Archive for April, 2010

Mup: a word for “I just made that up”

April 27th, 2010 Kevin No comments

We all make lots of stuff up everyday. Its part of our DNA, our hard-wiring. Aside from maybe B… S…., we don’t really have a convenient way to explain that our answer, one we are willing to share with others, is on shaky ground, unsupported, and leaking proof.

Calling BS on our own stuff is no fun

I for one don’t like to say my own stuff is BS. From my experience, no one else does either, although the air is filled with it. So, we need to get together and come up with a word that explains this situation.

And let’s hurry because the made up stuff is piling up!

Making stuff up is what we do (our memories stink and this is nature’s solution: when you don’t know something or can’t recall it, never fear, just make it up). We do it daily, all day, all the time, so this word would come in real handy.

Who’s got an idea of what to call it?

We could just send this word out there, that way, we would have carte blanche to keep right on talking. By using this word we would square away with the listeners by letting them know where we stand with what we’re saying, and this could help ourselves too because often, it’s the self-deceit that’s the worst kind!

Beat the self-deceit: get off the hook with a made up word

OK, here’s my proposal for a word that can stand for making stuff up:

Mup. Stands for: I’m about to make something up.

There you have it, mup away.

Categories: Thoughts Tags:

Cue up some cues: the power of cues in our talks

April 23rd, 2010 Kevin No comments

Cues? What do you mean by cues? Here is a working definition for this post:

A cue is an action or event that is a signal for somebody to do something

In particular, this post discusses “talk cues.” These are the things we use to anchor thoughts, connect them, move them right along, and to share our feelings and opinions in meaningful ways with others.

So what’s so powerful about cues?

Well, talk cues help us talk better. A lot better. For example, we can start a big talk by saying, “Do you have time to speak about our work for next week?” The person that hears this question knows what the questioner expects (time) and for what reason (to talk about next week’s work). He or she is prepared to assess the need expressed and consider the options. This particular cue requests permission to talk, a great move. Cues can also frame small talks, “Do you know what the weather forecast is?” Or, “I enjoyed this concert.” Once said, the person who hears such things literally gets cued up because the cue frames where the conversation is (from our point of view anyway!). Cues help the other person know where we are in the talk based on the content of our words and context of how we said them.

Cues come in all shapes and sizes

Talk cues come in all shapes and sizes and have different purposes and intentions. A cue can help secure permission, “May I talk to you about the assignment?” Other cues can promote where our thoughts are: “The spring air is refreshing today.” Still others transition one thing to another: “by contrast,” “otherwise,” and the like. Cues can also help our presentation style, it’s often better to use “we” than “you” in a talk, or to offer “choice” and “opportunity” instead of “should,” “would,” and “could.” Cues provide anchors, frames, and tethers between ways of considering things.

Cues come in verbal and non-verbal forms

Cues generally combine body language with word choice. For example, both hands up as we shrug and exclaim, “Huh?” Sometimes, non-verbal cues are enough, for instance a pointed finger or alternatively, an extended, open palm beckoning the other person to continue what they are saying.

Cues help frame mindsets

Our search for meaning can be daunting, particularly when we talk with others. And here comes the point of this post: cues help people understand each other better. Sometimes in our eagerness to speak, we do not connect very well all the reasons and thoughts and experiences that rumble in our heads. We’ve all heard the phrase, “I am trying to understand so, can you throw me a bone?” This phrase is a direct request for a cue; help me out, the person asks, give me something that lets me know what you’re thinking.

We all have the chance to make a habit of using more cues in our talks

Don’t wait till friends and coworkers have to ask for cues. Before they do, let’s go ahead and “cue” up our thoughts and feelings for them in advance. Cues let folks know where we are going and they provide the time to process the information we offer. Cues also help people organize their own thoughts as they connect what we say with what they think and know.

So for our next talk, whether big or small, let’s go ahead and cue up some cues!

Categories: Brain power, Learning Tags:

May I? The power of renewing permission throughout our talks

April 20th, 2010 Kevin No comments

May I? It is a delightful little phrase, isn’t it? A question, which serves as a cue and recognition that there may be sound reason to not go into a certain part of our talk.

Talks love to begin with permission

When we begin a talk we do not know where the other person’s state of mind is, or where his or her expectations and intentions lie, and it is hard to pinpoint that person’s emotions without further inquiry. If we proceed without permission we can gunk up the talk and make it flat and energy-less. To avoid talk troubles we can simply increase our requests for permission throughout the talk with a generous “May I?” before diving into any new area of inquiry. This includes starting a new topic with a question, or, with a transitional statement (in another post, I point out that statements always have a hidden question underlying them, and that question may trigger an area that is off limits for the other person in our conversations).

People appreciate multiple requests for permission throughout a talk

In important conversations, asking for permission once is not enough. That’s because conversations that seem perfectly safe can veer quickly into uncharted territory that for many can feel risky and unsafe. Because we often do not know the boundaries between safety and risk for those we talk to, a continuous string of requests for permission will work wonders for the other person and therefore, for us as well. With permission ever present instead of just at the start of a talk, each big turn in the flow of the conversation gains a pause to let the other person consider the merits of entering into that new part of the conversation. If the permission is denied, that’s ok, there is plenty more to talk about!

Through permission we gain the right to explore critical thoughts and feelings

That’s it, the point of this post: with appropriate and continuous permission we gain the right to explore important areas of talk filled with core thoughts and feelings. Those are the areas that build strong, lasting bonds. Those thoughts and feelings let us get to know each other intimately, so we can work and play together with mutual understanding.

Permission helps us deeply understand each other; let’s ask for it often!

Categories: Learning, People, Questioning Tags:

Statements, Unasked Questions, & Talks Gone Wrong

April 15th, 2010 Kevin No comments

Did you answer any unasked questions today?

If you made a statement you did since every statement answers an unasked question.

Think of a statement you made earlier today. Got it? I bet you made that statement because it was in line with where you were in your conversation. Let me repeat: where you were, not necessarily where the other person was with his/her thought waves.

Our statements make complete sense to us, don’t they?

So when you made your statement, of course it made a lot of sense to you. And to your credit, you thought it made sense to the other person too. As a matter of fact, just to confirm your hunch, after making the statement you might have even checked in, “You know what I mean?”

You know what I mean?

You know what I mean is a terrible question, isn’t it? Who ever says, “No, I really don’t know what you mean so stop talking!” Or as my friend says, “No, so just shut your pie hole!” Instead, the person pauses and valiantly processes what we said and hopes to figure it out on his/her own. So we can stay on the same wavelength.

What question were we answering in our statement, anyway?

What question in our heads prompted us to offer that statement earlier today? More to the point, what if we had shared the unasked question right before we made our statement, what effect might that have?

Here’s the deal: if we reveal the unasked questions first before we state anything, we will clean up a ton of our talk problems.

From what I can tell, we’ve got massive talk problems. Been caught saying one of these before? You misunderstand me; that’s not what I meant; you’re not following along; you don’t understand; this point is not that hard; you’re not on the same page; you’re making this harder than it has to be. Any of ‘em sound familiar?

Every statement answers an unasked question.

Because every single one of our statements answers an unasked question, when the person we talk with is not on the same wavelength, we can blame that darn unasked question. It’s the one that gets us off track, or “off wavelength” so to speak.

Talks gone wrong start with statements that answer unasked questions.

That’s it, the whole point of this post. Talks gone wrong start with statements that answer unasked questions. Unasked questions create gaps in the wavelengths of the people we speak with in our talks. Those gaps can be real bad for good talks.

Before your next statement go ahead and reveal the unasked question first!

Categories: Learning, Questioning Tags:

What can I take off your plate?

April 12th, 2010 Kevin No comments

When we are busy, this is the best question of all to hear. This is particularly true when a friend or co-worker states it with sound intention and a keen ability to follow through on the offer.

The maid of honor offered this question on the eve of a bride’s wedding

What a wonderful friendship these two women share. I know first hand the promise was kept. This maid of honor and best friend took on several critical responsibilities that added to the picture I saw: a happy, care free bride by night’s end. What a wonderful gift this question is to hear, music in the ears of someone who is overloaded with errands and obligations.

Next time you see a friend or co-worker with a full plate offer to take something off!

Categories: Questioning Tags:

Non-verbal messages from championship coaches

April 6th, 2010 Kevin No comments

Duke outlasted Butler last night to win the men’s National Championship basketball game. The players were a joy to watch. My eyes zoned in as well on the side lines, where I viewed in awe the play of both coaches, one with 30 years of coaching and the other with 33 years on the planet. These men offered a study of perfect body language use and execution. Poised, intense, focused. What a pleasure it was to watch these two champions play their roles so well!


Both coaches threw no chairs, offered no extended shouting matches, and needed no theatrics as they moved about the court. They sat most often with patient and deliberate acceptance of each play, fully attuned to each moment. They offered quiet confidence to their teams and demonstrated with their presence the importance of every second. There was no doubt: each man was willing and able to be there with their players; in the moment, in the zone.


Both coaches were intentionally present and, quite literally, in the game. Their focused attention arrived with a depth of intensity and emotion that needed no histrionics. There was no extra energy spent flailing their appendages, pointing fingers, wrangling necks. Rather, what we saw was an inner core in each man that sent a solid message of clear awareness, of knowing intention, to their teams. That power of presence reached all the way into our living rooms. Awesome.


We were not privy to their words, yet, each coach’s actions and staunch approach to their end goals made it crystal clear that they were on message, consistent with their game plan, and on fire. The notion that victory was in their grasp… ever present.

Powerful messaging

These coaches offer an excellent demonstration of how body and mind work together to achieve goals and deal with stressful, adverse situations. Neither man nor his players expressed defeat by look or attitude. Their body language proved visually and energetically how it is they earned their path to this final game.

Winning ways

It just so happened one team had to win. What a powerful lesson for us of the importance of body language in maintaining top level play, on and off the court. Win or lose, the ability of each coach to maintain the energy of presence offers each of us guidance into the ways of the winning. In my mind, both men and both teams were winners last night. Bravo!

Cheers to Duke… and a hearty hats-off to Butler!

Categories: Thoughts Tags:

The power of process time in your Q&A sessions

April 3rd, 2010 Kevin No comments

Questions and answers want to be in relationship with one another. This post is about that relationship and the need for time between questions and their responses.

How much time passes between a well-asked question and a responsive answer?

It depends. In great conversation the Q&A goes fast and responses freely follow questions with little process time required for most questions.

What do we make of long process times between question and answer?

Long process times between the question and answer challenge our notion of the relationship between those two. The questioner generally asks the question hoping for an immediate response. A few seconds later, ok; a few minutes and a long pause later, strain. A couple of hours or days after the question first arrives, hard on us.

What can we do about this?

Build process time, and the awareness of its need, into our conversations. Some questions are easier to answer than others. Acknowledge that. Here are some examples that take place after a string of answered questions. These examples are what can happen when we arrive at a question that generates a long pause.

Example 1

Would more time to process that one help?

Yes, thank you.

[flag the question, ask it again later...]

Example 2

You may have some incomplete thoughts on that last one?


Are you comfortable sharing your top of mind considerations?

OK, bear with me. I think…

Example 3

There has been a long pause, are their some missing facts that make answering right now hard?


Can you share some of those as you are considering them?

[Be patient, this is a tender area of a person's thinking process]

Example 4

I have a hunch, that question needs more time to consider before you answer?


Is an answer possible?

Right now I am not sure (or, yes, it just needs more time for me to consider).

Do you have a notion of how long it will take to gather up an answer?

[This is a push tactic, be ready for resistence here]

Example 5

I sense you do not currently have an answer you are willing to speak out loud?

No, just give me a second (or, yeah, you are probably right).

Ok, take your time, let me know when you are ready (or, is there anyone who would have good ears to hear the answer).

These are examples that fit a pattern.

First, sense that the question will take time to answer. Second, encourage the person to take more time. The acknowledgment of the need for more time can make all the difference in maintaining a relationship between our question and the answer we are looking for. Third, persist with the need to hear the answer and give a variety of options for how the answer might arrive, as a guess, partially formed, deconstructed from bits of information, etc. The key idea is to keep that relationship between your question and his or her answer intact!

Good luck! Let me know how it goes.

Categories: Brain power, Questioning Tags:

Personalities, communication skills, and talk tools

April 1st, 2010 Kevin No comments

When I lecture on communications skills, my “talk about talk,” I know some folks in every crowd do mental gymnastics over the following:

Is his communication skills class trying to change my personality???

The big “HECK NO” comes out of my presentation in many ways. The clearest way I know to say it:

Our personalities and our communication skills are not stuck together.

This is a freeing thought. If I decide to change my communication skills, perhaps question better or learn how to be silent without offering any body language or non-verbal cues whatsoever, it does not require a complete personality overhaul.

So we don’t need to know our Myers Briggs type to improve how we talk?

That’s exactly my point! No need to know if we are an introvert or extrovert, sensor or feeler, high influencer or big connector– talk skills are skills, and we get better talk skills when we have access to great talk tools.

Great talk tools work for all of us, regardless of our personality.

I have a hunch: if we focus more on talk tools and less on personality types we will get more done and like each other better while we’re at it.

Categories: Consulting, People Tags: