In all of my life’s twists and turns, there are a few constants - I really like Mexican food, I really like the color pink, I really like to talk (imagine that!?!), and I really like Jazzercise! Didn’t see that one coming, did ya?? I know when you think Jazzercise, you think leg warmers, leotards, and dancing, and trust me, back in the 80s when I started, I totally wore leg warmers and leotards (matching of course -- see my previous blog about that emotional baggage!), and danced, danced, danced. It all started in high school after my friend Kim Tipton introduced me to Jazzercise. As a member of a high school dance drill team (shout-out to Scarborough High School Sundowners!), Jazzercise helped me to stay in shape and keep up my endurance for the half-time routines and competitions. Throughout the years, I continued to Jazzercise. While Scott was on his Navy ship out to sea, I found great Jazzercise classes in Virginia. When we moved to the Seabrook area, a local dance studio offered Jazzercise classes. And now that I’m back in Houston, I am so lucky to be located near the Humble Jazzercise location. I wasn’t always able to take Jazzercise, and I tried all kinds of other exercise classes. I liked kick-boxing (thanks Joan Gittleman), but I missed grapevining, chasséing (I had to look up how to spell that one), and step-ball-changes! I liked yoga, but I really needed a better dance beat for counting, and it was super hard for me to be quiet. I liked the Crossfit Boot Camp (I am the planking queen), but I missed the songs you can sing to (the much younger group liked rap better). Jazzercise truly offers me all that I need - fun dance steps, great music, and even though I don’t wear leotards anymore, I can still wear cute exercise clothes! And it is super fun - you think that you are just dancing, but you are totally working out and staying fit! So is this a commercial to take Jazzercise? (It’s not, but you should totally try it!) Or is there a communication lesson in this blog? I’m pretty sure you already know the answer but ...
First, Jazzercise certainly has changed and evolved over the years, but the basic components are the same: great music, fun dance steps, ever-changing routines, enthusiastic instructors, and no pressure (there are no mirrors to see just how great you are!). Communication is like that too. With our advancing technology and information overload, we still need to stick to the basic components: engagement, clear purpose, appropriate medium, relatable and clear content, and feedback. Just like Jazzercise works to find the best music and the best dance steps to maximize the benefits, you can work to find the best time, place, medium, and words for your communication message. Will an email adequately share your request? Should you try to find a visual representation of your idea to help others understand? Is after lunch the best time for that meeting? Take the time to think through your choices to put together the best communication experience.
Next, Jazzercise offers 2 exercise options - the high intensity workout or a low impact option. During a class, the instructor models both options, and you as the participant can choose what works best for you. For more effective communication, you can offer 2 options as well After discussing an issue face-to-face, send a follow-up email to summarize the meeting or offer the next opportunity to continue the discussion. When sending an email, offer the option of sending more information or resources in a handout or by linking to a website. If you leave a phone message, send an email a few days later as a follow-up. Work to find 2 ways to share the information or to connect.
Finally, Jazzercise works to make all who participate feel like an important part of the group. When I started my first class in Humble, the instructor welcomed me by name and gave me a Jazzercise water bottle. Participants are continually recognized for class attendance and for meeting challenges. For any communication experience, you should first make sure that all participants feel important. Work to greet by name, offer a warm handshake, and make a personal connection. Ask open-ended questions like “What did you do on vacation?” or “What are some of the things you are working on right now?” to offer the opportunity for more detailed answers. And always work to appreciate and acknowledge others’ accomplishments.
etc Strategies believes that focusing on the basic components of communication, working to offer options when communicating, and creating a warm and inviting atmosphere will create more effective and successful communication experiences. Just look at Jazzercise - 45 years old and still a “pulse-pounding, beat-pumping, body-blasting fitness program that gets you results”-- even without the leg warmers!
A BIG thanks to Humble Jazzercise! I love dancing with you and love that I can use you in a blog!
Before Maggie there was Rebel, the best dog in the world (according to my husband, Scott!). Here is Rebel’s story: Scott wanted a new dog; I did not! But instead of just saying no, I decided to try to manipulate the situation so that I wouldn’t look like the bad guy. I created a list of requirements that I knew Scott would never be able to meet in his search for a new dog. He wanted a registered yellow Lab, so my first requirement included ONLY getting the dog from the animal shelter. No one ever drops off a dog with papers! Right? Next requirements -- the new dog must be kennel-trained, be house-broken, and be able to follow simple commands. The new dog must already have the first round of shots and be fixed. See where I’m going with my list!? No dog would ever fulfill all of my requirements, thus we would not get a new dog! But -- you know where this is going -- one day at lunch, Scott decided to visit the Bay Area Pet Adoptions shelter (a much smaller facility in San Leon, Texas) to see the available dogs. As he entered the building, he opened the door for a family bringing in a yellow Lab. And the rest is history -- that dog (with registration papers, kennel-trained, house-broken, trained to sit and stay, with two rounds of shots, and neutered) became Rebel Hardegree, a beloved member of our family. From that lunch visit on, Scott and Rebel shared a unique and powerful bond. From daily training at 4:30am to hunting weekends to swimming in our pool, I’m pretty sure that Scott loved Rebel more than me or our children. After all, Rebel was the only one of us who would jump into frigid water to put a duck in his mouth to bring back to Scott. Even Maggie is smart enough not to do that! And after all the eaten Legos, holes in the backyard, and two different encounters with a skunk (he just wouldn’t learn!), I even grew to love Rebel. As the big brother, Rebel taught Maggie how to swim in the pool, how to eat ice, and how to get on the bed. But we lost him way too soon. He is now in heaven with Cookie and Taffy, but he lives on at our land as Scott planted a tree in Rebel’s honor.
So what communication lessons can Rebel’s story teach us? First, don’t try to manipulate a situation. As you can see, it just doesn’t work and can lead to miscommunication and lost productivity. If you can’t get that needed information to a colleague in a timely manner, just be honest. If you are confused or don’t understand something in the workplace, ask for clarification. If you don’t agree with someone, share your concerns in the most professional way. Next, sometimes you may need to be the bad guy. Although Rebel’s story had a happy ending, I should have shared my concerns about getting a new dog and worked with Scott to figure out the best thing for our family at that time. But make sure that your concerns are credible and valid and be prepared to support your ideas with evidence. Finally (and this is a lesson I work to learn again and again), don’t always respond negatively to new ideas. I should have been more open to the idea of getting another pet, but instead, I immediately was opposed without really thinking about the situation. In your professional and personal life, be willing to listen before you make a decision. Before deciding if that project is too expensive or if that idea will take too long to successfully develop, try to find out as much information as possible to help you make the right choice. And be willing to change your mind when faced with new information or ideas. etc Strategies believes that sharing an honest, well-thought, supported response or concern will always enhance and improve communication.
One last note -- guess who again wants a new dog?
My mother often shares her greatest regret as a mom -- she named me Julie Ann with no E, and she laments about that decision often. I know that you might not think that the missing E is super important, but I’m pretty sure that my mom thinks that many of the problems I have experienced in life could have been avoided if I was Julie Anne. As Julie Anne, perhaps I would have made cheerleader, become a talented ballerina, and of course, won the lottery! But we all know that having an E at the end of my middle name will not help me achieve any goals, but there is a lesson in this story. In an earlier blog I talked about the importance of looking at the small details and making sure that you correctly communicate you’re message with regards to spelling, punctuation, and grammar, and I shared concrete proofreading strategies to help you make sure that your message is free of any mistakes. I promised future blogs with more specifics, and voila! Here is one of those blogs! Even though we all know that there is no real difference between Ann and Anne, their are real differences in how we use many words, but at times we fail to see that we have made a mistake. I’m talking about words like your and you’re; they’re, there, and their; and its and it’s. Because these are homophones (words that are pronounced the same but have different meanings), our brains “hear” the right word even when its not the right word. But using the wrong word can dilute your communication message, lesson your credibility, and affect the confidence others may have in you. I’m sure that most people understand the usage rules associated with these words, so when there is an error, it reflects negatively on your professionalism and attention to detail, valuable qualities in the workplace. If you do have any questions about when to use which word, go familiarize yourself with the usage rules. A simple hint to remember is that any of the words that have an apostrophe reflect a contraction: you’re = you are; they’re = they are; it’s = it is. Undo the contraction and use the two words to check the usage. But again -- the best advice is this: Give yourself the time needed to carefully proofread. Use the search option and look at each your or its or their to check the usage. Highlight the words to check for mistakes. Get a co-worker to double check your choices. Use Grammarly to check your usage. Find a resource that works for you and use it -- every single time!
In the digital world today, your words are usually the first representation of you and your abilities in the workplace, and at times, may be the ONLY contact you have in a communication experience. I know that the extra “time” is hard to find, but etc Strategies believes that proofreading is an easy way to ensure that your professionalism is showing loud and proud!! And using the right you’re or their or its will help you achieve your goals -- you may even win the lottery!
For those of you who think like my mom, don’t worry that my Ann with no E may keep us from succeeding with our business. Thank goodness Karen is Karen Anne -- we are totally covered!
Now for a little fun -- did you catch my usage errors? Go back and reread the blog to look for the 3 mistakes. But you would not believe just how difficult it was to post the blog with these mistakes ...
It’s official -- I’m old! This past weekend I made that purchase that we all dread. I bought a daily pill box organizer. You know those M, T, W, T, F, S, S labeled boxes you fill with pills so that you can remember to take them! Fortunately, I only have one prescription pill to take daily (thanks Mom for the healthy genes!), but I have hundreds of vitamins and supplements to help me age gracefully. Well, maybe not hundreds, but lots and lots! And I have a heck of a time remembering when to take them and then if I took them at all. Enter the dreaded daily pill box organizer. Now don’t get me wrong -- I totally appreciate the organizational tool as I’m all about organization. I just hate that I can’t remember. But to my defense, my brain is now so full of new ideas about blogs and trainings and communication strategies that there are just not enough brain cells to remember some of the small stuff! I bet some of you feel that way about the communication strategies that I share. Just like those vitamins and supplements, there are lots and lots of ideas, and it can seem overwhelming to think about trying all of them. So today’s blog is about the Magic Number 3! The number 3 must be magical -- you get 3 wishes with a genie, there are 3 bears and 3 pigs and 3 wise men, 3 strikes and you’re out and then there are 3 outs, and who can forget “Three Times a Lady”?! In history, science, art, and religion, the Magic Number 3 is used to make sense of our world. I suggest today that you use it to make sense of the shared communication strategies. Just like the Texas Lottery, PICK 3! Pick 3 strategies to work on, and create reminders to help you develop the strategies into habits.
Now for my commercial -- go back and read my previous blogs. Note the communication strategy shared, and after seeing all of the options, pick 3 to work on. For example, maybe you need to work on giving positive feedback or showing appreciation. Maybe you want to work on responding in a timely way to texts and emails. Maybe you wish for stronger connections to coworkers so you will make time to communicate and share some personal stories. Look at the communication strategies and just pick 3. Then find a way to help you remember to work on the strategies. Write the 3 strategies on a sticky note and put on your computer screen. Make the list your phone screen saver. Put the list at the top of your calendar page. Every morning, rewrite the list to help you remember. Note the times you use the strategies. Just find a way to help you use the strategies over and over until you create a habit. Then -- you knew this was coming -- find 3 more communication strategies to work on! etc Strategies believes that everyone can use the Magic Number 3 to develop more effective and successful communication strategies. And if a genie suddenly appeared and offered me 3 wishes, I would wish that the Magic Number 3 helps you create strong communication strategies, for world peace, and that Houston would have no humidity!