How valuable would it be to know how to tailor your communication so it makes the most sense to the other person?
To be persuasive to them?
How to (Almost) Read Minds
with Lucy Freedman
Join me for a 45-minute tour of your sphere of influence. Learn how to tune in to what is important to your customers, co-workers, anyone you want to influence to get things done.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for the link to the replay.
Every new year is an opportunity to re-set our expectations, our intentions, and our attitude just by recognizing our movement through time. 2012 has been imbued with additional meaning, all the way from “the end of the world as we know it” to our more immediate issues of politics and social change.
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What is happiness? What does it take to be happy? We all want to feel happy. Do we know how?
It seems we were born knowing how. Babies show their feelings — and happiness is definitely among them.
Sometimes we fall out of the state of happiness and want to find ways to get back there. Various aspects of these Happy Holidays can be stressful, including basic things like bad weather, traffic, or too much to do.
Well-known NLP (Neurolinguistic Programming) author and trainer Suzi Smith spoke about happiness on a webinar this week. Happiness has been shown to increase longevity, and has health benefits, in addition to being desirable in itself.
She reminded us of several basic NLP techniques for returning to a happy state of mind. One was to become conscious of the content of our thoughts. If they are negative, change to positive content. For instance, when you make a mistake, look for solutions and learning rather than beating yourself up. The important thing is to become conscious of those negative thoughts.
Suzi told some good stories and used NLP anchoring to give us the choice of waking up to a happy day when our feet first hit the floor in the morning. Thanks, Suzi, for that holiday gift!
There is so much in NLP, and in Suzi’s wisdom, that she was able to go over many useful strategies even in a short session.
One of the interesting things that came up was a participant, I think from Germany, saying that his clients ask, “But what about all the things I have to do?” I think how we handle that question is the key to maintaining a happy state of mind.
Thinking about what I have to do has several drawbacks. One is that it can take me out of my body and the immediate present. Another is that it can invoke worry about future actions. I can start feeling stressed and under time pressure. The feeling of being rushed and having too much to do gets in the way of my feeling happy.
The positive intention behind thinking about what I have to do, i.e., getting me to do it, is worthwhile. I do want to be motivated to take care of my responsibilities and accomplish my dreams.
This intention can be accomplished with joy. I find it easier to do it with joy if I connect with my real motivation – the reason I have to do whatever it is.
In most cases, what I have to do is to keep myself and my loved ones happy and well. That is a joyful prospect and I am glad to do it. I appreciate the reminders that bring me back to that awareness.
Yesterday at a meeting of the South Bay OD Network, speaker Karen Colligan brought up happiness in the context of work. She had us think about a time we loved what we were doing. It’s great to be able to have that kind of feeling while earning a living.
If it turns out that your job is not what you totally love doing, you have the choice of focusing on the things it allows you to do that you do love.
My work has some parts I don’t love doing. It helps me to be happy doing them when I step into the feeling I’ll have when they are done. And then remember to savor it when it really is done. I just love that cleared-off desk!
OK, you probably have much bigger things to be happy about than clearing your desk. Focus on those!
Happiness is contagious. Research on social networks* has shown that we are 15% more likely to be happy if someone we are directly connected with is happy, and 10% if a friend of a friend is happy. We are even 6% more likely to say we are happy if our friend’s friend’s friend is happy. Even if we haven’t met them. The researchers conclude that “having more friends is not enough–having more happy friends is the key to our own emotional well-being.”
So let this note be a reminder to be conscious of your thoughts, choose happiness, and be sure to spread it around.
*From the book Connected by Nicholas A. Christakis, MD, PhD, and James H. Fowler, PhD. 2009.
Lagging behind Canada by more than a month, we in the US will be celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow. For most, it’s a big family, food, and football day.
It’s also a time to appreciate the good in our lives. It turns out that we are making ourselves happier and more effective when we are grateful.
The Rutgers University newsletter tells us that “Expressing or feeling genuine appreciation can have a powerful influence on emotional outlook, psychological well-being, interpersonal bonds and even problem-solving, according to Rutgers psychologist Nancy Fagley, who conducts research on appreciativeness.”
An important point in the article is that appreciation can be learned. We need to exercise those muscles of appreciation to counteract the tendency to take things and people for granted.
Whether with family and friends or by yourself, you can renew your feelings of gratitude in many ways.
Here are some ideas:
1. The gratitude list. Start a list of what you appreciate. Keep it at hand for reading and for adding more.
2. Think of a few things you are grateful for before going to sleep at night. This seems to increase a sense of satisfaction with life.
3. Start a round of appreciation at the Thanksgiving table. Everyone says something for which they are thankful this year.
4. Write a thank-you note. When was the last time you did that without being obligated to?
5. When someone thanks you, rather than quickly dismissing it with an “It was nothing,” take it in, savor it, and mean it when you say, “You are welcome.”
Writing this reminds me of how much I appreciate my family and friends, the place that I live, the work I get to do, and you, for taking the time to read the Messenger.
I wish you time for gratitude and renewal throughout the holiday season.
We say we don’t want drama in our lives, especially in our interactions at work. Drama usually means unpleasantness, frustration, conflict, lack of productivity.
If it meant “real drama,” i.e. the joy and sadness of life, or dramatic performances that make us feel and reflect, it would be OK. It’s the unnecessary drama, the interpersonal politics, the constant irritants that we don’t want. They take up energy and distract us from getting important things done.
WHY is there drama?
As any team member or manager knows, people tend to play non-productive games in times of stress, when they feel threatened, or when they are bored.
Some people can stir up tension with remarkable regularity. Others fall into drama in response to triggers such as layoffs, new policies, rumors of closings or reorganizations, complaints, and either getting too much direction or too little, either too much feedback or too little.
In other words, workplace drama has plenty of possible material. If asked, most people would say they don’t participate or don’t want to.
We all play games some of the time.
Few people are skillful at recognizing their own hooks that get games started or keep them going. Dr. Eric Berne’s 1962 bestseller, Games People Play, named this phenomenon and began to provide clues to getting out of the drama. His student, Dr. Steve Karpman, contributed the Karpman Drama Triangle, capturing the three main roles of Rescuer, Persecutor, and Victim, which we all play when we engage in games. And yes, we all do engage in games some of the time.
The more hooked we are, the harder it may be to recognize that we are indeed participating. It is helpful in avoiding games to be very open to recognizing how we are hooked and the roles we play out.
Persecutor, Rescuer, and Victim Roles
If we are overtly critical and harsh with others, we are playing the Persecutor role. If we are often going out of our way to fix and solve things for others at our own expense, we are playing the Rescuer. If we keep finding that people let us down and we get the short end of the stick, we know something of the Victim.
As a rule, we do not want to see it when we are hooked, so it can take active investigation to uncover how we are keeping an undesirable situation going. All these roles can come in socially acceptable disguises.
If something’s happening that is non-productive, especially if it seems repetitive, it’s likely that people are playing all the roles; Victim, Rescuer, Persecutor; in some way.
Dissolve the myths
The way out of the drama begins with yourself. You have to dissolve the myths that go with the roles, usually beliefs that diminish your ability to stay positive and get on with it.
· To move out of Persecutor, you might have to see that the other person’s point of view makes some sense too.
· Moving out of Rescuer might mean saying a difficult “No.”
· Whenever you think you are someone else’s Victim, remember how you got here and what choices you are making now.
Almost always, drama conceals feelings and wishes that have not been communicated. Unspoken requests and expectations leave room for people to create their own dramas, feeling judged and thus victimized, or judging others from a persecuting or rescuing perspective.
Clarify requests and agreements
A very good bet for stepping out of the drama and on to whatever is next is to clarify any requests or agreements that you have with the other person. “You agreed to have that report done by today and I haven’t seen anything about it so far. Is it under way?” is a lot better than worrying and glaring, and having the other person spend their time figuring out what you might be upset about.
A genuine tone of clarifying, rather than a disguised Persecutor or Rescuer attitude, will come across as intended. If you step into the other person’s shoes and listen from their standpoint, you can probably tell if you are coming across with a hint of judgment.
This is the hardest and most important part of stopping drama — owning your part of it.
Don’t see your part of it?
When your part is hard to figure out, and the drama is continuing, it is time to ask a friend or a professional for coaching. Someone else’s observations may help you recognize the unintended, unconscious, but still active, ways that you are participating, and help you see new options.
One thing for sure: if you blame the situation or the other person and don’t find new actions for yourself to take, your claim not to want the drama doesn’t hold up.
Once you, and hopefully, the other person, are out of the cycle of drama, it might be worth a good laugh and a reminder not to take anything too seriously.
You may have seen in recent news the so-called “people’s mike” in demonstrations on Wall Street and around the US. This caught my attention. It began as a result of the demonstrators not being allowed to use a P.A. system.
Whoever is speaking says a phrase or two and the people standing there repeat what was said so the larger group can hear it. It is pretty dramatic for the words to be broadcast not by electronics but by other people.
As a facilitator, I am always interested in group process, in what tools we have to communicate effectively with each other.
The Occupy Wall Street group in San Francisco holds General Assembly meetings in a park near the Federal Reserve. I had an opportunity to experience their decision-making process for about half an hour. That allowed me to get the basics of how people are chosen to speak, how they facilitate interaction, and how they can reach consensus in a fluid crowd of passionate individuals.
Anyone who has pulled together a project or led events or meetings has had to deal with fluid crowds and / or passionate individuals. I wondered how it was possible to keep it focused out in the open air with a diverse, self-organizing group of people.
This group in San Francisco had basic assumptions that everyone had equal rights to speak and respond, and had a voice in making decisions. With those values, they elected someone to facilitate who explained the signals they used. The structure of how to reach consensus in a group was revealed.
The way people got to speak is that they signed up in order. One volunteer took charge of keeping track of who was to speak, “the stack.” They had timekeepers with signs to let people know when they had 30 seconds or 15 seconds left.
What I found most interesting was the mechanism for how people could express their response to the speaker. If you wanted to give a direct response, you wagged your two index fingers back and forth, pointing at yourself and the speaker. This wasn’t to be used to express disagreement but to answer a question or ask a question directly. If you want to speak your own point of view and disagree, you line up in the stack.
While someone is speaking, the crowd expresses its responses, making this a very active way of hearing speakers. If you want to show your response, you can, or you can just listen. To respond affirmatively, you wave both hands in the air with your palms toward the speaker. If you are responding negatively, you hold up crossed arms.
Decisions were made by consensus, not by majority vote. The facilitator explained that to say yes, thumbs up. To say you are not in favor but don’t want to block the action, you point a thumb to the side. If you want to block the action, you hold up a thumbs-down. The facilitator had to read the thumbs. If there were lots of thumbs up, before moving on he would say, “Are there any thumbs-down that I can’t see?”
If someone wanted to block a motion, they would be asked to say why, and they would work it out with the proponents of the action until the group reached agreement.
Certainly in this group, patience was required to stick it out. For people who had committed to camp near the Fed, they had time to work through every point with the group. For a business meeting, I might suggest employing some of the tactics (well, maybe the handwaving and crossed arms could be kept out in the park) that would create inclusion and ownership of results. The method of asking for “thumbs-down” and an explanation is a good way to keep the thinking open and robust.
In online meetings and teleconferences, some form of this can happen when the platform allows responses, polling, and other means of interaction. More real-time visibility, feedback, and input methods encourage remote participants to feel empowered and to contribute.
For me, it was inspiring to see people in a crowd work well and participatively with each other. We don’t always need a commander in charge. A skilled facilitator, on the other hand, enables any number of people to think and act together.
Do you have good ideas? Are you sometimes frustrated when they go nowhere? What do you do when you run up against resistance or just can’t seem to get a response?
For problems to get solved, for innovation to occur, for collaboration to grow out of conflict; new ideas and solutions are needed.
And yet, it may be difficult to dislodge the status quo or even get a hearing for a new idea. Organizational decision-making can be complex or unclear. A lack of confidence in yourself, your ideas, or your standing may hold you back.
Alternatively, when you do succeed in making a difference, you feel good, and valued, and that your work is worthwhile. Things may not be perfect where you work but they are moving in a good direction. Influence is a motivator.
Being influential is not merely a result of position power. Influence is a set of skills that can be learned and that need to be honed as you grow in your career. SYNTAX is the result of modeling and distilling the crucial ways of acting and being that create influence. It exists to help people with good ideas get them across and acted upon.
Take something that you would like to have happen in your workplace, an idea you would like considered, a solution you can offer. What are the first thoughts that come to mind? Here are the seeds of your own personal syntax, the kernel of how you organize for influence. Starting from there, SYNTAX helps you bring your contribution to others so that they can get on board, make decisions, and take action.
As a launch pad, answer these questions about your idea.
What do I want to happen?
What will that get me / you / us?
How will we know – what specific evidence will tell us – when this is done?
Outstanding influencers can answer these questions for themselves and for the people they want to reach. Knowing everyone’s intention, motivation, and evidence creates the needed focus for forward motion. This comes from Plan, one of the five SYNTAX skill sets.
When you can answer these three questions for any idea you want to bring forward, your influence is guaranteed to increase. Your ability to influence increases exponentially when you add in the other four skill sets. Your personal syntax becomes supercharged for influence.
We’re here to provide tools and guidance for you to create your unique roadmap with your own personal syntax as a starting point. That’s the purpose of the Messenger, and the purpose of SYNTAX courses, coaching, and consulting.
Join the influential people who have found out how much more of a difference they can make when they put SYNTAX to work for them. And today, enjoy the benefit of asking yourself “the three questions” for something you care about.
I was inspired by a couple of blogs on what to do during boring meetings or conference calls. I agree with the writer that if you don’t need to be there, you don’t need to be there. Solve that.
Even in worthwhile, non-boring meetings there are lulls. At a conference, waiting for a talk to begin. A break between phone meetings. The time to sit and think while taking a bus, train, or plane. An alternative to fretting while waiting for that slow download.
The BNET blogger, Laura Vanderkam, got me started with one of her suggestions for a meeting: “Look around the room and think of one genuinely positive thought about each of the participants.” I like that one. You will feel better and you can bet you will have better rapport in your interactions.
You are an energy source. You can take that moment of lull to be aware of the energy you are holding. If it is not what you want to feel or share, take the moment to breathe, listen to your inner dialogue and notice your mental images.
Ask what is needed to shift your mindset. Maybe what will come up is a problem to solve or an irritant you can re-frame or address. There may not be an immediate answer. At least you can label and file it for creative solutions later. Then free your mind to be in the present.
It’s true that changing the inner conversation produces a change in results. Nonetheless, I sometimes find I can’t get much change working at the level of my conscious internal dialogue.
In moments of quiet I may be able to pick up the smaller voice, the little nag or self-criticism that is so familiar I don’t even notice it. Catching that thought during a lull in what I’m doing can lead to a hidden treasure in the form of old programming that I am ready to release. Later I can take time to journal or reflect or counsel with someone to help me let go of the deeper self-sabotage altogether.
Here are a few other handy fallback thoughts for when there’s a lull.
Gratitude List. What am I grateful for today? Right now?
Top Priority. What is my main focus in work or personal life? Keep it in mind in random moments.
Messages to send. To whom do I want to send good wishes, a thank you, just a thought?
Intuition. Open to the sense of knowing, receptive to a deeper awareness. What idea or wisdom comes in as a thought or image? Maybe jot it down or ask further questions and let answers arise.
And the best of all: just breathe and be present. Enjoy being alive in this moment. Put attention on what you are experiencing with all your senses. Hush the voice that says you should be doing something more “productive.”
A brief lull gives us a chance to remember that, as a favorite prayer says, “In this moment, all of my needs are met.” Ahhhhh.
Is there someone with whom you have built up a barrier to communication?
Perhaps you reached an impasse years ago and still work with this person. Perhaps you know what you want to say and do not feel you can say it, or maybe you are not clear at all. For whatever reason, there’s a wall between you.
It’s hard to talk with him or her, and it’s different from the many work relationships where you and others get along fine.
If you would prefer that the wall weren’t there, here are some steps to take.
First, what are your assumptions? We commonly assume that the correct solutions are obvious, the other person’s position is unchangeable, that they are not rational, and that we have no responsibility for the breakdown.
Recognizing and questioning those assumptions can open the door for dialogue.
The next important step is to be careful NOT to jump in and give a good explanation of where you are coming from. Invite a conversation and then listen.
Listening through what the other person has to say may be difficult. Listen without interrupting, and with empathy.
If you find you are not able to listen through, take time to reflect. Maybe take out a piece of paper and write out your thoughts. Speak with a friend or communication coach to sort out what’s in the way and to build the skill of listening well.
If you can do this, there are few barriers to communication that will stand.