Back before Texas A&M football season tickets cost as much as a small car (thanks SEC!), we packed up and trekked to College Station most fall weekends for Aggie football. With our very young family and very early career earnings, the “best” seats we could afford were located on the 3rd deck about 4 rows from the very top of the stadium. Although our noses bled at this height, we loved spending time with our surrounding seatmates. And with A&M’s up and down seasons, for many games we were more excited about visiting with our friends than actually watching the game. As I said, we hauled our very young kids to the games, so I worked super hard to bring things to keep them occupied as football didn’t seem to hold their attention. Every game weekend, I packed the Backpack of Fun! Remember, we lived way before cell phones and iPads, so our fun included handheld games, crayons and coloring books, puzzles, cars, Legos, and the most fun of all, Play-Doh! I packed snacks and drinks and chewing gum (a very special treat!). For one game we even did crafts with pipe cleaners and beads! Of course, we needed batteries and Band-Aids and sunscreen. We had water and Goldfish and Tylenol. I’m pretty sure our family could survive in the wild for at least a week with the Backpack of Fun. But don’t just think that our family benefitted. Most games, we shared our snacks or water or batteries or Tylenol with our fellow fans. One game, I even remember using up all of the sunscreen as the weather report did not predict the bright sunny day. As a mom, I didn’t always make the right decisions and didn’t always handle situations as a “good” mom, but I pride myself on the Backpack of Fun! For the duration of our season tickets, I was prepared for just about anything. Fast forward to today, and although I don’t have a Backpack of Fun anymore, I do still carry a small container of mosquito spray and sunscreen in my purse, and I always have a fresh bottle of water in my car. I try to be prepared.
So why am I sharing my “be prepared” story with you? How does being prepared connect to effective communication? In previous blogs, I’ve shared strategies and tips about working to know your audience and purpose to make better choices for your communication medium and word choices, but today I’m focusing on a more general but important way to be prepared. And I’m offering a very simple task -- to prepare for any communication experience, take a few minutes right BEFORE the experience to prepare your attitude and outlook. Remember, you have already prepared “what” you want to say and “how” you want to say it. You may have even prepared visuals and examples and the answers to any questions. Now, prepare by getting into the right mind frame - work to be positive, confident, and cooperative. Take a deep breath and approach the communication experience with an open mind and a calm demeanor. Work to take out emotions BEFORE you engage in the conversation. And if needed and possible, postpone the communication until you can be more prepared. By taking the time to prepare your mental attitude before a communication experience, you are more in control of your emotions and better able to problem-solve and think creatively. Research shows that this positivity leads to more cooperation and collaboration.
etc Strategies believes that mentally preparing BEFORE a communication experience results in a more effective and productive engagement and exchange. You can “be prepared” by working on a more positive attitude and a willingness to listen and work with others. And put some sunscreen and mosquito spray and even a battery or two in your purse or briefcase. You never know when you might need some, so be prepared!