Archive for August, 2008

Watch your words

Sunday, August 31st, 2008

    I was at Kellari’s Parea, a wonderful Greek Bistro in Midtown Manhattan, earlier this week. I was sitting at the bar waiting for a friend to join me for dinner when I heard my name mentioned behind my back. No, seriously. The voice came from behind me.

After the second time that I heard my name I turned to see if my friend had arrived, had sat down at a table and was calling me. What would be my surprise when I saw another friend, the editor of Siempre Mujer, with a group of her friends, talking about me!

I walked around so she didn’t see me coming and put my arm around her. I got close to her ear before she could even see who I was and I said: “I hope you’re not saying anything bad about me, because I heard you talking!” She almost died at the incredible coincidence! And yes she was talking about me in the nicest terms!

But you know what? These kinds of things happen to me (and I assume to lots of people) all the time. And I mean it: all the time. If you want proof, just read my post “Small world” and you’ll see what I mean. Once again, the episode was a great reminder that you should never talk poorly about your colleagues. If you have nothing nice to say, it’s better not to say anything! But also, a reminder that we should all be careful when we talk in public as you never really know who’s eavesdropping.

The Art of Small Talk

Monday, August 25th, 2008

For many people, the worst part of networking is actually establishing the initial contact. How do you begin a conversation with a stranger? Well, that’s the key right there. You shouldn’t think about it as a full blown conversation. Set your goal at a less threatening level: chit chat.

The topic of your chit chat will vary according to where you are, but what is important right now, is for you to frame the interaction as something light, not something where you’ll have to proof how smart you are or how much you know about specific topic.

If you’re at an event, standing next to someone while you get a drink, try initiating the dialog with:

  • Are you a member of this organization?
  • Have you been to one of these events before?
  • Isn’t this a fabulous event? I’m really enjoying the… (fill in the blank)

    Follow these simple questions with others that are a little bit more “fact” based:

  • Do you know if there are any special requisites to join this organization?
  • How did you find out about the event?
  • Are you familiar with …. organization? They do similar events. I’ve been to… (fill in the blank)

    As your colleague notices your interest in him/her, continue moving your interaction to more professionally related questions:

  • Where do you work?
  • Do you like working for your company?
  • Did you always know this is what you wanted to do?

    The dialog will flow from there as the other person asks you questions. And before you know it, you’ll be having that conversation you were dreading, in the most natural way.

  • Winning or Loosing

    Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

    If you’ve been following the Olympics I’m sure you’ve noticed that winning silver (or worse yet, bronze!) sounds like the worse thing that can happen to you. And yet, if you get a silver medal, you are the second best athlete at whatever your expertise is. In some disciplines being second might mean you are only an eight of a second slower than the first guy. Not bad, don’t you think?

    But by the way the media and the coaches handle the situation it would have all of us believe that winning a silver medal at the Olympic games is worthless. Excuse me? If you make it to the Olympics I’d take my hat off to you! Granted, we all wished we could be the best at what we do and aiming for number one is a fabulous goal. But number two in the world is not that terrible either.

    When I shared my concerns with a close friend of mine, she said: “In America, we don’t focus on winning silver, just in loosing gold”. But this emphasis in not “loosing gold” leaves a lot of hard working athletes out in the cold. It leaves them with a complete lack of recognition for their efforts, their enormous concentration, the lengthy preparation they endure, and the loss of a big chunk of their childhood during the pursuit of gold.

    I believe both in sports and in life in general we should recognize the winners and also the people who put a big effort into what they do but who don’t finish first. Because it is about the gold, but it’s also about the competition and what you learn about yourself and others in your journey there.

    Small World

    Saturday, August 9th, 2008

    Tuesday night I had dinner with an old acquaintance of mine who I hadn’t seen in ten years. She had moved overseas and had only returned to the States at the end of last year.

    She had been hired by a woman who was leaving her position -let’s call her Carla- and my friend was very happy about her new job. She didn’t know what company Carla –who I know as well– had moved to but she thought she might have left the industry.

    On Friday I went out for drinks with a group of colleagues who work in one of the publications to which I contribute. What would be my surprise to see Carla amongst the people invited! She was now working at this publishing house!

    This was a great reminder of a rule I live by: never speak ill of anybody!! It’s a small world and it’s getting smaller!

    We are all in this together

    Monday, August 4th, 2008

      You can’t avoid it. Everywhere you look, regardless who you talk to, people are being laid off, or fired, or losing their businesses… it’s a pretty bad state of affairs.

      And maybe you still have your job and are doing fine, thank you very much. But the truth is that we are all in this together and sooner or later, the crisis will affect you too. Whether it is because your friends won’t be able to afford going out for dinner with you or because you loose several of your contracts due to cutbacks in your client’s company, there is no way of avoiding the crisis from touching you in one way or another.

      In this interconnected, smaller world we live in, we all share in the pain and success of others. That should give us something to think about. If you are lucky and you have a job, cherish it, and find ways in which you can bring more value to your company. At the same time, make sure you help your friends and colleagues land new opportunities: organize events where they can meet others, introduce them to your contacts, brainstorm career options, etc.

      “Practical empathy” is something we should all try at times like this. It strengthens our bonds to each other and it makes harder times a little easier to deal with.