Communications now-popular

5 smart tactics to boost your 1-on-1 meeting

Henk Veenhuysen
by Henk Veenhuysen

For the umpteenth time, during your 1-on-1 meeting, you are trying to get your story, opinion or idea across the stage at work. And no one is really listening to you… Every time it happens: your colleague or your manager interrupts you, is distracted or just waiting for their chance to bend the conversation to their will. You wish they would listen better.

How frustrating!

One thing is certain: you do not feel heard, and in the conversation you hardly get the opportunity to solve or prevent the mistake you saw in the project. Frustrating, don’t you think? How do you solve that? What are ways to increase your colleague’s undivided attention and teach them to listen better? I’m going to make it all clear to you in this blog and how to tackle that.

What is a one-on-one meeting?

A 1-on-1 meeting (bilateral meeting) is a conversation/work meeting between 2 colleagues or with your manager. It’s a bit of “jargon. The term is widely used to refer to an individual consultation. In an individual consultation, you often have a little more space to discuss issues.

What is the effect of not listening

Super frustrating, of course, when you have colleagues who don’t listen well. There are all sorts of reasons why people listen less well. For example, your interlocutor may be too preoccupied with himself or with other things.

This causes your colleague to not be fully present in the conversation which may make you think, “what an arrogant sob.” And before you know it, the conversation has derailed into an original Greek drama.

Risks of poor listening

There are risks in poor listening. If you don’t pay close attention to the conversation, you won’t pick up the right things enough and mistakes can easily occur or wrong assumptions can be made.

Of course, it could also be that your interlocutor is simply not interested in what you have to say. He/she only wants to talk about himself/herself. That sounds a bit bad, but this really is more common and more human than you think. Good listening is an art.

It’s more about your intrinsic motivation

Good listening is not in the technique, which is actually quite simple. It’s more in your intrinsic motivation to have a good professional 1-on-1 meeting with your colleague or your manager and the effort you put into making it happen. This involves trial and error and, above all, lots of practice in real (work)life.

5 smart tactics during your one-on-one meeting

Oh yes, learning to listen better starts with yourself

Can you actually listen well yourself? ‘Of course,’ you say directly and without hesitation…. This is like estimating how well you can drive a car. Most consider themselves better drivers than the average person, but is that true? Doing a little self-assessment on the quality of your own listening skills can’t hurt. So check your own listening skills first.

For example, with this list:

  1. Listening well is more than just keeping your mouth shut. How well are you able to ask questions that make the other person think?
  2. Good listening requires appreciative interaction. What do you actively do to express your appreciation in the other person so they feel supported?
  3. Good listening is not a competition. In 1-on-1 meetings; how well can you be “sharp” but also collaborative so that the other person feels they are being helped?
  4. Good listening is also respectfully offering suggestions or alternatives. How well are you able to offer solutions that are accepted and offer openings in the conversation.

1. Discover your colleague’s preferred style

You’re firmly convinced: your colleague has the tension span of a puppy and therefore can’t listen at all. Or…. is it different? Maybe so. Of course, it could well be that your colleague is simply more visually oriented rather than the torrent of words you pour over him/her.

How do you provide the information?

So ask your colleague how he/she prefers to receive the information; with a note, briefly face to face or a small sketch in the form of a mind map.

You can also take some time beforehand to think about what your colleague’s (working) style is and adjust accordingly. You significantly increase the chances of being listened to by doing so, and the conversation really does improve.

For example, with the following questions:

  1. What is your colleague’s usual way of communicating? Direct or a little more indirect?
  2. What is your colleague’s “user manual”. For example: no complicated decisions or topics before 10 a.m.
  3. What behaviors does your colleague dislike or find difficult? For example, being informed too late when something important is going on.

minicase: Jack works in a hospital as a technical assistant. He is concerned about the blood pressure monitors project. Several times already he has tried to express his concerns by extended mail. He gets absolutely no response. Today he decided to just walk past the project manager. The project manager likes that and immediately sets aside time for him.

2. Train yourself in better listening 2.0 during your 1-on-1 meeting

A good way to get your colleague to listen to you better is….. to listen better yourself. It’s more like listening 2.0.

What is the body language?

You “hear” what the other person is saying better when you pay attention not only to what is being said but also to the tone in which something is said. Body language such as how a person sits and facial expression is also important. You “hear” better what is not being said and you can address that in the conversation. Your attention to what is left unsaid makes the other person feel heard and therefore listen to you more attentively.

Structure of the 1-on-1 meeting

Having an eye and attention to the structure of the conversation. This means really understanding what the other person is saying and understanding what to do at certain points in the conversation. You do this by remembering what the other person has said, summarizing what you agree and disagree on, understanding what the main line is and what the core message of the other person’s argument is.

Try using these phrases in your conversation:

  1. I think this is the crux of your message: ……….
  2. I think these are the points on which we agree and disagree: ……
  3. Having heard you, I have the following suggestion to take steps now:….
  4. ‘What would still be good is, based on your story, to pay attention to the following points to make it complete’: …….

You can also make improvements in the quality of listening in your (non)verbal behavior.

This can be done by:

  1. Acknowledge what is said: For example, “Thank you for sharing this with me.
  2. Ask indepth and clarifying questions.
  3. Give a short and good summary of what the other person is saying.
  4. Also consider for a moment things like facial expression and eye contact.
  5. Make sure you are “really there” (present) in the conversation. So don’t turn your attention already to the next appointment you have.

Article continues after photo

bila conversation? 5 tactics to boost this conversation
Take notes during the conversation. a few words are often enough to get the red line right at some point in the conversation.

3. Make your interlocutor co-responsible

What also works great for getting more listening attention is to make your interlocutor co-responsible for the conversation. You do this by providing a good introduction and objective at the start of the 1-on-1 meeting.

It looks something like this:

“I have 3 solutions to the problem in this project that I want to share with you. At the end of our conversation, I would like to know from you which solution you prefer so we can make a decision.”

Chances are, your prospective interlocutor will immediately have your attention and ears. Repeating your message also makes it clear that you are serious and creates co-responsibility.

minicase: Steffie works as a lawyer at a bank. She has trouble with her boss who puts her under frequent (including when she’s at home) work pressure. She is a tad introverted and finds it difficult to communicate this properly. Still, she enters the conversation with her supervisor. At the end of the interview, she again repeats her three main objections and also says, “Maybe I’m repeating myself a bit but I want to make sure I come across well and clearly.”

4. Showing a little empathy

Literally obeserving and highlighting poor (listening) behavior is something you should use as a last option. The chances are that someone will show a lot of resistance and can really only be done if you know your colleague well. (see next paragraph)

What you can do better is show empathetic behavior toward the other person. Manipulation? Yes certainly, but with a sincere purpose, so allowed :). If you do this then it is crucial that it sounds and is sincere.

minicase: Rudi works as a manager for a house-rental company and considers himself to be non-empathetic in some situations. He has an independent and busy job in which it is occasionally helpful to consult with colleagues on how best to resolve a particular situation with a resident. However, they never have time for him. He tries to do it with a little more empathy: “I think you are extremely busy, can I take over something from you so you can have a little more time for our conversation now?”. This works a lot better.

5. one-on-one meeting checklist

For your convenience, here are the key points to boost the 1-on-1 meeting between you and your colleague.

Your checklist for an effective one-on-one meeting

  1. Discover your colleague’s preferred style

    Observe and examine your interlocutor’s preferred style: how can you best capture the other person’s attention?

  2. Train yourself in better listening 2.0

    It is nice for your interlocutor when you say you value his/her views or opinion (active listening).

  3. Make your interlocutor co-responsible

    Give a good starting shot to your interlocutor before you begin your story. For example, “I have something important I want to share with you.”

  4. Show a little empathy

    Emphasize empathically the process: for example, “You seem distracted can I help you with something?”

Good luck with your next 1-on-1. With these tips, your colleague will definitely listen better.

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