Taking Your Stage Blog  
  Helping you improve the communication skills of the leaders and teams in your organization.  

3 items categorized "Communicating on your feet"


Boom! How to Stop Conversation Bombing

IStock_000004563504X_webLast night I was at friend’s house telling someone a story about something I had heard on the radio.  During a pause between two sentences, a third person started peppering me with questions.  He obviously had not heard the beginning of the conversation.  By the time I was done answering his questions, the person to whom I was originally telling the story had been grabbed by someone else.  The story was never told.  It was like a grenade went off in the middle of the dialogue.

Have you ever felt that way?  It resembles a carefully scripted, dramatic scene in a play whose momentum screeches to a halt because one of the actors jumps their line.

My conversation-bombing friend was well intentioned and I enjoy dialoguing with him.  He didn’t intend to conversation-bomb and acknowledged his error after the fact.  I can’t cast much blame because I know that I have been a conversation-bomber myself.  More than anything, it reminded me to be ever vigilant to how I am in my own communication skills to enter conversations without conversation-bombing others.

How do we stop?

1)      Change our attitude

Before you conversation-bomb, think about which of these attitudes is driving you:

  • I have to know everything.
  • I have to know what is going on…now.
  • I don’t want to miss anything.

Guess what?  It’s not all about you.  You don’t have to know everything, and you don’t need to know now.  Instead change your attitude to focus on the story-teller.  It’s ok to enter the conversation, but how can you do it in a way that makes them look good?  The best communicators make others feel important.

Use “WIIFT”!  “What’s in it for them” – the same thing a good presenter will use when delivering a message to their audience.

2)      Ease into the conversation

As you enter the conversation, do so my listening instead of talking.  In fact, don’t say anything for at least 60 seconds (for some of us that is a long time not to say anything).  Make it a challenge.  What can you learn just by listening?  Can you answer your questions?  Consider yourself exercising your communication “muscles” by focusing on listening.

If after 60 seconds, you still have a question, wait for the person to finish their story, and politely ask, “I apologize, I missed the beginning of the story, what happened to put the team in this position [or whatever your question is]?”  Or you could even wait until a little later.  The person may be flattered that you showed an interest in their story, while not being so focused on yourself.

Becoming a great communicator means doing little things.  When you are in a social setting, pay attention to how often you may be conversation-bombing.  It’s a great place to practice those ever important listening skills.

Perhaps next time instead of conversation-bombing, we can do some conversation-cultivating.





How Not to Become a LinkedIn Viral Rejection Source

IStock_000010294012_webOrson Rega Card said "Among my most prized possessions are words that I have never spoken."  Wise advice indeed.

You have probably heard the story by now - a person in Cleveland rudely replied to a LinkedIn connection request...and her rejection request went viral.  I saw it on several news sites this morning.  Everyone knows what she said.  I am not going to use her name here because I am sure she has been beaten up enough and that's not the point.

She has apologized and included the following statement: "Creating and updating the _______________ has been my hobby for more than ten years. It started as a labor of love for the marketing industry, but somehow it also became a labor, and I vented my frustrations on the very people I set out to help."

It's easy to jump on the bandwagon and criticize her, but when I hear that statement, I realize this could easily be you or me.  I have certainly felt frustration at what once used to be a pleasure.  And all it takes is one person to post a poor communication from us and there you go...  Years of goodwill can be dismantled.

In all likelihood we will not find ourselves as a news story on CNN, but how do we keep ourselves from one mistake that eats away at our reputation?  Two ways:

1.  Proactively evaluate your life

What is a source of joy and passion?  What is a source of stress and even resentment?  Don't wait to address this because stress and resentment will come out some day.  We're human.  We feel.  We can't keep it bottled up forever.

While there is no easy answer for what to do (each situation is different) let me make a few suggestions:

  • Talk to a mentor (ask someone you trust to listen and provide you with some advice)
  • Read a book such as Start or What Color is Your Parachute.
  • Find a way to give back to others, such as a charity or ministry.

2.  STOP your communications

How do we check ourselves to make sure that we don't communicate poorly in a moment of frustration?  Airline pilots use an extensive set of checklists to ensure that they do not make a mistake and properly manage their risk.  So I came up with the following checklist to follow BEFORE sending out any piece of communication (verbal, written, or electronic):

S - Step Back.  Do I need to step back and wait before communicating?  Am I communicating from emotion?  Do I need to take a deep breath and come back later?

T - Tone.  Is my tone positive and respectful, rude, or even apathetic?  How could it be perceived by the recipient?

O - Objective.  What do I want to accomplish with this communication?  Is my articulation of that objective clear?  Is it articulated in a simple form that the recipient will easily understand?  Is the objective worth pursuing?  Does it build up this relationship?

P - Purpose.  Why do I want what I want?  To win?  To be right?  To collaborate?  To make the other person look good?  To make me look good?

If you sense that feeling of frustration, let that be a red flag.  Be proactive and make the changes necessary to resolve it.  And when you do make a mistake (we all do), be like the person in Cleveland who was very gracious, honest, and apologetic in her responses.




How to Communicate On Your Feet in Business

Stick_present_smallCommunication skills are vitally important in business and teams - they determine the effectiveness of a leader and the results achieved from one-on-one discussions and team meetings.  If you are like me, you know this but there is one glaring problem: give me time to analyze the situation and think through what I want to say and I'm good.  Throw something at me that I wasn't expecting and...not so much.  That's probably why I love presenting in front of a room full of people over navigating the dynamics of more intimate groups.

But Improv provides a great tool to help communicate on your feet (improv means to perform spontaneously).  You may have seen an Improv routine or a show like "Who's Line Is It Anyway?".  You probably thought, "there is NO WAY that I could do that."  Surprisingly there are a few tools that actors use to keep the scene moving along that simplifies the process.

One such tool is called "Yes, and...".  When someone makes a statement, you say "yes, and...".  Instead of stopping the flow of the conversation, it is a simple tool that enables you to do two things:

  1. Acknowledge what was said.
  2. Move the conversation to a new place.

Here are some examples:

Person A: "The project is doomed, all of our processes are in trouble, and we have way too much work."

You: "Yes, and what is one thing we can do this week to take a step in the right direction."


Person A: "I don't agree with the decision.  I think we should choose option B."

You: "Yes, and sometimes we have to do things we don't agree with so that we always function as a team."

It is not a magic bullet, but it is amazing how that one little tool helps focus the brain on what to say next as well as provides a nice way to steer the conversation.