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Verbal Dexterity: Talking the Talk » 2008 »

Archive for October, 2008

“Take It Or Leave It”: Negotiating Like An 8 Year Old & Winning

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

All of us feel like we are masterful negotiators…until we go up against our kids. Somehow, some way, they manage to wrangle stuff from us that we had absolutely no intention of providing.

What are their negotiation secrets and how can you make them yours?

Lucky for you, I am a child at heart.

So here are the 10 tips that you need to know:

  • Always have control over your surroundings (kids know that they always get more when they are talking to you in their room than when they are in yours).
  • Quickly identify the weakest link of the opposition (Daddy is more likely to buy crappy, sugary food than Mommy is).
  • Your opening is important and sets a tone (”You know that I love you more than anything, don’t you?”)
  • Synchronize your attack (once baby sister joins in on the crying, the ‘rents are putty in their hands).
  • Listen carefully (usually, the more the speaker talks, the greater the likelihood that they will reveal a weakness).
  • Try to have a “win-win” option available (”if you buy me the bike, I will throw the garbage out every night”).
  • Be prepared to call their bluff (”go to my room because I am punished?” …”I love my room!”).
  • Assess what the other side’s priorities are and seize the opportunity that is provided (”Oh, you want to have a quiet dinner?…order me the chocolate cake or they will hear me in Australia plus I do feel a bout of massive bathroom needs coming soon”).
  • Be creative in coming up with a solution (”You don’t have to buy us both Wiis. Just buy one console, but let us each pick our own games.”).
  • Never burn the bridge because you will need to go back across in the future (”Thanks for the secret sweater Mom. I promise not to tell daddy how much that you spent.”).

    Today’s Tip: Negotiation is a skill that we master when we are kids and then forget once we have grown up. Unfortunately, we knew a lot more in our formative years than we do now. So, take a step back. It’s OK to regress. Set your goal, size up your opponent, plot a course to success and use emotion and logic whenever necessary. If none of that works, you could always just spit up and cry out for “Momma.”

  • Spinning Plates, Juggling Knives & Making Meatloaf: The Work-Life Balance

    Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

    When it comes to your job and your home life, “balancing” isn’t an option-
    it’s a necessity.
    To paraphrase Freddie Mercury of Queen, we “want it all.”

    The question is whether this balance can ever really be attained.

    Working women know this better than anyone.
    How can you be a fully contributing cog in the workplace and then also play the role of dedicated wife, mother, lover and friend?
    I guess it’s the new version of the “Madonna/Whore” dichotomy.

    For men, years of sexist and antiquated role models and traditions have made the demands upon them less tactile and apparent. Still, many struggle with their multiple roles as spouse, father, partner and friend.

    Regardless of gender, stereotypes or past practice, the real question is what can you do to make some serious headway towards this elusive goal of work/life balance.

    Here are some tips:

  • Sit down with your partner and kids and explain what the demands of your job are. Family members will be more understanding if they have a general idea of what’s coming.
  • Make your trips away from home an educational exercise (use a map to point out your destination and bring home something indigenous). Pretty soon, your kids may actually encourage you to go to more and different places so that their “collection” will expand.
  • Make a commitment to an activity or an event every weekend (e.g. soccer, movies, pizza night, etc).
  • Don’t make a promise that you can’t keep. Broken promises sting far worse than unmade ones.
  • Give yourself a daily “break.” Whether it is a hot bath or 30 minutes of watching Sports Center, you will appreciate the down time and be better equipped to deal with everyone else.
  • Don’t send mixed messages. Family dinner is not the time for calls or Blackberry monitoring. Shut the outside world off—-even if it is just for a few minutes.
  • Be a good listener. One of the nice things about not being with your significant others every second is that it gives them a chance to live their lives and to have things to talk about. Ask personal questions and listen like it matters. Also, listen far more than you talk.
  • Share your day with your partner, ask for advice and engage them in your work world. If they understand your daily pressure, they will cut you more slack.
  • Commit to vacation time and re-establish and maintain the fabric of your family unit.
  • If you have to work at home, do it before the family wakes up or after they go to sleep. What they don’t see won’t remind them of your “other” life.
  • Explain the “opportunity cost” of work to your family in economic terms. Would they rather that you worked 1/2 the hours but had to give up 1/2 of the goodies? (e.g. vacations, nice clothes, cable TV, text messaging, eating out in restaurants, movies, etc.).
  • Bring your family to work at least once. It will help them create a picture memory that will enable them to envision where you are when they communicate with you on the phone or via e-mail.
  • Leave family members notes (in silly places) while you are away. It will feel like a little hug when they find it.

    Today’s Tip: No one has the ability to keep the see-saw of work/life in a perfectly horizontal and balanced position. It’s angle changes every day and the tilt can be painful. Don’t get upset at the imbalance. Adjust it. The ultimate secret is to make each minute count and to work hard at not working so hard.

  • Spousal Intercourse: Talking To Your Better Half About Work

    Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

    So, there you are, my working friend.

    You just had one of those days:
    the Boss reamed you out, your colleagues made fun of you and your main client just cancelled their big order (and evaporated your commission). Adding salt to the wound (and water to the silk), you have a stain on your best shirt, you didn’t get that promotion you were counting on, your department’s being down-sized and you may have to move the family to Gary Indiana.

    As your chest and head pound out the drum solo to Led Zeppelin’s “Moby Dick,” you walk into the house and hear that dulcet-toned question from the spouse:

    “How was your day, dear?”

    Before you go ballistic, remember these helpful tips:

  • If your spouse does not work, your arrival and “download” are very important parts of their day. It keeps them abreast of the workplace issues that surround you and makes them feel involved.
  • If your spouse also works, they have two simultaneous and, perhaps, contradictory needs: they need to vent and they want to know how your work-life compares to theirs. Even when dealing with different industries and titles, most everyone has assignments, deadlines, a Boss and colleagues. Your spouse needs to get a reality-check about their situation by hearing about yours.
  • Remember, your spouse did NOT cause you your work-day problems, so don’t take it out on them (and don’t make the dry cleaner bill the conduit through which you vent and release your stress…plus you do have to clean that silk shirt).
  • Never lose it in front of your kids. They have their own things to be stressed about (e.g. dates, homework, tests, college and zits).
  • A stiff drink is a short-term answer but will never solve the problem.
  • Keep your spouse up to date so that they can provide some perspective when the shi_t-hits-the-fan next week/month/year.
  • Even though they don’t work with you, the opinion of your husband/wife, a semi-empathetic “bystander,” might not be a bad thing.
  • If something really serious happened, let them know. Work-related secrets can come back and poison your marriage. Hey, what did you think “for better or for worse” meant when you said it?
  • Today’s Tip: Talk to your spouse about your workday. Let them into your world. You get to vent and they get to be involved. It’s the one form of “intercourse” that is guaranteed to be mutually satisfying.

    Phoning It In: A Workers Guide To Telephone Effectiveness

    Tuesday, October 7th, 2008

    A modern and simple truth:
    More people conduct business by phone than by face-to-face meetings.

    It’s quicker, less expensive, less intrusive and it even comes with a “Mute Button.”
    Despite the frequency of these phone calls, most business persons do not properly recognize the dynamics of such communication and how to get the most out of each call.

    Here are some things to remember:

  • The person on the other end of the phone cannot see you. Therefore, your body language, gesticulating and pointing is meaningless.
  • A call’s success will be decided on only two things: 1) your voice and 2) your content.
  • Your voice: elocution basics like inflection, pentameter, volume, speed and enunciation are going to filter and influence your message. The better the conduit, the faster and cleaner the message.
  • Your content: no one wants to hear long-winded, circuitous meanderings. Get to the point and don’t step on everyone else’s words (let others comment and question).
  • Reflect an upbeat attitude in your voice. An animated receptionist that speaks clearly and listens well is a wonderful reflection of a professional organization. A telephone answerer that is short, curt, rude and who mumbles at 150 miles per hour is a mess.
  • Never eat anything while you are on the phone. We can hear every chew…and now I am hungry.
  • Pick up the phone after no more than 3 rings. Let’s face it, you are not that important. If you were, you would have a secretary screening your calls.
  • Don’t put your hand over the mouthpiece while you speak to the (apparently more important) person that just walked into your office. We really can hear every word…even the juicy ones. Better to politely put us on hold or to not stop the conversation.
  • Avoid profanity. There is no safe haven for the listener to escape to and it’s just not professional.
  • Always tell the other party when you are putting them on speakerphone. You never know when “Mr. Bad Comb-Over” or “Ms. Slut-face” will unexpectedly walk-in.
  • Don’t read the newspaper or finish your budget while on the phone with me. I can tell when you are distracted. Perhaps, one clue was when you didn’t respond to my first six questions.
  • It’s OK to pause or have a little dead air. Not every millisecond needs to be filled with noise. Just avoid extra long (more than 30 seconds) or frequent gaps.
  • Never (except a medical emergency) put your client on hold due to call-waiting.
  • As you conclude, re-confirm the follow-up and each participant’s assignment.
  • Make sure that the phone is off before you start mocking the participants.
  • Today’s Tip: “Call” it what you want, but good telephone skills = great business. If the listener can’t focus on anything but your voice…your hodgepodge of words, slurs, pauses, stumbles, stammers, and mumbles will become even more apparent. Impress the other party with well chosen and animated phrases. If you can be articulate, inviting and interesting, you will establish a great “connection” with your client and avoid many types of “disconnects.”

    Don’t Kill The Messenger (It’s Me): How To Deliver Bad News To Your Employees

    Wednesday, October 1st, 2008

    In these challenging economic times, it is far more likely that you, as a manager, will have to share some bad news with a colleague or a direct-report.

    Not an easy thing to do.

    Whether it is a performance appraisal, a layoff, a termination or a consolidation, there are some prudent things that you can do to prepare for this awkward scenario:

  • Spend some time thinking about your opening line. Tone, inflection and brevity can communicate far more than a circuitous, nervous fumpher.
  • Be very aware of your body language: big smiles and close proximity could contradict your theme.
  • Be candid and direct. Listeners can smell bullsh_t immediately.
  • For terminations of potentially volatile personalities, have a 3rd person present. Even for even-keeled individuals, it is not a bad idea to have an HR person present.
  • Spend time, in advance, anticipating the 10 most likely questions that your listener is going to ask…and have answers ready. Clarity and comprehensiveness go a long way.
  • Don’t discuss what might/will happen to other associates. This is a legal tripwire that can cause you problems (plus, it’s really not the purpose of your meeting).
  • Close your door, shut your phone and turn-off your Blackberry. These interruptions will affect the flow of this very tense meeting…and make it worse.
  • Speak in a clear, soft and non-confrontational manner.
  • Avoid personalizing any part of the message.
  • Don’t linger or prolong this interaction. Know what you want to say, say it, respond to questions and conclude.
  • Make sure that your closing line/call to action is clear, professional and thoughtful.
  • Even if you have mixed feelings about this message, NEVER suggest that you disagree with this “corporate” decision. You are not there to make friends.
  • Today’s Tip: No one likes to be the bad guy…and no one likes to be the bearer of bad news. But, sometimes it is necessary. Don’t run away or plaster a fake smile on your face. Prepare your message, deliver it candidly in a neutral manner and get through this with dignity and professionalism. It’s the only way.