Welcome to the Q&A! Dr. Andrea answers listeners’ questions – personal Qs, communication Qs & podcasting Qs. You’ll hear about her biggest success & failure, why you should pick up the phone, advice on small talk and giving constructive feedback, and the #1 most important communication skill.
- References & Links
- Andrea’s Q&A:
- Personal Qs
- Podcasting Qs
- Talk About Talk Qs
- Communication Qs
References & Links
Other Podcasts Referenced
- The School of Podcasting with Dave Jackson
- “Why do we share?” episode featuring Dr. Andrea!
- The Podcasting Fellowship classmates:
- Hidden Brain (NPR)
- How I Built This (NPR)
- Blubrry (my podcasting host)
Talk About Talk Episodes
Talk About Talk
- Weekly Email Blog – https://talkabouttalk.com/blog/#newsletter-signup
- YouTube Channel – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzREfOG71jZ2qh05OMXATFQ
- Andrea – [email protected]
Dr. Andrea’s Commentary
Hey there, I’m Dr. Andrea Wojnicki. You can call me Andrea. Thanks for listening to Talk About Talk. This is where we come to learn and talk about all things communication. Because when we communicate effectively, we can be a better manager, co-worker, parent, partner, and friend.
I want to welcome you to episode #29. This episode’s completely different from any of the previous episodes. As always, it’s focused on communication. And as always, I promise you’ll learn a lot from listening to this podcast. For this episode, I’m answering your Qs. It’s a Q&A. Over the past month, in response to my request, many many of you have emailed or posted Qs to me on social media. I thank you so much. It is so gratifying to hear from you – and to know there’s actually someone listening on the other end of this microphone. You have NO IDEA…
OK seriously, I took the many Qs I received and categorized them. I received personal Qs, general Qs about podcasting, specific Qs about this talk about talk podcast, and of course, questions about interpersonal communication & communication skills.
So – there’s a lot to get through. Let’s get going with this Q&A!
I’m going to start with the personal. Someone on LinkedIn asked me How did you get into marketing?
Well, there is a quick story here. When I went into undergrad, I really had no idea what I wanted to study or pursue. My best subjects in highschool were Math and Art. So I thought maybe architecture. But I decided to go into business, since you can do almost anything in business. There’s finance, HR, accounting, marketing, strategy, It’s flexible, right? Here’s the interesting part. In 3rd year I declared finance as my major and got what I thought was a great summer job in the finance dept at an oil company headquartered in Calgary. In the first week, I asked the woman who was training me, “couldn’t you just hire a university student to write a program to replace this department?” Gutsy, right? Maybe a bit stupid of me to ask. But it seemed so obvious to me. Her answer? “shhh. Don’t suggest that, ok?” Well, from that moment on, I was OUT. I went back to school in the fall and changed my major to marketing. Thank goodness. I had no idea how enamored I would become with consumer psychology. So – no regrets.
The next Q was emailed to me by Sharon. She asked me: What would you tell your 18-year-old self now knowing what you know?
I love that Q. It’s not an easy one. I don’t have a lot of regrets. One thing that I learned slowly that I wish I realized sooner, is that while we rarely regret the things we do, we might regret the things we don’t do. In other words, JUST DO IT. I remember in my 20s when I was contemplating doing my MBA degree, my Aunt Joyce said, “do it now!” and I took her advice, thankfully. It wasn’t until I was in my 40s and I heard this saying about regretting what we DON’T do that this became a mantra for me. I remember over a year ago telling my friend Stephanie Rudnick, the founder of Elite basketball camps, who eventually became a guest expert here on Talk About Talk in the episode focused on coaching, — when I told Stephanie that I was thinking of doing this podcast thing. She brought me her microphone and told me to just go and do it. And nowadays if someone asks me my opinion about whether they should do something, I’ll say “more of our regrets are focused on what we don’t do. We rarely regret what we do.” So THAT is what I wish I knew a lot earlier.
Here’s the last personal Q. It is a tough one. “What was your biggest success and failure and what did you learn from them?”
Let me start with failure. Yes, there have been MANY.
But one always sticks out in my mind. Perhaps not coincidentally, this failure taught me very early on just how challenging marketing can be. In my 4th year of my Bachelor of Commerce degree, with my newly declared major in marketing degree, I was elected to be the president of a student group called “The Business Day Group.” Every year, we invited established businesspeople to come in for a one-day conference for executives and students. Long story short, I tried to grow this into a massive event (we are talking fancy hotel and we even secured past prime minister Joe Clark as a speaker). But our costs grew faster than our conference attendee list and we ended up having to cancel the whole conference. I was SO ashamed but – as they say – I learned some incredibly valuable lessons about marketing.
My biggest success? On paper, it’s probably my doctoral degree from Harvard Business School. But in my life in general, it’s probably my kids. Parenting is way tougher than being a student, in my opinion. So I’m most proud of being a mom. I guess what I’ve learned from being a parent is that there really are many different kinds of intelligence. There’s school smarts, street smarts, parenting smarts, communication smarts. I hope I have become more open mind and less judgmental about other parents and kids from my experience as a mom.
OK – let’s move on to the Qs you sent me about podcasting in general.
One Q I have received many many times is How did you learn to podcast?
It’s not like podcasting is common sense, right? Well, I attribute most of my learnings to three people: The first is Seth Godin. Just over a year ago, I was accepted into Seth’s inaugural ‘Podcasting Fellowship.” It was an online course over several weeks that taught us basically everything we need to know. I’m grateful to him and Alex DiPalma for that. One of the best things about this podcasting fellowship experience is the amazing group of fellow podcasters that I met, including David, Morgane, Nadine, Maria, Gabrielle, Jay and I could go on. The podcasting community is incredibly supportive.
From the beginning, I also learned a LOT from my brother Brian, who, amongst other things is a talented sound production engineer. He taught me about the technical stuff and especially about the importance of audio production quality standards. And he still provides me with a lot of valuable advice.
More recently I have been learning from Dave Jackson, who is a podcasting “hall of famer” and who runs ‘The School of Podcasting.” Which is a weekly podcast and online resource for podcasters. I always refer people who ask me for advice about how to podcast to Dave at The School of Podcasting. I finally got the guts to connect with Dave a few weeks ago and he immediately featured Talk About Talk on one of his episodes! Then, he interviewed me as an expert for one of his episodes, which is very cool. I’ll definitely let you listeners know when that episode is out.
Next Q. Someone asked me: Why do you like to do podcasts?
Well, I know I do like to podcast, but I had to think for a minute about this. What I really like to do is teach. Usually that’s face to face, in front of a room. So why podcasts? Well, I guess I personally started listening to some podcasts. I’ve been listening to some for a long time – especially NPR podcasts like Hidden Brain and How I Built This. What I particularly love about podcasts is that you can multitask when you’re listening to a podcast. Personally I listen to podcasts when I’m driving, when I’m getting ready in the morning, when I’m working out. I guess I consider podcasts to be an efficient medium for both educational and entertainment purposes. SO when I was thinking about starting Talk About Talk as an online resource focused on communication, I thought podcasting would be one effective way of getting the message out there. It’s as simple as that.
Talk About Talk Qs
Now let me start answering some Qs specific to TALK ABOUT TALK.
People ask me how Talk About Talk is doing all the time. I don’t have “subscriber” numbers, but I can track downloads of each episode. I’m thrilled and grateful to tell you that we have thousands and thousands of downloads. Pretty cool, right? More importantly, the downloads are increasing at an increasing rate. In other words, more and more people are listening to talk about talk every month. That’s great news. Audience size is critical to the success of this business. Every time to tell someone about Talk About Talk or forward the blog to someone, you’re helping TalkAboutTalk grow, and I am eternally grateful.
I took a look at some of the stats provided by my podcasting host, Blubrry, and it shows that more and more of the downloads are coming from all around the world. It started mostly in Toronto, Calgary, Boston, and Chicago, cities where I have lived or where I know many people. But the geographic concentration of listeners has expanded. Outside of NA, there are a significant # of listeners in Germany, the UK, Australia, Spain, and IRAN! I’ve included a map in the shownotes that shows where Talk About Talk listeners are if you want to take a look.
I can also track the downloads by episode. Interestingly, most of the episodes have a very similar number of downloads. In other words, there are no duds. Typically there’s a spike of downloads when a new episode is released, then it slowly tapers. The top five episodes, in case you’re interested are:
#5 – Communicating with Colour with Jenn Purkis, Lori Ryerson, and Daryl Aitken
#4 – Artificial Intelligence or AI with professor and author Avi Goldfarb,
#3 – Social Media with Volterra Fonder Andrew Jenkins,
#2 – Your Personal Brand with Michael Boydell, and
The top podcast to date is Storytelling with Harvard professor and author Jerry Zaltman.
But again, the 6th and 7th and 8th ranked episodes aren’t that different in terms of # of downloads.
Anyway, I thought you might be interested to see how diverse this top 5 list is. In case you haven’t heard all of these episodes yet, you can always find them on the TalkAboutTalk website.
Next Q. My sister Ali asked me: “After all the research you did, what’s the most surprising thing you learned?” I have to say that I’m honestly stumped with this Q. Not because I haven’t learned anything, but rather that I have learned so much. I’m learning every single week. I learn when I’m doing my own research and also from the guest experts that I interview. These learnings are probably what keep me going and make me so enthusiastic about this venture.
I know my sister won’t let me off the hook without an answer though. So if I had to say what’s the most surprising thing I learned, there would actually be two things. One general and one specific. The general thing is how generous people are with their time and their expertise. All of the guest experts provided their times and expertise for nothing tangible in return.
- From Bradley the opera singer who took time from his practice and performance schedule to teach us about how to use our voices,
- to Carolyn Quinn, the executive Director of Toronto Fashion Week who shared her expertise on Fashion,
- to NYGH CEO Dr Joshua Tepper, who cleared his crazy schedule for an hour to help us all communicate more effectively with our doctors.
People often ask me whether the guest experts are all friends. Well, many are.
Here were two past Classmates, including brand trust guru Baron Manett from my MBA days and then there’s standup comedian Hillary Anger Elfenbein from Harvard. Neither one of them hesitated to provide their expertise, just like many of my past professors and academic colleagues, like Ellen Auster (who shared her expertise on Change Management), and Russell Belk, who shared his expertise on Possessions.
There are also the past work colleagues like Cynthia Barlow who taught us about Body Language, and from my days at Kraft Foods; Nancy Peterson the founder of Homestars, who shared some insights about ratings & reviews.
Back to the Q about the most surprising thing I learned. SPECIFICALLY, there are two episodes where I have to say I learned the most, like my learning curve was vertical. My head was exploding, as I like to say. Interestingly, they’re both focused on language, but they’re very very different episodes.
There’s the episode on LANGUAGE with TFS head of school and polyglot Josep Gonzalez, who’s fluent in many many languages. He blew me away with his mastery of not only language, but also of history and philosophy. I love his last line. He said that “language is the vehicle for authentic democracy.”
Then, the other episode where I think I learned the most was the profanity episode. I knew as much about profanity as the average person, which as we learned, is mostly wrong. There are a lot of myths about profanity. By the way, I cold-called Professor Darin Flynn the linguistics professor who shared his expertise for this episode. I found his name online when I started doing some research for this episode and he generously agreed to do it, no questions asked. He even said, “I could tell by the focus area of your podcast and by the fact that you’re podcasting that it would be an interesting conversation.” Wow, right? Well, I went from zero to 500 pretty fast with that interview. And in case you haven’t listened to that one yet, there are both clean and explicit episodes available for that one.
An aside, because we decided to have both clean and explicit versions available, I had to change the overall rating of Talk About Talk from what it was previously: rated G Completely clean, to having explicit content. But you probably noticed that the other episodes do NOT have profanity in them, or if they do, they’re bleeped out. So don’t worry. I won’t be dropping any more F-Bombs.
Next Q: What is your biggest surprise from starting Talk About Talk?
My biggest surprise is actually a cliché, I have to say. It’s simply that this venture is why more work AND way more fun than I anticipated. REALLY. Way more hours. And way more satisfying.
Many many people ask me, How do I come up with topics and Am I worried about coming up with new topics?
So far that has been one of the easy things. Thanks mostly to YOU! Of course I have a master list of future topics. Sometimes it’s a topic and I look for someone to interview. Like I knew from the beginning that I wanted to do an episode on FONTS & ELOJIS. I did some research online and I found our guest expert, Patrick Griffin. Remember him? The Font Guy! Amazing!
And sometimes it’s the opposite – I know someone who’s an expert, like Graeme Harris, the seasoned PR guru, who taught us all Public Relations, so then I added the topic.
Sometimes my friends and colleagues will recommend someone who’s absolutely perfect as a Talk About Talk guest expert. Like when my friend Suzanne recommended Andrea Warnick, who shared with us her expert advice on how to support our grieving friends. And my friend Renee who introduced me to master wellness coach Tosca Reno, who taught us all about resilience and positive self-talk.
Sometimes people email me or post on social media with ideas. One listener named Dan in Chicago sent me a fantastic list that I’m slowly making my way through. (Thank you Dan!) And I have a few friends in Toronto who are constantly giving me ideas and encouragement, sometimes when I need it most – thank you in particular to Sue and Marvi and Renee. If you have ideas for future topics or guest experts, you can get them to me on social media or email me at [email protected]. Yes, I read absolutely everything you send me!
Next Q. Another listener named Ryan asked me why I don’t start sharing the podcasts on YouTube?
I’ve actually heard this from a few people, including Cheryl, who suggested the podcasts should actually be videos. Well, Ryan and Cheryl, I agree with you. I need to get on this asap. Just so you know I’m listening, I did create a YouTube channel and I posted one video. So I’m on it! And I thank you for the push.
Now – we’re making great progress on this list of questions you sent me. The last category of Qs for this Q&A is those focused on interpersonal COMMUNICATION and communication skills. The first Q is: What do you think is the #1 most important communication skill?
GREAT Q. And no, I’m not just saying that to buy time. IT really is a perfect Q, don’t you think? In my opinion, the most critical communication skill is LISTENING. If you’re not listening, you’re probably also not being heard. And you’re definitely not communicating. Communication is two-way and too much of our focus goes into thinking what we should say next, not listening. I go into this a little bit in episode #24, the ABCDEs of Communication. The 5th step is Use your ears. Listen.
Given my answer to this Q though, I’m thinking I should devote an entire episode to this topic of listening. Yes?
I got a great Q from my podcasting friends Morgane, who has a podcast called “Kindsight 101”. She asked, when it comes to developing rapport in the workplace, what are some of your top tips for us?
Another great Q&A question. I have a short list of things to consider here.
First, know that the effort required to build rapport is absolutely worth it. Yes, it’s way more fun to work with people whom we consider friends. Research shows that we often stay in jobs longer when we work with friends. Don’t be the guy who comes in, shuts his door, does his work, and goes home without any personal connection.
Second, remember that this is your work and your career. In other words, these aren’t your besties. You might remember in a blog I wrote about friendship that According to sociologist Jan Yager, work friends can be very different versus our “real” friends. AND – Studies have shown that many people would dump a friend for the sake of a job. (Good to know!)
Last, the law of reciprocity. You get what you give. I’m not talking about being opportunistic here. I’m talking about consciously doing some easy, almost effortless things to build rapport.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Don’t hesitate to publicly compliment people about their hard work and their successes. People who draw attention to others’ successes are often seen as better team players and even leaders.
- Offer to pitch in with colleagues work when you know you can truly add value, perhaps when they have a time conflict that you can help alleviate or perhaps because you have a particular expertise. Even if it’s not conscious, people do track who is owed favors.
- Another suggestion is to check in with your colleagues about personal things they have shared. This could be face to face or on the phone or in an email. If they told you they were going away for the weekend, maybe ask them on Monday how it went. If they told you they were going to their child’s school concert, ask them the next day how it went.
Here’s another good communication Q. what are some twists on small talk that would make for more interesting conversations on both ends?
What I’m guessing from this Q is that small talk can be BORING, right? I guess that can be true, but I do have two suggestions here for small talk that are really helpful. First – Look for the thing you have in common. Could be a person you both know, a past employer, a hobby, family status, where you live, ANYTHING. Talking about something that you have in common with someone has got to be interesting, right? The second piece of advice is storytelling. You could try saying something like, “You’ve worked here since the beginning. Wow – I bet you have some good stories!” or “There must be a story behind that gorgeous bag you’re holding.” Stories. Do what you can to get the person to tell you a story.
My friend Jay Clouse from the podcasting fellowship asked me a tough Q on social media. He asked: “What’s the most effective way to communicate negative/constructive feedback?
This topic is also worthy of an entire episode. But let me give you three suggestions:
- Don’t let yourself off the hook. Take it seriously. Don’t joke around. People often resort to jokes and nervous laughter. This isn’t funny. And prepare yourself so you know what you want to say, but also – be prepared to listen.
- Don’t make it a surprise. Don’t say hey – can you come into my office? Ahhh…. You’re fired. Be empathetic. Simply ask yourself how you would like to receive this news!
- Also – avoid the poop sandwich (see, I told you – no profanity. You know what I mean by poop sandwich, right?) Have you heard of a poop sandwich? It’s good, bad, good. Like “everyone around here likes you so much. You’re a great team player. Unfortunately we’re going to have to let you go due to your lack of productivity. But don’t forget – everyone here loves you.” Wait WHAT? THAT was a poop sandwich.
OK – the next Q came from a listener named Vanessa who has a nutrition business: How do you market yourself to two distinct audiences who have two different problems/needs, BUT you are the same solution?!?
Yes, I agree Vanessa, this may be an offline conversation. The simple answer though, is that ideally every customer should think they’re the most important customer and your product or service was created just for them. But nowadays with so much business happening online, you can probably talk to them with separate newsletters and you can split up your website with tabs right on the landing page like “for seniors” and “for parents”. I’d love to get into the nitty gritty with you on this Vanessa!
The next Q is “What is the most effective way to communicate with teens especially when they are defiant?”
BTW, the person who asked me this is an incredibly devoted and effective parent. So when I read this I laughed out loud. Again – parenting is the great equalizer tight? And I’m certainly not a parenting expert. That would be another great topic for us to cover. I do have two tactical suggestions: First – take a deep breath and smile. Even if they aren’t looking at you. The smile and the breath will release endorphins. And we always sound better when we take a breathe. The second is to use humour. Maybe try responding with something less defiant but equally ridiculous. If nothing it’ll deflate the situation.
Here’s the last Q for this Q&A episode – I received this Q from Mike on social media. He asked me: Why do Millennials think that “Texting “ is the only way to communicate?
For those of you who listen to Talk About Talk regularly, you know that I always ask the same 5 Rapid Fire Qs at the end. One of the Qs is “what’s your go-to medium for quick casual conversations?” The answers to this question does seem to correlate to age. Well, mike is a grandfather. He is also a senior level executive and he manages staff and clients who are all different ages. He and I ended up having a conversation about this and he said I could quote him. He said “How about picking up the bleeping phone and discussing the issue? After the 2nd or 3rd text you’re wasting time. I know I’m old, but this drives me crazy… It is one of my pet peeves. I’m dealing with a young architect for a project. I sent him a text, an email and a voicemail, all starting with “call me”. He doesn’t get it. So now I’m calling in an older retired architect. He gets it.” (as in – he gets Mike. AND, he also gets the job).
Well, Mike. I know from listening to our guest experts that many younger people prefer texts, and they defend texts as the default communication medium because people can respond when it is convenient for them. So that’s my answer to Mike. The Millennials he’s describing are actually trying to optimize for convenience and possibly for productivity. But we all need to recognize that this does come at a cost. And we all need to consider our audience, right? We should think not just about our words and the message, but also what communication medium we use.
That’s it. We made it through all of the Q&As – the personal Qs, the podcasting Qs, the Talk About talk Qs and the Communication Qs. Thank you so much to everyone who sent me these Qs! Please please please keep them coming! I love hearing from you! Yes, we will do another Q&A!
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