Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Language will keep you afloat but it takes motivation and connection to move

People often ask me for two things when they want to improve their communication. They want to know more words and they want to know language patterns that they can memorize to get results.

This is a picture of a long canoe. It seats up to 11 people.  It's very stable: if you're taking inexperienced tourists out for a paddle on the marsh, you want them to stay on top of the water, not in it. But does that make it good as a canoe? It depends on whether you want to stay afloat or get moving.

I don't know how fast this canoe goes or for how long because that depends on who is in the boat, what they know, and how much they are willing to work as a team to move the boat.

Language is like this long canoe. It keeps us afloat: if we have words, we have the possibility of connecting through conversation. But if we want that conversation to go somewhere, we need more than words. We need muscle and coordination. The muscle comes from knowing what you want. The coordination comes from a connection that supports what you want. 

The language is like the canoe: it doesn't go anywhere on its own. It goes somewhere when you and the person you want to influence want the same thing and are willing to move to get it.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Lives change during conversations on this step

Welcome to the view from the front steps of the building where we train. At this time of year, the garden is beautiful and the park is green and lively. Sitting on these steps, you can watch the traffic go by or you can let your thoughts drift. But if you want your life to change on these steps, you'll want someone to talk with.

Front steps are a special place, a portal between inside and outside. They signal the movement of information and influence between what is kept behind closed doors and what circulates with the traffic outside. When two people meet in a space that is both inside and outside, remarkable conversations happen. They share a paradox, a space that is both private and public. And through that space, they are motivated to connect more fluidly and more deeply.

It's possible to have a front-steps conversation at any time of year, but it's definitely best when the sun is shining and the air is warm. As you talk about whatever comes up, you feel both connected and detached. It's the perfect metaphor for the mental space that can acknowledge emotions without becoming immersed in them. It's the perfect metaphor for seeing the big picture from within a frame that defines your point of view. It's the right place to consider change before stepping into it.

You don't need our front step to make change happen. Just find a space in-between, neither inside nor outside, neither public nor private. And then meet a friend there to talk. And notice what happens next.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Dig deep for the light

This post will be a little different. If you're not feeling the poetry, tune in next week.

If there's one thing I  have learned
It is this.

You will never reach the light by climbing
By stretching for the skies
By skimming over the surface.

You have to dig deep for the light
Under the hurt, under the hope, under the things
That have never quite healed.

You have to dig deep for the light
Undistracted by the wind
or the noise of things that fly.

And if I see you
With dark eyes and a shovel
I'll bring you a cool drink
And a bite to eat.

And if I see you
I will look through
The darkness in your eyes
To see the glimmer of the light
So you will know

It's worth it to keep digging
For the light you cannot see

You have to dig deep
For the light.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

What's stopping you from having more confidence?

Is this what confidence looks like to you? Some people think confidence comes from deep roots in tradition and thought and money. Some people think it comes from looking like people and institutions that are backed by authority. They think confidence looks like long-held power.

If this is what you think you need to achieve in order to feel confident, then confidence can seem impossible. 

I think confidence looks like a two-year-old shouting bus! I think it looks like someone in a kitchen, peeling potatoes without thought because she's peeled a million before that. I think it looks like the grin before the shot gets taken. 

There's a lot you don't know and will never know. That doesn't stop you from enjoying the thing you have just learned. It doesn't stop you from knowing what you know right down to the bones because you've practiced it forever. It doesn't stop you from taking joy in playing the game.

The thing that stops you from having more confidence? It's your belief that confidence looks like an institution. It's your belief that if you were really confident, that confidence would last unchanged for a hundred years.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

When you want to connect, your words have to ride your energy

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It works every time, even if you're speaking a second language or working in a field that is new to you.

Here's the magic formula for effective communication: knowing what you want + paying attention to other people = words that work. 

I know this seems too hard. I know you are tempted by the people who teach another script, another voice lesson, another theory of body language that will supercharge your communication. I know that it seems easier to work on your words than it does to work on being so clear about the results you want that you are able to dedicate most of your attention to the people you want to influence.

Attention is harder to manage and maintain than a script. But scripts don't work well without it. Your attention is signalled by energy: people notice when you're directing energy at them. They pay attention to it. And when they do, your words can ride that energy and land deeply and effectively.

But if you expect the words to do all the work, they will work only when the listener is providing the energy to carry them. And it's risky to expect the people you want to influence to do most of the work in the communication. If there's something they want enough, they'll do it, but they'll be doing it to get what they want (not necessarily what you want).

To get what you want, you need to know what you want. And then you need to direct energy at the people you need to influence to make what you want happen.