Ask--Don't Ask to Tell

Soon after I turned 16, I took a young lady on a date around the lake late at night to watch the moon come up. When it was time to go home, I started the car, drove maybe a quarter mile, and the car stopped. In shock I noticed that the gas gauge registered “E.” So my date and I started walking. When we arrived at my home, her parents and my parents were waiting up for us. As soon as she left with her parents, my dad started in. Here are some of the questions that he asked:  “What do you think...

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Why Don’t Others Listen to You?

Nine Tips for Improving Others Willingness to Listen to You I had been on the road all week and I was eager to hang out with my family on Saturday morning. I came downstairs to find them watching cartoons. In a somewhat animated and enthusiastic voice I exclaimed, “Hey, let’s go outside and hit the ball around! What do you say?” My young son looked up at me and said, “Please Dad, don’t yell at us.” Realizing in that moment that my children had been socialized by their mother who is much more reserved than myself, I quietly whispered almost inaudibly, “Would...

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Eight Suggestions for Improving Your Listening Skills

Late one evening after all the children had gone to bed, I was sitting in the kitchen eating a wonderful piece of chocolate cake and thumbing through the latest L.L. Bean catalogue. My wife approached and asked if I had a moment to listen to her. “Sure, go ahead!” I responded. I continued to eat, look at the catalogue, and listen to her concerns. Suddenly she launched, “You’re not even listening to me!” “Sure I am!” I responded. “Prove it!” she retorted. I repeated back to her everything she had said for at least five minutes. Not a good idea! In frustration and exasperation,...

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Can You Talk About What Matters Most?

Jim has been a member of a product development team for the last year. He got along well with everyone except for the team’s leader, Mary. For some reason, Mary has the tendency to cut Jim off during their team discussions, finish his sentences, and play devil’s advocate. In fact, Mary has frequently said, “No offense Jim, but I just have to play devil’s advocate here!” Then off Mary goes berating Jim’s idea with little, if any, evidence to support her opposing view. Unfortunately, no one has come to Jim’s aid probably because no one wants to end up on...

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Do You Really Want to Take the Plunge (Tell the Truth)?

We all have “undiscussables”--things we think and feel but usually don’t say. Whether or not we decide to share those issues, however, is a different matter. Chris Argyris, American business theorist, believed that if organizations would talk safely and openly about their issues and concerns, then immense learning would take place that would allow individuals, teams, and organizations to solve problems, improve decision making, and increase their overall effectiveness. No one will argue with that, but the operative word is “safely.” Years ago, when I was training at an electric generating station in the Midwest, someone in class said, “We’ve got major undiscussables here!” Naturally, I pressed for an example. The participants in the class told me...

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Do They Really Want the Truth?

Many organizations and leaders highly espouse transparency and openness in an attempt to improve their organization’s effectiveness.  Even though this may be part of what an organization portends to support, the question still persists, “Do they really want to know the truth or do they just want to hear what they want to hear?”  Unfortunately, a consultant friend of mine had a poor experience with a leader who said he wanted the truth, but really didn’t. Jill had been hired as an outside consultant to help improve an organization’s systems and processes.  One day during a training class, a senior leader...

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7 Tips for Improving the Quality of Your Feedback

People often ask me for advice on how to give "negative feedback"--which is apparently something that no one enjoys either giving or receiving. Constructive feedback, on the other hand, which is feedback that helps people grow and improve, is on everyone’s most wanted list. So what’s the difference between negative feedback and constructive feedback? The challenge you face when you give someone this helpful feedback is to speak in a way that allows people to hear and understand your message without causing them to become defensive, resistant, or emotional. Some people advocate a "rip off the Band-Aid" approach to providing feedback. This approach can be traumatic--it hurts the receiver and causes more...

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7 Tips on How to Avoid Being Misinterpreted

A friend of mine is launching a book this fall. Because she writes a weekly blog, she asked her PR Director if he could provide her with any email addresses from the team who might like to receive her weekly article.  A week or so later, the PR Director responded that it was against their company’s policy to provide any email addresses of their bloggers because of privacy concerns.  She was a little puzzled by his response given that she just wanted to make sure that the members of the PR firm were getting her post. My author friend decided to...

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5 Tips for Navigating “Whitewater” Conversations

In college I had the opportunity to work as a river guide running the rapids in the Grand Canyon. Later on I discovered that navigating challenging rapids was akin to the terror often experienced in holding challenging conversations. Unfortunately, when it comes to talking about potentially difficult topics, we usually engage in what we call “fake talk” whether intentionally or unintentionally. Fake talk is any conversation where we think we have handled a potentially difficult topic only to find out later, when we didn’t get results, that our conversation was ineffective. Whether running a serious rapid or holding a difficult conversation,...

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Why Don't People Take Initiative?

This is a question I have contemplated for a long time. Recently my exploration became more focused because of a challenge that occurred in our office. As I was getting on a plane to fly east, a client I was traveling to visit, informed me that the training materials we had shipped two weeks earlier had never arrived. I immediately emailed my assistant to alert her and asked her to reach out to the client to remedy the situation. When I arrived in New York, I was picked up by a car service. En route to Connecticut, I texted my assistant to...

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Is Your Workplace a Jerk Place?

All of us at one time or another have had the opportunity to work with or for someone that we would label as a jerk, idiot, or moron.  And we have all probably been a jerk at some point to those with whom we associate. Do you know people that display the characteristics listed below? Are you guilty of any of these behaviors yourself? If so, what do you think is the payoff for behaving in such a manner?  After all, we behave the way we do if we perceive that there is something we can get for doing so.  I...

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8 Strategies for Creating Rapport

Years ago, I was doing research on how we can more easily establish rapport with others.  While I was working on developing my ideas, I took an airplane flight one day and had an interaction with the woman who sat next to me that served as a real lesson in relationship building. On the flight, I was passing the time by drawing and writing in my journal. The woman sitting next to me asked me what I was doing.  I told her I was working on understanding how people develop rapport with others.  The hour-long flight passed quickly as we...

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Dad Blew It

Last night I had an opportunity to shoot video segments for a book trailer in preparation for the launch of my new book, Overcoming Fake Talk. After the shoot was over and everyone had left, I had the chance to sit and visit with the producer and creator of our video segment, a very talented man I became friends with years ago when we were both river guides on the Colorado River. I had not seen my friend for 35 years until the evening of the videotaping, so obviously we had some catching up to do. Our talk eventually turned...

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How Do I Create Engagement When Someone Won't Engage?

Sometimes you must admit to yourself that no matter what you say or do, no matter what feeling you convey, you can’t make another person engage in conversation. You can lay out the welcome mat and invite them in, but that doesn’t mean they will accept your invitation. And why not? They are uncomfortable, perhaps even afraid. But their reticence says more about them than it does about you. That’s why it is important to never give up on those who are slow to engage or who won’t engage at all. Whatever holds them back is a reflection of perhaps...

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