Communication & Leadership

with Peggy Klaus

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Avoid these frequent mistakes in communicating and presenting.

Peggy Klaus

Communications & Leadership Guru

Lessons Learned

Popeye school of self-management: I am who I am, and I am not going to change.

If being an introvert is not serving you well, you must adapt.

Extravert replenishes energy by being with others; introverts replenish energy by being alone.

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Lesson: Communication & Leadership with Peggy Klaus

Step #6 Mistakes: Avoid these frequent mistakes in communicating and presenting

I think "authenticity" is a word that gets overused in the last decade. I think it gets confused with what I call "the Popeye School" of self-management, "I am who I am and I'm not going to change." I think that as human beings, we have to evolve. We have to change. If our core personality, let's say, of being an introvert, is not serving us well in different situations, then we have to adapt and figure out behaviors that will allow us to change and grow and get the things that we want, in order to be successful.

In terms of introversion and extroversion – I love this because I just was interviewed for a "Wall Street Journal" article that came out last week. The definition most people think of extroverts is someone who is friendly and outgoing. And while many extroverts may actually be friendly and outgoing, the true definition of an extrovert is someone who replenishes their energy by being with other people.

An introvert is the opposite. They recharge by being alone. I work with so many introverts who say to me, "But Peg, I'm an introvert. I'm a software engineer. I'm supposed to be boring." A lot of excuses, the, "I am who I am," Popeye School of self-management. What I say to them is that, "It's not serving you well. What you need to do is to develop some behaviors that you can use, bring into your own skin, into your own person and make authentic to you."

So, for example, I have a very introverted client that I was just working with. She was just picked to be on a national board. She was very excited. She said, "Oh, you know, we have a conference. I'm okay at the conference. But at night they have these dinners." She said to me, "I'm thinking to myself, 'Well, I can go and just blow off the dinners.'" Then she said, "But I guess I can't, can I?" We worked on behaviors to get her to exude extroverted behavior in that particular situation, in that moment, which will serve her really well.

So, let me give you some examples that I gave her. First of all, that she should prepare, she should have in what I call her "goody bag", in her repertoire, certain topics. General topics, specific topics – that she is armed with, that she can go in and talk to people about. So, for example, it can be what that board is doing, her work, somebody else's work, asking a lot of questions. They can talk about something as banal as the weather, movies, sports, how did they get here, families. So, she should have that ready to go.

What I find with a lot of introverts is that they are so concerned about themselves and they're so wary about their own feelings that they don't consider how uncomfortable it is for most people, even extroverts, to go into a situation where they don't know anybody.

I am a linguistic vigilante. The top ones for now are the upward inflection. Ending every declarative statement like a question. So, it would be, "Hi, I'm Peggy Klaus and I'm a consultant in communication and leadership and I have an office in Berkeley." Well, you would hear me say that and you would say, "Is she Peggy Klaus and does she have an office in Berkeley and is she a consultant?"

This has become endemic. It really came to our attention with the Valley Girls in the '70s and '80s and now it has infiltrated every part of corporate America. I'm now hearing 50 and 60-year old CEOs upward inflect. When I hear them say, "I think this is a good budget," I have to slap them upside the head and say, "Is it a good budget? You're not convincing me."

It is especially difficult for women because our vocal apparatus is softer, higher. When we get nervous, we tend to get breathier. When we say, "I think this is a good budget," the men around the room don't know if we really think it's a good budget or whether we're coming on to them. Very problematic. But I don't want to single-out women just for this. It is men as well.

Okay. Number two on the hit parade is the word "like" every other word. Now, this was my favorite in high school. Fortunately, I got over it, although it is creeping into my language. But it is like saying like every other word like, "Oh, this is a really good interview, like, oh I'm going, like," and I don't know what it is that the person is saying with all those likes.

"Right" at the end of a statement. I have just noticed that the last six months. I noticed it particularly when I was in a negotiation with a client of mine who went on with things like, "You'll be able to get this done in two months, right? You'll do it on video tape, right? Because that's the only way that we can really make this work, right? So you're fine with that, right?"

I said, "Well, no, excuse me. I need to interrupt. I'm not fine with that. We need to go back to the beginning of the conversation because you assumed that I was fine with that by using the word right, but actually we have some things to negotiate." So that was my first tip off for that.

Another vocal tic that can drive me crazy is that when someone talks continuously and doesn't stop down at the end of a statement or question. So, the prompt that I give for that is – actually, I have a few prompts for that. "Silence is golden." "I don't need to fill up the air space." Another one is, "Pause. Breathe. Count to ten. Count to ten again". There is a real issue with people in our culture not feeling comfortable with silence, and that's why it comes up.

And I think my last one is when people start their sentences with "so." That has really become a tic lately. "So, I think I'll meet you there." They use this continuously. This is complete repetition.

Many people are very concerned about being droners, about being the ones who people see coming into a party and the person immediately turns 180, goes back to the bar and gets a gin and tonic, because they can't stand that droner who has just walked in.

Here's my thing about people who worry about that. The people who worry about that the most will never be the droners. No matter how much bragging you do, you will never be that person. The people who need to worry about it are the droners. Usually, they haven't gotten feedback about how it is that they come across.

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