“Facts don’t care about your feelings” is a popular meme attributed to Ben Shapiro, the American writer, political commentator, and self-described member of the Intellectual Dark Web: an emerging cadre of new media public intellectuals. For some, he is a fearless speaker of truth. For others, he’s a regressive provocateur. It depends on one’s sensibilities.
And that’s the starting point for this blog. When Ben lays out an argument he often says that he genuinely doesn’t care how others may feel about it. I think it’s fair to say that (in the public sphere at least) he elevates rational thought above all else: an idea that seems alien to many people.
In the workplace too, there are people like Ben. There are people who are the polar opposite of Ben. And there are people who sit somewhere in between. But an indisputable truth is that, in any enterprise, it’s people who drive outcomes. And people are motivated in different ways: some more by facts and some more by feelings. So it’s self-evident that adopting a more agile approach to people-motivating skills can deliver better outcomes.
Most people want to be heard and understood. As a leader at the sharp-end of delivering results in a complex organisation, it can be tough to find the time to dialogue effectively. Or often enough. Especially with people who are not like you. I get that. But however busy you are, it’s worth creating some extra time for some other people (and you know already which people I’m talking about in your sphere).
Here are a few dots that I’ve connected over the course of my life, and my career as an executive coach and adult educator; some of them may be helpful to you.
1. Seek first to understand, then to be understood1
This is a concept that has echoed throughout the ages of mankind. The central idea being that most people talk too much, and don’t listen enough.
2. Take some time to let the tale unfold
If you give a person 30 minutes of uninterrupted time to speak, you will learn a lot about them. Listen actively, don’t judge, ask clarifying questions, but let them speak. Eventually you will hear something along the lines of: “…which doesn’t seem right to me”. That’s a breakthrough moment which will reveal something intimate, and very important.
3. Tell me more about that
Stick with curiosity in that moment. Your own thoughts and feelings about the things that don’t seem right are irrelevant. Did anybody ask you to agree yet?! You’ll recognise this moment when you notice the words “Yes, but” about to come out of your mouth. Swallow those words! Simply say: “Tell me more about that.” And continue to listen actively.
4. Simplify, Clarify
When it’s an appropriate time to speak, here’s a good way to begin: “If I understand you correctly, what is important to you is X, Y, Z. Am I right?”. And if you are not right, do like it says on the shampoo bottle: rinse and repeat.
5. Read your vital signs
At this point you will have broadly heard one of three things: a) “that’s not fair”, b) “that’s not accurate”, c) “that’s not actionable”. This is a potential danger zone; a moment when your own interpretation of the ‘stuff’ could cause you to feel triggered. Pay attention to your ‘gut’. That Fight or Flight or Freeze feeling is invaluable data. High performance people know how to bring that data into dialogue.
6. May I share?
People with strong dialogue skills will take this moment to ask permission to share. Describe the ways in which your own thoughts and feelings diverge from those that you have heard and understood from the other person. But this isn’t an opportunity to dismiss what you have heard, or to use your ‘senior power’ (if you have any). You are merely asking for the same listening courtesy to be extended to you.
7. Where are we now?
By this time you should each have a better understanding of what makes the other one ‘tick’, and where your differences lie. Spend some time to clearly articulate the ‘gaps’ that exist between your respective thoughts/feelings, without judging or criticising them. Treat them as a phenomenon; your individual realities are not the same. It can be helpful to imagine this bundle of differences as a fish on the table between you. It’s not you, it’s not him/her. It’s a fish that you have co-created.
8. What are WE going to do about this?
We don’t often get to choose our clients or colleagues, and differences are bound to arise. But if you have gotten this far it’s fair to assume that you care about your relationship with this person, and vice versa. But you need to clean and gut that fish2, or it will begin to stink and decompose!
Occasionally I have heard people say: “This isn’t personal, it’s purely business.” And that’s actually a very well-intentioned thought. But it ignores a reality that, for some people, business is entirely about the personal. A subtle, but powerful alternative could begin something like this: “I really value my relationship with you. How can we move forward in a way that preserves that, and still achieves a good business outcome?”
If you put the above steps into practice, I guarantee that you will take much of the heat or awkwardness out of your difficult conversations. You may easily, naturally, create a better dialogue towards a better outcome. And if you need some practice with the techniques, or are interested in a workshop for your team, get in touch with Dramatic Difference. Our dynamic theatre-led learning style has helped many clients to build high performance teams through effective dialogue.
Artificial Intelligence. It’s all around us.
Think Amazon suggestions, Spotify picking your next song, Google search answers, Netflix recommendations and the list goes on. From speech-powered personal assistants like Siri to voice compression algorithms and autonomous cars equipped with predictive abilities, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has come a long way.
AI refers to the simulation of human intelligence processes executed by machines. Indeed, its prevalence in our daily routines has made a significant difference in the world we live in today. Communications has also been greatly disrupted by the breakthrough of AI, slowly but surely.
Is AI taking over the world? To a certain extent, this might be true. While not everyone’s been enthusiastic about its rise, advances in AI have led to fundamental changes in the workplace. Leaders are rethinking how their businesses can be run with the help of AI’s powerful tools that can be applied to everything, from compliance to data collection, and streamlining processes to increase the overall level of efficiency.
However, AI should not be perceived as a Machiavellian robot scheming to end mankind. In fact, it can be the positive force behind the innovative transformations in our lives. In the world of public relations (PR), for example, AI has enabled brands to better interact and build deeper relations with key audiences. It would be a prodigious blunder to think that PR is on the brink of disappearing!
With AI, brands are able to leverage data sets to predict the reactions of the public more accurately and follow up with more targeted actions.
So, let’s pause for a cause and focus on the powerful combination of AI and PR working in synergy to better engage with your customers and grow your brand(s).
Consumer insights lead to improved astuteness
Good news for businesses – more information on consumers than ever before! With the most relevant and specific information on hand, brands can stay current with customers and quickly create personalised content to suit their specific interests and/or needs.
Through data collection across various channels, AI can successfully gather engagement metrics and conversion statistics. With data gathering tools, marketers can segment consumer metrics based on various factors like demographics and purchasing power.
Prior to AI, chunks of information without any organisation, otherwise known as big data, were used in businesses. It was difficult and extremely time-consuming to sieve through the information. With the help of AI, the deluge of data can now be digested into bite-sized information, enabling PR professionals to gain a better understanding of their audience’s core attributes through patterns and trends drawn from the data. The resulting encompassing patterns help professionals to discern customer preferences across a more intricate marketing strategy.
Tailored content options
AI is also redefining the customer experience by locking in consumers’ needs and wants, and improving their overall shopping experience. Have you ever noticed the content you see on your Facebook feed and news recommendations are all aligned with your interests? E-commerce platforms like Alibaba and Zalora also offer shopping that is highly personalised. Algorithms process articles by heavily scrutinising the locations of readers, what they engage in on social media as well as any other publicly obtainable information. Since the objective of AI is to find out what consumers are looking for and how they want their information to be reflected, it’s no surprise that AI is the mastermind behind all your tailored content options.
Still, professionals ought to be aware of not overstepping boundaries in the course of leveraging data to offer customised options. Customer privacy should not be compromised at the expense of creating more personalised experiences as doing so may backfire and result in consumers feeling as if their privacy is being invaded!
Higher consumer engagement with data-driven communication
Before AI came into existence, humans carried out mundane tasks like distribution of press releases and the creation of automated media lists. AI is now assisting with these duties, making it easier for businesses to reach out to target consumers directly. This can also help brands engage with the relevant target groups more efficiently than their competitors.
Given the rapid speed at which AI processes data, the accuracy of messaging is also increasing proportionally. This, in turn, helps PR professionals to ensure the delivery of strong and direct brand messaging to clients.
Advancements in AI technologies also contribute to determining predictive decisions of consumers based on the patterns detected. To better cater to the needs of the consumers, AI provides suggestions within a brand for the consumers. Since every consumer reacts differently to brand content and advertising, AI can help to tweak platform performance based on interactions with consumers and their purchases to improve each consumer’s shopping experience, using the data provided by social media interactions.
With the daily addition of content to the Internet – from blog posts to social media updates and netizen comments – AI plays an important role in comprehending the potential consequences of any crisis and acting as a pundit by giving professional guidance.
Predicting a crisis is difficult. Given a quick examination of social posts, AI can overcome this challenge. With ample caution, social media posts that have been pre-scheduled can be prevented from being posted automatically, and PR professionals can quickly “go into crisis management mode” and craft more suitable posts.
In the PR sphere, crisis management is, without a doubt, one of the biggest challenges. That being said, accurate information and communication-intensive efforts aid in identifying paramount events and topics – all of which cannot be achieved without AI.
With AI dominating the world we live in, there is always the fear that machines would replace humans one day. But let’s focus on the positive aspects of AI. Improved efficiency. Greater creativity. Optimized target consumers.
Posted by Shermaine Sim, CorpMedia