Speaking like a Pro: Reduce the Noise

personal leadership articles advanced Someone recently asked me a question about public presentations. ”Can you help me get better at selling myself to an audience?” Interesting question. Here is my answer. Four things you need to be mindful of, when doing public presentations. The four main things that can produce unnecessary noise instead of serving to support your message. Voice, Visuals, TECH and Trying Too Hard.

 

TL:DR?

 
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Here’s an audioversion.
 

 

Voice.

If your voice reminds us of a goat being dragged backwards through a quagmire, we’re not going to hear your message clearly. We’re going to be too busy filtering out the noise to pay attention to the message.

Likewise, if you speak in monotonous sleep-inducing prosodic patterns, a high-pitched squeal or phrase everything as if it were a question – that is noise. Anything that takes attention away from the essential message or information you are there to deliver, is to be regarded as noise.

Reducing the noise is what allows you to connect better with your audience.

Getting rid of excess umms and ahhs is a good place to start, but there is more to a successful presentation than simply not sounding as if you are unsure of what you’re going to say next.

Never underestimate the power of the kind of voice that you, want to listen to. And these things can be trained.

 

The medium shapes the message.

Is the first thing I tell anyone who wants to work on their presentation skills; the second is that the speaker is never the one who takes centre stage.

No matter what size that ”stage” is going to be. Whether you’re keynoting a conference, leading a seminar or presenting a brilliant solution in a board-room. Even lecturing, all though in this post, my focus is on commercial types of presentations.

Your message, is what takes centre stage. You are merely the medium. If your audience remembers you, but not your message, what you had to say probably was not all that interesting to begin with.

If you feel as if you need to dress up your message with interesting headgear, fancy visuals and complicated jargon for you to retain the attention of your audience – I am betting that what you have to say is mainly a load of dingos kidneys. Anyone can hide their incompetence behind jargon.

Even if it isn’t, a load of dingos kidneys – and the information you want to present is quite valuable, nobody will notice when they are too busy looking at the dancing hat.

Fair enough, maybe you like to wear hats. Possibly even different ones, but you get the idea. It’s not really about the hat. There is a fine line between choosing a visual appearance that allows you to stand out from the crowd, and trying to stand out from the crowd just by choosing an interesting visual appearance. Or being “edgy” for not other reason than that it might serve to get you attention.

What we might call “personal brands” – for lack of a better term – serve to support messages. Your message, your intention with getting peoples attention, should never be thought of as something to “support your brand”. Logos can support a brand. Design. But ultimately, design is nothing more than an expression of an intention, values and ideas.

And no less, which is why there are so many ways in which one might get it wrong, when one cannot be bothered to pay a professional designer to assist in making the message clear. Because Fivr. Yes, there is always someone who is willing to do it cheaper. But if you think it is expensive to hire a professional, just wait until you have tried working with an amateur.

Your visual appearance, is what allows for people to easily recognize you. It is not what essentially makes them listen to what you have to say. Developing a ”brand” is not the most sensible thing to place on your list of top priorities, if you might like to develop a career as a professional public speaker. Developing a strong message is. Know what you want to say, to whom and why it matters. Make it clear.

Your brand will follow.

If your audience remember your message, they are probably going to remember you, since you were the one who delivered the message. You will want to get that sequencing right. You don’t want to be the kind of speaker who is all form and no content. I think there are enough of those in the world as it is.

 

Visuals.

Many of us have grown so accustomed to using power-pointy type visuals to support our presentations, that the mere thought of doing a presentation without them, can seem positively alien.

Now I enjoy putting together a slide-deck just as much as the next person, but if the presentation does not work at all without them, I am going to have problem if for whatever reason the projector fails. Or it turns out on the day, that there just isn’t going to be one. And you’re going to be working with a flip-over, a whiteboard or a basket full of sock-puppets.

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[luckily I am quite the accomplished illustrator]

It is also not going to be useful as a stand-alone audio recording. If half the content relies on your visuals.

I prefer to work on the content of a presentation first, and only after the key points have been chosen, do I start adding elements to a slide-deck. If you do fair amount of the same topics for presentations, but for different types of audiences, it is easy to start getting lazy and building your talks from the slides you already have.

That is not to say you should not re-use the same slides for different talks, it’s just to say that your key points need to be the first thing you think about, when preparing and structuring a talk. Not “what do I already have that I could just slap together in 20 minutes or less”. That is going to be a shite presentation, and you know it.

It is also advisable to avoid using your slides as a manuscript. We’ve all done it. It just isn’t the best way of engaging your audience, to be constantly looking at your slides, in place of looking at the audience. Who are looking at your slides.

You know how this works – if your slide is interesting, the audience will be looking at the slide.

Which means, that the slides must not contain too much information. Or your audience will stop listening to what you’re saying, and be studying the slide instead. The slides are there to support the speaker. It should not be the other way around.

If you need to show a complicated graph (which you probably don’t) and you cannot possibly think of another way in which to convey the same information (which you probably can) it is better to simply shut up for ten seconds, and let your audience study the graph. Then, narrate the slide and point to the things on the graph that you want them to pay attention to. Move along, next slide.

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I like to use breaker-slides for longer presentations; I will either use a slide with a headline (so if you fell asleep, you’ll still know at what point on the agenda we are) or some photo I like, usually one of my own, that ties in with the theme of the talk.

Now if you’re doing a presentation on art-history and the science of multi-spectoral analysis, and you want to show some really awesome examples of how this works. Obviously your presentation is going to be mainly visual, a fair amount of highly technical presentations are, but there is still a difference between narrating an entire slide-deck and actually addressing a live audience, allowing them to feel spoken to, and not merely spoken at.

If you feel that the presentation needs to hurry along, lest you can’t make it through the entire thing before your allotted time is up – you need to cut some of the content from the talk. Not speed up the pace at which you speak.

Also – if you are presenting from a slide-deck that was designed for a two hour talk, but you have been hired to speak for one hour only. Remove. The slides. We do. Not. Need. To see.

Nothing spells “just here for the cash” like a speaker who could not even be bothered to create a specific deck of slides for a specific presentation. No, it will not make your audience sign up for “this other event, which is longer”. It will only make us assume that you’re an idiot.
 

Pace & lead.

Some speakers have a habit of pacing when they talk. This need not be a problem, when you are aware in which ways pacing can serve to support your message, and it what ways it simply serves to confuse.

I might get more into that in another post. For now, I will just say that you want to be mindful of excessive pacing. You don’t want your audience to feel as if they might as well be observing a tennis match.

There is a reason why TED talk stages have that big red dot in the centre of the stage. One of them is that it helps the speaker stay within a reasonable circle of moving about. For which I am sure the camera crews are ternally thankful.

Visuals lead our attention.

Visuals are more than slides and how you move. What you wear is a key visual element of your overall presentation. It is the first thing that your audience will notice, before you start to speak. And one rarely gets a second chance for making a first impression.

What you wear may well produce noise that takes away attention from your message. If you choose to wear a shirt with a loud print, that print had better support the message you are there to deliver. Otherwise, that loud message on your shirt is only going to compete with the key points of your presentation for audience attention. Unless you are speaking to a group of blind people, in which case it probably does not matter.

But assuming that you are not, if you’re a woman with uncommonly large breasts, wearing a tight white T-shirt under a bright spotlight is not the best idea, unless your presentation is about the importance of a strongly supporting set of cups. There are plenty of perfectly competent female public speakers, who will routinely complain about the men in the audience staring at their chest. Ignoring the fact, that all the women were probably staring too.

Likewise for men wearing suits that are just a little too tight. I assume that I need not get graphic here. It’s not that we mean to stare. It’s just that it is really hard not to, when there is something out of the ordinary competing for our attention.

It is not a “compliment”, and it is not chauvinist, it just is what it is. Noise.

I am not saying that you should hide your assets, just make it easier for the audience to look at your face.

Plus, when you are overly conscious about something in your physical appearance, chances are that your audience will be too. This includes less than perfectly fitting undergarments. One simply cannot take over the world in a slightly ill-fitting brassiere. I am betting this is true for uncomfortable briefs as well.

One certainly cannot deliver an awesome keynote – or any other kind of note – when constantly needing to adjust ones bra-straps, or worrying about whether or not they might be showing.

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Whatever you choose to wear for a presentation, make sure that it is comfortable, and makes you feel competent. In that order.

I prefer to wear something with a sleeve, but not if the room is a sweltering 32 degrees Celsius. Of course you adjust your attire to fit the season as well as the occasion. When in doubt – go for clean-cut and comfortable. You can thank me later.

You want to choose something that allows you to appear like a person who has their shit together, not someone who put on pants by diving head-first into the laundry basked and emerged with an ensemble only vaguely resembling an adult person having gotten themselves dressed. It doesn’t make you look like an awesome mad scientist. It just makes you look like a mentally challenged person.

There is such a thing as being “overdressed” and personally I find that anything that might be great for clubbing, is not a good choice for professional presentations. Unless for whatever reason you want to look like someone who just walked in from a nightclub. Even then, you are going to feel a bit silly in broad daylight wearing a disco-ball as a skirt. When everyone else is wearing something low-key and comfortable.

Thirty minutes before you are about to deliver an opening key-note at some major industry event, is not the best time to try out a new ”look”. It is also not the time to break in a new set of heels, no matter how pretty they looked in the store or how perfect you thought they would be for the occasion. Sore feet are never going to be perfect for any occasion, and public speaking is no exception.

Chances are that nobody is going to be paying much attention whatsoever to what you have on your feet anyway, and if they are – is that going to be supporting your message, or is it just noise?

Women with longer hair are often told by well-meaning friends, that they look “cuter with their hair down”. It may work for photos, but I promise you an up-do or a simple ponytail works so much better on a stage. Why? Because it literally takes two minutes to get ready.

But more importantly, you won’t be constantly wiping stray hairs away from your face (which is noise), or getting a stiff neck from trying to avoid the kind of excess movement that will make the perfect curls fall out of place.

One less thing to worry about. At least it works for me.

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TECH.

Trivial Errors Causes Headaches. Bad sound kills a good presentation. While on larger scale presentations there is likely to be some sort of stage-manager, and you get to do a final rehearsal presentation, this often not the case for smaller venues.

I say “final” because of course any stage-rehearsal is not going to be the first time you practice voicing your entire talk out loud. I should hope.

If you are hosting a seminar or workshop on your own, and your budget does not allow for hiring a person to take care of all the technical stuff, this need not only be something you know how to do yourself. I need also be something you are comfortable troubleshooting, yourself.

One cannot always rely on the conferencing facility staff knowing how things work, aside for when they just do, work. And even if they do, know how things work, they may not have time when you need them. And even if they do have time when you need them, you may not have time to pause in your presentation, or want someone to be wombling about with cables and saying “hmmmm” in the background while you are busy leading a workshop.

If you going to be fiddling about with the thingy that makes the slide-deck move forward, because you’re not quite sure how it works – don’t use slides. Or you prefer daylight in the room, and for some strange reason you can’t show slides on the LCD screen without the blinds being rolled all the way down – don’t use slides. Problem solved.

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Do you know how to properly use a microphone?

If not, start practising. You need to be comfortable listening to the sound of your own voice, if your presentation is going to be delivered through an amplifier. Because you are likely going to be hearing your own voice being boomed back at you from the back of the room. This ought not to be the kind of sound that startles you.

If there is not going to be a microphone to amplify your voice, or for whatever reason the one there was has stopped working, you need to be able to speak as loudly as the size of the room requires. Start practising. Clear diction is going to be your best friend, as well as proper breathing – the kind that is from the diaphragm.

Proper breathing also takes the strain off your vocal chords when you are speaking for longer durations of time. Good breathing technique starts with a good posture.

That is all a microphone really does, it will amplify your voice. But microphones are usually not very smart, so they will be amplifying everything that goes into the mic, including any interesting sounds that normally one would not notice without it.

Clanky jewelry you might be wearing for decorative purposes, the sound of the fabric your’re wearing brushing against the surface of the microphone, might be amplified as well as the words you are speaking. This is often the case for the kind of clip-on microphones you get to wear on televised broadcasts, which are often used on events that are recorded and/or live-streamed online.

The mistake of wearing a garment that was designed for looking pretty, but has no place for holding a clip-on microphone really is a mistake one need only make once. The constant need for adjustment produces un-necessary noise.

I recommend having a selection of standard items that will work for these types of occasions. Keep them in a separate part of your closet, so that if someone calls and asks you if you can be at this thing tomorrow morning, all you need is to collect your items, grab a coffee and be out of the door.

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You can then focus on doing the thing, and not worry yourself silly about whether or not you’re wearing the right thing – for the thing.

Reducing the noise, also extends to the kind of mental chatter, that any feelings of insecurity are likely to produce. Focus on your message, reduce the noise and forget about the rest.
 

“ehh – is this thing on-?”

If you are going to be using a hand-held microphone, don’t let your audience turn their attention to how you are holding it. Or how you are awkwardly trying not to hold it.

I was recently at an event, where one of the main speakers quite evidently felt as if he had been thrown a curve-ball, when the wireless headset microphone ran out of battery, and he was handed an object he seemed to be somewhat confused as to how one might properly handle. He started frantically consulting his notes, as if they would provide the answer, realized that they didn’t and proceeded to forget where he was going. Then did the rest of his presentation, holding the mic as if he was about to be spitting some serious rhymes into it. I have forgotten what he was talking about.

If the stagehand tells you that you need to “speak directly into the mic” this is not intended to mean that you should then proceed to look as though you were trying to eat it. Singers will sometimes keep the microphone close up and intimate, but we do this for reasons that have more to do with how the song is performed. For instance, one might want to add a bit of breathy sigh to it – which is probably not the kind of effect you’ll be wanting to go for on a presentation about something very serious.

However, if you like the effect of a solid resonant bass in your speaking voice, the hand-held microphone tends to be rather good for amplifying the lower frequencies. Which is one of the reasons why I personally tend to prefer it. But of course the trade-off is that you can’t use both hands when you talk.

Most of us, when we need to “speak up”, as in – increasing the volume, the pitch of our voices go up as well. Which means that if your natural speaking voice is high-pitched, you will need to adjust for this, by focusing on breathing from the diaphragm, keeping shoulders relaxed. Good posture, in other words.

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Make sure that the levels and gains are adjusted to fit your speaking volume and pitch, or simply test the thing before the audience arrives. And never point the microphone directly in the direction of any of the stage-monitors, ever.

If they’re on, the result is likely to produce the most annoying sound in the Universe – the dreaded screetchy feedback loop-noise. Nothing spells amateur speaker like someone who does not get ”why the monitors keep acting up”.

Another thing that sometimes happens for speakers who are un-accustomed to using a handheld microphone, is that they seem to forget, or nobody has bothered to instruct them, that a handheld microphone usually is NOT omnidirectional – which is exactly why you need to speak “directly into it” – and so when you talk with both hands waving all over the place, your words tend to … and that … really annoying … for the audience …is … and … need to … fill in the blanks.

One note on acoustics.

The acoustics on large conferencing facilities, the ones that look like tall concrete boxes on the outside, are often quite dreadful. There is that vague humming of the aircon that sounds like how the wall-to-wall carpeting swallowing up any vestige of an echo, would sound, if it had a sound. Which it doesn’t. It just whispers in a low static fizz, when you trot down the long corridors, behind which are smaller rooms with big windows, that are all hermetically sealed.

When you’re working at these kinds of engagements – which by the way, I do enjoy – you also need to consider the noise that isn’t. How the meeting rooms are like silos of office-space, but bigger. These are highly artificial environments. The air is dry and sleep-inducing. Perhaps there is a decorative fountain in the entry-hall, where the floors are hard and shiny, but these are usually not found in the meeting rooms.

You need to be able to comfortably fill the room with presence, or the audience is going to feel like it’s just another day at the office.

Be that breath of fresh air.

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Trying Too Hard.

Now lets say that you are comfortable working with all manner of microphones, you have designed the perfect slide-deck, you know how to avoid pacing about on your stage like a hungy lion in a cage, and you really want to knock the socks off this audience with your awesome presentation points.

And you really like the public speaking style of Anthony Robbins, so you think that you might want to do what he does, because obviously that really works, for him.

The key phrase to pay attention to is ”for him”. The style of presentation that works for one person, with their particular message, with their particular audience, on their particular events, is probably not going to work for you. With your audience, on your particular presentation.

Mimicking someone else’s style is not what is meant by “modelling” other people who do things that you might like to excel at. If you want to model anything other public speakers do, model the way in which they structure their talks around a minimum amount of key points. And stick to those key points.

Notice all the things that successful public speakers AVOID doing, and you will notice that they all have one thing in common. They succesfully manage to reduce all elements, that are not relevant to their message.

An excellent public speaker will never open by trying to “win the audience”. They will focus on not losing their attention along the way. It is the art of reducing the noise.

This allows the audience to relax, safe in the knowledge that the speaker is both comfortable being in front of them and competent on their topic. Which in turn, allows their message to be taken in. The audience wants the speaker to succeed. Because we’d be wasting our time, if they did not.

Trying too hard includes excessive sales-pitching.

If you have been given the opportunity to talk about this thing that you’re an expert on, in front of an audience that might care, avoid stuffing your presentation with sneaky commands to buy this or sign up for that.

There is a fine line between casually mentioning, that if you might like to learn more – go to this resource, follow this project or go have a look at this product or service. And then full-on hard selling by tying each and every single goddamn bullet-point on your presentation in with this thing that you want to sell. It will come across as desperate. And desperation does not sell.

My favourite pet peeve is presenters who spend the first ten minutes trying to establish their credentials for even being on the stage in the first place, two minutes on actual content, and the last fifteen telling you all about all the things that they did not have time to fit into their time-slot, but if you want to know more you can go sign up for some other event. Which is longer.

That is not content marketing. That is just doing it wrong. It is a waste of everyone’s time, including your own. If what you have to say is useful to your audience, they will want to know more, whether you are explicitly offering that as an option or not.

That being said, you don’t want potential customers to have to jump through hoops to find your product, but there is no point in shoving it down their throats either. That only produces noise.
 

Everything else is secondary

Focus on the actual information you intend to deliver. What do you want to say, to whom is this relevant and why, and with how many different perspectives do you intend to present the information. What kind of action do you want your audience to want to take, as a result of listening to your presentation? Is your talk meant to inspire further reflection or deeper learning? Is it to facilitate understanding, present a new solution to a known problem, to put a specific method into practice – or all of the above?

You may want to choose one specific thing, that you might like your audience, ideally, to change in their everyday- or professional lives as a result of having paid attention to your presentation. Whether it is a way of thinking. Or a a way of doing. It can be both.

Do yourself and your audience the great favour of considering this, before you begin adding interesting graphs and visual elements to a slide-deck. (or choosing the right shoes)

The medium shapes the messages, and you as the speaker are a medium for that message. You need to reduce the noise for the message to be heard loud and clear.

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This includes working with voice. Making sure that technical issues are not getting in the way of your message, or that you’re trying too hard for the audience to remember you – to ensure that which you have to say, does not get lost in the noise from the feedback loop of your own ego. Or the primary sales-pitch, whichever comes first. Usually, with noisy presentations, those are one and the same. I have noticed with speakers that do “ poorly structured” presentations, that the structure of the material itself, is never the only problem.
 

To answer the original question:

No. I will not help you get better at ”selling yourself to an audience”. That is not what you need to focus on as a public speaker. I am not in the business of helping people view themselves as products to be sold.

I will, however, help you reduce the noise. Reducing the noise is what allows you to connect better with your audience. When you have something valuable to say.

 

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About the author

CM. Cooper has a background in media & communication, sociology, HRM (postgraduate) and business negotiation.

She is partial to a pint of dark ale, still in love with her Canon 20D DSLR, enjoys open air music festivals, the works of Douglas Adams and rather bad puns.

For inquireries about private consulting email chris [at] undercover-coaching.com.You can also follow / ping CM.Cooper on Twitter @cmvcooper.

 

Top 10 reasons why every freelancer and aspiring entrepenuer needs a business coach and how to hire one

Working independently can be stressful. Some days all you need is 1) Someone to give you a hug and 2) Say in a friendly voice ”don’t panic”. And 3) Reassure you that in a month, you are going to be totally fucked. Obviously, this need not be the same person. But you do need to know what to do about 3). Here are my top ten reasons why every freelancer needs a business coach. My contact information is at the end.

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Reason #1. Because freelance means business.

You need someone to ask you questions about your business. Questions that go beyond “howsit going” and “so are you earning any money?”. Especially in, but not limited to, those situations in which the answers are in the regions of “OK fine I guess” and “ehm, not as … such”, respectively.
 

Reason #2. Because your friends and family probably like you.

They will often try to be supportive by simply ”being there”. By being nice and being kind and buying the next round of beers or baking a nice cake. Which is great for celebrating birthdays and who doesn’t like beer and cake. But being kind and nodding in agreement to whatever harebrained scheme you have concocted, cheering you on when you have stumbled into yet another great “opportunity” or lending you the cash to attend yet another “awesome networking event” is not the same as business coaching.

 

Reason #3. Probably, but that does not mean that they are interested.

We intuitively understand the process of asking (personal) questions as an expression of personal interest. So whenever friends, family and insignificant others ask merely superficial questions, if any at all, we tend to interpret that to mean, that they do not care as much as do we. Which is probably not entirely untrue.

They have their own shit to tend to. They probably do not have several hours every week to tend to yours.

Even if they are; interested, and they do – have several hours every week; just because they are interested, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they are able to adequately express their interest, in a manner that affords you the opportunity of exploring your deepest motivations, your ongoing challenges as well as not minding the pain of those everyday tasks and mundane problems that you either actively dislike, actively procrastinate or passively don’t really know how to properly deal with or fully resolve – and therefore tend to avoid.

And even if they do, all that and more, it does not necessarily follow that they have the required energy and focus to keep you on track. This is what a coach is for. A business coach is a person who knows how to assist you in keeping your focus aligned with your goals.
 

Reason #4. Because mentoring yourself is impossible.

Now mentoring is not quite the same as coaching, but you get the idea. Coaching yourself is not impossible, just not terribly easy. If you have a mentor who also coaches you, great. If you don’t have a mentor, you are most certainly going to need a coach.

Incidentally – the top ten reasons why freelancers need to hire business coaches are not entirely unlike the top ten reasons why any aspiring entrepreneur needs to hire a business coach.

If you have awesome entrepreneurial ideas, and your friends and/or family tell you that your ideas are stupid, you may arrive at the conclusion that they are. They “just don’t get it”. If a person you admire professionally tells you that your ideas are stupid, you may arrive at the conclusion that your ideas are in fact, a bit silly and probably need more work.

A business coach may be someone whom you admire professionally, but it is certainly someone who does not judge your ideas. A business coach will ask you to describe the ideas that you have. In detail. Proceed to ask questions about the things you assume to be self-evident. And let you be the judge.

In any case, you need a qualified professional to ask you the right, by which I mean tough, questions in matters of how to approach your chosen field of freelance profession. In terms of how you run your business-things. How you run away from things and how you avoid running out of funds too quickly. How you are calculating your profit-margins. How well you synergize. How badly you plan for disaster and how well you schedule for distraction.

Preferably a person who graduated from a reasonably reputable business school. Not just some ass-hat who read the entire Wikipedia page, sans the footnotes, on marketing management, and is now suddenly the expert opiner on all things vaguely related.

Now if you think it is expensive to hire a professional, just wait until you have spent the better part of your life-savings on shady online marketer ”business” training, endless hours on silly sales-pitches disguised as “free webinars” and yet another goddamn twelve session online course on “getting things done”. You know perfectly well why you aren’t getting things done. Because you are not doing them.
 

Reason #5. Because you are prone to procrastination.

A business coach reminds you what you set out do do, what you planned. What you scheduled and – ooh look shiny thing!
- No, that’s just the panic monster. Now get back to your desk and get on with it.

You hire a business coach for several reasons. One of which is to have someone who:
A) Holds you accountable on the things you say, that you are going to do, when you are going to get them done and why.
B) Cares.

If you have heard me speak on the topic of personal leadership, you know the following saying. If a man knows not what harbour to aim for, no wind is the right wind. The quote is attributed to Seneca, and I am pretty sure it is true for women too. If your goals are not entirely clearly defined, there is no point in trying to figure out why you don’t “feel” like getting things done.

You are not getting things done, most likely, because you are unsure of WHY you need to do those things in the first place.

Or, you know why, but have fewer clues as to HOW.

Alternatively, you may be getting loads of things “done” but you still don’t feel as though you are getting anywhere. Which means that you are probably doing the wrong things, or need to redefine what it means to get anywhere. Where anywhere even is and why you want to go there in the first place. Spoiler alert. I bet you that it’s not even actually a place.

A business coach will assist you in figuring out whether you are procrastinating important tasks because you A) know what to do, you’d just rather do something else instead. B) Don’t know how to complete the thing you know you want to do.

C) Know what to do, how to do it and why, but are unsure of just how much time and effort you need to schedule for getting it done.

When you are unsure of what it is going to cost you to get started, often it seems like a better idea to avoid getting started at all. The obvious solution is to break the individual tasks down even further than you already did. Before you know it, you have calculated the entire project and it now seems much more manageable. Because it is.

When we know what, but not exactly how. It is easy to fall into the trap of seeking more information/inspiration, when in reality we are simply procrastinating by remaining in our comfort-zone.

This, seeking inspiration, looking for more information, is a thing that we all know how to do. It’s basically just sitting on our arses and listening to someone else talking. Not exactly rocket science. Unless you are going to build an actual rocketship, which I am betting you are probably not.

Whereas figuring out the whys and or the how-tos in relation to the whys is a slightly more complicated matter.

Get inspired – then, get moving. Otherwise, you did not succeed in getting inspired at all. If the all that extra information you have been gathering is not actively used for anything remotely productive – what was the point?

 
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The next time you find yourself slipping into the comfort-zone of doing something you know *exactly* how to do (you know what I’m talking about), in place of getting started on that thing you do not entirely know how to do?

Just procrastinate. No, really. Procrastinate the thing, by spending a few hours calculating the exact amount of time you need to complete the thing.

It may not propel you into massive action, right now, but at least you are not actively wasting your time either.
 

Reason #6. Your Kanban board is difficult.

So you’ve just bought a major organisations worth of office-supplies. You have assigned an entire wall in your office space where you are going to do the Kan-Ban boardy thing for all of your ongoing freelance-projects, awesome business ideas and how to validate them. Now comes the fun part. The Goals and the Milestones, before you are going to divide your sub-goals into individually easily manageable Tasks. But wait. This is difficult.

  • Need help -?
  • I’m usually at GMT +1 and you will find my contact information at the bottom of this page.

    Personally, I do not subscribe to the “where-do-you-see-yourself-in-5-years” approach. But I do believe in the power of awareness to an overarching vision and mission.

    Example. Maybe under “goals for 2016” you wrote “become an established authority on the subject of cat-herding”.

    Why?

    What is the overarching vision? How are you going to measure it? How are you going to avoid confusing the measure for the goal?
     

    Goodharts Law.

    When a measure becomes the target it ceases to be a good measure.

    Defining good measures towards sensible goals and avoiding the trap of confusing the two. – This is what business coaching is for.

    Just like most business coaches, I advocate using the SMARTER goals framework. Here, illustrated as a circular process, highlighting the importance of the refine/re-evaluation part.
     
    personal leadership articles
     
    For project management purposes, especially when you have more than one ongoing project, I recomend kanban-boards. Not only is this method incredibly intuitive to use, involves post-it notes and colour-coding – kanban boards also have the added benefit of signalling to anyone who steps into your office/work-space, that you are super-organized and totally getting things done.

    personal leadership articles
     

    Reason #7. Success is a journey – not a destination.

    That success is a process, not a end-goal, you have heard before. What does it mean? It means that you need someone to provide you with continuous feedback. This is a standard motivational speaker key-point, and one that makes a lot of sense. Especially when you are in the business of selling personal consulting, which, as you are bound to have guessed by now, I happen to be.

    (Yes my contact information is still at the end of the article.)

    As a self-employed business professional, you ARE your own boss.

    What this means is that you’d better be good at it. Or at the very least not totally suck at it. Just like any other type of boss, manager or leader-in-chief, you will need continuous, qualified feedback to be able to improve where you can, maintain what works, and really excel where you desire.
     

    Reason #8. Coaching calls are highly structured conversations.

    When was the last time you had an in depth conversation about your business – where nobody needed to just check their Facebook or a line of thought close to an actual breakthrough was interrupted by “do you need another coffee?” or “can we talk about something other than business” or people randomly bumbling into the room looking for their socks?

    The coaching conversation is scheduled. It has a clear focus. Exploration, assesment and aligning your GMTs. What this allows you to do, is to continue thinking, doing and reflecting in a structured manner throughout the rest of the day. Given that you are aware of it, and that the next step in your action plan or your set of goals means enough for you to actually want to achieve it. Which, if the exploration & assesment has been succesful, you will.

     
    personal leadership articles
     

    Reason #9. You commit from the first step.

    You need two things to achieve your goals; 1) Seeing the bigger picture. 2) Seeing the next “first step”. Wait, actually you need three things. Seeing the bigger picture, the next first step AND 3) Being able/willing to actually take it.

    The first step. Are you?
     

    #10. You need to find your own reason.

    Let this be reason number 10.

    The entire point of business coaching is to facilitate the realization of the solutions you already have, the ones you forgot that you thought of, and the realization of the opportunities that are available to you.

    Once you stop focusing on the wrong end of the staircase and stop wasting your time on “getting motivated”. You already are, so maybe start asking WHY.

  • Get in touch via chris [at] undercover-coaching.com.
  •  

    personal leadership articles

    About the author

    CM. Cooper has a background in media & communication, HRM (postgraduate) sociology and business negotiation.

    She is partial to the pleasures of photography, open air music festivals, the works of Douglas Adams and silly puns about lions.

    You can follow / ping CM.Cooper on Twitter @cmvcooper. For inquireries about private consulting email chris [at] undercover-coaching.com.
     

     

    3 Keys to Understanding Conversation

    personal leadership mindfulness 2 conversational mastery 2 articles What is the purpose of an open and honest conversation? To converse. It is not “to persuade”. It is not to ”promote” and it is not simply to make a noise in the hopes that someone will pay attention.

    Conversation is by definition a two-way process. Conversation is dialogue. It is not monologue. It is not simply waiting ones turn to get to the point that you already decided. Conversation is decorated silence.

    personal leadership mindfulness 2 conversational mastery 2 articles

    • Only through solitude can we fully ground our sense of self in the now.

    Then, and only then can we hope to connect fully through someone else’s eyes. Then, and only then can you flirt with intelligence and connect with compassion. Come to your senses. You have at least five. Exercise them with regularity.

    personal leadership mindfulness 2 conversational mastery 2 articles

    Conversation Analysis (CA) aims to elicit the underlying structures that guide our understanding of everyday talk. The “schemata” we use to negotiate meaning. Knowing what these structural elements look/sound like, makes it easier to understand when and how conversations derail and conflict ensues. CA gives us a framework by which to better read between the lines. Paying as much attention to what is not being said, as what is.

    It does not make us experts at influencing others. That is not the point of an honest conversation. But we do get fairly adept at spotting attempts of undue influence in conversation, when it appears, and we are paying attention. When our minds are not busy dancing in the strobelights.
    personal leadership mindfulness 2 conversational mastery 2 articles

    • Open honest conversation is disorderly.

    Done right, it feels messy and chaotic and confusing and inspiring. Conversation can bring us closer. When we dare stop to breathe. Pause. Listen.

    The point of conversation is not to “close the deal”. The point of conversation is to open your mind.

    • Conversation is human. To err – is human.

    Never skipping a beat is for clockwork based units only.

    personal leadership mindfulness 2 conversational mastery 2 articles

     

     

    personal leadership mindfulness 2 conversational mastery 2 articles

    About the author

    CM.Cooper is the owner and chief improvement officer at undercover-coaching.com. Chris has a background in media & communication, HRM (postgraduate) sociology and business negotiation.

    She is partial to the pleasures of photography, open air music festivals, the works of Douglas Adams and rather bad puns.

    You can contact Chris for inquireries about personal consulting via email: chris [at] undercover-coaching.com, follow on Twitter or if you have a great idea for a business venture that doesn’t suck, she might buy you a coffee in Copenhagen.

     

    Who knows what you really want?

    articles The other day I was talking to a friend who told me, that he had realized how he needed to set smarter goals. What are smarter goals? It’s actually SMARTER goals.

    An acronym that most people who have already attended more motivational seminars than they have completed desert marathons, will know as one of the staple standard slide-deck elements on such events. And it is, a good method, for thinking about your goals. That, and Maslows “hierarchy of needs”. Which you probably know in the format of a pyramid, but actually – Maslow never presented it like that at all.

    Subscribe if you might like to receive an email notification on my upcoming rant about the pyramid that wasn’t – this post is about something completely different.
     

    The SMARTER goals framework and when it isn’t.

    SMARTER goals are the ones that are Specific and Measurable and depending on what version you are applying as the chosen method of choice; Attractive or Attainable. Evaluation is always represented by the E. Sometimes, you will see the same idea referred to as simply SMART goals.

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    Like this illustration I snagged from a Hootsuite post on social media marketing monitoring. If you run a business, SMARTER goals make sense for your everyday activities. When your strategy has been defined, SMART/ER goals is a great tool for staying on track.

     
    So far, so good. But what if, your SMARTER goals really are not that smart at all. But rather just serve to make you go faster in the wrong direction, in place of entirely changing your course?

    What if, the thing you are trying to achieve, really cannot be objectively measured at all? Then what? Do you just stick a Likert-scale on a few random parameters and call it a day? Or, did you get that if a goal cannot be measured objectively – no, that does not mean, that you goal is not “smart”. It just means that you cannot really use the SMARTER goals framework. For that, specific thing. That probably is not even ONE thing. It might not even be a “thing” at all.

    A marathon is not a thing, it’s an activity, but it would be a perfect example of a thing where the SMARTER goals idea would make sense.

    Now imagine, that you are not literally planning to run a marathon or anything of the like. Is it then advisable to use a method that is suitable for only these types of goals?

    Imagine that you insisted on trying to squeeze a complex problem into a simple framework, that was never designed for dealing with complex problems to begin with. Frustration will ensue. It is like the proverbial square peg in the equally proverbial round hole. It’s not going to work unless you make either one of them bigger, or the other one smaller. Or stop thinking about problems in terms of pegs and holes.
     
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    SMARTER goals was designed for simple solutions to simple problems. To which, you already know the answer.

    Want to run a marathon? Don’t just say “I want to run a marathon, some day”. And then go grab an extra bag of doughnuts as a reward for having set an ambitious goal for yourself. Choose a specific marathon. On a specific date, on a specific location. Is it realistic? Practice. Measure your progress, set a time-constraint, evaluate, re-evaluate. Simple.

    Even the dumbest person on the Planet can manage to complete a marathon. Given a reasonable level of physical fitness, all they really need is a good coach. To cheer them on and help them adjust the plan as needed. SMARTER goals are fine for dumb problems.

    Except life is not a goddamn marathon. In fact – nothing is a marathon, except an actual marathon.

    Be careful of metaphors. They are full of holes.

    Saying that “starting a business is like running a marathon” essentially means nothing more than that you need to be resilient, and plan ahead. Be in it for the long haul and all that. It is that little word “like” that trips people up. Especially when the word “like” is only implied. But of course in StartUp Land, it makes sense on more levels, because – well …

    What happens once you have successfully completed ONE marathon?

    Oh and also – say “challenge”, not “problem”. A marathon is not a problem, it is a challenge. So you see, if you just view ALL your problems as challenges …

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    “When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure”. [ Goodharts Law ]
     
    Think about this for a second. How often have you found yourself setting a “goal”, that upon closer inspection was just another measure for something else. Just one measure, out of many. Possible measures.

    Fun factoid. In Danish, the word for measure and the word for goal, is the same. I find this to be confusing, when I speak about goals versus measures in Danish.

    How many types of measures can you think of, that would be good measures for success?

    Grades are a good example. Is an A a good measure for how much you can demonstrate that you understand about a specific subject? Yes. But is the “A” really the target, that motivates you to be getting to classes and not fall asleep during them? I should hope not. I do recommend SMARTER goals to students. I also recommend using more metrics than just the grade, to measure ones depth of understanding. Sometimes, just knowing what the correct answer is, does not irrefutably prove that the student fully understands the question.

    What if, all your SMARTER goals help you achieve, is more of the same kind of stupid thinking that got you into whatever mess you think that you’re in, to begin with?

    Can you ever solve a problem using the same kind of logic that created it?

    What if – those SMARTER goals just means that you’re doing a dumb thing more effectively? How smart is that, on a scale from one to ten?
     

    This is what coaching is for.

    The more stuck you feel, the more compelled you are likely to be towards “action”. Which means that the first person who comes along and gives you a simple enough sounding method for “propelling massive action” is a person you may well feel compelled to buy from. Sometimes, that will work out just fine. Sometimes.

    My friend here, had been setting SMARTER goals for something that he, upon deeper reflection, actually didn’t really want at all. Or to be more exact. Something, that was unlikely to make him sleep well at night. Which happens quite a lot.

    I am not saying that it was a dumb thing to want. The thing he really wanted, was related – but was something he had not dared to admit to himself. Conveniently forgotten. Until this *points to self* annoying coach-person starts asking him all manner of really annoying questions.

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    How often do you find yourself talking to a friend or family member about a challenge you have, something you think that “talking about it” will provide you with clarity on?

    Only to have been at the receiving end of a barrage of suggestions and how-to-guides, feeling even more confused and than you were to begin with. And not in the good way. Possibly even annoyed, because some of their suggestions might not be that far off the mark. But you’ll be damned if you’re going to follow them, because – well, what makes them such an effing expert on the matter anyway.

    Depends on who you talk to. Depends on how good they are at listening. Depends on how many issues they have going on themselves, from which their suggestions are likely to be clouded.

    Now bonfires and beer was invented for a reason. Sometimes all you need, is to sit down, shut up and poke around a fire for a bit, making grunty sounds to the appraisal of the glorious aspects of ale. Get your mind off the issue for a while, and you gain some perspective.

    Other times, even the best bonfire is not going to solve the issue. Because it’s an ongoing concern. It is not going away, no matter how hard you ignore it.

    Those who are hell-bent on giving you the solution, before they understand the problem – before you even understand the problem, because if you did – it would not be such a challenging problem – may mean well. I know that they most often do. Mean well.

    It just doesn’t help. Solutions to problems one does not fully comprehend, is hardly any solution at all. In some cases, it may even make matters much worse.

    If part of the problem exists on a macro-structural level, you need to understand the structural issues, before you start yammering on about evolutionary psychology and Odysseus only knows what else. There are no “dumb questions” but there certainly are a lot of half-baked answers. I could give you examples, but maybe all I need to say is “pick-up artists”. And let’s leave it at that.

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    Start with why.

    If you’re feeling somewhat stuck, and you think that all you need is to start setting “smarter goals” or SMARTER goals, start with WHY.

    What is it that you really want?

    Why is this thing or activity or opportunity or scenario or whatever, something you are willing to strive for? Why is it important? What will it help you achieve? Happiness? Why not start there? What is preventing you from being happy? If you say “because I need to achieve this goal, before I can be happy” – there’s your problem.

    Often when people hire a coach to help them “achieve more” in life, only rarely are the goals they start out by stating as their reason for hiring the coach, the actual why. There are usually more than one thing lurking beneath these surface-goals. That which they are really missing. Or that which is the true ambition, behind the ambition. The desire behind the desire.
     

    Words of advice.

    It’s great to have someone in your life who can advise you. I recommend having several. I recommend choosing wisely. The problem is, if all you ever seek is “advice on this” or “good methods for that”. All you get is advice on things that may not at all be what you really need to be looking for, right now. If even at all.

    You might have heard me say that “it is not the answer that illuminates, but the question”. The quote is attributed to Eugene Ionesco, whom I tend to get confused with late author Umberto Eco.

    Who advised, that one should always own more books than one could ever possibly have time enough to read. I don’t know what that piece of advice, or quote – these are often taken out of context – would mean to a person who does not like to read.

    Maybe he might interpret that to mean, that a person need only ever own one book, besides The Good Book. Which is good, because it’s good. And it’s a book. [ Tim Minchin reference. You can find “The Good Book” on Youtube -ed ]

    Or maybe you “get it” and that it’s not really about books or The Book at all. It’s about access to knowledge and insight and being curious and not thinking that you can ever know “enough” about anything. It’s not about hoarding paper bound in pretty covers, or having fifteen terrabytes worth of written material stored on a hard-drive somewhere. Possibly in “the cloud”. For easy access from anywhere. That has a working connection.

    It’s about surrounding yourself with intelligence.

    We take advice as interpreted. When a person who knows you, offers a few words of advice, those words are still going to be more personally tailored to both you and your specific situation, than any algorithm based search will ever be able to provide at the present moment in time.

    It may also be heavily biased.

    Give it time though, and it is likely that algorithms will be able to offer us the answer to a question we did not even ask. Imagine asking for “doughnuts” and the answer you get is “Did you not already have five today? Are you sure you don’t just need a hug? Here are some suggestions, based on …“

    Imagine search-suggestions being given, based on biases formed from the day you were born. Might as well be asking a parent. Well, a parent that never allowed you to move out of sight, let alone leave home. But fortunately – or unfortunately, depending on how much you like the idea of an all seeing eye, this is presently not entirely the case.

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    There are plenty of people who in all honesty will claim, that they certainly don’t need no formal education, because on the Internet – you can find anything! But perhaps you might also consider, that on the Internet, anything can find you.

    There is more to a formal education than information. There is more to intelligence than automation, no matter what certain machine-learning enthusiasts might want believe.

    Critical thinking, just to mention one. Without it, no amount of information will be very useful.

    Aside from perhaps the kind of skill you can pick up along the way by copy-pasting from Stackoverflow and apply in the world of web-design. I’m sorry, but just because you can find the right snippet of code that will make whatever you are doing, work for achieving a specific subset of simple tasks – that really does not make you a programmer.

    Learning a language, and learning how to translate a complex problem into that language, does.

    Plus, could we also maybe agree that HTML is not really a “programming language”? There are lots of lovely things one can do with HTML. Programming just isn’t one of them.
     
    But I digress. You get the idea. It’s not really about programming. Or web-design. Or my pet peeve about people calling HTML a programming language. I am using this as a metaphor.

    First you need to understand the problem.

    Copy-pasting a script may be useful, but there may also be a few problems with this approach. I suppose it’s a bit like learning French by using a phrasebook. It’s a fine enough introduction. If all you want is to be able to order a baguette with cheese, maybe that is all you need. But you probably need more than a standard set of fixed phrases to be able to claim that you are fluent in French. Especially, if you decide to put “fluent in French” on your resume.

    Likewise with people who decide to start coaching other people, or decide to start hosting “self-improvement” seminars. It is probably advisable, not simply to copy-paste the script from someone else. Yes I am looking at you, Anthony Robbins-Wannabees. Now, let me ask you – say AYE.
     

    Just ask the Internet …

    You need not go to school, not really, this much we know – from reading half-baked wantrepenuerial ramblings on the Internet all about how Steve Jobs was a Stanford drop-out, and therefore … you probably need not even complete high-school, not if you have this awesome idea. And enough wantrepenurial zest to boot.

    Yeah, about that? I think the word one needs to pay attention to in that sentence is STANFORD. Not the word “drop-out”. I think that maybe the kind of student who gets into an ivy league university is pretty much already ahead of the curve.

    You need not pay good money to attend some expensive seminar, which aside from demanding that you get out of the house, probably also is going to require that you wear pants – because The Internet! Well .. maybe that is missing the point of the greatest library ever built. Just a bit.

    Of course the expensive seminar could be an over-hyped load of dingos kidneys, but still. I am trying to build a case for personal coaching here, so bear with me while I work my way into a shamelessly transparent sales-pitch for my own coaching services.

    You need not even hire a person to listen to you while you try to figure out what it is, really, that you have been looking for and why you have as of yet been unable to find it. You can just ask – The Internet.

    Actually – no. You can’t literally “ask the Internet” anything.

    You can search for stuff. And find people, whom you can ask. On the Interwebs. Which is useful. I like the Interwebs. It’s the most fun place I know, that isn’t actually a place. It is also growing with such a remarkable speed, that we need clever algorithms to help us navigate. We could not possibly find our way on our own, unless we already knew where we were going. Which is what the address bar is for, and yet people will actually google-search a web-address. An address, mind you, that they already know perfectly well. I have no idea why that is.

    Google may be smart, but the results you get from asking the search engine a question, are still based on the quality of the question you ask.

    The advice you are given from a person, is never going to be better than how well the person giving it knows you, or how well you know yourself.

    I sometimes joke about the fact, that if I knew my clients search-history, I would understand their problems better than they understand themselves. Even before they had spoken a single word.

    Our search-engines know more about us than our family does.
    Most likely. Maybe you share everything with your friends and family, as it happens. Including your every thought, ideas and concerns. Including those pages on the Interwebs you never visit, unless you think that nobody is watching. Yes – I am talking about those pages you made sure to delete from your browser history, just in case.

    But I highly doubt it. Because there are things that we prefer ro keep “private”. And there are things, that we do not even know about ourselves.

    Things of which we are simply not aware.

    Things that others may only be able to deduce from observing our behaviour directly, in real time and/or recorded.

    You know, like when Facebook logs that long-ass rant you started typing in the app, never posted, but deleted, in the app, because you realized that it actually did not make much sense. But strangely, the next ad you see in the sidebar, is an advertisement for a mindfulness-based anger-management course. What a coincidence.

    Oh well. Maybe you needed it. So it’s all good. Now did you ask the Internet for advice on how to handle your anger? Before that suggestion was served up for you? Not explicitly, no. The fancy word for this is behavioural profiling.

    This is how things on the Internet find you, while you think that you’re busy finding things on the Internet. There is no longer such a thing as free search. Think of it as free speech, only for thoughts.

    I suppose the good news is, that the advertisements that find you, are quite often totally crap. Because that means, that we’re still not entirely there yet, in terms of machines reading minds. The bad news, is that this only fuels the “need” to invade our privacy even further.

    But let’s say that they could. Read minds. How would an automated intelligence know what you needed, if you did not even know it yourself? It could only suggest. Suggestion is influence.
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    How do you find the right question?

    The way in which you ask questions, frames the way you think about a particular problem. Which means, that if you need to think outside of the frame for a second, you do need someone else to ask the questions. That is what I mean by “it is not the answer that illuminates -”.

    This is what personal coaching is for.

    You need not hire me as your personal coach. You need not even hire anyone to coach you at all. I don’t like to call it “life-coaching”. I find that the term life-coaching sounds somewhat douchy. I am not entirely sure why that is.

    Perhaps it is because of the connotations to the world of sports and games.

    Perhaps it is because I prefer my clients not to think of me as someone who is going to be there for them, always. I really much rather prefer that you make use of my services for a loosely predefined limited time only.

    Which is why you book for a standard maximum of 12 sessions. I like to think that part of my job with any client, is to make my personal coaching services redundant. It works for cognitive therapists, and it works for personal coaching too. Only in rare cases, do clients need to book extra sessions in addition to the already scheduled and paid.

    I do sometimes have former clients booking single sessions for career- and business counselling. It saves them time, because I already have an idea of how they have arrived at where they’re at. It does not mean, however, that I presume anything to be given.

    But enough with the sales-pitch.

    You need not hire anyone to ask you the right questions, but you do need to find someone who is willing to suspend their belief in what they think they already know. Someone, who does not simply give you “advice”. Look for people who inspire you. To think critically, and dare to be confused about what you think that you already know.
     

    Re-evaluate.

    Your “goals”. Constantly. This is the smarter approach. Don’t just ask the Internet .. -webs. Just as the cloud is just another word for other peoples computers, the Interwebs is just another word for other peoples thoughts.

    Some of which are – well, just slightly smarter than others.

     

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    About the author

    CM. Cooper has a background in media & communication, HRM (postgraduate) sociology and business negotiation.

    She is partial to the pleasures of photography, open air music festivals, the works of Douglas Adams and silly puns about lions.

    You can follow CM.Cooper on Twitter. For inquireries about private consulting email chris [at] undercover-coaching.com.
     

     

    Why wombling about on your social media profiles feels better right now than getting shit done.

    Don’t lie. You know how this feels. You wrote that neat list of items to do. You prioritized the items. Urgent, important versus un-important and not quite urgent. You even calculated the amount of time you’d need to accomplish whatever minor goals within time.

    Just one more refresh times N hours later, you have managed to “like” a grand total of 14 cute cat-gifs, not counting the one with the bat, commented on #Applegate (please tell me that we are calling the whole FBI-wants-a-backdoor-Cook-does-not-comply shamozzle “Applegate”, or I shall lose all faith in the standard naming syntax for giant clusterfucks), dropped a few awfull jokes about Trumpvoters and managed to skillfully negotiate your way out of doing the dishes. That todo-list? Well.

    Allright so maybe you cheated, and added “update social media profiles” as item number 5 on that list. Or, you may be the social media manager of some brand, person, event or thing – in which case dropping awful jokes about Trumpvoters may be part of your job-description.

    But let’s assume that you’re not, and it isn’t.

    What is it, exactly, that makes wombling about on social media so much of a infinitely more attractive activity than getting shit done?

    What is it, that makes you feel compelled towards “just five more minutes” when you know very well that on social media it is NEVER “just five more minutes”?

     

    Compelled to action

    Contrary to what you rationally know to be true, your experience IN THE MOMENT is that you ARE in fact “getting shit done”.

    In fact, the more used to compiling tidy todo-lists and checking boxes once an item has been “done”, the more likely you are to get yourself caught in the strobelight, like some sort of digitally discodancing deer, compulsively tapping, clicking, checking and scrolling away when really you know that there are other things to be done, and none of them are the ones you just did.

    You are “getting shit done” allright.
    That’s the problem. It may be just that. Shit, redundant activities, that in all likelihood need not in reality NEED to get done at all.

    But as opposed to probably 80% of all the items you do need to get done. Important things, urgent things, urgent AND important things, and things that would sort of just be nice to get done before they become urgent – you know EXACTLY how to accomplish social media wombling-about-activity items.

    As opposed to say – writing that report, sorting through those budgets or deciding on whether to go with option A, B or C on that project you’re overseeing the implementation of. You work as a “symbol analysist”? Designer? Executive-something? “Knowledge worker”? Student? Something-something-Information Management?

    Complicated stuff that.
    Social media – not so complicated.
     
    social relationships 2 personal leadership media literacy 2 articles
     
    You see, social media – for lack of a better term – wombling-about, affords us the illusion of productivity.

    One click – done. One item. Another click. Done; another item. Check. One comment, little more effort, but your standard knee-jerk reaction autoresponse will probably do just fine. Post something, oh what to choose – just share someone elses post. There. Done. Check. Completed; tiny task.

    This feels great. Very productive. Sort of.

    Plus the reward is instant. When someone likes, comments or shares what you just did. Unlike that report that hardly anybody is going to like, let alone actually read. A cute bat-gif on the other hand. Like; instant gratification.
     

    “I’ve got it under control”

    Sure you do. Except not really. You do not control how your attention is being manipulated to get you to pay more attention to the screen, and less time to what is going on behind it.

    Don’t feel bad about how much time you actually spend on these marginally useful activities either. Most people spend far more time on social media than they care to admit and invest more emotional energy than they dare to realize.

    And to be clear. The Internet is awesome. The Interwebs is awesome too. Facebook is a social media application. Facebook is not the Internet.

    Now does social media activity in general and being “on” Facebook in particular make you feel more calm, happy, elated or energized? I’m not talking about the meaningful interactions.

    The ones that can and do occur. I’m talking about the compulsive aimless, mindless sharing, liking, checking-for-updates kind of usage. Especially, the compulsive checking. oh, just five more minutes. One more refresh. One more scroll. Update, refresh, repeat. That. You know what that, is “like”.

    But blaming social media for your lack of actual productivity is like blaming coke for being fun at parties. If you like that kind of party. Personally I don’t, but each to their own.

     

    Social media are not here to make you more productive.

    Social media are not even here to make you connect better with family and friends. Social media are here to make you share things on social media. That is the basis of any social media business model.

    On occasion, this is kinda brilliant. But most often, it’s just not. Until someone comes up with, and managages to engage enough people in, a more ethically designed social media network-application, we’re stuck with the ones that make the truly meaningful interactions rare gems to stumble upon.

    I used to say, that social media are only as shallow as you are. But really that is no longer entirely true, if indeed it ever actually was. Social media are as shallow as you allow yourself to be, under the restraints of the format of the media in question. The last part, is the part which has to do with the design. The part you as the “user” have neither influence nor control over.

    You know this, obviously – but how does your behaviour reflect this insight?

    Do you know how to harness that cheeky desire to get more views, impressions, likes, shares on whatever random brainfart you just composed? Obsessively checking the number of things that can be counted against some arbitrary score of awesomeness?

    Do you know how to avoid the temptation of not wanting to miss out on some potentially brilliant, thoughtprovoking or marginally amusing comment that *might* be lurking just below the fold?

    Or, do you just need another “five minutes” before you can comfortably close those “social apps” and get back to work? Get back to the person in front of you? Get back to just being present, here – now?
     

    There’s an app for that

    Treating the sympton. Sure. I do that with hangovers. The treatment is called fastfood and aspirin. Do you need another goddamn app to tell you that time is up and close your social media apps for you? An aspirin for compulsion-by-design, really?

    But – the need to “unwind” and/or “be social”? Maybe. There is that. So let’s talk about how “social” social media really is, and at what cost. In another post. You can subscribe if you want it delivered directly in your inbox.

    Or, you can follow me on the social media “platform” that I presently find to be the least terrible option. Although there *may* be the odd joke about Trumpvoters. Yeah, I’m totally getting shit done. social relationships 2 personal leadership media literacy 2 articles

     

    social relationships 2 personal leadership media literacy 2 articles

    About the author

    CM. Cooper currently coaches private clients on better social media management. Get in touch if yours has gotten out of hand too. If you need someone to talk to your employees about digital literacy & productivity, this can be arranged.

    Chris has a background in media & communication, HRM (postgraduate) and business negotiation.

    She is partial to the pleasures of photography, open air music festivals, the works of Douglas Adams and silly puns about lions.

    You can contact Chris for inquireries about consulting via email: chris [at] undercover-coaching.com, connect via Linkedin, follow on Twitter or if you have a great idea for a business venture that doesn’t suck, she might buy you a coffee in Copenhagen.

     

    Solace for Sufferers of S.A.D

    mindfulness 2 articles Aka the Nordic Winter Blahhs. Just because you’ve never heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD as its acronym is aptly known, it does not mean that it does not affect you, or someone you may know. Here are some of the tell-tale signs, followed by my personal top 10 remedies. In no particular order.
     

    Does any of this sound familiar?

    * You have been feeling progressively jet-lagged since the end of DST or even as early as the autumn Equinox, and you haven’t even been travelling that much. If even at all.

    * You feel that you could quite happily simply hibernate until somewhere around early February. When the light starts to noticeably return.

    * You’ve been counting down to Winter Solstice for a month, and you’re not even entirely sure what Solstice really is.

    * You get up when work demands, but feel sluggish and unproductive for most of the day. So much tired. Come night time and your wakefulness oddly perks up. Now you can’t sleep. You wake up feeling irritable and slow.

    * The first thought on your mind when you crawl out of bed, is how great it is going to feel when you get to crawl back under the covers again in 18 hours or less.

    * Your level of tolerance for minor annoyances is lower than usual.

    * You don’t seem to have much of an appetite, or you binge on unhealthy things in place of proper meals. “Oh I don’t need lunch, I had four glazed donuts and a bag of crisps, I’m good”. No, no you are not and you know it.

    * You’ve been googling ”what are the signs of depression”.

    * You’ve tried ”just going to bed on time”. To no avail. You just manage to stare at the ceiling for three hours before panic of not getting enough sleep sets in.

    * You can be super-productive during the night. You manage to persuade yourself, that this is perfectly fine, totally normal and besides – nights are great for working undisturbed. Really getting things done.

    Which is probably true. Problem is. While during the light season you can re-adjust to a more socially acceptable rhythm within a day or two.

    During the dark months; once you’ve flipped the day around, you’re fucked. You’re flailing like a turtle on its back, with nobody around to get it back on its four tiny feet. Sucks.

    mindfulness 2 articles

    While some people seem mostly unaffected by the natural seasonal changes, some even appear to truly shine during Winter – others have it worse. Some have it really, really bad.

    As with any ”disorder” what we’re looking at is a spectrum. Other factors may contribute to your overall lack of well-being, so be careful not to self-diagnose.

    **IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER** I am not a licensed psychologist and I am in no place to give any medical advice in any way of form. The opinions expressed here are those of the author, and the suggestions given must not be taken as, or in place of, any officially approved medical professional advice.

    That being said.
    Here are my personal Top 10 remedies for dealing with SAD.
     

    1. Walk – don’t run.

    Trying to keep up with all the things you’re lagging behind on by attempting to run faster, is only going to give you burnout. Focus instead first on dealing with the cause, and the symptoms might just take care of themselves. OK so at least maybe some of them. Some of the time.

    If you’ve gotten behind on important deadlines, that really is not good, but you won’t get back on top on things by trying to force yourself to be productive, when your mind and body is screaming for a reset.

    Take a day to re-adjust. Re-estimate whatever schedule you have fallen behind on. If you think that you cannot afford to do this, it is safe to assume that you can much less afford to not.

    If there is one thing I know for certain about SAD, it is how it can really mess with your ability to focus. You want to start with getting resourceful. Focus first on feeling good.

    Start with accepting the premise, that during the ”season of SAD” you’re most likely not going to be firing on all cylinders, as it were.

    Adjust your ambitions for this, and plan accordingly, as much as you possibly can. If you are self-employed, this might be easier, I admit. Unless the arrival of SAD tends to ambush you at the least convenient moment, because you have yet to realize that this might just be the problem.

    I promise you, the longer you wait in dealing with the causes, the worse it is only going to get. So go relax. Reset. Regroup. Be resourceful.

    And. If someone tells you that Seasonal Affective Disorder is ”not really a thing” or worse, that it’s ”just an excuse for lazy people to be lazy”. Tell them to go fuck themselves. They have no idea, or they live some place without noticeable seasons. Too bad for them, they never get to experience a sunrise at 4 AM or a sunset at midnight either.

    Speaking of light.
     
    mindfulness 2 articles
     

    2. Light Therapy.

    Since light-therapy units, or light-boxes, first appeared on the consumer market, prices have decreased massively. I strongly recommend anyone who suffers from SAD to get one of these things. Yes, they do work.

    When you follow the instructions … Just because your 10.000 lumen lightbox just happens to double as a really neat little lightboard, it does not mean that it is a very good idea to be doing tracework drawing late at night on it. Before you know it, it’s four in the morning and you’re kinda back to square one. Lightboxes need to be used as regular as clockwork to have the desired effect. So keep this in mind, and don’t overdo the usage. Plus using lightboxes does have side-effects, most noticeably, they can give you massive headaches the first few times you use them.

    You also want to make sure to adjust the screen brightness on your various Interweb devices, as this too can keep you massively awake during odd hours. I let the lights start to dim around 10 hours before I need to be up the next morning. This seems to work.

    However, in my experience, light-therapy is rarely enough on its own. Maybe in mild cases, and it may be for you.

    For me personally, light-therapy remedies the dark melancholy that arrives in the wake of the steadily diminishing daylight, but not the warped sense of circadian rhythm entirely.

    I suspect this might have something to do with mostly living in an urban environment, where it never gets truly dark. Or, the fact that I do enjoy pulling a massive allnighter at the best of times, but that Winter just isn’t the best time to do this.

    Or maybe SAD is just a thing that needs to be attacked on more than one flank.
     

    3. Massive Sensual Overdose

    Incense, scented baths, fresh flowers, branded bottled scent. Anything that does not smell like air freshener or laundry detergent.

    mindfulness 2 articles

    Dark heavy fragrances are perfect for cold weather. Just don’t over-spray, you don’t want to olfactory-assault your co-workers with Poison. If you work from home on the other hand, no need to worry about ”office appropriate” scents. You can splash away to your hearts content and walk around in a massive cloud of tuberose, patchouli, dirty Oudh or whales armpit if so you desire.

    Or go for the more dry, green and crisp sensations, like Hermés Voyage; that someone close to me described as “reminiscent of peeling an orange on the deck of an ocean liner” – or you may prefer spicy marine notes like Dior Sauvage. That really smells nothing like I imagine Jack Sparrow would smell like in Blow – all I get is Aramis with a leather wristband – allthough I’m actually starting to rather like it. But I digress. The point is to appreciate the wonderful world of fragrance.

    Perhaps you’ve been offered the advice of making sure you ”get enough exercise”. This one should. But mindless exercise is in my view almost as useless as no exercise at all. Trudging along on a hamsterwheel in a smelly gym, counting miles on a hamster-app, I have never understood, but that’s just me.

    Whatever you do, whether it be running, swimming, cycling or fencing – make sure to engage in the activity with mindfulness. SAD is not avoided by simply flapping your arms. SAD is avoided by feeling happy. Indulging in sensual pleasure will help you do that.

    But speaking of fresh air. Open the all the windows while you go for a walk outside. Sometimes the feeling of icy cold wind on your face is exactly what you need to wake up and smell the freshly brewed coffee.

    mindfulness 2 articles
     

    4. Sound

    Music can lift your mood, but so can paying attention to everyday sounds. I recommend Julian Treasures excellent guide for listening better.
     

     
     

    5. Embrace the Night

    Since there is no point in trying to fight the near-constant absence of natural light, you might as well embrace it. Go for a long walk under the bright stars. If you can find a place with low light pollution, that is. Or marvel at the moon, when it is visible.

    Check out what community observatory Slooh has to offer, in the way of exploring the Universe by gazing at the sky at night.

    mindfulness 2 articles
     

    6. Goodreads

    The dark season is the season for deep introspection, reflection, letting go of the old, celebrate what is done, and being ready to embrace the new. I find these the most darkest hours of the dark season is good for letting new ideas begin to form.

    Indulge yourself in a weekend of just not getting out of bed, and read all the books and articles you’ve been meaning to check out all year.

    Reflect on what you have learnt the past three hundred and fifty-something days, and what you might like to learn during the next hundred or two.

    Go “off the grid” for a day or two, reset your priorities. No need to wait until the ball drops at Dec. 31′th at Midnight for this.

     

    7. Good food & Laughing out Loud

    There is a reason why the ancient tradition of feasting on massive meals in the midst of winter has prevailed. Because it makes us less miserable. Well, ideally, anyway. If your family isn’t a bunch of total morons.

    Make a point of eating well. Always important, but for those who suffer from SAD it is most crucial to engage all five senses to avoid the feeling of uncomfortably numb. Regularity of food-intake I am sure makes a difference too.

    Good food, by the way – is NOT squishy, fatty, sugary things of the variety ”fast” or fizzy drinks with the word ”energy” stamped all over the can. If you’re already suffering from SAD, screwing with your blood-sugar levels is only going to send you over the edge in a bad way.

    If you can combine good food with having good laughs with friends, obviously this is to be preferred. But if for whatever reason that is not possible, dare to have fun on your own. Seek out things that make you laugh in an inspired way. Entertainment does not need to be mindless.
     

    8. Melatonin

    If nothing helps to adjust your whacked out circadian rhythm, melatonin is there to help. The drug works by allowing you to be tired when you’re “supposed to” feel tired. And awake when it is time to be awake. For this reason it is sometimes prescribed as a remedy for insomnia. So it might seem counter-intuitive, that it can help you stay awake at your desk by day.

    Melatonin can help you maintain a healthy circadian rhythm during those months where the available natural light provides you with these not terribly useful clues to when is day and what is night. That is to say – very few clues at all. Melatonin is also prescribed to frequent travellers to adjust for the kind of jetlag, that might otherwise take weeks to feel fully recovered from.

    Consult your physician on this. Be sure to check the list of side-effects too. It might not be the right solution for you.
     

    9. Acupuncture

    If you don’t like the idea of pharmaceutical medication, there is a specific acupuncture practice that can help you restore a more balanced circadian rhythm. I would be cautious, however. There are many quacks in the acupuncture-business. Ask around for personal recommendation in your local area, if this solution appeals to you. Once you’re back to ”normal” you will need to maintain the balance by healthy living overall. There are no magic fixes, but there are things that can help you get back on your feet, if not thrive.
     
    mindfulness 2 articles
     

    10. Dance

    Just dance. You may feel like you are dancing with two left feet, and that it is difficult and you feel awkward and you would much rather prefer a cheeky afternoon snooze. And that is perfectly fine.

    Celebrate Solstice – or call it something else, find your own reasons to rejoice in the light that returns.

    The natural seasonal rhythm is what is is.

    You can fight it, you can flee from it, you can freeze in it – or you can dance with it.

    I say dance with it. Life is here to be loved.
    And this too, shall pass.

     

    • If you read this far – I assume you either enjoyed this post or found it marginally useful – you might like to subscribe to new post updates via email. Feedburner has a double opt-in, so don’t forget to activate your subscription if you do.
    mindfulness 2 articles

    About the author

    CM.Cooper is the owner of undercover-coaching.com, a small private enterprise dedicated to improving life and how to love it. Chris has a background in media & communication, HRM (postgraduate) and business negotiation.

    She is partial to the pleasures of photography, open air music festivals, the works of Douglas Adams and rather bad puns.

    You can contact Chris for inquireries about personal consulting via email: chris [at] undercover-coaching.com, connect via Linkedin, follow on Twitter or if you have a great idea for a business venture that doesn’t suck, she might buy you a coffee in Copenhagen.

    From where I stand

    I am interested in how social media is used and how it works to promote happiness. Or not. If you have human friends, or work with human people, this ought interest you too.
     
    If you use social media mainly for socializing, I am betting that you have found it difficult on more than one occasion to simply unplug. “Oh just – one more …”
     

    5 minute read. LIX: 35. Wordcount: 1338.

     

    What interests me is not so much how social media are massive real-time recommendation engines. Or how they can act as personalized news-channels. This they are, and that they do and both I find absolutely useful.
     

    Consider the concept of a “newsfeed”.

    If you find it difficult to not be looking at it constantly, and you can’t seem to stop constantly wanting to check your notifications. Knowing all too well, that this is getting a bit out of hand, and you really should cut down on your daily social media consumption.

    Is it really the “news” in the newsfeed you are looking to feed on?

    Actual breaking news items aside. Anyone who has ever glanced at their device at the exact second someone responded to a message, prompting an experience of perfectly synced dis-embodied communication, knows that the “news” is not really the point.

    For a brief magic moment, you and the other are connecting in “real time”. Your awareness is touching the exact same point in virtual space for probably about 1/25 of a second.

    You will want to have that experience again.

    relationships 2 presence mindfulness 2 media literacy 2 articles

    And now it is gone. You can stare at that same message for the rest of the day, and maybe if it came from someone you admired, you could feel great about it for several hours, even days. But you know, that the moment itself has passed. If your attention stays on the device and the device is online, however …

    When is it going to be done?

    This may well be one of the many reasons why wombling about on your social media profiles, feels better right now than getting stuff done.

    When is a “social media conversation” done for the day? When you need to catch a train and be on your way? There is a term for the skillfull design of our social media interfaces, that makes it an exercise in self-discipline not to get sucked into the spiral of “just one more ..”.

    The term is “growth-hacking”. The goal is to get more users to post more content, and get more new users to want to get into the game. I recently learned, that Mark Zuckerberg had one question for all his employess, whenever an engineeer had a great idea. “How will it help us grow?” (Business Insider UK, 2016-03-11, Shana Lebowitz)

    relationships 2 presence mindfulness 2 media literacy 2 articles

     

    Constantly connected?

    When it is sometimes said of millenials and other aliens that they are “constantly connected”. Strictly speaking, that is not at all very accurate. Unless being constantly available is the same as connection. I don’t think it is.

    Social media “connection” allows for a digital form of connected-ness. It is binary in structure. The information you send and receive is not flowing. It is a flicker of static bits of information.

    You either like a post, or not. You either click on a link, or you don’t. You are either online = available for chatting, or you are not. You either send a message, or you don’t. Comment, no comment.

    Compare with a conversation in meatworld. There are lots of things you can do, that are not in the least bit only either/or. Flirting for one thing. By definition, flirting is ambiguous. The second you both agree that it is “on” it is no longer just flirting, now it is something in addition to flirting.

    But that it is “on”, and that you agree that it is (otherwise it actually isn’t, but of course you knew that already) does NOT mean, what “being on” means in binary world.

    If something is ON, it cannot – by definition – also be not-on. It is either – or. When we’re talking things that are truly binary. Human interaction is analogue. Our synapses may be binary, but our minds are most certainly anything but. We’d be quite primitive creatures if they were. Look at any natural language (as oposed to programming languages), and try to make it conform to a binary standard of processing and understanding.

    The concept of negation is a notoriously tricky construct to deal with in terms of “natural language processing”. Don’t believe me? Try performing a Google Image search with the natural language query “cats that are not black” and see what happens.

    Flirting can never be “binary”. If it was, it would not be flirting. This is why people get confused and even frustrated over apps such as Tinder. Your initial communication may be either/or, that is sort of the whole point of the Tinder-game from what I understand – but what follows needs to be more than yes/no. And what if you meet up and realize that maybe? Confusing. Welcome to the real world. The part of it where people are human and communication is analogue. Because of course “online” is as real as anything else.

    relationships 2 presence mindfulness 2 media literacy 2 articles
    Face-to-face communication is an infinitely more information-rich format of communication. I am not saying that it is “better”. It just is what it is.

    If social media is like a strobelight, face-to-face communication is like a bonfire. Each have their purpose and some like it hot.

    What we are trying to achieve by being constantly available, may have more to do with the desire to feel connected in sync, than we really like to admit.

    Get too close to a bonfire, and yes you will get burnt. Looking at a recording of a bonfire is safe. And ultimately useless in terms of keeping you warm. There is also something delightfully primal about sitting close to a fire. Stand too close to a strobelight and you might have an eplileptic fit. Pretty sure it’s bad for your eyes too.

    Because those instances of perfect sync are so rare, maybe people chase them – like chasing the elusive big win at the roulette tables. I don’t believe that “social media addicts” get “addicted to likes”.

    I think it is the sense of sync that is the jackpot element, the Big Prize. True there is a validation component. The experience of knowing that you exist, because someone has confirmed your existence.

    There is a reason why first-person point of view images are popular postings. I am talking about the kind of photo that gets hashtagged “fromwhereIstand” on Instagram.

    If you ever wondered what was so cool about people posting pictures of their feet, the feet – obviously – are not the point. Unlike the selfie that says “look at me now!” the first-person POV-image says “look through my eyes”. Where the one invites to look AT, the other invites to look WITH.

    Look at me, versus share my view.

    The smartwatch can tap you gently on the wrist when you recieve a notification. I find this is as creepy as it is cool. Wearable tech is still in beta, but so far what we are dealing with are rather one-dimensional experiences.
     
    relationships 2 presence mindfulness 2 media literacy 2 articles
     
    Unlike a warm sensual touch, or catching someones eye and feeling that brief sudden tingling rush of adrenaline when you recognize a mutually felt attraction/connection. The online-digital version does not provide us with the same clues as to whether or not our feelings are mutual.

    This sets the bar very high in terms of the interpersonal communication skills required to use these technologies to deepen, maintain – nevermind create, meaningful relationships.

    Whether they are professional, private; or more likely – somewhere in between. Human relations are human relations.

     

    relationships 2 presence mindfulness 2 media literacy 2 articles

    About the author

    CM.Cooper is the owner at undercover-coaching.com, a small enterprise dedicated to improving the quality of living. Chris has a background in media & communication, sociology, HRM (postgraduate) and business negotiation.

    She is partial to the pleasures of photography, open air music festivals, the works of Douglas Adams and rather terrible puns.

    You can contact Chris for inquireries about personal consulting via email: chris [at] undercover-coaching.com, connect via Linkedin, follow on Twitter or if you have a great idea for a business venture that doesn’t suck, she might buy you a coffee in Copenhagen.

     

    Step away from the strobe-light.

    I took a fairly long break from online social a while ago, and all I can say is – do yourself a favour and TRY THIS. It is good for your overall level of sanity. Your level of productivity is likely to improve, if this is something you currently feel is lacking. In any case it will give you perspective.
     

    20 minute read. LIX: 35. Wordcount: 4640.

     
    In this post, I will share with you some of the perspectives I gained. With a little help from a few media theorists, a handful of severely inspired talks and a fair amount of curiosity.

    social relationships 2 presence mindfulness 2 media literacy 2 awareness seductive themes articles

    Now I have recently taken a liking to Twitter.

    ‘Tis a strange place, the Twitterverse. But the natives seem quite friendly and most appear to be a fair bit above average in overall levels of intelligence. So I might stick around for a while.

    I did make a wrong turn the other day, and ended up on the angry MRA circuit. Quickly found my way home again, by using the hashtag #fuckunicorn as navigational vector.

    It seems that this particular “social” medium provides the most edutainment value, in return for the least amount of noise.

    Initially I had disregarded the stylized cartoon-bluebird as my daily go-to platform other than as a sort of personalized newspaper. Assuming that if I found the format of other mediums too fast-paced and fragmented, then surely a format of 140 chars would not even be worth considering. I was wrong. Twitter appears the least shady of the mainstream online-social mediums at the present. Meaning, it does not essentially pretend to be something it isn’t.

    There is limited amount of options, in terms of what the average user can “do” within the app.

    I like that.

    Plus there is none of that privacy-theatrics to constantly monitor, since your profile is 100% public by default. Direct messages are non-public, but since they are limited to 140 chars too, they feel more like old-school SMS than anything else.

    As in – how SMS used to feel like back when mobile phones were the size of bricks and would access the Interwebs in the same manner that a brick does not. Aside from the fact, that the content of your SMS messages, as far as I know, was not directly accessible to your telecommunications service provider. “Feels like” = not the same as.

    “Private” is such an interesting concept in the age of social media. There is no such thing as a private social media profile. There are only varying degrees of access, some of which you get to explicitely accept.

    Who “owns” your content is much less interesting than who has access to the personal social graph you are building by sharing that content.

    Why you are sharing it in the first place, what you hope to achieve and what price you were willing to pay for the priviledge.

     

    Syncing & live to stream.

    When I scroll through the news “stream” on that tiny handheld screen known as the smartphone, what I am looking at, is a series of static images.

    A flickering of thoughts, ideas, news, links to resources, more or less explicit invitations to engage with the content shared. Sometimes flickering in real time, other times not. But whether the tweet I am reading right this instant was posted 2 seconds or two months ago, it is still a static piece of communication. social relationships 2 presence mindfulness 2 media literacy 2 awareness seductive themes articles

    However long or short the delay from the “real time” in which the person composing that tweet was, it is still a static reflection of a movement of thought. Such is the nature of the recorded written word. Such is the nature of photography. Such is the nature of video-recordings.

    Livestreams? Less static than a still-photo, still more static than being there in person. The camera, determines your viewing angle. You never see what is behind the camera, unless you are there. Behind the scene.

    So much of our online lives, if not to say – pretty much all of it, is made up of static images, flickering across devices, screens in and out of our minds.

    Any video recorded with a frame-rate pr second at and above 24, our minds perceive as “live-action”. Drop to 15, and we start to perceive the recording as stop-motion.

    Ever tried watching a video presentation where the sound is out of sync with the images? Even a half-second lag at the start of the recording, and the entire thing quickly becomes impossible to parse, as the soundtrack progresses nicely, the movements on screen lag progressively behind the voice recording.

    If you recorded something using a 24 frame preset, but converted to the 25 frame standard upon exporting your edit. The images would lag, since that extra frame has to come from somewhere. You gain one extra frame – per second, and while 1/25 second may not sound like much – do the math. You’d soon know the difference on a hour long recording, even if you weren’t paying much attention to start with.

    Intuitively, out-of sync video recordings annoy us. The reality of the illusion becomes visible. It is not supposed to be visible. It is supposed to appear as if, the sound and the image is coming from the same source. Even though in reality, it is not. It just appears that way, when our playback is in sync. Even the slightest out of sync, and the recording appears dis-jointed and weirdly unnerving. We get anstsy and impatient. Irritated. Too many unpredictable jump-cut blanks to fill out for the mind.

    The illusion must not be too visibly an illusion, or we can’t accept the illusion as a virtual reality.

    Otherwise it would be a bit like watching a shite street magician, whose hands are certainly not quicker than your eyes, and you’ve spotted the mirrors even before you smelled the smoke.

    Out of sync VoIp conversations have the same effect on us. Badly compressed sound on VoIp when doing conferencing calls, is a whole topic on its own. If you often find yourself feeling mildly to severely annoyed when doing these things, or just feeling utterly exhausted from no more than a half hour meeting without knowing exactly why, bad sound-quality could well be the culprit.

    Massively compressed sound through crappy laptop speakers, recorded through a bad mic in a room with horrible acustics, is enough to ruin anyones day. It’s like strobe-light for the ears.

    All those static images, flickering across screens needs to appear as seamless as possible, for us to accept the illusion as recorded lived action. We may look at a series of still-photos from someone’s vacation, but we still fill in the blanks between those images. Whether we are aware of it or not. We still create our own storyline, based on the images available.

    social relationships 2 presence mindfulness 2 media literacy 2 awareness seductive themes articles

    I was listening to a presentation the other day, where the founder of Facebook said how he had wanted to create an online social network to to mirror the real world, social networks. I am not sure that algorithm-based stop-motion is the best way to do that. But maybe the user-perspective-experience is not really the point here.

     

    Does social media “steal your time”?

    In reality, social media usage does not stress us out because they move “too fast”. If you ever feel as if social media is a “time-stealer” it may well be due to the stop-motion like quality of the experience.

    Even the fastest most rapid-response exchange of random small-talk on social media is painfully slow in comparison with the same exchange taking place in a syncronized shared physical space.

    We do not percieve it that way, because we may be simulatenously engaged in several exchanges all at once. Except not really. We’re just switching between channels. This is how “just checking in” can suddenly become “whoooah .. is-that-really-the-time-goddammit-gotta-go ..”.

    Sometimes, that is perfectly okay. If we’re on a tight schedule, and have to coordinate something in time for a deadline – usually not so awesome.

    Recorded conversations warp time, as our perception of how time passes, is converted from one cognitive format to another.

    This has clearly a lot of advantages. You need not be in the same physical location. You get that extra frame to be thinking about your response. Or just the time it takes you to type out the words you maybe did not think very much about. No matter how fast you type, it is likely still a fair bit slower than speaking.

    That extra frame has to come from somewhere.

    Images, static, that constantly appear and disappear in and out of our awareness. The ones that catch our attention as they appear to flicker past, may be examined in closer detail. We can pause a video. Stop to zoom in on a detail on a photograph, or simply hit share before moving on to the next. You don’t even really have to look at it for more than a few seconds, nobody will know the difference.

    We may feel that we are somehow more in charge of that flickering, because we are engaged in a form of interactive media consumption. As opposed to sitting passively in front of whatever broadcast happened to be on TV.

    I say this sense of control is as illusory as the photograph is only a frozen moment of a part of one perspective in time.

    Just because a medium is “interactive” it does not mean, that you are the one who is in charge of how that interaction is shaped. No more than you would be in charge of what angle the director of a movie has chosen for a specific part of the storyline. On the contrary. The medium shapes the message, and by association, the way you interact within it, as well as without. Hashtag OMG.

    Some prefer – or maybe it’s just habit – Facebook, or its professionally minded sibling, LinkedIn. These are less demanding mediums on one level, but profoundly more demanding on others. More noise for one thing.

    I was talking to a teenage girl the other day who said she simply did not “understand” Twitter. I said that I did not understand Snapchat.

    But interestingly, we both rather disliked Facebook. And for the same reasons.

    She liked Instagram, like, a LOT – and gave me keen recommendations as to what beauty-bloggers were the best to follow there. Interestingly, on the beauty-blogger circuit (that’s make-up marketers for the un-initiated) the girls are all raving about this thing called “strobing”. It’s basically no more than the same makeup-artist method that used to be called “high-lighting”.

    I find this intruiging. Even if you know nothing about makeup artistry – consider the wording. Strobing is a term you might know from liveanimation.

    Why are the girls on Instagram making selfie-tutorials on “strobing”? How meta is this?

     

    How the medium shapes the message.

    I tend to write in shorter sentence structures when I take to the keyboard straight after having been active on Twitter. I like the way the medium limits my message. I can’t go off on long rants, bouncing to and from all manner of oddly shaped tangents.

    This is what makes Twitter the near perfect medium for written witty banter. It can sharpen your wit, since the format prompts you to think in one-liners.

    But it could also dull your senses to more tentative types of conversation. The kinds where sentences are not entirely thought through, and the value lies not in the perfect delivery, but rather the open-endedness of the ongoing cognitive process.

    Twitter is a demanding medium in this way, and likely one of the reasons why other more long-form friendly mediums have overtaken in terms of number of users. You need to embrace the inherent strictness of format, to find any thrill in using it for other than news-updates.

    You cannot be very nuanced in commentary, other than by direction attention to external sources that will fascilitate nuances in a debate. Pictures, possibly too. Even then. Questions posed will tend to be rhetorical. Not exclusively, but the format favours succinctness and on-point statements of opinion, short observations and of course, bits of breaking news.

    Twitter is very much a “report-style” medium.

     

    Hearting and starring in -

    As of writing this, all major players in the social media platform industry appear to be competing for the same pool of power-users – trying out all manner of features that were unique to other platforms, not really getting, that no platform is going to be everything to everybody, and why in the name of Odysseus would that be a target to aim for. Seems counter-productive.

    While Twitter appears to be aiming at snagging users from Instagram, LinkedIn from Facebook, Facebook from Youtube, Google+ seems to – … I have no idea what Google+ is doing. I suspect that neither do the good people behind Google+. Random thought: Google Minus. There’s an idea. It would be like all the other social sharing sites. Minus the bullshit.

    On social media, users get what the medium was programmed for, and quite often we complain when we realize that our use is being programmed to do something other than we have become accustomed to. Because suddenly, we find our activity – our behaviour – being directed. Manipulated. And we have little say in the matter, because as everyone is all too well aware, the user really is not the customer.

    But as long as we find the service provided even marginally useful, we all whinge about it for about a week, and proceed to adapt our behaviour to fit the new terms and conditions.
    social relationships 2 presence mindfulness 2 media literacy 2 awareness seductive themes articles
    Case in point. The “favourites” function on Twitter was recently renamed “likes”. And comes with a heart, in place of a gold star. The star-icon can be both a nod in agreement, a virtual high-five as well as a simple bookmark. It is delightfully ambiguous.

    The heart on the other hand, implies a positive judgement, and as you might well be aware, this seems inappropriate in the event that you had grown used to using the “favourite” as a bookmarking function for links you just wanted to save for later. Especially news-stories, that may not at all be “likeable” in the least.

     

    Moderation.

    But regardless of what social media format you prefer and why.

    Trying to master the fine art of deep and meaningful conversation, or just to learn everyday conversation by using social media, would be much akin to attempting to learn tango-steps under a strobe-light. It is not that it could not be done, it’s just that your learning curve might well look like a flat-lining EKG chart.

    Strobelights are fun. When you’re in a nightclub or at a concert. I am sure you would not want to be at a nightclub 24/7. As with anything, all in moderation. You should also probably stay away from strobelights, if you suffer from epilepsy.

    Plus, moderation – is essentially what your communication is subject to, whenever that communication has to conform to a specific set of rules, a specific format. It is a good idea to be aware of how the chosen format shapes, or moderates, your message. What it does to communication, when it is under the influence of constant moderation. How this is liable to shape the way you think about open-ended conversation. Your level of patience, for instance. Your sense of urgency in terms of responding.

    Social media formats favour a lot of things. Open-endedness is not one of them. You might even think it a bit weird, if someone comments on a post, picture, an update you wrote last summer or continues a conversation you started last week.

    But why, really? Because it is no longer valid, or just because it is no longer valid as “news /update”? Or because on some online-social mediums, your collected works of random brainfarts and curated links is called a “time-line”? Wouldn’t it be fun, if one could choose whether a social media post had a visible timestamp on it or not? Or if you had a function where you could “request timestamp” on a post, instead of it just being there by default? What would happen to our depth of creative sharing, if we stopped being so hellbent on “news”?

    Is it really the “news” in the newsfeed we are looking to feed on?

    Actual breaking news items aside. Anyone who has ever glanced at their device at the exact second someone responded to a message, prompting an experience of perfectly synced dis-embodied communication, knows that the “news” is not really the point.

    social relationships 2 presence mindfulness 2 media literacy 2 awareness seductive themes articles

    For a brief magic moment, you and the other are connecting in “real time”. Your awareness is touching the exact same point in virtual space for probably about 1/25 of a second. You will want to have that experience again.

     

    Static, movement & flux.

    The news-update focus may drive us away from depth. It flattens the territory, sometimes to the point where all we can see are random data-points on a map, losing sight of the landscape in the process entirely.

    We sometimes do this, to maintain some level of overview in a vast field of shiny things that all go “ping”. In the words of Sherry Turkle – and I might be paraphrasing slightly – we consume each other in fragments, bits and pieces. How can we do otherwise, when we are sharing in bits and pieces. The medium shapes the message.

    Again, this is not neccesarily a bad thing. I love a good cocktail-reception type party, watercoolertalk and shouting a bit about politics at a pub, and so should you. Just not 24/7.

    Those who already have “good social skills” (whatever that means) are going to be fine. Those of us who can remember how awesome it was to send and recieve ones first – whoa .. email. I think we are going to be fine.

    Those who feel at home everywhere, more or less. Sure there is too much of a good thing. Nothing that a week of “digital detox” a long walk and a bit of sensible reading can’t remedy. Because we know how a real connection is supposed to feel. Whether it be fascilitated through disembodied cyberspace, or someone we just sort of bumped into at a party. Doesn’t mean we always get it right, it just means that we’re going to be okay.

    It’s the ones that never learnt how to make friends with strangers in a syncronized face-to-face space, I really worry about.

    More adolescents today report having not one single close confidant, than ever before. Loneliness is no longer reserved for the über-weird and the magnificently gifted outliers. These are perfectly “average” youngsters. They have “friends” but no one to talk to.

    How the hell did that happen? And more importantly. Are they going to be okay? Or will they take a wrong turn on the Interwebs one day, and not have a #fuckunicorn of their own by which to navigate back to sane-space?

    social relationships 2 presence mindfulness 2 media literacy 2 awareness seductive themes articles

    Newsflashes that are only allowed to shine brightly for a moment, before we look to the next shiny thing in the stream. We do this, because we have readily accepted the illusion of movement in a fundamentally static universe. Static, the endless flickering parade of pictures are just moving almost at life-speed speed, the channels switch really fast. Oh look, more static.

    Which is an intriguing aspect when you think about it, given that so much of our existence consists of building illusions of stasis in a universe that is always in a state of flux.

    This not something new that arrived with social media. The trajectory of fragmented media consumption can be traced to the invention of the remote control. Add a hefty dose of capitalizing on personal data, propelling forward the “need” to constantly update, constantly share – more static, smaller fragments, more noise, more whats’appening and less how the hell are you – and there is nothing to stop that massive empathy-gap trainwreck from crashing through the soundbarrier of sane.

    Except coming to your senses. Stop accepting the madness.

    Watching someone dance under a strobelight is a mindfuck. You know, when movements under the strobe-light are fluid, the perception of stop-motion movement is due to the nature of stroboscope lighting. Not neccesarily because the person dancing, is doing so in a robotic manner. After a while, you start to feel dizzy and possibly a bit nauseous too. It is such an overload of missing information.

    Social media consumption, even in small doses, can make us feel oddly disjointed, fragmented, dis-connected. If that is our primary/ main source and channel of communication.

    You cannot possibly fill in all those blanks, all that missing information. Even if you tried, it would be an exercise in absolute futility.

    This need not be a problem, as long as you are aware of the problem. As long as you understand the “stream” of news as on/off bits of information. Digital media communication is just that. The opposite of analogue.

    Much like the digital clock, that does not provide you any clues as to how much of the present minute that has already passed, unless you have a counter that gives you the seconds.

    Most digital time-telling devices will show you the time 10:44 for a full 60 seconds, and if you think this is irrelevant, you never managed to make it to a closing gate in 00:01:55. Knowing that you would, and making your digital watch-wielding companion break out in massive panic, while you were not in the least in any visible state of stress. You can easily walk 50 metres in 55 seconds. Amble, even. As an example, obviously, I would never recommend cutting ones departures that close. But you get the idea.
     

    Understand what you are looking at.

    If we think of digital communication as if it were analogue, or indeed think of analogue communication as if it were digital, we get into trouble. There is a mis-match between what we think we are looking at, and what we are actually looking at.

    Dare to step away from the strobe-light – dare to disconnect from the constant flickering stream of static news and noise, at least for a while.

    Then, come back with the insight you gained from daring to be present where you are, now. See what difference it makes to the way you use these media. How you interact, when, with whom and why.

     

    News-source or virtual cocktail party?

    It can be both. Deep and meaningful conversation, it is rarely. Those tend to happen outside of the medium. I say it is best, if they are not all in your own mind, but happen as shared experiences with others. Preferably in person – embodied – and/or within syncronized time.

    Social media sharing is an asyncronous form of communication. No matter how short the delays from ping to ping-back. It is disembodied by default. This is both their power as well as their potential pitfall.

    Their power, because it allows us to warp our sense of chronos to better suit our physical here-now moments. If I ping you through a static recorded text-medium, now – you can ping back whenever you please. It is not like a face-to-face conversation, where any pause longer than a few minutes before responding to a question would seem somewhat strange.

    Their pitfall because unless you understand that power, it is likely to break your sense of being here-now.

    social relationships 2 presence mindfulness 2 media literacy 2 awareness seductive themes articles

    Fully. In the present moment. Not the one that just passed or the one you are waiting for.

    “Did she get my message? Why has she not responded yet? Will she respond? Has she been online yet? What will she respond, and if then this, then that, what if then – “. You know how that goes. It can drive even the most sensible people nuts at the best of times. On both ends, I might add. Ever been hiding from obvious online activity because you were in the process of composing the perfect reply, and you did not want someone to think that you were avoiding them? And you were constantly getting disrupted by all manner of “urgent” messages, and then suddenly your perfect reply would no longer be perfectly timed, and it ended up in drafts, never to be sent? Or pretened to be busy, when in reality you were staring at your device every second minute, on the minute?

    The fact that responses CAN be immediate, means that we no longer have the privilege of relaxing from what we percieve to be a constant expectation of immediacy. Unless we make an active decision to do so.

    Just because one COULD respond immediately, does not mean one has to.

    Just because there are several someones online that could be seeking your attention, right now, does not mean that this is where your attention absolutely NEEDS to go.

    You could also spend five minutes just observing the sky. Look around. What do you see? Where are you? What is going on, there – here. This moment? Share that, if you feel this would brighten someones day, or inform, or inspire – but don’t share just because you need to be reminded that you exist. That is what mirrors are for. Your digital devices need not be mirrors. They can be windows. And doors. Or bricks. If you’re doing things wrong. Or so I have been told …

    It is also likely to make you feel awkward in face-to-face conversations – you can’t go and google that weird word I just used, before drafting out a witty response. But then that conversation would not be recorded, so if you happen to drop an off key comment – …

    It’s already gone. Or we’d build on it, play with it, together. See where it could lead. Possibly. Maybe. That is open-endedness. Uncertainty. The good kind, the kind that rhymes with creativity. Not impossible on social media – just slightly more challenging to achieve. Requires more effort. Attention. Presence.

    The beauty of a recorded message, is that you can go back in time and revisit the experience. Reflect further.

    The beauty of face-to-face conversations, is that they are ephemeral and private by default. I fail to see how one would ever really program a “social app” for something that by definition is created by being present in the moment.

    In my view, that would be like trying to figure out how to create a method for writing letters that self-destructed the second you had read them, but no sooner. Or a video recording, that you would have to be present on a specific location on a specific time to view, and if you were not – the recording would simply self-destruct before it could have been seen.

    What would be the point in that? That’s just like an old-school television broadcast before VCR, except with lower production costs.

    social relationships 2 presence mindfulness 2 media literacy 2 awareness seductive themes articles

    But then I do suppose there is some value to be found in the dis-embodied aspect of ephemeral social apps. I am just not entirely sure, that I fully understand what that is. I get why it makes sense to unsync time and message. I also get why it makes sense to unsync location from experience. But what do you get when you dis-embody the message and the medium, but the time-space where the message exists stays in sync with here-now?

    If not an oddly urgent sense of disembodiment? If it takes two to tango, how many users does it take to change the pulsations on a strobelight? Or perhaps we should be directing our attention to what is going on behind the camera and who is in the seat of the director? For that, one needs to step away from the stage light. Strobe or no strobe.

    Social media technologies can certainly serve to connect. They can and they do. But you can only ever really operate under the terms, conditions and rules of what these services are programmed for.

    Question is.

    Do you know what your favourite social media technologies are programmed for, or are you still operating under the misguided assumption that you are the core customer? I know that you know, that you are not.

    You know, how the business models that structure the social powergrid of the social media consumption-scape are based on the premise, that you will share, because you care. The more you care, the more value holds the shares. To the shareholder, there are no redundant posts on social media. The value rests not on the quality, but in the numbers. You know, how your “newsfeed” is not essentially there, for you to feel liberated, connected or happy. It is there, for you to care about.

    But have you considered what difference it makes? In reality? In your relations? The ones you might like? Future or past present?

    As of – now?

     

    • If you read this far – I assume you either enjoyed this post or found it marginally useful, you might like to subscribe to new post updates via email,
      sign up for my newsletter – or both.
    social relationships 2 presence mindfulness 2 media literacy 2 awareness seductive themes articles

    About the author

    CM.Cooper is the owner and chief improvement officer at undercover-coaching.com. Chris has a background in media & communication, HRM (postgraduate) and business negotiation.

    She is partial to the pleasures of photography, open air music festivals, the works of Douglas Adams and silly puns.

    You can contact Chris for inquireries about personal consulting via email: chris [at] undercover-coaching.com, connect via Linkedin, follow on Twitter or if you have a great idea for a business venture that doesn’t suck, she might buy you a coffee in Copenhagen.

    Because you’re worth it.

    ”It’s all about starting the conversation” he says. ”Great conversion scores, you understand, is all about conversation”. He should know. The guy is a social media expert. We’re at a snazzy conferencing centre in [undisclosed location].

    There is branded bottled water, wall to wall carpeting and a clear view of a painted wall. The conference was free. We paid for attendance with our attention and bits of personal information. You know how that means that you will get the first 20 specially tailored offers from ”our partners” in your inbox before the talk is over. It’s okay. This is all part of the ”conversation”. The – conversion conversation that is.
     

    Social applications.

    If you enrolled in a university level course on Conversation Analysis, thinking it would be all about how to convert customers into raving fans, you might be in for a disappointment. If you want to read “Reclaiming Conversation – the importance of Talk in the Digital Age” because you think it will somehow help you “leverage social media conversation”, I am pretty sure that is not what you will get out of it either.

    But if you want to give a teenager you know a birthday present that is not “smart”, this book might actually make that teenager smarter, in the best sense of the word. If you would rather ping someone repeatedly over Facebook than pick up the phone and just talk – this book might be a good place to start too.

    If your teenager is trying to figure out how the “dating game” works.

    Give them this book. [Disclaimer: This is a personal recommendation, and the links are not affiliated]

    social relationships 2 personal leadership mindfulness 2 media literacy 2 articles

    • Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, Penguin Press (2015).
      ISBN 978-1-594-20555-2

    If you are recently divorced, just broken up or never been partnered for long, but not for lack of wanting – and trying to figure out “how dating works in the digital age”. Remember that dating is just another form of conversation. The goal is not to “convert prospects” through an app.

    The goal of dating is to get to know someone. We achieve this, through conversation. I don’t care if you use the term dating as a polite euphemism for “hooking up”. It’s still conversation. Some conversations just happen without clothes. Or words for that matter. Flirting is what happens, when conversation is embraced. Flirting does not need to have some sort of measurable end-goal, when the goal is flirting itself. Dare to play for no other reason.

    Trying to master the fine art of deep and meaningful conversation, or just to learn everyday conversation by using social media, would be much akin to attempting to learn tango-steps under a strobe-light. It is not that it could not be done, it’s just that your learning curve might well look like a flat-lining EKG chart. Strobelights are fun. When you’re in a nightclub for instance. I am sure you would not want to be at a nightclub 24/7. As with anything, all in moderation.

     

    Removing the goal-posts.

    Is there anything wrong with using the term conversation in relation to sales, marketing and promotion?

    Better question: Is there anything wrong with viewing conversation as IF the sole purpose of the activity was like doing sales, marketing and/or promotion? Depends on how you view the essence of sales-work. If you equate sales-work mainly with sneaky tactics and ”persuasion” – then yes. That might be a problem. For obvious reasons, I hope.

    Can a “[sales] conversion conversation” be open as well as honest? I suppose that depends too. On the product, on the vendor, on the nature of the problem the vendor is suggesting the product will fix.

    But essentially, the point of a “conversion conversation” is to convert. Therefore, it is difficult to argue that such a conversation is ever truly open. If it were, it would have to break the first rule of good sales-work. Knowing your desired outcome. Setting a specific set of goal-posts. And structuring all aspects of your communication towards it.

    We call it “goal conversion”, when there is a specific action we want a visitor on a website to perform. If one of my desired outcomes in posting an article, is to get you – the reader – to sign up for my next workshop on communication. I would make sure, that the link containing the invitation is where you can easily find it. There would be no sense in concealing it.

    If a vendor wanted to get “the conversation started on Facebook”, they could suggest that you “like our page on Facebook”. The vendor could post something there for you to comment on. Hoping that your friends, followers and the page’s fans will see it. And “join the conversation”.

    There is an entire industry devoted to cracking the big secrets on Best Times to Post, how to Get More PageViews and how to Get More Shares. Which unfortunately generates an entire subset of marketers whose sole purpose appears to be leveraging the finer aspects of how to annoy the crap out of people who join a social network platform mainly to socialize.

    And we accept such trade-offs, as long as the service we are buying is still marginally useful to us. Or we install an adblock, thinking that by making the obvious marketing invisible, means it no longer influences our decisions.

    social relationships 2 personal leadership mindfulness 2 media literacy 2 articles

    To paraphrase media theorist Douglas Rushkoff; we are all trojans of marketed information. It’s okay. It’s how the digital marketplace works. I don’t mind spreading the word on products and services that I would use, am using or considering using personally. I am betting that you don’t either.

    Heck, I just promoted a book I have yet to read myself. Based on what I think I already know about what the author in question is promoting. Sherry Turkle is an esteemed professor from MIT, I loved her TED talk, and “Alone – Together” (2011) as well as “Life on The Screen” (1995).

    I am fairly confident in assuming, that “Reclaiming Conversation” is not some pop-life manifesto or a selection of baseless claims dressed up in buzzword dressing. In other words, I fully trust professor Sherry Turkle.

    But who has the time to really stop and check, if this or that vendor really is who they say they are? If an author really has the credentials they say that they do? If their motives are what you perceive them to be? If their values are even remotely decent? If their ideas are both useful and sensible?
     

    Do we care?

    When so much of our communication is consumed in fragments anyway, who cares if we would want the sender of said message among our actual friends? Who cares, if the person behind the message is someone you would trust to take care of your kids for the afternoon?

    After all, the sender is not the message. The message is the message. But can we really separate the messenger from the message? Should we? Can’t we simply cherry-pick the stuff that we like, and just ignore the rest of the tree?

    Does it matter? If the product is “free”?

    Sharing a link certainly does not cost anything.
    Well. Depends on how you define “cost”.

    Conversation is free. Conversions are not.

    Reclaiming Conversation.

    Yes, please. Let’s.

    social relationships 2 personal leadership mindfulness 2 media literacy 2 articles

    Links: There is a rather good review of “Reclaiming Conversation” on Nytimes.com and another in The Washington Post.

    social relationships 2 personal leadership mindfulness 2 media literacy 2 articles

     

    • If you read this far – I assume you either enjoyed this post or found it marginally useful, you might like to subscribe to new post updates via email,
      sign up for my newsletter – or both.

     

    social relationships 2 personal leadership mindfulness 2 media literacy 2 articles

    About the author

    CM.Cooper is the owner and chief improvement officer at undercover-coaching.com. Chris has an academic background in communication, HRM (postgraduate) and business negotiation.

    She is partial to the pleasures of photography, open air music festivals, Douglas Adams and puns about manatees.

    You can contact Chris for inquireries about personal consulting via email: chris [at] undercover-coaching.com, connect via Linkedin, follow on Twitter or if you have a great idea for a business venture that doesn’t suck, she might buy you a coffee in Copenhagen.

     

    The Transparency Illusion

    On my reading list this month: No One Understands You and What To Do About It; Halvorson, Heidi Grant (2015).

    From the excerpts here it looks like it might be worth a good read.

    “Chances are,” Halvorson writes, “how you look when you are slightly frustrated isn’t all that different from how you look when you are a little concerned, confused, disappointed, or nervous. Your ‘I’m kind of hurt by what you just said’ face probably looks an awful lot like your ‘I’m not at all hurt by what you just said’ face. And the majority of times that you’ve said to yourself, ‘I made my intentions clear,’ or ‘He knows what I meant,’ you didn’t and he doesn’t.”

    Sound familiar?

    Now whether Halvorsen mentions how rudeness in social situations is often indistinguisable from shyness, I won’t know until I’ve actually read the book.

    conversational mastery 2 articles
    Try though you might to come across in a certain way to others, people often perceive you in an altogether different way.

    To Halvorson, a social psychologist at Columbia Business School who has extensively researched how people perceive one another, this captures one of the primary challenges of being human.

    I am inclined to agree. The more I study interpersonal communication and all the ways in which we can – and do – fail to adequately understand each other, the more it amazes me how we ever manage to connect at all.

    Perhaps it makes one all the more appreciative of truly meaningful conversations. The kind where you find yourself heard for who you are. If you think this is rare, it is probably because it is.

    We sometimes think, that “being honest” and “speaking ones truth” (whatever that means) will ensure that we are being fully understood by the other. That if and when your intensions are clear to you, they must by definition be clear to others.

    But our communication is never transparent. Our intensions are never clear. Our motives are often not even fully thought through.

    So next time you feel frustrated and confused because you can’t seem to get an “accurate read” on someone? Know, that you are not alone. It’s part of what it means to be human.

    Link: “Mixed Signals: Why People Misunderstand Each Other” in The Atlantic.
    conversational mastery 2 articles

     
     

    conversational mastery 2 articles

    About the author

    CM.Cooper is the owner and chief improvement officer at undercover-coaching.com. Chris has an academic background in communication, HRM (postgraduate) and business negotiation.

    She is partial to the pleasures of photography, open air music festivals, Douglas Adams and silly puns about lions.

    You can contact Chris for inquireries about personal consulting via email, connect via Linkedin or if you have a great idea for a business venture that doesn’t suck, she might buy you a coffee in Copenhagen.

     
     

    Being in Love With a World of Words …

    sensuality seductive themes presence playfulness passion awareness seductive themes articles She .. is a dancer. Moves with grace and poise. He – is stumbling for the right words, and never gets a chance to say. What? Continue reading

    How do you change a pattern of behaviour?

    personal leadership fast forward fridays awareness seductive themes articles advanced Sometimes that just happens. Progress. Improvement. Other times you may need to adjust. Do more of what works, and less of what doesn’t. And nevermind the bollocks.

    But whatever is true for you, I am sure that there are plenty of areas in your life, where you might want to feel confident, that there are better choices available to you than the ones you are living at the present.

    Today, I am going to share with you a simple method for uncovering your own personal power and resources, whenever there is a pattern of behaviour that you want to change for the better.

    personal leadership fast forward fridays awareness seductive themes articles advanced

     

    I would like to invite you to think about this for a second:

     

    • How DO you change a pattern of behaviour?

    Or, if you like:

    • How do YOU change a pattern of behaviour?

    If you start out by telling me about this thing, you want to “change this now” or “want to work on doing this better”, one of the things I want to know, is the level at which you consciously aware of how changes happens, naturally.

    Either as a result of external parameters, as a result of internal motivation or a combination of the two.

    The Only constant …

    So for instance, I might ask you to think about the last time, something outside of yourself, caused you to change something. Maybe you can think of something that interupted you in what you had planned to do. Maybe you can think of something that prompted you to change the way you perform a series of actions. How you think/feel about something in specific, or how you overall feel about yourself, others or just life in general.

    Did you simply respond with a change of direction, without thinking too much about what the “right” choice of action would be? Or, did you consider a variety of options, before making your “final” choice of direction?

    If you are reading this right now, and following along by considering your answers to these questions, chances are, that you would say “well, that depends …”

    Some changes in our lives, are so massive and important, that we feel as if we NEED to really stop and consider, which way we want to go. Consider the direction, that keeping on doing what we “usually do”, or doing something different, is likely to move us in.

    personal leadership fast forward fridays awareness seductive themes articles advanced

    Other times, our responses are more or less “automatic”.

    If for instance you notice someone lying in the middle of the street, in the dead of night, at an odd sort of angle and a car is speeding off into the distance – you probably wouldn’t stop to consider any other options than whether or not you can remember how to perform basic CPR. And whether your phone has enough charge for you to call 911.

    Would this be considered a “massive life-changing event”? Well for the person who depends on your automatic response to receive first aid and get to the nearest hospital, certainly, there would be the potential.

    Other changes in our lives, may seem small and relatively insignificant at the time. They may even pass un-noticed, at the time. But then, looking back, you realize that it is often the smallest changes that can truly make the largest impact.

    Let’s say that maybe, from now on and forward, you decide that you want to be fully present wherever you go. You may decide, that when you are walking on the street, you want to really notice your surroundings.

    Instead of sheep-walking with your nose pointed firmly at the display of your smartphone, to see how many friends have “liked” your latest brainfart on facebook.

    Or maybe you decide, that texting while you drive, needs to stop.
     
     
    personal leadership fast forward fridays awareness seductive themes articles advanced

    A little adjustment goes a long way

    Small changes that are easy to implement, are usually not the kind of changes that a person would decide to hire a coach to assist in working on. However, the above mentioned examples of relatively small changes, are good examples of the kinds of things I might suggest a client to start doing.

    Or, as in the latter example – stop doing. Texting while driving or excessive social media addiction, may well be parts of a larger pattern.

    Maybe you feel as if you “never have enough time”, or that you find it difficult to “meet people”. When you do manage to meet people, it’s a challenge to “know what to say”.

    Well, if you stopped looking at who posted what on that two-dimensional “social media world” on constant display, and stopped to smell the roses instead – who knows, what kinds of interesting encounters you might find yourself in, as a direct result?

    personal leadership fast forward fridays awareness seductive themes articles advanced

    Who knows, what kinds of interesting things you would start to notice, right where you are. Things that one might well use as conversation starters. Or simply something to talk about, when the conversation has already begun.

    Now when working on either a deeper issue, or an overall overhaul of how you are living your life – whether it is getting rid of “stress”, getting into better physical shape, being more healthy, getting over some silly social defense mechanism that has grown to become a “habit” – obviously it is very important that you feel encouraged by moving forward towards the right kind of goal/s.

    It is important, that you know how to avoid mistaking surface goals for the real issue.

    It is important, that you have a method by which you are going to be monitoring your progress.

    And most importantly – you need to be willing to accept, that with most challenges, and certainly with all major changes of behavioral patterns, change does not happen in a linear fashion.

    We are so used to visualizing and understanding progression in terms of like neat and tidy progress-bars …

    personal leadership fast forward fridays awareness seductive themes articles advanced

    … that it is easy to forget, that our brains are infinitely more complex than the binary code the human mind has invented.
     
    Saying that you have “installed a new belief” is a metaphor. It might be a good one, in some cases. But that is ALL it is. Besides. If that new set of beliefs you have installed, doesn’t quite seem to work properly – where do you call for placing a complaint?

     
     

    Changes in patterns of behaviour happens in cycles

    (click on the image to enlarge)

    personal leadership fast forward fridays awareness seductive themes articles advanced

     
    Understanding how the process of any kind of deliberate change in behaviour works, how the structure of your progress is likely to unfold and proceed, is a key understanding in any kind of “changework”.

    Not least because you will be EXPECTING that relapse will occur. It will not come as a surprise to you, when you realize that you have been “slipping back into old patterns”.

    Instead, you can focus on maintaining the new habit of whatever it is, that you have been working on improving.

     

    When your focus is on LEARNING …

    You start to notice, how those relapses become less frequent, and feel much less severe, the less frequent they become. Because your focus is not on how rapidly you are moving towards your goal – your focus, is on learning from each step of the cycle.

    Now when you think about what’s going on in your life, you may notice how you are on several cycles of change simultaneously. These cycles are most often not synchronized.

    In some areas you are being led into change, while in other areas you are the person who is leading others into change.

    Some changes seem to happen seamlessly, others require immense effort, focus and dedication.

    Emotionally, cycles of change constantly moves you through a variety of experiences.

    As you go through loss in one area of your life, you may be regaining hope in another. Mindfulness to the process is key.

    And as you find yourself challenged in one area of your life, you may find that the strength that you need, can be found in an area that until recently, felt like an area in which you “needed to change this now.”

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    About the author

    CM.Cooper is the owner and chief improvement officer at undercover-coaching.com. Chris has an academic background in communication, HRM (postgraduate) and business negotiation.

    She is partial to the pleasures of photography, open air music festivals, Douglas Adams and silly puns about lions.

    You can contact Chris for inquireries about personal consulting via email, connect via Linkedin, follow on Twitter or if you have a great idea for a business venture that doesn’t suck, she might buy you a coffee in Copenhagen. Or at an airport somewhere.

     
     

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