Thursday, March 31, 2016

5 Ways to Approach Conflict (without ending up with a Kryptonite spear in your chest)

The big movie at the moment is Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Huge opening. Lousy reviews. Great movie - but I'm biased. I've been waiting for this film for years, and I'm a huge comic book fan - specifically DC Comics, and there stable of heroes that include Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, and hundreds of others.

So I loved it, for the most part. Still, one aspect really bugged me, as a communications coach.


When the big promised battle between Bats and Supes is about to begin, it's because Luthor has manipulated the two. He's convinced Batman that Superman is a menace, and kidnapped Superman's mom, telling our hero that unless he kills 'The Bat' she will die. Darn those super-villains!

The face-off starts promising enough. Superman tells Batman he needs his help. As he steps forward, he triggers a booby trap of hail and ice bullets. Pushing through that, instead of asking again, or, heaven forbid, telling him WHY he needs his help (Bruce, we need to save my MOM!), he pushes him across the roof, and a 10 minute battle ensues before Lois walks in and cooler heads prevail.

I understand they had to fight - it's the selling point of the movie. But c'mon. Two top-notch heroes fighting because they can't even communicate? Terrible.

While most of us will never be in the middle of a literally earth-shattering conflict, most any conflict can feel that way to us when we're in the middle of it. Our egos, our relationships, our livelihoods are often at stake - or at least FEEL as if they are at stake.

5 Ways to Approach Conflict

1. Set boundaries, expectations, and outcomes for the conversation.
2. Be willing to try more than ONCE to get your point across, before resorting to anger.
3. Disarm your 'opponent' emotionally by letting them know you understand their side of the conflict.
4. Avoid becoming overly defensive OR offensive, which takes you both off point, and into an emotional state that is harder to control than an objective state that focuses on the actual issues.
5. Bring in a third party to arbitrate/defuse the tension.

If you're headed into a potentially contentious discussion with peers, clients, competitors, or even your boss, you'll want to avoid having it end with a Kryptonite spear plunging into your chest.

In the meantime - go take a kid to BvS - cause I really want more movies. After that, go Speak...& Deliver!

Monday, March 7, 2016

You've got to MEAN it!

Last month, I was working with my wife as she practiced her keynote speech for BCNF - a Neurofibromatosis Awareness group in British Columbia.

Kristi is NOT a speaker. Well - she is, and she could be, and sometimes she even WANTS to be - but she's a wife, a mom, and in management at Colorado's largest movie theater - NOT a speaker.

Still, she's a celebrity in the NF world. She writes a popular blog, we put together a book for her a few years back, and she's dedicated to both creating awareness and educating doctors, parents, and children about the disorder that affects her and three of our six kids so directly.

As she prepared, she knew she wouldn't be able to memorize her speech. Instead, she's more of a 'lively reader'. She's worked hard to create a very authentic script - which is a lot harder to do than it sounds. Yet, every time she'd read it, I'd have to push her to really wring the emotion out of it.

"You've got to MEAN it!" came out of my well-meaning mouth more than once.

That's a huge lesson for all of us as speakers, whether we use notes or slides, or whether we read our speeches, or even can rattle it off verbatim each time without help at all. It's not just the words we say, it's the emotional meaning we give to them.

Kristi certainly MEANS everything in her speech. It's intensely personal, and designed to connect with and uplift her audience. It has humor, pathos, irony, anger, and triumph - all drawn directly from her real life. The obstacle is more often translating that meaning from the page via our voice inflections, pacing, and volume.

Tips for MEANING what you say:

1. Write the way you Talk - it's easier to be authentic when you deliver conversational phrases vs. well hone prose.
2. Record yourself - you might THINK you sound like you mean it, til you hear yourself say it.
3. Use Note CARDS - with bullet points to remind you where you're going, vs. letting yourself go through the speech solely via the script. Imagine trying to get somewhere new by car looking only at your GPS screen!
4. Highlight Emotions - with a real highlighter - different colors for different emotions, just to trigger yourself when you see it.
5. Get coached - or at least have a neighbor spray you with a water bottle everytime you slip into monotone.

When you MEAN it, the audience FEELS it. When they FEEL it, they remember it, and they are much more likely to act on it - which is, after all, the whole reason you're up there, right? To Speak...and Deliver!

I've attached her speech below - I think she's getting it ;)


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