"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?

The Analyst and the Intuitive

Yin yang 300"We need to heal your digestion gently," the wise intuitive nutritional counselor told me. "Baby steps." Her words sounded wise and true.

"I figured out what's wrong with your digestion," the brilliant analytical nutritional counselor told me. "We need to hit it hard." His words sounded accurate and daunting.

Both these messages came on the same day.

I'm married to one of the most respected natural health advisers in the area. It was awkward to get input from one of the most revered intuitive nutritionists in the area. I anticipated contrast - but not this extreme.

Her approach is to nurture the flora in the gut so nothing harmful can thrive. His is to kill the invaders. They both have elements of the other's approach, but the emphasis is very different.

Bob softened. He suggested we see what would happen with Vivian's protocol and THEN hit it hard. He liked what he saw. His input shifted from opposition to augmentation. He became a very valuable resource. And then one month later, he joined me for my follow-up session with Vivian.

"I'm impressed with what you've done," he told her. "I've always heard you should never treat your own family. I was turning Meryl into an object - a problem to be fixed, instead of relating to her as my loving and beautiful wife."

"We make a great team," Vivian replied. It was clear she hadn't been thinking of me as part of the team, but I let that pass.

Fast forward a week. I hear Bob on the phone with a woman he has mentored. Their attempts to address her health challenge was unsuccessful. "I recommend Vivian," Bob told her. "Meryl has been working with her because my approach with her was too strong. Vivian is the real deal."

So is Bob. His ability to learn from this and adapt is testament to that. 


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No, it's NOT anorexia or cancer... addressing a visible health challenge

Skinny 300I've never had a visible health challenge before, so this is the first time I've experienced people looking worried and shaking their heads at the sight of me. It's good and reasonable to want to inquire about such a rapid weight loss. I respect that. I also know how heavy some reactions feel to me. I don't expect people to know how to talk about my struggles, but this does give me an opportunity to discover what feels right and helpful and what makes me want to stay home instead of go out where people might give me that pathetic look.

It's not anorexia. I eat all day long. It's not cancer. I'm losing weight because the foods I can digest are ones that are recommended for a weight loss program. I'm losing weight because at this stage of the process, healing the flora and killing the bacteria in my gut are priority. I am not losing muscle - just fat. I'm actually very healthy by most measures. 

In fact, I feel more optimistic than ever because I know what I can eat and can't eat and I know what my issue is and what to do about it. It's a long slow process, but an exciting and promising one.

So while I appreciate concern and interest, I'd like to feel listened to. And I don't feel that when someone looks at me and shakes their head with a worried look, and tells me, "Don't lose any more weight." Didn't I just explain that I'm eating all day long (every two hours) and doing everything I can to keep the weight on while addressing the bigger, underlying issue? Or did I imagine that?

How many times do you need to remind me how skinny I am now? If I had gained weight, would you be reminding me multiple times of how fat I've become?

I just told you how optimistic I am - that I'm healing an issue I've had for years, and I expect to emerge more vibrant than ever. Why are you looking at me like you're planning my eulogy?

It's okay. People are well intended. There are plenty of others who can listen and engage with me where my heart is with it. It's just that I never want to miss an opportunity to learn to communicate better. Next time someone is facing a health challenge in my world, I will know from first-hand experience how to better respect their process.



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True to You

Eve 300Shopping at Eve's Revolution Boutique is always a sweet experience. It's not about the surprise deals or the fact that I seldom leave my house without wearing something from her store. It's more that being there is like visiting a beautiful friend with a distinctive style that celebrates beauty. Eve is a skilled marketer - I respect that. More than that, everything in the store reflects who she is. 

Recently she invited me to bring clothes and accessories in for consignment. I was hesitant because she is so selective that I can bring a car full of items and only consign a few. Also, she is only accepting spring items these days, and I was still focusing on my winter wardrobe. I decided to set an appointment anyway.

So I sorted and sifted and cleaned and pressed and prepared, and brought in three armloads and two boxes of items for her to peruse. Surely she would want something out of all that.

She didn't.

Eve was highly apologetic, and I assured her I had come prepared for that outcome. I had an appointment with Kristin at another shop in an hour.

Kristin wanted 65 items. 

Then I went to Rene's store. She took another twenty items.

I returned to my car with a sense of release. It felt like a ton of dead weight had been removed from me. I could function - and take my wardrobe management to the next level of me-ness. Goodwill got the benefit of the rest of the items.

Eve could have taken one item just as a gesture of goodwill. I'm glad she didn't. Eve is a role model for me of someone who is impeccably true to who she is. Her shop is such a delight because she knows who she is. I've watched her style develop since she opened 13 years ago, and she remains completely true to her evolving style. Her style is so clear and pure that anything that isn't a match sticks out like a blue suit and red tie at an Apple convention. I think of Eve as I weed my closet to reflect who I am more completely. I'm not at her level of impeccability, but I'm headed in that direction.

I love Kristin and Renee and enjoy shopping in their stores as well. What's different is I sift through a variety of styles at their stores. It's not like scavenging at Goodwill, but it's not as distinctive as the Eve experience.

My question for you is, what is the you-experience? Is it clear to others who you are and what they can count on with you? Do you take everything that is offered you, or are you so clear about who you are and what you do that anything that isn't a fit is immediately obvious?

I continue to strive for Eve's level of me-ness in my own life, and hope my phrases and missives help you be true to you, too. Eve is impeccably herself and that's the ticket to her success. Being impeccably you is the ticket to your success. 


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Something Beautiful

Blue tree 300Early in the conversation I told Angela about my gallbladder episode in the night. Angela is interested in hearing about those experiences both as a friend and as a health professional. The conversation eventually drifted to a discussion of a confusing situation that has been troubling me in an important relationship. Angela listened to my mullings with insight and caring. Then she asked the most wonderful question. She asked,

  • May I tell you what I think is beautiful?

Knowing Angela, I anticipated something I wanted to hear.

"You're processing all the emotions that are associated with gall-bladder, and that means you won't have to deal with them again later. Most people just ignore the emotions."

Angela's words touched me on many levels. The comment took my attention to the emotions I observe myself during gallbladder incidents. I definitely notice a specific mindset when my gall-bladder is not happy. Her words helped me watch for traces of gallbladder emotional contamination.

The main gift of her words, however, came from her validation of the integrity of how I process relationship quagmires. Sometimes people hear my attempts at sorting confusion as complaining. Angela knows better. 


I dreamed that I was talking to young service personnel about errors, flaws and inefficiencies in their service. I was seeking to collaborate on improvement. The young workers responded by rolling their eyes and dismissing me. In the dream, I personalized the judgments and doubted myself. I was ready to give up, but decided to speak with a manager. It felt like a last ditch attempt, but the manager listened with interest. She sought to understand where I was coming from and found my input useful.


The message is pretty clear. Just because some people can't hear what you say doesn't mean you don't have anything important to say. Some people will put up walls and resistance - that doesn't mean you're wrong to speak. In fact, your efforts to clarify are beautiful, even if your words don't land as you intend.


May I tell you what I think is beautiful? People like Angela who recognize the beauty of the process. We've been friends for years and we've been through a few beautiful processes ourselves. 


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The guts to SpeakStrong

Fog WomanNo doubt about it. Speaking Strong takes guts. I know that, because when I have digestive issues, it's very difficult for me to know what I mean, let alone say what I mean and mean what I say without being mean when I say it. 

Recently I had one of those crucial, seminal conversations on a day when my digestion wasn't working so well. Actually, it wasn't much of a conversation. Every word I heard led me to sink further into despair. It was like there was a mud wall around me, keeping me from hearing well or speaking. Confusion that probably would have been cleared in a moment on a better day got thicker and immobilizing.  

What did I do? I needed to back off and get clear before I could speak. It didn't take me too long to figure out that what I was hearing wasn't what she was saying. 

In the bigger picture, keeping your digestion healthy helps you SpeakStrong. I'm looking forward to having fewer of those disempowered moments as my digestion heals.

In the smaller picture, sometimes you have to wait for a fog to lift to move forward.  It's good to know when those moments are.


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Toxic "certainty" in an uncertain world

People roman officer 300

Susan Cain's book Quiet reports, "The Harvard Business School information session on how to be a good class participant instructs, 'Speak with conviction. Even if you believe something only 55 percent, say it as if you believe it 100 percent.'" At HBS, Cain noticed, "If a student talks often and forcefully, then he's a player; if he doesn't, he's on the margins."

You can read a fabulous article on false confidence at Alternet.

Toyota Kata author Mike Rother refers to this as Artificial Certainty. The Lean phrase "go and see" instructs managers and true leaders to recognize when they're guessing and see it as a signal to stop speculating and start observing. I consider Artificial Certainty to be Toxic Certainty.

What do you say to someone who already "knows everything"? Recently I found the words for a CEO who thinks he's lean, but is a commander,

  • Chill long enough to hear me out. Drop your sword and shield and armor and let yourself experience a whole dimension you're missing.

Are these the "perfect words," guaranteed to dissolve the armor? Absolutely! Oh, wait. I don't know if they will work for you. I just know they work for me. 



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Word choice reveals inner wars

funny dog 300I never did find out what the fight was about. I'm sure she would have told me had I asked. I was more interested in the fight she was having with herself. She revealed that clearly with the language she used talking about just about anything.

Her word choice telling me her sweetie did a really "good job" getting her valentine flowers spoke volumes of her inner paradigm. He used to get them at the grocery store, but she suggested he get them at Walmart this time. The flowers lasted longer than they had in previous years. She repeated her "good job" assessment several times. Not too romantic. I'd rather not get flowers than have my honey do a good job getting them for me.

She started talking about how she used to meditate and was "good at it." She's "making herself" do it again, and she's not as "good at it" any more.

She praised herself for her heroic effort of stopping work at 7 PM and "forcing herself" to do something fun. The "need tos" and "shoulds" were overwhelming. If I used them for a drinking game, I'd have a hangover today. 

She spoke of a neighbor who walked her dog "Izzy" every time she saw signs that Izzy was getting restless. That was my opening. I told her:

  • That's your role model. Pay attention to your Izzy - your inner dog. She's telling you what she needs, and warning you that if you don't listen, she'll probably pee on the carpet.

The peeing on the carpet is a metaphor, of course. If we ignore our primal and instictive selves too long, we set ourselves up for conflicts like the fight that led this woman to contact.

I didn't need to know the detailsof the fight I had everything I needed to shift this woman's perspective by listening to her language. 


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Expediency isn't always so efficient

driving nurse 300I could have dialed it in, but the conversation felt important enough for me to drive into town and meet face-to-face. I'm glad I did. Instead of a 15-minute quick check, my medicine woman (health adviser) gave me an hour that offered some pretty key insights. When she had told me to have a protein snack before bed, she didn't mean for me to have a piece of chicken alone. "No one can digest animal protein by itself. There's not enough fiber," she told me.

I changed my pre-bed snack to a cup of veggie soup, and the night time stomach challenges disappeared along with the sleep issues.  Yesterday I felt so good I wanted to cry. I feel great today, too. 

It would have saved me over an hour of driving time to call. We might have uncovered the issue had I done that, but we might not have. I think by taking the less "efficient" route to communicate face-to-face, I invested over an hour to save several hours of nocturnal misery. And since the quality of sleep and digestion affects everything, it's a key reason why I'm smiling today.

Of course there's more to this personal health journey of discovery than that one piece of advice, but it was a critical piece that was worth the drive to discover. 


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To Recommend or Not? False Communication Choices

Man Choice yes no 300The Crucial Conversations authors have an excellent post about responding to a request for a recommendation that the requestee does not feel comfortable providing. Al Switzler invited input from twenty friends and summarized the findings and his recommendation. He speaks of a "fools choice" - "false dilemmas that suggest we face only two options (both of them bad), when in fact we face several choices—some of them good. We suffer from 'Or' Thinking."

Most respondents saw the situation as a forced choice between friendship and truth. Only a few respondents saw a way to honor both. One offered a suggestion that was truthful and demonstrated a deeper friendship.

I recently had a similar situation. Someone requested a recommendation that I didn't feel comfortable giving. It initiated a deeper conversation about why, and what needed to happen for me to be able to honor her request. What could have been a problem became an opportunity. We got clear and I wrote her a recommendation with my whole heart.

I like saying yes, and I like helping people. I also like being truthful. I find that every little untruth erodes my sense of self and integrity, and taking the easy way out isn't always easy. It takes more time and can get uncomfortable to honor both values. It's worth it. 

Check out the article. It's good stuff. 


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Closet alchemy, food alchemy and honoring who you are

Color wheel 300"You're an electric," the consultant concluded, handing me a palate of color swatches. "Take this with you when you shop." It had been a toss up between pastel and electric, and I agreed with and was pleased by the outcome. I liked all the colors on my wheel.

That was over 25 years ago, and knowing what colors flatter me has been useful over these years. But I never did apply it in an absolute sense. I still bought clothes in the "bold," "earth" and "pastel" color family. The electrics were the ones I found myself reaching for most often.

Recently, I got a hankering to take everything that isn't electric out of my closet. What would happen, I wondered? I was surprised by what a difference it made. I experienced "closet alchemy." 

Metaphorically, it was like clothes jumped off their hangers to be with other items they like. Items that seemed bland were suddenly brought to life by their association with other items that bring out the best in them. Simple scarves transform ordinary into extraordinary. Everything in my closet now sings harmony with everything else. It became immediately clear what basics I lack, despite having more clothes than anyone could need. Looking in my closet brings me joy now. And suddenly it is easier to give up on items I was trying to make work. It is time they found their home with those who are nurtured by them. 

Closet 300Interesting that all this happened while I've been discovering what foods work for me, and how they like to combine. My tummy is happy that I've taken the time to sort my foods, and when I look in the mirror, I'm happy that I took the time to sort my clothes.

Both were made possible by discovering underlying themes of who I am and what nourishes me. I will never go shopping without my color wheel again. It's simply a matter of honoring who I am - and expressing my true self effectively. 


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A little too lean

Stomach ache 300When my Lean2Life year of sorting, straightening, maintenance and creating productive and nourishing routines came to an end, I wasn't anywhere close to complete. But I celebrated the plethora of positive changes I had made over the year. One area I noted that hadn't been untangled was my digestion. Not only had I not solved my life-long digestive issues, they were getting worse. I used to be able to avoid digestive upsets by avoiding carbs, but that wasn't working anymore. I never knew what might trigger indigestion. 

The big wake-up call came when I stepped on the scale. I was 106 pounds. I should be 130. By most measures, I'm very healthy, but the scale emphasized what I already was coming to recognize - it was time to make health my first priority.

It has been quite a journey of discovery. The first stage was figuring out what triggered me, and building gut flora. Then I discovered I have SIBO - Small Intestine Bacterial overgrowth, so healing that was added to my agenda. Then I learned that I am very sensitive to food combining, so I've been learning about and experimenting with that. Next, we started taking my blood sugar and confirmed that I have reactive hypoglycemia - low blood sugar. Why did I have so much energy much of the time? Compensatory cortisol. Not a good thing. 

I am blessed to be able to give the healing process the time it needs. Learning what works, preparing special meals (six a day - all cooked), exploring new foods: it is very time-consuming. It's also rewarding. There are bumps on the road - days of low energy and other seeming set-backs. But I am feeling wonderfully nourished. I am gaining a bit of weight. My blood sugar is stabilizing. The routine gets easier as it becomes more familiar.

It also gets easier as I get my joy and clarity back. I noticed today that I was able to read my book right after rising. In the recent past, my vision was fuzzy in the morning. I'm wondering if maybe - just maybe - after I've been at this for a few months, I just might be able to dial a phone number correctly the first time. It actually could happen. I'm so used to the brain fog of sugar alcohols generated in the gut, that I don't know what life will be without them.  

Some people will say they don't have time to do what I'm doing. That may be true. Yet in the long run, there is no question in my mind that going through this process is the most efficient thing I could do. I am committed to healing this malaise at the root. It was hard - my SpeakStrong writing was flowing magically. I had invested a lot in Cassia, my assistant, and I encouraged her to find other work, knowing when I'm ready for her help again, she likely will bee too busy. It was tough to let that go for now. But when I return to focus on that, I trust it will still be there and I will be more present with it than ever. 

For now, if it's a question of returning a phone call or taking a hike, I'll take the hike. If it's a question of a fun all-day outing or doing my routine, I'll do my routine. When I need a nap, I take a nap. I believe I have my priorities straight. If you're someone I've been slow to respond to, I assure you, I will get back to you. I thank you for your patience. Good things are worth taking the time and giving the deep focus to make happen. This is a very good thing.

Thanks for listening! Now I hear my celery soup beckon. I will answer that call. 


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A Case for Going to Bed Angry

Bed angry torn 300A good friend told me she and her hubby have a policy to never go to bed angry. It has worked well for them, so I have no argument with it. But that doesn't mean I need to do what works for them. In fact, I lean more toward a policy of not expressing an anger I haven't slept on. Hiking on an anger works well, too. That gives time for some alchemy.

In the middle of the night (or hike) I often get intensely clear about what's not working for me. My anger burns hot. And then it softens, and transforms into an understanding of what I want instead. Next, a path or approach that is likely to help me achieve my goals becomes clear.

In the meantime, there's room for others to experience some alchemy as well. 

The other morning, Bob greeted me by apologizing for being too aggressive with me the day before. He had been. I was quite prepared to discuss a gentler way he could have approached me. Only a few words were called for in the new dawn. We came to a deeper understanding, helped by the fact that we both went to bed angry. 



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Article Use

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

Let me know how you use them. Thanks!  

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