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Whether in the board room or in the living room,two way-street effective communication is a dialogue, not a monologue. Unfortunately, when more than one person is involved in a conversation, there is the potential for misunderstanding. Confusion and miscommunication can range from humorous to disastrous. The best way to guard against this is to think deliberately about how we communicate, being mindful of our tone of voice, our choice of words, our body language. We must also think about our audience and prepare accordingly.

Why is it that some of us will spend hours perfecting a sales pitch, but spend little thought on how we interact with our children? Certainly, our livelihood may depend on that sale, but much of our home’s harmony depends on our ability to communicate effectively with our kids. This does not mean that family life is not full of spontaneous exchanges that we do not think about at all, just like our interactions at work. It just means that our communication will only get better if we take time to examine it critically from time to time.

Consider this proven sales technique. You have delivered your sales pitch flawlessly and it is time to close and ask for a commitment. To do this, pose an open-ended question such as, “Based on everything we have discussed, do you see any reason why this product is not the perfect fit for your needs?” And then be quiet. The first person to speak following the question will almost always be the one who agrees to your request.

The technique takes discipline to learn, but it is really quite easy. Ask your question, and then resist the urge to fill the quiet until the other person responds. If you can master that, you will find that you’ve usually elicited the desired response. Most of the time, the speaker will not want to disappoint. The person will either answer affirmatively or will give you information you can use to your advantage.

Parents, on the other hand, tend to be masters of the monologue: the irritating speech that puts everyone in the audience to sleep. This is true whether you are lecturing your 6-year-old on picking up his toys or your teenager on getting his grades under control. A monologue pushes information on the listener; it does not welcome information back. Not only is there no way for the listener to respond, there is no way for the talker to know if he’s being understood.

As a parent, do not let yourself get caught in the monologue trap. Instead, learn to ask those open-ended questions. “Honey, how are your toys supposed to look?” “Son, what needs to happen to get these grades to an acceptable level?” Then wait. Refrain from saying all the things you want to say: (“You know that your dolls shouldn’t be all over the floor!  No college will accept you with C’s in math!”)  Let your child talk to you, and be silent. You’ll be surprised how much of what you wanted to say to him actually comes out of his mouth. The biggest advantage of all this is that because he feels he received the courtesy and respect he deserves, he will repay you with the same. This is indeed the win-win scenario.

Communication is a two-way street—a street that should have a lot of traffic moving in both directions.  Life gets busy, but make sure you are making time to communicate with your kids on a daily basis. A lapse in communication is almost always interpreted negatively. Children will feel you don’t care, you are mad, or you’re too wrapped up in your work. Even the most sullen teenager secretly wants to know that you care. Consistent communication is one of the best ways to guard against miscommunication.

 

Published in Business Topics

On a recent flight from Los Angeles to Washington, I looked out the window and this was my view  from

30,000 feet.  I could hear my daughter’s voice in my head saying “here you go again doodle with your 30,000-foot deal.”  Incidentally, I’m doodle to her in case you were wondering.  I smiled!

As a business person, a parent, and a pilot, I can assure you there is nothing like looking at your world from above to evaluate or set the proper course.  Here is why.  Think back to your last flight. You were probably cruising at an altitude of more than 30,000 feet, looking at the world from nearly six miles above sea level. I suspect however, that you were impressed not by how high you were flying, but by how far you could see.  Take another look at the picture and see for yourself.

The beauty of looking at the big picture is the long and wide view that allows you to see things invisible at ground level.

Business leaders routinely step back from daily operations to look at the big picture or the “30,000-foot view” in order to effectively guide their organization.

Parents need similar perspective. They are the managers and leaders of their children, and as such, they, too, will be well-served by taking in the big picture and devising a long-range strategy. It bears repeating: Children become adults. This sounds trite and obvious, but to parent proactively, we must constantly remind ourselves that we are trying to do more than just get through the day. We are raising future adults.

What kind of adults do we want them to be? The old saying goes that you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your relatives. As true as that is, there will come a time in every one of our children’s lives when they will be able to choose whether or not they want to have a close relationship with us. When that last check for college tuition has cleared, will they still call for something other than money?

I am grateful that I took the time to think about the adult I wanted my daughter to become. That is not to say I did not face my share of challenges.  On several occasions, I had to remind myself that the present difficulties would pass and that she would have many more years of her life as an adult than as a child.  As I routinely do in business, I looked at my parenting from a high, clear and unobstructed point of view; the 30,000-foot view.  So, I set out to parent young Persephone with an eye toward the relationship I dreamed of having with her when she was an adult.

Did it work, you might ask. While you can read the details in my book, I’d share with you that a few years ago, a then 20 year old Persephone spoke these words to me in a tribute she organized in my honor on the occasion of my 50th birthday.  “Thank you for helping to guide me through almost 20 years of my life, yet always allowing me to make my own decisions. I pray that one day I will be half the parent you are and continue to be to me.”  So, did it work?  You be the judge.

 

Published in Business Topics

This is indeed a question that could have puzzled William Shakespeare, cdo book-cover-flatand it has certainly crossed the minds of most parents and employers alike.  Conflict is inevitable for every boss and every parent. Though we must always keep our emotions in check, we must also try not to take things too seriously. Bear in mind that occasional disagreement is not the end of the world: in fact, it is healthy and normal, and if guided properly, it may result in a learning situation.

Logic, a cool head, common sense, and a hefty dose of humor go a long way in resolving conflict at work and at home. The goal is to maintain civility and respect for all parties involved, so that you encourage communication.

An extreme to being an unapproachable parent, is prematurely trying to be your child’s friend. Too many parents are so concerned with their children liking them that they shy away from giving clear instructions or enforcing rules which all children want and need.

Think about how this plays out in a typical office environment. A boss who is so eager for all his employees to like him will rob himself of his ability to lead and will soon lose their respect. Before long, all the workers are doing whatever they want and chaos ensues.

It is OK not to be liked sometimes. Not being respected is never acceptable, and trading respect for popularity is always a losing proposition.

The same goes with our kids. Every child is born wanting to please his parents. You do not have to win your child’s approval, but you can never risk losing his respect. Even a grumpy teenager wants your love whether she admits it or not. So stick to the rules you have carefully established for your family, keep a good sense of humor, and don’t forget to tell them that you love them.

 

Published in Business Topics
Tuesday, 24 January 2012 09:31

Caution: Laughter Attracts People

On a recent vacation I was walking through the courtyard of the hotel and came across this hammock.  While it may be just a hammock to most, it brought to mind an event that happened nearly 10 years ago and made me smile.

One summer afternoon when my daughter was in high school, I saw her and her boyfriend (who was not my favorite person) innocently lying in the hammock in our backyard.  From a few yards away, I immediately exclaimed at the top of my lungs “No two persons will ever be horizontal at any time under this roof.” As soon as this brilliant statement left my mouth, I continued in the same loud voice “This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard myself say!” and we all laughed out loud.  Since then, every time I saw her lying on the couch alone watching TV she would mimic my voice, repeating my earlier admonition, and we’d both laugh.

Of course, we must be careful to laugh with our children, not at them.  We do not want to hurt their feelings, and every parent knows the unbelievable fragility of children’s emotions.

Conflict is inevitable for every boss and every parent. Though we must always keep our emotions in check, we must also try not to take things too seriously. Bear in mind that occasional disagreement is not the end of the world: in fact, it is healthy and normal. And sometimes, the most appropriate reaction is to laugh.  Comedian Ron White gives this advice: “I believe when life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade…and try to find someone whose life has given them vodka, and have a party.”

The good news is that as a parent or a boss it is always OK to laugh at yourself.  When you can recognize your own mistakes, quirks or even weaknesses, and can laugh at them, you become approachable to everyone around you. The more approachable you are, the better your communications will be both at work and at home.

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