Don’t Make this Stupid Mistake #13

January 11, 2010

Here’s the Situation:  About a year ago, I changed my route to work, causing me to pass through a small town at least twice  per day.  One day, I stopped to browse in a lovely antique store.  As I entered the store, the owner was sharing a relaxing chat with a friend in the rear of the store.

Here’s the Stupid Mistake:  The owner didn’t get up, greet me, or ask me if I was looking for something in particular.  In fact, she ignored me completely.  Although I found a few items that interested me, I wasn’t inclined to interrupt a conversation to ask for information or a price.  I felt both irritated and invisible.  Although I love antiques and have passed this antique store at least 1000 times in the last year, I’ve never gone inside again.  I am decidedly resistant to this store–I have no receptivity to the store’s charms.

Here’s the Solution:  No matter what  situation you find yourself in, receptivity to your ideas is key to your success.  Whether the situation involves sales, a training class, a meeting, a networking  event, or you are speaking  from a large stage, the people in the room want to be acknowledged.  If you are in charge of a meeting, or the speaker at an event, go out of your way to welcome people, respect their time and let them know you understand their frustrations. Even when you have no leadership responsibilities in a situation, make the first move to introduce yourself to others. 

It might seem like a simple thing, but a gracious greeting can open others up to be receptive to your proposals and your products.  A  little investment here will  go a long way to increasing your persuasive powers.


Don’t Make this Stupid Communication Mistake #12

October 2, 2009

Here’s the Situation:  A professional colleague and I were discussing an incident that occured  in the association we both belong to.  It was one of those incidents that ocur in every organization that involves volunteers.  Leadership on the board had turned over with a new year, and the outgoing leadership had neglected to provide the recognition my colleague felt she deserved. 

Here’s the Stupid Mistake:  The colleague began several of her sentences with the words, “I don’t care about the recognition, but . . . ”  Other sentences began with, “I wouldn’t say this to anybody but you . . . .”  What’s worse is that these type of statements consistently pepper the conversations I have with this individual.  As I result, I am quite sure she does care about the recognition and she does make these statements to me and to others. 

When a person is indirect about feelings such as being hurt, it results in the person seeming petty.  When a person claims she won’t say certain things to anybody but you, it  results in the person seeming like a true gossip.  These statements erode trust and make the listener cautious about interactions with the person making the statements.  We tiptoe around people who have a high need for recognition.  We withhold confidences from people we perceive as gossips.  We certainly lose respect for these folks.

Here’s the Solution:  If you are slighted by someone’s failure to recognize you in a professional context, deal with it directly, with the person who committed the error.  If you don’t feel it’s worth it to confront the person directly, then shut up about the whole thing!  If you talk about it behind someone’s back, don’t kid yourself into thinking you don’t look petty.

Gossip is never attractive, and it never builds respect and trust.  Avoid it at all costs.  If you have to say, “I wouldn’t say this to anyone but you . . . , ” reevaluate the comment.  Chances are it should remain unsaid.


Law of Persuasion: Is Likeability Really Important in Business?

March 7, 2008

Technical whiz kids, scientists, and others professionals focus on increasing their skills:  the goal is to be an expert in their chosen field.  While education and expertise are important, researchers now insist that more is needed for success.  The highest levels of achievement come to those who mix expertise with likeability.

Research studies consistently reveal that people respond positively to others whom they like.  People prefer to do business with and to buy products from people they like.  Mitch Anthony, author of Selling with Emotional Intelligence,puts it succinctly, “Likeability is as important as ability.” 

While you may not officially be in sales, you must sell your ideas, your credibility, and your recommendations every day.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Accept the fact that developing likeability is an important success strategy.
  •  Find and mention the points of contact or similarity you have with others.
  • Learn to listen respectfully and to demonstrate an open mind.
  • Engage in small courtesies and expressions of appreciation, regardless of the other person’s formal status.      
  • Learn to keep gossip, unkind words, and disparaging remarks unsaid.
  •  Take time to laugh with others.
  • Choose a likeability mentor—observe and learn from someone who excels in likeability.

Definition of Influence: The Short Version

December 5, 2007

After years of studying influence, I knew the definition by rote—or I thought I did.  I’ve always seen influence defined in this way:  Influence is the ability to get work done with and through people—without formal authority. 

A statement in a blog entry by Mike Myatt pulled me up short:  Influence is built on making others successful.  Wow—that’s succinct and clear and TRUE!

Classic ways of thinking about influence as getting work accomplished without authority focus on building a base of expertise; building credibility; achieving connection with influential people and sources of information; lending a hand when necessary; appealing to people’s values and convictions; etc.  All these actions are important, but they can be summed up in the simple approach:  Influence is built on making others successful. 

Think about it:  We admire people who make us successful.  We are attracted to them.  And we will do anything we can to support their goals and aspirations.This definition allows us to have a lofty and selfish goal at the same time.  Make a commitment to contribute to someone else’s success every day.  You’ll grow as an admirable person and also as someone who has influence—the ability to get things done without formal authority.


Avoid this Stupid Mistake #7: Introduce Your Speech with Low Expectations

November 14, 2007

Here’s the situation:  This week I attended a presentation in which a consultant had been asked to address a group for a potential client.  The consultant had 30 minutes to say something useful and make an impression in order to be asked back for a fee.  The manager in charge introduced the consultant/speaker to the group.  Politely, the group clapped.

Here’s the stupid mistake:  The speaker responded to the applause with this statement, “It’s nice to receive applause before you start a presentation because you never know what will happen afterwards.”Good grief, what was he thinking?!  Audience members form an opinion of a speaker in the first seconds of a presentation. 

Here is the speaker announcing he might lose control of the speech.  Who would want to listen to him, let alone hire him?!

The first words out of this person’s mouth should have formed a connection or delivered some value for the client.  Once a speaker starts off on a negative foot, it’s hard to recover.

Here’s the solution:  Self-deprecating humor is fine, and sometimes it’s desirable—but NOTas you introduce your speech and NOT about your competence.  As you begin a speech, strive to do the following three things.  When you introduce your speech with each of these elements, you are off to a strong and credible start.

  1. Attract the audience’s attention with an interesting statistic, a brief and relevant story, or a provocative quote or question.     
  2.  Create a connection between you and the audience.  Touch on a value or an experience you have in common.
  3.  Establish your credibility as an expert or someone who is well-prepared to address the audience

Introduce your speech with a combination of these three elements, and you can be sure that you start off with a solid start.

For ten techniques to introduce your speech, including examples, go to http://www.incrediblemessages.com/products.htm#howtowin.


Avoid This Stupid Mistake #5: Begin Your Speech with an Apology

October 15, 2007

Here’s the situation:  An accomplished physician and researcher from Puerto Rico was presenting at a conference of her peers in the United States.   The physician was uneasy about the fact that English is a second language for her.

Here’s the stupid mistake:  “First,” the doctor began, “I want to apologize for my English.” Sitting in the audience, I felt the energy drain out of the room. Audience members collectively caught their breath, preparing to sit through a problematic presentation.  I wanted to rewind the tape and skip the apology. Apologizing in a speech, especially in the introduction, automatically decreases your effectiveness.

Not only did the doctor’s apology expose a lack of confidence, it diverted attention from her expertise. The apology was entirely unnecessary—the doctor’s skills as a clinician and a researcher had earned her the right to present.

Here’s how to handle this situation:  It is appropriate to acknowledge an obvious difference that might distract audience members from your content, something like a heavy accent or the presence of a wheelchair. The doctor might have begun, “I’ve come from Puerto Rico to report significant findings from my research. These findings may impact your clinical practice in substantial ways. As we work together today, you might notice that English is not my first language. Sometimes my brain goes faster in Spanish than my tongue can translate.

The same is true if you should encounter a problem with the room, with the equipment, or with another speaker failing to arrive on time. If the audience knows about the problem, acknowledge it. Then confidently report how you are going to handle the situation and get on with it. If you appear to take the situation in stride, the audience will as well.

Acknowledge differences and problems that arise, but skip the apology. Your credibility—and often the success of your presentation—depend on it.

To learn ten techniques for a terrific opening for your speech, including examples, go to http://www.incrediblemessages.com/products.htm#howtowin.


Easy Route to Influential Presentation

October 9, 2007

Recently I had the privilege of being a “fly on the wall” while my well-respected mentor worked magic.  I was invited to attend a 3-day seminar, where the featured speaker was Glenna Salsbury. Glenna (as she is known by her friends and clients) is a successful and award-winning speaker. She is Past President of the National Speakers Association, and a member of that organization’s Speaker Hall of fame.  At 70 years old, Glenna is one of the most experienced and decorated speakers on this planet.

During the course of the three-day event, I overheard many positive comments about
Glenna.  This was no surprise, because Glenna is a great speaker who can hold an audience spellbound.  Her stories are powerful, and her sense of humor is infectious.

There was, however, a definite surprise.  The surprise came in which words of praise I overhead most often: “She came to the registration desk before the conference to meet us. I don’t expect that from a speaker. It was really nice.”

Sometimes the simplest gestures have the most profound impact. How simple is it to show up early and introduce yourself?  You don’t need years of experience or oodles of rehearsal to do that.

Next time you face presentation jitters, get a head start on a successful event. Arrive early, bring your smile, and a friendly handshake. If you already know members of the audience, use the time to establish a considerate, positive tone before the presentation begins. Your audience will praise you for this.  What’s more, research shows that a positive connection increases your power to influence others and gain commitment.