I was once asked to give a speech at the regional National Speakers Association meeting in San Diego about my approach for effective communicating. They wanted me to tell them how I give a speech. My approach is simple.
First, I give people a concept that could help them be a better manager, teacher, coach or parent. Next, I tell a story that relates to that concept. I get people laughing. Finally, I zero in on audience members as human beings, trying to make my point in such a way that it triggers an emotional reaction for each person. I want them to identify with what I am saying. Ideally, it would inspire them to take some new action. Let me give you an example. Of all the concepts that I have taught over the years, the most important is about "catching people doing things right." There is little doubt in my mind that the key to developing people is to catch them doing something right and praising them for their performance. The minute you begin talking about catching someone doing things right, praising that person and letting him or her know you noticed their good performance, that person's attention perks up.
After I talk to an audience about praising in a general sense, I warn people not to wait for exactly the right behavior to praise others- because they could be waiting forever! In the beginning, when people are learning something and are not top performers yet, you have to praise progress.
I ask my audience to imagine trying to teach a child how to talk. You decide you want her to say, "Give me a glass of water, please." If she has never spoken before and you wait for that full sentence before you give the child a sip of water, what have you got? A dead, dehydrated kid! So what do you do? You must praise progress.
First, you zero in on water. Repeat it over and over again. Finally, the child will respond with something like "loller." When that happens, hug and kiss the kid. Call the child's grandmother and get the child on the phone to say, " loller, loller, loller." While that's not "water," it's not bad. After a while, though, you will only accept " water." Why? Because you don't want your child going into a restaurant at 21 years of age and asking for a glass of "loller." So praising progress helps people move toward desired performance.
Is praising important in relationships other than with our children? You better believe it. Now I get my audience to think about other applications for the concept.
Have you ever seen a couple in a restaurant in love? While one talks, what does the other one do? He or she smiles, listens and paws. Have you ever seen an unhappy married couple in a restaurant? They look like they couldn't get anyone else to eat with them. They have nothing to say.
My wife, Margie, and I were at a French restaurant not long ago, where we enjoyed a marvelous meal. On one side of us was a couple in love. I don't think they cared if the meal ever came. On the other side was a couple that obviously had been married for a while. In the three-and-one-half hours, I don\rquote t think they said four sentences to each other. He finally said, "How's your meat?" "OK," was the reply. "How's yours?"
I said to Margie, "That marriage is dead. Nobody buried it."
How do you get from hanging onto someone's every word to having nothing to say? It's the frequency with which you catch each other doing things right.
Have you ever heard the expression, "Love is blind"? What does that mean? In the beginning, you only see the good qualities in the other person. Then what h appens after you get married or move in with the person? Pretty soon you start noticing everything that is wrong. You start to think things to yourself like, "I didn't know anything about that" Or, "You gotta be kidding me." Or, "I can't believe it!" The final demise of love in a relationship is when you do something right but you get yelled at for not doing it right enough. " You should have done it on Wednesday," or " You had to ask me!"
The key to keeping relationships going is to constantly catch each other doing things right and accenting the positive. When you accent the positive, you make deposits in your human relationship bank account with that person. Now, if he or she does something wrong, you can point it out without devastating the relationship. Unfortunately, most relationships deteriorate to the point that the primary focus seems to be on catching the other person doing things wrong.
The example I\rquote ve just presented demonstrates how I try to present a concept in human terms and involve the audi ence in a way that it stirs an emotional reaction in each person. I try to relate the concept to something that is present in the lives of every audience member so they can feel the power of the concept. Remember that your job as a communicator and speake r is to inspire and change people\rquote s behavior, not just to share information.
by Blanchard Management Report. Telephone (800) 728-6000, ext. 528, fax (619) 489-8407.