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  • feedwordpress 18:33:08 on 2018/02/22 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , storytelling   

    Lessons from Chance Encounters 

    I had just touched down in Tampa when I glanced at my nails. Peeling, fading polish glared back at me. With back-to-back speaking engagements in the next few days, I knew I needed a manicure.

    A quick check at my hotel revealed the normally ten to fifteen-dollar cosmetic luxury would cost thirty dollars at the pricey hotel beauty shop. Not feeling that extravagant, I walked to the closest mall in search of a nail salon. That’s when I found De-Ja-Vu. They offered basic manicures for twelve dollars. Sold!

    Waiting for a manicurist to free up, I sat next to a woman about thirty years my junior. As women of all ages do, we struck up a conversation. She was from Baltimore; here visiting her boyfriend and interviewing for a job so she could move closer to him. Sensing she had the ear of someone slightly more experienced, she picked my brain for some interviewing and communication tips and said she felt fortunate we ran into each other. Like a good book you fail to finish reading, I sometimes wonder what happened to her. Did she get the job? Did she move in with the boyfriend? How did her life turn out?

    For those of us who talk to just about anyone, we are prone to chance encounters almost everywhere. I sometimes think about people I’ve met on airplanes, in train stations, on vacation, at the supermarket or waiting in line to see a ticketed event. Most of these people, we never remember or see again. Others, even if we don’t know it at the time, may have crossed our paths for a reason.

    Earlier this year as I was taking a walk, I had one of those encounters with people who had also accidentally encountered each other. It was a cold, blustery day so there weren’t many people out and about. As I turned a corner, there was a couple trying to take a selfie. I offered to help. That’s when I learned they had met fifty years ago at that very hour on that exact street corner in Longport, New Jersey. They had come back to celebrate at the exact time and exact spot where they began their life together.

    When they met, they were teenagers who lived in different states and had come to visit family who lived on neighboring streets. Unlike today, where texts and social media make it easy to stay in touch, they exchanged phone numbers, but long distance calls were expensive back then so they wrote letters. After college, they got together.

    Some experts believe if you prepare yourself to make the most of chance encounters, good things will happen to you. They even say you can significantly increase the chances of finding a great job, meeting your soul mate and creating your own luck. If this sounds like a bunch of malarkey, there is science to prove there could be something to it.

    Psychologist Dr. Richard Wiseman wrote a book called The Luck Factor which concludes that not only is luck is a way of thinking and behaving, but it’s also something that can be learned.

    In a post at Oprah.com, writer Ben Sherwood details one of Wiseman’s early experiments where he taped a £5 note to a sidewalk outside a coffee shop. Then he planted actors at tables inside. One actor was a ‘millionaire’; the others were not. Each person was instructed to behave the same way. Next, he recruited two subjects he calls Martin and Brenda. Martin described himself as lucky; Brenda said she was not a lucky person. When Martin walked up to the store, he immediately spotted the money, picked it up, entered the coffee shop and sat down next to the millionaire. They engaged in conversation and even started exploring opportunities to do business together.

    Brenda, however, never noticed the money when she walked past it. She also sat down next to the millionaire, but they never spoke. According to Sherwood’s post, when asked to describe his day, Martin said he had a lucky day. Brenda described her day as uneventful.

    Both people had the same opportunity, but acted differently. Wiseman says lucky people create, notice, and act upon chance opportunities in their lives. He believes that being in the right place at the right time is more than fate; it’s about being in the right state of mind.

    Clearly, every chance encounter isn’t life changing. While you might recognize when someone has made a difference for you, you don’t always know when you’ve made a difference for them unless they tell you. I recall sitting next to a young man on a coast-to-coast flight. He was struggling with personal issues which we talked about for much of the flight. He had saved my business card and nearly a year later, e-mailed me to thank me, saying my advice prompted him to move in a different direction and he was happier than he had ever been.

    Psychologist and theorist Albert Bandura studied how seemingly random encounters change lives. He writes that former President Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy met when she began to receive mail meant for someone else. She complained to the Screen Actors Guild, of which Reagan was president at the time. They met and were engaged shortly after.

    In a commencement speech at Stanford University, late Apple founder Steve Jobs says if he had not dropped in on a calligraphy course, the Mac may have never evolved the way it has today.

    Thinking back to nearly three decades ago, a chance encounter changed my life. My friend and I entered the same café where we noticed a man enjoying a bite to eat. I made eye contact. She didn’t. At a party later that evening, I spoke to him. She didn’t. She had a negative attitude, commenting he was too old for me (we’re two years apart), was probably married (he was single) and rattled off a host of other assumptions. I was more positive, perhaps more open to luck and chance encounters. That man is now my husband of almost thirty years.

    Bandura says chance encounters are important because they have branching power. That means, they could not have been planned, yet they frequently inspire a chain of events that can shift someone’s life course and open unexpected opportunities.To take advantage of chance encounters, Bandura recommends looking outward to grab the branches within reach. To me, this means the following:

    BE PRESENT
    Instead of burying your nose in your cell phone when sitting alone, look up and out so you make eye contact with others. If I had not made eye contact with my husband, my life would be very different.

    CHANGE ROUTINES
    Like a good workout routine, you need to change things up, so you work different muscle groups. The same can be said for daily life. If you walk to work, take a different route. Perhaps you’ll stop into a different coffee shop, talk to someone new, see a sign announcing an interesting program you might attend. You never know who you’ll meet along the way.

    IMAGINE POSITIVE OUTCOMES
    In the Journal of Positive Psychology, researchers demonstrated that people who imagined a “best possible self” for one minute and wrote down their thoughts, generated a significant increase in positive effect. Simply put, if we are optimistic, we are likely to turn chance encounters into positive experiences.

    Last week, I was seated next to a ninety-year-old woman on a plane. I had work to do and a movie I wanted to watch. Making idle conversation with a stranger was not part of my plan. Only to be polite, as I sat down, I said hello, how are you She burst into tears and said, “I’m scared”.

    Her husband had died. Her children and grandchildren live all over the country. She had never traveled by herself before. She was sad and felt very alone. We talked. I helped her to the bathroom and off the plane, then stayed with her until she was safely seated in a wheelchair with an airline attendant to help her retrieve her bags. She asked for my card.

    When I sat down to write this column today, it was not supposed to be about chance encounters. Then I received her email which read: “Just a note to thank you again for being so friendly and helpful to me on our flight!”

    To me, it was nothing more than being kind. To her, it meant much more. We never know how a chance encounter will influence or change lives. We do know that these seemingly simple moments happen to all of us and if we’re paying attention, they can have a positive life-long lasting effect.

     
  • feedwordpress 06:10:30 on 2018/02/22 Permalink
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    Quick Tip #75: Staying Relevant During Changing Times 

    Staying relevant during changing times is easier said than done. But if we don’t work at it, we may be perceived as out of touch and not as valuable to clients, colleagues and other important audiences. This video provides simple tips to stay competitive in business today.

     

     
  • feedwordpress 00:21:15 on 2018/01/31 Permalink
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    Deer in the Headlights: Overcoming the Fear of Public Speaking 

    We were returning from dinner at a neighbor’s just a few blocks away, when the sirens started whining and lights flashed behind us. I was driving. My husband was in the passenger seat.

    “Why would he be pulling me over?” I panicked out loud. “Was I swerving? I only had one glass of wine and that was with dinner.”

    “I’m sure it’s nothing.” reassured my husband. “You weren’t doing anything wrong. Maybe you have a light out or something, just pull over.”

    So, I did and rolled down the driver’s window as the policeman approached.

    “License and registration, please” he requested.

    “Officer, did I do something wrong?” I inquired.

    For a moment he just stared at me and then said he noticed I had stopped in the middle of the road about a block back, rolled down my window and appeared to be talking someone, but he didn’t see anyone in the road.

    “Oh, now it makes sense.” I stated out loud as my husband slumped in his seat and glared at me to shut up. Silently he was thinking, “No!!! Don’t tell him you were talking to the deer!”

    “That was just a deer.” I explained. He was in the road, frozen by the glare of my headlights. I told him he was lucky I saw him and didn’t want him to get hit by a car, so I was warning him to move away.”

    The officer said nothing. My husband slouched lower in his seat. The silence sounded deafening. So, I kept talking.

    “I explained to the deer that a lot of cars cut through this road at night when it’s dark and drivers can’t always see when deer like him cross the road.”

    The cop still said nothing. My husband silently communicated that I sounded like an idiot, so I stopped talking.

    “Ma’am”, inquired the officer. “Where do you live?”

    “Right there.” I pointed to the neighborhood on the other side of the road.

    He hesitated. Then he advised me to go home, not make any stops and not talk to any animals on the way. I thanked him and drove off. My husband shook his head in disbelief, though we still laugh about it today.

    For people who know me, seeing me talk to an animal is not out of the ordinary. I love animals and like any pet owner, I believe they understand us when we speak to them. However, I should have taken the advice I give clients when preparing them to speak. That simple advice, which I clearly failed to heed, is know your audience.

    Fortunately, in this case, my audience was a nice guy who probably decided ticketing me for speaking to a deer wasn’t worth the trouble.  But, why, when I clearly did nothing wrong, did I get nervous and not even think about how ridiculous I must have sounded?

    Like a deer caught in the headlights, many of us freeze in response to fear. Researchers say freezing or standing still when scared is a natural defensive reaction. It even has an official name. Glossophobia is the fear of public speaking. It comes from the Greek words: glossa, which means tongue and phobos meaning fear.

    In fact, research suggests that for most people, speaking in public is greater than the fear of death.

    Over the years, we have seen how this fear shows up in people. Prior to important appearances, we’ve witnessed clients throw up, start sweating, shaking, break out in rashes and a few have even had difficulty breathing. Some tell us they don’t sleep for days prior to a presentation. Others stutter or simply can’t make their words come out. To them, it can be so embarrassing that they turn down potential opportunities at work and in some cases, shy away from others.

    Stress coach Jordan Friedman says, when people are stressed, it is apparent as they may not come across as the person they want others to see.

    “Stress often causes others to steer clear of us and this is bad news if these people are our coworkers and companions”.

    If you search the internet for “tips to overcome fear of public speaking”, you’ll generate nearly 1.4 million results. Many of these articles will offer advice like “practice in front of a mirror”, “picture your audience naked” and “look at someone’s forehead so you don’t have to look them in the eye”. None of this will help you.

    I’m not sure who advised practicing in front of a mirror is the way to get rid of nerves. The idea is to observe your facial expressions, gestures and mannerisms. However, when you practice in front of a mirror, you become self-conscious and start focusing on how your eyebrows raise up when you say certain words or a shade of lipstick that you no longer like or the few pounds that have crept up on you. Your focus should be on getting your message across to your listeners. A better way would be to record yourself and play it back.

    Then there’s the naked thing. Picturing your audience without clothes is supposed to calm your nerves by making you feel that they are as vulnerable as you are. That’s ridiculous.  What it will do is distract you and take your focus off your presentation, not to mention that it’s kind of creepy. If you want to visualize, then envision connecting with your listeners and giving a great presentation.

    Eye contact is critical to making that connection. If you are looking at someone’s forehead, you are not looking them in the eye. The belief is they will think you are looking at them, but this is not true. People can tell if you are looking directly at them. Better advice is to think of a room as a quadrant and pick a person in each quadrant. Throughout your talk look at each of these people, which will give the appearance that you are making eye contact with the entire room. The more comfortable you become, the more people you can start to look at.

    As someone who coaches speakers and presents often, below are realistic tips that can help you overcome nerves and increase your confidence.

    Practice out-loud

    Practicing out-loud helps you internalize your presentation, so you really know it and can speak to it rather than read from a script. Practicing out-loud also helps you simplify. You’ll be able to sense if it’s organized correctly, what can be eliminated or if something is missing. When practicing, try to speak a little bit louder than normal conversational tone. If you are recording yourself, you’ll be able to tell if you are coming across as energetic and engaging, rather than monotone.

     

    Arrive early

    When I arrive early for a program, I can greet people as they come into the room. Shaking hands, making eye contact or having brief conversations with strangers makes them feel more familiar and less intimidating to you.

     

    Pause

    When people are nervous, they often talk too fast, which can make you more nervous and cause you to run out of breath. Learning to pause is one of the best pieces of advice I can give you. The pause allows people to process what you are saying and stay with you. If you don’t come up for air, they will miss key points. Pausing also allows you to emphasize important points.

     

    Examples and anecdotes

    Using examples and short stories to illustrate points makes information more meaningful and relevant to listeners. It will also help you speak the way you speak to friend, which is more comfortable and easier to remember than delivering a data dump.

    When you do that, you are giving audiences something unique: you! Your stories and experiences can’t be found in a book or on line. These connect you to your listeners.

     

    Hire a professional

    Lastly, consider hiring a professional. Working with a coach or joining a group like Toastmasters will force you to practice and receive constructive criticism. The more you present, the better you will become.

    If you come across like a deer in the headlights, not only will your nerves be evident, but you will make your audience uncomfortable. Audiences want you to be great.  When you succeed, so do they.

     

     

     
  • feedwordpress 00:36:42 on 2018/01/21 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , Likeable, ,   

    Quick Tip #74: How to be Likeable 

    Likeable people get far in business and in life. Studies suggest likeability traits outweigh intelligence. So, how can you become likeable?

     
  • feedwordpress 00:26:26 on 2018/01/02 Permalink
    Tags: conversation, introduction, , ,   

    Quick Tip #73: Conversation Starters 

     

    Even the most accomplished professional can be shy or struggle to break into conversations. This video offers three ways to get started.

     
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