Back in the 90s, the country band Diamond Rio released “Meet in the Middle,” a song sharing a love story that began when the couple was too young to drive but had “seven hundred fence posts from your place to ours.” The chorus says, “I’d start walking your way; you’d start walking mine. We’d meet in the middle …” Although in the first verse, the song is literally about walking the same distance to meet in the middle, the second verse shares “That if we don’t see eye to eye, there’s something we can do” and leads back to the chorus with “I’d start walking your way …” to figuratively share how meeting in middle will allow the couple to “gain a lot of ground ‘cause we’d both give a little” during times of conflict. Meet in the middle, find a happy medium, go fifty-fifty, find the middle ground … the song and these common sayings are all about give and take or adjusting in a way to make all involved happy. So how does “meeting in the middle” relate to communication strategies?
Well this week, I had the opportunity to incorporate the song and the concept in developing a communication training presentation called “Meet in the Middle” to share with H+M Industrial EPC Young Professionals group. The training focused on defining a communication expectation before the communication experience to determine the best communication strategies and medium for success. In other words, what is your communication expectation? What is your receiver’s communication expectation? How can we “meet in the middle” of those expectations and use the best strategies for communicating? We looked at emails, texts, phone calls, and face-to-face meetings to discover which communication medium best meets which communication expectation.
But most of all, we just had a really great time! We played “Would You Rather” and made paper airplanes (see the evidence in the picture above - check out the airplanes on the floor). The Oscar-worthy performances by our 4 willing (well sorta willing) volunteers helped to show how words alone don’t share much of a communication message (only 7% -- voice, facial expressions, and body language make up the rest). And we learned when an email and text works and when it doesn’t. I encouraged everyone to use handwritten notes when possible -- people love when you invest time and effort to communicate in this way. We also looked at how email and text tone can be created with positivity, word choices, and good manners.
I hope that the participants’ main take-away from the training is that face-to-face communication is the most effective way to make sure your message is successfully shared. (I’m pretty sure they got this -- I said it A LOT!) We live in such a fast-paced, technology-filled world and sometimes forget that talking with someone face-to-face allows for your words, voice, facial expressions, body language, and the receiver’s feedback to all shape and support your message for better understanding. I certainly LOVED the face-to-face time I spent with these great young professionals.
etc Strategies believes that defining the communication expectations allows you to then “meet in the middle” and use the best strategies and the most appropriate communication medium for a more successful communication experience. And a big “THANKS” to Robyn Hall and the young professionals at H+M Industrial EPC. Karen and I had a great time meeting you, enjoyed a yummy lunch, and are still smiling about some of your airplane-making attempts!
Are you interested in our “Meet in the Middle” presentation? It’s part of our new training program, Communication Bites, lunchtime presentations sharing communication strategies that can be used that very day. Let us know if you need more information. We would love to work with you too!
PS - The only negative of this experience is that I am still singing the song in my head.
“I’d start walking your way; you’d start walking mine. We’d meet in the middle …” Ugh!
As shared in previous blogs, my husband spent the first few years of our marriage in the Navy. Fun fact -- we didn’t even live together the first 9 months of our marriage. Scott sailed away on his ship a few weeks after the wedding, and I returned to Texas A&M to finish my degree. I did meet the ship in Italy during my Christmas break, and as luck would have it, his ship returned to Virginia during my spring break as a student teacher so I was able to meet him and find a place to live. But the rest of the time I lived in College Station and then with my parents in Houston for student teaching. After graduation, my mom and I traveled to Norfolk where I started the actual “married life” with Scott, and we had the best time living in Virginia! With no kids and few financial obligations, we loved the area and traveling (I met his ship in some great places), but most of all, we enjoyed meeting people and making new friends And for each introduction, Scott would say, “This is Julie, my beautiful and vivacious wife.” “Beautiful and vivacious”?? Although Scott swears that the compliment is real, I did learn that Scott’s Executive Officer (the #2 guy on the ship) always introduced his wife using a similar phrase. Scott liked the added positivity to the introduction, and with long separations and intense work and duty schedules, I think using this addition to an introduction showed a bit of appreciation and praise each time Scott used it. And guess what? It totally worked! I did feel loved and appreciated each time that Scott introduced me as “Julie, my beautiful and vivacious wife.”
Now for a quick grammar lesson -- that phrase “my beautiful and vivacious wife” is called an appositive which is a noun or noun phrase that renames, identifies, or explains the noun right beside it. Using an appositive is like seamlessly including bonus information designed to help more clearly share a message. As we all strive to more clearly communicate, why don’t we all work to include appositives? It’s really easy -- work to provide “bonus information” or appositives for all the people, places, and things you discuss.
People - When you share a person’s name, identify the person’s position or role using an appositive. The added information will avoid confusion in case the receiver doesn’t know the person, doesn’t know the person’s role, or if there are 3 “Bills” in a company or organization.
Yesterday I met with Bill, the project manager, to discuss …
Susan, the super organized chairperson, asked us to …
Places - Again, add clarification to avoid any misunderstandings by sharing the company or organization’s name.
Yesterday I met with Bill, the project manager at Company X, to discuss …
Susan, the super organized chairperson of the budget committee, asked us to …
Things - Back in August of last year, I discussed strategies for helping others understand your profession or company’s jargon (See the blog, FYI). I shared that you should make it a habit to use appositives (and synonyms) to clarify and to always share what an acronym stands for by using the words too.
Using appositives, noun or noun phrases that rename the noun right beside it, will help clarify your message. (Like how I did that one?!)
The students loved DEAR, Drop Everything and Read, time!
As you can see from the blog’s title, you can even work to make your appositive a positive one to encourage and appreciate others. As you identify Bill or Susan, add a positive quality -- “super organized chairperson.” But remember to only use a sincere compliment!
etc Strategies believes that using appositives to add “bonus information” will clarify your communication message and lead to a more effective communication experience. And I still like it when Scott introduces me as his “beautiful and vivacious wife”!!
I don’t really like cherries. My husband loves them and can eat an entire bowl (of good ones according to him) in one sitting. But long ago on Cheshire Lane (the best street in the world to spend a childhood!), I did like cherries, but only at Mrs. Kimbrough’s house. Let me explain … I have always loved to talk (bet you didn’t see that one coming), so if I had exhausted all of the listeners at my house, I would trek down the street to the Kimbrough’s house searching for my next victim?!?! If my friend, Kim, was not available, I just visited with Mrs. Kimbrough (my “Mom #2”). One afternoon as we were visiting, Mrs. Kimbrough offered me some cherries, a fruit I had never tried before, and I loved them! Returning home, I shared with my mom my new love of cherries, and on her next grocery trip, she purchased some just for me. But for some reason, the cherries at my house did not taste as good as the cherries at Mrs. Kimbrough’s house. Perhaps those cherries were not as ripe or fresh, but in reality, I never really liked cherries ever again. My poor mom was not too happy about spending money on the cherries, and to be honest, I never even had cherries again at Mrs. Kimbrough’s house, but that one day at that one time with that one person, those cherries tasted great! This “right place, right time, right person” combination can also work to create more effective and successful communication experiences. In previous blogs, I’ve discussed the right place and time, but today I want to share how using the right person can make a huge difference!
Have you ever shared an idea or a solution that was not well-received until someone else shared that SAME idea or solution? I’m sure that experience has happened to all of us at one time or another. And although I could address all kinds of psychology ideas about why this happens, today I’m focusing on the benefits of using “experts” for communicating. Why do people tend to trust experts more than you (or me)? My friend just experienced this phenomenon while rebuilding her house after Hurricane Harvey. As she and her husband discussed flooring options, my friend suggested that using the same flooring throughout the house would create a more open feel, one of the goals for the rebuild. Her husband questioned that idea for weeks, but after a spur-of-the-moment visit to a flooring store, he shared that the flooring “expert” suggested that “using the same flooring throughout the house would create a more open feel”! Huh?!?! Wasn’t that the exact thing my friend suggested? Well, I admire my friend’s ability to take one for the team and just go with the “new” idea instead of trying to take the deserved credit. That “expert” changed her husband’s mind, but after all - she did get what she wanted in the long run!
Again, there is much psychology mumbo jumbo (and a ton of research) about why we listen more to experts, but we do like to hear information from credible sources. Note that I said credible sources (see my previous blogs about credibility). So here is my advice to you -- find a credible “expert” to share important information. Use your subject-matter-experts or your experienced employees for training. Allow credible people to write or edit your procedures. Hire outside “experts” in other fields to come into your company to collaborate. At the very least, support your ideas with research and share the findings with your audience so you become a credible communicator. Then go one step further -- allow others to question you or your credible source. Even “experts” miss the mark, so encourage a thorough examination and discussion about what is shared or suggested.
etc Strategies believes that you should find a way to include “experts” both inside and outside of your field and company to offer innovative ideas, to help in problem-solving, to train on methods that are beneficial, and to provide a fresh perspective on issues. Work to find the “right place, right time, and right person” to accomplish your communication goals. And offer cherries -- research shows that regularly consuming berries improves brain function! I may have to try some cherries again!
A big thanks to Amoco Federal Credit Union for inviting me to speak at their Amoco Select Partner Luncheon last week. The presentation, originally scheduled back right before Harvey, gave me a chance to share some communication strategies for engagement. Of course, I used a theme, “Cultivating Communication Strategies” (related to spring-time planting and gardening), and I had such fun sharing ideas and activities related to the theme. But as Karen and I brainstormed about this week’s blog, we realized that we have never really shared what etc Strategies is all about and what we actually offer for training and presentations. So, to continue my “cultivating” and “growing” theme, I thought I would “plant some seeds” about what we do and how we can possibly help you and your company or organization.
As I shared in last week’s presentation, I am not a gardener, I can’t sing, and I’m not a great cook. But after 25 years educating, training, and communicating in a variety of classrooms, I have examined and evaluated strategies and techniques to produce successful communication experiences -- and I would love to share those with you! Karen and I created etc Strategies after many Friday nights (drinking beer and eating pizza) with our husbands who would share the communication issues they experienced at their workplaces. Between bites of pizza and sips of beer, I would share ideas to solve their issues! And my ideas worked! Now we would like to work with you (no pizza or beer needed) to address your communication issues and team building needs.
What makes us unique is that we first sit down with you to find your specific needs and then create a customized program using industry specific examples and scenarios to better connect participants and the shared information. From veterinarian terms to contracting scenarios to plant safety jargon to everything you ever wanted to know about pet grooming -- I love learning new stuff then sharing communication strategies using your industry’s jargon, procedures, and policies.
We offer a variety of training options including conference and keynote presentations, stand alone sessions, a series of trainings (one hour each week for six weeks), and our recently developed Communication Bites, mini-sessions we present during lunch. Improved communication leads to increased safety, productivity, customer service, quality, efficiency, collaboration, as well as employee morale and retention. And the numbers prove it -- research shows that a business with 100 employees spends an average downtime of 17 hours per week clarifying communication. This translates to an annual cost of $528,443!
Show your employees and customers the value of communication training -- let us help you GROW your communication skills. etc Strategies believes that “cultivating” communication skills will allow your business to “blossom” and “produce” far reaching benefits for all. (See how I love a theme!) Let us know how we can help you!
We look forward to hearing from you!