WordsWorking

What are you striving to become?

If you are striving, is that actually a good thing? Wouldn’t it sound better to simply say you are doing?

For example, “We are striving to be the best in customer care” makes it seem like you’re trying really hard, but you’re just not quite there yet. Doesn’t it sound better to say “We provide the highest quality customer care”?

Striving is one of those meaningless, filler words. We like to use extra words like that even though they’re really not necessary and can sometimes backfire on us. Striving, if it has any meaning for the reader at all, gives off a negative image.

Sometimes we feel as though we have to ease into our words. How often do you read (or write), “I would like to tell you …”? Those are all words that can be deleted completely, leaving the meaning much stronger. Just come out and say what you have to say!

Deleting words is painful. We work so hard to put as many words as possible on a web page, in marketing materials, or in an email, that we don’t want to give up any of them. However, deleting meaningless words will give your message more meaning.

It is a sad fact that, in the 21st century business world, we are all too busy to read every word. We want to see only the words that carry significant impact all by themselves, without the crutches of modifiers.

Mark Twain said, “Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.”

To make your business writing stronger, all you have to do is delete the meaningless words – and the potentially harmful words.

Stop striving. Just do.

 

 

Here you go

Customer service. Remember that? It had something to do with communications.

Ah, right. Now I recall. There was a pleasant focus on manners, with “please” and “thank you” sprinkled throughout.

What do we get now? “Here you go.”

That’s it. That’s what they say.

“Here you go.”

They are, of course, the customer service representatives, the cashiers, the people who take your money, hand you a receipt, with a hearty . . . “Here you go.”

Or maybe not so hearty. Maybe it’s more like “I have a job that pays less than what I deserve and I’m just ready for my shift to be over so here you go.”

Don’t get me wrong. I feel for people who are not making what they should and who are in jobs that are nowhere near their career choice. However, regardless of what job they (we) do, they (we) need to put heart and manners into it.

Has customer service faded away, along with work ethic, workplace etiquette, and employee commitment? Are employees not taught the basics of thanking customers for their business? Have we just reached the point where we don’t care if we are appreciated by the particular establishment where we opted to spend our money?

There is probably a way to connect this to the short-attention span, immediate gratification, distracted-by-electronics society that we have become. But I digress ….

I choose to think people can do better. People can learn – or relearn – basic manners and etiquette.

And, truly, all hope is not lost. There are actually still people in business with decent customer communication skills. Where I prefer to spend my money on seafood, the employees behind the counter greet me, thank me, and even give me a big smile and a “see you next time!”

Awesome.

Employees can learn. Customers can be more appreciated. All it takes is an extra breath and another two words: “Here you go. Thank you!”

Try it. Let me know how it goes.

R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

Positive communications, customer service, and business relationships are all developed from a base of respect. Think about it. If you don’t respect your clients, potential customers, vendors, or fellow business people, how will that affect your own business growth?

How do you show respect in your business relationships? Do you follow these guidelines?

Respond to messages, emails, text, and calls promptly. Replying promptly shows respect for the other person’s time and efforts in reaching out to you.

Engage in active discussions, in writing and verbally. Listen carefully, read every word, and provide thoughtful feedback.

Share details, as appropriate. Keeping others in the dark does not give you any more power; on the contrary, it denigrates any respect others may have had for you.

Put down the electronic device. Give your fully focused attention to others in the room during a discussion or meeting. Show respect by actively listening when others are speaking.

Enrich others with your knowledge. While initially this sounds a bit pompous, in reality when you are open to helping others learn what you already know, they will develop a respect for your giving nature and for your level of expertise.

Communicate clearly. Avoid jargon, clichés, and vague references that might not be readily understood. When you speak and write using simple words and clear, succinct terms, others respect you for your communication skills and for your consideration.

Think positive. Speak with a positive tone. Write with a positive focus. People respect professionals who are upbeat and who see possibilities.

Respect is earned. Show respect to others – consistently – and you will earn their respect in return. Your business will undoubtedly benefit as well.

Are your words working . . . for good?

Many of us have made New Year’s resolutions, which may or may not have already been broken. Here’s one more suggestion: try focusing on the positive in your written and spoken words.

There are a lot of clichés floating around this time of year, encouraging us to do good things. Be nice. Think of others. Be kind. They are nice thoughts, but a bit vague.

Most of us probably want to be better people. Even so, dictionary.com’s word of the year for 2016 was xenophobia. Basically, that means a fear of people we don’t know or who are foreign to us.

How do we overcome that fear and become better people at the same time? By using our words for good.

Instead of saying “I don’t trust that person because I don’t know her,” try “I would like to get to know that person so I can learn more about who she is and how we can help each other.”

Using our words to learn more about others can help us remove the barriers that create misunderstanding and mistrust. As business people, in particular, we need to use positive words when interacting with potential clients, with employees, with vendors, and with each other.

So here’s an experiment for you. During the next week, focus on your words. Do you automatically say something negative when someone does something you don’t like? Stop and think about how you can turn that around, into a positive.

For example, if a vendor is slow in delivering a product you ordered, try starting with the positive: “You have a successful business, which is wonderful, and I understand you may be overwhelmed with orders. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help the process go a little smoother.”

If an employee clearly needs some direction as she is not able to do her job up to your standards, try: “Sally, you are trying so hard and I appreciate that. How can I help you? Let’s work through this together.”

You may be amazed at the response you receive when you use your words for good.

Let me know how it goes!

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?

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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.

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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