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.

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The Stumbles in Changing Careers

Well, I’ve been so busy with my new career – acting – that I keep being surprised that my old career—lecturing and consulting as a communication specialist and jury consultant – still keeps calling.

Suddenly I have a whole raft of speaking engagements coming up—talking to the East Coast’s  appellate and federal judges and lawyers, to executives at the National League of Cities conference, and to other conferences in  Miami and California  as well as also consulting on cases with one of my long-time clients.

And here I thought that was all over because I’m acting now!

I’m actually preparing to do the play I did Off Broadway in New York again  at  Shakespeare & Co.’s Studio Festival here in Lenox, MA on Labor Day. This is where they try out plays for next year’s season (!!) and you can imagine how that’s really occupying my mind.

Problem is—I am of two minds.  I had to read 700 pages of depositions to prepare for my consulting work next week while I am re-studying and memorizing my script again to be book-free for the play’s performance. And these two minds don’t sit lightly in my head.

My consulting mind is outer-directed – looking, thinking, analyzing facts as presented by an expert witness. How can I help make him clearer, more credible, more persuasive? To make his points more swiftly to a jury that doesn’t listen anymore since email and texting? To keep within the parameters of trial law and also make him not be so defensive, so obstructive, so self-aggrandizing? So I’m all involved in analyzing why he does what he does and finding ways to reach into that place and turn him in a new direction with new understanding – something I’ve done many times before, an always demanding, consuming process.

Yet my other mind – the acting one, the use-your-heart-and-soul one – is inner directed. Totally involved in my becoming another character. In my being what I want my witness to be – credible, clear, persuasive- reaching out to my audience to make them experience and identify with the woman I’m playing. To understand her, agonize with her, feel her almost be her. This work  is so internal and self-focused while the other is so other- directed, so intent on understanding someone else and affecting his behavior—making him help his jury-audience not only get his message (which is quite technical and complex) but also like and respect him.

So—career transitions are not easy. The paths are diverse and crowded with demands and issues and striving and yes, concern about how well can I do the new while I sink back down into the comfort of the old one I know. But life is full of challenges and how lucky I am to be able to choose mine and to make the uphill climb a willing one, not one that was just thrust upon me. I’m so grateful and aware of that.

What Happens When You Try a New Career

This blog-voice has been quiet for a few weeks (so unlike me!) but I was hardly silent during that time. I was acting in a wonderful new play, off- Broadway, as part of adding career number 10 – acting – to the others I’ve created in my continuous quest for self-expression and making a difference.

So this blog post is all about what happens when you launch yourself into the stratosphere of a new career. And I hope that it helps you try something new yourself.

The single most important surprise is the depth of the new territory and how much there is to learn. When was the last time you started learning something very deep and very new? Don’t you think that as we grow deeper into the years of our lives, we kind of find comfort levels in what we already know and we don’t face the challenge of new learning very often?

Well, here’s how it felt to go into new territory: I began building the character I was playing based on my small amount of past formal training, my greater amount of experience and my highly developed performer instincts. But my director confronted me with “Why does she say this here?” “What in her past created this reaction?” “ Would she really be this nice here? Why?”  So I found myself articulating answers I just had inside without ever knowing that I did, forcing myself to go into greater depths and think through so many aspects of her life in order to arrive at how I’d play each scene. And I discovered that I really could do that…

I also scared myself to death, thinking, “What have you done? Maybe you can’t memorize 48 pages of mainly you talking (I was the star of the show…) And there you’ll be, with your bare face hanging out!” That voice of self-doubt almost did me in as, true to a self-fulfilling prophecy, I did blank out totally in our first full-play rehearsal! The panic! The terror! The picture of me standing onstage with a full audience like an idiot and going blank! Did I ever reach out to friends to come and read lines with me endlessly till I convinced myself that I really DID know the whole thing. Oh, what agony!

So- taking on a new career meant conquering that self- doubt, that fear. Confronting that voice that seems to be alive and well in all of us, ready to rise up and squash our dreams at a moment’s notice. Talking back to that destructive spirit,  challenging it and finding a way to hold your own and prevail. To believe you can. That you will. And to finally allow yourself the joy of the experience. What new skills! What a new view of myself!

I’ve written this to help you all dare to stick the big toe in some new, very cold water. Although what you don’t know can scare you, you can screw up your courage to try, to dare to learn and explore. Don’t let the insecurity of being out of the old familiar comfort zones make you turn back.  Swallow hard, plant your feet  and fight! Fight for a new adventure—and what new corners of yourself you can explore and grow with. Find yourself in a whole new role, reacting and adjusting in totally new ways. Discover who else you are and can be— this is such a deeply rewarding venture. Try it! One big toe. Very cold water. See what happens… 

 

 

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.

CRITICISM WITHOUT PAIN

HOW TO GIVE IT-HOW TO RECEIVE IT

The biggest problem about criticism is that it can deliver pain. We all hate that (I think we all hate that) so we either avoid criticizing by letting things slide or we lie or else we’re so irate that we do it full guns a-blazin’ and accomplish only hurt or anger, disbelief or denial. That’s absolutely counter to what criticism is supposed to do.

  • The Main Purpose of Criticism is to FIX SOMETHING
  • It’s meant to be constructive- not destructive
  • It should end with a positive result

HOW-TO FOR CRITICS

What We do Wrong

1. The YOU word. Don’t start with blame- “Look how badly you did that!” “This work (or whatever) you did looks terrible”. Splat goes the self-confidence. Being so judgmental removes step one in fixing anything—the idea that we possibly could fix it.
2. Blaming indulges the critic. But it provokes anger and defensiveness in the “blamee”                                                                                                                                                          3. Blaming derails constructive problem-solving, since you’ve already said you have no faith in this person.

Criticizing Creatively

1. First- reassure your listener that he/she can surely fix whatever by talking about what went RIGHT! What did you like? What worked? That gets you off on the right “I know you can do it” foot.
2. Focus on the facts, never on the person. “Can’t understand how this job went through without X being checked.”. Name what went wrong—not who did it wrong.
3. Ask before you accuse. Easy, non-accusatory questions to discover the roots of the problem, what processes were involved., what didn’t work for you. Then you can start fixing what and who went wrong.
4. Adopt a no-fault policy. Make your criticism a fact-finding mission. Focus on the problem and how to prevent it’s happening again.
5. Be specific. Not ”I didn’t like that report” or ‘The party was terrible”. What exactly went wrong and needs fixing? How can folks fix what they don’t understand or didn’t even recognize?
6. Ask for a creative solution. Don’t solve and dictate on your own—that won’t work or last very long. Engage the other person in helping solve what you didn’t like— then they’ll know what to do and why and also feel empowered. And that you have faith in
them.
7. Build in a fail-safe check-in . If it’s a report, ask them to show you the first draft. A party? Go over the menu and decorations in the planning stage. Engage in what went wrong by helping solve the issue along the way.

HOW-TO FOR WHEN YOU’RE CRITICIZED

What We Do Wrong

1. Don’t react at once, jumping to your own defense. That sets up a competition about who’s right and if it’s the boss or an elder or a person in power, you lose.
2. Defensiveness is a weak and hostile position. It means you’re notready to listen or correct something and cuts off possible constructive dialogue.
3. Denying what went wrong or arguing that it’s not important or telling how others reacted to the issue is another no-no. If this person needs you to fix something, it needs fixing!

Creative Listening

1. Listen first. Concentrate on two things: What is being said and how it’s being said. This gives you a heads-up on how the other person feels and will create more appropriate reactions.
2. Ask questions. Get clear about exactly what you need to fix.  What has made this person so unhappy/mad/critical.
3. Say that you’re so sorry to hear this since you knew how important the report etc. was and that you worked really hard on it.
4. Get specific answers about what else was needed. Ask about the goals, which demographic needs the most focus, what aspect specifically was not working.
5. If you feel there’s more the boss needs to know about what processes didn’t work, add this now, as a helpful , constructive  suggestion, not an excuse.
6. Ask for a progress check. To be sure you’re both on the same page, check in along the way in your next effort.

Special Way to End and Leave

1. Say “Thanks for Telling Me.” What? Here you are, you’ve just been criticized. It may have been done badly, or cruelly, or  whatever and you may still feel angry or hurt and you should do  what? Yes, say “Thanks for being so straight with me. It gives
me a chance to fix what went wrong and tells me that you have  faith in me, in my handling the truth and in my ability to fix this.
I like to do good work and this helps me understand more of  what you want.”
2. Walk out with a smile and your head up high. No hangdog slinking  0ut of the room. This also helps the boss feel better, seeing that you could take it in and not fold. Since no one likes to criticize, this helps.

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…