Nonverbal Communication and How Our Truck Almost Fell in the River

After a trip to Flaming Gorge UT, a friend and I explored an area near Dinosaur in northwestern Colorado. We drove along the Green River to Brown’s Park, also known as Brown’s Hole, a favorite hideout for Butch Cassidy and his Wild Bunch gang. We came to a narrow, single-lane bridge, which of course we just had to cross.

interpersonal communication skills

As we approached the bridge, we saw a sign at the entrance that said, “Weight Limit 3 Tons”. So I casually asked my friend, “Just out of curiosity, how much does your truck weight?” And he said, “With you and me in it? About 6800 lbs.”

I laughed as he started to cross the bridge and asked, “Do you really think we should be doing this?”

He gripped the steering wheel a little bit tighter and said, “Yeah, we’ll be okay. I’m an optimist.”

So I held my breath as we drove forward. S L O W L Y.

nonverbal communication

Cables on the suspension bridge began to hum and the wooden planks curled up around the tires. I peered out my window at the swirling water below, wondering how cold it was. Then I heard a noise from the other side of the truck. So I looked over at my friend…

…he had lifted up the steering wheel, unbuckled his seat belt and rolled down his window!

Holy cow! We’re goin’ down!

NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION

Hmmm, what to believe, words or actions?

Ever get mixed messages from friends, family, customers or co-workers?

When it comes to interpersonal communication, we want people to be congruent in speech and action. The principle, “Walk your talk” is recommended so we can become better leaders or parents. In fact it’s such a common saying that people poke fun at themselves by urging, “Do what I say, NOT what I do”.

Researchers have found we filter out or morph the meaning of 70% of messages we hear. We tend to focus on parts of the message that supports our position, desires and goals. And we may also disregard critical elements of the message that seem minor but contain the essence of the person’s true intent.

Because of that bias, it’s easy to miscommunicate. We can’t peer into someone’s head to see what they really mean. So if we care, we often try to compile clues from what they say and do.

It helps if we have some history working with the other person – some kind of relationship. The more trust we’ve built, the easier it is to decipher someone’s motivation. We cut them more slack. But even among those who have a long track record with one another, misunderstandings can still occur.

APPLICATION AND ACTION STEPS

So, to reduce the risk of getting crossways with people too often:

  • Tell them your intent and motivation: My intent is to maintain our friendship
  • Identify the outcome you seek: I want to get this project done on time
  • Clarify the position you hold: I’m not crazy about this idea
  • Point out roadblocks that could derail understanding: I tend to be easily distracted
  • Ask them to repeat your statement back: What did you just hear me say?
  • Define what reality/certainty means to you: I’m certain we can reach 80% of our revenue goal
  • Define what hope/possibility means to you: I think it’s possible to exceed our goal by 20%
  • Consider your personal listening style: Appreciative, Empathic, Discerning, Comprehensive or Evaluative

Next, to improve communication within your team, board, family or with customers, ask:

  1. What behaviors and messages do I tend to misunderstand from others?
  2. What do I say or do that others misinterpret?

Exploring those triggers will help you build bridges rather than undermine relationships. 

Are you wondering if we made it across the river? Thankfully, WE did.

But this guy sure didn’t!

Interpersonal communication problems

Brown’s Park Tractor Disaster

How to Maintain Integrity and Deliver Negative News

Ever received a piece of negative news? Were you blissfully tripping through life thinking everything was rosy when out of the blue you learned something that impacted you in a big, big way? You never saw it coming. Now your world is upside down and suddenly, there is a new reality to cope with.

How to have a difficult discussion

It takes a while to get your bearings again, doesn’t it? Would things have been easier to manage if you’d had a heads-up?

Of course. 

Negative news is never easy to hear. While discomfort and disappointment are part of life, the true test of character is how we handle ourselves as both the giver and receiver. 

It doesn’t matter whether your situation occurs at work or in relationships, people don’t like surprises. They deserve honesty and transparency, so they can…

  • adapt their mindset
  • maintain a sense of self-respect
  • change their tone or language
  • make a behavioral course correction
  • become more self-aware
  • pursue other opportunities
  • manage their emotions
  • focus energy
  • take control of their circumstances

So give people credit for being grownup enough to handle it. No one is served by being elusive, vague or dishonest by omission. Many justify delaying the inevitable because they’re uncomfortable, but the longer you wait, the more this issue will weigh on you. It’s  like not knowing what you have in your checking account. You’re afraid to look, but know you can’t put it off forever. And you will feel so much better once the deed is done.

The recipient may not like what you have to say, but they’ll be more likely to see you as a person with principle and integrity for having the cojones to speak up. You’ll prove you walk your talk.

HOW TO HAVE THE CONVERSATION

There is a popular feedback approach called the Sandwich Communication Method where you start the conversation with something positive, then lead into the constructive feedback and close with another positive comment.

Let’s not fool ourselves. People know that when you start a conversation by saying, “Bob, I really like the effort you put into the XYZ project, BUT…” there will be something negative coming next. Everyone I’ve ever asked tells me the same thing – they know the BUT is coming so they aren’t even listening to what you said just before that. And the positive comments you make at the end seem gratuitous. People question your sincerity.

Some say that giving two pieces of positive feedback will balance out the negative feedback. Yet according to social psychologists, negative feedback “weighs” nine times more than positive. It’s heavier. It has a bigger impact. It makes a bigger withdrawal from Stephen Covey’s emotional bank account. Even though you may have put a lot of emotional credits into their account, one big event could wipe out all the savings you’ve worked so hard to build.

The best way to build trust is to be straight with people. There are a number of ways you can do this.

LANGUAGE TO LAUNCH BY

Yes, I know it’s hard to have the conversation. The hardest part is just knowing how to start. So here are some phrases you can use:

  • I have some concerns…
  • You deserve to know that…
  • I respect you enough to tell you the truth…
  • You’ll respect me more if I’m straight with you…
  • I want to be honest and transparent…
  • I don’t want to undermine our relationship…
  • You’ll trust me more if I…
  • I want to maintain integrity…
  • I’d like to openly discuss…
  • You’ll be able to make better choices if I…
  • We will both be better off if I…
  • I’d like us to create a new approach…
  • I’d like you to have every chance to…

THE 5-F COMMUNICATION METHOD

When people are nervous, they tend to blank out and have a hard time remembering what to say. It makes it easier if you put structure into the conversation by framing it with these five components:

Facts – be specific; stay above the “waterline” by not assuming you know what people are thinking or what has motivated them

Feelings – Are you concerned, confused, misunderstood, unclear, frustrated?

Fallout – the most likely outcome if things continue as they are

Feedback – give them the opportunity to share their thoughts/feelings

Focus – on the end goal or objective you’d like to achieve to move forward

Even if you don’t remember to address each one of these components or even get them in order, including two or three steps will help guide the discussion.

ASK OPEN-ENDED QUESTIONS

It’s not necessary you do all the talking. Asking questions is a great way to get input from the other person so you can have a conversation. And by the way, asking one or more of the questions below doesn’t mean you are waffling or backtracking on your difficult news. These questions are designed, however, to help you coach the person and hopefully help them move from where they are to a much better place. Make sure to start with “how” or “what” so you don’t put them on the defensive. “Why” and “when” questions sound accusatory.

  • how would you like this to end?
  • how could you/we do this differently?
  • what do you think worked?
  • what could you/we have gone better?
  • what can I do now to make things better for you?

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” ~Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky

PRINCIPLE OF LEGITIMACY

Most people just want to know that things make sense. They will accept negative news much better if you apply the Principle of Legitimacy. Originally created in 1814 at the Congress of Vienna, it provided guidelines for rulers. But it applies to modern day relationships and interpersonal communication too. The three components include:

  1. The rules don’t change
  2. People will be treated fairly
  3. They have a voice in the matter and can be heard

If you keep these principles in mind, you’ll be much more successful when you decide to have the big chat.

IN SUMMARY

Life is tough. Communication is a challenge for most people. Relationships are complex and don’t follow predictable paths governed by checklists or flowcharts. We are complicated creatures. And we possess a boundless capacity for using our emotions and intelligence to achieve much better outcomes. There is everything to be gained and little to lose by doing the right thing for the right reasons.

So often time it happens, we all live our life in chains, and we never even know we have the key. ~The Eagles, “Already Gone”

 ADDITIONAL READING

Why the Open Door Communication Policy is a Bunch of Baloney

How to Kill a Relationship By the Way You Respond

3 Ways to Change to a Positive Attitude

Every day is a new adventure, isn’t it? Did you know we can make a conscious decision each morning as we jump out of bed how we’re going to approach the day? I mistakenly thought that one’s attitude had to be heavily influenced by what happens to us.

TurtleUpsideDown

I know, I know, we’ve all heard the saying by Charles R. Swindoll that life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.

But until a few life-changing events happened, it never occurred to me that I could take charge. We don’t have to succumb to circumstances unless we want to. We don’t have to react in ways others might find understandable just because something bad happened. The willingness of others to cut us slack doesn’t mean we should adopt a position of learned helplessness.

To some degree, it’s true events can have a bearing on our thinking and behaviors. But it’s also true we can train ourselves to have more of an optimistic mindset. This is called “learned optimism”, a term coined by Dr. Martin Seligman in his 1990 book by the same name. He says that a talent for joy can be cultivated. This approach is called positive psychology

So, we’re not stuck with a pessimistic perspective if we really want to act differently. We can choose to think about our reactions to adversity in a different way and see the event as an unlucky situation – just a temporary setback that doesn’t define our lives, our work or relationships. The event is not personal, it’s not permanent (in most cases) and it doesn’t have to ripple throughout the rest of our life – unless we choose to let it.

THREE STEPS TO CHANGE OUR ATTITUDE

1. Optimists point to temporary causes for negative events while pessimists point to permanent causes. We can think about the event as something that won’t last. My Uncle used to say, “This too shall pass.” While the event itself may be something permanent, the affect it has on us doesn’t have to be.

2. Optimistic people compartmentalize helplessness, but pessimistic people assume that failure in one area of life means failure in life as a whole. We don’t have to allow a negative event to filter into family, relationships, self-image but can build figurative walls around it to keep it contained. In Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, he urges us to create barriers to limit the spread of something toxic.

3. Optimists blame bad events on causes outside of themselves, whereas pessimists blame themselves. I’m fond of saying, “It’s never JUST business, it’s ALWAYS personal.” But in this case, we can’t take things personally if we want to remain optimistic. People who say, ‘I’m such a dummy” or “Why did I do that? I was just being stupid” are furthering a pessimistic, negative self-image. (This is different than being personally accountable for an error we made.)

OPTIMISTS ARE MORE SUCCESSFUL

A few other reasons why being optimistic is a good use of your energy: optimists are higher achievers and have better overall health. In fact, MetLife Insurance hired Dr. Seligman to study the performance of their sales consultants and found that optimists outsold pessimists by 21% in the first year and 57% in the second year. 

You can still be realistic and be an optimist. It doesn’t mean you are naive or wearing rose colored glasses to your detriment or that of others. But, you can see yourself and the negative events that happen to you as temporary. You can allow good events to brighten every area of your life rather than just the area in which the event occurred. And you can blame bad events on causes outside of yourself, which has the added benefit of increasing self-confidence.

So as you struggle to get out of bed in the morning, choose the position you’ll take and attitude you’ll embrace in the day ahead. Make a conscious decision to live as an optimist and watch your life improve in ways you couldn’t expect. This is one attitude adjustment you’ll never regret!

Q: Do you see yourself as an optimist? If so, has it served you well? Send me an email if you’d like to share your opinion.

Stop the Multi Tasking Madness

Multi-tasking: it’s a crazy-making endeavor. I’ve done my best to develop this time management skill. I can juggle email and phone calls with the best of ‘em. But one day it just went too far.

never-comb-your-teeth

(Image credit: A. Schaff at Inkjot.Wordpress.com)

With the printer running and coffee brewing, I ran to the bathroom to brush my teeth before my client arrived. I had a mouth full of toothpaste, brushing away in the usual manner. Then I got that “you’re-about-to-sneeze” feeling. Uh-oh! Horrified at what could happen next, I reached for a tissue. And for a second there, I thought I would have to blow my nose as I brushed my teeth.

I shared this story with an audience once and asked the rhetorical question, “Can anyone here brush their teeth and blow their nose at the same time?” One elderly woman at the back of the room shouted out, “I can! But I have to take my dentures out first.”

(A creative solution to one of the world’s most important endeavors.)

It’s gotten to the point that in an effort to try and do it all, we become more distracted, scattered and stressed. Some studies say it can actually damage our brains, careers and lower IQ!

PROCRASTINATE ON PURPOSE

So I was delighted to discover Procrastinate on Purpose: 5 Permissions to Multiply Your Time by Rory Vaden. That’s the ticket! I’m in favor of anything that will give me more time.

Time Management Tips

The core message of the book is this: You multiply your time by giving yourself permission to spend time on things today that create more time tomorrow.

He says, “Work double time, part time, so that later you can have full time free time.”

What? How? Here nine nuggets from Rory’s book:

  1. Any level of skill is amplified by appropriate timing. Am I fishing the right amount of time isn’t the question. Rather, it is am I fishing at the right time?
  2. There’s a big difference between inaction that results from indulgence and inaction that results from intention: one is procrastination and the other is patience.
  3. Defining characteristics of Time Multipliers is their strong focus on results. Success isn’t so much about efficiency or effectiveness, it’s about efficacy, which means “the quality of being successful in producing an intended result.”
  4. Multipliers focus on significance, in addition to urgency and importance.
  5. Urgency: how soon does this matter?
  6. Importance: how much does this matter?
  7. Significance: how long is this going to matter?
  8. Your highest obligation to other people is to be your highest self. If you don’t do that thing, you are going to inhibit those around you from doing theirs. Do the things that are right, not only for now, but for the future.
  9. Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of work and faith and fight and discipline and action.

ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE

 I mentioned the book Essentialism by Greg McKeown in an earlier article. In it, Greg writes about the disciplined pursuit of less. Here are three of his nuggets of wisdom:

  1. Create space to think. Schedule yourself a quarterly “off-site” where you can set your goals for the next 90 days, focus on how you’re spending your resources and create strategies to achieve the three most important goals for your life.
  2. Success can become a catalyst for failure. Success can lead to the undisciplined pursuit of more. Instead, we should become more and more discerning and decide criteria for when to say “yes”.
  3. “Busyness” is a bogus badge of honor. It’s a disease that promises: if you can fit it all in, then you can have it all.

Here is an excellent interview by Michael Hyatt with Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.

Now, doesn’t that help? You don’t have to be a multi-tasking maven. There’s a limit to what you can fit into your day. Trying to do it all will fry your brain and sap your soul. Read one or both of these books to put some sanity back into your life. Once you do, I’m betting you’ll never look as silly as I did with toothpaste all over my face!

Q: Has trying to multi-task ever caused you to do something out of the ordinary? Send me a private email and share your story. I’ll keep it confidential. Promise. 

How to Recover When You Say Something Stupid

I hate to admit this since I specialize in interpersonal communication, but I’ve been known to say something stupid once in a while. It doesn’t happen often (that I know of) but when it does, I feel dumb and embarrassed. How about you?

communication skills with Laura Benjamin

Have you ever said something you regretted? Wish you could get a “do over”? Better yet, want some ways to avoid it in the first place or recover with your self-respect intact?

There you are out in public, at a party, a workplace event, with a client, customer or co-worker. Maybe you’re trying to be light-hearted or humorous. Perhaps you want to be helpful but it comes out all wrong.

I once innocently called out to someone heading for a public restroom and said, “Sir! Sir! That’s the ladies room!” Then SHE turned around and with a look that could kill said, “I beg your pardon!” It was a bit awkward.

That experience (and a few others) taught me to do the following:

PREVENTION TIPS

Count to 10. That brief pause will give your brain time to catch up with your mouth and give you the chance to get more information or reconsider what you were about to say.

Let someone else go first. If you’re in a group, resist the temptation to comment before anyone else does. You don’t win a prize for taking the lead in every conversation. (Exception: when something dangerous is about to occur.)

Imagine your image. Consider the type of person you want to portray. Do you want to be perceived as:

  • Angry (Alec Baldwin)
  • Sarcastic (Dr. Gregory House – Hugh Laurie)
  • Wise (Yoda)
  • Intimidating (Darth Vader)
  • or comical…

Darth Vaders Bride

Notice when you’re nervous. I think our potential to make a mistake with our mouth increases if we’re upset or nervous. Rate your nervous level on a scale from 1-10 and then decide whether you trust yourself to sound kind, credible, respectful, intelligent at that point in time.

Ask yourself, what’s at risk? Could you lose a job, piece of business, sponsorship or risk a relationship? How would you feel if your words showed up in the newspaper or featured on the 5 o’clock news? Then ask yourself, what’s the reward? What benefit will be gained?

RECOVERY TIPS   

Apologize. As soon as you realize how your words could have been misinterpreted or the impact you had on someone, say you’re sorry. Most people will overlook a lot if they feel you are sincerely apologetic. Even if a few days have passed, it’s never too late to make amends.

Mention your motivation. There’s nothing wrong with explaining where you were coming from by saying, “I hope you know I was trying to be ____________ (light-hearted, sympathetic, humorous, witty, etc.) when I said XYZ.” Sometimes describing your intent, even though it went horribly wrong, will help people cut you some slack.

Ask a question. As quickly as possible after becoming aware of your gaffe, ask “Did what I just say sound stupid, insensitive or rude?” Then you can follow up by saying, “I really was trying to ______________” and explain yourself. Make sure you are accountable for what you said.

BUT WITH THAT BEING SAID…

I don’t want to imply we should avoid being truthful, transparent or courageous in our communication. Important issues need to be raised. People must be held accountable. Wrongs should be set right. Nobody benefits when we’re too fearful to say what needs to be said. But there’s also a responsibility to consider how we come across. We can still be persuasive, powerful and influential while being sensitive to words and timing.

The mark of a true professional and a self-aware person often requires we balance two competing goals or conflicting concepts to get a constructive outcome.

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” ~F. Scott Fitzgerald

And finally, don’t beat yourself up if you say something stupid. We have ALL been there. Make your amends and then move on. Don’t belabor it. There’s no need to grovel. Just consider this another important lesson learned on the way to becoming a fully enlightened human being!

ADDITIONAL READING:

15 Reasons Why Venting is Bad

You Have Every Right Not to Talk to Them

11 Top Tips for Managers and Supervisors

Boy, I wish someone had offered me an “Emerging Leader” training program before I stepped into a supervisory role oh-so-many moons ago! Here’s what I wish I could have learned:

11 Tips for Managers and Supervisors

1. Read First, Break All the Rules by Curt Coffman and Marcus Buckingham. Focus on the 12 Employee Needs and the Strengths Interview (a getting to know you meeting). I believe this book should be required reading for anyone in a leadership role or better yet, long before they actually start to manage a team.

2. Have one of your employees teach you their job. Not only will you learn what they do at a deeper level, but you may find some ways to improve the process. When I led a new upsell effort in a call center, we asked each supervisor to sit with one of their folks and work the phone for a few hours. The supervisor took the order and made the upsell offer while the employee coached as necessary. Each of them learned something from the other.

3. Establish and maintain standards of respect and courtesy. If you let employees engage in actions that don’t honor one another, it won’t be long before destructive behaviors undermine productivity, teamwork and job satisfaction. People will be more stressed and distracted. You might find yourself mediating more battles. Get the book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum.

4. On a related note, don’t let people abuse one another and then cop out with claims of “I was just kidding!” That kind of humor can mask anger and a desire to inflict pain. Hold them accountable to their words and actions.

5. Insist on cleanliness, especially inside the restrooms and office refrigerator. (You think I’m kidding?) Some say that allowing disorder to reign sends a subtle message it’s acceptable in other areas, such as work product or customer service. Studies have found that once you clean things up, better behavior follows.

6. Banish foul language. Just like the paragraph above, swearing dirties up the environment. Many use it for shock value or to try and “bond” or fit in with others. It shows a lack of respect for co-workers. It indicates you have limited language skills. It also implies you lack self-control. Is that really the message you want to send?

7. Ask for people’s opinions. It is one of the highest compliments to ask for someone’s opinion – as long as you have a sincere interest and you’re not trying to entrap them. This is important: just because you ask for feedback doesn’t mean you have to agree. Some managers don’t want to open “Pandora’s Box” by asking employees what they think, want or need. Consider a fishbowl. Within the glass confines, you have a lot of “water” to move around in, but there is also a barrier in place. You can still enforce boundaries while trying to get better information. 

8. Ask Provocative Questions. Managers believe they get less than 13% of the information they need to do their jobs. Why? Because employees filter out the negative news or anything they think you don’t want to hear. (You didn’t tell your Mom and Dad everything you did, now did you?) So in your weekly team meeting, ask questions to get them to open up. You’ll be amazed what you learn!

Example: What did we do this week that was…

  • customer focused?
  • innovative?
  • redundant?
  • worthy of bragging about?
  • disappointing?
  • just plain wrong?
  • surprising?
  • something you haven’t yet told anyone about?

9. Have an off-site. If you can schedule it once or twice a year, it’ll be a huge morale booster. Of course, make sure you maintain coverage of essential functions, but don’t let that stop you from making the effort to line up backup. Give people an agenda and some “pre-work” ahead of time so they come prepared to discuss key topics. Hire an outside facilitator so you don’t have to do all the work that day.

10. Cook a meal. There’s nothing more fun for folks than watching their frontline leaders or management team flip a few eggs or burgers for the team. You’ll look human. It shows you appreciate them. Even if you buy some subs and distribute the food, it’ll send the same message. Add to the fun and hold a contest so they can vote on who has the most creative apron or chef’s hat.

11. Recognize the power of authority. In one of my favorite books, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini, he cites the Milgram Experiment in his chapter on Authority. Because you are the boss, you have more perceived power than you might realize. You can impact their paycheck, performance reviews, job assignments, office space, work shifts, etc. So avoid the temptation to be heavy-handed. Sometimes less is more.

Being a manager or supervisor is a wonderful learning opportunity. (No sarcasm intended.) You gain insights into human nature, motivation, ethics and critical thinking. You get to test your personal and professional strengths. You find out where your boundaries are. And you figure out how to help others work around the obstacles.

I don’t care what you call it – leadership, management or supervision – if you’re in charge of one person or a whole team, you’ll grow. You’ll be the person they talk about over the dinner table. You could have more of an impact on someone’s life than you ever expected.

Got a tip you’d like to share? Send me an email and maybe I’ll add it a forthcoming workbook.

Additional Reading:

Why Your Biggest Embarrassment Makes You More of a Leader

One Amazing Leadership Example

Secrets From an HR Manager

Customer Tale of a Big Burger Fail

I was hankering for a hamburger and told my young ‘uns I’d take them out for lunch. “Hey, I know. Let’s try that chain burger place up by the bank.” (Little did I know this would turn into a customer tale of the big burger fail!)

hamburger

“Okay!” they both exclaimed with unbridled excitement.

We walked in the door and were met with your typical fast food ambience. It was busy and noisy. Busy was a good sign. At least that meant the food was probably good.

So up we went to the counter and scanned the menu sign on the wall. Lots of choices. Lots of different burger combinations. But all I wanted was a cheeseburger, so I ordered a single. The “kids” ordered something different.

We took our number and found a seat. And soon we were called back up to get our food. Yum! I was hungry and couldn’t wait to dig in.

But something seemed wrong. I looked at the burger. I lifted the top of the bun and stared down at a cheesy, wrinkled, wafer thin piece of meat you could almost see through. It was so skinny the edges curled. I couldn’t believe it. This thing looked like someone had taken a regular size hamburger patty and sliced through the center of it. In fact, the flip side of the burger looked like someone had done exactly that.

I was shocked. I was disappointed. And I was a little bit outraged. This thing was nothing like any hamburger I’d ever been served in my whole life and I’ve been around the block a time or two.

But I was hungry, so I ate it.

Then the guy who comes around to check and see if everything is okay approached with a smile. As he took our trays, he said the magic words: “Did everything taste good?”

CUSTOMER FEEDBACK

Are you one of those people who would sit there, silently like a victim, nod your head and say everything was fine? I’ve been known to do that when it was just too much trouble to complain, but not this time. Nosirreebub!

“Actually, no. My burger was about half the size of a normal one. I could almost see through it. It wasn’t at all what I expected,” I said.

“Well, ma’am, is this your first time here?” he asked.

“Yes it is,” I answered.

“Well, our regular customers know that if they want a full size burger they have to order a double. The singles are very thin.”

No kidding!

But I REALLY wanted to make my point.

“Well, it’s surprising to me as a customer that you order a cheeseburger here and get half of what other places serve. I’m really disappointed.”

“Well ma’am, I’d be happy to get you a card for a free meal so you could come back again and order a different meal.”

Yes, that’s what I want. I want to go away hungry and then give you folks another try. This time, I, the customer will be more educated and order a double so I can get the same amount of meat every other place serves as a single. Yes, that would make me happy. (sarcasm)

I took it and thanked him for his consideration. But here’s what I was thinking:

It would have been much, much better to refund the cost of my meal. It’s not likely I’ll ever go back again. In fact, I gave their free meal card away to someone who is a fan of the place.

No one told me when I ordered that I’d be getting a paper thin burger. There was no warning label on the menu sign saying, “Warning – this is a half sized burger. Only order if you are slightly hungry.”

And yet the implied message was that since their regular customers knew to order a double, that I, as a new customer, should have also known to do that.

Here’s my message to them: Don’t make your customer feel stupid. Don’t market one thing and deliver another. Set clear expectations if you’re going to do something squirrely with your meal sizes.

LET IT GO, LET IT GO!

It must have been “one of those days” because I just couldn’t let this thing go. I stewed about it for over a week, restraining myself mightily from writing this blog post a day after it happened – restraining myself right now from “naming names”.

In fact, after a week, I trotted on back to the same place and ordered a single burger at the drive through. (Darn, I should have kept that free meal card!) But I paid the money. I brought the thing home and took a picture of it to show you exactly what this burger looked like. (See how often I think of you?)

skinnyburger

Now, you may say to yourself, “Come ON. Get over it. It’s just one dinky burger. Don’t get so wrapped around the axle over something this minor.”

Okay, you may be right. But I believe businesses have a responsibility to offer products that are priced fairly and accurately represent the product. It drives people nuts when they see doctored photos of picture-perfect meals and then get to the restaurant and face a reality which is nothing like what was advertised.

I think it’s a rip-off.

(And if you send me an email I’ll tell you the name of the chain.)

Additional Reading:

Chicken Nugget Surprise Customer Service

How to Earn Epic Customer Loyalty from a Total Stranger

9 Words to Use for Customer Service You Deserve

3 Steps to Find Purpose in Work and Life

Do you want your life and work to have purpose and meaning? If you know what your purpose is, can you put it into words? How would you feel if you knew exactly what you were supposed to be doing?

How to Find Purpose in Life by Laura Benjamin

You’re probably thinking, “What kind of fairy tale is this, Laura? Don’t you know I’m just trying to keep my head above water, hold onto my job, juggle the family and squeeze in a little sleep now and then? Purpose is something you get to think about when you retire – something I may never be able to do!”

Au contraire! It’s very possible to discover why you were put on this earth and what you were meant to do along with everything else on your plate. In fact, it will make your “plate” more fulfilling. It’ll reduce stress, bring more joy into your life and give you a greater sense of direction.

Sound like a miracle cure? Well, it is. But it takes some internal work to get there. I’ve put my thinking cap on, done a little research and pulled together resources and ways you can start the process:

Step 1: Become Self-Aware

You’ve got to know what makes you tick. Getting to the core of who you are with specific words and language makes it possible to keep a clear “avatar” in sight. (A graphical representation of a person’s alter ego, just like in the movie.) That way we stay congruent and avoid confusion when life throws us a curveball. It helps us make better choices about work and relationships. We won’t get distracted, frustrated or feel like we’re spinning our wheels as much.

So for starters, get the book StrengthsFinder 2.0. In the back of the book is a key code to take an in-depth online assessment. It will identify your top five personal strengths. It may validate what you already know about yourself. Here’s my profile if you want to see a sample of the report. You can use your strengths in a variety of occupations, but as long as you keep them front and center in your world, work and life will feel more rewarding.

Next, go to Imperative.com to learn your “Purpose Pattern” – there is no cost to this. You’ll get a purpose statement that clarifies who you impact, why you do what you do and how you achieve impact. I can’t speak to the validity of this assessment, but it seemed to spit out some pretty accurate statements when I took it. It definitely lined up with my results on the StrengthsFinder.

Create a Purpose Statement. Print out those assessments and use a highlighter to indicate keywords that really resonate with you. Then, combine the best-of-the-best into a sentence that summarizes your primary motivator. Ex: My purpose is to help individuals or groups create opportunities for success by leveraging strengths, building engagement and taking action. Your purpose statement will not include a specific occupation or cause. It should reflect what drives you – what makes life more meaningful, regardless of the job you hold. But the more you build your life and work around a purpose statement, the happier you will be.

I’m a big fan of DISC personality assessments too. (Here is my personal profile.) I’ve used DISC for 20 years in my work and think it’s easier to understand and apply than many others. Also, Dan Miller, author of 48 Days to the Work You Love, has created a few profiles on personality, values and spiritual beliefs from DISC theory. (Affiliate link)

Step 2: Experiment and Innovate

I don’t believe we wake up one day with a great epiphany about what brings us meaning in life. I’ve found it’s a gradual discovery process that follows the “lean” approach: try something on for size, experiment, and learn from our efforts. Then try it over again with new information. Over time, we get closer and closer to a perfect fit. As long as you’re innovating and moving forward, you’re successful.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, David & Goliath, he says that innovators possess “openness” – they challenge their own preconceptions. They are also “conscientious” – they have discipline and persistence to carry out ideas. They are “disagreeable”, meaning they are willing to take social risks and do things others might disapprove of. They are willing to test and see what works. Then they adapt and test again.

What holds us back? Gladwell says, “We are prone to being afraid of being afraid.”

Step Three: Face the Fear

Art of Work Book by Jeff Goins

Jeff Goins has just written The Art of Work: A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant To Do. I haven’t read it yet, but I was pretty impressed with his podcast, The Seven Stages of Finding Your Calling.

In the podcast he says, “If you wait to feel courageous, you’ll never move forward. They (people who found their calling) learned to do it afraid. Fear does not prevent you from a dream. It tells you you’re on your way.” ~Jeff Goins

So list your fears. Bring them out in the open so you can stare them down, eyeball to eyeball. They serve a purpose. We take action when the fear of doing nothing outweighs the benefits of standing still.

“Work begins when the fear of doing nothing at all finally trumps the terror of doing it badly.” ~Alain de Botton

Second-guessing is fear in disguise. We talk ourselves out of some fabulous ideas. Stop over-thinking things. Few people are actually watching – they’re too distracted by their own problems.

Take a step. Give yourself a project. Don’t remain frozen in place. Your action may not be THE solution, but it will lead you closer to better outcomes. Movement helps us focus on process rather than fear.

Finally, please know that most of us wander this world wondering what we are meant to be and do. You are not alone. But rather than stay frustrated, put yourself in situations where you can apply your strengths and live out your purpose statement. It’s possible you may find purpose in one segment of your life at a time – faith, family, fun, work. And clarity in one area leads to another, and another. Have patience. Give it purposeful attention and the puzzle pieces will start to fit.

Additional Reading:

  • The Purpose Economy by Aaron Hurst
  • Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl