Archive for communication – Page 2

13 Common Sentence Starters that Kill Your Independence

It’s the day of our Nation’s independence and celebration abounds. Funny how it takes a holiday to remember that our freedom wasn’t always an entitlement.

We’d long ago been given a beautiful gift of exercising the right to say what we think.  The potential problem is that, far too often, we tend to do exactly that.  Say what we think, instead of saying what would make us sound stronger or more direct. “Aren’t we supposed to say what we think in order to be direct,” you say?  Sure. But hear me out…

Your brain has an inner dialogue that speaks to you long before you choose the words that escape the mouth.  I urge you to consider that some of these initial thoughts/dialogues between you and your brain should stay there, rather than audibly display any doubt, uncertainty or insecurity. By uttering those first fleeting sentence starters, you virtually hand over the control of the conversation to the listener, allowing them the opportunity to accept or dismiss what you’re saying.

To be truly direct is to make an independent statement that is not subject to qualification. Holding back on the weaker sentence starter gives the rest of your message the power it deserves.

In honor of the first 13 colonies who made their direct statements of independence, I offer you a quick list of 13 examples. These sentence starters kill your verbal independence and give the power of your speech to the listener;

  1. If you don’t mind, I’ll….
  2. What I was thinking was…
  3. I’m not sure about this, but…
  4. Don’t you think we could…?
  5. I’m hoping it’s OK to …
  6. Why don’t we try…
  7. Maybe you’ve already thought of this…
  8. I know it sounds strange, but…
  9. For lack of a better option…
  10. I’m wondering if …
  11. May I ask a question? (Just ask it for Pete’s sake)
  12. Anything starting with the words “Well,…” or “Um,…”
  13. Anything starting with the combination of the words “Well,…” and “Um,…”

How often do you find yourself using a weak sentence starter, even though you are clear on what you intend to say?

4 Ways to Self-Promote Without Promoting Yourself: Part II

Last week I began the conversation about ways to get others to sing your accolades for you, instead of having to do it yourself. Our lengthy discussion with awards and nominations was labeled “Way #1”. It’s up to you, after all, to find creative ways to inform and educate your clients & prospects about how great you are….without it sounding like self-promotion.

This week I want to give you three more areas to focus on, Letters to the Editor, Speaking and Article Marketing. Each of these areas offers creative opportunities for accomplishing far more with your promotion efforts than you can muster alone.

Way #2. Letters to the Editor

In each of your local publications will be a section where the paper wants to hear intelligent and thought-provoking content from its readership.  The Philadelphia Inquirer, for example, has an email listed on their online edition that clearly solicits engagement in sending material to the publication. Take advantage of these areas where you can find them.  Editors enjoy hearing from their readership for a variety of reasons.

What’s your Angle?

  • Take a stance on something the paper ran in its last issue. Make sure you research the topic, know your facts and write an intelligent and relevant response.
  • Point out an error or challenge an opinion…but do it respectfully from an engaging and knowledgeable place. Ranting doesn’t get printed – nor does it help your reputation.
  • Pitch a story idea (called a query in publishing terms) that will complement and benefit the content in their publication. Be sure to research submission guidelines, as some prefer contact via email and others by snail mail.
  • Talk to the readership. Come from a place of support for the paper.

In magazines you can look for this information somewhere within the first few pages. You’ll find a listing of editors, staff, contributing writers and often, some instruction for those wishing to submit material to the paper.

What can they do for you?

Write back = Recognition

Run your piece/list your name = Visibility

Consider you a resource if they like your stuff = Credibility

Ultimately you need to be respectful, interesting and informative. You’re doing this to build your relationship with the paper as a professional resource and a supportive member of community. In time, they may come straight to you when they need knowledge or contribution from an expert in your field. There’s your shot.

Way #3: Event Promotion/Public Speaking

It’s a well known marketing tactic that public speaking is an excellent way to increase visibility and become more well-known within your field.  Many community entities need and welcome your expertise for the betterment of both their organizations and their constituents. The long list of these entities includes your local library, Rotary Club, Networking Clubs, Chambers of Commerce, Association Memberships and many more. But how does that fit into our topic of discussion here?

What’s the Point?

Newspapers often promote Community Events via their online editions like the Courier Post Online or the Burlington County Times. The guideline here is to make sure your events are of interest to the public rather than an ad for a Clearance Blow-Out or a Sale, Sale, Sale!  Business, networking and educational events have the most chance of being accepted for posting. Check the instructions upon finding the link, as on the BizJournals site.

Way #4: Article Marketing

Wikipeadia says:Article marketing is a type of advertising in which businesses write short articles related to their respective industry. These articles are made available for distribution and publication in the marketplace. Each article contains a bio box and byline (collectively known as the resource box) that include references and contact information for the author’s business. Well-written content articles released for free distribution have the potential of increasing the authoring business’ credibility within its market as well as attracting new clients. These articles are often syndicated by other websites, and published on multiple websites.”

Where Do You Post Your Stuff?

  1. Use your Association memberships to insert your content in their member newsletters, websites and online blog editions.
  2. Blogs of friends or alliances – Seek guest posting opportunities. Check out BloggerLinkUp.com
  3. Article Marketing sites like EzinesArticles.com
  4. Information Curation Sites in your own city like Examiner.com

Follow Through –Getting others to promote you is a stealth form of communication . Combining the efforts of accolades, article marketing and public speaking achieves the kind of visibility that comes from wearing red blinking glasses in a darkened room.  Your prospects can’t help but see you.

Help get the word out via your website/blog, your collateral materials and your social media profiles. And don’t forget the almighty press release! Don’t know where to start?  Let me give you a hand.

Bully by Tongue: Are You A Conversational Bully?

Conversational Tongue Lashing

How often do you find yourself in a conversation with a bully?  I’m not talking about someone pushing your around – I’m talking about the bully that wounds with their words.  Pushy abrasive types KNOW they’re being a jerk.  The dangerous ones are the unsuspecting bully/jerks that are completely unaware how much power their words actually wield.  They tend to exercise control over conversations by insulting, hurting or belittling the person they’re speaking to, without the intention or the realization that they have.  There are dozens of conversational bullies out there. I’m not talking about you, am I?

The ‘My Advice Is King’ Bully

This kind of bully believes they’re being helpful by giving sage advice.  If this is your style, watch your step. Your off-putting phrases make people uncomfortable and create a negative platform for whatever conversation follows your opening statement. Ask yourself…have you ever started a sentence with these phrases?

  • The way I see it…
  • Let me tell you something…
  • If you were smart, you would…
  • You said,…
  • That’ll never…

Think before you speak. Offer other ways to communicate a strong opinion by beginning the sentence with a bit more diplomacy and sensitivity.

For instance, instead of saying “The way I see it…your proposal isn’t going to work”; try “I’m not sure I understand how this proposal will work.” You are admitting to the responsibility of the gap in communication, but not placing blame on any one party (even if you do blame someone). In addition, you aren’t suggesting future failure of the proposal either…in fact, you are actively keeping the discussion to a current time frame in order to maintain focus on solving your issue in the here & now. When you claim that things are “The way I see it…” you seem to be assuming that someone doesn’t ALREADY see it your way and are forcing them into defense mode.

Ever hear this one?  “If you were smart, you would tell them you have too much on your plate right now to take more on.” While the messenger likely has a concerned and helpful intention, they may have just insinuated that you aren’t ALREADY smart. Be cautious and aware to never, never begin telling someone your opinion by insulting theirs.

NO one likes being told what they did or didn’t say or what they did or didn’t do. Starting a sentence with “You said...” is a defense-mechanism trigger waiting to happen. Keep every conversation to your own recollection of how the exchange went the first time around. For instance, “I thought I understood you to say…” or “Am I remembering correctly that you said,…?” In this manner, you are allowing the individual to clarify their information without feeling attacked or on the spot.

Recognize any of these phrases from your own vernacular?  Take an inventory and take responsibility for your own messages.

Are you a Conversational Bully?

Other useful links:


In Celebration of Really Bad Email

Every now and again something you’ve hoped for happens and you simply have to shout it from the rooftops, knowing full well that it is WAY more exciting to you than it is to anyone else.

This is one of those moments. After all…we’re told to celebrate our accomplishments, right?

The following article was chosen in the 2010 Writer’s Digest writing competition within the “Magazine Feature Article” category. Not only will it be listed as such in an upcoming issue of Writer’s Digest Magazine, but it brings me one step closer to a couple of my writing goals.

I welcome you to a “virtual clink” as I raise a very deep glass filled with rich purple notes of plum, cherries & oak.

Salud!

The Writes and Wrongs of Email Messaging

Communicating via email is as commonly used as the remote of a TV. In fact, this extraordinary tool has become quite the ordinary, in both personal and professional communications. Consequently, using effective, creative messaging methods while remembering your online e-manners can help increase business, strengthen relationships and introduce convenience practices into your professional habits.

Emails can, for instance;

  • Create a paper trail (proof when it is needed)
  • Serve as quick, convenient reminders (to both you and to your recipients)
  • Be less time consumptive than leaving a voicemail or waiting for return calls
  • Allow you time to consider your message and revise where necessary
  • Allow you to eliminate emotion from potentially awkward interactions
  • Enable conversations with multiple recipients with the effort of only one interaction

Nevertheless, the tendency to become too comfortable can lead to sloppiness. Learn to monitor your email practices and AVOID these writing wrongs;

  1. Using the TO: section for multiple addresses. This is the biggest business faux pas in email history. Never use the TO: section to send a mass email…that’s what they make the BCC: section for (which stands for Blind Carbon Copy). Not only does this practice indicate an impersonal correspondence and a lack of knowledge on how to use email, it also invades the privacy of every name on that list. Mass emails left open for all to see create the serious potential for contact piracy and the spreading of electronic viruses.
  2. Vague or non-existing Subject Lines. Differentiate yourself from spammers by “fessing” up to what you want to talk about.
  3. Failure to choose your words wisely. Emails do not have the liberty of communicating emotion, tonality or inflection. Your words are the only tool you have when writing; always double check for synonyms, generalizations or double meanings.
  4. Tendency to answer too quickly. Brevity and accuracy are important, but miscommunication is a risk when answering in a rush or from your smart phone. Take time to review before pressing the ‘send’ button.
  5. Being too relaxed with grammar, spelling and slang. If you want to use acronyms, abbreviations and phonetic contractions, send a text or an instant message. Email is still the preferred way of sending business messages and should be treated with professionalism.
  6. Sending lengthy or unorganized information. Keep correspondences to one per subject – that means limiting each email to its own message points, attachments or links. Send a second email with the content of another subject. In the age of professional attention deficit disorder, an email with more than one message may not be read in its entirety and the risk of miscommunication increases.
  7. Relying on the auto-spellchecker. Many misspellings actually do make accurate words…they just might not be the words you intended to write. Don’t assume that your spell-check knows you meant “know” rather than “no” or “dessert” rather than “desert”.
  8. Overlooking your contact information. Even when corresponding to familiar people, it is a point of convenience and courtesy to include a signature with contact information at the end of each message. In the event that someone wants to respond with an immediate phone call or view your website, you don’t want them to waste time looking up your information.
  9. Placing personal information on company networks. Any email should be sent with the knowledge that at any given point, millions of viewers may have access. Companies always have the right to enforce compliance policies regarding privacy. If it can’t be read by your boss or your mom, save it for a phone call or for happy hour.
  10. Failure to delete long trails of pointless and unformatted content. Emails lose their convenience when someone must scroll endlessly to get to the intended message. If forwarding an existing message or a series of replies, do everyone the favor of deleting the unnecessary text. Stick to the point.
  11. Hitting “Reply All”. Unless each recipient of an email must be privy to all responses, your reply should only be sent to the email originator. It is time consuming and careless to include each person in a correspondence intended only for the sender.

Now let’s work on that second celebratory glass.

The Six Commandments of Sock-Charming

I spoke at a seminar this week about Networking…in fact it was called, “Marketing Through Networking” and frankly, I was amazed at how many folks truly felt that this is one topic you just can’t learn enough about.  One of my attendees (in fact, the SPONSOR of the event….thank you Howard of www.howardyermish.com) said…’this really ought to be the topic of your next blog post’. So here it is;

My take on Networking is simple.  You are marketing yourself at every single moment. And while you can’t necessarily control what people are going to think of you, or how they’ll react to any given statement that you make, you CAN control how YOU make them feel while THEY are talking.

I call these the “Sock-Charming Tactics”.  That simply means – little things you can do to make sure someone feels appreciated and listened to while they are speaking to you.  In other words, there are ways of charming people’s socks off…even when they’re the ones doing the talking.

As we discuss these sock-charming tactics, remember…this discussion is not about you. It’s about how you’re making others feel while they converse with you.

THE SIX COMMANDMENTS OF SOCK-CHARMING:

  1. The Eyebrow Flash – The gem of ‘Interested  Conversation’. Ever speak to someone who does nothing but stare with non-descript expression?  Be sure that YOU’RE not “that guy”. Give people an indication, even if simply with minor eyebrow fluctuation, that you are A) listening and B) interested. You don’t have to be a master at moving those brows…just raise them from time to time if someone says something that warrants a change of expression.  Often times, people give their best networking-shot by telling stories that may or may not be as funny to you as they are intended to be. You don’t have to feign being at a comedy show – No Insincerity Please –  just acknowledge the attempt and raise those brows with a smile. You can make someone feel like a RockStar if you just wear “surprise face” in the right place.
  2. The Affirmation Nod – Along with acknowledging someone’s train of thought, comes the ever popular nod.  This simply CANNOT be overused. People love to know that “I’m right there with you”. Sprinkle in an “MmHmm” and an “Oh yea” every now & again and you have yourself a dual conversation, even if they’re the ones in the spotlight for the moment. The give and take from an effective affirmation nod can make the difference between feel spoken to and feeling embraced by the conversation.
  3. Open Arm Gestures – We’ve all heard about the open-arms versus closed-arms approach at a boardroom table or a seminar.  Have you given much thought to what your arms are doing at a networking function?  Closed hands and folded arms are a typical body language faux pas, as they are said to indicate a “closed” personality or mood. Realistically however, at networking functions we are often strapped with a glass or a small plate of hors d’oeuvres, indeed – but this is not an excuse for presenting yourself in a closed manner. Consider keeping your right hand open (at all times) for shaking and keep them in front of yourself, in full view of your conversation partner.  No fists, no hand on the hip, no hand behind the back.  Hands in the pocket can be a great way to appear casual and approachable, but be sure to take them out BEFORE a hand is extending in friendly greeting.  You’ll seem more inviting that way.
  4. No Baggage Onboard – OMG can you remember to leave it at home already?! There’s nothing worse in a networking setting than asking a simple “how are things going?” and getting a reply that sounds like a dissertation in Negative Nuances. If the dog peed on the rug and it made you SO late that you were pulled over for speeding and spilled your coffee on your lap while merging into the shoulder, either make it funny or keep it to yourself.  Nothing kills a conversation more than someone that has only negative things to say.  We all have baggage – choose when and with whom to bring it up.
  5. Avoiding the Mirror Technique – Contrary to popular belief, mirroring the voice level or mannerisms of the person you’re conversing with can backfire.  If you’re speaking with a quiet type and you mirror their docile speaking pattern, they may be temporarily placated by your similar softness.  But if you take the same approach and next mirror someone who is boisterous and energetic, you’d better be sure that never the two shall meet.  Pick a personality and stick with it.  Be yourself.
  6. Promoting Partners – Nothing makes you look better than promoting those around you.  The best way I’ve found to make a good impression on others is to avoid talking about myself altogether. When introducing someone else, sing their praises (but only if you really mean it – authenticity is key). Comment on their business, their successes or their unfaltering habit of {…insert humorous compliment here…}. Making someone else look good serves to take the focus off of you, allows you to appear humble and creates an atmosphere of interaction.  Not to mention that most folks will genuinely want to return the favor, leaving you to focus on learning about each other rather than talking about yourself. Wallah!

We all want to do business with people we like. Ultimately we need to be ourselves while leaving a lasting impression. Give something for people to remember you by…even if you’ve left them without their socks on!

What is Stealth Communication?

Effective communication should be unencumbered by bullshit or games or difficult temperaments, as so many personality types have a tendency to exercise. It should be a clean, crisp and direct message that cuts right to the point.  Wasting time and effort on “fluff” may make for a great English Lit assignment submission, but it’s not going to serve toward getting your intended message to the receiver in today’s world of Attention Deficit Disorder sufferers, whether you’re writing it or speaking it.

Where, then, do I get the correlation between “communication” and “stealth”?

By Wiki’s definition, the word stealth is a noun meaning;

  1. the attribute or characteristic of acting in secrecy

“Stealth-like” communication, much like an arrow would cut right through the air in one straight path to its directive, is the practice of getting directly to the point with your message.  In fact, the word stealth itself eludes to a sense of “no-nonsense” as if it creeps up on you and before you realize it. You want the person you’re speaking with to get your message without seeing it coming, without anticipating what they THINK you’re going to say, and without formulating a response in their mind before your sentence is out of your mouth. In other words, without all the crap that gets in the way of them understanding what you really meant to say.

Stealth also means;

2. in such a way that the actions are unnoticed or difficult to detect by others

They say that in order to achieve any great change or improvement, practice is the best strategy to making something become a habit.  As with any learned or improved skill, getting better at communication involves the practicing of new techniques.  Using power-phrasing, diffusing difficult people and finding new ways of painting a verbal picture all help people to understand you better… but the extra effort you put into turning these skills into habits should not be what people notice.  The only thing people should notice is that they “get you”, right away, every time.

Additionally,  […and here’s my favorite concept about communication…]  The word “stealth” itself  is such a juxtaposition of terminology in the sense that it’s a word typically used to describe very aggressive or testosterone-driven endeavors.  I think the idea of using it to describe a woman who is unafraid of being strong and powerful is just delicious….equaling the concept of using “assertive” (female) communication techniques rather than aggressive (male) ones.

What does “Stealth Communication” mean to you?

Whose Contagious Emotions Are Making You Sick?

Emotions are a funny thing. They’re highly contagious entities that can truly make or break the success or enjoyment of each day. Your brain is in constant observation mode, taking in information and creating the reactions that lead to ongoing communications with the people around you.  Negative emotions are one of the largest predators of effective communication. While it’s natural to mirror the emotions or attitudes of those around you, it takes a conscious effort and awareness to avoid letting them drag you down.

Do you have one of those friends or siblings that (bless his/her heart) is just the biggest bag ’o downers you know?You’re not alone. They manage to catch you at the wrong time, place or mood. You know they’re gonna ramble on and on about all the terrible things happening in their lives, though they’ll never do anything to change them. Even if you’d previously been having an ace of a day, you finish that conversation and feel… SICK. That’s Emotional Contagion.

What about the folks that are consistently accusatory, paranoid or downright mean? That stuff tends to wear off on those in close proximity. Much as viruses travel swiftly and without control, toxic emotions (and the people that bring them) have the ability to pass along their negativity.  Interactions with these folks leave us with the emotions they experience, whether exhausted, angry, depressed or frustrated. Once focus is compromised, so is the communication or negotiation at hand.

The good news is that by becoming more aware of the emotional contagions around you, you can control your own reactions and limit the negative stimuli. Relying on direct, concise statements and unwavering decisions will keep your messages on track, regardless of the toxins that make you sick.

Communication Breakdown

The Theory of Communication states that the cycle of expressing and understanding a message occurs at four intervals;

  1. Encoding occurs when the sender determines how to send a message.
  2. The sender then conveys the message either verbally or nonverbally.
  3. Decoding occurs when the receiver interprets and determines its meaning.
  4. The response in which the receiver reacts to the sender happens last.

Social psychologists estimate that there is usually a 40-60% loss of message meaning between sender and receiver. Can you imagine? That means that about half the time we think we’re being clear with our messaging, someone else doesn’t agree. According to the steps above, there are four different places within the communication process where a misstep or a ‘break’ occurs. It’s a wonder any of us are able to converse at all!

How many times have you screamed in frustration because someone JUST DIDN’T GET what you were saying?