I’m from the USA, and, like many, am surprised over the recent election results. These results have revealed an incredible, seemingly unsurmountable divide between Americans. We got a taste of this divide in the UK with the equally shocking Brexit choice. While I can’t speak for people in the UK, I can state that people in the good old US of A have forgotten how to disagree with each other respectfully. There seems to be an insurmountable divide: Many Republicans truly believe the Democrats point the way to hell, and vice versa. There is name calling. Violence. We’re acting like fearful animals under attack.
I’ve lost a friend in this election—a woman I still believe to be thoughtful, intelligent and incisive. Initially, I tried to hold a dialogue with her: “Show me evidence that Trump’s policies are viable.” It didn’t work, and we ended up digitally yelling at each other. It doesn’t help when all of us choose the media we think has “the facts,” and state confidently that YOUR source of information is biased and unreliable.
Is there a way out of this mess? I don’t know. Below, I’ve taken some tips by consultant Judy Ringer (http://www.judyringer.com/resources/articles/being-heard-6-strategies-for-getting-your-point-across.php) that seem to make sense.
- Stop pushing your point of view. Try and understand your conflict partner’s point of view.
- “Don’t give in, give way,” she says. Let your conflict partner know you are willing to hear them out and to seriously consider their point of view. Show the other person empathy.
- Offer relevant information. Don’t say things such as “Your reasoning just doesn’t make sense.” That will get the other person’s hackles up right away. Start by acknowledging their argument, summarise it, and look for the one thing you can agree upon. Try and step into that person’s shoes. Don’t try to shove your point of view up that person’s . . . nose. Try and offer information that the other person might find actually useful.
- Once you think your conversation partner might be willing to listen to you without blowing a fuse (and vice versa), start the conversation NOT INSISTING ON WINNING, but instead TRYING TO SOLVE THE PROBLEM. Maybe that person won’t be persuaded to come around to your point of view tomorrow. But maybe, out of the conversation, will come increased respect on both sides. One can only HOPE.
So. How do you communicate YOUR point of view, once you’ve heard the other person’s perspective?
- a. Be aware that that person’s reality could be much, much different from yours. Research has shown that individuals are increasingly living in areas next to people who feel the way they do; watch the same programs that they do; and have absolutely nothing in common with people who think differently.
b. Think of the interchange as one of mutual education, not one of blame or recrimination, and try to communicate this in a hopeful way to your conversation partner.
c. Stay interested in the conversation. Try and understand the reasons for disagreement.
d. Try, try to extend positive energy. I don’t know if I’d be capable of this; but it IS worth striving for!
e. There are no guarantees. You two may end up staring at a brick wall that cannot be broken down. At least, try to end the conversation on a note of mutual respect.
What times we live in. More than ever, mutual understanding is needed to keep us sane!
I’m located in the Melbourne region. For a free session on communications and public speaking, feel free to email me for an appointment: email@example.com.
My website: www.eloquentenglish.com
Balloons and job interviews? Yes. All my blogs talk about the importance of storytelling and active listening in all forms of communication: “small talk” in the office, in writing science articles, and in acing that job interview.
When you have a job interview, you have to “show, not tell.” Never say, “I will work hard.” Blecchhh. SHOW how you work hard—and work BETTER. In other words, if the interviewer asks you a question such as “What is the most significant thing you have ever done?” he or she wants more information than “I successfully meet challenges when I’m faced with them.” Too vague!
You will want to give a story such as the one below (and this actually happened in my own professional life when I was marketing and sales director of a U.S. publishing company):
It was September 12 and 13, 2001. The Twin Towers had just crashed. People were devastated, but they also wanted to buy any and all available books about the Twin Towers. It just so happened that my publishing company had recently published such a book. Demand for the title was overwhelming. I was dealing with my own shock of the situation—we all were—yet I was able to work with people in production, customer service, and acquisitions to develop a production plan that would immediately meet the public need, and yet not produce too many so that we would be inundated with returns. It was a horrible time in our history, yet we had a public service to do, and we did it very well. (We ended up with very few books being returned.)
In the story, above, I illustrated how I was able to demonstrate team work, leadership under stress, both professional and emotional. THAT is the kind of story you would want to have at your disposal.
Think of these stories as brightly coloured balloons. Before the job interview, make sure you have created at least three or four of these stories. Frankly, some of the stories could be interchangeable. I could use this story to answer the question “How well do you deal with stress?” as well as “What is the most significant thing you have ever done?” Have a story ready for the following questions:
- How well do you work under stress?
- How successfully do you meet challenges?
- What is your strong point?
- What is your weak point?
- How do you demonstrate leadership?
- Where do you see yourself in five years? Ten years? (Yes, even for a question like this, have a story ready: this story should demonstrate how you have taken some job or task and made it better / more efficient. That story will show how you are always looking to improve both the work situation and yourself. Then conclude the story by tying it in to the job interview at hand: “So you can see that I am always eager to try new things, to do things in a better way. I look forward to doing this, and perhaps rising within your company.” Even if you’re pretty sure you won’t want to stay with that company, NEVER SAY that . . . always show your creative, innovative side, and how that can benefit the company you’re interested in now.)
So. Start thinking of stories.
SHOW, not TELL.
When the time is ripe, pull that red balloon story out of your mind and use it.
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This observation is SO TRUE. I remember once, as marketing and sales director, interviewing a young lady for the position of marketing specialist. I liked her: she was dressed beautifully, obviously intelligent, asked great questions and knew how to succinctly answer questions by giving specific examples of her work career and not just spouting clichés. I was basically hooked. After the interview she said, “I have a favour to ask you. I’d like to come in tomorrow and just observe this company . . . see how it does things. I won’t get in the way, I’ll just come in for awhile and then leave.”
You know what? She got the job; she beat all the candidates hands down. She came to the company the next day, dressed just casually enough, and glided her way through the various departments. By the end of her hour-long stay, other departmental directors were urging me to hire her. Which I did. And which was one of the best choices I had ever made during my stint of marketing and sales director.
What did she do that was so great? She showed me that she wanted to observe the company—its culture, its employees, how supervisors interacted with their staff. She asked me specific questions and didn’t just consider the interview to be a platform upon which she could give an “It’s-All-About-Me!” speech.
In the last blog, I discussed how observing and listening are crucial skills for anyone aspiring to become a leader. These skills are just as important for your acing a job interview. Here are some tips involving your listening and observational skills. If you do these in an interview, you WILL stand out.
- DON’T JUST GIVE CANNED, PRE-FABRICATED ANSWERS. Really listen CAREFULLY to a question. Certainly, prepare what you want to highlight about yourself days before the interview; know the points you wish to emphasize. But don’t be so eager to talk about your accomplishments that you end up giving the interviewer lots of verbiage that doesn’t even answer the question.
- PAY ATTENTION TO BODY LANGUAGE. Note what the interviewer is doing. Is she leaning towards you? This is a good sign. Does she have her arms crossed? Not so good. Recent psychological research has shown that mirroring someone’s body language and / or facial expressions is a way to bond with another individual, to let them know, “I am like you, and I also LIKE you.”2 Just as storytelling can actual bind the neurons of the storyteller’s brains with those of the listeners, this body-language mirroring also results in almost subconscious empathy. Of course, during a job interview, you are in a subordinate position, so don’t necessarily put your feet up on the desk if the interviewer does that! (I don’t see this as ever happening . . . but you get what I mean.)
- RESEARCH THE COMPANY BEFORE THE INTERVIEW. Yes, yes, doubtless you’ve heard this before, but this is crucial to your interview success. Don’t just find out the basics: what the company does, who is its CEO, CFO, etc., where its branches are located. Find out about its strengths. Weaknesses. The more you can find out about where a company is headed, the more you can persuaded the interviewer that you share the company’s goals and can contribute to its vision.
- ASK KICK-ASS QUESTIONS. Here’s where your research can pay off. Let’s say you’re interviewing for a position within a publishing company and you’ve read that digitization of books is impacting hard-copy books worldwide. Ask about that during the interview! For example, an observation followed with a question as the following will make the interviewer sit up and take notice:“I understand that digitization is negatively impacting sales on books in this country. Is this a concern for you; and, if so, how will you be integrating digitization within your one-year and five-year plans?”Ka-POW. You have just demonstrated your knowledge of a challenge facing this company, and you have shown a real interest in hearing how it plans to deal with it. Also, you have couched the question in a non-threatening manner. You have made the statement theoretical and general; you’re not assuming that this company’s sales have faltered (though they probably have). How could an employer not be interested in you? It’d be even better if you have read about some interesting measures that other companies have taken, and manage to bring that up in the interview.
I have met many incredibly gifted young people here in Melbourne who are struggling to find a job. Firstly, many people want to move there, as Melbourne is often voted the #1 most liveable city in the world. The result? SCADS of candidates are lining up for each job being offered. You may not like it, but just having the needed skills for a position isn’t enough to get you hired. You have to make the interviewers notice you. And how do you do this?
By showing the interviewer that YOU are noticing THEM.
Feel free to email me at email@example.com with questions or comments.
My website is http://www.eloquentenglish.com