Are You a Pick-Up Artist?

Visualize the scene.

Author sits on airplane, jetting off to a work assignment. Flight attendant strolls by:

FA: What can I get ya to drink?

AU: I’d love a ginger ale!

FA: I’d love to bring ya one.

Simple exchange, right?

I so appreciated that she picked up the word “love.” Volleyed it back at me. Had fun with it. Her response conveyed a sense of delight in her professional role, to boot. Yes, this flight attendant was a language-cue-pick-up artist!

So simple. So energizing.


When we re-use a word someone utters, we show that we really heard what the person said. We reveal a playful spirit. We develop a shared linguistic motif. We consciously co-create a moment. These are the exquisite benefits of the language-pick-up.

Visualize another scene.

Author sits in a project planning meeting with two consultant colleagues and the project sponsor:

SP: Well, why don’t we go ahead and jump right in!

CO1: Feet first or head first?

AU: Huhmmm – do you suddenly have cold feet?

CO2: Doesn’t matter cause we’re all going to get wet…

Quick little exchange. No big deal, right? Well, it got this meeting off to a rollicking good start. The energy never stopped flowing.

Picking up on a cue, playing with language, expanding on an image or metaphor, embellishing it – they all convey a sense of joy about the present moment, the conversation that’s unfolding. They add surprise, sparkle, energy. They celebrate and elevate the moment!

In a Personal Leadership program I facilitated last week, we used Richard Lewis’ model of dominant cultural communication styles to chat about ways of adapting how we communicate (Richard D. Lewis: When Cultures Collide). In Lewis’ world, cultures tend toward either linear-active, multi-active, or reactive styles. The self-identified group of multi-actives in our program (they favor emotional connection and value the process of relating) came up with advice for the linear-actives (action-focused, results-driven, get-to-the-point-already folks). Their first piece of guidance:

Lighten up.

Great advice for all of us, isn’t it? And being a pick-up-artist is a tantalizing way of doing just that!

This week, decide to be playful with your language, both in conversation and in your emails. Pick up on other people’s cues. Repeat words. Recognize motifs. Extend a motif and embellish a metaphor. Relish doing so. And notice how this verbal play instantly energizes the moment.