WordsWorking

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?

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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. […]

Listening with intent

How often have you found your mind drifting when “listening” to someone else in a conversation? You may be hearing their words but not really focusing on what they are saying. Then, suddenly, a key word catches your attention and you realize you’ve missed everything that led up to that word.

Listening is an essential part of communication. Truly listening, not just hearing. When you listen with intent, you are focused totally on what the other person is saying. You are not thinking about your to-do list, about deadlines at work, or even about what your next words are going to be.

Listen with your eyes as well as your ears when having a conversation in person. Body language can carry its own messages. If you are distracted, you will miss both the spoken word as well as the subtle messages being sent through eye contact, hand position, and body posture.listening

Focused listening requires being mindful of what the other person is saying. It’s a crucial step in the completion of the communication cycle.

Listening takes effort, but the effort will pay off when you realize how much more fully engaged in the conversation you have become. You’ve been missing a lot!

Tip of the Week – No texting at the table!

Comments from the conference room, from the board room, and from across the desks of frustrated business people:

• They were sitting right next to each other and texting each other!
• I can’t get my meeting attendees to pay attention. I always have to follow up the meeting with an email explaining what I said.
• Why can’t they go for five minutes without those phones?
• They won’t answer the phone. They expect me to text everything to them.

Think these comments are just about the Millennials? Surprisingly, they are not!

Business people of all generations have become so immersed and distracted by their electronic devices that they are no longer truly communicating at the table, where it counts the most.

Even in one-on-one meetings, phones are prevalent. If you are sitting across the table from an employee, a manager, or a client, where should you be focusing? What message are you sending when you constantly check your phone – or worse yet, actually send texts or reply to emails – during your meeting?

Look up. Have a real conversation. Pay attention to the words being spoken and the body language being conveyed. There is so much more to communication than the words on the screen.

Put the phone away! No texting at the table!

Your meetings will be more meaningful, your communication will be more effective, and your team will be more connected.

Millennials are different . . . and so is everyone else

By now, you’ve certainly heard that Millennials have a different way of thinking, a different way of doing business, and a different way of communicating. By now, you’re probably tired of hearing about Millennials, actually. Even the members of that particular generation don’t want to hear about Millennials, mostly because they don’t like the label and all of the negativity associated with it.

So let’s talk about everyone else. In particular, there is a new group coming into the workforce that will undoubtedly eclipse the Millennials in terms of discussion topics. Generation Z, aka iGen, aka the New Silent Generation, is going to bring an entirely new perspective to the workplace. This group has been immersed in technology since birth. They are being called the New Silent Generation because they don’t communicate verbally, but rather through posts, texts, and tweets.

Generation Z is on the working scene now in small numbers. Their force will grow substantially over the next five to ten years as more of them come of age, start their first jobs, or start their first businesses. Working for someone else may not satisfy them for long, as they will certainly be able to figure out a better way to do things more quickly than their “elders” in the workplace.

Some of those elders are in the Gen X group, a generation that never really got much of a good nickname. Some called them Slackers but that didn’t last, fortunately. They, too, tend to look at the world a little differently. This group experienced some significant changes in technology as they were growing up and making their way up the ladder at work. They still tend to cling to email, although more and more are moving toward quicker, more efficient methods of communication.

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The look and feel of effective communication

The phrase “effective communication,” or some variation of it, is used a lot, but what does it really mean?

We probably have all experienced the opposite outcome, when communication is most definitely not effective. Think about the last time you had to send several emails back and forth, simply to clarify a single statement or the perceived tone in the first one. “What did you mean by that?” “Can you provide more details?” “Are you mad?”

You might have even experienced a total breakdown in communication, when the proverbial left hand didn’t even know the right hand existed, let alone talked to it.

So how do we communicate effectively?

Think about who is on the receiving end! Think about what your message needs to say, how it will be received, and how it needs to be transmitted. Yes, it’s just that simple. However, the simplicity can be deceiving. Communicating effectively takes time and forethought.

Those emails dashed off without thinking – and without proofreading – are the ones that will require even more time to clarify. Stop to consider the receiver. Is email the best tool to use for that particular message or that particular recipient? An email sent to a member of one of the youngest generations or one of the oldest generations may not even be read. Would a text or a (gasp!) phone call be more effective?

How do you know when your communication efforts have been effective? When you get a response! When your recipient acknowledges that he or she has received the message and – this is the most important part – understands clearly what the message says. Just as there is no crying in baseball, there are no misinterpretations or misunderstandings in effective communication.

So, once again, stop and think. Is this a situation that requires you to let others know what is going on? What message do you need to send? Why is it necessary? What is the tool that is used most often by the person you are trying to reach? Is the message urgent? How will the receiver interpret the message? How can you convey specific, clear meaning in written or spoken words?

Think about how you act as the receiver of a message. When someone says something to you face-to-face, you can read their expressions and hear the tone of their voice. When you receive a written message, you don’t have any of that to use as clues for hidden meanings.

The look and feel of effective communication is all too often elusive. Isn’t that a little silly? Shouldn’t we be trying to be as clear as possible when we are communicating? You can make it so. Take the time to consider your recipient and put together the words in a form that makes sense.

Spend more time being clear at the beginning and you’ll spend less time clarifying and correcting misunderstandings in the end.

Gender, generation, and navigating gaps

Here are some surprising facts that will astound and amaze you:

  • Women and men communicate differently
  • 20-year olds and 60-year olds communicate differently
  • Managers and employees communicate differently

Totally blows you away, right? […]

Flappers, Hippies, and . . . Millennials

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAMuAAAAJDBmYmFjOGJhLTk3NjQtNDZlZi04NDBkLWYwNTNhOTM0NmFmMA“We are the Younger Generation. The war tore away our spiritual foundations and challenged our faith. We are struggling to regain our equilibrium.” […]