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Thinking About the Way You Think

As I entered the dry cleaner this morning, my friend behind the counter was serving another customer and, while doing so, told me to drop my clothes on a side table. We’re pretty informal around here – I don’t need a ticket, and only now and then does he lose something. Rather than just leave my clothes and run, I had to alert him to a special request on a torn sweater. But my reply was cut off by the other customer being served, who looked me straight in the eye and shouted, “Why don’t you shut up and wait your turn. He’s waiting on me now. The whole world doesn’t revolve around you.” Deep breath. Okay, what just happened? As I sized up this comment and my adversary, and contemplated who might win an old-fashioned saloon brawl at the dry cleaner, I summoned the Inner Jim and replied, “Good morning, how are you today?”


He kept at it. I tossed any thoughts of sharing the honest explanation, which was that I was merely responding to the cleaner’s directive to me. Surely the other customer heard that -- I mean, he was more than cognizant of everything I was saying. I continued to ponder whether a single-leg drop from my old high school wrestling days might be the soundest strategy should I be assaulted from up high. As my heart beat faster and the man returned to the matter of his filthy shirts, I kept my head down and waited. Tempted to ask when he thought he might come back to pick up his shirts so that I could mentally schedule a different time for myself, I leveled my parting shot, “Have a great day.”


Whether true or not, I recently suggested that people skills in the business world often are more important than any professional, technical or academic training one brings to a job. This proclamation was made in the context of my role as Board Member of Meeting Professionals International’s Greater New York Chapter and my efforts to promote our November education program, “The Power of Understanding People,” presented by Dave Mitchell of the Leadership Difference.


I never guessed I’d have the chance to apply so quickly what I learned in Dave’s session, which was the night before my dry cleaner caper. Teachers used to say about a word, “Use it in a sentence and you own it.” I was still processing the wit and wisdom of Dave and hardly had time to use it in a sentence.


Dave encourages people to understand their personal communications styles and recognize how those may or may not sit with others with whom they are communicating. Then, make the necessary adjustments.


He segments people into four categories:

·      Romantics – who in general value relationships

·      Warriors – who value results

·      Experts – who value reliability

·      Masterminds – who value innovation


To understand the difference using one of Dave’s examples, Romantics might value world peace, while Warriors might consider whom they need to obliterate to achieve it.


It’s fascinating to examine some of the behavioral cues Dave discusses, and the adjustments he recommends once they are identified. For example:



Behavioral Cue               Recommended Adjustment

-Easy smile                    -Smile

-Engages in small talk     -Use their name

-Personable                    -Don’t rush to transaction



Behavioral Cue               Recommended Adjustment

-Direct                           -Show value quickly

-Offers short answers      -Get to the point

-May display evidence     -Cite example of success

 of status                          



Behavioral Cue               Recommended Adjustment

-Detailed and thorough    -Know your stuff

-Conservative                 -Expect long sales cycle, don’t give up

-Respects procedures      -Be thorough



Behavioral Cue               Recommended Adjustment

-Creative                        -Be enthusiastic

-Bore easily                    -Expand them beyond stated interest

-Impulsive but elusive     -Indulge them while they weigh options



Naturally, I'm providing only a snapshot of what could have been a daylong seminar. So back at the dry cleaner, let’s call a spade a spade – I’m a Romantic. My charming fellow customer could only be a Warrior, but I’m hesitant to give him any label that suggests he has human characteristics and fits into one of Dave’s four entirely human categories. Would my newly acquired knowledge about understanding people have helped? It certainly wouldn’t have hurt.


This post began last night as a simple tribute to a great presenter and educator, Dave Mitchell. My expectations for him were high, and he exceeded them. But then commotion at the dry cleaner gave me the chance to think about the way I think, and also draw a connection between Dave’s remarks and the traits of some great leaders I’ve known in my own business experience. As it turns out, I've had extensive dealings and special admiration for those who possessed the people skills to motivate others and realize continued success, and didn't necessarily exhibit off-the-charts intelligence, instinct, acumen or creativity. (Of course, I'm not referring to anyone for whom I've ever worked directly -- all my former bosses who might be reading this certainly realize that, don't they?) (Sweat.) Rather than frown upon what you might see as these leaders’ shortcomings, I have to applaud their strengths and achievements.


Thanks, Dave, for bringing home my theory on the importance of people skills relative to more professional and technical skills, and the practicality of applying them to everyday life. It's already forced me to take an extra hard look at the way I think, process and react. And all is well -- that is, as long as I have enough clean shirts in the closet to last me for an extended period.

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