Positive Paranoia: Is it possible that some things you believe about yourself may not be true?

June 1, 2011

As a professional speaker I was in the airport the other day getting ready to fly to Las Vegas. (I’m there more than Cher.) I was relaxing at the President’s Club, eating cheap cheese and old fruit with all my elite-status, high-mileage brethren. The gentleman who sat down beside me wore a baseball cap that read “NYC Police.” He proceeded to tell me he was an undercover cop, so I had to ask, “Then you only wear this hat on your days off?”

I think a great number of people have no idea how they appear to others. You could fill a large psychiatry office with all the books that have been written about how we perceive ourselves. But few books have any real impact in the area of how we are viewed by others. Taking a look at how others see us is not an easy thing to do. However, if we want to have enough personal influence to make all the communication skills and brilliant ideas we have succeed, willingness needs to raise its ugly head. For example, if you sit down to put on your rollerblades and your spouse calls out “Honey, please be careful,” it means you do not skate well! If people look at your artwork and say things like “Wow, you sure used a lot of paint!” or “This would look awesome in the garage,” it means you don’t have any talent.

Getting honest about who you really are to others is crucial to success. It’s a practice common among top businesspeople. In our 10-year survey of 5,000 top professionals, Wynn Solutions found that the most successful – the top 1% – had a realistic view of how others perceived them. This dose of realism serves them well because they can influence others only as far as those others will allow. So if the great self-portrait I’ve painted in my mind far exceeds the exhibit I’ve put on display to the public, I’ll struggle to convince anyone of my genius.

Believing in yourself is great, but you need others also to believe in you if you hope to motivate or lead people in the direction you want. It’s good to have confidence, and certainly self-esteem is important … but if I believed I was OK regardless of society’s opinions, I would be at the grocery store in my underwear.

We sometimes make the mistake of thinking that something’s true if we just believe strongly enough. I believe the speed limit on toll roads should be 100 mph. That’s slower than the no-speed-limit autobahn, so it seems fair to me. But the cop who pulled me over last week believed I should go to jail. So what I believe is often not only irrelevant; it’s illegal!

Is it possible that some things you believe about yourself may not be true? Can you ask a very close, give-it-to-you-straight friend how you come across to others? This may sound to some like an invitation to developing a slight case of paranoia. But spending your life obliviously unaware of what is preventing you from being seen as valuable is much worse. Being worried about not being OK makes you human and relevant. Showing up to the big board meeting in an ’80s dress with shoulder pads could make you (literally) history – especially if you are a man!


The Fine Art of Shutting Up: Communication Skills

February 4, 2008

I watch the news a lot and I see all these people trying to talk at the same time. Interrupting each other is nothing new, but they used to curb it a bit on TV. I was on TV and hosted radio shows years ago (I still do some Radio from time to time) and not interrupting each other was part of being professional. But now it’s like crazy drunk people at a college party trying to tell their best story. Of course we expect some people to do it; Bill O’Reilly is just an incurable chronic interrupter. He is not so much rude, as he is just psychotically driven to talk while his guest (or victim) is still talking. He makes a good point I guess every now and then but it’s difficult to see his style as effective; and it just makes for low quality, yet some how popular, television.  As a person who likes to talk and someone who has been known to interrupt people myself, I think we need to be aware of what it looks and sounds like to an audience. As a salesperson years ago, I had a boss that told me that I was a great presenter but I talked too much. He said, “As much as you talk you should go into a meeting and try to say nothing. If you do that, I’m sure you will have said just-enough.”

The lesson: What comes out the other person’s mouth means more to them than what comes out of your mouth. (That’s worst sentence I’ve written in 3 years but I think you get my point). If you let people talk you have more control over the outcome of the discussion and you don’t look ridiculous to other people watching/listening to your conversation.

Listening article :: Communication skills training programs :: Transformational leadership information


The Key to Listening to Boring People

November 29, 2007

I know that listening is important but it can be very difficult when you don’t care about what the other person is talking about. We want to care; we have compassion for people and their problems (OK, some of us do practice pathological leadership) but something about what they are saying is losing us at about 5 seconds in. Sometimes it’s the topic: when my wife talks about Yoga I just stop caring. I saw her in front of the TV doing a headstand while wearing a neck brace. Could Yoga be the problem and not the solution? Sometimes we don’t have the time for a low priority issue right before that important conference call. But every now and then it’s the person who is talking. Some people are just boring! Its not their fault I guess; maybe the were raised by boring parents in a boring environment. Our research at Wynn Solutions shows that making sure people feel heard is the foundation of trust. But what I have noticed over the years and what we now teach our clients, is that if you focus on how someone feels (happy, mad, glad, sad or freaked out) while you are listening to them (not just what they say) you are able to hang in their with the people that would normally send you to snoozeville. Also, you retain much more information (regardless of your poor listening skills) and believe it or not, you start to care more about what they are saying. It’s amazing and I highly recommend you try it.

In-house communication skills training programs :: Keynote – The Truth about Communication Success


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