10 Tips for Defusing Defensiveness

It is not uncommon as we interact with others for individuals to become emotional or defensive in the moment. When this occurs you must remember that their reaction says more about them than it does about you. Why? Because their feelings or reaction were created by them. An individual’s emotional response originates in the negative interpretation or judgment that they are assigning to whatever you are either saying or doing. For example, have you ever become frustrated with someone who has promised to provide you something that you need by a certain deadline and they frequently fail to deliver? It is...

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How Can You Make Your Words Work? 10 Tips to Improve the Clarity of Your Conversations

Words all by themselves don’t create anything. But the words you choose and how you put them together will influence the thinking, feelings, and actions of others. In short, your language will help to achieve the results you want, improve the quality of your relationships, and create the respect that may be lacking. I was fascinated years ago to learn that the Aramaic phrase “abracadabra,” so frequently used by magicians, means “I create as I speak.” This left me wondering what I was creating. I first started to notice the results that my words were creating when instructing my two young...

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What Kind of a Listener Are You? (Part 2)

Last week I identified six different types of listeners that you may encounter and what you might do to help improve the listening experience with them. On the other hand, if you discovered that you tend to listen in a certain way, hopefully you can begin to recognize how others may perceive your behavior. Increasing awareness of your listening behavior will allow you to make some changes if you discover that your listening is less than effective.

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What We Can Learn from Our Fathers

This Sunday is Father’s Day. A day that is set aside for celebrating and honoring our fathers. Whatever your personal circumstance, there are things that we can learn from our fathers or the father figures in our lives that will help us to not only be better people but also help us to decide who we want to become and how we want to influence others. My father was a good example to me and had many characteristics that I admire. His example taught me a lot about strengthening relationships and influencing others for good. Here are a few examples of things I learned from him that have made a real difference in the way I interact with others.

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Do Your Stories Keep You Stuck?

I recently went to lunch with a friend who works as a therapist. We began talking about how the stories that we often tell become the reason that we become stuck or unable to move forward in obtaining those goals or objectives that we say are important to us. He told me of a woman who met with him that insisted that she needed his help convincing her husband that he was wrong and that she was right. When he asked her in what way she wanted to be right, she responded with something like this: “He is a lazy lout.

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Can You Manage Up? Eight Questions for Increasing Your Influence

As I travel around the country speaking and training people to hold potentially difficult conversations, I am frequently asked if the skills and processes which I teach can be used with one’s boss. I forcefully affirm that one can be more effective as a communicator no matter to whom they may be speaking. Many times people respond with something like, “Well, sure it works if they have had the training.”

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Criticism is Not Feedback: Seven Questions for Understanding the Source of Your Frustrations

The summer between the second and third year of law school is the most important for finding a job after graduation. I was fortunate to secure a fantastic internship with a law firm that specialized in disaster litigation in the Western United States. I learned a lot during that summer and really enjoyed my experience. However, my supervising attorney severely lacked the communication skills fitting someone of his position. One of the most demeaning things he did was to refer to me as “Dumb - - - -.” He used this disparaging term any time he addressed me. After enduring...

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How Can You Increase Innovation through Collaboration? 9 Tips for Successful Change

During the last several weeks, I had the opportunity to speak to a wonderful group of leaders at a very large company in the Midwestern United States about how to increase innovation through collaboration. This singular organization is trying to change its culture by involving its individual associates in making a difference to the success of their business by improving any process that directly impacts their customers. Such an endeavor is not only admirable, but absolutely essential to their future viability in the marketplace. Any change of this magnitude is always fraught with challenges because people often meet change with resistance....

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What People Wished Their Leaders Knew

During my years as a consultant, I have often had people say to me, “I wish my leader knew …” to which I would encourage the individual to speak up and raise an issue of real concern so things might improve. When I did this, I often got the following responses: “It won’t make a difference.” “I don’t want to get in trouble.” “It will just make them mad.” Whatever the excuse for not speaking up, I noticed that most people were afraid of the consequences. Perhaps they thought negative things would occur because of the team atmosphere. However, I found that it didn’t...

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How to Cut Through Fake Talk to Increase Employee Engagement

Will had worked hard for the company for about two years.  Not once in that time had his manager spoken with him about his development. Somewhat concerned, Will approached his manager and asked if they could discuss his career development. The manager said, “I’ll have my assistant reach out to you next week to schedule some time together.” Nothing happened, so Will brought up the issue with his manager again.  This time the manager scheduled the appointment himself about two weeks out.  When the time finally arrived, the manager canceled the appointment about an hour before the meeting.  Frustrated, Will...

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How Can We Help Others to Engage?

Many times when I speak at conferences, individuals will find me after a session and request coaching with a difficult situation. These encounters always provide wonderful opportunities for learning and expanding my knowledge of the human condition. A couple of years ago, a young woman came to me and asked for some assistance in mending her relationship with her sister. She told me how her sister refused to engage with her or talk in any way. I asked if I could ask her some personal questions to help both of us understand the situation. She agreed. I told her to place...

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Do Words Really Matter? Six Questions to Improve the Power of Your Message

Recently my son decided that he wanted to change a class in his junior high schedule. My wife and son went to pay a visit to the school counselor. During the meeting, the counselor asked him why he wanted to change to a different science teacher. He said, “Well, most of the time I have a difficult time focusing, which makes the teacher really hard to understand.” To this the counselor replied, “What you really mean is that your teacher is boring and you can’t stay awake. Is that right?” He responded, “Well I didn’t say exactly that.” Unfortunately for...

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Could Your Leadership Communication Use a “Make-Over”?

The challenge for leaders is that they are frequently unaware of how their behavior negatively impacts their people's performance. Because of the continuing emphasis on results, many leaders really don’t focus on how they achieve results as long as they obtain the desired results. During our leadership training, we often ask participants to identify past leadership behaviors they have experienced that have frustrated their efforts and negatively impacted their results. What starts out as an amusing exercise usually turns to quiet introspection as individuals consider how they treat their supporting cast.  We realize that sometimes work simply becomes so hectic that leaders...

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Tips for Handling Challenging Conversations during the Holidays

The holiday season usually offers many opportunities to practice your best conversation skills. Family members who usually don’t see each other, come together, which may present challenges because of the way that they act during these family gatherings. Some individuals seem to go blatantly out of their way to make others uncomfortable. Still others lack any sense of social decorum or awareness of how their behavior negatively impacts others. Unfortunately, we usually choose not to say anything to the offending party because they are family. Instead of saying something and causing potential conflicts, people often sit quietly and say nothing....

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