Look up and talk to somebody!
Find Your Front Stoop!
A Queens native keeps it real and weighs in on some simple things we can do to improve our interpersonal communications.
Type the words “How to improve your communications” in your browser and 1,220,000,000
results will appear in 0.86 seconds! Each of those posts promises that they will resolve all your issues. Do you have time to read all those articles? No, you don’t, but don’t worry about it, just read this one!
So here’s my two cents worth of guidance. Do you have regular contact with humans? Would you like to build productive, healthy relationships or maybe even mend a friendship? Perhaps, you’d like to spend less time with your shrink or your lawyer addressing your latest communications disaster!
Why not take a novel approach? Go and find your version of a Queen’s NYC Front Stoop. Then sit next to the person you need to sort things out with, and look up and listen.
“What did that Queens Girl just tell me to do? Go find a stoop? What the heck is she talking about?” Well, you’re not the first person to say that to me, so we’re cool. Let me explain what I mean.
Some time ago, I created a conference keynote speech about communications and practiced it in front of a group of friends. I got to one of my last slides which used the picture you see at the beginning of this article. When I used the word “Stoop” one friend interrupted me and asked “Jules, are you sure that people are going to know what a ‘Stoop’ is?” To which I very patiently replied “What, are you kidding me? What’s so hard to understand? I am talking to a group of very smart people and showing them a picture of people sitting on steps in front of their house. How hard is it going to be for them to understand that“Stoop” is the word for steps?” To which she responded, “Just tell them!”
Ok, so here’s a brief history lesson about why Queens People (and even Brooklynites) call their front steps “Stoops.” In the beginning Native Americans lived in the area we now call the Borough of Queens. Then the Dutch showed up and they had a habit of building very high steps in front of their homes just in case their new neighborhood flooded. The Dutch word for those front steps was Stoop. Then the British showed up and stayed for a good bit. Finally, the Brits left and we became America and us. Now fast forward to the present day! Although New York City is known for its fast pace and ever-constant change, the one thing we managed to keep for a few hundred years is the word “Stoop!!!” So now you know. History lesson over!
People! We’ve turned ourselves into a “heads down species living in a bubble species.” We’re constantly on our mobile and digital devices. We’re not looking up and have limited attention spans so we over-react when we send each other messages or talk.
My guidance is simple. Go live. Go human. Find your version of a front stoop. Find the places that you can go sit side by side when you have a conversation. Then Listen, and have an “in your space conversation” not an “in your face” interaction. Practice “Full-on Focus” and active listening! Acknowledge what you heard and reflect on what you learned. Then end the conversation by saying you appreciate their honesty and time. Doing this can make a difference, even if you can only do it for a few minutes.
Now don’t think I can’t hear you out there reacting and saying things like “Get real! We live and work in a virtual world! I can’t always meet with people in person!” Ok. I understand. I get it, but I have a question for you. Do you spend a lot of time on conference calls? Do you multi-task when you are on conference calls? Come on, own up and answer this question honestly! You do, don’t you?! That’s what I thought.
Here’s something to keep in mind the next time you are on a call and you let yourself become distracted. The person on the other end can sense that you are not really listening. Yes, they can! Yes, this is a real thing. How do I know this?
I have spent many, many years interviewing, conducting meetings and coaching people by phone. I could always tell when the person on the other end of the call was distracted and was paying attention to something else. The “notes” in their voice had changed and they had “lost their connection” with me. How did I know? The tone they used when they started the call no longer had the same depth and consistency. Simply put, they weren’t being “fully present.”
The next time you are on a group conference call and are sitting next to someone who has “checked out” pay attention. Then listen to the speaker who is not in the room. You’ll hear their voice get a bit strained even though they can’t see what the “checked–out” person is doing. All they can sense is that the listener is not fully engaged, and that “they are not getting through.” Humans are intuitive beings. They can tell when there has been a shift in energy.
So practice “Full-on Focus” and “Side-by-Side-In-Your-Space Conversations” Try it. See what happens when you make listening and giving someone your undivided attention a habit. It’s life-changing. You’ll find your meetings and conversations shortening in length, but improving in quality. Use the power of small things to make a difference in your communications and interactions. It’s your secret sauce or your Sunday Gravy as we like to say in Queens.
So there you go, great advice you can use right away and you don’t need even need an app! What did you think, that I was going to leave you hanging?
This piece is an excerpt from my forthcoming book. “Learned it in Queens — A Queens Girl’s Communications Playbook Email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to linkedin.com/in/julienneryan for more information.