Opportunity Makers Have Mutuality Mindsets

Like many of you, I passionately believe that we can live happier and higher-performing lives with others when we enable others to use best talents together more often. Hint: a mutuality mindset probably matters more than your smarts, money, title or contacts in this increasingly complex yet connected world.  

Kare - TED social tileThat belief is at the heart of my TED@IBM talk on September 23rd, which you can watch live: “The Web of Humanity: Becoming an Opportunity Maker.” I am in awe of the line up of speakers on “how to reimagine the world.” Here’s one method to spur greater camaraderie, serendipitous innovation and collaboration amongst co-workers:

How Musical Chairs Can Foster Mutuality

At the evolving Downtown Project in Las Vegas, Tony Hsieh purposefully assigns parking spaces that are at least a block from where employees work to spur “collisions,” meaning serendipitous meetings between individuals. Also, some startups and technology firms are periodically moving employees around so they sit next to different people.

Why? Well, “A worker’s immediate neighbors account for 40 percent to 60 percent of every interaction that worker has during the workday, from face-to-face chats to e-mail messages. There’s only a 5 percent to 10 percent chance employees are interacting with someone two rows away,” according to Ben Waber of Sociometric Solutions.

His firm uses sensors to analyze interaction patterns at work. Waber concludes, “If I keep the org chart the same but change where you sit, it is going to massively change everything.” See what happened at Kayak, Hubspot and other firms that played musical chairs. “Grouping workers by department can foster focus and efficiency,” discovered MIT’s Christian Catalini, yet “mixing them up can lead to experimentation and the potential for breakthrough ideas.”

! cover small MM n“The community stagnates without the impulse of the individual. The impulse dies away without the sympathy of the community.” ~ William James

What Actually Makes You Seem Likeable?

When I was an “on-air talent” on an NBC show, one of the first things they tested before I was hired was my likeability, what the TV industry and others dub the “Q” factor. Even though I tested high on that range I was keenly aware that it mattered more than my journalism experience, smarts, willingness to work hard or aptitude for this job. In fact, I believed that at least three other candidates were better qualified.  Others call this effect the Mitt Romney mistake.

smile es-1Your early smile, sustained attention and warm nods – how much do these behaviors affect others? Enough to surprise many researchers, it turns out. In fact, we are more likely to be well-liked when exhibiting these specific behaviors than from attempting to figure out what others instinctively experience as friendliness, relevance, empathy and realness – the four general factors cited by Likeability Factor author Tim Saunders.

When students in a study watch even brief (two, five or ten second) glimpses of strangers expressing these positive actions on soundless video clips, they are deeply influenced.

“While students see just a flash of a teacher their first feeling highly correlates to their end-of-semester rating of that teacher,” wrote Stanford psychology professor, Nalini Ambady.

Along with study co-author Robert Rosenthal, they started by showing students 10-second clips. Then “thin-sliced it down” to five-second, then two-second clips, having participants rate them on the 15 characteristics including how empathic, accepting, professional, optimistic, or supportive the teacher seemed.

Unknown-150x150No matter how thinly Ambady sliced the behavior, the more positive and likable the professor, based on these behaviors, the higher their evaluations.

Concluded Ambady, “One would think that teacher smarts, preparation and organization should count – and I’m sure it does to some extent but behavior, charisma, and the factors that go into holding an audience count more.”

And how does surgeons’ behavior towards patients affect the number of malpractice suits they get? Ambady found similar results.

warmthes-150x150Key was voice tone. When she tracked just that trait, “We were really amazed. With just 20 seconds of each doctor’s voice, you could predict malpractice claims. For instance, surgeons who sounded more unfeeling or dominant were more likely to have been sued in the past.”

With those two studies in mind, it behooves us all to recognize that competence and good intentions don’t cut it if we don’t also look like we really are. That steady and direct attention, with your whole face and body is the first factor to foment the trust that can pull others in.

Writing this raises poignant feelings for me, and many others, because Ambady, who was such a deeply caring and talented researcher, teacher and friend to manydied last year, “after a lengthy worldwide campaign by family members, friends, and students to find a bone marrow donor.” She was just 54 years old. Nalini is sorely missed, as she embodied the results of her research.

imagesAs Melanie Tannenbaum concluded, when poignantly citing Nalina’s trailblazing research, “our expectations and first impressions can end up shaping our ultimate realities.”

Deepen Your Friendships

“When you throw mud you get dirty,  Adlai Stephenson once dryly remarked when advised to criticize his opponent who was launching vicious, personal attacks against him in a political campaign. He lost. Yet others, including me, believe you lose ground when you throw mud.  Instead, praise the part of someone that you genuinely admire when you are tempted to “go negative.”

That way you can avoid being stained by your own criticism via spontaneous trait transference.  That’s where listeners automatically and unintentionally associate with you the trait you cite in describing someone else.  Hint: Ever wondered why people want to kill the messenger who brings bad news? That’s trait transference.

composite-1Amy Sutherland wrote about a variation of this effect in her New York Times article, “What Shamu Taught Me About a Happy Marriage.” That article was so popular she got a book deal. In conducting research for her book, Kicked Bitten and Scratched, she watched exotic animal trainers reinforce positive behaviors. A light bulb went on in her mind.  Why not try the same successful animal training techniques on her husband?

Wrote Sutherland, “I should reward behavior I like and ignore behavior I don’t. After all, you don’t get a sea lion to balance a ball on the end of its nose by nagging. The same goes for the American husband.”

She began offering what trainers call approximations – “rewarding the small steps toward learning a whole new behavior.”

Even more startling, two studies conducted at the University of Wisconsin showed that when spouses  spoke generally and positively about a trait that their spouse had not exhibited, at least recently (“Thank you for being so thoughtful as I go through this stressful time at work”) the spouse began exhibiting those caring behavior, often using the very same words wives had used in praising them.  “Honey, want to talk about your day and let go of some of that stress?”

Here’s a funny thing.  Even though we long to be understood and loved we often inadvertently put up barriers.  We are more likely to praise others for the traits we most like in ourselves. And we give the gifts and kind of attention that we most seek.  That’s the Golden Rule, after all.  Do unto others as you would have done unto you.

helpges-1Consider, instead, living by the Golden Golden Rule: Do unto others as they would have done unto them.  Praise the actions that they most like in themselves, and support them in the ways that most matter to them.  Result?  They are more likely to like, compliment and support you in ways you most value.

As Jess C. Scott wrote, “Friends are the family you choose.”

Now, make your connection even more mutually beneficial and nourishing.  Here’s tie shoes0094how.

As you build trust with a friend describe the Golden Golden Rule of Mutual Support. Ask them what they most value in themselves  — the traits (temperament and talents) they most want to hone. Listen closely and confirm, to their satisfaction, that you heard them correctly. Then describe what you most like and value in yourself.  Suggest that you support each other in strengthening those traits by offering specific, caring and candid feedback.

As Laurence J. Peter wrote, ” You can always tell a real friend: when you’ve made a fool of yourself he doesn’t feel you’ve done a permanent job.”

stumblingownConsider it one more step towards Learned Optimism and to Stumbling on Happiness.

How to Have More Happiness Moments

Before-happiness-150x150An elementary school teacher in rural Arkansas made a bracelet of charms of each student in her class so she could continually remind herself of how she cared about each one, and her passion for teaching them.

The rest of the story is the real clincher for seeing that happiness can be a choice.Charm-bracelet-150x150

She wakes up each morning with the painful fatigue that most face when they have the chronic, erratic and incurable disease, multiple sclerosis.

Many would give up and quit working yet some don’t, as Shawn Achor shows in his new book Before Happiness. Why do different people in the same situation find a way to feel happy and thrive while others get depressed, give up or worse? The answer is the cornerstone concept in Achor’s book.

He travelled to fifty-one countries, speaking and conducting experiments involving people as diverse Tanzanian kids living in extreme poverty to UK bankers who didn’t get year end bonuses. Achor worked with organizations as diverse as The National Multiple Sclerosis SocietyZappos’ Downtown Project, Freddie Mac during the mortgage crisis and online learning group, CorpU. The secret, according to Achor is that people in the same situation “were literally living in different realities.”

If you want to change your life, you first have to change your reality

2. Map your meaning markers: These are the specific things to identify to chart the best route to accomplishing your goal(s) towards that most valuable reality.

3. Find the X-spot: Use success accelerants to propel you more quickly toward your goal(s).

4. Cancel the noise: Boost your capacity to hear the helpful signals that reinforce your chosen reality and may attract the opportunities and resources that can reinforce that reality, and dim the noisy signals that distract you from that reality.

5. Create positive inception: Amplify the effects of your positive mindset by contagiously spreading your positive reality to others.

Here are some happiness-boosting points from the book and related ones from elsewhere:

A. Pessimistic people “literally see a narrower range of opportunities and possibilities,” as Positivity author Barbara Fredrickson discovered. Erickson recommends a 3:1 ratio of positive to negative experiences for healthy living.  Alternatively, I suggest that you strive for a higher ratio, more akin to John Gottman’s magic 5:1 for a healthy marriage.

When feeling negative we are blind to many options and go into fight or fight mode. To counter that downward spiral of perceptions and behavior, Achor suggest you map out your options as soon as possible, focusing first on drawing the possible paths for a successful outcome because what you first map becomes most vivid in your mind. Then, look for “escape routes” to avoid worst possible outcomes.

See the other tips over at my column on ForbesForbes1-150x1502-2

Can You Keep Your Cool When Under Fire?

When you most want to smash someone in the face or run out of the room, remember this ironic opportunity. Cooling off someone else’s anger can be a way to catesactually bring that person closer. Warning: Don’t add fuel to the fire by suggesting that they calm down.

Hint: “the opposite of anger is not calmness, it’s empathy,” notes Mehmet Oz. So, when someone’s angry at you, that empathy must start with you.

Here are five actionable tips that have helped me, when I’ve used them, which is not often enough. None will work all the time, and some will work better for your personality style than others.

One: Lighten Up

When others begin to act “hot,” we instinctively tend to either:

A.  Escalate:  Become like them and get loud, more hostile, or exhibit other mimicking reactions.


B.  Withdraw:  Adopt a drawn expression or poker face, and shut up until you can escape the situation.

Either approach gets us out of balance. Both are self-protective but self-sabotaging reactions. They are akin to saying “I don’t like your behavior — therefore I am going to give you more power.” Instead, slow everything down: your voice level and rate, and the amount and frequency of your body motions. Maintain an understated warmth.  Be aware that you are feeling a hot reaction to the other person. Instead of dwelling on your growing feelings 9which we women are most prone to do) , move to a de-escalating action and leave room for everyone, especially the person in the wrong, to save face and self-correct.

Two: Take the “Three A’s to Get Past Anger” Approach

• Ask for more information. That way, the other person feels heard. Plus you both have the opportunity to cool off, so you can find some common ground, based on their underlying concern or need.

In your mind, “warm up” to the part of the person you can respect.  Focus on it mentally and refer to it verbally: “You are so dedicated” or “knowledgeable” or whatever their self-image is that leads them toward rationalizing their behavior.

• Add your own. Say, perhaps, “May I tell you my perspective?” This sets the other person up in a position of power, to give you permission to state your view, as you have already given them.

See the rest of the column over at Forbes

How Can We Be So Wrong About What Others Are Thinking?

Epley-web-560x280We are overly confident about our capacity to read other people, even our spouses. Trying to “detect the emotion someone is feeling by looking at a picture of their face or looking into someone’s eyes” (two common mind reading tests) actually worsens our accuracy, according to MindWise author and behavioral science professor at the University of Chicago, Nicholas Epley.

This flies in the face of common wisdom that, to boost understanding, we should, metaphorically step into the other person’s shoes. As Dale Carnegie famously suggested as his Principle 8 in How to Win Friends and Influence People, “Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.” Yet Epley found that such “overthinking” actually leads to more errors. Even, “the scientific credibility of claims” about microexpressions, the “tells” in the face that last a fifth of a second, “is currently weak, at best,” according to Epley. We are better liars than we think we are.

“Assumptions are the termites of relationships,” Henry Winkler.Mindwise wn

Ask. Don’t Speculate.

The key to understanding others better is rare yet blindingly simple. It’s simply to ask, not assume, listen closely to the answer and confirm that you heard it right by telling them what you heard. Epley suggests three ways to do so:

  1. Talking Stick:  Only the person with the stick speaks, then that person could hand it to another or someone could ask for it, yet first had to summarize what they just heard, to the first speaker’s satisfaction, before they continue the conversation.
  2. Parroting: Simply “parrot” back exactly what you heard before proceeding.
  3. Speaker-Listener: originally designed by psychologist, Howard Markman for couples to resolve conflicts, yet could work in any disagreements, one person tosses a coin to determine who speaks first. Each person describes exactly what they heard before responding.

A group of retired military officers assumed they knew how soldiers would feel and thus strongly opposed the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Yet when the Pentagon asked soldier directly, rather than attempting to “mind read” their views,  “70 percent believed the repeal would have no effect or a positive effect on the military” according to Epley.  Similarly Epley found that top management in companies tends to put more credence in outside consultants’ recommendations than on what employees actually want.

Tip: “The less we know the more we project onto others.”

Who’s Most Preoccupied by Sex Really?

Epley covers other area where we mistakenly focus on our differences and make wrong assumptions. For example, the most important gender difference is… (see the rest of my column at Forbes.)

How Power Connectors Become More Highly Valued

Judyown“The way to get someone to like you immediately is to find a commonality. Almost any commonality, no matter how trivial – a shared alma mater, an interest in running, a love of dogs – will get the ball rolling,” Influence author, Robert Cialdini told Reinventing You authorDorie Clark, notes Judy Robinett in her new bookHow to be a Power Connector.

Sure people like people who are like them. That’s the Familiarity Effect. Some of the most enduringly popular entertainers, for example, have what’s call high Q scores, including Tom HanksEllen Degeneres and Steve MartinSome plummet.

The One-Two Path Towards Greater Popularity

And being likeable leads to being trusted, because one is exhibiting warmth before demonstrating competence, not the reverse. Yet we can enjoy a more satisfying and accomplished life with others when we reach deeper. As Robinett advocates: “Discover what is important to them professionally and, more important, personally.”

Recognize What Makes Them Tick, Their Operating SystemGoGiverwn

Picture a four-way mental diagram for seeking what most matters to the other person so you can:

• Be a helpful helper, a go-giver as Bob Burg and Adam Grant advocate

• Find strong sweet spots of mutual interest to accomplish greater things together and for each other.


1. Biggest opportunity on their mind right now

2. Biggest problem on their mind right now


3. Passions: Strongest enduring interests

4. Hot Buttons:  Strongest dislikes, weaknesses, and situations and tasks they want to avoid

Mind you, taking this approach means being fully focused on the other person, listening for what’s not said, as much as what it. Ask follow-up questions that are related to the most passionately stated things that person shares.  These two habits may appear obvious yet notice how rarely they actually happen.

judy andn“Being fully present with a person is one of the most effective ways to show that we care.” ~ Matt Tenney

Hint: Some of your most valuable allies won’t act right like you. Your first instinct may be to get irritated or suggest, in some way, that they change. Because they have different a temperament, talents, worldview, and/or experience they can offer a different view of a situation that matters to you. They probably know different people than you – and may even be able to do what you can’t or don’t want to do on a task that you need to have done.  “A good leader knows what he or she is not good at,” former New York University president, John Sexton told Anne-Marie Slaughter.

funnel testnBeyond the Selfie: Finding Mutuality Foments Multiple Opportunities

Over time, as you get to know someone better you can use Porter Gale’s Funnel Test and Robinett’s 5+50+100 Rule to more concretely recognize the individuals with whom you can grow the strongest, most mutually beneficial friendships over time. Here’s just one more tip, from my heavily underlined copy of Robinett’s book that you, too, may want to practice:

Triangulate to Multiply Value For All Involved

Step One:

Through a friend in Robinett’s inner “power circle” she was introduced to South Korean “high-powered consultant at Accenture” who was moving to the U.S. and needed to establish business relationships in the country. Right after meeting her, Robinett called an apt contact within her power circle, sent a LinkedIn request, made introductions to others via email, then sent an email to this consultant, summarizing what she had done.

Action to Take: Upon meeting someone with whom you found strong shared interests: Immediately reconnect: Take an action in support of the other person’s expressed need, and send a message to that person, explaining what you have done, and how you will follow-up.

Step Two

The consultant replied immediately.  Robinett discovered, when researching her new acquaintance online, that she grew up so poor in Korea that “her parents couldn’t even afford to buy her gum, so she used to look for wads of gum on the street, dust them off then chew them.” That convinced Robinett that she wanted to get to know this woman better, who had risen so high, “from very humble beginnings.” Note the power of strongly-felt shared values.

Action to Take:  Assess the connection and activate your system: Notice how rapidly and well the other person responded to your help. That doesn’t mean you are seeking a quid pro quo, acting as what Adam Grant dubs a “matcher” but rather whether that person values your effort enough to respond appropriately. Worst case is when someone asks for more, without expressing appreciation. When you get a swift, appreciative response, research more.

Step Three

Robinett became motivated to learn more about her new friend, suggested another conversation, and discovered that two of her top goals were to write a book, and do more public speaking. Robinett again reached out to relevant contacts, including her literary agent, and to experienced speakers.

Action to Take:  Multiply and deepen the relationship by learning more about their immediate and longer-term goals. See how you and/or your circle of contacts can be helpful.

I’d add a two-pronged, fourth step, as Robinett suggests elsewhere:

1. Ask for specific help that is relevant to the other person’s interests and connections.

2. Say how you’d appreciate any resources or suggestions that your new acquaintance might have or come across later, that might be helpful for you.

For some of us asking is hard, but giving feels natural. Yet a healthy relationship, over time, is where both feel strengthened by the mutual support they experience together.

imagesOur mutuality mindset deepens our humanity

When you give enough other people what they need you are more likely to get what you need, sometimes even before you know you need it and from individuals you did not know could provide it.

Is That The Story You Want To Keep Telling Others?

BelleWriting of her secret life as a prostitute, a blogger with the pseudonym Belle de Jour had a backstory worthy of a movie script. In fact it was turned into a Showtime TV series. She wanted to have a satisfying next chapter of her life story so she wrote about it. You see she’s “a respected specialist in developmental neurotoxicology and cancer epidemiology.”

Few of us lead a startling double life yet many may want to play a new role, with different scenes, settings and characters.

To re-shape the story you are living,  view it as a movie. That’s what Donald Miller did when he wrote Million milesesA Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life With 611 views we know it resonated.

Screenwriters know that in a movie:

• A Character is What He Does. Hint: Don’t overthink your actions, just start acting out the facets of your new character, especially around consequential strangers who do not yet know you.

Consequentail-jpg-150x150•  An Inciting Incident Must Happen.  Hint: What’s already provoking you, and are you heading towards it or avoiding it?

If you are restless with your life why not evoke such an incident to turn your next chapter into the kind of adventure story you want for your life? That’s what I’m embarking on, in a halting way. Four friends are on this path with me and it would be great to have you join us.  ”Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it,” wrote Hannah Arendt yet we do define ourselves by the spin we put on the stories we tell.

Here are some steps: 

1. Recognize the Story of Your Life So Far

How we cobble together the incidents in our lives and create a narrative thread reflects that spin, revealing our hidden personalities and our tendencies suggests psychologist Dan McAdams, author of  The Redemptive Self: Stories Americans Live By. To put it starkly, McAdams believes there are two kinds of people: Those who view life-altering experiences as “contaminative episodes.” An emotionally positive event suddenly goes bad and that will be the way they replay future incidents.

Others, like Taylor Mali view events as “redemptive episodes” through which they can eventually redeem bad scenes, turning Tayler-Malicf60c53ef0120a93bab37970b-120withem into good outcomes over time and becoming better people. I feel like I do some of both. How about you?

2. Choose to Put a Positive Spin on Your Stories and Pull Others Closer

“Emotion serves as a central organizing process within the brain,” writes Mindsight author Daniel Siegel. How we feel about our past affects how we think about describing it – creating an endless loop of repeating scenes and expectations.  Seeing the patterns in our past incidents, choosing to learn from them and rejoicing in that growth can be done most naturally by shifting the theme of the stories we tell others about ourselves.  Move from contaminative to redemptive.

In this shift you create a life-affirming triple win:

1. You begin living from your strengths more often.

2. Others around you are encouraged by this emotional contagion, thus you are helping friends of your friends’ friends to see their life story in a more resilient light.

3. Reflecting resiliency in your storytelling can pull others closer as they are attracted to positivity.

Positively “integrated personal narratives are an important marker of psychological health,” according to Siegel.

Telling your stories from a resilient mindset also helps anchor that attitude in you – and more.

6a00d8341cf60c53ef0133f14ae51d970b-120wi3. Storytelling Creates Connective Tissue Between Us

1. As you tell you often pull out stories from listeners. Stories tend to build upon each other and draw others in. They spark deeper conversations, begin to establish a common ground and build trust through that sharing.

2. Stories, by their nature, are static, action-driven and in sharing them we can move each other to act, to change.

3. Stories help to cultivate empathy, as PJ Manney points out, encouraging others to understand the perceptions and motivations of others including the storyteller.

4. A good storyteller can reduce a complex situation to its essence while cloaking it in emotionally memorable details. In so doing, stories focus our attention.

For example, if you choose to turn the page of your life story to a fresh chapter, a new adventure, you are setting yourself out on a quest. In describing this quest as a story to others, you may pull them into launching their own quest.

Stories are vital to build shared understanding. They help us make sense out of ourselves, each other and the kind of story we want co-create together as we grow our relationship.  Stories are where we create meaning in our days to endure loss and failures to have a redemptive narrative, to savor our life –with others.  Hint: See stories as oxygen in your life.

4. Follow Yourself into the Brighter Next Chapter of Your Life Story

 A fun way to recognize how to tell your own interesting story is to get interested in exactly what it is about. Take one or two of Russell Davies’ suggestions to recognize what most  interests you. I’ve modified some of them to appeal to my lazy side and perhaps yours.

1. Take at one photo everyday and post it on Flickr or other place you can see your growing collection.

2. Start a daily one-sentence journal.

3. Keep a casual scrapbook – pasting in things you collect and captioning them.

4. Read at least part of a magazine, book or newspaper that outside your usual realm of interest.

5.  Interview someone for 20 minutes and observe the direction of your questions.

6. Collect something

7. Each week sit in a café or other public place for 30 minutes or an hour and listen to other people’s conversations. Take notes.

8. Each week write 50 words about something that stuck in your mind – a movie, building, sculpture, song, etc.

9. Make something and put it where you can see it or give it to the right person.

Why Do We Laugh?

toilet_797990610225938_318456076_n-1Do they crack up laughing or squirm and turn away when you attempt humor?  Want people to laugh with you? Dark humor, done right, may be key according to The Humor Code co-authors, Peter McGraw and Joel Warner who travelled the world in search of the answer.

Can you suggest an unexpected, silly side of a familiar, embarrassing or even tragic situation? Then you’re evoking the “benign violation” theory of humor, the central premise in their book. They found that “humor arises when something seems wrong or threatening, but is simultaneously playful, safe or otherwise benign.” bensmallerwn-1

We are likely to laugh at a surprising conclusion. That unexpected twist at the end is also often true in self-deprecating humor.  See these three examples I found:

1.  Emblazoned on the T-shirt of a rotund man coming out of a San Diego beach shop: “The problem with the gene pool is that there is no lifeguard.”

Paula dog sniffing2.  After telling an audience that she’d watched “dog whisperer” Cesar Milan give advice, comedian Paula Poundstone said she learned that “when a dog is sniffing you, he’s gathering information.” She concluded that, “My dog is collecting an extensive dossier on me.”

3. “The time for action is past. Now is the time for senseless bickering,” Ashleigh Brilliant once drolly concluded.

The Right Kind of Humor Bonds Us in Odd Situations

The co-authors of The Humor Code barely knew each other when they decided to travel the world together to discover what made people laugh. Warner is a freelance writer and McGraw directs the Humor Research Lab at the University of Colorado Boulder. It could have felt embarrassing, winding up in a hotel room in Palestine’s West Bank where a transparent glass wall separated the bathroom and bedroom. Instead, Warner told me, “It was easy for us to make cracks about playing ‘guess the body part.’”

Adopt a Secret of Successful Stand-Up Comedians smallwn-1

Be seen as an intriguing outsider. “There’s a reason why minorities—Jewish-Americans, African-Americans, Muslim-Americans—have long flourished in the stand-up scene. Many of the best comics are outsiders, by circumstance or by choice,” observed Warner.  He added, “Chris Rock, for example, grew up in a working-class section of Brooklyn, but was bussed to predominantly white schools. That made him an outsider in both places, a painful situation for a young kid but a great state of affairs for a future stand-up icon.”

Take Your Humor To The Edge Yet Not Over The Top

When the co-authors asked people in Sweden and Denmark about the horrific international fall-out from the unattractive, ostensibly funny cartoons of Mohammad published there in 2005 and 2007 they discovered that many still felt the trauma from the life threats and trade boycotts that ensued.  As Nihad Hodzic, deputy head of the Danish organization, Muslims in Dialogue, told the co-authors, for most Muslims, the problem wasn’t Muslim prohibitions against depicting Mohammad, it was how: “It would have had a totally different outcome if this had been a nice painting of Mohammad, I would not have been angry, But this was something that was clearly made to mock.”  With my Danish ancestry I am especially saddened to see that some Danes are still tone deaf as to what messages would offend.

Not surprisingly, Warner told me he learned that, “Humor can be dangerous stuff. Cracking jokes has all sorts of beneficial effects, but when those jokes fail, they can have far-reaching consequences – especially today, when a newspaper cartoon can go viral, a quip in an e-mail can be forwarded around the office, a tweet can be heard around the world. Think hard about who the audience is, and most importantly, who’s the butt of the joke.

Humor, after all, can be a form of attack – so who’s the target, and do they deserve it? Are you cracking wise to build bonds, lighten the mood, shed light on sensitive topics – or to just be mean?” women like funny menn

As you undoubtedly know by now, there are many benefits to getting others to laugh with you including likability, and capacity to dissolve tension or unify a group. Also, “Women want funny guys” and here’s why according research from the Stanford School of Medicine, of all places.

You may laugh at the decision to launch their book on April Fool’s Day.

Nudge Others To Share Even If You Aren’t DeGeneres

imagesSure Ellen DeGeneres sparked a most shared Tweet, a $3 million Samsung charity donation, a parody, and continuing, sometimes heated conversations. Yet even if aren’t a well-financed, likeable celebrity, you can also engage others, spread your idea and raise money. Here are three ways.

1. Enable Us To Personalize Our Participation Unknown

Jump on an already trending story, offering a way we can get involved that is relevant, fast, simple and generates a feel-good emotion. Even better, let us personalize our participation.

That’s what Slate magazine quickly did. After John Travolta mangled Idina Menzel’s name at the Oscars, it seized the opportunity to let you Travoltify your name. Mine? Kobe Andrenson. Want to find yours out right now? See how enticingly simple that suggestion is?

Hint One: Evoke a positive emotion. For example, Slate’s widget helped us have fun with others and to be funny together.

Hint Two: Label yourself or your ideas before someone else does, in a way you don’t like. Whoever most vividly characterizes a situation usually determines how others see it in their mind’s eye, discuss it and act on it.

Lucky Menzel got priceless visibility because of Travolta’s verbal stumble. She might have attracted more followers if she had offered a  way for others to engage with her right after The Oscars. One clever piggybacking action on her behalf, covered by Los Angeles Times’ David Ng, is the joke circulating on Twitter: “a fake playbill notice for the Broadway musical ‘If/Then’ states that its star, Idina Menzel, will be replaced by her alter-ego, Adele Dazeem.”

Leapn2. Position Your Idea or Product Where Receptivity Is Likely To Be High

Sure, famous, well-liked celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres can get usually others engaged in something they do. Yet, referencing the famous computer simulations conducted by Duncan Watts and Peter Dodds, The Leap author Rick Smith suggests that the most frequent way something spreads, “is not by a few influentials but their polar opposite: a ‘critical mass of influenced people, each of whom adopts, say a look or a brand after being exposed by a single adopting neighbor.’”

Concludes Smith, “It is not necessarily the source of the idea, but people’s degree of receptivity to it that matters most.”  A great recent example:  Rather than going door to door or standing outside a grocery store, Girl Scout, Danielle Lei, set her cookie table up on the sidewalk just outside at a marijuana clinic in San Francisco, selling 117 boxes in two hours. Talk about selling where receptivity is likely to be, well very high.  Being involved in a “first ever” action is sometimes likely to be provocative yet most also most likely to be widely noted.

Ready to be a thought leadern3. Turn Your Concept Into A Visual Framework You Own

Not that she needs to yet DeGeneres can’t own the Twitter image she orchestrated. Yet you can own the image of your concept. To instantly imprint your key concept on others’ minds, create a visual representation of it, recommends Denise Brosseau, in Ready to Be a Thought Leader?  For greater impact, alter an already famous visual framework to fit your core idea. Brosseau cites Chip Conley’s memorably simplification of the ascending categories in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs into the three core themes of his book PEAK.

For even greater memorability, emulate Conley’s other creative element in his graphic image. He not only labeled the three increasingly meaningful categories for connecting more deeply with customers, the book’s main message, but also attached a one or two-word benefit to each stage of greater customer connection.

How To Own Your Distinctive Concept

Whether you are crafting a book, campaign, course or other use for your concept, you can and should own it as intellectual property, recommends Brosseau who elaborates on these steps in her book:

  1. Create a simple, preferably visual, representation that is easy to understand.
  2. Clearly document how to use that framework
  3. Give it a great name
  4. Show proof that it works
  5. Protect and control its use.

What specific methods have you discovered to spur others to share your idea or buy your product or support your cause?

Learn Other Successful Ways to Share

For other innovative, productive and proven ways to share see Shareable, Crowd CompaniesMesh, and Collaborative Consumption.Sharing is new buying-1-638

Jeremiah Owyang advocates, for companies, that “sharing is the new buying” in the collaborative economy. Perhaps to even a greater degree, sharing is vital for us to thrive as individuals in this increasingly connected yet complex world.

Kare looking up smiling TEDx34_nOf course, ways of sharing are most successful when they are based on a mutual mindset where we, who participate, see an obvious shared benefit.

with Kare Anderson

What can we do better together? For greater accomplishment, adventure and friendship let's harness the power of us. Share ways to thrive in this next chapter of your life with others. (more...)