"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?

Don Juan De Marco and Iterative Learning

My husband and I rewatched Don Juan De Marco with Johnny Depp (be still, my heart) this weekend. There is a fabulous scene where, inspired by his romantic patient, Dr. Mickler (Marlon Brando) dashes home and invites his wife upstairs. You see the requisite clothing scattered everywhere and then you see the couple in bed - shooting popcorn in the air with a pea Dunaway and Brandoshooter and catching it in their mouths. The pure surprise of the scene is it's delight.

The key, of course is the spirit of play and adventure, not the actual popcorn challenge. If you were to turn to your spouse and say, "let's go upstairs and shoot popcorn in the air and catch it in our mouths", you might be pleased with the result, but chances are the whole thing would seem contrived.

That's why I turned to my husband and said, 

  • Let's go to bed early and see what happens.

I meant it exactly the way I said it. He knew that. No expectation. No anticipation of any result. Ready for surprises. We were both quite pleased with our "experimental outcome". 

Lean manufacturing began in the US by copying tools and processes with mixed results. That's very much like watching Brando and Dunaway play popcorn and trying it yourself. Now, the community is evolving in the direction of a more dynamic understanding of how those tools and processes come into play. They are growing into what Don Juan De Marco knew and Mr. and Mrs. Mickler discovered in the movie Don Juan De Marco: Iterative learning lead by a dynamic essence, not a static form. Mike Rother's Toyota Kata actually creates a system to guide the iterative process. My years as a highly-trained meditation teacher taught me a similar skill - to guide people to let go of directing a process into aligning with it and letting it teach them. 

I couldn't find a picture of Brando and Dunnaway in their popcorn play, so I settled for the one above. If you have a picture of the popcorn adventure, pass it on, will you? 

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Deming quote and my version - about whether or not you know what you're doing

The quality leader W. Edwards Deming is quoted as saying, "If you can't describe what you are doing as a process, you don't know what you're doing." I feel the same way about phrasing. If you can't put your process, Deming colorteaching or ideas into phrases, you don't know what they are. And if a phrase author reads your work and can't figure out how to translate your words into phrases, your information isn't clear.

Not everyone spends their days writing phrases, so I don't assume others have the skill developed in the way that I have - or care to. However, my efforts to translate information into phrases often reveal the fuzzy areas. If I can't hone from someone's writing how to put their recommendations into action via language, those who don't have the experience with phrasing that I do are likely to be at a total loss. That's where the conversation with some of the experts I work with gets really interesting. They may have no desire to ever write phrases, but helping me write them often clarifies what they know. 

So don't just think about phrase scripting as a communication tool. Think of it as a way to get really clear about what you know. 

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Albus Dumbledore on Truth

"The truth is a beautiful and terrible thing,

and therefore should be treated with great caution."


Albus Dumbledore


SpeakingSTRONG requires skill and deliberate choices. There is a fine art to truthing. Brutal honesty is a cop-out. Elegant honesty enhances the beauty and reduces the terribleness of truth.

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A Communication Skill Issue? Or a Character Flaw?

Does that person whose communication drives you crazy have poor communication skills, or character flaws? The best phrases in the world won't help people who use power plays or manipulation to build collaborative communication. Yes, they'll win a few battles, but at what price? Even those who give in know on some level they've been played.

I'm not just talking about the bullies here. I'm talking about the victims, too. The ones who act powerless to get what they want. It doesn't feel any better to recognize that you can't have an authentic conversation because the person on the other end collapsed into helplessness than to recognize that you can't have an authentic conversation because the person on the other end rallied into power plays. 

If you're having trouble getting to clarity for either reason, ask - is it a communication issue? Or a character issue?

You don't need to put them on the couch and analyze them. Don't play therapist or clergy. Just examine your own character and decide that you won't let manipulation and power plays determine outcome. Reaffirm your commitment to authentic communication and keep refocusing the conversation to the essence. Show that your commitment to being fact-based and truthful is stronger than theirs to manipulate. Some will go away - but others will show up. A phrase I like because it's genuine and powerful is,

  • I'm having this conversation because I want to be able to relate to you on an authentic level. It would be easier for me to ignore it when your words don't ring true - but that would keep us on the surface. I'm not willing to do that. 
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PowerPhrase About Late Arrival to a Meeting

When Nancy did not show up on time for the meeting, her associates started without her, even though Nancy was supposed to present. Nancy arrived fifteen minutes late and listened as someone else explained the plan that Nancy had been scheduled to present.

powerphrase_icon2After the meeting, one of Nancy's team members asked why she was so late. Nancy's reason was more of a lame excuse, so the team member explained,

  • Some of the busiest people here made time to be available at the time you agreed to. By coming late you made a statement that you don't value their time. That's not a message you want to send.

Later in the conversation Nancy asked a few questions explaining that she wanted to be sure not to disappoint again. Clearly the message was received. 

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Quote: The Price of Losing the Rule of Law

"Losing the rule of law is too great to call it a mere excess.

It is a catastrophe.

It is the heart, mind and soul between the people and their government."


~ Tom Ball

The same is true for losing the commitment to truth. I'm sometimes shocked at people's willingness to overlook obvious distortions and manipulations. I'm not just talking about governance here. 

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Quote: a Leadership Test

"One of the tests of leadership is the ability to recognize a problem before it becomes an emergency."


Arnold H. Glasow

I'll add to this. Another great test is the willingness to talk about it when others are too busy fighting fires to problem solve. 

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PowerPhrase: I need your input to make an intelligent decision

Leaders often are afraid that if they ask for input, they will sound like they are abdicating their decision-making role. Here's a phrase that will by-pass that. 

  • I needpowerphrase_icon2 to hear from you in order to make an intelligent decision here.

This phrase makes it clear that the leader intends to decide, but seeks to consider all options. It's open, inclusive, rsponsible and decisive. 

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Real emotional intelligence

Emotions can be an important part of a conversation and can add power to communication. They also can be a distraction. Recently a team member dropped the ball again. This had happened several times. I understood the demands on her time, and I also needed to know what I could count on. So when her main message was:webby_sad_sm

- "I feel awful about this."

it didn't give me what I needed to hear. I didn't want her to feel bad. I wanted to know she would come through for me so I wouldn't be left doing what she had committed to. 

I'm a fan of psychology and emotional intelligence and knowing what we feel. In it's place. We are emotional beings. If we exclude emotions from our business conversations and pretend they don't exist, we can miss an important communication element.  

But when you try to convince someone they should keep you on the team after you've dropped the ball several times, it's good to acknowledge your chagrin and essential to provide concrete reasons to let the other person know they can count on you in the future, even when they couldn't in the past. 

I would have loved to have been able to keep this lady on the team, but I needed someone I could count on. We faced the facts and parted amicably. I was sad about the decision myself - but also happy because I knew she didn't have time and we made the right decision. It took some genuine emotional intelligence to look at the facts and move on. 

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PowerPhrase: I reviewed it as if it were my own

I have a lot of experience writing phrases and phrase books. But that doesn't mean people who haven't written phrase books can't help me. However, in coauthoring, one challenge has been getting people to put their own wisdom and experience into powerphrase_icon2their contributions instead of unquestioningly following my lead .

That's why when Diane used these words to preface her input on a phrase book she's helping me with, I was very heartened. She said,

  • I reviewed it as if it were my own. So some of my comments may be intrusive.

Her preface reflects a perfect blend of ownership and respect for the fact that it is my project. She was willing to think beyond what I had already written without negating what I had. Her comments were very useful. 

Kudos to Diane and to Sharon whose input also reflects a great blend of my ideas and her own. It's key to great collaboration. 

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Subject line magic

My friend and coauthor Susan Fenner sent me an email with the subject line "You're amazing!"

We exchanged many emails after that, and each time she replied, I received yet another email with the subject line "Re: You're amazing!" It was quite a pleasant experience. 

Then it occured to me that Susan was receiving emails with the same subject line. It seems I had discovered another application of "You reap what you sow." What goes around comes around. In this case, it's a good thing.

I'm more conscious of subject lines now. 

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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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