CONVERSATIONAL HABITS TO AVOID TO BUILD RESPECT

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When speaking to a group of people you want them to actually listen, believe and understand the message you are trying to convey. However, if you want your ideas to be respected you must first build rapport amongst your peers and colleagues.

The key to successful interpersonal relationships is to develop positive rapport with your positive communication skills.

The following are some speaking habits to avoid when conversing with others and developing their trust and respect:

Gossiping

Nobody feels comfortable trusting their private information with the local gossip king or queen. If you feel the need to talk about someone’s personal situation, try talking to them directly about any rumors you’ve heard. Spreading false information will quickly earn you distrust among your peers.

Judging

Everyone brings different life experiences to the table. Learn to value another’s point of view, and don’t pass judgment on their way of thinking or decision-making. Rather than speaking a judgment, pull that person aside and ask them more specific questions about how they came to their decision. Maybe you will agree with them after seeing things from their point of view or perhaps they will change their decision based on your conversation.

Negativity or Complaining

Nobody likes Negative Nancy or Winer forty-niner. Stick to the positive side of all situations and work to solve problems rather than just complain about them. When you feel yourself getting into a negative mindset, find a way to reboot back to positive. You’ll find that taking a walk or surrounding yourself with the positive people in your life will help bring you back into a positive light. Stay optimistic about things and people will come to you for help with positive solutions.

Making Excuses

Placing blame on others and not taking responsibility for a situation is a hug turn off for most people. When you have defined yourself as a “stand up person” and accept responsibility for problems, you will make great gains with the respect of others. Once you take responsibility for a problem, you can move onto a solution. Making excuses doesn’t gain you respect, and surely doesn’t solve the problem at hand.

Exaggerating

Building a reputation as someone who exaggerates is a surefire way to devalue your character. When you present something different from it is in “real life”, people will not truly understand what you’re trying to convey. Adding exaggeration to your argument isn’t going to gain you popularity once people start to see and understand what you’re really talking about.

Avoid these simple mistakes and you will grow your interpersonal relationships in work, life and people will start trusting your spoken word as truth!

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TIPS FOR BUSINESS EMAIL ETIQUETTE

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I’ll never forget my excitement the first time I was asked to speak at an event. It was for a company I worked for. I was asked via email, by our consultant group manager who lived in Texas, to do a 60 minute presentation to 50 of our consultants, on how to improve their communication and customer service skills!

I had done everything I needed to do to be ready for my 60 minute presentation. I practiced, prepared, timed my speech with my PowerPoint, everything one needs to do prior to a presentation. I was ready. About 15 minutes before my speech I got up to prepare for my presentation. I once again thanked my manager for thinking of me to do this speech (I was so humbled and honored). I told her this was my first big speech – wow 60 minutes! She stopped me and said, “Wait? 60 minutes? It’s supposed to be 20 minutes.” We pulled up the email on my laptop and sure enough she had miss-typed the time as 60 minutes. I went from prepared to stressed in .5 seconds. I took a deep breath, and then spent five minutes editing my speech and noting which PowerPoint pages to skip. Luckily I pulled it off without a hitch.

This is just one example of why you should proofread your emails before you send them.

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Success in business requires effective skills in business communication; this includes communication via email. According to Pew Internet research released at the end of 2013, approximately 62% of all employed Americans have Internet access and 98% of those use email on the job. In total, 57 million employees use email for work. 78% of workers who use email send 10 messages on average a day and 11% send more than 20.

Email is one of the important tools used for business communication, but surveys have found they can also cause confusion, tension or negative consequences.

Here are 10 simple and effective tips to help you with your email communication etiquette:

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2. Subject lines: Use them! – Not only does this help your email stand out, but if it requires “Review” “Action”  or ”Approval needed” this will help your email get priority. People also file emails with certain phrases in the subject line and words like “urgent” may be filtered to spam.

3. Be brief and clear - Don’t go round and round with your words but state the topic directly. Even if the email is grammatically correct it doesn’t mean it’s okay that it’s too long. Reading long emails can be sometimes frustrating. So, make sure that you state the point right at the beginning through to the end of your email.

4. Be gentle and polite

5. Make sure to check the tone – Yes email has a tone!

6. Proofread

7. Don’t be sloppy – While writing emails to your colleagues you can use abbreviations, but when communicating to a customer, follow standard writing principles. The message you send to the person reflects your company, so try not to make any mistake in grammar, spelling or punctuations.

8. Use uppercase and lower case letters and words properly – If you want to highlight a point you can make them bold or even write them in capital letters. Don’t use too much color.

9. Use the courtesy copy and blind copy appropriately – Don’t use BCC. It shows from who you have copied. If you are sending the email to a large distributer then you might use BCC, so that the recipient doesn’t have to view a large list of names. Be cautious about CC, overusing it may clutter other people’s inbox. Copy only those people who are involved in your email communication.

10. Do not use email to avoid personal contact – Don’t forget the importance of voice-to-voice or face-to-face communication. Emails may not be the appropriate avenue for delivering emotional or confusing messages. Don’t use it to cover up your faults and mistakes that you may have made.

Keep in mind that if you have an email that is truly urgent or affects the success of the company, pick up your phone and follow the email up with a call.

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5 Tips to Refresh your Confidence Level

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Imagine what would have happened if Steve Jobs allowed getting fired from Apple, the company he co-founded, keep him from working towards re-achieving success and finding happiness again. Of course it was a blow to his pride and most likely left him down, depressed and perhaps his confidence was shot. But only for a short time.
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It is not that unusual for even the most successful people to feel low at times, and this seems to happen mostly when they are going through the lowest phases in either their personal or professional life, over even worse, both. However, that is no excuse for you to let yourself down. Fight those bouts of depression and doubt because you can overcome it.

If it seems that climbing your way back to a confident mindset is proving to be too daunting of a task, take heart from the following five ways to bring new zing to your life and refresh your confidence level!

1.) Remember what makes you AWESOME

The most important thing to do at times like these is to count your worth/what makes you great. Don’t compare yourself to others. Unwanted comparisons with others is not going to help you at all. The best practice is to tell yourself that you are second best to none, and you have come this far based solely on your worth and abilities. You can opt for some introspection that will help you in realizing what goals you had set out for, and how far you have traveled towards it.

2.) Positive self-talk

Talk to yourself because this not necessarily something associated with early signs of insanity. Nothing is better than a rousing pep talk delivered by you to your inner self. Moreover, most often you may not feel comfortable sharing your deepest insecurities and fears with anyone but yourself. Therefore, a talk now and then with your inner self can be an extremely effective way of rejuvenating your lost self-confidence.

3.) Remind yourself of your accomplishments and how far you’ve come

Counting your past laurels can help you in giving a massive boost to your self-esteem, which is all the more important for bringing in more glories in the future. Winning and losing is a part of every game, and this is truest in the case of the biggest game called life. Thus, it will serve you no good if you continue to fret about past failures, but instead build upon your capabilities to avoid committing the same mistakes in the future.

4.) Don’t throw a pity-party in your honor

Apart from counting your achievements, stop pitying yourself because that is the last thing you would need for success. Take stock of the situation at hand, and decide upon all the measures that would require you making the best of what is on offer at the moment. You can also fake it when the going gets tough so that your body exudes self-confidence, which can come in truly handy for breaking out of the rut.

5.) Keep taking chances

Finally, take chances because you never know when luck is going to shift in your favor. Remember, fortune favors the brave, so try your luck out. In the meantime, keep working on your skills or learn something new and surely you’ll generate sparks of “positive” to re-ignite your confidence flame!

If all that doesn’t work you can reflect on the wise words of Albus Dumbledore, “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” ― J. K. Rowling (author of the Harry Potter book series)

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Tips to Work While on the Road

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Hitting the road can be fun, but not for all. Some people travel and bring their workload along for the ride. I am not going to lie, sometimes when I travel I take my work with me. However, this is more based on the flexibility my teaching, consulting, and writing profession offers me.

A few years ago we were on a family vacation in Sils Maria, Switzerland.

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Located in the Engadine region in Graubünden, the region may be most recognized by avid skiers and hikers who head to the “Roof of Europe” to hit the slopes of St. Moritz. Sils Maria is a quaint village situated approximately 6 miles southwest of St. Moritz, high up in the mountains and still untouched by some modern technologies. Perhaps, that was the reason Friedrich Nietzsche spent his summers there in his retirement. In fact, we were fortunate enough to stay right next door to the Nietzsche Haus.

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Nietzsche Haus

(*For a bit of history click here: http://youtu.be/GyNYtVW9TH0 ).

It’s wonderful to go on vacation and get away from it all, but if you still need to work while “getting away from it all” there may be some challenges. For example, not one place in Sils Maria accepted my American Express (so much for business write-offs). Also, the Wi-Fi only worked well in the lobby of our hotel; not the best place to focus and complete tasks.imagesCAB9T3VA

Nevertheless, productivity can be an issue for most when working on the road.

In order to be productive, you will require loads of self-discipline to overcome the lure of distraction. For example, people watching,  watching movies or venturing outside to play in a new town. Are you panning to take your work on the road? Then let me share the key steps in my process for travel and work success with you.

4 Tips for Travel and Work Success
1. Prepare – prepare – prepare

You need to have full preparations for all eventualities that may disrupt your normal work schedule. There can be a multiplicity of factors weighing against you. However, that does not mean you need to give up because people involved in small businesses cannot afford to be lackadaisical in their approach. Thus, you must not rely solely on Wi-Fi connectivity to get your job done because that is most likely going to leave you in a bind sometime or another. Have backups in the form of hard copies of important documents that are necessary for conducting business deals, otherwise you run the risk of making your entire business trip unproductive.

2. Organize your travel tools for work

You have to admit that you are not going to be as efficient on the road as you are in your office space. However, you need not make your productivity scenario worse by carrying a tablet instead of your regular laptop. Trust me when I say that this is going to prove immensely helpful when dealing with long presentations and complex spreadsheets. Moreover, remember to pack the lightest laptop available and one that is not a power guzzler. You should also try being resourceful by investing in a MiFi. Further, Many companies will provide you with a MiFi if requested.

MiFi is a small and portable wireless device that gives its carrier a permanent Wi-Fi hotspot wherever he/she goes, thereby remaining connected to the Internet. Developed by Novatel, the MiFi device is also called ‘intelligent mobile hotspot’.

Many smart phones these days can be used as mobile hotspot too (usually there is a service fee with your cell phone provider).

3. Contact the hotel ahead of time

You should thoroughly research the accommodations you are staying/booking for your trip. This is because the location of the hotel and the services it provides such as Wi-Fi connectivity can play an extremely significant role in making your stay more productive. Moreover, you can improvise with the items present in your room in case you do not have satisfactory writing arrangements by using anything from a side table to an ironing board as a flat surface.

4. Schedule your time and stick to it!

Make sure that you stringently stick to the work schedule that you have drawn up for your trip to be the most productive. You may face intense temptations to spend time visiting places on interesting destinations, but you should know better how to control that wanderlust. Stick to the schedule to make the most of what the business trip promises to you and your business.

5 Travel Tips you Should Never Forget

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Traveling to any destination can bring about a great deal of benefits. From allowing you to explore new cuisine, to enjoying a bit of a change of pace from the daily grind of work.

You’ll find that there is nothing quite as grand as leaving the comfort of home and finding a new place to walk through. – Ellie Parvin

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Even if it is for a short time, traveling makes you feel brand new, but sometimes the actual process of travel can be hectic. When you’re amidst delays, bumpy plane rides, or trapped in a car for hours on the open road, things can boil over and cause your balance to shift into a whole new frenetic chaos. Not to worry. Much of the stress that may arise from travel can easily be avoided with a little planning.

The following are a few of my personal travel tips to help you not only enjoy going to new places, but can also keep the balance of peace through whatever may come at you.

5 simple travel tips:

1.) Pack Smart (Think About It)
Do not wait for the day before to pack, instead, make it a gradual event. Make a List! Think about where you are going, check the weather, local news, and consider what you may or may not need. There are some obvious choices like clean underwear, socks, and things of that nature, but also consider your personal items. Are you prone to indigestion, gas, colds? You never know what is waiting for you, so make sure that you take your time and truly think about where you are going far in advance so that packing becomes a smart thing and not one of haste.

2.) Gather Your Identification and Make Copies

Don’t forget your passport!

(*If you are unable to view the Friends clip above click here: http://youtu.be/u2gXacBIO4g )


Whether you’re visiting a war torn country on assignment, or you’re visiting your grandmother in another state, consider gathering all your identification and making copies of it. Make copies of everything and put it into a folder that is in your luggage. This may seem like you’re opening up yourself for an identity theft, but it’s not. It’s to cover you in case you lose your wallet, purse, or identification. You absolutely never know what could go awry, or where you may place your items. This can help you get by a little while you get duplicates, or travel back home.

3.) Smile and Be Kind
Yes this is an important one for me, your friendly communication expert. Wherever your trip may take you, don’t be disgruntled or show signs that you’re jaded about the travel process. Smile, be kind, be gregarious, and you’ll find that the service industry within the travel world will become far easier to navigate through. Even if the workers themselves are jaded, don’t worry, put on a smile and be nice. You’ll find that it will be welcome and infectious. I believe this to be one of the best kept secrets of travel. It very well may even come to your advantage, when you least expect it.

4.) Take on Adventure
Life is short, get a sense of adventure and try something new. Try new food, try a local favorite, do something that you normally wouldn’t do at home and you will find that you will enjoy your travels far more than most. Don’t play it too safe, instead, go out and enjoy something grand, visit a new museum, something different than what you’re used to. This will pay off dividends in terms of experience, and will give you something unique to write home about.

5.) Emergency Contact Information & Travel Insurance
One last thing to remember about traveling, and perhaps one that most people forget about is in regards to the unknown. Get your emergency information, contact information off of your phone and put it in paper, get a small card for your wallet, and make sure that you have it with you at all times. If you get into trouble, or you’re in an accident it could very well save your life, and get friends, family and others informed about your status.

Trust me I am speaking from experience. In fact, my “travel insurance” tip is a new on my list. We learn from experience, yes? In December 2013, I had a snowboarding accident in a small alpine village in the Bernese Oberland: Frutigen, Switzerland. There was only one hospital in the region and no time to take me two hours with traffic down a winding alpine pass to the main hospital in capital city of Bern.

In short, I had emergency surgery, overnight stay, along with parting gifts of crutches, titanium plate and screws, a fancy hi-tech boot, prescriptions and a bill due in full in CASH upon my departure. Yes that is a bill due in cash for a foreigner with no insurance. And they don’t accept credit cards or checks. {Heavy Sigh} lesson learned. Contact your insurance company prior to your travel to see if you will be covered or purchase some travel insurance. Otherwise your trip could have some big unintended expenses.

Planning ahead makes all the difference, and this is one mistake you don’t want to make while traveling.

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5 Tips to Make a Life While you Make a Living

Do you own or have you seen those motivational block quotes? You know the ones that are black or colored wooden boxes with “house rules” or other words of inspiration and value that you can set on a shelf or hang on the wall. I own three of them. Scratch that I just bought one for my office shelf that makes four. However, the first one I bought sits on the mantel in my home as a daily reminder to work for balance in life:

“Don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.” 

The old adage is true today more than ever. Statistics are showing that more and more people have forgotten all about “making a life.” With more and more people working 40 hours or more, time for relaxation, and balance becomes thrown out the window. Yes, there is a part of all humanity that needs to survive, but there is a tipping point where survival becomes hindered by our constant need to work, or make money. It’s a hard one to argue too, because many are struggling in these wonky economic times. I know, both my husband and I have been titled as “workaholics” by family and friends.

Regardless of where you are with your finances, there are a few things that you can do to sustain balance, and maintain focus on making a life, not just a living.

How to Make a Life

1.) Create a scheduled break in your week – Everyone in the world gets seven days a week and 24 hours for each day. Within that time frame there must be a point where you can relax, and step away from responsibilities. If you are adamant that you do not have time, then perhaps you need to create a schedule and break down your 24 hours. Start with a log of what you did the previous day and itemize it. You’ll find that if you adjust a few things you will edge out an hour or even more with time that you can focus on your own projects, or simply meditate for a minute or two. Finding the time takes effort, and it will help you achieve greatness, whatever it may be for you.

2.) Throw out your smartphone – Ok, maybe you shouldn’t just toss it in the trash, but there should be times when you do not use it. Whether it’s at the dinner table or anywhere else, find a way to eliminate the need to be connected for a portion of your day. Unless you’re a doctor, or an emergency service provider, there has to be time dedicated to yourself and your family. Without this, you will find that media consumption will consume your personality and will eventually lead you to losing moments in life that would normally make you smile.

3.) Get some exercise – The dreaded “E” word, and it is right here for you. The requirement for adults to sustain manageable weight is not a curse. If you can get 30 minutes of exercise, three times a week, you will be doing the bare minimum required to help offset caloric intake. This doesn’t mean that you have to spend money and join a gym, instead it means to find something fun to do and just do it for 30 minutes.

4.) Plan a date night – If you’re in a long term relationship, or you’re married with children, find a way to incorporate at least one night where you are alone with your significant other. This may be a challenge, but if you get in the habit of scheduling it (like you would for important appointments), you’ll find you can make it happen. Connecting and communicating on a regular basis with loved ones or even with friends gives you a semblance of peace from life’s worries.

5.) Go out of town – Every few months make it a point to leave town. Go somewhere remote, or go somewhere fun, just go anywhere that is not your home. This will help you balance out your thoughts, recharge your proverbial batteries and give you a bit of balance. It’s easy to busy yourself with so much work that you forget to have fun, so don’t let that happen, find time to enjoy living life to the fullest. It will be well worth your efforts, guaranteed.

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 five tips to make a life while you make a living. —by Ellie Parvin … Mentor for the T.K. Dennis Society and featured at everythingidid.com

Exploring Communication Inspiration in Switzerland

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Don’t forget to stop for a moment… find and see the wonderful things you have in your life, whether they are right in front of you or close to your heart and mind.
Often I find communication entertains many commonalities and differences in other countries and cultures. The more we learn from and work to understand both helps to grow our skills and benefit our relationship and communication with others. However, this brief  post will be more about how I am inspired to become a better communicator, than a “How To…” on how to communicate internationally.
Currently, I am on vacation with my wonderful husband and visiting his (and of course now my) amazing family! My husband grew up in the picturesque country of Switzerland. I am fortunate enough to come and visit here with him. Most people when they think of this country several ideas come to mind: Chocolate, cheese, the Swiss Gaurds outside The Vatican, The Matterhorn and other snow covered alps, Heidi, yodeling, cows, Ricola cough drops, etc. Indeed it’s a wondrous place. 
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When I come here, I get the opportunity to carve that extra time to get in touch with nature, my thoughts and my self, providing time for reflection and growth.
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I took this photo above during our hike in the alps of Canton Glarus on Monday. I must admit it’s one of many pictures, but I can’t help but see, breath and feel the inspiration and wonder everywhere I turn here and this truly captures Swiss-inspiration.
We got up at 6am to venture to the Glanerland for today’s hike with my hubs and awesome in-laws it doesn’t get more Swiss than this: Watch this video…

Reflecting, I realize am truly blessed to have grown up with so much love in my family, as it helps me to appreciate all the love and beauty my husband and his family have to offer! We both grew up with a “family first” mentality. As such, we both support each other in family endeavors and adventures whole-heartedly. Although, I must admit that from my perspective his family makes it very easy!

Your friendly communication expert wishing you communication for success, health and happiness from Switzerland!

Cheers!

 

What’s the State of Critical Thinking? Thoughts…

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Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.” ― Margaret Mead

I saw this quote the other day and I was reminded of a recent class I taught where one of my learners (This is how faculty refers to students at Ashford University) had difficulty comprehending one of the writing assignments. Even though I provided links, examples and further explanation, in the end the learner just asked me “what specifically should I write about? It doesn’t say exactly.”

 

Finally, I explained that “there is no exact topic or thesis. You will develop one and write your paper based on the assignment directions, grade rubric and what we have learned in class — and here is where you utilize your critical thinking skills, which is the best part, you get to choose your topic.”

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Often I see as children grow they are taught NOT to question their teachers, parents, or such and do what they are told, be obedient, color inside the lines, etc. I perceive that this tampers with their critical thinking skills. As they grow older and start to work in the real world (usually at larger companies/corporations), I have observed that this pattern continues; where people are again told (in a professional way of course) to be obedient, do  their work, develop an aversion to challenge managers, higher-ups, and the like.

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Question for Professors/Teachers:

I wanted to get a consensus from my scholarly peers on your thoughts regarding “critical thinking” in their classes (online and virtual).

Do you have to push or work to reprogram your learners/students to utilize their critical thinking skills?

Question for Business Owners/Managers:

I wanted to get a consensus from business owners and managers on your thoughts regarding “critical thinking” in their classes (online and virtual).

Do you have to push or work to reprogram your employees to utilize their critical thinking skills?

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One of the things I love about teaching Business Communication courses at Ashford University, is that the curriculum helps me to push for reprograming of obedient minds.  I get to teach them communication “best practices” so they can re-connect and communicate utilizing critical thought and ultimately succeed as employees and as people. I love that I can use my experience working for Chalene Johnson at her old company Powder Blue Productions too. There she reminded us on a regular basis to challenger her processes or ideas and develop stronger solutions: Use critical thinking!

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However, for some of the learners in their first year I notice they need a nudge to guide them or push them to feel comfortable using critical thought.

 

In regards to my discussed above about one of my students, once she knew I wasn’t going to hand her the answer on a plate, it pushed her to start thinking about it. Ultimately she nailed the assignment and ended up with an A on her paper. However, it was her growth in the class and her feedback to me (sent via email after she received her final grade) that brought me the most joy.

 

I would love to hear your thoughts on the state of critical thinking today! Please share below.

 

Also if you are looking for ways to exercise your critical thinking skills or want to help someone else you can use the 6 Critical Questions below inspired by the official “5 W’s and 1 H) questions of the ancient art of journalism (yes I am going back to my San Francisco State University/BA Journalism roots):

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Customer Communication Via Social Media

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I am going to presume that the last time you looked at your smart phone it wasn’t to check for a missed call or text.

Most likely you were checking one or more of your social media outlets: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, etc.

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Companies these days are astute to their consumers daily habits and thanks to companies like Facebook, they perhaps know even more about their likes, dislikes an such.

Studies in the past year have show 72% of all internet users are now active on social media and it’s not just the young people:

•     Age 18-29 year olds have an 89% usage

•     Age 30-49 bracket sits at 72%

•     60 percent of 50 to 60 year olds are active on social media

•     In the 65 plus bracket, 43% are using social media

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I’ll never forget in 2011 the time my former, social media savvy boss sent me a text regarding a customer complaint. Since I was the customer communication specialist for the company, I was surprised the customer didn’t contact me or our office.   I thought, what complaint? I checked the email, voicemail messages, etc.  She explained that an alert/word search she had set up on her Twitter account brought the tweet to her attention. When she glanced at the customer post she noticed the issue. images

Sometimes customers don’t want to hassle with calling or emailing out of fear they will be ignored, run into conflict or have their time wasted.  It becomes much easier for them to complain or vent on social media platforms.

After getting her information from twitter post I contacted her.  Or I freaked her out. She seemed surprised when I called regarding the issue. Nevertheless, the issue was quickly resolved and to add we fostered a new and improved customer relationship!

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Social Media Contact Produces Results
        • Of the 68% who were contacted following a negative social media posting,
        • 34% deleted their original negative review
        • Another 33% turned around and posted a positive review
        • And 18% became a loyal customer and bought more customers.

These figures mean that 85% of customers who posted a negative review of a shopping experience and were then contacted by the retailer wound up taking an action that was positive for the retailer.

Two-thirds (67%) of them took an action through social media directly negating their original negative posting.  All equating to customer retention!

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Social Media Statistics

Here are some quick facts showing the tremendous role of social media in today’s business world, as per 2013 Social Media Marketing Industry Report:

        1. A significant 86% of marketers said that social media was important to their businesses.
        2. By spending as little as 6 hours per week, 64%+ of marketers see lead generation benefits with social media.
        3. 75% of marketers reporting positive results in terms of traffic increase as one of the major benefits of social media.
        4. A significant 89% of all businesses that have a dedicated social media platform as part of their marketing strategy reported an increase in their market exposure.
        5. More than half of marketers who have used social media marketing for over 3 years reported an increase in sales over that period.

Social media is no longer just a part of casual social communication; if you have a business it’s time to get innovative with social media. Perhaps thin about creating a “social media care department.”

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Storytelling: How to Tell a Good Story

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(*Don’t forget to read last week’s blog post Storytelling: A New or Old Trend?)

 

Reflecting back on times when I have been inspired, motivated, moved to action and/or learned something that stayed with me, often this originated from a story.

 

To date my most valued storyteller is my father. In fact, my earliest recollection of his gift of storytelling is what convinced me to go to bed and entertained me during long road trips. I still remember lying in bed and my dad asking me which book I wanted him to read to me? I would reply, “No daddy, I want to hear one of your stories.”   He would recount adventures he experienced traveling with his father for work (a highly regarded Doctor in Iran who, who not only spoke seven languages, but traveled all over the Middle East to work with other hospitals as an executive physician with UNICEF International, and conveniently delivered all four of his children in their home).

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The best way I can describe my dad’s storytelling is to compare it floating on calm, ocean waters. His words pull you along as the ocean starts to swell, you drawn up the face of the wave and glide down over its peak.

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Some of my favorite stories:

One he got lost and fell down a mountain through cactuses and it took more than a day to find him (one reason I never wondered off after hearing this story – always tell your parents where you are going kids).

 

Another, he wanted to be an engineer and like to play with electronics and dreamed of building rockets for NASA. Well it’s kind of long story, but my dad got into some big trouble after setting the roof of his house on fire with his homemade rocket attempt.

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Baba-joon & Mali-joon

Baba-joon & Mali-joon

Also, there is the one where he was age 11 or 12 on a business trip with my Baba-joon (equivalent of grandpa in the U.S.). It was during a terrible storm. The kind where there is so much water you appear to be driving on a river.   They were not able to go home because the road/pass home had been flooded by the river. They were about to turn around, until Baba-joon shouted to the driver “Wait! There are people there.” (Okay so he said this in Farsi, but that’s my dad’s translation to me). The water had risen so fast there was a car trapped in the middle of the road pass over the river and a family clinging to the top of a car. To make my long re-cap of the story a little shorter, with the efforts of the driver, my Baba-joon and my dad they rescued the family! My dad told me at the end of the story that this was very lucky and that God put them there right at the right time. But sadly, shortly thereafter they saw another car with people on top rushing by and going under, for the storm had worsened and the water had risen too high.

 

Finally, my favorite story that is my inspiration to persevere and work towards my goals is his story of coming to this country at the age of 17 to become an engineer (he didn’t want to be a doctor which is what he would have had to do if he stayed in Iran). It’s a remarkable story and one that it far too long to account here, but gist of it is there was no internet, Skype, easy or affordable way to communicate with family overseas. He went to school full-time, worked three part-jobs (the kind you see on Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe) and today works for Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL)/NASA. He isn’t building rockets but he LOVES his job (he still works 60+ hours a week at age 70). He would say that he had the opportunity to live the “American Dream” and believes in this country and its freedoms —  But you have to do the work, freedom doesn’t fall on your lap.

Mauna Kea 011

My father is still my favorite storyteller today and the funny thing is I don’t even care if I heard the story a hundred times, each time he tells it it’s like the first.

 

 

But I don’t have a Story?!

According to research found by Kristi Hedges, a Forbes Contributing writer, most people don’t believe they are good storytellers for the following reasons:

  • I never think of it
  • I tend to ramble and lose the point
  • I have a hard time gauging interest
  • I am never sure how much detail to use
  • I don’t have good stories to share

Yes you do!

Now I don’t have my father’s gift for storytelling, nor is my story as inspiring as his. But that won’t stop me from working on it because we all have a story (or stories) inside us to tell or share.

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Where do we start? What is our story or stories? How can we learn to share them?

 
How to start and develop your story (or stories):

 

1. WRITE IT DOWN

Remember the power of putting pen to paper. It’s much easier to find and develop a story if you have a list to go to. Get in the habit of noting content that would make for a good story – highs and lows, challenges, times of persistence, etc. Sit down and spend a half-hour thinking about experiences you’ve had where you’ve overcome hardship and made yourself (or others) proud.

Make this a bi-weekly or monthly habit.

2. Connect Key Points with a Story

Here is a good place to reference your notebook (or smartphone) where you are housing your stories.

3. Practice your Stories

Practice – Practice – Practice. Remember storytelling is a skill and you want to practice it just like you would for any craft. 4. Don’t seek Perfection

Don’t let the push for perfectionism paralyze you. (* For more on see my blog post: How to Be Perfect)

5. Use a Story Structure.

A good story is simple. Structure helps the framework and flow of your story. For example:

        • Clear moral or purpose
        • Personal connection – involves you, or someone you are connected to
        • Common reference points – the audience understands the context and situation
        • Details: Characters and imagery – allow the audience to “See” and connect.
        • Conflict, vulnerability, or achievement we can relate to
        • Pacing – there’s a clear beginning, ending, and conclusion referencing the main topic

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Need More Help?

In April, I attended a 3-day seminar organized by Team Johnson & CEO Chalene Johnson (Motivational speaker, New York Times Best Selling author, and fitness celebrity): SMART Success Live! There are so many things I learned, but one huge takeaway for me personally was that we must allow ourselves to be vulnerable to truly connect with others. This happened because each speaker shared their amazing story superbly and connected with me and the audience.

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Hire Experts

When you have tried everything and you just can’t wrap your arms around the creation of your story/stories or even finding them, you can turn to hiring experts or take a class!

For example, Bo Eason is an expert in storytelling and so much more (Bo Eason’s Bio http://boeason.com/bos-story-2/ )

Bo Eason

When you have time watch this: (40 min)

Bo Eason on the Power of Personal Story http://youtu.be/ZKbHSk8UbU4

 

Some stories are hidden deep within us and it takes someone gifted like Dr. Mcayla Sarno http://drmcayla.com/ who at times I perceive as an archeologist of emotions and memories that can help you navigate through your mind to find what you have suppressed or forgotten (ie. Often times this is your story). She is a remarkable EMDR specialist who has even developed products where you can get her guidance in the comfort of your own home.

 

Remember, just because something feels uncomfortable, doesn’t mean it’s wrong. It will feel awkward at first, but with practice each story will become easier, stronger more impactful and allow you and your message to connect with others and improve your communication skills.

Bo quote

 

For More Watch:

NPR’s Scott Simon: How to Tell a Story NPR video

http://youtu.be/tiX_WNdJu6w