Jan 19, 2008

First impressions

Here is an interesting article on making first impressions:

Leadership: Directors of First Impressions

In Quebec, I have found that as a customer, I am generally well greeted. Not to the extent described in the article, but I don't feel like I am intruding into someone's life.

There is a bicycle shop close to my home where I buy most, if not all, of my biking gear. One of the reasons I buy from them is because the owner calls me by my name, even though I haven't been there very often. The first time it happened, I was slack-jawed. She saw me and said, "Hello Mr. Duperval." I think it was the second time I had gone to the shop. The previous time was almost a year before that.

Contrast that with the time I went to an electronics distribution company. Not one of those super stores, but one of those counters in the industrial section of town. I was greeted by the receptionist, and I explained to her what I was looking for. As she listened and called one of the salespeople, her voice and demeanor made me feel as though I was being a nuisance.

After letting the salesperson know I was at the front desk and needed help, she went back to her business. I stood and observed her behaviour. She was in the process of going through and filing her mail. Whenever the phone rang, she would sigh audibly, as if she was being bothered again.

This went on for about ten minutes. Never once did she check with the salesperson to see what the delay was. Never once did she apologize for the delay or try to contact me in any fashion. After 10 minutes of waiting, after such shabby treatment, I turned around and left without a word and went to spend my money elsewhere.

Jan 7, 2008

Public speaking on the campaign trail

There are some interesting lessons on public speaking that can be gleaned from the current presidential race. Here are a few. Mike Huckabee displays poise while answering a question he deems inappropriate. Also, pay attention to the interviewer: he asks a question, Huckabee answers it, yet the interviewer asks the question again -- probably because he wasn't paying close attention to the answer.

Huckabee, again, using (mean) humour to make a point. If he can use humour in a presidential debate, why don't more people use humour in business presentations? No, I don't advocate nasty humour unless you are a professional comedian.

Speaking of John Edwards: these two clips shows how you use a catch phrase (in this case, "You can't 'nice' these people to death") and keep a constant message.

Mitt Romney, showing how you control your Q&A session. Don't get mad, keep your smile.

Hillary Clinton showing emotion in her statements. Public speaking is not about being stone-faced during your entire speech. If you feel anger, display anger. Controlled anger, but anger nevertheless.

Clinton, again, noting the evolution of language:

Barack Obama showing the dramatic difference in energy between reading a speech and delivering a speech.

Body movement from Barack Obama. Ok, it's not on the campaign trail but you gotta love a guy who dances like that!

Jan 6, 2008

Let it go, already!

I had an interesting online discussion about this article:

ESPN - Slur incident at VMI sets WVU's Stewart on defensive - College Football

In case you chose not to read it, here is the gist: over 10 years ago, Bill Stewart, then a coach at Virginia Military Institute, used a racial slur (the N word) while talking to a student.

Today, he has been hired as a coach for a new school yet the school still has to defend their choice.

The incident occurred more than 10 years ago, Stewart explained what happened, apologized, resigned. What, does he have to sacrifice his first born on TV for people to just let it go and move on? Please!

We've all done idiotic things in our past, and we will continue making mistakes in the future. Very seldom should people be castigated for life because of their mistakes.

There is a larger issue here, which is that of language. The use of the N word is highly emotional, and can skewer one's perception of the message. This can often lead to miscommunication because we fixate on that single word instead of look at the bigger picture.

In this case, Stewart's intent was clear: he wanted to teach the young man that his antics could draw the ire of people in his community. His choice of words left to be desired.

One of my cousins told me something that sounds like this: "A n..... is the one that steals, does drugs and otherwise acts the fool."

No doubt you will be faced with situations where someone uses a word or phrase that you find highly offensive. What can you do?
  • Before dismissing that person's comments outright, take a moment. Breathe.
  • Unless the person is displaying an oft-repeated behaviour pattern, assume the best intentions. It's amazing how much less stressful life can be if you don't expect the worst from people.
  • Then ask the person to clarify his/her intent. A simple question like "What do you mean by that?" can go a long way.
If after those simple steps, it becomes clear to you that the person had ill intentions, then walk away.