Archive | July, 2012

What I really want: The Coach is IN: A Talk in the Park

30 Jul

Two young men drinking soda eyed my sign for ten minutes before curiosity propelled them to  explore further.  Three weeks of basketball camp brought them to

Wonder if Barack’s basketball prowess impresses these boys?

Pennsylvania from Belgium and the West Indies.  Practicing English brought them to me.

50 teens from French-speaking countries are at camp learning to dribble and shoot the ‘American’ way.  Today, their NYC day was all about shopping.  Hanging in Bryant Park was respite on a hot day.

The young Belgian shares: Americans are friendlier and more open, than people in Brussels, who rush to destinations, ignoring people met on their journey.   Perspective is viewed through an experiential kaleidoscope.  Usually its New Yorkers accused of fitting meaningful interactions into a ‘New York minute’.

Isn’t every life experience viewed through a kaleidoscope? Image from the University of Arkansas, Math 2033!

My own kaleidoscope turns to late-afternoon business lunchers in the park.   I wonder what challenges await them back at the office.   They won’t stop to talk.  This I know from my ‘Talk in the Park’.  Experience reminds patience.

Minutes later, a young man, paused, then sits.  True, he’s in the chair beside me, yet I feel his needs circling the table.   It’s not my imagination.

S. has been in the U.S. for several years, having emigrated from Benin, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-13037572 ,  a small, poor, country close to Nigeria.  Unemployed, he’s just applied to work at McDonald’s.  He really wants to work, but isn’t optimistic.

‘People see that’ he’s not calm.  Armed with rejections and feeling unaccepted, he believes this comes from his own negative self-talk.  S. is working to control his mind, delving into self-help.  His self-awareness is remarkable.

His face clouds, pinches.  Frustration feeds his stress while talking about failed interviews and work frustrations.

Customer service and a strong work ethic take center stage in examples from his past sales associate position.  S. cajoles customers to try new items, bringing products to their attention, based on what was already in their basket.

Hmm.  Based on my experience training managers for a large retail chain, S. appears to be the perfect candidate.  We talk about interview strategies to share his talents.  Interview questions are unrealistic, he feels.  He can’t and won’t answer what he likes/doesn’t like.

His love of work, need to focus and accomplish tasks both compliment and unnerve his sense of self, sense of calm.  Somewhere in his last two jobs, he ‘lost’ himself, and searching for calm and work is both unnerving and frustrating.  I certainly these emotions and wonder how many millions of similar conversations are taking place around the country and the world at this exact moment.

But he needs to stay calm and answer interview questions.

What does he want?  To work.

Other people’s actions and thoughts keep popping into our discussion, blurring his focus.   Hints of arguments and need for his way to be the right way coat the surface of his interview experience, smothering possible opportunities.  His non-verbal expression http://face-and-emotion.com/dataface/general/guide.jsp overpowers his words.

One way to improve his interview technique – and nonverbals – is to practice answering questions while looking at a mirror.  Practicing till calm will enhance his success.

(http://jobs.aol.com/articles/2011/02/07/your-nonverbal-communication-can-wreck-your-interview/ for more info)

Focus:  What does he want?  To work.

We cycle through his wants washed with emotions, wringing out interview wrinkles.

Sharing advice I’ve heard from district managers:  make your boss look good,  is easy to apply to S.’s skills.  Great customer service and sales, his forte, will make any boss look good.  Arguing with his boss over how and what to do, well, not so much.

A smile slowly relaxes his body, adding a nod and realization.   After reviewing a few more strategies to build on his strengths, focus on his wants, and identify new doors to knock on.   S. shakes hands with confidence.

Bryant Park is great entertainment destination this time of year. Ping pong tables offer a chance to blow off steam and practice showmanship.

I wish him luck.

And best of luck with tackling your challenges this week.

I’ll be back in Bryant Park on Wednesday (if it doesn’t rain).  I’m moving into the present:   tweeting/twittering about communication essentials and where to find ‘A Talk in the Park’

Share what’s on your mind!

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Tongues vs. Thumbs: Urban Ambassadors ‘vote’ results, Part 2

26 Jul

When you’re lucky enough to chat with Urban Ambassadors in the park, the future is filled with bright possibilities.

Our discussion was wily and and as discussed last time, begged for tangents darting to school,  A Better Chance Program’ trips, and of course, girls.

How odd we must have looked to passersby:  a middle aged white woman surrounded by nine non-white teenage boys?  We’re attracting lots of looks, a few guys point out, so we rearrange ourselves, putting my coaching sign back on the table.  The sign had been on the ground so I could see everyone’s eyes and faces.

The Ambassadors listening intently!

People want to talk and be listened to, as the posse reminded me.  Conversations like these could go the distance, bridging people and building understanding.

The importance of conversations and communication takes front and center stage.  In this day and age I have to ask about their communication preference:  tongues vs. thumbs?

Tongues rolled in response and a vote revealed a preference of 7 tongues to 2eithers’.   Wow – I’m surprised though I shouldn’t be since these guys are talking -to me- on a hot afternoon.  I see their ‘tongue’ vote as a thumbs up for opposable thumbs and humankind’s love of face-to-face interactions.

‘After texting, you may change your mind and then, there’s nothing you can do’, one Ambassador shared with universal agreement.

Next consideration was about the ubiquitous ‘LOL’ at the end of the message.  ‘It doesn’t mean anything anymore.  You just add it all the time’ was one summary of  this text’ accessory.   Adding a little ‘frownie’ face is more meaningful.

Now this doesn’t mean cell phones don’t serve a greater purpose, especially on the subway as one told:  ‘I have a friend who pulls out his phone as soon as he sits down even though there’s no service.’  

It’s taken me more than a few years to realize people play games underground, explaining their ‘palmed’ focus.  Is he playing games I wondered?

‘NO!  He just doesn’t want to talk to anyone!’ 

While I usually view the subway as the perfect melting pot, for many it is their

Bryant Park is also quite the melting pot of people and entertainment including piano playing! If you’ve never spent an hour roaming this small square – do it! It’s amazing what you’ll find!

decompression chamber after a tough day.  So I do get it.

If texting is a ‘no’ what about Facebook, cyberspace’s 24/7 ‘happy hour’ meet and greet?  Will they cross the great divide for a FB ‘like’?

One scary and cautionary tale:  Two girls went missing after going to a Facebook ‘hook-up’.  As the Ambassador wisely stated:  ‘Everything public is dangerous.’

Six of the nine have Facebook pages, so yes, it fares a bit better.  But having a page and ‘liking ‘it’ are two different things.  Especially when it comes to connecting with the opposite sex.

Offering a friend request on-line is often met with rejection – even after the girl had expressed interest in connecting.   This was really frustrating to these guys.  ‘They (girls) say they want to talk.  But they don’t.’

This multi-sided coin reveals great Facebook relationships.  Unfortunately these relationships aren’t great in ‘real life’.

One thing is apprarent with the Ambassadors.  These nine, really nice, open, intelligent young men live in ‘real life’.  Armed with humor, great conversation skills and drive, I think, I hope, they’ll continue to nurture skills for meaningful relationships and ‘real’ communication.

Yup!  Human connection and communication are alive and well in NYC.  

Let’s all make a phone call today and hear someone LOL – for ‘real’!  

I’ll be back in Bryant Park next Wednesday the 1st of August!  Stay cool!

Urban Ambassadors: The Coach is IN: A Talk in the Park

24 Jul

A posse of nine young men parading through Bryant Park attracts attention.  But then again, that is exactly what they want!

I look up as they noisily passed, stop, and glance back at my sign – and me.  Holding the sign and offering a coaching session intensify their huddle.   Within

The coach is IN and ready!

minutes the pack breaks as one strides towards me, the posse trailing behind.

J. plunks a quarter down in payment for five sessions.   Here’s the scene so far:  9 guys standing, smiling, staring in wait at my table.  This feels like fun!

They scatter to find chairs, forming a semi-circle around me.  I suddenly feel like Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society.   No worries:  no table jumping for me.  My coordination is not on par with my coaching skills. 

As introduction, J. shares his stunt  pulled walking across the Park’s lawn.  His ‘jump’ meant to amuse and entertain the posse (and everyone watching) doesn’t match his deadpan expression.  It’s quickly obvious he’s the group’s entertainer.  I can’t help but assess his communication style.

The conversation becomes a free-for-all as at least seven voices compete to be heard, each telling variations of who they are and where they’ve been.  Order is quickly restored and they resolve their only conflict by taking turns and raising hands to speak.  In reality their issue is a search for conversation and acknowledgement.  Sitting back, I settle in to listen.

The Urban Ambassador (A Better Chance) crew: nine of the nicest guys you’d want to spend the afternoon talking to.

So, who are these guys? 

Introductions are exchanged with strong handshakes and good eye contact.  Unsurprisingly this is part of their ‘training’.  I define a handshake as a transfer of energy – a desire to share energy with another, I’m rewarded with a firmer grip.

Proudly, they tell me they are Urban Ambassadors and rising Juniors.  They are high achieving young men of color in low achieving schools, participating in ‘A Better Chance’, a program which mentors, and supports them to go to college and fulfill their potential.

Their potential and drive shines through.  T. shares his interest in business, in success and tells me he always strives to do better.  An imperfect grade, raises questions while pushing for that next level.  T. joins J. in leading the conversation, allowing his communication style to become clear.

Normally they are in suits and show the pics to prove it.  Today’s casual attire reflects the day’s activity:  bowling at Times Square Bowlmor Lanes.  www.bowlmor.com/timessquare  

Next week, they’re off to Washington, D.C.  for the second time.  A first visit focused on colleges including Howard University.  Business seems a popular career interest, except for M., an artist observing from the back.

SAT preparation occupies many of their days.  Test taking is a skill and we discuss strategies.  A few mention the need for more time to think and fully process questions while the others comment on how more than one answer makes sense.

One question comes up based on an experience this morning.   No-one stopped to help them when they asked for directions.  Why not?   These guys are SO intent

N. paying a bonus in appreciation!

and SO interested in understanding human behavior.  What could I say other than to keep trying and keep smiling.  Not that these guys are the type to give up.

These Urban Ambassadors live up to their ‘title’ in exuding personality and ‘niceness’.   It’s striking how intently they listen to each other and to me.  Listening is one of those skills I usually think of as being on the endangered list.

In this day and age of tongues vs. thumbs communication, I couldn’t help but ask about their preference for connecting.

And that’s a whole other story, so I”ll share it next it time.

Creative Balance between Guest and Solitude: A Talk in the Park: The Coach is IN: Vol. 9

16 Jul

How much and what kind of alone time do you need?

How do you balance your needs with the needs of others?

This was A.’s question  as he approached my table last Friday.  Battling the bottled up emotions between his house guest and need for creative alone time, his frustrations bubbled over in our first few minutes of conversation.

Afraid to say anything stern, he ends up not saying anything which is serving only one purpose:  increasing his own frustration.   I found myself nodding and

My sign perched to beckon clients in NYC’s Bryant Park

relating:  I have been in this situation:  loving the company while in need of downtime.

I empathize with A. in his interest in juggling both sets of needs.  A few years ago my brother and niece came to stay (in my studio apartment) , filling my apartment with their luggage and family ‘baggage’.  While I expressed my need for solitude, I wasn’t clear about my feelings:  being oppressed by stuff everywhere.  Needless to say it resulted in (his) uncomfortable eruption of emotions.  All I needed to do was clearly define the physical space they could occupy.  (He did move most of their things that weren’t being used to his car which helped.)

A.’s strongest concern I heard repeated several times in a short period of time:  fear of hurting his guest’s feelings – of not meeting his guest’s needs.   A. values the companionship – but they are together too much.

MoMA’s Moments of Awareness ( https://communicationessentials.wordpress.com/2012/07/09/decisive-actio…the-park-vol-4) comes to the rescue again.  Going through the questions a few times A. finally came to:

Q1:  What are you feeling:  oppressed

Q2:  What do you want:  solitude:  4 – 5 hours of alone time

Q3:  What are you doing to prevent yourself from getting what you want:  spending too much time not being frank

Easy enough:  he just needs to be frank – and focused – in his discussion.  I emphasize need for focus.

I suggested a modified ‘I statement’ approach for communicating his needs to his guest.  Before they had this conversation I recommended lots of practice so A. felt comfortable communicating his needs without getting overpowered by his feelings to avoid conflict.

The template:

  • I would like:  5 hours of solitude/day to work on my creativity (writing)
  • I would like:  a balance.  I want to maintain our friendship and our creativity.
  • I would like to work out a schedule where I am in my room working alone for 5 hours/day (and fortunately he has a door he can shut!)

I recommended they set up ground rules which would include;

  • Specific times and a schedule in case those times change weekly
  • Not talking rules if A. comes out of his room for a drink or to use the restroom (this one seemed key!)
  • Desire to share his writing  and work after his creative session.  Initially A. added this so his guest wouldn’t feel left out.  Further questioning added his interest in his guest’s opinion and input.
  • Any rules or requests his guest may have

A reminder again for A. to stay focused which means lots of practice (saying this in front of the mirror).    Comfort in communicating this and commitment to his own need for creative solitude will provide respect for himself and his guest.  A great step to promoting a healthy and happy guesting experience!

What can you communicate to be a better guest?  A better host?

Overcoming skill-building challenges with Friends: The Coach is IN: A Talk in the Park! Vol. 7

16 Jul

What frustrates you about friends and colleagues?

How have you overcome challenges when working and learning with friends?

N. was focused and open about his challenge and issue to be resolved as he sat at my Bryant Park coaching table.

A relationship conflict:  mixing business with friendship, or more specifically having goal focused skill building sessions with a friend.  One slight problem:  his “friend doesn’t appear to be doing the work”.  His friend appears to be “holding himself back.”

Listening, I knew it was time to focus N.’s challenge by using MoMA (Moments of Awareness) https://communicationessentials.wordpress.com/2012/07/09/decisive-actio…the-park-vol-4/ ‎:

Q1:  What are you feeling:  frustration

Q2:  What do you want:  Growth – in the skill they are both working to develop

Q3:  What can you do differently:  Let him go at his own pace

Sounds good, right?  It took us time to ‘get here’.  Strong emotion guided his frustration.   Answers to these questions initially focused on his friend: what his friend needed to do, what his friend wasn’t doing.

N.”wondered why people ‘do that’.  He wanted his friend take action and pursue this skill growth with his discipline.  Confessing he couldn’t change his friend didn’t make it easier to focus.  It never does.

Further discussion found N. sharing this same frustration with others:  his dad and with those he coaches for medical school interviews.  He admitted he becomes frustrated when he is asked the same question 3 times.  He doesn’t want to waste people’s time – even if they don’t mind.

The DiSC is a great tool for insight into action, reactions, conflict, and career focus. This image is from www.suehansonspeaks.com. To take an on-line assessment go to: http://www.personalitystyle.com

 The essential two tools:  I believe are indispensable to provide N. insight into his behavior.   The results can provide direction and strategies to achieve his goal and  eventual answer to Q3 above:  letting his friend go at his own pace.

  1.  The DiSC assessment tool.  http://www.personalitystyle.com  will identify his communication style. This good quick version of the tool provides great information.  (Stay focused on one aspect of your life as you take it.  Questions?  The Coach is IN)
  2. The values assessment tool tunes you to:  ‘the radio station we all listen to’:  WIIFM:  What’s In It For Me.  WIIFM’s are our values and explain our motivation and a key to action AND insight into underlying causes of conflict.  N.’s values are (likely) key to his own motivation -and conflict with his friend’s actions.  A very simple assessment tool:  http://www.career-test.biz/values_assessment.htm .                                            Values also drive our financial decisions, so use them to assess your spending and saving actions!

The hard part of course is putting it together and understanding (for N.) his own behavior and then recognizing his friend likely has a very different style and values.  Recognizing, accepting, and learning from these tools are key, and, I can’t repeat it enough even for myself, challenging.

N.’s next step is to communicate his needs to his friend.  He can only talk about himself  and his needs and should’s.  This is a great opportunity to begin a conversation and learn more about his friend.

I suggested a modified ‘I Statement‘ approach adding some open-ended questions:

  • The reason I want to build this skill is:
  • I want to build it with you because:
  • It’s important to me because:
  • I get frustrated when you (specific action)
  • What is your reason to build this skill?
  • Why do you want to work with me?
  • Why is important to you?
  • What do you think we can do differently for us both to grow better at this skill?

Our 10 minute session stretched to almost 30 minutes as we went through these 2 tools and 2 processes.  A full coaching session (as N. and I discussed) would work through the assessment results and fully formulate communication strategies to use with his friend and interview coaching clients!

A good first start and a good demonstration of how coaching meets my value for meaning (and helping others).   

How do your values match your daily actions? 

From Russia about Love: The Coach is IN: A Talk in the Park, Vol. 6

13 Jul

What would you change for love?

Why would you  change your beliefs and identity and how do you know if it is ‘real’?

After our coaching session, L. returned to his friend and their ‘to be or not to be coached’discussion continued.  Her session was paid for I reminded her.  While I

NYC has a huge Russian population

doubt that was the real incentive, she came and sat down.

Porcelain white skin, small defined features, and strawberry blond hair aching to spring and fly from its bun, M. is in NYC for 3 weeks to visit friends and family.  Relationships is  on her mind, and there is a conflict.  But likely not what you think.

M’s in a relationship and she’s scared.  Fear is causing a conflict:  internally.   Her back story:

M. is a Russian Jew living in Moscow.  In the last year – and she can’t believe she is saying this – she has been learning and becoming involved with Judaism.

One of Moscow’s synagogues: Choral Synagogue

Friday nights find her in Shabbat Services.  Her beliefs, life style and identity are changing.  She even works for a Jewish organization and takes young people to Israel on Birthright/Taglit trips.

A HUGE change, a big step.  All through Eastern Europe young Jews are exploring their long hidden, forgotten, ignored Judaism.  This is certainly true in Moscow.  (http://identity5772.wordpress.com)

Complications multiply when love is added.  M. has begun dating a young man from her synagogue, a man she was friends with for months.  They like each other – a lot.

The fear is NOT about whether the relationship will last. (though it’s very, very good).

It’s about her changing at her pace. Her boyfriend is more observant than her.  He observes dietary laws (kosher) and the Sabbath (Shabbat).  For them to be together she would have to do the same and while she now attends Shabbat services,  she doesn’t know if she is ready ‘everything’.

M’s fear is  being told what or how to do things.  Right now she isn’t sure what she wants.  This tug-of-war played in her mind:  she loves shrimp but might  be willing to be Kosher.  He can keep Shabbat, but she may still want to go to the movies with her friends on a Saturday afternoon.

Perhaps he’ll change and meet her half way?

Listening to M’s all or nothing, need to know NOW stance, I formulate a few suggestions.

First:  her right answer will not appear quickly.  Attending Shabbat services took a year to feel right.  She needs patience.

Second:  I can’t ‘coach’ patience, though I can offer insight into her thought processes and communication style.  I recommend  the DiSC assessment tool to learn more about her actions, reactions and behavior.   http://www.personalitystyle.com  (great DiSC assessment tool!)

Third:  Building on her need to decide NOW,  I offered a way for her to share her thoughts, feelings and fears before she makes a decision – especially since this is all about their relationship.  We didn’t have time to go through the answers during our session (and it would be good for her to think them through):

I suggested modified ‘I statements’:

Here’s what I’m feeling:

What I’m afraid of:

What I would like and/or need now:

This is how it will help me:

What do you think?

Our identities are always in flux.  In M’s situation it is front and center and is both personal and integral to the relationship.

The DiSC assessment can always help explain behavior and communication and guide next steps.  And remember:  The Coach is ALWAYS in!

(For more on Eastern European Jewish identity check out: http://identity5772.wordpress.com)

Friends after Lovers: The Coach is IN, A Talk in the Park: Vol. 5

12 Jul

How do you deal with conflict?

What does closure mean to you and for you?

A hot afternoon in NYC’s Bryant Park finds me at the shadiest table and chairs.   Arranging my coaching sign, I focus my energy on attracting clients.    Waiting challenges:   coaching is energizing!  I’m encouraged by clients honesty and strength, and, the progress we make in less than an hour!

A young couple confer over MAC’s at a table nestled in the trees.  My charm in chatting up those around me to

Sign 3.0. My friend Pam recommended adding my blog address. What can you recommend I add and/or change?

capture interest and pleasantly pass the time fails with them.   My coaching sign poses for pictures.  Glances are snatched away before our sunglasses meet.   Sharing needs in public takes courage.

Loud whispers turn my attention to the ‘MAC-ites’ engaged in a  ‘to be or not to be coached’ debate.  Confirming price, they pool resources.   The ten-cent fee is tabled between them as their discussion continues.

Five steps bring the young man to my table.  Shielded from sun by a cap and sunglasses, his smile is sunny and warm.  L shares how a bus ride to Boston initiated  the couple’s friendship years ago.  Traveling is how L. meets many of his close friends.  Interesting and unsurprising (to me) we chat about reasons.  Traveling breaks down barriers, unveiling what (I call) ‘naked identity’.  Traveling, especially ‘low to the ground’ encourages talk about thoughts and feelings rather than ‘bad bosses’ or apartment location.

But L. has sat down to talk about relationships.  Or rather closure for a recently ended seven-year relationship.  Closure includes continuation of friendship for L.  His culture promotes communication after sharing and loving.  A nice – and challenging – cultural aspect.

I work with L. to define and explore closure through MoMA’a guiding questions.

Q1:  What are you feeling?  Angry

Q2:  What do you want?  Closure, to talk, maybe get back together

Q3:  What can you do differently?  Nothing?

Here is the problem:  L. approaches his ex-boyfriend to talk, and is ignored, shut down, or argued with.

Another problem:  Both families are telling them they are bad for each other.  L. is angry his ex is listening and not talking with HIM.

Relationships are complex and uncovering issues in a short coaching is impossible (if ever).  The REAL issue, and what CAN be done is to get L.  what he wants.  Communication strategies will do the trick.

Truth:  L. can’t change his ex.  Not his mind, not his behavior, not anything.

Truth: The arguing, bickering, and ignoring L. receives from his ex serves a valuable ‘purpose’.  This ‘noise’ (as L. came to identify it) prevents them from

Ping pong tables in Bryant Park. Ping pong isn’t dancing though it requires the ‘dancers’ to communicate with each other.

dealing with real issues and talking about real feelings.  ‘Noise’ is buttons pushed.  ‘Noise’ converts energy into restoring quiet, not focusing on initial cause.

I call this ‘The Conflict Dance”.

L.’s ex angry reaction to his offer to talk, is like asking care to do the conflict dance?’.  If L. reacts ‘angrily’- (and haven’t we all), his answer: ‘sure I’d love to do the conflict dance.

After seven years these two are dancing stars.

But L. came to coaching to break this pattern.  He’s angry.  He want’s to talk.  My suggestion:  change the pattern – say NO to the ‘conflict dance’ – focus communication by using ‘I statements’.

Here’s what we came up with:

Step 1:  When you:  ignore me when I try to talk with you (and best to refer to a specific situation and time)

Step 2:  I feel: angry

Step 3: What I would like: is for you to talk to me

Step 4: Because: I want to stop fighting and be friends

Step 5:  What do you think?

We practiced this several times, and as I told A. practice is important.  Practice will help him stay focused when his ex turns up the noise.  L. enthusiastically accepted the charge to practice.  I also reminded him that his ex may not listen or respond the first time or the second time, or….  L. needs to stay committed to saying NO to the conflict dance.

And interestingly:   L. initially talked about getting back together with his boyfriend.  At the end of our session, L. was focused on talk as closure and end.

Hope to hear from you soon L.  Tomorrow’s post will share my session with L’s friend M!

What’s on your mind these days?  

Me, I’ll be in Bryant Park, NYC, Friday, July 13th,  1:00 p.m.  Come and sit, send a friend, or visit me in cyberspace.

Decisive Actions: The Coach is IN: ‘A Talk in the Park’ Vol.4

9 Jul

Are you decisive?

What risks do you take to reach your dreams?

As scary as coaching in the park may be for ME, I imagine it even scarier for the person questioning across my table.   Sitting down labels my  ‘coachee’ (not a word I

My ‘advertisement with Bryant Park’s Monday night movie screen as backdrop

know) as someone in need of help.  Most people wouldn’t admit that need. Especially in ‘cool’ Bryant Park.  Especially in New York.

So when a young black man, stopped and stood, stared and waited, I was thrilled when A. accepted my offer to sit .  Dressed in black with a heavy backpack he didn’t take off, I strained to hear his soft-spoken question about coaching.  He responded to my offer for action steps in relationships and career with a shy smile.

Which first?  Relationships.  Specifically, he wanted to learn to be a better friend.  WOW!  Right?

I started asking what does a better friend ‘look like’?  That’s a hard question for most of us to answer, and A. shut down to my query.  Reminder to self:  keep my questions simple.

What did A. want to improve?  Why did he think he needed to be a better friend?

Referring to one friend, A. felt it was his fault this many was always on the phone when they were together.

I used Moments of Awareness (http://www.creating.bz/our-reading-circle/fifth-discipline.html)   to uncover the issues:

Q1:  What was he feeling?  Anger

Q2:  What did he want:  His friend not to be on the phone so they could TALK

Q3:  What could he do differently:  He wanted to yell at his friend, but as we discussed there were better communication techniques.

There’s this special energy created when working with someone so intent.   We next worked on using ‘I’ statements, to replace getting A.’s needs communicated.  He agreed words would work better than yelling.    ‘I’ statements,  are a popular and basic communication technique taught in communication and conflict classes.  But as I told A. they aren’t often heard.

Why not?  Good question, ‘human’ answer:  Emotions.  It’s always easier to yell and blame the ‘other idiot’.

It takes lots of practice to actually change the way we communicate our emotions.  I had to admit that even my ‘I statements get washed away in the face of conflict.  I too need to practice and a good plug for the importance of a coach to practice with!

A. and I worked through the steps (bold-faced), practicing them along the way.  One of the many cool things about this is that A. was easily able to supply good talking points (in italics).

Step 1When you (the facts):  talk on the phone when we are together

Step 2:  I feel:  angry

Step 3:  Because:  I want you to talk to me

Step 4:  I would likefor you not to be on the phone when we are together

Step 5:  BecauseI would like for us to talk

Step 6:  What do you think?

Simple and straightforward.   I wanted A. to practice, reminding him (and me and all of us) of the difficulty in changing how we talk and the power of being swept away by the emotions.  I suggested 100 times.  Yea, right you are probably thinking as he did too!  He felt like he could do it 5 times.  5 times works!

I recommended A. practice in front of the mirror.  I often recommend ‘mirror’ practice often (though nothing to do with fixing hair or touching up lipstick).  Practicing in front of the mirror and looking yourself in the eye lets you see what you look like in uncomfortable positions.  PRACTICING until you can smile and see

Bryant Park’s public restroom gets top ratings thanks to fresh flowers and classical music!

your confidence provides yet another step toward success when the situation arises.  Practice puts the words into long(er)-term memory.  ‘Mirror practice is great preparation for public speaking too!

Building a confidence smile and words seemed especially important with A.   His shy smile, soft spokenness seemed part of his MO.  I had him sit up straight.  We practiced shaking hands (not really as silly as it sounds).  His initial limp shake was soon replaced with a firm, more confident grip, eye contact and a smile.

I learned A. was in Welfare-to-Work.  Practicing these basics was a first for him.

He shared he was ‘indecisive’.  It was hard for him to take action.  Like me, you are likely shaking your head and cheering him on.  I reminded him HE SAT DOWN.  HE ASKED.  HE WAS PRACTICING.  No, he is NOT indecisive.  (And how often do we all, in perhaps less challenging situations, allow negative beliefs to define us?)

One more thing:  career help.  A. wanted to be rich.  Well, successful and to get out of welfare.  What did he need to be successful?  I couldn’t help but I told him who could:  his supervisor.

Another scary step for him but asking his supervisor would be a way to gain help and support while demonstrating his decisiveness.

Simply, I recommended he communicate:

  • I want to be successful.
  • What can I do to be successful?

Leaving his nickel, sharing a smile and solid handshake, A. walked away – decisively.  I was left inspired.  I realized in a half-hour, A. demonstrated his decisiveness,  practiced his hand shake, and learned two communication techniques to help him be successful.  Imagine if every person had 30 minute coaching sessions each week?  Imagine if A., and everyone in Welfare-to-Work programs had this opportunity?  Imagine!

The Coach is IN: ‘A Talk in the Park’: Volume 3

8 Jul

Why is it so hard to really, truly, share a deep, dark desire or wish?

Why would YOU step away from success into uncharted – challenging territory?

Nabbing a table and chairs for ‘clients’ in NYC’s Bryant Park, I arrange my sign, sit, and turn-on an expectant and slightly hesitant smile.    I look at the movie

My coaching sign! The blue ‘board’ in the background becomes the movie screen for Bryant Park’s Monday night movies. This week’s show was ‘The Wizard of Oz’

screen where I watched ‘The Wizard of Oz’ a few days ago and imagine myself as OZ.   Coaching after all can provide a home, a brain, heart and courage.

Feeling like the Cowardly Lion, I realize I could use a little courage.  Coaching in the Park is scary:  What if no-one sits?  What if I have nothing to say, nothing to add?   Recognizing my fear sends my empathy into high gear.   I’m here.   I have nothing to lose and so much to gain.

After 5 very long minutes I wonder if I’ll only have my own fear to coach. Offering a session  to the young French ex-pat to my left boosts my confidence.    He declines with a smile, telling me  ‘A Talk in the Park’ is a great idea.

Flaunting his French charm, he recommends my coaching session to a young woman in a bright green dress.  Never underestimate a French flirt!     Glancing between him, me, my sign, she considers a moment before taking a seat.

I’ve raised my price to 5 cents, taking my cue from Lucy (see Vol. 2).   She hesitates at the nickel charge.  Or is it my imagination?

What’s on her mind?  Curiosity.  She (I’ll call her WIG, for woman in green) was

Self-published author Garrett Robinson reading from his book ‘Zoe’ in Bryant Park

curious about coaching and its benefits.  She ‘got’ I was promoting my services.  WIG  is a writer for a large print publication.  I’m really, really impressed.  Published writers in print publications occupy coveted positions these days.  WIG’s success arrived BIG and early:  straight from college.

I’m thinking we should switch seats.

Hesitating, WIG starts laughing, a great open-mouth laugh twinged with a private joke.    The joke: she does have a ‘question’.  The joke: she can’t believe she is going to share this secret with someone she doesn’t know.

Using Moments of Awareness I ask:

Q1:  What is she feeling?:  Restless and ready for a change, a challenge.

Q2:  What does she want?: After years of critical writing she wants to try writing creatively, maybe a novel.

Q3:  What is she doing to prevent herself from getting what she wants?:  The usual ‘yes, buts’/what ifs’:  What if she can’t think of anything to write?  What if her writing is BAD?

WIG is secure and successful.  WHY CHANGE and scarily jump into the unknown?

I reminded WIG what she wanted:  to stretch her talents .

Wanting is easier than doing, right?

My suggestions:

  •  Start small.  Stop editing your decision and your fear of the unknown.
  • Write for short periods of time a few times a week.  Set a schedule and timeline
  • Get support and someone to be accountable to
  • Write without editing and/or direction at first – just WRITE.
  • Write for ‘x’ months before editing or judging your work.
  • I’ll add now: WIG,  Write for fun and about YOUR interests.  Keep a list of possible topics in case you get stuck.
  •  Write and find your voice:  your creative vs. critical voice.
  • Then set new goals.

Was this session valuable?  I got a thankfull $5.00 bonus!

WIG:  keep me posted.  Remember you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

How can these suggestions help you stretch yourself into new territories?  

How can you support yourself or a friend to take a new step?