He then introduced Sue Hershkowitz-Coore as a communication expert.
What Sue did even before her keynote was to go around, meeting and greeting attendees with a big smile. Sue then started her keynote very, very passionately.
Sue then explored scenarios. Her first scenario was about someone who promised you X by your deadline. You would then have to follow-up with that person under stress because your own work is getting delayed as a result. In such a scenario, how would you handle this? Would you take any of these approaches:
- Email again to explain why you need X on time.
- Talk to tell him or her to explain that you need this done as agreed upon.
- Talk / email to find out if there is a reason they are consistently late?
- Ignore it (again)!
One of the respondents said that they would combine options 2 and 3 — and would rather talk than email. Another respondent chose option 3, mainly because they were curious about why the delay was being caused? Sue thought that the response numbered 3 was the best as it was politically correct and respectful too.
She then asked if any of us have ever wanted to have a good, heartfelt conversation that unfortunately went awry. So what prevents clear, open, direct honest communication?
One respondent said fear prevents such a communication. Others thought this lack of communication may happen due to prejudices, or the desire not to ask questions that others may have difficulty answering, etc.
Sue’s next scenario was about what do you need to learn to make your time worthwhile. Audience responses ranged from apology to empathy. Sue added that “Often when we use empathy. It is to help ourselves rather than help others.”
And then Sue spoke about apology. She said that, “Apology is good if it helps the person you apologize to. But most people apologize to help themselves, and to think of themselves as good humans.”
Sue then spoke about her personal experiences. She was on a plane journey from Phoenix to Chicago. The person on the seat behind her was kicking non-stop. And she was offended, and said something she should not have — because the passenger on the seat was suffering from Parkinsons, and had no control over his leg movements. Sue then regretted that she had not given the passenger the benefit of doubt. She added, “I took that man’s dignity and took my own dignity away.”
She then provided two famous quotes:
The less people know the more they yell.
— Seth Godin
I am neither especially clever or especially gifted. I am just curious.
— Albert Einstein
And then she asked how would people ask a curious question? She suggested that we use preface words before our questions, so as to neutralize them:
I wondered how you managed
May I ask if
- I am curious
Sue emphasized, “As you say these words, if you can place them with curiosity from the heart, you will make a difference.”
Sue then also said that all your questions need to have crystal clear purpose. Examples of these questions:
- What do I want?
What do I really want to accomplish at this moment?
- If that’s what I want, what would I say how would I act?
Finally, Sue asked everyone to have a purpose in their lives — and that purpose could be to give the benefit of doubt. And then always say thank you!