Communications Skills
View Your Critic as the Canary in the Coal Mine

View Your Critic as the Canary in the Coal Mine

Noticing and learning from negative feedback is crucial to self-improvement. Unfortunately, negative feedback can come in an unpleasant and even an unjust form. People who give unsolicited criticism are not always the most supportive of creatures. There are...

What It Means to Be “Present”

What It Means to Be “Present”

What does it mean to be "present" or "in the moment"? This concept comes up often in acting and communication classes, but it was never explained to my satisfaction. I could tell it was something good: those who were "present" seemed more authentic. They created an...

My Vision for Personal Communication

My Vision for Personal Communication

An important way you grow in the middle of challenges is to choose the person you want to be. This is not as easy as it might seem. I find it’s always helpful to put the vision into writing, spelling out what I want, in entirely positive terms. I recently did this for...

Case Study: Hard Thinking on Writing Problems

Case Study: Hard Thinking on Writing Problems

When I tell people about my course, sometimes they don't quite know what I mean by "hard thinking." I don't mean thinking on specialized subjects like astrophysics. I mean thinking on any subject in which, at times, it's not clear how to proceed. Some extra effort is...

Three Ways to Prepare for a Constructive Conversation

Three Ways to Prepare for a Constructive Conversation

If you've been following my work, you know that I'm interested in making conversations on controversial topics more constructive and less contentious. I think I'm making progress, but, yesterday I had a contentious conversation with someone who I am in basic agreement...

Magic Words to Counter Social Pressure

Magic Words to Counter Social Pressure

I have just finished reading a short book on sales explaining the "magic words" to use to persuade people to do what you want. I have had a conniption fit several times while reading it. The purpose of the book is to teach the reader to become a "professional...

How to say “That’s BS” in RCC

How to say “That’s BS” in RCC

In the past, I've run sessions on "Rationally Connected Conversations" (RCC) an adaptation of Marshall Rosenberg's "Nonviolent Communication" (NVC).  In one session I included Jeff Brown, a Certified Trainer in NVC, to discuss "How to say 'That's BS' in RCC." I...

Two Facts to Remember in Judging Honesty

Two Facts to Remember in Judging Honesty

The ideal relationship is open, honest, and equal. If you find that someone has lied to you or evaded, it puts the whole relationship in question. But I've noticed that some people jump to the conclusion that another person is dishonest without establishing it...

A Value-Based Approach to Interrupting Others

A Value-Based Approach to Interrupting Others

A friend once told me about a man he knew who never interrupted. Call him the super listener. You could go to this super listener for business advice, and he would sit and listen to you as you talked and talked, never interrupting. Then when you were finished...

Making Sure Constructive Criticism Sticks

Making Sure Constructive Criticism Sticks

Mark Murphy has a great short article titled "Don't Make Constructive Criticism so Soft That People Miss Your Message." In it, he criticizes the feedback sandwich, which I learned long ago in Toastmasters. It's simple: when you are giving feedback, first tell...

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