Ethan F. Becker, a published author, international speech coach and developer of communication training and coaching programs, will deliver the address at Fitchburg State University’s undergraduate commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 19.
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Ethan F. Becker, a published author, international speech coach and developer of communication training and coaching programs, will deliver the address at Fitchburg State University’s undergraduate commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 19.
By: Monica Murphy Senior Coaching Partner
As Speech Communication Coaches, we are regularly sought out for our communication critique. We focus on the delivery style and techniques by speakers.
The big question asked of us yesterday was , “Was Obama Presidential in his delivery of the State of the Union?”
So what is Presidential? It is subjective for certain, however, as Coaches we know that listeners describe a speaker as Presidential in their style by using the following criteria.
1.Confident posture and body language –
The President used hand gestures for impact and emphasis. His movements were slow and purposeful.
2. Use of facial expression to convey emotion-
We saw a serious determined face when talking about serious issues and a smile when using humor, for example, his reference to “crying over spilled milk”
3. Language that is inclusive-
Using words including American, Patriotic, We and Our. He did this well.
4. Voice tone that is strong and varied- Mr. Obama did this each time he said,“Put that in a Bill and I will sign it!”
5. Sentences that are short and easy to digest- Mr. Obama did this , however, particularly at the beginning of the speech, he tended to talk in phrases, which sounded too rehearsed and non – passionate. As the speech went along, he changed from approximately 5- 7 words per phrase to about 10-12 words per phrase. It was still a bit too rehearsed sounding and tended to lack the passion which the words expressed.
Obama’s combination of this criteria conveyed a decisive, deliberate and determined message. Going forward , if President Obama wants to be defined as Presidential, he must maintain a consistency in these areas.
We will be watching closely as the campaign unfolds and will comment in similar fashion.
Monica Murphy is a senior coaching partner with THE SPEECH IMPROVEMENT COMPANY INC. As a specialist in communication, she is well known in senior leadership circles. Monica has helped many strengthen their communication. Regular clients such as Bain Capitol and Ropes and Gray have enjoyed her expertise. More may be learned about Monica by clicking here
An Excerpt from the best seller: “Mastering Communication At Work” By Ethan F. Becker, published world-wide by McGraw-Hill
Defensiveness prevents clear communication. In this chapter you will learn how to recognize your own defensiveness and how to diffuse others.
The First Moment: Defensiveness
If they are defensive, your message is most likely lost. Something has caused your listener to feel like you, intentionally or not, are attacking their idea or them. This emotion will cause them to focus on defending the idea or their character instead of exploring solutions. They are struggling and it may be your fault. You may not have set the right expectations. You may have used a tone that does not match your intended message. You may not have given them the resources to achieve their goals. They may just be tired. Engage their defensiveness and you will make it worse. If you know how to approach their defensiveness, you can instantly redirect their negative energy—whether fear, doubt, or worry, and help them leave the conversation with your message.
They say, “No.” You say, “Yes.” They say, “I didn’t know.” You say, “You should have.” Maybe you were taught to ask questions as a way of managing effectively, so you say, “How could you not know?” But the presupposition in this question suggests that they are somehow not smart because they did not know. While that may not be your intended message, its there and their spine will rise and their eyes will narrow. If you react to their posturing instead of listening, helping them sit back and reflect on what’s bothering them, they will react as well instead of focusing on the real purpose of your conversation.
If you are in a conversation and you notice someone getting defensive, stop. Don’t go any further with your point. Don’t try to make your point in a different way; it will rarely work. If they are defensive, they aren’t listening. They have one agenda and that is to deflect whatever they think you are attacking. You may need to just listen, you may need to ask a question like “What do you need?” or “Help me understand your point of view?” After the question, stop. You may have to continue the conversation at another time. The fact that you take time to process and digest that conversation is validation, and that’s the first step to overcoming their defensiveness.
You can fall for the same trap even when you go into a conversation knowing someone might be defensive. If you haven’t prepared how you want to approach their emotion, rigid belief, or confusion, they will stay shut down and retreat deeper into themselves. To help them come to a decision, or understand your point of view without feeling defensive, the format to use is called defensive persuasion.
The Format: Defensive Persuasion
Ethan is a Senior Speech Coaching Partner with TSIC and is currently on a long term assignment with the iclif Leadership and Governance center in Malaysia where he is working on his Doctoral Studies in Industry and Organizational psychology and conducting research on the topic of Leadership Communication from a global perspective. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Laurie Schloff, Senior Coaching Partner
Hello people, rationality calling.
I feel real bad for Steven Slater. Most of us would forgive him for reaching the flying freak out point one hot day in August.
We got the laugh and the vicarious revenge. Apparently, many Americans are so fed up with the people or the boss they were hired to serve that flight attendant Steven Slater’s dramatic exit from JetBlue made them green with envy.
Sure, it’s a blast to bond over one giant slide revenge fantasy together—for a day.
But Slater’s no hero to those of us working for positive communication in the workplace. He made a rabid choice when he slid down that chute with two beers. If only he had stopped at the beers and regained his bearing!
In addition to facing a possible seven years in prison for the most slapstick career buster ever, Steven Slater is a service traitor.
Too bad– with his know how and experience, he could have been a service first-rater.
Great service providers have to be able to take the cabin pressure. They don’t give in to rudeness. They break the routine by bonding in some small way with customers. They pride themselves on keeping cool and use techniques to block negative emotion.
Service soldiers win medals for kindness, compassion and patience. They nurture themselves with deep breaths, venting to a pal and a good foot massage.
Super servicers understand that customers can have bad days and even be bad people, but that great service providers are proud to be pleasant, even on their worst days.
Granted, Mr. Slater may end up hosting a “Take This Job and Shove It” reality show.
Sadly though, his inner reality is that he failed to be all he could be in the profession of service civility.
We would love your response to:
“What do you do when you are about to lose your cool at work?”
By Dr. Dennis Becker, Principal & Senior Coaching Partner
Last week I was on vacation in Martha’s Vineyard , along with sixteen other family members. It’s an annual thing. We plan it a year in advance and all commit to it. It’s great.. During the week, two separate conversations gave me pause to wonder about how we are interpreting symbols these days. By symbols I mean those non-verbal , non-audio signs on everything from bill boards and busses to pants and purses . TV, newspapers and magazines are inundated with them. Two particular symbols come to mind. What do you think?
1. I happened into a conversation with some young folks while we all enjoyed ice cream. It was a most enjoyable conversation . That is , until I asked one question of a beautiful little girl sitting next to me. She was eight years old. She was adorned in all the usual impressionable eight year old fashion requirements. Those included a variety of items with peace symbols on them. So, I asked her what that symbol meant. She proceeded to tell me with unabashed confidence that it meant fun, friends, being comfortable, being cool, “and stuff like that”. Curiously, I got essentially the same response from a group of teenage girls, also enjoying ice cream, sitting on an adjoining bench, and also regaled with peace signs.
2. Early one morning , as I braved the cold of the Atlantic along Inkwell Beach, I came across a young man, 17ish. As we shivered together and shared tales of the sea creatures, I asked the inevitable question ,”so where do you go to school?”
He told me the name of the school and proudly announced, ‘home of the Rebels!”
I asked what the team and school logo was. He said it was the rebel flag. “Do you know what the rebel flag stands for?”, I asked. “Pride in your school and your team”, he replied with some bravado. “But, do you know what the rebel flag stands for, what is is the symbol of”, I persisted. What followed was a sad commentary on the fact that although he had knowledge of the rebel flag as being a symbol of the old South, he put the emphasis on “old South”. To him it was merely a symbol of his school and team. That “other stuff” didn’t have any relationship to these days and his school and team. Nobody really cared about “that other stuff” any more.
These two particular incidents certainly made me wonder about how many other symbols we might have in contemporary society that are being misconstrued. For instance, we see Rock stars, politicians, wen business people flashing the two fingered V shape on TV , street corners, and business offices every day. Does it still have the same emotional attachments it had in the 60’s? Does it still divide the hawks and doves? I don’t think so.
Music is no exception. We were among the first companies to get an 800 phone number. We were able to get 1-800LETS RAP. Catchy in those days. A real challenge now. We get so many phone calls from potential “Rap stars” who want us to publish their “songs”.
One of the most upsetting re-interpretations of a symbol was a recent production attended of the classic Broadway musical HAIR. It had its origin the late 60’s when the war between those in favor of the Vietnam war and those opposed to it caused regular clashes. A definite symbol of many who were opposed to it was the growth of long hair. The Beatles had something to do with this too, I’m sure. HAIR depicted soldiers with guns at the ready being confronted by “Hippies” with long hair placing flowers into the rifles of the soldiers while singing and reciting “love not war” mantras. Unfortunately, the production of HAIR which I attended recently,depicted the same scene with the “hippies” throwing the flowers at the soldiers and shouting “love not war” in angry tones and daring postures. It was a total misunderstanding of the message of HAIR, let alone that era….”Hair like Jesus wore it…” Remember that line?
So, it behooves us to be careful of how we use symbols and how we simply accept that the same symbol changes it’s meaning…OR NOT…with the passage of time. It further behooves us to help younger generations clearly understand the hurt that can be inflicted due to a lack of knowing how that symbol originated may be perceived by others. I am very glad that I extended my conversations with that little girl and that teenage boy to the point where they thanked me and vowed to spread the accuracy of the symbol. I hope I didn’t come across as too pedantic, but I believe in the words of St. Francis of Assisi who said, “It is no good to walk somewhere to teach unless we teach as we walk”.
Symbols are very much a part of how we communicate . When you see one being used in a questionable manner, i invite you to ask about it. The answers you get may be somewhat upsetting. That’s why the ice cream is so important.
By Tori Aiello, Coach/Trainer at The Speech Improvement Company
I recently was stopped by someone on the street who had participated in one of my email training courses and she said, “You’re not going to believe this but one of my friends was just let go for laying off her employees by email.” I replied, “If only she had taken my email training course!”
Imagine how her colleagues must have felt when their termination notice was communicated via email? Not appreciated. Disposable. Confused. An email disaster like this may sound unusual, but I hear different variations of similar stories in the business world on a regular basis.
Over the past decade, email has become an increasingly important form of communication in the workplace. According to the Radicati Group, a technology market research firm, worldwide email traffic totaled 247 billion messages per day last year. It is projected that by 2013, this figure will almost double to 507 billion messages per day (source: www.radicati.com).
As a communication coach/consultant, I am often asked how email can be used effectively to lead, manage and communicate in the workplace. My overarching advice is three fold:
1. Understand the communication vehicles available to you as a leader/communicator,
2. wisely utilize each of these options in a manner that is appropriate to the message that needs to be delivered and tailored to your audience,
3. follow basic guidelines to model and reinforce professional email etiquette within your work environment.
Effective leaders understand the advantages and the differences between the three main elements of workplace communication — email, telephone and face-to-face/ interpersonal communication; and they utilize each vehicle depending upon the type of message that needs to be delivered and an analysis of the intended recipient(s) needs, bias, knowledge and anticipated reaction.
For example, an effective leader would never use email to communicate a difficult or a confrontational message where tone and intention can be easily misunderstood, causing great hardship for all involved. Instead, a good leader understands that uncomfortable messages are best delivered in a face-to-face scenario where clear two-way communication involving detailed explanations and opportunities for question and answers can facilitate a “meeting of the minds” (or at least a basic understanding from the recipient of what needs to be improved). This approach is especially pertinent to those recipients who tend to be overly sensitive or hold a defensive posture.
Am I suggesting that leaders never use email? Impossible! Besides the fact that it would be unrealistic in today’s work environment, email offers many distinct advantages over other forms of communication in the workplace when used properly. Email is quick, efficient (eliminates “phone tag”), and it is a cost effective option for communicating with colleagues who are off site. Also, there is no better tool for sending documents or communicating the exact same basic message to many recipients at the exact same time.
However, the increase in email communication in the workplace brings with it the need for better understanding and practice of professional email etiquette. And while some may view email as casual communication and treat it as such, I always remind my clients that their emails reflect their professionalism (or lack thereof) and set the tone for how they gain respect, establish trust and manage effectively.
Now more than ever email is changing the dynamics of how we communicate in the business world, and I have found that this type of communication is most efficient and effective when everyone in the same workplace agree to some “rules of the road” such as “Who do I need to cc?” or “What needs to be in the subject line?” or “When is it appropriate to forward?”. In order to achieve this goal, I strongly encourage businesses to adopt, educate and reinforce professional email etiquette. The result will be clear and more efficient electronic communication that increases productivity and camaraderie across the entire organization.
By Monica Murphy, Senior Coaching Partner and Ethan Becker, Senior Coaching Partner
As Speech Coaches, we look at how the art of communication persuades a voter. Have you thought about how communication style impacts a voter’s perception? By style we mean: how someone comes across to their listeners. Forget about the healthcare, balance of power in the white house, and messaging for a moment….Let’s look at the communication reasons why some Massachusetts voters eagerly checked the box next to Scott Brown on the ballot. Simply said, wrong style, not enough smile.
In Massachusetts in 2010, Martha Coakley did anything but come across as conversational and approachable on the campaign trail. Instead she came across as arrogant and elitist. Now wait a minute, we’re not saying Martha Coakley is arrogant and elitist, as a speech coaches, we’re more selective with our language than that, she “came across” that way. And in some circles, that will be ok, it will translate into confidence. In the job of an Attorney General, this serves a purpose. But when it’s a political female candidate, and your competition is already shouting from the rooftops, “Liberal arrogant elitist”… and then you “sound that way”, it solidifies the perception.
What do we mean by sound that way?
Often when Coakely spoke in public, her tone and inflection did not match the message. This does not indicate if she was sincere or not, it simply projects the impression that she is not, Remember, it’s all about perception.
Add to that, it’s been our experience at the firm that women have a more difficult time projecting a consistent confident, authoritative and approachable style. The attempts are often seen as arrogant or condescending. There must be a strong use of Pathos, emotional appeal, as well. One woman who is perceived as succeeding in creating an approachable, even charismatic style is Michelle Obama, what strikes you about her? Yes… it is her Style and Smile…
What could Coakley have done more of?
-Incorporate more nonverbal communication such as more smiling and larger gestures. –
-Use language that evokes more emotion
-Vary the tone and inflection in her voice to project a more approachable and sincere style
These are very specific mannerisms that many speakers need to learn, even in business.
Brown’s Style and Smiles…
Brown came across as comfortable, confident and down to earth. Why? Well, keep in mind, he did not need to influence voters in North Carolina, only in New England. The single most identifiable verbal trait of a New Englander is to drop the “r”. “Pahk ya cah in hahvad yahd.” Brown has a keen skill to turn this on and off in a way that has him described as articulate!
Brown’s use of nonverbal communication was very effective. Often seen with a smile or an engaged look, he appeared conversational and approachable. Now add some strategic placement of issues and messaging and you have a formula for success.
Any candidate who is running for office should look carefully at the way he or she speaks. This is not about pretending to be someone your not. It’s about knowing your listeners.
The short version from these professional speech coaches who live in Massachusetts: Coakley’s communication style simply came across as flat and even offensive to many. Brown’s communication style came across as charismatic, articulate and approachable. Brown’s style and smile made it easy for people to create a Massachusetts Miracle.
By: Laurie Schloff
Usually I am glad when there’s an empty seat next to me on a plane. Yet when a mom with a beautiful smile apologized for taking the middle seat, her spirit was so warm, I didn’t mind at all. As TV camera people came down the aisle to film her just sitting there. I said “You must be famous.” She told me that she was going to meet her daughter, a student at Lynn University in Florida, who had just arrived in Haiti with a student group called “Journey of Hope to Haiti”. An hour after checking into the hotel, the earthquake hit. I instinctively said, “You’re Britney’s mom.”
I had heard her husband on the radio that morning praising God and that all he wanted was Britney in his arms. They had been told she had been rescued, was in a helicopter, perhaps on its way to the nearby Dominican Republic. They had not talked to her or seen a picture and didn’t know if she was physically hurt.
Going through a personal earthquake of emotions, to a destination of unknowns I was amazed by CherylAnn’s ability to show such grace and cheer on the outside. This was a communication under pressure lesson for me and one I will pass on to clients –and myself.
I felt protective of CherylAnn, flying through the clouds to hold her daughter. We both watched CNN in fear., I gave her some juicy fruit and movie magazines. She told me that Britney dreamed of being on TV. I said that as a speech coach, I’d help her in any way and for her sure to be debut as a guest on The Today Show on Monday . CherylAnn turned to say ” See you on Oprah!” as she departed with her husband and their two teen boys to reunion with their little girl.
But this morning, the world and dear mom, CherylAnn, were told that there had been a mistake and that though eight Lynn University students arrived in Fort Lauderdale last night, Britney was not one of them.
It is now a Journey of Hope for the world, CherylAnn and her family.
Britney Gengel, please be alive.
by Laurie Schloff,
Senior Coaching Partner
Hal Gordon, a member of The Professional Speakers group on LinkedIN provoked my thinking about what style of leadership is working well these days.
Mr. Gordon prompted us to reflect on the November 12 issue of the Economist, which included a fascinating article on “The Cult of the Faceless Boss.” According to the article, the recent economic downturn has caused companies to reject flamboyant CEOs in favor of executives described as “humble, self-effacing, diligent and resolute souls.”
If this trend continues, says the Economist, it is only a matter of time before somebody writes The Management Secrets of Uriah Heep: be ‘umble, be ever so ‘umble.”
The Economist deplores this trend. “In general,” says the article, “the corporate world needs its flamboyant visionaries and raging egomaniacs rather more than its humble leaders and corporate civil servants.”
What style of boss behavior do you think we need in these times?
Is it possible to be ever so humble and dynamic at the same time?
Do you know anyone who fits the bill?
Send us your thoughts.
I have been coaching speakers of all kinds, from all walks of life, from every continent, from every age bracket, from every economic strata, and from every social class for more than 45 years. I have coached through times of peace and times or war. I have coached on topics of great and grave public consequence, and on topics of intimate and personal concern. I have coached speakers of the highest public personality and purpose, and speakers whose purpose in life was survival. I am a teacher. I am a coach. I am a guide. I am a motivator. I am a listener. I am a professional. I am very concerned.
The current level of speaking and listening regarding the expression of opinion on matters in the public domain, including opinion about people in the public domain in our beloved country is alarming, very alarming. Those people in the “public domain” whose individual career, personality and income is fed by the attention and commentary, good or bad, pleasant or putrid, are not my concern. Those people whose courage and commitment to the service of other human beings puts them into the “public domain” are my concern. Chief among these currently is our President of The United States of America, Barack Obama.
Now, I am quite aware of, and accepting of, the need for public criticism of public politicians, especially The POTUS. In fact, public criticism of The POTUS is a constructive part of the democratic process. Criticism of public policies, programs, and philosophies is an essential contribution to be made by the loyal opposition, no matter which party is in power. Such criticism is also very valuable when it comes from the “public”. It is also part of the democratic way of life that we cherish.
It serves as a valuable contribution to ” The American Way”. So, why am I very concerned?
I am concerned, disappointed, embarrassed, frightened, and angry about the type and amount of vitriol and sleazy speech we are hearing about The POTUS. No, not because I am a registered Democrat. I am not. No, not because I voted for Obama, and that is none of your business. Commentary and criticism have turned into condemnation and threats. The current spate of racial epithets and curses spewed about our POTUS and supported and justified with quotes from the bible have risen to a frightening level. I am hearing and seeing what can only be referred to as the American Taliban. It is made up of those who use religion as a basis for their remarks. Isn’t that exactly what the Taliban and Al Qaeda do when then try to justify their vile and murderous treatment of other human beings by citing the Koran? There is no difference. The fact that these members of the American Taliban are “citizens” of this country does not give them the right to threaten our POTUS.
As disgusting and un-American I believe this type of speech to be, I am a defender of the right to free speech, which we cherish in our country. However, it seems to have reached a new low, a low that I cannot recall over my 45 years as a speech coach. Of most concern is the fuel that it puts on the fire within those persons who are not able to self contain their dislike of others and who look to responsible leaders for guidance on how to express their dislike. Of special concern is this propensity for using religious justification and citations from holy books to explain and claim the right to do harm both physical and psychological. It has reached a pitch that cannot be ignored. These American Taliban members must not be ignored. They are not just a bunch of crazies. The are not just ” on the lunatic fringe”. We have always had those among us. This new brand of mongers come from and are supported by those who would be seen as “respectable” citizens. The fact is, they are hiding in plain sight. They are as dangerous as the Taliban found in foreign countries. They are the religious zealots on the right and the left.
I am writing these words to urge each and every person who loves America, who loves the freedoms we have, who loves and respects the separation of church and state, who sees the horror and pain that has been inflicted in the name of religion, to speak out. Do not simply ignore these people. Do not write them off as crazies. They are dangerous. We have had too many Timothy McVeigh’s in our lifetime. Be a good citizen. Exercise YOUR right to free speech. Do not be afraid to defend the freedoms so many have fought and died for. Whether you like his politics or not, defend The POTUS. Defend the Presidency. It is representative of the American way of life. Be part of that life. Be the loyal opposition. In this case, oppose the vile and degrading comments that are being made about our President, our Presidency. Help protect, preserve, and propagate the productive speech that has made this great country what it is.
Dr. Dennis Becker
by Laurie Schloff/Senior Coaching Partner
On September 12, Serena Williams told the judges at the 2009 U.S Open that she didn’t like their call. “You can take this (expletive) ball and stuff it down your (expletive) throat.”
What separates the dignified from the sore loser? Keeping your cool and grace. Forget tennis for now, Serena and head directly to Anger Management Class.
And don’t forget that fiery moment one week ago. President Obama is giving his healthcare address and Representative Joseph Wilson of South Carolina blurts out “You lie!” when Obama asserted that illegal immigrants wouldn’t receive government covered healthcare.
Let’s hear your thoughts