3D Communication

When we think of the term "professional communication" we tend to think about things like: How neat and tidy does the communication sound? Are the words understandable? Is it graceful, tactful? Does its tone and content fit with the cubicle fabric walls, auditorium, conference room, or whatever the setting is?

When I train and coach people who want to engage others at a higher level, rather than have their communication blend into the static, I like to use the term 3D Communication. It's a label that helps put focus on how our communication can be used to make a more '3D' impact instead of falling flat. 'Multi-dimensional' communication is achieved by the synthesis of our (1) auditory, and (2) visual delivery choices to tap into (3) an emotional response from the receivers. These three dimensions are the key areas that determine how effective, engaging, funny, exciting, and moving our communication will be.

Popular radio hosts have the talent to present with finely crafted auditory ability, speaking in a way that engages people through syntax, tone, rhythm, and narrative. Dancers present themselves to us by syncing visual expression with auditory music, using their bodily control in range, speed, and rhythm to drive themselves to great performance and audiences to applaud with emotion. Psychologists and therapists use their auditory and visual choices to achieve emotional responses of comfort and safety within their clients so they will want to open up and share more, allowing for more assistance. 

As a communicator who wants to influence others in a work environment or from a stage, our role is to inhabit all three of these dimensions as fully as possible. 

Want to get better at making making yourself a 3D communicator? Video record yourself communicating in an environment where you want to make a greater impact. Mute the sound and watch. Close your eyes and listen. As your own audience member experiencing this playback, what do you think of that person? What does a friend or trusted colleague think? All personal improvement requires introspection. 

Brains and Football

"According to federal court records, the NFL expects nearly a third of all retired players to develop a long-term cognitive problem, such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, as a result of playing football. Neuroscientists are studying the link between these destructive cognitive effects caused by repeated impacts to one's head and the link between them and the high occurrence of suicidal tendencies and resulting self-inflicted deaths in its former players. These deadly cognitive effects can and do occur to a degree from playing all levels of full-contact football, but the higher the level of play and longer the duration, the greater the risk for the player."

-what should be posted before and during every football game

I love the game without the hits. I used to play it every recess and Saturday as a kid. I also love how it gets so many kids active. But if we can't let go of the love of violent hits in the game, former players will continue to kill themselves and develop degenerative brain diseases due to playing the game.

The difference between gladiator combat and modern head-impact sports is that in ancient times we would see the player die on the field. Now we watch a slow burning fuse being lit, with people dancing and cheering and wearing costumes as it burns; the jubilation of a touchdown makes it less likely for us to notice the game is killing those young men. And boys.

Don't buy the merchandise. Don't watch the ads. Don't let your child play a game if it entails head collisions of any velocity. As an educator and a father, I ask you to consider taking action to show you care about the players and their families at least as much as you like the game.


ODP, Yeah You Know Me

I love talking with people who work in organizations that have clear and coherent organizational development plans. It doesn't matter if it's the best plan right off the bat, or if it works all the time or if some people don't like it.

They just have a plan. And the people who work there nearly always appreciate it. 

Having a plan is a start, and it's a start that puts that group in a more dynamic position, since most organizations prioritize organizational development plans how many schools prioritize art and music—it doesn't exactly dominate.

If an OD plan is defined as:

Clear, specific goals


with timelines

accounted for

with contingencies (if it's a big plan and the organization is conscientious about mistake mitigation). 

An Organizational Development Plan helps focus the organization's performance rather than suffer from efficiency bleed due to staff constantly seeking clarity, questioning company OD objectives, or just not focusing on getting better and doing their best work.

Cool roof. You know what happens as trees get older, right?

Cool roof. You know what happens as trees get older, right?

Social scientist and OD pioneer Kurt Lewin ("luh-veen") illustrated the concept of efficiency bleed with an analogy of the company being a car that is zooming down the highway. As it drives by it looks fast, it's moving, it's going somewhere. But what you don't notice from that perspective is that even though the car is moving quickly, the parking brake is on.

That's organizational efficiency bleed. You can't always see it, because people are getting things done, work is happening, the car is moving forward. But the parking brake is dragging group effectiveness down, burning extra fuel without achieving maximum thrust. 

To improve a group of people is not easy. It requires a lot of work with the individuals who make up the group. There needs to be both individual and overarching change management plans. They need to be clear and specific, written down, with due dates, and with accountability. And if it's a serious enough plan, complex or with potential problems, contingencies should be forecasted.

A nice thing about ODPs is that they function with any group size. In a training and development company I used to work with one of my jobs was to make sure departments and projects had leaders who both enjoyed and used ODPs for their staff. Now, as a consultant I make sure I have ODPs for myself. What do I want to improve upon? Exactly how? By when? What will I do if it doesn't work to the degree I want?

People tell me that the biggest reason leaders don't make plans (or have staff dedicated to OD) is that it takes time/money—time they feel their people could instead be "doing something." As someone who has been responsible for budgets I understand the sentiment. And if your organization's work is simple and your staff are clear and doing repetitious work and the results are making everyone happy and people get along well with each other and your people have no desire for growth or improvement, then why implement a new plan? It would be a waste of time. I would also hate to work there, but I'm sure there are people who would love to just do the same easy thing every day without improvement.

Yet the strongest businesses continue to strive to grow, innovate, create new products and offerings, to learn adaptation and to improve themselves, to think differently and stay in front of the curve.

Who are your organization's best role models for personal development?

Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants And Taking A Leak

I often consult people who are on teams, departments, project groups, or similar. I've also been on a number of teams myself over the years.

A question that sometime arises in OD training is, "Is it possible to 'get ahead' at work without leaving others behind?" It's a great question for anyone who works with others, because often our coworkers are our friends, maybe even our family, or at the very least people we care about, people who have their own families, are fighting their own personal battles — we want to look out for them while also looking out for ourselves.

Ha ha! Kidding! Screw that! We want more MONEY and POWER all for OURSELVES, right gang? I'm Number 1! I'm Number 1! 

So here are three proven backhanded compliments you can tell your boss that aim to upgrade your position by diminishing a coworker's.

  1. The Teaser Compliment. What it does: Praises with an open loop at the end, creating questions in the boss's mind about what you are leaving out. Example: "We all like Bob—that's never been in question..." (Usage Tip: After the last word in the compliment, tighten your lips and stare slightly off to the side with a mildly sad look in your eyes!)
  2. The Lonely Compliment. What it does: Praises a coworker's personality or other quality not directly related to his work skills. Example: "Bob has a great heart." (Usage Tip: Say it while softly sighing!)
  3. The Situational Compliment. What it does: Praises a coworker's behavior that manifests itself selectively. Example: "Bob is such an awesome teammate when he really tries!" (Hot Tip: Shrug on the last word!)

Practice these and you too can appear positive yet cooly disassociated from compassion or loyalty to anyone other than your boss. It's a WIN/WIN — for your position AND your ego.

Go get 'em, sport! 

Leadership Descriptors

A typical label of people's leadership ability often lies somewhere along a continuum of "strong" to "weak". I.e. "He's a very strong leader," or "She has potential but isn't a strong leader yet."

An inherent problem with this descriptor range is that its ease of simplicity also implies a narrowness in scope of what a leader can be. The mental imagery created when we hear the word "strong" conjures up images of clenched fists, a booming voice, and an aggressive, chin-forward style. It's classic western-masculine.

While it is useful to be able to play these 'classic' traits well in some situations, a nuanced and dynamic world benefits those who can choose which style to be based on the present environment. If the goal is a wide scope of positive leadership results, understanding the power of dynamic discernment is vital. 

Language has an enormous influence on our state of mind. Look no further than the resources allocated by companies to marketing their brand. They know that brand is not just important—it is so important that they will spend more than the annual GDP of many small countries.

Considering leadership ability a "leadership brand" may sound a bit much, but it also might open some mental doors. Defining one's leadership brand requires being honest with some questions:

What are qualities I have that engage others? When and where are those personal qualities best on display?

What are things about me that repel people—even the people I don't like? What could happen if I dampened those qualities or behaviors?

Who are people I know personally through work or socially that I consider good leaders? What about them makes me think that? 


Separating The Wheel From The Car

I am amazed how some companies have separate curriculum development departments and learning/training departments. Does it stem from lack of understanding the teaching and learning process? Do they feel there is enough interdepartmental cooperation and communication to justify it?

The first education and training company I worked at believed in the synthesis of the company's What and How, that is, the pure blending of content and its delivery. Finding success in that model of blended curriculum and delivery work fostered  even closer working arrangements between us that necessitated overlap and mutual reliance. It was our own version of the Apple model where hardware and software are built together. 

What was achieved by this model was strong alignment in both company products and internal training. It took the piecemeal feel out of training and development and made it work the same way as company branding processes do: lay it all out and make it all part of the same family.

It seems like for some companies—including some major ones—there is a fear of having too many people in a department or of an impression that writers are not trainers or...something.

I just hope that it is not the writers who are positioning themselves solely as writers and not trainers/teachers/facilitators, or vice versa. Learning how to do both to some degree, even if more talent lies in one area, is so crucial for helping people learn because writing content and delivering it creates an appreciation and understanding for the challenges and needs of each area, which facilitates deeper quality and better serving of the client/learner.


A Curriculum Writer's Rules

Writing curriculum for a variety of organizations  over the years has led me to adopt certain beliefs about the work. Here are some rules of thumb I use to create and edit my writing projects when the goal is engaging, useful, valid learning.

  1. As wonderful as curriculum may look on the page, if anything is stated as a fact it must be fact checked before it goes public. The most credible author to fact check is neuroscience tried and tested by actual scientists. The trick is that common sense is often at odds with common science. Common science - although less popular in a sound-byte heavy world - is more respected by more intelligent people.
  2. Just because a something makes sense doesn't mean it's true. 
  3. Just because something is dramatic doesn't mean it is true.
  4. Personal boredom is not a valid reason to make changes to existing, working curriculum. Updating to meet new understanding is great. Reinventing curriculum that the public/client already loves and is proven successful is self centered. If people love something it should be carefully considered as to why. Success demands respect, not tweaking to suit personal design preferences without evidence of merit.
  5. It is okay if the writer/teacher does not personally find value in a concept as long as he believes others can find value in it. But that being said, using and modeling concepts is a more integrated platform from which to teach.
  6. New curriculum: Test it and let other trainers test it before making a final decision about whether to keep it.
  7. Curriculum must be executable by the intended trainers, not just the author/teacher.
  8. Curriculum should be based on the most memorable, relatable, and implementable version of a relevant topic for the audience.
  9. Everyone's a critic, but creators are rare. Steve Martin once said of a bad review of one of his plays, "I wrote a play and he wrote a review, and that's the difference between us."


Watch yourself.

Watch yourself.

Music and our mental-emotional state

I recently got a question from a friend about music and its uses in learning. I am not an expert in it but I like the subject and like to stay informed about music and its effects on our metal and emotional state, specifically as it pertains to uses in education and learning.

There is a lot of different research on the value and effects of music, but there is even more pseudo-research (basically smart sounding opinions), so it is tricky to sift through. I have formed my own take on the values and problems of music based on my own reading and thinking - I am no scientist, so take it for what it is worth.

What I have come to believe over the last ten years is that certain kinds of music may help certain people get into certain states, but it depends on the person, the context, and the music used. For example, what does the music mean/not mean to them, are they receptive or do they enjoy that kind of music or not, are they listening to the song while they are stressed or angry about something or do they hear it while they are already relaxed and open minded, do they hear it at school or at home laying on their bed, etc. The state created by music is highly personal, based on our own experiences, preset mental preferences, genetic dispositions, and cultures. I have never seen a study of a large group of people with a wide variety of ages and contexts where it says "this is what this music does for everyone". I don't believe it can be done, based on my own use of music in learning environments over the past 20 years.

Even using music to exercise to has been proven as both good and bad for the listening exerciser. Some people work out longer when they have no music. Some worked out for shorter periods of time because the music made them expend more energy in a shorter amount of time (top of page 4). We can imagine that without any clocks to time themselves they may have thought "Oh, I love listening to music while I exercise - it really helps me!" even though it was actually distracting them from their exercise duration goals.

Ever heard anyone quote the "Mozart Effect"? The "Mozart effect" has been disproven. It probably stemmed from an adult who really felt themselves learning or working harder when they lsitened to Mozart, so the studies they set up were biased and therefore flawed.

So who is to say what is relaxing music, or what music is best for learning? If you go and play Baroque or classical European music like Bach or Handel or Vivaldi in a small classroom in Kenya or in a Hebrew street gang meeting, do you think their response will be different than in a suburban Minnesota school? If a bunch of students start saying they hate the Baroque music that the teacher is playing that is intended to "help them focus", does that mean the students are wrong and it really does help them focus? Whether the student agitation is true regarding the music or whether it is a response to them not liking the teacher or class (i.e. the context the students are in), they still are reacting with agitation and they believe it is triggered by the Baroque music.

So with all the conflicting studies out there what I now train people who use music about it is the influential tendencies of music with groups we are familiar with, not the facts of how it affects people, because there are not any strong comprehensive facts to work with that I've found. (If you know of any studies that cast light on these murky waters, please send them my way!) 

Starting At The Bottom - The Infinite Ascent

There is a pyramid of value traits I sometimes address when training a staff. I call it The Infinite Ascent. 

When we work with others in a person-to-person live dynamic, there are certain things that our participants (audience, students, trainees, etc.) want from us, consciously or not. The Infinite Ascent attempts to distill a variety of those desires down to three categories.

Picture a mountain ascending high in front of you. It is divided into three natural levels. The bottom level is made up of green trees. The middle level is gray rock. The upper level is white snow. And above that you cannot see, because the peak of the mountain disappears into the clouds. 



The tree level at the bottom of the mountain is labeled willingness. This is the base level trait that must be present in our behavior for all purposeful growth, improvement, and results. To take on anything hard or difficult we need the effort. To work through a challenge or stress of doing something new at work or in our communication we have to be willing to try, to fail, to experiment, to be dogged.

The mid level of rock is labeled resonance. People who display high resonance are able to connect with others and form positive relationships. Resonance is different than charisma. Charisma draws people into us by how we look, sound, and move, but charisma is not necessary to make friendships or meaningful connections, and it certainly does not dictate lasting relationships (Hello, Hollywood).

Resonant people are active in their intention to respect others, regardless of position, title, or other inconsequentialities to being human. When resonant people listen, they do it as a full-on 100% effort, not as a side task amongst other 'more important' things or interruptions. Resonance is empathetic and friendly.

The upper level of snow in our mountain model is labeled skill. Skill here is defined as the tactical stuff we know and do. Skill provides us with credibility and results and they are really important, but sometimes they are not important at all to those people to whom we mean the most. Are your fiends interested in you for your work skills? Family going to leave you due to your lack of tactical knowledge? Probably not so much.

The thing about mountains is that when climbing we expect it to eventually stop. But this one doesn't. (Thus the "Infinite" part, eh? eh?) Somewhere within the cloud covering, where its peak would typically be, there is only more mountain. The metaphor is of course that we must always be mindful of our eternal capacity for willingness, our ability to resonate with others, and our never-ending improvement of our skills.


10 Curriculum Writer's Rules

Here are some rules I strive to follow when writing or altering curriculum for facilitators, trainers, or teachers. 

  1. The most credible brain behind my curriculum is educational neuroscience. The heart is the integrity of the Facilitator.
  2. Just because a something makes sense doesn't mean it's true. 
  3. Just because something catches my ear or is dramatic does not mean it is true.
  4. Never write new curriculum just because I like it. Write it based on having the most memorable, relatable, and implementable version of the topic I can create for the intended audience.
  5. Never change existing curriculum just because I don't like it due to familiarity or lack of understanding.   
  6. It is okay if I as the Facilitator do not consistently use a concept or find value in it as long as I believe that others can, but it is always a more powerfully integrated platform from which to facilitate when I do actively use what I teach.
  7. New curriculum: Test it live, test it live again, and let other facilitators do the same before making final decisions. 
  8. What I write is best when it is doable by many facilitators, not just me.
  9. Common sense is often at odds with common science. Common science, although less popular with 'fast-and-easy' thinking, wins in the long term.
  10. Everyone's a critic, but rare is the creator, and even more rare is the appreciation of creative talent. Respect creative work with benefit of doubt.

Kenny says "Keep the fire, baby!"

Big Daddy: Kurt Lewin

Pronounced "luh-VEEN", this Polish-American scientist has rocked my brain since I first started reading his work about ten years ago. Known as a founder of social psychology, he coined the idea of Group Dynamics, totally relevant to anyone working with groups of people. I'm no expert on the guy, but here is an overview of some of his work that has changed how I approach my own.  

Field Theory:

B = f (P, E)

where B = Behavior, f = a Function of, P = the Person, and E = the Environment. So simple to remember and so useful to reinforce the notion that all of our words and actions stem from thoughts that are initiated by ourselves and the environment we are in (people, sounds, looks, smells, etc.).

Action Research Theory, a model for imporovement:

PLAN, ACTION, FEEDBACK (he also coined the term "feedback" as pertaining to people's behavior, where prior it was solely used for electrical feedback)

Force Field Analysis:

Regarding goals, there are always DRIVING FORCES moving us toward the goal, and RESTRAINING FORCES hindering our progress. The hindering forces are like a parking brake, applying drag to the efficiency of our forward progress.

Leadership Climates:

Democratic, Authoritarian, Laissez-faire

Change Theory:

UNFREEZE-CHANGE-REFREEZE. To learn new behavior we must unfreeze our mindset of inertia through confusion, mentally transistion, then refreeze our mindset to reset comfort with the new behavior.

This guy is a monument in the behavioral science realm. He died in 1947, so big ghost hugs to Kurt!


Every Word I Say Is A Promise

When I cancel time with you so I can spend time doing something else I send the message that I have a hierarchy of friends, and you are definitely not at the top.

To me, being nice means caring about others. It is a high value for me.

There is no such thing as a "promise" in my life. If I say I will be somewhere or spend time with someone then it is the equivalent of a promise. My word is my promise. I will do my absolute best to keep my commitment. And if I cannot keep my word due to emergency, or if I choose to break my word due to personal preference, then my responsibility says I must be up front and immediate with those who I am letting down, and I must accept the consequences of the accountability image I set for myself.

I recently called a friend a "better offer whore" (in a lighthearted tone with all the joking-yet-seriousness I could manage). He had backed out on me for a social event for another social event. When I told him I felt he was taking a better offer than me and that was frustrating because I had spent time and energy on the original plans, he got angry and said he was "making better choices".

I agree he was making better choices - for himself. But making better choices for oneself regardless of how it affects others is not what relational responsibility is about.

Did you consider how your "better choice" would impact others before you made it? If I am not committed to a person or event from the start, okay, but I must let that qualifier be known. If the 'better offer' circumstances are truly extraordinary and I do my best to make it up to or include my friend (or family) in my new plans, then that is great as everyone wins.

Otherwise, living life by the code of "If something better than this comes up then I will back out on you," is not going to cement any trusting long-term relationships. It sends a powerfully negative message about one's values.

When I give my word to anyone about anything I have the highest expectation that I will fulfill my word, and if I don't it should not be handled with just a "Oh by the way I can't." It should be handled promptly, with grace and sensitivity.

The Immediacy Rule


The Immediacy Rule is a communication rule I use when training people who work with others for a large part of their time. The rule is:

Other people don't care about your intentions.

Living day-to-day life, the interpersonal rule of thumb is that we simply interact and then react, caring only about communication results we get from another: what we feel or understand.


To care about other people's intentions is a luxury that is afforded only when taking the time to have a longer conversation about communication with someone else, usually stemming from a misunderstanding or argument we had with them. Too often, "You misread my intention," is something people use as a defense about why their communication created a problem.

This is not to say that intention is unimportant. I believe intention is the primary driver of the emotional response we get from others. Yet as a rule, people do not consider your intention when they are experiencing how clear or impactive you are. They are just reacting to your verbal, vocal, and visual choices.

On a note regarding the receivers of communication, there are x-factors. Sometimes we develop what are called "filters" in our mindset that cause us to more easily and/or severely misread another person's intentions. For example, as we listen to a colleague who has broken our trust in the past, our reticular activating system actively - yet unconsciously - seeks phrases that could be lies, and our confirmation bias hijacks our decision making to decide that they are lies.

Thinking and learning about communication skills assists growth in becoming more conscious in clarity of intention, and also to listen with more openness to others intentions, too.

Funny: instinct > calculation

I am nobody famous. I am not a standup or a comic actor. But, like you and any convict with Internet access I can start a blog for free and write my opinions on things, pretending I am smart and that I know what I'm talking about.

As a life-long standup lover and of comedy in general, I can be awesomely nerdy when it comes to analyzing why things are funny. Style, content, timing, all of it fascinates me. And I am not a comedy snob. I enjoy a good baby farting on Grandma just as much as I enjoy Woody Allen.

So of all the things I believe about comedy, my thesis is this:

Funny: instinct > calculation

Here are some of my beliefs about humor that have tended to hold true over time.

  1. Being consistently referred to as a funny person is not something that is able to be trained. It is a way of thinking we get from our parents and friends from a very young age. 
  2. One's Level Of Funniness can be sharpened with the right kind of experience.
  3. Being funny with family = Level 0; being funny with friends = Level 1; being the funniest of your friends (as decided by them) is level 2; being funny with strangers casually/socially is level 3; being consistently funny in front of crowds of strangers is the ultimate level 4. 
  4. Improvisation is not the same as telling pre-crafted jokes - they are different humor skill sets with only a little overlap. 
  5. Being able to analyze humor is a million times easier than actually being funny. 
  6. Writing funny is a different skill set than talking funny or 'doing' funny.
To earn the phrase of having a "sense of humor" you should have to actually be able to make people laugh. A lot. Otherwise you don't have a sense of humor, you just appreciate humor, like every human on the planet.
    That's it.

    Getting Past The Gatekeeper

    Let's take a look at how we can talk with a secretary, assistant, or "gate keeper" on the phone so we can get to the person we want to reach.

    A little context...

    • I am not interested in lying about why I am calling.
    • I assume the gate keeper does not have time to dilly dally: this is a timed event. 

    That said, I am going to use rapport techniques to try to connect with the gate keeper on a human level, and I'm going to use convincing techniques to transparently and emotionally show why I should be speaking with my intended target.



    1. Be Polite. More people are impressed by those who know how to be polite than by those who self-describe themselves as "no-nonsense and direct" (and who others describe as "ass holes").
    2. Use Friendly Tones. Don't be monotone, add some variety in your inflection. But please: stay natural. Nobody likes Goofy The Dip Wad except for other Goofy The Dip Wads.
    3. Use A Unique Greeting. These can be achieved through tone, rhythm, and word choice. The typical machine-gun-business-call starts like: "Hi this is Steve with Arrowood Training and I'm calling for Frank Anderson?" Uh... okay, thanks, telemarketer guy! Instead, slow down, be clear and articulate, and if you say something, MEAN IT. If you say "How are you?" Listen to their response and respond back to it.

    I used to be an intern at The Actors Studio in New York on West 44th Street. One day my boss Jerry gave me a binder full of phone numbers of actors and directors. There were some huge celebrities in the binder, simply listed in courier font like an old phone book. I recall seeing numbers for Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro, Christopher Walken, Julia Roberts, Robin Williams, and Stephen Spielberg, some of which found their way into my pocket notebook. Jerry told me all the A-list types I couldn't call, as he would be calling them, but he still gave me some people I was nervous about.


    Usually I reached voice mail or an agent, but once I got the wife (presumed) of George Roy Hill, director of Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid and The Sting. She said "Hello?" and I said, "Is this a real person?" She laughed and after a minute of purely fun social interaction I heard George shouting in the background, "Who is that?" and I got to talk with him.

    I have always felt that building rapport in many business dynamics is more difficult than doing in social dynamics. That's because as the initiator of the rapport building, I am often not only in a timed event with the receiver, but I also run the risk of coming across as insincere in my communication. This can lead to my being seen as manipulative, worsening relationship between them and me, or them and who I represent. My goal is to come across as human versus as 'caller #46'. The only way to do this is by being sincere. If you are not sincere in wanting to interact with the person on the other end, you probably should not be trying to build rapport with strangers.


    1. Offer Transparent Explanation. Be clear and up-front with your intention.  
    2. Use Emotional Conveyance. Show your natural sense of urgency, sincerity, or importance in what you want). It's natural to use both techniques simultaneously, and both require specific choices in tone, pacing, rhythms, emphasis, and word choices.

    When I was in college working with a temp agency, I once was given a list of names to cold-call invite to some newly formed charity business organization to try to get them to join. The company I was temping for was not that concerned if they joined or not, they just wanted the calls made. But I made it my mission to get as many as I could.


    I remember speaking with the assistant for a guy way up the ladder in Coca-Cola, and the way I got through to the guy was just by being really transparent. I ditched the robotic script the company gave me when his assistant answered. "Hello, my name is Steve Arrowood and I'm a temp worker in New Brighton, Minnesota. I'm calling to let David Iverson know about this new charity organization (whatever it was) so it can get started right. I'm not calling for money, I'm just calling for one minute of his time. From what I know about it, I think it is really worthwhile and he might be interested." She paused, "OK, who are you again?" I restated it all in different words and I got through.

    Different people are convinced by different things in different scenarios. Sometimes you can get a read on the person on the other end of the phone and you can best choose your convincing technique. Sometimes they give you an opening like, "Who are you again?" and you need to recognize it and jump in to go one step farther in rapport or convincing.

    Got another example or story of something that worked?

    Doing Without Knowing

    Say you know someone, perhaps in your profession, who you admire - whose skills you would like to be able to do or whose types of creations you wish you could create.

    In the training and education industry, I see trainers use each others curriculum, stories, games, and methods ALL THE TIME. Even when the content isn't open source, it gets taken by contract staff and participants who simply go out and do it so that it soon becomes open source - rarely is educational content original or documented to the extent that it truly belongs to someone.

    So there is the ownership issue, but there is also the personal issue. All legalities aside, what happens to us when we see someone or something and we try to emulate without understanding the reasoning, history, or theory behind it?

    I believe that through this behavior we stop being ourselves and start being a version of ourselves we wish we were. We do it because we want to create the same results we saw them get. Yes, imitation can help us learn and get better results, but if we stop there - copying without improving and making something truly original - we only achieve a light shade of the source, and that makes us appear disingenuous.

    There will always be those who are content to peddle carbon copies of things they saw and heard, but as an educator, a learner, the challenge is to steal what is legal and morally conscientious, and to do it for the purpose of building something better.

    True North

    Over the past year I've done some work facilitating youth learning programs for a Danish education company called True North, and in April I joined them full time as CEO (/facilitator/curriculum developer/staff trainer/everything). Small company. You know.

    The work is fun and meaningful, and the people I work with care about quality and give me lots of trust and autonomy, so I am having a great time.

    So now I am in the exciting position of wanting to move to Copenhagen as soon as my wife and I have our baby boy in October and are able to sell our house. (If anyone wants to buy a house in Oceanside, California, let me know.)

    One of the fun challenges of working in a small business for me is recognizing which area to devote time to in the company at any given moment: marketing, sales, development, staffing, etc. I have gained a lot of good execution ideas in various company areas from reading and talking with people who have been in similar positions, but with a never-ending stream of company needs and far more to-dos than time, the priority question is constant.

    Earlier in life I learned how to check-off to-dos, now I am learning how to delete them.

    How To Use Tiger Woods To Manipulate Your Friends

    A guy I know just asked this question on his Facebook feed:

    Are you a fan of Tiger Woods: Yes/No

    My first reaction was to think not about my answer, but about the question. Why was I uncomfortable with it?

    Exploring the question's design, the question asks me to consider emotionally charged, polarizing topics (adultery + celebrity fandom), then cram-wrap my answer into a yes/no format by presupposing there is only one black-or-white definition of "being a fan".

    While I know there is no true answer to this question because it is an opinion, it still left me considering how people - intentionally or unintentionally - ask these Loaded Questions.

    Loaded Questions are questions which presuppose ideas or facts. In the 'Tiger Woods fan' example, it posits that I think of myself as either a fan or not, with no other possible alternatives. And it asks that I give a definitive "yes" or "no" first and foremost, which leaks 'emotional bleed-through' onto the remainder of any explanation I give. Loaded Questions unfairly manipulate the responder/audience by projecting a contrived reality onto others.

    Why do people use loaded language?

    1. It gets easy ratings/attention. The emotive response makes it tempting to use for people in the public eye (e.g. political talk show hosts, public speakers, media, bloggers).
    2. It less directly promotes your own perspective. It is more of a soft-sell tactic than a hard-sell. "I'm just asking questions, your honor!"
    3. It is easier to use than logic or reason.
    At 1:45 of the below Crossfire clip is an example of a Loaded Question when the interviewer asks Jon Stewart about political candidate John Kerry.

    Stewart's first response is to devalue the over-simplified question by using humor to 'misunderstand' it. Stewart then redefines a more honest and informed question for the interviewer, which results in the interviewer rephrasing the question at 2:15. (And if you're interested, Stewart then proceeds to deconstruct the show's loaded format entirely.)

    Maybe you are sitting there thinking, "Hey, I want to learn how-to / how-not-to load a question!"

    Here are a few ways to load questions and language in general:

    1. Offer the person a narrow set of responses. "Yes or No?" "Who is best?" "Did you or did you not?" If you are in an adversarial position with the responder, when he responds within this frame you are able to either (a) cry foul on his answer because he is lying/denying, or (b) say "I win" because he agreed with you.
    2. Use subjective phrasing. "Why would you harass me like that?" "How do you justify saying that to me when I am just trying to help you?" "Have you seen how bothered some people get by what you just said?"
    3. Use words with emotional pull. "How would you feel if a young child was in the room when you said that?" "As an American, it is my responsibility to ask you..." 
    4. Faux-pliment. "You're a trusting person; could you loan me your car for the weekend?" "I have always admired your integrity; can I take you to dinner so I can get to know you better?" Or, "Thank you for being respectful and paying attention by sitting up straight," said to a group when they are not.
    5. Use circumstantial/anecdotal evidence. "How can you say that, when everything I know from my 36 years on the planet says otherwise?" "Your eating habits remind me of a young boy I knew who tragically lost his life when he was much too young.""99.9% of people would agree that..."
    6. Speak fast. A physical technique, simply speaking fast can induce faster response time from the responder, which produces less critical thinking and lower quality responses.
    Got more? I'd love to hear them or get links.

    My next post will be how to deal with people who are using loaded language.

    PS: Thanks to Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, and all the other talented media, politicians, and humble, patriotic folk who "tell it like it is". You inspire me so much when you tell all your friends what a great blogger I am.

      Words Fail Me

      Easily the most common technical mistake I am still apt to make while verbally communicating is to drive at a point, re-drive at the point in different words, and then ensure the death of the point with even more driving and rewording.

      'Words + Words • Time' is a great recipe if you want to inspire boredom.

      This 'Death of Words by Speaking' situation occurs for various reasons. We may like hearing our own voice and think we have a big bowl of important things to say. We may believe if we constantly fill the silence we will look confident and certain. And some of us think we are supposed to talk all the time when we have a listener.

      Still, words lose meaning very fast when there are a lot of them. Some listeners can hang with us longer, but we all have listening limits, and the limits of listening to talk are short. Even the greatest actors in the world are ineffective at holding attention if the narrative is uninteresting.

      Speaking needs constant variety to keep audience engagement, and therefore comprehension.

      Variety can be achieved in many ways, from facilitated choices like orchestrating purposeful audience movement, topic-based partner or group sharing, or the use of visuals. Variety can also be heightened with presentational choices, including how we use our verbals.

      Here are a few strategies that have worked for me in most situations:

      1. Prepare specific phrases for certain points. I tend to dislike scripted talks, but a few prepared phrases work well to nail a point and cue me to move on.
      2. Use periods. Many phrases are more effective when followed by a pause, resounding more loudly without a bunch of 'noise words' after them. 
      3. Allow acuity to affect delivery. It is damaging to sell people on a point when they are already sold, need a different dynamic to understand, or just need more time to consider what you are saying. Constantly see and hear your audience; are they with you or do you need to change your pattern?
      4. Appreciate that words are musical. Musical climaxes cease to be impactive when they have a bunch more music at the same volume after a peak - climaxes just become plateaus. Monitor your rhythms, paces, and volumes, and accept that every group has limits on how long they can listen to one person talk. 

      Perhaps I've said too much already.

        Goal Setting Is Personal

        I have a little secret that I rarely talk about, except with friends, because it is so apt to be misinterpreted:

        I dislike setting goals.

        There, I said it.

        But sometimes I teach concrete goal setting models to youth. Is that hypocritical?

        For me, I am fine teaching things that hold potential value for others, even if the thing does not work for me. Teaching from a place of "Let's explore this and see if it works for you" is a delightful place to live and gets good results, in my experience.

        I want to be clear that I am not unproductive. I consider myself efficient and happy with my efforts the majority of the time. I just don't feel a connection to writing down specific accomplishments in a concrete way; it has not worked for me in any sustainable fashion. Benchmark thinking has always felt false for how I interpret the world.

        I'm not saying that goal setting does not work for many people, but to throw concrete goal-setting and "writing it down" at people as an answer to leading a productive and lovely, successful life of achievement? Barf-o-rama.

        For me, personal efficacy entails:

        1. What is my direction? (in my work, relationships, endeavor 'x')
        2. What values do I want to embody? 
        3. What is my moral code? 
        I apply these qualities to my interests and have been very happy with the results. It is a less concrete, more open-ended formula (if I can call it a formula at all) that matches my thinking styles to my approach. The most meaningful things in my life have been ongoing processes or personal growth, and I haven't thought of those experiences in terms of achievements, but rather emotions of satisfaction and meaningfulness.

        All I can do is give my best effort. Where I end up is not always up to me.

        It would surprise me if there were not others who shared similar ideas about goal setting, but I have only met one person who has expressed this to me. Honestly, I don't go around sharing this model too often, so I haven't opened many doors for conversation on the matter. Perhaps this is because my way of goal-thinking can feel more nebulous, or I have not found the right way to explain it effectively.

        Maybe I'll set a goal to figure out how to do that.