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

4 items categorized "Influence"


Telling "The Third Story"

IStock_000001056012_webI looked at the time.  Just 5 minutes before I was to teach communication skills in conflict management with Hippo Solutions to a group of employees at a company in Franklin, Tennessee.

Since I had a few minutes to spare, I checked my email.  Wow- what timing!  A friend had just sent a distressed message, forwarding on an email she had sent to a client, asking me what she had done wrong. The client had called her on the phone spewing a verbal firestorm, saying her "tone" in her email was totally out of line.

I looked at what she had written.  She had started the email by defending herself, stating her perspective of something they had discussed earlier.  Right out of the gate she had shot herself in the foot (how's that for two idioms in a row?).

I hurriedly wrote her back.  "It's best to have these kinds of conversations in person or at least on the phone.  Email often doesn't relay our 'tone' accurately.  In any case, you might want to try starting your conversation by showing that you believe the best about him, stating something you can both agree on."

It was exactly what I was about to teach.  Advisors from The Harvard Negotiation Project in their book Difficult Conversations recommend that we start from "The Third Story."  Instead of starting from The First Story, your story, in which you would say, "I think you are wrong," or from The Second Story, in which you would say, "I know you think you are right," try starting from The Third Story.

Whether it's a tough conversation with a coworker or your spouse, the Third Story is the story you can both agree on, the story which starts, "You and I both want this relationship to work," or "We both want to keep this customer," or "You and I both love our kids."  In so doing, you start by affirming the other person as having good intentions and paint the picture of the two of you on the same team working together to solve a problem.

Then you can clarify, "It seems like we have different perspectives on this.  I would like to hear yours and share mine with you, too."  (Of course, you would say all of this in your own words so it won't sound like it came directly out of a textbook.)

After I finished teaching the session to my captive audience, I checked my email.  My friend had decided to call her client.  Not surprisingly, he call-screened her, so she left him a message.  If he gives her another chance and calls her back, I have a feeling he's going to hear her begin the conversation with a much better story- The Third Story.




4 Actor Techniques to Be More Persuasive in Your Delivery

IStock_000015522057_webLearning the communication skills of persuasion and influence helps you become a better leader and more proficient at your job (read: more valuable).  It is one of those skills that makes a big difference when used as a tool (and not a "weapon").

While most of us want to become more persuasive, most of us have work to do on our delivery.  In fact, how we deliver our messages is what is restricting our effectiveness.  Whether you are influencing a peer, a team, or an entire organization, these four actor techniques will help when the "curtain goes up" and all eyes are on you:

1.  Persuade with your eyes

Most of the time we focus on our words when attempting to be persuasive.  It was once said that our eyes are the window to our soul.  Focus your attention to your eyes.  Think about the most dramatic movie scenes you have seen.  Watch them again and pay attention how the actor(s) convey the true drama with their eyes.  When you are giving a persuasive message, focus on your eyes by making solid eye contact, and intentionally conveying emotion and passion.  You may try "rehearsing" in front of a mirror by reciting your "message" internally while focusing on generating emotion coming from your eyes.

2.  Invent your Enthusiasm

Let's face it - sometimes we really, really need to be persuasive, but we just can't get enthusiastic from the context, content, or purpose.  That lack of enthusiasm and energy shows.  So...invent your own enthusiasm, by creating an "as if" scenario.  If your passion is to teach people, act "as if" you are teaching people and let your enthusiasm come out.  If your passion is software coding, act "as if" you are creating or discussing a great piece of software code.  Find an "as if" scenario that you can connect with that creates enthusiasm for you.  It works.

3.  Smile like a Capuchan Monkey

I don't know if capuchan monkeys actually smile, but it invokes an image for me to smile like I never would otherwise.  Like our eyes, smiling has an incredible effect.  Your recipient will respond both physically and emotionally.  Even on the phone, the person at the other end will be able to "hear" the smile in your voice.  You may feel sillier than a capuchan monkey but it won't come across that way.

4.  Make it about your Audience

An actor wants to connect with and move their audience.  The focus is on the audience, and when we are trying to be persuasive, it is no different.  What's in it for them?  Do you care more about being persuasive or about what's best for the other person?  Is your motivation to look good and get what you want?  Or to make them look good and help them get what they want?  Do you want to win?  Or build a long-term working relationship?  People can feel your authenticity and sincerity, and whether you are more concerned about them or yourself.  Make it about them.  Change your thought process by asking "what's in it for them?" or "what if I were in their shoes?"

While you may not literally be performing on a stage, each of us are performing on your own "stage" every day.  Focus on one of these techniques and watch for the subtle differences they have in your audience.




The Power of a Personal Story

IStock_000035105200_webAfter conducting a great actor-based training session on Motivating through Storytelling for Business last week, I learned something from an unexpected source: my eleven year old son.

One of his classmates shared how she is experiencing a difficult time because her parents are divorcing.  The class was discussing what it's like to go through a difficult time in your life.  This prompted my son to share a personal story about how we had to evacuate our home in California a few years back because of a wildfire that was coming towards our neighborhood.  We could literally see the flames from our window, though the fire was at a far enough distance that our house was not in imminent danger.  He shared how that was tough for him, and how fearful he became of fire over the next few years.

That had a positive impact on his classmate, to the point that she went home and told her Dad, and her Dad mentioned it to the teacher a few days later (who in turn mentioned it to us).

I found it fascinating because it is hard for me to equate a kid going through divorce with an evacuation.  After all, we got to go back home and all was well.  And yet it did have an impact.

I believe it was because:

  • He was authentic and sincere.
  • It was a personal story - not an anecdote or someone else's story.
  • He was willing to share it in a vulnerable setting.

In a business setting, do we need to be wise about telling personal stories?  Sure.  But personal stories can be a powerful way to come alongside a team member, motivate a team, build trust, and have a positive impact on the lives of those around you.  Too often we separate our personal "selves" from our work "selves", but when we are vulnerable and sincere, we become better leaders and influencers.

"But I can't think of any personal stories!"  That is a statement I often told myself, but in reality we have many stories we could tell if we would stop coming up with excuses as to why we shouldn't tell them.  Our stories do not have to be unique or compelling or even emotional - just personal to us.  That's the power.  Here are some ideas to help you prime the pump:

  • What happened to you today?  This week?  This month?  Last year?  In the past?
  • What happened to you at home?  At work?  Someplace else?
  • What is something on which you worked (i.e. a project)?
  • What is something a team experienced on which you worked?
  • What is an adventure you took (i.e. vacation, team building, hobby, fun event)?
  • What is an event or story that really gripped you?

Perhaps we could learn something from a pair of eleven-year olds.  I know I did.




Once Upon a Time...4 Tips on Using Stories to Influence

IStock_000001026615_webOne of the best ways to motivate and influence others is through the art and science of storytelling.  Would you prefer to listen to someone give you five bullet points in a business presentation on why your change initiative is important?  Or listen to a story on how the change initiative will change your life and/or the life of your customers?  Give me a story any day over facts and bullet points!  A story activates our entire brain and is much more likely to be remembered.

The theatre and acting community excel at telling stories, so there is no reason to reinvent the wheel.  There is a lot there for us to learn.  In fact, here are four tips to start using stories in your communications:

  1. Use a metaphor or analogy to draw your audience in.  Help them connect the dots.  For example, a new product you want to implement is like a tool (hammer?) that helps us complete a certain task.
  2. Include the three elements of a good story: an introduction (who we are, what we want), a conflict, and the resolution.
  3. Include a surprise in the story - people love surprises.
  4. Practice with your family, friends, and "safe" colleagues.

Perhaps we will expound on storytelling in future posts.  You can never get too good at this stuff.  Let us know about your storytelling experiences!