WordsWorking

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?

 

Being present

We are distracted.

Wait for it . . . .

There it is. The shiny object. The squirrel. The electronic device.

Still with me?

Our attention spans shrink exponentially as we become more and more connected. We are afraid that if we put our phones away for more than two minutes, we will miss something more important than what is happening in our direct circle of living.

One of the hosts of an old radio show called Car Talk teased his co-host about learning HSL, Human as a Second Language. Although the first host was joking about the other host (who happened to be his brother) and his ability to communicate, the acronym seems appropriate in our electronic world today. Is Human becoming our second language?

ID-10046875

Business people constantly check their phones during meetings, even in client meetings. College students do their homework on their phones. Job candidates prefer to click a mobile button to apply for a position. Recruiters use text and Facetime to conduct interviews.

Do we have to make these adjustments, with the onslaught of electronic communication? Well, yeah, probably. But we must also cling to that last bit of human language. We must remember to be present with other humans.

Let’s take a moment, to be present in that moment. Put down the phone and look up. See who is with you in the room. Tell them to put down their phones. Have a real, human conversation.

Send me an email and let me know how it goes (after you’ve finished your human conversation).

The right words delivered professionally

Communicating professionally involves choosing the right words and knowing how to use those words appropriately. Filler words and profanity are the most serious offenders in the world of business communications.

Using filler words is distracting in a conversation or presentation. Um and uh are the most natural go-to fillers. However, there are a number of others that will leave your listener or reader wondering if you truly know what you are talking about:

  • Like
  • You know
  • I mean
  • Like I said
  • Sort of

If you have limited time to make your point in a verbal conversation or presentation, filler words are a serious waste of thand-861275_1920hat time.

Fillers generally result from not being prepared. When you attend a networking event, be ready with a description of what you do. Practice your introduction as well as answers to potential questions. The conversation will not – and should not – end after your 30-second commercial is delivered.

Wasted and unprofessional words in written communication can be more detrimental to your business efforts, as they tend to be read and re-read by many more viewers than just the original recipient. Of course, profanity is never appropriate in a business situation. Unedited and grammatically incorrect written material will also detract from your image as an expert in your field. If you don’t know how to write a proper sentence, how do your clients gain confidence in your work as a whole?

Professional communications affect every aspect of your business, from making new connections to presenting information to convincing clients you know what you are talking about.

Be prepared, be focused, be professional.

Communicating with compromise across generations

If you’ve ever experienced the frustration of the neglected voicemail – leaving a well thought out, detailed voicemail for a Millennial who will never listen to it – or been confronted with a deadpan response when asking a Traditionalist to just text you, you know that communicating across generations takes some skill and forethought.

A group of those Traditionalists recently lamented the fact that they want to have conversations with their children and grandchildren but feel as though the technology is beyond them, to be able to do so. One asked how she could get her grandson to not pull out his cell phone every time he came for a visit. A Millennial doesn’t understand why her aunt, who is pushing 70, can’t just text her instead of calling all the time.

With family and friends, these challenges are annoying and disappointing.

In the workplace, these challenges can lead to communication breakdowns, errors, and conflicts.

When there is no compromise, there is increased potential for misinterpretation and serious consequences. Leaving a voicemail for a team member who will not listen to it or texting a co-worker who does not read text messages can have disastrous results. […]