Friday, December 18, 2009

Speak Easy Note #15 - T'is the Season to Connect with People

Last week I wrote about support systems. This week as we are deep into the holiday season, it feels timely to talk about another important aspect of relationship-building and relationship management: NETWORKING. During the holidays we traditionally reach out to people we do not stay in touch with at any other time. We send holiday cards to old friends that we haven’t seen for years. The belief is strong that there is little or no hiring taking place during the holidays. Hiring freezes continue to abound and unemployment remains high. All of these elements point to the importance of reaching out to people.

Here are some selected sections of the chapter about networking, Expanding The “Who -You-KnowQuotient from Speak Easy, The Communication Guide for Career and Life Success available through Word Craft Press:

Many people think of networking as a primary job search tool. As much as that’s true, it would be foolish to see it in such a limited way. Networking is much more than a critical job search ingredient; it’s one of the key factors that contribute to good career development and successful career management. Moreover, it’s a primary and essential life tool at every level and in every facet of human activity and human endeavor. The exact same networking concepts can be applied in limitless life arenas from recruiting, sales, fundraising, and taskforce development to the pursuit of a life partner or the search for a good electrician or a new school for your children. It’s extremely rare that any person can exist and thrive without networking.

How often have you heard statements similar to these?
  > “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”
  > “Networking is the key to finding a___ (job, spouse, plumber, etc.).”
  > “He made it to the top because he’s part of the Old Boys’ network.”
  > “She didn’t make it because she was so busy with her nose to the grindstone that she never paid attention to making connections with the right people.”

We will encounter much more success in all of our endeavors when we recognize the high value of gathering information from real people who’ve traveled the road before us and of building strong and lasting bonds with them.

The word, NETWORKING, is used so freely and widely that its basic meaning has been diluted and it has lost many of its most important nuances and benefits. When career advisors emphasize the importance of networking, they often neglect to teach its subtleties adequately and to fine-tune their clients’ networking communications well. It’s easy to see why many jobseekers think that networking is simply informing as many people as possible that they’re looking for a new job.

Certainly, letting people know you’re looking for a new job is a much better strategy than simply sitting by the phone, waiting to see if someone will call you up to offer you a job. However, if your bottom line is no more than a numbers approach of seeing how many people you can get your resume in front of, the benefits of the fine art of networking will be sadly missed and the process of continuing the endeavor will become stale and unrewarding. After all, how many times can you say to someone, “Here I am again, still looking. Got anything for me?” No wonder people become so disenchanted with networking – both on the asking AND on the receiving end!

Since the term, NETWORKING, is so freely used and so often badly leveraged, I’d like to refer to it in other terms going forward. My definition of this word appeared a few paragraphs back:

The high value of gathering information from real people who have traveled the road before us and of building strong and lasting bonds with them

To alleviate its limited and stereotypical definition, I’m going to rename NETWORKING as R&R: Research and Relationships. The “N” word translates into the R&R formula:

Research and Relationships
Gathering Information/Building Connections

It’s also fun and gratifying to refer to an activity like NETWORKING that people find difficult, tiring and demanding as R&R, a known acronym for Rest and Relaxation. How delightful to re-label NETWORKING communications with a symbol of pleasure and satisfaction that people always seek out and appreciate!

Whenever people are energized by the subjects they’re talking about, others are drawn toward these speakers. Without passion for a topic, even if it’s your unanswered quest to find a new job, you will find little enthusiasm from others around you. The trick is to find the elements that you can remain passionate about and make sure they’re at the forefront of your R&R communications.

An unappealing image that often blocks people’s natural agility in and genuine enthusiasm for networking communications is the hat-in-hand beggar needing a handout.  This empty-plate approach to networking is what gives people such an uneasy feeling about it and what takes them so far away from the main concepts of R&R: RESEARCH AND RELATIONSHIPS.

Finding ways to engage others in conversation about your key interests and to demonstrate how knowledgeable you are ensures a much better approach to people and a much higher success rate in obtaining meetings with others. There’s also the added benefit of feeling strong and focused when you’re sitting down with someone to have an important R&R conversation.

So often, people begin a request for a networking meeting with, “I’d just like to pick your brain.” This clich├ęd phrase inserts a terrible graphic picture into the process and contributes, on both sides of the communication, to the concept of begging or neediness. Picking a brain is what vultures do to dead animal carcasses. Picking a brain is a one-sided approach to a conversation and demonstrates taking from someone rather than contributing to a dialogue. In contrast, if the request for an R&R meeting is to brainstorm ideas together, the stage and tone will be set for an entirely different communication. Brainstorming is a two-sided (or multi-sided) approach to a conversation and demonstrates bringing something to the table to engage in a give-and-take dialogue.


Next Friday is Christmas day and the following Friday is New Year’s so I will wish all readers health, prosperity and happiness and will write another posting in 2010.

Until then,
The Wordsmith

Friday, December 11, 2009

Speak Easy Note #14 - The Value of Support Systems

There is a circle of support in my life that is astounding.  People I care about deeply are facing life crises and challenges that are huge, painful and overwhelming.  When they turn to me, I am grateful to be there for them.  There are those I know I can turn to when I am facing dilemma and strife.  What would life be like if we did not have each other? 

Bridge Over Troubled Water
by Simon & Garfunkel

When you're weary
Feeling small
When tears are in your eyes
I will dry them all
I'm on your side
When times get rough
And friends just can't be found
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

When you're down and out
When you're on the street
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you
I'll take your part
When darkness comes
And pain is all around
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

The following excerpt from Speak Easy, The Communication Guide for Career and Life Success available through Word Craft Press examines the value of support systems:

So often we're much harder on ourselves than others are on us. Rather than beat up on yourself, feed your guilt, or be a martyr; turn to others to gain support and perspective and to have a sounding board for your communications. You will frequently hear people describing their biggest challenges this way, “I could’ve never gotten through this without the help of others.”

Seeking support is better than going it alone. Recognize, though, that when you seek the backing, comfort and counsel of friends, family members and coworkers, you can also be building a case and fueling the fire. It’s clearly beneficial to ask for input from others about the way you’re communicating in challenging situations and to have an ear to listen. In tough times, there’s nothing more valuable than having a support system around you. If you don’t already have people that you turn to, rethink your views and practices, and build a strong support network for the good times and the bad.

Being able to turn to others to share your story or even just to unload can be advantageous and satisfying. Make sure you include people outside of the actual setting or situation to do this with and make sure you’re choosing people that you know you can trust for confidentiality. The benefit is to gain awareness and ease your heavy feelings. If your goal in bringing others into the picture is to vindicate yourself, add fuel to the fire, or defend your position, think carefully about what you’re choosing to say. If the outcome is escalation of an already tense situation or further pressure for you or others, then seeking support will be self-defeating and only add to your challenge.

The best type of support is objective. The less involved the person is with your story, the more able that person will be to listen and respond without bias and concern for personal repercussions. A natural instinct of someone connected to you personally is to come to your defense and to say what you want to hear. Cushions like that feel wonderful to sink into; just make sure there are also those in your support mix that are free from wanting to please you or protect their own self-interests.

There’s a good reason why people choose professional counsel and why professionals, like attorneys and psychologists, remove themselves from situations that can be seen as having conflicts of interest. Give yourself the cushion of support and choose supporters who can listen and respond as objectively as possible. Find people who will give you candid feedback and who can critique your communications and your strategies.

All that being said about objectivity and professional input, never underestimate the value of a good hug. To survive infancy, babies must be stroked and held. The human need for connection is universal. Enrich your life with balance and surround yourself with an array of support cushions. Take initiative, be responsible for yourself, seek input from others and make connections.

Until next week,
The Wordsmith

Friday, December 4, 2009

Speak Easy Note #13 - On Being Thankful

Thanksgiving week has come and gone and with it came reflections on being thankful. The challenges of this past year bring a whole new perspective on feeling grateful and expressing thanks. It seems as if everyone has financial pressures and is looking at how to survive on less or on less than nothing in many cases. Yet somehow the crisis we face has brought out something quite wonderful. There is this sense of we are all in it together somehow. People seem more considerate than ever:
             I lost my gloves in the theater last night and a person I did not know went to great lengths to help me find them.

             I dropped my Playbill on the curb while waiting in the rain for the Number 1 bus on Fifth Avenue and a complete stranger picked it up and wiped it on his pants to dry it off and handed it to me.

             Two of my dearest friends volunteered to serve a Thanksgiving meal to the homeless at the Guthrie Center (known at one time as Alice’s Restaurant) at the Old Trinity Church in Great Barrington, MA.

It is good to be appreciative of what you have and it is good to express your thanks.

Here are relevant excerpts from SPEAK EASY, The Communication Guide for Career and Life Success, available for purchase through Word Craft Press:

A good way to manage difficult or challenging communication is to respond with a thank you:

“Thank you for telling me this; it’s important for me to know just how you are experiencing this situation.”

By thanking someone, you

> Indicate that you welcome openness

> Show that you want to increase your awareness

> Demonstrate that you value others’ viewpoints

When we choose to respond like this, it’s best to refrain from adding a disclaimer. If we say thank you to someone and then add, “But that isn’t the way I see it.”, we have erased the thank you and defeated its purpose. It’s wonderful to expand on the positive and share differing perspectives. If the purpose of the “thank you” is to acknowledge without engaging in a debate or doing battle with someone, then END your communication at the thank you, rather than expand it.

We know that over 90% of how we receive communication is non-verbal. Changing the words we use, however, still has the power to change how we feel and how others react to what we say. We will begin to see situations differently when we begin to choose different words to describe them:

“There’s only half a glass left.
“There’s still half a glass left.”

“She never calls me.”
“I’d like to talk to her more often”

“At my age, there are so few options left for me.”
“At my age, I’m so clear about which options I want to select.”

It’s true that in many instances there’s a smaller amount rather than a larger one to express in our communication. Rather than being about how full or empty the glass is, it’s about explaining what there is in the glass to drink. If there’re only three drops of water in the glass, the point is to figure out how to describe quenching your thirst with whatever amount you have. You can’t articulate how to drink the empty part so it’s unproductive to focus on it.

Until next week,
The Wordsmith

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Speak Easy Note # 12 - Truth Is Better Than Fiction

It has been a demanding week. My IRS audit was postponed until next week and the IRS examiner asked that I provide photos in addition to the previously submitted floor plans of my personal and business spaces to substantiate the percentage of professional usage I claim on my tax filings.

When I initially received the audit notification, one of the biggest concerns I had was that the IRS would disallow the percentages I had claimed. I thought of many creative ways to position my claim and realized finally that the truth is always the best place to be. When I took the photos of the work and personal spaces yesterday, the pictures showed all that I needed to support my claims. My percentages were exactly right and the TRUTH was the best tactic possible.

It is clear to me that the topic of the week for my blog posting is TRUTH and so I am including this excerpt from SPEAK EASY, The Communication Guide for Career and Life Success:

(Southern charm definitely has its limitations)

The tendency to enhance or withhold the truth is a common occurrence which inevitably undermines optimum communication. In childhood, I was taught the importance of always telling the truth. In contrast, I was also taught the contradictory concept that telling a white lie is okay if it protects someone else’s feelings or advances a certain benign type of self-protection. Growing up in southwestern Virginia, I often observed a style of Southern disingenuous charm that veiled the truth. “Y’all come see us, ya’ hear? (pronounced ‘hee-ah’)” often actually meant, “We don’t really want your type crossing our doorstep.” Embellishing or distorting reality leads to trouble. Just like the children’s story of Pinocchio whose nose would grow every time he told a lie, the effect of avoiding or obscuring the truth will take over and the stage will be set for distortion or misrepresentation. It will become increasingly difficult to remember what you’ve actually said and the truth will become dangerously elusive.

If the truth is your first constant, your goal can then be finding the right and best way to tell the truth. The promise of honesty is a significant one to make to yourself and to others. Never distort. Never misrepresent. Trust the compass of truth in all of your communications.

There are three key elements to remember to ensure the potential of having a direct communication:

1. Always start with the truth.

2. Define and identify what you most want to express.

3. Examine what you say to make sure it feels authentic and in sync with who you are.

If you look at the key elements of what you want to communicate and find neutral language that avoids irritation or aggravation, using a level tone of voice, you will find that telling the truth is easier and better than an elaborate fabrication you invent to make the communication seem more palatable for you and the other person. People will thank you and appreciate hearing the truth, directly, in the right way. Reminding yourself of the equal two-way street of communication and of the importance of validating the other person remains the basic foundation for accomplishing the goal of truth in communication.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.  I may take next Friday off from blogging. 

Until next time,
The Wordsmith

Friday, November 13, 2009

Speak Easy Note #11 - Words of Wisdom: Living an Informed Life

This week I received an email from a dear friend who wrote and questioned:

  • “The whole of my life is burnt into these days with my daughter and grandchildren. Everything I have ever done, thought and experienced seems to be concentrated into the moment. I am now waiting for my sense of the rest of my life to come into the moment as well. I think it will. Then the whole of my life will be concentrated into every moment that I live. What is this sensation? Is it aging? Is it just that things long passed are recalled with such frequency and clarity as one gets older? Is it the sense of a life? Is it the getting of wisdom? Is it having learned how to live?”

Many thoughts blended into questions … When I read my friend’s words, I was immediately reminded of the Rilke quote about not searching for answers but living the questions so that one day you will discover that you have lived into the answers:

  • ...I would like to beg you dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.
Rainer Maria Rilke, 1903
With age comes wisdom and acceptance. Most of all though, it is only through age that you can have a certain perspective and wealth of experience that cannot be available to you in the same way earlier in life. This varies from person to person. Some never get there at all or never come to exist on any deeper level of consciousness.

Life will always be full of mystery and unanswered questions no matter how old you are or what your experiences are. And so we come to two golden words:


This above all else: It is about LETTING GO, knowing and accepting what IS and what remains outside of one's control to change.


It is about the perspective of valuing what life is in full measure - of having lived an experienced life that informs and provides the KNOWING.

And so I bring you two words this week to savor and to live, rather than providing the mechanical techniques to enhance communication that I frequently share from SPEAK EASY - The Communication Guide for Career and Life Success. It will be through living these two words deeply that communication can reach the highest level of enrichment possible. Communication improvement techniques are wonderful to learn and practice; they can bring much benefit. It is the LETTING GO and living an INFORMED and CONSCIOUS life that matters most of all.

Until next Friday,
The Wordsmith

Friday, November 6, 2009

Speak Easy Note #10 - Avoidance Is Worse Than Confrontation

This week I finally finished reconstructing three years of tax records. It is liberating for all of that to be behind me. I feel a great sense of accomplishment from having created 29 Excel spreadsheets as detailed and pristine financial records for the audit that is taking place later this month. I have begun to tell people that they can call me “Excel Girl”. In preparation for my meeting with the tax attorney tomorrow, I attached these spreadsheet documents to emails and sent them to him. I attached them to three different emails - one for each year. On the last one of these emails, I wrote one comment: “I hope you are impressed!”

As I was doing this grueling tortuous work, I thought frequently of Ann Lamott's wonderful book, Bird By Bird - Some Instructions on Writing and Life. The title comes from a childhood memory Lamott has about a report her brother had to write for a school assignment. The report was about birds and he had brought home many, many books so that he could write his report. The books that he had had for many weeks were piled high in front of him and the deadline was the next day; he had not begun to write his report yet. Overwhelmed with anxiety, without a clue how to tackle this massive assignment, he desperately asked his father for guidance. His father said simply to his son that the only way to get this done was: bird by bird.

It was comforting to remind myself of this touching story and pure advice which I could apply to my gargantuan task, spreadsheet by spreadsheet, receipt by receipt. As much as I hate detail and record-keeping of any type, I found great comfort in bringing order to chaos. I created color codes and other innovative devices to make this very unpleasant task artful and even a bit enjoyable. The biggest lesson was to dig in and face the challenge so that I would be able to look back on and celebrate its completion.

As we look at how these lessons apply to communication, we can see that avoidance is usually worse than confrontation.

Here is an excerpt from Speak Easy, The Communication Guide for Career and Life Success that looks at the downside of avoidance in communication:

Avoiding communication or using indirect ways to express what you want to say will prolong the agony of a situation and usually be much worse than the actual conversation you’re dreading so fiercely. How many times have you said to yourself, after finally having the courage to say something that you’ve been agonizing over and avoiding: “That wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be!”? Or even better: “That was so much easier than I thought it would be and I feel so much better having gotten that off of my chest.”? Facing reality and saying what you have to say directly almost always weighs less heavily than avoiding the encounter.

Anticipation quite frequently weighs much more than actuality:

The following relevant vignette opens Speak Easy’s Chapter 3: There’s A Good Way To Say Everything:

Michelle is the Head of Programming for a nationally syndicated radio station based in Northern California.  She also oversees the Traffic, Promotion and Community Affairs departments.

Michelle has a strong work ethic and is dedicated to being the best professional she can be. She’s proud of how well she selects talent. Indeed she has the best hiring record in the station in terms of turnover. It’s rare for someone she’s hired to leave his or her job or be lured away to a competing station.

Michelle interacts with others exactly the way she’d like to be treated by her managers and coworkers. She respects people’s privacy and autonomy. She trusts they will do the right thing and that they will come to her if they have problems. One of her core beliefs is that if you hire the right people, and give them long leashes to do their jobs, the station will run itself. She’s always calm under pressure and believes that everything happens for a reason and that everything will eventually level out, given enough patience and time.

She loves her job, although she often thinks about the old days when she was developing programming concepts and pitching ideas. She’s sometimes baffled by how all of her time now is spent on tedious administrative detail and tiresome management accountability.

Her door is always open. The fact that people rarely come to see her in her office never crosses Michelle’s mind as a concern. She has the “No news is good news”/“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” approach to work and to life.

She’s the mother of two teenage children who describe her style of parenting almost exactly the way her coworkers and subordinates describe her style of management. Her children rarely bring their problems to their mother because they believe she will be disinterested in talking to them or helping them resolve their minor or major dilemmas.

Michelle openly says that she’s conflict-avoidant. She will go 180 degrees in the opposite direction to avoid being part of, observing, or being asked to resolve any type of confrontation or disagreement. She believes that if you turn away from disputes, people will work things out for themselves. She almost never raises her voice or shows her emotions. She has few fluctuations in her even temperament.

When Michelle is one of four executives at the station selected for a 360-degree feedback program, she’s quite pleased. She’s eager to find out what she’s doing well and how she can improve. When she sits down with her coach to review her 360-degree feedback report, she’s rather shocked. It never occurred to her that all of the autonomy she’d given people was seen as disregard and lack of leadership. Michelle is stunned to learn that people see her as inaccessible and unavailable. Even though her door is always open, she sits at her computer facing away from the doorway and everyone thinks she’s engrossed in what she’s doing and doesn’t want anyone to disturb her.

People say that they never bring problems to Michelle because they see her as someone who is uncommunicative and afraid to assert herself. They think she won’t take needed action when there are problems that need resolving. They report that they never come to her with workplace issues or personal difficulties because they think she doesn’t care and won’t do anything to resolve the situation even if she did. What surprises Michelle the most about the feedback is that she learns that her boss thinks she’s not on top of her job and that she’s not keeping him informed at all.

Michelle embraces the coaching support that is provided to her following the 360-degree feedback. She asks the coach to help her be a better communicator and to tackle conflicts head on so she can change the perceptions people have about her. She realizes how valuable it is to initiate conversations and to ensure people she wants to participate in resolving problems. She sees how critical it is to convey what she’s thinking and feeling so people will understand what her views are. She knows that if she communicates what’s important to her and provides people with direction, resolution, decisiveness, and repercussions, she will earn the respect she’d always believed she had and that she merits.

It’s eye-opening to Michelle to learn that without communication and action, her belief system and values will be unknown to others. She’s most appreciative of these new insights when she realizes how applicable they are to her relationships with her children. It’s hard for her to take in what her life would have been like if she’d never come to understand how beneficial it is to be an open and frequent communicator.

She knows that her natural style is to be a silent observer. She now challenges her old belief that this was the way to empower others. She also knows that her fear of confrontation needs to be redefined and reinterpreted to prevent her from slipping back into her old comfort zones of avoidance and isolation. Michelle asks to be able to work with her coach for an extended timeframe so that she can turn her new awareness into consistent communication that’s second nature for her. She knows it will take time, focus, dedication and determination.


I made up this week for how little I wrote last week.  Let's make next week's topic another surprise!  By the way, Speak Easy was featured in the October Kirkus Discoveries Newsletter. 

Until next Friday,
The Wordsmith

Friday, October 30, 2009

Speak Easy Note #9 - Persistence Pays

Instead of writing about writing as I said I would, I have decided to drop in the link to my radio interview.

Interview about SPEAK EASY, The Communication Guide for Career and Life Success

On the time counter near the end of this interview (from 11:30 to 14:37 on my computer), my answer tells about the inspiration for SPEAK EASY and about the roller coaster ride of the five years I spent writing it. 

PERSISTENCE PAYS!  It is so important to believe in your dreams and to do what it takes to bring them to fruition.

If it weren't for the reality of my continuing IRS preparation for audit saga, I would have written about the journey rather than posted the radio link.  The truth is that it is 5:00 AM on Thursday night/Friday morning.  I have been sorting 2006 expense receipts since 9:30 PM and suddenly realized that I had never written my post for this week.  Exhausted and with a fried brain, I offer you the link and my apologies.  I am without a plan for next week's post so it will be a surprise for you and for me.  I'm going to get some sleep now.

Happy listening!
The Wordsmith

Friday, October 23, 2009

Speak Easy Note #8 - You Really Shouldn't "Should"

Last week I committed to writing about a small word that is often used to express guilt or judgment. That little trouble-producing word is “should” - a word that has the potential of generating a significant negative impact on communication.

The following excerpt is from SPEAK EASY, The Communication Guide for Career and Life Success available through Word Craft Press. Currently there is a delay in purchasing and receiving SPEAK EASY because sections of SPEAK EASY’s Kirkus review are being added to the book cover and interior. You can read SPEAK EASY’s October 12, 2009 review by going directly to Kirkus Reviews / Discoveries. More about that review later.

Life is full of paradox. Yes, people ask you for advice all the time. “So, what do you think I should do?” The truth is, however, they don’t actually like your telling them what to do! Additionally, they don’t like feeling judged. And most of all, as a result of telling people what they should do, you then put yourself in the undesirable position of sharing responsibility for other people’s choices. When your goal is to advise someone in a specific way or to express to others what you see as the correct choice, there is an excellent way to communicate your recommendation and/or authority without telling anyone what they should do:

“Here’s what I think you should do.”

“Here’s what I think is most important to consider.”

“Here’s what you should do to fix this.”

“Here’s what I see as the best solutions to this situation.”

There’s a subtle and important difference in both of these pairs of communication options. In each of the first statements, you’re participating in the choice, putting pressure on the other person, or stating an expectation. In both of the second statements, you’re taking responsibility for your opinion and removing yourself from the actual decision that only the other person can make. What we think is right for another person may be quite different from what the other person believes or wants.

Another type of “should” is the one we direct toward ourselves in a reprimanding way:

“I should have told you.”

“I should have done more.”

“I shouldn’t have eaten that.”

When you start your thoughts with the words, “I should” (or shouldn’t), you’re blaming yourself and assuming guilt, without taking real responsibility for your actions and choices. There’s a helpless guilt that accompanies seeing and expressing yourself this way. The excuse is given, the shame is attached and the decision to act differently going forward is buried or ignored.

It takes courage and awareness to say instead:

“I know you’re hurt that you learned about this from someone other than me. I feel bad that I didn’t tell you myself.”

“I see how much more time I could have given and I wish that I had. Going forward I want to look at my priorities and make time for what is important.”

“I’m aware that I’m over-eating and eating foods that are not good for me. It’s important to me to change my eating habits.”

By expressing yourself in this fuller way, you’re facing what’s underneath the “I should” words. Heaping guilt on yourself is non-productive and unhealthy. Using the word “should” to absolve yourself of guilt is also undesirable. When you work on addressing the use of self-directed “shoulds”, you come face to face with your own desires, your level of motivation and most importantly your ability to be self-accepting and tolerant. If you can’t be tolerant of yourself, it’s unlikely you will be tolerant of others.

As soon as you remove the word “should” from your communications and express your reactions and wishes without judgment, you will start to find better ways to speak to people, will feel differently when you’re speaking to them and, best of all, will also get better responses in return.

So remember,
“You really shouldn't “SHOULD”!”

Before signing off, here is a quote from the Kirkus review:

"In a marketplace glutted with self-help guides, how-to tomes and handbooks for dummies and idiots, Speak Easy rises above the cacophony of business and personal-growth gurus who promise the moon, to offer clear, practical and actionable personal change that can actually make a difference. Easily readable, visually presented and impeccably organized, this work will provide valuable reading for any business, family or individual.” KIRKUS DISCOVERIES, NIELSEN BUSINESS MEDIA

I am one happy author!  And I will be even happier when SPEAK EASY can be purchased again.  The process is going quickly.  It is quite exciting to have such a strong review!

Next Friday in Speak Easy Notes, I will write about writing...

Until then,
The Wordsmith

Friday, October 16, 2009

Speak Easy Note #7 - More Than Words

Who knew when I wrote last week about the importance of validating people and committed to write this week about "what you don't say" rather than "what you say" that I would begin this week's posting with the lyrics to a love song, MORE THAN WORDS, by Extreme's Nuno Bettancourt and Gary Cherone?:

Saying I love you
Is not the words I want to hear from you

It's not that I want you
Not to say, but if you only knew

How easy it would be to show me how you feel
More than words is all you have to do to make it real

Then you wouldn't have to say that you love me
Cos I'd already know

What would you do if my heart was torn in two

More than words to show you feel
That your love for me is real

What would you say if I took those words away
Then you couldn't make things new
Just by saying I love you

Now I've tried to talk to you and make you understand

All you have to do is close your eyes
And just reach out your hands and touch me
Hold me close don't ever let me go

More than words is all I ever needed you to show
Then you wouldn't have to say that you love me
Cos I'd already know

In "SPEAK EASY, The Communication Guide for Career and Life Success" available through Word Craft Press, I write about "More Than Words":

What is surprising is that words are actually the smallest contributor to how communication is received. So how does this seeming contradiction work?

When people are asked to say what percentage of communication they think is non-verbal, what percentage is other than the spoken words, they usually recognize that the percentage has to be at least 50%. They frequently think it may even be in the 75% range. They’re usually astounded to learn how much larger a portion it actually is.  Research repeatedly shows that the non-verbal portion of communication exceeds 90% of how communication is received.  The largest non-verbal elements of communication are facial expression and tone of voice.

As a dedicated wordsmith and communication coach, I remember first learning this percentage and feeling rather down-hearted. I said to a colleague, “What’s the point in my helping people fine-tune the words they’re using if the words represent only 7% of how communication is received?”

My colleague quickly pointed out that if there’s only a 7% window to get the right words into a communication, it’s critical to choose those words carefully. His response crystallized for me the significance of choosing the right words, while always remembering the critical importance of tone and facial expression.

This component of non-verbal communication links quite beautifully with the concept of validation that we looked at closely last week.  A person's tone or facial expression can communicate something entirely different from his or her spoken words which is why I found it so frustrating to hear that customer service supervisor repeatedly say, "I understand" when she showed me no understanding at all, when she said nothing to me that indicated she was actually listening to anything I was saying, and when the concept of validating what I had said to her was completely missing from her tone and her words.

Combining validation and acknowledgement with matching non-verbal communication is an essential ingredient for good communication.  In a workshop I facilitated at Harpo Productions in Chicago, Oprah said to me that in all of the years she has been interviewing people that the one common denominator she saw in each person she had ever interviewed was that people always want to be validated.  She said it wasn't about agreeing with them or condoning what their beliefs were or praising what they had done.  It was about letting them know that they had been truly heard.

So remember the importance of non-verbal communication; it's not what you say, it's how you say it! And always show people how well you've listened by remembering to validate what they've said to you.

Next week, we'll take a look at a small word that is often a big guilt-producer. 

Until then,
The Wordsmith


Friday, October 9, 2009

Speak Easy Note #6 - Tell Them That You Really Heard

Last week, when I committed to writing this Friday about the key ingredient that demonstrates LISTENING, I would have never imagined the framework I would choose to introduce this important topic.  This week has had its special demands. The IRS wants to examine my tax returns. My brain has been totally fried as I gather all of the records I will need to reconstruct and support all of my Schedule C deductions.

One of my related adventures has been obtaining all of my monthly credit card statements for the years 2006, 2007, and 2008. I have 25 of the 37 monthly statements I need. I called my credit card company to request the 12 missing months and was told that I would have to register online and wait 24 to 48 hours and would then be able to download the missing statements. So after waiting 48 hours for my download opportunity, I learned online that I can only request six statements at a time and that I will have to wait another 48 hours to gain access to the first six and, you guessed it, then request the remaining six and wait still another 48 hours to get those. Arrrrrrrrrgh!

As I was clicking and requesting, I saw on the screen that I had been asked to fill in a customer satisfaction survey. I clicked “No, Thank You” since I had zero desire to spend any more time online filling in boxes and typing out my frustration. No thank you indeed; I wanted to SPEAK to someone directly and COMPLAIN.

After one person told me she was not authorized to provide me with what I wanted, I asked to speak to a person who did have that authority. The supervisor who came on the phone line next told me that the system is set up that way, that there was no way for me to see more than six statements at a time and that the 48 hour waiting period is also carved in stone. After determining that no one had the authority to get my 12 statements to me right away, I slipped into acceptance mode and became ready to wait it out. Simultaneously, I was becoming more angry and frustrated. What was most upsetting to me was the repeated response this supervisor kept saying to me, “I understand.”  With each “I understand” from her, I became more and more dissatisfied.  I wanted to teach this woman how to validate what I had told her. I wanted her to say something genuine and different from what she had said over and over to every other customer with a complaint.

I wanted her to read Chapter 8 of “SPEAK EASY, The Communication Guide for Career and Life Success” available for purchase at Word Craft Press.  I wanted her to show me she had been paying attention to what I had been saying to her and to what I was specifically experiencing, even if she couldn’t fix anything for me or get me my statements immediately.

I wanted her to LISTEN.

Here are some related sections excerpted from SPEAK EASY:

When you’re talking to someone, your views of the world may differ tremendously from that person’s perspectives. Even our soul mates can have opposite viewpoints from our own. In most communications, we become so eager to have our say that we can only focus on what our own point of view is and we rush ahead without any validation of the other person in the dialogue.

So many communications repeatedly turn into nonproductive duels. Remembering to start your communication with a validation of the other person will dramatically improve all of your interactions and will significantly enhance the way you feel about yourself and how others see you.

What quickly becomes clear is that sincere and authentic validation and acknowledgement require giving focused attention to what the other person is expressing. The basic key to successful validation is listening.

It’s impossible to validate someone sincerely and specifically without listening attentively to what that person is saying. You can’t simply start your response with a throw-away standard comment like “Yeah, I hear you.” or “I understand what you’re saying.” You must show how well you’ve been listening and respond in a way that specifically and genuinely shows that you’ve really heard.

Some good examples of VALIDATION statements are:

“It’s very clear how much you want to... (be specific)”

“I can see how important it is to you to...(be specific)”

“I know that your views about ...(be specific) are...(be specific)”

“I recognize your perspectives about…(be specific) are …(be specific)”

“I certainly respect that you want to...(be specific)”

And no matter how differently you see the situation, it’s critical to omit the word “but” as you make the transition from your validation to your viewpoint. “But” is a word that can negate whatever preceded it:

“I know you want to go to the beach but I want to go to the mountains.
“I know you want to go to the beach and I want to go to the mountains.”

“I know it’s important to you to meet on Tuesdays but I prefer Thursdays.”
“I know it’s important to you to meet on Tuesdays. I prefer Thursdays.”

Eliminating one small word can change the dynamic from competitive and combative to a communication that is two-way and open.

If you can experience listening as if you’re shining a spotlight on the other person and then focus on describing what’s in the spotlight, you will be able to validate people naturally. You will be concentrating on what the other person is saying and can then add strength to your own side of the situation by having first made the other person’s position as meaningful as your own. Demonstrating mutual respect, refraining from being self-centered, and strengthening your own position by acknowledging other views are critical elements of listening.

When you show the other person that you’re listening, you give that person the ability to listen to you without confrontation or defensiveness. By turning the spotlight away from yourself and on the other person, you also give your beliefs a platform to be acknowledged and appreciated reciprocally. When you mirror back to people what they’ve been saying to you, they feel heard and respected. The beauty of validation is that it reinforces the other person without requiring you to buy into a premise, grant a request or provide solutions.

One of my closest friends since childhood has eight sons. It’s amazing to have been in their home many times over the years and never have heard one disrespectful word from these boys to their mother. There’s a simple reason for this. She always talks to them on her own level.  She also always validates them, respectfully, when she asserts her authority.

She has authority and they respect her. I’ve heard her refuse to allow them to do what they want to do. I’ve heard her tell them that she can’t give them what they’re asking her for. I’ve even asked her if the behavior I’ve seen over the years is for my benefit and when I’m not in the house if there’s a totally different interaction between her sons and her. She’s confirmed that what I’ve observed is the way it’s always been in her home.

Next week, I want to write about what you don't say rather than about what you say.

Happy Columbus Day weekend!

Until next Friday,
The Wordsmith

Friday, October 2, 2009

SPEAK EASY NOTE #5 - Taking Responsibility

Monday of this week was The Day of Atonement. This is the most solemn Jewish holiday of the year, a day of fasting focused on repentance and forgiveness. At the very core of true remorse, apology and pardon is the essential concept of taking full responsibility for your actions, thoughts and communications. When I said that this week we would look at neediness in communication and how word patterns can reflect how we relinquish responsibility, there was no connection in my mind to the coincidental timing of this holiday and the subject I had chosen to write about next.  Taking responsibility for what and how we express ourselves is critical for communication success.

There are many ways we use language as a crutch to avoid taking responsibility. Let's look at ways we do this in an excerpt from SPEAK EASY – The Communication Guide for Career and Life Success, available for purchase through Word Craft Press:

Replace Needy With Whole
There’s an unrecognized phenomenon that underlies the cause for people to feel they don’t have the right to express how they’re making choices. As a result, people say they have to do a certain task or they can’t do something, rather than say they’re choosing one option over another. Often children will tell us they can’t help doing what they’re doing.  As adults, when we say, “I can’t help it.” or “I can’t do XXX.” what we’re usually experiencing is frustration, challenge or difficulty rather than actual inability. We will feel much less helpless about life’s challenges if we replace “can’t” with wording that is more in sync with reality. Rather than say “I can’t”, we can say:

“This is difficult to do.”

“I’m finding it very frustrating to do this.”

“I see XXX as a big challenge."

Another way we push ourselves around and get caught in a trap of our own making is when we say, “I have no choice.” about a situation. We may feel like there’s no way out or that our obligations are so strong they negate other options. It’s still better to say, “Based on the strong sense of responsibility I feel about this, I’m making the choice to stay involved.” When we say we have no choice, we’re denying or fighting our responsibility and our choice on some level.

What we are looking at is how:

> People let language become a crutch they use to relinquish responsibility and shift it onto some unknown force.

> Feelings of guilt and insecurity sneak into language patterns and become habitual.

> Needy syndromes can infiltrate our communication, acting as barriers to feeling whole.

To recognize all of this more clearly, let’s compare two different ways of communicating choices:

AVOID: “I can’t go with you to the concert because I have to go to a lecture with my brother-in law. Thanks for asking me.”
BETTER: “I would like to go to the concert with you. I promised my brother-in-law that I would go to a lecture with him and am going to keep my commitment. Thanks for asking me.”

AVOID: “I can’t go to dinner tonight because I have to do my laundry.”
BETTER: “I want to do my laundry tonight so I’ve decided to stay in rather than go out to dinner.”

AVOID: “As a payroll supervisor, I have to make certain that all checks have been properly reconciled.”
BETTER: “As a payroll supervisor, I’m in charge of making certain that all checks have been reconciled.”

AVOID: “I can’t drive a car in Manhattan.”
BETTER: “Since I have only driven a car in Ohio where I grew up, I’m afraid to drive a car in New York City.”

AVOID: “I have no choice about this decision. I’m stuck with this until the end.”
BETTER: “Since I’ve invested so much time in this project and care about it deeply, I’ve decided to stick it out until the end even though I have a sour taste in my mouth related to what has just occurred.”

Neediness in language is self-defeating, weak and most often inaccurate. An amusing saying grew out of the Women’s movement: “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.” In the world today, many people are choosing a variety of alternate lifestyles that would certainly validate this statement. The importance of the statement, from a communication standpoint, is how well it demonstrates the distinction between desire and requirement. So often we confuse the two.

Compare two different ways of expressing the same desire:

“Without a spouse, my life is incomplete.”
“I want a partner to share and enrich my life.”

The communication paths away from neediness and into wholeness are:

AVOID: “I have to …”
BETTER: “I want to …”

AVOID: “I can’t …”
BETTER: “This is difficult to do.”

AVOID: “I need …”
BETTER: “I would like …”

AVOID: “I have no choice.”
BETTER: “I have decided that …”

Next Friday, let's look at one of the most essential ingredients to reflect that we're really listening.

Until then,
The Wordsmith

Friday, September 25, 2009

Speak Easy Note #4 - Accentuate the Positive

There is a fond memory I have of being on jury duty and waiting to be called for jury selection. I had finished paying the bills I had lugged with me and had updated my address book; I wanted to continue to use the waiting time productively. The previous week, all of the consultants in the firm where I then worked had been asked to write an article on any topic of their choosing. The one requirement was that they have great passion for their chosen subject. For a long time, I had carried a dream in my heart that one day I would write a book on communication. And so it was a natural choice to write about good communication for this assignment. I had come up with the title: "Accentuate the Positive" and was writing away when I realized that the words I had just written were in opposition to the solid advice I was recommending.

I looked down at these words and started laughing:

"Don't use negative sentence formation to express your thoughts and feelings."

For some reason, I felt totally stuck and unable to express the advice in any other way. By an odd twist of fate, the person sitting next to me was an editor for a publishing company. I turned to him and quietly asked, "How can I express this without committing the very mistake I am recommending that people avoid?" He looked at me in astonishment that I was struggling with something so obvious and simple, and replied,

"Use affirmative sentence formation to express your thoughts and feelings."

I quickly experienced my second good laugh of the morning which was certainly welcome during that tedious extended downtime that tends to fill the greater part of jury duty.

That was long ago. The article turned out to be four pages long. When I got to the end of it, it felt like I had written all that I had to say about good communication. I said to myself, with a sad sense of having lost an important dream, "Well, maybe you won't be writing a book on communication after all if this is all you have to say on this topic."

How sweet it feels to have written SPEAK EASY, The Communication Guide for Career and Life Success which has been completed and ready for purchase through Word Craft Press for the past three weeks. SPEAK EASY is 231 pages long with a six-page introduction, by the way.

In a future blog post, I will fill you in on the conception of SPEAK EASY long after that jury duty experience and on the five-year gestation and labor period that it took me to bring SPEAK EASY to the marketplace. What a wonderful sense of accomplishment I get when I look back over these recent years and especially when I remember what the disappointment of my lost book dream felt like when I wrote “Accentuate the Positive” so many years in the past.

The word for this week’s Speak Easy Note is “NOT”. It is laughable that I found it impossible to identify an alternative way to express my recommendation in the affirmative way back then. Here's an excerpt from SPEAK EASY on this important topic:


For every comment that has the word “not” in it or is constructed in the negative, there’s an affirmative way of saying exactly the same thought. Many people have a natural tendency to use the negative formation of sentences rather than the affirmative.

They prefer to say,
“It isn’t necessary to wash the dishes tonight.”
rather than say,
“It’s okay to leave the dirty dishes until tomorrow.”

They choose to say,
“No problem, I don’t mind at all.”
rather than say,
“Absolutely, I’d be delighted to do that.”

Their first inclination is often to say,
“That will never work.”
rather than say,
“Here’s what will make that really successful.”

They start their sentences with
“I don’t think that …”
rather than say,
“My opinion is …”

It’s an extremely beneficial exercise to become acutely aware of how often you use the negative form in communication and to find a way to express exactly what you want to say using an affirmative form instead.  Obviously, saying the words, “not” or “never” in your communications will be appropriate and acceptable in many instances.  If, though, you can get yourself to be aware and challenge your use of negative expression, you will find that it’s easy to switch to the affirmative and the value of making this switch is vast.  It’s always better to be thought of as a positive person rather than a negative one.

To begin to appreciate this value, reflect on the fact that one of the most common ways of expressing agreement is the response, “no problem” which is comprised of two negative words, one of which indicates difficulty.  Rather than introduce such negative wording into a positive expression of agreement, it’s certainly preferable to use affirmative words like “definitely”, “with pleasure”, “sure”, or “absolutely” than to reply, “no problem” when you want to give an affirmative response.

Compare the following pairs of sentences:

AVOID: “I don’t want to relocate to London.”
BETTER: “I want to live and work in San Francisco.”

AVOID: “I don’t want to join the product team.”
BETTER: “I want to remain in the private banking group.”

AVOID: “No problem...”
BETTER: “Absolutely, tell me more about it.”

AVOID: “I don’t like it that you never include me in the planning meetings.”
BETTER: “I want you to know how much I’d like to participate in the planning meetings.”

AVOID: “Since I didn’t have enough time this week, I won’t be able to finish my report until next Friday. ”
BETTER: “Since I had unexpected commitments this week, I shifted priorities and will be able to finish my report by next Friday.”

AVOID: “I didn’t realize how long it had been since we saw each other.”
BETTER: “How wonderful to spend time with you after all these years.”

Establish good language patterns by using affirmative sentence formation whenever possible. Avoid negative sentence construction and stay away from negative or confrontational language, even in the subtlest ways. So often people describe what they don’t like or don’t want to do rather than focus on what they like and do want to do. Describe what you want to move toward rather than what you want to move away from.

Next week we'll look at the needy syndrome and how certain word patterns can infiltrate our communications, becoming crutches to relinquish responsibility. 

Until Friday,
The Wordsmith

Friday, September 18, 2009

Speak Easy Note #3 - The Destructive Disclaimer

No More Buts

Finally, here's the "trouble-maker" I've been teasing you about for two weeks.  It's such a tiny word and can be quite benign; it's also capable of causing significant havoc. 

What would happen if you made a pact with yourself to go through an entire day without saying the word “but” a single time? It may be much harder than you think. For some reason, people have a tendency to get from one thought to the next through the use of this tiny word:

 “I like coffee but I like tea better.”

“London is a pretty city but Paris is more beautiful.”

“I’m going to a movie but I’d prefer to see a play.”

 “New York has great architecture but Chicago’s architecture is magnificent.”

So you see that “but” can be a useful word to connect thoughts and can be totally harmless or simply practical in a lot of what we say.  Let's look at one kind of instance where "but" becomes a trouble-maker.

If you validate what people have said to you and follow your validation immediately with a disclaimer that begins with “but”, you will have negated what you said in the prior validation statement. Also, you will have set the stage for argument rather than discussion:

AVOID: “I hear how much you want to go to The Bahamas over Christmas but I hate the hot weather and want to be where I can ski for the holidays.”

BETTER: “I know that you want to go to The Bahamas where it's warm for the holidays. It’s really important to me to be in a cooler climate and ski over Christmas.”

By eliminating “but”, you can create a natural progression to add another affirmimg sentence like:

“Let’s figure out how to plan our vacation time so that we both are happy with our choice.”

Adjusting the words and tone of your communication to reflect a level playing field of communication without the “but” negation will bring ease and enhancement to difficult conversations.

To break the pattern of frequently using the word “but”, see how often you can end one sentence and start the next one without saying “but” or can substitute the word “and” in place of “but” whenever possible.

“New York has great architecture but Chicago’s architecture is magnificent.”

“New York has great architecture and Chicago’s architecture is magnificent.”

“New York has great architecture. Chicago’s architecture is magnificent.”

To gain many more COMMUNICATION TIPS go to
Word Craft Press to learn about and purchase "SPEAK EASY - The Communication Guide to Career and Life Success"

The next Speak Easy Note will be about still another three-letter word that can set exactly the opposite tone from the one that is desired in any communication. 

Until next time,
The Wordsmith

Friday, September 11, 2009

Speak Easy Note #2 - Loss Is A Teacher

Last week I promised to write this Friday about a certain three-letter word that causes trouble and have decided to change my choice to a completely different four-letter word. This Friday is 9/11 and the only word that feels right to me to write about is LOSS.  For the past eight years on 9/11 I have commemorated the solemn losses that took place on that day in 2001.  Each year on 9/11 I walk from Ground Zero to Union Square in Manhattan.  I walk to remind myself of all of those people I saw walking north that day in 2001 with their shoes covered with ashes.  I walk to honor those who would never be able to walk again.  I walk to celebrate the gifts that come from loss.

The following is an excerpt from SPEAK EASY, The Communication Guide for Career and Life Success.

Loss Is A Teacher

For many people, a major communication deficit is the ability to face and talk about loss. Ernest Hemingway wrote, “Life breaks everyone and some become strong in the broken places.” In the play, The Fantasticks, there are these lyrics, “Without a hurt, the heart is hollow.” Loss is certainly a great teacher. What’s most precious to us is what we can lose most easily or what’s hardest to protect from loss. Loss is a natural outcome of living and it’s how we cope with it and how we see it that can be the source of our strength and the basis for developing the ability to master life’s challenges.

Since loss is inevitable, the more we can learn to focus on and communicate the gains that come from loss, the more we will experience loss in ways that are manageable and life-enriching.

There are many factors over which we have no control. We do, though, always have control over our perspectives and what we say to reflect them. The goal is to deal with what you face head on and to say what you want directly, rather than resort to being an ostrich.

The more you can talk about loss, using language that reflects what you’ve gained from what’s missing, the easier it will be to experience loss in a powerful, learning, and full-of-growth way.

The most striking example to illustrate this communication shift for me occurred in 2001, shortly after 9/11 in New York City. I was walking through Bryant Park on a glorious autumn day. Giant white cloud-puffs floated in the brilliant blue sky behind the gleaming surrounding skyscrapers. I had been experiencing severe grief over the senseless destruction and needless sacrifice of life that had occurred a few weeks before. Like many New Yorkers, I’d been living with an enormous weight that I carried everywhere. It had kept me terrorized reclusively within a tiny radius of blocks from my home and office. Every communication I had, focused on my unbearable sense of loss. I had only just begun to venture beyond my fabricated self-designated safe zone.

Suddenly, a recognition and feeling of gratitude came over me. I felt grateful to be alive, to see the magnificence of my city, to know how precious life is, to recommit myself to making a difference in the world, to be able to give back for all that I had. I saw the world as inviting again rather than terrifying. Strangest of all, I felt gratitude to the terrorists for providing an unthinkable way for me to gain such deep appreciation. I knew that if I could go back in time, change history and pluck those airplanes from the sky, I’d have waved that life-saving magic wand in less than an instant.

Somehow I’d found a way to see and communicate the beauty of what I’d lost and the magnificence of what I’d gained from loss.

Without painful and extraordinary loss, we can never value and see what we have in such a deep way. I’ve made dramatic choices in my life that often astound people. To me these valiant but simple choices reflect what I’ve learned from loss. Loss is our best teacher. “Without a loss, the heart is hollow.”

Here are contrasting ways to speak about life situations that demonstrate how you can adjust your perspectives and the way you communicate regarding loss:

AVOID: “Without my wife of fifty-three years, life’s not worth getting out of bed each day.”

BETTER: “The memory of my wife of fifty-three years gives me renewed strength to tackle life every day.”

AVOID: “I’ll never do that again, after all that I lost the last time I tried it.”

BETTER: “The next time I do that, I’ll know a lot more about how to go about it, based on what I’ve learned from my previous experience and loss.”

AVOID: “Now that I no longer have a mentor to guide me, I feel so lost.”

BETTER: “With all I gained from my mentor who is no longer here, I have many great teachings to draw from and use as guides to the present and future.”

Looking at life from a different perspective and finding language to reflect that perspective is the goal of choice. The more you shift perspectives about loss to perspectives of gain and use language that demonstrates the new views, the more successful your communications will be and the better you will feel about yourself and what you have to say.

To learn more about and/or purchase the book go to Word Craft Press

Next week, the three-letter trouble-maker word will finally make it's debut on Speak Easy Notes.

Until next Friday,
The Wordsmith

Friday, September 4, 2009

Speak Easy Note #1 - Back to School

It's Labor Day weekend. What better moment to start a new blog and write Speak Easy Note #1! Summer fun is coming to an end and it's a traditional time for more serious focus.

With bittersweet memories of the new school year's opening days, of daylight fading earlier and of cooler air on the skin, I am recapturing the sweetly metalic scent released when being the first to open a newly printed textbook. How fitting that my new book SPEAK EASY, The Communication Guide for Career and Life Success has just become available online through this week.

On page 164 of SPEAK EASY there is an important reminder about the word "WHY" that I almost forgot to include in my book:


Avoid asking questions that begin with "WHY" because they can be seen as accusatory. If you want to know why a person did something, ask instead:

"Tell me more about this and how you decided to ..."
"What were the reasons you chose ..."

"WHY" is the one open-ended question to eliminate from your repertoire.

When people want to know, "Why not WHY?" - I remind them of what it feels like to hear,

"Why didn't you take out the trash?"
"Why didn't you do your homework?"
"Why didn't you finish your report?"

I was in the post office this week, listening to a person waiting behind me in line on her cell phone. I heard her repeatedly responding to someone with one word questions following periods of listening:




I knew this conversation was going downhill and that the person on other end was getting more and more frustrated and angry.

What a huge amount of pushback can come from this three-letter word.

Tune in next week for another three-letter word that can cause tremendous trouble!

Happy end of summer.