Like when people show up late to meetings and interrupt the meeting by apologizing for being late and then telling everyone why. Nobody is probably going to tell you, especially if you’re the boss or something like the boss. But if they would tell you, they say the “sorry” is the very best you can do and they don’t want to hear the rest of it. It makes things worse. Be quiet and think about how to be better next time.
Or when you tell an audience that you’re speaking in front of about how sorry you are for being nervous or for showing a slide that has too much detail on it. You want to get better? Really? Then don’t ask people to feel sorry for you and stop showing slides that people can’t and don’t want to read. Get better at presenting in ways you will have pride, not pity in.
Or, imo, the most disrespectful thing people do at work and often in the rest of their life: show more interest in screens than in people. First, you’re not fooling anybody by lodging it in your crotch or talking while you’re typing. Not only does everyone know you’re not paying attention to what’s being said, they are assuming you think whatever is on that screen in your crotch or on your desk matters more to you than they do. And are you the same person who preaches how important it is that “we” communicate and listen better to each other? Or worse, to our kids? Like my friend Bill once put it, “It’s like teaching a dog to dance; it doesn’t work and the dog doesn’t like it.”
Do you ever pause and think, “What good is what I just said/did doing?” Did you just say to yourself that you don’t have time to pause and think? Then someone needs to tell you, at least up to this point, you have NO chance of getting better at anything worth getting better at if you don’t have time for reflection.
I reached for my driver’s license to get ready to prove I was me (they always ask), and began to explain my problem to the bellman. Never breaking his casual posture, leaning against the bell desk, he told me I would have to stand in the line and agreed with me that it would take about 20 minutes. He next said, “Why don’t we just have security come and let you in your room?”
I am going to breakfast first, I told him. “Oh, then let me call and cancel the security help.”
Huh? I persisted a bit: Was there any way they could help me by getting me the key so that I could get into the room a little later? “Oh no, you will have to stand in line . . . why don’t you come back later and maybe the line will be shorter?” I surprised even myself by how frustrated I felt as I left the desk. No help, no key and the potential 20-minute wait lay just ahead.
Walking towards breakfast my phone gets tangled and drops with my notepad and ear buds. Note to self: must get a case for my phone.
A couple minutes later, now calmer and somewhat resolved that somehow I can spare the 20 minutes for the 20-second transaction my morning took another turn. As I reached for my phone to check email at breakfast, I see that the face of my phone is smashed. Now wtf was I going to do?!
Some relief came over me then as I remembered I was across the street from the Ala Moana Mall and yes! There is an Apple store there. Through the smashed screen, my Google app revealed that the store was open and a call then was answered by a friendly salesperson that, sure enough, was going to hold an iPhone 3GS for me. So, I thought, for the mere $49 dollars that I’d seen the 3GS advertised for on the Apple site, I would be all reset and on my home.
After wolfing down my buffet breakfast, I set off towards the mall. On my way out I noticed that there was NO line at the front desk. The woman suggested that not only could she print me out a key, but that she could do my check out then because, oh yeah, if the line got long, the wait would be at least a half and hour. I thanked her and gratefully accepted her offer.
As she was printing out the key and my bill, I kindly and briefly shared with her the story of my morning at the bell stand. Was it out of the question that the bellman would be able to come back behind the desk, get a key made, and help me out? “We never do that,” she countered, “That only happens at five star hotels.” Huh?
I walked off toward the Apple Store, spare key and receipt in hand, feeling a little better about my morning, but not so good about the Ala Moana.
At the Apple Store, I was greeted me warmly. The sight of the smashed phone I then showed them kicked things into motion. I filled in the detail about the call I had just placed to the Store just moments before and that I needed to get to the airport and one of them offered to go get the phone and set me up. I distinctly remember thinking how everything was going to be ok.
Oh, if it would have all been so smooth.
When he returned, he wanted to confirm that I would be extending my contract with the purchase of the new phone. No. Uh oh. He looked me right in the eye and said, “You do know the phone will be $499.00.” He must have not missed my facial expression that accompanied my question: “But, the site said $49.00!?!” I knew I was stuck.
Pause. . . . “I have an idea,” he said. Let’s see if we can get you to the Genius Bar (repair/support desk in the Store, for you non-Apple types). “I can’t guarantee anything but they can take a look at it and at least tell you what it will take to fix it. Maybe they can even replace it.”
Seven minutes later, the Genius Bar woman topped them all, of course, not only in friendliness and patience with my dumb comment about how the smashed phone is dangerous to my face, but ultimately waved the replacement fee. Within minutes, protected by a purchase of a phone case and with the help of my spare room key, I was back at packing while seamlessly reloading of my entire iPhone system through my laptop. I made the flight in plenty of time, where, btw, I felt compelled to creating this entry (Long flight from Honolulu to LA = long entry).
Whenever I help people work on presentations, they typically love (their word) the idea of telling stories. A good story is likely the best vehicle to engage an audience. We all love stories. On one condition, though; they story must make a point that fits in the theme. It can’t be random.
Well, why this 1175 word story? What’s my point?
Perhaps surprisingly, it is not:
• To spread a negative story about the Ala Moana and a positive one about the strategic brilliance of the Apple experience.
• That customer service is a distinguishing factor in the experience and perception you have when you buy something.
These are clear, and not that important for me to remind you about.
I took you on this adventure (that, for me only lasted, from end to end, less than an hour) to make a belief that I have come to see more vividly than ever a bit clearer for us all.
The quality of our life, the whole damn thing, is determined by the conversations we have while we’re living that life.
Those things that got “said” from the bellman to the phone call, at the front desk, at the Store, and, most importantly, throughout it all between Me and Myself; they made the meaning and the feelings real.
For now, that’s enough.
This entry is about the oft-forgotten action that should come right before your listening. It is a behavior that typically gets lost in the torrential pace of doing, therefore handicapping our chances of ever getting to the listening.
I, once again, hear my client and friend George, who once warned his colleagues that for those who have not attended meetings and workshops with me to please know that fifteen-seconds can’t pass without me reminding you to Ask a Real Question.
Why? Real Questions serve three ridiculously important purposes:
- A real question heightens the chances that your audience (of 1 or many) will sense you care about them. That moment is where good things begin to happen when you’re communicating.
- You may, in the real listening to the answer that’s about to show up for your real question, learn something you didn’t know before you asked it. Very little learning happens when you’re talking. Read that sentence again for emphasis.
- It best ensures against the toxic attack to Respect and Trust what happens when you DON’T ask real questions and really listen. The absence of these two actions for too long seriously sickens our relationships far beyond the moment of your pontification.
Allow me then, to take some of my own medicine. I am devoting much more thinking and writing to the effect of conversations on our lives. With a long way to go on that learning, I’m at an important questioning time. If you feel like sharing your thinking, hit the comments section or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Here’s what I’m wondering:
• What were the conversations like around the times big things happened in your life? Love, Career, Family, School, Health: Big things. I have some hunches about those conversations in my life and what they can mean for my future. Tell me about yours.
• More generally, what do you think makes for great conversation? What are you doing and not doing in those moments? How about the others in the conversation?
More to follow on this.
For my part, I have never avoided the influence of others. I would of considered it cowardice and a lack of sincerity toward myself -Henri Matisse
Anyway, this morning I opened up a book and it struck me as one of the most relevant and inspiring things I have seen in a while. Now, one reason for this is that I’m actually trying to read a little less of what others are writing and replacing that with some of my own writing. But there are those moments (like this morning) that work out the best for me and maybe for you when we open ourselves up to the perspectives of others.
Now, of course, the irony is that these outward views still end up back at being about ourselves, but we end up clearer and more inspired when we pause and take in the influence of others. It is a unique point of view that we can’t ever find out there on our lonesome. After all, what have you ever done worth doing all by yourself? I can wait in this spot of the paragraph for a long time and I don’t think you’ll come up with much.
So what’s the book? Hugh MacLeod’s Evil Plans has, at least for this early morning while my family sleeps, rocked my sense of what I’m doing with my work and why I’m doing it. It may have been fueled, too, by the three cups of Peets Major Dickason’s I drank while reading, but, with what I’m trying to accomplish, I can use some extra help.