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The magic of moving beyond effective communication

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Someone I highly respect asked me last week what I stand for.  I realized it was an exceedingly good question and something I had never written about before.

I stand for something you don’t hear talked about in large corporations.

Yet it’s actually what makes me valuable to the people I serve.

I stand for beautiful communication.  In large corporations, where I mostly work, professionals and executives are always talking to me about being effective, compelling, inspiring.  Mostly about being effective.

The truth is that I find being effective rather easy and quite boring.  Someone I coach struggles to get promoted.  Then, after coaching, communicates effectively and makes it from Senior Director to VP.  Personally, I don’t find that very interesting.

That’s the reason why, when I’m coaching someone, I won’t stop after helping them be effective.  Being effective is a level they do need to hit, but I don’t stop there.  And it turns out they are always happy I don’t.

Let me give you an example. This past week I was coaching a woman who is responsible for billions of dollars for her organization.  Brilliant woman.  She’s new to the role and struggles with the leadership team she’s a part of.  I’m reluctant to mention that it’s a male-dominated team because the fact they’re men is not really the issue.  Her communication skills are.  But you get the picture.

I coached her until she was effective in getting her point across and persuading.  She was quite happy.

But I continued to coach her until her communication reached a level where it became beautiful.  When she communicates at this level, she takes your breath away. Yes, she’s effective.  But she is also extraordinarily beautiful, graceful and elegant.  Not just physically, but in her presence.

Her very being, and in the incredible quality of her communication is a demonstration of beauty.

I coached another executive on giving presentations to difficult audiences.  He went from being overly defensive and somewhat forceful to being effective.   It was good.

But I didn’t stop there. I continued to coach him until he tapped into something inside him that made his communication extraordinary. It’s funny to use the word beautiful when you’re describing a man, but his communication was beautiful in the way that Martin Luther King‘s I have a dream speech was beautiful.

It wasn’t the words that became beautiful.  It was his arresting connection with the audience and HOW the words were spoken.

And, yes, he became handsome.

To me causative communication is about a whole lot more than just being effective. 

Inside each person resides an ability to communicate at a level that is WAY beyond effective.  

Yes, being effective is a milestone.  But for me it’s not an end goal.  It’s not enough.  I coach until the natural artistry and aesthetic within each person emerges.

Their communication becomes spontaneous.  They’re not thinking about it.  It’s just coming out of them. It’s pure.  They’re in a zone where they can’t help but be amazing. 

They’re now capable of creating an extraordinary relationship, whether it’s with one person or 10,000.

If a person is willing to do the work, that level of aesthetic is always there to be found.

Beautiful communication is inspiring.  It is compelling.  It is persuasive.  It creates extraordinary leadership.

So here’s the message:

Everything you want is a byproduct of the ability to communicate beautifully.  

If you want to persuade, create an effective team, get promoted, lead, inspire, give a great presentation, get a raise, negotiate a good deal, transform your organization or get your  teenager to talk to you…

They’re all byproducts of extraordinary and extraordinarily beautiful communication.

It creates the kind of conversation or presentation where you say, “Wow! That was beautiful!”

If this is the type of communication that you want to experience, then you are in the right place to discover how to do it. 

This is what I stand for:  serving as a guide for you to transform your communication into something extraordinarily beautiful.

Be the cause!

How to make the other person defensive

Defensive

There are many ways to make the other person defensive, some more effective than others. I’m going to write about one that’s guaranteed to work every time.

Clearly I’m joking a little.  I know you want to learn how to get your point across without making the other person defensive and what to do about it if they are.

Most people don’t realize that when the other person is defensive, they actually caused it.  And they usually have no idea how they did that.  It’s a real blind spot.

Here’s one way it happens.

Acknowledgments are some of the most powerful skills I teach.  Even if you do acknowledge others, there are so many ways to mess this up that you need to know.

Acknowledgment happens at a precise point in time after the other person has told you something, anything.  They have completed that thought.  And now your acknowledgment lets them know you understand what they told you.  And, very importantly, that you can see it from their point of view.

That’s ALL it does.  If it does any more than that, it’s not an acknowledgement.

An acknowledgment does not contain any evaluation of what they said, nor any response to it.

In its purity an acknowledgement simply communicates, “I really got it.”

Acknowledgments have a profound impact on people. Having traveled the world as our programs were delivered in 30 countries, I can assure you this runs deep throughout all of humanity, all around the globe, with both men and women, with every age group, at home and at work and with the next door neighbor.  

You can observe people visibly brighten up when they are well acknowledged.  Often they look terribly relieved.

What a well delivered acknowledgment does it is it lets them know that their purpose for communicating (which is to be understood) has been accomplished.

Most people think the other person needs to be agreed with, but if you penetrate the surface you’ll see that what they really need is to be understood.  There is GREAT satisfaction in simply being understood.

Many people think the other person needs to be validated for what they said, that they need to be told they’re right (even if they’re wrong).  Again, I’ve acknowledged people who were asserting how right they were and they were quite satisfied with a well communicated acknowledgment letting them know I thoroughly understood them.  Without my ever having agreed that they were right.

So what does this have to do with making someone defensive?  People get defensive real FAST when you mess up the acknowledgment part of communication. 

Your thoughts are powerful.

Whatever you are thinking when you give an acknowledgment goes straight into your acknowledgment, and especially into your tone of voice, which really matters when you’re giving an acknowledgment.

Here’s how it happens:

You’ll hear people say the words, “I understand,” but at the same time they’re saying these words, they’re also thinking:

  • I understand but I’m not interested.

  • I understand. Now let me tell you what I think.

  • I understand but I’m annoyed.

  • I understand but please stop talking it.

  • I understand. You’ve already told me that, you’re repeating yourself.

  • I understand, but you’re totally wrong about that.

  • I understand but I can’t believe you think that.

  • I understand but let me correct you.

  • I understand but that’s not important. Let me tell you what’s really important.

  • I understand that you’re crazy (or an idiot).

The important thing is that you don’t even have to say these things. Just THINK one of them while you’re giving the acknowledgment and believe me it comes through loud and clear.  It overrides your acknowledgement.

Whatever understanding there is gets completely wiped out and all the other person hears is the part that comes after.

And so, they get defensive. Wouldn’t you?

Try a little experiment. It doesn’t even have to be a particularly significant or important or difficult conversation.

When you’re talking with someone, listen intently to what they say because this is important for your acknowledgment to work.  Obviously if you weren’t really listening, letting them know you fully understand is insincere.

So listen intently and when they’re finished, let them know you really understand.  As you’re doing that, just be thinking about really understanding them, don’t be thinking about anything else. Don’t be thinking about what you’re going to say, or your evaluation of what they said, or anything else.

Just be full of understanding. And hold that until you see they’re satisfied with your acknowledgement.

What you’ll observe is a look of satisfaction and a readiness, openness, to receiving whatever you want to say next.  If you don’t see that right away, just acknowledge them a little more until you do.

Remember, you’re not responding to what they said.  All you’re doing with your acknowledgment is letting them know you understand what they said.

It takes practice and even coaching to become really skilled at this and do it so it’s second nature.  But you’ll still have success even if it’s your first time trying it.

Acknowledgments are a vital part of causative communication and are very worth of mastery.

They’ll keep people from getting defensive and will relieve it when they do. They’re vital in every negotiation or conflict you find yourself in the middle of.  They allow a great conversation to happen.

This is so universal you can try it anywhere anytime and see results.

Have fun!  And let me know what happens.

Be the cause!

Negotiating with an enemy

Enemy

Jake’s usually successful negotiation strategy was failing…

There was a $4 billion deal on the table and at the rate things were going, Jake wasn’t going to see any of it.

Across the table from Jake was Ricardo. Currents of suspicion, distrust and mild hostility flowed between them. Then Ricardo said, “No,” blocked the deal, and it was over.

Jake showed up at my place to find out what he did wrong.  He wanted to learn how to negotiate with an enemy.

Jake’s problem was that he had incorrectly identified the enemy.  He thought it was Ricardo, a man Jake described as stubborn, old-school, narrow-minded and doesn’t know how to cut a deal.

Jake’s opinion of himself was much more flattering.  He saw himself as a visionary. He thought the problem was that Ricardo couldn’t deal with a visionary.  

The real problem is that Jake didn’t know how to make effective communication happen. He believed it depended on the other person, how open they are, their ability to understand, their ability to communicate, etc...

If you pin effective communication, and therefore your outcomes and therefore your life, on the other person’s ability to communicate, you’re going to be very unhappy.

Anytime you depend on the environment or other people to make something happen, you put your life in their hands. This is a strategy that will lead to disappointment a good percentage of the time.

Happiness requires that you sit in the Director’s Chair of your life.

In the Director’s Chair, you have the power to make things turn out so you’re truly satisfied, regardless of initial opposition, resistance or blindness.

Jake’s REAL enemy was thinking that because he’s been talking his whole life, he knows how to communicate.  As Jake discovered, he was wrong.

People often tell me communication “didn’t work.” What they’re really saying is what they think is communication didn’t work. Communication always works. You just have to know the formula (yes, there is a formula) for making it happen.

It’s not one skill, it’s a package of skills. And when you execute on this package of skills, you get understandings that automatically lead to agreement, commitment and action. If you’re not getting that, you’re not communicating.

After three days of coaching and watching the difference between his “before” and “after” videos, Jake could clearly identify what REAL communication is and what he’s been missing. More importantly, he knows how to make it happen.

Jake went back and in less than five minutes of talking with Ricardo, he got a completely different result. Ricardo was now on board. There was trust and credibility.

Ricardo was never the enemy.  Ignorance was. Once Jake dealt with THAT enemy, the obstacles vanished.

Being causative means being able to make what you want to happen. Ignorance of how to do that is the only enemy standing in your path.

Be the cause!

Communication lessons from a fig farmer

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Tony Inzana owns a 190 acre ranch in central California and brings his organic produce every Sunday morning to my local farmers market.  He grows the juiciest, most delicious figs in the galaxy.  His pistachios and walnuts have a just-picked freshness you can’t find anywhere else. Each black mulberry bursts with sweet, intense juice.

All this abundance is harvested just yesterday and brought brimming with a life and flavor that make your taste buds stand up and sing.

Tony also has the distinction of having, not only the longest line of customers waiting to buy, much longer than of any of the other farm stands in the market, but also the slowest moving one.  This line moves REAL slow.

The reason for that is because Tony talks to each person as they get to him.  He tells you what time he picked whatever you’re buying, what’s happening with the weather, what the crop will be like next week.

He wants to find out what you’re going to do with it (are you going to grill the figs or put them in your salad?). You’ll hear about his friend coming to visit from Australia and he’ll want to find out what’s going on in your life.

The people waiting in line have no recourse but to talk to each other, which they do. You find out new recipes, you learn about fruit you never thought about buying that the person in front of you has loaded in their basket, you get talked into trying the kiwi.

The lady behind me this past Sunday got impatient.  It was her first time shopping in the stand.  She was huffing and puffing and commenting on how slow the line was moving. Tony noticed this and gave me a fig to share with her. That shut her right up.  When she tasted her fig, she wanted to find out what else in the stand was that good, which I was happy to tell her.  This naturally led to a discussion about the incredible earrings she was wearing.  She got friendly and talkative along with the rest of us.

In today’s age of efficiency, in today’s age of impatience with slow-moving lines, Tony’s business model defies current wisdom.

Everybody wants things fast, they want to get in and get out and get on with the next thing.

I have never seen anyone approach life and business as leisurely as Tony. He is slow on purpose.  He is very deliberate about building a relationship with each person who buys from him.   If you don’t like it, you don’t have to shop there.

When you finally make it up to the front to pay, and it’s your turn for him to talk with you, he’ll still continue to take his time.  Tony makes unusually direct eye contact and listens intently.  He carefully considers what you tell him, what kind of salad you’re making, what your friend said about the dried cherries you got last week, how much you miss the pomegranates when they’re out of season.  He’s interested in everything about you. 

Business is personal in Tony’s world.  Very personal.

He’s a happy man.  Very few eyes in this world twinkle like Tony’s do.  Looking into them is magical.

The sellout crowds in his stand don’t just come for the figs or walnuts.  Two weeks ago Tony wasn’t there.  It was his birthday and he was off celebrating.  His replacement kept the line moving fast and there was a second person helping too.  Hardly any waiting.  But when Tony came back last Sunday, everyone was asking him, “Where were you??????????  We MISSED you!!!!!!!”  The slow, long line was back and the sellout crowd was happy again.

You can watch people who just paid walking away, laughing, beaming. And as you walk away, you find yourself grinning a happy grin that stays in place for several minutes after you’ve gone.

You’ve received so much MORE than the fresh and dried fruits and nuts in your bag.  You’ve just had a powerful conversation with a man who really cares.  He cares about what he grows. And he cares about you.

Not everyone is willing to wait in a slow-moving line, to wait for the seemingly endless conversations ahead to come to a finale.

It’s surprising how many are though.  The combination of extraordinary food and soul-nourishing conversation makes it all worthwhile.  They respond and are drawn to it.  Tony has a long line from the moment he opens to the very last.  No one grumbles. 

What it tells me is that, MANY people care not only about the quality of what they’re buying, but also about the quality of real communication and, as a result, the quality of relationship, they experience.  That it’s worth waiting for.  That it’s valuable to them.

In truth, I think the world is hungry for it.

If that’s what you choose to serve, people will come, they will stay, and when they leave, they will REMEMBER.

Be the cause!

A one-way ticket out of anticipation station

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Your face, especially your eyes, communicate what’s going on inside of you. We may try to disguise our inner thoughts, fears, doubts, but our eyes don’t lie.

When I show people videos of themselves in the Causative Communication workshop, they can see clearly that once they get past the initial social smile, everything they’re really thinking shows up on their face. Self-doubt, disappointment, disapproval, fear, frustration, dislike, whatever your opinion is of the other person, everything.

Your facial expression and how you look at someone is a direct communication to them and actually regulates the outcome you get.

Trying to change your facial expression is a pointless activity.  It will only make you look fake.

That’s one of the reasons why in my coaching and workshops I work on what’s going on inside you.  When you get the inside right, the outside takes care of itself.

But we don’t start out that way. Instead, we start with situations like these…

Diana sits down to have a difficult conversation with a coworker. She anticipates it is going to be very uncomfortable, at least in the beginning.  Her facial expression is strained.

Martin initiates an important conversation to persuade a peer to put in extra work on a new project. He anticipates resistance. His facial expression is grim and slightly combative.

Sheila requests a meeting to continue a discussion in which she repeatedly expresses her doubts. Her concerns have been ignored and resources are being poorly allocated. She wants to express her point of view one more time in the last hope that possibly she’ll be heard. She anticipates stubbornness and lack of interest. Her facial expression is defeated.

Jim approaches his boss to talk about taking on new responsibility that will greatly further his career. He anticipates his boss telling him he isn’t ready. His facial expression is pleading, almost anguished.

In all the situations above, what these folks are anticipating has shaped their facial expressions. The solution is not to change what you’re anticipating from something negative to something positive.

The solution is to be completely in the moment.

So COMFORTABLY in the moment you’re not anticipating anything. This gives you a look of tremendous presence. And poise.

Most people have no idea that how they look at someone determines so much about the relationship and the outcomes they get.  It’s huge.

In my workshops, I can video people and show them how amazing they look when they’re able to stay fully and comfortably in the moment and feel affinity for the other person.

Even before they start to speak, you can feel the power. They often gasp when they see themselves because it’s so dramatic.

The words my students have used to describe how it feels are “weightless”, “serene”, “unflappable”, “totally in control” and “comfortable”.

It takes a lot of work to master the skill of being in the moment, to be present, all the time.

But it is work worth doing. And the payoff extends to every area of your life.

Some people look at our workshops and say we teach “communications kills,” but what we really teach is an effortless way to create success.

Be the cause!

Creating JOY

Joy

Today, I have a simple message:  being causative creates JOY.

First, I’ll clarify what being causative means. To cause means to produce an effect. Causative means effective as a cause or agent.  Effective means serving your intended purpose.

Causative communication is the ability to produce your intended effect and achieve your intended purpose at will with communication.

I recently completed a series of Causative Communication workshops and now have graduates emailing me what’s happening as they take these skills into the real world.

  • One gentleman wrote about a meeting he facilitates with 10 individuals in three different times zones. This is a meeting that previously erupted into debates, ran overtime and ended with unsatisfying results. This time, the meeting ended 13 minutes early, friendly as can be, with all agenda items covered, with solid consensus and commitment for action items and next steps. This is now the new normal.

  •  Another executive, who had been perceived as unapproachable, wrote that people are now gravitating toward him. He can’t believe how much his relationships have grown.

  •  A mother told me that normally she had to wrestle the iPad from her teenage son to get his attention. Now, without her saying anything about it and without any effort, when he senses her presence he puts the iPad down and gives her his full attention.

  •  A sales director wrote about giving a presentation on a contentious topic to a group of 23 leaders. The presentation stirred up concerns and frustrations. However, using what she learned, she wrote that her most interesting observation was the influence she had on her audience. They relaxed, paid more attention and the tension in the room lessened.  Her presentation was powerful and impactful.

  •  A young man wrote that, while he was not due for a promotion at this time, he decided to open up a conversation about it with his boss anyway. He was amazed at how far the discussion went and how promising an immediate promotion now looks.

  •  A previously introverted engineer wrote that he’s making deep personal connections at a rate he never thought possible. He said he’s even connecting with people just with his eye contact as he passes them in the hall. He wrote that the connections he’s making are very meaningful and he’s rather blown away by the power of them.

  • A CEO who has taken over a dysfunctional organization is straightening everything out and rapidly getting everyone on board with the difficult changes that need to be made. A completely new, vibrant and positive organizational culture is now blossoming.

  • A normally reserved executive from London engaged in a social conversation unusual for him with a very large African-American who warmed up to him so much, he enthusiastically fist bumped him. The ultra-conservative Londoner had never generated so much enthusiasm, had certainly never been fist bumped before, and was elated.

  • A woman who previously felt disrespected and dismissed by the senior leadership team of her organization is now told she is compelling and receives all the support from them she’s requesting.

Being causative is thrilling.  It brings an emotional rush that is intensely pleasurable and even exhilarating. It’s the source of great joy.

You are here to be causative.  With some work, it can be your natural state.

Your natural state can be JOY.

All you need to do is make the decision to do the work.

Be the cause!

Gaining respect

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Ruth cringed every time she saw her boss walking towards her…

Beth, a VP in stiletto heels with a mean streak the length of the Mississippi River, drowned her staff in unreasonable expectations and then verbally whipped them when they fell short.  She tore into them in public, relentlessly ripping the latest luckless soul for whatever her latest upset was.

Beth was especially vicious whenever Ruth returned from taking time off, hammering and blaming Ruth for everything that had gone wrong while was she was gone.  Ruth dreaded returning to work.

Beth’s sole ambition was to make it to SVP and she made it clear it was everyone’s job to get her there.

Not one person on her staff was able to successfully manage Beth’s cruel outbursts. They all commiserated about it when Beth wasn’t around, but no one could face up to her.  So the situation persisted.

Ruth signed up for Causative Communication because her daily interactions with Beth were destroying her.  Physically, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually.  Ruth, normally an incredibly capable woman, was a wreck. She wasn’t sleeping and was developing an ulcer.

After hearing about all this, I suggested to Ruth that finding a new role with a better boss might be her best option.  Ruth made it clear that she didn’t want to leave feeling defeated, that she needed to leave as a success, that she wanted to gain the ability to transform herself and the entire situation before she left.

The problem was, Ruth was unable to calmly and effectively face Beth. Just seeing Beth walk toward her created so much emotional churn, any communication skills Ruth did possess flew out the window.

One of the first things that Ruth and I focused on was developing the ability to be there comfortably and face a difficult person and situation. The goal was to get the emotional churn to disappear.  This took practice.

It was a real victory when Ruth gained control and was able to face anyone and anything calmly, comfortably, with clarity, even surrounded by an emotional tornado. This ability completely set the necessary foundation for her now to be able to competently handle the situation.

The next thing we worked on was increasing her ability to maintain purposeful intention when she was communicating with Beth.

We also worked on her ability to maintain her affinity for Beth. Communication is impossible in the absence of affinity. Often people give you many reasons not to like them, but if you fall for it, you won’t be able to talk with them and make real communication happen.

This isn’t as hard as it sounds.  Even with her mean streak, Beth was extremely smart and strategic.  Ruth is naturally a warm person and did find things to genuinely like about her.

Soon after the training, Ruth was at her desk and could see Beth coming out of her office. She was starting her determined and familiar “poison death march.”

As she approached, Beth’s malicious gaze zeroed in on Ruth.

But it was different this time.

Ruth’s eyes solidly met and held Beth’s.  This time Ruth didn’t cringe in fear.  Ruth met Beth’s eyes calmly, comfortably, intently, and with strong affinity.

Then a miracle happened.

Beth started to slow down, making it only halfway across the floor, and then she abruptly stopped. She looked uncertain, confused even. Beth looked away from Ruth for a moment, turned around and walked back to her office.

Ruth transformed her relationship with Beth with just one look. It was never the same again.  Ruth became the one person Beth treated with respect from there on out.

How could that possibly have happened?

When you have certainty about your own communication skills, you change at your core.

Everyone who talks to you, and sometimes only even looks at you, picks up on that. It’s not that you’re aggressive, but that you’re a real force to be reckoned with.  Most importantly, you’re a friendly, not a hostile, force. Your power is manifested in your presence, in how you deliver your words, how you listen, how you communicate.

This completely changes how they respond to you.  Admiration and respect naturally follow.

It’s important that you live your life without fear, without intimidation, with respect from everyone around you.  Most people will give you respect because they hold it as a core value.

But the (hopefully limited) number of times when you have to deal with someone who was raised by wolves, that’s when you need communication skills to transform the situation, and even the person. You want to have these skills sharp and ready by your side.

Be the cause!

The “glance” with a seven-figure price tag

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Marcus had been talking to his boss about a promotion to VP for quite a while without getting any closer. Marcus found the discussions stressful and the endless waiting frustrating, which is why he came to my workshop on Causative Communication.

The mistake Marcus was making is the same one I’ve seen MANY people make:  He thought the decision (if and when to promote him) was not in his hands.  He thought it was up to the people doing the promoting.

Most people in Marcus’ situation believe they can present their case, but that after that, they’re powerless. They have to sit back and wait while the “powers that be” decide.

What they don’t realize is that those making the decision are just reflecting you back to yourself.

It’s very much like an ice-skating competition. If you skate perfectly, the judges HAVE to give you a 10.  If you stumble at the beginning or if you are less than flawless, they’re forced to give you a lesser score.  

All the judges are doing is reflecting back the skater.

It’s actually entirely up to you what happens. Can you believe that?

Most people experience stress when talking about why they should get promoted. They’re uncomfortable. Their minds are full of doubt. Their communication is full of strain.

The decision that comes back is simply a reflection of this.

This is true in all your communication, not just situations where you want a promotion. The reaction you see from the other person is a reflection of how well you’re dealing with the situation.

When your communication is flawless, there’s a transformation that happens in the other person, even if they’re a “judge” of you.   They can’t help but give you a “10” and decide accordingly.

It’s the same thing when communicating about a promotion.

If you feel powerless about the outcome, that will be reflected back to you.  The reflection will show powerlessness.

If you feel the outcome is in “their” hands, you will come across as someone who does not deserve a promotion.  Especially if you’re trying to get promoted to the higher levels like VP and above.

The decision you receive will be a reflection of your own powerlessness.

You don’t have to work hard to get the outcome you want.  You simply have to communicate with clarity, certainty and intention.

Many people confuse these three things with conviction.  Conviction is how much you believe in something.

Your promotion does not at all depend on how much you believe you deserve it.  If it did, there would be no issue, you’d have it.

Many people go into these conversations with the idea they need to convince the other person to achieve the outcome they want.  But the harder you try to convince someone that you deserve something, the more powerless you seem.  In terms of getting a promotion, this “convincing” approach is the kiss of death.

It’s the difference between communicating for the purpose of getting them to agree with you (which will always make you seem UNcausative), and communicating for the purpose of real understanding (which will always make you powerful.)

One of the biggest mistakes people make when wanting a promotion is talking about why they deserve the promotion. This makes you come across as imploring, anxious, in need.

It’s not a question of what you deserve. It’s a question of where you belong.

When you communicate that you belong at the VP level with complete clarity, complete intention to be understood, and complete certainty that you will be fully understood, you come across like the promotion is the only right course of action, no question about it.

The decision that comes back will reflect that.

Marcus ended months of circular conversations by doing just what I described to you. And wouldn’t you know it, “they” made the decision to promote him to VP within hours, not weeks or months.

Be the cause!

Mirror, mirror on the wall, will I get promoted today, at all?

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Marcus had been talking to his boss about a promotion to VP for quite a while without getting any closer. Marcus found the discussions stressful and the endless waiting frustrating, which is why he came to my workshop on Causative Communication.

The mistake Marcus was making is the same one I’ve seen MANY people make:  He thought the decision (if and when to promote him) was not in his hands.  He thought it was up to the people doing the promoting.

Most people in Marcus’ situation believe they can present their case, but that after that, they’re powerless. They have to sit back and wait while the “powers that be” decide.

What they don’t realize is that those making the decision are just reflecting you back to yourself.

It’s very much like an ice-skating competition. If you skate perfectly, the judges HAVE to give you a 10.  If you stumble at the beginning or if you are less than flawless, they’re forced to give you a lesser score.  

All the judges are doing is reflecting back the skater.

It’s actually entirely up to you what happens. Can you believe that?

Most people experience stress when talking about why they should get promoted. They’re uncomfortable. Their minds are full of doubt. Their communication is full of strain.

The decision that comes back is simply a reflection of this.

This is true in all your communication, not just situations where you want a promotion. The reaction you see from the other person is a reflection of how well you’re dealing with the situation.

When your communication is flawless, there’s a transformation that happens in the other person, even if they’re a “judge” of you.   They can’t help but give you a “10” and decide accordingly.

It’s the same thing when communicating about a promotion.

If you feel powerless about the outcome, that will be reflected back to you.  The reflection will show powerlessness.

If you feel the outcome is in “their” hands, you will come across as someone who does not deserve a promotion.  Especially if you’re trying to get promoted to the higher levels like VP and above.

The decision you receive will be a reflection of your own powerlessness.

You don’t have to work hard to get the outcome you want.  You simply have to communicate with clarity, certainty and intention.

Many people confuse these three things with conviction.  Conviction is how much you believe in something.

Your promotion does not at all depend on how much you believe you deserve it.  If it did, there would be no issue, you’d have it.

Many people go into these conversations with the idea they need to convince the other person to achieve the outcome they want.  But the harder you try to convince someone that you deserve something, the more powerless you seem.  In terms of getting a promotion, this “convincing” approach is the kiss of death.

It’s the difference between communicating for the purpose of getting them to agree with you (which will always make you seem UNcausative), and communicating for the purpose of real understanding (which will always make you powerful.)

One of the biggest mistakes people make when wanting a promotion is talking about why they deserve the promotion. This makes you come across as imploring, anxious, in need.

It’s not a question of what you deserve. It’s a question of where you belong.

When you communicate that you belong at the VP level with complete clarity, complete intention to be understood, and complete certainty that you will be fully understood, you come across like the promotion is the only right course of action, no question about it.

The decision that comes back will reflect that.

Marcus ended months of circular conversations by doing just what I described to you. And wouldn’t you know it, “they” made the decision to promote him to VP within hours, not weeks or months.

Be the cause!

You’re “too” direct

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You're “too” direct.  Has anyone ever said that to you?

First of all, before I comment on it, I’d like to point out that any feedback that starts with the word “too”, is never going to be good.  They never say, “You're too interesting, you’re too fabulous, you’re too much of a leader, you’re too dependable.”   Whenever you hear the word “too”, it always means something bad is coming right after it.

This past week I had many people calling about our Causative Communication Live! workshop and a number of them said, “I've gotten feedback that I'm too direct.”

I laugh when I hear this because I know I’m probably 5 times more direct than they are, but no one ever tells me I’m too direct.  I’m happy to teach them how I do it.  They’re getting into trouble because they just don’t understand what being direct is all about and how to do it effectively.

In the dictionary, direct is defined as “proceeding in a straight line or arriving by the shortest course.”  It means “straight”.  How could that be bad?

Direct comes from the Latin word directus meaning “straight” and “set straight”.  To set straight means to make certain someone knows the REAL facts about a situation.

How could that be bad? How could you be doing too much of it?

Well, if you’re being told this, the problem is NOT that you’re too direct.  The problem is that you’re doing something else that’s upsetting.  I have found that most of the time when people are being told they’re “too direct”, they’re not being direct AT ALL.

For example, this happened today.  One of my clients, a Senior Director named Bill (not his real name), is going to an offsite this coming week.  His boss, a VP, has asked his team of direct reports to each prepare a question to ask him that will promote better understanding between him and the team.  The VP said, “This is your opportunity where you can ask me ANYTHING.”

Bill, who’s been frequently told he’s too direct, was planning to ask the VP, "Why do you tolerate mediocre performance from others?"  Bill really wanted to know the answer to this question, but was concerned he might be perceived as being too direct by asking it, so he asked me what I thought.

I told Bill he wasn't actually being direct at all by asking this question.  The problem with the question was that it was too INDIRECT.  The reason I say that is because it wasn’t going to lead him DIRECTLY to his desired outcome.  It was going to take him somewhere he DIDN’T want to go.  Let me explain.

I asked him what outcome he wanted. Bill said, “My boss holds himself to an extremely high standard.  But he doesn’t hold others to that standard, which causes our team to have mediocre performance.” The outcome Bill wanted was for the boss to hold EVERYONE to high standards so that he could be part of a high-performing team.

Another aspect of this that created a problem was that, because the boss wasn’t holding the team accountable, Bill ended up trying himself to hold everyone on the team accountable and this was creating problems because he wasn’t really in a position to do it – you can imagine the problems he was having I’m sure, everyone was ignoring him.

I explained to Bill that asking, “Why?”  was not going to get him that outcome of the VP holding everyone to a high standard. It was not the direct way to get the outcome. 

First of all, he didn’t need to ask his VP, “Why?”  I can answer, “Why?” for him.

There are two parts to the answer.

  1. I’ve coached enough people to know the VP doesn't have any idea why he tolerates mediocre performance. So if you ask him that question, he's just going to DEFEND and JUSTIFY, but not give you the real root cause.

The ONLY time it's safe to ask, “Why?”  is when the person KNOWS the root cause. So, for example, if I ask my gardener, “Why did that azalea bush die?” He might say something like, “You didn’t water it.”  In this context, the question makes sense because my gardener knows the root cause.

One of my clients recently discovered her son is doing drugs. She’s been asking him why he’s doing drugs. I’m sure he has no idea.  He’s going to try to pull reasons out of thin air to satisfy her.  He’s going to look for ways he’s been victimized.  He’ll justify and defend.  But none of these mean he knows the REAL reason why.

Asking “Why?” can also upset people.  In the VP example, you can see how he could easily be upset by being asked, “Why do you tolerate mediocrity?”

2. I can tell you why the boss is tolerating mediocrity, you don’t even need to ask that question. The VP is tolerating mediocrity because he doesn't have the skills to do anything about it. He probably doesn't even know what those skills are. 

As someone who’s coached people for 30 years, I can assure you the reason they are doing what they're doing is because they don't have the skills to do something else.

As soon as they have the skills, they WILL do something else. I see this ALL the time.

People mistakenly assume the other person doesn't WANT to do something else. That’s not at all my experience. If this boss has high standards for himself, which I believe he does, then I don't believe he wants to tolerate mediocrity in other people. That would be terrible!  If you have high standards, you hate tolerating mediocrity in your direct reports.  It makes you crazy!  I just don't believe he has the skills to do anything about it. 

So if Bill wants to be direct about achieving the real outcome that he wants, what’s the RIGHT question to ask?  What’s the most DIRECT question to get to his outcome?

I suggested saying this, “You set such a high standard for yourself, what would it take for you to set the same standard for everyone else and make sure that everyone else achieves that high standard?”

I’m not saying this is ALWAYS the right question.  I don’t believe EVER in tactics, techniques, or gimmicks when it comes to people and relationships.  And I don’t teach, “Always ask this question ….”  I just don’t think human beings operate that way. 

I believe it takes a lot of skill and judgment to know the right questions to ask and when you understand the science of relationships and have these skills, you’ll KNOW the right question to ask.  And it won’t be the same one every time.

This particular question of “What would it take …?”  is MORE DIRECT than the question he was originally thinking of asking.  It's a better question. The reason is because it puts the focus on the outcome and what’s needed to achieve it.  It bypasses asking a question that the VP can not only not answer, but one that will just make him defensive and justify what he’s doing.  This question bypasses upsetting the VP and gets to the desired outcome directly.

Most of the people I coach who have been told that they’re too direct are making similar mistakes.

Just as an aside, most of the people I coach fall into 1 of 2 camps.  They’re either told they’re “too direct” or that they “don’t speak up enough” (or they “don’t speak up clearly”). 

Both camps are missing the skills they need to be successfully direct.

There are about 7 different skills that you need to master to be EXTREMELY DIRECT yet VERY WELL RECEIVED. 

In other words, after you’ve been direct, the other person says to you, “Thank you, that was VERY helpful.”  Or, “Thank you, that was very powerful.”  In other words, they are GRATEFUL that you were direct, and you made CHANGE happen.

I’ll be talking about these skills in next week’s issue of Causative Communication.

Being direct is GOOD. You just need to be aware of and make sure you master ALL the skills needed to make you EFFECTIVE at it. 

And then you’re going to find being direct to be exhilarating and productive and people are going to say to you, “You really helped me.”

Master these skills and go ahead and be VERY direct!

The power to transform any situation or any person begins with your ability to assume the cause role in your communications. 

Be the cause!

How to talk to a room full of idiots

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Steve, one of our clients, had the idea of the century. Unfortunately, nobody was buying it. He had been presenting it to management with zero success.

He brought this idea to his first presentation in the Transforming Your Presentation Skills workshop.

His attitude was, “You idiots! You need to really get this.”

Of course no one got it. It’s no surprise that nothing happened with an approach like that.

It’s never smart to present to a group of people you feel are idiots. In Steve’s case, he just couldn’t find anything good about the people he was talking to.

At the workshop, that was the first thing we changed.

And when he increased his affinity for the people in his audience, everything was different. Suddenly everyone was willing to listen to him. It was a dramatic shift.

Understand this:

Whatever you’re thinking about the person (or people) you’re speaking with is clearly transmitted directly to them in ways you might not realize.

The way you look at them, the tone of your voice, everything gets through.

We humans are WAY more telepathic than is commonly realized. We think we’re hiding our thoughts, but we’re not. We can’t! We’re energetically broadcasting everything in many ways.

Your attitude toward the other person reflects your opinion of them. And people are VERY sensitive to others’ opinions of them. It’s one of the things they are MOST sensitive to.

People will respond more quickly and more forcefully to your opinion of them than to the words you are using. They will do this every single time.

If you’re talking to your boss and you have the opinion he has more authority and influence over your future than you do, that belief gets transmitted and puts you in a “one down” position. This is going to mess with your intention and negatively impact any conversation you have about requests, promotions and raises.

If you’re are talking to your teenage child and you have the opinion they don’t know as much as you do, or that they’re making a mistake with their life, this is going to provoke an immediate and strong reaction that is not going to help your cause.

Anytime you have the opinion the other person is wrong, you’re asking for trouble.

Your opinion of them is the FIRST thing they pick up.

It is what they respond to.

This works in positive ways too. Did you ever have a teacher who thought you were really smart, good, creative? How did you respond to that teacher?

Does this mean you have to have a phony opinion of people? Do you have to pretend that they’re right when you really think they’re wrong? No! You need to stay true to yourself.

Pretending will work against you. When the other person senses you’re pretending, you will come across as condescending. And that spells doom.

If you want to be successful in one of these difficult situations, you need to take your attention OFF the negative opinion you have, and find things that you do like and do respect about this person. You need to genuinely prepare yourself for the conversation.

This is a skill. You have to practice it to master it.

When you can do this in any conversation, with any person, under any circumstance, even when they’re pushing your buttons, then you are on the road to becoming a world class communicator.

Be the cause!