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Small Talk: Follow these tips to transform any interaction from dreaded to productive

Small Talk: Follow these tips to transform any interaction from dreaded to productive

We dread small talk but we don’t have to. Transform small talk into a welcome opportunity with these tips.

You dial into a conference call right on time. It’s just you and another person on the line, and you’re waiting for two more. Your anxiety rises, and you bring up the weather to fill the silence.  “Is it spring yet in Chicago? Here in New York…” it feels fake and forced. Despite your best intentions, you feel trapped by small talk. That’s no way to start any interaction!

Most people despise small talk but I think it gets a bad rap. We don’t want to feel inauthentic. We are not comfortable with silence. We feel pressure to make the interaction work, when in reality, that’s a two person job. How can we feel more in control of these interactions without avoiding them all together?

For introverts especially, it’s essential to transform small talk from a dreaded nuisance to an opportunity to begin a new relationship—even if it’s one that only lasts for 30 seconds.

Here are tips to avoid feeling inauthentic when faced with small talk:

Think Up Topics

Whether you’re heading into a networking event or a wedding, it’s likely you’ll be chatting with someone new. Think of a few relevant topics you can bring up if you feel cornered in an interaction. What new TV shows are you watching, or are you taking a trip sometime soon? People love to talk about themselves so ask questions and go beyond the weather.

“It’s Not You…”

We feel pressure to perform in small talk situations. Reframe the experience and make it all about the person you’re talking to. Focus on making them feel comfortable. Make eye contact and remember their name.  Remember that if you’re uncomfortable so are they. Practice getting more comfortable with being uncomfortable and less afraid of silence.

Make an Exit

The interaction will not last forever (promise!) and it’s okay for you to decide that it is over. Rather than making up an excuse to go to the other side of the room—and then avoiding that person until the end of the night—make a solid exit. “It’s been nice talking to you—I hope you enjoy the rest of the event” is acceptable and respectable when the time has come. It shows you value the interaction and the time spent together and gives you an out as well.

How to Talk About Diversity

How to Talk About Diversity

When it comes to diversity, do we have the tools necessary for a productive, inclusive conversation? Follow these tips to strengthen the conversation!

Leah & Jackie 1-19-15 © Julienne Schaer
Bespoken co-founder Leah Bonvissuto

Diversity is a growing buzzword in every aspect of our lives, and rightfully so—women directed only 4 percent of the top movies over the past 13 years, the Republican frontrunner is stoking racial divides amidst the growing Black Lives Matter movement, and for the second year in a row, the Academy failed to nominate a single actor of color. Yet when we try to talk about it, we fail (did you see the Oscars this year?).

We know that women coders do better than men when you take gender bias out of the equation. We know that diversity unlocks and drives innovation. And we know that female leadership leads to more productive and creative output. In every determinable way, diversity is only a positive (and, hey, radical inclusion is also the right thing to do). Yet, according to Scientific American, “In the U.S., where the dialogue of inclusion is relatively advanced, even the mention of the word ‘diversity’ can lead to anxiety and conflict.”  So, how can we deepen and strengthen the conversation to move the needle forward and ensure that all voices are heard?

Cyrus Innovation is tackling the issue head-on. According to Cyrus CEO Tami Reiss, their Diversity Apprenticeship Program is “an option for recent bootcamp grads to get contract to hire positions with Cyrus clients.” (Earlier this year, the Cyrus team also launched Just Not Sorry, a plugin that alerts you when you are using words that undermine your message—a useful tool to empower all of us and level the playing field).

At Bespoken, we specialize in helping people communicate with clarity, control and conviction but the diversity conversation is often so dreaded that people avoid it all together. We’ve seen enough blunders to put us on edge. We worry we’ll say the wrong thing. We fear that if we acknowledge our differences, we won’t be able to see anything but our differences.

In order to deepen the conversation, we have to identify and acknowledge why effective communication when it comes to the topic of diversity is difficult in the first place.  We then need to practice and ingrain tools to make sure these conversations are handled with compassion, empathy and inclusion. Here are some techniques to implement the next time you approach this conversation. 

Communication skills to deepen the diversity conversation

Acknowledge the effort

Recognizing that this is not an easy conversation to have can help deflate it and start everyone off on the same page and on the right foot.

Clarify your intention

Understand why the conversation is important to you on a deeply personal level. Moving it from the abstract to the personal will help keep the conversation focused, present and specific. Reframing the conversation will empower everyone in the room and help them understand their unique perspective and contribution, and how to communicate it.

Be present

Identify unconscious bias and implicit associations—we all have them. Acknowledging what you’re walking into the room with can free you up to have a more grounded and authentic conversation.

Speak in perspective statements

Empathy is powerful stuff—and it’s important to put yourself in another’s shoes—but when it comes to diversity it is essential to speak for yourself and not for a larger group. Start thoughts with “I feel…” to ensure you are not accusatory and to optimize your ability to connect.

Keep the conversation grounded

Heated conversation can go off-the-rails fast. Preempt this by building in checkpoints—every 20 minutes would not be overkill—to assess the effectiveness of the conversation thus far and to remind everyone in the room of the intention originally put forth at the beginning of the session.

Follow through

If you think you’ve said something offensive, acknowledge it, dissect it and move on. It may be uncomfortable at first but it’s the best way to get to the root of the problem and move forward with clarity and compassion.

Let us know how these techniques work for you and check back for future installments in our series on diversity!  


BespokenFOX_0187 is a coaching firm based in New York City that is dedicated to helping people speak with conviction and communicate with confidence. We believe everyone has an innate ability to communicate powerfully and purposefully. The story of Bespoken began when two friends, Leah Bonvissuto and Jackie Miller, decided to channel years of professional theater experience into helping people be better, bolder communicators. Offering 1×1 coaching and small group masterclasses, Bespoken training is customized, on-your-feet and interactive. Rooted in powerful yet practical theater techniques, our work is designed to help you harness your innate ability to communicate effectively in any situation.
Bespoken’s Cringe-Free Guide to Networking

Bespoken’s Cringe-Free Guide to Networking

Networking is a word that makes even the best of us cringe. There’s something about putting ourselves out there that feels… Invasive? Fake?

Bespoken co-founder Leah Bonvissuto
Bespoken co-founder Leah Bonvissuto

This necessary evil becomes more unavoidable every day. We assume everyone is better at it than we are. We are hard on ourselves for being unable to have “fun” in an environment supposedly designed for just that. We go to networking events, we stand on the sidelines and it doesn’t seem to get any better.

No matter your reason for avoiding it, networking is a professional development skill that we can all get better at when taken one step at a time. At Bespoken, we give people tools to network on their own terms, training people 1×1 or in small group settings (if you’re in NYC, join us on April 12th at Spark Labs for our networking masterclass—early bird discount available through April 5thclick here to register). 

Here are some actionable techniques to implement the next time you walk into a room:

Reframe the experience

Walking into a networking event can produce feelings of stress and anxiety, especially if you’ve had bad experiences in the past. Give yourself an intention that has nothing to do with the word “networking”. Make a connection, or make it a goal to help other people, not yourself. Reframing the experience will help you feel ownership over it as you build your own strategy going forward.

Go outside In

Give yourself a physical task—something you can commit to 100% in the moment. Force a smile (it works!) or choose to stand with your arms at your sides instead of crossed (body language is a powerful tool when used effectively). Changing up your physicality limits negative past associations and gets you out of your head.

Make eye contact

Practice eye contact in a safe space and with people you know so that it’s there for you when you need it. It helps to decrease stress and can aid in making a connection.

Initiate—but not too much

Talk to a few people—but no more than that. Make someone on the sidelines feel more comfortable, or compliment someone on their business card, their shoes, anything! Giving yourself little victories will help you feel ownership over this skillset!

Reward yourself

It sounds cheesy but giving yourself something to look forward to can alleviate a ton of pressure from the experience of networking. Treat yourself to dessert on the way home or bookend the event with fun plans (temptation bundling is a thing and it works!).

Let us know how these techniques work for you and join us on April 12th at Spark Labs for our networking masterclassclick here to register

Networking with Bespoken

 


Bespoken is a coaching firm based in New York City that is dedicated to helping people speak with conviction and communicate with confidence. We believe everyone has an innate ability to communicate powerfully and purposefully. The story of Bespoken began when two friends, Leah Bonvissuto and Jackie Miller, decided to channel years of professional theater experience into helping people be better, bolder communicators. Offering 1×1 coaching and small group masterclasses, Bespoken training is customized, on-your-feet and interactive. Rooted in powerful yet practical theater techniques, our work is designed to help you harness your innate ability to communicate effectively in any situation.
Collaborative Command – March 8th

Collaborative Command – March 8th

Collaborative Command with Bespoken

When: March 8, 2016 | 7:00pm – 8:30pm
Where: Spark Labs, 833 Broadway, 2nd Flr., NYC, 10003
Cost: $25 Early Bird (thru 3/1) | $35 Regular Registration
Registration: http://bit.ly/1Xavekl  |  Spark Labs members, contact Andrea to sign up.
Bespoken is excited to announce the second installment in our ongoing professional communication skills collaboration with Spark Labs

It’s not about what is said, but what is heard.  Challenging conversation with a colleague on the horizon?  Staff meetings not as productive as you need them to be? In Bespoken’s Collaborative Command* masterclass you’ll practice how to harness your voice and presence to communicate successfully when collaborating with colleagues and managing team members. We’ll give you a better understanding of your unique communication style and control over the way others perceive you.

What previous participants have said about our Collaborative Command masterclass:
“I loved this. Super powerful stuff.”
“Great presence and infectious attitude. Wish you could do this for my team at work!”

Doors at 7:00 pm – Class begins promptly at 7:10

*Given the interactive format of this event attendance is limited to 20 participants.

@BespokenNY | www.bespokenpartners.com

About Bespoken

Bespoken is a coaching firm based in New York dedicated to helping professionals and entrepreneurs speak with conviction and communicate with confidence. Offering 1×1 coaching and small group masterclasses, Bespoken training is customized, on-your-feet and interactive. We believe everyone has an innate ability to communicate powerfully and purposefully.

Leah Bonvissuto, Co-Founder Leah Bonvissuto is an award-winning theater director. Always fascinated by what makes the audience-speaker relationship unique and powerful, Leah has worked extensively outside the theater to translate performance-based techniques for non-actors of all ages and backgrounds in organizational and educational settings.

Jackie Miller, Co-Founder With over a decade of experience in New York City as a director and curator of cultural public programming, Jackie’s work is creatively driven by the relationship between audience and performer. As the Artistic Director of Only Make Believe she serves as the company’s creative lead, producing over 300 interactive theatrical performances for children in hospitals and long-term care settings each year.

Be the Change You Wish to See in 2016

Be the Change You Wish to See in 2016

Bespoken’s Guide to Making (Lasting) Change in the New Year

You may be hoping that the New Year brings a New You—but we all know it’s never quite that easy. Change is scary. At least that’s how it can feel. Change takes time and is also constant—but it’s the big changes that shake us up and move us out of our comfort zones. And here’s the thing—change is hard, but it doesn’t have to be! Bespoken invites you to #BEthechange you wish to see in 2016 with these steps:

Acknowledge it

“Step out of your comfort zone,” is a phrase we often hear.  Turn and face the strange ch-ch-ch-ch-changes.  And yes, it is going to be uncomfortable.  Acknowledge the excitement, anxiety and fear that naturally come when you do something completely new and unfamiliar. The simple act of embracing these feelings will not only give you strength to persevere, but also empower you to ask for support when you need it.

Look back to go forward

It’s not about the New You—it’s about the You that got you to where you are today. Replace judgment with curiosity and a sense of humor as you take a trip down the memory lane of 2015. You need to know where you’ve been to know where you want to go.

If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Maya Angelou

Set an intention

For many of us, resolutions can become a list of semi-vague do’s and don’ts—eat better, drink less, wake up earlier, watch less TV—leading to inevitable (and destructive) disappointment and self-beratement. Instead, set an intention for yourself and for the year. It should be universal and specific at the same time. Make it positive and affirmative. It should feel silly, exciting and new—but most importantly it should speak to you on a deeply personal level!

Make a plan

You know where you’re going, but getting there may be unclear and overwhelming. Put a plan in place to help you succeed, led by the intention you set for yourself. You can write it down, throw it away and start again as many times as you want. Do a practice run over a weekend to anticipate roadblocks and challenges. Refine it. Make it work for you. Include a fail-safe to ensure you know how to pick yourself back up when you (inevitably) fall down.

Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything. George Bernard Shaw

Change your mindset

There is no right or wrong when you are venturing into the unknown. Let fear turn to curiosity as you observe your own reactions to change. This is a new and exciting experiment! Listen to yourself and observe what happens to your body in new situations. If you have a tendency to retreat, structure in alone time at the end of the day. If you have physical signs of anxiety, remind yourself that it is your body’s natural reaction to the strenuous process of change.

Share your experience

Start a blog. Share on social media. Acknowledge what you’re going through in conversations. Meditate alone or in a group (Headspace is a great way to start). Be a source of strength and support for someone going through something similar. The more you share your experience, the less alone you will feel. Slowly but surely you will realize that your experience is, in many ways, a shared one.

How can you know what you’re capable of if you don’t embrace the unknown? Esmeralda Santiago

Shake up your routine

As creatures of habit, it can feel like a shock to integrate big changes all at once. Start impossibly small. Wake up half an hour early. Set one goal for each morning and complete it. Think of one thing you’ve always told yourself you could not do and do it. Take yourself on a date. Surprise yourself. And don’t forget to fail—it’s the only surefire way to move forward.

Go outside-in

Making a physical change literally alters the way the world sees you which in turn alters the way you see the world. It doesn’t have to be drastic or big—dye your hair! buy a new hat! change your glasses!—but it should feel monumental to you. And remember to stay active—physical activity gets you out of your head and into your body.

Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future. John F. Kennedy

Be your own best friend

We all do it. We apologize. We beat ourselves up. Sometimes our internal critic is so vocal and self-assured that it can take quite some time to unravel the habit of believing every word it says to be true. #UNapologize yourself. Literally take care of yourself—that means not beating yourself up for beating yourself up either. Defend yourself the way you would your best friend. When you tell yourself you can’t do something, refuse to take it as a given. Practice sticking up for yourself, whenever you get the chance.

Change it up

Treat your process as a living document rather than a rule book with consequences. Be a willing participant in your journey. Make changes constantly. Make it work for you—not for anyone else. Remember that you are in control of the expectations you set for yourself! Work in little victories. Celebrate each win. Return to your intention. And if you fall, which you will, get back up again and keep moving forward.

 

Bespoken is a coaching firm based in New York dedicated to empowering professionals and entrepreneurs to speak with conviction and communicate with confidence through customized 1×1 and small group coaching. We believe everyone has an innate ability to communicate purposefully and powerfully. www.bespokenpartners.com.

#UNapologize Yourself: How To Put Yourself Out There

#UNapologize Yourself: How To Put Yourself Out There

We’re all guilty of it: Apologizing. The onslaught of chatter about Impostor Syndromevocal fry and pay gaps may have us thinking it’s a female problem, but we all do it. We backpedal. We trip over and lose our words. The internet has made creativity immediate and accessible but it has spread an almost contagious blanket of near-constant self-doubt. We apologize for everything—but mostly we apologize for ourselves.

Start listening for it. Watch it happen. It’s like a jealous best friend who can’t stand to see you happy. That great idea you just had? It’s been done, and better, she says. Good grief. You would never encourage a best bud to hang out with a friend like that, so why would you?

It’s a process: UNapologizing yourself. It takes time and courage. But the next time you have a glimmer of a dream in the corner of your eye and a voice inside tells you why you can’t achieve it, ask yourself—Why not? Follow it through. If it’s something you can’t immediately change—resources, safety or skill—you have work to do. If the answer comes in the form of an apology—Seriously, you think that’s a good idea? You’re just crazy. You’ll mess it up—it’s time to UNapologize yourself.

The work of UNapologizing starts and ends with awareness. Awareness of your body and of your voice. Awareness of your strengths and weaknesses. Awareness of yourself in time, space, content and form. Awareness of what you want to say and the impression you want to make. Awareness of who you are and what you have to offer and refusing to apologize for it!

Apologizing is easy, but only because it’s so familiar. For some of us it’s an impulse we can’t even see. For others it’s a habit we can’t seem to shake. For me it’s always been fear of fear itself. Anyone who’s ever had a bad experience public speaking knows that nerves breed nerves, and bad experiences lead to more bad experiences. But actors have nerves too. The exact rush that keeps an actor coming back for more can be paralyzing and crippling. Olivier had itGandhi had it. Even Hugh Grant has it. To combat the fear of feeling powerless an actor practices committing. They rehearse in a safe space so that they understand what they’re saying, where they’re going and why they’re there. Once they are confident in their choices, they can tell a story, get out of their own way and make a connection an audience will never forget.

It’s not about becoming someone else—that’s not what actors do, after all—it’s about harnessing all that you are and refusing to apologize for it. But it’s up to you to make the choice to UNapologize yourself. And when you do that, you trick your mind into believing everything you say to be true. Because it is, you just didn’t know it yet. And when you believe it, others will too. In UNapologizing, you stood up for yourself. You did something proactive in the face of fear instead of letting the big bad happen to you. And it felt real good. Maybe you’ll do it again sometime. That’s how it all starts.

Putting yourself out there is scary. UNapologizing is scary. But only because we’re out of practice. Once you become aware of it, you start to understand it and only then can you get underneath it, make it yours and ultimately use it. As Lady Gaga said: “Slowly but surely I remembered who I am.”

We are Bespoken

We are Bespoken

We’ve walked you through our process. We’ve shared our methodology. In the final part of the series, find out how we use acting techniques to help you own the room and speak with confidence and conviction.

There is a common misconception that the best actors have perfected lying or pretending when actually the opposite is true. Actors train for years to learn how to be truthful in the most unrealistic environment of all–the stage: stakes are high, lights are bright and there are strangers watching their every move.

Actors learn how to speak from a place of truth, clarity and distinction and develop their bodies to be open and responsive. Actors know that the stage acts as a magnifying glass: their words and gestures and the ideas they share must be clear–otherwise, they risk detracting from the story and confusing their audience. Actors spend countless hours in the rehearsal room dissecting the choices they will make onstage in order to consistently connect to the truth of each moment in the play, no matter what is thrown their way. This is called technique.

We believe that these technical skills can be taught to anyone speaking to an audience of any kind.

We trained at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting in a method that encourages each actor to use their unique vision to imagine the world of the play so completely that they are not acting at all but merely existing in a set of given circumstances defined by the playwright. Stella Adler believed that the growth of the actor is synonymous with the growth of the human being: “The play is not in the words, it’s in you.” Stella also believed that drama depends on doing, not feeling; feeling is a by-product of doing. Her approach to acting depends on connecting strongly to each other by way of actions and creating dramatic events that take place between “I and thou,” not between “me and myself.”

Like Stella, we believe that you are at the center of your most passionate ideas and that it is essential to optimize your unique perspective in order to connect with your audience. This cannot come through “feeling” but instead must come through doing; physically implementing active tools for communicating effectively.

In addition to training at Stella Adler, we have trained in a wide range of performance techniques—Commedia dell‘arte, Shakespearean performance, clowning, Viewpoints, improvisation, voice and speech and many forms of movement–each aimed at stripping away destructive habits and improving physical awareness in order to engage an audience. We thrive on working with people from all backgrounds and experiences, adapting techniques and tools to fit each person.

At Bespoken, we believe that great public speakers are made, not born. Get in touch to find out how we can help you tell your story and speak from the heart.

What it Means to Bespoken

What it Means to Bespoken

“The strongest principle of growth lies in the human choice” – George Eliot.

At Bespoken, we help you get out of your head and into your body—because we believe you can’t connect the two without speaking from the heart. Last month, we gave you an inside look into our process. Read on to find out how our methodology helps people speak powerfully and purposefully through customized, on-your-feet coaching.

Our approach focuses on how to use your voice (command) and body (presence) to get what you want (intention).

We believe that everyone has an innate ability to communicate.

We believe that everyone communicates in his or her own unique way.

We do not believe that there are inherently good speakers or bad speakers.

We do believe that one bad past experience may lead you to believe you are unable to speak well in front of an audience.

We believe that the more you understand how to control your body and voice in high-pressure situations, the better you will be at communicating your story.

We teach you techniques that will show you how to gain control of your own ability to command a room in high-pressure situations.

We help you get comfortable with the discomfort that’s standing in the way of you being your best in the moments that matter most.

How to Bespoken

How to Bespoken

At Bespoken, we help people across all industries speak powerfully, particularly in high-pressure situations. Our work is interactive and collaborative, but also highly personalized, which can make describing what we do challenging. We’re excited to be tackling the art of making human connection–possibly the most gratifying experience there is–and each connection we forge teaches us more about the work ourselves. In the first part of this series, we describe our process in order to give you an inside look into the way we work.

Our Mission

We help you speak powerfully and purposefully through customized coaching designed to harness your unique ability to communicate in any situation. We believe everyone has an innate ability to communicate when given the tools to do so. We employ proactive and practical theater techniques to help you optimize the connection you make with your audience and to give you more control over the impression you make.

Our Clients

We work across many different industries but our clients have one thing in common–they each have something to communicate in a verbal context, whether that’s presenting, pitching, networking, interviewing, etc. We help them be better communicators internally with colleagues and externally with clients.

We’ve worked with entrepreneurs looking to hone a presentation; filmmakers pitching a grant maker for additional funds to finish a project; executive directors looking to improve leadership and communication skills; members of the healthcare sector  imparting sensitive information telephonically; and freelancers at a co-working space seeking tips for networking in high-pressure situations.

Our Structure

When working one-on-one, we meet over multiple sessions to identify and hone a specific communication challenge. Goals are usually achieved in three-to-five 1-hour sessions.

In our masterclasses, a small group (i.e., freelancers at a co-working space) gets a Bespoken primer. Masterclasses usually run 1.5-to-3 hours and can accommodate up to 12 participants. We also collaborate with organizations to meet their specific needs through customized internal workshops.

Host a masterclass at your organization
Host a masterclass at your organization

Regardless of the structure, you leave with a conversational narrative that’s authentic, tools to help you relax when speaking in front of a crowd, control over the way you present yourself, confidence in your communication style and command of your vocal and physical choices. We help you articulate your unique perspective. We help you find your literal and metaphorical voice. We give you more control over the way you present yourself and your ideas. We teach you how to be your best self in the moments that matter most.

Our Process

At Bespoken, we first help you dissect, organize and shape your ideas. We then train you to make powerful verbal and physical choices to support those ideas and together we develop and ingrain personalized techniques, tips and tricks to help you commit to those choices in high-pressure situations.

We begin with an intake meeting to discuss challenges, goals and logistics and to make sure the process and purpose of the work is understood. Guided by the fundamental creative process of making theater, we work through three phases:

  1. Craft It – Together, we identify the audience and craft a distinctive message that articulates your vision.
  2. Work It – On your feet, you learn how to use your voice and body to engage your audience.
  3. Own It – Through rehearsal and situational role-play, techniques are refined and ingrained.

Get in touch with us to find out how we can help you own the room, speak from the heart and free your mind!

Bespoken’s Top Ten Tips for Safe Bike Riding

Bespoken’s Top Ten Tips for Safe Bike Riding

Riding a bicycle is arguably the best way to get around a city like New York–with public transportation getting more expensive and less reliable, a cross-town trip by bike is a million times more enjoyable (not to mention way faster) than waiting for the M23. We all know how dangerous cycling in the city can be–check out this blog by Bespoken client and all-around superwoman Katie McKenna about her bike accident–but we also know that it gets safer with every new commuter who joins us on the road. Bespoken co-founder and daily #BikeNYC commuter Leah Bonvissuto explains how clear communication can help you stay in control, make a connection and #OwnTheRoad when taking to the streets!

1. BePredictable

No matter how aggressive some drivers may be, most of them don’t actually want to hit you. We all know how confusing and dangerous it is when vehicles fail to signal–that’s all the more reason for cyclists to clearly communicate every intention to drivers and pedestrians. Opt for simple hand gestures (an outstretched arm pointing right when you make the decision to turn and again as you make the turn will do) and make eye contact with drivers before entering their lane to be sure you’ve communicated effectively. You will be able to feel the connection (and they will appreciate knowing your next move!). Tip: Check out wayfinder Jessica Sato’s take on cycling in the city in this interview with Bespoken.

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2. BeSecure

If you want your bike to be there after you get out of BAMcinématek, lock up to official DOT bike racks instead of traffic signs or scaffolding. With a basic toolkit, thieves can remove sign-posts and lift your bike over the top (or loosen scaffolding connectors). Tip: Click here to watch Hal from Bicycle Habitat rate New Yorkers’ locking techniques.  

3. BeVisible

Not only is it illegal in NYC to ride without front and rear lights, being visible is a huge part of riding safely at night or in the rain. Be ultra-visible–wrap your bike with EL wire (avoid your break cables!) or grab these snazzy wheel lights to make sure you’re seen from the sides.  Tip: We can’t wait for the US release of Volvo Lifepaint–this is sure to be a game-changer for cycling visibility.

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4. BeBold

Don’t get stuck between a truck and a hard place. Instead of making yourself smaller to squeeze through, fully “take the lane“–signal, make eye contact with drivers, and move into the middle of the full lane of traffic. It tells everyone on the road that you belong there too and does not allow a driver to take space away from you. It might cause momentary frustration for drivers but it’s way better than losing control of your position on the road! Tip: If you’re really in a tight spot, ring your bell, use your voice, wave your hands, stand on your petals–do everything in your power to make yourself bigger.

5. BeConsistent

The biggest risk for cyclists in NYC is getting doored. Always ride in the bike lane–even if there isn’t one! Stay five feet away from parked cars to avoid the “door zone” and stay the course–if you weave from the “lane” to the shoulder when there aren’t parked cars, you might take a driver by surprise when you have to take back your lane. Tip: On one-way streets, stay on the left. While all cars have a driver, a much smaller portion have a passenger so you are far less likely to be doored riding on the left side of the road than on the right. 

6. BeStylish

Just because you’re working out doesn’t mean you have to dress like it! Biking in NYC may necessitate a few wardrobe adjustments–fitted jeans over flowy skirts for sure–but it doesn’t mean you have to wear spandex and sneakers. Eleanore’s NYC curates a must-have collection of gear and apparel you never knew you needed from bike garters to helmet turbans to leopard-print helmets. And don’t settle for a helmet you’re not in love with–it’s another opportunity to showcase individuality while upping your visibility (and you’re more likely to wear it if you like it). Tip: We love Iva Jean‘s functional yet fashionable (and water-resistant) clothing for female cyclists.

7. BeEmpathic

Biking in NYC is a totally unique experience–those who’ve never done it just won’t grasp the intricacies and dynamics of #BikeNYC. Try to be patient with pedestrians and drivers–this whole thing only works when we work together. Tip: For first-timers, jump on a Citibike and opt for protected bike paths to optimize safety while you get the lay of the land. Download the Ride the City app before your first ride for a customized route based on your comfort level.  

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8. BeResponsive (but not impulsive!)

Doors fly open, drivers run reds, pedestrians dart off the sidewalk into bike lanes–much of this is unavoidable but up your odds by always remaining hyper-aware of your surroundings. Sometimes all it takes is half a second to veer and avoid the door of that SUV. Also, avoid substances that might dull your ability to react in the blink of an eye or cause you to act impulsively or out of anger–especially in the evenings when drivers may be drinking. Tip: In the warmer months when car windows are more likely to be down, listen for running taxi meters to avoid getting doored–it’s a sure sign that the door will soon fly open.

9. BeProud

I know it can be frustrating when you get honked off the road biking to the corner store. Whether you’re just trying to commute, get some exercise or lower your carbon footprint, daily frustrations can make it hard to remember that you are riding for all the right reasons. Tip: Plug in one earbud (two is illegal and dangerous) or grab some speakers and curate a personalized soundtrack for your commute.

10. BeConnected

Chat with other cyclists at red lights. Complement a random pedestrian. Jam to the tunes coming off that truck. It’s the best part of NYC–and what makes the transiency of biking so attractive: We’re all in this together. Tip: Join Transportation Alternatives, ride with Bike New York and get to know the people who are on the road with you.

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