Archive for January, 2010

Change your world view in an instant: eyebrows up!

January 30th, 2010 Kevin No comments

I teach body language. I know, that sounds a little silly. After all, body language was the first language we learned (from about three months on). Spoken language did not kick in until about eleven months. In fact, before we could speak as a species, our forebears used body language (and tone, pitch, timing and rhythm) to communicate with one another. So, it is a language that presents effortlessly for us.

So what is there to learn about body language?

Well, for starters, not everyone uses the same cues. That makes sense because we taught ourselves those non-verbal cues, or had them built in at birth (for example, blind people make visible gestures even when speaking to other blind people and they do it from their earliest of ages). So each of us use our own special version of shrugged shoulders, puckered face, hand movements and other non-verbal messages. Families have their own special cues, as do cities, regions, countries, and groups of people. Lots to learn, about the differences, similarities, and meaning of it all.

Can you give us an example of how different people speak different body languages?

Sure. Consider a furrowed brow. Some folks furrow when they are angry (common), while others furrow when they are thinking. So which one is it? Hard to say without further investigation.

Are you saying there are lots of different body languages?

Exactly. Just like spoken words, there are nuances of body language, like dialects of speech. There are certain universals, of course, and there are certain ways of using our body cues more consciously so that we can make our body language make more sense to others. Still, there are lots of different ways of “saying” things with your body. That is often why the non-verbal cues of others can cause a lot of misunderstandings.

So what’s with the “eyebrows up” command?

Eyebrows up is simple to do and it is an easy way to show you the benefits of consciously changing your body language. When our eyebrows go up we let more light in. We also put part of our bodies in a place where that part (the eyebrows) often goes during an open state of mind. From that position, and corresponding state of mind, we can better consider what is happening to us.

Is there a trick to this?

Yes, and no. By merely placing our eyebrows up we put ourselves in the literal position of being open and receptive to more stuff (light for one, and also others’ thoughts and actions). This way, our bodies can inform our minds of what state to be in. Pretty nifty. And it takes almost no work to do. It is a trick if we do it consciously, and it is simply what happens naturally when we lift eyebrows up in the midst of a feeling or line of thought.

So, when is a good time to try this trick out?

Try this. Next time you are driving and something annoying or frustrating happens… put those eyebrows up! For example, someone cuts in front of you or comes too close to your car. Don’t stop yourself from getting mad or concerned. And, put your eyebrows up. See what happens!

Do you have a hunch of what will happen?

Yes. When you put your eyebrows up in a time of stress, fear, or anger, your mood will instantly change. This is my prediction. And if your body mimics a place where you normally have a completely positive, helpful state of mind, then that mood will be more present than the negative, angry mood that started to happen because someone did something wrong to you. Just try it, and let me know how it goes.

My prediction: change your body language and you will change your mind!

Categories: Thoughts Tags:

Before there were words… Neanderthal chanteuse?

January 28th, 2010 Kevin No comments

Ever notice talk has a cadence, a rhythm, a pitch, a tone?

Before their were words our ancestors communicated with music.

Dr. Daniel Levitin says it well in his You Tube video:  Neanderthal chanteuse

Because 50-90% of our communication is non-verbal, when it sounds right, we feel right.

Next time we talk let’s consider the music we make. It matters!

Categories: Brain power, People Tags:

How much do you think we remember after 30 days?

January 27th, 2010 Kevin No comments

About 20 percent. That is what a fellow named Ebbinghaus figured out more than 100 years ago.

What does this mean for answers about events that happened more than 30 days ago?

You see where this is going? Round about 80 percent of the stuff we hear comes straight out of our forgotten zones. Oops. So, how is it that, when we ask folks things about events in their lives, what they recall is usually more than 20 percent of what happened?

We are truly ingenious creatures when it comes to what we believe happened!

We make it up. Of course, there might be good reasons, logical reasons, for saying what we say. And our guess-work might be first class. Still, if you believe Ebbinghaus (and his work has been repeated in labs around the globe ever since), we are filling in gaps. Big gaps. We are actually making stuff up. Because at 30 days the studies let us know we forget about 80 percent of what happened.

So what does this mean for us and for those who give us answers?

It means first, be compassionate. Most folks don’t think their memory of events is no more than 20 percent guaranteed. Second, double check what you hear. Third, remember that the vast majority of what we recall might need fact checking, and be flexible about what the honest to goodness truth might be.

Now, let’s see how much of this post you remember in 30 days!

Categories: Brain power, Learning, Thoughts Tags:

Tell or ask?

January 18th, 2010 Kevin No comments

Depends on the end goal. I find for most things, asking works out better than telling.

Why ask when we know? Why not just tell?

Asking from a sense of wonder helps clear the moment. Questions let the person I am with express his or her thoughts. Then, I learn something and the other person reminds himself or herself how he or she thinks through things. We both benefit.

Asking questions helps us experience things from another’s point of view.

Asking questions and following up on the answers helps us see and feel things differently. Particularly when we ask to learn from a state of wonder; that’s when we seek sense of what we hear. The questions help us find mutual understanding. We learn what common sense we share together.

Asking questions helps the other person think through things.

Questions help the other person think about what he or she is saying and how it fits in with how that person gets things done. Many times the person invents a first-time response. This invention process is powerful for the person because what we say we own better than what other people tell us. This, in a nutshell, is why asking is better than telling.

Next time you want to tell someone something, ask a question. The result may surprise you.

Categories: Learning, Questioning Tags:

Smart companies ask smart questions

January 10th, 2010 Kevin No comments

Today’s Sunday New York Times (January 10, 2010) prints part of an interview with Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos. Zappos sells shoes over the internet; Amazon purchased it recently. Zappos grew into a billion dollar a year sales company in the last nine years. Here is part of its formula:

Formula for fast growth with happy employees:

1) emphasize culture, smart;

2) do so with clear, definable and simple concepts that align most of the employees, smarter still;

3) hire and motivate employees based on those concepts, really smart;

4) do so with smart questions, simply brilliant.

Smart companies know the power of smart questions.

The reporter asked Tony what question he would use to get a better sense of a person. His response:

“If you have to name something, what would you say is the biggest misperception that people have of you?” Tough question. And wait for Tony’s follow up: “What’s the difference between misperception and perception?”

Getting to the bottom of things requires more than one question.

Here, Tony’s follow up is more important than his starter question. That’s because the topic of perception unveals a person’s self-awareness and honesty. Clarifying that perception is what the questions are all about and makes sure that the candidate deals with the topic head on. How the candidate deals with it offers a glimpse at how he or she might work out in a culture that values honest awareness. Good work!

Smart companies ask smart questions.

Categories: People, Questioning Tags:

Ever notice questions go unanswered at times?

January 6th, 2010 Kevin 1 comment

Pay attention to questions that go unanswered.

We are uniquely able to move on from questions before answering them. There can be several reasons: trust of the asker; uncertainty of the answer; inability to come up with an answer; lack of interest in finding an answer; or a distraction caused by the question that leads to an answer to a different question.

Regardless of the reason, the decision to not give an answer can be significant.

Depending on etiquette rules, the follow up on unanswered questions can be tricky business. Here is another idea: mark the question and return to it later (by yourself or with the person who did not answer), to consider the reasons it went unanswered. There is rich understanding that can develop by paying close attention to the questions that go unanswered. If the answers involve teamwork or other group dynamics, spend time on those unanswered questions because they speak volumes about how those folks get along.

At times, the unanswered questions we ask can be more telling than the answers we hear!

Categories: Questioning Tags:

Employee User Guide: Ever Seen One?

January 4th, 2010 Kevin No comments

Job interviews are well-suited for learning how a person ticks. When my clients ask me to do so, I conduct pre-hire interviews as a “user’s guide.” The process is helpful for the person as well as for the employer because it turns out it helps both understand how the person gets things done and for what reasons.

Here are some of the areas I consider:

Motivations (what makes this person go, particularly when his or her fumes run low);

Goals (what does he or she aim for on the job and what does it look like when he or she gets there);

Behaviors (any particular user instructions worth noting, what standard operating procedure governs);

Fuel/resources (what makes things run right);

Range/flexibility (how far can he or she go, what does “stretch” feel like);

Needs (what feedback, relevance and recognition help this person stay productive);

“Evolvability” (what does change look like for him or her, how hard is it to come by);

Contribution (is he/she a team player or an individual contributor, describe play with others);

Purpose (for what reasons does this person want the job, to what end);

Quality (how does he or she compare himself or herself with others);

Expertise (what are the core talents, skills and competencies of this person and how do they operate).

Questions about past bosses and mentors and their impressions about the person help explore the above topics. When either of those is hard for the person to talk about, what friends and work colleagues think will suffice. Hypotheticals, analogies, and metaphors help delve into these topics too.

What would others who have worked with the person say about them? How does this person’s guidance system work? What does his or her navigation equipment look like? Is it reliable? When the person runs out of gas, has a danger light come on, or has some other calamity happen, what comes next? Folding these type of questions in helps better understand where the person stands on things.

These topics benefit from an exploration of his or her strength and style. Investigating the person’s duties and responsibilities helps explain his or her future potential. Focus on a given topic sheds light as well, for example, “Describe a role where you changed over time and let us both relive the steps you took to get from one place to another?” Always consider how he or she communicates with others and also, when he or she thinks through things alone.

To find the right people it pays to understand how they get things done: a user’s guide is a great start!

Categories: Consulting, People, Questioning Tags: