Two words can make a huge difference

bright summer dressI heard someone once say that there are three things that once they are gone, you never can get them back: time, spoken words, and opportunities. I had an experience today after which I wished I could have gotten my spoken words back. Today being Friday, most people go to offices dressed up a little less formally, and that seems to be a tradition across cultures of the countries I have lived in. A colleague of mine was wearing a dress with bright colours (summer time!) and that attire made her look significantly younger than the day before, when she was wearing a more formal dress.

Putting on a big smile, I told her “You look younger today!” It was a sincere compliment but it is only when she replied “You mean I am old?” that I realized I should have chosen my words more carefully. She was laughing and apparently did not take it bad despite the few comments she made about it. I then spent a few minutes of my day thinking on how I could have made a better compliment. I came up with a simple variant that consist in adding just two words to my original statement. Without changing the meaning of my sentence, I could have said: “You look younger today than usual” or “You look younger today, more lovely.” Those two additional words would have made a huge difference and be less “offensive” to the young lady she is.

On the other hand, if she had just said “thank you“, those two words would also have made a huge difference as I wouldn’t have written this post. This lesson would have been lost in space. It is all good! I am happy she processed my compliment the way she did. 🙂

I am a passionate student of communication and it is those little daily experiences that give us the opportunity to learn and improve as we speak and listen to what we said. Have you been in situations where you spoke and later wished you had made the same statement(s) a little differently? Tell us about one of those experiences.

Conquering your fears

fearLet’s face it, we all have at least one thing that scares the heck out of us but in reality, it is not at just one thing, there are many things. Fear in the context of this post is defined as a feeling of unease and anxiety caused in the presence or anticipation of danger.

The root sources of fear are mostly psychological and emotional and there are experts who have researched and written extensively about that. I read a few article about the origins of fear and my conclusion is this: fear is an emotional response to a past traumatic experience. When I looked at some of my fears, I realized they are all linked to past experiences that all had an undesirable outcome or that were not positive.

The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek. Joseph Campbell

Not having any fear is different from having fears and conquering them. If you don’t have any fear, email me and share your secret, I wouldn’t mind paying for it. If you do have the same fears as the one I share below, you will find my solutions below helpful, I hope. If you have different fears, see how you can use the principles in the solutions to help you overcome your fears.

  • Fear of deep waters. A regular adult size pool to me is deep. The safest pool of water for me is water in a bucket. Anything bigger than that scares me for two reasons: 1) I don’t know how to swim (that will change soon) and 2) I have a relative and a few acquaintances who died from drowning when I was in my late teens, early adulthood. Those two combined factors make me stay away from deep waters as much as possible, but I don’t like it. Every time I get an opportunity, I go to YouTube and watch videos of swimming lessons. I am just one step away from practicing what I am learning and once I know how to swim and can go into water
  • Fear of dog bites. Americans love pets, especially dogs. That’s great as there are dozens of benefits for having a dog. I have nothing against dogs, I actually like them but they don’t like me back much :). I am not afraid of the dogs but I am afraid of their bites. I was (almost) bitten by a dog when I was in my teen years and that experience is very funny when I think about today but it caused a trauma that is yet to be repaired. How do I intend to repair it? By owning a dog. But I will wait until I get a child who wants a dog before getting a dog that will bite me and exorcise that fear of dog bites out of my system.

I could continue with my list of fears but that will not help make my point which is as stated by Nelson Mandela: The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear. Conquering your fear will take two steps: 1) Identify and acknowledge your fear. 2) Take practical action to reduce or eliminate the anxiety your experience from that fear.

What are some of your fears, and how do you conquer them?

Brian Adam’s Speaker’s Bootcamp and Orange County Speakers University

Lionnel Yamentou and Brian Adams
Lionnel Yamentou and Brian Adams at the Speaker’s Bootcamp

Becoming a great speaker takes a lot of practice. Practicing with people who can give you candid feedback and help you make positive changes to your delivery. On June 18th I was at the Brian Adams’s Speaker’s Bootcamp where I gave a speech on which I received invaluable feedback. The speaker’s bootcamp was the second of such organized by Brian Adams in the few months that I have known him. I mention Brian Adams in a previous article on this website. Spending time with Brian is always a great learning experience as he has practically devoted his life to serving people through speaking.

Here are a few lessons I learned from Brian Adams speaking on that evening:

  • The most powerful spot on stage is in the audience’s heart. This is one statement Brian made that really drew my attention. Good public speakers know how to use the stage to enhance their message. The use of stage is often learned in sync with the use of body and gestures to communicate the message. However, sometimes a speaker may have limited movements due to a podium with a microphone or a physical constraint. In that case, Brian’s statement will be more true than ever. People don’t really care (most of the time) about where you stand or how you stand when you speak. They care about connecting with you and if you find that spot in their hearts, you would have found the perfect spot on stage.
  • We do business with people we know, like and trust. In the information age, your first competitor is your target client because everything you sell can be created and sold by someone else. In order to sell, you have to develop a personal and business brand that is easily identifiable. Develop a likable personality or business image (your image is part of your brand). Be trustworthy, always deliver on your promises or better yet, exceed your clients’ expectations. Your business will grow when you build a strong brand, develop a likable personality, and deliver on all your promises.
  • The best way to grow your business is through referral. Every time you have a satisfied client, ask for a referral to someone else you can make happy by providing your service. It is an established fact that dissatisfied clients tell more people than happy clients do. But happy clients would tell more people about their good experience if they are asked to. If you get a good feedback from someone you served, ask for a referral.

Brian and Victor Broski (co-host for the event) introduced the Orange County Speakers University experience which is a 12 weeks program designed to help speakers define a message and refine it. The program will be concluded with a speaker showcase night where speakers will invite their friends and family for a 20 minutes presentation that will represent the culmination of the learning experience.

Speaking is an essential skill to become a person of influence and get ahead in life. Contact Brian Adams today 7143156285 for more information about the Orange County Speakers University experience. Which one of the lessons above have your heard before, and which one is your favorite?

Make being on time a habit, and don’t break it

bootsHuman beings are creatures of habit. Everything we do from morning to evening follows a pattern that is either being created or has been created and is being followed. From the time we wake up in the morning to the time we go to bed, we follow mind programming that in essence is meant to keep our life simple. That is why many people resist change, even change from our bad habit to better ones. I had noticed that I had fallen in the bad habit of being late for meetings and other appointments. In an attempt to change that nascent habit before it got out of control, I became more conscious of the time I put into preparing for meetings and appointments.

Last Saturday I had a meeting over dinner with a young lady in Torrance and before my meeting time, the sole of my boots got disconnected from the shoe. I caused it as I was playing soccer with a shoe that had served me well and was not appropriate for the activity. My meeting venue was 40 minutes away from me and if I had gone home to get a new pair of shoes, I would have been about 20 minutes late for the dinner. I had to make a choice between walking barefooted in a pricey restaurant or being late and making a bad impression while reinforcing the bad habit of not being on time. I made it on time (just 3 minutes late) and it turned out that the lady did not have her mobile phone with her. If I had gone back home to get a different pair of shoes, I would have probably missed her and driven 40 minutes (one way) for nothing.

Interestingly, nobody in the restaurant noticed I was not wearing shoes. And if I had not told the story to the lady I was meeting with, she probably would not have noticed it herself. The socks I was wearing had the same color as my pair of jeans. What I did learn from the experience is this: 1) Do whatever you can do break bad habits as soon as you become conscious of them and 2) Always wear good pairs of socks as you never know what could happen.

Is always being on time one of your habits?

Lessons from OC Toasters meeting on 06/24/2013 – Doug Bowers

Doug Bowers speech propEvery Monday morning I wake up at 5:00 a.m. to go meet with a group of exceptional people, mostly business owners and working professional, the OC Toasters. OC Toasters is the name of the club, one of the best Toastmasters International club in Orange County. Today’s meeting was different than usual for two reasons: 1) I was officially installed as Vice President (VP) of Education for the club for the period July 2013 to June 2014. And 2) we were treated to a very educational and fun presentation by Doug Bowers, an experienced speaker serving as current Treasurer of the Founder’s District in Toastmasters International.

The VP of Education is the second in command at the club level and I am looking forward to performing my duties as VP Education with enthusiasm and excellence. I took note of a few key points during Doug Bowers’ speech and I want to share them with you. Doug was sharing what he has learned so far as he continues his journey to become a professional speaker and member of the National Speakers Association. Here we go:

  • To be a speaker, you have to know something. It is best if you are an expert, but you don’t have to be. All you need to be know enough about your speech topic to create value for the audience.
  • Speakers speak. You have to get on stage and speak as often and as much as you possibly can. Every opportunity you have to speak should be taken up and considered golden. You never know who will be in the audience with the potential to refer you for your next speaking opportunity.
  • Seven minutes speech, two key points max. This is one I particularly love. In alignment with the remark my friend Brian Adams made during the last Orange County speakers bureau meeting: too many speakers overwhelm their audience with information. If you give a seven minutes presentation, limit your information to two major points and do everything else within that time to reinforce those points.
  • Get creative with your presentations. In the picture above, I pose next to a prop Doug brought to the meeting for his presentation. On the image there are seven pictures of different dogs and the dogs each represent a different personality type. Doug even has a social game he has created to help people understand their personality types.
OC Toasters New Executive Board
OC Toasters New Executive Board

As I look forward to next Monday morning morning, I am excited and grateful to be part of such a great group. Throughout the week and beyond, I will be apply what I learned today and will be ready again for a new learning experience next Monday morning. What is your favorite piece of advice from the list above and why?