Avoid this Stupid Mistake #14: Step on Someone’s Story

January 23, 2010

Here’s the Situation:  Okay, I was complaining.  I was describing a frustrating situation at work with a professional friend.  I had had a rough day and  needed to vent  before I dusted myself off for the next day.

Here’s the Stupid Mistake:  I’d barely finished my story before my friend began with a story of her own.  She delved into details of her own challenges and frustrations at work.  I’ve heard the behavior described this way:  “She stepped on my story.”  As a result, I felt “cut off.”  At the end of the encounter, I felt worse than at the beginning–because my friend did not listen to me or offer understanding.

People step on the stories of their conversation partners all the time.  For example, we step on stories of success, failure, frustration, illness, relationships, etc.  At minimum, this mistake makes for an unpleasant conversation because the person who initiates the conversation doesn’t feel listened to.  If you make a habit of stepping on stories, you run the risk of being judged insensitive, self-centered, and even narcissistic.

Here’s the Solution: A good listener allows a speaker to fully finish his or her story, acknowledging both the details of the story and the feeling behind it.  Once the original speaker feels acknowledged and understood, it can be appropriate for the listener to share a similar story of his or her own.  This builds a common ground–but only once the original story has had the opportunity to stand on its own.


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.

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.

Are You Making a Personal Brand Mistake?

August 8, 2007

Experts tell me that the essence of a brand is a promise.  For example, people are willing to spend  more for a Coke than a generic cola because they can count on the consistency of the Coke taste–no matter where they are in the world. 

All successful brands have a believable and predictable promise:  Nike, IBM, Starbucks, HJ Heinz, Newsweek, AT&T etc.  The brand tells you what to expect, every time.

People have brands, too, even though we don’t always think about it.  Our brand is based on personal promise.  People will be drawn to us and want to work with us if we deliver on a desirable promise–consistently.  It’s a mistake to think that quality and consistency are less important in our personal brand than they are for a commercial product.

Here are some questions worth considering.  Does your personal brand promise and deliver the following:

  • Integrity?
  • Agreed upon action–on time, every time?
  • Optimism and an upbeat attitude?
  • Professional and personal generosity?
  • A problem solving rather than a blaming approach?
  • Critical thinking and creative solutions?
  • A concern for the goals of others?
  • Appreciation for the contributions of others?
  • Highest caliber documents and presentations?

It’s a mistake to think you don’t have a brand as a person and as a professional.  It’s a mistake to think that quality and consistency don’t matter.  For the greatest success, define your brand and deliver on it.  Your credibility is at stake.

Electing the President, Likeability and Your Future

June 15, 2007

Chances are  you ‘ve heard some people mention the importance of likeability for success in any field.  I first ran across this in a Harvard Business Review article by Robert Cialdini in 2001.  Cialdini maintained that likeability was a key factor (one of six) in a person’s ability to persuade. 

Tim Sanders has researched and popularized this idea in The Likeability Factor.  But some people believe they make decisions objectively, without emotion and without caring whether or not they like the person with whom they are doing business.  These folks might be surprised by a posting I found the other day. 

In this post, national correspondent, Bill Beaman shares his reflections on the candidicy of Mitt Romney.  Here are some excerpts:

“He’s smart.  He’s articulate….  But the most important thing he has going for him is that he’s so likeable. ”

“Since every Republican candidate this year is evoking Ronald Reagan, let’s use the 40th president as out standard here.  Reagan said any number of bizarre and contradictory things during his years in politics….  America forgave him for these sorts of gaffes and more–including, ultimately, Iran-contra.  Why?  They liked him so much as a person.  They liked his sunny optimism and his heartland America values….”

“Well, among the cast of characters running for president this go-round, no one is more darn wholesome than Mitt Romney.  No one projects optimism in quite the same “gosh, we can do it, folks” sort of way.” 

Finally, Beaman describes Mitt Romney as a “man with Reagan-style appeal, combined with gray matter.”  As I read it, Beaman is not saying likeability is the only factor, but he is saying it is a critical factor, one that could push a candidate over the edge to success.  He’s saying that people will take notice of Romney because he looks the part, he’s optimistic, and he’s likeable. 

Wow–this is a scary way to pick a president.  Research says Beaman is onto something real–likeability plays a huge role in your success or lack thereof.  What are your thoughts about this–regarding job interviews, cooperation in the workplace, promotions, etc.?  Fair or not, your likeability plays a critical role in your future. 

For another one of my articles on likeability, go to http://www.incrediblemessages.com/Articles/cc-19-PersuaionQuixoteStyle.htm.  Let me know what you think!

(To view the post by Beaman, go to www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1849222/posts. )