Using “Seinfeld” to hit a home run in communication skills

Are you a fan of the television show Seinfeld? It was one of the great all-time sitcoms that will live on in reruns our grandchildren will watch. If you don’t believe me, just think of how many generations still watch I Love Lucy, which was the top sitcom from the 1950′s. If you communicate in a way that is entertaining, an audience will listen for as long as you want to talk.

How long do your clients or co-workers listen to you?

Do you hold their attention long enough so they actually listen to what you want them to hear? I hope so, because verbal communication is still the key for successful customer service, teamwork and networking.

In the video conference on communications I taught for a high school last month, I gave the students an in-class assignment. I asked them to list three things that actually happened (truth) during their journey to school, followed by how each experience made them feel. The key to the assignment was that they had to express their feelings (personal thoughts or opinions) using only positive terms.

school busThen I asked each to tell us about his or her journey (driving, riding a school bus, or walking) to school, combining the three facts and their positive feelings in a way that might make their friends or family laugh. The results were creative and entertaining stories that held everyone’s attention.

All the students could relate since it was an experience they had all shared. After all, none of them had spent the previous night at the school. They all had to travel from somewhere else that morning.

Finding common ground – something your listeners can relate to – is a great method on how to attract and hold someone’s attention long enough for them to hear what you really want to say. It’s a technique that breaks the ice and makes a memorable impression. Once you do that, you’re on the journey toward better and more productive professional and personal relationships.

Truth + Creativity & Humor (Thoughts & Opinions) = Conversations

Too easy?

Does it sound too easy? It is. The secret is to take a positive outlook on a shared event, tap into your personal creativity, (we all have feelings, thoughts and observations), and turn it into a conversational tool. I learned this method from some of the experts at relating to – and conversing with – an audience, which takes us back to Seinfeld

When I was scheduling performers for The Improv Comedy Club in New York City, I worked with the sitcom’s creator and many of the writers. And it wasn’t just at the comedy club located in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan, but also as a member of our softball team that competed in the Performing Arts League in Central Park. Since we were sponsored by The Improv, our team was made up of comedians, comedy writers and one talent booker (me!).

One teammate was Ray Romano, who went on to star in Everybody Loves Raymond, but this story involves our first baseman, Larry David. Along with Jerry Seinfeld, Larry created Seinfeld and his own show on HBO, Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Fortunately that particular season we won more games than we lost and made the playoffs, which was our first goal. Our second was to win the playoffs and be the funniest champions of the league.

Unfortunately, on the day of our first playoff game, many of the best players, (who were also good comedians), were performing outside of New York City. That meant some of us who were more comfortable sitting on the bench watching would have to play in the field. And others, who were used to a regular position, had to play somewhere else. I was pried from the bench to play second base and our first basement, Larry David, was moved to shortstop.

Baseball fans know shortstop is the most demanding defensive position. The best shortstops are usually smaller and quicker than the other players. It was not the best place for a tall, lanky first baseman and there were a number of balls hit between Larry and myself that added up to more runs for the other team. To put it gently, we lost and were eliminated from the playoffs after one game.

It was not a positive moment since we now had the unwanted task of telling our returning teammates that our season was over. I also remember standing near our bench when Larry threw down his glove and said something to the effect of, “I’m never playing this stupid game again.”

Fast forward a few years…

Heading for home!

Seinfeld was the number one show on television. One night I tuned in and saw the character George Costanza, (based on the real life Larry David), running down the third base line during a softball game in Central Park wearing an Improv t-shirt.

My first thought was, “That’s my team!”

After a losing effort, George Costanza threw down his glove and said something to the effect of, “I’m never playing this stupid game again.”

Can you guess my second thought? I played in that game!”

The lesson behind this long dissertation was that Larry had taken a moment that wasn’t very positive at the time, creatively found the humor and made it entertaining. It was a one way conversation with the viewing audience and all he did was tell the truth with creative license.

Anyone who had ever played or watched a softball game, or even experienced the “agony of defeat,” (a quote borrowed from another television show), could relate.

The Home Team

This and other episodes of Seinfeld based on real experiences that viewers could relate to from Larry, Jerry, and other writing contributors held their audiences’ attention for nine seasons and still continue today in reruns. Talk about making a memorable and lasting impression!

The bottom line is not always what you say, but how you say it.

The best part is you don’t have to be a stand-up comedian to grab your listener’s attention. Find out…

  • What you have in common
  • Take a positive outlook and…
  • Enhance it with personal creativity and humor

It’s a great way to break the ice, start a conversation, and build a relationship with someone you want to do business with.

Go ahead and give it a try. Tell the person next to you about your drive to work today. Use a few facts, be creative, stay positive and tell it in a way you think will make them smile or laugh. Chances are you’ll strike up a conversation – and you never know what doors that may open.

Comment? Use the “leave a reply” link below – thanks!

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Dave Schwensen has designed and instructs university courses in communications and presentation skills. He is an author, speaker, trainer, and nationally recognized humor and comedy coach. For information about training seminars and keynotes for your next event or conference visit www.TalkingForSuccess.com

Copyright 2017 – North Shore Publishing

Think you know everything?

As you know, I believe in the value of communicating with a healthy dose of humor and creativity. So keeping that in mind, here’s a personal favorite from my newspaper humor column, Something To Laugh About

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I don’t admit to knowing everything, unless I’m talked into a corner and the person who steered me into that awkward position wants facts:

Just because I know,” is a standard answer. Obviously I consider it to be a pretty good one, because I’ve been using it since I was three years old.

This reply doesn’t work too well in our house, especially when I use it in front of my wife Debbie. I still won’t admit to knowing everything, but I’ve occasionally claimed to know a little bit about everything. Our kids might buy it if I use big words and talk convincingly, but Debbie refuses to go along. When I corner her about how she can be so sure that I’m not an undiscovered genius, she has a standard answer to back up her superior intelligence:

“Just because I know.”

For the average guy, that answer would be enough. For Debbie, it’s only a beginning.

Earlier this week I received an email from my wife testing my know-it-all attitude. I won’t discuss how the Internet has changed ways the world and even married couples communicate (she was only in a room down the hall), but her method of communication didn’t allow me to give a verbal response – not to mention my standard answer – without leaving my comfortable office chair or trying to shout through walls.

It’s just as well though, because my standard answer wouldn’t work anyway.

She must have been having a cyberspace discussion with some of her friends about know-it-all husbands since it was forwarded to a few addresses I recognized. Plus the subject line was something I’m sure we’ve all heard before…

“You think you know everything?”

I used to think so, but not anymore…

* Every day more money is printed for Monopoly than the U.S. Treasury

* Men can read smaller print; women can hear better.

* Coca-Cola was originally green.

* It’s impossible to lick your elbow.

* The state with the highest percentage of people who walk to work: Alaska.

* The percentage of Africa that is wilderness: 28 percent.

* The average number of people airborne over the U.S. at any hour: 61,000

* Intelligent people have more zinc and copper in their hair.

* The world’s youngest parents were 8 and 9 and lived in China in 1910.

* The youngest Pope was 11 years old.

* The first novel ever written on a typewriter: Tom Sawyer

* San Francisco cable cars are the only mobile national monuments.

* Each king in a deck of playing cards represents a great king from history:

  • Spades – King David
  • Hearts – Charlemagne
  • Clubs – Alexander The Great
  • Diamonds – Julius Caesar

* 111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

* If a statue in the park of a person on a horse has both front legs in the air, the person died in battle. If the horse has one front leg in the air, the person died as a result of wounds received in battle. If the horse has all four legs on the ground, the person died of natural causes.

* Only two people signed The Declaration Of Independence on July 4th – John Hancock and Charles Thompson. Most of the others signed on August 2nd, but the last signature wasn’t added until five years later.

* Hershey’s Kisses were named because the machine that makes them looks like it’s kissing the conveyor belt.

* Half of all Americans live within 50 miles of their birthplace.

* Most boat owners name their boats. The most popular name requested? Obession.

* If you were to spell out numbers, how far would you have to go until finding the letter A? One thousand.

* What do bulletproof vests, fire escapes, windshield wipers and laser printers have in common? They were all invented by women.

* What is the only food that doesn’t spoil? Honey.

* What trivia fact about Mel Blanc (voice of Bugs Bunny) is the most ironic? He was allergic to carrots.

* What is an activity performed by 40 percent of all people at a party? Snoop in your medicine cabinet.

* It was the practice in Babylon 4,000 years ago that for a month after the wedding, the bride’s father would supply his son-in-law with all the mead he could drink. Mead is a honey beer and because their calendar was lunar based, this period was called the honey month – known today as the honeymoon.

* In Scotland, a new game was invented. It was entitled Gentlemen Only, Ladies Forbidden – and the word “golf” entered into the English language.

And finally…

* At least 75 percent of people who read this will try to lick their elbow.

Musical interlude: Won’t Get Fooled Again by The Who (at least I hope not!)

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Dave Schwensen has designed and instructs university courses in communications and presentation skills. He is an author, speaker, trainer, consultant, nationally-recognized comedy coach, and CILC Pinnacle Award Winner for video conferences. For information about scheduling Dave’s interactive training programs and breakout sessions for your next event, visit www.TalkingForSuccess.com

For Dave’s author page on Amazon.com CLICK HERE.

Have a comment or need more information? Please use the contact form below – I’d love to hear from you.

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Copyright 2017 – North Shore Publishing