Google+ Followers

Monday, September 30, 2013

Connect2013 Is the Place for Communications Specialists!

     We're only a few days away from Connect2013, a professional development conference for communications specialists in South Carolina.  Presented jointly by the International Association of Business Communicators and the South Carolina Public Relations Society of America, this conference will tackle the tough topic of communications--in my session, specifically communications styles.  Poor communications has long been the culprit in most soured relationships, personal and professional.  Intent, perception, tone, word choice--they all contribute to whether a message is effectively conveyed.  The greatest challenge I've found in my years as a trainer in communications is that people are more readily able to identify where others fall short rather than themselves.  Ask them how an interaction between them and another individual collapsed, and they can run down the list for you. 
     "He keeps too much to himself so how am I to know what's going on?"
     "She is too lengthy in her emails so I end up skimming and missing important information."
     "She thinks everything in her mind is coming out of her mouth, but I really can't follow most of her conversations. She's confusing."
     Now, ask them how they may have contributed to the failure in that interaction, and they would likely deny that they had much responsibility in it.  It was the other person's fault and here's how, complete with examples. 
     In my personal mission to help people get along better, I make a stronger effort at getting individuals to hold themselves accountable for their lane on this two-way street of personal connections.  We're often only a word or a careless tone away from causing some type of conflict in our communications.  Recognizing how we come across to others is the first big step in making sure we hit the mark in what we're trying to accomplish.  For me, making a presentation to a roomful of communicators is especially exciting because I know what I convey will be scrutinized, judged, and contemplated.  That's okay with me as long as something I present is actually useful and used.  Regardless of the fact that their jobs require that they be expert communicators, experts are developed through continuous learning, practice, and challenging the status quo.  There are no new ways to communicate in person.  Just better ways.  I can't wait to share them with the participants at the conference.
     If you want to check it out, I'm sure they'd love to have you.  Click here to learn more.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Crude and Rude Are Sooooo Unnecessary

     They call them trolls.  If you've ever read the feedback or input from online readers regarding newsworthy stories, you'll find that somewhere along the way some idiot will say something so tasteless and vile that you wish you were close enough to smack them one good time across the head.  I don't often call people idiots.  I think it's a cruel word, but in this case, there's no other way to describe them.  Well, there is, but I'm too much of a lady to use that kind of language.  However, you can feel free to use your imagination.  They're called trolls for all the reasons the word exists.  The main one is because they troll the comments sections of news stories and make awful remarks in an effort, I believe, to get a rise out of others commenting on the story.  The more controversial the topic, the more you'll find them.  They are crude and hurtful.  They will blame the victim even if that victim is a dead child.  It's sickening. 
     Contributors who want to have a meaningful exchange have come to recognize them and try to encourage others not to respond to them.  Nonetheless, it's annoying when they burrow themselves into a conversation and then pop out with some kind of hateful remark.  It's hard not to respond because the comments they make are so venomous that you feel you can't let them get away with it. Only problem is, you can't do much about it.  They hide like cowards behind anonymity and fake avatars.  Sites tend to have someone monitoring the comments, and they will delete the horrible stuff.  But they still allow quite a bit to remain.  I can't help but wonder if these trolls would be as insulting if they had to make their comments out in the open.  Who are they?  Could these people be working in the cubicle next to you?  Could they be your neighbors?  Could they be your child's teacher?  Are they that desperate for attention that they would use shock to get it?
     Words have as much power written as they do verbalized.  Regardless of the mode in which you choose to deliver them, cruelty and rudeness are enraging and painful.  They are also unnecessary.  You can disagree with someone without ridiculing them, insulting them, or resorting to name-calling.  Trolls are excessive in what they say.  You may not be as bad as they are, but any time you choose to be hurtful in your speech you're not much better.  Most often when I've dealt with a person who's rude, they were that way totally unprovoked.  I had no idea why they were being a butthead, but they were.  Like me, you've probably found it especially prevalent in retail places or restaurants where you were a customer.  Did you call the manager or vow to never return?  Perhaps it's come from people in your workplace for reasons you find puzzling.  I find unprovoked rudeness unnecessary because when a person masters communications, they recognize that the snarky statements could easily be converted to much more productive and reasonable conversation.  I can understand getting angry for a particular reason.  But most rudeness has rarely been about reason.  Some people have made it a way of life.  Some have shown their immaturity by not being able to speak without snide comments, sarcasm or harsh judgments.  So let this be a wake up call.  Choose to find a better way today.  Cruelty and rudeness have never resolved conflict.  However, patience, understanding, empathy and kind words have.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Assertive or Confrontational?

     Yesterday I had lunch with a bunch of friends in celebration of our closely timed birthdays.  We sat outside on the patio of a wonderful restaurant enjoying a warm, dry day.  This means a lot in the southeast where heat and humidity can ruin the best laid outdoor plans.  All was going well until our server was confronted by a demanding patron at another table not far from ours.  Ordinarily, I would have ignored such outbursts, but I was drawn into it inadvertently because the patron was now infringing on my space and time with her demands.  The server was at our table taking our orders when the other patron, a woman sitting a few feet away with a dog, yells at our server to bring her the drink she'd ordered earlier.  The server kindly told the woman she would be over to her in a minute.  I, however, experienced a flash of frustration that I could not contain.  So I responded, "Excuse me, m'am, but she's helping us at the moment."  The woman's irritated reply was, "But I've been waiting for awhile for my order."  To which I responded, "Well you'll have to be patient because we've been waiting awhile too, and she's helping us right now."  There were glances and murmurings from my table as well as those around us.  The server did the "OMG" look and said something about maybe going to get her manager because the woman was out of line.  I agreed.  She was.  That's why I asserted myself.
     So why was what I did an act of being assertive while what the other woman did was confrontational?  Well, it was in the approach.  We assert ourselves when we are attempting to right a wrong, correct a misunderstanding or stand up for ourselves or someone else when inappropriate behavior occurs.  I feel I needed to resist sitting idly by when our entire table was essentially dismissed by the other patron as if her needs were greater than ours.  She was rude to us and the server by first yelling out while the server was talking to us.  Secondly, she treated us as if we were insignificant because she interrupted the server while she was taking our order.  For a person to insert his or her needs into a situation without regard for others even while they are in the act of being taken care of is a selfish and disrespectful act.  So I dealt with it.
     She was confrontational in her tone and her actions.  She was brash in her speech.  She was arrogant in her attitude.  She was argumentative in her behavior.  Assertiveness does not pick a fight.  It lets the other person know that you will not turn a blind eye when you recognize wrongdoing or potential misunderstanding.  It is about speaking up when necessary.  The patron could have been assertive rather than confrontational by taking these actions:  Address the server when she got to her table and let her know about the unsatisfactory service she was providing.  Or wait until the server finished with us, then get her attention to come over to the patron's table and address her dissatisfaction.  She would do it in private so as not to disrupt the whole atmosphere, and she doesn't have to be mean about it--just firm.
     By asserting myself with the patron, she immediately backed down, and the confrontation did not escalate.  Many times this works.  If you find yourself being disrespected, taken advantage of, or disregarded in some way that offends you, assert yourself.  Take charge without confrontation, but make sure you're heard.
     By the way, all the hoopla from the woman was for a drink of water for her dog--which she also allowed to eat off the restaurant's plate.  Had my server known how to be more assertive, she could have squashed all of this nonsense.  It's a needed skill for us all.  Are you assertive or confrontational?  Let's talk about it.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

"You Took It the Wrong Way!"

     Accountability in communications is often overlooked as an important part of relating to other people.  Far too infrequently do we hold ourselves responsible for what we say and how it is conveyed to others.  How often have you said or heard somebody say, "Well, you took it the wrong way?"  Have you considered:  You gave it the wrong way.  Saying someone else took what you said the wrong way takes the onus off of you as the speaker and places the burden on the listener to figure out what you're saying.  No one should be put in the position of trying to interpret what you're saying or speculate about what you meant.  If you are clear in your communications, then people should be able to know what you meant with accuracy.  There should be little doubt and little room for misunderstanding.  Therefore, since you are the speaker, it is your responsibility to make sure you are choosing your words with others in mind.  You should be thoughtful in difficult conversations and specific in your delivery.  Hold yourself accountable and don't cop out on others by blaming them for misunderstanding you.
     For example, instead of questioning someone's integrity by saying, "You're not being honest about what's going on in this department," you may want to think about how that sounds.  What it says to the other person is that you think they are lying.  You're basically saying you can't trust them.  And maybe you feel you can't because you don't feel like they're giving you the full story about happenings you think you need to know.  However, to tell someone they are not being honest is akin to calling someone a liar.  Is that your intent?  If it's not, then you want to choose another word--like transparent.  To say, "I don't feel there's enough transparency in this department" is more diplomatic and less judgmental.  First of all, you didn't accuse the person of not being transparent by saying the word "you".  Avoiding the accusation:  "You're not being transparent with us about what's going on in this department" does not erect a wall of resistance that usually comes when a person feels like they're being unjustly blamed for something.  By using the word "transparent", you're saying you don't feel enough information is shared.  Not that you think somebody's lying but that you want to be kept in the loop on things you think are important for you to know.  That's far different and a lot less threatening than pointing a figurative finger at the other person.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Do You See What I'm Saying?

    The saying, "It's not what you say, but how you say it" gets mentioned often in difficult conversations.  I agree with the statement to a certain extent.  I believe it's what you say, but also how you say it, and what you look like when you're saying it that makes a difference in how you communicate with others face to face.  Our facial expressions, stance or sitting posture, and ability to stay in place long enough to hear a person out says volumes without us even opening our mouths.  Let's look at these individually.
    Let's start with your face.  It's where most people are focused in conversation.  So do your words and your expressions coincide?  Does your look support your words?  For example, are you smiling and chuckling while telling someone they're being ridiculous?  Are you agreeing with someone while shaking your head like you don't?  Are you inviting someone to talk to you as if you're interested in what they have to say then look bored and disengaged when they do?  These all send mixed messages.  Moreover, even if you say nothing, the scowl, the rolling of the eyes, the cocked eyebrow, and the pulsating jawbone indicating you are clenching your teeth all send negative messages to the other person.  They say I'm unapproachable, I don't believe you, I don't trust you, and I'm ready to punch you in the eye, respectively.
    Now let's look at your body.  Miley Cyrus's was saying things that were more suited for a 1-900 call during her performance on the Video Music Awards.  What does yours say when people observe your actions in conversation?  A glance at your watch when someone is speaking to you says you have something more important to do.  Walking away while someone is talking says the same thing:  You're wasting my time.  I'm off to something more important than you.  Sighing, folded arms, and staring through someone all send strong messages that you're not engaged.  Considering that more than half of what you say is conveyed through body language and another 40% is conveyed through tone, your words carry weight.  But they pack a smaller punch when people are watching you versus what they're hearing you say.  And you know why?  Because we're such poor listeners.  Therefore, if you want people to understand you better, make sure you're showing them what you're saying.