"Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say Without Being Mean When You Say It" ~ Meryl Runion Rose                                ShoppingCart Plum NB 50

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Effective Communication Skill Blog

Alchemist in Meryl.150Communication skills are great in theory, but how are they in practice? This Effective Communication Skill Blog shows you how to walk the SpeakStrong talk. I'm Meryl Runion Rose. Join our conversation about Communication Alchemy, and saying what you mean and meaning what you say... without being mean when you say it.

The Communication Alchemist is IN. Are you IN too?

Helping my Father Live and Die Well

Dad Fond goodbyeIt has been a while since I've posted here. I've been busy living life. I have posted some on Facebook, but that has been erratic as well. It might be time for me to start posting here again. 

My father entered hospice in December. Most people contact hospice in the very last stages of life, but he asked to be admitted to it as soon as he decided that he didn't want to focus on strengthening and extending his life. It turned out to be a great move. Not only is he getting physical support that way, he is under no pressure to perform more than he chooses to. His decline became much smoother once hospice got set in place.

But that's not why I'm posting. I'm posting to tell you about SpeakStrong. About how it almost seems that my whole career has been to prepare me for the tender, intimate and delicate conversations that have been so precious in this grand journey. More than that, I post to speak of how I've been coaching Dad to SpeakStrong.

Last week he told me his nurse was failing in her responsibility to communicate things effectively to the aids. He was gearing up to blast her. To me, it seemed like a misunderstanding with a well-meaning support person - and an issue that could be cleared up with a simple well-worded request. As he built his case talking with me, I asked if he was open to a suggestion. He said he was. I told him that I find it helps to focus more on what I want that what I don't want. So instead of pointing out how his nurse failed in her responsibility to communicate and complaining in detail about what happened, that it might work better to focus on what he needed her to do for him moving forward. I suggested he frame his conversation as a request more than a complaint. 

He thanked me for the advice. Then he followed it. Tonight he told me, "It has become immediately obvious why this is a better way." Hooray!

I noted that one advantage I see for him in this approach is I don't think he enjoys dumping on people and hurting them. He acknowledged that was true.

This is a gentle hearted man who used to bring out the big hammers for small issues. I was a tender-hearted girl who used to be shattered by it. I never knew when he might explode. He didn't do it often, but it was devastating enough that I made a lot of choices to ensure I wouldn't be the recipient of a verbal attack or undermining. 

I got past that. So has he. 

What a amazing experience.I'm putting my father to bed. He's 96 now. I'm able to help him not only discover how to die well, but also to discover how to live better. 

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Honoring My Season

Meryl AntlersThe last time I was in the Hilton Heritage banquet hall was over fifteen years ago. I gave the keynote at a lunch conference. This time I had a table at the back of the room and someone else spoke. The keynote title was Honor Your Season. I was doing just that. I like my new role (roll).

I was there to give away my excess book inventory. I literally gave away a ton of books. One of my signs said; "Free your voice. Free my shed. Books for FREE." 

I am happy. My books are happy. The shed is happy. The people who took books are happy. And my husband, who always likes space, is happy. 

It was so much fun!!!

Although I believe these days I could give a much better keynote than I did when I was presenting so long ago, I was at home in the back. These days I have much more wisdom than I did then. That wisdom keeps me from hankering to be the one on stage.

I am in a different season now than I was then. I may have another season that puts me back in the front of the room again, but I'll let that unfold as it will... or not. These days I am happily at home in the back, giving away what remains from my rise in a different season. Nothing to sell and nothing to prove. 

Flying high is fun. So is laying lower - when it is the season.

What season are you in?

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The Heart Might Overdo, and the Mind and the Will Might Underdo

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My husband laughed out loud when I showed him this Zits cartoon. I laughed too, but I also sighed. The cartoon pokes fun at how Jeremy's mother "overdoes everything"  by fetching pillows, candles, Kleenex and refreshments at the first indication of her son wanting to talk. From her side, it shows her joy, love and anticipation of a deep connection. From his side, her preparation made his point about her excesses.

Too often, we dive into a conversation without any preparation or stage setting. At times, people working with me show up at the appointed hour without having reviewed any of the relevant materials or having given our time together any anticipatory thought. 

I love it when people show they value their time with me by setting the environment and preparing practically and psychologically. Even simple questions like:

  • What do I/we want to have happen here?
  • How can I prepare to increase the likelihood of success?

...can optimize our time invested in each other. 

I call my father every day, and knowing that I won't be able to do that forever, I ask those questions before I dial. It's amazing how much closer we have become over the last months as a result. 

Does Jeremy's mother overdo? Perhaps. But perhaps she is compensating for his tendency to underdo. As we run from one activity to another, we can neglect simple preparation. We might not need pillows, kleenex, candles and refreshments for every exchange, but a simple pause between events can make all the difference. 

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He Prefers the Facade

display fashion female mannequin 300What is the fascination with celebrity gossip? I think there is something innate in us that likes to penetrate a facade.

It's ironic because we do like the facade. We like the vision of flawless beauty. We like the perception of limitlessness and invincibility. Celebrities give us tantalizing glimpses into the Archetypal realm of existence. And although it is unpopular to affirm it in professional circles, such realms are real - just not in the way most think of them.

We also yearn for grounding and a sense of concrete reality. Hence we gleefully approach illusory bubbles with a pin. Or a hatchet.

Have you ever looked at photos of gorgeous celebrities at their worst? Which image is more real? The Greek God or Goddess version, or the crawled-out-from-under-a-rock one? 

Well, both pictures have their own reality, and the sum total of that celebrity is somewhere in-between. Those photos are visual celebrity gossip.

I would not want pictures of me at my worst or descriptions of my "baddest" behaviors memorialized as if that is who I am. On the other hand, when the meeting planner doesn't recognize me when I show up because I don't look like my press photos, it's time for a new, more "real" one.


Of course, our fascination with gossip isn't limited to celebrity gossip. We put real people in our lives on pedestals only to tear them down later. Pedestals are dangerous. When I sense someone has me on one, I prepare to be demonized later. It's predictable. It's a clunky kind of balancing.


Lucy didn't like it when her guy Joe praised her to the heavens. I suspect it's because she knew she was being set up for a fall. It happened. She went from angel to devil in his eyes. He looked for anyone who would listen... and look... as he painted verbal pictures of her at her worst. Were his indictments true? Perhaps, just as the "ugly celebrity pictures" are. His words have the feel of celebrity gossip. 

Communicating with Joe is tricky. Joe likes the facade. He seems less interested in relating to a real human being than in figuring out how to get Lucy to go back to acting the leading role in his drama where she is the angel. I can't help him with that: especially because he tries to do it by dragging his mannequin image of her over rugged terrain with anyone who will gawk. I don't read tabloids and I am not interested in Joe's B grade movie.

The real Lucy occasionally falls into the trap of acting out his worst images of her. Plus she has illusions of her own, as we all do. But when she sobers up from that, she beckons: "Over here! I'm over here!" Unfortunately, the real Lucy can't compete with the spendiferous beauty and graphic ugliness of Joe's illusions. 

Not yet anyway. But when the paved road crumbles and the veil of illusion dissolves, reality becomes inescapable. It doesn't match the tabloids, but it's real. It is often indicated by tears. When Joe and Lucy have a good cry together: that's when they'll find each other.

Change happens when people stop preferring the facade.

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Post DRAMATIC Stress Disorder

comic cry cropIt's just another Mellow Monday here in Roseville. We plan to keep it that way. Sometimes the mellowist of Mondays become manic despite our best efforts, and should that happen, we will roll with it. But today, so far, Bob and I look forward to taking care of life one step at a time without any adrenaline surges or high drama. We balanced our weekend with that intention. 

If you search Craigslist for shared housing, you'll discover that close to half of the postings state: "No drama." Interesting, huh! One can only surmise that these people have previously rented to drama kings or queens. 

Even the least dramatic among us find ourselves embroiled in drama at times. It's unavoidable. But many of us are addicted to drama and seek it out for an adrenaline rush to distract us from how exhausted we are. Or so says Dr. Rubin Naiman, author of several books and the article Post-Dramatic Stress Disorder: A Hidden Cause of Sleeplessness.

Post Dramatic Stress Disorder. I suspect that's exactly what the people who state "no drama" on Craigslist rentals suffer from... and have the sense not to set themselves up for again. 

The dramatist has a crisis every day. The dramatist can't refrain from exaggeration. The dramatist waits until things get out of hand to take action. The dramatist jumps to the next thrill, or fire. The dramatist speaks in absolute, all or nothing language. The dramatist keeps things stirred up so no one ever has to - or can - deal with reality. To those addicted to drama, anything less than that is boring. I have discovered the awesome beauty of "boring."

How do you communicate with a dramatist? Well, for me, it has been critical to observe and own my personal response to the drama. When a dramatist makes a federal case out of a small issue, I note my own tendency to be suckered in to the emotion. I know that if I were making such a big deal out of something, (usually) it would be more in proportion to what is happening. I tend to assume they do the same. Not true. 

Once I have my sense of proportion (reality), I "say what I mean and mean what I say without being mean when I say it."

I don't speak an inflated version of the truth. I speak the simple truth. For example, it may be "the biggest event on the planet," but I just say I'd rather stay home, sit on the deck, watch night fall, and go to bed early. I just say I'm setting the stage for just another Mellow Monday. 

My adrenals are so much better for it. My sleep is so much better for it. My Mondays are so much better for it. Try it. 


I'd love to hear how drama shows up in your life, and how you respond to it - in yourself and others. 

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Trusting Her Own Compass

compassLayla is going through the kind of life crisis that takes some people out and makes others strong. I am championing her in her strength. It is wonderous to see her blossom. Of course the journey through and out of the mud isn't linear. She gets a bit lost at times.

As I prepared for our time together, I had all kinds of fabulous ideas for what she could do. As soon as we met, it became clear she had all kinds of fabulous ideas for herself. She started out telling me all about her plan.

I was delighted. And a little... just  tad... disappointed that she didn't need me to tell her my great ideas. She didn't need my compass - hers was working fine. 

That is the tricky thing about helping people find their own strength - adapting to when they need your strength and when they are best served by you backing off and applauding theirs.

I actually couldn't find anything in Layla's plan to improve. I might not have told her if I had - because a pretty good plan that she created herself trumps a great plan that I created for her.

She worked her own plan and ended the day with a sense of empowerment. 

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They're Lying to You

datesDr. Gregory House on the show House used to say "everybody lies."

Bob's main mentor says that too. Dr. Loomis stood in front of a seminar of docs and told his volunteer that despite her protests, he knew she was eating sugar. His exam wasn't lying, she was.

Loomis went through a long list of ways she might be getting sugar. Was she eating this? Was she eating that? Was she eating some other thing?

No, no, no.

Was she eating dates?

Why yes, she was. And what are dates a big source of? SUGAR!

Busted. Now she can heal.

"There you go," the doc told the audience. "Everybody lies." Dr. Loomis found that out years before when a client who had seen him for years told him she ate a pure diet and her symptoms had to be environmental. After many years of this, she came to see him with a friend who told Dr. Loomis: "She's lying to you when she says she doesn't eat junk. She does when she gets stressed." 

Busted. Now she can heal.


"You're getting sugar from somewhere," Bob told his client. "Something is feeding  your candida." 

Bob's client insisted she wasn't eating sugar. But then she relented. "Do cookies on weekends count? They're from Whole Foods and they're natural."

Yes, cookies on weekends count.  Bob's client was busted. Now she can heal.

We all can heal once we stop lying to ourselves about ways we sabotage ourselves. We might play mind games with ourselves that we can cheat here and fib there. But guess what! The laws of cause and effect don't bend because we think they should. Candida feeds on sugar on weekends too. Failure feeds on trickery on weekends too. Every attempt to go cheap, every little lie comes back to bite us. That's why the only way out is through being as truthful as we know how to be - about every little thing. 

Man - those dates look good! You might be able to handle them, but after years of kidding myself I know I can't. I'll have somethng else. 

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The Necessary Luxury of More Than Enough Time

Space together"I have five more minutes. Can you get right to the point?"

Sometimes you need to focus your conversations to make sure priorities get handled.

Other times, attempts to rush a conversation are counter-productive. You need to sink in, put your feet up on the wall and allow time for verbal processing, rambling and for the deeper truths to emerge.

There are some conversations that simply can't happen if you rush.

In my father's assisted-living home, often people don't give him time to speak. They miss the cues that he has something to say. They don't notice him clear his throat. They miss the special breath he takes when he reaches for words. They interject before he can begin, let alone make his point.

That's why I make a point of leaving spaces and allowing plenty of time in our conversations. Space for Grace.

There are times when I need to focus him and let him know I don't have much time. He doesn't seem to mind. I think he doesn't mind because he knows I will make enough time for him to express himself before long.

Like that, I don't mind being rushed when I know I will have room to speak reasonably soon.

Giving others room to speak their deeper truths or process isn't just a gift to them. It's a gift to you because there is gold in those words. It can be mixed with some dross - especially if communication has been blocked or rushed for a while. But keep giving room - not necessarily every conversation, but often enough to avoid a backlog - and you will find yourself enjoying a beauty you would have missed had you not indulged in the luxury of more than enough time. 

My dad is an amazing man. I am one of the few people who know how amazing he is because I wait while he clears his throat, takes a breath and gathers his thoughts by rambling a bit. 

I am amazing too. My friends who allow me time know that. I also have amazing friends and colleagues. I know that when I allow more than enough time.

Space for Grace. Leave enough room and you discover the beauty in your midst. 

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OPM - Other People's Magic

closet 300I was dialing it down for bed when my friend Renee called. She was full of energy. As much as I value letting things settle at night, I also enjoy my conversations with Renee, so I welcomed her call.

She was excited about a book she was reading - The Life Changing Magic of Tidying. She thought I'd be interested since purging and ordering and fixing and creating flow has been a main focus for me for over two years. Renee also knows that the model I work with is influenced by lean manufacturing which has Japanese roots, as does the book that had Renee swinging from the rafters.

I was a bit skeptical because I've been at this a long time and my methods are honed and personalized. I rarely get much from best-selling books. 

But her enthusiasm got my attention, and I checked it out.

I read the Amazon reviews and was fascinated to see that what most people object to is the very thing that we like - the animism. Something about considering how your socks feel stretched out in a wad appeals to us both.

From the beginning of my in-depth reordering, I felt like I was freeing spirit from matter when I tidied. I felt like I was in relationship with the soul of each item I owned. I love that experience. 

Is it true? Who knows. What I do know is that perspective is very effective for many people - including me. I was at a bit of a stuck point when I read the book, and while there are some things I take issue with, the book jump-started a powerful surge that has my world in a level of beauty and order I didn't know I could actually achieve. 

More later - much more. But the main point here is this: even if someone's method makes no sense to you, if it works, think twice before you condemn it. You might be inspired by OPM - Other People's Magic.


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Sorta Sorry - Brian Williams' Apology

Brian Williams ORI'm not particularly a fan of the former news anchor Brian Williams, nor do I dislike him. I was curous about how being suspended for misrepresenting facts changed him. Often, that kind of fall from grace transforms people. 

Williams apologized... sort of. He started by saying "I'm sorry." That sounds more genuine than "I apologize." But the next part blew it for me. He said,

- I'm sorry for what happened.


  • I'm sorry for what I did.

It sounds to me like Williams hasn't quite taken accountability. He seems sorta sorry to my ear and heart. 

Have you ever been asked to accept a semi-sincere sounding apology?

Have you ever given a semi-sincere apology?

One of the biggest temptations in apologizing is justifying behavior. As I look back over the years, there are hundreds of people I would love to apologize to because I have become more conscious and therefore more aware of how unconscious I was. I also understand the constraints and lack of skills I was living with. If I had the opportunity to apologize I would be tempted to explain and justify.

I would be tempted to try to make them understand where I was coming from.

I would resist that temptation. I would simply say:

  • I'm sorry for what I did. 

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Sweetly Reversing Roles with Aging Parents

"Dad, do you want me to read to you?"

I was hesitant to ask because generally parents read to children, not the other way around. But he quickly accepted my offer. His eyes are degenerating and it's harder and harder for him to read for himself, even with all his visual aids. We have come full circle and our roles have reversed in many ways, even though he is still brilliant. 

We started by reading a book about Asperger's by Temple Grandin. When he asked about what's going on in the news, I started reading news summaries. Then I picked a book off his shelf - Stephen Hawking "The Grand Design." Neither one understands it, but both of us enjoy it anyway.

Now that I'm home, I call with news summaries almost daily. Last night I read a story from our local paper to him that I wasn't sure I'd be able to finish without choking up. It's about a man who forgave the woman who killed his son and cost him a leg in a car accident. She was speeding and swerved off the road. Her car hit them on the sidewalk. The father offered the offender his support at the sentencing, and the offender's family supported the father in his situation by fundraising. If you need a good cry, this is it. The video is touching and inspiring as well. 

Father of accident victim 2

If you need a good way to connect with an aging parent, try reading to them. Feel-good, inspirational stories, news or quantum physics - all can be great ways to adapt to the changes in life. I even read a section from a book on tidying that I'm enjoying. It got a great conversation going about his childhood. 


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A Great Man

DSC 4416We fixed his magnifying glasses. "Do they work okay?" I asked my father. "Yes," he said, "but my eyes have deteriorated enough that it's too difficult to read even with them."

"That's really sad," I told  him.

"It is," he said, "but they served me well for many years."

What an attitude! We worked hard to keep him able to read and work. Now, at 95, he seems to have made peace with his limitations. We should all be as blessed as he is.

"Your father is a great man." I have heard that repeatedly throughout my life. It is true. We should all be as blessed as I am. 

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Please copy, quote, distribute, share and publish these articles with the following credits.

©2015 Meryl Runion Rose. Meryl is a Certified Speaking Professional and the Creator of the SpeakStrong Method of Dynamically Effective Communication. Find her at www.SpeakStrong.com

Let me know how you use them. Thanks!  

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