Communication skills are great in theory, but how are they in practice? This Effective Communication Skill Blogshows you how to walk the SpeakStrong talk. I'm Meryl Runion Rose. Join our conversation about Communication Alchemy, and saying what you mean and meaning what you say... without being mean when you say it.
The Communication Alchemist is IN. Are you IN too?
Encountering the teenager in its natural habitat. That's the theme for the Zits cartoon below. Yesterday I posted about "Life of Pi" and the "animals" in your "zoo." Great communication results from understanding and working with the nature of those we deal with.
But that doesn't mean we tiptoe around their nature. September 9th's "Zits" cartoon illustrates a communication dynamic that many of us can relate to - not just with teenagers, but with coworkers, managers, employees and others. When you feel the need to dance around a simple question like how was your day (or like how is your project progressing) it's a signal that you have a serious communication challenge.
Skilled indirect communication can be a powerful and effective response to Jeremy's walls. But not this kind of indirect communication. Mom is in reaction, not in response. Her behavior is defined by his insolence, not informed by it. She cowers in the corner. That's no better than full frontal attack to Jeremy's indifference. Either approach would be defined by him, and he would hold the power.
I like direct questions. I also like honest indirect questions that work. I don't like actively pretending you're not doing what you clearly are, as in this approach.
If you're a zoo keeper, it's important to know how close people can get to your animals without triggering the flight response. It's different for every animal. Flamingos require 300 yards. Buffaloes require 75. The haughty ignore individual differences, but the wise study them and avoid triggering unnecessary resistance.
People get territorial too, and it's helpful to know how to relate to them without triggering their flight response.
Bob and I are reading Life of Pi. What a great book!
As Bob read to me last night, I thought of a coaching client whose manager is very territorial and can get threatened when her perceived "turf" is violated. Working with her is a bit like waking up to see there is a tiger living on your lifeboat. What do you do?
"Joan" respects the nature of her manager in the same way wise zookeepers respect the natures of the animals in their keeping - or in the same way electricians respect the power of electricity. No matter how right and justified Joan is, she is unlikely to prevail over her manager if she encroaches on what her manager considers her domain. When someone pushes on you as Joan's manager does, it's tough to resist pushing back. But when Joan pushes back, she plays her manager's toxic game.
Joan's game is much bigger than her manager's. In fact, it's bigger than her manager is likely to be able to see. So while her manager might roar over trivial fabricated incidents she takes umbrage to, Joan wisely keeps her focus on her bigger picture. That keeps her manager from being threatened by a sense of encroachment, and from being emboldened by the smell of fear.
It's not ideal. But it's kind of how life works. Those of us who adapt to the natures of the "animals in our zoos" (or on our lifeboats, or in our office) have the collaborative and cooperative advantage. We relate to others as they are - not as we wish they were. We create and play our own game - which is where our power is. If that means going beneath the radar while others prance around roaring, so be it. We get the last laugh, even if it's a secret last laugh.
Well, it's one of my guiding lights. It works for me. And it might work for you.
What if you considered every surface, closet and drawer in your home to be an altar?
Not in the ritual sense, but in the sense of only placing things on every surface and in every closet and in ever door that honor the wholeness (holiness) of the location. Just like you wouldn't put an empty beer can on the church altar that you stand in front of while sharing wedding vows: what if you honored the true purpose of every spot in your home with conscious placement that considers intent and purpose?
It's amazing. I see many misplaced things that don't belong where they are when I go through my home and workspace with that visual filter. Things I miss without it. That perspective helps me with my Lean sorting and straightening.
The altar images alter my perception which alters my behavior which alters how I organize which alters how I work and live.
Try it this week and next Sunday I'll have a related post with something new to practice.
I love "altered states" that aren't illegal, harmful or delusional!
Another great idea from entrepreneur Seth Godin. He says a powerful film from ATT about texting while driving "won't work." (If you watch it, the letter one man received from the father of the family he killed will blow you away.)
But what would work?
Creating cell phones that notify anyone being texted to, that the person texting them is driving. Knowingly receiving texts from someone texting while driving is illegal in many states.
He suggests one step further - make phones that won't text while driving.
You can talk and preach and advise and extol. You also can mistake-proof phones so texting while driving just can't happen.
It shouldn't be this hard to give something away. I posted free fencing on Craigslist and got several responses. The first responder came up that evening but his car couldn't handle everything. This was Friday. He said he'd get it on Monday. I sensed a bit of hesitation and asked if he was committed, since that meant holding it for three days. He said he was. I asked him to please let me know if anything changed. He assured me he would and I took him at his word.
Monday 3 PM - no call or word from him. So I called him, and he said he would come at 6 PM.
7 PM - no show, no call. I could have gone for a hike in the lovely evening air. He didn't answer the phone.
That's the bad news. I don't understand people who don't show the courtesy of a call in situations like that. But there is good news. I posted the fencing on Craigslist again. I mentioned previous experience and said I didn't want to do a curb alert because I didn't want anyone to drive up and arrive just after someone else got it. So I implored anyone who was interested to be attentive to follow-up. I received about ten responses in about five minutes.
The people I offered it to were incredibly gracious. They wanted it for a free dog care service they have for active military. You would have thought I had given them something worth thousands.
But the really good news is, they emailed me the next day to reiterate how much they appreciated it. I told Bob, and the two of us started wondering what else we have that they might want.
There are too many people who end follow-up the minute they decide there's nothing in it for them. The irony is, you never know what your courtesy might inspire. The dog care people took an extra step to let me know they appreciated it, and I appreciated that.
The first fellow was military, and he yes and no ma'amed me up, down and inside out when he came up. The people who took the fence home didn't ma'am me at all, but they did show fabulous character in their follow-up.
Toyota Kata author Mike Rother is highly tuned in to language that peaks manager interest and language that dampens it. He gives examples that illustrate the difference succinctly in this recent SlideShare. (See the slide below.)
The terms on the left aren't wrong - they just don't connect the message to tangible results.
Even if Lean isn't your world at all, I expect you'll see ways you will want to change your own language in this.
Great tips from Rother's decades of experience.
Here's another Lean language makeover. One of my LinkedIn groups posted this question, "Why is it so hard to push strategic thinking down in an organization? Give only one reason." I replied, " I think the word 'push' says it all." Someone else noted, "the word 'down' doesn't help either."
If you're local, I'd love for you to come hear me talk Sunday at Unity in the Rockies in Colorado Springs. There is a 9 AM and an 11 AM service. I'll be talking about "A Sense of Place Between Worlds" and the art of living, loving, dancing and working in and between diverse worlds. I'll focus on the lost art of direct experience, illumination from deep meditation, upliftment from ecstatic dancing, the calm that comes from authentic communication and a sense of place garnered from the subtle guiding whispers of nature.
I'm just back from a week at the family lake cabin with my son - where once again I sorted and organized and created a flow where there had been clutter.
When I told my son what I was up to, he was concerned that I might squelch the spirit of the place. My aim was to set that spirit free. And that's what I did.
I spent a total of $15 for the project and tossed a total of one garbage bag of trash. Mainly I moved things we seldom use - or never use that I didn't feel authorized to toss - into deeper storage, leaving the more accessible areas for active use and display. I placed the accumulation of once-treasured rocks from fifty years of lake living in to rock gardens. I created a "tribute to tennis" display from the tennis trinkets that were mixed in everywhere. Mainly, I'd say, I created "space for grace."
You can see the fireplace mantle in the above picture. Now there's room to breathe - plus I placed a lot of original cabin antiques on it in ways that honor them. It sure seemed to me the spirits of the place were smiling when I was done. I know I was.
The skies were dark, but there were no flash flood warnings. We planned to go dancing when we finished our dinner, but when the heavens opened up and twenty minutes later we had received 1 1/2" of rain and hail, we reconsidered. Fifteen minutes after that, our back yard was full of runoff, and a gully next to our home was a small pond. None of the local news outlets seemed aware of the intensity of the event just yet. One of my neighbors posted on a news FB page about the amount of rain we received, but it still took a while for anyone who didn't experience it to recognize the implications.
Half an hour after that, the highway that leads to our town was a river. Cars were washed away and one man was killed.
People used to accuse the local news media of hyping the flash-flood threat. Not anymore. Experiencing disaster so close to home has made believers out of us. That said, this one wasn't predicted. If the timing had been different, we might have gone dancing and gotten trapped in town.
Bob and I had spent a tidy sum of money mitigating our yard so if water came down like it did Friday, it would go where we want it to. Friday was a big test, and the water cascaded past our house and shed into the gully. I'm glad we took the threat seriously in advance.If we hadn't built the diversion in our back yard, we'd still be here, but we would have spent our weekend shoveling mud out of our home.
It changes things when you know that something so simple as a small amount of rain can cause so much havoc. Now I review the weather reports even before I go out for a hike, because the trails behind us do flash-flood. I've never seen it happen, but I do see evidence of it with every rain we get. The gravel rivers keep getting higher and wider.
Now that someone was killed, everyone takes the situation more seriously. The area made national news. However, they make no mention of why the rain is such a threat to us now. Last year's Waldo Canyon Fire burned the vegetation that would slow rain water down. Some of the landscapes are like fired pottery - and totally resistant to water absorption.
Things do change, and people adapt. For one thing, new realities invoke new communication habits. Now, I don't just check the FB news pages for updates. I post too. I posted about the inch and a half of rain. During the cleanup, I figured people needed to know that, although the highway was open, it took a full hour to get home instead of the normal ten minutes. If I had seen that before leaving, I'd have stayed home. It took a while for my habits to catch up with the reality.
Here's the national news report. (Email subscribers many want to click the title to visit my site to view, or visit here.)
When I helped my parents transition to assisted living, out of necessity, I made a point of focusing on arranging to get things done instead of doing everything myself. I say out of necessity, because, living a thousand miles away, I didn't have the option of trying to do it all myself.
I wrote an article about that for Office Pro Magazine yesterday that summarized it this way: stop doing everything and start getting everything done.
It's funny how often I quicken shifts in my own focus from my writing. I've been learning to do everything myself in my business in large measure to help me understand the inner workings, and to help me find and harvest the opportunities in my many years of creative output. But as I wrote about my approach to helping my parents, I realized I'm ready to shift into tapping into other resources now. In other words, I'm ready to stop doing everything and to start getting everything done in my own life and business.
Enjoy the poster, (click on it to open a download) and let me know how you make the same shift in your world.
I had suspected Bob's funk would be over soon after his assistant arrived. When I heard his animated voice on the phone, I knew the shift had happened.
Bob and his assistant often vent about the trials and tribulations of life and of running a business. Technology. People who don't follow directions. Mistakes. I later learned that his assistant had arrived furious over a family member's misdiagnosis and the new diagnosis that left him little time. The need for - and benefits of - a venting session were mutual.
They had a healthy hissy fit. Both felt better afterwards (and the work got done). People who aren't committed to staying mad, resentful, or seeing themselves as victims are good candidates for such an event. Some people will hold on to your hurt long after you have let it go. Those people aren't good candidates. A healthy hissy fit is a communication practice, or kata, that can help you overcome communication obstacles.
Bob and his assistant didn't need me or a formal practice to have a healthy hissy fit. You might not either. But some people do. If you watch my recent SlideShare, you'll see there is an art even to something like having a healthy hissy fit. It starts with aligning with your communication vision. That gives the foundation for the practice.
I'm committed to living on the sunny side of life. Sometimes that requires me to dip into the darker side. I have had many a wholesome, healthy hissy fit myself, and I come out more empowered and ready to face life. That's a good measure of the success of any practice.
I sent a copy of "The Power of Habit" to my dad, and he's reading it "with interest." He was a bit disturbed by the story of Pepsodent, however. Before Pepsodent, few people brushed their teeth, and oral hygiene in the US was on a steep decline due to increased sugar consumption. So Pepsodent wasn't just selling toothpaste, they were selling the whole habit of brushing our teeth. The factors that inspired that new habit had nothing to do with the effectiveness of the toothpaste or of brushing. Pepsodent sold the foam and the fresh minty taste. The advertising made some false claims about those features, and those false claims, along with superficial benefits such as tingle, inspired our nation to adopt a healthy habit.
Dad rejected that completely. But I pointed out that, while it was deceptive, it wasn't sinister or evil. I claimed (and claim) that sometimes it's acceptable to trick people into doing what is good for them.
I have a strong commitment to truthfulness, so I avoid false claims at almost every cost. But if foam and fresh minty flavor get people to brush their teeth, I don't have a problem with selling foam and fresh minty taste.
I call it conspiring for good.
I sent the book to my father because he had complained about his inability to "stop doing stupid things." I told him the book could give us a clue about how to create new habits. That's the book's "fresh minty flavor." But a deeper benefit, to my thinking, is that it's really powerful to discuss the nuances of my moral compass with the person who initially implanted that compass deep in my psyche. Even if the book never alters a habit for either one of us, I'll say it's working.