Monthly Archives: July 2008

Assist Your Listener

Hello everyone! I hope you are all having a great summer and not working too hard.

Today I would like to remind you of something I am often repeating in training – assist your listener. Sometimes we can get caught up in our own speaking that we neglect the listener. We may be speaking too quickly, or too quietly, or without enthusiasm or proper stress, or we may be speaking over or under people’s intelligence levels.

Think in the past of someone who spoke to you that way. How did you feel? I hope and assume it was not done on purpose, but still, what is your typical reaction to someone who seems to be pontificating on and on, or otherwise seems to not need you in the conversation? Half of the time my reaction is to just stare with utter amazement! The other half of the time I actively re-balance the conversation with no egos bruised. Would you like to know how to do that? Great! Sign up for coaching! (ha ha).

Our public speaking performance improvement is great for our personal success, of course, but we cannot forget that if we lose our listener’s attention or respect, it is game over. No matter how eloquent of a speaker you may be or how fast you can speak, the important thing to remember is that communication is a dance. You need at least one other person working with you right?

So the next time you have lots to say, are excited, in a hurry, at work presenting ideas or whatever, remember to pause and mentally self-evaluate your delivery tools: volume, speed, rhythm, appropriate vocabulary etc. and ask yourself – can my partner/listener/audience/client/student etc. completely follow me? Do they have enough time to process the information being thrown at them? Are they engaged in this conversation or are they just passively waiting for their turn to speak? If so, what responsibility do you take in that situation? I hope from now on you take a lot of personal interest and responsibility in the ebb and flow of your conversations, and are careful to assist your listener at all times, especially when your listeners change frequently throughout the day, week, month, year and lifetime!

Mind Your Ps and Qs!

This is an idiom that at first, seems a bit strange, even to a native English speaker. Why Ps and Qs? What exactly does it mean?

Well, it means to “be careful” or “be respectful (i.e. to elders)” or simply it serves as a reminder to young ones to be polite and on their best behaviour in public.

Why Ps and Qs? It originally came from The English bartenders! “Mind your Ps and Qs” = mind (or tend to, watch out for) your Pints and Quarts…of alcohol! Don’t spill any!

Funny eh?

There you go. Another strange English idiom root uncovered.

Polite Customer Service in Japan

I am enjoying my time in Japan. I have spent my time in Yokohama, Tokyo and Kyoto. Although I have been working with Japanese people in Toronto for 8 years this is actually my first visit here. There are many things I could write about, but today I will focus on the politeness that is mandatory here.

Some of you may consider yourselves very polite, and/or very courteous in your job. I myself used to work in customer service so I understand how to be polite, even when handling disputes.

What I would like to mention today is how mandatory politeness seems to be here. Even if I do not enter a shop, the clerks are still greeting the people walking by. If you do enter the shop or restaurant etc. then of course they will welcome you again. And usually it is not just one person but several. When you are paying for your food or product they are very polite in how they handle your money or credit card. Very respectful indeed and very gentle. It goes without saying that all of this is happening with a smile and with a soft tone of voice. Finally, when you leave they thank you for your business.

One of the strangest things I have seen here so far was when we went through a toll booth, and both the driver and worker exchanged ‘good mornings’ and ‘thank yous’, in addition to an electronic image of a worker bowing to the driver!

I cannot say for sure how much of this society’s politeness is forced, conditioned, or genuine, but it is definitely expected, and to not act politely is a terrible social offense here.

I really like the calmness of the people and the politeness of the service industry. It certainly is better than a lot of customer service in the world, and there are a few staff workers in the past that I have dealt with that could use this kind of training. The politeness is standard here too, so you can expect it and count on it. In other countries, we seem to be thrilled to get excellent customer service or to get a happy, efficient staff worker. Here, it happens 99% of the time.

The big question remaining is, I suppose, how do the Japanese feel about it, and how do they feel about the perceived lack of social and professional courtesy when they travel or emigrate? If you know a Japanese person in your circle, why don’t you ask them?

All the best from the land of the rising sun!