Interview With Chris Robert

September 20, 2013 Leave a comment

EscapeLG

INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS ROBERT
(reprinted from Business Week)

Do you have a cranky boss? Some bosses act as though they’re allergic to humor, bristling when employees joke around in the office and fretting over the line between humor and harassment. But Chris Robert, assistant professor of management at the University of Missouri-Columbia’s Robert J. Trulaske Sr. College of Business, says joking around on the job can actually have a positive effect on productivity and employee retention. Robert, whose findings have been published as a chapter in a recent edition of the journal Research in Personnel and Human Resources Management, spoke about his findings to Smart Answers columnist Karen E. Klein. Edited excerpts of their conversation follow.

Why did you decide to do an academic study on workplace humor?

I’ve always appreciated how humor is an important part of the day-to-day work life, and I’ve always been interested and intrigued by how humor works. I’ve also done research on the subject of cross-cultural management styles and noticed how some humor works well in our culture, but not in other places.

Have you found that humor is definitely culturally specific?

Sure, somewhat. But on the other hand you typically hear things like, “Don’t use humor in international business settings, it’ll fall flat or you’ll offend someone.” But my experience is that that’s not the worst thing in the world. And the upside is really positive: Almost nothing makes you more comfortable than sharing a laugh about something universal, like kids. So sometimes humor works exceedingly well across cultures to make people feel better about each other and about doing business together.

I approached the topic of humor initially from the cross-cultural angle, but then I decided to survey the literature and found that there wasn’t much out there in terms of empirical work on humor. There are lots of armchair theorizers, but not many good studies. So a business doctoral student, Wan Yan, and I looked at the fields of anthropology, communications, and sociology to see what might inform what we’d expect to see in business organizations.

And what did you find?

We found pretty good theory and evidence suggesting that humor at the individual level is important. The use of humor, and the ability to produce and make humor, is associated with intelligence and creativity, two things highly valued in workplaces. More important, the link between humor and positive emotions seems strong, which is intuitive, and there’s also a strong correlation between positive emotions and workplace performance.

So are you saying that a funny employee can help promote a happy, productive workplace?

No one has really studied humor as an important part of employee performance directly, but we do know that positive affect in the workplace increases individual performance. And humor is one of the things associated with a positive affect, which increases not only productivity, but also the ability to communicate well with the boss, co-workers, and customers. It also enhances the degree to which you feel bonded, cohesive, and part of the group in the workplace.

That’s where employee retention comes into it. If you have positive emotions about your job, you’re less likely to quit. And maybe part of that is because of the fun you’re having in the break room. You might get a better job offer, but it will take more to draw you away when you like where you work and you like the people you work with.

It seems as if we often get negative reactions to humor from those armchair theorizers or from the legal perspective. Why do you think that is?

Humor enables people to make comments that they might not otherwise make. If you can wrap something up in humor and say, “Oh, I’m just kidding around,” you might be able to say something offensive that you wouldn’t say without the humor. So I think often people blame humor in general when someone’s making an offensive comment within humor. I think of humor as the medium, not the message. If someone makes a sexually charged comment, but they use humor to do it, should we blame humor or should we blame the person’s intentions? We don’t want to shoot the messenger.

In the same sense, doesn’t humor also give employees the freedom to criticize or complain about their jobs?

Sure. If the business owner or manager is someone who doesn’t respond well to direct challenges from employees, they might find a way to criticize indirectly with humor. In that case, I’d advise the business owner to take the message seriously. The person making the joke might be challenging you, which could be a problem, or you might be getting a subtle communication from one employee that other employees also feel. If an employee makes a joke about a supervisor, other people probably agree with that joke. Humor producers know that other people are listening to their joke and they’re more likely to make it if they think the others will appreciate it.

In that sense, humor can be used effectively by the business owner to understand how employees are thinking. It could create an opportunity for you to address a complaint or criticism that you wouldn’t hear about otherwise.

How did your study find that humor relates to workplace creativity?

The primary theory about humor, which is well accepted, is that it stems from incongruity. In other words, we find jokes or comments funny because they are linking two things together—perhaps through a punch line—that you wouldn’t normally link together, or that shouldn’t go together. Essentially, that’s what creativity is, too: Putting things together in a unique way, like using the Internet for something people wouldn’t have thought of before.

It’s likely that some of the same neural processes enable both humor and creativity, so those two things kind of go hand in hand. A number of studies show that a funny person is also likely to be a very creative person.

How do your findings translate to the hiring decisions that small business owners have to make?

That’s an interesting issue, and in fact we’re working on a paper about that right now. Should you select the funny guy for a job? I don’t necessarily think you want to select the class clown, someone who’s constantly joking and has to be the center of attention all the time. That could be too much for a workplace, it could get distracting for the other employees, and any boss would probably have valid worries about that kind of person. But if you can get some more subtle indicators in an interview that someone has a good sense of humor—say, they appreciate humor or they find things funny—that might be someone you want to have around. The other thing is that humor is viral. When someone’s laughing, it’s kind of contagious and it can spread a positive general benefit to the workplace.

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Bending Rules for Better Results

September 5, 2013 Leave a comment

“Most managers,” said futurist Alvin Toffler, “were trained to be the thing they most despise…bureaucrats.” Bureaucratic workplace rules, policies and red tape are a major frustration, both for the manager who has to enforce them, and for the employees who have to endure them. Employees often cite baffling workplace rules as an impediment to getting their work done efficiently. Some workplace rules are essential to deal with important considerations such as safety. But arbitrary edicts for every aspect of office life act as handcuffs, limiting people’s ability to achieve the best results.

In the book Hacking Work: Breaking Stupid Rules For Smart Results, authors Bill Jensen and Josh Klein show how today’s top performers are taking matters into their own hands to circumvent all sorts of rules just to get their work done. These are dubbed benevolent hackers who find ways to get around stupid rules to get smarter results. The authors cite an example of employees frustrated because their boss insists that all presentations be delivered in PowerPoint. But collaborating with others on PowerPoint slides took forever to upload (and download) files on the company’s Microsoft SharePoint servers.

Breaking the rules by surreptitiously using Google Documents for the collaborative work, and saving to PowerPoint at the last minute, saved hours of frustration and helped these employees accomplish more. Another example cited is of an employee who was tired of spending six to eight hours a month doing his expense reports according to his employer’s cumbersome forms. He now uses Mint.com to create a one-pager of his expenses and even uses Salesreceiptstore.com to order duplicate sets of receipts to match his expenses so he doesn’t have to carry pockets full of receipts.

What these two examples teach business executives is that there’s an urgent need to keep up with the rapidly changing work environment, not only in terms of how people work today, but also what tools are available out there. The authors state that “the tools we have outside of work are leapfrogging past what we use on the job.” Preventing employees from using these tools makes their life needlessly more difficult. And many will find a way to work around firewalls and use them anyway because these tools allow them to work more efficiently.

Reprinted portion of article by Bruna Martinuzzi, founder of Clarion Enterprises Ltd., and the author of two books: Presenting with Credibility: Practical Tools and Techniques for Effective Presentations and The Leader as a Mensch: Become the Kind of Person Others Want to Follow.

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A Dream Team

August 29, 2013 Leave a comment

A friend of mine, Tom Daly, gave a seminar on teamwork in which he asked us to facilitate a fun and revealing exercise. He took me and seven other volunteers from the group to the back of the room and instructed us: “When I say, `GO!’ I want one leader to stand in the middle, and the rest of you to lock arms with each other in any way you choose around the leader. Then, in collaboration with the leader, you’re going to move this small folding table with the tray on top (and a coffee mug on top of that) from one corner of the room to another.” I immediately had a vision of how it could be done quickly, and when Tom asked us how much time we needed, I said we could do it in two minutes.

When Tom gave the signal to proceed, I jumped in the middle and asked everyone to lock arms and face me, except for the person closest to the table, whom I had turn and face away from the circle but still locking arms with the rest of us. He asked me if one person could pull the whole table and I said, “Yes, absolutely! You can do it.” With little time for processing, I had to be assertive and think fast to get the job done in two minutes.

We proceeded to move en masse toward our goal. Everyone else was laughing as we shuffled across the room and down the aisle, with the guy hauling the table bringing up the rear. Then an obstacle showed up in the form of an overturned chair in our path. Before I could give an instruction, the person at the front of the circle kicked the chair aside. “Good job, macho man!” I shouted, which provoked more laughter from the rest of the room. We reached the corner of the room and I told the team to rotate so that the person with the table would be facing the corner. Then he set the table in place, and the task was finished in a minute and twenty seconds.

This humorous exercise was a great learning experience for all of us. Tom asked me my thoughts about leading the group. I replied that I probably would not have led if not for the clear vision I had for getting it done simply and quickly.

Each person on the team gave their viewpoint from the questions Tom asked of them: Did they feel like an integral part of the team, even though they had no verbal input? One person suggested it was easier to yield to the strategy given by the leader and work with a team of strangers than among her co-workers (perhaps knowing their flaws all too well and the personality dynamics between them). Were any of them tempted to dispute the leader’s strategy? A few were, but said they ceded to the leader due to time limitations. Was it fun? Unanimously, a good time was had by all!

Excerpt from the book, “When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Lighten Up!”

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Morale of the Story

August 22, 2013 Leave a comment

Historically, incentive programs and meetings have been the early victims of economic downturns. In the current economy it has impacted the industry; there are reports of cancellations, delayed plans, and general cutbacks. With that as background, it is wise to restate the need for continued use of incentives and meetings, even if on a somewhat contained basis.

Some managers react to these situations by immediately cutting all “unnecessary” expenses without looking at overall consequences. “Unnecessary” becomes a very subjective evaluation. Others assess the value of each program before deciding the reasonable course of action.

There are now many studies that show a very definite relationship between motivation, the work environment, and bottom line profits. Satisfied workers produce at a higher, more efficient rate. The management dictum that employees are satisfied just to have a job in difficult times has long been refuted. Keeping employees and customers satisfied especially in difficult times is the basis of reaping healthy profits.

Keeping your employees engaged and giving them the feeling of being part of the team and appreciated will help them with the mental stress and will improve their outlook. An employee with a positive attitude is just as contagious in improving morale in the workplace as a disgruntled employee is in destroying morale.

In the book, “Contented Cows Give Better Milk”, the authors compared business results of companies considered employers of choice with a comparable group of Fortune 500 companies. (An employer of choice is a company that is primarily people-driven.) Although the Employers of Choice had about 1/3 of the revenue of the others at the start of the study, over a 10-year period (one that included a recession), they:

 Outperformed the latter about four to one in revenues;
 Increased net income 202% vs. 139%;
 Roughly doubled the net income of the latter group;
 Added 79,000 jobs while the latter LOST 61,000 jobs

The point: simply that a motivated, committed work force — one that continues to be recognized by incentive programs that reward excellent performance — continues to achieve growth while others stagnate.

Using these programs correctly is a competitive advantage, especially under difficult economic conditions. Measuring the success of incentive programs and meetings – whether return on investment (ROI) or return on objectives (ROO) or anything else – is the best way to show the value. Measurement as a tool for planners and business leaders is essential at all times. It addresses requirements of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the need to demonstrate results to management, and, often, the justification for one’s job.

Both incentive suppliers and corporate planners say that they are increasingly asked for data related to measuring program results. ROI analysis also helps a company evaluate the impact of an incentive program across the entire operation, something that is crucial to avoiding long-term problems.

According to the MPI Foundation, “…ROI is THE single most important tool for a meeting professional. In today’s economy, with more and more meeting professionals answering to their Procurement office, the emphasis on ROI has never been more important.”

Employee incentive programs reward exceptional employees for reaching work goals, achieving milestones or simply doing a good job. These types of programs are designed to offer incentive and motivation in employees and increase the overall performance of the company. An incentive program is a great way to show employees that you value their input while at the same time boosting your business potential.

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Airing It Out

August 15, 2013 Leave a comment

flightinformation

Let this funny airline complaint letter be a reminder of how customer service is the life blood of any business…

Dear LIAT (AIRLINE),

May I say how considerate it is of you to enable your passengers such an in-depth and thorough tour of the Caribbean. Most other airlines I have traveled on would simply wish to take me from point A to B in a hurry. I was intrigued that we were allowed to stop at not a lowly one or two but a magnificent six airports yesterday. And who wants to fly on the same airplane the entire time? We got to change and refuel every step of the way!

I particularly enjoyed sampling the security scanners at each and every airport. I find it preposterous that people imagine them all to be the same. And as for being patted down by a variety of islanders, well, I feel as if I’ve been hugged by most of the Caribbean already. I also found it unique that this was all done on “island time,” because I do like to have time to absorb the atmosphere of the various departure lounges. As for our arrival, well, who wants to have to take a ferry at the end of all that flying anyway? I’m glad the boat was long gone by the time we arrived into Tortola last night — and that all those noisy bars and restaurants were closed.

So thank you, LIAT. I now truly understand why you are “The Caribbean Airline.”

P.S. Keep the bag. I never liked it anyway.

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Creating a “Riot” on the Freeway

August 8, 2013 Leave a comment

Patterns of behavior can be interrupted and changed instantaneously, providing either a much needed sense of levity in the midst of adversity, or even a lasting shift in life perspective.

In 1992, civil unrest broke out in Los Angeles after the Rodney King verdict. The radio blared the news: Mayor Bradley had just imposed a dusk to dawn curfew in the city. I was driving on the Hollywood freeway during the rush hour, traffic typically bumper to bumper. Looking out the passenger side window, I saw fires ablaze on the horizon. I sniffed smoke from burning buildings that saturated the already smoggy air. I glanced at my fellow commuters, alert to the fear engraved on their faces. Perhaps they were wondering if their houses and neighborhoods were ablaze as well.

The surrounding anxiety was compelling me to respond. Something must be done to ease the sense of despair! But I can’t just leap out of the car and do a stand-up routine on the freeway… I’d probably get run over. Ah…my prop bag was behind the seat. I blindly groped around with my hand and pulled out a show stopper – a two-inch red clown nose. I stuck it on my face. Commuters around me were doing double takes which said, “He must be a tourist. He doesn’t know what’s happening.” I’m sure they were not wondering if I was available for children’s parties. But when I smiled at them, they got the message. I wanted to convey that in spite of the circumstances, we can take a moment to detach and suspend the downward spiral of distress.

The effect was remarkable. People laughed, smiled back, gave the thumbs up, honked horns, nudged their driving buddies and pointed at me. Kids jumped up and down in the back seats and giggled. People of all ages and backgrounds were sharing a moment of fun in the face of adversity. The crowd attitudinal consensus around me had changed. Truly it was one of the finest moments I’ve experienced!

Excerpt from the book, “When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Lighten Up!
c 2013 Mental Floss Publications
All Rights Reserved

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What is S.D.S.?

August 1, 2013 Leave a comment

Juggling Life

Consider this an “unrestraining order” from the court of Terry Braverman: Today we are all afflicted to some degree with S.D.S. (Spontaneity Deficiency Syndrome). It is appalling in our society how much we miss enlivening opportunities by censoring our own spontaneity. “Well, I’m trying to find time to be spontaneous,” a harried business acquaintance once muttered. Indigenous tribal people tend to release their pent-up emotions through singing, dancing, chanting, and wearing wild costumes. How many of us would feel comfortable doing that in front of our families?

We have largely suppressed or forgotten spontaneity in the maze of our busyness, our plans, our rational thinking, and our control mechanisms. S.D.S. is a major cause of stress in our world. When we are in a lot of physical pain it takes some strong medicine to get relief. If the pain is emotional, we often need a strong jolt to regain our perspective. A dose of silly nonsense may just do the trick.

One time I was on the phone with a rep from a customer service department to lodge a complaint. My frustration was growing and I decided to vent by singing my complaint in an operatic voice. The rep was laughing hysterically and said, “Wait, I’m putting my supervisor on the line!” I continued to sing and the supervisor resolved my issue immediately in the spirit of fun established, as opposed to tension and conflict.

I cringe when I see people being scolded for acting too silly. Of course there are situations that demand an overall serious tone, but more often than not it’s the “grow up and get serious” parental mentality at work, stifling the natural stress relief of playful expression. It will amaze you to know that the word silly comes from the Old English word saelig, which was a blessing. It meant “to be happy, prosperous and wise.” On the other hand, adult comes from the word adulterate, meaning “to corrupt, debase, or make impure.”

Some claim variety to be the spice of life…I say it’s spontaneity.

Humor Says No to Drugs

July 18, 2013 Leave a comment

In my seminars and workshops, it thrills me to witness accumulated stress draining from the faces and bodies of participants. I’ve received a number of positive letters from various companies and organizations, but none were more gratifying than the following:

Dear Terry,
Your seminar on humor was great. I particularly related to your discussion on stress, and others sharing their experiences of how stress had manifested itself. I identified totally. Since your seminar, I’ve had no more headaches, no more clenched jaws, no more Valium, Xanax, Halcion or sleepless nights. I’ve shared my experience with co-workers. Thanks for a real eye-opening exchange.
Larry Simons

I spoke again with Mr. Simons, three years after the fact. He is still free of the afflictions and takes no medication. I think of the workshop as a collective creation between myself and the participants, where credit is due to no one in particular other than group synergy and intent. Making such a dramatic impact on Mr. Simons’ health says a lot for the value of humor and play. Clearly, there was a shift in his thinking that took place in an atmosphere of mirth, causing a positive physiological response. Dr. Deepak Chopra once said, “Our thoughts, without reservation, tend to make us healthy or sick.” I might add that our reservations (doubts), without changing our thoughts, tend to make us sick.

In times of despair, we instinctively turn to humor, comedy, and play for its uplifting effects. For the individual suffering mental and physical anguish associated with their circumstance, humor can lift the spirit and reduce suffering for the moment, if not permanently.

Excerpt from an Amazon best-seller, When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Lighten Up!

c Mental Floss Publications
All Rights Reserved

Miles to Go Before We Sleep

July 11, 2013 Leave a comment

Sleep

According to a recent study, the only folks getting enough sleep on a consistent basis are those who have stopped working, and are living out their days in relaxation. ABC News reported that the same was true for people whose mental or physical conditions make them unable to work. Surveys done by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that the amount of sleep for people varies by age, and younger people are getting the least amount of sleep among the tested age groups. The proper amount of sleep, which is about 7-9 hours for adults, is obtained by people upon retirement. Sleep deprivation is typically caused by work, academic, and family stress, plus lifestyle habits, such as late-night television, Internet use, ingestion of caffeine or other stimulants, and late night partying. Some helpful thoughts about getting enough shut-eye:

• Sleep seems to organize memories, as well as help you to recover memories. After you learn something new, sleep may solidify the learning in your brain;

• Parts of the brain that control emotions, decision-making, and social interactions slow down dramatically during sleep, allowing optimal performance when awake. REM sleep seems especially important for a good mood during the day. Tired people are often cranky and easily frustrated;

• Lacking adequate sleep makes the immune system become weak, and the body becomes more vulnerable to infection and disease;

• Some sleep experts suggest that neurons used during the day repair themselves during sleep. When we experience sleep deprivation, neurons are unable to perform effectively, and the nervous system is impaired;

• Growth hormones are released during sleep, and sleep is vital to proper physical and mental development;

• Depression is two times more common for college students, than in the general population, affecting nearly 20% of students. Researchers believe that lack of sleep contributes to this high rate. Additionally, inadequate amounts of sleep cause increased susceptibility to illnesses such as colds and flu;

• Many college students make the mistake of staying up late or pulling all-nighters to prepare for an exam or to complete an assignment. In reality, not getting enough sleep makes it more difficult for them to process, analyze, and retain information, and manage stress;

• Keep regular hours. Try to go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time every day. Getting up at the same time is most important. Getting bright light, like the sun, when you get up will also help;

• Taking a nap during the day is not recommended because it reduces the amount of time a person sleeps at night. If necessary, take your nap early in the day and for no more than 20-30 minutes;

• Keep your bedroom at comfortable temperature. Not too warm and not too cold. Cooler is better than warmer;

• Do not exercise at least 3 hours before bed;

• Avoid bright light around the house before bed. Using dimmer switches in living rooms and bathrooms before bed can be helpful;

• Bedtime routines are helpful for good sleep. A cup of herbal tea an hour before bed can begin a routine. Sleeping pills and other sleep aids actually reduce sleep quality;

• Avoid looking at the clock if you wake up in the middle of the night. It can cause anxiety. This is very difficult for most of us, so turn the clock away from your eyes so you would have to turn it to see the time. You may decide not to make the effort and go right back to sleep;

• If you can’t get to sleep for over 30 minutes, get out of bed and do something boring in dim light till you are sleepy;

• Avoid sugary foods like chocolate, which make falling asleep more difficult. If you are hungry close to bedtime, eat a light carbohydrate or dairy snack instead. In small quantities, eating something light can sometimes help you fall asleep. Have you heard the notion that a bottle of milk puts a baby to sleep? The same can work for adults;

• Watching TV or using laptop computers late at night is not recommended. Reading in bed can be a problem if the material is overly stimulating and you read with a bright light. If it helps to read before sleep, try soothing material and make sure you use a very small wattage bulb to read. A 15 watt bulb should be enough;

• Don’t stress if you feel you are not getting enough sleep. Know you will sleep eventually.
(Resource: National Sleep Foundation)

Reflections on Freedom

July 5, 2013 Leave a comment

eagle

“(Political) words are often used in a consciously dishonest way. Without precise meanings behind words, politicians and elites can obscure reality and condition people to reflexively associate certain words with positive or negative perceptions…As a result, Americans have been conditioned to accept the word ‘democracy’ as a synonym for freedom, and thus to believe that democracy is unquestionably good. The problem is that democracy is not freedom. Democracy is simply ‘majoritarianism,’ which is inherently incompatible with real freedom…how many Americans know that the word ‘democracy’ is found neither in the Constitution nor the Declaration of Independence, our very founding documents?” – Ron Paul

“But for the age-old (psychological) question of free will…it looks as if the answer is that we don’t actually have it. Studies now show that the impulse to take the most basic of actions—the movement of a finger, for example—originate in the brain at least a full second before we’re consciously aware of our desire to move it! It appears that the unconscious mind, functioning with an understanding bereft of language, may control far more of our conscious decision-making than we ever imagined—if not all of it.

Philosophers and scientists are speaking out against these results, not so much to deny them but to try instead to salvage the notion of free will by redefining it…there exists good reasons to want them to succeed: studies also show that when we lose our belief in free will, our motivation to act diminishes as well.

…it’s tantalizing to imagine that the elephant of our unconscious mind that we’re all riding and that may be in charge…needn’t only be made to do our bidding against its will, but that we can also train it to want what we want. Perhaps then the greatest potential for freedom lies in creating as much unity between our conscious and unconscious selves as possible.” – Alex Lickerman, M.D.

“(Philosophically), freedom is not that complex of an ideal. But putting theoretical ideals into practice becomes much more difficult; the black-and-whiteness of ideals becomes muddled with the various gray hues of practice’s complexity. I still love freedom, and I adamantly support full-fledged freedom. No matter how you feel about freedom now, I recommend you consider supporting freedom even more. And I beg you to stubbornly resist those who suggest placing limitations on freedom.” – Scott Hughes

Food & Folly Go Together

June 27, 2013 Leave a comment

Summer is here, and the time is right to commune with family and friends over lavish meals, aided and abetted by healthy gales of laughter.

The positive impact that laughter has on our well-being is nothing new. Throughout history, clowns, fools and court jesters plied their trade not only to entertain, but to heal people, impart wisdom, and exercise diplomacy, acting as ambassadors to other kingdoms for building goodwill and defusing conflict. The court jesters pranced around the imperial courts with a patented blend of whim and wit. It was their privilege to say whatever they wished. Usually a great ruler was surrounded by flatterers, and only from the jester did he ever hear the truth.

The jester’s business was to tickle the royal funny bone, divert the king from the tedium of his daily affairs, and serve a slightly skewed yet enlightening perspective on those affairs of the court. Jesters also assisted his Majesty’s digestion, rubbing the regal tummy the right way with their lively presence at the dining table. “Laughter is one of the most important aids to digestion with which we are acquainted,” said the Prussian professor Hufeland. “The custom in vogue among our ancestors, of inciting laughter by jesters and buffoons, was founded on true medical principles. Cheerful and joyous companions are invaluable at meals; obtain such, if possible, for the nourishment received amid mirth is productive of light and healthy blood.”

Excerpt from the book, “When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Lighten Up!

c 2013 All Rights Reserved
Terry Braverman
Mental Floss Publications

“Excuse Me” Therapy

June 20, 2013 Leave a comment

Are negative patterns of behavior easier to break than we think? One therapist friend of mine thinks so: “I’m always amazed at what happens when I conduct a therapy session. My session room has a nice view from atop the Hollywood Hills. When people arrive, the woodsy surroundings tend to put them in a relaxed frame of mind….I observe them getting out of their cars, looking around at Nature with relief and contentment, and proceed to the front door. They follow me upstairs for the session, and as we chat everything is plum and positive until I ask, `So, what kind of challenges are you having in your life?’”

“Immediately, I notice their shoulders slumping, facial expression drooping, their breathing starting to labor, and their voice becoming more tense, as they tell their tale of despair and decide to embrace their `troubled’ state. What I usually do is say assertively, almost in a peeved or upset tone, `Excuse me, but we haven’t started the session yet!’ What happens? Immediately they say, `Oh, I’m sorry,’ sit straight up, resume healthy posture, breathing, normal voice and facial expressions, reverting back to feeling fine. The message comes through loud and clear.”

Replacing Frustration With Fun

June 13, 2013 Leave a comment

Several years ago I was hired to lift the morale of bank tellers at a savings & loan. They were having a difficult time dealing with rude customers, and looked like a group of doleful-eyed, droopy-eared Beagles in need of a nourishing bowl of food. I told them there is nothing they could do about their customers’ attitudes until they shifted their own attitude from one of frustration to fun. Like Beagles that just heard an eerie sound, their heads collectively turned sideways.

At the end of their workday on a Friday, I asked them to gather around in a circle and reveal their worst customer of the week experience to the branch managers and me. There were loud howls of laughter in the room! The managers and I then conferred a reward to the teller with the best “Worst Customer of the Week” story: A customer apparently took out a can of underarm deodorant from her handbag and sprayed the teller’s window, screaming, “This place stinks!” The reward was a gift certificate to a fine restaurant. The following Friday, it was a bottle of champagne (which proved to be quite popular).

The tellers felt supported for enduring difficult customer situations, and morale skyrocketed. Now they were seeking out the rude customers: “Excuse me, sir, you look like you may be having a tough day…come forward. I’ll help you out.” With this unexpected response, rude customers suddenly became more civil. The good will snowballed as customers were telling their family, friends and work associates about the unusual attentiveness they were receiving at their bank. As a result, the bank had a surprising jump in new customers. It was a win-win-win situation. Can you adopt this approach of rewarding someone for enduring a difficult work experience at your weekly staff meetings?

Excerpt from “When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Lighten Up!
c 2013 Terry Braverman
Mental Floss Publications
All Rights Reserved

Be Patient, Before You Become A Patient

June 6, 2013 Leave a comment

The other day I read a story about a man who became enraged after having to wait in a doctor’s office for over an hour. He stormed over to the receptionist’s window and screamed at a staff member, then suddenly froze, turned a pale color, and collapsed onto the floor, never to regain consciousness. The autopsy revealed nothing physically wrong with this person. His death was attributed to angry thoughts, which sparked a massive coronary.

Patience is often interpreted as stoical endurance of pain and hardship, but it goes well beyond that definition. It is more about embracing the situation exactly the way it is in that moment, and responding in a resourceful or transcendent state of mind. Patience has a deeper aspect of intelligence and wisdom. This is not to be confused with the example of a braying mule overloaded with saddlebags, trudging along a bumpy path until it drops dead. That type of patience is without clarity. Forbearing difficult circumstances can be about struggling to get through something, but developing true patience is a discipline that allows us to be in a flexible flow as situations unfold.

A sense of humor can be a powerful ally to overcome impatience, helping us (and others) re-frame perspective and transcend the difficulties of the moment. A customer service rep I know handled an irate client’s complaint over the phone by saying, “I can certainly appreciate why the situation would anger you. We’ve been in business here for over 60 years; perhaps, we’ve become a bit senile.” The client laughed heartily and the rep was able to resolve the grievance immediately.

If patience was a commodity, it seems to be in shorter supply these days. As a result, we pay a higher price for it in terms of our collective well-being and societal civility (road rage, domestic violence, et al). Next time that impetuous flash of impatience rears its head, take a deep breath, perceive the moment from a broader context, and ask yourself if there is another way of looking at it. Or, put yourself in the shoes of your favorite comedian—how would he/she respond in that situation?

Reminder: Is Your Communication Past Due?

May 30, 2013 Leave a comment

In a recent survey it was found that only 28% of all projects in the American workplace were concluded successfully. Presumably, the success criteria entail completion of a project on time, within budget, meeting all goals and objectives.

It’s estimated that 80% of all mistakes, miscues, missteps in the workplace, call them what you may, are due to communication problems. It starts with poor governance – insufficient documentation lacking agreed upon definitions and protocols, and addressing what I call the “silent killer” of projects… withheld communication. This requires clear and strong consequences; conversely, there must be a safety net for those who confess errors. It goes under good governance – put it all in writing.

This is why you must have a thorough communication plan in place when planning your project, not once it is launched. Who do you contact when something goes awry? Who do you report to regularly? Who is responsible for what decisions? When is any task related to the project scheduled to be done? Put it all in writing, and be as impeccably specific as possible.

Yes, it’s Project Management 101…then again, if only 28% of all projects are successful, it warrants a reminder, don’t you think?

Memorial Day

May 23, 2013 Leave a comment

Did you know that this holiday was originally called Decoration Day? It was born as a commemoration to the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War. By the 20th century, the occasion was extended to honor all Americans who have died while in the military service, and renamed Memorial Day. As a result of the Civil War, a new theme of death, sacrifice and rebirth entered the national consciousness, imprinting a quasi-spiritual component to a secular event. Memorial Day gave ritual expression to these themes, integrating the American community with a sense of nationalism.

Beyond remembrance of those who made “the ultimate sacrifice,” is it not time that we seriously question the impulse to go to war, whether it is between nations, between people, or within ourselves? The human race has made great strides in terms of technological advancements, particularly in our lifetime. Yet the daily news is still fraught with violent conflict, from international to individual to suicidal.

Conflict is a fact of life, but how we manage it provides a benchmark as to whether we are evolving or essentially bestial in our mentality. It would be amazing on this holiday to celebrate the mastery of conflict, while we remember and honor those who suffered the consequences of conflict.

How to Recede in Business Without Really Trying

May 16, 2013 1 comment

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Imagine for a moment you’re a contestant on a business game show version of Jeopardy. Here’s the answer(s):

Loss of potential customers;
Loss of management morale;
Loss of media outlet support

Question: What happens if a company’s Board of Directors refuses to honor an agreement made by management?

Such was the incredulous situation while planning an itinerary for a trip a few years ago. I initiated contact with a very elegant hotel property, via e-mail. The offer I made was to promote them in my publication called The Replenisher, in exchange for accommodations. Included in the e-mail text was a link to the web page showing our publication background and subscriber demographics.

Hotel management accepted the offer in writing (e-mail); in effect, a simple contractual agreement with all the pertinent details.

One week after the fact, an e-mail came from the hotel stating that the Board of Directors decided this was not a good demographic fit (actually, it was more the publication format they objected to), and they were retracting their abidance to the agreement. Let me add, there was no mention by management of this agreement being subject to Board approval.

I wrote a letter to one of the owners, asking them to reconsider: “An offer was made in writing, it was accepted in writing. That’s a contract…someone failed to review our web page before accepting the offer…I invite the hotel to consider a change of heart in this matter, and honor the agreement already made in good faith.”

There was no response.

Clearly, the hotel fumbled an opportunity for good will and positive publicity if they had admitted their negligence, and honored the agreement anyway. Needless to say, the hotel will not be invited back as a contestant on our “show” for any bonus rounds.

Lose Your Mind, and/or Regain Your Perspective?

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When we’re being held hostage by our own thoughts of fear, uncertainty, upsets, anger, or depression, “losing your mind” (figuratively speaking) is the pick that can often break the ice. That non-supportive noise between our ears can vanish in the face of bold, outrageous, unconventional, or even silly action-taking.

Recently I had a frustrating experience with a supplier, and rather than yell at them on the phone, I opted to sing my complaint to the customer service rep in an operatic voice. When I finished, she laughed hysterically and said, “Hold on, I want my supervisor to hear this.” So I sang again and we were all laughing hysterically. They even gave me free shipping for the next two orders!

When feeling stuck, break with the norm and observe how more alive and resourceful you become.

Excerpt from the best selling book, “When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Lighten Up!”
© 2013 Mental Floss Publications
All Rights Reserved

A Prime Rib Tickler

April 25, 2013 Leave a comment

As if mergers, acquisitions, and constantly changing markets aren’t enough to deal with in the world, businesses are having to master new technologies that could be obsolete within months, or even weeks. Learning how to use new equipment can put staff on overload, but can also lead to funny interactions.

A registered nurse from Omaha shared this rib-tickling incident: “A lady came to the hospital to visit a friend. She had not been in a hospital for several years and felt very ignorant of the new technologies. A technician followed her into the elevator, wheeling a large machine with tubes and wires and dials and lights. ‘Boy, I would hate to be hooked up to that thing,’ she said. `So would I,’ replied the technician. `It’s a floor cleaning machine.’”
Excerpt from the book, “When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Lighten Up!” by Terry Braverman ©2013 Mental Floss Publications All Rights Reserved

A Place to Chill in L.A., + Free Download

April 16, 2013 Leave a comment

Are you in or coming to L.A.? In this frenetically-paced city, Tikkun Holistic Spa is the ideal sanctuary of serenity and renewal within the urban jungle.

You can order your individual treatments a la carte or as a combo – a relaxing green tea soak in a luxurious stone tub, an infrared Himalayan Salt Cave for detoxification, Korean mineral body scrub, Volcanic Clay Treatment, ultrasound facial, foot soak and jade stone massage treatment.

Arrive early to enjoy the immense communal jacuzzi, the sauna, and steam rooms, sans a crowd!

Street address: 1460 4th Street, Santa Monica
Opening hours: 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. Daily
Telephone: 310-319-1111
©2013 Excerpt from “”L.A. Made Easy: From Iconic to Eclectic” by Terry Braverman All Rights Reserved

FREE DOWNLOAD
L.A. Made Easy cover002
Seeking new or off the radar venues to discover? Here is the new official “One Stop Shop” for attractions, activities, walking tours, restaurants, nightlife, shopping, and hotels. Listed sections like Historic Districts, Hikes, and Museums save time and help focus on your areas of greatest interest. Over 250 listings of what to see and where to go.

For a Limited Time Only, Launching April 17, You Can Download the iPhone App Version FREE! http://www.guidegecko.com/iphone-app.html

Also available as E-book: www.guidegecko.com/los-angeles (Starting April 17); Kindle: http://www.guidegecko.com/los-angeles-app.kindle (Starting April 22)

About Charitable Contributions

April 11, 2013 Leave a comment

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Andrew Carnegie was reputed to be a charitable man, but he also believed that people should work for what they got. After seven years as the sole supporter of his local symphony orchestra, Carnegie decided that it was time for the fund raisers to earn their keep. `You will no longer get your total budget from me, ‘he told the stunned representatives. `I will contribute only an amount equal to the donations you get from other sources.’

“The fundraisers departed in shock. But two days later, they returned with half the symphony’s budget, $3.5 million, already pledged. Carnegie was greatly pleased. `I hope this teaches you young fellows a lesson,’ he said as he wrote out a check for $3.5 million. `Surely two days was not an unreasonable investment of your time and efforts. May I ask, where you raised such a large amount in so little time?’ The head of the fund raising delegation smiled. He said, `We got it from Mrs. Carnegie.’”

Clarity is the Ultimate Decongestant

April 4, 2013 Leave a comment

If your head seems to be stuffed up with clutter and uncertainty, it’s time to stop what you’re doing, regroup, and either find a quiet place for yourself or solicit feedback from others to regain clarity. We all “hit the wall” from time to time, but it is essential to be conscious of those times and take appropriate steps to clear our heads.

Recently I was the luncheon keynote speaker at an annual conference. Leading up to the introduction as the speaker there are many things going on in my mind—setting up my back of the room products table, remembering to give my typed intro to the person introducing me, putting a glass of water on the podium box, loading the Powerpoint part of my presentation onto the laptop and testing it, testing the sound system in the room, checking the lighting, tweaking parts of my presentation, etc., etc. Something about the room logistically didn’t seem right, but with so many thoughts pinballing around in my brain I had to leave the room and find space to clear my head and determine what was awry.

The room I was to speak in was somewhat long and narrow, which meant that people in the back would feel more remote from the “action,” e.g., exercises I planned for the group. I asked the audio-visual and logistics people if we could move my stage area so I would be more central in the room and therefore closer to everyone. It took some rearranging of tables and running power cables, but it worked like a charm!

The “Mirthquake” Preparedness Test

March 6, 2013 Leave a comment

How adept and prolific are you at applying humor? Is your humor tool kit sufficient enough to weather the storms in your life? In recognition of the value of humor for our overall well-being, this simply serves as an indicator for you. After each statement, circle the number that most accurately depicts your level of mirth-ability. Be honest with yourself – nobody is watching!

5 almost always
4 frequently
3 sometimes
2 seldom
1 almost never

1. My family, friends and co-workers would say my sense of humor is one of my greatest assets.
5 4 3 2 1

2. I find time to take a “humor break” every day (e.g. read cartoons, watch comedy, play with kids/pets).
5 4 3 2 1

3. I laugh at myself easily.
5 4 3 2 1

4. I am comfortable laughing out loud with others.
5 4 3 2 1

5. I share humorous stories and insights with others.
5 4 3 2 1

6. I apply humor in my work environment.
5 4 3 2 1

7. I can enjoy an occasional ribbing from others.
5 4 3 2 1

8. I consciously look for humor during the course of each day.
5 4 3 2 1

9. People have difficulty staying angry at me because of my
humor.
5 4 3 2 1

10. I spontaneously laugh even when I am by myself.
5 4 3 2 1

11. I use humor to help others gain perspective on their problems.
5 4 3 2 1

12. I can find humor even in times of adversity.
5 4 3 2 1
TOTAL SCORE:

60 POINTS: You’re kidding, or you flunked arithmetic
50 to 60: Life of the party
40 to 50: Good dinner companion
30 to 40: Minor attitude adjustment needed; do lunch with a comedian
20 to 30: Major attitude adjustment needed; wear a clown nose to your next board meeting
0 to 20: Severe case of CS (Chronic Seriousness); rent a gorilla suit and crash a wedding

Take Emotion Out of the Equation

February 28, 2013 Leave a comment

I am an emotional, impulsive person by nature. That doesn’t mean I have to be at the effect of counterproductive behavior. Very gradually over the course of my life, I have learned to step back from tense or crucial situations, hold my tongue when appropriate, and refrain from making rash decisions. Slowly I’ve developed a greater awareness for desirable outcomes, and focus my attention on that rather than being engulfed in my emotions.

This week I was negotiating with travel tour company “XYZ”, offering them an entire edition of this publication in exchange for a dramatically reduced rate for the tour I wanted. Initially their reduced price was not much of a reduction, and the “old me” would have blown them off in the huff (or at least a minute and a huff). “What an insulting offer!” I would have thought. “Screw them!” Or maybe I would have haggled with them over the price, and met with resistance that triggered my frustration.

Instead, I took a timeout from the circumstance, regrouped and went back to their website and noticed they had another tour that was appealing to me, a tour that I was considering with a different tour operator. But if “XYZ” gave me a better deal in booking both tours with them, I can offer them exclusivity in the publication and they would be the only tour company to get publicity in this special travel edition.

“XYZ” was far more excited about booking two tours from me and gaining exclusivity in the publicity. Therefore, the price negotiated was far better, probably just a smidgeon above their cost, yet they were happy with the deal.

Radical Sheik

February 21, 2013 Leave a comment

Sheik Salim came from a wealthy Saudi Arabian family, but was surely an oddity among fellow dignitaries. On one particular occasion, he stunned a group of American corporate presidents hosting a banquet in his honor, by playing the harmonica instead of giving a speech. Another time, he arrived in Cairo to find no rooms available at a five star hotel. Even a multi-billionaire’s temper tantrums wouldn’t have budged the situation; but that was not his style anyway.

“If I play the French national anthem for you on my harmonica,” he asked the surprised hotel manager, Madame de la Porte, “will you give me a room?” “That’s a funny way to get a room,” said the Madame. “It’s the only way left,” answered the pragmatic Salim. He played “Le Marseillaise” for her, and she found him a room. Composure + creativity = results!
From the Amazon best-selling book, “When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Lighten Up!” by Terry Braverman c1997

NOTE; Braverman’s Blog will be moving to our new website soon…stay tuned!

Paging for Fun

February 7, 2013 Leave a comment

I’ve spent so many hours at airports that stretching the boundaries of creative time management has become an avocation of sorts.

The little trickster in all of us can be summoned to add spice and ease boredom in our travels. If you are yawning your way through a long layover at an airport, instigate some mischievous fun while you wait, and observe the reactions from fellow passengers. During flight delays and between connecting flights, go up to the airline counter and have them page a famous person or character. Brad Pitt, Darth Vader, George Costanza, and Elmer Fudd are just a few names that have been trumpeted over airport terminal speakers at my prompting, provoking chuckles from passengers and airline personnel (Brad Pitt caused a momentary ruckus when asked to report to a Delta flight gate)…just one whimsical way to lighten up your load while on the road.

Carpe Temporus Punctum

January 31, 2013 Leave a comment

“Boldness has genius, power, and magic to it. Begin it now.” – Goethe

In Charlie Chaplin’s autobiography, he recalls his first, and unscheduled, step onto the stage: “I remember standing in the wings (offstage) when mother’s voice cracked and went to a whisper. The audience began to laugh, sing falsetto, and to make catcalls. The noise increased until mother was obliged to walk off the stage. When she came into the wings, she was very upset and argued with the stage manager who, having seen me perform before mother’s friends, said something about letting me go on in her place.

“In the turmoil I remember his leading me by the hand, and after a few explanatory words to the audience, leaving me on the stage alone, before the glare of footlights, faces and smoke. I started to sing, accompanied by the orchestra which fiddled about until it found my key. Halfway through, a shower of money poured onto the stage. Immediately, I stopped to announce that I would pick up the money first and sing afterward. This caused much laughter. Repeating the chorus, in all innocence, I imitated mother’s voice cracking. I was surprised at the impact; there was laughter and cheers, then more money throwing. Then my mother came onto the stage to carry me off. Her presence evoked tremendous applause. That night was my first appearance on the stage, and my mother’s last.”

Making an Impression

January 25, 2013 Leave a comment

At my workshops, I talk about one of the ways to develop a humorous perspective, which is to ask yourself, if you’re in a crisis or embarrassing situation, how would someone else react if they were in your shoes (a favorite comedian, famous person, etc.). Who would be better to ask that question to than a master impressionist like Rich Little?

A few years ago I interviewed Rich for a feature article in my newsletter, and he recalled a time when he used his talent to avoid a potentially dangerous encounter: “Once I was confronted by a bunch of thugs who I thought were going to beat me up. It was in south Florida and I was pretty scared, but within 15 minutes I had them laughing. I was doing my whole act and they were applauding! So I turned that around, I don’t remember exactly how. I think I went into Louie Armstrong. But it was scary. They didn’t know who I was, but when I started doing the impressions they lost their incentive to beat me up.”

Unrestraining Order

January 12, 2013 Leave a comment

Today we are all afflicted to some degree with SDS (spontaneity deficiency syndrome). It is appalling in our society how much we miss merry-making opportunities by censoring our own spontaneity. “Well, I’m trying to find time to be spontaneous,” a harried business acquaintance once muttered.

Indigenous people tend to release their emotions and heal what ails them in the moment, through singing, dancing, chanting, and wearing wild costumes. How many of us would feel comfortable doing that in front of our families? We have largely suppressed or forgotten spontaneity in the maze of our busyness, our plans, our rational thinking, and our control mechanisms.

SDS is a major cause of stress in our world. When we are in a lot of physical pain it takes some strong medicine to get relief. Fun-induced laughter releases endorphins, the body’s natural pain killers, to quell the pain. A pattern interruption for mental anguish can help us refocus. If the pain is emotional, we often need a strong jolt to regain our perspective. A dose of silly nonsense may just do the trick to heal the hurts of the body, the mind, or the heart.

The Compliance Choir

January 4, 2013 Leave a comment

Much resistance can emerge when attempting to implement new company guidelines. An employee at a local department store generated an answer to this problem that not only reduced costly errors but showcased the talents of some store clerks. This person happened to be an aspiring singer, so she created a “compliance choir.”

They sang the new guidelines over the store’s sound speakers just prior to opening the store in the morning, and recorded the lyrics on cassette so each clerk would have one to listen to in the car or at home. Employees were not only hooked on the catchy tune, which they hummed throughout their work day, but they caught the message as well. The company estimated a savings of 15-20% with the musical tutorial.

Freedom Rings Hollow in the U.S.

December 29, 2012 Leave a comment

“I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.” – James Madison

What is it that I value most in life? Freedom ranks in the top three. It is the primary reason generations of immigrants have flocked to America to pursue their dreams with minimal encroachment. It is sad to witness the slow yet steady erosion of those freedoms. A recent report confirms the decline…

The 2012 Economic Freedom of the World report was just released by the Cato Institute and Canada’s Fraser Institute. In just a few years, the U.S. has fallen from No. 3 in 2000 (behind the city-states of Hong Kong and Singapore) to No. 8 in 2005 and now has plummeted to 18th place, trailing such countries as Estonia, Taiwan, and Qatar. Finland, Denmark and Canada now also have freer economies than the United States.

Most Americans will ignore this report, at their peril; this is not something cobbled together by academic, ivory tower wonks. The initiator of the Economic Freedom of the World report was the late Milton Friedman, who suggested its need as a measure of liberty.

The extensive index covers the size of government (taxing and spending), legal systems, property rights, sound money, free international trade and regulation (including credit markets, labor and business regulations).

According to the report, in 2005 the U.S. ranked 45th in overall size of government among 144 nations surveyed. Today, government has ballooned in size and the U.S. rank has fallen to 61st place. Other areas of freedom lost include a spike in stifling regulations, labor-market restrictions, and barriers to trade. The U.S. standing fell in all those categories, and there was also a long-term deterioration in ranking on property rights as well. No doubt these disastrous developments, along with reckless money printing by the Federal Reserve, serve as roadblocks to sustainable recovery from the ongoing recession that began in 2008.

Cato Institute’s Richard Rahn noted: “Worse yet, the U.S. decline continues and in next year’s ranking it is almost certain to be lower.” If ever there was a bedrock solid compilation of facts urging Americans to at least have an exit strategy in place you can find it in the pages of the above mentioned report.

There is no reason to limit ourselves by artificial, politically-induced borders. Exercise your freedom to explore other places, and other opportunities. Even if you choose to stay in the U.S., your life will be enriched by the adventure!

United, We Fall

December 20, 2012 Leave a comment

Poor customer service. Flight cancellations. Lost baggage. One hour holds on the phone for customer service. Never mind that you’re a loyal, frequent flying, Premier Access, Presidential Plus Card member of the United Club, like I am. United Airlines is an equal opportunity offender.

It’s hard to fathom that Presidential Plus card members pay $395 annually, not only for the privilege of shoddy service, but also unapparent restrictions. Case in point: last month I was at the Manila airport, holding a return ticket on United back to L.A. United does not have a lounge at MNL, but Star Alliance partner Thai Airways does. The United Club card proudly displays the Star Alliance logo with the words “Star Alliance Lounge” underneath it, and the United logo next to it. On the back of the card it states, “Present this card to enjoy access to United Club locations as well as affiliated partner lounges around the world,” though it goes on to add in vague terms, “Partner lounges may require additional proof of eligibility.”

I was told by a United rep that the Thai Airways lounge “services” United Club members at the Manila airport. When I tried to check into that lounge they told me that only Gold and Platinum card members were admitted from United, and I was denied access. I asked to speak to someone higher up, and they put me on the phone with Tricia, a passenger service agent with United: “I spoke with our Duty Manager, Bob Hernandez, and he confirmed what you were told.” United Duty Manager has the latitude and golden opportunity to do good, score a PR coup and assure the continued retention of a loyal customer, and flubs it. I asked to speak to Mr. Hernandez, and was denied.

I lodged a formal protest with United’s Customer Care Department. The response came two weeks later: “…Your comments have been included in a report to management for review…” (12/6/12). Two weeks later to date, no further feedback.

$395 annual fee. Premier Access, Presidential Plus, United Club Card, Star Alliance logo….”Prestigious,” is it not? Is it any wonder why United Airlines was ignominiously voted the most disliked airline in America, and the 5th most disliked company? (Business Insider, 6/29/12)

No courtesy, no renewal.

In Honor of Chanukah This Week…

December 13, 2012 1 comment

…JEWISH PERSONAL ADS

Let’s try it for 8 days. Who knows? POB 43

Couch potato pancake in search of the right applesauce.

Divorced Jewish man seeks partner to attend synagogue, light Sabbath candles, celebrate holidays, build Sukkah together, attend brisses, bar mitzvahs. Religion not important. POB 658

Orthodox woman with money, seeks man who got money or can get money. Get it? I’ll show you mine if you show me yours. POB 72.

Sincere rabbinical student, 27, enjoys Yom Kippur, Tisha B’av, Taanis Esther, Tzom Gedalia, Asarah B’Teves, Shiva Asar b’Tammuz.
Seeks companion for living life in the ‘fast lane’. POB 90.

Torah scholar, long beard, sideburns. Seeks same in woman. POB 43.

Nice Jewish guy, 38. No skeletons. No baggage. No personality. POB 97

Female graduate student, studying Kaballah, Zohar, exorcism of dybbuks, seeks mensch. No weirdos please. POB 56.

Jewish businessman, 49, manufactures Sabbath candles, Chanukah candles, Havdallah candles,Yahrzeit candles. Seeks non-smoker. POB 787.

Clarity, the Ultimate Decongestant

December 6, 2012 Leave a comment

If your head seems to be stuffed up with clutter and uncertainty, it’s time to stop what you’re doing, regroup, and either find a quiet place for yourself or solicit feedback from others to regain clarity. We all “hit the wall” from time to time, but it is essential to be conscious of those times and take appropriate steps to clear our heads.

Last week I was the luncheon keynote speaker at an annual conference. Leading up to the introduction as the speaker there are many things going on in my mind ¬ setting up my back of the room products table, remembering to give my typed intro to the person introducing me, putting a glass of water on the podium box, loading the Powerpoint part of my presentation onto the laptop and testing it, testing the sound system in the room, checking the lighting, tweaking parts of my presentation, etc., etc. Something about the room logistically didn’t seem right, but with so many thoughts pinballing around in my brain I had to leave the room and find space to clear my head and determine what was awry. The room I was to speak in was somewhat long and narrow, which meant that people in the back would feel more remote from the “action,” e.g., exercises I planned for the group. I asked the audio-visual and logistics people if we could move my stage area so I would be more central in the room and therefore closer to everyone. It took some rearranging of tables and running power cables, but it worked like a charm!

Taking time to briefly detach from an environment for the purpose of clarity saves the day.

Saved by the Bell

November 29, 2012 Leave a comment

A friend told me she was very glum after her husband died. She was burned out, having thrown herself totally into the relationship and had nothing left to give to herself.

“I didn’t know what to do with myself,” she recalled. “I had spoken to my therapist and asked her if that is what I had been doing all my life, and she said yes. I was really in the pits. I felt like giving up, and seriously considered suicide. Then the phone rang. I picked up the receiver, and I suddenly burst out laughing, because I had this vision of myself lying in a coffin, the phone rings, and I say, `Just a minute, I can’t die yet. I have to answer the phone.’

“I shared this vision with the friend who was calling me, and she was in stitches. I realized how ludicrous the whole thing was. At that moment a life long pattern of nothing but giving, giving, giving changed because I gave myself the gift of laughter.”

Plymouth Rocks

November 21, 2012 Leave a comment

In 1620, a small ship called the Mayflower left Plymouth, England, toting 102 passengers—an assortment of religious renegades seeking a new land where they could freely practice their faith plus other adventurous, liberty-loving folks lured by the promise of land ownership and prosperity in the New World. They initially dropped anchor near the tip of Cape Cod; one month later, the Mayflower crossed Massachusetts Bay, where the Pilgrims, as they are now commonly known, landed at Plymouth Rock to begin the work of establishing a village.

The first winter was brutal, with only half of the Mayflower’s original passengers and crew living to witness their first New England spring. In March, the remaining settlers relocated ashore from the ship, where they received a surprise visit from an Abenaki tribal member who greeted them in English. Several days later, he returned with another Native American, Squanto, who taught the Pilgrims, hampered by malnutrition and disease, how to grow corn, extract sap from maple trees, snare fish, and detect both edible and medicinal plants. He also helped the settlers forge an alliance with the Wampanoag, a local tribe, which would endure for more than 50 years and tragically remains one of the rare examples of harmony between European colonists and Native Americans.

In November 1621, after the Pilgrims’ first corn harvest was deemed successful, Governor William Bradford organized a celebratory feast and invited a group of the fledgling colony’s Native American allies, including the Wampanoag chief Massasoit. Now remembered as the first “Thanksgiving”—although the Pilgrims themselves may not have used the term at the time—the festival lasted for three days. A holiday that now tends to stress immediate family bonds, its original spirit is a tribute to the family of humankind, and the values of liberty, mutual respect, and working together for the common good.

You Can Bank on This Relationship

November 16, 2012 Leave a comment

There are embarrassing moments in business that may be tough to live down, especially if you’re a banking rep. A networking associate shared this story about a former colleague: “An associate of mine went out to see a client after taking over the banking relationship for the company, and her first meeting was with the CFO. The CFO was taking her on a tour of the corporate offices and he said to her, ‘Cheryl, I need to show you the president’s office because it’s so elegant, comfortable, and has many amenities.’ She said, ‘Well, maybe we shouldn’t disturb him.’ The CFO replied, ‘It’s no problem. He’s not in yet.’

They walked in and she was very impressed by the posh surroundings. Now at ease, she eagerly inquired about seeing some of the amenities the CFO mentioned. So he takes her around the corner to the president’s own private washroom, pushes the door open, and there was the president of the company, sitting on the throne! He looked at her and said very sheepishly, ‘It’s nice to meet you. I don’t know who you are, but give me a few minutes and I’ll be right with you.’ There must be something to exposing yourself—they proceeded to strike up a very cordial business relationship.”

He Must Have Died Laughing

November 7, 2012 Leave a comment

In our time, the person most responsible for introducing humor’s healing power to the mainstream is Norman Cousins. The former editor of the Saturday Review and a UCLA professor, Cousins was diagnosed with a collagen disease that had never been cured before. The doctors gave him only six months to live. Rather than succumb to a state of gloom and resignation, he resolved to live gleefully in what appeared to be the abbreviated remainder of his life. At his request, people brought to his bedside funny books, tapes, cartoons, gag gifts, and anything that might provoke laughter. After just a few weeks of devouring a steady diet of comedy (with no other dietary or medicinal changes), his disease went into remission! And his sense of humor became a bit skewed.

One morning Norman Cousins was eating his breakfast when the nurse stepped into the room and handed him an empty specimen bottle, saying she’d return to collect it in a few minutes. After she left, he took the apple juice that came with his breakfast and emptied it into the specimen bottle. When the nurse returned she examined the sample and said, “It looks a little cloudy today, Mr. Cousins.” Norman picked up the bottle and shrieked, “By God nurse, you’re right. Let’s run it through again!” and proceeded to swig from the bottle. He stopped short, however, for concern that the nurse would pass out over the spectacle. .

The raucous laughter of Norman Cousins continually reverberated throughout the ward, which delighted the nurses but disturbed the patients. Hospital administration politely gave him the boot, so he checked into a hotel, which was far more environmentally friendly for outbursts of laughter. His life, which lasted for another 15 years, inspired many in search of pain relief and healing. I saw Norman Cousins receive a humanitarian award about three weeks before he passed away, a man who appeared to be vigorous and in good health. He must have died laughing.

Jovial Security, Your Hedge Against Deflation

November 1, 2012 Leave a comment

Richard Cronin, a management consultant, once surveyed 737 company executives regarding the humor factor in good employees. He found that 97% agreed that a sense of humor is a determining factor in hiring personnel, and 60% felt that a sense of humor can be a key element that influences how successful a person is in the business world. In another survey conducted by Burke Marketing Research, 84% of the personnel directors who were interviewed said that employees with a sense of humor do better work.

We tend to make mistakes when we’re uptight. W. Edwards Deming, the father of total quality management, said the most important thing managers could do for their company is “drive out fear.” Fear of making miscues inhibits creativity and productivity. Humor helps to overcome this fear and let go of feeling shame when we do screw up. One way you can help alleviate someone’s anguish is to gather a group of co-workers and give that person a standing ovation when they walk into a room. Watch their face light up!

Airing Out Unrewarded Loyalty

October 25, 2012 Leave a comment

Is it any wonder that in a recent survey, four of the ten most disliked companies in America are airlines (Business Insider, 6/22/12)? The endless nicking, pecking and yes, gouging, of customers with miscellaneous fees grows tiresome to those of us who reward airlines with frequent travel. Unless you are up there in the stratosphere with the million mile club, the price for our loyalty keeps going up, as if we were no different than a first time flier.

A salient example is change fees, in my opinion the most corrupt practice in the industry. Charging such exorbitant fees for a five minute stroke on the computer, or less than $2 per labor hour prorated, hardly justifies a fee ranging from a couple hundred to $2000 (if done within a couple days of your original itinerary). What other industry can you think of that charges more than a nominal change fee? Amtrak does not charge a ticket change fee. Hotels don’t charge a fee if I change dates on my reservation. It is a short sighted policy – yes, they generate revenue initially, but how many labor hours do they spend on the ever expanding number of customer complaints? I would bet this expense dwarfs the fees collected, not to mention loss of customer loyalty, the lifeblood of any business.

Airlines don’t appear to “get it” about nurturing relationships with their loyal card holding clients. I pay a $395 annual fee for one of my airline credit cards; yet, a courtesy waiver of even a one-time change fee is “against policy”.
The conclusion I draw is that airlines do their utmost to alienate the most loyal customers by adhering to counterproductive rules.

Keep Asking, & You Shall Receive

October 18, 2012 1 comment

An interesting lesson occurred last week when I went to my bank’s ATM drive-up. The ATM malfunctioned and not only did it fail to cough up some cash, it swallowed my ATM card. I went inside the branch and told a woman sitting at a desk what had happened. She said they only collect whatever is in the ATM twice a day, at 9AM and 3PM. It was 9:20AM, and since I was busy for the rest of the day, I asked her if it was possible for someone to pull out my ATM card in that moment. Her reply was negative. So I approached the teller’s window to complete the cash withdrawal. Just on a whim, I recounted my tale of loss to the teller, and she asked, “Would you like me to check the ATM and see if I can retrieve your card?” “Hmmm, is the earth round?” I said quietly, tongue-in-cheek. She smiled, and within a minute the card was back in my possession.

Another time I had a speaking engagement that I gave in San Francisco, and my return flight to L.A. was canceled. The next flight out was full, which meant that I would have had to cancel an evening book signing unless I could find another airline to fly ASAP. I walked over to another airline’s check-in counter to see if I could use my ticket. No go. I proceeded to a different gate check-in counter for the same airline that had just refused my request. “No problem!” they replied (now I’m musing over the absurd possibility that every counter has their own rule book). Whatever…I was on my way, only because I kept asking.

MORE TO HAPPINESS

October 11, 2012 Leave a comment

In last week’s blog, I wrote about “Gross National Happiness” being the measuring stick of choice for the Himalayan country of Bhutan.

In a recent article about happiness, noted corporate trainer Brian Tracy wrote about 3 myths concerning the subject. As one who recognizes and admires Brian as a thought leader and an inspiration to many, I want to comment on his myth #1:

“The first myth about happiness is that it’s not legitimate or correct for you to put your happiness ahead of everyone else… Throughout my life, I’ve met people who’ve been very adamant about stating that happiness is something that you may or may not get from life, but it’s not a goal or objective by itself…These people say that it’s more important to make other people happy than to make yourself happy… Of course, this is nonsense…The fact is that you cannot give away to anyone else what you don’t have for yourself. The very best way to assure the happiness of others is to be happy yourself and then to share it with them… The human condition is that of natural emotional peace and happiness.”

Most of these points I agree with Brian. I quibble with his use of the word “assure” in the second from last sentence. Being happy yourself assures your own happiness, nobody else. Certainly you can buoy others with your happiness, but no guarantees. Regarding the last sentence in the paragraph, I have to respectfully challenge it. The human condition encompasses a wide smorgasbord of experience that is not only composed of peace and happiness, but feelings of sadness, outrage, insecurity and ambiguity that ultimately can enrich us as human beings. If perceived and embraced appropriately, the range of experience can promote growth and expansion, inspire new discoveries and insights. It also can fill us with compassion for ourselves and others. Case in point: as someone who is a musician part-time, I cannot honestly say I’m totally happy with my performance at any time. Often I think, “Not bad…pretty good…OK…” This compels me to practice, to explore, to hone and improve. I’ve not reached a place of being completely enamored with the way I play, and just as well. I used to beat myself up over not playing better; now it’s an opportunity for both self-compassion and motivation. And, to acknowledge the level of achievement at this stage.

Life is multifaceted. I believe it is normal, even healthy, to feel the broad range of human experience. At the same time, it is paramount to effectively and promptly release so-called negativity to maintain a state of overall health and well-being. For more about health and becoming “energy efficient”

Gross National Happiness

October 4, 2012 Leave a comment

“Mr. Potts, in the midst of poverty, ever laughing. It seems then, that happiness in this life rather depends on internals than externals…” – Ben Franklin

The tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan coined the phrase “Gross National Happiness” as a way to define quality of life within a more holistic paradigm. Like most moral ideals, it is easier to state than to define. Nevertheless, it serves as a unifying vision for Bhutan’s planning process to balance material and spiritual development of its people, unlike Gross National Product, which only offers a materialistic construct of economic growth.

Gross National Happiness, or GNH, was created by King Jigme Singye Wangchuck in 1972, indicating his commitment to building an economy that would serve Bhutan’s unique culture, based on Buddhist spiritual values. The four pillars of GNH are the promotion of sustainable development, preservation and promotion of cultural values, conservation of the natural environment, and establishment of good governance. More specifically, concerns have been identified as psychological well-being, health, education, good living standards, community vitality and ecological diversity.

“It is not antithetical to economic growth, but growth should reflect what people want,” states Karma Tshiteem, the head of Bhutan’s planning commission. “Environment, culture and tradition are the aspects that are important to Buddhist people.” Tshiteem lives in Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital nestled in the hills, which is devoid of high-rise buildings, traffic jams and smog.

Officials said they have already conducted a survey of around 1,000 people and drawn up a list of parameters for being happy — similar to the development index tracked by the United Nations. The main purpose of the index is to evaluate whether the plans, policies and programs of the government conform to the GNH concept. The pilot survey revealed that 68 percent of Bhutanese could be classified as being happy, though Tshiteem notes that “Bhutan is not utopia. We are also tempted by materialism.”

The challenge will be shielding Bhutan from what is perceived as the more negative aspects of growth being faced by Goliath neighbors India and China — social upheaval, delinquency, air and water pollution, rampant materialism and the steady erosion of age-old traditions.

Perhaps we in the U.S. need to undertake a similar values assessment. While the news media is trumpeting with regularity the gloomy economic news, there is an opportunity for deeper reflection for what is ultimately important. Happiness is a choice, not dependent upon external factors, but a desire as natural as breathing.

Gross National Happiness

October 4, 2012 Leave a comment

“Mr. Parsons, even in prosperity, always fretting. Mr. Potts, in the midst of poverty, ever laughing. It seems then, that happiness in this life rather depends on internals than externals…” – Ben Franklin

The tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan coined the phrase “Gross National Happiness” as a way to define quality of life within a more holistic paradigm. Like most moral ideals, it is easier to state than to define. Nevertheless, it serves as a unifying vision for Bhutan’s planning process to balance material and spiritual development of its people, unlike Gross National Product, which only offers a materialistic construct of economic growth.

Gross National Happiness, or GNH, was created by King Jigme Singye Wangchuck in 1972, indicating his commitment to building an economy that would serve Bhutan’s unique culture, based on Buddhist spiritual values. The four pillars of GNH are the promotion of sustainable development, preservation and promotion of cultural values, conservation of the natural environment, and establishment of good governance. More specifically, concerns have been identified as psychological well-being, health, education, good living standards, community vitality and ecological diversity.

“It is not antithetical to economic growth, but growth should reflect what people want,” states Karma Tshiteem, the head of Bhutan’s planning commission. “Environment, culture and tradition are the aspects that are important to Buddhist people.” Tshiteem lives in Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital nestled in the hills, which is devoid of high-rise buildings, traffic jams and smog.

Officials said they have already conducted a survey of around 1,000 people and drawn up a list of parameters for being happy — similar to the development index tracked by the United Nations. The main purpose of the index is to evaluate whether the plans, policies and programs of the government conform to the GNH concept. The pilot survey revealed that 68 percent of Bhutanese could be classified as being happy, though Tshiteem notes that “Bhutan is not utopia. We are also tempted by materialism.”

The challenge will be shielding Bhutan from what is perceived as the more negative aspects of growth being faced by Goliath neighbors India and China — social upheaval, delinquency, rampant materialism and the steady erosion of age-old traditions.

Perhaps we in this country need to undertake a similar values assessment. While the news media is trumpeting with regularity the gloomy economic news, there is an opportunity for deeper reflection and what really makes life worth living. Happiness is a moment to moment choice, not dependent upon external factors, but a desire as natural as breathing.

A Laugh or Death Situation

September 27, 2012 Leave a comment

Humor is an adaptive discipline that can thrive in the harshest environments. In the book Laughter in Hell, author Steve Lipman documents the use of humor during the Holocaust. There was nothing funny about the Holocaust and the intense suffering experienced by so many people. But survivors of the Nazi death camps cultivated humor out of psychological necessity.

A Dutch Jew by the name of Rachella Velt Meekcoms recounted times when she would stage vaudeville shows in Auschwitz with other inmates: “In spite of all our agony and pain we never lost our ability to laugh at ourselves and our miserable situation. We had to make jokes to survive and save ourselves from deep depression. We mimicked top overseers, I did impersonations about camp life and somebody did a little tap dance, different funny, crazy things. The overseers would slip into the barracks some nights, and instead of giving us punishment they were laughing their heads off.”

By maintaining a humorous perspective via theatricality, Rachella and her friends survived the Holocaust. Across occupied Europe during World War II, humor thrived in the work of the resistance forces. Arrows at highway crossings were turned around and street signs switched, creating utter confusion among Hitler’s army. Cooks stirred laxatives into the food for German troops, and “Only for Germans” signs were removed from places of entertainment and hung from lampposts. When the going gets tough, the tough lighten up!

Adapting to Local Customs

September 20, 2012 Leave a comment

I know a man whose terrific Mexican vacation was almost spoiled by an indifferent customs officer. While in Mexico City, he met a beautiful Mexican woman. She toured him around the city the night before his flight was to leave. The next day at the airport, she surprised him by showing up at the airport to give him a bouquet of flowers as a send-off.

After she left, he went through customs and was stopped because he didn’t have a tourist card. They ushered him into the office where a customs official refused to let him go. My friend was desperate to make his flight, but no matter what he said or how much he pleaded, the shiftless customs man wouldn’t budge. Frustrated, my friend dropped the flowers on his desk, which provoked a wide-eyed unexpected response: “Para mi?” (For me?) Noting the change in the man’s demeanor, my friend replied, “Si, claro.” (Sure). The customs official smiled and declared, “You can go now!”

Putting the flowers on the desk inadvertently created a pattern breaker that altered the officer’s usual way of being. It allowed for a new opportunity to occur. Who would have thought that a bouquet of flowers could become an exit visa?

Excerpt from the book, “When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Lighten Up!”

Levity in Times of Adversity

September 13, 2012 Leave a comment

Finding joy in the midst of tragedy isn’t easy, but ultimately rewarding when it helps people move beyond the grief. I was hired to speak at an annual company retreat, and just prior to my introduction it was announced that a very beloved employee of the company named Corrine had suddenly died. When a woman came on stage to introduce me, she was in tears, and there were audible wails and moans emanating from the audience. She mumbled and stumbled through my introduction, and while still weeping said, “So here to talk about (sniffles) humor in the workplace (blows her nose)…Terry Braverman.” I walked on stage pondering a line from a Shakespearean tragedy: “Oh death, where is thy sting?”

At a total loss for words in that moment, I took a long pause and a deep breath. Finally the words filtered through me: “I know this is a difficult time for all of you, and I want to acknowledge the sadness and the grief you are feeling right now. This must have been a very special person who touched all of you in some way. I was wondering if any of you would like to come up here to the microphone and share some of those special moments you had with Corrine, shared moments of warmth, joy, humor, or maybe something she said that lightened up your day.”

After about 15-20 seconds, a hand went up, and I asked her to step up to the microphone. She spoke of a time when Corrine was promoted to supervisor of the department, and how Corrine was concerned about becoming the boss to people who had been her co-workers. So she decided to call a meeting with her former co-workers the next day. When the room had filled up, Corrine strutted into the room, wearing a pinstriped suit with a Yankee Doodle hat and said, “This great department is a democracy, and I run it now.”

The audience broke up laughing at her story. Then several hands went up in the audience, and I had four or five more people share uplifting and/or funny experiences they had with Corrine. Tears of sorrow for their deceased colleague transformed into tears of joy, and I was able to thankfully carry on with my presentation.

Add to Your Communication Tool Kit

September 6, 2012 1 comment

We continue in hot pursuit of communication excellence with this week’s blog. Last time we broke down the three primary modalities we use to give and receive information (visual, auditory, and kinesthetic) into three subcomponents, or submodalities of communication. Today I will offer an alternative paradigm in communication – deconstructing the four major personality types, and how to handle them when they’re under stress.

Like every good mechanic, a good communicator comes equipped with more than one tool to do the job. Some of us may find the visual/auditory/kinesthetic model to be fun and easily adaptable, while for others it may be cumbersome as it involves multiple levels of observation. Recognizing the four primary personality types could be a simpler way to determine patterns and select strategies that work with each type. Of course, having more than one model in your communication tool kit is a huge benefit. Let’s take a look at the Dominator, the Expressive, the Scrutinizer, and the Relater…

Dominator – leader/take charge type, task focused, straightforward, efficient, organized, results oriented, decisive, fast paced
Biggest fears: losing control, lack of time, inefficiency, getting sidetracked
Under stress: can be impatient, aggressive, arrogant, despotic
Strategy: you must make them feel like they’re in control, acknowledge their status early in a communication, then hand them control by presenting options for them to decide upon

Expressive – creative, spontaneous, enthusiastic, idea-centric, image-oriented, people lover, need for center of attention, fast paced
Biggest fears: being ignored, loss of face and prestige
Under stress: indignant, melodramatic, temperamental
Strategy: acknowledge how important their role is, complement ideas and let them know you will take their ideas and suggestions into consideration

Scrutinizer – data gatherer, close attention to detail, task centered, process oriented, deliberate decision making, slow paced
Biggest fears: inaccurate information, being wrong
Under stress: complaining, blaming, loss of trust
Strategy: make careful notes of what they say, then ask them very specific Who, What, Where, When, Why, How questions to get results

Relater – relationship priorities, wants to get along, sociable, easy going, values compassion and sensitivity, slow paced
Biggest fears: conflict, disapproval, rejection
Under stress: withdrawn, unproductive, paralyzed with feelings of alienation
Strategy: acknowledge how much you prize your relationship with them, be encouraging and supportive to help them complete tasks

We all have elements of the four major personality types. It can change according to who we’re with or what the situation entails. The key is to be flexible with others by entering their world. Engage them where they are coming from and get the personal or professional results to serve all involved.

Additional flexibility tools can be explored here

Plumbing the Depths of Communication

August 30, 2012 Leave a comment

In the last blog I delved into the three primary modalities we use to give and receive information – visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Today I’ll go into the three submodalities of communication.

The first one I call the attraction-avoidance submodality, i.e. the tendency to be primarily motivated by something (or someone) that attracts, or conversely, repulses. As an example, let’s say you’re a loan officer and giving it your best to motivate a customer to apply for a loan: “Ms. Hayes, we offer the lowest interest rate in town, without any pre-payment penalty.” Ms. Hayes isn’t motivated. Why not? She wants a loan, and the terms seem very attractive. What if the loan officer adds, “and Ms. Hayes, you won’t be faced with a huge balloon payment at the end of the term.” Now she wants the loan, because her motivation is inclined toward avoidance of something perceived as undesirable.

The next submodality deals with internal or external frames of reference. Ask a person, “How do you know when you’ve achieved success in your field of work?” If this individual won an Oscar for best actor, he has that prized statuette on his mantle, but didn’t feel his work was anything special, no quantity of awards or public kudos with make him feel otherwise. On the other hand, he may feel ecstatic about his performance in a low budget film that was panned by everyone and lost money. This person has an internal frame of reference. Proof of validation comes from the outside for the one who has a primarily external frame of reference.

The last submodality has to do with whether you’re a matcher or a mismatcher. Matchers perceive and prefer places, people, and things that are the same or similar; mismatchers gravitate towards “different”. Mismatchers pride themselves on being different, and making distinctions. Point out how fantastically unique their outlook on life is, their way of doing something, or even the way they dress, and you probably have a friend for life. The matcher would revel in being compared to someone or something held in high esteem (identifying with the similar). These folks don’t mind routine if it’s something they enjoy. Mismatchers tend to require variety and flexibility. You can see how knowing these tendencies could help in hiring the right person for a job.

Would a person motivated by attraction make a good partner with someone primarily motivated by avoidance? Is it possible for people with internal frames of reference to work with those who have external frames of reference? Can a mismatcher of a guy live with his matcher girlfriend? Yes, it’s all possible, just as long as they understand and appreciate each other for the fact that things can be perceived differently and it’s not necessarily right or wrong. Adaptability is the key. Learn about boosting energy with better communication here

Tower of Babble

August 23, 2012 Leave a comment

Listening is a lost art in our fast paced world. In our haste to get things done, people can easily misconstrue communications, with consequences such as conflict, delays, and errors in judgment. Clearly a more conscious, deliberate form of listening is desirable to enhance communication.

Have you ever wondered why we can’t seem to communicate well with some people, even if we’re all speaking the same language? Some people process information in a different “sub-language” than we do. Psychologists Richard Bandler and John Grinder developed a set of concepts and techniques intended to understand differences in communication styles, known as NLP, or Neuro-Linguistic Programming. I never cared for that name…sounds too much like psychological warfare. I’m teaching soft skills, not torture. So I had to make up a softer name for it – PML, or Primary Modalities of Language.

Essentially there are three primary modalities by which we impart and receive information – visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Everyone uses all three of these modalities, but there is one that we tend to favor in most situations. There are specific cues to let you know which primary modality a person employs. In a nutshell:

A visual person uses a lot of words like “see,” “appear,” “notice,” “envision,” “imagine,” etc. They think in terms of pictures and images. Their speech tempo is quicker than others, and they tend to breathe more rapidly, from their upper chest. Ask a visual person a question, and their eyes will go up, seeking the answer in their “mind’s eye”;

An auditory type monopolizes a vocabulary of sound – “sounds like,” “rings a bell,” “resonates,” “I hear you,” etc. Their speaking pace is more moderate, and auditories breathe evenly from their solar plexus. In response to a question, their eyes will likely go side to side (or ear to ear), “listening” for the answer;

Kinesthetics are the touchy-feely folks who “sense,” “feel,” “grasp,” “touch on things,” etc. Their speech is slower than others, and the breath is also slower but deeper, from the pit of the stomach. They will tend to answer a question more deliberately, with eyes going down. They are checking their “gut reaction”.

If you’re speaking in visual language to a person who is primarily kinesthetic, chances are you will not be as effective in your communication. It may work better to re-frame your words kinesthetically, so the receiver is more receptive. As a different example, let’s say you’re primarily an auditory person. You come home to your significant other and say, “I love you!” The response is muted. Perhaps your loved one is a kinesthetic (who longs for a big hug) or more visual (who needs to “see” a demonstration of your love above all else, as in a bouquet of flowers or tickets to a show). Wouldn’t it make sense to express love in a way that your loved one prefers?

When putting these ideas into action, it’s important to know that in certain situations a particular modality will be overwhelmingly apparent, e.g. at a funeral. Even the most visual person, when experiencing tragic circumstances, becomes kinesthetic.

Creating rapport and a lasting bond with others is a crucial skill in any area of your life. If you are adaptable in your communication style to adjust and be in sync with another, watch what a difference it can make!

More on communication in the next blog. Meanwhile, click here to learn about the connection between communication and our energy level

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