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Business Strategies from the Mat

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As the president of a communications firm with a twelve-year daily yoga practice, it’s been extraordinary to see how the lessons I’ve learned from my teacher and the practice have benefited my work. The following are three ideas, phrases, and strategies that can benefit your business and smooth your life:

1. “More isn’t Better. Better is better.”
Here’s the thing: I come from an inflexible family, both physically and mentally. Additionally, as is possible for many of you, I’ve spent a lot of time in recent years crouched over a computer. This hasn’t helped.

This meant that when I tried my first backbend in yoga, I thought I was going to have to spend the rest of my life in traction. Once I realized I might still be able to walk upright, the challenge was on. I became obsessed with getting my back to bend. One day, my teacher stopped me. “More isn’t better,” he said. “Better is better.”

These became words to live by, both on the mat and in the office, and I think you’ll discover the same is true once you incorporate this idea into your world. Most presentations aren’t better for being longer, most conference calls aren’t better for being extended, and most meetings aren’t more productive because you spent time in the room. It’s just that in this age of super-sizing everything from hamburgers to automobiles, we’ve become addicted to the idea that more is better. I’m here to ask you to join my revolution—to tattoo on your brain, if not your backside, that “More isn’t better. Better is better.”

2. “Can you tell me why you’re doing it that way?”
A few years ago, I was teaching yoga quite a lot. And, as with many new teachers, I had a lot of ideas about how things “should” and “shouldn’t” be done by my students—mostly, that things should be done exactly the way I said they should be done. Consequently, my internal dialogue when I saw someone doing something differently was, “What is wrong with you? Why aren’t you listening to me?” Over the years, however, as I took and taught more classes, I realized that when my students or I were modifying something, it was generally for a reason. I also realized that if a teacher corrected me without inquiring into my reason, it made me cranky. This made life a lot easier because it taught me the magic phrase, “Can you tell me why you’re doing it that way?”

For example, recently I met with a client who was adamant about reading verbatim from a script that would appear on a teleprompter. So adamant that it was among the first things he told me, aggressively, when I got into the room. In that moment, it would have been easy to get my back up—to wonder why he had hired me if he was going to continue to work in the manner he always had. Instead, I pulled out the magic phrase: “Great. Can you tell me why you like doing it that way?” Although momentarily flummoxed by the lack of resistance, stories soon poured out of him. I realized he’d had some bad experiences and so, some justifiable anxieties. He realized I wasn’t militant or unsympathetic. At that point, we were in dialogue—not at loggerheads. And when you’re in dialogue, the potential for change and compromise is far, far higher.

3. “Visual, aural, or kinesthetic?”
There are many different ways we take in information. We see, smell, taste, touch, and hear. Individually, however, we each have a primary intake pathway. Those who are more visual learn best through their eyes; those who are more auditory learn best through their ears; those who are more kinesthetic learn best through their bodies.

Knowing which you are can be very helpful. As an aural, I know that I learn best by listening—that taking notes while someone is talking can be distracting to me. Knowing that, it used to make me crazy when clients would take notes while I was talking. How could they take notes AND listen? They obviously weren’t listening, so I’d make them put down their pens and look at me—which, FYI, makes a kinesthetic stop listening.

Yes, kinesthetic types “listen” through their bodies—by writing down what you say. And no, it doesn’t matter if neither you, nor they, can read their notes afterward. Visual types, on the other hand, don’t seem like they are listening at all. They’re the ones who are constantly interrupting, changing the subject, veering off on tangents.

Knowing someone’s primary intake pathway helps you in two ways: as I mentioned earlier, it can help you refrain from being impatient with the way they listen. Once I’d realized my kinesthetics needed their pens, I let them keep them. (They also, often, need to walk around in meetings.) Once I’d realized my visuals need to zoom off on tangents, I let them. Then I herd them back to the point … like getting a cat in a bag.

The other benefits is realizing that much of the way someone is listening has little or nothing to do with how interesting you or your subject may or may not be helps to keep you from taking it personally if they don’t seem to be paying attention to you—in fact, they usually are. Additionally, it can help you to tailor how you are give them information to help them “hear” it best. If you’re speaking to an aural, you can tell them you hear what they’re saying. If you’re speaking to a visual, you see what they’re saying. If you’re talking to a kinesthetic, you understand what they’re feeling. And, because you know this, it’ll all be true.


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