WordsWorking

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?

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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.