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Confessions of an Introvert

15 Jul

At a recent networking event, I was rounding the outskirts of the crowd, seeking safety and the lone networker to chat with.  Standing off to the side, a woman held out her hand as I passed.  ‘Hi, I’m ‘Y”.

We shared our ‘how do you/what do you do’s’.  At this crowdfunding gathering, she was seeking funding for her clothing line for women with curves.   She had all the qualities of a fashion designer:  savvy, attractive, and outgoing.  And she couldn’t wait to get out of ‘here’.  Not because she didn’t want funding or believe in her project.  Networking and the brouhaha of it all was ‘too much’.  ‘Y’ is an introvert.

Compacting meaningful conversation to forge a connection is an introvert talent.  But what does this really mean?  With the caveat that not all introverts are created equal, I think it’s time to shed light on the wonderful and often misunderstood inner light of an introvert.

We can be charming, fun, vivacious, sparkly.  Don’t be fooled by this one facet of our personality.   Introverts are not necessarily wall flowers, shy, or anti-social.  It’s far more complicated.

Our mantra:  “When the going gets tough, the tough go to bed.”  Personally, I live by this Barbara Sher quote.   I’m very outgoing and love being out and about.  But when I need to recharge to be my best me – my most authentic me – I unplug and pull the covers over my head.   For minutes, hours, days….  it all depends.  ‘Y’ confessed she spent the 4 day July 4th weekend at home.  When friends told her she had to go out and do stuff, she shrugged:  ‘why?’  She had a happy weekend – alone.

http-www.nickpierno.com

http-www.nickpierno.com

Small talk is like junk food.  It’s great every once in a while.   Tasty.  But only in small quantities.  Babble is empty calories.  Too much leads to weighing us down and making us sluggish.   After an hour or so, talk should move on to something substantive whether it has to do with life experiences, personal thoughts vs. actions.  As ‘Y’ shared, our conversation became real and relaxing when she could share thoughts about how and why she spent July 4th.

theintrovertentrepreneur.com

theintrovertentrepreneur.com

Social media is a bore.  We have no need to talk about ourselves.  No need to share every action and thought in a public, impersonal way.  Why?  If you have something you want to share – text.  It’s more personal.

We do not rant and rave.  Ideas and emotions can be jumbled in our head.  Talking about them in the heat of the moment means we say things we don’t mean which we’ll replay in our heads over and over.  And by the time we’ve sorted them through, well, we have no need to talk about them.

Which means, it can take us days to get back to you about something said or that thorn that got stuck in our side.  We need time.  To think.

We are great company to ourselves; never (or rarely) lonely alone.

If we are out and about and having a great time, it is still exhausting.  If we are not having a great time, it is exhausting, draining, and, lonely.

A seemingly invigorating social event will not ‘pump us up’ if we are emotionally drained.  Especially if there is no meaningful, personal, one-on-one connection/conversation.

infjdoodles-tumblr (for all you Myers-Briggs folks)

infjdoodles-tumblr (for all you Myers-Briggs folks)

I can write this post as ‘we’ because it doesn’t need to be all about me.

We are great listeners.  As one introvert once told me, extroverts see themselves as the center of the universe, introverts are happy to be on the outside.  But just because we will listen and not make everything about us doesn’t mean we have nothing to say.

We won’t talk just to talk.  We won’t talk unless someone is listening.

We may share intimate details of our life, but if you never respond or follow-up, chances are we won’t do it again.  Or maybe we will because we love you.  But it saps our energy.  It’s not connection.

Okay, I’ve said enough.  Time for this introvert to go back to bed.

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Keep your Dance Partner and Avoid the Conflict Dance with these 5 steps

17 Jun

Toe-tapping and ready to groove to the music?  

Intrigued by a dance invitation?

Well, there’s the 2-step, the waltz, and then there’s the conflict dance.

I always say that every conflict starts with an invitation.  An invitation to get all hot under the collar.  The only dance that’s never cool.

better invite dance

It’s a decision.  It takes two to tango and two to argue.

Your partner has an itch – and ‘dancing’ with you will scratch it.

‘K’ told me how ‘B’ filled her dance card:  they were on a nice romantic cruise after a week of travel and conferencing.

‘B’ brought up the money issue with a huffy ‘I spent SO much money on this romantic cruise.’  He talked numbers. ‘K’s toe started tapping itching to rumba through his rumbles.

pointing finger man at woman

After all, ‘No one puts Baby in the corner!‘ How dare he bring up money?

They  talked about the trip’s finances before they left.  She talked numbers.

I broke it to her as gently as I could:  ‘Sometimes arguments about money aren’t about money.  (Of course, sometimes they are…)  

Money is the number one fight between couples and is a leading cause of divorce!

And then I shared my  3 steps to avoid the conflict dance (and appreciate the perks of being a wallflower:

Step 1:  Avoid the seduction and heat of the moment: Recognize the ‘invitation for what it is.  An invitation to fight/argue.

‘B’ knew exactly which of ‘K’s buttons to push to ‘pump up the volume’ so to speak.  In responding, she did exactly what he wanted her to do:  dance back.

Here’s where you decide:  Do you wanna dance?  Especially realizing you’re not going to be arguing about the ‘real’ issue.

(Note:  if you do want to fight just to fight be aware of your motives. We’ve all known couples (in particular) who get into screaming matches that last for days with no end in sight and so hope of resolving the issue.)

woman aghast

Step 2:  Say:  NOTHING!  Especially if you’re also angry, since before you know it you’ll be in a dancing furry. ‘K’ responded in the way most of us would by telling ‘B’ what she had paid for including air fare and hotel.  While this is true, it was just enough to escalate the situation so they were stomping on each other’s toes.

two dancers dise by side

Better is to stop and just think a minute about what you want:  if you want to preserve the relationship:

Step 3:  Listen.  FYI:  Listening will turn the fastest twirl into a seductive slow dance – and here I mean the good kind. Your partner may not have brought up the main issue, but address it respectfully.  Giving someone what they want will ease the path to communication and connection.

Step 4:  Give your listened response – not your high kick (initial) one. Rather than sharing a detailed expense report, ‘

K’s better response would have been: “I really do appreciate this cruise”, or “I really appreciate us being here”, or “Thank you for this great cruise” or something like that.  Chances are this is what she would have said at a later time. This thank you and acknowledgement would have turned off the music to ‘B’s conflict prance. If your partner drops it, let it go temporarily.

relaxed time

If s/he doesn’t, or definitely at a later time:

Step 5:  Bring the issue a little closer and ask for more (info) The issue will come up again (as we all know), so stand on tippy-toes, and in ‘K’s situation ask: ‘You know the other day when you brought up _?  I wonder if we could spend a few minutes talking about money?”

choose how we dance saying

Repeat:  ” I appreciated the cruise (or what you appreciated!) and would like to know more about how you feel paying for it:

Or

“What would make you feel better considering both of our financial situations?’

Or

‘What could we do differently next time that would make you feel better?’

Often, if you are both relaxed at this point, your partner will talk about what the real issue is/was.

In ‘K’s situation, she was talking to me, not ‘B’.  Though she did realize he was probably feeling put off because she had (professionally) spent so much time with  other men during the conference and their travels. As in all conflicts, this one goes deeper…  Next, I’ll share ‘K’ and ‘B’s communication style differences.  I also recommended they go through their values.  It’s all a start – a good start!  And I know they deserve the best.

What causes you to do the conflict dance?

2 Lessons I learned from the 10 Commandments

17 May

All those little things we think we know, yet don’t really know  or pay that much attention to.

Like the 10 Commandments.

thecripplegate.com
Not understanding goes deeper than language.  www.thecripplegate.com

I know what the Commandment tablets look like – I know, but more to recite them.  Writing this I’m reminded of how little I know about religion, or even its role in my life.  Or should I say, how its role is woven into my identity.

One the one hand, I know that the basis of all religions can teach us all about how to treat one another.  But I’m a little fuzzy on specifics.

So along comes Shavuot, my perfect learning opportunity.

I’ve always called this the ‘dairy’ holiday.  Though celebrated to commemorate the Jewish people receiving the 10 Commandments at Mt. Sinai during their 40 year ‘wander’ in the desert.

The ‘thing’ to do at the first night of this holiday is to stay up all night and study.  And because it’s the ‘dairy holiday, there’s ice cream and cheesecake.

formerfundy.blogspot.com
formerfundy.blogspot.com

I opted for a good night’s sleep.  With free time in my schedule Wednesday morning, I thought I’d actually go hear the commandments being read.  Something I’d never done before.   I was curious:  why????  Is it a big deal to hear them read? And why is it important to commemorate their ‘delivery’.

The actual reading is short:  a few minutes.  And since I heard it in Hebrew, I could have easily missed it.  One cool thing:  the kids came and surrounded the Rabbi, watching him read.  It’s important to pass on the learning to children.

My greater curiosity about the importance of the commandments was satisfied as the Rabbi shared his thoughts.  Starting first with the last commandment:

10.  Don’t be jealous.

Don’t be jealous of who someone is or what someone has.  Don’t covet their car, their clothes, their hair, or (for me) their silver jewelry.

Don’t be jealous of their phone, their tablet, their shoes. Their job, their life.

Simple:  right?

Ha!  How many times has that green-eyed monster reared its fiery head to singe your self-contentment?  Don’t we all want – or deserve – what everyone else has?

Someone shared that her daughter-in-law wants what her sister-in-law has.  Fill in the blank and that could be me at times.  I’m not alone am I?

Deeper, is the question do I really want or need those things.  Or, is it something much deeper that I want that I’m missing (I’ll pick door #2).

Then the Rabbi (an Orthodox Chabbad Rabbi, at that) quipped:

Well, at least you’ll obey the first commandment, not to kill another, right?

But he wasn’t done.  Actually I thought he was going to talk about Boston, or some other act of genocide/bullying.

But no…

“If you embarrass or insult someone and their face drains of color (blood), it is like you’ve killed them.  After all, killing someone is draining their body of blood.”

Imagine: Being condemned as a murderer by being a bully?

I know that feeling of my body tightening as in rigor mortis, feeling my face grow red when I’ve been attacked by a venomous word.

It brought to mind:  killing someone’s soul, someone’s self-esteem, hope: is as deadly as killing their body.  Either way, the heart dies.

Words have power.  And so do we.  It takes so little to be kind.

So here’s what I think we can all learn:

  1. Don’t be jealous, starting with don’t compare your life to others.  You have no idea what their journey is all about.  Be satisfied with what you have – there is a good chance it is enough (unless it has to do with bad health…).  When I covet something of someone else, I tell my myself I have to take the whole package of who they are to get that one thing.  Somehow, that makes me realize I’d rather just be me with none of that ‘great stuff’.
  2. Be kind and compassionate to others.  Don’t make little jokes at someone else’s expense even if they have a good sense of humor.  Especially if you know someone is feeling vulnerable (and that is most of us most of the time), don’t say things that will belittle them and make you feel better about yourself.

2 little steps that can make my world better – and hopefully yours.  

Best of joy to all of us.

5 steps to Polish your Elevator Pitch to Perfection (thru 3 types of messages)

9 May

Is sharing your pitch as comfortable to you as pushing the ‘up’ on an elevator button?

Does your pitch feel as comfy as elevator chit-chat?pressing buttons

I don’t know about you , but when it comes to selling myself, my words turn into a mouthful of caramels.   Well, maybe not that sweet or gooey.  And, to make it worse, I’m a communication coach/facilitator.

How can this be?

Hey, it’s hard to sell – ourselves – to others we don’t know.  Others who are in the midst of selling to us.  Sometimes it feels like networking events are huge swap meets where there’s lots to sell and let’s of competition for the pennies in people’s pockets.

Realizing this, I knew I had to come up with an easy and fun strategy to share my skills.  Luckier for me, I had an opportunity to share them Tuesday night at Showbiz in NYC with 2 meet-up groups:  Crowdzu and Women’s Business.

Are there new challenges with face-to-face networking?  We’ve gotten so used to doing it in cyberspace and are less likely to reach out in person.  I guess for people

We're all focused on our phones, often more than the people in front of us...

We’re all focused on our phones, often more than the people in front of us…

who have ‘grown up’ this way, it is easier connecting through LinkedIn and Facebook.  Me, I’m old-fashioned.  I’ve been told my ghost-like on-line presence renders me invisible.

But onward…

In person communication is 3D and so is a great elevator pitch.

Light travels faster than the speed of sound:  people see, before they hear us.  And the assumptions begin!.

Meeting face to face here are the percentages for how our messages are heard:

  • 55% of the message heard is our body language, mostly facial.
  • 38% is the pitch, volume, and intonation of our voice, and,
  • 7 (measly) % is our actual words.

That’s 93% of a message ‘heard’ are nonverbal!

Body-Language definitions:images

What you're feeling on the inside shows on the outside

What you’re feeling on the inside shows on the outside

Aware of the power of our presentation, I came up with these 5 steps for a polished pitch:

1.  Purpose:  Decide – and write down why you are going to an event and what you hope to gain.  Doesn’t matter if it is just to get out of the house or if you are looking for a job or funding.  Your purpose will keep you focused and give you extra incentive to walk through the door.

2.  Attitude: Wow!  How are you feeling about the event and life in general?  Your attitude is that 93% of what people will hear when you share your brilliant skills.

For those of us who have been having a rough time ‘out there’, it can be hard to keep a positive attitude and this is why it’s really important to rethink your current situation.  If you are feeling really bad, maybe take a break and rejuvenate yourself.  Watch a TV show or meet with a friend who makes you laugh.  Or get extra sleep which always makes (me) feel better.  Most of all, don’t apologize for how things are.  Write down all the things you’ve learned, all the sock drawers you’ve cleaned up (or socks you’ve tossed), or the number of interesting conversations you’ve eavesdropped at Starbuck’s while whiling away the hours.

Look in the mirror and tell yourself all the things you are good at and all you have to offer.   Remember attitude is 93%!

Good strong handshakes with eye contact are dazzling displays of confidence!

Good strong handshakes with eye contact are dazzling displays of confidence!

3.  6 Parts of the 7% verbal:

  1. Smile, maintain eye contact, and shake hands:  a REAL handshake regardless of gender.
  2. Share your name and title
  3. Present your hook, or question.  This may be:  What brings you here today?  or as a prospective documentary filmmaker learned to ask at the workshop:  ‘Do you know who Major Taylor is?
  4. Tell what you offer including specific skills.  T. shared this first as benefits but these are her skills:  Expert at listening and identifying people’s talents and then connecting the right people with the right position.
  5. Share the benefits of your specific skills.  As S. pointed out, just telling people they will save money isn’t enough.  Be sure to be specific:  for example with T., her benefit is saving time and frustration, which will add to productivity.
  6. Ask a follow-up question to gather more information and keep the conversation flowing.  E. has a brilliant skin care line and her pitch follow-up:  ‘What is your skin care challenge?’

Be comfortable enough with your words that you can customize your pitch.  

Be sure to match your skills and benefits with your audience.

4.  Practice

It’s one thing to put together the right words, but remember it’s the nonverbals that will ‘seal the deal’ so to speak.  I always recommend practicing in front of the mirror.  Say your pitch over and over maintaining eye contact with yourself.   Smile.   Become comfortable with the words and watch the excitement build on your own face. It’s catchy.  The more comfortable you are with the words, the easier it is to customize.

Practice till your thumbs naturally turn up

Practice till your thumbs naturally turn up

5.  Appearance

In our perpetual casual Friday society, the way you dress still matters.  Dress for the job and position you want to have.  Want to be in business?  Wear a suit.  Want to be takes seriously?  Dress appropriately.  You’ll feel different and people will treat you in kind.

Most of all: Have fun!  And follow-up with all those business cards you take!

What’s your favorite tip for elevator pitch presentation success?

How do you prepare for networking events?

Tech Day’s 3 Questions

26 Apr

Trade shows are like Halloween for adults:

You walk in, are given a bag, and then go booth to booth for a treat – seemingly unlimited handfuls of refined sugar.

Orange Tech Day bag along with a Silver Red Bull - to get me through the day

Orange Tech Day bag along with a Silver Red Bull – to get me through the day

The trick:  Talking to the right people and/or getting to the right booth at the right time.

 

NYC’s Tech Day event inside Pier 92 was decidedly Pacific Northwest:  casual and hip.

preview.crowdzu.com My intro to Tech Day was through Crowdzu which is a one-stop crowdsourcing site which will revolutionize crowd funding and sourcing

preview.crowdzu.com
My intro to Tech Day was through Crowdzu which is a one-stop crowdsourcing site which will revolutionize crowd funding and sourcing

There were few card-carrying AARP members, or even people over the age of 35.

preview.crowdzu.com

preview.crowdzu.com

I had a great conversation with the techies here!

I had a great conversation with the techies here!

Does the tech world belong to the young?  Maybe.

Weened on Facebook and the wonder of ‘thumbs’ (vs. ‘tongues’) communication which I’ve written about, technology is part of their DNA.

photo-46

A bit overwhelmed by the energy and buzz of 151 vendors and their admirers, 3 questions came to mind:

1.  How far will technology go in changing our lives?

Cell phones alone have revolutionized communication – how much more can we and will we do from the palms of our hands?photo-41

Technology facilitates shopping ordering food,  making travel arrangements, and finding love, making our life easier, right?

But I wonder what we lose inphoto-39 that ease.  There’s the obvious: no more spontaneous conversations with strangers, no challenge (and satisfaction) in planning a trip and poring over a half a dozen travel books, and no opportunity to touch and feel a new clothing purchase.

Societally, how will this change our interactions with people and products?  As many have noticed, customer service skills are missing:  and I’ve noticed it’s not only service workers unable to converse with customers, but many customers don’t/can’t connect back.  I miss this social ‘kindness’, do you?

There are lots of ‘apps’ that connect us which is great.  But what about the depth of the connection:  how much thought and feeling gets lost in 140 characters or on a face book page?  Are we becoming more or less lonely?

And, is society driving technology, or is technology driving us – like sheep?

2.  Does technology reflect people’s values?

No matter the need or want, chances are there’s an app for that.  Or there will be soon – if it’s profitable.  That makes sense, right?   ‘Build it and they will come’ as Kevin Costner said in ‘Field of Dreams’.  And there’s money in those apps, with an emphasis on fast and efficient from specialty chocolates to real work improvement like echo time (tracking work flow efficiency) and crowdzu for one-stop crowd sourcing.,

Social media - the new 'being social'?

Social media – the new ‘being social’?

Yet at this ‘progressive’ event – there was no recycling.  Not convenient or not on people’s radar?

Orange 'swag' bags and hydration refuse. And recycling is the easiest of all environmental actions.

Orange ‘swag’ bags and hydration refuse. And recycling is the easiest of all environmental actions.

Is it true our values follow the money trail?  

If it’s not profitable – or quantifiable by an app, will our core needs defining our humanity also become non-recyclable throw-aways?

Climate change is real – as real as the devices we hold in our hands

We need clean air and water more than gadgets – don’t we?

April 20th was Earth Day, and the environmentalists had their own trade show.  Why can’t hipster techies and hipster environmentalists be the new peanut butter and chocolate?

green festival nyc

3.  What ‘tongue’ communication skills do people need?

Differences between communication styles parallel age differences.  As a communication coach I am beginning to wonder if this new generation needs, wants or

Wild!

Wild!

even expects those basic communication skills we used to take for granted:  two-way conversations, asking open-ended questions, ability to talk to strangers, listening, and of course customer service niceties.

I’m talking about the ‘grey’ areas in talk beyond the black and white facts of daily life that are easily captured on Facebook and twitter.  The grey areas that make our photo-44

My favorite image- from google ad words!

My favorite image from google ad words!

conversations and lives more colorful.  I think…

There’s an awful lot of ‘noise’ competing for our time and attention these days.  Including all of us who blog, begging web surfers to listen and acknowledge us (thank you!).  Does this count as listening?

And as we evolve in seeming milliseconds versus millions of years will natural selection prove ‘thumb’ communicators as winners?

Change happens – I just hope we all know what we are doing.

The slide from disagreement to ‘I HATE YOU’

18 Jan

It happens.  A woman in a recent workshop asked about:

‘Having an argument and ending with saying: ‘I HATE YOU.’

The best thoughts on this slippery, painful, communication slide come from Melissa, a twenty-something middle school teacher outside of Portland, OR.   I’ve never met Melissa, just heard about her response from Laura, a mutual friend about a year ago.  I found this so brilliant it’s been in the back of mind since then.

Here’s the scenario:

Melissa was startled by all the conflict – and resulting tears – amongst her girls.  Best friends one day, declared ‘I hate you’ enemies the next.

So (and here’s the brilliant part):  she ASKED a student proclaiming her hate one day what the deal was.  (forgive the paraphrasing);

‘Do you really hate her?’

‘No’

‘Then what?’

‘I just don’t want to sit next to her at lunch every day.’

‘Then why don’t you just tell her that?’

Problem solved!  (Or for the moment!)  Melissa identified the key to help her student express her true needs, saving the relationship and more importantly teaching her students to say what they mean without being engulfed in the emotion.

joycelyn-ainee.blogspot.com

Wow!  It’s all so simple – yet not.  After hearing this I was reminded how many times I say things I don’t mean, but don’t have the time or where-with-all to stop and think through what I’m feeling, thinking, and what I want.

Of course, at this stage of my life, I usually say nothing.

And that’s no better.  In fact it is worse.

So what’s the key?  Or should I say Melissa’s key?  Good old-fashioned ‘I statements’:

Sharing the facts (using Melissa’s example):  When you sit with me at lunch everyday

I feel:  (ah, the emotions of a middle school girl):  uncomfortable?  unhappy?

And I realize most girls – most people don’t talk like this anymore.  Then again, maybe we need to both simplify and focus our talk for better communication.  

What I want:  To sit with other girls sometimes, and to sit with you sometimes.

Because:  I want to be friends with you and also be friends with other girls.

I didn’t get a chance to share this in the 45-minute workshop with the woman in need.  But over and over I realize how important it is to say what we mean and hope to be heard.  Or rather hope the receiver is open and listening.  And that’s a whole other issue!

I’m going to use this more.  I need to use this more.

What’s your greatest communication challenge?  

Email me at katz.communicat@gmail.com  and I’ll write the anonymous response here!

Here’s to 2013 being a year of saying what you mean when you need to to get what your values met!

Empathy: Be kind

7 Jan

I love this quote, so key, so true of empathy:

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.
by Saint Philo of Alexandria

(and recently read in the book, ‘The other side of the world’, by Jay Neugeboren)

I always think of empathy as the key to connecting and understanding others – and even myself.  While this post is from one of my other blogs:  http://identity5772.wordpress.com, it certainly is essential to communication.  And what’s more fashionable than shoes, but good communication!

Here’s to blister-free walking this week!

Shes!  When did shoes become the go-to destination for journeys to nirvana?  When did well-appointed heels turn cads into princes and transform us plain girls to ‘sex-y in the city’?   Or has footwear always been as important to fashion as the saying: ‘Don’t judge me until you’ve walked a mile in my shoes’  has been to identity and peace?

Does our penchant for buying shoes, amassing Imelda Marcos or Carrie Bradshaw sized collections speak to our need to understand others?   Do new shoes provide  the potential and ability to walk that mile to understanding?

My footwear reflects my soul and mirrors my identity.  My journeys are on

Shoes fit for my very long journeys

foot and I’ve learned the hard way that Jimmy Choos and Manolo Blahnik’s derail my  joy into train wrecks.

Footwear can define identity, and, is just as complicated.   I recently told a dear friend, ‘we may wear the same size, but we like and wear very different shoes – literally and figuratively’.

It can be hard to understand someone you love.  Someone  whose footwear appears interchangeable with your own.  Different styles, different

One pre-Xmas night, a group of young men were camped in front of a shoe store on 34th Street in Manhattan. They were spending the night to be first in line to buy the ‘newest’ sneakers. What kind? What did they look like? No-one knew – just that they wanted them.

toes add difficulty relating to the owner of the heart-pumping-blood to those other  toes. As a species focusing on souls, rather than soles, and the miles journeyed, can surely help promote listening, peace and, understanding identity.

Empathy, the ability to put yourself into someone else’s shoes, to listen for  identity without bias or judgement.   Knowing and doing are two totally different things.

Empathy can improve communication and connection, if that  first giant step is taken:  to understand what someone else is feeling or what they need.

Swapping metaphoric  ‘shoes’:  Would any genocide occur if perpetrators imagined themselves, or their mothers, or wives, or children as victims?  Would they say ‘NO’ to crimes of hate?

This must be a key to peace as I wrote about in my recent post ‘Peace Requires Listening’.

Daniel Lubetzky,CEO of Kind Bars and PeaceWorks remarked (one of) the key to Palestinian-Israeli peace is for Israeli’s to listen to Palestinian needs.  I think a shoe swap and long survival hike might help.

I’ve often found empathy, along with blisters, after finding myself on a path with someone I’ve judged.  ‘Blisters’ force me to slow down, open my eyes, acknowledge the pain.

It’s painful to listen if we are not sure of our identity, or we are not on firm footing ourselves. In Vilna, Lithuania (‘Dinner in Vilna’), Lilly said she was unhappy before she focused her identity and connected with Judaism.

Some say shoe shopping, especially during a sale, is a religious experience. There are other ways to worship.

Empathy.  Walking that metaphoric mile.  Several years ago, I discovered the cure:

Imagine these pills shaped like SHOES: Empathy pills!

A pill.

A shoe-shaped empathy pill.  

Mid-judgement, mid-hate action, a quick pill pop would change everything with, ‘Here, walk a mile in my shoes.  Have an empathy pill.’

As soon as a pharmaceutical company gets back to me, I’ll take your orders.

In the meantime, how has a pair of shoes helped you understand others, or, shaped or defined your identity? 

What leg of your journey has developed your empathy?

Values: The Coach was kicked out of the Park!

6 Aug

Alas, it’s true! 

The laws are strict in this town when it comes to what you can ‘sell’ in public spaces, as the young and slightly confused officer told me.

I know the officer was doing his job – I don’t want a ticket!

NO to offering a service, NO to using park furniture.  Stay tuned for other options including BMOS (bring my own seat).

A large scruffy man in a baseball cap sat down as the officer left, to ask about coaching, comment on the interaction, and quickly offer to be my assistant.    Former driver, former ‘European’, living in Queens for the  past 20 years, Y. was exploring Manhattan and his options for the first time,  which this second included me.

I only provide coaching I reminded him more than once.

Y.,  was a math teacher in ‘Europe’.  Years ago he subbed in the Bronx – for a day.    Shaking his head, the picture viewed through his broken English:  an empty classroom with students wildly enjoying the outdoors.

Not an experience he wants to repeat.  To teach he needs to pass the test he failed, barely, more than ten years ago.  Option include taking a class with test taking tips,  or, study on his own.  Classes are expensive: he hasn’t found the free ones through the NYC Department of Education.   So many NYC teachers fail these tests the first (and many more) times, because like Y., English is not their native language.

Options are great if you know what you want, and, even then they’re challenging.   I spend many an hour picking up balls from juggled options!    While Y. is fixated on me at

One of the wonders of Bryant Park: a carousel!

the moment, I get the sense what he really wants is conversation.    He shares what I’ve heard from so many New Yorkers:  meaningful connection is rare.

Connection motivates him to ‘apply’ as my assistant.  I get it.  Coaching in the park has been meaningful and a great motivator for me, and I believe many of my ‘coachees’.

I focus on Y.’s motivation, asking what’s important enough for him to retake the teaching test and study?  He couldn’t tell me.  Knowing and understanding the values that motivate aren’t usually on the tips of our tongues.  Without knowing what he really wanted, ‘Y’ looked to me as a substitution.

Okay, to be sure there are worse substitutions!   Unmet values have led me to over consume:  food, shopping, and, negative thoughts.   But when it comes to true motivation, only meeting values will satisfy.

‘Y’ doesn’t want to hear this.  Doesn’t want to hear I can’t help.

Values are a communication essential.  Here’s a great and simple tool to identify yours:   http://www.career-test.biz/values_assessment.htm .   Values focus life areas including  finances, relationships and conflict, and career.

Values are intense, so when you identify yours, give yourself time to think through the options offered.  Share them and share your ‘ah-ha’ moment as you uncover your core values.

One of the iconic lions that guard the front of the 42nd Street Library and an anchor of the park

Hope your week is filled with meaningful connections.

Hidden amongst the trees are stacks of books, magazines, and newspapers ready to be enjoyed when a break from ping-pong is needed.

Another option: ping-pong is a great way to blow off steam during lunch hour. I haven’t played – YET. An incentive to relaunch my coaching sessions

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!

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!