Success Stories

A Cool Way to Connect

danceNot how I wanted to connect

Bob offered to drive me to dance today and to sit in the car and read while waiting to take me home. It was a sweet offer, but dance enlivens my emotions and spirit, and riding back with someone who has spent the hour reading the latest nutritional research wasn’t how I wanted to connect. Nor did I want him to join the dance, because it doesn’t do much for him.

I have another idea

“What if we create a dance playlist of our favorite songs and dance alone here?” I asked. He agreed. 

I invited him to create a list of songs for each of the Five Rhythm categories: Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical and Stillness. He did. I added a few of my favorite songs, burned a CD and we set aside 50 minutes to move, stretch, wiggle, play, and dance with it.

When Bob dances the 5 Rhythms with the group it does nothing for him. I wondered if he would get into our self-created Bob and Meryl Playlist Wave. He was a bit wooden in the beginning, but after just a few minutes, he was grooving and moving. It was fun, fun, fun.

It was a great way to connect. He enjoyed sharing music he loves with me. It enlivened us both. 

When searching the Nirvana song Smells Like Teen Spirit (which I didn’t know since I missed the 80’s and early 90’s) I discovered Weird Al’s parody, Smells Like Nirvana. That was the highlight of our adventure.

Next week we will create a playlist of Beatles songs and dance to that. 

Shared creation

Had I created a playlist without Bob, I doubt it would have been anywhere close to as powerful as this was. He chose music that brings out his inner dancer. I knew it was in there somewhere!

How can you apply this approach in your shared activities? Where might you include others in the design and creation of your shared worlds?

It was an awesome and satisfying day. What a cool way to connect. 




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Gift Yourself with Great Habits

Hello everyone! Cassia here, with a story, PowerPhrases and a personal commitment.

Cassia 300I walked into my younger brother’s room and before I began my tirade I warned him I was about to put my foot down. Stomp! Stomp!

  • There! Now that I have your attention, listen up!

I began.

My brother has been putting off a very important test for over a year and only has a month to complete it. I started out by telling him how important it was, why he needed to make it a priority, and that he needed to stop making excuses.

This is where he interrupted me and said, “Relax, I still have a month to do it.”

I replied,

  • No! You have a week.

Slight bewilderment crossed his face and then I proceeded to explain,

  • If you keep saying, I have more time to do this, then you’ll never get to it. This is what I mean by putting this on high priority.

I continued,

  • Treat this test as one that is due in a week, not a month. Then you’ll see it as being urgent and you’ll do something about it. And another thing!

Then I yelled (yes – PowerPhrases can be yelled at times)

  • Pick a day, pick a time, pick a place and commit to studying. Don’t just say you’re going to get to it, schedule it. Do this for yourself. If you don’t, you and I both know you’ll regret it.

The next day, Meryl, Angela and I were talking together about the year-long Empowerments eLearning when Angela made a brilliant comment about making commitments to yourself. It fit in perfectly with my brother’s situation.

Getting things done is not just about others’ expectations of you; it’s about you and what you want to give to yourself. For my brother, this test is really important to him, whether he really realizes it yet or not. For me, one of my most recent commitments is to write first thing every morning. This will help me get a grasp of my voice, my dreams, and my hopes for the days to come. I’ll only benefit from it, so what’s stopping me? Only old habits. What’s empowering me? My new commitment. 

I planned it, I’m committing to it, then I’m gifting myself with a healthy habit and will reap the benefits.

What about you? What healthy habit will you gift yourself with? 

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Addressing a Dump and Run Communication Dynamic

Bob CindiSometimes Bob will run through everything he has to say to me without any room for a response, and start to walk off as he says his final words. I’ve mentioned it a few times, and he has had no awareness of it.

Last night when I called him from Baltimore, he asked about my presentation and then went into a run down of his day without leaving room for a response. I remembered something I had wanted to tell him and waited through three or four topic changes with no room to interject. When he started to close out, I stopped him and told him I had something I wanted to tell him. He told me his dinner had been waiting for twenty minutes; however, he did invite me to share my story with him.

The dynamic doesn’t feel good to me, but I knew I wanted to wait until I didn’t feel like complaining to talk with him about it. When I called him tonight, I explained how I experienced the conversation and suggested we figure out a way to keep that from happening.

And that’s what we did. 

Both lean principles and SpeakStrong principles say: “Talk about what you want more than what you don’t want.”
In other words, you need to fix the process, not the person, flip your complaints into requests, and take action to iterate your way to a new and better reality. 

And that is what we did.


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Reader Success Story: The Louder You Talk the Less I Hear

A reader submitted this amazing and deeply touching story to me. I was incredibly honored and moved to receive it and to be invited to share it.

Heart Family 300Dear Meryl, 

I am a single mother. My oldest son, Jason, was about 16 and whenever he would break one of the rules or get in some kind of trouble, I would lecture him, often in a loud voice. It was on one of these particular days when I was going on and on at him that he turned to me and said, in a calm and even voice,

    • Mama, the louder you talk to me, the less I hear you.

His words stopped me dead in my tracks, and as I replayed his statement over and over in my mind in the days that followed, I fully understood what he was saying. I immediately changed my way of speaking, not just to my son, but to anyone whom I felt was wrong in some way. Rather than yelling, I adjusted my tone and found that people responded much better to feedback when it was delivered in a kinder, gentler way that ended up having a much stronger impact.

Sadly, my son was killed two and one-half years ago, but our relationship flourished in the years preceding his death because of the advice he gave me that day. We were closer than ever before. I have used that advice with my other son, Joshua, who is now 17, and we are able to resolve our differences peacefully. I speak softly and he listens to what I have to say. Please share my story with other moms so that they, too, can speak softly enough for their children to really hear them


Powerful words from someone who learned just in time. The best PowerPhrases are ones like this… simple statements of truth. This young man’s words were an amazing gift that showed his mother how to respond rather than react to her children.

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Similarities Empower

Barbra teaches psychology in an elite college. This summer, she’s doing something different. She’s teaching poetry to high-school kids – many of whom can barely put a sentence together.

She rejected the idea of a textbook. I don’t know the full approach, but she did share that she showed videos of amazing poetry from youngsters who look “just like them.” She said these rowdy teens get so quiet you could hear a pin drop when when she plays the videos. She also noted that they are beginning to find their voices.

That reminded me of how when I helped someone who wears a lot of plaids through a very touch transition, I pulled out my plaids. She commented on my clothes every day – and I swear, she was more open to me than I’ve known her to be before. 

I didn’t put on a front. I emphasized a part of me that is like her. And that helped us connect.

People tend to trust people who look like them. If it helps you get through to someone, why not emphasize similarities?


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Kindness goes viral

This is a wonderful account of how one person can make a difference – even as young as 17. A high-school senior ended the online bullying in his school simply by creating a twitter account to praise his classmates. He kept his identity secret as he tweeted things like “She is so good at dancing, she gets more scholarships than D1 athletes,” about a girl who was attacked by an anonymous account.

One SpeakStrong principle is: Praise in public, correct in private. And it goes without saying, bully nowhere. 

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PowerPhrase: Just to be clear, my part of this project is complete

calendarIt used to take Wanda days to center and get clear and muster the courage to set boundaries and to address issues. Now it takes minutes. The fascinating thing about it is that as she reaches the point where the words roll naturally off her tongue, she finds that people accept her assertions with little resistance. It’s no big deal.

  • Just to be clear, my part on this project is complete.

That’s what she said to a coworker who tried to get her to do his work for him. He took an appointment off her calendar, and that was the end of it. She was happy to have the hour available for things that are her job. Practice SpeakingStrong. It gets easier and is so worth it. 

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A great way for a 9-year-old to SpeakStrong – lunch photos

never secondsHave you read about the 9-year-old who takes pictures of her school lunches every day and posts them on her blog? The title of her blog is “Never Seconds” and when you see the pictures you suspect even one helping is too much. 

Speaking Strong isn’t just about words. Sometimes the strongest messages are sent in non-verbal ways—for examples—by pictures. Like this one. 

Message received!

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If you have to say this, it probably ain’t so

I received the following letter:

Dear Meryl

communication questionsI came across your website, and I want to share an experience I had at a leadership conference.

The speaker had been teaching and coaching about leadership for over 20 years to small and large groups.

He comes on stage, and says, "Hi, I’m John, and I am your friend." Then he repeats this several times throughout his talk. When he says these remarks, he is sitting down in front of the audience with a glass of water at the table. In other words, he wants to look relaxed and comfortable.

I instantly recognize this as non-authentic communication and manipulation. Accordingly, he has broken your rules for effective communication.

Then he goes on to say that he forgot to bring the books that he sells which he would autograph if he had them available. But he reminds the audience that anyone can purchase these books on Amazon, and, of course, he says again, "I’m John, and I am your friend."

Maybe he should take your course.

Hi Steve,

I got a kick out of your email. The shift in leadership communication trends can be challenging for many! Trying to be authentic is like trying to relax. Announcing you’re a friend is a lot like saying, "I’ll be honest with you." Suddenly you doubt it. And I’m reading a book that observes that if you want to win at tennis, ask your opponent how she manages her great serves. Get her thinking about it, and her naturalness disappears. The call for authenticity can be like that, too. We become self-conscious and find it impossible to drop the act – although our act might be of not having an act.

Now, wouldn’t it be ironic if someone had attended a presentation I gave and emailed John to tell him I needed to attend his seminar? Who knows – perhaps I do!

Anyway, thanks for passing this on,


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