Sep 08 2012


When is a pat on the back


actually a kick in the butt?

A client tells you your service is great, then complains about it later to others. Assuming nothing changed along the way to erode the value of your praiseworthy performance, your sense of anguish may simply be the result of of a mixed message. Mixed messages find their way into everyday business exchanges with increasing regularity.

“Pretty good job . . . for a woman!” is a typical example. “You’re doing this the right way, but you need to slow down and think it through better!” is another. Have you ever heard something like: “We need to move forward with plans to collaborate, but not at the expense of our own department (division, team, group)?”

Mixed messages are nonproductive. Mixed messages often couch hidden agendas. Unlike much problem solving that requires “two to tango” and cannot be realistically addressed by a single entity alone, mixed message situations can be resolved by one person taking preventive measures. These include paraphrasing, note taking, feedback, diagramming, and offering/ requesting examples. 

1)  PARAPHRASING. Instead of simply taking statements at face value and then squirming with them later, ask: “Do I understand you correctly to mean . . . (and repeat back what you think you heard, using your own words)?”

2)  NOTE TAKING. The biggest problem with note taking is that most people do not take notes. And even when they do, they fail to directly request the speaker to allow for it. “Would you mind please slowing down on (or repeating) that point for me  so I can make note of it because I don’t want to forget what you said.” is not just called for; it’s flattering to the speaker. But write it!!

3)  FEEDBACK. Speakers need to pause periodically and take inventory: “How are we doing here so far? Do you have any questions? Is all of this information clear?” Listeners need to politely interrupt periodically and take inventory: “Excuse me. Can we take a ‘Time Out’ minute here to summarize this last bit of information? I want to make sure I understand what you mean.” Write it!!

4)  DIAGRAMS. When speaker or listener is not 100% sure that communications are clear, ask for a diagram of the information; arranging keywords and ideas visually helps ensure accuracy, and can often illuminate a new perspective.

5)  EXAMPLES. Ask for them. Very few exchanges of information fail to become transparently clear when examples are offered and discussed.

Getting tangled up in miscommunication can be frustrating and annoying, and stressful. One person who is determined to “get it right” the first time, and who is willing to accept that it may take longer and be more work, will ultimately experience greater accuracy in dealing with others, and accuracy spells success.                               


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HAL ALPIAR Writer/Consultant  302.933.0911, LLC
 National Award-Winning Author & Brand Marketer – Record Client Sales

Open Minds Open Doors

Make today a GREAT day for someone!

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Aug 30 2011

Entrepreneurs Advisory Boards

 Your Advisory Board


includes a lawyer, 


an accountant, your


rich uncle, and


your pastor?




Well maybe one or two of those types do actually hold court with you once a quarter or twice a year and offer trusted advice and opinions about where your enterprise appears to be headed . . . and maybe you listen, and maybe you don’t. And maybe they’re helpful. And maybe they’re not.

After all, typically, they’re not paid. And you do remember that someone once told you you get what you pay for? Ah, but a good advisory board is usually made up of people who have a physical or emotional investment in seeing you succeed. And that trumps paying a fee for services. 

No compensation? Well, maybe some coffee and donuts — or fruit, cheese, and crackers, depending on your level of health-nuttiness. Wow! So now you’ll read a little further?

Advisory Boards, generally, are a good thing for most small business ventures because –when they include a small group of diverse, talented people who like and care about you– they can shed light on your darkness and provide enough reassurance or guidance to afford you to step back and observe your brainchild firsthand.

Advisory Boards provide a sense of reality you might not otherwise solicit or be exposed to.”


Okay, you’ve got all that. And it either sparks an idea, or it just lays there flat on its back, rolling its eyes at you! Well, here’s a definite sparkler:

Start a Rotating Teenage Advisory Board.


Huh? Why? Why not? When did you last waltz a thirteen-year-old boy or girl through your place of business and ask him or her for observations?

I promise you he/she will see things you never noticed, and maybe never even thought about. Does it matter that your business makes products or delivers services for nursing homes (whoops, how un-PC of me: long-term care facilities)? Or nursing mothers? Or male nurses? Truck drivers? Scuba divers? (It rhymed!) No it doesn’t matter.

What matters is that you regularly host small groups of teens through your office, plant. store, or worksite, and that you non-judgmentally LISTEN to what they have to say, and keep a journal or take dated notes of key comments. Pay careful attention to the questions they ask (and how they ask them) before trying to answer them.

It’s true that teenagers (as when each of us were) are different, weird, and aloof.

They are preoccupied with texting, handheld electronics, and each other.

They may seem the least unlikely to contribute anything of value to a non-teenage market business.

Yet –refreshingly– they lack developed prejudices.

They are naive and breed a rare perspective of business innocence.


You can learn more and spark more ideas from one business visit by a youngster, or two or three than you are likely to from ten top industry or profession muckity-mucks who will surely carry competition chips on their shoulders, and be more inclined to maintaining a political edge.

One business I heard of makes a practice of gathering small groups of teens from the local middle school and high school (pre-arranged of course with the parents, but not with school administrators who would tangle up the process) and rewarding them with praise, snacks, juice, and bookstore gift cards for bright ideas offered.

The owner has translated teen visitor input into new product launches, line extensions, and revenue streams, that produced enough income to allow some scholarship funding in return. What can you get? What can you give?


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  Open Minds Open Doors 

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  Make today a GREAT day for someone! 

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Jul 14 2011

Do I? Do I What?

Do I understand you


  correctly to mean…? 


 Can you give me


an example?


When you’re not 100% sure that you fully understand the meaning and intent of someone’s words, ask paraphrasing-type questions

. . . and ask for examples.


Asking these two questions is evidence of quality leadership. Because true leaders listen. Paraphrasing and asking for examples are key indicators of effective listening. The responses clarify. The responses help ensure accurate two-way communications, and they help prevent errors and misunderstandings.

Simply by posing these two questions (plus this one), leaders can help agitated people (e.g., upset employees, irate customers, impatient investors) to jet down. The asking alone serves to build trust, loyalty, teamwork, and promote open innovative exchanges. It also, by the way (but not unimportantly), reassures, flatters, and compliments.   

Used correctly, paraphrasing is equally effective in personal life as well as business. Business partners, employer/employee and parent/child relations, teacher/student, married and unmarried couples and family relationships can all benefit by using paraphrasing.

It is, in effect, a clarification checkpoint practice that works. 


What does “used correctly” mean? Process. Dynamics. The process and dynamics of asking the questions — the how, when, where, and circumstances; the nature of the people involved; the nature of the actions to be taken or tasks to be done– all have a bearing on the value of the outcome. How you ask. Your tone of voice. Your posture.

Yes, some could see this kind of attention to communication detail as a lot of unnecessary work. Those people are choosing to feel threatened by the intrusion of having to expend extra energy and time (yes, it will take more time that “normal” for a meeting or phone call or e-exchange) to get stuff right the first time instead of on a re-visit.

If you’re not presently building these kinds of questions into your daily practice of leadership –business, home, professional practice, community organization, classroom makes no difference– put it to the test. You will find, inside of just three weeks, major improvement at many levels, including increased receptivity.

You can greatly enhance the prospects for yourself to succeed with this challenge by adding note taking to your listening time. If you think it makes people feel good to be asked if you’ve understood something correctly, or to provide an example, wait ’til you see their faces when you start jotting down what they say.

Back to the agitated communicators, when you can also ask someone: “Would you mind please slowing down (or repeating what you just said) so I can make some reminder notes for myself to be sure I don’t miss any of the important things you say, I will appreciate it. Now if I understand you correctly to mean…?” You defuse the upset.

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   Make today a GREAT day for someone! 

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Mar 30 2011

Eh? What’s that you say?

Communicate. Communicate.


Communicate. Communicate. 


(Four times? Ah, yes, but repetition sells!)

There is no part of good communicating that beats good communicating! Yes, it takes longer. Yes, it’s more work. Yes it can be annoying (if you choose for it to be), but guess what? It is worth pursuing 100% of the time.

There is no part of good communicating

that beats good communicating!

Sure, you know all about the “listening 80% of the time and talking 20% of the time” stuff. And you know that one-way communicating is for radio, TV, and high physical risk situations.

You’re very aware of how important it is to communicate just the right amount of information — not too much or too little– in order to get the job done.

And you also no doubt know (but may have forgotten) that sometimes a W~H~I~S~P~E~R communicates better than a SHOUT! Oh, and of course you always try to offer and ask for examples to better understand or make a point, right? Right, and diagrams. Think of diagrams as little communications accuracy insurance policies.

So how hard do you listen? Human attention spans drift off in peaks and valleys. People often miss the most important points. This is even more pronounced and more frequent in phone conversations than in one-on-one exchanges.

And in case you thought putting it in writing helps, hmmm, look carefully at your last three emails or text messages!

When was the last time you were approached by a customer or employee or supplier who had input for you –regardless of how valuable or not you perceived it to be– and you pulled out a pen and pad (you do remember what pens and pads are?), and –as if you were a legitimate journalist (a stretch perhaps)– and actually took notes?

Let me get this down. Can you say that again?

What’s an example I can jot down?

Can you give me a resource to make note of that I can check out later?

Here, can you try to diagram that out for me on this pad so it’s easier for me to remember later?

Here’s what I wrote that I thought you just said; is it correct?

Just imagine being a customer or employee or supplier on the receiving end of a note taking boss who asks these kinds of questions. Do you think you might get more accurate initiatives and responses? Does it mean more work on your part? Of course! Will it take more time? Absolutely! Is it worth having clearer exchanges of information?

You don’t know how to explain the new note-taking you? How’s “I’m trying to improve my listening skills.”? Would that create havoc? Who knows, it might even prompt some increased admiration and respect. Maybe others will start doing the same thing? What have you got to lose? Miscommunication?


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Thanks for visiting. Go for your goals! God Bless You.

“The price of freedom is eternal vigilance!” [Thomas Jefferson]

Make today a GREAT day for someone!

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Jan 04 2011




Front burner food for thought


for every sales and


leadership encounter!

First, recognize that every form of leadership gets its salt and pepper from the world of professional sales, and particularly for spicing up the first ten seconds of every encounter, which is the amount of time used to “size up” a leader or a sales pro.

Second, since everybody seems to love acronyms (especially all those tax-dollar-paycheck-justification head-cases in government and big corporations), here’s another acronym to write on the palm of your hand . . . or on your knee, perhaps, if you wear skirts:


(I hear your brain ticking away as we speak.)


TONE— Set the TONE by being on time with your neat, clean appearance (from clean shoes and clothes, to deodorized skin, clean nails and teeth, and neat hair — briefcases and pocketbooks count too!). YOUR VISUAL APPEARANCE consumes second #1 of being “sized up.” The same dynamics apply to email and text messages that appear crisp and friendly, that don’t assume too much with abbreviations and attitude.


EVERY — EVERY smile :<) is a free gift you can give to others. Make it genuine (people can tell, even by phone, when it’s not). It consumes second #2. And E is also for EYE CONTACT (neither probing or riveting stares, nor sideways glances). Keep in mind that people can also tell when a phone call connection is distracted. Ask if you’re interrupting. Offer to call back.


NUANCE — Your handshake (neither bone-crusher nor fish fillet) takes up second #3 and either confirms and reinforces the first two seconds, OR raises a mental-red-flag cause for doubt about you and the products/services/ideas you represent.

Tick-Tock, Tick-Tock, Tick-T. . .


START — START with a friendly clear greeting and question.


EACH — Remember that EACH of the first ten seconds that passes will make or break your sale or degree of leadership acceptance.


CONVERSATION— Begin with a brief (“elevator speech”) summary that “BILLBOARDS” what you have to sell: Use emotional triggers. Tell a story with a beginning, middle, and an end, and that’s persuasive . . . all in seven words or less, then ask for the sale (since it takes 5-6 attempts to close a sale, you can’t start asking too soon).


OPEN — OPEN your ears and listen with care. Ideally, you’ll listen 80% of the time after these first ten seconds, and speak 20%.


NOTE — NOTE what’s said (and what’s not said) right from the git-go. Actually write it down. Ask the speaker to slow down so you can jot a couple of reminder notes of what she/he says. Ask for examples. Nothing flatters like an attentive listener and note taker.


DECIDE — DECIDE if the prospect is worth your time and energy (especially on a trade or professional show or showroom floor) and politely dismiss yourself from window-shoppers and tire-kickers when you’re busy. When you’re not, get engaged and practice!


SELL — Too many salespeople (!) and leaders forget to sell!

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931.854.0474 or Hal@BusinessWorks.US

Thanks for visiting. Go for your goals! God Bless You.

“The price of freedom is eternal vigilance!” [Thomas Jefferson]

Make today a GREAT day for someone! 

No responses yet

May 05 2009


Effective Communications


Requires EFFORT!


If you’re willing to put out the extra effort because clear, concise and accurate communications is important to you and your business, be prepared to take a more active listening role. As you may need to project yourself more assertively, be equally conscious of the need to become a better listener.

Resist the temptation to skip ahead in your mind while someone else is speaking. Stop trying to imagine what’s next and, perhaps even worse, stop reviewing in your mind over and over what has already been said. You can always check that later, or simply interrupt to request a once-over on the part you missed or didn’t understand.

When your mind races ahead of what’s being said, or drags behind to mull over something that has already passed by, you miss the present moment and the statements that are being made, as well as the nuances of expression and intonations that give the words their true meaning. You must work at staying focused and not allowing your mind to drift.

How can you keep your listening and comprehension skills on the front burner? Follow these four simple rules of good listening:

  1. TAKE DEEP BREATHS. Just as flames die without oxygen, so will your ability to keep focused on the present moment die out when your “normal” way of breathing fails to get enough oxygen to your brain. By deep breathing (which no one needs to notice if you practice it enough), you will also be prompted to not cross your arms or legs or hands…all signals that subconsciously tell the speaker that you are mentally “closed off” and not receptive; often these nonverbal signals communicate defensiveness as well.

  2. TAKE NOTES. Writing down what you hear keeps your brain uncluttered by getting the words from the speaker through your ears, into your brain and down your arms into your hands and fingers and onto paper (or your keyboard, if appropriate for the setting and circumstances). You can keep your notes and look at them anytime without the distraction or taxing of your memory that occurs when you carry the comments or instructions around in your mind like a ping-pong ball lottery drum filled with tumbling numbers. Taking notes helps you listen more carefully.

  3. MAINTAIN GOOD EYE CONTACT. It’s a fact that just as you can “hear” a smile, you can “see” what you hear in person. In other words, good eye contact (not staring) communicates attention and interest. You will also absorb more of what the speaker really means by the words used, by watching for gestures and facial expressions in the process. Can you look in the mirror and tell yourself how happy you are while actually communicating something else with your face, hands and posture?

  4. PARAPHRASE WHAT YOU HEAR by repeating back what you got from it in your own words, and in the form of a question. “Do I understand you correctly to mean that…?” (finish the question with your own words, interpreting what you think you understood). “If I understand you correctly, you’re saying…is that right?” works fine too. The speaker will be flattered. Asking for examples is another great technique.

The point is to take responsibility for listening carefully and taking notes and repeating back things to clarify and make sure that what is said is what you heard. It’s YOUR job to be sure that YOU’RE right, right?

# # #

Hal@Businessworks.US or 931.854.0474

“The price of freedom is eternal vigilance!” [Thomas Jefferson]

Thanks for visiting. Go for your goals.

Make today a GREAT day for someone!

One response so far


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