10 Ways to Learn What Makes People Tick at Work

What Makes Them Tick

“Winners know what makes people tick by effectively tapping into our fears and aspirations. By listening very carefully and then repeating almost word-for-word exactly what they’ve heard, winners know how to articulate compelling needs—and products to satisfy those needs—that people didn’t even know they wanted.”

–Frank I. Luntz, Win: The Key Principles to Take Your Business from Ordinary to Extraordinary

What do women want?  For that matter what does anyone want?  How can you discover what makes people tick?  Here are 10 ways to learn what makes people tick in business relationships.

(first in a series based on the blog post 7 Principles for Making Relationships Work at Work)

1. Dig up information

How much can you find out about someone before you even meet? The more you know, the closer you will be to knowing what makes them tick. Why fly by the seat of your pants, when being prepared is so easy?

Do a little detective work prior to a first meeting or phone call. If you are short on time, at least google the person’s name. You can find a lot of information about a person in just a few minutes simply by googling their name using quotes, like this: “Diane Windingland” (quotes might not be necessary for an unusual name like mine, though). You can also include their location in the search to narrow results. Check the person’s profiles on social sites, especially LinkedIn, but also on Facebook (the amount you see depends on privacy settings).

Do you have contacts in common? Touch base with mutual acquaintances. It can be as simple as saying to your mutual acquaintance, “I’m thinking of working with Jane Doe and noticed that you are a connection on LinkedIn. How do you know each other?”

Now, you don’t want to come across as a stalker, so don’t overshare what you have discovered, especially any information that is negative. It’s fine to mention what you see on LinkedIn.

2. Build a “Motivation Map”

Have you ever been amazed, and pleased, that someone remembers some personal detail from a previous conversation you had with them? Wouldn’t you love to be that person?

You can be the person with the “amazing memory” even if you struggle to remember people’s names. The secret is to take and save notes.

I won’t kid you. This is work. Recording details of conversations, while it doesn’t take a huge amount of time, does require some discipline.

But the discipline is in the details. It’s recalling the little details, especially details that reveal motivations, beliefs and values, that lets someone know you care. When people know you care, they are more likely to trust you and to reveal to you just what makes them tick.

How can you do this, as painlessly as possible?
First consider using the tools you already use for communication and relationship management. If you have a Client Relationship Management tool, you can simply start recording notes on conversations for your contacts. I suggest you record notes, even the briefest of notes, immediately after (if not actually during) a conversation. Then, the next time you plan on contacting the person, briefly review your notes and mention something based on the conversation, such as, “I hope you enjoyed going to the lake with your family last weekend!”

You could start a computer file on each of your contacts, building a dossier of sorts. Use an app on your phone. Even a low-tech notebook will do. I’d LOVE to hear what works for other people!

3. Assess early and often

On-boarding an employee, or a client is the most opportune and natural time to ask questions that reveal motivations and personality types. Use a client questionnaire or an employee survey. Consider formal assessments, such as the DISC assessment. But don’t let your assessment be a “one-and-done” assessment. People change. Needs change. Motivations change. How often should you assess? Well, that depends on the situation. One clue that you aren’t doing assessments often enough is your retention rate—are your clients or employees leaving you at a higher rate than the industry standard?

Of course, if you merely assess or survey and then don’t do anything with that information, then you not only have wasted everyone’s time, but you also risk looking like someone who has a checklist mentality, and are just going through the motions.

4. Observe behavior

Although behavior is subject to misinterpretation, it can provide clues to people’s motivations. Generally, people will behave in ways that they think will provide a desired outcome, revealing what is important to them.

A manager berates his direct reports for missing a deadline. What is the motivation for doing so? Fear for his own job? Desire to be in control? A recognizable pattern may develop.

The challenge is that there are often competing outcomes. For example, a working parent’s top priority might be his family. Earning money to provide for that family is a supporting

priority, but typically requires long hours away from the family. The working parent faces a role conflict. How does his behavior reveal motivations? Perhaps the employee copes by texting with his kids, or leaving early for special events. You can observe this and know that family time is a motivator.

5. Make personal gestures

When you show a personal interest in people you show that you care. Stopping at someone’s desk, touching base on the phone, sending a personal email, text or social media message are a few quick ways to show that the person is important to you.

When you are first getting to know an employee or a client, if it is appropriate to your business, taking them out to coffee or lunch, away from work, can be a great opportunity to break the ice and start building a relationship.  Start finding what makes them tick.

You can also keep on the lookout for “thinking of you” opportunities as you come across useful information. Send a link to something you know they would find useful, with a little explanation as to why you thought of them.  Are you speaking to their motivations?

What ways have people connected with you personally that are memorable?

6. Ask questions, but don’t interrogate 

If you want to get people talking, ask them easy, open-ended questions or probing statements (questions or statements that encourage more than a one-word answer) and build on their answers, digging a little deeper.

For example, at a networking event I might say, “Tell me about your business.”

“I’ve been selling vacuum cleaners for 20 years.”

(Are you tempted to say, “that sucks!” I know I would be. Depending on the person, I might just say that, but with a smile, and then quickly follow up with another question, such as: “How did you get started selling vacuum cleaners?”).

Try not to ask questions in rapid-fire, interrogation style. Build rapport by commenting on what they say, especially if you can point out any similarities that you have (the more people see you as like them, the more they will like, trust and open up to you).

7. Listen for understanding

Many people appear to be listening, when in fact they are just waiting for their turn to talk. To uncover someone’s motivations, you need to practice active, reflective listening. To ensure that you understand the other person, try this approach:

  • ask clarifying questions if something is not clear
  • Test for understanding
    • Start out with a lead-in phrase, such as “So, it sounds like . . .” or, “So, what I hear you saying is . . .” A lead-in phrase is a verbal cue to the other person that you are going to reflect back your understanding.
    • Restate (paraphrase, summarize) facts, feelings, opinions, etc.
    • Ask for confirmation (use phrases like, “Is that right?” Or, “Is that what you meant?”)

8. Share—be a little vulnerable

Don’t you love being vulnerable?
It’s hard being vulnerable. Kids are vulnerable. But as we get older we put on the bullet proof vest of invulnerability.

We cinch it tighter for fear if we open up just a little, we might get shot down. An arrow might pierce our heart.

But it is when you can be a little vulnerable with people that you can build trust and connect.

A few years ago, I had coffee with a new acquaintance. As we sat at across the table from each other, we each shared a little about ourselves. He shared how he had been out of work for a while and was getting most of his food at a food shelf. I could see the guarded expression on his face, the invisible wall between us. I knew he wondered if I would judge him . . . If I would think poorly of him for being out of work.

I decided to be a strategically vulnerable.

I shared with him that I knew how he felt, because just 2 years earlier, we had been dealing with a failed business. Just 2 years earlier, not only had I gotten food at a food shelf, I’d gotten my kids Christmas gifts there too. But, it was temporary. Hard, but temporary—as it would be for him, too.  Tough times don’t last.  Tough people do.

The wall came down. His face relaxed. He leaned in. We connected. And, I began to discover what made him tick.

Taking off the bullet proof vest might be hard. It might be scary. It might just change your relationships.

9. Make it safe

If danger alarms are going off, people will revert to survival mode. They will be motivated most by that which ensures survival. Other motivations will be suppressed. Reduce the environment and attitudes that create fear (a very partial list):

  • Public criticism
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Adversarial relationships
  • Disrespectful communication
  • Pointing fingers, but unwilling to accept responsibility for mistakes
  • Withholding important information or resources

10. Create events
Special events are an opportunity to get to know people outside of daily work interactions, and they may lead to deeper connections and a greater understanding of motivations. Examples: Corporate retreats, team-building events, client events, volunteering at charity events.  Have you attended events that really helped you get to know your co-workers, employees or clients better?

Understand what makes a person tick, and you will have a more productive work relationship.

This content is also featured in, The Respect Virus:  How to Create a Contagious Culture of Respect

The Respect Virus


7 Principles for Making Relationships Work at Work

7 Principles for Making Relationships Work at Work

Whether you’re married or not, you can apply some marriage relationship advice to your work relationships.  Like  marriage relationships, work relationships take nurturing to be most satisfying and productive.

My last post, 6 Signs of Bad Conversational Habits that Kill Relationships, was based on Dr. John Gottman’s book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.  This post will introduce the seven marriage principles in the book and my recasting of the concepts for business relationships.  The next seven posts will go into more depth about the applications of each of the business principles.

Business Principle 1:  Learn What Makes Them Tick

Marriage Principle: Enhance Your Love Maps

Emotionally intelligent couples are intimately familiar with each other’s world. They have a richly detailed love map (that part of your brain where you store information about your partner’s life). Because emotionally intelligent couples know each other’s goals in life, each other’s worries, and each other’s hopes, they are far better prepared to cope with stressful events and conflict.

Business Principle 2:  Give Honor and Respect

Marriage Principle: Nurture Your Fondness and Admiration

People who are happily married like each other. Even when the other person is driving them crazy, they still feel that the person is worthy of honor and respect. By simply remembering your spouse’s positive qualities, you can prevent a happy marriage from deteriorating.

Business Principle 3: Create Moments of Connection

Marriage Principle: Turn toward Each Other Instead of Away.

This just means that the couple connects with each other in lots of chit chat and other moments of connection. Partners who characteristically turn toward each other rather than away are putting money in their “emotional bank account,” building up emotional savings that can serve as a cushion when times get rough.

Business Principle 4:  Share Power

Marriage Principle: Let Your Partner Influence You.

This is typically much more of a challenge for men in a marriage. Statistically speaking, when a man is not willing to share power with his partner, there is an 81 percent chance that his marriage will self-destruct. Emotionally intelligent husbands have figured out the one big thing: how to convey honor and respect.

Business Principle 5:  Cope with Problems Strategically

Marriage Principle: Solve Your Solvable Problems.

All marital conflicts fall into one of two categories: Either they can be resolved, or they are perpetual (which means they will be a part of your lives forever, in some form or another). Happy couples learn to keep a perpetual problem in its place and to have a sense of humor about it. You many not love the problem, but you are able to cope with it, to avoid situations that worsen it and to develop strategies to deal with it. You need a willingness to explore the hidden issues that are really causing the gridlock.

Business Principle 6: Move from Gridlock to Dialogue

Marriage Principle: Overcome Gridlock

The goal in ending gridlock is not to solve the problem, but rather to move from gridlock to dialogue. You will learn to live with the problem. To navigate your way out of gridlock, you have to first understand its cause. Gridlock is a sign that you have dreams (hopes, aspirations, and wishes that are part of your identity) for your life that aren’t being addressed or respected by each other.

Business Principle 7: Create a rich “Work Culture”

Marriage Principle: Create Shared Meaning

Marriage isn’t just about raising kids, splitting chores, and making love. It can also have a spiritual dimension that has to do with creating an inner life together—your own “marriage culture” with symbols, traditions and rituals, and an appreciation for your roles and goals that link you.

Stay tuned for the 7 principles applications.  Next post:   Business Principle 1:  Learn What Makes Them Tick

6 Signs of Bad Conversational Habits that Kill Relationships

Eye rolling

I can predict whether a couple will divorce after watching and listening to them for just 5 minutes.” John Gottman, Ph.D., The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work

What does Dr. Gottman, well-known for his work on marital stability and divorce prediction, see in those five minutes that is so telling? And, as you look at the six signs, how might they apply to work conversations, too?

#1: Harsh Start-up. If your conversation has a harsh beginning, it will inevitably end on a negative note (96 percent of the time, the outcome of a 15-minute conversation can be determined by the first three minutes).

#2: The Four Horsemen (4 kinds of negativity, if allowed to run rampant, that are lethal to a relationship: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling)

Horseman 1: Criticism. A criticism and a complaint are 2 completely different animals! A complaint only addresses a specific action. A criticism attacks someone’s personality or character. (e.g. “I’m really angry that you didn’t do X “(complaint) vs. “Why are you so lazy and forgetful? I hate having to do X when it’s your responsibility” (criticism)). A complaint can easily turn into a criticism when you add something like “What’s wrong with you?”

Horseman 2: Contempt. This is the worst of the horsemen. It includes sarcasm, cynicism, name-calling, eye-rolling, sneering, mockery, and hostile humor. Contempt conveys disgust. Contempt develops over time, fueled by long-simmering negative thoughts. When someone thinks you are disgusted with them, it is virtually impossible to resolve a problem.  More on how Contempt destroys relationships (Psychology Today)

Horseman 3: Defensiveness. Defensiveness is really a way of blaming your partner. You’re saying, in effect, “The problem isn’t me, it’s you.” Defensiveness just escalates the conflict.

Horseman 4: Stonewalling. When discussions begin with a harsh start-up, where criticism and contempt lead to defensiveness, which leads to more contempt and more defensiveness, many people “tune out.” This tuning out is “stonewalling,” a behavior that is far more common among men.

#3: Flooding. Usually people stonewall as a protection against feeling flooded. Flooding means that the negativity (criticism, contempt, defensiveness) is so overwhelming and so sudden, that it leaves the recipient shell-shocked. A flooded person feels defenseless and learns disengage emotionally (looking away, non-responsive, short answers).

#4—The Fourth sign: Body Language. The physical sensations of feeling flooded—the increased heart rate, sweating, etc.—make it virtually impossible to have a productive, problem-solving discussion. Creative problem solving goes out the window as the body goes into survival mode: fight (act critical, contemptuous, or defensive) or flee (stonewall).

#5: Failed repair attempts. Repair attempts, are efforts to deescalate the tension during a touchy discussion—to put on the brakes so flooding is prevented (“Let’s take a break,” “Wait, I need to calm down,” or, even being a little silly). Repair attempts decrease emotional tension, lower stress levels and prevent your heart from racing and making you feel flooded.

In marriage relationships, failed repair attempts plus the presence of the four horsemen predicts divorce with the accuracy rate reaching into the 90s.

#6: Bad Memories. People who are deeply entrenched in a negative view of a relationship often rewrite their past, and recall events with a negative slant.

To read my free 6-page, e-book “Cliff Notes” summary of The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, which includes some very practical advice, click here.

Ask for What You Want . . . And Get It!

The Asking formula

Do you want to super-charge your communications to empower yourself to close more business, save time and get what you want professionally and personally?

Try using the “Asking Formula,” an easy, straight-forward approach for asking for what you want . . . and getting it!

I recently heard John Baker, the founder of the “Asking Formula” speak at a Professional Sales Association meeting and immediately saw the power of the 6-step process (reading the book cemented the process in my mind):

  1.  KNOW what you want. (obvious, huh?)
  2.  ASK for it.  (Be direct.  Say, “I’m asking you . . .)
  3. SHOW what you are asking for. (Visually show outcome, if possible)
  4. DEVELOP Best Reasons. Listen to their story and pick ONLY 3 Best Reasons which are client-focused (i.e. “you told me  you want . . .”)
  5. STOP TALKING and repeat your ask.
  6. SHARE Facts/Details if needed.

The problem with the way that many people ask is that they start with step 6, sharing facts and details, overloading people with information they may not want or need.  Information which may confuse them. A confused mind never buys.  John Baker says that when you ask for something you want by “looping through information” you are what he calls “a Bad Ask.”  I didn’t want to be a “Bad Ask,” so I started applying the process, even a slightly modified version in email.

Below are actual email exchanges in a communication with a prospective client, who contacted me via my presentation coaching website, VirtualSpeechCoach.com, last week.

Email via contact form from website:

I would like some more information (and pricing) on your courses for effective speaking skills and presentations. Our agency does a lot of client presentations and I believe there is a lot of opportunity for us to improve and become better at communicating our message.

(email address of prospective client)

My action:

1. Based on the email domain, I was able to find the company online and also read a brief bio on the person who contacted me.  Her bio included one of her favorite quotes.

2. I then sent the email below.  What I wanted was a phone appointment.  Note that I ask for the appointment up front, giving a “choice close” of two times and then provide some best reasons and the requested information, closing with repeating the ask:

Hi, X!

Thanks for contacting me about presentation training!  

Would there be a good time for me to call you?  I’m on vacation this week, with limited Internet access and spotty phone coverage, so next week would be better for me. If Monday, the 24th would work for you, I’d be available at 10 AM or 1:30PM for a phone call.  

Your quote on your company’s website, embodies the first step of a great presentation (love the quote):

“The greatest discovery of all time is that a person can change his future by merely changing his attitude.

Your team can change the future with a new attitude about presentations, and then some training on creating and delivering winning client presentations.  If they can get clear on the message, and deliver an engaging presentation that differentiates them from competitors, they will increase their ROP (Return on Presentation). 

Your team can work with me both in group training and on an individual basis. 

Here are fees for both:

Individual coaching: http://www.virtualspeechcoach.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Virtual-Speech-Coach-Fees.pdf

group workshops: http://www.virtualspeechcoach.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Fee-Schedule_2013_VSC.pdf

Popular topics for group training include:

  • Creating a Killer Keynote
  • StorySELLing: Strategic Storytelling for Sales Professionals
  • Putting the Power Back in Power Point
  • Powerful Presentation Strategies for Confident Communication

I’d love to chat with you to understand your needs better.  Let me know if the 24th would work for you.

Reply from prospective client:

Hi Diane, thanks for getting back to my request. I’m available June 24th at 10:00 so let’s schedule that time to chat.

Enjoy your vacation! 🙂

Then, on the 24th, prior to my phone call, I looked at the company website more closely, jotting down notes to possibly mention during conversation.  I also looked up the contact person’s LinkedIn profile, which didn’t have much information on it, but I did note that she had been at her present company for 3 years.

I called her exactly at 10 AM, as we arranged and got her voice mail.  I left a quick message, saying I was sorry I missed her, but would try calling back in a bit.  I then made a request to connect on LinkedIn, and about 15 minutes later, the request was accepted, so I figured she might be available and I called back.  She seemed in a rush, so I suggested I call later in the day, but she said, “Well, there’s no time like the present.  Why don’t we talk now?”  OK! In the conversation, I started out paraphrasing her initial email to me, saying something like, “You wrote that your agency does a lot of client presentations and that you feel there is a lot of opportunity for your people to improve and become better at communicating your message.  Tell me more about that . . .”

We then had some back and forth conversation, in which I let her do most of the talking (I listened, asked questions and made occasional comments, such as when she said that they tend to dump too much information, or “vomit information,”  I extended the concept by saying something like, “And too much information can be confusing.  A confused mind never buys.”  She loved that phrase, “A confused mind never buys.”

After determining their needs, and also what she thought they might want, I made a verbal proposal, similar to, but not exactly what she was thinking.  For example, she had proposed 2-hour workshops, but I said that 2 hours was probably too long and that 90 minute workshops would be better.  Below is my follow up email that “asks for the sale” and recaps the conversation.  The ask and the best reasons are clearly stated up front.

Follow up email to conversation with prospective client:

Hi, X—

Glad we fit in the quick phone call.  I look forward to hearing from you within a week or two regarding moving forward.

I’m asking you to hire me to help you help your clients, for the following 3 reasons:

1. You want to close more business by having client-focused presentations
2. You want to execute more closely the promised approach on your website
3. You want your employees to communicate with more confidence which will enhance your “corporate culture.”

Just a recap on what we talked about:

The challenge:  When your people present to clients, sometimes they are so anxious to share information, they don’t take the time to read the client (i.e. “vomit information”).  PowerPoint Presentations often have too much information.  While presentations can be on the phone or via webinar, the most important are face-to-face.

The desired outcome:  Want to leave clients feeling good about hiring XXX (Client’s Business).  Want to tell a cohesive story that they will understand and trust.  This will result in increased profitability through more closed business.

The proposed solution:Three, 90-minute small-group workshops, with follow up on  “homework.” Plus, additional one-on-one coaching.

Possible workshops:

  • Structuring a Message that Connects (including the pre-presentation work of “listening”)
  • Effective PowerPoint Presentations (including using iPad)
  • Powerful Presentation Skills for Conference Table Presentations

Your Investment:  $X per workshop ($X  for all 3) plus an additional $X for individual (or smaller group coaching). 

“A confused mind never buys”


Diane Windingland

Client reply:

BINGO! We’ll be in contact after communicating this with the owner. Our president, XXX,  is completely on-board too. We’re very excited about this opportunity.  Thanks Diane!

 The combination of a little research, a little listening and the “Asking Formula” appears to be a winning combination!  Try the “Asking Formula” and ask for what you want and get it!

The 3-Chair Method: Getting a New Perspective

Quick.  Stop for 2 seconds and try this:  draw an E on your forehead with your finger.

OK. I’ll give you a pass if you are in a crowded office or a coffee shop and don’t want to look silly.  But if not, take the index finger of your dominant hand and trace the outline of capital letter E on your forehead before reading further.

Now, think about your E.

Did you draw an E so that it faced you or faced the other direction, so that  someone else could read it?

In this well-known experiment, the way you draw the E reveals whether you are person who tends to take the perspective of others.  If you drew the E so that you can read it yourself (making it backwards for others, like in the picture on the left), you tend to not consider another’s point of view.  You might even be a little *gasp* arrogant.  Another study has shown that more powerful people have difficulty seeing from any perspective but their own.


So, what’s the big deal if you fail to take another’s perspective into account?

According to Francesca Gino, author of Sidetracked:  Why Our Decisions Get Derailed and How We Can Stick to the Plan, the failures of perspective taking are many:

1. We overestimate the extent to which others share our attitudes and feelings.

2. We believe that others have more access to our internal states than they actually do.

3. We tend to use ourselves as a standard when evaluating others.

4. We draw on our own experiences when evaluating others.

5.  We suffer from the “curse of knowledge” and have a hard time remembering that others do not have the same access to information and knowledge that we do.

Lack of perspective-taking leads to not realizing that miscommunication often is the result of misinterpretation, as I show below, graphically in my super-scientific “Mickey Mouse” Theory of Interpersonal Communication.

Mickey Mouse Theory of Interpersonal Communication

Note the tiny overlap of “shared interpretation.”

Lack of perspective-taking can create challenges both in your personal life (marriage, kids) and in your business life, especially in dealing with conflict.

So, how can you get better at perspective-taking?

Try the 3-chair method.

3 chairs

Play an imaginary game of perspective chairs and imagine sitting in each of 3 chairs of  perspective:

  1. Your own perspective
  2. The other party’s perspective
  3. An impartial observer’s perspective

Sitting in your own chair, or having your own perspective, is easy.

Sitting in the other party’s chair, or taking the other person’s perspective, is harder.  You don’t really know all that they know.  You don’t really know their inner state (maybe something happened prior to your meeting that has affected their emotional state).  You don’t know how their interpretation of your shared knowledge might differ.  So, the first step is realizing that you don’t know everything.  The second step is seeking to understand.  Let go of your assumptions, or bring them out into the open so they can be addressed.  Listen and ask questions.  Try to put yourself in their shoes (or chair, in this case).  One method for dealing with conflict that I have found extremely effective  is LEAP (Listen reflectively, Empathize, Agree and Partner).  Read more on LEAP.

Sitting in an impartial observer’s chair, or getting outside of the situation and taking the perspective of an impartial observer, is perhaps most difficult.  But, in doing so, you are more likely to get the get the big picture of a situation.  In the book, Decisive: How to Make Better Decisions in Life and Work, the authors, brothers Chip and Dan Heath, suggest “zooming out” to get an outside view before making a decision.  The same concept can be applied to thinking about interpersonal communication.  By zooming out, you take the view of how the situation appears to others.   You can even ask yourself what another person, a person whom you respect, would say or act in the situation.

An example . . .

Let’s take a simple example, one that happened to me yesterday.

Yesterday, some friends came over for me to video a promo for a website.  As I thought about how the background of the video would look, I thought that my apartment would be too “busy” a background, so I suggested we go to the “party room” of my apartment complex, which had some darker walls and upscale decor.  When we got to the party room, which was next to the apartment management office, one of the managers was talking to a prospective renter in the party room, so we waited until the manager said, “let me get this paperwork copied and then I’ll show you around.”  The manager left, and the prospective renter remained in the room.  I figured that she would be leaving soon, so my friends and I entered the room and went to the far end.  I set up my tripod and camera and did a couple of trial shoots until the manager came back, and talked with the prospective renter for a few more minutes, during which time my friends and I chatted quietly.  After the manager left, we did two more takes (only 30 seconds each), and for the second take, I asked one of my friends to close the door to the room, to cut down on outside noise.  As we finished up and I was showing the last take to one of my friends, a different apartment manager approached us, looking fairly upset.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“Shooting a short video for a friend’s website,” I said.

“You can’t close the door and you can’t video without permission,” she said.  She added something like, “You have to get permission to use footage of this room.  Plus you have to pay for rental.  You will have to get [another manager’s] OK for the video.”

This was an opportunity to practice the “3 chairs method.”

My chair/perspective:  My initial thoughts were: What’s the big deal?  We were in the room for 5 minutes.  The door was closed for less than a minute. Really? I need permission to video a wall with a fake plant?  Pay rent for 5 minutes when I live here?

Her chair/perspective:  Now I don’t know exactly what her perspective was, but I could try to guess.  I noticed that she seemed really upset, more so than I would expect for what I considered to be a relatively small infraction. So, my first thought was that arguing with her might be a bad idea, if she was emotional.  Maybe there was something that happened right before this incident that caused her to be in a bad mood.  Maybe they were burned by someone videoing in the party room.  Maybe they were concerned about managing impressions of the apartment complex. Perhaps my entering the room before the prospective renter had left was bad manners.  Perhaps closing the door made them feel I was overstepping my bounds as a renter when I hadn’t paid for exclusive use of the room.

Impartial observer chair/perspective:  Management was upset.  Diane and friends were surprised by management being upset.  This might have been avoided if Diane and friends had waited until no one was in the room, or if Diane had asked permission (or if management had clearly defined and posted regulations).  Because this was likely a “small potatoes” issue in the long term, and in order to not damage the renter/landlord relationship, de-escalation of the conflict would be a wise course of action.

This is how I replied, given the quick game of “perspective chairs” I had just played in my head:

“I’m sorry. I didn’t know I needed permission.  We were here for just a few minutes and the door was only closed a very short time.  The only part of the room that was in the video was that wall and the plant.”

(I explained my position without being defensive, to try to get her to see a little of my perspective)

“Well, you do need to get permission,” she said.

“OK.  I’ll know that for next time.  I’m sorry I didn’t even think about it.”

And we parted on cordial terms.  How do you think the conversation would have gone if I had spoken solely from my perspective?

Take a moment before you react to a situation to “sit in another chair.”

“If there is any one secret of success,it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.”- Henry Ford

This content is also featured in, The Respect Virus:  How to Create a Contagious Culture of Respect

The Respect Virus

A Little Thanks Goes a Long Way


An “attitude of gratitude” is just a platitude.

Your attitude of gratitude might make you feel better, and it might make you behave better, but if you really want to have an impact with gratitude, you have to SHOW gratitude.

From a business perspective, the gratitude or appreciation you show can motivate others to be helpful to others (e.g. coworkers, customers).

In Francesca Gino’s recent book, Sidetracked: Why Our Decisions Get Derailed, and How We can Stick to the Plan, the author writes about a couple of studies she and another professor conducted on gratitude.

In the first study, fifty-seven students were emailed a job applicant’s cover letter and asked to provide the job applicant feedback (edits and comments on the cover letter).  After the students provided feedback, the experimenter, posing as the job applicant, sent a reply from the alleged job applicant’s email account.  Half of the participants received this neutral reply:

Dear [name],

I just wanted to let you know that I received your feedback on my cover letter.

The other half of the participants received this reply expressing gratitude:

 Dear [name],

I just wanted to let you know that I received your feedback on my cover letter. Thank you so much!  I am really grateful.

The next day, the researcher sent all participants a link to an online survey, which included measures of social worth and whether they thought the job applicant’s email expressed gratitude.  Not surprisingly, not only did the participants feel that the second email expressed more gratitude, but those who received the second email also reported feeling more valued.

Perhaps more surprising were the rates of response to an additional request for help. The day after the students took the survey, the experimenter sent them an email from the account of a different student, in which that student asked for feedback on his cover letter.  Only 25% of the students who had received the neutral note helped the second student, but the percentage more than doubled, to 55% for the participants who had received the reply expressing gratitude.

The desire to be helpful is greatly increased when simple appreciation is expressed.

In another study with fundraisers,  when the annual giving director visited the fundraisers in their office, expressing appreciation, then number of fundraising calls in the week after the visit week increased by more than 50 percent.

A little thanks goes a long way.

How do you show gratitude at work?

Poor Preparation + Poor Execution = Meetings that SUCK

Meetings Suck!
As I chatted with a fellow Toastmaster at a recent Toastmaster convention, the talk turned to business communication.  He lamented that his younger co-workers were terrible at running meetings.  We continued that conversation via email.  Is your experience similar to his?
“Many of my co-workers are skilled technologists – programmers, analysts, etc. – but many struggle at softer skills. Effective communication is an example. Many new co-workers are scheduling meetings to collaborate on projects for the first time, and have very little in the way of formal training. This leads to some awkward, and unproductive meetings. Some of the mistakes: 
1 ) poor preparation
  • Not setting an agenda before hand.
  • Not setting a meeting goal(s)
  • Not preparing materials
2) poor execution
  • Not setting context 
  • Not communicating meeting goal(s) to participants
  • Not managing time well or deviating from the agenda
  • Not concluding properly (summarizing findings, setting action items, rough goals and agenda for the next meeting).
Some of the deficiencies are knowledge; most of the technical staff did not take more that the basic communications courses. Some of the deficiencies come from a lack of practice.”
Would you add to this list?  Is this problem worse with young professionals?