Sounds like the average television commercial – doesn’t it?

high school studentI did a seminar recently for a group of high school seniors. I was told they were not necessarily underachievers, but had no firm plans after graduation. Some had thought about college, a job or the military, but most seemed only interested in hanging around waiting for something to happen. The common thread was a strong case of “Senioritis” and a short attention span for remaining school requirements.

The teacher that sponsored the seminar told me previous speakers had used the standard follow your dreams advice and ended up with a group of bored and distracted students. They had heard the same message since preschool days watching Barney and Friends, and he was concerned it didn’t say enough about what they would encounter in the real world.

Even though I don’t wear a purple dinosaur outfit, I’m the last person to discourage anyone from following their dreams. But the reality of the real world is not everyone will win The Voice or have their idea bankrolled on Shark Tank. My assignment that day was to keep the students interested and involved in my seminar on communication skills and share practical real world advice.

But as usual, I also had my own agenda…

Everyone has a talent and a desire for something. It may not even involve becoming The Voice or the next Bill Gates. But whatever it might be, it doesn’t have much of a chance becoming a reality by “hanging around waiting for something to happen.”

Groucho 2

The Wacky Professor

Lucky for me, the seminar was in the school’s library. So I opened with a very effective follow your dreams message by pulling two of my books from the shelf. It got their attention. Then to hold their attention (staring at book covers for more than ten seconds is not as interesting as checking text messages for most high school students), I turned the attention to them.

I asked about their personal interests.

With this particular group of students, no one said a word about math, science or history. They talked about music, poetry, fashion and art. And when they expressed their ideas, the enthusiasm was obvious. They wanted to talk about it and involve the others. I imagined it was quite different than their normal participation in math, science or history classes.

So I took it a step further and asked for two volunteers. Most of them raised their hands (probably unlike during the classes mentioned above), but since we had a limited amount of time until the class bell, we could only go with two.

One was a girl into fashion and the other a boy who played guitar.

I told the girl she was going to tell us about her favorite sweater. With the boy, we wanted to know about his dream guitar. Then I gave them a quick assignment. I asked each to write down twothoughts about their item. I wanted to know:

  1. How owning the item it made them feel and…
  2. How owning the same item could make someone else feel.

Then they would each talk about their item in a way that would convince the other students they HAD to have either the sweater or the guitar.

Sounds like a sales pitch – doesn’t it?

Then I borrowed an exercise from my stand-up comedy workshops. I told them to imagine we were at a party. All their friends had told interesting and funny stories – and now it was their chance to talk. How would they tell us about their item in a creative way that would express their feelings AND make us laugh?

This is similar to an audience participation game I use at conferences with business people and educators looking to improve their communication skills. In a nutshell, the idea is to make your message more effective while using creative and humorous enhancements to keep it interesting.

Guitar PlayerIf I could, for my next business conference seminar I’d bring these students with me, take a seat in the audience and let them talk. She basically told the other girls how great they would look in her sweater and how, of course, they would attract more boys. He told the guys how they could look like rock stars with his dream guitar and of course, attract more girls.

Sounds like the average television commercial – doesn’t it?

Yes, they were a lot goofier (for lack of a better term) than you’d expect during a real business world sales pitch or networking opportunity. But the end result was the same.

* They held our attention by delivering their message in a way we found very entertaining and memorable.

Sounds like the average television commercial – doesn’t it?

In this case it was using creativity and humor to express and share their interests. In the case of high school students, their interests are what could determine future careers. For others in the real business world already pursuing careers, looking to expand or even make a change, better communication leads to better opportunities. The real world is competitive and to stand out from the competition you must know how to express yourself in a productive and interesting way.

Sounds like the average television commercial – doesn’t it?

Better communication leads to better opportunities. And along with that purple dinosaur, I’m not going to tell anyone they shouldn’t try to make their dreams come true. Sometimes it all depends on how you communicate them.

*

Comment? Please use the form below. In the meantime, thanks for reading and as always – keep laughing!

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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

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

Copyright 2017 – North Shore Publishing

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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

Social Networking: Turning conversations into connections

Social networking is a term my wife says I use too much. But for me it’s what business and life in general is all about:

Communicating with each other.

Missing the human factor

Missing the
human factor

When you stop and think about it, how effective would your customer service, sales, teamwork, or networking be if you communicated like an android (think Star Wars robotic dialogue) by leaving out the human factor – the social element – of talking?

Too many people hear the term social networking and immediately think of Twitter, Instagram, email, and online sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ and probably dozens more I haven’t heard of. Except that’s not what I’m referring to when I talk about social networking.

What I’m referring to is the social networking that happens face to face or even by phone when personally interacting with clients, co-workers, or during training seminars. The person sitting next to you at work, standing in line for your business, interested in your sales pitch, or waiting for your experienced words of wisdom expects – and deserves – more than a text message or written greeting on his Facebook page.

Deliver your message verbally – actually put the words together and say them – and your conversations can turn into connections. And we all know connections lead to more opportunities, which is the benefit of social networking.

Want more benefits? Okay, how about these…

  • Better customer service
  • Increased sales
  • Improved teamwork
  • Memorable training seminars

It’s an age-old theory and nothing I’ve made up. But sometimes we need a reminder about how a personal touch can make a difference.

Age old theory

Age old theory

Example: Instead of announcing “Next,” and bracing himself for another problem, it’s more effective for a customer service rep to smile and ask, “How may I help you?”

I know because I’ve been there and tried both. The happiness factor may not fix the problem, but it can certainly help relieve a potentially stressful situation. That’s why so many successful businesses include these stress-busting tips in their employee training.

If you don’t believe me, check out last month’s article about a certain airline based in the Southwest and turning a profit in a competitive industry. Their employees receive mandatory training in the happiness factor.

In the university course I’ve developed for public speakers (Tips, Techniques & Top Secret Information on How to Become a Better Public Speaker) I talk about how to deliver your message in a way it’s not only heard, but listened to and remembered. And if you’ve been following my communications tips in these articles, I listed three guaranteed ways to do this. Here’s a reminder:

The problem many of us have as communicators can be compared to the same reason why television commercials usually last 20 seconds or less. Audiences have a short attention span. Go ahead – blame it on technology. I do. People today are used to getting information fast.

Now, I could suggest going back to an earlier newsletter, but to save time and not tax both our attention spans, I’ll repeat three solid tips.

If you want to keep someone’s attention for longer than 20 seconds:

  1. Keep them interested
  2. Entertain them
  3. Humor them
Keep 'em interested!

Keep ’em interested!

Sorry for the 3-peat information, but at least now we’re on the same page. And speaking of pages, here’s one from my Presentation Skills Workbook on how to achieve the first goal – keeping your listener interested through verbal social networking communication:

Commit To The Message

Here’s a secret from the entertainment world shared by professional speakers, comedians and actors. If a listener thinks you’re not being honest with them, you’ll lose his respect and attention. The first step in communicating your message is to believe in what you are talking about. Truly be committed to what you are saying. In other words, cut the fat from your true message (the information you really want to convey) and deliver it with conviction.

Yeah… I know… this advice alone could make a conversation really boring. But remember, I’m also a humor / comedy coach and stress the value of communication enhancements using humor and creativity. Combine those tips with committing to your message and you’ll be a lethal communicator with a License To Talk (sorry, too many James Bond movies). But for right now we’re still competing with technology and your clients and co-workers don’t want to sift through a lot of adjectives to hear what you have to say.

Make The Message Interesting:

Know your message is important, which is why you are delivering it. If you are or appear to be sharing information that will benefit your listener, he will listen. Your message will be remembered if your client or co-worker perceives it as:

  1. New
  2. Different
  3. Personally beneficial

Now, since I also practice what I preach, I’ll stop here. The workbook for my training seminar is 46 pages long and I’m sure both of us don’t have the attention span to review all the highlights in one article. Besides, it took longer than 20 seconds for you to read this. Without any humorous or creative enhancements, I ran the risk of sounding like a Twitter, text, email, or android – and that’s no way to build a connection.

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Dave Schwensen has designed and instructs university courses in communications and presentation skills. He is an author, keynote speaker, trainer, consultant, and nationally-recognized comedy coach. He is a 2015-2016 CILC Pinnacle Award Winner for video conferences on communication skills. For information about scheduling Dave’s interactive keynote or training seminars for your next event, visit www.TalkingForSuccess.com

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

Copyright 2017 – North Shore Publishing

Build your potential client contact list

Hi Dave – Speaking and comedy both sound like serious business. I’m dead serious about the value of comedy in business — way more serious than folks who don’t know how to laugh. How do I get those humorless folks to seriously see how silly it is to filter out fun from the expressions of ideas? How do I make it pay for me to show them how to make it pay for them? – R.W.

No grumpy people!

Hey R.W. – Here’s something I’ve noticed about the humorous speaking biz. It seems the people who need us the most – and you know the ones I’m talking about, the humorless people – are the last ones to search us out. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say the event planners that schedule humorous speakers already understand the value of humor in the business world. And like us, they’re just trying to convince the other people who need it most to use it.

Anyone who knows anything about the value of humor in business and everyday life already know the positives. I won’t get into a long list, but here are a few of my favorites:

  • Less stress
  • Better teamwork
  • Increased productivity and attendance
  • Improved networking

These are topics a lot of serious business speakers and trainers already talk about because their audiences deal with these on a daily basis. It sounds like you’re doing the same with humor as a solution. The way I see it, it doesn’t matter if you’re going to work or cleaning your house. You’re more inclined to actually do it if you can include an element of fun.

Okay, all that is just to show I agree with your point – and I’m sure many readers of this newsletter do also (the humorless people don’t subscribe). It is, as you so eloquently put it, silly to filter out fun from the expression of ideas. But as I see it, here’s your main question:

How do I make it pay for me to show them how to make it pay for them?

Your goal is to get this message to the humorless folks and get paid for it. But keep in mind they aren’t going to hire you to speak anymore than they would subscribe to this newsletter. They don’t understand the value of your message. That means you need to…

Network with event planners (people who can hire you) that already agree with your message.

The best way to do this is to show them what you can do. In other words – get out and speak. And the best places to do this are where both humorous and humorless business folks network – meetings.

I’ve talked about this in past FAQs and Answers and even shared some excellent suggestions from readers on where to showcase your program.

But for a simple instruction guide…

If you don’t have it already, create a short (20 minutes is probably max) presentation about your topic and volunteer (for free) to speak at various organizations in your area. This could include Rotary Clubs, associations, charities, alumni groups, or whatever else you find. If you’re having trouble putting together a working presentation, check out my book Comedy Workshop: Creating & Writing Comedy Material for Comedians & Humorous Speakers at Amazon.com.

Free gigs for humorous speakers are like comedy club showcases for comedians. You don’t get paid, but you get in front of people who can hire (and pay) you in the future. But that’s only the start. As I’ve also mentioned in previous FAQs And Answers you need to build a list of potential clients (buyers) through these free gigs and stay in touch with them.

It’s called networking.

Of course you should always take a stack of business cards to hand out after your presentation. This is a no-brainer and business common sense. Include your contact information and website and give a card to anyone who even looks at you sideways. Make it easy for them to find you.

Except that’s never a guarantee they’ll contact you. It’s important to give them a reason for you to stay in touch on a regular basis, otherwise you’ll just be another pain in the you-know-what.

Start a blog or send out a weekly or monthly newsletter, (hey wait a minute – that’s how I got you to read this!). Make it informative and entertaining as an incentive for potential clients to at least check it out. Hopefully they’ll subscribe and you’ll become almost like an email family member (like we are right now – correct?).

Again, this makes it easy to find you in case they eventually want to hire you.

But simply handing out business cards can take a long time to build a decent list. You know what I mean – you hand out a bazillion cards and be lucky to hear from one or two people.

So here’s how to kick-start your contact list:

A great way to building potential clients and continue adding to your contact list is to have a prize drawing whenever you do one of these free programs. It’s up to you what the prize will be. It could be almost anything from a CD or printed transcript of your presentation to a plate of cookies. You could even offer a free or discounted presentation for their company. Use your imagination for this one and offer something you think most of your audience would want.

Here’s a personal example…

At the end of my programs, I announce a drawing to win a free autographed copy of one of my books. It doesn’t matter which book because even if the winner is not into the topic they’ll know someone who is and can give it as a gift. But to be in the drawing, they have to put a business card with an email address into a basket. The trade-off is that everyone who enters will be added to the mailing list to receive my corporate (not this one!) newsletter.

BUT – and this is an important but – I make it clear they can easily unsubscribe through a link in the email. They just need to receive it once. If they like it, they’ll continue to receive it. If not just opt-out and they’ll never hear from me again. And that’s the honest truth.

Everyone who wants to enter puts a business card in the basket. I draw one and that person leaves with a book. I leave the free gig with a basket full of contacts that could possibly turn into paying clients.

So there you go. How do you reach the people who need your message? Get out and preach the gospel – your ideas – in front of people who already get it. Go to where business people and event planners can see and hear you. Use these free gigs to build your contact list.

There are no guarantees they’ll hire you, but at least you’re giving them – and yourself – a chance. You gotta show them what you can do and stay in touch.

*

Comment? Please use the form below. In the meantime, thanks for reading and as always – keep laughing!

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Click on the banner to sign up for Dave’s free newsletter!

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Dave Schwensen is a nationally recognized comedy coach and author of six books including How To Be A Working Comic. He has designed and instructs university courses in communications and presentation skills. Dave is a keynote speaker and training seminar leader (for your next event!) and CILC Pinnacle Award Winner for video conferences on communication skills, comedy and pop culture.

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

For information about scheduling Dave’s training seminar or interactive keynote for your next event, or for any comments please use the contact form below or send an email to dave@davepresents.com

Copyright 2017 – North Shore Publishing

Positive listening keeps the customer satisfied

Stay positive.

We’ve all been given that advice at one time or another. But I work in the humor industry and when it comes to making comedy audiences laugh, the opposite is often true. Adults and children laugh when a more important person is the victim of a joke. That’s why comedians poke fun at royalty, politicians and famous celebrities – and get away with it. They’re not picking on someone struggling, down on his luck, or without the ability to put up a good defense.

That wouldn’t be funny.

When I work with students, from junior high to college, it’s important for me to emphasize the importance of being positive in productive communication skills. It’s common and trendy today to be sarcastic, insulting or cutting edge. It’s easy to point a finger of blame at the recent generations of stand-up comedians, but this is nothing new. In fact, it’s still the way my college pals and I communicate. I’d be shocked to receive an email or phone call from one of the guys that didn’t open with an insulting comment about my intelligence, age, looks, weight – or whatever is trending on their mind at that moment.

9T4AGEETEIt’s how we communicate on a personal, as close friends level. It’s also very acceptable in the comedy world and why a pie thrown in the face of “the boss” is just as funny in the movies today as it was when Charlie Chaplin was the brightest star on the silent screen.

But what’s considered cutting edge in the comedy industry is not usually funny or productive when it comes to customer service. Using negative humor for laughs outside of a close friendship can send the victim on a defensive course by feeling inferior or unwanted. And as we all know, that’s not a way to build or continue a business relationship.

Keep the customer satisfied.

As a consumer, my business is earned because the product or service is what I’m looking for. I’ll become a repeat customer because I’m a happy customer. In the best scenario, the people I’m dealing with make me feel important; even if I know very little about how they give me good results (in my case, anything to do with cars). I don’t feel inferior or unwanted and that’s good customer service.

Is the customer is always right?

No, of course not. Sometimes they misunderstand what they are buying or being promised. It’s usually a miscommunication. But when dealing with a product or service, even when terms are written out or explained by a sales representative, misunderstandings might occur.

circleThere’s a game we’ve all played at one time or another where your friends or classmates would sit in a circle. One person whispers something in the ear of the person sitting next to him. Then that person whispers it in the next person’s ear, and it continues around the circle until it comes back to the one that started it all. Usually the original statement has been misunderstood, changed and shared in various ways until it’s completely different than what was said originally.

I remember playing this with our teacher when we were in first grade. The teacher started by whispering something very innocent to the first student. By the time it went around the circle and back to the teacher, it had turned – either through a misunderstanding or one player’s attempt at being funny in a negative way – very, very insulting to the teacher. I distinctly remember her turning a bright shade of embarrassing red and the game was over.

In fact, the game was never played again in our classroom.

That’s a good lesson in customer service. A misunderstanding or miscommunication can quickly turn a positive situation into one that is negative, embarrassing, or even to the point of anger. The best we can do to prevent this is to listen and try to understand.

And of course, stay positive.

In my training seminars I play a game with two audience victims… I mean volunteers. They come to the front of the room and the audience assigns each an alternative career. Since I always insist on creativity and imagination (elements of good humor) some fun examples have included an astronaut, pro surfer, television game show host, and… well, use your imagination.

I ask the two volunteers to have a simple conversation as if they were in the profession given to them. Every once in awhile during this conversation I’ll shout, “Stop!” and ask one to reach into a basket and pick a notecard that has a printed random (funny) sentence. They read this as their next line in the conversation. The astronaut, pro surfer, game show host – or whoever they are – has to reply and keep the conversation going.

It’s all about listening.

chinese-whispersOf course it always takes the conversation in a completely different direction and often ends up like the “whispering around the circle game” with the ending nowhere near what they had been talking about at the beginning. The main difference between a group of mischievous first graders and our training audience is that I insist we stay positive. When it comes to customer service, the goal is to have your customers return satisfied and happy, rather than leaving with a bright shade of embarrassing red on their faces.

Listening to what was said and being positive are the first steps in productive communication. This is a solid foundation for good customer service and can lead the way to the ultimate goal of keeping the customer satisfied.

Musical interlude: Keep The Customer Satisfied by Simon & Garfunkel (enjoy for the fun of it!)

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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 two-time CILC Pinnacle Award Winner “For remarkable quality of educational content and exceptional skill at program delivery.” 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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Anger Management

Was It Something I Said?

If I made a list of embarrassing experiences in my life, this wouldn’t even be considered. But I’ll share because it points out the importance of knowing your listener (comedians call it knowing your audience). It was a situation when humor didn’t work in my favor.

We were in the Las Vegas Airport catching a flight to St. Louis. I was traveling with my flight attendant wife Debbie, who can breeze through security while I wait in line with other VIP wannabe’s.

As a seasoned traveler I’ve learned to shove everything into a carry-on suitcase that will be shoved through the security checkpoint on a conveyor belt. I once considered wearing flip-flops to make taking off my shoes an easier process, but Debbie dashed that idea with sarcastic flight attendant advice:

Would you want to run out of a burning wreckage in flip-flops?” My non-sarcastic answer is to always travel in running shoes.

FabioI placed my suitcase and shoes on the conveyor belt and followed the guy in front of me to go through the body scanner. He was a few inches over six feet, had longish hair and looked like he worked out. For our purposes we’ll call him Fabio.

There were two conveyor belts through security, but only one body scanner in the middle. The line was a “Y” shape with passengers coming from both directions. At least I thought that was the case. I’m assuming Fabio did also because after shoving his suitcase onto the conveyor belt he simply stepped into the line. The guy behind him moved forward and I took my place behind him.

This guy wasn’t as tall or well built as Fabio. For our purposes, let’s call him Homer Simpson. I think you’ll get the picture in your mind. I stood in line behind Homer.

Homer turned and asked if I’d also like to go in front of him. I thought that was a very nice gesture. It’s too bad I didn’t recognize the sarcasm in his voice.

No, that’s alright,” I replied. “I’ll just go behind you.” And then I smiled and attempted a joke about not being in a hurry. With hindsight, it didn’t have the friendly effect I thought it would.

If I had x-ray vision like airport security I might have seen steam building up in Homer’s brain and shooting out his ears. I watched him go through the scanner, took my turn, and then grabbed my suitcase and tied my running shoes.

Then I was confronted with what was actually going on in Homer’s steam-filled mind.

HomerI began walking to my gate and noticed Homer talking to a woman and young girl. I’ll assume they were his wife and daughter and for our purposes we’ll call them Marge and… well, I’ll skip The Simpson’s reference, but I’m sure you’ll get the picture. His face was red and looked angry as he pointed his finger toward me.

Suddenly Marge RAN at me, started YELLING and ACCUSED me of cutting in line. I noticed Fabio was within shouting distance, but Marge said nothing to him. He continued walking and once again I followed, but at a faster pace since an angry looking Marge wasn’t on my itinerary of sights to see in Las Vegas.

At this point, Homer yelled something about me laughing at him and called me an “Arrogant ****!

I stopped. It was only for very brief moment, but long enough to say, “Don’t talk to me like that.”

Now, this may sound like a confrontation about to get out of control, but it wasn’t going to happen. Many years ago in New York City my karate instructor gave us the best advice for self-defense. The first step in avoiding a potentially bad situation is to walk away. Only react with our training when it was absolutely necessary. I continued walking from what was already a bad situation and toward my flight gate.

Homer 2But I was hit with a very uncomfortable realization. Maybe there was no “Y” for two lines at security. Perhaps Fabio had also innocently (or on purpose?) cut in and I blindly followed. If this was the case, it was an honest mistake. And if Homer had calmly said, “The line starts back there,” I would have followed the rules of civilized people and taken my place at the end.

Instead his sarcasm did not communicate that message. And my humor only poured fuel on a simmering fire.

A simple statement would have corrected my mistake. But what I found not so simple was how fast he reacted with intense anger. If this type of reaction is a normal occurrence in front of their young daughter, what is this teaching her about adult behavior?

And what if Homer had turned his anger at Fabio instead of me? My guess is that he might have walked away with a few bruises – both to his body and ego. That would’ve only made the situation worse.

Humor is an important conversational enhancement to build business and personal relationships. But as mentioned earlier, it’s important to know your audience and when to use it.

With this experience I did not know the situation or my audience. But displaying a sense of humor or a smile would normally be received as a positive gesture. And even if there is disagreement, it should inspire a non-confrontational response. It was too bad Homer didn’t read it that way because the problem would’ve been simple to correct.

When I told Debbie what happened we both knew how to “fix” the situation. We had lunch and a few laughs, which was a lot less stressful and more fun than steaming over a miscommunication meltdown. Next time I’ll pay more attention to airport security lines, while also practicing Anger Management by keeping a sense of humor in case a Fabio wannabe or anyone else cuts ahead.

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Comment? Please use the form below. In the meantime, thanks for reading and as always – keep laughing!

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Dave Schwensen is a nationally recognized comedy coach and author of six books including How To Be A Working Comic. He has designed and instructs university courses in communications and presentation skills. Dave is a keynote speaker and training seminar leader (for your next event!) and CILC Pinnacle Award Winner for video conferences on communication skills, comedy and pop culture.

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

For information about scheduling Dave’s training seminar or interactive keynote for your next event, or for any comments please use the contact form below or send an email to dave@davepresents.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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