Archive for the ‘Relationships’ Category

Stop Saying ” I’m Sorry” and Start Saying This Instead

by Pamela Jett, CSP

By now, yomedfr17018u’ve likely seen and heard the advice to “stop saying I’m sorry” in numerous blogs, seminars, books, and speeches by experts like myself.  In fact, I’ve even blogged about it myself before (if you want to read that blog click here.)  Many of us habitually say “I’m sorry.” Often for things we have no need to apologize for. It can be a habit. It can diminish our impact and credibility.  And, it can erode our path to success.

Most experts, myself included, will advise you to replace the “I’m sorry” with “I apologize.”  I apologize is more impactful, you are taken more seriously, and it keeps you from offering apologies where none are warranted.  This is a small change that can make a big difference.

There is another equally powerful replacement.  This replacement allows you build the other person up.  To compliment them on their admirable behavior instead of tearing yourself down or making yourself small.  The replacement for “I’m sorry” is to compliment or praise the other person.  For example:thank-you2

  • Instead of “I’m sorry I took so long to clear the meeting room” try “thanks for waiting so patiently as I cleared the room.”
  • Instead of “I’m sorry I was late” try “I appreciate your kindness in waiting for me.”
  • Instead of “I’m sorry to ask for you help” try “your willingness to help means a lot to me.”

Build the other person up.  Praise or thank them for their actions or response instead of tearing yourself down. While there are still plenty of times when an apology is warranted, often the best course of action is to praise the other party.

Pamela Jett is a communication skills and leadership expert who knows that words matter! In her keynote presentations, workshops, books and online learning programs, she moves beyond communication theory into practical strategies that can be implemented immediately to create the kind of leadership, teamwork, and employee engagement results her clients want.

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Boost Leadership and Communication Skills with the Power of Perspective

by Pamela Jett
house

When we are looking to boost our communication skills  and leadership abilities, one of the best tools to leverage is the power of perspective. I have always enjoyed the adage:

When you change the way you look at things, what you look at changes.

Exceptional communicators and leaders know the perspective you take to a problem, or even a person who may be problematic in the moment, can radically alter their experience of the problem or person. To use a very common example, a professional who reframes a problem as growth opportunity often will be better at solving the problem.

But what about with a “problematic person?” How can a great high-caliber leader reframe their experience of them? One powerful tool is to remember:

Not everyone was raised at your house.

Not everyone has had the same experiences, same learning opportunities, the same mentorship and role models. The things you, as a leader, might assume are “common sense” aren’t always so common. Remembering that not everyone was raised at your house, remembering that not everyone you lead has the same knowledge base that you do, remembering that not everyone view the world (and work) the way you do can go a long way towards helping you reframe your experience of someone. As opposed to seeing them as “a scattered and disorganized person” you can view the as someone who needs time/project management training. As opposed to seeing them as someone who is “disrespectful” because they are chronically late, you may be able to view them as someone who needs your expectations of “timeliness” explained to them instead of assuming they know because it is “common sense.”

When you change the way you look at things, even the way you look at people, what you look at changes. By remembering that “not everyone was raised at your house” you can go a long way towards becoming a better leader, communicator, and team member.

For more tools on how to leverage the power of perspective, check out these on-line learning programs 

Pamela Jett is a communication skills and leadership expert who knows that words matter! In her keynote presentations, workshops, books and online learning programs, she moves beyond communication theory into practical strategies that can be implemented immediately to create the kind of leadership, teamwork, and employee engagement results her clients want.

You might also enjoy:

Stop “Command and Control” Language During Conflict

One Way to Deal with Difficult People

Wet Blanket Negativists and the Art of the Question

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How NOT to Start a Crucial Conversation

by Pamela Jett, CSP

I recently had a discussion with someone very close to me about a very difficult and emotionally charged situation for both of us.  Over the course of a few days we had numerous conversations about the situation, most of which went very smoothly.  However, one of the conversations was especially challenging for me.  I had to struggle not to get defensive.  I had to struggle to be the master of my emotions and not let my emotions be the master of me.  I had to work very hard for a positive conversational outcome.  And, I am confident my conversational partner had to do the same.

As I look back over this tough conversation, I wondered “what triggered me?”  “Why was this conversation more difficult emotionally than all the others on the same topic over the past few days?”  What I realized is that the first words out of my conversational partner’s mouth triggered defensiveness that I had to work hard to overcome.  These words, on some level, were insulting to me and I struggled from that moment forward.  While unintentional, my conversational partner provided an example of how NOT to start a crucial conversation.

“I know you don’t understand”  were the trigger words for me.  Here is what they produced in me and what they might produce in others if you use them during a crucial conversation:

  • I felt the urge to say “yes I do” in a defensive fashion.
  • I felt insulted – as if all the effort to be a good listener, to be open minded, and empathetic during previous conversations on the subject was not only wasted, but unappreciated.
  • I felt the urge to “correct”, to put on my “communication expert” hat and explain that there is a difference between not understanding and not agreeing.

All of these responses would have been counter-productive, would have taken the conversation in the wrong direction, and likely would have made my conversational partner feel defensive.

So what could have been used instead of “I know you don’t understand?”   Here are some options:

  • You may see it differently.
  • You might not agree.
  • I’ m aware we have different thoughts, feelings on this.
Each of these options demonstrates an understanding that agreeing and understanding are two separate things.  And by avoiding “You don’t understand” you are less likely to trigger defensiveness in others.  Making this small change can make a big difference during a crucial conversation.
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“I Don’t Care” vs. “I Don’t Mind”

by Pamela Jett, CSP

“I don’t care.”“I don’t mind.” Is there a difference?  Since Words Matter, I believe there is a difference.  Moreover, if you are a leader looking to use communication to enhance relationships and improve employee engagement, you will carefully consider the words you choose to use and the words you chose to lose.  “I don’t care” is a phrase to lose.

While not intentional, when you say “I don’t care” in response to a casual question or request, you run the risk of conveying that you genuinely DON’T CARE – likely a message you want to avoid.  No one wants to work with or for people who “don’t care.”  No leader can bring the best version of themselves to work everyday if they “don’t care.”  When we say we “don’t care” we run the risk of people believing us.

So, what do we say instead?  Here are some options you can use that are likely more accurate in terms of our communication and don’t run the risk of unintentionally sending a “disengaging” message:

“I don’t mind” or “that’s fine”

“I don’t have a preference” or “whichever you prefer”

In general, while I “don’t mind” the first options, I prefer the second options because they put into practice a key component of engaging communication – putting things in the positive as opposed to the negative.

I encourage you to purge “I don’t care” from your language.  Make a small change that can have a big impact in the message you send and the relationships you are building.

What do you think?  Join the conversation – post a comment, share on Facebook or other social media.


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A Communication Reason to LOVE Chick Fil A

by Pamela Jett, CSP

Do you love Chick Fil A?  I do!  And, it’s not simply for their yummy food (milkshakes are to die for!)  It’s not only because of their clever cow marketing scheme.  And, while I admire an organization that puts principles before profit and stays closed on Sunday, it’s not that either.

I love Chick Fil A for all of the above and because their employees consistently model a remarkable communication technique.  Their employees understand that WORDS MATTER and they practice this awareness in their customer interactions.

Anytime you say “thank you” to one of the employees, their standard response is “my pleasure.” What a remarkable way to practice good customer service!  This response doesn’t de-value the appreciation like some other responses do.  Some people respond to a “thank you” with the following:

  • “It was no big deal” or “no biggie”
  • “It wasn’t a problem”
  • “It was nothing”

These responses de-value the appreciation.  Perhaps it wasn’t a “big deal” to us.  However, it may have been important, meaningful, or valuable to the other person and replying in this dismissive fashion de-values what they value.

The next time someone says “thank you” to you for any service rendered, be it big or small, consider taking a page from the people at Chick Fil A and respond with “you’re welcome” or even “my pleasure.”

I would love your thoughts on this blog post.  Please feel free to post a comment.

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Conflict, Communication, and Your Emotional Vocabulary

by Pamela Jett, CSP

The deepest need of the human soul is to be understood.

I believe this to be true and it is especially true during conflict and confrontation or emotionally charged situations.  We are looking for others to “get it” or to understand what we are feeling.  And, when we don’t feel understood it can lead to genuine frustration, damaged relationships, and increased conflict.

While we can’t make people better listeners and we can’t improve the empathy skills of others, we can do one simple thing that will increase the likelihood that we will be more fully understood during emotional conversation.  We can build our emotional vocabularies.

I believe that many of us are walking around with fairly limited emotional vocabularies.  We feel rich, complex, and diverse emotions, but we tend to rely on the same limited number of words to express those feelings.  For example, when we are feeling confused and frustrated by another’s behavior we often simply say we are “angry.”  Or, when we are feeling lonely and under-appreciated we might simply say we are feeling “sad.”  Or, when we are feeling overwhelmed and out of control we might resort to labeling that complex state as simply being “stressed.”

Is it any wonder that we don’t feel understood when we are oversimplifying our emotional states?  If you are looking for others to better understand what you are feeling, get better at accurately expressing those feelings.  Build your emotional vocabulary.

When you more accurately describe your internal state, you will likely receive a more on target or “understanding” response from others.  While this doesn’t solve all the challenges during emotional conversations, it can help us each feel more understood and that is a great place to start!


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Assertive Communication – What it Really Takes

by Pamela Jett, CSP

Stephen Covey taught me that “inner victories precede outer victories.” Lately, I’ve been conducting several workshops and teleseminars on assertive communication skills and the truth of Dr. Covey’s notion has really been driven home.  In order to be assertive (not passive, aggressive, or passive-aggressive), we must have a strong sense of who we are and what matters most.  It is only with a clear understanding of our values, beliefs, and priorities that we can assertively communicate.  Essentially, we need to know on a deep level that some things are worth standing up for and that some things are not.  That way, we can make the choice to use our assertive communication skills (or not.)

Of course, this is easier said than done.  Especially if you were raised to be a “people pleaser” or if you have the habit of putting the needs of others ahead of yours.  It is difficult to communicate in a way that is consistent with what matters most to you if you don’t have a sense of what matters most.  It is hard to stand up for something or assertively communicate your wants and needs if you have not placed a priority on those wants and needs.

If you want to communicate with more confidence, if you want to master the art of assertive communication and reap the rewards of being seem as more capable and credible, I challenge you to spend some quality time figuring out what matters most to you.  I am a big fan of creating and using a personal mission statement.  A personal mission statement is a reflection of what matters most.  It is a written document that articulates your values and priorities.

It is so much easier to assertively communicate when you have a strong sense of “inner victory.”  You will be able to use your assertive communication tools to gain credibility, influence, and respect at work and at home.  If you would like more information on developing your assertive communication skills and developing the pre-requisite of “inner victory” click here .

If you have an example of when you were able to assertively communicate because you had a strong sense of what matters most, I would love to know your story.  Please post a comment.  And, feel free to past this blog post along via Twitter, Facebook, or simply tell a friend.

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FB Status – It’s Complicated

By Pamela Jett, CSP

I confess.  I spend time on Facebook.  I have found it a great place to connect with old friends.  In fact, just yesterday I connected with a college friend who now plays Big Mike on Chuck.  I’ve connected with friends from elementary school, old roommates, and even a few relatives I didn’t really know about!  I also love that Facebook allows me to see what my friends and colleagues are up to and to offer support and encouragement.  It’s great fun to look at photos, old and new (what’s up with the 80″s hairstyles???) and to see pictures of kids and spouses.

One thing that always makes me smile is the “relationship status”.  One of the options is “it’s complicated” and I was thinking the other day that all the status options ought to have “it’s complicated”. I’m single and I know that “it’s complicated.”  Married people will attest –  “it’s complicated.”  In fact, all relationships, both personal and professional, are complicated.

The way we manage, maintain, and build our relationships is through communication.  Communication is really the “stuff” that relationships are made of.  Not only what we say, but what we do, how we spend our time, the people we associate with,  it all communicates something.  And frankly, communication isn’t always easy.  We say things we regret, we don’t phrase things right and others get offended, we say too much, we say too little, we say the right thing, but at the wrong time, we misunderstand one another – bottom line –  It’s complicated.

Why are relationships and communication so complicated?  Well, the answer is… you guessed it… it’s complicated!  However, one simple tool to help manage that complication is to remember that past experiences shape our perceptions of current experiences.  So, since everyone has had a different life history, the world really is a different place to different people.

Remembering that we all see the world differently doesn’t make communication easy, but it can help us to be more patient when miscommunication occurs.  It can aid us in choosing our words wisely because we know that people attach their own unique meaning to words and we want to take their experience (their reality) into account.  This knowledge can help us communicate more effectively because we understand where the other person is coming from, or at least that they are coming from a place somewhat different than we are.

Relationships and communication – it’s complicated.  By acknowledging that it’s complicated, we are better able to use communication, our most important tool, to build stronger and more meaningful relationships with friends, family, colleagues and management.

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Brussel Sprouts and Pride

by Pamela Jett, CSP

Some things are really very hard for me to swallow:  brussel sprouts, creamed corn, liver, and zucchini, to name a few.  However, the most difficult thing for me to swallow is my pride.  It is difficult, distasteful, and not very fun from my point of view.  And yet, I am aware that swallowing my pride is good for me, just like liver and zucchini.  While every leader is aware of how important it is to be humble (which means teachable), it is sometimes very difficult.

One simple way to swallow our pride as leaders is to ask others for their ideas as opposed to simply imposing our own agenda.  Research is very clear that when we ask others for their ideas and solutions, we increase employee engagement and often get better solutions to complex problems.  It isn’t always easy to ask others for their opinions, especially when time is tight or when we think we know the “right” answer.  It is, however, worth it.  Here are a few simple “pride-swallowing” questions to add to your leadership communication repertoire.

  • “What are your thoughts?”
  • “How do you think this might play out?”
  • “How would you approach this situation?”

Just like swallowing brussel sprouts, swallowing our pride can yield great bottom-line results.  And, as an added bonus, we become the kind of leader that employees like and respect.

Enjoy this post?  Please post a comment and share it with those in your professional network.

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What is a Communication Skills Speaker?

By Pamela Jett, CSP

As a communication skills expert, I am often asked what exactly does a communication skills speaker do?   The answer is fairly simple, I work with individuals, organizations, teams, associations, and groups to improve their productivity by improving communication.  I am fond of reminding people that “communication is like a thread which runs through a pearl necklace.  It is invisible.  Yet without it, everything would fall apart.”  I firmly believe that communication is the most important skill set any professional possesses.  Good communication (or poor communication) can make or break a career, a team, a family.  Most professionals agree that about 80% of problems at work result from poor communication and most individuals will admit that poor communication is the root cause of many relationship breakdowns.  We all know that communication matters!

However, while most of us are aware that good communication is vital to success, many of us choose to learn our communication skills through trial and error.  Essentially, we are enrolled in the “school of hard knocks” when it comes to improving our communication abilities.  And the “school of hard knocks” comes with a pretty hefty tuition bill:  lost credibility, damaged relationships, lost opportunities, and team dysfunction.  Savvy people recognize that while the “school of hard knocks” is a valid way to learn, it can be painful and they prefer to learn from the knowledge and expertise of others.  As a communication skills speaker, I provide an alternative to learning the hard way.

With workshops, training, keynote addresses, executive coaching, teleseminars, audio CDs and other delivery mechanisms, I teach individuals powerful tools for communication success.  I believe that “words matter” and that the words you choose to use and the words you choose to lose can make all the difference.  For example, I teach my clients to stop saying “don’t forget” and to start saying “please remember”.  You can read other blog posts here for more examples of the specific tools and techniques that I share.  I provide professionals with specific language patterns and templates they can use to communicate effectively in some of the most challenging situations.  With a focus on practical application (as opposed to theory – because while interesting, theory really doesn’t yield results), I provide individuals, teams, and leaders with the words to use so that we no longer lay awake at night wondering “how do I deal with that?”  or “what do I say”.

I enjoy being a communication skills speaker immensely.  It is very rewarding to have someone say to me “I tried your technique, and it worked!”  I would like to hear from you, so please post a comment.  Specifically, I would like to know what types of communication challenges do you face?  What types of conversations do you dread?  That way, I can post specific tools to address your specific needs.

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