Communication Skills

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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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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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, 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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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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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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Secrets to Successful Communication

The art of communication is the language of leadership. James Humes Leaders need to speak and write well. No matter how brilliant you are, if we can’t understand you, your leadership fails. Plain Language can help you communicate skillfully and successfully. What is Plain Language? Plain Language is an approach to speaking and writing that…

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Communication Skills for Creative Professionals: How to attract & manage clients 

You’re not a writer and never claimed to be one. You’re a designer, artist or developer. Your clients hire you for your unique vision, not your ability to write. But are you sabotaging your career with poor communication skills and habits? Strong communication builds healthy studios and loyal clients. When you communicate well, you reduce mistakes,…

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Plain Language: Can You Draw A Picture Of Your Sentence?

In the quest for clarity, I’ve devised a simple test: Can you draw a picture of it? If you can easily turn your words into images, it’s a safe bet that those words are clear, simple and efficient. Imagine drawing this sentence: I walked to the store with my big ugly dog and bought oranges. Easy, right? The…

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Are You an Interrupting Cow? How to be a better listener, and more popular too

Knock, knock. Who’s there? Interrupting Cow. Interrupting Cow wh– Moo! Are you an interrupting cow? How often do you allow a pause after someone’s finished speaking? Be honest, how often do you let people finish speaking? Interrupting is such a deeply ingrained habit for some that we don’t even notice when we do it. Kicking that habit…

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Activate Your Verbs!

Active verbs make speaking and writing clear, efficient, and more interesting. Active verbs are usually easier to understand, which is important for international audiences. Wordy and inactive: Better: They made a commitment. They committed. (or They committed to…) They reached a decision. They decided. The program has ceased to operate. The program ended. Her cake was…

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7 Swift Steps To Better Communication

Identify your goal—what exactly do you want your audience to know or do? Identify your audience—who are they, what do they need to know, what do they already know, what’s their preferred method of communication? Outline your message—are the important points included and in a logical order? Respect your audience—you are using moments of their…

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4 Wrong Reasons to Communicate

There’s a great acronym that makes me look smart and wise. It’s WAIT, and stands for Why Am I Talking? What a brilliant question to ask yourself! You might decide not to speak if your answer is any of the following: Gossip Is the “news” you’re sharing about someone else just veiled gossip? Even if it seems…

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4 Traits of Successful Speakers, Leaders & Conversationalists

I recently attended a speech contest. Despite a variety of styles and personalities, the best speakers shared four traits: 1. Honesty The best speakers were themselves. They didn’t project false confidence, unfelt humility or fake personas. They started where they were, in terms of confidence and experience, and moved forward. The winning speaker even joked…

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4 Questions To Stop Asking

1. Are You Sure? This negates everything the speaker just said, which is rude and hurtful. You might ask this question because: You want to know if you can believe what the person just said, or if you can trust their source. A better response would be “How do you know this?” or “Please tell me…

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3 Great Speaking Tips (and my dad for free)

You know how, um, like, the kids talk these days? Sadly, it’s not just kids—many of us undermine ourselves with speech habits that make us seem uneducated, unprepared and unsure. Breaking those nasty little habits will improve your education, career, and relationships. Try these 3 simple exercises: Speak in full sentences. Can you say two complete…

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Negative Feedback: How to receive & respond to harsh responses

It’s easy to offend people—look at social media. Even if you’re not a puppy-kicking troll, chances are good that you will offend someone at least once in your life. Perhaps you purposely or accidentally did something wrong, or maybe it’s just a case of different values. In either situation you might receive negative feedback. Receiving criticism and negative feedback…

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The Power of Words

My heart broke as I watched a young dad yelling at his crying two-year-old. I wanted to swoop in, rescue the kid, and teach the dad how big and scary he was. The dad was obviously frustrated beyond belief, but yelling wasn’t a great choice. I too have felt that level of frustration, in my…

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