Posts Tagged ‘Pamela Jett Communication Skill Expert’

Why Leaders Need to Stop “Making Changes”

by Pamela Jett, CSP

Group of successful young business persons together

A few days ago I had the privilege to work with one of my favorite clients, Norton Healthcare in Louisville, KY.  I’ve been working with them for the past several months facilitating their Women’s Leadership Academy.  This academy is made up of bright, motivated, and professional women leaders from around the healthcare system.  Discussions are consistently robust, thought provoking and lively. In addition to sharing communication and leadership skills with them, I always learn something from the attendees.  This session was no exception.

As leaders, the words we choose to use and the words we choose to lose can make all the difference in our effectiveness.  During this session we were talking about how to best navigate the pushback or resistance that teams will often display when a new policy or procedure is being implemented or when change is happening. An attendee, Beth, made a very astute observation. An observation that got me thinking and all of us talking.

Beth mentioned that she has learned in her leadership role that often team members have a very adverse reaction (notice, I didn’t say response) to the mere uttering of the word “change.”  This is true even if the “change” is a small one, or a change with extremely obvious positive benefits, or one that people have been lobbying for.  Team members often hear the word “change” and immediately go into resistance mode or become skeptical. Some team members can even become downright angry or hostile towards the change process before it even begins.

Has this been your experience?  It has been mine.  It also makes sense.  One of the things we know from neuroscience, is that the brain classifies “change” as “threat.” When humans feel threatened, all of the adverse reactions noted above are not only understandable, they are even predictable.

So, what can a savvy leader do?  Clearly, creating a team where nothing changes is not only a poor choice, it is not possible. Change is inevitable. Without change there is no growth. Change is necessary for teams, organizations, and even societies to thrive. The question becomes how to best manage change and lead people through the change process.

Good advice on that subject is easy to find.

Good leaders typically implement that good advice.

And yet, people still are resistant.

Here is where the Women’s Leadership Academy participant, Beth, made an astute observation and offered a savvy tip. Stop using the word “change” as often as possible. She shared that it had been her experience that if she could replace the word “change” with a different word, the resistance was less instantaneous and often less intense. Here are some of the words Beth and the other attendees agreed could work.

  • Adjust
  • Tweak
  • Upgrade
  • Enhance
  • Fine-tune
  • Refine

Obviously, this is only the start of what could be a very long list.  What words can you think of?

Words matter. From the receiver’s perspective, it is much more palatable to hear “we are going to adjust this process” or “we are going to upgrade this process” than “we are going to change this process.”

“It’s time to fine-tune our approach” sounds, and is, more positive than “it’s time to change our approach.”

The new wording sets people up for a positive experience and is less likely to trigger the “threat” reaction. It also allows people to know what they have been doing wasn’t all bad or all wrong. It allows leaders to stay positive (relentlessly positive), even when delivering a message that can sometimes be negative. 

Savvy leaders know that the words the words they choose to use can make all the difference. Making the effort to choose positive words as opposed to negative words (and change is often perceived as a negative) can become a key leadership success differentiator. Take the opportunity to replace “change” and watch resistance and pushback lessen and compliance and even enthusiasm increase.

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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Hyperbole – It’s “Killing” Your Career

“This project is the worst ever!”

“I have a million things on my to do list.”

“This is taking a ton of time.”

“Learning this new software is killing me!”

“If this meeting doesn’t end soon, I’m going to die.”

Do any of these phrases sound familiar? Have you ever found yourself using them or something similar in the workplace? If so, you may be unwittingly damaging your credibility by using (too much) hyperbole.

amazed woman with big head over grey background

What is hyperbole?

Hyperbole is an extreme exaggeration used to make a point.  We often use it to add “color” or “flavor” to our communication.  “This software is older than dirt” is a colorful statement and it allows you to make your point with emphasis.  Teenagers are MASTERS of hyperbole in my experience.  At least I was.  “Mom, if I can’t have these (name brand) tennis shoes, I won’t be able to show my face at school… ever!” Or, “I’m so embarrassed…I could just die!” That is hyperbole.

Hyperbole and Credibility

Communicating in a vivid and engaging manner can add to the overall impact of your message.However, reliance on hyperbole can “kill” your credibility. Notice what I did there? Of course you did.  Does hyperbole really “kill” your credibility?  Of course not.  Can it negatively impact your credibility?  Of course it can.

Unfortunately, “negatively impact” isn’t as attention grabbing as “kill.” And, in the information age, when we are inundated with messages, it is tempting to use hyperbole to grab attention, to get heard above the noise.

People Hands Holding Red Word Trust MeHere is where the problem lies.  If everything in your business is “the best ever” or “the biggest opportunity of the year” or even “the most challenging” then how do you separate the genuinely “great” from the “good?” How do you emphasize something worthy of more time, effort and energy if everything is currently positioned in the extreme? If you regularly use hyperbole to make a point, how can people trust you?

Remember the boy who cried “wolf!”?  When the wolf really did appear, he wasn’t believed.  Same thing with your credibility. If you consistently paint everything as a “crisis” or “a disaster!” how will you gain the much needed focus and attention of your team when the genuine crisis occurs?  Chances are, you will have a more difficult time.

caution-tape1Words Matter – Watch Out for These

Sometimes hyperbole is a habit.  We are accustomed to using words that smack of hyperbole.  Here’s a quick list of words that are currently popular.  We often use them without thinking and we may be inadvertently be hurting our credibility.

  • Amazing
  • Awesome
  • Unbelievable
  • Totally
  • Nightmare
  • Ridiculous
  • Fabulous
  • Killing
  • Crushing

If you use these words sparingly, you will likely make an impact.  If you use them too much you will likely be seen as less professional, less serious, and less discerning.  You will be hurting your credibility.

Ask yourself, how am I using hyperbole?  Too much? What price might I be paying?

Professionals know that communicating in an engaging manner is important.  However, to sacrifice credibility for the sake of exaggeration is likely a career killing, totally ridiculous, nightmare choice.

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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Passive-Aggressive? Here’s Why

Why Are People Passive-Aggressive?-2Passive-aggressiveness, sometimes known as the “nice-nasty,” is communication (behavior) that is “nicety-nice” on the surface. However, the underlying message or intent is mean, rude, nasty, and/or manipulative.  Being on the receiving end of passive-aggressiveness can be frustrating, confounding, hurtful, and can even be the reason to end a relationship, quit a job, or even retaliate.

Passive-aggressiveness takes many forms.

  • Sarcasm
  • Ghosting
  • The Silent Treatment
  • Sabotage
  • Withholding (time, praise, intimacy, opportunity)
  • Backhanded Compliments
  • Hinting

And many, many more.  What these behaviors all have in common is that they allow people who aren’t comfortable being openly aggressive get what they want under the guise of still trying to please others or having “plausible deniability” if called on their behavior.  For example, if someone uses sarcasm and they are confronted by the recipient, they can claim “that’s not what I meant” or even resort to gaslighting (intentionally trying to make the other person doubt themselves or the validity of their perceptions and feelings) with something like “geez – you are too sensitive.”  The passive-aggressive person wants their way, but they also want everyone to still like them and/or not be held accountable for their aggressive behavior.

I am often asked after delivering keynote speeches or programs on communication “Pamela, why are people passive-aggressive?”  Some of the more obvious answers are:

  • They are often insecure.
  • They may have poor communication skills.  They don’t know how to be assertive. (Important note:  assertive and aggressive are very different.)
  • They may struggle with jealously (personal or professional.)
  • They may feel out of control or a need to gain (or regain) power.
  • They may have learned it “works” for them.
  • It allows them to stay in their “comfort zone” and avoid the accountability assertiveness requires.

In addition to these reasons, here are a few less widely talked about, and yet still prevalent reasons.

Anger is often socially unacceptable (especially for women) whereas sugarcoated anger can be socially acceptable. Many people have been taught to “play nice” or that to “be liked” is a top priority. Some people are so uncomfortable with conflict, confrontation and other negative interactions that they will attempt to “keep the peace at any cost.”  While they may feel anger, they are not comfortable expressing it directly for fear of social censure. When the anger gets sugarcoated, that social censure is typically less.

Assertiveness can be simultaneously empowering and terrifying. Passive-aggressiveness can be easier and feel safer than assertiveness.  Being assertive and asking for what you want or need by being direct and clear about your expectations can feel risky. What if your request is denied? What if the recipient of your request belittles your request? Or gets upset? By choosing passive-aggressiveness (indirect communication) individuals give themselves a more palatable explanation for another’s behavior.  For example, if you are frustrated by your colleague’s constant tardiness to meetings you run and you “drop hints” (passive-aggressive)  about their arrival time and despite the hints they continue to arrive late, you can tell yourself “perhaps I wasn’t clear” or “maybe they didn’t understand.”  However, if you opt for the assertive approach and directly (and politely)  tell your colleague that their being late to regularly scheduled meetings you run is frustrating and ask them to be on time (an assertive approach) they may choose not to be on time anyway. With this assertive approach, you can no longer tell yourself “perhaps they didn’t understand.” Now the remaining explanations are less palatable such as “my frustration must not really matter to them.” Sometimes these “less palatable” explanations can be hurtful. Hence why assertiveness can sometimes be terrifying.

Passive-aggressiveness can feel powerful. Because it is often manipulative and can be disconcerting to others, passive-aggressiveness can feel powerful. Passive-aggressiveness is also disrespectful to others. The passive-aggressive person is taking away the other person’s power. It can be a way for an insecure person to gain some of the power and control they feel they are lacking.  Assertiveness, on the other hand, is mutually respectful (power is shared.) The passive-aggresive person doesn’t want to share that power.

Passive-aggressiveness can be easily rationalized. The passive-aggressive person is very adept at justifying their behavior. It is their brain’s way of arguing for their comfort zone. Any twinges of remorse or regret are quickly squashed by an inner or story that negates the necessity for change or personal growth.

While we cannot stop the passive-aggressive person from being passive-aggressive, it is helpful to have a better understanding of what passive-aggressive is and why people use it. For tools and information about how to deal with passive-aggressive people, check out this on-demand webinar. And, if you are looking to build your own assertiveness skills, click here.

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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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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Increase Your Influence – Before the Meeting Even Starts!

Pamela Jett, CSP

Slide1Would you like to be taken more seriously by your leader?  Are you looking to enhance your influence and make a bigger impact on your organization’s goals and objectives?  Are you seeking to attain the attention, authority, and respect you have earned? Would you like others. especially your leaders, to see you as a motivated, engaged, and high-value team player who is ready to take on even more opportunities?

If so, meetings and other group conversations present a fabulous opportunity to shine.  Chances are, you are doing the basics:

  • You are well prepared.
  • You participate readily and with confidence.
  • You follow-up on your action items.
  • You are supportive and open-minded to the contributions of others.
  • You stay focused on the subject at hand and don’t engage in disruptive behaviors.

However, are you making the most of the opportunity to shine even before the meeting starts? Here are some powerful strategies to leverage.

  • Words to choose and words to lose. Stop using the phrase “I have to go to a meeting” and change it to “I get to go to a meeting.”  When you use the phase “have to” it makes it sound like it is something you don’t want to do.  It can give the impression that others choose for you and you are not empowered or in charge of your own choices.  It might even signal to some that you have a “victim mentality.”  When you make the small change and start to say “I get to” you send a message that you are excited and are glad to be part of the meeting.  You sound empowered, positive, and engaged.  This is a small change that can make a big difference in how you are perceived by others.  Be intentional in your word choice because words matter.
  • Get on the agenda.  Not every meeting or conversation has an agenda (although most meetings ought to if they want to be effective.)  When there is an agenda, maximize that opportunity.  If you have a proposal you want to make, a question you would like to pose, or solution to a problem, or any other meaningful contribution you want to make during the meeting, contact the person running that meeting and ask for some agenda time.  They may not give it to you. However, simply asking shows that you are engaged and ready to participate proactively.  This is especially important if the person running the meeting is your leader.  Don’t wait for them to assign you something.  Be proactive.  Ask yourself, “what meaningful contribution to this meeting can I make?”  And, ask for agenda time if appropriate.  Even if you opt not to ask for agenda time, asking yourself “what meaningful contribution can I make?” can help position you to participate in a meaningful and impactful ways. When I work with executives who are looking for their team members to enhance their communication skills, one of the #1 requests is “please help my team members take more initiative, take more ownership, be more proactive.”  Get on the agenda and you will be demonstrating leadership abilities and be seen as more proactive and engaged.
  • Arrive early.  There are many good reasons to be slightly early to every meeting.  You minimize the risk of arriving late due to be waylaid in the hallways.  You increase the chances of getting a good seat in the room. You will be seen as reliable, respectful, and engaged.  And, you can leverage those few minutes to your advantage.  Put away the cell phones (even if you are standing in the hall waiting for the conference room to be vacated by the previous occupants) and engage in conversation with others who have arrived.  Stop texting and introduce yourself to people you may not know.  Ask a colleague how a project is progressing.  Make small talk.  Look people in the eye.  Smile. Be friendly.  Be professional. Be present.  You will create a memorable impression by having short conversations with those around you. Building your professional network is important and meetings are a great place to do so.  Get to know people and you can easily do that in 5 minutes or so when you arrive early.

Meetings present a tremendous opportunity for you to shine.  Make the most of the opportunities you have to communicate in a confident, professional, and engaged fashion.

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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3 Easy Phrases to Use in 2016 to Communicate More Effectively

2016It’s that time of year again.  The time we set goals, make resolutions, and promise ourselves to be better in various ways. We often set big, audacious, life-changing, career sky-rocketing plans in motion and then as “real life” kicks in, we often lose momentum or get sidetracked. What if there were a few easy things you could do in 2016 that would help you be a more effective leader and a more promotable and engaged team member? Good news!  There are.  Resolve to make these small and easy changes to your communication and begin to reap the rewards of higher employee engagement, better relationships, and stronger teamwork.

  • Stop “Kathy works for me” and start “Kathy works with me.”  As leaders, when we introduce someone on our team as working with us, it implies that we value and respect them. It can help team members feel “part of” the team and also implies that we, as leaders, don’t set ourselves above or apart from our team.  This is a small and easy change that can make a big difference.
  • Stop “are you busy?” and start “is now a good time to talk?”  As leaders and team members when we ask “are you busy?” we may unintentionally insult someone or trigger defensiveness.  The question may imply we don’t think they work hard or are doing anything important. This is, obviously, not the message we wish to send.  By asking “is now a good time to talk?” we imply that we are aware they are busy. It is a message of respect. And, we don’t risk anyone misinterpreting our intent and becoming offended or defensive. As an added bonus, it also is a message of empowerment because it implies that we, as leaders, are aware that those we lead are in charge of their own time and are not always at our beck and call.
  • Stop “does anyone have any questions?’ and start “what may I clarify?” If you are looking to increase engagement and participation in meetings or group discussions, changing “does anyone have any questions?” to “what may I clarify?” can make a big difference. The former is a closed-ended question while the latter is an open-ended question. Open-ended questions invite far more participation. Also, “what may I clarify?” puts the responsibility for any confusion or missed pieces on you, the speaker and leader, instead of shifting it to the listener or team members.  This is another small change that can result in better communication and results along with enhanced teamwork and engagement.

Becoming the best leader and communicator you can be can happen one easy change at a time.  Which will you resolve to focus on in 2016?

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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Be Relentless When Dealing with Difficult People

by Pamela Jett, CSP

Today i am happyWhen dealing with difficult people, be relentless. Relentlessly positive, that is. The focus of my recent webinar “Snipers, Steamrollers, and Chronic Complainers” was on words to choose and words to lose in order to train difficult people that their difficult behavior won’t be rewarded. In addition to knowing what to say to difficult people, attitude also matters.

A relentlessly positive attitude is one of the best ways to communicate with a difficult person. For example, when a complainer complainers, be relentlessly positive and respond with something good about the situation. When a whiner whines “is it Friday yet” respond with the relentlessly positive “I plan on having a good day today!”

Choose to be positive in the face of their negativity. While this may sound naive, “Pollyanna” or even unrealistic, try it. It sure beats being negative!

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Wet Blanket Negativists and the Art of the Question

protect your enthusiasmby Pamela Jett, CSP

You  know the type, Don’t you? The person who makes blanket statements such as “that won’t work” or “it will take too much time” or  “that will cost too much money” in response to every new idea or proposal? These people are what I call Wet Blanket Negativists. They want to squash any new idea or put out the fire of energy around new proposals. Here are a few facts about them:


  • Their behavior is (typically) motivated out of fear.
  • They rarely (if ever) come up with their own ideas or solutions.
  • They typically can’t back up their negative statements with real reasons.

The high-caliber leader knows how to respond to those smothering statements. They use the art of the question. The next time a Wet Blanket Negativist tries that on you or a member of your team, try asking questions such as:

  • What part, specifically, do you think won’t work?
  • How much time is too much time and what would be a better amount?
  • How much money do you think ought to be spent?

Remember, they won’t likely have an answer. They will back-pedal or give some sort of vague “It’s just won’t work” reiteration. When they do, let them off the hook gently.

However, the next time they try to smother an idea with their wet blanket statement, they will think twice about it because they know you will ask them to back it up.

Enjoy this technique? If so, you can find more like it at my up-coming webinar “Snipers, Steamrollers, and Chronic Complainers.” More information can be found at

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#1 Way to Deal With Difficult People

Java Printingby Pamela Jett, CSP

Difficult people are everywhere. There are exploders, snipers, steamrollers, and chronic complainers in our personal lives and in our professional lives. While it might be possible in our personal lives to avoid difficult people to a degree, it is virtually impossible to do so at work.

To make things even more challenging, we can’t make a difficult person not be difficult. What is helpful is to understand the #1 reason difficult people are difficult.

Difficult people are difficult because it is working for them.

They are getting some sort of reward or payoff with their difficult behavior. Perhaps it is attention. Perhaps it is a sense of power of control. Perhaps their reward is that they get their way.

While we can’t make them not be difficult, we can train the difficult person that while their difficult behavior might be working with others, it does not work with us. Ask yourself “what is the reward they are seeking?” And, then decide if you are willing to give it. Sometimes it is a simple as deciding not to commiserate with a chronic complainer or to not explode back (or give them control) when an exploder explodes.

For more techniques to deal with difficult people, check out the up-coming webinar “Snipers, Steamrollers, and Chronic Complainers” at


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When Name Calling Works: Tips For Better Self-Talk (part 3 of 3)

by Pamela Jett, CSP

Keys for Better Self-Talk During Emotionally Charged Situations

Key#3 (part 3 of 3)

Have you ever tried to calm yourself down in an emotionally charged situation by using self-talk such as “I am calm” or “I am patient?” If so, great job! That means you are using key #1 (desired behavior) and key #2 (present tense.)

child yellingHere is key #3. Call yourself by name! The latest research shows that if you call yourself by name, such as “Pamela, you are calm” Your self-talk is even more effective. Case study after case study shows that superstars in sports, business, and even a Nobel Peace Prize winner (Malala) call themselves by name when trying to stay calm, cool, and collected. Try it!

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