April 2018 Motivate

L.E.A.P.ing Your Way to Free Airline Upgrades… and Work More Effectively with Others Through Conscious Communication

Written By: Jennifer Webb

MY WORK KEEPS ME TRAVELING MUCH OF the time, accruing lots of airline miles and a few hotel perks in the process. I often run into troubles on the road, which is exactly what happened recently when my flight was six and a half hours late and my connection was a lost cause. I mention this because I’m often amazed at how many surprising things can occur when we strategize what we’re going to say — in other words, when we build relationships wherever we are through conscious communication. Whether we’re meeting a new client, networking at a chamber event or making a first impression with the potential love of our life, it’s smart to know how to communicate.

Here’s what happened. First, the excruciatingly painful part of my six-and-a-half-hour delay was that the airline didn’t tell us to come back in six and a half hours and get on the plane. Instead, it was fickle and kept changing the departure time every few minutes, sometimes moving it closer and sometimes moving it farther away. And, during one particularly challenging time-change, the poor agent explained that the airline had moved the departure four times in the last five minutes. My flight was a lost cause, and the flight scheduled to leave after me was getting ready to board. A whole planeload of people without a plane (some, I’m sure, with a higher designation on their tickets than me) were clamoring for attention and trying to get on the earlier flight while I went up to the agent and used one of my favorite techniques to get information. After the flight was boarded, the agent announced standbys, called my name and then told everyone else there was no more room; I was the only standby getting on the plane. Luck, or smart communicator?

Then, there was the time I upgraded to first class using the same formula. While waiting three hours at the gate to get my seat assignment, I kept coming up to the agent who was always busy and couldn’t talk to me. After the third or fourth attempt, he gave me my seat assignment in coach. When we were boarding, I handed him my ticket and commented he probably remembered me because I had been up to see him so many times. He looked up and smiled, gave me a seat in first class, hugged me (I’m not making this up) and said something about how gracious I’d been.

When we consciously strategize what we are going to say rather than acting on emotion, we stand a good chance of getting what we need — or, at the very least, we have communicated effectively and planted the seeds for future interactions. The same methodology applies every time we’re working on making a great impression or influencing someone to change his or her opinion and do it our way. The nice thing is there’s no shelf life or expiration date on when these strategies quit being effective. As long as people need to feel respected, appreciated and unique, they work.

L: LISTEN to understand what is really going on, not what appears to be happening. All of us know this, but we’re often too busy to take the time to pay attention. Be curious and watch for non-verbal cues; they are always telling. In fact, it was Ralph Waldo Emerson who said, “What you do speaks so loud I cannot hear what you say.” The better you listen to others with both ears and eyes, the more they trust you and the more open they are to your influence and persuasion.

It’s easy to know what happens when we don’t listen: We miss information; we acquire a reputation for being shallow or uninterested or even scatterbrained; and we don’t build relationships with others. Think about marriage as an example: A poll of 100 mental health professionals revealed that the biggest problem leading to divorce (according to 65 percent of respondents) is communication problems. In other words, divorce most often occurs when spouses don’t listen to each other; they already know what they think they are hearing and simply tune out conversations.

So, how do we listen? We pay full attention and acknowledge we’re doing so. This is not easy, especially if you’re used to waiting for the other person to breathe, at which case you jump in and control the conversation. It takes discipline to listen without jumping in. To do so, use all the nonverbal communication that indicates listening, including giving a slight nod (too much indicates agreement when you’re listening to men), leaning forward, holding arms open instead of crossed and working to repeat to yourself what is being said. You can also acknowledge what you heard, which is different from interrupting: “You’re concerned I may not be able to get everything finished by deadline tomorrow?”

When the other person is done talking, pause for three to five seconds. This shows you are really absorbing what was said instead of jumping in, and you will actually understand the conversation more effectively. When possible, paraphrase back what was said because people love to hear their own words and it ensures you heard correctly. If you are wrong, folks will be happy to correct what you thought you heard with what was really said. Listening makes other people feel important. In building smart relationships with others, 20 percent of your behaviors will account for 80 percent of your success, and listening is one of the easiest ways to make a powerful impact.

E: EMPATHIZE. It’s difficult to really communicate if we can’t understand what the other person is feeling. Empathy is the ability to sense other people’s emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling. It’s an integral part of emotional intelligence. Dr. Daniel Goleman, author of “Emotional Intelligence,” says empathy is necessary in today’s global economy because of the increase in teams, the necessity of cross-cultural communication and the need to retain talent. And, the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations says there is a correlation between empathy and increased sales, high-performing managers and increased performance in highly diverse teams.

Even great listeners must empathize because we often have to read between the lines to guess how someone really feels and ensure they understand that we understand. Empathy sounds like “I’m guessing that must be really annoying, did they change the meeting time again?” or “Sounds as if you are really frustrated, is there anything I can do to help?”

Obviously, we can’t know for sure, but we need to remember to respond to what we feel is being communicated emotionally, which is what I did when I was upgraded to first class. I said something like, “Looks like you’ve really got a lot of things going on right now, that must be frustrating.” It was a pretty simple thing to say; however, I was responding to his frustrations, and people like and need to be heard and understood. To help increase your empathy quotient, remember to use the person’s name and — even though I know you’ve heard this again and again, it’s still important — smile. Smiling is literally contagious. The part of the brain responsible for facial expressions — the cingulate cortex — is an unconscious automatic response area. I smile, and we both release feel-good chemicals, activate our reward centers and there’s something about me that you like.

A: APPRECIATE. I did an experiment the other day in a class in Phoenix. The group of individuals in the communication class I was teaching had created such synergy, such a great camaraderie, in the two days they had been together that at the end of the class, I pointed to each person and asked the class to name the individual’s best qualities. Not only were they prolific and accurate, but it also amped up the positive energy in the room even higher than it already was; people loved to hear what they were doing right and in what areas others believed they excelled.

It costs nothing to give praise and nothing to pay attention to what went right today and what we’re grateful for. And no matter where we are in life, there’s always something to be appreciative of if we take the time to look!

We all have setbacks, days that aren’t as productive as we’d like or times our energy isn’t at its peak, yet those are the times our secret weapon — appreciation — can be of the greatest benefit. Plan an appreciation meeting every third Wednesday at work or take the first 10 minutes of every meeting to acknowledge what people are doing right or what you admire and respect in others. When I was bumped up to first class, it could have been because every time I came back up to the ticket counter, I was appreciative of the effort the agent was making and the help I was sure I was going to get.

P: PUT ON A POSITIVE SPIN. Joy is contagious, and opting for the positive is the only intelligent approach to handling people and building rapport. Of course, people are going to annoy us; it’s what they do. But, if we’re going to be highly effective conscious communicators, it’s necessary to continually loop back to what is good about the situation.

Dr. Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology, has done tremendous research on helping returning veterans suffering from PTSD as well as others who are suffering from depression by using principles of positive psychology. Listen to this: According to Seligman, in psychological literature over the last 30 years, there have been 54,040 abstracts containing the keyword “depression” and 41,416 naming “anxiety” but only 415 mentioning “joy.” Similarly, when I was looking up a definition for “learned happiness,” all that Google could locate was “learned helplessness.” Seems it’s about time to add more joy in our lives, which means we need to focus on what is working — the positive — which is one of the easiest ways to have people gravitate toward us. Come on, who wants to be around someone who is gloomy or always focuses on what won’t work? Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh knew the importance of the positive spin: He put energy into making his employees happy, which, in turn, produced more productive workers and a great work environment.

Of course, this LEAP strategy works equally well for getting a management team to hear what needs to be done or changing the mind of a manager or business colleague who has been recalcitrant and unwilling to hear your side of the story. George Bernard Shaw said the biggest problem with communication is the illusion it has taken place. When we consciously work on understanding instead of assuming, we become part of the elite few who can communicate with anyone. The benefits of conscious communication are endless and enable us to actually understand those we’re speaking to, which can be a rare occurrence in this fast-paced world of ours.


JENNIFER WEBB’S extraordinary programs combine magic, psychology, NLP, Emotional Intelligence and other disciplines to reach people instantly with messages of inspiration and content. Business communications specialist, performance coach, author of four books on human potential and motivational magician/speaker with a background and graduate degree in psychology, Jennifer teaches how to increase peak performance and create and reach goals. Her client base ranges from Honeywell Space Systems to Ernst & Young, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Microsoft, American Airlines, the U.S. Navy and Airforce and leaders in numerous industries. She also served as a personal power coach for CBS Morning News, Reno affiliate for three years.

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