My friend Andrew is pretty chill.
Whenever we hang out, our time together is relaxing.
Which (also) makes our time together enjoyable and productive.
You know, like you want to skip your next appointment and just keep talking all morning.
My friend Sandi is quite scatterbrained.
Whenever we hang out, our time together is fairly tense.
Which (also) makes our time together frustrating and inefficient.
You know, like you want to hurry up and finish the conversation so you can go in the bathroom and do a few deep breathing exercises.
Two different people. Two different communication experiences.
Which one are YOU?
Which one do you WANT to be?
Which one do your customers PERCEIVE you to be?
Hopefully, you’re more like Andrew.
AND HERE'S WHY: When you relax, you win. When you relax, others win. Period.
The challenge is figuring out how to do so through your own personal style. Today we’re going to explore eight practices that will put you – and, therefore, others – at ease. Also, along with each example, I’ve included a few “Sticky Note Suggestions.” You might consider posting these mantras and questions in visible locations as reminders to make communication a relaxing experience. Onward!
1. Start with yourself. Relaxation is contagious. The best way to put others at ease is to be at ease yourself. So, practice relaxing more. Especially outside of the interpersonal context. My first suggestion is to incorporate a daily routine of mind/body/spirit practice. Yoga, meditation, deep breathing, guided imagery, journaling or self-hypnosis, whatever works for you. This will lay a general foundation of calmness that will carry over to ALL your daily activities. And people will notice the difference.
Secondly, prepare yourself to listen. Before going on a sales call, giving a presentation, making phone calls, attending networking events, running staff meetings or any other form of person-to-person contact, first take some time for yourself. Consult your materials. Recite positive affirmations. Anything that lays a foundation of confidence and preparation.
STICKY NOTE REMINDER: Try questions like, “Are you relaxed?” “Did you meditate today?” and “Remember: YOU come first” to keep you focused on the most important person in the world.
2. Find excuses to smile. Smiles are among the easiest, quickest and most effective behaviors for putting someone at ease. A great suggestion is to smile for TEN SECONDS every time you walk into a room. Also, try playing the “Let’s See What I Can Find in This Room to Make Me Smile” game. Look around. See if you can spot some kids. That usually works. Or someone with a wacky haircut. Also effective. Whatever gets those pearly whites to show.
STICKY NOTE REMINDER: Post a favorite movie line, picture or quotation that’s guaranteed to make you smile when you look at it. Anything from Spaceballs works.
3. Monopolize the listening. Next time you meet someone at a networking event, see how long you can go without talking. Or interrupting. Or inserting your clever little jokes or witty comments. Strive to listen twice as much as you talk. Ask a few thought provoking questions, then sit back and let your ears grow. Participate, but don’t dominate. Dance in the moment and facilitate the exploration of the other person’s experience.
STICKY NOTE SUGGESTION: Try posting, “L-I-S-T-E-N = S-I-L-E-N-T,” “Two Ears, One Mouth,” or “Ask, don’t tell” around your office. Bet your boss would love that.
4. Remember to … pause. Pausing creates space, space enables clarity, and clarity eases the mind. Examples: Remember to pause before you give an answer, after you ask a question, when someone else is on a roll or after powerful insights. Then, allow people’s words and ideas to profoundly penetrate you, as well as allowing YOUR words to profoundly penetrate others.
STICKY NOTE REMINDER: Draw the “pause” symbol from your remote control and stick it on the edge of your computer screen.
5. Remember to breathe. Speaking of pausing. When you consciously take deep, slow breaths, your heart rate and blood pressure lower. Fresh oxygen, fresh life, flows through your body. Ahhh…! And what’s amazing is how often we forget to breathe. Especially when we’re communicating with someone. We get so involved, so excited, so engaged, that we lose site of the most important thing in the world.
Breath is life. This is something you learn when you wake up at 7 AM on a Saturday morning because your lung collapsed and now you have to spend the next week of your life sitting in a bed at Missouri Baptist Hospital whacked out on morphine with a tube in your chest. Hypothetically :)
STICKY NOTE REMINDER: Post the question “How’s your breathing?” on your phone.
6. Love the silence. Something that ISN’T relaxing is when people keep talking, just for the sake of talking. They break the silence, just to fill the space. They ask more and more questions, but only because nobody’s spoken for a few minutes. Be careful of this trap, as it is easy to fall into. Learn to accept silence as a normal, beautiful and essential part of your conversations.
And remember: Just because someone isn’t speaking doesn’t mean they’re not thinking. Embrace the silence. Sometimes it’s better than talking. In the words of bluegrass beauty Allison Krauss, “You say it best when you say nothing at all.”
STICKY NOTE REMINDER: Write the words, “Silence is beautiful” or “Love the silence” and post it in your office.
7. Minimize emotional reactivity. The word “emotion” comes from the Latin emotere, which means, “To disturb.” Yep. This TOTALLY makes sense. Emotional Reactivity is contagious, which increases conversational tension. Emotional Reactivity creates defensiveness, which decreases the likelihood of someone opening up further. So, if you’re freaking out about something, odds are the other person isn’t very relaxed.
STICKY NOTE SUGGESTION: Post reminders like, “Pause, don’t jump,” “Curious, not judgmental,” and “Respond, don’t react” to keep yourself chillin’.
8. Humor relaxes people. So, just be funny! Early and often. Humor lubricates your message and allows people to digest (and remember) it easily. Now, that doesn’t mean, “make jokes.” That doesn’t mean turn your sales call into a standup routine. And that doesn’t mean bounce around the room like Ace Ventura. That means allow your natural humor to shine. And if you’re saying to yourself, “Yeah, but I’m just not funny…” False. You’re hilarious. Everyone is. You just haven’t pinpointed your Humor Sources yet.
So, think about the ten sources of constant humor in your life. Kids? Pets? Ex-Husbands? Write them down. Under each category, brainstorm three short stories that personify that humor. Keep the list handy. Rehearse if you have to. Then, refer to it often. You’ll be good to go.
STICKY NOTE REMINDER: Ask yourself, “Are they laughing?”
OK, let’s recap. If you want to make communication a relaxing experience, remember these eight practices: Start with yourself. Find excuses to smile. Monopolize the listening. Remember to pause. Remember to breathe. Love the silence. Minimize emotional reactivity. And be funny.
Relaxing = Enjoyable and productive.
Tense = Frustrating and efficient.
The choice is yours!
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How are you making communication a relaxing experience?
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That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Coach, Entrepreneur
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Thursday, December 18, 2008
My friend Andrew is pretty chill.