The Four Recognizable Types in any Group Discussion in the Office or at Home

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Y’know how, when you’re sitting at a meeting or around the table at a family dinner discussion trying to solve something or make a plan, the same people usually speak up or disagree or criticize or say yes or never say anything? Have you ever stopped to think that they actually fall into definable types with predictable behavior? Well, it’s true.

There are 4 basic types present in such human interactions and learning to recognize and categorize them is a key to handling them more productively and solving many log jams where these personalities clash and end up raising the temperature and defeating solutions.

Here’s a lexicon of the four basic types to be found in any meeting or family—wherever people work or live and interact together. See if you can’t recognize these types (and yourself, too!) as you read these:

Based on some creative family research done by Dr. David Kanter for his book Inside the Family:

Here they are:

  • Movers:  initiate action; suggest or develop ideas
  • Opposers:  react to and oppose movers and new ideas
  • Followers:  hook onto others’ ideas, support or “go along”
  • Bystanders:  watch, stay quiet and remain noncommittal

Recognize them? I’ll bet you could even name who is which one in your own group, right?

To help in learning to handle any of them, whether you’re the leader of the group or simply a fellow member, here’s an analysis of each one’s behavior and suggestions of what can work with each one.

MOVERS : These are natural leaders- strong, sure-footed and creative. Often intolerant of others’ ideas, they see their own as the only way forward and get competitive, even aggressive, about that.

OPPOSERS:  These create an instant challenge by blocking the movers’ direction, and yours. Competitive with movers, they get attention and importance by opposing. They refer to getting the “facts” or the “truth” or negate ideas with “we did that before” or “it’ll never work” or (depending on their age) “dumb, boring”.  They can make enemies or hurt feelings. In groups they’re seen as obstacles to progress.

FOLLOWERS: These are not uncreative! They just need to play it safe, waiting to see the group’s attitude before they commit. They may follow either the mover or the opposer for separate reasons.

BYSTANDERS: Interesting characters who need special understanding. Very different from followers, they stay out of the direct action altogether, making no alliance with either side. They watch and keep opinions to themselves, saying (if pressed) “Interesting” or “Have to think about that”.

Each of these is valuable to the group, if handled with understanding. The goal is getting them all on board.

Here are some ways you can accomplish that.

MOVERS are creative, give new ideas and solutions, get the ball rolling and try to get others on board. So—harness them to pull ahead in the right direction. Be careful not to single them out and approve their ideas too soon. Set a course before the mover gets started, explaining exactly what you want. Affirm movers but encourage others, saying you want to hear lots of ideas. If you’re the leader, you’re probably a mover, too. Make room for the others…

OPPOSERS can bring up important issues overlooked by the mover’s enthusiasm. Since they’re willing to test ideas and scrutinize data, they can actually improve a mover’s initiatives. Give them assignments to look into the idea and find out how feasible it is instead of just reacting negatively to them. This gives them recognition and uses their skepticism constructively as well as taking away some of the hostile reactions to their constant opposition.

FOLLOWERS empower others by granting support and creating a “team” which movers (or newly directed opposers) need. Allow followers to find their own level, giving them assignments to help facilitate the project. They can be great as support staff and implementers.

BYSTANDERS are seductive to both movers and opposers since neither knows what bystanders are thinking and want to convince them to sign on. These folks are not that way voluntarily. They’ve been overshadowed or never given the encouragement or training to try a more public role. To help them participate, assign them a specific task without waiting for them to volunteer.

Ask for a private report (“check back with me”) because bystanders are afraid of being judged publicly.

Although meetings take place more regularly in the workplace, you can see the value of getting to know all this for family interactions as well. Consider how helpful it can be in your family discussions and even family arguments to recognize the types you’re dealing with, understand why they are that way and what you can do to help them get on board…

So here’s the bottom line: now that you have an informed, objective way to evaluate and understand who’s sitting across from you and why they do what they do, you’re on your way to being the great diplomat and constructive problem solver. Live. In the moment.

And that’s what really matters — doing it live. Because here’s a big secret– no matter how great your emails and Powerpoints are, you’ll never sell anything –or yourself –without finally doing it live, in person. And since I’ve spent my life teaching others how to communicate in person in this tougher, no-talk texting world,  I’ll be giving you ongoing insights into how to get your message across personally and make people listen to you.

I’ll be posting an ongoing series giving you insights and new approaches to getting your message across and making people sit up and listen to you.

A New Way to Handle Doctors

ImageY’know how we all take our health for granted? All is well and we just bump along when suddenly that all encompassing shift takes place that stops us dead in our tracks when illness strikes.

Well, the whole business of our relationship with doctors was suddenly in sharp focus as I recently became quite ill. No—there will be no organ recital in this blog post. But I do want to tell you about the sudden dependency and anonymity you’re thrown into when trying to navigate the whole medical care process. You don’t have to totally rely on the doctors – the only ones who can tell you what’s strong and how to treat it and get well. Suddenly they’re in charge.

So there I was, with 5 doctors handling my case, dealing with separate systems that had gone nuts. 5 doctors, each of whom saw me only through the filter of his/her specialty. Each called in to focus on the anonymous person with the crimps in her system

And I was being handled anonymously by them through my primary care doctor- they were talking to each other about me in their own private lingo from their special vantage point. I realized that I as a person really didn’t exist for them. They could address my system malfunctions but knew nothing about me and how this conglomeration of illnesses was affecting me- a whole person who was used to moving at top speed through life, quite in charge of my own faculties and choices.

So I thought I needed to emerge – to write a letter of introduction, telling them all whom they were dealing with, hoping for a personal connection and identity, generating a new look at me, not just my problems.

And I did it. I told them why I was writing, with a really a quick bio telling them who I was, what my life was about and why I needed their help to get me back to where I was, in lieu of actually meeting and getting to know them.

I had each letter hand-delivered, with a list of all five doctors and how they could call each other at the end of each letter. And y’know what? It worked like a charm! I got to talk to them with special appointments. One even gave me his cell phone number in the event I got anxious. And once again I felt really know and cared for.

Just a thought about some ways to break through today’s express systems and back to the old one-on-one personhood status. And stay healthy!!

P.S. All is well, mending, healing and a little wiser for wear.

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Changing Your Life’s Work

In today’s continuously transforming world, where you see yesterday’s plans and assumptions suddenly upended, people’s jobs and life’s work suddenly whisked away, we can all be challenged to question our assumptions and re-think our plans, our choices and our careers. Sometimes that confrontation is thrust at you and sometimes it simply grows out of that age-old question—“Is that all there is?”

I’ve asked myself that question and made a major change in my own life now. And I’m writing this blog to explore why and to hope that in this exploration I can help those who also question what’s next or who are compelled to answer that question.

I’ve asked myself “is that all there is?” nine times before this and each time I changed the course of my career and developed a new one. The standards were always about values—about what needed to be done in the world next, about what kind of social change should we be effecting. And after I determined that no one else was doing it, I’d turn my efforts into making that happen., I had great good luck in actually following my passions and doing it—nine times!  Going from musician to dancer to college prof at Radcliffe to television’s PBS teaching the arts to cultural reporting on Boston TV’s nightly news to my own TV talk show to creating the field of jury consulting and communicating at Harvard’s Law school, lecturing and authoring books, consulting on major cases, reaching millions as a contributor on national TV to business communication guru, author, lecturer, coach again —– until now.

Although I still do the consulting, lecturing and coaching, I’ve added number 10. This one’s not about changing the world anymore. It’s back to my roots as a performer and artist. Narrowing the focus. Going inside and in a very close, personal way, reaching out to a few people at a time as an actor, saying and showing what I think and feel through the words of others.  What a new voyage of discovery!! Not only of myself but of others who wanted to touch the world, to learn what they had to say and how they chose to say it. And you know what? I’m really doing it! I’m actually starring in a new play in New York in June, doing a performed reading of another and I’ve just done a short film up at Yale!

Why do this? Why the great effort to forge yourself into yet another framework? To learn and become something you haven’t been before? And at this time of my life when it might be time to consider a little coasting?

Because I’m here ! And alive! Looking to taste what I haven’t yet tried—to find out how this person-with what’s she’s learned and lived through — will process yet another aspect of our universe. And as for the courage to change? To try something new? The passion carries me right through the doubts and fears. “Let’s find out! Try it! If it doesn’t work, nothing terrible has happened. And if it does, what new seas shall you now sail on? What other Sonya Hamlin will you find there?”

So look to your passions. To what you always wanted to do or what you’ve discovered that you might like to try. Dare. Turn a deaf ear to the judgmental “What?”s you will hear. Find out who else is inside. Whom have you been carrying around all these years?  Grow forward. Don’t retreat or fold. Squeeze new adventures out of your time here…

The Secret of Getting People to Listen

Everything about communicating with each other has changed since technology has taken over what used to be a live person-to-person activity. Now that we “talk” electronically, the skills of personal communication – of talking face-to-face and making other people listen – is quietly dying. So what’s wrong with that?  We’re all quite pleased with the new ability to get our messages across fast and easy, with us in total control and no waiting.

But here’s the problem and the fact.  In order to finally make any sale, get any job, convince any boss about your new idea or make your mark and create your own brand — you must still, finally, do that in person. And that means not just being eloquent and interesting but making others listen…

Uh oh. Who’s willing to sit still and listen while you just talk, these days? That’s seen as a retro, boring, time-wasting format. We’re the Google generation- we get information instantly, on our own. No waiting! Plus–since the number oone motivation for anything we do is self-interest–how will you handle the inevitable roadblock anyone puts up when you ask for attention–“Why should I listen to this? What’s in it for me?

Major challenges. So what’s the secret to getting and keeping any listener-audience of one or many today. Know your audience! Start with that “Me First” factor. Otherwise you’ll never be able to get past that inevitable roadblock they put up – their  “Why should I listen to this? What’s in it for me?” attitude,  and you’ll lose them at the start.

Here’s how you do this:  The number one human motivation for doing anything has always been, and still is, self-interest. That means we all have a “Me First” factor. To satisfy that, you must focus on your audience’s main concerns – what are their needs, fears, goals—before you satisfy your own.

Great. How do you get this info about an audience you haven’t seen or don’t know? By asking about them or by simply putting yourself in their shoes as you focus on the following:

Who’s your audience (of one or many)? What do he/she/ they care most about right now? How much do they already know about your subject? How and why can your pitch or presentation actually help, interest or intrigue them? How can you best show and tell that?  Plus one more: What do they expect you to say – something you want to avoid at all costs or you’ll lose them.

Just think about today’s issues. You know them. And focus on our common fears. Those answers will come clear to you pretty quickly. Then get more specific for each group as you think about their special issues and problems.

Answering those questions — hitting your audience’s buttons and connecting what you want with what they care about– becomes the basis for how you organize your presentation. Their concerns become your opening- the lasso you throw out to catch them and hang on to them as you develop your theme and explain what you want to tell them.

So, the secret to making anyone listen is – reach out to them with what they care about, first. Then include yourself and what you want.

Saying NO to a Friend or Colleague

Most of us are pretty bad at this. How about you? Is saying NO when you really don’t want to do something really hard to do? So why do we have such trouble telling the truth and finding ways to “just say no”? Here’s the heart of it.

Someone asks you to do them a favor. Problem: if you say no you may lose a friend or work colleague—he/she will be mad, think you’re selfish, uncooperative, mean etc. and you’ll feel bad. SO you lie: you say “yes”. Result? Others get what they want and you end up feeling weak and really mad at yourself. “What a wuss I was” etc.

Good news! Here’s a better option than Just Say Yes (they win) or Just Say No (you could lose). How about you both win and each gets some of what you need? Plus you keep your self-respect because you learn to say what you really mean?

Learn to talk and explain- not to just say OK.

To a colleague at work who asks for help creating a report? “You know I’d love to help but do I have a problem! I’m way over my head right now working on a deadline, and I’m so stuck! But here’s what I can do…” Then go on to accept something you can help with and show where and how the rest of problem might get solved.  See how you both win?

He/she gets your help but within reason. By letting your colleague in on the truth, you’ve shown your problem and your willingness. You end up helping but only as much as you can – and want to.

With friends it’s often even harder to say no. But how about this?

“Wow, this is tough. You know I’d hate to turn you down – afraid it would hurt our friendship, that you’d get mad or something and I surely don’t want that. But those earrings (equipment, book, whatever) – that’s very difficult.” Then explain why—sentimental, one of a kind, gets broken easily…

“ So now — see why I can’t do that. But how about this?” Then offer an option—“I can surely lend, do, offer this.”

See- the secret to saying No is to take care of BOTH people’s needs by telling the truth. Telling the truth first about how you feel and what you can and can’t do, rather than just knuckling under and then feeling resentful. It puts you in a pro-active position but it also presents your reality.

Engage your friend or colleague in a mutually beneficial solution. It empowers both of you. You’re still a good, helpful friend and colleague. And you’re feeling good about it all. Just remember—the truth shall set you free…

THE ART OF BUSINESS AND SOCIAL NETWORKING

In the age of social media, getting “connected” is easier than ever. But what about connecting live — in a roomful of strangers?

This blog post is about talking to people you don’t know — about striking up a conversation with a stranger — like at a new job, a cocktail party or a business function. This one challenges us with “How do I get started?”, “What do I say first?”, “What would make a positive impression?”

So let’s explore what gets us scared and look at some new approaches that can smooth the way.

Here’s the scene: You’re going to a cocktail party relating to your business or profession and you want to connect. You walk into a room filled with people who know each other and you don’t. (The principles we’ll talk about are the same whether it’s social or otherwise).

Feeling different, left out, a little lost, you’re nervous about being awkward, pushy, sounding —- or being accepted. That’s the first obstacle. And here’s Principle 1: Accept your feelings! They’re natural, common to us all! Don’t fight them and lecture yourself. Just think, “Nervous? Sure. That’s OK. Now —”

Principle 2: Take a breath and Make A Move! Nothing will happen if you just stand there. You’re looking at people – motivated by the same systems you are. We all like to be noticed, made to feel important, selected, and yes— even asked for a little help! Makes us feel powerful, wise and useful. SO—walk up to whoever looks appealing to you and disarm them by telling the truth (a surprise to most everybody).

“Hello—I’m —– (name) , a stranger here, feeling a little outside of things. I don’t know anyone but I would surely like to. How are you connected to this organization?” There’s the secret! ASK A QUESTION. Why? You’ve given them all kinds of power— asked about their expertise, raised their status, showed interest in them and gotten them to talk to you. Connection!

Principle 3: Listen for clues! What they tell you presents hooks for how you can enter into their conversation and make your own little dent. Connect to what they say— find where you can fit into their statement. DON’T go off onto the wonders of you or try to top them. That’s threatening and too self-serving. You’re there to make a link or a friend. Let them lead—you’ll get your chance, I promise.

Bottom line: Rely on the things you know you’d like when you’re reaching out to others. No airs, no acting, no trite, clever little openers. Be honest. Open. Authentic. It disarms and surprises folks. And it makes you recognizable. Being yourself will give you the courage to step forward and start.

So- take a breath and just do it!

Can You Ever Have Your Cake And Eat it Too?

Y’know, those old folk sayings– corny, trite, hooked in yesteryear? They last for a reason. They put the finger on an enduring human truth. Here’s the above adage about greed being played out today in a 3D media frenzy.

Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien were the cakes and NBC was the greedy and ill-fated owner/consumer.

How did they get into such a mess?  It started with evaluating their once and future audiences. “Jay’s OK now but 5 years from now? Gotta move the older guy and advance a younger one to capture those 18-49ers. (the prime TV market targets).”

NBC decides “We can have it all. Let’s make Conan the Prince of Wales. Then, owning Leno, we let the king slowly peter out and slip Conan right onto that throne, not missing a beat. And we even keep Leno too, in a new time slot. We can have it all (the cake, that is)!” So what happened? Jay kept doing fine with his mixed-age market. Conan fit in with his slotted audience too, but not with the other one.

The cake-eaters in the front office ate too much too fast. TV watchers knew what they liked. And didn’t. Leno and O’Brien fit into people’s needs exactly where they were. And those prophets in the front office? They need to borrow from another adage–“pull their heads out of the sand.”  Then go downstairs and find out how folks really think and act.  And boy, have they got the generations all wrong! More about them next time.