"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?

That Girl Can Talk, But Can She Listen?

I've had a lot of conversations in the past months with people about their tendency to dominate conversations.  Most have gone well - but the latest one didn't quite work out as I had hoped.

I get frustrated when people finish my sentences for me, interrupt and/or talk over me, often assuming they know what I am trying to say. (Trying is the operative word here since they don't let me finish.) Addressing it hasn't always been easy or fun, but, to the credit of the would-be-dominators, I am now able to enjoy the company of several people instead of being frustrated in their company or distancing myself. Occasionally I hear of someone else who experiences the dynamic that I have worked through with them.

Saturday was a different story.

"Abby" was interested and excited about doing work for me. She had everything I needed - the skills, the enthusiasm, the interest. Except there was one problem. When we spoke on the phone, she interrupted me several times, took the conversation in directions and details that didn't serve the point, and basically dominated the conversation.

There was no space for grace.

There were several things I intended to say that I didn't because Abby was doing a lot more talking than listening. I considered saying something about it on the phone, but decided to wait until we met. 

When I got off the phone, I told my husband, "I will not have one more tangential person in my life." If it was going to work, Abby and I needed to find a better communication balance.

I mentioned the issue to the gal who referred Abby. Yes, she noted, sometimes when Abby called she would put the phone down and do other things and Abby didn't notice. In fact, she had just done that for an hour.

That wasn't going to work for me.

So I told Abby that we needed to work that out if we were going to be able to work together. Abby launched into a long and detailed explanation of what had happened the day we spoke that made her nervous and chatty. I felt that sinking feeling I get when I sense I'm being led down a rabbit hole. I told Abby those were the kind of details that I found distracting and off point. Abby seemed to understand, and after that, she only interrupted me once. Abby left all smiles and reportedly eager to start. 

Two hours later I discovered a message on my answering machine. Abby wasn't going to be able to work for me after all. She was very reluctant to speak with me when I returned her call. She said I put out "uncomfortable energy" and she needed to be herself at work. 

On reflection, I can think of ways I could have said it better. That's always true.

Am I disappointed? Yes - and I'm also relieved. If someone being herself means talking and not listening, this isn't the place for her. I'm sure she has people who love her. I also know pretending to listen like the woman who referred Abby just doesn't work for me. Abby had everything I was looking for on a skill level. Just not on a communication level. 

Man, that girl can talk. But I discovered she isn't willing to listen. 

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PowerPhrase: No need to lie, no cover to blow

Womann lie 200Nadine is a professional in my husband's industry. She was interested in seeing what my husband does, so we invited her and her husband over for dinner. We were surprised when Nadine extended the invitation to our mutual friend Mike and his wife.

We love Mike and enjoy his wife, but having them there as a couple would change the whole intent of the evening. Mike understood that. He offered to call Nadine and tell her he had a conflict, and we would all get together for dinner at his house another day. Bob told Mike, 

  • No need to lie. I don't want to involve you in any duplicity.

Bob said he would call Nadine and let her know that we'd like to get together with Mike and his wife another time, and keep the focus more professional for this event.

I love it.

I said almost the exact same thing to a friend only two days before. I interviewed someone my neighbor referred to me, and the interviewee reacted to some feedback I gave her. While she left all smiles, telling me how excited she was and how eager she was to start work, she called later and left me a voice mail saying she couldn't do it after all because of other commitments. (More on that later.) I visited my friend to talk about it - and to get a hug. The interviewee texted my friend while I was there. "I'll just tell her I haven't talked to you yet," my friend told me. I replied,

  • Please don't lie. I have nothing to hide here. You are free to share anything I've said. 

More and more, I find that saying what I mean and meaning what I say without being mean when I say it is the best approach. I remember when I asked a woman I respect what I could say about something, because I didn't want to blow her cover. She replied, 

  • I have no cover to blow.

What a great way to live. Not always easy, but great. 

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Anti-social? Or reflective?

do not disturb sign 300"I'm feeling anti-social today," Layla explained.  Layla is going through challenging times. I understood and respected her need for space.

The next day, I asked Layla if she was still in an inward, reflective mood. She wasn't. She was ready to engage again. Extended retreats are wonderful at times, but currently, Layla's life is demanding clear, decisive action, so I was relieved to see her reemerge so quickly. 


The need for retreat, reflection and hearing one's own voice is not generally honored in our culture. We speak of introspection as if it's a weakness or a problem. We wouldn't accuse an extrovert (or someone in a social mood) of being anti-reflective. 

I try to align myself with my community members so that my presence supports their inner journey instead of distracts from it. That's why I often am invited in by people who are keeping the general world at bay. But even so, there are times when the "do not disturb" sign applies to me, too. 


Introverts of the world, let's unite and set the record straight about the need for retreat at times!

Or... maybe not. Perhaps it's better just to let the world turn without us on occasion. Maybe our challenge is simply to honor introspection in ourselves and put out our "do not disturb" signs when we are called inward.Please comment 600

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PowerPhrase: I asked myself what my resistance was, and...

I had invited "Elle" to dance with me several times. Normally, when I invite her to something, she gives me a clear yes or no. Dance was different. She would give vague and indefinite answers. Or she would just go silent.

I noticed a similar thing when she invited me to classes she likes. I would go silent rather than give a clear yes or no. So I told her that I would love to go to be with her, but the event itself wasn't top priority to me, and I wanted to focus on things that were. What I didn't say (but will) is to keep inviting me, because sometime I might decide I want to join her. 

Elle's response to my dance invitations felt odd enough that I was about to address them. But I didn't have to. Elle initiated the conversation herself. She said,

  • I asked myself what my resistance to dance is, and I realized that I feel nervous about going. 

I appreciate her directness and clarity.


I've done much the same thing around calling my parents. I asked myself, what is my resistance? I discovered that it seems to me they want news, and my life is simple and routine - on the outside at least. So I started looking for things to tell them. I'm not traveling the world these days - I don't have glamorous tales of outer adventures, but the crab apples getting ripe will have to do. 

I picked up the phone and called. They were happy to learn about the crab apples. 

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Innocence Lost in Cat-land

I've posted about our cat Cindi before, and about our morning ritual. It was such a sweet start to our day to sit on the floor brushing and adoring her while she danced and pranced around for us to admire her. We delighted in being with a critter we love and are excited to see. There was an innocence to the whole experience... until recently. Here's what happened. 

We discovered our cat loves liver. We started feeding our cat liver at the end of our morning ritual. It only took a few days for us to notice that the addition of liver changed the whole morning dynamic. Suddenly, Cindi seemed uninterested in being adored. She didn't seem so glad to see us anymore. Her parading about appeared mechanical. The morning ritual became all about... liver. 

Oh, she still goes through the motions. She'll rub against something, take her bows, lick her lips and look up to the counter where we keep her liver. Perhaps we're projecting, but it sure seems to us that she's saying, "Was that enough? Have I earned my liver? Is it time yet?"

Innocence has been lost in Cat-ville. Love was tainted by a goal.

Where have you experienced that before?

Have you ever had a job you loved that became a means to an end until the life got squeezed out of your labors?

Have you ever found that the big adrenaline quest has rendered you unable to enjoy simple sweetness? 

Has something that once was beautiful in its own right ever been turned into a means to an end, and you started going through the motions?

The liver is really good for Cindi. She is vibrant and healthy. We'll keep it as part of our morning routine. But we can't help but feel a bit of a loss for the way we used to begin our days. 

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PowerPhrase: I Won't Be Offended If...

I received some powerful responses to a recent blog post. I was focused on other priorities, so I let my community members know that I had received and appreciated the communication, and would reply when I had time and clarity to sink in to my response.

I think that kind of acknowledgement is courteous and it aligns expectations. Plus, I loved the replies, and looked forward to being able to reply. I wanted my readers to know that. 

Dee, one of my readers, replied to this email in a welcome and gracious way. She told me,

  • I don't reply to your posts just to get a response from you; I just like to reply! If you don't find the time to reply, I won't be offended.

Dee's clarity is freeing and welcome. And gracious. 

To my mind and heart, replies like the ones I received require a response, whether or not their authors do. 


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No Self-Betrayal Here...

Yesterday I coached a young woman in an animated way that was made possible by what she didn't do with my words.

She didn't globalize, demonize or black-and-white-ize. She heard my observations in proportion to the situation.

She didn't take my personal examples of my own struggles in similar situations as an excuse to care-take, teach or analyze me. She let me stay in the role as coach and kept her focus on how my words could help her move forward.

She didn't play victim. She heard my observations about unhealthy boundaries as an imperative to speak up decisively with those who are taking advantage of her goodwill, instead of an invitation to self-flagellate. 

She didn't put me on a pedestal and hang on every word as gospel. She used my observations as a tool to help her see the situation clearly for herself. 

Another way to put it is: she stayed conscious. That meant we were able to go deeply into her challenges and the resources and options available to her. We got a lot done in a short time. 


Earlier this week I posted about self-betrayal. People often betray themselves by getting on their own case about their flaws, quirks and foibles. Some of my readers did some of that after reading that post.

That's beating a dead horse. This young woman and I wouldn't have been having our conversation if she hadn't already outgrown the person she was who got her in her conundrum. Yes, it was helpful to see how cause-effect had created an untenable situation in her life. It's even more helpful to recognize and applaud the new eyes that are allowing us to see our folly and make new choices. 

I salute her for honoring herself (and me) rather than betraying herself. 


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When Was Your First Betrayal?

police badge 300When was your first betrayal? For me, it was when I was four years old. I was allowed to cross the street - one block in any direction. I crossed the street at my grandparents' in Providence Rhode Island to play with the kids there. The kids' father saw me and acted like I had committed a crime. He brought me back in disgrace, acting like he was some kind of hero. I felt sure my mom would stick up for me, but she didn't. She sat there with a silly grin on her face as he preached and proselytized. In my mind, I screamed, "One block in any direction!!! I'm allowed!" Outside I just cried.

It was a betrayal. The first I recall. Not the last. It was a betrayal where I learned to betray myself. It was a betrayal where I screamed inwardly and cried outwardly.

How many times and ways have I betrayed myself since?

When was the last time you betrayed yourself?

I was four years old at the time. Now I have many more options. We all do.

What does sticking up for yourself look like these days?


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The Backwards Apology

Sorry Corner Cry 200"I'm sorry!" Nancy exclaimed with a trembling voice.

Rose's heart sank just a little. "You have nothing to be sorry for," Rose tried to explain. "Things change and our working together is a learning process. We've outgrown how we did things, and I'd like us to work together to set a new direction that works for us both."

Try as Rose did to get Nancy on board with her intent, clearly Nancy had gone under. Nancy's "sorry's" kept her from being able to understand what Rose was aspiring toward. That's common in improvement efforts – people hear a desire to grow and improve as criticism of how things are.

Nancy kept being sorry, and Rose started to feel sorry that she had raised the issue. Not that staying silent had been an option.

Rose understood the tendency to collapse, go unconscious and default into apologies. She recalled one client who had missed an appointment.

"I came on time for the appointment, but the door was locked," the client complained.

Yes, just as she had told him it would be. Just as she told all her clients. The front door to the building stays locked and the back door remains open, so go in the back door and walk up the stairs. Bring my number with you in case you have any problems and I'll come down to greet you.

So why had Rose apologized to him as if she had committed some egregious error? Even as her "sorry's" came out of her mouth it felt backwards. If any "sorry's" were in order, he should be apologizing to her. In fact, he should be offering to pay her for the missed appointment. Yet, Rose continued to say how sorry she was, even as something inside her screamed in protest to her self-betrayal. 

That was many years ago. Now, as Nancy apologized when she had done no wrong, Rose was tempted to apologize for hurting her feelings. But she refrained. Nancy had nothing to apologize for, and neither did Rose. They might not get through it in this conversation. But it was time for a change, and Rose knew that could be a process. Her heart hurt as the conversation came to it's necessary close and Nancy told her, "I need to cry." It was hard to let it rest there. Yet Rose trusted that their mutual respect and love would get them through to a new level. Eventually.


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Rose bounded in to share her gratitude with Tony. She told him: "Holding someone while they have a release like you held me yesterday is kind of like holding them while they throw up." 
Tony smiled. "Yeah - and holding their hair back so it wouldn't get anything on it. Good metaphor."
"It's an act of love." Rose planted a kiss on Tony's cheek and meandered off to her next adventure. She called her friend Angie. 

"I'm reading a book I've had a long time," Angie told Rose. "It's called Feelings Buried Alive Never Die."
"Buried alive," Rose mused. "You never know what's in there until you let it out." For me, it's mostly energy these days, although I can work up a case sometimes."  

Rose revisited a CD she recorded 20 years before. One song, Inside, touched her now. You can hear it here. http://www.speakstrong.com/audio/06%20Inside.m4a

Here are the lyrics. 


Well, he slammed the door and stomped his feet,
Called her names I won't repeat.
He told her he would not be coming back.

He took the keys and took the car,
Drove off to a local bar
Where everyone could tell his mood was black.

On the inside his heart was breaking
From the beating it was taking.
Inside he could not stand the pain.

He felt alone, he felt neglected,
Undervalued and rejected,
Unappreciated and constrained.

She watched him leave and heaved a sigh,
Had a twenty hankie cry,
Then she poured her heart to a friend,

It hurt when her man wouldn't listen
When she told him what was missing.
He was way too easy to offend.

But on the inside she was filled with terror, 
Frightened she had made an error
Her body shook. Her face was almost white.

It scared her every time he'd shout.
It made her question. Made her doubt.
She lost her resolve when they would fight.

Well it scared him that her words were true. 
Frightened him how much she knew.
He was so afraid to be exposed.

It scared him he was in so deep.
He didn't know he'd made the leap.
He wasn't quite as free as he'd supposed.

On the inside he felt regret
That he had gotten so upset.
He was sorry for the things he said.

He told the people at the bar
He was a fool to go so far
Now he'd make the choice for love instead.

She wished that she had used more tact
Pointing out a painful fact.
She wish that she had tip-toed around his pride.

She wished that he had never flung
Harsh words with a biting tongue
When half the things she said weren't justified.

But on the inside her heart was open,
She heard a car and she was hoping
He would soon be walking through the door.

And there he was: his arms extended,
A hug. A kiss. Their hearts were mended
To live, love learn and fight again some more.

Through anger, sorrow, fear, regret - 
The heart forgives. The mind forgets,
And they'll live, love, learn and fight again some more.

copyright 2014, Meryl Runion Rose

Rose's life had never been quite as dramatic as the song implies. But the song did capture a powerful time in her life. Now, many years later, those dynamic energies were awakening in her again, but more as pure energy. Ready to be experienced on the Inside... and dynamically lived.

She had howled at the moon, and now she felt ready to take on the world.


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When Did You Stop...?

In earlier times, when someone came to the village elders with some kind of malaise, the wise women asked,

  • When did you stop dancing? When did you stop singing? When did you stop listening to the birds chirp and watching the butterflies flit about on the flowers? When did you stop playing?

I learned this from my wise woman friend. She just returned from camping. We were riding home from dance. My friend loved the hour of conversationless, unscripted, community movement. 

My variations of the village elder questions are,

  • When did you stop saying what you mean and meaning what you say without being mean when you say it?
  • When did you stop doing the things that make you whole?


  • When will you start doing them again?



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Alive Inside

Want to bring an elder back to life? Play music from a powerful time in their lives. There is a documentary called Alive Inside about that. Here's the trailer. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fVkrI1R0XjA

You don't have to be seriously diminished for this to have power for you. Bob and I (and our cat Cindi) danced through the house to the band Iron Butterfly's Inna Gadda Davida this morning. I don't mind at all that Bob bonded with his first wife to that band and song. This morning we shared the energy it awakens with each other. 

Energy is energy. I like it.

Revisit my previous post, Stir Ashes, Find Embers

No need to wait until the light is almost out to stir the embers. There is buried treasure everywhere in our lives if we can recognize it. 




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Article Use

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

©2014 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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