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Saying No: A beginner’s guide

No, non, nada, nyet—how we say no in different languages. Nein is the German word for no. Nein sounds the same as the English word nine, which means one less than 10. According to researchers, nine is also the number of times kids expect to ask their parents for something before getting it. Nine. Can…

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Public Speaking Basics

 1. Know your audience. Who are you talking to? What do they need and want to know? What do they already know? 2. Accept that you’re nervous. It’s normal. Use pauses to calm and center yourself. Speak a little slower, and have notes in case you forget. 3. Use your voice to keep listeners engaged. You have a range…

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Casual Negativity or Mindful Positivity

A student introduced me to a simple group game last Saturday. We passed slips of paper around in a circle; one was marked with an L, and the rest with Ws. In this game, players don’t know what’s on their card. After the cards have gone once around the circle, everyone flips over their card….

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Speakers Toolkit (emergency version)

Maybe you have to speak in a meeting, lead a workshop, or present to a crowd; whatever the reason, here are 7 lifesaving tips. There’s a longer version of this, called Speakers Toolkit: How to give great speeches & presentations; read it when you’ve got more time. For now, here’s what you need to know….

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Speakers Toolkit: How to give great speeches & presentations

Being nervous when you have to give a presentation is normal—even experienced speakers break a sweat. Two things will help calm those butterflies: Remembering that this is not about you. Your content is the star; you’re simply delivering it. Preparation, which boosts your confidence. The 9 Steps to Successful Speeches & Presentations will help you prepare and deliver…

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Self-Control: The secret to successful speaking & listening

Technology allows us to communicate faster, more frequently, and to a wider audience. But who’s listening? The more we communicate, the harder it is to listen well—to focus on one person and their words. This is where self-control comes in—being able to pause yourself, and focus on the speaker and what they’re saying. Do You…

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Adding Silence: How to improve workshops, speeches & conversations

Silence is like flipflops for the brain; it helps us slow down and relax. Consider these 5 reasons to include silence in your speeches and conversations: Silence draws attention. Pauses emphasize what you’ve just said or alerts the listener to what you’re about to say. Silence helps listeners digest. Listeners get a moment to fully digest what…

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Personal Anecdotes: 6 Pro Tips for teachers, trainers, speakers and leaders

I was the wittiest teacher in town until that day. Mid-joke, I suddenly realized that my students laugh because I control their grades. Damn. I shut my mouth and got serious about my job. Which isn’t to say I’m solemn now—keeping things light helps learning, and personal anecdotes add depth to speeches. But my job is to…

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Teenagers: 15 Tips for Peaceful Communication

Sometimes it seems that all teens do is communicate—texting, instagramming, skyping. But when adults try to talk to teens, both sides often end up frustrated, annoyed or bewildered. How can we bridge this gap? First, Understand your Audience Consider what it is to be teenaged. Teens are in transition between childhood and adulthood. They look…

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Personal, Active & Brief

We pay more attention when someone speaks directly to us. Salespeople know that, so do good writers, speakers, teachers and leaders. Write Like You Speak, and Speak Directly to Your Audience. Be personal—write or speak directly to your audience, readers, or participants. Although school trained us to be formal and impersonal, it’s better to use direct…

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Layout Basics: Making your document attractive & usable

Effective layout and formatting make documents easier to scan, read and use. Effective document layout improves your reader’s first impression of the document, expectations, ability to quickly and easily find what they need; and their ability to use what they found. 7 Steps to Clear, Useful Documents Write and edit your content. Then review your document, looking…

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Kids and Swearing: How to get the little ones to stop talking sh*t

Ahh the power of words: to inspire, teach and offend. Nothing beats the precision of a well-placed profanity, but swearing is like hot sauce—a little goes a long way. I hate hearing kids curse. Although it’s a natural part of their development, swearing is a harsh reminder of lost innocence, especially when it’s your own kid. I…

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Subject Lines: Explicit is good when you’re writing email

Clear, precise language in email subject lines increase the chance that people will read and respond to your message. Specific subject lines help readers understand: What you want If they can help you—was this sent to the right person; do they have an answer? What priority to give your message—how important and time-sensitive is this? How…

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How to Add Emphasis: 4 tips for powerful speaking & writing

Precise language is a powerful instrument for leaders, teachers, and other effective communicators. When language is precise, it’s efficient and effective. Here are 4 ways to add strength and precision to your words: 1. Really Truly Limit your use of words like very and really. If you use strong, clear words the emphasis will be obvious to…

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Empathy Self Test

Empathy: identifying with someone else’s feelings or emotions. Empathy is a cornerstone of excellent leadership, teaching and parenting. When we listen and speak with empathy, others feel heard and respected, relationships improve, and we positively influence others. Self-test: Do you speak and listen with empathy? When talking: Do your words add to your listener’s life—are you giving…

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Conversation Skills: Are you sharing or monopolizing?

Sitting in a coffee shop listening to two women talk over each other, I am reminded of that apt analogy of two TVs, both turned on and facing each other. Lots of words but little communication. We’re all guilty sometimes of talking at rather than to our listener; of delivering monologues instead of mutually exploring…

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Teaching & Training Skills: How to present information

I once had a prof who was a total geek; she loved her subject so much that she overwhelmed us with information. While her enthusiasm added interest, it was exhausting. Worse, it was incoherent. Even those of us who took copious notes were unsure of the key points. The instructor failed in 3 ways: She didn’t…

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Complaining: Committed vs Uncommitted

Committed complaining: have you heard of it? The idea is that we complain in two ways: committed or uncommitted to fixing the problem. Sometimes we’re just grousing: I’m cold, my office is cold, I hate working here, my boss is a nightmare… Uncommitted complaining begins and ends with the complaint. You don’t like something but…

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How to Write Clear Instructions: 6 easy steps

Use lists where possible. Use a separate point or sentence for each action. Make the text large enough for visually impaired readers. How do you know it’s big enough? Test it. Know your audience—who will be reading these instructions and in what situations? Write inclusive instructions; make them simple and clear enough for lower literacy…

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Clear Writing for Teachers: 7 Items to Include in Course Descriptions

The basis of good teaching is clear communication; telling your participants what they need and want to know in a way that they can easily understand. One item that teachers and trainers often forget to clearly communication is the course structure. Making the course structure clear allows participants to relax and focus on learning. Here’s how…

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Teaching & Training Tips: Successful assignment briefs

Good for you. You started your course or program by telling everyone what they need to know about the course, and where to find that information when they need it. Now it’s time to talk about assignment briefs. Assignment briefs document everything students need to know about the assignment. A brief should be a complete,…

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