The Power of Being Present

Last week, my sister and I went into the town of Pittsford, NY to the Ben & Jerry’s store for some ice cream on a beautiful Friday night. The excruciating decision between Karamel Sutra or Imagine Whirled Peace almost doing me in, it was a relief to get my ice cream and head outside to sit on a bench.

Shortly thereafter, a little girl about 5 or 6, her brother and parents head out of the store with their ice cream. They sit down on the curbside near my bench. As the family is enjoying the ice cream, the little girl asks her parents “Why do they call it Mango, Mango Sorbet?”

“Because it’s made with Mangoes” her father replies somewhat impatiently.

“Then how come it isn’t called Mango Sorbet? Why Mango, MANGO Sorbet?”

At this point, my sister and I are laughing at the reasonable questioning of this little girl. Her parents went on with their conversation. This wasn’t the first or last amusing thing this little girl came up with but her parents seemed too preoccupied to notice.

I mentioned to my sister that it’s sad that many parents seem too busy, distracted, or just plain tired to appreciate some of the things their children come up with. My sister – having raised four children all two years apart from each other – replied “that’s just the way it is.”

That answer left me, and still has me, bothered. It’s not that I am blaming the parents for doing anything wrong or different than the rest of us do. It’s just that I thought it was sad. This little girl couldn’t have been cuter or more entertaining but her parents’ conversation took precedence. And from what I could hear (okay, eavesdrop) it had to do with gas prices!

The worldwide webcast of Eckart Tolle and Oprah (from Tolle’s book The New Earth) had as one of its themes “being present”. While watching these webcasts, I realized how much of our time is spent in the past or future – but rarely in the present.

Just monitor your thoughts and conversation for an hour. See how much of the time you are truly present. It’s not necessarily negative or positive thoughts but sometimes just neutral thoughts that take us out of the present.

In Yoga some weeks when I am supposed to be meditating – I’m off making a grocery list in my head. “Don’t forget the strawberries, oh and get some milk”.

As the aunt to 10 nieces and nephews and 5 great nieces and nephews (and one on the way!!!), I have done a lot, A LOT, of babysitting in my life. One thing I always noticed was that the only time the kids misbehaved was when I wasn’t paying attention to them. If they had my attention, there was no reason for them to act up.

But as soon as I was on the phone with a friend or watching something on TV, all hell would break loose. Now when I see children acting up, I look to see what the parents are doing. Every time, the parent is distracted and not paying attention to the child.

Am I saying that children should be the center of a parent’s attention every single minute of every day? No, because that would be unrealistic and impossible. There is work and chores and other things that have to get done. But I would wager to say that many parents would admit to rarely being completely present with their children and therefore, not enjoying their children as often as they would like to.

The next time your child is annoying you, stop and think about what you’re doing and if you were to redirect your attention to them, even for a short time, would they calm down?

If you’ve ever seen the show “Super Nanny” one of the first things the Nanny encourages parents to do is to set up a schedule for the home. Included on this schedule are specific times for each parent to spend some quality time with each child with no distractions. Play time. The beautiful thing is that when we are truly playing – guess what – we’re in the present.

Whether you have children or not, look for opportunities to be completely present with those around you.

Timing – Why You Should Never Go Overtime with Your Presentation or Speech

In a conference setting, nothing annoys audiences more than talks that go overtime. It shows a lack of consideration for the audience, and to be frank, there is absolutely no excuse for it if the speaker has prepared well.

Many seminars and conferences are run on a tight schedule with multiple rooms running multiple talks at the same time. If one speaker carelessly goes overtime, it means the delegates might miss a portion of the next talk in another room. Even if you are the only speaker scheduled, it still shows a lack of consideration to go over time. Some in the audience may have scheduled transport at a specific time, others might have appointments planned. Never assume that just because you don’t have anywhere else to be, that it is okay to go overtime.

Something else happens when a talk goes overtime. As the allotted time draws to a close, many in the audience will start to look at their watches and fidget, and the speaker will lose their attention. The longer this goes on for, the worse it gets and more and more in the audience will join in this practice. Ultimately when the speaker does conclude, the audience will be so annoyed at how much he has gone overtime that the value of the message will be lost.

Even the speaker himself will suffer by going overtime. As he comes to the realisation of how little time is left, as well as knowing he is losing the attention of the audience, he will tend to panic and rush through the final section, trying to cram it all in. The problem with doing that is the talk will cease to be effective. If a conclusion is rushed, it is pointless. A conclusion needs the proper amount of time to be effective.

The best thing to do if you are running out of time is to skip a sub-point or two so that you can still present a powerful conclusion. Depending on the circumstances you may still be able to briefly state the point(s) that you don’t have time to fully cover, and then move on. Again, preparation means knowing what points are key to your talk, and what secondary points could be missed out if necessary.

If you track your time in each section of your talk, you should not have this problem at all, because you will never get too far behind. Of course, this means having a watch or clock easily visible. Don’t continually glance at your watch as this is distracting, it is far better to hide a clock somewhere on the stage so that you can easily glance at it when required. Alternatively, a small digital clock could be placed on the podium, near your notes.

At the other end of the scale, occasionally some speakers find that they have prepared too little material, and they have lots more time available to them. Rather than attempting to fill the time by waffling and padding out the material, it is better to finish early. By all means slow the pace a little, and make use of the extra time that way, but don’t feel that you have to fill every last second, because your talk will lose its effectiveness. It should be noted that the problem of being under time is very unusual. In most cases, if there is a problem with timing it will be that you are running out of it!

As a guide, bear in mind that your talk will ALWAYS take considerably more time when presenting it live, as opposed to when you time your rehearsals. Allow for this, and if anything, err on the side of caution by preparing less material than you think you need. This requires discipline because the natural tendency is to cram as much information as possible into a presentation.

Proper timing also includes allocating appropriate portions of time to each section of your talk, so that it is balanced. Each point should have the right amount of time apportioned to it in order to develop it and make it clear. Key sections of your material will obviously need more time to develop than the minor points.

Use Power Words Shrewdly To Negotiate Successfully

Words have power and in a negotiation, you’re perceived as being more powerful when you shrewdly use words that the other negotiator perceives as possessing strength.

When we speak, our words have an impact on the person with whom we’re conversing. Thus, we affect that person from a negative, or positive perspective, based on what we say, how we say it, and the manner in which it’s perceived. If you want your negotiations to be successful, discover how and when to use power words that influence the other negotiator and implement the following suggestions.

1. Using power words:

Power words are words that convey a stronger commitment to a position than words that would leave the listener in a precarious state of mind, related to a less than stringent perception that he otherwise might have. Some words, convey a less than strong commitment to a position (i.e. maybe, try, might, possibly, I think). In addition, by using such words, you weaken your position, while leaving yourself open to challenges. To be perceived as possessing a stronger commitment to your negotiation position, use words that convey more conviction (i.e. I know, success, will do, guarantee).

Note: To be perceived as being stronger, speak to what you’re for, not for what you’re against. Manage the level of negativity that could seep into the negotiation.

2. Before the negotiation:

Prior to the negotiation, ask yourself, what demeanor you wish to project and how much power you want to convey in the negotiation. If you project an image that’s too strong, or overbearing, you can alienate the other negotiator. Therefore, you have to measure the degrees of power carried by your words. Your words must be compatible with the manner in which the other negotiator is accustomed to receiving such messages and have the same meaning as he understands their conveyance.

3. Body language:

Being able to read and interpret body language gives a negotiator an advantage. Even when you use the appropriate words to match the situation, you still have to deliver those words in a manner that’s perceived as being in alignment with the actions of your body. If the situation does not call for it, avoid the appearance of being perceived as brash. You don’t want to have the other negotiator be in agreement with your position, only to have him back away, because he adopts a feeling of buyer’s remorse, due to a misalignment between your words and actions.

4. Assumptive questions used for power:

When negotiating, there are ways to use questions to gather additional information, to which the other negotiator assumes you already have the answers. This tactic is called using assumptive questions.

Assumptive questions are secondary questions that bypass an initial question that implies you already know the answer to the question that was bypassed (e.g. What led you to lowering your price in the past?). In a non-assumptive question environment, the initial question would be, have you lowered your price in the past?

By asking the assumptive question, what led you to lowering your price in the past, you give the impression that you know the other negotiator lowered his price at some point. When placed in such a position, the other negotiator will go into reflective mode, in an attempt to determine if you’re aware of the fact that he lowered his price in the past. Even if he states that he did not lower his price in the past, you’ve gain additional information about his negotiation position, and thus the reason this tactic is so powerful.

5. Conclusion:

From your words comes power. If you lack the vocabulary to convey your message in a strong and succinct manner, equip yourself with the verbiage that will be required to gain the upper hand. Learn the language of success as it pertains to the person with whom you’re negotiating.

Sometimes, you have to tell yourself, yes I can. Then, believe it. You don’t have to accept the plight of a negative outcome in a negotiation, if you chose not to. If you use the words that convey your negotiation position with power and do so succinctly, you’ll control the direction of the negotiation. In so doing, you’ll lead the negotiation in the direction you want it to take, which will enhance the probability of a successful outcome… and everything will be right with the world. Remember, you’re always negotiating.

The Negotiation Tips Are…

• Words can convey power, but words without synchronized body language can lead to confusion. If you wish to be perceived as being more credible, be sure your words, body language, and actions are aligned with the message you deliver.

• In a negotiation, silence can be golden, but even when being silent, you’re still sending a message.

• When negotiating, sometimes you have to escalate your rhetoric in order to disengage and be in a stronger position for the next phase in the negotiation. In such a position, use words that express power and subliminally you’ll send a stronger message.