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.

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Don’t Make this Stupid Mistake #10: Too Much Info Too Soon

August 13, 2009

Here’s the situation:  John was eager to make a good impression.  A  highly qualified individual,  John was was interviewing  for a desirable position.

Here’s the stupid mistake:  John told me the mistake in his own words:  “I just blew an interview,” John said. “I droned on and on about my background for 45 minutes and bored the interviewer. The guy’s eyes glazed over, and I didn’t get called back.” 

In their eagerness to make a good impression, job seekers often provide too much information too soon. They miss the opportunity for a dialogue and the chance to make an impression by targeting the interests of the other party.

Salespeople make the exact same mistake. So do project managers reporting on the outcome of a project. Chances are you make the very same mistake on a regular basis–in e-mails, presentations and proposals. Providing too much information too soon is the top communication mistake.

Here’s the solution:  One of the strategies I recommend to my clients comes from Garr Reynolds–on the topic of simplicity.

Reynolds is right when he says that simplicity is an exercise in subtraction. Conciseness is an exercise in subtraction as well. As you plan a presentation, a project report, an e-mail, a proposal or an interview, ask yourself what is essential to your receiver understanding your message. Subtract everything else.

Once you subtract the nonessential, your communication will become more clear, concise and powerful. What’s more, you’ll open up communication “space” in the situation, which allows you to receive and respond to the interests and concerns of the other party. This is the heart of persuasion.


Powerful Presentation and Influence Tip: Treat the Context as Critical to Success

July 8, 2008

Today I was reminded of a critical presentation skill while watching Gene Veno, Executive Vice President of the PA Chiropractic Association.  Veno had a mere 10 minutes to state his position about a proposed insurance merger before the PA Department of Insurance.  Since I had consulted with Veno regarding his testimony, I took the opportunity to see him in action.  Veno’s testimony was a success, and in this case at least, his success had very little to do with my consultation.

Veno submitted the written testimony we had worked on, then he used his 10 minutes to extemporaneously address his three main points.  Veno was clear, concise, and on-target.  These things contributed to his success, but none was the essence of his success. 

At the end of Veno’s testimony, Pennsylvania’s Insurance Commissioner, Joel Ario, said how much he appreciated Veno’s involvement with his committee. The Commissioner said something like this, “We appreciate that you bring up specific issues  we need to deal with.  What’s more, you come with solutions and experience that we can apply to those issues.”

Essentially, the Commissioner said to Veno, “We listen to what you say because you are positive, specific, practical, and helpful.  We pay attention to individual pieces of communication you send our way because of the context you have established.”  

It’s a powerful presentation and influence tip:  any individual presentation, no matter how perfect or polished, can stand or fall because of the overall context of the relationship.  The context you establish is critical to success.


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.

Persuasion Technique: Imagine This!

March 3, 2008

An article on the power of suggestion in persuasive communication relays an important lesson for business communicators.  Most of us approach persuasion as an exercise in  logic and statistics.  According to Don Price, we’ll get much better results if we appeal to a person’s imagination (http://searchwarp.com/swa119495.htm).   

Price claims that the power in the words of politicians, sales, and marketing professionals just might be hypnotic.  These folks can mesmerize us, moving us to fall in love with a product or a position by stringing words together in a way that “fires off your imagination” in a persuasive way.  Is this hypnotic?  You decide!  Can it help your next business pitch?  Absolutely!

Price compares a salesperson’s “pitch” to classical hypnosis, as follows (in italics with slight adaptions):

A Salesperson’s communication may go like this:

  •  When you own this home you are going to love holding her in you arms, late at night, while sitting by this fireplace. You’ll create memories to last a lifetime.      
  • Imagine coming home on a cold winter night and snuggling up in front of the warmth of this fireplace.

Classical hypnosis may go like this:

  • As you relax more deeply on the object you’re on, it will begin to feel like you are floating back deeply into a wonderful journey.     
  • You’ll soon discover that your mind will readily absorb all the positive suggestions that I have given you just like a sponge absorbs water.

The structure is the same in the sales communication and classical hypnosis, but the content and verbal suggestion is quite different. All the suggestions set up expectations in the mind of the listener. Our imaginations fill in the blanks as to what the expectations are. The choice of words and the order in which you use them has the power to change how people think and influence the actions they take. 

For the most part, business communicators don’t work to “fire” the imagination.  We say things like, “This fireplace is an asset during cold winter nights.”  There’s no trigger for the imagination, nothing to “grab” the listener’s attention.  In short, there’s no persuasive power. 

Competent business presentations will always contain logic and statistics.  The most powerful ones, however, will also appeal to the imagination, to the deeply held values and desires of individuals and the organization.  In your next formal or informal business presentation, insert the words, “Imagine this. . . !”  You just might tap into some true persuasive power.


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.