Posted by Carolyn Dickson
Getting feedback can be painful. It’s bad enough to hear something negative about yourself you didn’t know was there. It’s even worse when you haven’t a clue what to do about it.
A critic’s role is to deliver both the bad and the good, but criticism has long thought to be nothing but negative. Then we began to talk about constructive criticism, thinking that would take the sting out of it. But to no avail. So now we give feedback, which is supposed to make everything better. Yeah, right.
One of the biggest problems with feedback is that it’s so vague the receivers misinterpret the message, and in trying to make something better they only make it worse. Here’s the case of Pete (not his real name).
When Pete walked into class, he took over the room. A big guy, strong and muscular, he had been told over and over that he intimidated people. So Pete concocted his own solution; he changed his voice and spoke with a tiny, high-pitched sound that was so weak he could hardly be heard. When we began to work with Pete, we soon realized the problem wasn’t with his natural voice, which was actually deep and rich and quite appealing. In his attempts to be more professional and controlled, his muscles had tightened and he had become more and more rigid and unyielding. This in turn led to a scowl that would turn anybody off.
Here’s another example.
Ajit’s feedback had been that he wasn’t clear, and he came to class determined to get rid of the Indian in his accent. But his accent was fine. His problem was that he spoke with no emotion, he repeated himself endlessly, and he talked theory until everyone wanted to scream, without ever giving any practical advice. “No one’s ever told me this,” he commented. “They just said they couldn’t understand me.”
So what do you do?
The key to good feedback is proper diagnosis. Take eye contact. Lack of eye contact is a huge issue with people who have trouble communicating. But there are a number of reasons why people don’t make eye contact, and you can’t deal with them all in the same way, which is what usually happens.
Some speakers are so involved in their content—what they want to say—that they don’t pay attention at all to the people listening to them. This is true in formal presentations as well as one-on-one conversation. For many speakers it’s fear—fear of making mistakes, fear of not looking professional, fear of appearing vulnerable (which can scare presenters to death). Some speakers have been given the wrong advice in other workshops and are using little tricks, like looking at the wall or imagining their audience naked.
In most corporate settings, people giving feedback lack the diagnostic skills to work at the level I have just described. It takes a coach with an outside perspective, someone who’s been trained in the diagnostic skills needed to get to the heart of the matter and deal with causes, not just surface symptoms.
So, whether you call it criticism, constructive criticism, or plain ol’ feedback, the key is finding a coach who can help fix problems at their deepest level. This will take the danger out of feedback and turn it into a valuable management tool.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles
Posted by Luanne Paynick
I just got off of the phone from having a heartwarming conversation, with a client I have known for years. At this point I’d say we are friends— which is comforting in this era of uncertainty, change, and technology. I also just finished reading an article in the Elephant Journal Entitled “10 Ways to Feel ‘Sane', Even When We Feel Crazy”. After reading the article I also felt comforted.
There is a thread or a theme that binds these two events, and makes them stand out for me. It is connection— to myself (a connection to my feelings, my body and my thoughts) and to others (an emotional connection). With either connection there is a grounding effect, especially in the midst of chaos – when I need it the most. It doesn’t matter where the “craziness” is coming from. It can be from the chaotic world around me, the stories I am telling myself, the overwhelm of technology, or the never-ending litany of stuff I am in the midst of (tasks, tasks and more tasks). Connecting never fails to bring me back to center. And when I am centered the world around me (and inside me) has a less chaotic, out of control feel to it.
I’ve also learned that connection doesn’t have to be a random occurrence— the result of a phone call or reading an article. I can reach out for the few tried and true practices that provide that connection and centeredness I am striving for. And, you can too.
Notice your body
What does it feel like? How are you sitting or standing. Where are you holding your tension? Where are you the most relaxed? It never fails, when you are “in your body,” you are “out of your head”— the never ending stream of negative thoughts (at worst) or just that voice that doesn’t seem to stop talking, and reminding you of what needs to be done next.
Notice your breath. Sit for just one minute (two is even better), and notice your breath. Breathe out. Breathe in. Just follow your breath for one minute— for a mini-vacation.
Focus on the person you are talking with
What do they need? How can you help them? What difference can you offer? Look them in the eye. Connect on a human level. It will feel wonderful for them and for you— human being to human being.
Speak kindly to yourself – like you would a dear friend
Focus on what is positive. Say, “Thank you” to yourself for the value you bring and the difference you make to the world. Say, “I forgive you” to yourself for the mistakes you have made and the ones you are sure to make in the future. With this practice, it is amazing how not only your positive energy will increase, but others will “catch” it with each interaction.
When you are connected, to yourself and to others, you can find a bit of calm in the storm – a break from the chaos of your world.
Image courtesy of Prakairoj / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Posted by Leslie Dickson
I have just returned from a conference in Argentina. This meeting was for the international Entrepreneurial Organization (EO), and 450 members attended from all over the world. The goal was to offer outstanding speakers, learning events and networking, and to fully experience our host city, Buenos Aries.
At one event, I sat next to a fellow EO’er, and we got to talking about our businesses. When he heard what I do, he said to me, “You know what entrepreneurs want in a speaker, right? They either want to be inspired or to have significant take-aways.”
I have been thinking about this a lot since that conversation. So often I find myself leaving presentations feeling disappointed. No, it’s worse than that…I feel as if my time has been wasted. Now granted, I do suffer from the VoicePro® curse. It’s not that I am hyper-critical of the presenter. It’s more like I see inside a presenter, and know instinctively how and why speakers say and do what they say and do.
So, here’s the thing – it’s not either inspiration or education – it’s both. Think about it. Why not accomplish both of these outcomes? You start with a good, inspirational story and use it to give something of value to the audience. It is not complicated or difficult.
Here are some tips for you to try:
- First, know your audience. Who are they? Why are they there? What do they need from you? The more you know about the group, the more you can spin your message, talk their language, and apply your message to their lives. When you do this, they will feel the connection. It’s as simple as that.
- Challenge your audience to do something with the information you are giving them. What action do you want them to take? Without a call to action, you will not persuade anyone to do anything. At the conference, one speaker who got high marks from me told the story of her entrepreneurial husband, who was bigger than life—and who died at 51 of prostate cancer. Not only did she inspire us with her story (there was not a dry eye in the packed house), but she offered a very specific take-away. She wanted all of us to put our health first. She said to the men in the room, “Bend over and take it like a man!”
- Tell your story. This doesn’t mean that you have to overcome a significant life challenge to make a good story. It just means that you have to tell YOUR unique story. If it is real, it will inspire them. The significance comes when you connect your story to the action you want people to take.
My challenge to all of you is: Don’t settle. You can’t necessarily impact the presentations others give. You can, however, do it better yourself. You can choose to make sure you don’t waste other people’s time.
Inspire AND add value. Not either/or but both. When you heed these tips, your audience—whether 10 or 20 or 450 in number—will stand up and cheer.
Image courtesy of nongpimmy / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Posted by Lesllie Dickson
Have you ever gotten feedback from someone at work that sounded something like this?
You ramble or get off point
I can’t understand you
You come across as too aggressive
You don’t convey confidence
I need you to be stronger
I can’t understand your accent
You said “ah” or “um” fifty times in five minutes
Have you been inclined to argue with this feedback? Guess what…you are both right!
There is a built-in dilemma when it comes to communication. We evaluate ourselves based on our intent – our intention is to be professional, knowledgeable, confident, persuasive, etc.
However, others evaluate us based on our outward behavior. If we demonstrate behavior that conveys nervousness, hesitancy, timidness, aggression, and so on – we will get feedback similar to what is listed above.
Seems complicated, doesn’t it? Well, the solution is easier than you might imagine. You need to first understand where you are starting from. You’ve heard it before – it all starts with self-awareness. This is just about seeing you the way others see you. You have the capability to do this at any time. You have a smartphone, right? Turn it on to video mode, and hit play. Record yourself talking about a business issue, and then watch it.
What do you see?
Most people just see the bad stuff. This is what you will notice first – almost blocking anything positive that you are doing. It is important to notice the good things that you are doing too. Remember, you are good at what you do, which is why you are in the role you are in. Be sure to note the good and the not-so-good.
Then as you identify the not-so-good areas, you simply talk with a coach. Your coach needs to supply you with new behaviors that will bring your intent into alignment with the behaviors you exhibit to others.
So, for example:
If you ramble – you may need a model to help organize your thoughts better.
If you need to convey confidence – this may show up in your posture or even the strength and quality of your voice.
If your accent is getting in the way – it may not really be your accent. It may be that you need to enunciate your words more clearly, or simply pause longer to let people process what you are saying.
The bottom line is – the feedback you are getting is a gift. Without it, you would blindly go along not even realizing there is a problem. Let’s face it, we all have areas to work on. Stay open, appreciative and be sure to say, “thank you.”
Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Posted by Carolyn Dickson
The Federal Government is a mess. We know it. They know it. Everyone knows it, and yet Congress is at an impasse, with no one seemingly able to do anything about it.
As I read the newspapers and watch the news on TV, I’m reminded of a game posed by mathematicians at the Rand Corporation in the 1950s that’s come to be known as "The Prisoner’s Dilemma". I played this game at seminars during the early days of VoicePro® and think it might be a good idea to revive it. Here’s how it works.
Two criminals (A and B) occupy adjacent cells, where they can neither see nor hear the other. They are told if they both confess, they will each be sentenced to two years in prison. If A rats on B and B remains silent, A will be set free and B will serve three years. And vice versa. But if they both remain silent, there’s not enough evidence to convict, and they will both go free.
You can see the dilemma. If I’m A and I rat on B, I’ll walk, but my colleague will pay a higher penalty. If he rats and I don’t, I’m the one who suffers. If I stay silent, we may both be okay. But will he stay silent, too? Or not? I have to make my decision not knowing this important piece of information.
Right now in in the Congress of the United States, we’re seeing The Prisoner’s Dilemma operating at its absolute worst. Self-interest has taken precedence over the common good at almost every turn. One side is always ratting on the other side. If one side is for “it”, the other side is against “it.” If one side prevails, it’s quick to claim victory and gloat over the vanquished. And everyone has lost sight of the fact that if they work together, both sides—and the country—win.
When originally setting forth "The Prisoner’s Dilemma", its authors were hoping to show that people have an instinctive inclination to cooperate. But right now our society seems to be moving in the opposite direction. The result is we are all the lesser for it.
How can we avoid The Prisoner’s Dilemma in our own lives? Here are three things to think about.
The overarching goal, or strategy, or purpose must be crystal clear. If everyone is on the same page, it’s much easier to make decisions. If a political party’s goal is to create jobs, then shutting down the government, putting people out of work and costing us all billions of dollars doesn’t make any sense. I am on the Board of a not-for-profit organization where every decision made by Board and staff alike ties directly back to the mission of the organization. For years we have all worked together without conflict, we have done great things, and the organization thrives.
It’s all about communication! This means being open, vulnerable and leaving your personal agendas at the door. Deep down in your ancient, reptilian brain lies the amygdala, an almond-shaped mass of nuclei that helps you survive by triggering your flight-or-fight response. Instinctively, you’re all about survival, and that’s not a bad thing. It does make it too easy, however, to have a personal agenda that benefits you and leaves others out. If you’re open about your own interests and needs, state them without prejudice, and don’t make demands on others without giving something back, you’ll be able to teach those guys in Washington a thing or two.
Leaders need to lead with an agenda that benefits the greater good. We don’t care if our national representatives get re-elected or not. That really should not be their primary goal (hard to believe, isn’t it?). For a team leader, the team is important; for a corporate leader, it must be the company. Leaders forget this at their peril.
To win their freedom, the prisoners in the adjacent cells must both stay silent. If they do, they’ll both walk. But if they insist on winning at all costs, including sacrificing their colleague, then who knows, they might even be able to run for Congress.
Image courtesy of nirots at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Posted by Luanne Paynick
I recently found myself sitting with tears streaming down my face, pondering the importance of empathy, after viewing a video that was produced by The Cleveland Clinic– it touched me deeply.
Just what does it mean to have empathy for others? According to Wikipedia, Empathy is the capacity to recognize emotions that are being experienced by another. Psychology Today says, Empathy is the experience of understanding another person's condition from their perspective. You place yourself in their shoes and feel what they are feeling. According to an article in the Elephant Journal it is about realizing that everyone has a story. And (this is the scary part) because we are so caught up in our own story, we risk not even seeing the human being standing before us.
Empathy is not sympathy or compassion. Those two emotions look a bit different. They are the feelings we might have once we experience empathy.
Empathy is where it all begins. If we don’t have empathy, we aren’t able to choose the next step – whether it is sympathy or compassion, or some other emotion. And, if we don’t have empathy, we don’t connect to form the foundation of solid relationships – the very foundation that keeps us steady, grounded, productive and whole.
I worry, at times, that we may be at risk of losing the connections that come from empathy, simply because we are not taking the time to notice. Why not? Because we are so busy – busy doing, instead of busy being.
If your relationships are important to you, here are some tips that might help you ramp up your empathy for more connection, stronger relationships, and better results.
Empathy Tips – For More “Being” and “Less Doing”
Check-in with You
Take a moment to pause. Take a breath and just sit for a moment – every day, multiple times throughout the day. Notice your own body – your heart beating, the feel of the air on your skin, the pleasure the photo of your children on your desk brings you. News Flash . . . If you are not connected with yourself to notice what you are feeling, you will not notice what others are feeling.
Rely on self-talk to keep you in the moment. If you find your mind drifting to other things (what you have to do next, what took place five minutes ago), remind yourself to be in the here and now. A simple mantra such as “Be present” might be enough to bring you back. When you are in the present, you notice what is going on around you. You see people, and you notice what they may be in the midst of.
Let people know that you noticed. Rely on the following approach to express yourself:
1. Make an observation.
I see . . .
I hear . . .
I sense . . .
2. Name the emotion you are experiencing in them.
. . . that you are worried . . .
. . . concern in your voice . . .
. . . that you are excited . . .
3. Connect the emotion to its source.
. . . about the outcome.
. . . regarding the delivery date.
. . . about this opportunity.
4. Be Quiet.
Allow an open space for the person to vent, correct your assessment, or share more information if they choose.
Posted by Lisa Ihnat
I went to a party last night and my fun factor was on fire! I lit up the event with my conversation, smile and sparkle. People I didn’t even know were crossing the room to meet me. It seemed my happy energy was contagious! But when I got home, I went straight to bed, too drained to even wash off my makeup.
Such an extreme makes me think…am I the Introvert I thought I was, or have I become an Extrovert, judging from my party popularity?
I turned to Susan Cain’s bestselling book: "Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking" for my answer.
“We can stretch our personalities, but only up to a point….We are like rubber bands at rest. We are elastic and can stretch ourselves, but only so much.” This descriptive imagery brought clarity. I am indeed an Introvert, preferring to rest and recharge my batteries with quiet and alone time, but I can also stretch to embrace people and social stimulation in short spurts – much like a rubber band!
I like the “rubber band theory” because it means I am free to be me while still being successful in a variety of situations. Before I might have let my limitations stop me, instead of stretch me. For example, because I know I am an Introvert, public speaking (whether socializing at a networking event or presenting formally) causes me anxiety. But I also know that because I can flex my personality like a rubber band, I can stretch myself to perform better even in anxiety causing situations. Knowing my personality type helped me know myself and how I react to others and situations. How might knowing your personality type help you?
Posted by Leslie Dickson
Have you really thought about what it means to be respectful? I always thought of myself as a respectful person; saying “please” and “thank you” comes easily to me. However, I now have an expanded appreciation for what it means to be respectful.
I have just completed a month-long trip that had VoicePro® delivering programs to a client with offices in the Asia Pacific region. We were in Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, and Australia (Sydney and Melbourne). As I went from country to country, I found there is a different level of respect in different parts of the world. The people I met and worked with In the Asian countries showed a higher level of respect to others, as well as a significant level of respect for themselves, their surroundings and their families.
At some locations, we were treated to lunch as the “guests” of our groups. This falls into the typical range of respect that I know well. But it went much deeper than this, and the subtleness and ease of execution had a great impact on me. People seemed easier, less threatened than we do in the west. They weren’t as quick to take offense. They smiled more and showed a natural courtesy to everyone around them.
For instance, throughout the entire month, our workshop participants honored us with their attention. They didn’t work on their laptops or phones during class time. They held their demanding workload for breaks. Now, I am the first one to recognize how busy everyone is and that client needs don’t take a hiatus just because someone decides to take a training program. However, it was moving to me to experience this level of respect from these incredibly important people. In South Korea, where several people even had trouble understanding our language, they stayed dialed in throughout the entire program.
Also, I am sure you have heard in some cultures to accept a business card with two hands and place it on the table, rather than put it away in your pocket. I never knew why this was the case until I experienced it myself. It is about attention. When someone offers you their business card and receives yours with two hands, it is about giving you their undivided attention. The power and impact of this is amazing.
So, think about your own relationships. Do you set things aside when someone comes into your office? Do you focus just on them? Do you help your colleagues out by giving them your full, uninterrupted attention? Do you honor them with your respect?
I challenge you to try showing respect to the people you interact with in a deeper way. It isn’t about your intention to be respectful. We all have that. It’s about changing your behavior to let others “feel” respected by you. It is this “feeling of being respected” that holds the power.
by Scott Danielson
Over the past month, the Bond franchise has come roaring back with the International hit Skyfall. Of course, considering the character, the movie is full of incredible stunts, gorgeous locales, and even some high tech gadgetry. However, unlike Bond films of the past, which pit Bond against a maniacal villain bent on world domination or destruction, James struggles with his confidence and deals with a villain that challenges him on a very personal level.
Speakers new and seasoned run into the same problems, just before they take the stage. They question their abilities, get stuck in their head, and quickly kill any confidence they had. So, how can you give yourself the confidence you need? Learn from James’ latest triumph.
#1 Don’t Rely on Technology
Considering his adversary is a master computer hacker, Bond realizes that high tech approaches are not going to work. In fact, they’re only detrimental to his cause. Consequently he goes off the grid, and decides to use old fashioned methods to dispatch his foe.
Whether it’s a projector, laptop, or even a flash drive with a PowerPoint presentation, many speakers use technology as a crutch instead of a tool. To avoid a potential disaster via a malfunction, be ready to give your presentation without any technology. Even if your presentation has a video segment practice the speech without it, at least once. That way you can avoid panicking if something goes ary.
#2 Look the Part
For the first quarter of the movie, Bond doesn’t quite look himself. He looks exhausted, labors during exercise and even has a thin beard. Not exactly the suave character we’ve come to know. Thankfully, Bond realizes how important his appearance is to his job and gets a shave and new suit before entering a high end casino.
When you’re introducing yourself to a group of strangers or potential business partners, appearance does matter. So look the part. If the crowd will be wearing casual business attire, a high-end suit will stick out like a sore thumb. We generally recommend matching the attire of room or going one step above. Slightly overdressing is never as bad as underdressing.
#3 Trust Yourself
Despite numerous indications that Bond is unfit for active duty his superior, M, puts him back in the field without question. Considering the dangerous nature of Bond’s mission, many other characters question M’s decision. She makes it very clear why she made the choice: she trusts Bond.
In the moments leading up to your speech, you may become overwhelmed with doubts or worries. Don’t let them takeover. Take these moments to relax your body through deep breathing, shake out your nervous energy, and use positive affirmations to build your confidence. Now you can take the stage feeling relaxed but invigorated.
The latest incarnation of Bond is hardly perfect, but he does know how to rise the occasion. Learn from the flawed hero for your next speech and present with power.
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by Leslie Dickson
Is there anyone who distills ideas into concentrated communication better than poets? And by poets, I mean everyone from Robert Frost to Dr. Seuss, pop singers to rap artists. That’s why a recent article in The Atlantic magazine caught my attention. Dorothea Lasky, an educator and poet, penned the article What Poetry Teaches Us About Persuasion.
Lasky’s focus is making students better writers, but I think her argument applies to all communicators. “It would be hard to say that any outstanding essay does not involve meticulous word choice or the ability to persuade a reader through sheer aesthetic prowess. Poetry teaches students how to do this.”
Think about it.
Poetry helps us hear things differently, make a rational and an emotional connection, remember ideas better and longer. Lasky likes to use lyrics from pop singer Jay-Z’s songs to make her poetry point with students. You may not know his music, but I bet you remember these:
-“Would you eat them in a box, would you eat them with a fox…”
-And I gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today.‘ Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land…
-Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by…
-Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens…
Another of Lasky’s points hits home, too: “[B]ecause I am a poet, I am always searching for ways to change language.” That’s a powerful way to make sure your words aren’t just verbal wallpaper – always there, never noticed.
You know who may have been the best language inventor in history? William Shakespeare, the poet playwright. James Shapiro, a Shakespeare scholar, launched a steady stream of the bard’s best on the Radiolab. As Shapiro says, Shakespeare shoved ideas together “to achieve a kind of atomic power.” He captured ideas so memorably, 400 years later they’re still part of our everyday language: I’m in a pickle, dead as a doornail, forever and a day, in my mind’s eye, kill with kindness. Not bad.
So is it time to start rhyming your presentation?
No. But it is worth your while to spend a little time thinking about new ways to say what’s been said before. Here are a few ideas to borrow from the poet’s craft.
-Choose words worth a thousand pictures. The word “history” and “heritage” seem synonymous at first glance. But while “history” connotes the factual past, “heritage” suggests more. History can be good or bad, but a heritage connotes richness, tradition, something worth keeping.
-Is there a metaphor? A new way of thinking can help people grab on. A writer I know calls it “reincarnation”. Maybe a problem is a landmine or a buzzing mosquito. A goal might be a holy grail or Mt. Everest. A competitive situation might be a cage match…or a chess match.
-Think about inventing words. Channel your inner Shakespeare. Maybe a college campus is a brainspace, a computer lab is a techscape.
-Borrow someone’s else’s words. There are poetic persuaders everywhere with great words to express ideas – even different shades of the same one. Michael Jordan said, “I've failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.” Winston Churchill offers “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Which works for you?
Next time you’re preparing for a presentation, invite your inner poet to the planning session. Let’s give poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge the last word on the topic: “[P]rose = words in their best order; poetry = the best words in the best order.
Let’s talk more about how VoicePro programs can help you and your team achieve more by building stronger communications skills.
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