How to Handle Difficult Conversations

Again with the finger!

Again with the finger!

It happens without warning. Suddenly, out of the blue, someone is red-faced and angry with you. Your adrenaline kicks in — that old fight-or-flight instinct is activated. Your caveman brain has taken over, and you find your ears pounding with blood, your voice stuck somewhere near your esophagus, and your most primitive self emerging. So you yell back. Then they yell back louder. Then you yell back louder…

Well, you can tell where this is going. To hell in a handbasket.

If you’ve ever been there, you know it’s a place you never want to be again. So how do you keep your cool while someone else is all up in your face, spitting mad?

Staying cool when someone else is red-hot sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it? And it is. But it’s pretty simple, at least in theory. Once you figure it out and practice doing it, you’ll never have to have a yelling match with another person again. Well, unless you want to.

Check out this article and learn the secret of handling difficult conversations.

Viewers like Palm Pre TV, but spokeswoman, not so much.

Ever since I saw the first Palm Pre TV spot, I’ve had a creepy feeling about that pale woman with the intestine-shaped hairdo and the monotonous voice. Turns out maybe I’m not alone.

This study finds people generally like the spots. In fact, they report feeling “inspiration” and “happiness.” But their interest flags noticeably when the spokeswoman is the key subject, or even when she turns to face them. Well, after all, what are they selling here, a girl or a smartphone? People are interested in the gadget, not the actress, no matter how bizarre she looks.

I wonder what thinking went into the design of this spokeswoman’s hair style, makeup and dress (I guess PreAdsthere’s a dress; the thin straps are all we can see). Is she supposed to be “simple,” like the Pre? Magical? Zenlike? Tranquilized? I’m stumped.

The actress’ preternatural calm is disturbing, like that of a serial killer or one of those pod people (how ironic!) from “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” I know I shouldn’t let my distaste for her bias me against the Pre, but it’s difficult to set aside the key element of the campaign. Maybe that’s the problem. The Pre should be the star, not a pod person.

Oh, and by the way, some viewers thought the ads were from Sprint. Uh-oh.

You can participate in the study online by going to

Ahoy, matey! Seagoing origins of 9 common phrases

Words are endlessly fascinating to me. Their origins can be surprising. So prepare to be surprised and read this article:

The Nautical Roots of 9 Common Phrases
by the mag – November 14, 2009

Barf bag, anyone?

Barf bag, anyone?

The Vikings, Columbus, the Pilgrims … they all arrived here by ship. So it stands to reason that some of the phrases we use today were born on the high seas. While sources differ on the roots of many sayings, others have a clear path to the days of sailing across the ocean. Here’s a look at 9 family-friendly phrases that likely came from the mouths of sailors.

1. Clean Bill of Health

The “Age of Sail” in the 18th and early 19th centuries was a glorious time in naval history marked by many epic battles on the high seas, but it was also a time of widespread disease. In order to receive permission to dock at a foreign port, ships were often required to show a bill of health—a document that stated the medical condition of their previous port of call, as well as that of everyone aboard. A “clean bill of health” certified that the crew and their previous port were free from the plague, cholera and other epidemics. Today, a person with a “clean bill of health” has passed a doctor’s physical or other medical examination.

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Do better by thinking better.

They say you always teach what you need to learn, and so I’m sharing below some things I’ve been taught and try to practice — not always consistently, I’m afraid — in the hope that these tips may be helpful to you.

It occurred to me that dating and doing business (two areas where I’d like better results) have a lot in common. How you think about yourself has a lot to do with success in both areas.

What's your inner radio station broadcasting?

What's your inner radio station broadcasting?

Let’s say you become interested in attracting a certain client. You do a little research on the client’s business and determine that the two of you would be a good fit. So you start “courting” the client.

You call and ask for a coffee date, just to get acquainted. If it goes well, you’ll meet at the client’s office to chat with a couple of other people on his or her team. And if everyone gets along and feels there’s mutual benefit in joining forces, you’re off on a new relationship. One that you hope will be long-lasting and profitable for both of you.

But let’s rewind for a minute. Before you have a solid relationship, you have to start out on the right foot.

When you approach your potential match, whether a potential date or a potential client, the response you get relies in great part on how you come across to the other person. You want your first impression to be positive, of course. So are you putting forward your best self? Not a phony, over-confident, back-slapping self (“The Pusher”), but a confident friendly, open self (“Genuine Me”)?

self-esteemYour self-image is based on your habitual self-talk. What you believe about yourself shows, and it will either turn people on or turn them off.

Think of your self-talk as a radio station in your head that broadcasts advertisements to yourself all day long. Tune into it consciously for a day. Make notes about what you hear. Are your advertisements pessimistic or optimistic? Do they constantly judge and criticize yourself? That would sound something like, “I look terrible in this outfit. My belly’s fat, my haircut is wrong, and I’m too short, so nobody will take me seriously. No wonder I can’t do better at (fill in the blank).”

Wow. Do something about the things you don’t like and can change, like the haircut and maybe the belly. But think about the “short thing” logically for a minute. You can’t change it anyway, so you might as well quit beating yourself up about it. Do you know of any short people who get taken seriously? Sure you do. Napoleon, Robert Reich, and Madeline Albright, just to name a few.

There may be a reason you don’t get taken seriously, but it isn’t your height. It may be because you don’t take yourself seriously, so you’re subconsciously cuing others not to, either. Identify what’s really going on. Remember, not all the ads on your radio station are true. In fact, most of the negative ads are either misguided or just plain wrong.

radio-towerSo where do you start rewriting the advertisements on your radio station so they support you instead of tearing you down?

1. Become aware of what you’re saying and believing about yourself.

2. Identify any negative thoughts you continually have about yourself, your future, other people, and the world in general.

3. Catch yourself in negative self-talk, and stop. (Some people recommend snapping a rubber band around your wrist whenever you catch yourself thinking negatively — and literally, snap out of it.)

4. Finally, let go of the negative thought and substitute something positive. Here’s an important point. Your mind can never think of nothing, so you have to give it something else to think about besides the negative thought you just booted out. Affirmations can help.

Did you know that whatever you believe tends to be a self-fulfilling prophecy? Positive thoughts and beliefs can radically improve the quality of your life and your success in your business. So watch your beliefs, improve your thoughts, and enjoy a better future.

By the way, here’s a good article about self-talk and that familiar syndrome when we’re stressed — “awfulizing.”

Are you learning as fast as the world is changing?

It seems counter-intuitive, the idea that giving away your best ideas to others is the way to succeed in business. Gone are the cut-throat 1980s. Here in the 21st century, we have found that cooperation leads to wins for everyone.

Here’s an interesting take on succeeding in a changing world, from William C. Taylor. As co-founder of Fast Company, he launched a magazine that earned a passionate following around the world. I imagine he knows what he’s talking about.

Are you learning and teaching?

Are you learning?

… [O]ne thing I’ve learned over the last few years, as I’ve traveled the world in search of organizations unleashing big change in difficult circumstances, is that the most determined innovators — the organizations with the most original ideas about how to compete and win — aren’t just committed to learning. They are just as committed to teaching. They understand that the only sustainable form of market leadership is thought leadership. And if, as Aristotle famously said, “teaching is the highest form of understanding,” then they also understand that the most powerful way to demonstrate your position as a thought leader is to teach other organizations what you know — whether they are customers, suppliers, or even direct competitors.

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Try “Networthing” Instead of Networking

You’ve made the rounds of Chamber breakfasts and other card-exchange events around town. You have little to show for it except a pile of business cards from people you don’t know. How does this help you build your business?

Yep. Sure have a lot of cards.

Yep. Sure have a lot of cards.

You are facing the dilemma of many people in business these days: how do I create and deepen relationships with potential partners, customers or clients?

Here’s how. Instead of networking and collecting more cards, try “networthing.”

What does that mean? It means increasing your net worth to others, and increasing their net worth to you.

How do you do it? By changing your mental approach to networking events and casual business encounters. Instead of seeing everyone at an event as either a potential client or helpful contact, see them as people you can “networth” with.

Try on this idea: Keep your cards in your pocket and offer people your best self instead. The self who really wants to know what they’re working on, is truly interested in their success, and may be able to offer a link to a helpful website, a contact that person may want to call, or even a good house-sitter or dentist.

What does that person you’re talking to need? Listen. Absorb. Think. Offer net worth. Don’t overdo it, of course, or you’ll be seen as a busybody. Ask if the person would like to hear about a person or resource you know. If you get the green light, go ahead.

What’s in it for you? If someone has given you their time, attention and assistance in some way, don’t you look for opportunities to reciprocate? Of course you do. And so will your “networthing” partners. As you give, so shall you receive. It’s karma, man.

What happens when you offer net worth instead of just a business card? The person you met certainly will remember you, because unlike some other networkers, you didn’t swoop in and try to forge a business relationship in the first two minutes. You listened and offered value. That’s pretty rare.

Learn about the other person's interests.

Learn about the other person's interests.

When is the right time? At a Chamber breakfast or networking lunch, you may not have time to get in-depth with anyone. So if you find someone at an event you want to “networth” with, invite them to have lunch or coffee with you, when neither of you will feel time pressure. Take time to get to know them and let them get to know you. Not just business, but maybe a little about families, dogs, hobbies, causes and other interests. Unless you know more about a person than “what s/he does,” you don’t really know them.

And now, I need to get on with installing my new printer, since my old one blew up, so I will heed the advice of Guy Kawasaki and end this post with an element of crappiness. The point, he said, is to get something out there without waiting for it to be perfect. So I move on with the rest of my day and wish you happy networthing. More later.

$20K a Year for an Assistant CD? Unbelievable!

This is how bad things have gotten. A KC metro agency wants to pay $20K annually for a full-time assistant CD who knows every piece of graphics and video software known to human beings and is “experienced.” Must also be “energetic!” Meaning they’ll work you to death. On the positive side, they offer health insurance. You’ll need it.

Put your backs into it, slugs! The client wants delivery by noon.

Put your backs into it, slugs! The client wants delivery by noon.

Twenty grand a year? After taxes, that’s maybe $14,000.00. Or $1,167 per month. Do you know where you can live on that? In your parents’ rec room or in a two-bedroom apartment with four roommates. You’ll have fun sleeping in a bunk bed again. It’ll bring back warm childhood memories.

Recent college grads entering the flooded job market may jump at the chance to take this job. I don’t begrudge them the chance to be employed, not at all. I just hate to see people exploited economically.

‘Course, my first job in the ad biz paid only $12,000 a year to start, and I didn’t feel exploited. I was delighted to have the chance to work on new product development projects and ad campaigns for national clients. And I tripled my salary in a few years. But actually, when I started out, you could live on $12,000. True, it was in a roach- and mouse-infested apartment near the Art Institute (The awful building has now, mercifully, been demolished.), but you could eke by, if you watched your budget.

Tsk tsk.

Twenty thousand a year. Think of it. No, don’t.

Mysteries of Apostrophes… Solved!



Are you insecure when it comes to proper usage of apostrophes? I see ’em in all the wrong places on grocery store signs, church signs, and businesses’ signs. It’s quite amazing how many ways people can find to misuse apostrophes. And quotation marks! Don’t get me started on that one.

Well, banish all insecurity when you read this graphic lesson on the mysterious apostrophe. It will teach you how to ask yourself the right questions, so you’ll know how to place them (or not) properly.

Thanks to my art director friend, Laurie, who cares about writing stuff.

10 Sales Tips from “Seinfeld”

Seinfeld teaches sales?

Seinfeld teaches sales?

BNET has some great articles, and this one is fun, too. It uses 10 clips from “Seinfeld” to teach you valuable lessons about selling. Have a look and a laugh. And maybe learn something, too.

First tip alone should give you an idea what you’re in for: “George Does Telemarketing.” Here’s the second tip, from “The Soup Nazi.”

Oh, yeah. There’s a poll after each tip, so you can tell if you found the clip useful.