As a family who spent almost every weekend camping and boating and riding motorcycles, I celebrated most Easters in the woods (after all -- we had a long weekend with Good Friday as a school holiday). We continued this tradition with my own boys, so hunting (and hiding) Easter eggs became much more challenging out in a forest, and I’m afraid we broke the “leave no trace” rule with a few too-hard-to-find eggs. But after a rigorous hunt, my boys loved opening the Easter eggs to see the candy inside (always non-chocolate items that would not melt during our travels). Opening the egg to discover some jelly beans or bubblegum or Jolly Ranchers made the hard search totally worth it. I hope you and your family find great “treasures” in your Easter eggs this weekend, and in honor of Easter weekend, today’s blog is about what you might find in a basket of communication eggs filled with effective strategies. Note -- Please forgive my goofy Easter connections. I just love a good theme!
Hop to it! - Be willing to connect to others by initiating a conversation. Start with a simple greeting and move on to ask open-ended questions. Research shows that we communicate more effectively with those we connect with, so be the first one to start the connecting.
Get egg-cited! - Approach all communication experiences with a positive attitude. Work to find value in every communication opportunity.
Hunt for good eggs! - Find ways to encourage and support your co-workers through texts, emails, hand-written notes, and face-to-face. We all need recognition for our successes!
Be all ears! - Work on active listening. Take away all distractions, remind yourself to listen, reserve all judgement, and find a way to first respond to what was said before you share your own ideas.
It’s do or dye time! - Spring is a great time of new beginnings. Make a commitment to find ways to communicate more effectively. You can start by reading some of my previous blogs.
Again, I’m so sorry for the silly puns, but I hope that you can use the strategies found in my communication eggs. I promise that working to improve your communication will be even more rewarding than finding candy in your Easter eggs!
etc Strategies wishes you all a very Hoppy Easter!!! (I couldn’t resist!)
As Facebook kindly reminded me this morning, today is the first day of spring! Happy Spring! But here in Texas, we saw spring coming -- our cars and lawn furniture and all outside things are covered in a thick layer of yellow pollen; I have mosquito bites from sitting outside in the evenings; and this past weekend, I put away my 3 sweaters and my warm pajamas. I also knew that spring was coming because I got the “itch” (and no, not due to my allergies!). As the days get longer and the temperatures get warmer, I get the “itch” to clean! Suddenly, I need to power wash the driveway, the sidewalk, the house, even the dogs (just kidding). I clean out my refrigerator, my pantry, and my sock drawer. Closets (that I cleaned and organized last spring and have NOT been touched all year) suddenly need to be rearranged. Furniture needs to be moved (have you looked behind your washer lately?). So why this sudden urge to clean? Am I the only one who gets the “itch”? After a bit of research (you know how I love to research!), I discovered that spring cleaning is connected to cultural and religious traditions and even has a biological connection. In the early days, warmer spring weather allowed for opening windows and doors to clean out the soot and grime from kerosene lamps and wood or coal burning stoves. In the Jewish custom, spring cleaning is linked to Passover while in the Christian custom, church altars were cleaned before Good Friday. And biologically, spring’s longer days and warm sunshine produce more melatonin which increases our energy levels and our desire to clean -- ok, I added that last part! As you clean your house and car and even your driveway, why don’t you do a bit of professional spring cleaning? (I’m sure you saw that one coming!)
Clean out your contacts -- check your phone and email contact list and delete any that you don’t need or use. Edit for new phone numbers or addresses. Update any job changes.
Reorganize your calendar -- do you know all the neat tricks that Google calendar offers? You can color-code personal and professional items (even by person or project). You can add formatted notes to an event. You can search for any Google product (emails, documents, slides, and calendar events) using an integrated search. Take some time to learn about the calendar features designed to help you be more organized.
Dust out your computer - literally! Experts recommend cleaning your computer every six months. A little compressed air goes a long way, but either work with an expert or do research before the task.
Clean off your desk - I love piles of things! As a kid, when my mom said to clean my room, I just made lots of neat piles of stuff. But piles can get overwhelming -- especially if you’re not quite sure what’s in the pile. Take some time to go through the things on your desk. Reorganize the stuff and even dust or wipe off the desk surface.
etc Strategies believes that spring cleaning (personally and professionally) can benefit your mind and body, and there is science to prove it. Studies show that spring cleaning increases productivity and focus; reduces stress and creates positivity; and certainly helps when it comes to allergies! So enjoy the warmer weather, longer days, and spring cleaning! I’m off to set up the power washer!
When Austin (my oldest son) started kindergarten, I worked from home and spent my days with Hayden (my younger son) … usually just the two of us. Our typical house chaos included 2 very active boys, so time without the older brother gave Hayden and me a chance to bond (a really great experience) at least until Austin came home from school. You see, both of my boys were super early talkers - they didn’t have a choice. I started talking to them from conception on, so it didn’t surprise me when they both started talking and really never stopped. Before I could even ask Austin, “How was your day?” he started sharing every detail - from getting out of the car at morning drop off to that very moment he got back into the car when we picked him up after school. Austin talked as we got out of the car. Austin talked as we walked into the house. Austin talked as we sat down on the couch. One day, Hayden felt that Austin had talked enough, so he climbed into my lap, put both hands on my cheeks, and gently turned my face away from Austin to look into his eyes and began babbling about his day. Hayden was obviously sick of me giving Austin so much attention.
Fast forward to another little brother - Clint, our new puppy. Clint joined the Hardegree family back in November (see the blog on Nov. 7). Until Clint, Maggie spent almost 3 years as an only child-dog, but she seems to have adjusted well to her new “big sister” role and now even enjoys Clint’s playfulness (sometimes!). But Clint isn’t always as willing to share my attention. If I am loving on Maggie, he will squeeze under my arm to sit in my lap and work to get between me and Maggie. He gets sick of me giving Maggie too much attention and will do what he can to let me know he needs attention too.
Although Hayden and Clint’s attention-getting strategies may not work for you in the workplace (please don’t try either one!), there are strategies you can use to make sure that you get needed attention and, more importantly, give needed attention for more effective communication.
Get undivided attention - work to find the best time and place to communicate. Don’t stop someone in the hallway or start a new discussion five minutes before a staff meeting. Schedule the discussion and make sure all participants plan for the time needed to complete the communication objectives.
Give undivided attention - to truly give someone the required attention for a successful communication experience, you need to focus only on the experience. When talking on the phone, don’t do other tasks. When meeting face-to-face, shut your door, put down your phone, and don’t look at your computer screen. Take notes during the discussion to help you focus.
Get feedback - during the communication experience, seek feedback. Ask questions. Solicit comments or observations. Invite the sharing of similar experiences.
Give feedback - restate, summarize, reflect, and clarify during the communication experience. Use positive affirmation. Validate what is being said. Ask questions and share experiences.
In our fast-paced world, we sometimes forget the importance of getting and giving attention. I love that we use the phrase “pay attention” as it evokes that attention is a commodity with value and usefulness. etc Strategies believes that using strategies to get and give attention will create more successful and effective communication experiences. But I’m pretty sure Clint will use his strategy of climbing into my lap for attention. It works for him every time!!
Growing up, my family spent time together camping, water-skiing, and riding motorcycles. Most weekends we sat by a fire in the woods instead of at a table in a house, so we were never big on playing board games. Sure, I played with my friends at times, but as a family, not so much. So when we did play games, we were never really very competitive. In Monopoly, if you ran out of money, my dad would slide you a few bills to keep you in the game. During Pictionary, if you couldn’t guess the drawing, my dad would give you a few “hints” out loud. Some might call my dad’s actions “cheating” - but because we just played games as a social experience and not really to ever win, my dad just helped everyone stay in the game and part of the fun. Imagine my surprise when I played games with my husband’s family and discovered that all families did not play games like mine! One weekend (pretty early in our relationship), we visited Scott’s family in Ft. Worth. That evening, his dad brought out the Monopoly board for a “friendly” game. After dividing the money, picking the game pieces, and adjusting our snacks and drinks, we started to play. Although my husband disagrees, I’m pretty sure that I was out of money by the 5th turn. Seriously, those people were out for blood. Scott’s sweet mother turned into a fierce warrior on the Monopoly battlefield, and you could see in her eyes the ruthless determination to win! His soft-spoken dad became a greedy, money-and-property-loving maniac! And Scott, well let’s just say that I saw a competitive side of him that was NOT pretty! At that moment, I discovered that most families played games to win, not just to visit, and made a promise to myself to NEVER play board games with Scott’s family again!
In the spirit of playing board games, this week’s blog is a game about communication. Don’t worry -- we’ll play it like my family plays games where everyone wins just by participating! Like Jeopardy, I’ll give you a word or phrase about communication, and you think of the question that the word or phrase can answer. Good luck!
Active Listening for $100
What is listening with no distractions, without interrupting, asking clarifying questions, refraining from judgement, and reflecting what you heard?
Audience for $200
Who are the receivers of the information you are sharing, and how can you make communication choices about your message and the medium to meet the expectations and better share your message?
Grammar and Spelling for $300
What should you check carefully before you send an email so that your message is professionally presented and shows your attention to details?
Note-taking for $400
What easy tool can you utilize to help remember discussions, tasks, and important information?
Positivity for $500
How can you approach every communication experience by using words and non-verbal cues to create an atmosphere that encourages idea-sharing and collaboration?
How did you do? We should all play the communication game like my dad - work to include everyone. etc Strategies believes that by making good communication choices like active listening, knowing your audience, being professional, note-taking, and working to be positive, the communication experience will be more productive and effective. And most importantly -- everyone wins!
PS - Even after 30 years, I still won’t play board games with my husband’s family!!