Long time, no blog!! I’m so sorry that my “Same Advice to the Graduates” series was interrupted by life! But I guess learning that life interruptions can and will affect your plans is also a great lesson for graduates. Here’s what happened -- my husband and I planned to drive our son, a newly graduated doctor of veterinary medicine, to his new job and life in Tacoma. We rented a BIG moving truck and mapped out our route from Texas to Washington. But as mentioned, our plans changed as my husband could no longer travel with us. So, after a day of careful and Tetris-like packing (thank goodness Scott helped with that part of the process), my son, his friend, and I left early one morning to start our adventure across the country. Oops -- I forgot to mention that our group also included 2 dogs, 2 cats, 2 snakes, 2 turtles, and some fish - pretty much just a smaller version of Noah’s ark! I drove that BIG moving truck (pulling a car on a trailer) for 3 and ½ days, listening to audiobooks (thanks to Neil Patrick Harris, Mindy Kaling, and Amy Poehler - your autobiographies kept me very entertained), admiring the scenery (after we left Texas), trying to stay in my lane (so sorry to those 2 cars I didn’t quite see), and sweating out each and every mountain we climbed (at the super fast speed of about 35 miles per hour - going down the hills was so much more fun!). We ALL made it (even the fish), and Austin started his exciting new job this week. But as I drove that BIG moving truck, I also noted some communication lessons that we can all learn. (I truly hope you saw this coming.)
Lesson #1 - Figure things out before you start!
I’m pretty sure that I should have spent some time reading the owner’s manual before I started driving the BIG moving truck. The basics were all there -- and for the most part, driving the truck was very similar to driving a car -- you just had to make wide turns and give lots of space when changing lanes. But on the second morning, I started up the truck and experienced a loud and continual beeping noise. I started to panic - what was beeping and why? Did something break? Did I do something wrong? The beeping eventually stopped, but I worried all day about it. Day 3 started with the same beeping -- but I figured out that the warning signaled that the air brakes were not “ready” (like my automotive terminology and understanding?). Had I figured things out on Day 2 (or read the manual), my worrisome, anxious day would have been so much better. So the lesson here is work to “figure things out” before you start any communication experience. Understand your audience, define your objective, plan your message, and prepare for any unexpected “beeping” or obstacles to effective communication.
Lesson #2 - Ask for help!
I have a new appreciation for all you truck drivers out there! Not only do you safely travel from place to place, you are able to expertly pull into a gas station and get fuel. I on the other hand did NOT expertly pull into one particular gas station in Arizona (I think!). The BIG moving truck could not make the turn needed to get out of the station, and backing up a BIG moving truck with a trailer on the back is really hard. You turn the wheel one way and the trailer goes another way. I admit that I panicked (I may have even cried a little) as I could NOT figure out what to do. So, I got out of the truck, went into the gas station (it had a restaurant attached), and asked for help. A very nice man came out and stood by the truck motioning which way to turn the steering wheel. It took a few tries, but I finally got the truck out and back on the road. And, I only visited truck stop gas stations the rest of the trip. When you are planning or presenting a communication message and you get figuratively “stuck” like I literally did, ask for help. Seek out advice from respected colleagues; research to find needed information; and ask coworkers for feedback. And like I did, learn from any mistakes and plan differently for the next communication experience.
Well, there are many more communication lessons I learned from driving the BIG moving truck, so I am sure you will hear more in later blogs. etc Strategies believes that you can learn communication skills from almost anything you do in life. Take time to look around and see the communication lessons you can learn by driving a BIG moving truck or shopping at the grocery store or carrying on a conversation with a child. And one more lesson I learned -- Austin will need to pay for movers the next time! My days driving the BIG moving truck are over!
During this graduation season, I thought I would share some communication advice as you embark on your new path in life. They say that good advice stands the test of time, so I decided to find previous blogs that shared strategies that might come in handy as you enter college, graduate school, or find your way in the big world out there. This first blog is from last May, and the advice is still solid!!
As I worked yesterday to accomplish the very important item on my to-do list of sending cards and checks to the graduates in my life, I smiled as I thought of the excitement and celebration associated with graduation. I love seeing and hearing the inspiring graduation speeches, so I thought this week’s blog should be my advice to the graduates (and of course you realize that this advice is really for everyone -- I’m just trying to be seasonal!!). My advice is … (drumroll, please)... write it down! That’s it! I truly believe that if we would just write things down, our lives could be so much easier! Listen - we all have so much going on in our brains. From appointments to chores to work to play to family to … you get the idea. So help your brain. Write things down. I know that I’ve preached this in previous blogs, but I needed to write it down again for you and for me (did you see that fun connection?!). In high school, Hayden participated in band and sports (soccer, swimming, golf, tennis, cross-country running), so I in turn participated in the booster clubs. To raise money, both the band and sports booster clubs manned concession stands during sporting events, and I worked many football and soccer games as well as a track meet or two. But to be honest, I wasn’t the best concession stand worker. No, I didn’t sit around or lurk outside the door to avoid working; I was terrible at remembering orders. I could look out of that window, straight into that customer’s eyes, and listen intently to the order. “I need a nachos with no peppers, a Sprite, a Dr. Pepper, some cheese sticks, and a Snickers.” As I would then turn to complete the order, my mind would go completely blank. Seriously, I could not remember one thing that was ordered. So, I would turn back to the customer and try again. And I would forget again. I was a concession stand worker failure! My brain could not listen to an order and comprehend what was being said. Most customers were pretty understanding about repeating an order over and over as they knew that I was a volunteer working to support extracurricular activities. But I could tell that many became a bit annoyed, and as the line grew longer and longer, even some of my co-volunteers became impatient. Finally, a very experienced concession stand worker handed me an order pad and a pen. “Write it down,” she said. Brilliant!! From that moment on, I wrote down the orders and efficiently served the nachos with no peppers, Sprite, Dr. Pepper, cheese sticks, and Snickers. I’m not sure why I didn’t come up with that solution as I write down most things in my life in my calendar, on a notepad, and even on sticky notes strategically placed throughout the house. But my concession stand failure taught me to first try the strategy of writing things down. It works in almost all situations!
Instead of trying to remember what your co-worker shared with you in the hallway, take a moment to write it down. Instead of trying to remember what you should bring to that meeting or appointment, write it down. Instead of trying to remember to send that birthday card, write it down (on your calendar a week before). etc Strategies believes that you should write it down. Give your brain some extra room to fill with memories instead of memos or appointments or tasks. And graduates -- congrats! Go out and conquer the world! Go on adventures! Make wonderful memories! And then -- write it down!
After putting the final touches on the presentation itself, cutting paper squares for the origami project, packing the big yellow ball, and making copies of the line dance, Karen and I headed to Lake Charles last week for the VCC, Various Chemical Companies, HR Conference at the Golden Nugget. With such a fun place and such fun people, we knew that we would enjoy this opportunity -- and we really did!! I created a customized presentation called “Show Your Work!” designed to help HR professionals use observational learning strategies to model effective communication skills. These professionals already utilize strong communication skills every single day on the job, so I shared concrete strategies to help model these skills for others to copy and use. But as I planned and researched and prepared (all things I LOVE to do) for the presentation, I needed an activity to demonstrate the importance of modeling, of “showing” how to do something instead of just “telling” what to do! Because I can’t cook, knit, or throw a curveball (all better “show, not tell” activities), I can dance (not all that well but I can hold a beat!).
So for the presentation, I decided to teach the Cut a Rug Line Dance. To learn the dance from “telling” only, here are some of the directions: step right foot to right side, step together with left foot; repeat; step left foot to left side, step together with the right foot; repeat; step right foot to right front diagonal; touch left foot beside right; step left foot to left back diagonal, touch right foot beside left … See what I mean? Learning to do a line dance by only reading or hearing the words is almost impossible! The very best way to learn the dance is to have someone “show” you the steps and use words to explain each one. So after a few minutes of squirming and confused faces while reading the steps on the handout we provided, I stepped up to the front of the room to model the steps and teach the dance. Now here is where I should write “and we all joyfully learned the dance and had a great time line dancing to Alan Jackson!” But - due to overwhelming conference attendance (a few participants didn’t RSVP) and a very small conference room (again probably because of the missing RSVPs), we had very little space to dance. As I looked out at the crowded conditions, I thought that the activity would fail miserably and began frantically thinking of a Plan B, but those participants jumped (well more of stepped lightly) in and worked to master the dance steps even with little room to move. Instead of “stepping” to the right, they all shuffled just a bit. Instead of moving “diagonally,” they just moved a bit forward. And at times, we all just stood in one spot and bounced to the music! Through all the laughter and the apologies for stepping on toes, we just made it work and had a great time line dancing!
Although I know that these HR professionals totally understood the point of the activity and connected to my point that “showing” is so much more effective than “telling,” we all learned some other important lessons from the experience. Sometimes even the best planned activity or experience can face unexpected problems or obstacles, but we need to just work through it the best we can. Maybe that very important meeting you planned and prepared for is canceled and there is no time to reschedule. Find the best way to share the needed information using email or even sharing an infographic (visual representations of information, data or knowledge intended to present information quickly and clearly). Maybe your technical equipment (projector, speakers, even the wifi) will not work correctly for that training or presentation. As a trainer/presenter, always be prepared for this situation -- I promise it WILL happen to you. Always have the presentation saved multiple ways without the need for wifi; bring your own projector if possible; and use your phone and a microphone instead speakers (that’s how we danced to Alan Jackson!).
etc Strategies believes that having a make it work attitude will always help when things go wrong. Thinking through alternative options, preparing for problems, and keeping a positive outlook will help you figure out the best way to meet your communication goal. And a BIG thanks to all of the participants of the VCC Conference who enthusiastically made it work and danced, danced, danced!
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!
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!!