Monday, May 30, 2005

Have You Cleaned Your Glasses?

Many years ago, I heard a piece of advice I liked immediately, and I have never forgotten it:

"Don't call the world dirty because you forgot to clean your glasses."

In communication terminology, that reference is to perception. Sometimes we cannot see the world around us accurately--the people and events--because dirty glasses mar our vision.

Consider these vision blockers on our "window to the world" (which is what perception really is) that distort our view:

Stereotypes: We assume that if someone is a member of a certain group, she is doomed to behave in a certain way. Examples: "Computer 'techies' don't have well-rounded personalities" or "Anybody over age 60 lacks energy enough to do the job."

Past experiences: "Margaret lost her temper at work a year ago, so I can never consider her for a leadership position. Obviously, she is too unstable."

Parental teachings: "My father told me that Rotary was the only club worth affiliating with, so I won't accept invitations to attend functions sponsored by other clubs."

What about you? Are there any spots on your glasses that make you think the world is dirty? If so, clean them off. Then you will communicate more accurately and productively.

For more information, please visit my Web site:

"How Did You Write Your Book?"

When I started participating in book signings soon after the publication of my book--The Complete Communicator: Change Your Communication, Change Your Life!--shoppers asked me one question repeatedly: "How did you write your book?" Also, I hear that question after my speeches and seminars, when I remain to sell and sign my book and other educational products, including audio CDs.

Here is how I answer that question:

1. The book started as a radio series. Three times a week, I hosted a brief radio program for a station in nearby Athens, Georgia, home of the University of Georgia, where I once taught Speech Communication.

2. When the series of radio broadcasts ended, I noticed that I had generated eighty-five short written segments, which I had read on the air. It occurred to me that the advice I had given was worth putting into book form, so more people could benefit from my tips about communication.

3. Before I approached a publisher, I outlined the book, proposing nine chapters. Then I gathered "clips"--copies of articles I had published in numerous newspapers and magazines.

The clips served two purposes. First, they let editors know that other publishers had accepted my writings. Second, they revealed my writing style.

4. Fortunately, the second publisher I "pitched"--through a cover letter, the outline and the clips--offered me a contract, and gave me a deadline for completing the manuscript.

5. For ten weeks, I wrote all day every day, six days a week. Usually, I wrote and edited for 8-10 hours daily.

6. My efforts produced 201 double-spaced pages, which the publisher formatted into the 148 page book.

7. Not long after publication, bookstore customers would ask, "Do you have an audio version?" This alerted me to the need to record my book. I did that, in my own voice, resulting in 5 audio CDs--complete and unabridged.

So if you are an aspiring writer, keep these steps in mind. Writing a book requires intense discipline, research, and careful editing and rewriting. It's not something you accomplish in a week or so. Still, the end result assures you the effort was worthwhile.

I invite you to order The Complete Communicator, either in hardback or on audio CD. You can order online from my Web site's "shopping cart":

"Winning Words and Ways"--My popular monthly newsletter

"Winning Words and Ways" is the name of my free, monthly e-mail newsletter. In every issue, I give practical tips you can put to use immediately. The newsletter covers these topics:

Customer Service

One of the unusual features: Frequently I quote subscribers who have responded to recent issues. I like showman Jimmy Durante's statement: "Everybody wants to get into the act!"

To subscribe, simply go to the home page of my Web site and enter your name and e-mail address in the slots provided for the newsletter, on the left side of the page. Here's the link to my home page:

Customer Care Pays Dividends

For more than three decades, Bill Bell enjoyed a highly successful career as an advertising salesman and executive. His superb communication skills explain why he reached the pinnacle of his profession. When Bill read my blog "A Jewel of a Jewelry Store," he sent me this response, titled "Customer Care Pays Dividends." Thanks to Bill for permission to include another clear illustration of why taking care of your customers is one of the most productive investments you will make.

Bill Bell wrote:

In the early 60s I went to an Atlanta photography store to buy a good camera that would provide dependable service for the indefinite future. The fellow who waited on me presented a camera that would meet that need, a well known and highly respected brand. I bought it then and there, and was impressed with his thorough and patient instruction in how to use the new equipment. I asked his name, which was Bill Wallis, gave him mine, and said I’d be back when I needed attachments of any consequence.

A year or so later I did go back to Bill for a close-up attachment of a certain type that I thought would be needed for my new interest in wild flower photography. He said that what I named would certainly do the job, but was quite expensive and would not perform any better for my purpose than a device of another type and much less costly. I followed his recommendation, which proved to be eminently successful, and thanked him for saving me several hundred dollars.

This second demonstration of "customer care" resulted in my buying virtually 100% of my photographic supplies and equipment from Bill Wallis for the next twenty years or so until he moved to Florida, bought a thirty foot sailboat and retired. During the years of our association he and his wife had opened their own store, and I had become a semi-professional photographer. Bill’s philosophy of business returned significant dividends for his company not only from me, but surely from hundreds of others who must have likewise appreciated his "customer care" attitude that remained unchanged throughout his career.

For more information, please visit my Web site:

Saturday, May 28, 2005

The One Job We Cannot Delegate

During my twenty-three years of management, I delegated hundreds of tasks, ranging from typing to arranging special events to filing to writing reports. Yet there is one responsibility we cannot pass along to someone else: keeping our motivation high.

Mistakenly, some people expect their motivation to come from:
  1. Their boss
  2. Their spouse
  3. Their family
  4. Their friends
  5. Their mentors
  6. Their teachers
  7. Their teammates

The truth is, while these individuals and groups can assist us with our motivation, the major effort has to come from us.

In subsequent posts to my blog, I will mention motivational steps and strategies that I find helpful--strategies I mention in my speeches, seminars and in my audio CD titled "Maintaining Maximum Motivation: Strategies for Staying in High Gear!" For now, though, take the first step of recognizing that although help may come from others, you are the primary force in attaining and nurturing your motivation.

You can order my motivation CD from my Web site:

Happy listening!

Daniel Webster's Magnificent Statement

During all the years I have studied and taught communication, I have come across some marvelous and memorable statements about the impact of communication on a person's life. Cicero, Quintilian, Aristotle, Socrates, Plato and other geniuses contributed their wisdom to this topic.

Yet no one, in my view, has surpassed the words of Daniel Webster, one of America's outstanding statesmen and orators:

If I were to lose all my possessions except one, I would save the power of communication, for by it I would soon regain all of the rest.

For more information, please visit my Web site:

A Jewel of a Jewelry Store

My favorite ring kept slipping off my finger. Once or twice, I heard it hit the pavement in our driveway, indicating that unless I did something about the misfit I would lose it soon. The ring has strong sentimental value, because it's from my beloved Ph.D. alma mater, Ohio University.

As I entered the jewelry store--Gainesville Jewelry, in my place of residence, Gainesville, Georgia-- seeking a remedy, I was skeptical. The ring is quite thick, so cutting it down to a lower size might be cost prohibitive.

The assistant behind the counter could sense my attachment to the ring. Had she been working for profit alone, she might have told me, "Yes, we can cut it down a quarter size or a half size. Either way, the cost will be $100." What she said instead was no less than astonishing:

"Sir, here's my recommendation. Let us put a ring guard on for you. This will take away your worry about losing this fine piece of jewelry."

"A ring guard," I responded, "what's that?"

Quickly, she answered my question by inserting a small gold piece inside the part of the ring that goes underneath my finger. "See," she told me, "it's not even visible to anybody. Only you will know it is there, and you will forget about it, because there is no discomfort."

Then I asked the key question: "How much for the ring guard?"

"That will be $3.00--and I can put the guard on and adjust it right now."

"Did you say $3.00?" I could not believe a cost that low.

"That's right."

"Well, thank you for telling me about this. Let's take care of it now."

Within a couple of minutes, I had the ring on my finger--quite comfortably. As I paid the $3.00, I thanked the clerk for her superb help.

"Oh, one more thing, sir," she said with a genuine smile. "Let's take a minute to show you how to adjust the guard. You may want to change the size sometime without having to come back here."

After she demonstrated how to make the adjustment, I walked out of there fully satisfied. Truly, Gainesville Jewelry is a "jewel of a jewelry store."

Use this link to read a description of my popular speech/seminar, "Championship Customer Care":

Friday, May 27, 2005

Always Treat Your Customers With Dignity

When I entered my ophthalmologist's office, I was nervous. This was the day they would show me how to insert my contact lenses, a totally new experience. I'm not sure how you react, but I get a bit jumpy when somebody wants to put a finger in my eye. Even though I was nervous, I felt the staff would be professional enough to usher me through the experience. After all, they had done that with hundreds of other patients.

"Bill," the receptionist said, "we are extra crowded today. Do you mind if we take you to a room that's not a regular examining room?"

"Sure, that's OK," I responded.

One of the assistants named Betty walked me down a hallway, and turned left into a small room. Motioning with her hand, she said "Sit there, please." I sat where she indicated. Suddenly, I realized that Betty had directed me to sit on a toilet. Gads--as if I didn't have enough to be upset about already.

Somehow Betty and the ophthalmologist taught me how to insert the lenses into my eyes, and how to blink and roll my eyes around until the contacts got in place. That part of their professional skill was sufficient.

Can you guess "the rest of the story"? I am sure you can. Within a week, I found a new ophthalmologist and had my medical records transferred there. Why? The answer is simple. The doctor and his staff had not respected my dignity.

Keep this in mind in dealing with customers. Even an angry customer will "come around" when you treat him or her decently. Yet the minute you disrepect them, they are gone--and justifiably so.

What about you? Have you had any horror stories like mine? If so, I would like to hear about them, and so would my blog readers. Thanks for your helpful response.

For more information, please visit my Web site:

Lampton's Law for Cell Phone Users

Picture yourself seated in the van transporting you from the airport to the parking lot. Pretty tight space, huh? Suddenly, the silence is broken--no, blasted--by the guy sitting next to you. Oblivious to his surroundings, he says in a loud voice, "Hello, Mary, just landed a few minutes ago. Is the meeting still scheduled for this afternoon? Do you have all the reports on my desk for me to review? And tell me, what important calls do I need to return right now?"

OK, this inconsiderate fellow has just:
  • Invaded your privacy and the privacy of everyone else in the van
  • Flaunted his conviction that he is incredibly prominent in the business world
  • Risked sharing confidential information with a bunch of strangers, one of whom could by chance even be his competitor

If scenes like that drive you crazy, then I am confident you will like my solution. I call it "Lampton's Law for Cell Phone Users." I suggest that you share it with family, friends and all of your work associates. Here it is:


"If someone wants to hear your cell phone conversation, one of two things will have happened. First, they will have called you. Or second, they would have accepted your call.

Therefore, if neither of these has happened, the people in your vicinity are not at all interested in what you have to say. In fact, your phone conversation will offend them. So if you must make a cell phone call, move away to a more private place. Even there, lower your voice. Become invisible and inaudible to those around you when you talk with the only person who has expressed interest in hearing you."

If you are a manager, explain Lampton's Law at your next staff meeting. Circulate it in writing. Add it to your company newsletter. Before long, you will experience increased courtesy and consideration by cell phone users. When that happens, call me on your cell phone to tell me about it!

For more information, please visit my Web site:

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Is Anybody Listening?

Sometimes we wonder whether anybody is listening at all. We hear comments like these:

"Did you say that was for here, or to go?"

"You want that report by when. . .Wednesday or Thursday?"

"What did you say your name was, and what's the problem with your car?"

Yes, we have heard those comments, and many more, which indicate that the people we are talking with are not paying attention. So here is a superb way for you to stand out from the crowd and "Communicate for Success":

1. Listen carefully to everything someone says to you.
2. Give nonverbal signs you are listening--eye contact, nodding your head, sitting or standing alertly.
3. Use verbal cues to indicate attentiveness: "I see" "I understand" "And then what did you do next?"
4. Respond not just to facts but to the emotions expressed: "Your child is sick, you say. You must be very worried about that."
5. Use reflective listening: "It seems to me you are saying that you are disappointed because someone else got that promotion."
6. Repeat a person's name during the conversation. We really do love the sound of our own names. "Bill, I agree with you."

From more than twenty years of management experience, I am convinced that good listeners get much farther professionally and personally than outstanding speakers do. There are more good speakers than good listeners.

Try these tips, and you will become "The company other people love to keep."

Do your experiences confirm the power of listening? And what listening tips do you want to add?

For more information, please visit my Web site: