Online Conversation Tips

The COREageous need to be good conversational partners in person and online. Since we are having more online conversations, make note of these suggestions to present your best self:
1) Look straight at the camera, not yourself, when speaking to your conversational partner. Once that camera is on, it’s too late to primp. Check your hair, teeth and makeup before getting online.
2) Be sure your background communicates “professional and successful.” Mark Cuban has his back to walls of solid mahogany. Other experts have their online conversations in their libraries in front of orderly shelves of books. Think of the perception you want to share with the world. Your background speaks volumes about you.
3) Eliminate any sources of noise or other visuals that could interrupt the conversation or serve as a source of distraction.
4) Occasionally, lean in to the camera a few inches to show interest, but not too close. The rule of thumb is to be an arm’s length from your screen most of the time.
5) Keep your hands away from the camera and use gestures sparingly. Your hands will look proportionately huge if they are in front of you and visible to the camera.

Spruce up your online appearances with customers or investors. A little practice with an experienced coach can enhance the way people perceive you. Contact me at [email protected] 

How to Use Your Three Week Staycation

If you are one of the lucky or unlucky ones (depending on how you see it) who have a three week or more hiatus from work, this is the opportunity you have been waiting for to get stuff done! Consider this five step approach:

1. Look at your to-do list and prioritize. Decide your prioritizing criteria. What factors will you use to tease out the top 3 most important tasks on your list: time-sensitivity, hi personal value, health-related, affordability, access to the needed resources? If you select a task according to your priorities, the greater chance you have in starting and finishing it.
2. Assign the top three items to week 1, the next three items for week 2, etc. For each of the three tasks you chose for the week, list the steps from start to finish.
3. Assign some rough time durations to each step.
4. When is the best day or the best time of the day to do each task? Consider your energy level, the availability of the resources or the people you need to help you.
5. Carve out blocks of time for each step or group of steps in your calendar.

Looking at the schedule you have created, think about how great it will feel to accomplish so much, because you had a plan. Even if you only finish one or two of your top tasks, it’s a darn sight better than what you would have done without a plan!

Need some help in following through with your top three tasks? Quick! Contact me ASAP before your Staycation time runs out! [email protected]

The Chronic Interrupter and Over-talker

These folks talk incessantly, often off topic. They see that you want to make a comment or ask a question and talk over you about something else interesting to them. Some people get so deeply into their monologues that you, as the listener, may feel invisible.

Interestingly, this anxious behavior mounts in the presence of authority figures (parents, bosses, etc.) who are typically judgmental or punitive. These over-talkers are avoiding the topics that may elicit shame or blame. Conversely, when they are surrounded by their peers in more accepting situations, this behavior is reduced. As a founder or manager, there are ways to help the over-talker be less anxious and fearful.

  1. To help them get comfortable with you, have more frequent conversations on lighter topics that do not arouse this fear response. Let them know the lighter topics to be discussed in advance of the conversation, if possible. Reinforce any positive restraint to over talk.
  2. For heavier discussions, get responses to these concerns writing.
  3. When an exchange must occur in person and the over-talking persists, mention your frustration – you may need to talk over them until they stop talking! Tell him or her that because you want to help these conversations be more productive you will signal (raising an index finger or standing up) your desire to speak.
  4. If they ignore the cues and appear totally helpless in curbing this behavior, the most helpful thing you can do is suggest they seek professional help.

Social anxiety is a common communication problem. It can be highly dysfunctional and prevent a person from contributing to the team in a positive way. Look into CoreCoaching. Contact me at [email protected]  

Help Your Home Life Survive a Startup: Avoid the Spillover Effect

Founders who are passionate and obsessed with their startup, work long hours and leave work stressed out tend to bring that tension home. Perhaps you’ve heard the following refrains:

You seem so distant when we are together.

Are you hearing me?

There’s no need to raise your voice over this.

If the answer is yes, the stress from work is spilling over into your home life. This is making your home life less satisfying, which puts you in a worse mood when you return to work the next morning. Unless the spillover effect is tempered early on, this cycle only intensifies.

Here are my top three suggestions for reducing the spillover effect:

  • If you tend to come home and want to kick the dog, accept that you may need a buffer before you walk in the door. For example, stop off at the gym for 30 minutes to exercise, or decompress on the drive home by listening to soothing music or a comedy podcast.
  • Re-frame the sources of stress that could have a positive outcome. For example, a prima donna employee who threatens to leave may be a welcome loss. Or a demanding, but caring customer who is pointing out deficiencies in your product may be doing you a great service.
  • Instead of letting your evening be consumed by complaints and worries  open up a journal and write down, complete with expletives and emojis, the stressors and your feelings about them. If your partner wants to hear about your day, at least you’ll have exploded on paper prior to walking in the door. Writing things down also helps you move from emotional to problem-solving (critical thinking) mode a bit faster.

Need more help regulating your response to startup stress? Share your story with us at [email protected], and I’ll blog back some solutions!

The Power of “Willing”

If you are trying to get someone to buy into an idea, purchase something from you, or just cooperate, consider the power of the word “willing.” Questions like “Would you like to sign up for a week’s membership?” “Are you interested in making a donation?” “Did you ask your teacher about extra credit?” are all yes/no questions that hope to elicit a commitment. The trouble with these questions is that they don’t tap into the integrity of the person or make them reflect on what kind of person they are. It’s too easy to snap a “yes” or “no” reply.

I learned the power of “willing” while I sat in on a conference call with a group of very savvy salesmen and potential customers. They were not the “high pressure” kind you might expect; instead they used the power of “willing” to turn a “no” into a “yes” or a “maybe” more of the time. They asked, “Would you be willing to sign up for a week’s membership?”  “Are you willing to make a donation? These questions (spoken, by the way, without any vocal emphasis on the word “willing”) evoked surprisingly different replies:  “In that case, yes!” “Yes, I can do that.”  “Perhaps so, that sounds reasonable.”

The credit for this discovery goes to Elizabeth Stokoe, a professor of social interaction at Loughborough University and the author of an interesting book called Talk: The Science of Conversation.  She claims that “willing” works best in situations where “they care about the type of person they are, and where they’ve resisted doing the things you’re trying to get them to do.” What is fascinating about this approach is how one simple word shift changes the emphasis from what the person would like to do to the kind of person they are or how they would like to be perceived: cooperative, open-minded, reasonable.

So, how about that extra credit question and a few other chores you’d like your teenager to follow up with?  Give the power of “willing” a try! It may lead to better grades and a cleaner room!

 

Managing Conflict: What Planet Are You On?

Marlee, my 11 year old niece, sent me a picture of her science project on the solar system. As I looked for a way to describe the wide range of styles for managing conflict, her picture offered a perfect metaphor.

Imagine the sun being CONFLICT, the good and the bad. It is hot, powerful, intense and we depend on it for survival. The Mercury and Venus types among us, closest to the sun, are very cozy with conflict – they thrive on it. They are the prosecutors and debaters. Armed with strong verbal skills, they are quick, persuasive, and hard-driving critical thinkers. Conflict huggers, comparable to Mercury and Venus, pursue drama in their lives and love to “stir the pot.”

Earth types feel the heat, but do not fear conflict. They line up their facts and listen intently to adversity. Earth types are able negotiators too. They appreciate how different perspectives promote creativity and personal growth. Alert to flare–ups and other signs of conflict, Earthlings snuff out sparks of conflict before they become dangerous.

Martians, farther away from the sun than Earth, are not as proficient with conflict. They stuff their emotions and try to get along so as to diffuse disagreements. They prefer to mediate rather than meet conflict head on. Some have passive-aggressive tendencies− the unpredictable volatility makes others want to tread carefully near their orbit. This is a trait one might associate with the orbit of a “red” planet.

Then, in our solar system, as in real life, there is a BIG gap. We come upon Jupiter, a large slow moving planet. Jupiter types avoid external conflict; it has enough turmoil on its own turf. They will approach conflict reluctantly because they are awkward with it. They deflect conflict with bravado, an over-bearing presence and feigned optimism (Hey, what conflict? We’re all good here, right?) Jupiter types may stonewall, engage behind the scenes, or step in clumsily if the Earth/Mars folks can’t get the job done.

Saturn, with its many moons to distract it from conflict will, along with the Neptune types, please, appease and keep their opinions private.

Uranus-types, very far from the sun but still in its orbit, call in sick, put off performance reviews, and hate meetings. They will do anything and everything to avoid confrontation.

Pluto (a ball of ice considered to be a “dwarf planet” rather than a full-fledged planet) has an eccentric orbit compared to the other eight planets. Folks who cling to this sort of path freeze in social situations and prefer to be reclusive. They isolate themselves and find interactions of any sort, including confrontation, highly reprehensible.

Where do you stand in the solar system of conflict? Perhaps your job or family situation requires a more flexible orbit that wavers between Venus and Jupiter?

Is it possible to change? Nature says “yes!” If the Sun and Earth were the only bodies in the solar system, Earth’s orbit would have a constant shape and orientation in space. However, because the planets exert a pull on each other, orbits change slightly over time, even Pluto’s!

It is helpful to know your style and the styles of those around you. If you can exert some gentle pull, if you can demonstrate a positive change in the way you manage conflict, others may move with you, slightly over time.

 

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