Tuesday 17 August 2010

Max Atkinson de-bunking misrepresentation of Mehrabian's stuff

Max Atkinson, whom I bumped into in a bar at Middle Aston House many years ago (and who took the opportunity of my interest to flog me a copy of his excellent book Our Masters' Voices) has just posted a good post de-bunking the myth about verbal communication being only 7% of the meaning we receive (the rest being voice (38%) and body language (55%).

It's one of those 'facts' that buzz around the training world, repeated from trainer to trainer in a fascinating example of the authority of the Verbal Tradition.  Few who cite it can even name Mehrabian, let alone give any account of his research or his findings.

Of course it's rubbish, the way it's normally put across.  But it has some surface credibility, because it is demonstrable that non-verbal aspects of communication can, in some instances, affect (or even reverse) the meaning we try to put across with our words.

For me, the key is congruence: matching your non-verbal behaviour, use of voice etc, to your message: that is certainly powerful and effective.  But scarcely 93% of your meaning or impact or whatever the twits who peddle this stuff say.

Monday 9 August 2010

Negotiating Skills

Gratifying to find, once again, that that stuff I teach about negotiating really works in practice.

Annie had left my bike in Pooley Bridge overnight (locked to something, of course), and returned to find it gone.  

The insurers wanted me to settle for some rubbish own-brand bike from Halfords (or £225 cash) to replace my rather nice Specialized Ridgeback.  After a bit of to and froing (using the full range of Harvard strategies), they offered a substantially upgraded bike from Halfords (RRP £550 - probably worth £450 at the most) and we eventually settled on a cash amount that replaced my bike with the current Specialized, plus the rack and other fittings, and left me with a few pennies in pocket, even allowing for the £60  excess.

I still maintain buying Getting to Yes was one of the best investments I have ever made!

Friday 6 August 2010


I'm off now, after a flurry of busy-ness.  Taking August as holiday with the family, and a little time to work on my book.

Have just landed a couple of bits of work that mean we are going to hit our targets for the next year, so won't have to sell the kids into slavery over the next few months.

So a summer of rainy walks, mowing wet grass, and camping with the kids awaits - and I shall return refreshed (?) and ready for action in September.  Blogging likely to be sparse, but you will survive without me for a few weeks...

Thursday 5 August 2010

Walking Coaching

Talking with Liz and Stuart of Coaching Connect the other day, I was struck by how interested they were in coaching while walking.  (Liz has posted a snippet of our conversation about walking coaching on Youtube, here).

I have done this for a while and often find it very powerful.  It can range from simply suggesting to a client that we go for a walk if we are struggling for ideas in the middle of a session (round the streets or ideally into a nearby park) to clients booking a day or half a day for a serious walk in the hills.

Both my clients and I find it a different experience - and it always adds real value to the session.

I think there are many reasons for this, working on many different levels:

  • Walking side by side enables a different type of conversation compared with sitting looking at each other;
  • Exercise and movement stimulate the oxygenation of the brain;
  • Any kind of journey is a great metaphor for almost anything;
  • The larger horizon (particularly from the top of Blencathra, say...) seems to expand our mental field of vision;
  • The difference of the experience, compared to a normal day at the office, makes it very memorable (one client has a picture taken on one of our walks as his screensaver, to remind him of the learning from that day - he can still remember what we discussed on each section of the walk);
  • Silence, and thus reflection, are much easier when out walking;
  • Taking a generous half day, or better a full day, provides the space in time to match the space in the outdoors, enabling us really to explore possibilities in depth - without it feeling too intense (few people could stand being sat across the table from one other person focussing on one thing for a whole day - but when walking it becomes not only easy, but pleasurable).
I am sure there are more reasons for the power of this approach, but these are the ones that strike me at present.