Archives for October 2013

Listening: Open Your Ears (and Eyes)!

My kids know a saying I have: “If your mouth is open your ears are closed.” Of course what I mean is that if you are interrupting a speaker or just waiting to get something out odds are you are not really listening to what the other person is saying. And this is a problem because professionally and personally communication is everything. You want and need to be understood, but you also need to understand the speaker.

Listening is more than simply “not speaking”. Give others your undivided attention. Set aside your own judgments and preconceived notions. Listen with focus.  Most importantly, listen to understand.  This is more than just not speaking – although that is a good start. It is about having effective verbal communications with those around you.

Many of us are much more comfortable talking than listening. Many of us are thinking about how we are going to respond while the other person is still talking. But how can you effectively listen when you are thinking about anything other than what the other person is saying.

And what I just said ignores an important topic for another day: non-verbal communication.  According to published statistics, as much as 70% of meaning is conveyed by non-verbal cues such as facial expressions, body language and the tone and cadence of the speaker….

So your challenge for the week it to open your ears, shut your mouth, and see if it makes a difference in your conversations.

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Life is a Negotiation so be Prepared

As an attorney my life involves negotiation on a daily basis, professionally. But so does yours. You may negotiate with clients, customers, suppliers, co-workers, spouses or children. Is it for that big sale or to get your kid to do something? It doesn’t matter, prepare.

The preparation may just be thinking about the conversation. Or it may be strategizing with others or conducting role playing scenarios. There are many commentators out there who do a great job on writing about negotiation strategies and issues (For example, see Marty Latz’s (@MartyLatz) columns: Maybe your preparation can be researching his or other columns on the Internet. The point is do something; Think. It will help.

For me, professionally, negotiation can involve mediation, which is a more formal form of negotiation and usually is my client’s last opportunity to settle a dispute on terms agreeable to them before a judge or jury makes a decision that will impact their life or business in potentially unpredictable ways. That is a big deal. But so is the potential sale or going to the football game with your friends next Sunday.

One thing I always tell clients (and do when negotiating in my personal life) is to think about the person(s) you are negotiating with and the potential outcomes: your best case,  your worst case and what is an acceptable result (or range of results) to you. Know your audience because how you wrap the message is important.

I challenge you to try preparing for your next negotiation, whatever it is. And please let me know if you think your preparation helped or not (and if not, why).

If you want to talk about preparation for an important conversation or negotiation you plan to have, please feel free to call me (which is preparation too) because I may have a few ideas based on my experiences negotiating personally, professionally and as a mediator.

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Aspire to be Great!

Whether conscious of it or not the majority of people you know aspire to be great. At something. It may not be in an area or way you think. That CEO you know may aspire to be a better leader or to improve his skills at playing guitar or golf. But aspiring to be great at anything actually takes work. Hard work. And discomfort.

No matter whether you are working on a skill or behavior it needs to become second nature. Think repetition. A good example is golf. Swinging the different types of golf clubs well takes repetition until the swing becomes second nature, requiring no thought, like a habit. This level of discipline is not human nature and is why it takes hard work and discomfort to achieve or even try to reach your aspirations.

So whatever your aspirations are – developing more work, increasing revenue, running a marathon, improving your golf game – you have to be ready to invest blood, sweat and tears. If you do, there is no guaranty you will reach your goal, but there sure is a better chance. The results, or lack thereof, ultimately will reflect the level of work and discomfort you were willing to endure in aspiring to be great at something.

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