"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?

Ice-breaking is just a first step

I'm working on a table of contents for an ice-breaking book for McGraw Hill. At first I wan't inspired by the topic, but I found my inspiration when talking with wise friends about what makes an ice-breaker matter. They used words like purposeful, and forward moving. Suddenly it all clicked in. I was a bit turned off by the plethora of meeting openers and activities that have little or nothing to do with the meeting at hand. You know, talking about your favorite pet as a child. But once we started talking about the deeper purpose of our proposed phrases, I felt inspired. 

None of us likes the word ice-breaker very much. For one thing, it focuses on getting rid of what we don't want - ice - instead of what we do want - warmth and trust. And we want warmth and trust so we can get in alignment with each other. But alignment is only another step. Alignment is far better than working at cross-purposes, but it's not as dynamic as synergy. Synergy taps into everyone's creativity in ways that allow for forward movement.

So we go from ice-breaking to warmth and trust to alignment to synergy. I'd love to title the book Perfect Phrases to Melt the Ice to Create Alignment that Evolves into Synergy, but I know it won't fly.

I'm sure once I've had more time to synergize with my buddies, the perfect title will come. I love the creative process, even if I often wish it would move more quickly than it does. 

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What-how-do-you-do really means - It's a Wonderful World

I'm listening to a line in the song "It's a Wonderful World" and this line stands out for me.

  • webbyI see friends shaking hands saying "How do you do". But what they're really saying is "I love you". 

I used to be too literal to hear the real meaning of those words. I missed a lot. And I've opened up to: 

  • Have a nice day 

in the same way. 

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Legislating against transparency

Years ago I was delighted by a picture simliar to this one in the Fairfield Ledger paper. Pigs had escaped from a factory farm and were enjoying a swim in the resevoir. I
swimming-pigs-smtook pleasure in the picture of their frolic, knowing that they had escaped from far less pleasurable circumstance. 

Now there are laws in place that prohibit sharing or even owning pictures that could harm commercial interests of a factory farm. Seth Godin writes about it, and he notes,

- Can you imagine being arrested for possession of a photo of a pig?

We can be defensive. We can hide our operations. Or we can be creative, stand behind our choices, and if we can't be proud of our choices, we can make different ones we can be proud of. We can let the antiseptic of transparency create informed choices and trust, as Seth notes,

  • When consumers get used to transparency, they're also more interested in the quality of what you sell, and are more likely to willingly pay extra. They'll certainly cross the street to buy from an ethical provider.

We really are at a crossroads, deciding whether we'll race to the bottom or to the top. 

Secrecy is one of the biggest barriers to effective communication. It hides a plethera of evils. Transparency can be risky when you've been in hiding. You'll probably have a lot of dreams where you can't find your clothes for a while. But in the end, coming out of hiding and Speaking Strong authentically opens possiblities you could never find in hiding. 

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Emotional honesty

A reader writes:

Meryl -  I have long been embarrassed about women showing emotion at work, but at the same time proud that we aren't afraid to. I want to control question_smemotions, and I'm not sure that will ever be possible for an authentic person. What do you think?

I respond: 

I agree – you can't be authentic and control your emotions. But you can manage your emotions authentically. Emotional honesty doesn't have to mean lying down on the couch and pouring your guts out. It can be simple things, like, "I'm trying something new and feeling a little foolish about stumbling." "I'm stretching my comfort zone to do this differently, so I'm nervous about how it will come off."

When I first committed to more emotional honesty, it came out pretty raw! Two reasons – I had no experience – didn't have the skill. And I had a backlog of emotion, so a simple thing could stir a huge reaction. My voice would get stuck in my throat – I'd get choked up. Felt like I was five years old. Now I don't tend to regress because I pretty much clear as I go. There are still occasions when I feel the need to control my emotions, but they're rare – and I hate them! I like being able to flow in who I am.

It takes practice. I assure you, I haven't always been perfectly poised when I practiced - but I did find low-stakes places where I could express emotion without being afraid of losing credibility. Phrases help a lot, too - they help you know how to communicate feeling without being too heavy. 

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Touchy-feely in perspective

A colleague of mine made a request of the speakers in the room. She asked,

  • Can we drop the term touchy-feely? It denigrates the heart. 

I agree. And...

There are some who use the term touchy-feely to diminish any expression of tenderness. I call these the "touchy-feely phobic". Any sign of caring is suspect. But there are some legitimate objections to inappropriate emotionalizing. I think of my Gen Y's in my army training, who wanted their boomer managers to just let them do their work - and the boomer managers who reacted emotionally to that request. They just wanted to do their work. 

I think of my friend who responded to my request that she follow through on her promises, she told me that she cares about my heart and was sorry she had done something to hurt it. I just wanted to know what I could count on. 

And I think of some of the icebreakers and activities in training manuals that have no connection to outcomes.

I'm the first to defend relationship building, connecting emotionally and valuing people - effectively. In this video, Lanteck President Jim Lancaster talks about how they don't have much "couch time". He says they fix things and help people be successful because that's what motivates them. 

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Plain English Guide - from India

Chillibreeze is a group that makes power point templates among other things. I purchased a few from them. 

Today they sent me an offer of The Plain English Guide. It's quite good. I'd say I could have written it except that I don't know - or didn't know - the names of all the rules I appy when I write to simplify.

So check it out. Interestingly - it's out of India. And they seem to have Plain English down.

One point in the manual is about how Hemmingway was challenged to write a story in six words. He wrote: 

  • For sale: baby shoes. Never used.

Less really can be more, can't it!

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Some things are worth Speaking Strong for

Some things are worth Speaking Strong for. Other things aren't. I recently heard a presentation by a speaker who seemed to be all about how to take advantage of current and coming events to pad your own bank account. And how to protect yourself if the world throws itself off a cliff. "Buy gold and bury it in your yard. That way your future ex-wife can't find it." This fellow painted a vision that I have no willingness to pursue. I don't feel inspired to leave my comfort zone to implement his thinking. 

But I also hear speakers who are part of the solution. I belong to communities of people who aren't just gaming the system for their own personal gain, but sincerely focusing on how to steer the world away from the cliffs. I've heard the words "I'll help in any way I can" many times. They talk about things that are worth Speaking Strong for. 

25 years ago, I shut down when my now late-husband didn't want to talk about the possibility that he had cancer. His life was well worth Speaking Strong for - but I didn't have the heart - coeur in French - courage - and I didn't have the words. Now I do - although it's not always automatic. 25 years later I still have to nudge myself at times to have the important conversations. I still have to work to find the perfect words. But I know that keeping the world - a company - an office - a family - a friend - myself - from steering itself off a cliff is well worth the effort. That's especially true when there are lovely green pastures if we only turn to see them. 

Are you a part of something worth Speaking Strong for?

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Let the coffee stir the cream

powerphrase_icon2I'm back from my second big lean event - Shingoprize in Cincinnati. The short and mundane definition of lean is it's about eliminating waste. I listen carefully for ways to talk about lean that are less mundane and that bring lean to life. Too many people think it means layoffs and treating employees like objects. It's the opposite. 

But I got my favorite phrase to explain it from the conference I attendeed after Shingoprize. It was a professional speakers' summit, and Kelli Vrla was there. She mentioned how her dear Uncle Johnny pours the cream in before the coffee. Why? So he can, 

  • Let the coffee stir the cream.

What a great phrase to describe more efficient ways of doing things, and what a great way to describe how lean optimizes performance. It will be a buzz word for me and my associates! 

How to make toast efficientlyWhat works so well about it is it is highly visual and very familiar. I can picture Kelli's Uncle Johnny pour his coffee. I can picture him share his wisdom. I can picture the coffee stirring the cream. Can you? I already try to remember to do it that way to save the step of getting a spoon and stirring. So I relate to the image personally. Do you? From that image I can easily extrapolate into how simple life might be if I "leaned-out" other aspects of my daily operations. 

Tonight my husband and I have a date to watch "Toast Kaizen". I'm sure it will change how we make toast, how I talk about lean, and how I observe and eliminate waste in my own life.  

What phrases do you have that illustrate a better way of doing things? Those phrases are gold. Thanks Kelli - and thanks to Uncle Johnny as well. 

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Things are not always as they appear - video

What conclusion do you draw from this video? I've met a few of these folks. More and more now, we trade this kind of posturing as experts for authenticity - showing up as people who have some expertise. Some of the answers - not all of them. We turn people toward their own resourcefulness, not to putting us up on a pedestal to hope they can be like us some day.

Speaking STRONG isn't about impressing everyone with a false image. It's about relating genuinely - claiming our magnificance without hiding our humanity or inflating our image. 

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Keen on lean

You know how it is when you talk to someone who has a glow in their eyes when they talk about something? I know several people who are like that when they talk about Lean. What's the fuss over Lean all about? I recently spoke at a YPO Lean conference, and I felt like I was transported to an alternate universe where leaders don't think efficiency happens at the cost of connection and humanness. That's worth fussing over. 

YPO LogoLean is a dynamic process. It's about continuous improvement - not improving occasionally or in chunks - but bit by bit, step by step. It's organic - you take a step and that movement changes the whole situation. You check out the new situation before you plan the next improvement. 

Here's what that can mean on a communication level. Imagine you have three communication challenges - sarcasm is an issue for you, you find yourself getting defensive over criticism and you don't set boundaries well. You might decide to change all that at once. But if instead, you start by eliminating sarcasm from your communication, you'll find your other concerns have shifted. So before you go down your list for the next issue to handle, it makes more sense to see if a different area presents itself to improve. 

As a creative, dynamic and organic communicator, I am thrilled to find a world where this kind of dynamism is understood and embraced.

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Communication Pet Peeves Results are In

The results are in for our communication Pet Peeve survey, and the winner is: 

- Staying silent and complaining later. 

The very close second is:


- Being blind-sided because people didn’t tell me about problems.

Both submitters will receive a free year-long subscription to my "Say What You Mean eCourse." Thanks for playing.

Interesting that the highest scoring bad practices are both passive behaviors. We tend to think overly-aggressive communicators are the ones who create the problems. This survey indicates otherwise.

I didn't get enough submissions on the good communication practices to start a competition for that, but if people post enough, I'll create one for that. You can post about communication practices that you like here.

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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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