Thursday, June 4, 2009

Leverage Your Language: Professional BusinessWomen of California's Conference - Session II!

I'm still processing all of the events from that Professional BusinessWomen of California's Conference, even though nearly a month has passed!  The second session of the day for me, Leverage Your Language to Get the Respect, Results and Rewards you Deserve was presented by Colette Carlson, was one of my favorites.

Colette's energy was contagious and it was hard to not get enthusiastic about communication - an area I know I can always improve in!  Colette frequently referred to one of my favorite books,Women Don't Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide, and reminded us that we need to ask for what we need to be successful. She stated that playing it safe will cost us all time, money and sanity.

Throughout the talk, Colette continued to stress that congruency between thoughts, words and actions were critical.  This is something I know I don't always get right, and find myself surprised by someone's reaction to something I said where in my head I meant no ill-will or judgment. In fact, I had a situation turn "crucial" on me this week at CommunityOne, and I'm not sure why.

Colette had a lot of self-invented acronyms which did remind me a bit of Gary Busey, but hers were actually useful. For example, Limiting Ideas Eliminate Success (LIES) - which goes along with the entire idea of asking for what you need and what you want. She said she uses this with her kids all the time - instead of focusing on what she *doesn't* want them to do, she will ask them to do what she wants: "Please walk around the pool" vs "Don't run!".

She cautioned us to be careful about raising our voices as that is more likely to be seen as aggressive vs assertive, and reminded us to avoid being passive agressive at all costs as it will hurt relationships and prevent you from getting what you need and want.

At this point, she started drilling into specific use of language. To keep conversations safe and productive, she says we should only start a sentence with the word "you" if it is a compliment, and use "I" for stating concers.  For example,
 "You are a great hostess" is a better compliment than "I had a great time at the party".  Also, something like "I am concerned about the schedule" is better than "you are not meeting the timeline" - because the latter immediately puts the person the defense and will engage their "reptilian" brain - not the best state to have rational conversations.

Other recommendations: use "investing" vs "spending" for use of time, and "get to" vs "have to" to show that you appreciate the work and activities you are doing.  She also says to lose the word "should" from your vocabulary: it really should be will, choose or must.  For example, "I will go to that charity banquet tonight" - too many "shoulds" that you never get to can be disheartening, and means things really should be dropped from your list.

Avoid apologizing for your opinions or attempting to set expectations low - because people will listen with less credence to what follows. Never say, "I could be wrong" or "you won't like this idea" or "I'm sure I'm forgetting something".

Colette noted that it is very important to accept praise with grace and not to b
elittle your own accomplishments and to make sure you show up to meetings and events with confidence and a smile!  Be proud of who you are and why you are being included, and only pay compliments if they are sincere. People can see through insincerity and will like you less for it. I know I've personally seen many examples of this in my career!

She cautioned women against starting right out with the whole story when asked a simple question. For example, if your boss asks you "how was the meeting" you shouldn't start out with "well, the plane was running late and then our taxi didn't show up....." but give the results, "We made a lot of progress and I think the design is going to be accepted. I can fill you in on the details later if you want".  She said this is something women do - and I know I'm guilty of this, as I do love telling stories. :-)

At this point, she went into a barrage of meeting skills that I think we can all benefit from:

  • Speak up early

  • Be Inclusive

    • connect to everyone with your eyes, not just one person.

  • Avoid raising your hand

    • children raise their hands, not adults. This is something she sees as a unique female meeting habit.

  • Make statements

    • Don't present your ideas as questions

    • Claim your ideas

  • Focus on others

  • It's better to be interested than interesting

  • Provide Value

  • Share your "because" (basically what led you to your conclusions or why you are asking for things)

  • Stories, when told at the right time, make things more memorable

  • always smile

It was a LOT to absorb and typing up this blog entry a month later was a good exercise for me to remember all of this. Next comes the tricky part: using it!

1 comment:

  1. Great summary, Val. I have read "Women Don't Ask" and "Ask for It" and many other books about this subject, but reading your summary of this talk still got me thinking about things I need to do differently. One ironic change in my meeting skills: I've learned how to get people to come to consensus better, but sometimes that leads me to present my ideas as questions, or otherwise encourage other people to think of my ideas as their own. I can probably accomplish both goals - get my ideas recognized and get people agreeing - if I try.