Archive for August, 2010

May I help you? Sure, what do you need to know?

August 29th, 2010 Kevin No comments

We interact with strangers all the time. Many help us buy things, like waiters at restaurants with our order or associates at stores who help us when we need to find a product.

Those are the people who ask, “May I help you?”, right?

That’s right, it is a common question that people at stores and restaurants ask; and it’s not very helpful. It makes us work to figure out what it is they need to know from us to help them help us.

Is there a better way?

Yes. If the people don’t clear up what they need to know to help us, we can say, “How can I share what I know to help you best?” In this way we ask them what they need to know from us to help them out. This method puts the control of figuring out what the other people need to know in the hands of the people in the best place to know how to do just that… them!

Why is this useful; it sounds silly?

It may sound silly and yet it improves mutual understanding by helping them help you on their terms. The question allows them to focus on what they need to know from you to help you.

Can you say that again, differently?

Yes. It turns out that helpful people who ask “may I help you” end up making us do a lot of work to figure out how to give them the information they need to help us. So, this method of offering the helper the ability to explain the process they use to help can do wonders for speeding up the understanding process. “Help me– help you– help me.”

Example please?

A good example is a call to a bookstore. Say you know what you are looking for (a book). The person who answers the phone asks, “How may I help you?” This is because they don’t know if you are looking for a book, maybe you want a CD, a magazine, or directions to the store. Lots of options. Who can say but you, right?

So you respond, “how can I share what I know to help you best?”

Exactly! Here’s the dialogue:

Book seller (on phone): can I help you?

Buyer: I am looking for a book. How can I share what I know to help you best?

Book seller: well, do you know the title?

Buyer: sure, here it is…

It’s that simple?

Yes. You see, when the book seller asked whether or not he or she could help, that question did nothing to frame mutual understanding. While you may mention you are looking for a book, you still don’t know how the person searches for books.

So you want to know his or her process for helping you?

Precisely. What does the system for finding books, computer or manual, need to know from you? Will it be the title? Author? Year? Dewey decimal system for goodness sake! Since you do not know how they do what they do, this method of asking what is needed from you prevents you from saying anything that is not important to them.

You are making sure you help them to help you?

Yes. This approach, in short, lets them help you help them. It does that by having them request the information you have that will help them help you, and to do that in the way that is the best way for them.

There is a bonus: this method works with coworkers and loved ones too!

Try the method sometime when a coworker or spouse offers to help you. Ask them how what you know can best help them help you. Doing this will help clarify what they need to know, how they need to know it, and what they will do with what they need to know. It will also really boost the mutual understanding that happens between you. Try it.

Have fun!

Categories: Thoughts Tags:

Bundiction: know what that means?

August 24th, 2010 Kevin No comments

I bet you have never heard of a “bundiction” before. With good reason: I made it up. It is what it sounds like. It stands for: “bundle of contraditions.”

Can you put it in context please?

Sure: “He is a bundiction; he says one thing, gestures another, and means a third thing altogether! How frustrating!” See, the “he” is a bundle of contradictions.

Who cares?

We do. Or should. Because we are all bundictions. Interestingly, while we see the contradictions in others it is real hard to see them in our own actions and thoughts.

So are you asking me to use bundiction when I talk with others?

Exactly. It will help you. We all share in these complex contradictions, so invoking the word will hopefully encourage you to have more empathy. The path to overcoming obstacles starts by admitting we have them in the first place.

Give it a try. Good luck!

Categories: People, Thoughts Tags:

Use the “language of choice” to talk better

August 20th, 2010 Kevin No comments

How much fun is it to hear these: “You should do this,” or, “If I were you,” or, “You know, this is what I would do.” Not fun, right? If not, why do we sometimes say them? These phrases are contrary to the “language of choice.”

What do you mean by the “language of choice?”

The “language of choice” includes phrases like: “You have the following option,” or, “Here is a choice for you to consider,” and the ever faithful, “This is one opportunity and there are many more.” It simply refers to the conscious effort to package your suggestions carefully, so that the other person understands your intentions and authentic efforts to share what you know, feel, or sense about what comes next.

The”language of choice” is critical as we offer to others what we know.

The language of choice stands for this point, which is also the point of this post:

we have a conscious ability to give people a better way to experience our suggestions.

Do you have some specifics to help make sense of that point?

Sure. Specifically, we can share what we know better by minding our energies, word choices, body language, and states of mind. Each one of these elements offers a unique ability to give choices to others that come across as well intentioned, reasonable, and therefore, acceptable. By keeping these elements in mind we do better as we offer others choices that they may or may not follow; it’s their choice!


Sure. Word choices are easiest and you read some examples of those above. The following nouns are a good starter list: options; considerations; suggestions; opportunities; choices; paths; ways. Use them like this: you have the following options; here is an opportunity you might consider; and the helpful, here are several ways of doing it and you choose what’s best for you.

What about body language cues?

I define body language to include tone and pitch and other non-verbal sounds. When offering choices it is best to do it without judgment, bias, or noticeable weighting of the options offered. The body cues that support these conditions include “openness,” of eyebrows, shoulders, palms and chest. Other cues involve a steady and soft gaze, a heart-felt tone of voice, and quiet pauses between choices. Those pauses give them a chance for chance and opportunity to blossom. And of course, when offering choices make sure to let the person have the physical space enough away from you, quite literally, give him or her the room necessary to decide things on his or her own.

States of mind and energy; what happens with them as we offer choices?

States of mind and energy are noticeably harder to coordinate as we offer choices to others. The good news, if you use the right type of body language cues your states of mind often follow! When you answer a question and do so with choices, the preferable state of mind is “ponder.” Ponder as a state of mind causes us to be considerate, understand things aren’t always as they seem, and as we ponder we know that minds are not yet made up. Alternatively we can simply offer choices with a statement. The state of mind that works best then is an open one; literally, an open state of mind. I know, this is vague. What does open mean here? As a state of mind, consider that an open mind implies that there are no barriers present, there are no pre-determinations, there are no boundaries.

What energy works best when we share different choices?

Energy is the critical element necessary to master the language of choice. To pull off honest, reasonable, and well-meaning choices shared with others, we must connect with their energy, and their sense of things. Because the choices we offer come from us and not them, efforts to manage our energy when sharing choices is hard.

Do you have some steps to follow on how to manage energy while offering choices?


First, acknowledge that the energy of the moment is key to a successful outcome. That will help you maintain conscious awareness of the energy.

Second, us energy that links your senses with the other person’s senses when you state your choices. Alternatively, if you answer with choices, use the energy of making sense. That energy is firm, grounded, it is energy that knows from where it comes.

Third, mind the flow of energies, your own and the other person’s, as they merge. Does a union of energies happen, or, is there a clash? Answering that question lets you know how well your choices are received.

Have fun exploring the language of choice. Let me know how it goes!

Categories: Learning, Thoughts Tags:

Rebuke, a work in progress

August 19th, 2010 Kevin 1 comment

Rebuke is an odd word. It is rarely used. The definitions I find do not shed light on how this word makes sense in the presence of trust and in the absence of judgment.

Can you rebuke someone without judging them?

Here is my dilemma. I have come upon references to people that seemingly knew how to rebuke others (that is, stiffly correct them about something they did) in the absence of judgment, all the while maintaining absolute faith and trust in them. How is this possible?

How can we present a rebuke that isn’t completely offensive?

I am unsure. Some people seem to be able to rebuke others and not judge them, all the while maintaining absolute faith and trust in the person.

Is it really possible?

I don’t know. Frankly, whether or not anyone has been able to do it, the question to us remains…

Can we rebuke without judgment those people we have great faith and trust in?

This post is a work in progress because the art of rebuke is little discussed and rarely asserted well. Rebuke in the absence of judgment is simply unheard of.

How do we rebuke without judgment while maintaining trust and faith?

No answer. Is it even possible? I don’t know. I know this, rebuking someone without judging them, and while trusting them, is a goal worthy of trying.

If you know the answer, please share!

Thank you.

Categories: People, Thoughts Tags:

Blind reliance on individual memory can really mess with a company’s outcomes

August 14th, 2010 Kevin 2 comments

We make memory mistakes all the time. Modernly, it’s gotten really bad because our memories simply cannot keep up with all that we now see, hear, and experience. One researcher notes that it is incredible we remember anything accurately at all! Here is the kicker, we personally are hard wired to believe our own memories are accurate, true and sound. Yikes!

So what are we supposed to do?

OK. If you agree with me that our individual memories really stink, what can we do about it? How can we stop the inaccuracies of our individual memories from messing with our corporate minds and outcomes? Let’s think some about that.

Before you get me thinking, mind telling what the point of this post is?

Sure. This post is about well-intentioned individuals who have faulty, wacky memories and the clear instruction that they should never rely on their memories as proof for any outcome when more than one person shares responsibility in the outcome. When people invoke their memories and recollection as true and accurate, they can really mess with the best available outcomes for their companies.

How so?

If a person relies on his or her own memory (which by nature fills in gaps poorly and makes stuff up), that reliance may cause them to ignore other resources available to them, like the recall and memories of others or the software and data systems that companies buy to help retain information and reuse it.

Is there science behind these claims about faulty memories?

Of course. Researchers identify over three dozens ways each of us fill in gaps in our memories to fill out what we believe is true. They call these “memory biases,” and prove we all have them. These memory oddities exist to make us feel better about what we know and help us understand things on our terms and in our best light.

Can you give us an example?

Sure, “I knew that was going to happen!” Heard that one before? When we say it of course it is true. When others say it, we say, “Yeah… right.” What I am saying is that we swear we knew it would happen when it happens to us, and at the same time make fun of others when they do it. This particular bias is called “hindsight bias” and it happens to all of us, all the time.

Is it a control thing?

You betcha. That is exactly what it is. To keep control of how we personally sense things, and to ensure we don’t freak out all the time, our brains help us out by letting us fill in gaps of information in a way that helps us make sense of it. In other words, our memory system helps us make sense of things regardless of the impact our gap filling ways have on others.

Are you saying that individual memories can be bad for the company?

Exactly right! When it comes to individual memories, blind reliance on them without a reality check can have terrible and sometimes fatal business impact. Because we are all prone to recall error, relying heavily on what we can remember to make company decisions can mess with the best available company outcomes.

So what’s the decision maker with the goofball memory supposed to do?

Easy; ask around. Check in on the pulse of what others believe. Experience first hand their own faulty recall. Put enough different recollections together and hone in on what the facts truly are. This kind of inquiry will help a decision maker get a sense of how others recall and see things, and gauge what to do based on all the best available information.

So, what’s the outcome of all this?

The outcome of acknowledging our own faulty memories is a clear mandate to call upon others to make sure we have a well-rounded awareness of the facts. Doing this instead of relying on the one memory system we are hard wired to trust most can produce staggeringly better business results.

Give it a try, let me know how it goes!

Categories: Brain power, People, Questioning Tags:

Receive any QNAs (questions not answered) lately?

August 13th, 2010 Kevin No comments

QNA stands for “question not answered.” Have you had any happen to you lately?

Can you give an example of one?

Sure. Question: “How’s John doing on the project?” Answer: “The thing is, we didn’t set things up as well as we could at the start.” That response answer’s another question (asked to themselves, such as, is there a reason John is doing poorly, or, how did John get assigned to the project). That second question shows up in the person’s head, maybe triggered by the first question (in this example, the question about how John is doing). Because the second (never vocalized!) question gets answered, the person who asked about John (1) doesn’t know exactly where the answer came from, and (2) still doesn’t have an answer to his or her first question!

For what reasons do questions go unanswered?

I don’t know! You don’t know. Often, the person answering does not know! More importantly, when we fail to follow up… we may never know the answer.

Do you have a process for how to deal with QNAs?

Yes. Here it is:

First, know QNAs happen. You might even add the idea to your frame of reference, “Is that a QNA?”, next time someone does not answer the question you asked.

Second, do something about them. You have options when a QNA shows up. For example, be persistent with the question you did ask, focus on it until you get it answered. Or, go with the flow a bit and remember in your short term memory that you still did not get that question answered (harder to do and easier to deal with from the other person’s perspective). Another tactic is to set the stage for the question a little better by asking questions in and around the one you need answered. Another way to get at the answer is to ask a different and similar question that gets close to what the answer may be.

Third, let whatever happens happen (i.e., don’t get mad at QNAers!). Frequently, people will still not answer a QNA. No surprise really because that’s why they did not answer it in the first place. That’s ok. At least you tried!

Is there an outcome to knowing about QNAs?

Yes, there is. It turns out, if you actively pursue QNAs, and get good at it, they happen less. Explaining for what reasons that happens would remove some of the magic. So instead, just try it for yourself and see what happens!

Challenge the next QNA you hear. Let me know how it goes!

Categories: Questioning Tags:

Tethering: the fine art of throwing others a bone

August 8th, 2010 Kevin No comments

Has this happened to you: someone speaks about something; they show excitement, passion… and… wham! None of it makes any sense to you at all! Been there?

What can we do?

Have you ever heard the phrase, “Can you throw me a bone?” People use that phrase when they feel like they have not connected to what we are trying to say. They use it when what we say comes out of the blue for them because they need us to help them “get it.” They say it when their best efforts to understand won’t work.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we gave each other “more bones” when we talked?

I bet you would appreciate folks making sense more often. In particular, I bet you would benefit if people explained themselves better when they talked. Imagine better explanations happening daily in our talks for a moment… ahhh.

Is there anything to be done about this?

Here’s what can be done. Let’s all learn how to “tether” better. In fact, let’s make “tethering” a commonplace tactic for understanding each other better.

Hold it! What is tethering?

“Tethering,” for purposes of our talks, is just like what it sounds. The word “tether” means to tie together, so “tethering” is a talk technique that helps connect what we say with the kind of thoughts that will help people better understand what we are saying.

Can you give me an example?

Sure. When we “tether” a conversation, we tie what we say to something the other person already knows. “You know Billy, he was at your party the other day [here comes the tether...] and wore the shirt you laughed about with the pink polka dots, …” When we offer a tether like this, it helps the other person make better sense of what we are saying. There are lots of Billys and not all of them wear shirts with pink polka dots on them. When people are “tethering,” they tether what they say to things that will let the other person better understand the point they make.

Wait a minute! Throw me a bone now… what are you trying to say?

The art of “tethering” helps others connect what we say to what they already know.

Do you have another example?

Sure. Take a topic like “rebuke.” First of all, what the heck does “rebuke” mean? Second, for what reason would I talk to you about it? Third, what does rebuke have to do with you and why do you care to hear me talk about it? Quite frankly, what’s in it for you to listen to me talk about rebuke at all?

And so?

So, when you have a topic like rebuke, share your definitions at first. In the rebuke example, define what rebuke means. Then, give time to process the definitions and let the person sort out the different ways to think about the words. After that let him or her know why you brought up the topic, make the reasons compelling. Finally, explain why you are the right person to tell him or her about it.

Please summarize the gist of this post?

The gist is that if you tether your thoughts more, the quality of your talks will go way up. What follows are simple steps you can use to tether any topic. Good luck!

Step-by-step guide to tethering your talks

Step one: give definitions (even if you think everyone already knows them)

Step two: explain the reasons for bringing up the topic

Step three: make “what’s in it for me?” (WIIFM) clear and relevant

Have fun! Let me know how it goes.

Categories: Thoughts Tags:

When we peak perform, our ego dissolves! Huh?

August 3rd, 2010 Kevin No comments

Ever notice when you really “hit it out of the park,” when you perform beyond your expectations and sense you had a peak performance, you have a hard time recalling the specifics? In fact, “you” get lost in the moment as time stands still and “you” find yourself in the zone?

Where does our ego go when we experience a peak performance?

We don’t know. It turns out “they” (you know, “the scientific people”) studied this in labs and have proven that when folks have a peak performance, they don’t think of “themselves” at all. Instead, they leave their egos at the door. Peak performance, it turns out, happens without our ego present. Or at least, there seems to be no need for it. The ego just doesn’t surface. Maybe a better metaphor: it dissolves to allow room for our peak performances.

Holy moley! The ego dissolves during peak performance?


What does that mean, really?

It means that when we make sure our ego is present and we pay a lot of tribute to our ego and the ego of others, the chances of us or them having a peak performance are slim to none. In other words, peak performance wants to happen without our ego being present, or at least, when peak performance happens, our ego is not present. Cool, right?

So what else does it mean?

Another way of saying all this is that to peak perform at work we must get rid of our ego! At least, we must calm it down so it doesn’t get in the way. Ego-be-gone. Poof!

Poof!? There goes my ego? Are you crazy?

That’s about right. I’m crazy. Or maybe I just want to see more peak performance in the work place. So, next time you really want to peak perform, think about nothing. In true Yoda form, “do or do not… there is no try.” Mostly, feel the force and deep six your ego. Who knows, you might just watch your performances go way up. Could be.

So why all the pop business books about ego this, personality that?

Marketing and sales I guess. When was the last time an ego fest or a personality party really got down to the brass tacks of getting things done? Think back to your best performances, I bet you had a sense you were doing something for more than yourself, right? Or at least for that moment, it felt that way. Strange, huh?

So what are you saying about our love for the cult of personality at work?

The concept of personality typing and meeting ego needs may actually hurt, not help, our ability to consistently perform at peak levels. That’s all I am saying. More to the point, I have a hunch that by focusing on personality types and ego assessments, we may well be taking ourselves farther away from, not closer to, our peak experiences at work. Oh darn.

What are you really saying?

The gist of this post is that if you want more peak performances at work– from yourself and those you work with– do more things to reduce and dissolve your egos.

Well… let me stew on this one for a while.

Take some time, let me know how it goes!

Categories: Brain power, People, Thoughts Tags:

Improve your talk one skill at a time; start with silence!

August 3rd, 2010 Kevin No comments

So you have decided to change how you talk. Congratulations. Now what?

Where should you start on the way to getting better at your talk skills?

Great question. Many possible answers and one that rises to the top: start with the talk skill you can change with the least amount of effort. Focus in on that one skill and you will give yourself the confidence to change some other talk skills too– including the more complex skills like negotiation, influence, or empathetic listening.

Can you answer the question: which talk skill should I start with?

Well, I waffled on the answer to the previous question because everyone is different. Really and truly, only you know where to start… only you know which talk skill of yours will be easiest to change. That answer is a bit of a cop out, a “QNA,” or question not answered, so I think I owe you one possible answer. Here is comes:

Start with silence.

Really? Yes… really. Start with silence. Start with the talk skill of silence; getting better at silence will be easier than you think. Trust me.

Well, that’s not very helpful!

I know: encouraging you to start with silence is like saying “work on your listening skills,” or, “don’t judge people.” So vague and amorphous, that advice comes across like a cheap copy of a Monet painting– lots of color with little or no definition. So why am I offering this advice? Because with a little effort, you will get great results.

Start with silence; the key is, be truly silent.

So when you are being “silent,” there must be absolutely no words spoken (the obvious point), and absolutely no non-verbal cues, mumbles or pitch and tone expressions… none, zippo, nada (this second point is the less obvious point). The combination of silencing your words and silencing your body language along with other non-verbal stuff helps you really feel, and appear, silent.

Why should I be so silent?

When you are truly silent, you listen better. Again, better silence, better listening. Also, you pay attention to more things and less to what you are agreeing or disagreeing about as you hear and experience the other person’s shared thougbts. And interestingly, a by-product of a better form of silence is that people will like you better. So go ahead, try out your new found kind of silence soon and experience first hand the power of true silence.

Let me know how it goes!

Categories: Thoughts Tags: