Friday, March 19, 2010


I am working with a client to help her improve her presentation skills and in particular to help her gain more professional presence when she is making presentations to senior executives in her company. Last week we were preparing for a presentation she would be making this week. She was rather nervous about the presentation and I asked her how she experiences the management team she will be making her presentation to. She replied, “They intimidate me.” Her voice was full of discomfort when she told me this and she sounded very different from the confident knowledgeable person she usually is. I then asked her to describe these executives in more detail, to tell me what they are like, and she said, “They are intimidating. They like to ask questions that people don’t have answers for. They often interrupt when others are presenting. They are a bit like dogs with bones when they want to go down a path that no one else is interested in.” As she provided these descriptions, I was struck by the clear contrast in how she was speaking. She actually sounded amused by these characteristics. She definitely sounded self-confident and relaxed. And most of all she was simply describing these people on a level playing field without any sense of victimization by them whatsoever. The most striking difference was how she had naturally and easily changed her use of the word “intimidate”:

“They intimidate me.”


“They are intimidating.”

When I pointed out to her how differently she had sounded when she simply described these people as intimidating rather than saying they intimidated her, I saw the sparkle of recognition in her eyes. What a simple distinction and what a big difference this distinction made. She began to tell me how dissimilarly she had actually experienced making the two different statements.

We talked about what happens when we use passive language and what happens when we change that language to descriptions that do not victimize us. We then proceeded to work on her presentation to set the stage to decrease or prevent intimidating audience behavior. We also talked about and practiced together good ways to handle and respond to intimidating comments and behavior. It was wonderful to hear how well the presentation went this week. It is immensely satisfying to work with clients and see them incorporate new awareness, bringing them enhanced approaches, communication and behavior.

In “SPEAK EASY, The Communication Guide for Career and Life Success” available from Word Craft Press, I write about victim language:

When you describe situations by using language that expresses what happened to you, you’re taking on the role of a victim. If, instead, you can describe what happened, what the circumstances are, and what you’re doing as a result of what happened, you will be able to experience the situation differently.


Victim Statement: “What happened to me just completely destroyed me.”
Situational Description: “The experience was so unpleasant and difficult.”

Victim statement: “That kind of remark just does me in.
Situational Description: “I experience that kind of remark in such a negative way. I like to make sure to discontinue communications when people speak that way.”

Victim statement: “My wife dumped me for another man.”
Situational Description: “My wife decided she no longer wanted to be married.”

Victim statement: “I was terminated and have to find a new job.”
Situational Description: “My former employer eliminated my position and now I’m making decisions about what next career steps I want to make.”

It’s critical to become aware of how victim statements like these weaken how you feel about yourself and contribute to others seeing you defeated by your circumstances. By using situational descriptions instead, you will feel less like a victim and more in charge of your life, and those around you will see you in control of difficult challenges rather than as a powerless or injured person.

Until next time,
The Wordsmith

Friday, March 12, 2010

Speak Easy Note #24 - Quenching Your Thirst No Matter What's In The Glass

Since so many of us continue to be making more out of less and learning how to do without, I have selected a section of “SPEAK EASY, The Communication Guide for Career and Life Success” available from Word Craft Press for this week’s blog posting that focuses on the importance of looking at everything from a new and positive perspective:

Often when we look in the mirror of our lives, our view is narrow and distorted rather than broad and encompassing. There’s a tendency for people to zero in on what’s wrong or missing rather than see what they have. They also tend to bring a habitual optimistic or pessimistic perspective to their communications. Just like certain people have a tendency to use negative rather than affirmative language formation, people have a propensity to see the world from a full or empty perspective.

There’s an often-told story of twin children with completely opposite views of the world - one was extremely optimistic and the other was quite far beyond pessimistic.

One Christmas Eve, their parents decided to take action to resolve their children’s extreme views. The parents filled the little pessimist’s room with every imaginable toy a child could want. They filled the little optimist’s room with manure.

On Christmas morning, the parents first went to their pessimistic child’s room to find the child crying in a heap in the middle of the room, lamenting, “With all these toys I got for Christmas, there are too many parts that can get broken. I’ll never have enough batteries to keep these toys running. I won’t be able to understand the instructions and learn how to use them. I’m probably too stupid to do them right anyway. I know I’m going to break something. Somebody will want to take these away from me. I’m going to have to share these with other kids. I don’t know what to do first.”

With sighs of exasperation, the parents left the pessimistic child’s room and entered into the little optimist’s room full of excrement. This second child was ecstatic and was running around screaming with joyful delight, “I am so excited. With what I woke up to in my room today, there’s got to be a pony in here somewhere!”

It’s definitely all about perspective.
How you see the world becomes your reality
and controls what you say about 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:

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

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

AVOID: “At my age, there are so few options left for me.”
BETTER: “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 are 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 time,
The Wordsmith

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Speak Easy Note #23 - Working It at Work

In Chapter 10, Working It at Work in “SPEAK EASY, The Communication Guide for Career and Life Success” I have selected seven best career management practices and labeled them as


1. Be prepared.

2. Be positive.

3. Give “live” illustrations.

4. Avoid limiting qualifiers.

5. Be focused.

6. Avoid negative assumptions.

7. Be consistent.

#1 – Be Prepared

Groundwork plays a significant role in career advancement.

A fundamental key to achieving professional success is being well-prepared.

It’s critical to do your homework for any type of professional or work-related meeting that you’re going to attend or participate in, no matter the size or the venue.

# 2 – Play Up The Positive

Whenever you determine that something won’t work or isn’t working, make sure you find a way to convey, “This is exactly what we need to do to make this successful.”

Rather than describe what’s wrong, it’s always better to focus on communicating the solutions to fix the situation.

Remember that you can always communicate everything you want to say in an affirmative way .

#3 – Be A Story Teller – Live Examples Work Best

One of the most effective ways to sound confident and to overcome nervousness or artificiality in communication is to be a story teller.

When you’re describing actual positive experiences you’ve had, your communication becomes quite natural and energized because you’re re-experiencing what happened and you’re seeing yourself in a positive situation.

When you’re describing an actual experience that occurred and you’re using it as an illustration for the point you want to make, you will sound much more believable than when you use a hypothetical or theoretical description or try to use facts or data to convince people of your genuineness or authenticity.

# 4 – Toss Those Qualifiers

As long as you see and describe your experience as limited, you will convey self-doubt and will certainly not be seen as having professional presence or as being a thought leader.

Limitations place the emphasis on what’s missing rather than on what exists. Habitually qualifying chips away at the substance of what you have to offer and who you are professionally.

You can eliminate qualifiers from your speech patterns without replacing them with exaggerations and misrepresentations. The goal is to focus on what exists without adding disclaimers, doubt, and hesitancy. Use communication that says you take ownership and pride in what you do and who you are.

#5 – Aim Straight For The Target

Never distort! Never misrepresent!

“SELECTIVE HONESTY” means to target your communications selectively and avoid self-revealing broad-based confessions or testimonials that tell all, leaving you exposed in ways that are unnecessary and unbeneficial.

If you aim your communications directly at the bull’s eye instead, you can become skilled and fluent in targeting your responses to your advantage and to the listener’s focus as well.

Even when your comments are innocent and harmless, when you forget to target your communications, you can unknowingly be diminishing your professionalism and potential for recognition and advancement.

# 6 – You Know What They Say About Assumptions

Negative assumptions provide the foundation for defensive and self-defeating communication.

Make sure you communicate from a perspective that demonstrates you are basing your comments on a positive premise.

#7 - Inconsistency Always Bites You On Your Backside

If you want to be seen as a professional and you want to advance in your career, it’s important to be aware of how subtle inconsistencies in your communications can influence how you’re seen and how your opportunities for advancement can be measured against them.

We all have competing characteristics and circumstances in our lives. Life is full of paradox. The point is to be aware of what you are communicating before blurting out whatever comes into your head.


Career fitness is vital for success and satisfaction. Look at the career communication exercise regimen as a package and make the career workout part of every workday. The payoff will be that over time all of these behaviors and communications will become so second nature that they will be completely natural and effortless. These guidelines are the right foundation for preparing for the JOB INTERVIEW as well.

Until next time,
The Wordsmith