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 other VIP wannabe’s.

As a seasoned traveler I’ve learned to shove everything into a carry-on suitcase that goes though 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 sending his suitcase on the conveyor belt through the x-ray machine, 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. Thinking back, 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.

Homer 1I 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 was 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.

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Have a comment or want information about Dave’s presentations? Please use the contact 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. He facilitates training seminars, breakout sessions and keynotes in communication skills and is a two time Pinnacle Award Winner from CILC (Center For Interactive Learning and Collaboration) for video conferences. Topics include leadership, networking, team-building and customer service.

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

For information about scheduling Dave’s audience interactive training seminar or keynote for your next event, or for any comments please use the contact form below.

Copyright 2017 – North Shore Publishing

 

Leave Them Wanting More

Girl finger over mouthThere’s an old showbiz saying I use a lot in my workshops and seminars. In fact, I say it so much you would think I’d have some type of ownership deal on a trademark to plaster it all over coffee mugs, t-shirts – and mouth guards for compulsive talkers.

Always leave them wanting more.

This is great advice when enhancing your conversations with humor. And in case you’ve missed any of my past articles, a dose of relationship-building humor is a great way to grab your listener’s attention and help them remember you AND your message.

You never want to overstay your welcome.

Wait a minute… that sounds like another old saying. And that one is pertinent to both business communications and family reunions. But when it comes to leadership, networking and team building in the business world, business comes first. I doubt anyone would be thrilled about taking orders from the office jokester who delivers continuous one-liners in the break room all afternoon. But a good leader will focus on what needs to be accomplished and the most productive way to get it done.

A happy worker is a productive worker.

Wish I could also claim a trademark on that saying, but it’s already popular in the business world because it’s true. An article with that title by Marilyn Tam in The Huffington Post states:

When people aren’t happy with their jobs or their employers, they don’t show up consistently, they produce less and their work quality suffers.

In one of my past articles I wrote about Southwest Airlines and employee training that includes a happiness factor for both team building and customer service. In the stress-filled travel business kindness and a smile are the first line of defense when dealing with uncomfortable situations. If you’ve ever been delayed for a few hours in an airport or stuck on a runway you know what type of situations can arise when nerves and tempers are on edge. The second line of defense is to call security. I’m sure we’d all agree the happiness factor is the better option.

Leave'em wanting more!

Leave’em wanting more!

It’s the same with your business relationships. Humor is a better option than a temper tantrum – and can increase productivity. But what does that have to do with our opening old saying? It goes back to not following (respecting?) leadership from the never ending and non-productive office jokester.

Don’t overdo a good thing.

That’s another old saying we’d expect to hear more from a doctor than a comedy coach, but I’ll jump on the bandwagon and also tout its benefits here. Humor will always be an attention-grabber, but when used sparingly it can be more effective. Again, you don’t want to overdo the laugh factor – just like you don’t want to be the happiness factor killjoy that would inspire your co-workers to double up on sick days when you’re in charge.

Here’s a quick story…

You’ve heard that one before – correct? And then the storyteller bores you with a long-winded dissertation on… well, a boring topic. I’ll keep it quick.

I use techniques from my comedy workshops in my business communications seminars. In both cases I emphasize leaving the audience wanting more. In other words, grab your listeners’ attention by keeping them entertained just long enough to hear and remember your message. In comedian terms, it would be a punchline. In business terms it would be business.

I was coaching a young stand-up comedian to write and perform a very funny five minute routine. After three weeks he was prepared and ready for a live audience at The Cleveland Improv comedy club. He was introduced, walked on stage and very quickly had the crowd laughing.

Don't overstay your welcome!

Don’t overstay your welcome!

But instead of sticking to our game plan of leaving the audience wanting more, he finished his practiced five minutes and morphed into the jokester you’d normally avoid at the office water cooler. The best description is to say he became flushed with success by the laughter and overstayed his welcome. Old jokes, tired one-liners and random thoughts silenced the audience to the point they had forgotten how funny he had been during his first five minutes. Finally he saw my frantic arm waves from the back of the room to leave the stage.

He walked up to me after and asked, “How’d I do?

Great,” I answered, “for the first five minutes. Too bad you did thirteen.

For his business it was a bad move. He’s never played that club since. In the business world the same lesson applies. Humor can enhance your conversations and raise the happiness factor. But it should never distract from a leader’s message – the game plan. Don’t get carried away and become the office jokester or the audience (employees or co-workers) might stop following (respecting?) your conversation. And when that happens, the silence – in business terms, productivity and attendance – can be deafening.

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Have a comment or want information about Dave’s presentations? Please use the contact form below. In the meantime, thanks for reading and as always – keep laughing!

*

Dave Schwensen is a nationally recognized comedy coach and author. He facilitates training seminars, breakout sessions and keynotes in communication skills and is a Pinnacle Award Winner from CILC (Center For Interactive Learning and Collaboration) for video conferences. Topics include leadership, networking, team-building and customer service.

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

For information about scheduling Dave’s audience interactive training seminar or keynote for your next event, or for any comments please use the contact form below.

Copyright 2016 – North Shore Publishing