SpeakSTRONG Newsletter December 22, 2010

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Issue #2
(Formerly “A PowerPhrase a Week”)

December 22, 2010

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SpeakSTRONG Newsletter
by Meryl Runion, Creator of the SpeakSTRONG Method

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The SpeakSTRONG Method




Meryl Runion, Creator of the SpeakSTRONG Method



Woman giftHooray! The days are getting longer again! No matter how any of us celebrate the holidays, we share that experience. Even so, we each have our own relationship to the season. For example, I just received an invitation to a potluck dinner celebrating the longest night of the year. I thought it was the shortest day!

I love to ask people:

  • What makes the holidays special for you?

Eyes light up when people answer.

So how about it? What makes the holidays special for you? What makes your eyes light up and your heart soar? What traditions add sweetness, what memories bring joy, sorrow or deepenings?

One of my friends and her husband don’t give each other big gifts but leave little things stashed – like a duckie for the hot tub in the freezer. I’d love to hear what you do. 



First in a free webinar series web-logo
Jan 6 at 11 MST, 1 EST

Could 2011 be the year for you to become a transformational communicator?

Effective communication skills are essential to success and well-being. Transformational communication skills take effective communication to the next level of dynamism and grace. 

“A New Year a New You: How to give yourself a communication makeover in 2011” will give you the vision and the tools to create an action plan that will take you beyond even effective communication skill into transformational communication. Join us. 


PowerPhrase IconI love using the phrase:

  • You’re right

…for three reasons. 1) People love to hear it. 2) It defuses conflict quickly. 3) It forces me to figure out what IS right about what they’re saying.

There is almost always some important message for me in what others say, and often more than I realize at first. Discovering that is very good for communication.

I’m not saying they’re right about everything. I’m not saying I’m wrong about everything. I’m just letting them know that I can see some value in their point. If I can’t say “you’re right” sincerely, then I modify it by saying,

  • You may be right.

Read my responses to communication questions below (link here and here) to see how I recommend using it.



question_smREADER COMMUNICATION QUESTION: Meryl, my manager and I exchanged several emails about budgets for an event. Then he asked me to research hotel prices in the area, which I did. I cc’d a contractor on the hotel information, forgetting that the budget discussion was in the email trail. My manager replied saying, “We don’t send budget information to our contractors.” I fired back, “Oops. I missed that. Sorry!” He emailed back, “‘Oops’ is not an appropriate response.”

I responded by noting that I had apologized, and that I had forgotten about the email trail, and if there was a better reply, would he please inform me. How else could I have replied?

MERYL RESPONDS: His response sounds scolding and parental, and the natural reaction to accusation is to get defensive. What if you avoided reacting? What if you started by telling him he was right instead? What could you have sincerely followed that up with?

If I were the manager, unless it was a huge error or you had a history of doing this, “oops” would be appropriate. For him it wasn’t. He needed something else. You might have said,

  • You’re right. Oops might suggest that I don’t take what happened seriously. I do. I regret my error and it won’t happen again.

That is true and doesn’t require you to drink the poisoned indication that you did something universally inappropriate. If you respond this way over a period of time and he still sounds scolding I’d suggest addressing the tone, but for now, you both would do well to cut each other some slack. I suggest you take the lead on doing that.



questionREADER COMMUNICATION QUESTION: Meryl, would you recommend an appropriate response for me regarding “misconstruing” a tone of voice?  After coming come from my job one evening, I asked my husband if he had a moment so I could show him something.  He’d been watching TV and I was interrupting.  He replied in a nasty tone: “What is it?”

I said in what I am sure was a neutral tone, “I don’t appreciate your tone of voice.  Let’s talk when you can spare a moment.” He said, “Don’t start with me.” I said:  “I’m not starting anything.  You started being rude”.

He said:  “You’re the one with the problem. You misconstrued my tone”.

BUT, he immediately jumped up from the sofa and came to see what I had to show him.

As you may have guessed, our communication history does not follow your positive guidelines.  His constant retort when I assertively say, without blame, “I feel ____ when you ____” is:  “That’s your problem!”.

MERYL RESPONDS: Did his tone express irritation? I don’t know. But what if instead of insisting he started it by being rude, you said,

  • You’re right. I did take your tone to be nasty.

What if, when he said “don’t start with me,” you said,

  • You’re right – I don’t want us to fight.

What if, when he told you you’re the one with the problem, you said,

  • You’re right, and I’m asking for your support in dealing with it. Here’s what I’d like… Could you do that for me?

What if you refused to get adversarial with this man whom you chose to spend your life with? If you got over any sense of needing to respond in kind when you don’t like his tone, and to win – unless it’s to win by being the first to get to the heart. If you did that, I think you’d bring out the best in him, and that would be a real win for you.

Send your communication questions to: Ask Meryl


I’ve stopped working with some generally competent and likeable people because wecheck couldn’t get past Barrier #1 to effective communication skills: guessing when we could be asking.

I think of one fellow who told me a week after I sent him a PowerPoint mock-up of what I wanted that he couldn’t open the file. That’s why what he delivered didn’t match what I wanted. Um, now he tells me? Okay, I’ve done things like that, too. 

I establish a policy with some of my associates of asking each other three questions about every task, even if we think it’s clear. Amazingly, we almost always uncover some assumption. It helps establish the habit. 

Just ask. It’s pretty simple. And yet, since we don’t know what we don’t know, it can be hard. But it’s not as hard as ending a valued work association because we never quite got aligned with each other. 



Follow my new SpeakSTRONG twitter feed, with a tip a day. My MerylRunion twitter feed will continue with a variety of posts

And visit my new Facebook page where you can take the pledge to say what you mean and mean what you say without being mean when you say it. I post there about the 52 skills for Speaking STRONG as detailed in my SpeakSTRONG book. 


Have a fabulous holiday. I hope we can embrace the new year together. It’s going to be an empowered one. I’m grateful to all of you who took the time to read this far down!

© 2010 · Meryl Runion and SpeakStrong, Inc · All Rights Reserved

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