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Cussin' Kids

This week my 11-year-old son revealed to me through casual conversation that another student at his middle school cursed him out.  He says the kid called him a m----- f----- and a b---h.  I wasn't all that shocked by what I heard because both he and my elementary school-aged daughter say they hear kids cursing at school almost daily.  How sad is that?  I was angered, however, by the level of disrespect the other kid showed my son.  My son is a low-key, laid back, reserved kind of child.  He doesn't ruffle other people's feathers; neither does he let much get under his skin.  So I was immediately ticked off to hear him tell me as an aside that this other child had said these hateful things to him.  I asked him what he did when the boy said it, and he said nothing.  He just ignored him.  I asked him how it made him feel, he said it didn't matter.  I was glad he didn't react to that kind of foolishness, but I was also a bit flustered that he couldn't.  I say &…

What I've Learned As a Speaker

Wow!  October was a busy month of speaking engagements.  As much as I love being in front of a crowd, I always relish a brief break.  Breaks give us a chance to step back for a minute and review our performance.  It offers us opportunity to think about how we can be better, learn more, take a different approach.  When speaking publicly or training, I often distribute evaluations after sessions to get feedback on my delivery.  If I don't get the chance, I always ask the host who invited me to share the results of evaluations they've taken during the events.  I don't get disturbed by one or two critical comments because as we all know, you can't please everyone.  I listen to the consensus of the group.  If, overall, people are pleased, then so am I.  However, I'm always looking to improve.  Based on what I've learned and what I've witnessed in other speakers, I'll share three things that make the difference in delivering a great presentation:
Involve your …

What Prejudice Sounds Like

It's been a while since I've had a chance to post because I've been pretty busy training.  As usual, training classes have offered me plenty of content for blogging.  The most interesting of late has been on the topic of diversity.  Diversity management can be a challenging topic for individuals in the workplace.  I've seen people in my training classes visibly uncomfortable discussing The Big Three--race and culture, sexual orientation, and religious differences.  Maybe because biases expressed in these areas tend to get people in the most trouble.  For those who hate confrontation, they tend to shy away from potentially controversial topics altogether.  The concern I hear expressed most often is that they don't know what to say because they fear they'll offend someone.  It's the whole "walking on egg shells" concern that leads to avoidance of the topic.  At work, when they have to attend training because some discrimination issue has occurre…

Drawing the Lines in Communications

When it comes to how to talk to each other, there are a lot of invisible lines.  The tricky part is finding out where they are and trying not to cross them.  They tend to move based on who you're talking to.  Some people don't care if you're blunt and opinionated while others find that style annoying and obnoxious.  My rule of thumb for any communication that could be offensive is "If it's offensive to some, then it's offensive to all."  Therefore, refrain.  Everybody's not digging what you're saying.
     So how do you find the lines?  Actually, it's up to other people to draw the lines for you since there are variations.  Here are examples:  When it's clear to you that someone doesn't like coarse language or they don't like to talk about politics, religion, or money, then those are the lines you shouldn't cross.  When a co-worker doesn't mind personal jokes about himself, but he stops you at making jokes about his fa…

Listening WRONG

Have you ever had an occasion when someone asked your opinion about something, and before you could finish responding, they cut you off?  Right smack-dab in the middle of your statement, they start talking like you haven't uttered a word.  Remember how frustrated you felt?  Maybe not the first time, but around the fourth or fifth time, you're done.  Either you're escaping the conversation physically or you've tuned out altogether.  After all, why do you have to contribute?  The individual seems to be having the conversation all by himself.  That's listening wrong.
     Listening wrong is not the same as misunderstanding what someone said or misinterpreting what you thought you heard.  That would require thought.  Most wrong listening comes as a result of not thinking about what's being said.  An example is trying to multitask while someone is talking to you.  Yesterday, I instructed my nine-year-old daughter to remove the lid from the pot if she should hea…

What It Means to Be C.R.A.S.S.

You've been around them.  Those people who make off-colored remarks, foul comments, crude statements without care or concern for whom they may be offending.  You know--generally acting like the last three letters in the word crass.  Which is how they are behaving.  Most think they're being witty.  Others are trying to get a rise out of those around them.  The immature think it makes them look bigger, badder, superior in some way to denigrate somebody else.  Men might refer to a woman's most intimate parts in mixed company to disrespect, intimidate or demean women.  Women might do the same thing for the same reasons except they are targeting one female in particular.  Or maybe they're just stupid and don't know it.  Whatever the motivation, being crass in communication doesn't work for anybody.  It serves absolutely no purpose other than to make the speaker look foolish.
    So what does it mean to be crass?  I use this acronym:  Communicating Repulsively A…

Listening Is a Choice

As a mom of two, I've grown very adept over the years in not listening.  Let's face it.  Most of what kids have to say is not nearly as important as what we need to hear.  As much as we want to be attentive to their every comment, we just can't.  Such is the case for adults as well.  We can't spend inordinate amounts of time listening to other people's comments, opinions, questions, and statements.  We have to find ways to decipher what's important on a whim so we can focus on priorities.  One big problem I experienced with not listening is that I tuned out so often that I tended to overlook the important stuff.  I had to re-program myself to tune back in.  The greatest lesson I learned is that listening is a choice.  I can choose which bits of information are pertinent at the time, which I should shelve for later, and which I can discard because it's useless.
     So--when should we choose to listen?  The short answer is always.  In order to determine…

Overcoming the Fear of Feedback

This past weekend, I attended a conference and experienced something I'd not witnessed before.  During the lunch at which a speaker was featured, the gentleman who was introducing the speaker took a bold step.  While delivering the introduction, the lunch time crowd grew a bit chatty and loud.  The gentleman, Ed, stopped what he was saying and allowed his silence to silence the crowd.  They got the message and quieted down.  He punctuated his point by stating, "Please allow me the opportunity to honor our speaker today by giving him a proper introduction.  I would appreciate it if you all remained quiet until I'm finished."  He got great approval from the people sitting around my table, and I was impressed with his candor.  Most often when I've witnessed this kind of behavior from an audience, the speaker usually tries to compete with the crowd by continuing to speak in hopes that they will hold themselves accountable or their peers would shush them.  Howeve…
Saying It Better: Choosing the Right Words and the Best Tone

     You've heard it said, "It's not what you say, but how you say it."  I've come to understand that it's both what you say and how you say it that affect our communications.  Choosing the right words to convey your message is critical to clarity and accuracy in communications.  Choosing the appropriate tone in that same message will complete how it gets across to the other party.  For example, if I have to tell a co-worker that I don't believe she's pulling her weight on the team, I wouldn't say:  "Joan!  I'm tired of doing your work.  Stop being lazy and do what you're getting paid to do just like the rest of us."  Wrong word choices and wrong tone even though it may be exactly how I feel.  I wouldn't go to her with hostility in my voice from the start.  I'd find the least confrontational words to describe the situation, and my tone would match.  It would sou…

Betty Parker's Rules of Electronic Engagement

Electronic etiquette--the proper use of electronics in today's wired connections.  That's my definition.  We have all the gadgets, and we know how to use them according to their technical purposes.  However, do we know proper etiquette when using our devices?  What's appropriate and what's not?  Although there are books that have been written on electronic etiquette, I have a few rules of my own about email, texting, Facebook entries, tweets, and voice mail that I think you might find useful.  Here are a few:

Emails:
Keep emails brief.  Use bullet points when appropriate.  Most people scan.  They don't read every word so don't waste your time.Refrain from sending a gazillion emails in a day to any one person.  After the third or fourth one, they'll most likely stop reading them and something important may get missed.If you want someone to respond to email because it actually is important, say so.  In the subject line, write in caps: IMPORTANT or ACTION REQUE…

Responding Responsibly

I've been asked my opinion on what I think of people not responding when you contact them.  This is a source of frustration for many, including me.  Since this is a communications blog, I believe that a lack of response is an important part of communication.  Therefore, I will address it. 
     Most of us can agree that we are inundated with information from the time we rise in the morning until we crash into bed at night.  We are mentally drained from the multitudinous contacts we get daily.  Unfortunately, we don't want most of them.  They often come unsolicited.  And truth be told, we find ourselves just as guilty of the same.  But sometimes it's unavoidable--especially at work.  To combat the unwanted messages, we've all resorted to handling them the same way--ignoring them.  We don't always respond to email, voice mail, snail mail, texts or calls.  Sometimes we think we'll be able to get to them at a later time, but we never do.  Thus, we've essen…

Direct--Not Rude

In almost every training class I conduct, there is at least one person who admits that they're direct in the way they communicate.  They know it because they've been told so, and I'm willing to bet that it wasn't meant as a compliment.  Most often when an individual is informed that their communication style is direct, it's because they've offended someone in some way.  But direct doesn't have to mean rude.  There are huge benefits in being direct.  When done right, this style of communication doesn't waste time but gets straight to the point, is extremely helpful in its feedback, and puts the speaker in a position of strength.  When done inappropriately, it will undo all of those and comes across as insensitive and abrasive.
     So how do you turn your direct style into a useful means of communication?  One way is to think about what you'll say before you blurt it out.  Ask yourself, "How will this come across to the person I'm talki…

WTF! The Impact of Profanity in Communications

You turn on the TV and on your favorite series there's a scene with an actor saying:  "G--d--mit, man have you lost your mind?"  You get in the car with your kids, and a song is playing that references "video h-s" in the lyrics.  You walk into the office, and your co-worker is staring at his computer screen when suddenly he blurts out:  "What the f--k!"  Everywhere you go, you hear it.  We all do.  We all do it.  Whether it's mild profanity or straight up vulgarity, most of America seems to have no qualms about spewing out a few words that would make their mothers blush--unless she's using those very words herself.
     What's the impact of profanity on our communications?  The answer is as wide as the range of profane words that we choose to express ourselves.  They can have no impact at all or they can immensely offend someone.  It depends on the individual, the place, and the circumstance.  If you're amongst friends in a social…

Three Ways to Stop the Endless Talker

In my last post, I spoke to those who are endless talkers.  They know who they are.  They know this because somewhere along the way in their lives someone told them.  It may have been said nicely, almost jokingly, by a sensitive friend or delivered directly without any filters as only a family member can.  But the point was made.  And no doubt that point was made enough times that a talker will confess in some of their conversations, "I know I talk a lot..."  So they get it.  However, knowing and doing are two separate actions, and knowing they talk a lot doesn't mean they will automatically stop.  In fact, once they get rolling it seems they can hardly reign themselves in.  Their brains are churning thoughts that come rushing out like water from a hydrant, and they can't seem to turn them off.  Then there are those whose hydrant is more like a garden hose that's been left on.  They take their time and let their words just flow and flow and flow; leading you …
The Endless Talker

    People who talk too much.  We all know them.  They go on and on until they finally reach their point (if there is one) buried somewhere at the end of their speech beneath a bunch of other stuff we don't care about.  Others interrupt us multiple times as if we're not even speaking to make their points.  Then there are those who are just plain wasteful with words.  They take 50 to say what could be said in ten.  Yakkety, yak, yak.  Blah, blah, blah.  I don't know about you, but I eventually stop listening.  My thoughts immediately go to:  "How in the world can I get away from this windbag?"  They don't seem to notice that my eyes have glazed over or I'm nodding like crazy to get them to hurry up.  My point?  It's about economy of words.  Unless we're chilling on the front porch enjoying the breeze with no particular plans, then I'm too busy to get stalled by somebody's chatter.
    If you're the culprit, take this …
I once heard billionaire Warren Buffett say to a group of MBA students at Columbia University that if they learned to communicate well, they could add about a half million dollars to their personal worth.  The fact is, as much as we all speak, we do a poor job of communicating most of the time.  There's not often clarity in what we're trying to say or write, we talk too much, we don't talk enough, we say the wrong things, we are not sensitive to the people we're talking to or about, we misspell words and don't go back and proofread our work, we don't listen enough, we cut people off when they are trying to speak, we talk too loud or too soft, we're too curt in our responses, we don't get to the point, we're just plain bad at communicating.  This blog will serve to help anyone out there who makes these mistakes and more.  Check it out weekly.