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Five Words for Female Professionals--Second Word

Yesterday's word challenged you to be bold in pursuit of your goals.  As women, we can't deny ourselves the opportunities to compete equally in the workplace for what we are qualified to do.  Neither can we keep placing everyone else's needs at home before our own.  We have to go boldly forward in gaining what brings us fulfillment in our lives.  We have to enjoy life too!
     Today, I challenge you again to get closer to your goals (and you must have those in place first!) by considering words that will motivate you to achieve.  The second word for female professionals who are striving to improve their lives in 2014 is strategy.  That's right: strategy.  Just declaring what you want to do is not enough.  Talking about it to your friends or coworkers won't necessarily make it happen.  You must be strategic in your thinking and your planning when it comes to making something concrete come to fruition.  For example, if you have been wanting to write a book--a …

Five Words for Female Professionals

With a new year on the horizon, most of us are looking at what we can do to make an improvement over the last.  We do it every year.  It is a time of new beginnings.  Kudos to those who have the ambition to do better.  Whether it's to grow your business, your circle of influence or your knowledge, striving to be better is admirable.  You are an exception when you are purposeful in how you live.  Far too many people don't want to or are afraid to make the next move that will give them what they want.  Many don't want to make the effort because it will be too hard or they fear failing.  Thus, they stick with what is comfortable and familiar.  They settle.
     For women, this belief is especially debilitating.  Not only do they limit themselves, but many people in the world couldn't care less if they stayed at a level of mediocrity.  Other females who don't want to compete with them and men who don't take them seriously won't urge them toward their own p…

Critical Speaking is Not the Same as Critical Thinking

In my daily Bible reading, I came across scripture in the awesome "The Message" Bible by Eugene Peterson that spoke plainly to negative people about their regularly unkind speech.  I like "The Message" because it breaks scripture down into the simplest terms for readers.  It's written in contemporary language, and it reads sometimes like an essay, editorial or novel without being irreverent.
     The seventh chapter of Matthew begins like this:  "Don't pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults--unless, of course, you want the same treatment.  That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging.  It's easy to see a smudge on your neighbor's face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own."  And that's just the beginning.  This is a word for believers and nonbelievers alike.  To be critical in speech is not the same as being critical as a thinker.  Critical thinking involves digging into the details, analyzing al…

When You See Me, What Does My Body Say?

Tattoos.  Piercings.  Wigs.  Weaves.  Hair dyes.  Colored contact lenses.  Shades.  Suits.  Stilettos.  Excess weight.  Muscles.  Gold teeth.  Sagging pants.  Dreadlocks.  Afros.  Cornrows.  Diamonds.  Perfumes.  Body odor.  Halitosis.  Plunging necklines.  Thigh-high skirts.  Blonde hair.  Scars.  Cigarettes.  Stained teeth.  Shirt & tie.  Creased jeans.  Polished shoes.  A frown.  A smile.  A hoodie.  Sleeveless denim vests.  Ripped jeans.  Trimmed beard.  Toned body.  Heavy makeup.  Plain.  Eclectic.  Vibrant.  Drab.
     Any of these can be found on any human being every day all day long.  When we see it, we immediately make an assessment of the individual.  Positive, negative and neutral, we think we have people figured out to some degree when we see them.  A young person with violet hair and a tongue piercing may make a baby boomer shake her head.  A young African American male with sagging pants and a gold grille in his mouth may cause a police officer to slow down and…

Words of Thanksgiving

Oh sigh.  It's that time of year again.  That time to express our gratitude for all that we have.  Whether it's everything we want or not, we are grateful.  We are grateful for family no matter how crazy they are.  We are grateful for the material possessions we have because they bring us convenience and comfort.  We are grateful for our jobs because we are not homeless and hungry even if that job doesn't satisfy us completely or make us rich.  We are grateful for our health because even if we don't feel 100%, we are still breathing and opening our eyes every day.  We are grateful.  Whether you are grateful to God or some other entity you worship (for the record, I am grateful to God only), we take time to reflect on the current state of our lives.
     Since this is a communications blog, we should take time this Thanksgiving to say to God and anyone else we're grateful to that we appreciate them.  Thank your family and friends.  Thank your boss and your cowo…

Taunting: It's All Bullying

The latest communications debacle comes via the poor decisions made by Miami Dolphins player Richie Incognito to let his mouth run while his brain stopped.  Apparently, he's done so on a number of occasions, and they have cost him dearly.  I've heard the story about his upbringing and how he, too, was bullied as a child.  Though I'm sure that was a difficult and disheartening experience for him in his elementary school years, it doesn't give him a pass on perpetuating the same hatred he endured.  In fact, I would think anyone who has first-hand knowledge of the pain inflicted on someone's self-esteem when they are taunted, called names, and verbally abused would have the opposite effect.  They wouldn't want to perpetrate the pain; they'd want to eliminate it.
     Being verbally abusive and threatening is unacceptable in any setting.  I don't care if the person is 6'5, 375 lbs., and has an arrest record for battery.  Human beings don't have…

"Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness"

The truth is black or white.  There are no gray areas.  It either is or it isn't.  Statements and actions can't be partially true.  Whenever any part of a statement is untrue, that makes the entire statement untrue.  If you're not telling the whole truth, you're lying.  Bottom line.  At least from my window into the world.
     Consider this:  a man with a gambling addiction tells his wife that he's going over to a friend's house to watch the ball game with a bunch of friends.  He does indeed go and watch the game, but at the same time, he indulges in a few hands of Poker and loses a couple hundred dollars.  It is true that he went to a friend's and watched a game.  But the truth falls apart when his real motive is revealed.  His intent was to play Poker; to gamble.  In essence, he lied.  Regardless of the fact that he actually did what he said he was going to do, the motives behind what he was doing were false.  Therefore, his words were too.
     Lea…

How to Say "I Was Wrong" and Remain Strong

"It wasn't me."
     "Nobody told me."
     "That's not my job."
     Personal accountability is as fleeting these days as a Kim Kardashian relationship.  However, it is as necessary as toothpaste and mouthwash--refuse to use it, and you stink!  Unfortunately, there are a lot of us who refuse to own our part in mishaps that are bound to happen.  For whatever reason, we seem to think we must be perfect in all things and so should everyone else.  To make a mistake is to seem flawed.  Well duh.  Aren't we all?  I have not yet met perfection, and I much more prefer those people who drop the ball every now and then.  I would rather associate with a person who has failed and learned from their failures than to be with someone who presents him or herself as never having blown it at all.  Mistakes are our teachable moments.  They show us our vulnerabilities and keep us grounded--at least for those of us who are willing to allow ourselves to be vu…

MEN: How to Listen to a Woman in 4 Easy Ways

So fellas, I know you may feel at times that women are an emotional mess of disjointed thoughts, endless chatter, and crazy impulses.  Some days you have the patience to listen to your wife, mother, boss, girlfriend or some other female in your life, and then there are days that you just don't want to be required to respond to anything she says.  I get it.  So let me help you out.  There are four things you can do right now that will help you in communicating better with females, and it all involves listening.
     1)  Don't try to fix everything she brings to you.  Yes, she wants to come to you and complain about issues at work or in the family, but her intentions are not always to have you throw out some hard-nosed solution.  Sure it may make perfect sense to you to tell your wife that she needs to tell her sister she doesn't have the sense the Lord gave a turnip and that's why men use her, but don't say it.  Women aren't always coming to men for solutio…

WOMEN: Do These 3 Things to Get a Male to Listen

It's no secret that most women feel men don't listen to them.  This belief  is especially prevalent in marriages.  Not surprisingly, men agree.  They don't listen to women that much.  A husband may tell his wife, "Yeah, I'm listening."  But as soon as she says what we all say ("Then what did I say?"), he tells her what he thinks she may have sort of kind of said if he were really tuning in.  Well ladies, there is an art to getting a man to give his full attention to you when you are speaking, and it doesn't involve talking about sports, money or sex.  Most men will try hard to listen if you do the following three things:
     1)  Make most of what you have to say substantive.  As women, we know we tend to ramble.  We will chatter on at length about almost anything.  This is not a criticism.  Actually, it's a skill.  We are witty, intuitive, opinionated, and compassionate.  We need all of those qualities in being effective communicators …

Connect2013 Is the Place for Communications Specialists!

We're only a few days away from Connect2013, a professional development conference for communications specialists in South Carolina.  Presented jointly by the International Association of Business Communicators and the South Carolina Public Relations Society of America, this conference will tackle the tough topic of communications--in my session, specifically communications styles.  Poor communications has long been the culprit in most soured relationships, personal and professional.  Intent, perception, tone, word choice--they all contribute to whether a message is effectively conveyed.  The greatest challenge I've found in my years as a trainer in communications is that people are more readily able to identify where others fall short rather than themselves.  Ask them how an interaction between them and another individual collapsed, and they can run down the list for you. 
     "He keeps too much to himself so how am I to know what's going on?"
     "S…

Crude and Rude Are Sooooo Unnecessary

They call them trolls.  If you've ever read the feedback or input from online readers regarding newsworthy stories, you'll find that somewhere along the way some idiot will say something so tasteless and vile that you wish you were close enough to smack them one good time across the head.  I don't often call people idiots.  I think it's a cruel word, but in this case, there's no other way to describe them.  Well, there is, but I'm too much of a lady to use that kind of language.  However, you can feel free to use your imagination.  They're called trolls for all the reasons the word exists.  The main one is because they troll the comments sections of news stories and make awful remarks in an effort, I believe, to get a rise out of others commenting on the story.  The more controversial the topic, the more you'll find them.  They are crude and hurtful.  They will blame the victim even if that victim is a dead child.  It's sickening. 
     Contrib…

Assertive or Confrontational?

Yesterday I had lunch with a bunch of friends in celebration of our closely timed birthdays.  We sat outside on the patio of a wonderful restaurant enjoying a warm, dry day.  This means a lot in the southeast where heat and humidity can ruin the best laid outdoor plans.  All was going well until our server was confronted by a demanding patron at another table not far from ours.  Ordinarily, I would have ignored such outbursts, but I was drawn into it inadvertently because the patron was now infringing on my space and time with her demands.  The server was at our table taking our orders when the other patron, a woman sitting a few feet away with a dog, yells at our server to bring her the drink she'd ordered earlier.  The server kindly told the woman she would be over to her in a minute.  I, however, experienced a flash of frustration that I could not contain.  So I responded, "Excuse me, m'am, but she's helping us at the moment."  The woman's irritated r…

"You Took It the Wrong Way!"

Accountability in communications is often overlooked as an important part of relating to other people.  Far too infrequently do we hold ourselves responsible for what we say and how it is conveyed to others.  How often have you said or heard somebody say, "Well, you took it the wrong way?"  Have you considered:  You gave it the wrong way.  Saying someone else took what you said the wrong way takes the onus off of you as the speaker and places the burden on the listener to figure out what you're saying.  No one should be put in the position of trying to interpret what you're saying or speculate about what you meant.  If you are clear in your communications, then people should be able to know what you meant with accuracy.  There should be little doubt and little room for misunderstanding.  Therefore, since you are the speaker, it is your responsibility to make sure you are choosing your words with others in mind.  You should be thoughtful in difficult conversation…

Do You See What I'm Saying?

The saying, "It's not what you say, but how you say it" gets mentioned often in difficult conversations.  I agree with the statement to a certain extent.  I believe it's what you say, but also how you say it, and what you look like when you're saying it that makes a difference in how you communicate with others face to face.  Our facial expressions, stance or sitting posture, and ability to stay in place long enough to hear a person out says volumes without us even opening our mouths.  Let's look at these individually.
    Let's start with your face.  It's where most people are focused in conversation.  So do your words and your expressions coincide?  Does your look support your words?  For example, are you smiling and chuckling while telling someone they're being ridiculous?  Are you agreeing with someone while shaking your head like you don't?  Are you inviting someone to talk to you as if you're interested in what they have to say t…

Antoinette Tuff: How Her Words Healed

If anyone ever doubted the magnitude of words, this week's dramatic event that played out in a lengthy 911 callconfirms that words are powerful weapons for justice.  Antoinette Tuff is a school bookkeeper at a charter school in Decatur, GA.  When faced with a mentally unstable gunman toting 500 rounds of ammunition and an AK47 that he actually used on occasion (fortunately without hurting anyone), she used words of compassion, healing, empathy, and love.  The greatest of these was love.  Too often when given the opportunity, we overlook the chance to speak love to others.  We may find it awkward when dealing with people other than our family members.  And yes, it is hard to love those who seem unlovable.  I'm not suggesting you go around to your co-workers and start saying wonderful things you don't mean.  You ought to always be authentic.  To be disingenuous will be very clear to those who can spot a fake.  But to speak love is to be compassionate, encouraging, humbl…

Living Out "Loud"

We've all been in the awkward position of being in a public place when somebody is speaking loudly to someone else.  It's awkward because in some odd way--at least for me--I feel a bit embarrassed for the individual who's doing the talking.  They are loud and somehow don't recognize how they may be an annoyance to others.  They may be talking to another individual sitting right next to them, but they are speaking loud enough for everyone within a ten foot radius to hear them.  Worst yet, much of what they are saying, nobody around gives a bunny's tail about.  The whole scene reeks of desperation.  I use that word because it seems as though the individual is trying too hard to get other people to engage them.  Isn't the person sitting right in front of them enough?  Do they have to be the center of attention?  And what about the poor soul subjected to having unwanted attention thrown their way because they happen to be the one the loud person is talking to?…

Your First Name is Not "Miss"

Last week I trained front office professionals in a school district on, what else--front office professionalism.  They were a dynamic group of women who have tough jobs dealing with--among many things--angry, unyielding, and in some cases, scheming parents.  Being a parent of school-age kids myself, I'm not talking about the rest of us who go to schools willing to help and to be cooperative.  I'm talking about the ones who aren't.  The front office staff have to be master multi-taskers it seems in an effort to keep everything rolling at once.  Talking to people who walk through the front door, directing children back to class, finding paperwork, making announcements, and answering the phones have to be done all in a matter of minutes.  One of the discussion points in our training involved answering the phone.  The interim superintendent was adamant about this one pet peeve of his, and I think it's worth addressing.
     He doesn't want the office staff to use …

Welcome to Straight Talk

Being direct in communication is appreciated by most people.  Time is of the essence for the majority of us so getting to the point is important.  The challenge comes when we are too direct in our approach.  Most people don't like it.  Watch this video to hear straight talk about this style of communication, and learn a tip on how you can improve it.  To sign up to receive a weekly video tip, click here.

When Comments Are Insensitive

In light of the recent verdict in the Zimmerman trial, there were many comments exchanged via social media, mainstream media, phone conversations, church sermons, text messages, and face to face.  Since most of these discussions were held in a public forum--especially social media--there was ample opportunity to involve a diverse group of people in offering an array of viewpoints.  I think it's great when people are able to express themselves.  There should always be a forum for healthy discussions about difficult topics.  As long as the lines of communication are open, we can learn from each other.  However, when the topic is volatile and highly sensitive, contributors to the dialogue have to be especially careful that their viewpoint is not misconstrued because of a lack of skill in being able to walk the tightrope of sensitivity.  It takes a little more thought and effort, but the conversation can be meaningful if all views are accepted and respected even if there is no agr…

Self Talk That Leads to Big Rewards

Okay, so I'm not here to pump you up today about speaking positive things into your life.  You've heard all of that before.  As real as it is, and as much sense as it makes, sometimes we can be as positive in our minds as we choose, but life still stinks.  We can keep saying that all will be well when we know deep down it won't.  So we're essentially trying to fake ourselves out--to believe something that is unrealistic.  Having said that, let me not become the new host of your pity party.  But let's keep it real.
    In order for things to happen in our lives, we do have to tell ourselves a different story.  It doesn't have to be a fairy tale as we often choose to do.  It should be a story that reflects the reality of our present and the hope for our future.  Lest we spend too much time on our present situation and make ourselves depressed, we should remind ourselves of those times when we passed this way before and we overcame.  Too often we act like our …

"I Don't Know What You Just Said"

I had the opportunity this weekend to watch a movie called "The Dilemma" with Vince Vaughn and Kevin James.  It was an entertaining way to tackle the topics of honesty, fidelity and friendship when all of those have been compromised.  One scene in particular that caught my attention involved Vince and Kevin's characters engaging in a very confusing conversation.  Since communications training is what I do and effective communications is what this blog is all about, I couldn't resist bringing to your attention what a lack of clarity in communications looks like.  If you get the chance to watch the movie (you can online), pay close attention to when Kevin's character Nick tries to explain to Vince's character Ronny, some hypothetical situation about overcoming Ronny's fear of getting married.  It had something to do with ice cream, running over citizens on a sidewalk, and one percent.  Ronny's response after a perplexed look:  "I don't thi…

Does Articulate = Intelligent?

For some reason, being called articulate in the black community has become synonymous with being called idiotic.  Black people have often gotten offended when someone white says "He speaks so well" or "She's very articulate".  Remember the hubbub when it was said about President Obama the first time he ran for office?  Such an observation has been frowned upon because of the way it's been said in the past.  It sounds to black folks like the person saying it is surprised that a black person can put two sentences together and actually make sense.  For black people (who care), speaking well should not be treated as if it's a phenomenon in the African American culture.
     With that said, let's look a little bit deeper at this idea of being articulate when communicating.  The moment a person opens his or her mouth, a dozen assumptions are made about them by the way they speak. Some of them are right on target, and of course, some of them are total…

The Courage to Speak Up

"Snitches get stitches."  Ever hear that term?  Apparently this is the threat in some neighborhoods where people who witness violent crimes are reminded that if they say anything about what they saw, they face retaliation.  Maybe even death. 
     Intimidation is a tactic used also in the workplace to prevent workers from speaking up when they see things going on that are unethical or even illegal.  The situation is especially difficult when the offending person is a leader in the organization.  Take the former superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools, Beverly Hall, for example.  She and 34 other educators in the school system were indicted for a vast cheating scandal that rocked the community and grabbed national headlines.  The cheating is believed to date as far back as 2001.  Imagine the damage to the thousands of students who have gone through the system over the past dozen years and were inadvertently caught in this web of lies and deceit.  For those who worked ha…