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by Senior Coaching Partner Dr. Dennis Becker
Today I heard another one of the ultra conservative talk show stars talking about Ted Kennedy’s funeral and the things that people said as part of the eulogies. Oh, yes, I do refer to them as “stars” because I have to believe that is their desire – to be seen as some sort of media star or public figure which gives them the call to fill the airwaves with vitriol an childish, schoolyard name calling….but ,I digress…
by Senior Coaching Partner Laurie Schloff
It is difficult to say goodbye to such a larger than life communicator as Senator Edward Kennedy. When greatness passes away from our midst, yet lingers in our consciousness, our team pauses to ask, “What did we learn about greatness and communication from this man? What lessons can we pass along to our families, clients and ourselves?” Here are three to ponder:
1. Focus on Others, Not Yourself.
Tribute after tribute describes Senator Kennedy literally showing up in a friend or citizen’s time of need. Recently, Mayor Tom Menino of Boston had knee surgery. His first phone call upon arriving home was from Senator Kennedy. “Why are you worried about me?” asked the mayor. “I’m worried about you!” You don’t need to be a large and famous man to have a large heart.
2.Be Dynamic and Emotional.
Senator Kennedy had a loud, over the top style, different than the poetic strength of Bobby or the poise of JFK. He hugged and patted. He was effusive at eulogies (and he gave far too many of them) and persuasive even to those who disagreed with him. John McCain said “If you want something done in the Senate, call Teddy.” Like many speakers, he was best with the passionate delivery of memorable lines like these from his 1980 political convention after losing the nomination to Jimmy Carter: “The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die”
3. Be Resilient.
Perhaps more than anyone else, Senator Kennedy taught us that we have to work on being resilient in order to deal with life’s cruel blows and frequent letdowns. Recently, I came across a young woman who was devastated to learn that her boss thought her follow through on projects was inadequate and she was having trouble coping emotionally. Get over it! We must work as hard as possible to develop emotional muscle without becoming a tough person, to achieve as we grieve. Let your cause, your passion, the lessons you’ve learned from your losses keep you going strong until the day you die.
by Dr. Dennis Becker, CEO, The Speech Improvement Company
When Robert Kennedy was murdered, like a lot of people, I was devastated. To me, he represented the most hope for bridging the gap between the haves and the have-nots in our society. Of course, I was particularly impassioned by his fight for the civil rights issue. He had the ability to both reach out and to point the way at the same tie. His communication prowess was an inspiration to me and my work as a Communication Coach.
At that time, I was also President of the New England Speech Association. On behalf of the association and as a citizen, I wrote a letter of condolence to Bobby’s brother, Edward (Ted) Kennedy. I’m certain that he received many, many such letters. To my amazement I received a personal reply from Teddy (as we all came to know him). It was a warm letter, thanking me for my expression and and encouraging me to carry on what his brother (s) stood for. He signed it in ink, Edward Kennedy.
He and his brothers John and Robert will always be a living example of why and how important it is for all of us to learn to speak and listen to others, especially those who are different and less fortunate than ourselves. I will continue, in my life, to carry their example of good communication.
Here are some inspiring words Ted spoke at his brother Robert’s funeral in 1968, which so resonate today:
“That is the way he lived. That is what he leaves us.
My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life; to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it.
Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will someday come to pass for all the world.
As he said many times, in many parts of this nation, to those he touched and who sought to touch him:
“Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.”
by Monica Murphy.
As a Communication Coach, I know that one of the best ways to move someone is through the language you choose to convey your message. Use the “appropriate “ language and you can persuade almost anyone to a certain response.
The Healthcare reform bill is falling in to a battle that is being fought with language of interpretation. It is really based on language more than fact. In fact, many Americans do not even know the details. They have heard and seen phrases that move them like:
“Death panel, cut off your rights, government wins, tax dollars pay for abortion, socialism”. These phrases evoke an emotional response. The associated press put out an article this morning citing that many of the town hall protesters were folks who have never been politically active. This can create a unified emotion of distrust in the government. Whether it is right or wrong, carefully chosen language can motivate in a powerful way.
Aristotle pointed out language can be used in three modes of persuasion: Ethos, persuading through the use of credibility, Pathos, persuading through the use of emotion, and Logos, persuading through the use of logic.
What we can expect to see now are more media pieces that use Logos, or logic to explain what these proposed healthcare reforms actually are. Chief Medical correspondent Dr. Timothy Johnson has been on air Fact Checking the reform bill. The network uses his ethos, or credibility to establish him as a trustworthy resource. He then uses Logos language, phrases like “ medicare has existed since 1965, advanced care planning provision, private and public options..” This logical language will help de-escalate the emotional reaction and allow the public to review the facts and make their own choices. The associated press ran an article this morning using the positive side of pathos language in referring to Glenn Beck’s 9-12 Project: which seeks to unify Americans around nine values such as honesty, hope and sincerity and 12 principles, including, “I work hard for what I have and I will share it with who I want to. Government cannot force me to be charitable.” The words “unify, honesty, hope, sincerity.. all emotionally charged words.
Language plays a key role in how we feel when receiving a message. A good communicator must choose their words wisely when speaking. They must consider their listeners. A good communicator will ask themselves: How do I want my listeners to feel and what do I want them to believe after they hear me speak? As communication coaches, we ask our clients this question as one of the starting points to delivering a successful message.
by Laurie Schloff, Senior Coaching Partner
Our coaching team at The Speech Improvement Company was delighted to hear that Google CEO Eric Schmidt knows the value of having a good coach. We’ve often been asked how to determine when engaging a communication/presentation coach is a good idea. So, here are five good reasons for working with an expert in communication:
1. You’re in a more visible positon than ever and you know your communicaiton prowess will be scrutinized.
2. You want to overcome a fear of speaking to groups and find your avoidance of speaking situations troubling.
3. You want to learn techniques for conveying more confidence and impact
4. You know you’d be more successful if you had more communication polish
5. You’re already a good communicator, but want to be GREAT.
“This question presupposes what to most of society is a given. Speaking to groups is a scary proposition. In fact, it is one of the most prominent fears of all humans. Each survey that is taken places it in the top three, almost every single time. It would be interesting for you to ask a few friends if they feel nervous or fearful about speaking before groups. I’m sure you’ll get mixed replies, of course. One thing you’ll notice, even from those who express little or no fear, is a caution. You will hear statements like ‘It depends on who’s in the group,’ and ‘Well, only some groups.’
It’s not uncommon to hear of career opportunities that have been passed by because they require ‘public speaking.’ It’s not only anxiety about groups. It is also common to find that the anxiety extends to certain types of individuals such as those in positions of authority, or people who are more senior, or, perhaps, people who have different cultures, etc. The fear can be triggered by many things.
So, how do we help people to control that fear? I am not using the term ‘overcome’ to describe the outcome. The very word ‘overcome’ can be too compelling. It can put too much pressure on sufferers to eliminate the fear. So, we strive to gain control over it. This is not a capitulation. It is a recognition that each person will go as far as is needed to regain control over the experience of speaking to groups.
As Speech Coaches for The Speech Improvement Company, we bring 45 years of experience to this effort. We recognize that there are two popular methods for ‘treating’ fear of speaking. They are Visualization and Cognitive Restructuring. Over the years, we have utilized each of these. However, by far we have found most positive results with the Skills approach. That is, we help clients identify and understand exactly what it is that triggers the fear. Then we introduce specific skills to fill any void in the ability to combat that trigger. This process eventually leads to the elimination of the fear inducing triggers. It has been very successful.”
This week, we caught up with Senior Coaching Partner Monica Murphy.
Monica is currently leading a lengthy customer service training program with software developing company Pega Systems. This unique program, called Communicating Extraordinary Service, was developed by Monica and fellow TSIC coaches Kristen Curran-Faller and Debbie London, and has led Pega Systems to great success.
>What is Pega Systems and how did you become involved with them?
“Pega Systems is a software developing company that helps businesses automate their business processes. We have had a 10-year relationship with them, originally beginning with Presentation Skills Training for some of their managers in the engineering group. It was a combination of presentation skills coaching and individual communication coaching.”
>What sorts of customer service skills are you working on with them?
“Pega Systems wants to remain number one with customer service. We are working with their global customer support team with the goal of helping them strengthen relationships with their ongoing client base. They are currently receiving accolades for their product. Pega Systems understands that a company is only as good as the relationships that their customer service employees can maintain with current clients. They realize the need to make the client feel good about calling. They also understand the importance of the relationship piece and that maintaining a client is so much more profitable than trying to find a new client.
We’ve designed a 3-part program. The first part focuses on instilling some key customer service concepts. Things like how to build trust with a client, how to manage a client’s expectations, and knowing how to say “no” without saying “no” when you have to, are crucial customer service skills. Another important skill is balancing human and business dialogue, specifically on the phone and by e-mail. E-mail is so impersonal – you never know how your words are going to be interpreted. There are certain language tools that you need to communicate effectively in this medium. The greeting and the closing of an e-mail can help a person feel valued or discounted.
The second part is customized to work both in small groups and individually to strengthen individual communication style. This is important because each member of a company is different. Pega Systems is a global company with global employees, so communication styles are going to be different. Our program offers global practice opportunities, which are necessary since the customer service group is so spread out.
The third part of the program is all about teaching strategies for keeping these skills alive. In the past we have found that our most successful programs involve offering ongoing strategies for support and practice.”
>How has the customer service team responded to the program?
“We’ve received terrific feedback from the team. They appreciate learning the newest tools that make people comfortable. The also appreciate practicing with each other in a safe environment, and receiving coaching and feedback. Unfortunately, feedback is usually only given when you’re doing a bad job. Our program is structured to tell the team what works well and what the can strengthen.
I think the team feels so much more confident, competent, and in conrol in converstaions that they have with clients. They have more resources, and more creative ways to help problem solve, which is why they are number one in business process software.
Their level of commitment shows by the various awards they’ve won. Most recently, Pega’s CEO, Alan Trefler has been awarded the title of Software Executive of the Year.”
(learn more about it here)
>Why do you think Pega Systems has been so successful?
“Over the past 20 years, part of the reason that many prestigious companies are successful is that they see the value of good communication. Not just computer-based communication, but human communication. When person has a problem with software, they look to humans. When you feel cared about, you become a much more loyal, satisfied client. When a customer calls Pega Systems for problem, that voice represents the entire company at that moment. Customer service is only as good as the last person that you speak to. Good communication is good business. Pega Systems embraces that. That’s why they’re so successful, and that’s why we’ve had such a long relationship with them through the years.”
The Speech Improvement Company Inc., has announced today the promotion of Ethan F. Becker to President, and Kristen Curran-Faller to COO (Chief Operating Officer). Dr. Dennis Becker will remain on as the firm’s CEO and Dr. Paula Borkum Becker will remain as the firm’s CFO.
“For 45 years, Paula and I have been holding the reigns for all the operating functions of the firm. We will continue to coach and remain infuential in the firms decisions as we hand over the day to day operations to the next generation,” said Dr. Dennis Becker. Dr. Paula Borkum Becker added “Kristen has been with the firm for 18 years and heavily involved in the daily operations, from engaging with clients to back end office to billing and other company needs. Ethan has really expanded the thinking of the firm, bringing in new technologies and clients from all corners of the world. I’m excited about the engery and expertise they will bring for the next 45 years.”
Ethan, 38, holds an undergraduate degree in Communication, a graduate MBA with double focus in International Business Communication and Leadership. He is currently enrolled in a PhD program in The Psychology of Business Communication. He has been a senior coach and trainer with TSIC since 2001. Prior to joining TSIC he held positions as Project Director and Team Leader for Media One Hundred. Ethan has also held positions as a motivational trade show speaker for major corporations. In addition, he began his career as a corporate video producer, and music video producer.
Kristen holds an undergraduate degree in Speech Communication, and a graduate degree in Training and Development. Before assuming her role as senior trainer and coach, she worked in advertising and marketing, and served as Director of The Customer Service Training Center. During her 18 years of service to TSIC, she has initiated many policies and pioneered many programs, including the worlds’s first, and TSIC patented, Virtual Reality Therapy regime. She has strong integral knowledge of the inner workings that keep the firm strong and thriving.
“We are all excited about the transition to these two highly qualified and dedicated professionals. It represents the foundation for growth and the clear continuation of the firm in its mission to help all people strengthen their oral communication skills. Kristen and Ethan hold the respect of everyone on the team and we support the move 100%,” said Monica Murphy, a Senior Coaching Partner with TSIC since 1990.
A recent article on the New York Times titled: “No Doubts: Women Are Better Managers” sparked this reaction from Coach Laurie Schloff.
Communication Coach Laurie Schloff of The Speech Improvement Company (Boston and Tampa) agrees with Carol Smith (right) of the Elle Group that women are often better managers, but based on her work with hundreds of females aiming for the C level she cautions ambitious females:
1. Women are still cut little slack in terms of ‘acceptable’ management behaviors.
Not only do you have to be viewed as competent, you must also be warm and nice.
Remember the Hillary Clinton candidacy lesson. She was widely viewed as too “bossy”until she shed a tear at a New Hampshire press conference, Glad that Carol Smith learned not to be bossy back in sixth grade. Many of Schloff’s client’s have tried to show strength by being tough, and though that works for some males, it almost always translates into bad press for women (Think the word that rhymes with rich).
2.Women who are too nice also suffer.
One client described her boss as “Pollyanna” always looking for the good side. Carol Smith wisely trained herself to give direct and specific feedback and to tell her reports HOW to improve. Many of my senior female clients avoid Carol’s wise ways for one reason that doesn’t work in the workplace.
They are afraid to hurt someone’s feelings.
Laurie will be hosting the following event: “Effective Presentations Certificate Program” on July 30/31st 2009.
Schloff’s advice: Get over it!
by Dr. Dennis Becker.
“Isn’t human communication fascinating?! This whole Gates-Cambridge Police-Crowley-Obama flap is just the latest in the ongoing saga of humans attempting to communicate with each other. By this time, we all pretty much know what happened:
Gates lost his keys to his home and couldn’t get in, Gates asks help of his limo driver to push the door in, Neighbor observes two “black men with back packs” doing this, Neighbor, being good neighbor, calls the police and reports attempted break-in, police arrive, Officer Crowley knocks on door, Gates comes to door, Crowley asks for identification, Gates retrieves Harvard ID card to verify his ownership and occupancy, Crowley accepts response and turns to leave porch, Gates complains about being harassed because of being a black man, Gates emerges from house onto front porch and continues commentary, Crowley replies with comment on Gates being public disturbance or disturbing the peace and arrests Gates.
Gates is placed in handcuffs behind his back, Gates complains he uses a cane and can’t walk with hands behind him, different officer intervenes and handcuffs are changed to front of Gates as he is taken to jail.
Now, obviously I’m summarizing broadly here. You can watch the video of both Gates and Crowley describing what happened.
I realize that there were nuances of inflection, facial expression, body language, volume, vocabulary, and more which were in play during the actual incident. I realize that it is important for us to engage in rhetorical analysis of the micro elements of this communication, if for no other reason than to learn from it. All of this can be justified from the perspective of wanting to help others who may be confronted with similar situations. I get that.
So, as a communication coach with more than 40 years of experience, allow me to suggest what would have served better for both Gates and Crowley. These two intelligent, accomplished professionals should be embarrassed for themselves for not being able to simply chalk this up to poor, but understandably human judgment at the time of the incident.
Each of these men entered that situation with personal and professional “baggage,” probably harkening as far back as early childhood, regarding issues of authority, privacy, race and respect. Each of these men, in retrospect, is still being controlled by those same long-standing attitudes which enable the “baggage” they carry. Gates should have thanked the officer for doing his duty. He should have overlooked the “attitude” that may have been conveyed in body language, vocabulary, etc. He should have immediately called his neighbor and offered thanks for the caring, watchful eye.
Crowley should have, after verifying the identity of Gates, apologized for any inconvenience and explained that he was simply responding to a report of a break-in and following usual protocol. He then should have simply turned and left the premises. He has probably done this many times before. So, as my Jewish friends would say, “Why should this night be any different than any other night?” Well, that’s human nature. We get very defensive as an initial means of interaction in what appears to be a threatening situation. No, not necessarily physically threatening, but threatening to authority, privacy, race and respect. Most of us lash out with the first two human communication tools we have – body language and speech. That is, we give a “look,” a “gesture,” a “mumble,” a “snicker.” You all know what I’m describing. We have all done it on occasion. It’s a human’s way of “defending” turf and self. On the receiving end, it gets regarded as disrespect or a challenge. If the reaction isn’t strong or obvious enough, there are always onlookers who can add “Ooh, are you gonna’ take that?” and we all know where it goes from there. Suddenly, all our “baggage” starts to unravel and the humans have two options: one is verbal/nonverbal and the other is physical.
Both of these men were at fault. Each should have acted more responsibly in recognizing the setting and circumstances that brought them together. Both of them should simply recognize their actions as the heat of the moment, while not being “wrong” were triggering and were triggered.
To top it off, now Obama is in it! His remarks did not serve him well. His vocabulary did not serve him or others well. He does not have an equal right to proclaim positions and expect little or no repercussion. He too has “baggage.” He’s human. All humans have “baggage,” but he is the President of the most powerful nation on the planet. He is a historical figure in so many ways. Whether we agree with him or not, he must be a bit more accepting – his casual, over the back fence, friendly, neighborly opinion just ain’t that. He’s The President of the most powerful nation on the planet! However, the rest of us must also accept his humanness and be able to step back from the fake heat that is generated by those who live off the “baggage” of others.
There are so many more critical issues in the world. Why are we not blogging about Darfur, or child molestation, or hunger, etc. Come on folks, keep it real! Try carrying your “baggage” in the other hand for a while.”
Dr. Dennis Becker is CEO , Principal & Senior Coaching Partner at The Speech Improvement Company.
If only everyone had obeyed our SOS Stop-Observe-Strategize Principle, one esteemed Harvard professor and one well regarded police sargeant in Cambridge Massachuseetts would be sleeping better tonight.
So to the both of you, think mind over mouth next time.
1. Sgt. Crowley: Couldn’t you have used your astute observation
skills to surmise that the well dressed, articulate and arrogant fella
was likely a Harvard man? Could you have made nice?
2. Professor Gates, yes you just returned from China and couldn’t get
into your own house but you’ve been controlling your demeanor for good
results your whole life.
Could you have told yourself “this is really not my day” and come up with a way to humor the stone faced officer? How about finding out more about what job he had turned up at your home to do, then proudly shown your ID?
Ok no one, black or white, likes to show identification at their own house, but the officer would have called it a day and you would have had the time for tea and jet lag recovery
3. Hey guys, you are both supposedly experts in racial profiling.
Shouldn’t this have led to a bond not a breakdown?
Imagine a rewind:
Gates: Here’s my ID. I’m head of African American Studies here at Harvard–just got back from China
Crowley: Sorry Professor, this isn’t your day is it? Sorry for the inconvenience but we got a call and there’s been quite a few burglaries lately. Well I’m off to the police academy to teach.
Gates: Really, what do you teach?
CrowleY: Ethics and avoiding racial profiling
Gates: Terrific… that’s my expertise too. well keep up the good work. And thanks for watching out for the neighborhood. And keep being cool before you use those handcuffs on some dude.
Crowley: No problem professor. Remember your keys next time.
Following the great success and interest in our first Social Media seminar, I am planning to organize a tweet-up in the first half of August.
Please get in touch with me by email or leave a message below, and suggest topics of discussion as well as preferred day/time.
Director of New Media / Coach
The Speech Improvement Company, Inc.
1614 Beacon Street
Brookline, MA 02446
Phone: +1 617-739-3330
Fax: +1 617-232-9430
Commentary by Laurie Schloff
“When Obama’s telempromter screen shattered abruptly at a White House press briefing last week, the audience held its collective breath.
Obama’s communication strength lies in his ability to deliver a prepared, pre-written speech, not to ad lib, “wing it” or be impromptu. Communication coaches observe that this difference in skill depending on context is not unusual at all. In fact, John McCain (remember him?) was way more smooth when responding to on-the-spot questions than
reading off a teleprompter.
Luckily for Obama, there was an additional teleprompter screen at his briefing and he continued on with his usual grace.”
Question: What do you like or not like about the way Obama speaks?
Next Obama Talk: What’s he doing with his hands?