Threat vs. Collaboration: How Do You See Others?

cautionWe are hard-wired to default to the negative, whenever not enough positive information is available about a person or situation. In other words, we do not automatically trust in the good of people or the world, unless we have sufficient reason, past experience or ‘proof’ to do so. We cautiously default to the negative to prepare for anything bad, just in case.

A few weeks ago I received an aggressive email from some lady far away, demanding that I remove a blog post that contained her original article. It was from at least two years ago, and it was for all intents and purposes, forgotten, and buried among my other posts. So why was she upset?

When I had copied the article to my blog, I also included the hyperlink to the original place where I had discovered the excellent article. I always cite the author and original website properly, because I know exactly what it feels like to see your articles posted on someone else’s blog or website, and not have proper credit given. I get it. To us authors, coaches and trainers, we spend a lot of time building ‘street cred’ on the internet to be recognized hopefully as a thought leader. It is our intention that our pieces of writing get shared and circulated, but we hope that sharing will lead people back to our site, and to our product and service line.

In this case the hyperlink now led to nowhere, as the hosting site where I originally found the article had shifted, been shut down or had been sold. The point is, the hyperlink I had placed in good faith years ago now did not lead to proper accreditation and this lady was upset that her work looked too much like it was ‘my’ work. I can understand her wanting to rectify this situation.

She came at me guns blazing, defending her work, threatening serious action if the article that I ‘stole’ was not taken down, or a new link to her new site was not put in place. I was a bad guy I guess in her eyes, and she had me in her cross-hairs.

She didn’t know me, had no proof of my innocence, and therefore defaulted to the negative. I must be a guy trying to pass off her hard work as my own, and leverage her article to gain my own new clients. I understand this from a psychological and evolutionary point of view. It’s a natural instinct to protect yourself and your stuff. What I want to preach today is to learn to recognize that evolutionary auto-warning system, shut it off, and think before you respond.

It would have been much better in my opinion if she would have approached me (or any other author in a similar situation) as a potential collaborator, not a competitor. After all we are obviously in the same market space.  Here’s my suggested email:

Dear Ric,

I noticed you have published my article titled “ABC Great Article” in your blog post (dated month day year). First of all thank you for sharing my work. It is much appreciated. I noticed that you included a link to the site where you found the article but you probably had no way of knowing that the site has changed owners/function and so the link is unfortunately dead now. I was hoping you could simply exchange Link A with this new Link B in your blog post, so that readers of your blog may follow the article back to me with no problem. Alternatively you may choose to remove the post completely, but I hope you choose to keep it up on your blog.

Thank you so much for your time and once again thank you for sharing my article with your readers. Perhaps I could post one of your articles on my blog for our readers, since we share a common target market?

Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions.

Sincerely,

Mrs. J. Smith

Had I received an email similar to the above, I would not only have changed the link immediately, but would have personally responded to the email and began to find out which of my articles would best suit her blog. It could have been the beginning of years of collaboration between colleagues.

Instead, what I did was delete the article immediately and not respond at all to the email. I won’t even cite it here in this blog post. It is dead to me.  Which response do you think is better for her business?

I wish her the best and hold no grudge at all.  I just thought it would make an interesting topic for a blog post.  Please feel free to share this post, and I trust you will properly cite it.  😉

Is it Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, or What?

Are you one of the people concerned that if you say the traditional holiday greeting “Merry Christmas” that people might feel you are not being inclusive or being politically correct?  But don’t you have the right to practice your own beliefs and follow your own traditions?

Stop fretting over this silly discussion.  Ignore what your parents taught you and actually have your cake and eat it too.  Say “Merry Christmas” if that ‘s your tradition or religion, and ALSO say “Happy Holidays” at the same time, to be inclusive with strangers and people you meet while out and about, especially in large, multicultural cities.  It’s not too difficult to add that phrase.  I personally grew up saying “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!” so I’m just replacing the last phrase ‘New Year’ with ‘Holidays’, and then next week I’ll just tell everyone “Happy New Year” or “Happy 2016!”   I love simplicity.  🙂 

3 Questions with Communication Expert Ric Phillips | The Jenn Report

Source: 3 Questions with Communication Expert Ric Phillips | The Jenn Report 

Be clear, confident and successful! Don’t let a lack of high-level communication skills hold you back.

Advises Ric Phillips, a Communication Coach since 2006. His clients include professionals and politicians.

A few years ago, I met Ric Phillips at a local networking group and found him friendly and easy to talk to.

Recently, I asked him 3 Business Communication 101 questions. Here’s what he had to say:

1) In this digital age, what are the essential business communication skills?

Ric Phillips:  There are several essential communication skills needed for a successful business relationship, but specifically considering the digital age, I would say:

1 – The ability to build rapport in person and over the internet and phone. Business requires not just human interaction, but humans to like each other. We are not motivated to work with someone or buy something from someone whom we dislike.

2 – Sense the tone. Especially considering texts, emails and VOIP calls, we need to be able to understand not only what is truly being said and meant, but how to ensure our communications going out have a minimal chance of being misinterpreted as snobby, sarcastic or demanding, to name a few potential threats.

3 – Public speaking and presenting… (Please continue reading by clicking the link above (Source link below photo) or https://thejennreport.wordpress.com/2015/10/19/3-questions-with-communication-expert-ric-phillips/ to get to Jenn’s full blog post and finish the article.  Feel free to comment and share!  🙂

Bitch slap: How do you handle conflict? | In the Key of He

Please click the link below to read the full story on Leah’s blog.

Source: Bitch slap: How do you handle conflict? | In the Key of He

Here is an excerpt:

Conflict management

I shared a radio interview with communications expert, Ric Phillips, of 3V Communications last year and I met with him this week. I always like talking to Ric because his background in social psychology and coaching gives him an interesting perspective.

During our visit, I told him about the intended bitch slap. We discussed what my options could have been, and Ric said that when conflict arises, there are really only four possible choices:

1.  Do nothing – maintain silence and do not react;
2.  Escape the scene or person(s) to avoid further conflict;
3. Change your attitude because you have a minimal chance of changing theirs;
4. Change your behaviour (see #3).”
Please click the link below to read the full story on Leah’s blog.

Source: Bitch slap: How do you handle conflict? | In the Key of He

Tips for Teaching Business English (For TESL Ontario Members)

BusinessEnglishAs an active member of TESL (Teacher of English as a Second Language) Ontario I recently contributed my years of knowledge and experience training ESL clients and hosted a Professional Development webinar called Tips for Teaching Business English Students & Immigrants.  It ran live on July 26 2015 but it is now archived and available to those current members of TESL Ontario who wish to increase their Professional Development hours.  You can find it by signing up/in to your www.Tutela.ca  account, going to (or joining) the TESL Ontario group, and then searching under Files until you find my PowerPoint presentation under ‘Webinar Gen 10’.  You will see the ‘live’ version slides and hear our voices as though you attended the webinar on July 26th!   This webinar will be of particular interest to those currently teaching business or workplace English, or to anyone looking to expand beyond mainstream ESL teaching.  You will also learn tips about teaching communication skills to foreign workers and working immigrants.

Here is the original ad:

Webinar Description:   Ric Phillips will present this webinar. Ric will share tips on how to effectively teach business English students and immigrants (for example at LINC, post-secondary or corporate training). He will note differences in learning expectations, recommend materials, and provide templates for creating your own assessments. This webinar is ideal for teachers who are transitioning to Business English, Workplace ESL, or corporate training.

Presenter’s Bio:   Starting in 1998, Ric Phillips successfully transitioned his career from ESL teacher to Business English teacher & Academic Coordinator. He founded his own company where he is currently a coach and trainer in business communication skills for working immigrants and foreign workers.

Follow Ric on Twitter: @CommCoach

Are You the Director of First Impressions?

“Director of First Impressions”

I snapped this picture a few weeks ago while i was visiting my local Scotiabank branch here in Toronto.  I’m not sure how widely used this new labelling is – maybe it’s a national or even international initiative – but it’s eye-catching to say the least.  For me I immediately responded to it because as you know I’m a big fan of interpersonal skills, and I run a coaching program and a workshop entitled “The Art of Small Talk & Winning First Impressions.”  The focus of the training, which has been running since 2007, has always been to help those with technical skills or social shyness to improve their business or social interactions, and leave a lasting positive impression.  This is important to build and enhance relationships in our network or social circle.

What I find interesting is that a bank has chosen to change the typical ‘Help Desk‘ label to this new title, since banks provide a large portion of my clientele.  🙂  Yes, I’ve trained many accountants, financial advisors and planners, wealth management managers, auditors, consultants and the list goes on.  Not only are soft skills extremely important for client engagement in the banking industry, but also for team cohesion.

I love this new sign as to me it signifies the bank wants to be more approachable and communicative with it’s customers, and also – that it is aware that the first person we speak to is indeed the Director of First Impressions.  🙂

Are you the Director of First Impressions at your place of business?  Are you good at it?  Or is there a better fit for this role in the office somewhere?  These are some questions I’d like you to ask yourself and your team while examining who speaks to customers first and how do they interact with the typical customer.

Dealing with “Fishy” Customer Service

gone-fishingMy friend recently received some strange customer service while dealing with a mid-sized company located in the USA.  He had purchased some sport fishing products about a year ago and, to his surprise, when he reached for the pole a couple of weeks ago, it broke in two.  He is very familiar with and loyal to this particular brand, and was shocked with the pole snap because it has a good name in the market.  Therefore he was convinced this breakage was not normal and must be faulty, and so took pictures to send to the company via email.  He also included a photo of the original receipt.

He emailed the company with the 3 pictures, and their response was so short and to the point it gave him the feeling of rudeness.  It read basically “Please send us the pictures in a standard format, like JPEG.”  Now I’m a big fan of making emails short and to the point, but that is ridiculous.  Where’s the sugar?  Where’s the concern, empathy or reassurance that they will look into this matter?

This is the point when my friend contacted me as apparently I’m a bit more tech-savvy than he, and so I helped covert the 3 original photos to .jpg and we emailed the company again, referencing the new file number they had also provided him.

He got an email the next day basically saying the same thing – that they could not see the pictures and to please send them in standard format.  I double-checked our email and assured him that we did indeed send the photos as jpeg, but also suggested we send a new, fresh email with the jpegs attached, so that they do not get them confused with the old pictures that are sure to be on the thread.  That is what I assume might have happened.

The response to that email was basically “Send us a picture showing the date of purchase.”  What?  We wondered who was on the other end of this computer.
Regardless we took a new picture of the receipt that showed the date of purchase and jpeg’d it and emailed it to them with the reference file number.  Their response the next day was “Please pay a processing fee of $9.95.”  I kid you not.

This morning my friend had reached his limit in patience and wrote an email complaining about the time wasted in these emails, noting his confusion over the mysterious processing fee, and swearing that he would never use nor recommend their products again.  He luckily called me before he pressed SEND.

He read it to me over the phone and asked for feedback.  I asked him “What is your goal?”  He replied to tell them how he feels.  I suggested that the chance of resolving the original issue is very low if you share your feelings and then sever ties.  I advised him to use the 1-800 number and call the company and speak to someone about this issue instead of firing off the ‘burning-bridges’ letter.  I told him we both understand that the person on the other end of the computer is customer-service handicapped, so more emails, including the letter, will get no response or at best a one-liner.  I told him to keep calm and call them, and just ‘follow up’ on the previous emails, and ‘inquire’ about the processing fee.  He agreed.
He called me back swiftly and told me that the company will be sending him a new fishing pole – but they just require a small processing fee.  My friend should receive the new product in a week. 🙂

By keeping his cool and not resorting to threats and ultimatums, and by not allowing the truly terrible customer service emails to interfere with his right to seek answers and possibly get reparation for his broken pole, my friend was able to find the true meaning behind the cryptic and stunted emails.  By ‘upgrading’ the communication from computer to phone, he found out the company’s true intentions to replace his product, and will now get it in short order.

The main lessons here I think are:
1 – don’t lose your cool not matter how frustrating the communication is
2 – if you don’t understand emails, pick up the phone
3 – never close the door on a brand you actually like and want to keep using
4 – don’t assume you know what the other party is thinking.  Get a clear answer.
5 – Jpegs are a common format for sharing photos
6 – It’s okay to use friends who are tech-savvy and/or knowledgeable about professional communication strategies. ☺

Your Communication Coach,