WordsWorking

We seriously need to talk

If we only took the time to communicate, how many problems could we solve?

Lately we’ve seen and heard a lot of yelling, a lot of misunderstanding, a lot of quick action without apparent thought or any attempt at true communication. If we all (and I do mean ALL) stopped for a few minutes or even a few seconds and had a real conversation with others, what could we accomplish?speech-bubble-1423322_1280

We have to put down our cell phones, at least long enough to look others in the eyes and to listen to what they are saying. We are so tied to our phones that our first response to anything is to text or tweet or videotape. Pure, instinctive reactions are not always helpful and can quite often be destructive. Let’s work on intentional positive action before incidents have a chance to arise and intensify:  Put down the electronic device and speak with others as humans.

Electronic devices have removed us from the reality of human communication. Nothing seems real, in real life. We can always delete our text or start the video game over. That’s not how it works in the human world. Words that come out of our mouths – in haste and in anger, especially – cannot be deleted or retracted. People that are hurt – or worse – cannot be revived if we restart the game.

How many problems could be solved – or prevented completely – with positive, constructive communication?

Try a new approach with business associates, with friends and family, and with strangers you encounter along your daily journey. Focus completely and totally on positive, constructive communication. Put down the phone and speak to the person in front of you. Listen when others speak. If you must send a text or an email (or write a post), think about how it will be perceived and used on the other end.

We still live in a human world. Communicate for good, for positive change, in your life and in the lives of others.

Let me know how it goes.

First, we must listen

When we think too much about what we are going to say next, we are not able to listen to what is being said to us.

Listening requires focused attention. While we may hear the noise of the words (think Charlie Brown and any adult), we don’t always listen to the words themselves. I have been told I’m a good listener. While I appreciate the compliment, I am as guilty as anyone of either drifting off and thinking of other things when someone else is speaking or preparing my response in my head rather than actually listening to what is being said to me.

We learn by listening. I have also been told I’m a very quiet person. (Yes, this probably surprises a few of my readers!) I developed a technique from my father, who was an incredibly smart man but who spoke very little . . . until he was ready. He sat quietly and soaked in information and then would actually talk your ear off about all he had learned. I can do that too!

Think about how many problems we could solve in business – and in society – just by listening. Not listening definitely leads to misunderstandings. “Oh, I thought I heard you say . . . .” by way of explanation when responding inappropriately. “I just don’t understand that person” when we haven’t really listened to what that person had to say.

What could we learn about others if we took just a few moments to stop thinking about what we are going to say – and focus on what they are saying?exchange-of-ideas-222787_1920

We could learn what our clients truly want and need from us.

We could learn more about people who don’t think their voice is being heard – and maybe build some unity in our communities.

We could learn why some people are struggling or unhappy, and be better able to help them solve their challenges.

We could even learn a little more about how others see us.

Listening may not solve all of the world’s problems, but it sure could be a giant step in the right direction.

 

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”
–Winston Churchill

Autocorrect: The good, the bad, and the really ugly

The good news is we doComputer, Laptop, Internet.n’t have to think very much anymore.

The bad news is we don’t have to think very much anymore.

Computers, smart phones, tablets all think for us now. Scared yet? You should be.

Autocorrect is an amazing tool. All you have to do is start typing a familiar word and the electronic device you are holding in your hand decides which word you really want to use. Sometimes it works, sometimes . . .  not so much.

Sending a quick message to a friend is one thing, but when you rely on (or just never give a thought to) autocorrect in your business writing, it can get you into some very ugly situations. The key phrase there is “never give a thought” to what the electronic device is doing to your words. You are happy to not have to worry about spelling or punctuation and merrily breeze through the message and then . . . you hit send.

And then . . . as the words whiz by on their way to cyberspace, you realize that ONE word is totally not what you intended it to be. In fact, it is so wrong you know you’ve probably just lost a client and possibly caused an international incident.

Okay, the typo might not be quite that bad, but at the very least it can be embarrassing and detrimental to the professional business image you’ve worked so hard to develop.

How to solve the problem? Think. Take the time to think about what you are writing and to think about whether the words that appear on the screen are the words you actually intend to transmit.

Read. Re-read. Proofread. Think . . . before you hit send.

Body language and cell phones

What does your body language say to others when you are head-down in your electronic device?

Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist, author, and Harvard professor, inspired many of us with her TED talk on body language, especially with her demonstration of the power pose. Recently, when promoting her new book, Presence, in an NPR interview, Cuddy pointed out that it is impossible to strike a powerful pose while texting.

Think about it. What is your posture when you are engrossed in your cell phone – not when you are on a call (who does that?) but when you are texting or tweeting or surfing. Where is your head? Where are your eyes? Where is your focus?

cell-phone-1049899_1920

Head down, neck bent, eyes on the device in your hand – what message are you sending with this body language?

When you are physically in a room with other people, you should be making eye contact with them. Your focus should be on the people in front of you, not on the virtual world in your hand. You should be present with the people who are attempting to communicate with you in person. Of course, you may also need to convince them to put down their devices and talk to you!

When you are engrossed in your electronic device, you are sending a distinct message to everyone in the room with you, with your body language and with your actions, that whatever is going on virtually is much more important than interacting with them personally.

Try striking a power pose while checking your Twitter feed. Can’t be done. Now, put down the phone, raise your head, and focus on what’s going on in your presence.

No texting at the table! It’s good for your posture, good for your body language, and good for your interpersonal communication efforts.

Focus on being present with others and then let me know how it goes for you (in that order).

Unplug, de-stress, reconnect

Imagine being surrounded by a calm sea, a gorgeous sky, a breathtaking sunset, and . . . people on their cell phones.

IMG_1438

Seriously?

If you had a chance to be totally unplugged and away from the distractions of electronics, would you take advantage? On a recent vacation, a surprising number of my fellow cruise ship passengers totally missed the majesty of the sea and the glory of the sky, because they couldn’t see past their electronic screens.

I was blessed to be able to enjoy four days of zero electronic communication. At first, it was a challenge. We are so attached to our smartphones that I truly believe it is actually making us a little dumber. We don’t need to know anything, really. We just need a way to look it up. That’s another topic for another day.

As for communication, we had (drumroll, please) actual conversations. Yes, looking people in the eye, speaking real words, and listening to what they have to say. Amazing, right?

Give it a try. You don’t have to go on a cruise ship to unplug, although that is a nice side benefit. Just put down your electronic device and walk away. Try it for a few minutes, a few hours, or even a few days. Take some deep breaths and remember what it feels like to connect with others on a human level.

Do you unplug occasionally? Do you stress more or less without your electronic device?

Shhh! Listen!

Have you ever been talked at? You believe you’re involved in a conversation, but it is actually so one-sided that you’re convinced the other person has not truly listened to anything you’ve said.

Have you encountered any of these people? Are you one of these people?

  • Entrepreneurs who go to networking meetings, thinking only about what they are going to say and not what they might hear.
  • Managers who focus only on what they need to tell their employees, rather than considering what their employees might need to tell them.
  • Business people in a conversation who are obviously thinking about their next statement, instead of listening to what is being said in the moment.

Most of the successful people I’ve known are the ones who do more listening than talking.
~~Bernard Baruch

I’ve always taught my children and my workshop participants that we have two ears and one mouth for a reason – we should do twice as much listening as we do talking.interview-1018333_1920

Interact conducted a survey recently and found that 69% of managers are not comfortable communicating with their employees about . . . anything! Maybe if the managers would stop worrying about what they are going to say and instead focus on what is being said to them, the process might be a little smoother.

Entrepreneurs will complain that networking events are a waste of time even though they met a significant number of new people. Maybe they spent too much of that time talking at their new connections, rather than listening and learning from them?

So stop a minute and listen. Do you hear that sound coming from another person in the room? Yes! It’s their part of the conversation. Stop thinking about what you are going to say next and make the effort to really listen to what they are saying right now.

“Silent” and “listen” are spelled with the same letters.
~~Author Unknown

Proofread now; save time and reputation later

Don’t have time to proofread your work before you send it out?

Do you have time to correct the mistakes — and fix your reputation — when someone else notices them later?proofread

Taking a few extra minutes to review your words, to make sure they are working, can save you from significant embarrassment and potential problems when those words are read by others.

If you’re not sure what you are looking for when you proofread, get a second set of eyes to review your work. It’s a proven fact that we see what we want to see when we review our own writing.

My favorite thing to do is to leave out words. Okay, it’s not really my favorite, but I know it’s the thing I do the most when I write, so I have to carefully review everything to make sure it’s all there every time.

It is also sometimes difficult to review words on a screen. Print the piece off, put it aside as long as you can, and then read the words on the paper. You will probably see some things you didn’t notice on your computer or smart phone.

Are your words working for you?

Let me know.

Are your words working for you?

Are your words working?

Would you know if they weren’t?

Words on the screen can help you with your career and your business – or they can totally backfire on you. As a business person who posts on social media, written words are the way you reach out to potential new clients or a potential new employer. Are you using or abusing those words?

What kind of impression are you trying to give the people who read your posts? I’m guessing you want them to see you as professional and intelligent. Are your words making that happen? Yeah, not so much.

Every single day I read “professional” posts that have apparently been written in haste or in a groggy haze. Maybe the writers just don’t know any better. Either way, the words are seriously not working for their intended purpose.

Granted, I may be pickier than most. It’s my suspicion, though, that writing well is just not that big a concern for a lot of business people. We can’t even blame this on the younger, technology-crazed set. Poor writing crosses all generations.

Can you spot the errors here?

  • We was going to the meeting.
  • Him and me had some things to discuss.
  • I think i am good at written communication.

Is it just me wanting to throw my hands up and scream when I see such words? No, I am quite certain your potential clients and employers are doing the same.

In addition to being a business writer and trainer, I also teach college communication courses. Again, the student population includes multiple generations, so we can’t just blame these issues on youth. The errors I see on written assignments are atrocious. Many times my students’ writing is not only incorrect but also inappropriately informal.

Is it a sign of the times? Do we blame technology? Have we just become too lazy to focus on our writing and then proofread for accuracy?

How much time is too much to spend on getting your written communication right the first time? How often will you get the second chance to impress those clients and employers? Written words last a surprisingly long time. Bad writing can hurt you now and come back to haunt you months or years from the day you post it.

Are your words working for you? Are you sure?

Let me know.

www.words-working.net

 

 

What Can’t Be Read . . .

What can’t be read can hurt your business. Social media posts, articles, marketing pieces, anything that reflects your business, must be written in a way that makes it readable.

What does that mean? It means that the words should flow easily. It means there should be no typos or grammatical errors. Most importantly, it means that the words should reflect the professionalism of your business.

Regardless of the type of business you have, you want to make a good impression. Wording your material in a professional manner does not mean it has to be stiff or use “college” words. Your writing can be informal or conversational, but it still needs to be written correctly and in a way that makes people want to read it.

Too many social media posts are written like text messages sent between friends. If you’re on a personal site, that’s perfectly fine. If you’re in a business group, your goal should be to impress others with what you know – and how well you state it in written form.

Take the time to read and re-read your material. If you’re unsure about how well it reads, get someone else’s opinion. If you’re really unsure about how to put it together, get someone with that skill set to write it for you.

Your business communication can help or hurt your business. Make sure all of your written material can be read – before you post it!

 

When we need cliches and trite sayings

As a writer and trainer, I advise my clients to avoid clichés (like the plague!) and to come up with more succinct and concrete wording for their communication pieces. My focus, after all, is on helping business people avoid miscommunication and clichés can definitely be misinterpreted. Surprisingly, there are actually people in the world today who do not understand clichés like “you sound like a broken record.”

However, there are times when those clichés and trite sayings seem appropriate, maybe even necessary, especially this time of year.

There is something psychologically encouraging about a new year. Phrases like “new year, new you” give us hope and encouragement, even when we’ve seen them about a gazillion times by now. We feel there is a chance that things could get better with that clean break from one year to the next. No matter that 12:45am on January 1 is not much different than 11:15pm on December 31; the point is we feel better about the opportunity to do “new things in the new year.”2016

So let those clichés and trite sayings fly, at least for the next few days.

Oh, and Happy New Year to you and yours! 2016 is “right around the corner.” It will be “here in a flash.” Make it a great new year!

 

Are your words working for you?