body language

What's New? and Making Something from Nothing

Without the salutation of "Happy New Year", we return to our old rote greetings or conversation starters. "What's new?" is one of the most popular.

How we answer this question could change our life and the lives of others.  But instead we all tend to perpetuate an empty robotic exchange of nothingness. 

I know we are "busy" and short cuts and auto-responses expedite, streamline, and generally make our lives more efficient.

But what about the unintended consequences? What is lost in the these meaningless transactions?

A lot.

Everyday, we enter into many micro transactional conversations that involve these queries. Our brains are not engaged, we blurt out things in this short attention span edition of our ADDHD lives. 

So someone you know or don't know innocently and probably automatically says, "What's new?"

My unscientific survey reveals these most popular and ineffective answers:

  • Nothing
  • Not much
  • Keeping my head above water
  • Busy. Very busy
  • Same ole same ole
  • Nothing to complain about
  • Nada mucho, how about you?

You say you want conversations. You want want less "small talk" and more substance. And yet, your answers to this question often leads to a laughable script for the least substantive conversation possible.

What's new?

Nothing. Really busy.

Yeah me too. Nothing-to-say

Wow. Weird to be able to mouth the conversation as it happens, like a movie you have seen too many times. You know what the next line is so your interest and attention fall off.

Are you a network node that leads to other people, ideas and places or are you a predictable dead end street?

We have to stop these robotic meaningless, missed opportunities to connect! And it is not just the hollow responses. It is also the duty of the initiator to follow-up. A "nothing" response can't be accepted. The lack of sincerity and veracity have to be called on the carpet.

"Nothing!" And then you launch into a list of the things you have monitored and tracked because you are a master networker. You ask about their kids, their pets, their hobbies, their charities. You are following the updates of your network. And you know from FB, Linked-in, blog posts, and the media that--"Nothing" is simply not true.

So YOU ask about the new things that your colleague is too busy or lazy to mention, to resurrect their attention and the conversation.

Do you believe in the Law of Attraction?  You attract to yourself what you give your time, attention and words to---Negative or positive. 

So when you have nothing to say you attract nothing. 

So now change the setting to an interview.  Are your answers different? Of course.

How about when your boss' boss sees you in the elevator?

How about when you meet someone you do not know who will be your next boss?

How about to a head hunter? Or a prospective new client? 

The point is you may never know who you are talking to until you do. 

The challenge is your brain and your mouth get into bad habits. They start talking before you think.

Pause before you answer any question? Think then speak. Listen then respond. Awaken in the moment! 

Never say "nothing" or that "I'm busy". We are all busy!

Start by bragging or complaining? No way! Start with something positive.

Personal or professional? Yes! Talk about what is new that is on your mind. Work, your kids, your hobby, the book you are reading--anything and everything is available to mention.

I try to put myself in the mindset of an ambassador. How am I representing my country, my people? Who am I trying to help? How can I be authentic but also diplomatic? How can I assert my ideas without offending? How can I engage people in my work in a mutually beneficial way?

You can't win with just defense. Responding to all inquiries is good but what do you think? What will you assert or advance? Who are you trying to help--besides yourself?!

Your reputation is built on your impressions. Listen to yourself. How are you doing? 

I have always asked my external teams, my sales reps, my fundraisers--anyone who interacts with the public as part of their jobs--How do you answer the question: "What's new?"

This is a softball pitch, right down the middle. You have to be ready to hit it out of the park.

I coach my teams to use this wonderful question to discuss something that is personally exciting to them about our organization. Something that is new, fresh and interesting. Something they know about. Not the elvevator pitch. Not the company line, or that last press release necessarily. Their genuine energy and enthusiasm will be contagious.

Nothing is never interesting or engaging. Nothing is worse than boring. Nothing is a lie. Nothing is not even possible.

What's new? A great question that deserves an answer. A fantastic conversation starter. Let's not waste it.

Adopting a lifestyle of mentoring and networking requires us to be the ones who put a stop to these meaningless conversations and help others make something from nothing.

Thanks for reading. John


Applying Your Passion to College and to Life

I was with a donor at a Hollywood eaterie. We both ordered ice teas. The waitress asked if we wanted regular or passion. I said regular and my guest ordered passion. The teas came and neither of the teas were passion. We called over our beautiful wannabe actress to correct her inadvertent mistake. The donor said, "Hey I ordered the passion ice tea and got regular." She leaned in close to him without missing a beat and said, "Didn't I serve it with passion?!" He reflexively said, "You did!" Glasses-of-iced-tea

Is our tea of life supposed to have passion it? Do we have to order it or make it ourselves? Or do we merely have to serve it with passion? 

I am pretty obsessed with living life with passion and helping others find their passions. To be perfectly honest, I help myself by helping others. Other people's passions get me psyched to be more diligent about my own. I use other people's passions to add to my passion river. Kind of a passion junkie. I must confess, I am trying to inspire and motivate yours truly. I have  learned that successful networking, mentoring, and careers are based on this principle of engaging  others' passions and defining my own.

This was a big week for the topic of passion: 

  • I gave a short speech on passion for my colleagues at a national conference of community foundations to add a little kindling to their belly fires. 
  • I led a  session for a giving circle to re-energize their collective passion around community needs and their personal definitions of meaningful giving. 
  • Lastly, I appeared on a friend's local radio show to discuss how the true passions of the students applying for college admission make a difference.

You don't need to be applying for college to articulate your passions. We all have a constellation of passions within us that we nurture and ignore. That we pursue and neglect. True passion involves others and the needs of others. It starts with the pain of our lack of personal fulfillment, the suffering of others we care about, and the the unmet needs of people we may never know. It can come as easily from disappointment or from total engagement. It is the basis of your emotional connection to what you do and WHY you do it. 

The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why. Mark Twain 

You can discover it and have an aha moment. Or it can sneak up on you and scare you into understanding yourself.

Always taken by my mother's story of the moment she knew painting would define her life. She was 49 with 4 kids under the age of 10 she decided to take a sumi-e Japanese brush stroke painting lesson. She lifted the brush with fresh black ink on it and struck the canvas and she was transformed in that moment. She remembers it like it was yesterday, "I said to myself, "Where have you been?" She found herself and has been painting ever since. Her ability to express herself through oil paints changed her and everything around her. It centered her. Gave her energy and vitality. She had a purpose like no other. 

Sumi eWhen you share or when others share their passions it shines out of the eyes, the body language and the voice. We exude an extra energy when we connect with passion. It is when we present our best selves. You have to help others recognize this when they do it!

It is when work and play blur. When Mondays and Fridays are exactly the same.

I try to find and associate with very competent people who are also passionate about their lives. You have to have both! Because competence in the absence of passion is not only boring but is limited to mediocrity. And passion without competence is shrill and a waste of time. I look for both in every hire I make, every board I join, every job I take, and every one of my relationships.

A job is never just a job. A life is never just a life. We can't be waiting for something better. Or to do it all when we retire. How will we leave our imprint?

You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.  Jack London

Help your son or daughter see their inner strengths and talents before you tell them what their career will be. Explore with your friends why they aren't doing more of the things they say are important to them. Assist people who are nearing retirement age to explore their passions now. Make the pursuit of passions

This is the hardest work we can do--to help others and ourselves find passion. For there is no other work. We need people's passions to engage our total selves in our work and our lives. We need passion to innovate, to solve problems, and to wring out the potential in our world. 

There is no passion to be found playing small - in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living. Nelson Mandela

Move passion up on your to-do list. Serve and live with passion!

Thanks for reading. John

 


Smile Networking

When playing poker or just observing people you notice a host of "tells": the signs a person makes when they are nervous or bluffing. Body, eye movements, smiles, tics, gestures, and inflection. All give you clues, hints, and ways to understand what is being said and unsaid. I have to work on these things everyday. Before I did work that was videotaped, I was unaware of my tells. When I listened I looked critical, I still do this from time to time. I have to think about eye contact because I can look down when I talk. And I have to remind myself to stay positive. For me, it takes mindfulness and being present. 

I will never understand all of the good a simple smile can accomplish.  Mother Teresa Smile2

I watch people's eyes and their smiles. It is so easy to see when people like what they are talking about. I ask people to "tell me more" about that subject, because I know they want to. 

According to English and Jewish proverbs--Eyes are the window to the soul.  

I believe this. And if the eyes are a window then the smile is the sliding glass door to the soul. It is the face of your heart.

No other form of body language can transform you and your networking, than your smile. 

Your face triggers the face and the feelings of those looking at your face. Your eyes are the window to your truth. 

I had an assistant named Pam who never smiled. It became a game with me. Every morning, I would greet her with a huge smile and a theatrical, "GOOD MORNING! How are you?" She always responded the same no matter what I did. She said, "Fine," without smiling. Actually it was more of a frown. So one day I could not stand it any more. She stood there and said "fine" looking like her cat died. I said, "Then Tell Your Face!" After that Pam faked smiled at me every morning and we laughed.  

Long time ago, I supervised telemarketers and we used mirrors to show the trainees their faces when they were on the phone. Your voice is so much different when you smile! Smiling telemarketers always performed better. 

I love the work of the Smile Foundation--restoring the smiles of children with facial deformities. 

Like most things you do for others it helps you more. Smiling almost always makes others smile. And smiling makes us feel good and makes others feel good. But recently researchers have shown that smiling, genuine smiles, not only feel good but actually make us healthier. Huh? Yes, recent studies show that smiling reduces anxiety, heart rate, and increased recovery from stress and even depression. There is a physiological and psychological reaction in your body when you use your smile muscles. Even if you just see another smiling it fires off neurons that simulate the feeling of your own smile. Serious studies show greater life expectancy and life satisfaction if you smile. Long distance runners who smiled reported they were less tired and stressed. It all makes sense. When you smile others smile. You give off positivity and get it back. So it is probably a combination of internal and external factors that feed off one another.We all know how quickly a look can turn us negative. We walk a very fine line between happy and unhappy. Satisfied and dissatisfied. Positive and negative. Glass half full, half empty.....A smile can push us and others around us over to the positive side of the street.   Smiles

The genuine smile--the real smile--is called by researchers the Duchenne smile. Named by the 19th century French neurologist. This smile uses the major muscles around the eyes and mouth areas. This is contrasted with the Pan Am smile, named for the socially polite smile of an airline flight attendant. This smile just lifts the muscles around the mouth. 

Funny ironic thing is that people with botox injections were also studied. Because their smile muscles were "impaired" they were less happy and had a harder time sensing the feelings of others! You want to look and feel good--artificially?! Shame on you. ;)

This research is dwarfed by the certainty that an upside down smile makes you and others feel worse. You have a great smile--use it! Smile! 

Thanks for reading. John

 


Psych Yourself Up! The 5Ps of Networking

It takes a lot of energy to meet people, engage in conversations, listen carefully, give your attention and to be "on".  Some people are naturally comfortable at it. Most people struggle to do it. Like all things that you do and want to do well, you have to psych yourself up for the task. You have to get yourself prepared and in a positive frame of mind. Nothing good happens when you are unprepared AND have a negative or uncaring attitude. Very rare when great things happen when you "wing it". When you do nothing to prepare yourself for something you find difficult. In fact, it is more likely you not only disappoint yourself and leave some lost opportunities along the way. 

When I was younger I used to think Robin Williams was great at ad libbing. He could do magic in a moment. I also used to think that some people were born with the ability to speak extemporaneously. I also used to believe the myth that some people had the DNA to network and meet people. I have learned these are all fallacies. Of course, some people have more confidence, presence, and the gift of gab--but ANYONE can learn these things. Robin Williams is a very bright performer, after all he went to Julliard! But his routines are well rehearsed and planned. His gift is revealing them as if they weren't. 

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.    John Wooden

Networking is no different. Rocky

Here are some quick proven steps to boost your confidence, readiness, and ultimately your performance (this is beginning to sound like some of the spam we all get:) Stay with me! 

1. Plan and Prepare: You are going to yet another event, reception, cocktail party, company function, conference, seminar and you want to network well. 

  •  Visualize what you think networking success would be. Begin with the end in mind. What are my goals? Do I want to just take some small steps to increase my confidence? Is there information I am seeking? Expertise I need? People from particular orgs or companies I want to compare notes with?
  • Google people you want to meet to find commonalities and interesting facts. This will arm you with a way of breaking the ice. 
  • Think about people who can introduce you to them. Being introduced is the most credible, simplest and stress free way of meeting people. 

Being well prepared, even partially prepared will give you focus and more confidence.

2. Psych Yourself Up!: Before the event, start to get yourself in the right frame of ;mind to be your best self. Other people don't care about the bad day you have had. Get ready to make a good first impression. You need to be on--only you knows what that;feels like.You attract to your life whatever you give time, attention, and focus—positive or negative. I would add, and physically manifest. 

  • Look your best. If you look good you will be more confident and more comfortable.
  • Energize yourself. This is why getting into better physical shape makes a difference, but for now you need to use your nerves or anxiety to be channeled into your focus and personal excitement for the challenge.

3.  Power Pose!: Immediately before the event, take some advice from Harvard        researcher, Amy Cuddy. She has shown that your hormones shift with your physical        presence. Your anxiety and your confidence levels change with your body language. Your internal chemistry mirrors your posture. In other words, when your body is open  and tall, so is your energy and presence. When you fold yourself--arms and legs-- and become smaller, more fetal like, you come off weaker and less impressively. Here are two poses that you can do to boost your energy! Just 2 minutes will positively change your hormonal chemistry. Do these exercises privately :) --they help me before I give a big speech. Lynda_carter_as_wonder_woman

  • Raise your hands above your head in a victory pose. Even blind people who have never seen this pose use it to express their joy and success. 
  • Hands on hips like superman or wonder woman. 
4. Perform: Not telling you to be someone you are not. But we all have "party manners" when we are on our best  behavior. When we       are concious of making a       good impression. 
  • Relax and slow down. Nothing worse than feeling rushed or in a hurry. Try to enjoy the event and the conversations you have. Don't let your goals get in the way of your experience and the attention you give to others.
  • Smile. I know it is obvious, but look like you are happy to meet people. Just the act of smiling will make you feel better and warm others. 
  • Body language is positive. Don't fold up and unintentionally look unapproachable.
  • Be interested and then become interesting. Listen. Let the other person lead. Ask them questions. Engage them then tell your story or make your pitch.
  • Remember names and ask to continue conversations where appropriate.

5. Post-mortem: Critique your process, progress, and performance. Appreciate what you accomplished and make notes on how to improve. Follow-up on the people you met, ideas you gathered and commitments you made.

  • Make notes to yourself. People you met that require follow-up or for future reference. Use the back of the business cards or enter into contact database.
  • Send e-mails. For those you want to continue the conversation, send them an e-mail.
  • Send out information you promised. Every good networker provides as much info and help as they get. Mail or e-mail what you promised or suggested. 

Develop your networking confidence by practice and preparation. Like everything you want to improve upon, invest your time and energy--and psych yourself up! 

Thanks for reading. John


Psych Yourself Up to Network! The 5Ps of Networking

It takes a lot of energy to meet people, engage in conversations, listen carefully, give your attention and to be "on".  Some people are naturally comfortable at it. Most people struggle to do it. Like all things that you do and want to do well, you have to psych yourself up for the task. You have to get yourself prepared and in a positive frame of mind. Nothing good happens when you are unprepared AND have a negative or uncaring attitude. Very rare when great things happen when you "wing it". When you do nothing to prepare yourself for something you find difficult. In fact, it is more likely you not only disappoint yourself and leave some lost opportunities along the way. 

When I was younger I used to think Robin Williams was great at ad libbing. He could do magic in a moment. I also used to think that some people were born with the ability to speak extemporaneously. I also used to believe the myth that some people had the DNA to network and meet people. I have learned these are all fallacies. Of course, some people have more confidence, presence, and the gift of gab--but ANYONE can learn these things. Robin Williams is a very bright performer, after all he went to Julliard! But his routines are well rehearsed and planned. His gift is revealing them as if they weren't. 

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.    John Wooden

Networking is no different. Rocky

Here are some quick proven steps to boost your confidence, readiness, and ultimately your performance (this is beginning to sound like some of the spam we all get:) Stay with me! 

1. Plan and Prepare: You are going to yet another event, reception, cocktail party, company function, conference, seminar and you want to network well. 

  •  Visualize what you think networking success would be. Begin with the end in mind. What are my goals? Do I want to just take some small steps to increase my confidence? Is there information I am seeking? Expertise I need? People from particular orgs or companies I want to compare notes with?
  • Google people you want to meet to find commonalities and interesting facts. This will arm you with a way of breaking the ice. 
  • Think about people who can introduce you to them. Being introduced is the most credible, simplest and stress free way of meeting people. 

Being well prepared, even partially prepared will give you focus and more confidence.

2. Psych Yourself Up!: Before the event, start to get yourself in the right frame of ;mind to be your best self. Other people don't care about the bad day you have had. Get ready to make a good first impression. You need to be on--only you knows what that;feels like.You attract to your life whatever you give time, attention, and focus—positive or negative. I would add, and physically manifest. 

  • Look your best. If you look good you will be more confident and more comfortable.
  • Energize yourself. This is why getting into better physical shape makes a difference, but for now you need to use your nerves or anxiety to be channeled into your focus and personal excitement for the challenge.

3.  Power Pose!: Immediately before the event, take some advice from Harvard        researcher, Amy Cuddy. She has shown that your hormones shift with your physical        presence. Your anxiety and your confidence levels change with your body language. Your internal chemistry mirrors your posture. In other words, when your body is open  and tall, so is your energy and presence. When you fold yourself--arms and legs-- and become smaller, more fetal like, you come off weaker and less impressively. Here are two poses that you can do to boost your energy! Just 2 minutes will positively change your hormonal chemistry. Do these exercises privately :) --they help me before I give a big speech. Lynda_carter_as_wonder_woman

  • Raise your hands above your head in a victory pose. Even blind people who have never seen this pose use it to express their joy and success. 
  • Hands on hips like superman or wonder woman. 
4. Perform: Not telling you to be someone you are not. But we all have "party manners" when we are on our best  behavior. When we       are concious of making a       good impression. 
  • Relax and slow down. Nothing worse than feeling rushed or in a hurry. Try to enjoy the event and the conversations you have. Don't let your goals get in the way of your experience and the attention you give to others.
  • Smile. I know it is obvious, but look like you are happy to meet people. Just the act of smiling will make you feel better and warm others. 
  • Body language is positive. Don't fold up and unintentionally look unapproachable.
  • Be interested and then become interesting. Listen. Let the other person lead. Ask them questions. Engage them then tell your story or make your pitch.
  • Remember names and ask to continue conversations where appropriate.

5. Post-mortem: Critique your process, progress, and performance. Appreciate what you accomplished and make notes on how to improve. Follow-up on the people you met, ideas you gathered and commitments you made.

  • Make notes to yourself. People you met that require follow-up or for future reference. Use the back of the business cards or enter into contact database.
  • Send e-mails. For those you want to continue the conversation, send them an e-mail.
  • Send out information you promised. Every good networker provides as much info and help as they get. Mail or e-mail what you promised or suggested. 

Develop your networking confidence by practice and preparation. Like everything you want to improve upon, invest your time and energy--and psych yourself up! 

Thanks for reading. John


Non-verbal networking

We all know how important the non-verbal cues are to effective communication, relationship development, and networking. Our body language, inflection of our voice, our eye contact, facial expressions dominate the words we say. Those that study this stuff have said that words are only about 7-30% of the communication we intend. As I said, we know this in our heads, but we are not conscious of it.Body language 2

Tell your face---You see this one everyday, if you are paying attention. We have these robotic exchanges that have become meaningless transactions. You enter the elevator, or the office in the morning and you say something to greet anyone and everyone. It is neither sincere or intentional. We say things like "Good Morning", or "How are you?"--even if the morning sucks and you are not interested in or care about anyone's well-being. In fact, if the target of our pre-recorded pablum speaks, we are awakened  from our slumber and struggle to respond. My assistant for years, Patsy, would greet me every morning with a confusing happy voice and an enthusiastic Good morning! and a severe frown. At first I thought she had been part of a botox experiment gone awry. :( The first time she did this, I said, "if it is a good morning, tell your face!"

Do you remember the Michael Dukakis passionless response to the question about whether the death penalty should be applied to the murderer and rapist of his wife Kitty?

Without putting energy into your daily deliveries of words and messages, you will communicate poorly. Your posture, handshake, intonation, and your facial attention can undermine your persuasiveness.

A few basic tips to remember to keep focused:

  1. Engage the other person by looking into their eyes, listen and observe their body language.
  2. Keep your hands in front of you, instead of folding them, on your hips or in the "fig leaf" position.
  3. Smile. It will always brings energy into your voice and your eyes.

Lead with your passions--When people talk about what they care about, they stand up straighter, their eyes light up, and their voice is overflowing with expression. So funny, because many people have asked me if I have ESP. I listen to and watch people, and when they really smile and start becoming more animated, I tell them how obvious that this is an important subject to them. "How could you tell?", they query. Find out what others are passionate about, then your encounters and conversations will feed off one another.

How can you understand, see and hear any incongruences or distracting body language you create?

You practice in front of a mirror. You videotape your presentation skills. You get candid feedback from colleagues and confidantes. When I started the process to refine my speaking and presentations, I immediately improved. Seeing and hearing is believing. You become a student of yourself. How do others see you? How big is the gap between what you think you are doing and what others see? This is a critical skill, your accurate awareness of you. I became painfully aware of my strange an previously unknown habits and body language expressions through a thorough and relentless examination of my schtick. Still working on it and never again took it for granted.

Always suprised how under prepared people are for making impressions. They wing it. They hope that the right words and body language magiacally appear when called upon. Some people think they are Robin Williams! Most of us know that Robin doesn't ad lib, but draws on a library of practiced and rehearsed routines. I am not saying that you need to script yourself, but preparation with a keen eye on what it really looks and sounds like is essential.

As Allen Iverson said, "Are we talking about practice?" Yes we are!

Connect your mind to your body through your conciousness. Don't let your folded arms, furrowed brow, repeated "ums", shifty eyes, or inaudible voice, steal your opportunities and your compelling ideas.

Carry yourself, express yourself, with the spirit and energy that it matters--because it does.

Your ability to network is directly tied to your trustworthiness, believability, and likability. How you present yourself deserves at least as much prep and attention as your clever words and phrases.

I dedicate this post to my brother in-law Andrew Kim Weaver, who was tragically taken from us this week. Andrew was fiercely candid and famous for his non-verbal communication.

Thanks for reading. John