"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?

Greeting Card Metamessages

Fruh 300You can tell a lot about people from their holiday greetings. There's the message, and the often unintended metamessage. 

My friend "Bee" sends out slideshows set to lovely music with pictures of angels, spiritual teachers and stunning nature scenes. I have never seen a picture of her new home or her boyfriend. In that way, her greetings are impersonal. I do see and delight in her spirit through these shows. I get the metamessage.

My friend "Dee" sends out pictures of her family - twenty people I've never met. I don't know much about her spiritual nature. I enjoy seeing pictures of the people who mean so much to her. I get the metamessage.

My friend "Gina" sends out cards with pictures of her animals. They're cute enough, and the animals "write" her message. The message shares a lot about who she is, and so does the way she delivers it. I get the metamessage.

My CPA David sent this picture last Christmas. I love it. It tells many stories through many symbols - the cows, the hats, the crutches and the Colorado sweatshirt. Did I miss any symbols? The symbols tell me he is a family man, he is playful, he got injured and is creative. Did I miss anything? 

You can also tell a lot about people from when their greetings arrive. Some clearly had the family photos taken early and got their Christmas greetings out in a timely fashion. Others send out more of New Year's updates - right on time or late. Some don't send greetings at all.

You also can tell a lot about people from when they post about holiday greetings to their blogs. I have been imagining this post since I got David's card. Here it is, late February, and I'm just now posting. What does that tell you? What's the metamessage?

It could say I'm not organized well. It could say I'm free from convention. How about you tell me?

Do you remember any greeting cards that told you a lot about the senders?

And how can that metamessage help you connect with those people in meaningful ways... all year long?

I go see my CPA tomorrow and I have a few ideas based on this photo. 

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"I Know the Words are in There Somewhere"

Confident 200"Do you have any thoughts about that slide?" I asked Reba.  Ann and I had done most of the talking as we scrolled through the PowerPoint. I wanted to get a sense of how Reba was relating to the material.

"I do," Reba replied, "But I don't have words for it." Reba continued by talking about what she heard us saying and how it applied to her own life. Reba's words were clear and insightful.

"You've didn't have words, yet what you said was powerful," I noted.

Reba responded, "I didn't have words, but when I started talking, they came out. I can't do that with everyone. But I know the words are in there somewhere and I find them by talking."

She sure does. Reba can't do that with everyone, and I say the people she can't do that with probably don't know what they're missing. 

Do you have people you can talk with without knowing what you're going to say? Do you ever know the words are in there somewhere and want to be able to find them out-loud in good company? 

It might be worth the risk to just start taking and find out. 

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The Gold in the Fog of Confusion

Luaan explain

I didn't know why "Rae," my former coaching client, wanted to speak. I didn't ask. Sometimes it's important to clarify an agenda, and sometimes it's valuable to just let things unfold. We let them unfold.

About ten minutes into our discussion, Rae asked me a big question. I imagine she anticipated a clear, concrete and "teacherly"  response to her inquiry, but I didn't have one. I started talking, not knowing what I might say. My response was abstract and vague. Rae's comments to me were also abstract and vague as she tried to make sense of what I had told her.

I shifted the discussion to how we were both talking on the edge of our conscious awareness. We were discovering what we knew by grappling and grasping for words to express our deeper perceptions.

That observation was me coaching real-time...pointing out the immediate dynamic of our conversation.

We returned to Rae's question. Gradually our points became more concrete. We concluded with some real gems.

We all know more than we can say. We can discover what we know by trying to communicate what we know. Rae and I both consciously know more and can express more now than we could before our conversation. We evolved because we were willing to go into our confusion and sift and sort our ideas together. We could not have done that if one of us was too concerned with impressing the other with our brilliance. 

That's why collaboration is so valuable. We each have pieces of the whole. When we fumble to share what we know despite its incompleteness, we have discoveries like, "Oh - I didn't k now I knew that!"

Like yesterday, when Angela and I were talking about her history, and she prefaced a point with "I never thought of this until now." 

When we share what we know in its incompleteness, we can figure it out together. After I drafted this post, I opened the comics and discovered the above strip. That is what Rae and I and Angela and I were doing. Writer Greg Evans gets it. 

 

Too often we try to make things "certain" and concrete before we are willing to express ideas. Don't settle for the fool's gold of pat, pre-digested ideas. Go into the fog and fumble forward until you find the real thing. 

How willing are you to let things be foggy on the road to clarity? 

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I Fought the Cowlick and the Cowlick Won

Meryl SteinunnI got my hair cut too short.  It was harder than ever to get it to do anything that looks like anything. It grows in odd directions. And the right side - it just likes to stick out. I tried to tame it. I tried to leverage it so it looks like I want it to do what it does. No luck. It just does what it wants out of step with the rest of my hair. It's a stubborn cowlick that won't cooperate. 

Nothing new in that. When I look at old pictures of myself, I see the exact same quirk. That's me on the right - the only "Icelander" who isn't blonde. 

If you can't change something and you can't adapt to something, your option is to accept it. I've been shifting and fixing and repatterning and remodeling myself and my life and I am enjoying many benefits. But my cowlick keeps me humble. I suppose that's a good thing. Part of learning to love myself is learning to love my quirks.

What quirks do you have that you've learned to accept? What "cowlicks" keep you humble?

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One Person's Native Tongue is Another's Babel

babel 300I couldn't understand anything my father said. Was he speaking his native tongue, Icelandic? I asked him, and he said, "no," but the fact that I understood everything he said after that makes me suspect he had been.

I don't speak Icelandic. I did know my father had had Icelandic visitors the day before.

Dad didn't notice he wasn't speaking English. Icelandic is still natural for him. His speaking Icelandic to me sounded weird. What might happen if he speaks Icelandic to an aide at his assisted living community? Would they know to ask him to switch to a language they can understand?

We all have our own languages, and it's not always as obvious as someone speaking Icelandic when you expect English. I tend to speak metaphorically. People who are more concrete in their thinking and speaking sometimes have little clue what I'm saying. It frustrates me to have to translate, but life gets easier the more I've learned to.

Sometimes my husband will ask, "Are you speaking metaphorically?"  When he does, I know to bring my focus and words down to earth. I know to get more concrete in my wording. Other times I read the baffled look on his face and shift.

What "languages" do you speak that others don't understand? What words have meaning to you that are
"babel" to others? How can you know when to switch, and have you learned what languages you have in common?

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This Again?

"Bee" has an incredibly generous spirit.  It's a beautiful quality - which she needs to reign in, lest she over-give. Currently, she's coming to terms with how much over-giving she has done lately. She is mad and frustrated with herself that after all her efforts to find balance, she has set herself up to be on the short end, yet again.

This again? I relate. I haven't been over-giving lately, but yet again, I do find myself in old behaviors that don't serve me. I also catch myself getting frustrated with, critical of, and mad at my myself for still practicing an old pattern that I had hoped to have outgrown by now.

The SpeakStrong Method uses the "This Again?" recognition as an opportunity. When I coach, I watch for situations where some part of my Community Member (CM) is at odds with themselves. We personify the aspects of self and get them talking. So, Bee's over-giver and her critic get a conversation going.

It's amazing what a difference that can make in external conversations. If you ever get mixed messages from someone, you can be pretty sure they're sending mixed messages to themselves. There are parts of themselves that aren't communicating. When we personify and express our inner dynamics, the outer dynamics get clear. It's a powerful technique that helps us speak in a unified voice, which is a strong voice. I use it with myself regularly.

Bee is frustrated with herself. That tells me she's ready to get conscious and transform a life-long pattern. It takes time, but it's so worth it. Her generous spirit is one of her finest qualities. As her inner critic gets the right tools to balance her excesses, amazing things happen. 

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A Meaningfully Meaningless Conversation

venusAll bubbles must burst. All things must pass. If I didn't understand what was happening, I would find Bob's conversation about it tedious.

Yes, Peyton Manning lost his game and football season is over for the Broncos.

Bob is emotionally involved. However, he would be the first to admit that his football team is an outlet for him to experience, deal with and make peace with Mars - his warrior nature. He used to be a martial artist. Now his relationship to aggression is lived and evolves through the Broncos. And that's perfect.

I have my own areas where something external seems to have too much credence unless you recognize the symbolic nature of the focus. I express my relationship to Venus - or to beauty - through my appreciation of beautiful clothes. I don't need to pick the right outfit to hike the trails, but I enjoy doing that.

Is there an area in your life that seems bigger than seemingly warranted? Does someone in your life seem overly focused on something that seems minor to you?

What might the deeper meaning be? Answer that question, and the conversation has meaning. The tedium disappears. 

Well, it lessens, anyway. 

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Words to Speak the Deepest Truth

parent pic 2When my amazing sister Kris and I reviewed the draft of Mom's obituary, we noted that it sounded boilerplate. Beloved wife, devoted mother, loving grandmother: it sounded like the funeral director who drafted it just filled in the blanks with our info. Which is probably exactly what she did. We didn't mind. All these things were true, and it served the purpose of letting people know Mom was gone. We made a minor change and approved it.

The memorial was another story. That had to be personal. And it was.

I stayed away from Facebook. The experience felt too tender to share and yet, too precious not to. I've been waiting for the right words to come to me. They finally have.

It's an honor to be a part of someone's life and an even greater honor to be a part of their passing.
It's a blessing when the person who is transitioning is ready, and faces their demise with courage and even humor.
It's inspiring when each stage of decline is lived consciously in a way that leaves no regrets.
It's a gift when the loss of one family member brings the family together in new ways, deepening their love.
It's heartening when the surviving spouse settles into his new life so authentically that it leaves you in respectful awe.

My Step Mom, Harriet Jonsson, passed away December 19th 2014. I was honored, blessed, inspired, gifted and heartened. It was a grace-filled and transformational experience for all of us.

We know Mom is resting in peace because that is how she passed.

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A Woman with a Walker and a Generous Heart

Woman walker 200I met Mary Ann in Renaissance Assisted Living a little over a year ago. She was new to the facility. She struck me as having a great attitude. She wasn't there by choice. She was grieving her home. Yet, she wasn't resisting her current fate. She told me, "I'll get used to it and this will feel like home soon enough."

I paid careful attention in part because at that time, my parents were also grieving their house and former independence. They were still resisting their new reality.

They did settle in eventually. I was touched by the sincere expressions of sadness people expressed over my Step Mom's passing. I was moved and heartened by the genuine caring I felt toward my father, both from staff and other residents. I also experienced an unexpected show of support toward me, from Mary Ann.

Mary Ann came in to the dining room, and shuffled over with her walker to my side of the table where I sat with Dad and Dave. She asked me, "How are you doing?" "I'm okay," I told her. "Well, if you need someone to talk with, call me," she told me. "Thanks! I appreciate that," I replied.

It was hard for me to explain that we were experiencing more joy and love than grief and loss. It was hard for me - and us - to convey to anyone who hadn't been through the whole journey together how much sweet tenderness and grace there was in this loss. It hadn't occurred to me that I might need support. It hadn't occurred to me that I might reach out to an assisted living resident to get support. I was surprised - and touched - by Mary Ann's offer. If I had felt the need to talk, or even just had more time free from my focus on Dad, I would have taken her up on it.  I wanted Mary Ann to know how deeply her offer affected me. 

When Dad and I got up to leave, I asked him to excuse me for just a moment. I went over to Mary Ann's table and touched my heart. I said, "Thank you. Your offer means the world to me." 

One of Mary Ann's table mates said, "Mary Ann has a beautiful heart."

"I figured that out about her right away," I replied. And I had. I just hadn't realized how confidently and generously she would share it. 

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Dad and the Two Daves

Breakfast 200I wanted to go to breakfast in the assisted living dining room with Dad the morning after Mom passed so I could answer the question, "How's Harriet." I didn't want Dad to have to tell people. I had broken the news at dinner the night before, and it was clear they hadn't been updated about Mom's decline. "When she went to skilled nursing, we all thought she'd get better and come back to us," one of the residents said.

There would be people at breakfast who hadn't been at dinner, and I thought it would be easier for Dad if I was there. It didn't work out that way. I slept in, and woke when Dad came back from breakfast. 

"How was it?" I asked. "It was great," he said, with a pleased look on his face. "The two Daves were there." 

Dad and Mom had eaten breakfast with two fellows named Dave for a while. Clearly, Dad was happy to eat with his buddies.

I joined Dad and The Two Daves for breakfast for the rest of my stay. One Dave speaks in a low fast voice that is tough for Dad to understand. He has trouble understanding Dad's Icelandic accent. The other speaks clearly, but has some cognitive impairment. Conversation is limited. And yet they enjoy their mornings, breaking bread together in quiet communion.

Over the remainder of my stay, I got the two Daves talking more. I rephrased what they said so Dad could understand. It was sweet and fun to get to know them, and Dad was pleased to learn things about them that he didn't know. 

It was nice while it lasted. I expect that when I left, the breakfast table got quieter. That's okay, There might be less conversation than there was while I was there, but there is every bit as much communion. 

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Moving Memories

Chairs 300There's always an emotional component to helping people declutter and organize, especially after loss. I was excited, but also nervous about how Dad would respond to my rearranging his living area. I did my best to be sensitive to him. After all, not only was I messing with his stuff, I was moving and removing many of the traces of Mom. 

I was excited for him to try out his reading chair now that I had put stable tables on both sides. Instead, he sat in another chair and just looked around. Then he stared off in space as if deep in thought. We spend a lot of time in silence together since Mom passed, so I thumbed through a magazine while I waited for him to comment. I started to wonder if my moving so much of Mom's stuff stirred emotion in him. I didn't think he needed a rock from each country they had visited on the coffee table (there were a lot of them), but they each hold memories. Had I moved some of Mom's memories before he was ready? I gave him several more minutes, and then asked, "What are you thinking?"

"I was thinking that our guests this morning wouldn't recognize the place if they came back. It's nice." 

I was glad I asked. Instead of guessing, I learned that he welcomed the change.

Dad knew how much change he was ready for. He noted that there were medicines, clothes and other items of Mom's in the rest of the apartment that would have to be disposed of bit by bit. "Would you like me to help you with that while I'm here?" I asked. "No," he told me. "Let's save that for another visit."

This is the first man I ever loved and the first man I ever feared. This is the man I strove to prove myself to and the man whose opinion of me I sought to free myself from. This is the man I yearned to share my soul with and would find myself speechless with.

Eventually I did prove myself to him: this man read my books and savored them and learned from them and practiced my methods. Now, this man and I sit comfortably together in silence and speak freely about sensitive issues like moving memories. 

We did it. We made it through one of life's most stressful events with our hearts wide open. 

Dad got up and walked over to his reading chair. He tried out his new setup. Yes. The changes suited him. 

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Dad and My Masterless Plan

Living RoomLean Manufacturing arranges things according to the point of use and flow. I continually "lean out" my own home so our various processes/activities flow. I wanted to streamline my Dad's living area now that he lives there alone. With his limited mobility and vision, placement matters a lot. 

"What's the master plan?" Dad asked me.

Those are words that send chills to an interators' spine. They imply that one should anticipate every step before beginning a project. Once upon a time, I would respond to words like that by faking it. I have learned to stand up for my one-step-at-a-time iterative process. I told him:

"I'll start by getting that big table out of here and then see what works. My desire is to give you easy access to the things you need when you're in your chair. I want you to have stable surfaces to put things on when you sit. I want to get rid of obstructions and to clear a path to the light switch for the overhead lights. If you don't like anything I do, I'll put it back for you."

He was good with that. He left to make his bed and take his meds. 

I had waited until late in my visit to initiate the changes. I had watched how he operated and knew what worked for him and what didn't. Now that Mom is gone and he lives there alone, it just made sense to set it up for his low-vision convenience. He had expensive magnifying glasses that broke because he dropped them - because he didn't have a good surface to put them on. He needed a lap desk to work on. He needed to be able to reach the lights. I wanted to make it right for him. 

I was almost complete when Dad returned. I expected some resistance when he saw it. I got nothing but appreciation. I think his words were something like, "Wow."

And I did it without a master plan.

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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

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