We cannot hide behind the keyboard and the screen; we are still in plain sight – our style, our savvy, and our smile are right there with us. Our communication skills are definitely showing. It’s a virtual presence, surely, yet it still reveals a lot about us. The remote is not really so remote when we take a look at its intimate truths. Here are some of the truths that are revealed between the keys – about how we use time, how we listen, and how much, in general, we care.
How we use time
There is a nonverbal communication theoretical term called “chronemics” which is basically the study of how we use time and what that reveals about us. Our behavior at meetings, for example, has always been an indicator of how a person, an organization, even a culture – uses time. These habits are most often not written down. Attendees figure it out. They can be late…or not. They can leave early…or not. Their slides can be complete…or not. The same thing occurs in virtual meetings. Bad habits can easily develop, especially when there are so many meetings in a day. But we can avoid getting trapped in bad habits if we think through a few positive steps. For example:
Everyone gathers for a purpose.
Everyone wants to look good.
Everyone is reluctant to bring up something.
Some do not want to be there.
Most are committed to the way it’s always done.
Few try something new.
The senior person talks the most.
The latest recruit is wide-eyed.
Some endure the gathering.
Most cherish the gathering.
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I walk the lake
It’s alive with life
Gulls in a row
But the last few weeks
I see these ducks
Paddling the current
Rough high waves
I fear for them
They are too small!
Next day they’re back
All safe and sound
The lake is calm
They look the same
They seem to know
I look for pairs
And there they are
They mix and mingle
Some alone and yet
They seem to know
I wonder where
they go at night
Always to return
to this mighty lake
They like it here
It can’t be easy.
…Inspired by the resiliency of the Mallard duck
– the oldest of its species.
By Cyndi Maxey
If you are one of the millions of students who will be starting school next week you will have an opportunity to make first impressions many, many times. Here are ten first impressions you can make – simply as you enter the classroom – offered in order of increasing commitment.
1. Enter, smile at instructor, sit.
2. Enter, smile at instructor, sit, say hello.
3. Enter, smile at instructor, say hello, sit in front.
4. Enter, smile at instructor, say hello, sit in front, pull earphones out of ears.
5. Enter, smile at instructor, say hello, sit in front, pull earphones out of ears, say how are you to student next to you.
6. Enter, smile at instructor, say hello, sit in front, pull earphones out of ears, say how are you to student next to you, take the course textbook out of back pack.
7. Enter, smile at instructor, say hello, sit in front, pull earphones out of ears, say how are you to student next to you, take the course textbook out of back pack, PUT SMART PHONE IN BACKPACK.
8. Enter, smile at instructor, say hello, sit in front, pull earphones out of ears, say how are you to student next to you, take the course textbook out of back pack, PUT SMART PHONE IN BACKPACK, pull out small notebook and pen.
9. Enter, smile at instructor, say hello, sit in front, pull earphones out of ears, say how are you to student next to you, take the course textbook out of back pack, PUT SMART PHONE IN BACKPACK, pull out small notebook and pen, ask instructor how are you?
10. Enter, smile at instructor, say hello, sit in front, pull earphones out of ears, say how are you to student next to you, take the course textbook out of back pack, PUT SMART PHONE IN BACKPACK, pull out small notebook and pen, ask instructor how are you? Say I’m looking forward to this class.
We know that FIRST IMPRESSIONS are hard to change. Which of the above will your professor remember most?
Editor’s note: These ten are easily adaptable to a class using E-Text books or even an online course. I’m sure you can figure it out. As the adage goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression!
©2018 Cyndi Maxey
Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks
June is bustin’ out all over. And that includes the mole tunnels in my wooded cottage yard.
I was bound and determined to put into place a mole removal program. I consulted with the experts in this area which are basically three guys – my hardware store owner, my pest control guy, and my son who is always ready for edgy projects.
But nature brought forth an interesting twist. I saw the mole alive!
He (she?) happened to surface a few feet away from me, allowing a close-up view. Since then I can’t stop thinking about the mole.
I mean how many of you have ever seen a mole close-up – alive and not in captivity? I surely had not. There were Mr. Mole and Mr. Toad in my childhood storybook, The Wind in the Willows. And there was the exhibit in Lincoln Park Zoo, but the moles were always hiding.
Here’s my first impression of my close-up view: he (she?) looked like an empty toilet paper roll – but fuzzy. A mole is only about 5-8 “ long, depending on the type. There are 7 species in North America. According to the cottage copy of the Natural Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mammals, my mole is a Common Mole. It goes on:
“A mole is among the most subterranean of mammals. They are designed to move backward and forwards in tight burrows. Hearing is well developed in moles. Their ear openings are concealed within the fur and thus kept from becoming clogged with dirt. Their eyes are light-sensitive, pinhead size dots, and their vision is poor. The most important sensory organ is the flexible snout.” Note: (I saw this amazing little nose moving back and forth – sensing my presence.)
Another note: The mole is not a sloth; it travels fast.” Its long-clawed forefeet let it breaststroke through porous soil at about a foot per minute!” I had no idea. This tunneling activity, often considered a nuisance in lawns, is beneficial to the environment because it aerates the soil, allows rain to penetrate, and reduces erosion.
Until I met this little creature I was dead set on eliminating him and his telltale trail. This was not just a mole; this was a marvel. I wish I myself were created with such fitting environmental gear.
Why was this little mole above the surface? I will never know. Perhaps there was an obstacle in the subterranean world. Perhaps she just wanted to educate me and erase my negative pre-disposition. Perhaps she wanted to distract me on Father’s Day weekend as I sorely miss mine.
I am sure that I will never think of moles the same way again. Bless their little subterranean earth-worm eating selves. They were designed perfectly. Humans have a good design too. I’ll keep trying to use mine with the diligence of the mole.
Things I Learned from my Millennial Guests
I’ve enjoyed their company, but my young house guests have retreated to their busy lives and jobs. Two vibrant young couples (ages 27, 29, 31, 34) returned to two very different cities – Brooklyn, NY and Peoria, IL. Other than just plain missing them, I am left with some dispelled myths and new admiration for this often-maligned generation.
MILLENNIAL MYTH #1. They can’t communicate face to face.
Indeed, my couples were quite communicative, and especially with each other. As I listened or eavesdropped on them, it was obvious that decision making was a partner thing. This pertained to restaurant choices, what to wear, and how to get there, for example. They walked a street looking at all the menus in the window; they listened and collaborated on how much time it would take to manage O’Hare.
MILLENNIAL MYTH #2. Their food tastes are picky and expensive.
This just was not so. Rice Krispies treats reigned. This was an experiment on my part to offer low fat treats with absolutely no gourmet class. Maybe it was wrapping them individually? But they disappeared with both couples.
My couples were not heavy red meat eaters (zero to some). They were less into cocktails and more into craft beer or red wine – or water! They carried refillable water bottles across the board. A new craft beer taproom here on Chicago’s Northside drew raves. A gift of the book, Meatless Sheet Pan Dinners was discovered to add to their already very well developed cooking skills in this arena. (They roast vegetables a lot and I don’t mean just dilly potatoes.)
MILLENNIAL MYTH #3. – They have no patience for Baby Boomer lack of technology skills.
I am pleased to say that my guests were patient teachers as they taught me the following skills which I am happy to share with anyone over 50. I took notes with pencil and paper.
a. how to access a Yule Log fireplace video including crackle
b. how to add Netflix to my cable TV choices
c. how to access Emoji’s on my I-phone
d. how to use the parkchicago.com app
e. how to scroll through NPR’s “Fresh Air” interviews
MILLENNIAL MYTH #4 – They have no sense of how to dress practically.
I was very impressed with how both couples – the New Yorkers and the Peorians – were quite practical with winter dress. Less important were perfect hair and heels and “in” were stocking caps, boots, and fur hoods. In fact, I believe there is one woolen stocking cap of mine which was a stow-away back to Brooklyn due to its ugly practicality.
So, there you have it. Who would have thought these youngsters would garner such admirable traits so soon? Communication – Healthy Eating – Patience – Weather Awareness? It must be their stellar upbringing.
The Gift of Garden Tomatoes
A recent residential move prompted the glorious volunteerism of a small but select crew of neighbors and friends. Anyone who has hired a professional mover knows that friends are welcomed – even crucial – for transporting the “fragile” items (Grandma’s ancient crystal) or the “hand carries” (mostly lamps) as Roy, my professional mover, appointed them.
In the transport process there is the banter, the catching up, the “You’re giving THAT away?” conversations that are required of the event and most definitely of old friends. “Where are the headboard screws?” “We can’t find the shower curtain liner.” These quandaries are expected.
Also expected was the gift of homegrown garden tomatoes from my friend Jane. She and her husband Tom have a hazelnut farm and glorious gardens downstate and she told me she would bring some. She arrived with a bounty of not one but five different types of garden tomatoes – of all sizes and colors. Not to be outdone, my urban gardening friend and neighbor Mary (multiple huge pots on her rooftop for years and years) arrived with a cup of the sweetest red cherry tomatoes you will ever taste.
What I did not expect was how the tomatoes buoyed my spirits after everyone left that day. The first sign of life in my new home, they were artfully arranged in a white mesh container – a container (selected by my moving helpers) that had never previously held tomatoes – which made the whole effect more special.
Those tomatoes became my food staple the first hectic week in my new home: tomato sandwiches, caprese salad, bite-sized snacks – and more – not to mention the other donations of beans, zucchini, pizza, crackers, cheese, and furniture placement advice – all of which were consumed.
You never know how meaningful the simplest gifts may be. If you ask me to help you move or just rake your yard this fall, I am bringing home grown tomatoes (the farmer’s market will have to do) but my own basil plant is really looking great this year. Something unexpected.
It’s summer and traditionally the time for reunions of all kinds – some more tolerable than others. Perhaps none fills the average person with more trepidation than the high school reunion. I mean who wants to see these people every ten years, right? May I suggest, however, that life is short and when you get your Evite, Facebook notice, email, or mailbox invitation, RSVP “yes.” Chances are very good that you won’t regret it. Follow these tips and have more fun!
1. Wear the obligatory name tag; print it LARGE, especially your first name.
Do not worry about being nerdy; it just makes it easier for people.
Result: You will have a good reason to approach people and therefore more fun.
2. Tell everyone how great they look – no matter what.
There is ALWAYS something truthful and nice to say:
Ah, Jimmy…the same smile I remember!
Your hair is so trendy.
I love your shoes.
Are you slimming down?
OMG, I have that same necklace. I love it.
You look so distinguished with the beard and mustache.
Result: You will cause the other to be happy and that is fun.
3. Go right to the memories –the ultimate equalizer.
Avoid the children, grandchildren and third husbands.
Take the conversation quickly to Ms. Herzog’s Geometry class.
Result: You will laugh a lot and that is lots and lots of fun.
4. Don’t overindulge in the food; it’s usually bad anyway.
It’s hard to look distinguished with a loaded plate.
Stay with the finger food if possible.
Result: You can shake more hands and hug more and that is more fun.
5. Keep open posture in conversation groups.
That means let the other guy in.
You are grown up now and don’t need the “clique.”
Result: You will make it more fun for others and that is fun.
6. Don’t overindulge in alcohol.
I know, I know this is tough at the high school reunion.
But you are mature and confident now and don’t need to.
Result: You will actually remember whom you talked with and that is more fun.
7. Don’t take selfies.
They never look good; trust me on this.
Recruit a friend to photograph you – a good friend.
Be sure you are with some sort of group of people in the shot.
Result: Instead of looking really bad in the photos, you will just look happy and like you are having fun.
8. Double thank the volunteer organizer.
Would you want to do this?
As you leave be sure to let him or her know.
Result: at least the organizer will remember you – and that is kind of fun.
©2016 Cyndi Maxey All rights reserved.
On a dreary March Sunday an email notice reminded me: “Great seats still Remain” for a playoff game that same day for an excellent local college’s women’s basketball team. When it’s March in Chicago, you say “yes.”
The “great seats still remaining” turned out to be in the STUDENT section of the 3,000- seat auditorium – lodged between two rows of 30 cheerleaders and about as many pep band members – largely brass and percussion.
The game was fast and entertaining. As expected, the young female athletes played well – delighting the sold-out house with a healthy lead.
Due to my unique seating vantage point, it was during the “time-out’s” and the period breaks, when both the pep band and the 30 cheerleaders kicked in with full energy, that I was even more entertained. The cheerleaders, as expected, personified youthful energy, clear skin, perfectly fitting uniforms and headbands and ever-present smiles. And they were good!
The pep band, largely male, while in uniform, was a bit more “scrappy” – displaying a variety of looks, haircuts, body builds, and complexions. And they also were good! Seated so closely to them, I could tell that they were really having FUN – with each other and with the crowd. They were fully present in their role – even though their role was clearly in the background of the action.
At one point I noticed the bandleader. He was a young man – with clean-cut short hair, a suit and tie, and a wonderful constant smile and twinkle in his eye. He was down front directing tempo and stops and starts – always with this smile and a twinkle in his eye – not unlike Harold Hill in The Music Man. He sang along; he mouthed the words; he was in tune with the action on the court; he gave frequent “thumbs up’s” to his band. Unfortunately the family and faculty crowd across the court in the “good seats” could not see this.
I wanted them to be able to see as I could! I wanted them to know that this young bandleader was with his team the entire time – contributing to our experience of the event. As the game ended, and I stood to leave, I noticed that he left his post and walked up and down the bleachers to give a “thumbs up” and an “Atta boy/girl” to every single row and musician. They beamed. They retorted. They laughed. They were totally comfortable with him.
It was a lesson in how a leader motivates a team even though they are not the stars. Thanks to a dreary March day and the leader of the band.
He earned his love through discipline, a thund’ring, velvet hand
His gentle means of sculpting souls took me years to understand
…From Leader of the Band (1981 release) by fellow Peorian Dan Fogelberg
Business & Professional Communication
DePaul University, Chicago, IL
College of Communication