March 2012

Deprecated: preg_replace(): Passing null to parameter #3 ($subject) of type array|string is deprecated in /home/speakstr/public_html/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1744

PowerPhrase: That’s what makes you human

powerphrase_icon2She had to put her dog down, and it tore her up inside. “I feel like a murderer!” she said. He replied,

  • That’s what make you human. Something would be wrong if you didn’t.  


Something was very right with the way he shared his compassion. 

Some specifics stir creativity. too much stifle it.

party_boxWhenever I delegate I wonder – how specific should I be? I want to offer enough guidance to get people on the right track, but not so much that I limit their thinking. People need some input to spark creativity, but too much stifles it. I like to see what people come up with on their own, but if I don’t give them anything to go on, they often don’t know how to start. 

My assistant Angela and I faced this dilemma when we wanted to give people an idea of what to wear to an event she’s helping me plan. She told me about a couple who sent out pictures of "maybe not" and "maybe so" clothing choices. 

We found some "maybe not" photos, but I was a bit concerned that by posting pics of "maybe so’s," we’d limit individual creativity. So instead we posted a picture that represents the event theme.

Here’s the picture. It gives the idea of the theme with plenty of room for interpretation, which is what we wanted. We can’t wait to see what people decide to wear! 

Create an experience

peacockSteve Jobs was a master at it. Little London Bakery does it. I did it yesterday. It’s essential for effective communication skills.

What am I referring to?

Giving an experience. 

Jobs’ presentations were events. Powerful, emotional and tangible events.

Cake tasting at Little London was a happening. A delicious, compelling happening.

How do you like the picture of the peacock cupcake? It conveys an experience, don’t you think?

And yesterday I had my assistant up to immerse her in the color and design and festive feel of an event she is helping me plan. I had told her how plans had evolved, but she needed an experience. I created one for her.

Stories create an experience. Sharing your own experience from the heart creates an experience. Sounds, pictures, taste, touch and smell create experiences. Involvement deepens experience. The right words can invite involvement and promote experience.

One event planner I’m working with created an experience by walking through the site with me, displaying some sample decorative pieces. It made her ideas more tangible. 

She has yet to give an experience of the menu. It’s a bunch of names of foods without pictures or descriptions. She missed an opportunity there, but the converstion isn’t over yet. 

Sometimes Speaking Strong is about giving experiences. Other times, it’s asking for them. I did. I asked for specifics. I’m sure she won’t disappoint. 

Cross-pollinating ideas

powerphrase_icon2I thought he said it well, when Mike prefaced a conversation by explaining:

  • I’ll share my thoughts so they can cross-pollinate with yours.

Another friend refers to ideas copulating – Mike’s term is less distracting and every bit as clear.

It helps to know what someone hopes you’ll do with what they say. In Mike’s case, he was speaking with the intention of inspiring new ideas that belong to us both. And that’s what happened.

The awe of a gracious heart

It was one of the biggest events in his life, and she was one of his dearest friends. That’s why he was disappointed to learn that she wouldn’t be attending, and even more disappointed that the reason she gave seemed pretty lame.

The next day, his disappointment was gone. He had found himself reflecting on how generous she had been over the years and how much he appreciated her past support. 

“She gets a pass,” he told me, and he meant it. “She’s a bit like a cat. You appreciate her in her own nature.”

As for me, well, I was deeply touched by his genuine appreciation for her despite her having let him down. I find myself basking in awe of his gracious heart. What a gift.

Her request of me was a gift to me

exec-adminShe wanted to attend the upcoming Executive Admin training and needed more information to convince her CEO that it was worth the investment and two days away. So she called me to ask for specific information about how former attendees put the information into practice.

I had a very full schedule, so researching her questions was a challenge. But I wanted to help her get approval, so I contacted two of the more articulate attendees from the last Admin training I provided.

Their responses blew me away. I was thrilled to discover how useful they found the training and how they applied the information. I felt warm and fuzzy about it all day.

I’ll post a letter one of the former attendees wrote tomorrow. Tonight I just want to note what a blessing the “imposition” of the request turned out to be. I am grateful. Her request was a gift to me.

Teach less, remind more

Last week my eye doctor told me I had dry eyes. Suddenly things clicked in. I was reminded of how drying the weather has been. If my eyes are dry, my whole system is. And I was reminded of how dryness affects my productivity, mood, vitality, optimism and overall well-being.

I knew what to do about it. I just needed to be reminded. My world improved in the 36 hours it took for my methods to kick in.

My friend Sherry told me about a quote she liked about how we need less teaching and more reminding. I find that perspective helpful. I don’t give advice much to my friends, but I do remind them of things they know, but may have forgotten. And they do the same for me. It seems more respectful of each other.

Have you shopped your own closet?

shop-closet-smallI enjoy shopping and have too much stuff. So when I am tempted to shop more, I ask myself,

  • Have you shopped your own closet?

It’s a wonderful reminder to tap into my existing resources.

If I were a decorator, I’d be a RE-decorator. I’d be one of those people who help others repurpose what they already have to create beauty in their homes. Of course, I’d miss out on those wonderful commissions on new furniture and decor items, but the satisfaction would be great. I feel it when I transform my own home without spending a dime.

Shopping your own closet can be a metaphor for any approach to using existing resources. I asked Angela to help me get started on a proposal. She shopped my closet – things I wrote before – and reminded me of what I already have.

Here’s another kind of personal closet shopping. My eye doctor told me I had dry eyes, so I shopped my own closet of ways to address dryness – not just in my eyes, but system-wide. Not only are my eyes moist again, but my moods, which had been volatile, are steady and sweet, too. I had everything I needed to find balance.

Before you go out, go in and see what resources you have. Ask yourself:

  • Have you shopped your own closet?

Of course, it helps if your closet is in order. Some of us are too busy shopping the stores to take the time to organize our own closets (metaphorical and otherwise) to be shopable.  

To understand all is to forgive all

Covey is credited with the quote "to understand all is to forgive all." So are scores of other people. Whoever said it, it’s wisdom. I’d take it another step and say that to understand all reveals hidden beauty. 

cropped-AAUWAnd that’s what we strive to uncover in my intergenerational presentation.

I can list facts and figures about the generations, but the best understanding comes from conversation. That’s why I spend more time guiding groups to create questions to ask each other. Of course, some of the questions need editing… like "why are you so cheap?"

Once we have our questions, we talk to each other about our worldviews, the influences in our lives that help to shape who we are, and what we would like other generations to know about us.

Last week, my intergenerational communication presentation at American Association of University Women concluded with some very touching ways members of different generations admired each other. The question I had posed was, 

  • In what ways would you like to be more like the members of the younger/older generation?

The responses might not have been as precise or universal as survey results aggregated into a listing of facts and figures might be. But they were far more moving. 

I don’t know what I was saying when my host snapped this picture, but it looks like I was enjoying saying it. 

Persuasion, manipulation or trust?

My friend thought it was a brilliant display of leadership. I thought it was manipulation. My friend thought it was a remarkable show of trust. I thought it was a disappointing violation of trust.

Here’s what happend. A pastor spoke about a charity he was supporting, and when everyone was expecting to get hit up for contributions, he handed out envelopes with cash instead. Between $20 and $150 in each. And he challenged the parishioners to use the cash to make more money for the cause.

He was using the persuasion principle of reciprocity. It’s a well-known principle of persuasion. When people receive something, they want to give back.

But if you give something wth an expectation of getting, it’s not really a gift. I believe in the principle of reciprocity, but not as a direct transaction. When someone freely gives to me, I feel a desire to give back. But when someone gives to me with an expectation, I feel worked. 

Now, if there is plenty of room to decline, it’s another story. But when the gift is unsolicited and the agreement is assumed, I don’t care how worthwhile the charity is. It’s manipulation. Giving to get always is.