Who’s Sorry Now? You see them in the news all the time—the non-apologetic apology. “Sorry if I embarrassed you and your family and friends.” “I sincerely regret any miscommunication that contributed to this result.” “I’m sorry if anyone was offended by that picture of my children holding AR-47s.” “We are disheartened by the way this situation unfolded…” And of course, there’s the classic non-apology: “Mistakes were made.” The truth is, mistakes are made. Often. Sometimes, by us. You’ve been there, I’m sure. You make a sharp remark and then wish you’d kept that thought to yourself. You misinterpret what somebody said and respond more harshly than you should have. You miss a deadline, show up late for an appointment, or fall short on a commitment. That’s when it’s time for a sincere apology. Emphasis on “sincere.” Not back-handed, not a fauxpology, but an honest-to-goodness acknowledgement of our own screw-up and an expression of remorse.
Speak their language. What do you say? A better question might be “How do you say it?”.
Marketing genius Seth Godin was writing about writing this week. I had speaking in mind, though, when I read this in his newsletter: “It’s tempting to simply focus our attention on the text itself… But messages merely begin with the text. The rhythm, presentation, source, and context deliver most of what we take away from a message.” Amen to that! A client preparing for an important speech came to my office dining room table this week with a copy of her speech. It was fine. And “fine” isn’t exactly a home run, is it? My job is to help my client bring this talk from fine to fabulous.
How did you react to the “#girlblog” title? Maybe you smiled. Or maybe you thought, “Who is she calling a “girl” … and why? Or maybe you shrugged and moved on. Your response may well depend on your age. And your familiarity with TikTok. We’ve seen a wave of #girl the past few months. Girl dinners, random food from the fridge, eaten alone, possibly standing over the sink. Hot girl walks, taken without a companion and without regard to how the walker looks. Even girl rotting, which seems to mean lying around your room doing nothing for hours on end. Young women have shared images of their girl moments on social media. Eating, walking, or lounging, what they have in common the absence of male participation. Thus #girl. For many of us, “girl” has long felt insulting or patronizing. As full-grown adult women, we want to be seen as equals to our male counterparts, not children to be patted on the head and indulged. Or dismissed.
Apparently, they really ARE just like us. Anderson Cooper makes 12 MILLION dollars a year from CNN alone. Toss in what CBS pays him for his work on Sixty Minutes, royalties from his books, and speaking fees. The guy is a celebrity and a mega-millionaire. And yet, he told a New York Times interviewer he’s long since stopped paying attention to the business side of news. It just doesn’t interest him. “For me,” Cooper said, “the solution was to focus on what I had control over: getting better at interviews, improve my writing, stop saying ‘um.’” Just like every speaker I’ve ever coached, platform professionals as well as those who need to be more effective with an audience for the sake of their business or career. The goal is to get better at the craft. And stop saying “um.”
Where Do You Shine the Spotlight? Never mind what we see on TV. The silly hats, the banners, the t-shirts featuring vulgar slogans. Whether you lean right or left politically, the chances are good you don’t lean very far. Most of us are pretty much in the middle … maybe just a pale, pale blue or a very light red. Political scientist Ruy Teixeira is jabbing at progressives, in particular, as he promotes a centrist manifesto, a series of statements he thinks most regular Americans would agree with. They’re the kind of beliefs that you or I might espouse if we were brave enough to talk politics over dinner. Teixeira and his colleagues at the American Enterprise Institute may be brilliant political specialists. He could use some help from a communication specialist. I’m happy to oblige.
What Are They Waiting For? For all the grumbling people do about inflation or the state of our schools or climate change or whatever … the truth is, Americans are reasonably happy. The General Social Survey has been asking us about happiness since 1972. And the results are surprisingly consistent. Something else that might surprise you? Being married is the most important differentiator between the contented and the miserable. That University of Chicago study found the married among us are happier than the unmarried, with a gap of 30-percentage points.
Weak words? Soft talk? There it is, in the New York Times. Women have permission for soft talk. “’Stop using weak language.’ If you’re a woman, you’ve probably gotten this advice from a mentor, a coach or a teacher. If you want to be heard, use more forceful language. This advice may be well intentioned, but it’s misguided.” Having been one of those mentors, coaches, or teachers, I’d like a word … In his NYT Guest Essay, Dr. Adam Grant explains why “weak language” is beneficial for women. The gist is that when women are direct, strong, and straight-forward, they ruffle men’s feathers and wind up getting slapped down in the end.
That’s Not What I Meant! It’s the trouble with texting, isn’t it? Shooting off a quick text is such an easy way to respond to a question, or propose a change in plans, or apologize for running late. And maybe the problem is inherent in that phrase, “Shooting off a quick text …” There’s a lot missing from a text message. That little quote-shaped balloon on our phone screens may contain the right words for any given situation. We might even seek to clarify or elaborate on those words with an emoji or two. Sometimes finding the right image can be kind of fun. Still, a text can’t begin to convey what we would be saying with our facial expressions, gestures, and tone of voice. Those missing communication modalities make it possible, and maybe even likely, that our meaning will be muddled.
Make the most of your telephone time. How many of your business conversations happen on the phone? For a lot of people, it’s most of them. Add the web-based platforms like Zoom and Teams, and some of us spend way more time talking to people remotely than we do in person. The visual component of communication is huge. So, what happens when body language and facial expression are missing? Confusion, vagueness and misunderstanding. Unless you know the secrets to compelling conversations with unseen others. So here they are:
The Confidence Question—and an Answer: It was a familiar request. So many clients come to me with the same goal. “I want,” she said, “to sound and feel more confident when speaking in person and on Zoom, especially when introducing myself and explaining what I do.” You know I don’t offer myself as a mindset coach, although people often do change their mindset during our work together. In a way, I’m more of a bodyset coach. Seems to me that one good path to a new way of thinking and feeling is through the body. And it starts, of all places, with the feet.