Communication Skills: Top 10 Tips for Tough Conversations With Your Boss, Business Partner, Or Best Bud


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I wish had the proverbial nickel for every participant in one of my sessions who has approached me after the program with a comment that began, “Have you got a minute for a question? My boss and I just don’t get along. We need to have a conversation, but he/she…” From there, the story and details diverge.But here’s the commonality: The conflict has been ongoing, stress has clearly altered productivity and results, and both parties have crashed against a communication barrier that seems insurmountable.

If you find yourself in that same predicament, consider these tips for a straightforward conversation that helps you break through that wall of hard feelings and misunderstandings.

1. Realize that two sides can be right. Conflict is not a competitive sport. The other person does not have to lose for you to win.

2. Communicate what happened, what you have concluded about what happened, and how you feel about what happened. Then listen for the same information from the other person. You will uncover hidden invalid assumptions, wrong interpretations, and inaccurate information.

3. Make a conscious choice about whether you will accommodate, compromise, overpower, or collaborate to come to resolution. Backing people into a corner rarely serves good purpose. But you yourself may decide to accommodate the other person’s wishes to “bank a favor” when something is not all that important to you. Remembering that you have a choice in the matter helps.

4. Define areas or issues that you agree on and move forward from there. Refocus on your goal rather than the obstacle. Leer más “Communication Skills: Top 10 Tips for Tough Conversations With Your Boss, Business Partner, Or Best Bud”

Do people like us better when we’re distracted?

Seems like it. It’s not that being distracted isn’t off-putting, but when distracted we’re less negative, less complex and more personal in our speech. We also encourage the other person to talk more.

From James Pennebaker’s book The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us:

…distracted pairs actually showed slightly higher style matching than the non-distracted pair. Even odder, they tended to report liking each other more. In terms of actual word use, the distracted students were less negative, less complex, and more personal than non-distracted writers.

There have been very few times in my career that I didn’t believe my own results. It just didn’t make sense to me that style matching increases when talking to a multitasker. So I took things into my own hands and called two former students and asked if they would mind participating in a language project. The deal would be that we would have an informal talk on the phone that would be recorded, transcribed, and analyzed. The talk would actually be made up of three five-minute segments, and after each segment, they would complete a brief questionnaire. Both agreed to the rules. What they didn’t know was that on one of the three segments, I would be sitting in my office madly doing arithmetic problems as fast as I could.


http://www.bakadesuyo.com/do-people-like-us-better-when-were-distracted

Seems like it. It’s not that being distracted isn’t off-putting, but when distracted we’re less negative, less complex and more personal in our speech. We also encourage the other person to talk more.

From James Pennebaker’s book The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us:

distracted pairs actually showed slightly higher style matching than the non-distracted pair. Even odder, they tended to report liking each other more. In terms of actual word use, the distracted students were less negative, less complex, and more personal than non-distracted writers.

There have been very few times in my career that I didn’t believe my own results. It just didn’t make sense to me that style matching increases when talking to a multitasker. So I took things into my own hands and called two former students and asked if they would mind participating in a language project. The deal would be that we would have an informal talk on the phone that would be recorded, transcribed, and analyzed. The talk would actually be made up of three five-minute segments, and after each segment, they would complete a brief questionnaire. Both agreed to the rules. What they didn’t know was that on one of the three segments, I would be sitting in my office madly doing arithmetic problems as fast as I could. Leer más “Do people like us better when we’re distracted?”

Secrets to Phone Pitching

There are times when a pitch is so straight forward that a succinct email to the right person warrants an immediate response. An interview is set, images are sent and a placement is made. Done.
But more often than not, it’s not that easy.

Usually, a pitch that’s going to warrant a great in-depth story is going to require a great, in-depth pitch and email just isn’t always the way to go. So when email isn’t cutting it, here are a few tips I’ve learned to help garner results by phone.

First ask yourself this: Is a phone conversation even going to do it? If not, then ask the media person to drinks, coffee, lunch, or a deskside appointment. Face-to-face time is wildly more valuable and wildly more productive. Just recently, Katie Levien and I set up a meeting with the new editor of San Diego’s Downtown News. The result was an ongoing series dedicated solely to our client, Seaport Village, highlighting a different tenant each month. Had we requested that by email, she may have thought us absurd but our face-to-face conversation led us to this great result.


Lizzie | http://www.dontdrinkthekoolaidblog.com/

There are times when a pitch is so straight forward that a succinct email to the right person warrants an immediate response. An interview is set, images are sent and a placement is made. Done.

But more often than not, it’s not that easy.

Usually, a pitch that’s going to warrant a great in-depth story is going to require a great, in-depth pitch and email just isn’t always the way to go. So when email isn’t cutting it, here are a few tips I’ve learned to help garner results by phone.

First ask yourself this: Is a phone conversation even going to do it? If not, then ask the media person to drinks, coffee, lunch, or a deskside appointment. Face-to-face time is wildly more valuable and wildly more productive. Just recently, Katie Levien and I set up a meeting with the new editor of San Diego’s Downtown News. The result was an ongoing series dedicated solely to our client, Seaport Village, highlighting a different tenant each month. Had we requested that by email, she may have thought us absurd but our face-to-face conversation led us to this great result.

If a phone call will do, make your call wisely. Is your list of media to call seven pages long? Treat those seven pages one call at a time.  Research the pub and the person to make sure you have a fit and that you know just the way to propose it to the person on the other end.

PR secrets to phone pitching

Then when you do pick up the phone keep the following tips in mind: Leer más “Secrets to Phone Pitching”

The Five Levels of Communication in a Connected World

In the digital world in which we live, it has become too easy to send emails, ping people via instant message, text, tweet, etc. Upon reflection, I think I’ve been too haphazard about how I communicate with my colleagues, clients, friends, and family. Oftentimes, an email about a problem should have been a phone call. And sometimes a phone call should have been an in-person meeting.
Knowing what to say and when to say it is not enough. In the modern day, we must decide HOW to communicate. [Más…]
Consider the five levels of communication:

Level 1: Message into the Ether
Snail mail and email have a few things in common: They can be of any length, and they are not conversational. Emails and letters are sent out, and then new messages are composed and returned. Sometimes it takes days or weeks before a response arrives. Since emails and letters are not conversational (they lump all points together rather than go point, counterpoint, point, etc…), there is a HIGH LEVEL of misunderstanding with this medium of communication. As many of us know, little issues can escalate over email.


In the digital world in which we live, it has become too easy to send emails, ping people via instant message, text, tweet, etc. Upon reflection, I think I’ve been too haphazard about how I communicate with my colleagues, clients, friends, and family. Oftentimes, an email about a problem should have been a phone call. And sometimes a phone call should have been an in-person meeting.
Knowing what to say and when to say it is not enough. In the modern day, we must decide HOW to communicate. Leer más “The Five Levels of Communication in a Connected World”

7 Tips for an Authentic and Productive Writing Process

Does this sound familiar?

You’re sitting in front of your laptop, staring at a blank screen.

The deadline for the article you need to write is approaching, and you’re struggling to get started when you should be in the final editing stages.

As you sit there trying to put your expertise in writing, a strange insecurity creeps up your spine. You see yourself changing before your own eyes, transforming from a confident expert into a self-conscious amateur.

It’s your own Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde transformation experience.

I’ve been there.
I used to hate writing

Well, actually, it was more like loathing than hating.

Anytime I needed to write anything I’d procrastinate, pretending that avoiding the project would make it go away. Needless to say, the procrastination led to a flurry of rushed writing at the last minute to meet my deadlines, resulting in less than my best work.

But my real problem wasn’t the act of writing. It was fear. Fear of making mistakes, fear that what I wrote would sound stupid, fear that my writing wouldn’t make sense to the reader, etc.
My insecurities were turning me into a monster

So there I was, a guy with more than 15 years of experience, who has won some awards and is even a judge for three international design competitions, worried about sounding stupid.

It sounds ridiculous, but my fear of screwing up made writing a miserable experience for me.

I even used to try to compensate for my fears. I’d use stiff, formal sentences and large, important-sounding words to try to “prove” I knew what I was talking about. Unfortunately, all that did was make me sound like a pretentious jerk.

It was like I was changing from Dr. Jekyll into Mr. Hyde anytime I had to write something.
Then one sentence from my college professor changed everything

I had a job that offered tuition reimbursement benefits, so I decided to take some college classes. One of my classes was a composition class, and the professor gave me the best writing advice I’d ever heard.

“Write the way you talk.”

Wait. What?

It can’t be that easy! Seriously? What a liberating idea! That one piece of advice helped me break free of my fears and relaxed my writing style. No more procrastination. No more using large, unnecessary words to try and impress the reader. I could just relax, be myself, and write.

Now before you get the wrong impression, let me explain something: writing the way you talk does not give you permission to write poorly, or to publish content that sucks.

What it does is help break down the mental barriers of fear and procrastination that keep you from being a more engaging, and more productive writer.

Here’s how to use “write the way you talk” to squash your insecurities and avoid sounding like a pompous idiot…:


Does this sound familiar?

You’re sitting in front of your laptop, staring at a blank screen.

The deadline for the article you need to write is approaching, and you’re struggling to get started when you should be in the final editing stages.

As you sit there trying to put your expertise in writing, a strange insecurity creeps up your spine. You see yourself changing before your own eyes, transforming from a confident expert into a self-conscious amateur.

It’s your own Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde transformation experience.

I’ve been there.

I used to hate writing

Well, actually, it was more like loathing than hating.

Anytime I needed to write anything I’d procrastinate, pretending that avoiding the project would make it go away. Needless to say, the procrastination led to a flurry of rushed writing at the last minute to meet my deadlines, resulting in less than my best work.

But my real problem wasn’t the act of writing. It was fear. Fear of making mistakes, fear that what I wrote would sound stupid, fear that my writing wouldn’t make sense to the reader, etc.

My insecurities were turning me into a monster

So there I was, a guy with more than 15 years of experience, who has won some awards and is even a judge for three international design competitions, worried about sounding stupid.

It sounds ridiculous, but my fear of screwing up made writing a miserable experience for me.

I even used to try to compensate for my fears. I’d use stiff, formal sentences and large, important-sounding words to try to “prove” I knew what I was talking about. Unfortunately, all that did was make me sound like a pretentious jerk.

It was like I was changing from Dr. Jekyll into Mr. Hyde anytime I had to write something.

Then one sentence from my college professor changed everything

I had a job that offered tuition reimbursement benefits, so I decided to take some college classes. One of my classes was a composition class, and the professor gave me the best writing advice I’d ever heard.

“Write the way you talk.”

Wait. What?

It can’t be that easy! Seriously? What a liberating idea! That one piece of advice helped me break free of my fears and relaxed my writing style. No more procrastination. No more using large, unnecessary words to try and impress the reader. I could just relax, be myself, and write.

Now before you get the wrong impression, let me explain something: writing the way you talk does not give you permission to write poorly, or to publish content that sucks.

What it does is help break down the mental barriers of fear and procrastination that keep you from being a more engaging, and more productive writer.

Here’s how to use “write the way you talk” to squash your insecurities and avoid sounding like a pompous idiot…: Leer más “7 Tips for an Authentic and Productive Writing Process”

The Five Levels of Communication in a Connected World

In the digital world in which we live, it has become too easy to send emails, ping people via instant message, text, tweet, etc. Upon reflection, I think I’ve been too haphazard about how I communicate with my colleagues, clients, friends, and family. Oftentimes, an email about a problem should have been a phone call. And sometimes a phone call should have been an in-person meeting.
Knowing what to say and when to say it is not enough. In the modern day, we must decide HOW to communicate.

Consider the five levels of communication:

Level 1: Message into the Ether
Snail mail and email have a few things in common: They can be of any length, and they are not conversational. Emails and letters are sent out, and then new messages are composed and returned. Sometimes it takes days or weeks before a response arrives. Since emails and letters are not conversational (they lump all points together rather than go point, counterpoint, point, etc…), there is a HIGH LEVEL of misunderstanding with this medium of communication. As many of us know, little issues can escalate over email…


In the digital world in which we live, it has become too easy to send emails, ping people via instant message, text, tweet, etc. Upon reflection, I think I’ve been too haphazard about how I communicate with my colleagues, clients, friends, and family. Oftentimes, an email about a problem should have been a phone call. And sometimes a phone call should have been an in-person meeting.
Knowing what to say and when to say it is not enough. In the modern day, we must decide HOW to communicate.

Consider the five levels of communication:
Level 1: Message into the Ether
Snail mail and email have a few things in common: They can be of any length, and they are not conversational. Emails and letters are sent out, and then new messages are composed and returned. Sometimes it takes days or weeks before a response arrives. Since emails and letters are not conversational (they lump all points together rather than go point, counterpoint, point, etc…), there is a HIGH LEVEL of misunderstanding with this medium of communication. As many of us know, little issues can escalate over email… Leer más “The Five Levels of Communication in a Connected World”

Know When to Stop Talking

I think my fatal mistake was interpreting his casual tone as an indicator that the job was in the bag, when I should have listened more, and talked less. In retrospect, there were a few indications that he was interested in this marketing concept, and I could have been more sensitive with the answer I gave him. Some might argue that I should be happy not to have to work with a client that wants to use stale concepts; that the client isn’t always right. I think in this case, the client gets what he wants from you, or he goes to someone else. You’re welcome, whoever won this new project.

It would seem that there are two types of clients available to the freelancer; those that come to you for your advice and expertise in your field, and those that come to you to execute the instructions you are given. The trick is learning how to figure out which is which.


I think I experienced a new first for me in my life of freelancing.  I responded to a tweet looking for a copywriter to do some basic web copy.

I responded, and chatted with the client for a little bit, discussing his needs and my offerings.  Things were moving in the right direction. He seemed to be happy with the price I quoted, and I felt like I had a decent handle on what his expectations were.

Towards the end of the discussion, the conversation that had started out fairly professional had become almost casual.  He asked me a question about a marketing concept, and I shared my thoughts about it.  I understood the concept, but I told him it was tired and probably wasn’t a good fit for his product.   And then the call got very quiet.  He was still very polite, and said he would be in touch with me to get the project started, but I haven’t heard from him in a week now.

I’m pretty sure I successfully managed to talk my way out of a new project. Yay. But at least I learned when to stop talking. Leer más “Know When to Stop Talking”