Category Archives: teamwork

Innovation: Why We Need to Connect with Each Other

Click on this post to view a short fun video that shows us that the connected mind is where good ideas come from.

Listen with Your Senses – to Morgan Freeman

Neurolinguistic Programming, or NLP, teaches us to listen with our senses; that is, to hear the specific words people say that tell us the sensory system they are using.

We speak in seeing, hearing, and feeling terms that actually represent how we are thinking. If you listen with awareness of sensory systems, you can appreciate the diversity of our personal syntax.

This week, the insightful TV interviewer, Charlie Rose, had actor Morgan Freeman on his show, talking about what it was like to play Nelson Mandela in the new movie Invictus.

To the conscious listener, Freeman gave an elegant demonstration of how his senses inform his work.

When asked how he observed Mandela to get into the character, he said it wasn’t anything he saw or heard. He asked Mandela if he could hold his hand. He said he could not explain or intellectualize it. He could feel the quiet inside.

Later in the interview, he described getting into another character, a principal who inspired students. Freeman had learned the technique with that principal. He held his hand and could feel huge amount of energy going on inside. Feeling that charge allowed him to step into the role. The change in the actor’s demeanor was visible as he spoke of this. Several times he mentioned that he couldn’t put what he knows kinesthetically into words (and then, being a brilliant person, he did anyway).

He talked about approaching Clint Eastwood to direct Invictus, and when asked why Eastwood, he said “His feel for storytelling. I don’t know how to tell you what that is.. He just knows when a scene is dragging…” giving another example of his strong kinesthetic (feeling) system.

Later, Freeman talked about a peak experience of an acting day with Matt Damon, saying it was the “connection” between them that was so memorable.

Morgan Freeman conveys great depth of emotion as an actor. Listening to him speak and watching how he responds to questions illuminates the personal syntax that makes his talent possible.

You may want to try listening to people’s personal syntax with this filter: are they using words that indicate seeing, hearing, feeling? In what sequence? Do not categorize people as either visual, auditory, or kinesthetic. We all use all systems, in different sequences and priorities.

If I say “I have to get a feel for what you are saying before I can picture it,” I am really telling you how I think and how I can best receive information at the moment.

Whether you are a manager, colleague, teacher, or parent, it’s worth knowing how each person’s way of processing – their personal syntax – reveals their talent and special kind of intelligence. The first step is to hear, then to practice flexibility in your own speech, to match the sequences used by the other person.

You can learn more about this in our book Smart Work, or by taking a SYNTAX course, or by researching NLP resources online. Having the distinctions of sensory representations is both entertaining and extremely helpful in making choices as we work and live with other people.

Check it out, especially the next time you have a chance to watch a master talk about his or her work.

Can You Say "And"?

Have you noticed the difference in how people respond when you use the word and instead of but in a sentence?

If you listen to newscasters and politicians, you will frequently hear the word but as if for emphasis. It disrupts the flow of the thought that came before, perhaps to set up an important point in a debate. This may work – though I wouldn’t count on it – if you really are in a debate. If you don’t want a debate, your choice of words can have much more influence than most people realize.

A friend with a couple of kids at home remarked on the huge difference she has found when she catches herself about to say but and changes it to and. For example, when her nine-year-old says he wants to go to a friend’s house at a time they already had plans, she can say, “You want to go to Joe’s house AND we already have plans to go skating.” He gets it right away and is a lot less likely to argue than if she had said the same thing with but in the middle.

I used to wonder if this was just one of those ideas that communication coaches believe in and that don’t have enough effect to make it worth the effort of changing. After years of practicing the A word, and catching instances of But that I wouldn’t have otherwise noticed, I can report that it works not just for communication but also (there’s a legit use of but!) for expanding our ability to think about complexity.

When we are in either-or mode, we are less equipped to deal with the blended realities we are sorting through every day. When we are able to handle both-and, we absorb and manage mulitple priorities. We still make decisions, clarify thoughts, and challenge assumptions.

If you baven’t tried it, don’t assume that and and but are pretty much parallel with different meanings. At first you may not hear yourself saying but, AND if you go on a “but diet” (note that I could have said but and didn’t), you will become better at hearing and changing from but to and. AND… maybe you’ll find some unexpected breakthroughs in conversations with yourself as well as others.

I believe that the little mindshift this represents may be a key to getting along better on many levels in a diverse, pluralistic world. Certainly, rigid boundaries cause stress and conflict, which may be avoidable with more flexibility.

Whether you are interested in the bigger worldview or not, try it out for yourself. For a while you may find yourself saying the transitional version, which sounds like “ButAND”. It does smooth out, or it becomes a signal among familiars that we are on the verge of expanding our thinking.

Be wary of the “however” solution – those in the know call that “a but in a tuxedo.” Has the same effect even if it sounds fancy.

You could get a huge payback for a little effort when you decide to go conscious on your use of but and and. Check it out and share what you learn. AND we will be glad to hear about it!