Karyn Buxman

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Archive for November, 2016

“Planned Spontaneity”

liscarf
The travel gods smiled upon me. My bag and I both arrived at the same airport at the same time, traffic to the hotel zoomed along, and the line for hotel check-in was shorter than the TSA’s.

As I made my way to my room, I observed this hotel’s unique (and somewhat goth) décor: elegant, comfortable… and dark. Dark! Dark! Dark! The walls were black, the furniture was black, I even think the water was black—but I couldn’t tell because, well, it was so DARK. (And I’ll let you guess what color the ballroom floor and the staging were…)

The meeting began and halfway through my presentation, I stepped forward to make a dramatic point…and walked right off the front of the stage. (Picture Wile E. Coyote stepping off a cliff.)

As you might have guessed, the black carpet and the black stage floor merged visually, leaving no hint that there was a drop-off there. The audience gasped, wondering (in the dark) if I was injured; then they held their collective breath. While the stage was only four feet high, the fall seemed to last forever. Thoughts raced through my mind. Would I bust my butt? Break my neck? End-up paralyzed? Is there a lawyer in the house?

Wham! I landed flat on my back. The wind was knocked out of me, and for several moments I was unable to breathe—my mouth gaped open and closed like a fish out of water. The audience sat in stunned silence.

Being a long-time speaker, I’d maintained a death-grip on the hand-held microphone. And then I pulled out the “saver-line” that I had tucked neatly away in the back of my mind for just such an (unlikely) occasion. I sat up, looked at the audience and said, “And now I’ll take questions from the floor.”

The audience laughed with relief and applauded as I climbed back up onto the stage. I refused to let them see how badly I’d bruised my ego—and my bottom! Some members of the audience thought I’d actually done it on purpose! (“Oh, she’s so clever!”) Good grief! But like a magician who never divulges “how it was done,” I didn’t tell anyone that it was “planned spontaneity” that saved my…butt.

Planned spontaneity is a great little technique for sales professionals. Hold on, hold on—I can hear several of you in the back, murmuring, “I don’t need any planned spontaneity! I’m witty, I’m quick, and I perform best under pressure.” Hey, good for you. Now get over yourself and take a tip from one of my teachers in the world of Improv: “You need to be sharp and quick to perform Improv, but you also need to practice. Practice, practice, practice. Only a fool goes up on stage armed only with his ‘natural born’ talents. Yes, it’s possible to ‘get by’ for a while. But if you want long-term success, you might want to follow in the footsteps of the greats who are brilliant—folks like Carol Burnett, Will Ferrell, Bill Murray, Tina Fey, and Chevy Chase.”

A novice salesperson often lives on the edge by being only marginally prepared. A professional salesperson expects the unexpected. You prepare responses for sales resistance, right? You’ll be doing yourself a big favor if you also prepare for unlikely, and even outlandish, situations.

Quick, answer each of these questions. You’ve got two seconds to respond. If you delay any longer you’ll get the gong. Ready? Go!

You’ve prepared meticulously for the 30-minute slot your prospect has allotted you for your sales presentation. As you walk into their boardroom your contact whispers to you that your time has been cut to 10 minutes. Now what?

  • You’re addressing a ballroom full of potential clients and the sound system goes down. What do you say?
  • You suddenly get the hiccups.
  • Your PowerPoint goes down.
  • Aliens land in the client’s atrium.

When the unexpected happens or—heaven forbid!—you make a mistake, humor can be the saving grace. I’m not saying you should just laugh off a serious mistake. However, when used mindfully, humor will decrease the tension, acknowledge the error, and provide some comic relief. Done well, it can also show others that you have the ability to laugh at yourself. The manner in which you respond may actually strengthen your relationship with that prospective client.

If you listen carefully to successful comics and politicians, you’ll begin to notice the saver-lines they pull out after a snafu. They’ve thought ahead and crafted a clever response (probably several responses) should the need arise.

*  *  *

Try this: Start writing a list of the possible—and the probable—mistakes, glitches, problems, interruptions or Freudian slips you might experience. Then write a list of possible comebacks. (Capture every idea. Later on you’ll edit-out the lines that are really funny, but are inappropriate to use. [Save those for your stand-up act!])

As you develop your own potential saver-lines, pair them with your possible blunders. Now practice them. Aloud! Why? Because the goal is to get them well-planted into your subconscious mind. Practicing in your head is good, but practicing aloud is great. By saying the words aloud, you are literally putting words in your mouth! And when you actually say the words, and hear yourself saying them, you are creating more connections, and stronger connections, between your neurons. So when the need arises, your response will come of its own accord, and appear to be spontaneous.

Mistakes happen. As a sales professional, you can plan ahead and use humor strategically to acknowledge a problem and bounce right back.

Karyn Buxman, neurohumorist, is the author of the book Lead with Levity: Strategic Humor for Leaders and creator of an 18 (or 30) day online program to help leaders authentically, consistently and strategically use humor to enhance communication, build resilience and boost engagement. Click here to listen to 3 sample lessons.

She can also be reached via:

Karyn@KarynBuxman.com
Twitter: @KarynBuxman
Facebook: FB.com/KarynBuxmanSpeaks
LinkedIn: Linkedin.com/in/KarynBuxman
Candy-grams: 1465 C St. #3318 SD, CA 92101
Smoke signals: avoid when prohibited by fire season!

 

Posted in: Business, Humor

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Leadership: “Sarcasm—Handle with Care”

sarcasm
“I’m trying to imagine you with a personality.”

“This isn’t an office. It’s Hell with fluorescent lighting.”

“Don’t bother me. I’m livin’ the dream.”

Sarcasm. Gotta love it, don’t ya? Used for comic effect and dry criticism throughout the ages—by us common folks and by the famous.

Oscar Wilde observed: “Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.”

Stephen Bishop said: “I feel so miserable without you, it’s almost like having you here.”

Mark Twain once quipped: “I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.”

Sarcasm. You hear it nearly every day, from all kinds of people, in all kinds of situations.

[Yeah, we all know—or think we know—exactly what sarcasm is. But for the meticulous among you, here’s the precise definition, according to Webster’s Dictionary: “the use of words that mean the opposite of what you really want to say—especially in order to insult someone, to show irritation, or to be funny.”]

Sometimes sarcasm works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Sarcasm does work when it bonds like-minded people together, and when it produces just the right level of chuckle. Sarcasm doesn’t work when it’s wielded like a weapon—when it’s used to cut someone down to size, especially when they’re not in a position to defend themselves.

Leaders need to learn how and when to employ sarcasm, and also how to recognize and deal with it when your employees/followers use it.

Among equals/friends/insiders sarcasm is often used as friendly jousting. It can be an entertaining and intellectually stimulating exercise in bantering. But when directed at strangers/outsiders/visitors sarcasm is cruel and unfair—producing embarrassment, anger and resentment. (Not good things to stir-up in your people!)

Sarcasm used well is like fencing: Battling as a friendly sport. Sarcasm used poorly is like aggressive fighting with a sharpened blade.

Because sarcasm can definitely cause harm, hurt feelings, and even damage someone’s standing in the group, many leaders simply ban sarcasm (and often any kind of humor) from the workplace. This is not a good idea for two reasons:

(1)  It’s actually impossible to stop people from using humor. You can censor it, but you’ll only drive it underground—where it can backfire on you as it subverts your authority. (Also, humor is hard-wired into the human brain. You literally can’t stop humor from arising spontaneously).

(2)  Humor—including sarcasm—can be a tremendously positive force among people and inside organizations. Humor can bond people, it can ease tensions, it can enhance communication and it has been shown to enhance the bottom line.

And here are some facts from the scientists who study such stuff: positive humor can produce a dopamine hit which leads to feel-good sensations throughout the body. But hostile humor can evoke stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenalin, which lead to inflammatory responses throughout the body that exacerbate illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

One insight that eludes many users of sarcasm is that cruel sarcasm reflects poorly on them. Bystanders are likely to judge them as boorish and vicious. Not an image that many leaders want to project!

Wise leaders use humor—including sarcasm—in an intentional and strategic manner. It’s a subtle skill. But then, great leaders know how to wield a host of tools to help them direct human behavior.

As a neurohumorist—one who studies the intersection of humor and the brain—I utilize many different forms of humor. But sarcasm? Me? Never!

© 2016, Karyn Buxman. All rights reserved.  Reprints welcome so long as the article and byline are reprinted intact and all links made live.

Karyn Buxman, neurohumorist, is the author of the book Lead with Levity: Strategic Humor for Leaders and creator of an 18 (or 30) day online program to help leaders authentically, consistently and strategically use humor to enhance communication, build resilience and boost engagement. Click here to listen to 3 sample lessons.

She can also be reached via:

Karyn@KarynBuxman.com
Twitter: @KarynBuxman
Facebook: FB.com/KarynBuxmanSpeaks
LinkedIn: Linkedin.com/in/KarynBuxman
Candy-grams: 1465 C St. #3318 SD, CA 92101
Smoke signals: avoid when prohibited by fire season!

Posted in: Humor, Leadership

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