Archive: May, 2012

Post from Transformation Tom- Learn to Communicate Assertively: Chapter from “The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas”

Posted by tomdowd - May 25, 2012 - News
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Learn to Communicate Assertively

Many people internalize their thoughts and feelings. These thoughts may build up over time and cause pent-up frustration in the wrong circumstances. Some negative thoughts may gain momentum and may impact the future effectiveness of what you are trying to accomplish, and even impact a relationship that is being established because of a misunderstanding that needed clarification.

As stated previously, I have a tendency to be an introverted individual and have been known to internalize feelings. I have often said, to myself, “I wish they wouldn’t do that,” or, “I wish they would stop…,” or, “I wish (fill in the blank).” I have had to make a concerted effort to push myself through these types of random thoughts, and make it a point to have a conversation, especially if I want to ensure that all parties involved are on the same page.

I was flying across the country on a last minute red-eye flight from California to New York. My originally scheduled flight had been cancelled due to foul weather. I’ll even toss in the fact that I had been bumped up to first class before the other flight was cancelled. Since I had to switch airlines and make same-day arrangements, most of my normal preferences, such as window seat and front of the airplane, were not available. Unfortunately, I was given a middle seat on an airline that seemed to have smaller seats than I was used to. I was not in the most pleasant of moods as I boarded the plane.

A young woman approximately twenty-five years old was sitting next to me, to my right towards the aisle. On a flight that takes over five hours and flying through the night, I was ready to go to sleep. The airline was gracious enough to give us covers for our eyes and the seatbacks had televisions to watch when we were not sleeping. I began to warm up to the idea of this flight; until I closed my eyes for the first time. The young woman beside me was visibly nervous. She was jittery, shaking, twirling her hair, and constantly bumping into me, waking me up out of my light sleep. For two hours, I peered over her way to see her fixated on the Weather Channel. Each time the satellite picture showed the snow building up in New York, her body shook intensely. These weather updates came every twenty minutes. After being startled by her multiple times, and building up a frustration of, “Wait until I go home and tell my wife how miserable this flight was,” I stopped myself. I took my eye cover off and my headset out, and asked her if she was all right. She said that she was nervous (no kidding). She feared she would miss her connection and be stranded in New York.

I started to calm myself down in an attempt to empathize with her situation. I began to have a conversation with her by asking more questions about her situation. I didn’t want to spark a conversation for the sake of conversation. I had a purpose. I wanted to sleep and she looked like she needed a Plan B in New York. I had to be creative, but assertive enough to get there.

I used a level head to creatively determine what needed to occur to calm her down and create a game plan for her. I couldn’t scream at her because I had a few hours left of the flight and I think the close proximity might cause a slight issue. I asked more direct questions, such as, “What is your biggest worry?” She mentioned she wasn’t able to contact her parents in Virginia, who were going to pick her up after her connection. I asked her what I could do to help her, including assisting once we landed. We decided that we would go to the customer service desk to switch flights and I allowed her to use my cell phone to call her parents.

I started to think that I had a long time before I got home in order to complain to my wife about my terrible flight experience. I had a four hour layover until my next flight, so what did I have to lose by helping someone who obviously needed it? During my interaction with the young woman, I had to explain to her that worrying would not solve any of the issues, but actions would. I also realistically told her what I had coming up the next day, including a long drive after my final destination, and I needed the sleep. I was taking assertive steps that would have been difficult for me to take just a couple of years before.

She began to understand both sides. The young woman was gracious and appreciative of the advice and the assistance. I couldn’t tell you how she did for the next few hours, because I slept like a baby. We landed and took care of the things she had been worrying about.

Communicating assertively does not mean you have to communicate aggressively. The message is to say what is on your mind at the time it is on your mind. It does not mean go ahead and scream and shout when emotions are high. It does mean maintain a level head and state the facts, including what’s in it for you and what’s in it for them.

In another example, I took on a new position. I became the organizer of an important meeting and I wanted to impress my new co-workers by doing a good job. During the middle of the meeting, one of the leaders began to call me “Skippy.” I thought it was odd the first time I heard it, but chose to ignore it. The second time I heard it, she was asking me to do something for her. I stopped, and gave a look that got an interesting reaction. I told her my name was Tom. I professionally asked her to call me by my name. She unprofessionally called me “Skippy” for a third time, and this time asked for the rest of the group to join in. Striving to get beyond the immature nature of the action, I simply responded again with a level head and said, “You can call me Tom, and if you want me to respond back, you can call me by my given name.” This conversation was not pleasant, but it was needed if I wanted to establish myself appropriately with everyone there, including the one attempting to label me with a nickname.

Again, we both had something to gain. I needed early respect in my new role and she needed things from me to have the meeting run well. We both got what we wanted, including clear expectations and a real conversation.

I look back on the many times I allowed examples like this to fester and put me in a bad mood. All those times when I was swearing in my head and fuming at the person or situation, I could have been attempting to resolve the situation. I now realize there were times I allowed unnecessary things to go on in the workplace by simply internalizing my feelings of, “I wish it would stop…,” but chose to do nothing about it. We should all be assertive when the need arises and watch problems get resolved. You may be surprised at the positive reception you get from the receiver of your message and you will appreciate your own ease in tension.

 

Thomas B. Dowd III books The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas: Growing from a Cynic to a Professional in the Corporate World and From Fear to Success: A Practical Public-speaking Guide are available under “Products” on www.transformationtom.com.  Book and eBook purchase options are also available on Amazon- Please click the links to be re-directed:  Amazon.com

 

Post from Transformation Tom: Know Symptoms Are Coming – Chapter “From Fear to Success: A Practical Public-Speaking Guide” from the section “The Anxiety”

Posted by tomdowd - May 17, 2012 - News
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Know Symptoms Are Coming

Teaching public speaking, I have scared a few people when I’ve asked, “Who is ready to give a two-minute presentation on [pick a topic]?” Instantly, the stomach sinks, the palms sweat, and the body tremors start. I myself have always battled a red face and blotchy skin; you can tack on tense shoulders and an instant upright stance for me, as well. I’ve had them all. What was harder than the experience was getting past the fact that the physical reaction was normal. When you are suddenly called on in a business meeting or invited to speak unexpectedly, you probably have a pretty good idea what will happen to you individually. No two people will react the same way, so know your own potential reaction so that you can mentally and physically prepare. I will provide more detailed information on mental and physical preparation in upcoming chapters, but the main point in this section is to understand the power of knowing what’s coming. Being conscious of it is half the battle. Your ability to anticipate what’s next will put you in a different state of mind, and, therefore, your reaction to what lies ahead will be more settled and stable.

 

Thomas B. Dowd III books The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas: Growing from a Cynic to a Professional in the Corporate World and From Fear to Success: A Practical Public-speaking Guide are available under “Products” on www.transformationtom.com.  Book and eBook purchase options are also available on Amazon- Please click the links to be re-directed:  Amazon.com

 

Post from Transformation Tom: Send a Note to Say Thank You, and Mean It: Chapter from “The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas”

Posted by tomdowd - May 11, 2012 - News
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Send a Note to Say Thank You, and Mean It

The typical email and instant message exchange at work ends with “thanks” or even “thx,” to which the receiver responds, “np” (no problem). People are appreciative of the assistance and support they receive, but it often feels so ineffective because of the overuse of one word: “thanks.” There seems to be no time or effort dedicated to it. Don’t get me wrong—I’m sure the people I help are appreciative of my efforts. However, the perception of that quick “thanks” because it is more muscle memory than genuine recognition may take away from the heartfelt feeling of that appreciation.

If an instant “thanks” response came within seconds from the person you helped, it probably even caused a little extra effort on your part to go back in and delete it. I have caused some debate at work when I’ve broached the subject that I have a large amount of “real” emails I need to get to in a day. The point is that I like to be efficient and don’t like to waste time. I don’t want to be misinterpreted, because I like a pat on the back as much as anyone. However, I don’t see the value of a message where someone took an extra six key strokes and hit send.

I have often struggled with addressing a lack of genuine sincerity of many of these quick and thankless “thanks” responses. My message is that if I do something for you in the course of my normal job responsibilities, I don’t need the thank you—I will do it for you anyway. It may be my job, or I want to just help out a teammate. That is good enough for me. If I am constantly helping you out specifically, and you want to invest the time to individually thank me with a phone call or heartfelt email, I would appreciate the gesture and take notice of the invested time you took to do it.

The genuine meaning comes when the receiver perceives the feeling behind the sender’s intentions to say thank you. When the sender adds a little note that mentions specifically what they thought was special from you, this little touch makes a world of difference. As a recipient, I feel more grateful for that type of note. As a sender of thank you notes, taking the small amount of time to handwrite one is also impactful. Likewise, adding a few sentences to an email or recognition note will add a smile to anyone’s day.

In any case, I won’t get into a contentious argument in the professional environment about the etiquette of all thank you delivery and methodology. I simply want to drive home the point to ensure that the recipient feels the effort that you put into thanking them.

Finally, the recognition should also be immediate. I have seen too many examples of formal recognition months after the event that triggered it. The instantaneous response shows you are paying attention—just have it be more than “thx.” I like to build time into my schedule once a week for about fifteen minutes to reflect upon the efforts of others to send notes based on recent performance. Try it—you will make someone’s day. You do not have to thank every person for every email that you received in your inbox during the week. Try to think of a memorable experience and genuinely thank the people who deserve it—I bet you will have a smile on your face, too.

 

Thomas B. Dowd III books The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas: Growing from a Cynic to a Professional in the Corporate World and From Fear to Success: A Practical Public-speaking Guide are available under “Products” on www.transformationtom.com.  Book and eBook purchase options are also available on Amazon- Please click the links to be re-directed:  Amazon.com

 

Post from Transformation Tom: Identify Why You’re Anxious – Chapter “From Fear to Success: A Practical Public-Speaking Guide” from the section “The Anxiety”

Posted by tomdowd - May 4, 2012 - News
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Identify Why You’re Anxious

 Many of us tend to stay in our comfort zones. When we wander out of these comfort zones, we start to feel anxious. New situations always increase the stress meter. As previously noted, driving in an unfamiliar place without a map or GPS creates that same feeling that washes over us when we step up to a podium or have that big meeting with the boss. The feeling is natural. There are plenty of actors and athletes who get this same feeling before a big event. It is natural. Given an opportunity to present to senior executives at my company, I instantly fear failing in front of them. They trust and have faith that this presentation will be successful, and I never want to let them down. The mental head games we play with ourselves tell us that the risk of failure is there. However, we need to override this feeling by looking at the other side of the coin: that success is likely if we have controlled everything we could and have come prepared. The presentation won’t be perfect, so get over it—you can still make it a great performance if you invest the time and effort.

The punishing effects of the mental game can overtake you. What if I embarrass myself? What if the red blotches creep up my neck to my face and I am burning with heat? What if the fear of the fear is overtaking me? What if…what if…what if? A funny thing happened as I learned how to practice and prepare. The more stage time I got, the more confident I became. I had worried about the “blush” factor for too many years to remember, and now the only time I ever think about it is when I am teaching people about how I forgot about it. It truly is no longer a distracting “what if” thought. You too can control the mental game by increasing your time on stage.

You also don’t want to bore the audience. You won’t, as long as you put the necessary time and effort into the material, message, and delivery to ensure you keep the audience interested. Don’t just throw the presentation together and hope it works. You have to remember that most people in an audience want you to succeed, and when you succeed, they walk away thinking about you and your message. If your goal is to entertain, inspire, motivate, or persuade, and they are entertained, inspired, motivated, or persuaded, you have both won. Audiences want to think and be transformed into your world. Take the bold and confident approach. When you believe that you have the message to make a difference in someone’s life, that belief should turn into confidence that will resonate with any audience. Turn your words to action, and your action into positive energy. If you say, “I’m really glad to be here,” you should mean it. You set the tone.

Finally, a lack of public-speaking experience often drives anxiety. Nothing increases experience more than just doing more of it. So it’s time to set up a plan to increase your face time, presentation time, and public time to gain this experience. As you will learn later in the book, when you start to write and prepare for the audience and stop worrying about yourself, many of these anxious feelings will dissipate.

 

Thomas B. Dowd III books The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas: Growing from a Cynic to a Professional in the Corporate World and From Fear to Success: A Practical Public-speaking Guide are available under “Products” on www.transformationtom.com.  Book and eBook purchase options are also available on Amazon- Please click the links to be re-directed:  Amazon.com