July 4th CommunicationSteve Adubato, Ph.D.
“Enough about you, let’s talk about me...” That’s the longstanding cliché that we use in poking fun at people who immediately upon asking, “How are you doing”, turn the conversation back to them and tell you everything going on in their lives whether you are interested or not.
This pattern of narcissistic, egocentric, “me-centered” communication is something to think about a few days before the 4th of July holiday as many of us will be in various social situations—picnics, fireworks, family gatherings, sporting events, you name it. We are going to be around people, some of whom we like and others we try to avoid. Either way, our social communication skills will be on display.
With this in mind, consider the following social communication tips and tools that will help make this upcoming holiday just a bit more enjoyable:
--Fight the urge to play “one-upmanship” in a conversation. No matter what someone says to you this 4th of July, don’t try to prove that you are doing something better. If Bob tells you he’s going to Italy in August, don’t burst his bubble to tell him that you are going to France in September. Instead, ask him a question like; “That’s great, Bob. What cities in Italy are you going to?” The simple act of asking that question will make Bob feel special. Later on you can share with him that you are going to France, but there is no need to play the “can you top this” game and rain on his parade. It doesn’t impress the other person. In fact, it’s a real turn off.
--If you are in a conversation this holiday and the Presidential election comes up, be very aware of the potential for things to get heated. Politics and religion are still two very risky subjects in conversations. People have very strong points of view. If someone says to you; “I really think Obama is a terrible president,” you need to quickly realize that he is not about to change his mind based on you telling him the great things YOU feel Obama has done for the country. Political communication doesn’t work that way. People’s opinions don’t change in social, party-like, settings because someone else presents a counterpoint to their firmly held position. Savvy communicators know this.
--Walk up to someone who you have avoided at past social gatherings or someone you don’t know and introduce yourself. In these holiday social situations, we tend to talk to the same people all the time about the same things. Mix it up. One of the reasons we get bored at these gatherings is because we are on communication auto pilot. We don’t break out of our predictable patterns. Instead, seek out someone you haven’t tried to get to know and start up a conversation. You have nothing to lose. If the conversation doesn’t go well, simply excuse yourself by saying you need to refill your drink or go off to the restroom.
--When in a conversation, keep your eyes focused on the person you are talking to. Be aware of “cocktail party eyes.” Stop looking around to see who else you might want to talk to. (And make sure you keep your BlackBerry or iPhone in your pocket where it belongs.) Looking distracted makes the other person feel terrible. Good communicators show respect, not just with what they say and how they listen, but by being engaged. It is a simple thing that pays off big time in making people feel better about their interaction with you. Like I’ve said before, when it comes to communication, the little things pay off big time.
Have a great 4th of July!
Steve Adubato coaches and speaks on communication and leadership and is author of the new book "What Were They Thinking? Crisis Communication: The Good, the Bad and the Totally Clueless" (Rutgers University Press). Write to him at The Star-Ledger, 1 Star-Ledger Plaza, Newark, NJ 07102, visit his Web site at www.stand-deliver.com, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.