Talk only when it improves the silence..

I’m a big fan of LinkedIn.

It has some fabulous tools to make new contacts, to reconnect with lost colleagues, and to provide support. The discussion groups are quite interesting. People ask questions, and they get answers, on everything from “How do I network without looking like a stalker” to “What’s the best way to handle crisis communications?”

I enjoy answering questions. I can sense if I have dispensed decent advice by the tone of the responses that follow mine. Was I on track with my remarks? Did I take too strong a tone?

When you work in corporate communications, you have to capture the essence of what the leadership wants to communicate, and distill it properly. You hear the bosses say the words….

“we are going to have to do another round of layoffs”

“quarterly earnings were not where they needed to be”

“we’re going to add four positions in the West Coast Region”

..and then you have to repeat it to the troops and the stakeholders.. How is it going to play in the hallways? What will the blog/trade reaction be?

I like this part of the exercise. I like looking inside someone’s head and attempting to mirror their words,  (and perhaps this isn’t the best way to describe it) to interpolate what needs to be said. To insert some extra words, so that the message is received clearly. I’ve said it before; I don’t need to be “the guy”, but I live to be in the room with them. It’s implied trust. When I put it in the vault, it’s like a mental Fort Knox. I’m a sounding board, a net to grab the thoughts and feelings of the leadership, and to help them make sense of it. It doesn’t mean you get your way; it’s the boss who’s making the call, but you were part of the process.

I have a close friend who wrote a lot of words for John McCain when he ran for President. She was unbelievably skilled at translating his thoughts into ideas. Not her fault they were ideas America was not swallowing. She did her job, as someone “in the room”.

A rather forlorn gentleman recently put up a post in a LinkedIn chat about his futile search for work. He was lamenting that he “doesn’t know anybody” and “the only good jobs are available for people who already have them”, et al. Bitter, Party of One.

I practiced the art of listening and distilling with him. I posted to him (and I’m paraphrasing here):

Um, you’re on LinkedIn, fella. You know lots of people. Employers don’t think folks not possessing a job this very instant are lousy hires. Good companies are always looking for The Right Person. If you do your homework, apply for jobs you are truly qualified for, and bring it during the interview, you’ve always got a shot. Be tenacious. Get beat down, stand up, and put one foot in front of the other. Keep Walking. Never give up.

A couple of days later, I received this extremely sweet message.

On 06/29/10 5:06 PM, Monique wrote:
Hi John,
Your comment on the job discussion was very uplifting and I wanted to tell you that you are a huge inspiration to me and my husband. Thank you for being a fighter and for providing light to others in the job search. We want to celebrate with you when you land your new job.
Have a great day!

On 06/29/10 5:16 PM, John wrote:
Thank you for your kind words.
Some days we all feel a bit adrift and lost, but the upside to being lost is the things you find along the way. Go get ’em 🙂

On 06/29/10 7:06 PM, Monique wrote:
Thank you so much John! I just sold a house last week yaaaay! Things are looking up and i am motivated and ready to recharge. The world would be a better place with more people like you in it.


What pleased me the most was I felt like I helped Mr. Forlorn with advice, and some karmic shrapnel hit Monique and her husband. And she sold a house. Nice.

In order to relay a message… for a friend, a corporate boss, or a stranger, it requires listening.

This plaque now lives on my office wall, to remind me to shut my pie hole once in a while: Talk Only when it Improves the Silence.

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