Con artists are nasty people with no conscience. That's why it is so easy to write them off. If you've ever been scammed (and research shows that a significant number of us have fallen victim) the anger and pain makes you want to either get revenge or run away from the world. But, believe it or not, there are a few things we can learn about communication from a scammer.
I know this firsthand since a gentleman I thought of as a second father stung me horribly and then engaged in the most underhanded, horrific bullying that one can imagine in order to cover his tracks. There are many important lessons to learn when one has experienced this type of treatment. Here are a few that relate directly to communication:
1. Be a good listener. Research shows that many people struggle with the art of listening. It is often overlooked when one is trying to find ways to increase professional or personal success. Con artists are great listeners. David, my scammer, asked me only one question when we first met up and then he listened for more than an hour. That question: How can I help you? Often we are so busy telling me how they can help us, that we don't stop to ask how we can help them. And here's the thing: not only is this question altruistic and thus very positive, but opens a connection that creates an amazing flow of communication. As long as you don't distort it like scammers do, it is the gateway to effective work and personal relationships.
2. Pay attention to details. This goes hand in hand with being a good listener. Con artists know that the devil truly is in the details. Remembering names, taking notes during conversations, and realizing that conversation can create a goldmine of nuggets to help you work more effectively with another person.
3. Keep a clear vision of the end game. Even when people are colleagues in a workplace working on the same projects, sometimes the end game gets blurry. Why? Because we allow our own agendas to disrupt the team agenda or in a personal relationship, we let it disrupt our ultimate goal of a peaceful, loving relationship. Scammers are successful because they see the end game and never lose focus.
If you use these tips for good, they can help you improve your career and your relationships.
no This past week I started a new friendship. This person has been in my life for about 10 years, but since I always saw her as successful, popular, and busy, it never occurred to me to reach out on a personal level. To be honest, this didn't seem very necessary since we had no direct professional ties other than being in the same community. So, what changed? I was feeling very inspired one day after a particularly invigorating time of meditation/prayer and she popped into my head. Staying with the momentum I was feeling, I jotted off an email and invited her to lunch. It felt good to do this and we ended up having a fabulous lunch that was very empowering. We opened up communication and we connected.
Now, since the majority of my work is based on opening up communication as a way to become more successful professionally, a part of me was tempted to ask, "So, how is this going to help me?" As I thought about it, I realized that this question that I thought had helped me focus in the past, was the very question that had kept me from reaching out to this person all these years. Maybe the real question is not how something will help me professionally, but rather the quality of life I want to live and how the connections I make contribute or detract from it. This lunch connected me with a very wonderful person and my life is better for having done it. We had no agenda. We had no goals to meet. We didn't even talk about future actions. We just ate and talked.
Good things happen when we connect with others and with ourselves. We don't always need an agenda and while I understand that in our society time is very precious, it is worth spending it on these connections. I have no idea if this will lead to business connections or even a future lunch, but I do know that I learned how another human being thinks and sees the world. I was challenged to get outside of myself and I learned a bit about how she had seen me all these years.
In the field of communication studies, being able to see how others look at the world and at you is called Dual Perspective. It's an important quality for effective communication and for workplaces that are healthy. I recently had a man call me for assistance who was the director of a department that was apparently just about to explode due to negativity. During our conversation he was so angry about his employees that at times he couldn't speak. His current plan? To go in on Monday and make them regret ever saying anything bad about him or the company.
Now, I completely understand this mindset. He certainly seemed justified, however, when I asked what he hoped would be the result he admitted that he hadn't thought that far. So, together we began to talk about connecting with these people and about what end result he really wanted. Sure he could go in and yell at them. He might even feel better temporarily (though I doubt it), but what would that do to his connection with them and how would the department function in the following days and weeks?
For a few minutes we began to think about dual perspective and he calmed down quite a bit. Then together we created a plan for him to move forward. This morning he called to tell me that using the plan we created he was able to take things to a new level with each of his employees. In fact, the employee with whom he had been the angriest turned out to be his best meeting of the day. Now he is moving forward with confidence that things are in a better place.
It's not that a problem didn't exist and it is certainly not the case that he ignored it, but he approached it from a dual perspective with a plan and a goal of ending in a better place.
It's not always easy to take that step whether it be connecting with a person in a new way or simply daring to tell your emotions that you can make a more informed choice, but it is always worth it. My challenge to you right now is to approach someone in a new way, whether it be someone you've known forever, but never took the time to really know or be it someone who works for/with you that's driving you crazy and you're tempted to take things in a negative direction. Make a connection! (Oh, and feel free to let us know about it! We love success stories!)
In the spirit of a year of giving, I'd like to direct your attention to an article written by a friend of mine on the subject. He says it well, so I won't bother to duplicate it in my blog, but instead I'll direct you to his words.
Just click on the link in the previous sentence.
Next, I'd like to hear from you. you can email or simply comment here. What do you think a year of giving will look like?
Welcome to a new year! Here's an interesting thought: self-control is linked to success (numerous research studies support this), but willpower may not be the way to go and, in fact, may actually be detrimental to our health. (A study by Greg Miller, a professor of psychology at Northwestern University, showed that forcing yourself to "power through" increases stress that negativity impacts you both physically and psychologically.) As 2017 came to an end, I decided that rather than making new year's resolutions, instead I'd watch others make them and I watched person after person fall victim to a pattern that I knew very well: high hopes of change and then crashing into pile of failure. I stopped making resolutions because in the end, they typically made me feel bad about myself.
So, how exactly are we supposed to develop self-control and succeed? There are people doing it, so what's the deal here?
Well, after doing some research I have come to the conclusion that those who succeed have more than sheer willpower. As sappy as it may sound, what they ultimately have is love. People who succeed at making their lives, both personal and professional, into something amazing have connections with the world around them. They have an appreciation for life and they don't just feel they need to "power through" anything, because they understand that they need to invest in themselves and in those around them. They get joy from this present moment because they choose to see it. This allows them to be okay with putting off the gratitude of a brownie that would break their diet or an expensive outfit that would impact their savings.
So, what does this mean in terms of becoming the best version of ourselves possible? Well, it means we should consider the following:
I do quite a bit of writing on the topic of success. In addition to coaching people, I also do ghost writing for influencers. Recently, I had an interesting conversation with one influencer who told me that before he began his current career of motivational speaking, he felt like a complete fraud because he read all of the books, attended seminars, and talked the talk, but was still always dead broke.
I have a friend who focuses quite a bit on his income. To him it's a great challenge seeing how much he can increase his income from month to month and year to year. I was unaware, however, that he actually struggled financially and that for all of his apparent success, he still hadn't reached the carrot he was after. This weekend he shared an interesting insight with me regarding his pursuits. He said that he's been doing this for so long, that he'd lost track of himself, so he spent some time asking himself a few really hard questions like, Have I actually been working against myself? I asked what he meant by this and he noted that he's always fallen short of is financial goals and despite his efforts he's been typically financially strapped. Then it occurred to him that by making money his only focus, he'd set up a situation where his sense of purpose revolved around him needing to struggle. This need for financial struggle defined him...and the first sentence of this blog post testifies to that because that is how I've begun to define him. He also realized that he has let self-doubt keep him from being challenged in other ways professionally. Money seemed to be the one thing he could pursue without worrying he wasn't good enough.
The more I have worked with individuals striving for personal and professional success, the more I have realized that we all need to start with a very fundamental question: WHO ARE YOU? As children we adopt the mindset of the adults around us. This is brings both positives and negatives into our lives. For many of us, it means that in addition to getting a grasp of the world, it also means inheriting our parents doubts and fears.
How you feel about yourself plays a huge role in how you communicate. When you don't like yourself or see the world as an unfriendly place, you perceive and respond differently to others. A recent research study that was exploring whether shy people tend to be victims of bullying found a surprising result: shy people often become bullies! What the researchers found was that people who feel uncomfortable with others become disconnected and some of them become angry as a result. This anger turns into bullying in the workplace. Workplace bullies impact the whole environment and greatly disrupt the flow of communication. The funny thing is that most workplace bullies aren't even aware that THEY are the workplace bully. Many think that they are just doing what they need to do in order to get through the day. They are hurt and disconnected from others and they don't realize what they're doing.
So the solution? Always start inside of your own head first. How do you feel about yourself? Have you taken positive steps to feel good about yourself and connect with your workplace? After you've looked at yourself, start reaching out those who are a negative force in your workplace. You'd be surprised at how much you can change with just a few small steps.
Lynne M. Smelser, Ph.D. is an expert in communication. Her speciality is helping people to look internally to find barriers. Over the years she has helped companies create dynamic content and open communication channels. She also has assisted many individuals in overcoming communication anxiety and developing projects such as novels, memoirs, and ebooks.