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Category Archives: Communication

quit saying no problem

You’ve rearranged your schedule, taken the time to prepare, and said “no” to other commitments. You’re just about to head into the meeting for which you’ve worked so hard to get ready and then…you get an email: “Something came up. Can we postpone the meeting to next week?”

Many of us have the tendency—even if we’re frustrated by the situation—to respond, “No problem. We can do next week.” But the thing is, there is a problem.

Sometimes people have legitimate excuses for not showing up, canceling something at the last minute, or not getting an assignment to you on time. BUT, if you tolerate this kind of behavior regularly, you are essentially giving other people permission to walk all over you.

Not to mention, many people cancel or postpone meetings simply because they don’t feel like going. They see the meeting as a low priority item—something that can be blown off. And THAT is a huge problem.

So what do you do?

How can you convey your frustration to your client, co-worker, or boss without coming across as a complete ogre?

It’s a tricky situation, especially in my Midwestern home base where politeness is the norm (even at the expense of your own discomfort or annoyance!). But, the issue must be addressed. Otherwise, this kind of cavalier attitude toward meetings will continue. You will be at the mercy of someone else’s whims.

Start putting your foot down. Try these four different approaches (or a variation) and begin holding others accountable.

1. Express that you’ve been inconvenienced.

Try responding with: “Actually, I rearranged my schedule and was counting on this meeting to direct the rest of my week’s work. Next week is pretty packed for me, so I won’t be able to meet then. Is there any way you can make today’s meeting, even if you’re a few minutes late?”

2. Tap into the other person’s emotional side by telling them how the situation made you feel.

Try: “This is the second time we’ve pushed back this meeting. That makes me feel as if my time isn’t valued.”

OR: “We’ve had to reschedule this meeting multiple times. I’m beginning to get frustrated, since I end up wasting time each time we reschedule. Can we make a firm commitment to meet next Tuesday?”

3. Tell your side of the story.

“I spent most of the morning preparing for our meeting instead of working on the XYZ project, which is due next week. This cancellation really throws a monkey wrench into my schedule. Is there any way you can shuffle some things on your end and make at least part of today’s meeting?”

4. Come up with an alternative plan.

“Since it seems like you’ve had to cancel several in-person meetings, why don’t we aim for a phone meeting next time? Say, tomorrow? 10 a.m?”

 

Your time and presence are valuable. If others tend to drop appointments or not follow through with their commitments, it’s time to take a firm stand. Let them know, as tactfully as possible, that yes, there is a problem.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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gain control of conversation

Have you ever been in a situation where the conversation went off the rails? Maybe you were trying to talk to a client about a new product and they insisted on talking about politics or their latest family vacation. Or maybe you were leading a meeting and your team began to stray from the topic at hand. Or maybe every time you talk with a particularly chatty co-worker, it’s difficult to get a word in edgewise.

What do you do?

Start with these 5 steps:

1. Believe that your voice counts

Enter every conversation with the confidence that your voice (your thoughts, ideas, and opinions) matters. Believe in what you have to say and you will find a way to bring it up in the conversation. Keep in mind: there’s a difference between confidence and arrogance. What you have to say is important, but it’s not the only opinion that counts. Your listening ear is just as important as your voice.

2. Acknowledge what the other person is saying

It’s important to let the other party know that, yes, you hear what they have to say. You can also use this tact as a way to step in and take control of the conversation. For example:

“What I hear you saying, Bill, is that you’d like to implement more customer service surveys. I think that’s a great idea that warrants more discussion. I’d like to focus on that more during our next meeting so that we give the topic the time it deserves. In the meantime, let’s finish going over our quarterly reports and see what other ideas crop up…”

3. Keep your audience engaged

What you have to say is important; make sure your audience hears it! Instead of lecturing at others, make an effort to engage them. Ask questions, request feedback, and ask your audience if any clarification is needed. Make others a part of what you’re doing, not just passive observers.

4. Be direct

Oftentimes, the best way to refocus a conversation is to be direct. Acknowledge what the other party is saying (see tip #2) and then transition into what you’d like to say. Your interaction may go something like this:

“Your family vacation sounds great, Susan, and I’d love to discuss it more tomorrow, but I’m afraid I have to shift the conversation back to business…”

 

Remember: What you have to say is important! Don’t sell yourself short. Have the confidence to interject when necessary (in a tactful way!) and let your voice be heard.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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Delegate effectively

What can you achieve by DELEGATING?

You’re up to your eyeballs with work, scrambling to complete projects, catch up with clients, and put out fires…all while trying to keep on top of email and maybe grab some lunch at some point! You work late, get home after dark, and can only think about work as you zone out in front of the television. The next day, your boss calls you up and asks you to take on a new client. As usual, you say yes.

Sound like a familiar story?

Unfortunately, many of us are afraid to ask others for assistance when we’re feeling overwhelmed. We think it shows weakness or a lack of dedication. We’re afraid we will appear incapable, or that it will even affect our chance of promotion.

In most cases, however, the positive aspects of delegation far outweigh the negative aspects. Here’s what happens when you delegate:

1. You prevent burnout

Delegation helps you work at a more sustainable, healthy pace, rather than a frantic pace that will leave you exhausted and unhappy.

2. You achieve better results

Instead of doing a dozen projects with mediocre results (which is definitely not promotion-worthy behavior), you can focus on a couple of projects and achieve quality results.

3. You gain focus

It’s a good idea to delegate tasks to other people that do not fall into your areas of expertise. Instead, focus on the areas in which you excel and continue building your skills in those areas.

4. You create healthy boundaries

If people know you will say yes to any and every project, they will begin taking advantage of you. Draw a line in the sand and either say no (here are a few diplomatic ways to do that) or delegate.

5. You exhibit strong leadership

By pragmatically delegating to others, you demonstrate that you have a clear understanding of your team and what makes them tick. You also show that you trust your co-workers enough to let go of the reins and let them take over an assignment.

 

Of course, it’s a good idea to be thoughtful and tactful when you delegate. Don’t try to shuffle your work off to someone who also has no time or interest. Instead, consider your co-workers’ talents and their availability.

If you are a leader, dole out assignments with care. Explain to each person why you selected him or her for the task at hand. Be sure to let that person know you are available to answer questions or point them toward available resources.

If you are not in a leadership position, your delegation may look a little different. When someone asks you to take on a project, counter by telling them that you have far too much on your plate at the moment and say something like, “Have you considered Rosa? She excelled in a similar project last quarter and I think she has some availability.”

And if things are really out of hand with your current workload, you may want to have a sit-down meeting with your boss and explain your position. Remember: it’s always a good idea to check your co-workers’ availability and interest in a new project before name-dropping them.

Start working smarter. Delegate wisely and open up new possibilities in your career.


MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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perennials: don't generalize by generation

I hear it all the time. People complaining about other generations.

“Millennials are                I don’t understand them at all.”

Or: “Why are Baby Boomers so               ?”

Or: “Everyone in Gen X is clearly                  .”

It’s time we stop limiting each other. These on-the-surface labels are doing much more harm than good. They allow us to write off entire generations (many millions of people!) with sweeping generalizations. And the truth is, many people don’t fit the stereotypes.

Take “entitlement,” for example. Many people think of Millennials (the group born between 1980 and 2000) as an entitled bunch that thinks they deserve things without actually working for them. Not only is this stereotype getting tiresome, it is frankly untrue.

Although many of them started working at an economically tumultuous time (the Great Recession), Millennials have proven themselves to be innovative and resilient. They’ve invented jobs when none were available; they’ve taken over top leadership positions; they’ve learned how to live with less by taking advantage of the new “sharing economy.”

Are some Millennials entitled and lazy? Of course. But so are many Gen-Xers and Boomers.

And just because Millennials have new ways of working, doesn’t mean they’re lazy. They might simply have a better grasp on technology and be able to complete tasks more efficiently.

On the same token, not all Baby Boomers are out-of-touch and irrelevant! Many are excited and interested in new technologies, new ways of thinking, and creative endeavors.

Although generational constructs are helpful for marketing purposes, they can be utterly lethal in the workplace. Pigeonholing people before they’ve had a chance to show their true colors only harms productivity and interpersonal dynamics. Besides, you might be working alongside Perennials, a group that defies generational boundaries.

What are Perennials?

Gina Pell, who coined the term, says that Perennials are “ever-blooming, relevant people of all ages who live in the present time, know what’s happening in the world, stay current with technology, and have friends of all ages…[they] comprise an inclusive, enduring mindset, not a divisive demographic.”

I’m sure you’ve encountered many so-called Perennials in your life. These are the young people with “old souls.” These are the older people who love to crack jokes and try new things. These are the people who don’t limit their interactions to their own peer group and instead find friendship with people of all ages. These are the people who refuse to be defined by age.

As Pell says: “It’s time we chose our own category based on shared values and passions and break out of the faux constructs behind an age-based system of classification.”

I couldn’t agree more.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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the right way to get angry

Picture this: You’re late to work because traffic was moving at a snail’s pace, which caused other drivers to get irritable and cut you off on the road. When you finally get to work, you find a Post-it note on a stack of papers on your desk that says “Need this by the end of the day.” You grumble about the huge pile of work and decide to make a cup of coffee. When you take your first sip, the coffee burns the roof of your mouth and you end up spitting it out…all over your white shirt.

Have you ever had a day like that? I know I have! How do you react? How can you turn such a disastrous day around?

A big part of the solution rests with you. How you handle the anger that’s undoubtedly bubbling within you can either make or break your day. But that’s easier than it sounds!

When many of us feel angry, we tend to react in one of two equally unhealthy ways:

  1. Bottle up the anger and hope things will get better.
  2. Let our anger flow forth and land on everyone and everything around us.

Research shows that neither method is ideal. Bottling up your anger can make it worse and can increase stress and anxiety. Venting your anger, on the other hand, can intensify your feelings and damage relationships with those around you.

So, what can you do?

One way to temporarily cool your jets is to practice steadying your breathing and counting or repeating a mantra in your head. Once you’ve gained control, assess the current situation that’s making you angry and LOOK FOR THE GOOD in it. Even terrible situations have silver linings. Take the story at the beginning of this blog post:

  1. Even though traffic was slow, you didn’t get in an accident and your car is running just fine
  2. Even though your boss gave you a pile of work, you are employed and capable. You are a problem-solver and can either figure out how to do the work or talk with your boss and negotiate.
  3. Even though you burned your mouth and spilled coffee on your shirt, it’s great that you have access to coffee and have the means to purchase a shirt. You’re luckier than many people out there.

See? If you dig into your frustrations, you can find bits of goodness embedded in them.

Another tactic you can utilize is practicing empathy. If other people are causing you to get angry, ask yourself why that might be. Put yourself in their shoes and consider if they are being a pain in the neck because they’re going through a rough patch. It could be that something terrible is happening in their lives that you’re not aware of. Before you combat anger with anger, take a moment to find compassion. Ask questions (if you feel comfortable doing so) and aim for understanding.

You can get a handle on anger. As researcher Albert Ellis said, “You don’t get frustrated because of events, you get frustrated because of your beliefs.” Work on your belief system. Believe that the world is not out to get you. Believe there is always something positive embedded in the negative. Your thinking can change your life.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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diplomatic and creative ways to say no

It’s easy to say yes.

“Yes, I can take on that project!”

“Yes, I’ll have that to you by next week!”

“Yes, I’ll add another client to my list!”

While it’s great to be agreeable, there is a limit. When you’re bogged down with commitments and your work-life balance is suffering, it’s time to put on the brakes and start saying no. Do it for your mental and emotional health. Do it in order to be true to yourself (in other words, don’t take on projects that do not align with your skills and interests). Do it to set boundaries and stop others from taking advantage of you.

But do it right.

Below are 10 diplomatic ways to say no. Practice reading them aloud in front of a mirror until they become natural.

“Thank you for the opportunity, but my schedule is packed.”

 “I know you would like my help with __________, but I won’t be able to do so unless/until __________.”

 “I wish I could, but as a rule I don’t __________.”

“Thank you for thinking of me, but I have other commitments.”

“I’m really not the best fit for __________. Have you tried talking with                    ? That sounds right up his/her alley.”

“I appreciate you coming to me with this opportunity. Unfortunately, I have too much on my plate right now to take it on.”

“I would like to say yes, but I don’t have time to do this project justice right now.”

 “I’m sorry, but I’m only taking on work related to _________ right now.”

 “I’d like to help you, but my schedule won’t allow any new projects.”

 “Thanks for asking, but I really can’t.

Use these responses to help you take control of your time and schedule. It takes courage, but you’ll thank yourself later if you decide to decline a project that doesn’t align with your values and priorities.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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man distracted by cell phone

Technology can be a wonderful thing. It helps us connect people from across the country (or world) through a video conference or virtual chat. It allows us to easily create charts and map out data. It allows us to better serve our customers.

But there is a dark side to technology. It’s the side that affects our everyday interactions with people—the side that completely sucks us in and tethers us to our devices.

Have you ever walked into a restaurant and noticed friends, couples, or even entire families absorbed in their smart phones? Or noticed people out for a walk, with their heads buried in their devices?

Are you guilty of this too? Do you catch yourself shooting your co-worker an email when you could just walk to her office and ask a quick question? Do you find yourself flipping through social media or the news or weather instead of engaging those around you in conversation?

Yes, technology does great things, but it’s also killing our communication skills. According to MIT sociologist Sherry Turkle, author of the book Reclaiming Conversation, our deep absorption in our devices has caused us to lose our ability to have deeper, more spontaneous conversations with others. We begin to lose our capacity for “empathy, introspection, creativity, and intimacy.”[1]

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, I think about the implications this has for our relationships. Are our conversations lacking the depth they used to have? Are we missing opportunities to look others in the eye and truly connect with them?

Looking at it from another angle, are we missing opportunities at work because we’ve greatly reduced the number of face-to-face interactions we have with others? Sherry Turkle says YES. She points to many studies that indicate that when people are allowed to talk to each other, they do better—they’re more collaborative, they’re more creative, they get more done.

And what about networking? I’ve talked with many people who say that the younger generation has difficulty with face-to-face networking. It’s a skill that doesn’t come easily for them because so many of their interactions are digital. That’s troubling because, according to Hubspot, 85% of people say they build stronger, more meaningful business relationships during in-person business meetings and conferences.

Face-to-face still matters!

It’s time we stop multi-tasking, set our cell phones aside, and rediscover meaningful conversation with others. Our relationships—both personal and professional—will be better for it.

[1] Suttie, J. (December 7, 2015). How Smartphones Are Killing Conversation. The Greater Good Science Center at Berkeley. http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_smartphones_are_killing_conversation. Accessed 12/19/16.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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