February 2012

It wasn’t what he did and it wasn’t what he said

thanksIt wasn’t just what he did and it wasn’t just what he said. It was how he did it and what he didn’t say. Would he have preferred to have gone to bed instead of change my flat? Of course. But he said nothing at all to indicate that he felt imposed on. No queries about how my driving might have contributed to bursting the tire. I appreciate what he did, and I appreciate what he didn’t do.

I’ve been on the other side of this. A few months back he had made an error in judgment. I was surprised by his decision, but as I explained to my mentor,

  • He didn’t need to hear that. 

He already knew it was a mistake. He didn’t need to hear it from me. My mentor reflected on how refreshing he found it as a man to hear a woman say that. I don’t always manage to restrain myself, but in this case my heart got the best of me which was as it should have been. 

Sometimes we cultivate relationship by what we don’t say. I feel more bonded to him than ever today. I admire what he did. And what he didn’t do. There’s only one thing to say, and I said it. Thank you. 

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Why botox is a barrier to effective communication

Here’s an interesting tidbit from the author of The Emotional Life of Your Brain.  By paralyzing facial muscles, Botox deprives the brain of certain signals that it uses to determine one’s own emotional state. Botox injections actually impair your capacity to decode your own emotions! Plus it impairs your ability to decode other’s emotions through subtly simulating and mirroring their emotional state with mini-facial expressions of your own. If you can’t make facial expressions because your face is paralyzed, then your ability to understand emotional states is impaired.

Fascinating, huh!  Ever met anyone with a frozen smile on their face? I have. Botox isnt the only facial expression inhibitor. If you hide your pain, confusion, anger, etc. behind a smile, you’re probably fooling yourself even more than anyone else! I know when I talk with someone whose facial expressions are unnatural, I pretty much know I can’t trust what I see – but don’t always know what I can trust. Makes me a little crazy! 

Here’s a guy who hasn’t had Botox… Well – at least he’s easy to read…


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A gift of incompatibility

Angela has a different version of Word from mine. It was frustrating to me that when she returned documents, some of the formatting was altered. 

But today we started creating some forms that we will publish in Word so the users can adapt it. Guess what! Suddenly our incompatability became a gift. I realized that Angela could help me create forms that rendered well in different editions of Word. 

This isn’t the first time I dicovered differences can mean something "in complement" rather than in conflict. 

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Bumps on the teamwork road

bumpy_roadWe’ve been working together for many years, but that doesn’t mean we never collide. It does mean that the collisions are much less frustrating, inflaming and painful than they used to be. In fact, they usually lead to a stronger partnership.

Today he declined a meeting time request for an important project and suggested an alternative that was too far out to be practical. My reaction was to want to blast him about the need to make our project a higher priority. My response was to suggest an alternative date that was closer in. He agreed.

After this exchange, our interaction felt clunky. So I got to the heart of my issue and said,

  • We’ve been working as a team with increasing effectiveness, and the fact that we could take on a project like this and have it be so smooth is a testament to our teamwork. Right now, in this project I need you more on board. I respect your time demands and also I need to know you’re willing to commit the time to make this project ours.

He confessed that as soon as he recommended the later date, he knew it came across as dismissive. 

There was a time when this kind of bump in the road would have been drawn out and hurtful. What’s different now? The accusations and defenses are all but gone. We’re both committed to the effectiveness of the partnership and to bringing out the best in each other.

I trust there will be a day when almost all the bumps will be readily absorbed by our partnership shock absorbers. I say almost, not all. If we never feel any bumps, we’ll know we’re relating on familiar ground and not stretching. So while I like a smooth ride, I respect the inevitable bumps that come with any dynamic relationship. And so do the people I have successful partnerships and associations with.

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PowerPhrase: I relate because…

powerphrase_icon2"Joe" was eager to tell me all the details of a recent luncheon fiasco. It took a long time before they started serving food, the chairs were hard and the lines were long.

I didn’t have to imagine why that was so tedious. I attended a wedding reception last week where the bride and groom arrived an hour after the guests, and then they invited people to get thier food by table numbers. We were table 22 out of 22 tables. We were right by the serving lines, and yet it took another hour before we could serve ourselves. So I told Joe about my experience.

"Yes, but you’re much younger than I am, so it’s not so difficult," Joe replied.

Wait – is this a competition? I don’t know if Joe thought I was trying to steal his thunder, or if he intended to come across competitively, but his words did plant competitive seeds.

I replied,

  • I’m saying that I feel your pain because you’re describing a situation similar to one I’ve had recently.

Joe was satisfied with that. 

Have you ever found yourself in an argument and wondered how or why it happened? I sure have. Related experiences like we had can be the source of bonding – or the source of dueling. I know which choice I prefer. You?

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some communication challenges are best handled by your trickster

drive thru weddingSome ministers will perform weddings with little or no input from the engaged couple. Not Evan. He asks the couple to consider what they want to accomplish in their ceremony, and what ideas they have about how to achieve that. It’s a bit of a trick, he confesses, that gets the couple to take ownership of the event. He never says – I want you to take ownership here. He just sets it up so couples do. 

Some leaders will lead their company meetings. Not Paul, at Fastcap. Every employee leads the meeting in turn. It’s a bit of a trick, to get employees to take ownership of the meetings. He never says – you need to take ownership of this meeting. He just gives them the experience of leading, and they do. 

My massage therapist will put aroma oils on her hands and ask me to take a deep breath to absorb the scent. I believe it’s a trick, to get me to bring my attention into the room, into my senses, and on what she’s doing. She never says – be here now. She just asks me to smell a lovely fragrance and it draws me in.

Last week I asked my assistant to help me with something I was stuck with. She got as stuck with it as I did. I didn’t mean it as a trick, but it turned out to be one. When I later had a breakthrough, she was far more able to appreciate the significance for having struggled with it herself. And since then, her input on other things has taken on a new level of depth. I never suggested attempting the project would deepen her understanding. I just asked her to try, she did and it did.

I invited my husband to eat dinner with me. He had been eating at odd times and usually in front of the television. It was a bit of a trick. Interacting nightly over food deepened our relationship. I never asked him to relate at a deeper level with me. I just invited him to share food, and the deepening happened.

It’s not manipulation. There’s nothing devious about it. While we might not announce the reasons for our actions, we feel no need to hide them either. It’s just that some communication challenges are best handled by your trickster.

This week, I led the dance with my dance group. That was a bit of a trick. Experiencing the dance from the side of the facilitator helped me appreciate what the main organizers do. I absolutely intend to arrive on time in the future. The organizers never asked me to arrive on time.  The trickster showed me what a difference it makes when you’re leading something. 

This time, the trick was on me.

Who do you know that could use a visit from the trickster?

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Coaxing us out of our minds

powerphrase_icon2My dance group closes with single word summaries of our individual experiences. It’s a lovely way to end. A single word summary generally comes from the heart and experience, rather than the mind, and thinking. You can tell someone didn’t get deeply into the dance if they intellectualize the simple sharing, use several words, and express ideas and thoughts instead of an experience. That doesn’t happen often.

This week I created the playlist for my dance group. The single words people shared after our dance were closely aligned to the experience I had intended to elicit. Hearing their words deepened my own experience and appreciation.

My work involves coaxing people out of their minds to get to the heart of their message. People often think they don’t know what to say because their minds hijacked their perceptions. In a way, I trick people into expressing authentically by setting up situations that get their minds out of the way. A single word summary is a great tool for that. It can coax us out of our minds.

So try it. If someone is having trouble describing something, ask them,

  • If you had to sum it up in a single word, what would it be?

Be prepared to be surprised by what you hear. And be prepared for them to be surprised by what comes out of their mouths. It’s a powerful tool. When I coax people out of their minds, I’m usually in awe of what they have to say. And so are they. 

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Do this WHEN you open you mouth

ShingoPrize Rother RunionIt was one of those calls I love to get – someone inviting me to speak at a conference because he enjoyed hearing me speak at the NE ShingoPrize conference so much. (That’s me on the left after speaking, with some of my buds.) And it was the kind of feedback I love to get – very specific about how effective the presentation had been. It would have made a perfect quote for my website. I asked if he’d be willing to say those things in writing. He was – or would have been had he had any idea what he had just said. He sent me something in writing that was much more thought-out – and much less interesting or from the heart. 

Thinking isn’t all its cracked up to be. In fact, it very often inhibits sincere communication. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a part of good communication. But don’t let it get in the way of expressing yourself.

Yesterday I posted about what to do BEFORE you open your mouth. Now I have a recommendation of what to do WHEN you open your mouth.

Listen to what you say. You might surprise yourself. And you might find that you know exactly how to word things when you have those important conversations. 

The SpeakStrong Method is about getting out of your own way to say what your intellect can’t express on its own. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get out of my own way so I can reconstruct what this gentleman said to me before he knew he was going to be quoted. You know, before he thought about it. 

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Do this before you open your mouth


If you do this before you open your mouth, it can save you a world of grief.

Make sure you’re looking at things from the high side.

The high side is the unobstructed view without the burden of your ego, agenda or a need to prove anything. The high side is loyal to the truth, the team and genuine understanding with no need to score points.

Okay, here’s a news flash for you. I don’t naturally live on the high side all the time. I have an ego that can be sticky at times. Most of the time I know when my ego wants to do the talking. When that happens, I don’t fight with my ego, but I don’t lead with it either. I do things to elevate my perceptions and get me seeing the high side of life. THEN I have the conversation.

It’s tough to get enough serotonin (feel-good neurotransmitters) to stay up in the winter. Doing things to improve health and well-being is particularly important in months like February when we’re all pulled below the cloud cover at times. Exercise, fresh air, reading things that inspire you, reflection, all can help you see that the sun is still shining, even when you don’t see it. And it’s a good idea to bank a little extra, like take a hike before your attitude signals that you need it. 

You can’t solve a problem at the same level it was created. You need to bump your perception up a notch. So take care of you, and then open your mouth. In fact, I think I’ll take a bit of my own medicine right now and take care of me.

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PowerPhrase: Target vs. Actual We don’t fail. We learn.

powerphrase_icon2One big creativity buster is having to get things "right" the first time. Last month, my assistant Angela and I created a new target structure for our work together. We created it as an experiment rather than a do-or-die goal. Then life happened. Our target vs. actual were so different that an outside observer to what actually happened wouldn’t have a clue what we were striving toward.

When it came time to debrief our attempts, it wasn’t about blame. We compared target vs. actual and acknowledged how different they were. But we work from a philosophy that we affirm this way:

  • We don’t fail, we learn.

In this case, we discovered that our target had been overly ambitious. Both of us felt strain trying to be available to the other within the new structure. It was a flawed system, with two people in it trying, but unable, to fit our activities into the system. Sound familiar?

I speak only for myself here. In the course of the trial, I found myself tempted to blame Angela for the fact that we were so far off target. I felt irritation from straining to meet the target, and really had to watch myself to keep from projecting that as some flaw of hers. I know better, but was tempted anyway. I can say this: Angela acknowledged that striving to meet the structure we had set had been a strain for her as well.

The really cool thing is, we didn’t fail, we learned. We replaced our old structure with a more realistic one, and the very first day we tried it, we both felt at home with it. Every management trainer will tell you SMART goals are realistic, and setting unattainable goals is a set-up for failure. Unrealistic goals demoralize staff.

Well, you don’t always know what’s realistic until you try, and that’s why being kata-based – or practice based – and running experiments to see what targets are stretches and what targets are strains – is a very useful thing. As long as you remember: When you earnestly strive toward a stretch goal, you don’t fail as long as you learn. 

Will we stick exactly to the times and agreements we structured? Probably not. Even though we’re currently in a place that seems good so far, with each step we learn more. That means we will continue to refine and adjust, but one thing you can count on, we won’t fail.

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