Small talk? Seriously?

Today is “Talk in an Elevator Day” – a day that encourages us to make conversation while riding in an elevator; small talk. Hmmm. Think I will pass on this one.

That’s not to say I’m against small talk. In fact, there are times when it’s enjoyable. The reality is that relationships – work-related or personal – often start with small talk.

Small talk gets a bad rap just by definition. It’s often defined as conversation about things that are not of any great importance. It gets dismissed as fluff, filler conversation, unnecessary. But is it? I think not. Small talk can set the tone for future conversations and interactions; make us feel socially connected; make things more enjoyable. And, if you listen more than you talk, you can learn things.

So why do some people dread it so much? There are many reason, but one is “not knowing what to say.”  Researching this topic, I found some small talk tips that are a great place to start for those wanting to improve their small talk acumen. Think REACH.

Reveal something about yourself – where you work, what you do. Explore another’s interests. Shift the focus to the other person. Ask open ended questions. One-word responses do not a conversation make. Consciously listen for facts and feelings that the other person may share. It will provide additional conversation points. Highlight similarities. Find out what you have in common and build on it.

Small talk can help you make a good impression, inspire new ideas, solve problems and lead to lasting relationships. It doesn’t have to be boring. It’s what you make it.

So, next time you are in an elevator, sitting at a table of people you don’t know, standing in line at the store, at a business conference or in a situation where the silence is deafening, give small talk a try. You just never know. You might even like it.

Posted by MJ Thomas

Nobody does anything about it?

The weather – everybody talks about it, but nobody does anything about it. How many times have you heard that quote? I would guess that more times than not, we ignore it. However, if you have anything to do with the safety program at your workplace, you had better pay close attention. The weather – severe weather – can have significant impact on the work environment. Being prepared for whatever Mother Nature throws at us is a necessity.

It seems that situations of extreme weather conditions are rising every year – tornadoes, floods, extreme temperatures, lightning storms, high winds. Each one can threaten workplace safety if your organization and employees are not prepared.

For example, in case of a tornado are appropriate shelter locations identified? Are emergency alarm systems in place and fully operational? Are emergency supply kits available? Is your facility vulnerable to flooding? Is there a plan to safely evacuate the building? How do you secure equipment and electrical power? What additional risks are there to employees in a flooded environment? Can your employees recognize the signs of heat or cold stress? Do they know what to do in each case? Does your company have an action plan? How often are safety drills scheduled? Who are the designated go-to people?

It may be a beautiful summer day today, but the conditions can change in an instant. Being prepared – planning, training and awareness – can reduce the risks that severe weather presents. We can do something about it.

Make maintaining a safe work environment  in any kind of weather – a daily priority.

Posted by MJ Thomas

Hocus Pocus FOCUS!

If only it was that easy. Wave a magic wand, recite a brief incantation and poof – your ability to focus on the task at hand is magically restored. At one time or another, we’ve all been there. Today, it’s my turn. The task at hand? Writing this blog. Distractions? Oh yeah. They’re everywhere. Emails, phone calls, a new industry trade magazine that I must read right now, the need for another cup of coffee (that’s three already this morning), checking on the weather and a few other miscellaneous “shiny ball” moments.

The bottom line is that no matter how many distractions invade my space today, the blog needs to get written. That requires focus. Focus is power. It gives you the ability to push through the clutter and reach the goal.

Did you know that in the office, nearly 50 percent of American employees say they work for only 15 minutes before becoming distracted? Fifty-three percent say an hour or more of their day is wasted on disruptions.  What’s a person to do?

Luckily, helpful tips to beat distractions and stay focused can be found in abundance just by doing a little research. To me, the most important one is to pinpoint the cause of the distraction and then fix it. Are you tired? Hungry? Didn’t get enough sleep? Surrounded by too much noise? Trying to tackle too big of a task at once? Too much clutter around you? Checking emails too often? Once you define the cause of the distraction, you can do something about it. Before you start make sure you have all the tools you need at hand – notes, documents, files – so you don’t’ have to stop what you’re doing and spend time looking for them. If your focus starts to falter somewhere along the way, take a break. Then come back and pick up where you left off. Give yourself a deadline. It’s a motivator to stay the course until the job is done. Find what works for you.

And now, my task is complete. I will leave you with this thought. Starve your distractions. Feed your focus.

Posted by MJ Thomas

Someone’s calling you again

Did you know that July is National Cell Phone Courtesy Month?  Really, honest, I mean it. It’s also National Anti-Boredom Month, National Hot Dog Month and National Ice Cream Month. I tell you, there’s a month for everything. But, I digress. Back to National Cell Phone Courtesy Month. It was founded in 2002 with the intent of making cell phone users more respectful of their surroundings. Great concept; but one that requires a change in behavior. That makes it harder to put things in play.

We’ve all experienced poor cell phone etiquette; most of us have probably even practiced it on occasion. Let’s face it. Cell phone have become a very important part of our lives. They keep us connected 24/7 – we can talk with one another, search for information, get directions, text, take photos and videos, schedule appointments, and so on and so on and so on. Our phones are a constant companion.  It’s one thing to stay connected, it’s another thing to be rude about it.

I’m sure you can think of at least a few times when a person’s use of their cell phone has been disruptive and annoying. Studies show that the habits that generate the most concern are texting while driving, loud public conversations, and talking on the phone in restaurants, movie theaters, churches, etc.

Here are a few points of etiquette to consider. Keep conversations private; not everyone needs to know the details of your last doctor’s appointment. Don’t “cell yell.” Keep your voice at a reasonable level; not everyone within a three-mile radius needs to hear your conversation. At work, be completely present at meetings and make sure the ringer is on silent or vibrate. Make the people you are with more important than the phone. Don’t text and drive – it puts you and others on the road at risk.

Remember…too much of a good thing? Just saying.

Posted by MJ Thomas