Electronic Communication is for Cowards

Posted on: January 22, 2015

How times have changed.

As a high school teacher I anticipated students passing notes among themselves during a class. My fun was intercepting them in such a way that the students knew I had them, would read them, and react to their comments in front of the class. There was no chance for anonymity. You had to be somewhat courageous to pass a note.

As a facilitator of meetings and a corporate trainer I am facing a different situation. Notes are now being passed during workshops and meetings electronically. The note passers may be miles apart and I have little chance of reading the actual note much less identifying writers and recipients. No courage required.

In this age of ever developing technology communication is accomplished in a variety of ways each one smaller than the next. The most obvious is the laptop computer/ipad/notebook with email, instant messaging, and Skype. Followed by the cell phone with email, texting, and Facetime.

As a facilitator of meetings and a corporate trainer I have heard the reasons executives give for communicating this way.

“I can IM my teammate across the room to remind him to ask a specific question during a meeting.”

“I can email a colleague across the country (or in the adjoining cubicle!) to send me a file I need immediately.”

“I can text my boss with additional information she could use to support the topic on the table.”

Now I follow the logic of this reasoning. I am, however, frustrated with this method of communication. It seems to me that this form of communication allows us to avoid real human communication. It allows us to hide our emotions inside the written word. It fosters our cowardice in limiting how we verbally engage in conversation with others. It gives us a false sense of true communication. And it can cause serious miscommunication.

At the least communication requires two people – one to talk and one to listen.

Please pay attention to my written words here – notice I did not say, “listen” to my written words. I know there are many times and situations where electronic communication is not only the more efficient and effective method of communication. It is also the most appropriate.

In most households today parents with more than one child are working outside of the home. From experience I will tell you being able to get information on when and where to pick up the kids is a vital part of the parenting/chauffeuring process. Text messaging is THE BEST way to communicate.

In a business setting, however, it can lead to miscommunication and affect the outcome of a project.

Here’s an example.

Person 1 texts the boss with: “I have an idea about this project”. She explains the idea and hits the send button with confidence.

Boss texts back: “What are you thinking?”

Hmmm, what do you think could be her reaction to the boss’s text? Let’s consider some options.

Read #1: “WHAT are you thinking?” Reaction: Fear because she “knows” the boss hates the idea and can’t believe she was thinking what she was thinking.

Read #2: “What ARE you thinking?” Reaction: Insecurity because she “knows” the boss thinks this is a stupid idea and wonders why he ever put her on the project.

Read #3: “What are you THINKING!” Reaction: Panic because she “knows” the boss now sees her as totally incompetent.

As it turns out none of her reactions played out in reality.

After calming herself down, she faced her fear, insecurity, and panic, called the boss and asked to speak with him about her original text. He agreed and she walked down the corridor to his office to speak with him. (Hmmm, do you think that might have been the more appropriate, reliable way of communicating her idea in the first place? Oh well, too late now.)

Here’s the reality.

Person 1 texts the boss with: “I have an idea about this project”. She explains the idea and hits the send button with confidence.

Boss texts back: “What are you thinking?” He wants to know her thought process, to better understand her ideas.

They worked out her idea. He got a good laugh out of her reactions and she learned a valuable lesson in using face-to-face communication.

So here’s what I’m asking you to do.

Remember that communication, by definition, is an exchange of information between individuals for the purpose of building mutual understanding.

STOP assuming that the inflections you put into your electronic communication are being heard by the receiver.

START connecting with people in person when you want to really communicate.

REMEMBER that these electronic devices are created by humans to enhance human communication and develop more meaningful relationships.

Let’s be brave. Let’s develop our humanness and communicate face to face as much as we can.

You can start by calling me directly with your comments on this blog. I’d like to hear from you directly.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

 

My Thoughts on Continuing Education

Posted on: October 10, 2014

Recently I met some amazingly talented, intelligent and ambitious young women and heard them outline their career goals. Several of them told me that they were going onto graduate school immediately after earning their undergraduate degrees.

It wasn’t until several days later as I replayed those conversations in my head that I realized how disappointed I was in some of them. Disappointed not in their achievements or their goals but in the paths they are choosing to achieve those goals.

I am a firm believer in formal education. I think that arena offers you the opportunity to formulate the beliefs that will be your foundation in the world.

I am also a firm believer in testing those beliefs sooner rather than later. You can learn a lot in those first 4 years of college and not just the information presented in the classroom but also self-sufficiency, self-awareness and interacting with others. I believe that it is important to apply all of that learning outside of the classroom.

I heard some of these young women say that they didn’t know what they wanted to do with their lives. I will tell you I still don’t know exactly what I want to do with my life. What I do know is that I learned valuable people skills waiting tables in a seaside resort. I learned communication skills managing a healthcare office in a rural setting. I acquired emotional intelligence techniques managing housekeeping staff in an inner city hospital. I increased my appreciation of different cultures and traditions as I traveled around the country at the bidding of a corporation. And in each of those settings I increased my understanding of who I was and what I could do. Those were invaluable lessons.

I believe a time limit should be imposed prior to beginning graduate school. Maybe four years of experiencing life in the outside world before returning to the cocoon of academia Then an additional four years before adding a doctorate.

I believe that then, and only then, are you truly educated. What do you think?

Conversation with Cynthia Erickson

Posted on: June 13, 2014

Here’s a conversation I had with Cynthia Erickson on her This Week In Business radio program on WCHE. The interview was taped in 2012 and the information is very relevant to the work I do today.  It’s about 8  minutes long. So go get a coffee/tea/water/whatever and take a break from your day as you listen to Cynthia and I chat about “Coaching Taylored for You”. Enjoy.

 

Do you know WHY?

Posted on: March 23, 2012

I just finished reading Simon Sincek’s “Start With Why”. He challenges you to put into words exactly WHY you do what you do before you consider HOW and WHAT to do. Now this is one of those books that I bought several years ago on the recommendation of a colleague.  It’s been sitting on my reading table since that time.  Occasionally I would pick it up and thumb through a few pages and then I would get distracted by something – like a piece of chocolate or a good mystery on television (obviously I’m easily distracted and some of my priorities need to be adjusted).

However, last night was different. I had spent the day working with several different clients, coaching them to consider why a particular person would communicate the way they do and encouraging them to provide the why’s behind the directions they were giving their direct reports. In each case my explanation to them was: people need to understand the reasons behind your words and directions before they can accept them.

And then my workday was over. I plopped, literally, on the sofa and there was Sincek’s big, bold title staring at me: START WITH WHY, How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. Subliminal messaging that had been there all along you say? Or, perhaps, the Universe telling me I was on the right track and needed more information. Whatever the case, I read the book in its entirety and, as I normally do when a book grabs me this way, I underlined, highlighted, turned down pages (ouch, I understand some of you would never do that), and added notes in the margins. And now, here I sit, at my desk, asking myself WHY I do what I do.

When you look through my website you’ll be deluged with HOW and WHAT I do. Did I convey to you WHY I do it? Unless you know me personally I doubt if you get my WHY.  So, for your edification, and my learning process, here’s WHY I do what I do.

I believe in people. All people. I find them fascinating, frustrating, exhilarating, engaging, complex, and comical. I love to sit back and observe them interact. I love to provoke them into action. And I am thrilled when I see a light bulb go on in their eyes as they discover, for themselves, that they can do something they thought five minutes ago was impossible. I believe that all people can learn, develop, and excel. I revel in their achievements.

I facilitate groups because I am always amazed at the power of group interaction. How a disparate group of individuals becomes energized and works together to achieve a goal it couldn’t even articulate at the beginning.

I consult with organizations that know, really know, that their people are the heart of their business and who put their time, energy and money behind the development of those people.

I educate and coach individuals because I know that with specific direction and encouragement each person can reach a goal.

And, finally I run this business because I enjoy it.

These are my WHY’s.  What are your’s?

 

 

Wrinkles Are Good … in a way

Posted on: March 6, 2012

Well, after much pleading by friends and colleagues I had a professional photograph taken to put on my website. Alex Lowy, the photographer was wonderful. He arranged for a makeup artist, Kathleen Scanlon, to make me “camera ready”, he placed the lights just right, chose the clothing that would complement my coloring, then set the camera speed just for me. With one click I was immortalized on film! Then Alex said “ I’ll do just a little touch up. With this camera I can erase your lines and wrinkles.” My first thought was “Yes! Make me younger and wrinkle-free!”. Then reality set in. If he erased those lines and wrinkles you wouldn’t be seeing the real me. Those lines and wrinkles are part of my life’s experiences and what I learned from them. I’ve learned a lot! I’m a mother and a grandmother (that alone is a learning experience). I have waited tables, sold Avon, worked for several large organizations, taught internationally, and owned several businesses. Through all of these experiences I increased my knowledge and skills and acquired more wrinkles.

Webster defines learning as “acquired wisdom, knowledge or skill”. Consider the things you learned yesterday, the new skills you used, the bits of information you came across that made you go, hmmm.  From birth to old age our mental abilities depend on us using our brain. Use or lose it is the phrase we hear. We need to challenge our mind to keep learning. Learning new things. Expanding our knowledge base. The more we learn the more we grow personally and professionally and the more successful we become at work and in life.

I challenge you to acquire some more lines and wrinkles and to share the ones you have with others. More than 500 organized lifelong learning institutes at colleges and universities exist throughout the U.S., serving an estimated 150,000 older learners. In addition, with more than 75,000,000 Americans expected to turn 65 within the next six years, a new generation of students has been making an appearance at colleges and learning institutes around the country. Join the crowd. Add to your professional knowledge with career building programs and college level courses. Add to your personal knowledge by learning something totally new for you – musical instrument, dance, sports. Learn something just for fun.  Expand your knowledge. Strain your brain. Widen your world. Be proud of your wrinkles – you’ve earned them.

Oh and just an FYI, my latest wrinkle is a Certificate in Forensic Psychology which enhances my understanding of people development and increases my skills in behavioral interviewing. I know there are more wrinkles to come..stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

Communication is the Name of the Game

Posted on: January 24, 2012

When you think about it communication is a game. There are at least 2 players – sometimes more. All players are actively involved – talking and listening and talking and listening and talking and talking and talking. Equipment is needed – mouth, ears, bodies, brain. There are guidelines/rules – we take turns listening and talking. Wait a minute, who talks first? Who listens first?  Who wrote the rules? Whose rules are these? I need to say something NOW will you please stop talking so I can talk! There’s a lot of noise here. I need to shout over you so you will listen to me!

Hmmm….Maybe there is more to this game than I thought.

Maybe, communication is a process – in fact communication is defined as “a process by which meaning is exchanged between individuals via a common set of symbols”. Exchanging meaning shouldn’t be so difficult. Then why is it that when I am finished talking you still don’t understand what I said and I know you didn’t hear me!

This game is harder than I thought. Maybe I should read the rules.
Rule #1: Stop talking! You can’t hear what someone is saying when you are talking. That includes the conversations(s) going on in your head – you know the comments you are getting ready to blurt out as soon as the other person takes a breath.
Rule #2: Pay Attention! To the words AND to the person speaking. That means looking at them not anywhere else, turning off the electronics, listening with your body (nodding,    connecting with your eyes, facing them directly)
Rule #3: Open your mind AND your heart! Each person is interesting in their own way. This is not just about you. It is about the other person too. When you communicate you are creating a relationship and that takes two.
Rule #4: Use your ears! Listen to the tone of voice and the lilt of the words. There is more meaning coming through the sounds than from the words.

Ok, now comes the hard part. As with every game, practice is essential. So go out there and practice. Start with Rule #1. It’s the simplest. It’s the most important. It will make the biggest difference in your relationships.