now. But anyway--

Lee: Okay that's cool. And how many lawyers are you working with?

Judith: I'm working with about 47 lawyers.

Lee: Oh my gosh.

Judith: Yeah, the group has really, really grown, but that's not the--

Lee: Oh yeah, yeah, you said it's a new matter. So how new? Did you get it today, yesterday?

Judith: Yeah, it actually came onto my desk last night, and so I just wanted to run it by you and find out if you had experience with this particular research project. It's an IP matter, and somebody said that you're really good with IP.

Lee: I am.

Judith: Yeah, and cut. So what was Lee doing?

George: We got responses right away on this one. I got attacking--

Lee: Oh, hey guys, come on. You don't even know me that well. I feel attacked now.

George: Obviously interrupting.

Judith: Yes.

George: And we got not listening again, which we've heard in the past.

Lee: Very good on the not listening, because you're gonna see at the end that is one of the catchall. Every time we block, we don't listen. So I came off as attacking, interrupting, not listening, and I was doing that by, here is the reveal, asking a whole lot of questions. All I was doing, actually, was asking questions. Did you kind of feel like that, Judith, like the guy in that picture with a whole bunch of--

Lee: Yeah, it was like, I couldn't even get my words out, because it's like, "What? "I just need you to focus on what I'm talking about here."

Lee: So this, again, can come out of different types of intention. One intention could be, I'm actually curious. I tried to suspend judgment. I'm from a place of curiosity. I wanna know. And so I end up asking a lot of questions, maybe seeking to understand what Judith is trying to relate to me, but these questions are off topic, off tangent, they draw the conversation out, and you named it, they interrupt, she feels frustrated, it's disrupting. Now, if I have an agenda, and I'm not just coming from this place of curiosity, it comes off as interrogating, and I'm asking all these questions, and that's where you got maybe the attacking of, "Why didn't you do this?" or, "Where is your watch?" or, "Why aren't you on top of that?" And--

George: What did you have for breakfast?

Judith: What was that?

George: I said "What did you have for breakfast?"

Judith: Yeah, "What did you have for breakfast?" And, "What this?" and we get into that mode many times. And again, we're overacting, but until we become aware and recognize exactly what we're doing, we just keep doing it, and I catch myself. We've done this training many, many times, and I still catch myself trying to fix, asking a lot of questions. There are a few that I feel very comfortable with unfortunately, so we just have to become aware of them, and then I just hold back and try to remember, what am I trying to do here? And so in this case, and in pretty much every case, we really want to listen to understand, not listen to respond. Many times we're just thinking about what's in our own head. I'm listening to Lee tell me her problem and I've got what's going on my head going on, instead of listening for, what does she really need from me? Does she need me to understand the substance of the issue? Does she just need to unload? Am I really listening to her or am I thinking about, "Gosh, when is she gonna get outta my office?" So it's really about listening to understand, and that is a subtle but important shift in the way we interact with people.

Lee: Yeah, and then you ask questions that are relevant. Nothing wrong with the questions, but when you ask so many before you even understood what the person is trying to say, again, if you're on the receiver end of this, and you realize, "Oh my gosh, I could name it. "That person just asked me a lot of questions." And it could be from this place of wanting to know or wanting to get to the answer quicker so they can fix the problem, or whatever it is, you might preempt and prevent that by saying, "Hey, you always ask these great questions, "but I want you to know "I already just solved this issue or dealt with it, "so what I really wanna relate this story to you, "you gotta let me get this out," in a way that doesn't kill their spirit, and you can do that with, "I love the questions you ask, George, "but hold onto them for a second "because you've got a hear this story and what happened." Right, that didn't crush your spirit, but it also made me not feel blocked and didn't draw out our conversation into a place where, who cares what you ate for breakfast or how long you've been at this firm?

George: Gotcha.

Lee: So you're ready for your next blocker?

Lee: Yes, we are.

Lee: All right.

Lee: He was like, "Yes." That didn't sound very enthusiastic.

Lee: Yes we are!

Judith: All right, and action!

Lee: Okay. Hey Judith!

Judith: Hey Lee, how are you doing today?

Lee: I don't think I can finish the reports by tomorrow. There's just, there isn't enough time, and I don't think I can do it.

Judith: This is what life in a law firm looks like. Do you know how lucky you are to have this job? You should feel fortunate that you work in a firm that has the kind of resources you've got at hand.

Lee: I'm happy for my job. I don't have enough time to get this done and I need some support.

Judith: Well I think you should just suck it up. Just suck it up, right? Try to be a little more grateful. Maybe that will be helpful to you.

Lee: I'll be more grateful if I get some assistance on this. I think we need to hire some more people--

Judith: I know a lot of paralegals who would love to be in your shoes.

Lee: And cut, because, I don't wanna be sitting next to Judith right now.

Judith: And it's interesting because I could see from her non-verbals that she really felt blocked. It was hard for her to even get the words out because, what was I doing to her?

George: We have one response, one word, and it's very telling. Disrespecting.

Lee: Ah, yeah, absolutely.

Judith: Definitely. Ever been on the giving or receiving end of disrespecting, because of your own stress or that person's stress or something that's gone wrong in the relationship?

Lee: Absolutely, and that is how I felt, disrespected. And I felt disrespected because Judith was in this chastising, belittling, demeaning, there you named it, disrespecting, mode. Stop complaining, be more grateful, you should, you should, you should. We call this, "Stop shoulding all over people," right? You know, where we feel blamed and shamed for expressing a need, and this is where there's something called the transactional analysis, where you're not treated as an adult, that's where the disrespect comes in. I came in to sit as a colleague, as an adult, she's an adult in the workplace, too, but she spoke to me as a parent and treated me as a child, and hence the image that you have here, and that's the disrespect. So the way out of this is to actually go into adult mode, to elevate the conversation. If you're being a parent, elevate to adult. If you're being the child in the conversation, elevate to adult, and then you meet people in a more assertive place, and not what this was, which is either aggressive or passive aggressive.

George: Excellent.

Judith: I think we pretty much went through the connector here, but again, we just want to be more proactive, focus on the desirable outcome. Again, not to disrespect, not to use chastising words, but to elevate the conversation to an adult conversation. We unwittingly enter into conversations and assume roles from our childhood. And again, it's unconscious. When we are able to name it and recognize it, then we are able to elevate the conversation so that we're having an adult to adult conversation.

Judith: And the quick kind of heuristic to remind us about this is to say, "Respond, don't react." You know, how can I respond in this conversation and not react, to either being chastised or to not chastising. Great, we are down to our final blocker, and I get to do this one.

Judith: Oh, okay, great.

Lee: Come on in, Judith. What's going on?

Judith: Hey Lee.

Lee: You look upset.

Judith: Oh, I am. I didn't sleep very well last night.

Lee: Oh my gosh, you poor thing.

Judith: Yeah, I was working 'till 2am and then I went home and I got about four or five hours of sleep--

Lee: That is not good for your health.

Judith: No, I know.

Lee: You need to be taking better care of yourself.

Judith: I know, I know. And that's the problem. I don't have time to take care of myself, because not only do I have five projects on my desk, but we have three new attorneys in the IP department, and like I said--

Lee: This is not fair to you. It's just not, you know, you're gonna get sick.

Judith: I'm already feeling under the weather, and cut! Oh my gosh! I'm feeling terrible. What just happened?

Lee: Wait, but I was gonna give you the number of my masseuse and give you ice cream and tell you to take a break and cover for you.

Judith: I'll take the masseuse number. Maybe we can have ice cream afterwards.

Lee: What was that? I thought I was being so wonderful and sweet, so why did Judith feel blocked? Why did she cut that scene?

George: I wrote down, "babying," and the attendees gave us coddling and "not helpful."

Judith: Right, not helpful.

Judith: Brilliant bunch. Coddling, babying, we're going to reveal over-sympathizing. We've heard in trainings when we've done this, smothering, babying, the mothering, the overly--

Judith: "Do you need a hug?"

Judith: Making the person feel--

Judith: Which sounds helpful, but it's really, really not.

Judith: Exactly. And you know why it sounds helpful, because this is the complete opposite of chastising. I'm actually so here for you, but maybe I'm trying to, you'll see in the next screen, sympathize, but I don't get what empathizing is, and how, again, to make the person feel like an adult and that they're powerful and that they're able to take care of themselves. And I, not knowing how to empathize, I over-sympathize and make them feel helpless, like a victim, like they need me to step in and they can't handle it on their own when that's not what she needs at all.

Judith: Yeah, and even though we were role playing, I felt my whole body was just withdrawing and pulling away from Lee. I definitely felt victimized. So how do we empathize? Well, there's two kinds of empathy. One is cognitive empathy and one is affective empathy. Cognitive empathy is understanding how a person thinks, what they're thinking, what their position is, what their perspective is. I can understand Lee's perspective on a problem, then I'm empathizing with her thinking. Affective cognition is emotional empathy, that's understanding how another person feels, and if you ever go to a sports bar and watch a game, and your team scores, and everybody is like, "Yeah!" that's affective empathy. Or if your team misses that touchdown and everybody cringes, fumbles the ball, everybody cringes, and that's, "Ah." So that's affective empathy. That's understanding how everybody else is feeling. The way to demonstrate that is simply to acknowledge that person's thinking or feeling, and help them overcome it themselves, not to victimize them or, you know, well, you could offer them a handkerchief if they need it, jokingly, but really to empower them. Again, all of these connectors relate to one another. We had empowering as a connector for fixing. It's also a connector for empathizing. We wanna help that person feel better about themselves and acknowledge that their emotions and their thoughts are valid.

Judith: So now that we've revealed all of the, or we should say the most common, blockers and connectors, and everything you named to identify each of the blockers is offshoot things, like not listening and interrupting and belittling or disrespecting, those offshoots all relate to each one of those blockers.

Judith: That's what Lee calls jiu-jitsu blocking. We never just do one type of blocking. We'll do a number of different types of blocks in one conversation. And you'll notice that this will start coming up in your interactions with other people.

Judith: So a really powerful tool, if everything else goes out the window and you forget, "Oh my gosh, instead of chastising, I should be responding," or, "Instead of analyzing, I should be appreciating, "and how do I do that?" If you focus on levels of listening, that would be, for each one, most of you named, "Well, the blocker was not listening." The blocker was not listening. Well, that's partly true, because we were listening when we're blocking, but we're listening at level one. In other words, we're listening to our internal dialogue, we're listening to our inner voice, we're listening to that mind chatter. We're said to have some 60,000 thoughts per day, and most of those thoughts are repetitive, negative thoughts, and so when the person is coming to me, I'm listening at level one to my thought, to my judgment, to my opinion, to my question, to my response, to what I'm going to say, instead of where they're coming from. Level two listening is so rare, that I kind of picture a remote control that I put next to my mind, and when I'm trying to get out of blocker mode, let me not top her, let me not take over the story, or make it about me, me, me, as you so clearly identified at the beginning. Let me change that channel from one to channel two, listening to that level two, where listening is for the other person's purpose, their vision, their objective, their outcome, what they're saying, how they're saying it, to their verbal and non-verbal communication, which I can't do if I'm multitasking, if I'm looking into my phone, I can't see what they look like. And we're trying to listen to not just their stated need, but to their unstated need.

Judith: And level two listening is good not only for the listener, it's good for the person being listened to. There's research that shows that when a person comes to another with a problem and they're heard, they feel listened to, actually both people's blood pressure goes down. So listening is incredibly powerful. It's a stress reliever, it's physiologically calming and soothing, and it improves relationships. There's absolutely no doubt that when somebody comes to you and you actually hear what they're saying, and again, listening for their outcome, which I think is usually where we get blocked, listening for the outcome is much more efficient and much more healthy for everybody involved.

Judith: And we can connect because we can all focus on, what's a desirable outcome that we can mutually agree to? Then let's go there. So, just summarizing this, we all use these blockers, and we might all have really great intentions and we're on the giving and receiving end of these anyhow, and it's up to us to be 100% responsible for how we receive information and how we give the information and how the conversations take place so we can bring 'em to this connected place and not to this blocked place, and the eight connectors is something we've gotta practice because we're all really great at blocking and now habitually and automatically become fabulous at blocking, so the idea is to really practice responding, understanding, appreciating, validating, focusing and listening, empowering, and empathizing, and, knowing that the meta overall skills for all of these are listening to understand, and listening at a connected level two, out of our internal dialogue.

Judith: Yeah, and what I think is also really important is that blocking can be either verbal or non-verbal. Somebody can be expressing impatience by tapping their foot or crossing their arms, really not intending necessarily to communicate with you that they don't have time, but that's what they're communicating. So we're very, very smart. Our brains are really, really good at picking up non-verbal cues, and we're always going to default to the non-verbal over the verbal when the verbal message and the non-verbal message don't align. So if I walk into Lee's office and she says to me, "Yeah, come on in," but her non-verbals are saying, "Get out," I'm gonna know that she doesn't want me in her office even though her words are saying, "Come in." So, we're really, really smart that way, and it's really important to understand that we block not just verbally, but non-verbally as well.

Judith: We have a handout of this wheel, and on the back of this handout are the tips on how to connect with each of these blockers, and we, in our trainings, a lot of times we give these out, and we'll be happy to also distribute these to you electronically. And oftentimes, people say, "I've printed out "multiple copies of these. "I keep one in the office. "I keep one on the fridge at home," because the blockers, as you know, don't just come into professional interactions, but in our personal interactions, as well.

Judith: Yeah, we've gotten texts from people that actually say, "This works, I tried this and this worked with my kid," or, "This worked with my wife," so good to know.

Judith: Any questions?

George: If I print that out, can I give one to my wife?

Judith: Absolutely.

George: No, I'm the one who needs it, I'm the one who needs it. Well, I wanted to thank you. I think I had a ton of takeaways here, but I think the important thing is, in terms of just listening to this webinar, and if folks wanna share it we'll have it up on our site within the next 24 to 48 hours, is just being able to recognize these blockers is hugely important. As you were walking through them, I started to just replay some scenarios in my head just from the last week or so, and being able to recognize it in the moment would've really helped me to focus and listen, not to prejudge, to really be present, and help me really communicate at, like you said, a really meaningful level.

Judith: Thank you. And it is difficult in a technologically driven world. We rely on our technology and we need it, it serves a purpose, but we definitely we need to find the balance between human to human communication and technology.

Lee: And now that we've done this training, it's planted this seed where you'll start recognizing, "Oh my gosh, I'm fixing," or, "I'm topping," or, "I'm being interrogated," or, "This person is making me feel "powerless and helpless by over-sympathizing." And just naming them, and being aware of them, George, as you mentioned, you'll go through interactions and be able to stop, and then think about how you can connect instead of blocking or being blocked.

George: Yeah, or not get so frustrated by that other person. You're just saying, "Hey, you know, "this is what's happening right now, "and maybe next time I'll have "a preemptive way to deal with that."

Judith: Exactly.

Lee: Exactly.

George: Well, thank you again ladies. This has been really enlightening and, like I mentioned, it's gonna be up on our site for other folks to view, so thanks again and hope to speak to you soon.

Judith: Thank you.

Lee: Yes, thank you, and to all the participants for your fabulous responses.

George: Thank you!

Judith: Ciao! Bye!

Lee: Bye, take care.