Bridget Sampson ’91 (Speech Communication), M.A. ’93 (Speech Communication) has been a Communication Studies professor at California State University, Northridge for the past 25 years.
But when Sampson is not teaching Intercultural Communication and Organizational Communication at CSUN, she travels around the world, helping thousands of people better communicate with their partners, bosses, co-workers and family. Sampson recently presented her wealth of knowledge close to home at CSUN’s TEDx event on April 22.
Sampson put the tips and tricks she’s been giving her clients for the last 25 years into her book, Communication Secrets for Success, which was published in July 2016. We sat down with Sampson to learn how to communicate better with our peers.
Were you a great communicator when you were a student at CSUN?
No, not at all. During my first semester at CSUN I didn’t know a soul and I didn’t join any organizations. But during my second semester, I joined a sorority, which helped push me out of my comfort zone.
Is teaching your primary job?
No, I have my own consulting business. I design and facilitate communication-training programs and I’m an executive coach. From Monday to Thursday I can be traveling to New York, Europe or Northern California, but I’m always back here ready to teach my Friday classes.
How did you eventually get into consulting?
I’ve built it up over 25 years. For one year I worked for a consulting company. I was the senior consultant and got to travel the world and learn the ropes of being a consultant. When I left that position and slowly built up my own company, I build up my clients.
Who is your biggest client?
I’d say Google. I design and facilitate training programs for them. They tend to use me for their higher-level training programs for top-level managers. I create programs on leadership, influence and advance public speaking. Also, I teach my clients all the things I implement at the university, but I adapt it for the corporate world.
Is public speaking usually everyone’s biggest fear?
Yes, before death, ironically. That’s a huge one for me because I see people get to a certain position in their career and they are successful and have a good education but they have this fear that’s keeping them stuck, so it’s important for them to get out there and present themselves and be confident.
Do you have to get to the root to see why people are afraid to speak?
Not usually. During my first session with someone, we look at what differentiates therapy from coaching. One of the things about therapy that I’m a fan of is digging deep into fears and childhood experiences and things like that. Coaching is very practical and very future oriented. If you have this presentation next week, lets work on it, lets get you to the point where you’re able to nail it. I’m not going to worry about where your fears come from. I’m just going to do the work we need to do in order for you to do a great job.
As for having a lack of confidence, is there a general way to advise someone to “get over it”?
First, I try and find where that lack of confidence is coming from. Do they need more education? Do they need more experience? Are they in the wrong position where they are set up to fail?
I’m working with a woman who’s really smart and skilled. But her boss doesn’t appreciate her work. So I know where that’s coming from.
I talk to her about building herself up, and I’ve taught her to do simple things like posting positive post-it notes on the mirror about how great she is.
What made you want to write Communication Secrets for Success?
I’ve been teaching for 25 years and people tell me what I teach them is so valuable and life-changing that they say ‘Oh I wish my boss or husband can learn what you told me,’ so I thought I had to put the top things I try and teach someone in my class without someone having to attend my class or your employer having to pay a huge sum of money to get coaching with me.
What are five communication problems you see most?
Overconfidence, lack of confidence, inability to mirror and match others, lack of self-awareness and lack of strategic thinking.
What does inability to match and mirror mean?
Research shows that the most persuasive, powerful leaders match others. If I were to come in and you were kind of low-key and I’m super animated and excited, that’s not good because I’m not connecting with you. It sounds almost manipulative but its not because you’re still being yourself. You have this repertoire of skills and abilities to take it up and take it down, but people report they are most satisfied with interactions when the other person communicates in a similar style manner.
If someone came up to you on the street and said they struggle with communicating with others, is there one thing that could resonate with them?
The foundation for a lot of my programs is what I call the three C’s: clear, concise, and conversational. Make the message clear — just say what you mean, don’t beat around the bush and don’t get caught up in the weeds. Be concise — don’t ramble on. People can’t stand those who take 10 minutes to say something that could take 30 seconds. Be conversational — act friendly, upbeat and always smile.