Giving a talk last week on The Art of Conversation, I mentioned a kind of conversation called Thing Talk. Thing Talk is conversation about such subjects as weather, cars, fashion, computers, banks, money, widgets and whatsits, facts and information – any subject in fact except the people having the conversation – you and me. Subjects include abstractions such as management, quantitative easing, strategy, immigration, liberty, freedom, war against terror … how familiar we all are with such terms! But – note this – not a single personal pronoun: no I, no you, no me or us.
Thing Talk forms the common vocabulary of business and politics. If you have a business document to hand, have a look and count the number of objects and abstract terms – quite a lot? And now count the personal pronouns – not so many?
Thing Talk often uses passive grammatical constructions that dodge the necessity for personal pronouns, for instance, “It has been decided” or “Problems have been encountered”. It’s no surprise that business speakers use such non-attributable language to announce bad news:
After due consideration the environmental agenda has had to be postponed.
(not ‘we postponed’ or I ‘postponed’ – no personal responsibility)
But good news? Out pop the self-validating personal pronouns!
I’m very pleased to be able to announce that I have extended our flexible working scheme to include all of you, whatever your role.
People can tie us in knots with abstract language – it’s unspecified and unmeasured and therefore hard to pin down. If you ever become mired in abstract Thing Talk and want to regain some control or get the other party to assume responsibility, bring you and me back into the conversation – that changes the dynamic!
It has been decided that … bla bla …
So what exactly have you decided to do?
Yet how often people look down upon those who don’t have the business and establishment jargon. A highly successful rugby coach being interviewed for a sports programme was asked to talk about the factors that contributed to his phenomenal success with his team. The rugby coach, not highly articulate, struggled for a while to express himself. Abandoning the attempt, he suddenly burst out, “Oh, damn it – I just love the b*****ds!”
– a pretty shrewd description in my book. Erich Fromm commented:
Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence.
You and me – personal connection. That’s where trust is born. Build trust, and influence follows.
The hostage taking
Personal connection helped to save the lives of Camilla Carr and Jon James. This week I had a cup of tea with Camilla, a kind, warm and highly inspirational woman who gives talks all over the world to corporations and NGOs, in schools and in prisons, on the power of choice in challenging situations
In 1997 Camilla Carr and Jon James travelled to Chechnya to set up a rehabilitation centre for children traumatised by war. After three months they were kidnapped in the night by armed Chechen rebels. Held hostage for fourteen months they experienced everything from threat of execution, rape and mental torture to moments of compassion and kindness. They survived by using Tai Chi, meditation, humour, and crucially by creating a dialogue with their captors, looking beneath their masks of fear and anger to reach the small flame of love and laughter unquenched by the demonising nature of war.
Camilla and Jon wrote a powerful book, The Sky is Always There, on their experiences. Time and again, in the worst experiences of their captivity, they emphasize human connection. The book begins with this quote:
our nature is love
our nurture is fear.
The power of human connection
“Being human….” When we converse on a human level and express personal thoughts, feelings and intuitions, we have the opportunity to draw nearer to each other and build understanding and trust. When we use impersonal and abstract talk we maintain our distance and tend to keep prejudices in place. Drawing near (‘our nature is love’) we can influence each other; maintaining our distance (‘our nurture is fear’) we are much less likely to influence or inspire.
In our current world, all too often people’s use of language keeps them separated. You might want to spend a day or an hour listening to the everyday talk of your own environments to spot the language of personal connection and disconnection. It can be very revealing. Who uses which language? When do they use it? What about your own language?
Abstract talk is not going to save our planet; personal connection might.
A warm invitation to my new “Pay What You Will” NLP DIPLOMA!
3 x 2-day modules, starting March in Hammersmith. Register here.
Highly respected NLP Diploma in London, and this year – apart from a small fee to assure your place – pay what you will! I’ve run NLP Diploma and Practitioner trainings since 2005, and this is the first time, to widen access, that I’ve offered it on this basis.
This course gives you the best of NLP, and its benefits are many and lasting – the most frequently mentioned include enhanced communication skills, better judgement of others, increased self-knowledge and the ability to effect change and manage your own life better. You acquire a tool bag of invaluable new skills, and emerge more confident, positive, competent and proactive. You can read some former participants’ comments here.
The only required up-front payment is £24 per day booking charge (£48 per module) to secure your place. After that, you’re invited to contribute anonymously into a funding box at the course any additional contribution you’d like to make towards your own and others’ training.
Well-tested way to confidence as a speaker – the Voice of Influence Workshop
Next course 26-27 February 2015. Sign up very soon if you’d like a place. Book here.
If you’ve ever thought you’d like to be a more confident and effective speaker, but have felt daunted to do a course, don’t put it off any longer. In these two days in a very small group – with plenty of practical work and a sense of humour – you find your voice, authority and ability to connect with any audience. You’ll go home with a whole variety of new skills and the sure confidence to know that you can speak powerfully on any occasion. Here are some testimonials from previous participants.
If you’re stuck at work or in life or don’t find satisfaction and joy in what you do, coaching can be of enormous benefit to find your purpose and direction. Email me or give me a call if you want to know more.
Free E-courses on speaking and confidence
My books – available on Amazon & elsewhere in print, audio & e-versions
The Art of Conversation Whether you’re shy and don’t know what to say or feel you blabber on, or want to make more meaningful connections with people, you’ll find lots of helpful material.
Butterflies and Sweaty Palms If you want to overcome performance nerves, this reader-friendly book offers 25 different strategies for speaking and presenting with confidence – and they work!
Voice and Speaking Skills For Dummies A comprehensive guide to voice and speaking – dip in anywhere and discover practical tips for developing a more robust and interesting voice. Includes audio CD.
Voice of Influence Gets to the heart of voice – how to connect with other people and influence others through your voice. Plenty of personal experiences and practical advice.
Here’s to connection!