A client bought a new mattress and decided to take part in the mattress company’s focus group about the experience.
“Why did you buy this mattress?”, they asked. Reasonable question! My client answered, “I moved.” What she did not say was that she moved due to a relationship break up.
“How did you feel about the price of the mattress?”, they asked. Reasonable question! My client answered, “It was a fair price.” What she did not say was that she knew someone at the mattress company that extended an employee discount.
You never hear the whole truth.
The unsaid answers that my client did not share would have given more accurate information.
How can you glean more transparent data at exit interviews, strategic meetings, and annual reviews? OR… any day/time of the week?!
Listen between the lines.
The most effective communicators know how to use every tool at their disposal.
Ask questions and go three deep. Explore beyond the first answer given.
Observe nonverbal behavior. Look at gestures, stance, tone of voice.
Have an approachable attitude. Be present and focused on the other.
Smile. Always a good idea (but you don’t need to grin like the village idiot).
Use good eye contact. Be inclusive and look at everyone if there is more than one person involved.
You may still not hear the whole truth; but you’ll net a more transparent interaction.
My husband, Jim, asks our dinner host, “Herb, how did you get into your business?”, while our onion ring appetizer gets dropped off at our table.
Herb takes a bite of one big onion ring and begins his business origin story.
Herb goes back to his childhood days… talking with detours, tangents and sidebars.
As he talks, he gestures with this onion ring in his left hand – one bite in.
I’m mesmerized… but NOT with his monologue. Will the onion fall out of its sheath? Will this onion ring fly out of his hand? Can we start eating our main course – which arrives somewhere in between Herb’s second and third job?
While Herb has an interesting fun story to tell – he fails at the art of compelling conversation.
The Cold Onion Rings
Conversations are dialogues, not monologues. As leaders you might feel justified in hogging the floor at your company happy hours, networking events, or even for those few minutes before your meetings.
You find out nothing about your dinner mates if you’re doing all the talking.
This onion ring appetizer gets cold. (Maybe a heart-healthy blessing – ok… delete the word “maybe”.)
Try not to be repetitive.
Stay out of the weeds. We don’t care whether it was Wednesday or Thursday when you got that email.
Compelling Conversation Guidelines
Be relatable. How can your info be useful to others?
Be timely. Is your topic relevant?
Be meaningful. Does anyone care about what you’re saying?
Be brief. Can you share your good stuff without getting sidetracked?
Listen. Can you stop talking and ask questions?
Onion Ring Manifesto
Herb* isn’t the only example of this monologue fiasco. Jim asks a great question. Herb, and everyone who receives an open-ended question, must keep the answer short and keep the ping pong ball in motion.
*False name, true tale, he finally ate that onion ring.
Author: Karen Cortell Reisman is Founder of Speak For Yourself®, a communication consulting firm, and the author of 2 books on how to communicate & sell. She lives in Dallas, TX and tries not to eat onion rings anyway.
“Your presentation really spoke to me!” said Jo, an attendee at a speech I gave a few days ago in Carlsbad, CA on How To Communicate Like Duct Tape.
Jo continued, “At the cocktail party last night I asked Peggy about her family. I was being polite. For 15 minutes Peggy talked about her children.”
What’s wrong with this scenario?
Peggy has committed three communication fatal errors!
Networking Nightmare #1: Peggy’s conversation is one-sided. It’s a solid 15 minutes of The Peggy’s Family Show. Jo says nothing.
Networking Nightmare #2: Peggy is boring. She’s providing a grocery list of data about her kids.
Networking Nightmare #3 (the biggest issue here): Jo does not have children and Peggy’s monologue creates a vacuum empty feeling for Jo.
How to avoid these networking nightmares
Networking Rule #1: Know Thy Audience.
In the presentation Jo resonated with – I spoke about nailing down the demographics of whom you’re speaking to. Her experience with Peggy shows the nuance of how vital it is to put yourself in the shoes of the listener… as you talk. If YOUR conversation has NOTHING to do with the recipient, then switch topics.
Networking Rule #2: Be Compelling.
Don’t do a grocery list, aka data dump, on your kids, last vacation or upcoming business venture. A compelling presentation is never just about the data. Come prepared to share a fun story about one child/grandchild, or one mishap from your vacation, or one testimonial story from your latest startup.
Networking Rule #3: Listen More.
Try to be 50-50 with your conversations. Ask questions. Find something in common with your chat buddy. Be a giver and a taker.
Self-disclosure here – I have to work on Rule #3. I’m aware, especially with Robin and Judy – my work-out and walking buddies, that I can dominate the conversation. I always have tons of stories to share! So… these rules also apply to your interactions with dear friends/colleagues and not just at networking opportunities.
You can avoid alienating others!
Author: Karen Cortell Reisman is Founder of Speak For Yourself®, a communication consulting firm, and the author of 2 books on how to communicate. She lives in Dallas, Texas and thanks Robin and Judy for listening to all her stories across time!
A client writes me, “I have a QQ about the SOW and the KPIs before going to our CHRO.”
Translation – “I have a quick question about the Statement of Work and the Key Performance Indicators before going to our Chief Human Relations Officer.”
Acronyms work… until they don’t.
IF everyone knows the short cuts then it’s an easy way to communicate. However, if your audience does not use your specific alphabet soup language you will alienate your listeners.
Last week I worked with Samsung on a video shoot project. The time schedule said, “HMU at 9am”. According to google HMU stands for Hit Me Up which did not compute. Upon further scrolling HMU means Hair and Make Up. That works!
Some rules around using acronyms:
Outline what the acronyms stand for. Have a glossary if you’re using many abbreviations or spell it out the first time you use initials. On our contracts we say: Speak For Yourself® (SFY) the first time. Then we use “SFY” for the rest of the contract.
Limit the number of acronyms in your business writing or your document turns into alphabet soup.
Use acronyms only for items that get repeated a number of times throughout your document. Otherwise, spell it out.
Save casual acronyms for non-professional text messages. For this blog we would not write, “LMK your response and I hope you’re ROFL.” (Let me know your response and I hope you’re rolling on floor laughing.)
What are your favorite business and casual acronyms? LUK … let us know.
Karen Cortell Reisman, M.S., author of 2 books and President of Speak For Yourself®, works with decision makers on how to speak with gravitas. It’s all in how you speak for yourself. Karen also speaks about her cousin, #AlbertEinstein, in a message about hope, resilience and brassieres.
Don’t you hate “out of the office” email responses? They are always the same.
“I will be out of the office from This Date to That Date with limited time internet access. In case of an emergency, or any urgent issues, please feel free to contact XYZ.”
How NOT unique! Try these tips to make you memorable.
1) Humanize the normally mechanical message.
2) Make it funny.
Try something like this!
“I am currently out of the office on vacation.
I know I’m supposed to say that I’ll have limited access to email and won’t be able to respond until I return – but that’s not true. My blackberry will be with me and I can respond if I need to.
That said, I promised my wife that I am going to try to disconnect, get away and enjoy our vacation as much as possible. I’m going to leave the decision in your hands:
If your email truly is urgent and you need a response while I’m on vacation, please resend it to interruptyourvacation@[redacted].com and I’ll try to respond to it promptly.
If you think someone else at [the company] might be able to help you, feel free to email my assistant, and she’ll try to point you in the right direction.
· Otherwise, I’ll respond when I return. Warm regards,
It’s hard to get annoyed. In fact, you can’t help but respect George.
Here are a couple more great examples!
“I will be on vacation from Wednesday through Wednesday (inclusive), and will not be checking my e-mail. Seriously. I don’t even have a cell phone with e-mail capabilities.
Please do not panic, stampede or otherwise become fretful. There are other [department] minions available to do your nefarious bidding; make them work while I’m out of town goofing off. If you would prefer to receive extremely belated technical assistance, I will be back next Thursday.
Please Note: Larger denomination bribes and/or larger quantities of canned goods or other non-perishable (but tasty) food items will receive priority treatment.”
“Your fearless leader is out of the office today, but has left his trusted henchmen to watch you carefully. They are instructed to respond to any questions in the usual slow, evasive and ineffectual manner. And for those who do not trust the answers, watch for them on ‘Jeopardy’ this evening.”
Obviously, different types of messages are appropriate for different work settings. Knowing your audience and your company and how these ideas will go over is an important thing to consider when mixing it up.