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  • feedwordpress 21:47:59 on 2016/04/12 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , message, misinterpretation, negative impressions,   

    Email Sends Wrong Signal 

    The training program went so well that one of the participants e-mailed me gushing about how much she learned. So much that she wanted to get together for lunch to “pick my brain”. I wasn’t sure what that meant, but said sure, give me a call.

    I’m not a big let’s have lunch person.  Due to the nature of our business, I’m often not in the office and when I am, I need the time to prepare for upcoming engagements. After accounting for traveling there, lunch time and traveling back, lunch frequently means taking a half day off. However, I didn’t want to turn her down and send the wrong message. She was respectful and told me she valued my time and because she was located an hour from me, she would pick a restaurant close to my office.

    When her assistant emailed a meeting invite several weeks later, I accepted. A few days before our meeting, she cancelled. The assistant rescheduled and she cancelled again. I offered to schedule a call instead. She said she’d rather meet in person. Two months later, lunch was rescheduled again.

    As the date approached, she emailed asking me to find a restaurant in an area about 40 minutes away from my office, which she said would be easier for her to get to that day. Annoyed that she apparently forgot she respected my time and unfamiliar with the neighborhood, I reached out to some colleagues for recommendations, but no one had any.

    Trying to be cooperative, I suggested several alternative places that were closer to both of us. She emailed me back with another suggestion that required even more travel time for both of us.

    My exact response: “Sure, though I think that’s probably further for both of us. Whatever works is fine. See you tomorrow.”

    Yet when tomorrow came, I was greeted with this early morning email:

    “Karen, maybe I have a misunderstanding. Aren’t we a client of yours? I am surprised about how difficult it is to arrange a simple lunch. This is not urgent or pressing. I was hoping to engage you for some services with my team. I don’t think that it’s going to work out at this point. We can let lunch go for now.”

    Dumbfounded, I stared at the email, then read it again to make sure I was reading it correctly. Upset that she was upset, but irritated at her response, I called, got her voicemail and left an apology. Then I emailed her back saying:

    “I profusely apologize and did not mean to make this difficult. I’m happy to meet you for lunch wherever you like.  I was trying to be accommodating by finding something closer to both of us, but clearly sent the wrong message. “

    She never responded. So what went wrong?

    Emails, while quick and easy, have no tone so they can be easily misunderstood. When you talk to someone in person or over the phone, they see facial expressions, hear the inflection in your voice and sense emotional connections to topics. However, a seemingly innocent remark or off the cuff comment that might be funny in person could be completely misunderstood in an e-mail. I recall a client telling me she had worked endless hours on an important presentation only to have her boss suggest it was less than par. She was so upset, she didn’t sleep that night. As it turns out, he had sent her an email suggesting some changes on a certain slide, but she took it to mean he was unhappy with her work.

    A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found people only interpret the tone and mood of an email 50% of the time. That means you might be pleased, but the email recipient perceives you’re not. It’s these types of misinterpretations that lead to arguments, harm productivity and turn people against each other in the workplace.

    Had my fan turned foe and I connected by phone to agree on a lunch place, perhaps our mix-up would have been avoided.

    Yet, in today’s global workplace, phone conversations to schedule meetings are not always efficient. During our email exchange, I was in California. Time difference and schedules would have made it tough to connect and thanks to technology, scheduling lunch no longer requires a phone call.

    Here are five tips to help you avoid unintended email snafus:

    1.    Don’t assume what someone else means. If you’re not sure, pick up the phone and call them.

    2.    Don’t bury the lead. For example, instead of saying: “The client wants the top of this presentation reworked to better reflect the message”, try a different approach. If you said, “You did a great job on this presentation, but the client wants us to work on tightening the very top.” This way the receiver hears “you did a great job” first.

    3.    Consider the relationship. If someone knows you well, they are more in tune with your communication style and less likely to take offense or misinterpret your words. If they don’t, it’s easier for your communication to be misread.

    4.    Consider the person. If you know someone well, you have a better understanding of their personality and what might upset them.

    5.    Re-read. Before hitting send, re-read the email to see if it’s laced with tone or mood that could be misconstrued.

    In my case, perhaps the email recipient sensed I didn’t really want to have lunch even though I didn’t actually say that. Or, maybe she was dealing with other issues and simply took her bad mood out on me. Whatever the case, there is a common expression saying “it takes two to tango”. That means regardless of intent or excuse, we are both responsible for the outcome.

     
  • feedwordpress 14:53:22 on 2016/04/05 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , message, non verbal behavior,   

    Quick Tip #61: Body Language for Leaders 

    Sometimes we convey the wrong message without even knowing it. When non-verbal behavior and body language don’t match, leaders can diminish their credibility and sincerity through simple gestures. This video provides some quick fixes.

     
  • feedwordpress 03:01:39 on 2016/02/23 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , message,   

    What did you say: Why big words & jargon don’t make sense 

    Whenever we prepare for coaching or training, we send participants a very basic questionnaire so we can get to know them, their concerns and communication challenges before we walk in the room. Their answers are typically very telling and help us customize programs for specific individuals and teams.

    So here I am, plowing through a bunch of questionnaires for an upcoming media training with physicians when the ‘aha’ moment shouts at me from the form.

    The question reads: ‘what are the hottest trends that you are noticing in your area of expertise?’ The answer: ‘morcelallation’. I thought it was a typo and spell check on my computer indicated as much. When I looked it up, I found it’s a very high tech controversial procedure used to remove uterine fibroids.

    The next question asked ‘what do you think makes a win/win during an interview?’ The answer: ‘dissemination of data’.

    A good interview is not about the dissemination or distribution of data. A good interview like good communication occurs when the communicator considers his or her audience and takes the time to put information in terms they will understand. That means eliminating jargon.

    If this physician is talking to other obstetricians, then there is no need to explain medical terms specific to their business. All too often however, the communicator blames the listener for lack of understanding when he or she has no one to blame but themselves.

    In the best-selling book Why business people speak like idiots, Brian Fugere and his co-authors make a repeated point that the smartest people use the dumbest words. While words like ‘dissemination’ and ‘morcelallation’ are not dumb words, they are meaningless words to certain audiences.

    Your job as a communicator is not to show off how smart you are. Your job is to make sense of information which means putting that information in context and perspective.

    When I shared that sentiment at a messaging session just last week, one individual argued that “our business is different.” He went on to say that his profession requires a greater level of details than others.

    No it doesn’t. Academia, technology, pharmaceutical research, astronomy, biology all require great levels of detail. So does physics, internet coding, gene therapy, app development, surgical procedures and environmental issues.

    Explaining complicated information in internal verbiage rather than words you might use if you were having a conversation with a smart neighbor who isn’t versed in your business is simply rude. It says you care more about you than the people you’re talking to because your focus is on impressing, not informing.

    Jargon also questions your audience’s intelligence. That’s right. Big words can insult your audience by suggesting you don’t trust them enough to speak simply. “But I don’t want to dumb it down” is what I frequently hear from clients. Does dumbing it down mean taking a few extra minutes to think through how to make sense of information?

    If you’ve ever listened to a eulogy, then you understand where I’m coming from. No one stands up there and says: “Sally was an amazing homo-sapien who excelled at flexibility and responsiveness.” Instead, they say “Sally was an amazing woman who never said no and put her family first.”

    Work should be no different. Instead of speaking about “integrated logistical contingencies”, why not just say combining plans to handle the unexpected and make us more responsive.

    Taking the time to create presentations or deliver talks that are shorter, punchier and jargon free is more time consuming than spitting out a bunch of gobbledygook that you think will impress listeners.

    Recently, I worked with a woman who had a five minute opportunity to convince the C-suite to fund a new expense tracking system. She practiced in front of me. To paraphrase, here is what she said:

    “I want to talk to you about a new way we want to log expenses. First I’m going to take you through the program and then I will show you how you would be able to enter your receipts. When entering a receipt, you would first click here on the upper right hand side of your screen which brings up a box. When you open the box, you’ll see another screen. It’s complicated at first, but once you use it, it will get easier…….” Clearly I tuned out.

    So I put on my former reporter hat and started asking her questions:

    Question:       How many hours each month does it take employees to enter expenses?

    Answer:          Four hours per person.

    Question:       How many people work at your company?

    Answer:          500.

    Question:       How many hours would they save if a new system is implemented?

    Answer:          One hour per person

    As we continued, she revealed that at approximately $20.00 per hour, the company would save 1500 hours per month equaling $30,000.00 per month or $360,000.00 per year. Saying that is far more meaningful to executives making spending decisions.

    Like a television news report, reporters put you at the scene. You feel what they felt, see what they saw, touch what they touched and smell what they smelled. They create an experience. When the late Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone, he didn’t bore you with memory capacity and processing speeds. He used words like “cool” and “amazing”. He said: “Today Apple is going to reinvent the phone.” You didn’t have to dissect what he meant.

    Communicating is not about talking. Communicating is about connecting. So the next time you come up with endless excuses about why you need to use big words, create long slides with lots of text or write a four page e-mail that no one ever really reads, think about your purpose. Is this about you or them? If it’s about you, start over.

    Instead of trying to presenting yourself as a decisive intellect who possesses the trait to articulate multifaceted ideas, why not present yourself as an authentic communicator with a personality who has the unique ability to humanize information so it can be understood.

     
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