Business Communication

Business Communication, Communication

The Question to Ask

The question to ask. You know someone who grabs the conversational ball and runs with it every time you get together, don’t you? You two get together and before much talk-time passes, you know exactly what has happened in their life, and how they feel about it, and what they plan to do about it. And on and on and on. Now, this person might be interesting, intelligent, even insightful. And yet … you walk away from that interaction feeling vaguely (or maybe very) unsatisfied. It feels like something was missing in the conversation. That something was you, wasn’t it? We learned as kids, most of us, to take turns when we played. That same turn-taking happens now, or it should anyway, as we adults engage in the activity of conversation. And it’s clear that some people haven’t quite absorbed that childhood lesson. Over-talking, monologuing, monopolizing the conversation … it’s common. And it’s especially a problem when it comes to business. Conversational turn-taking is a system.


boring conversation 173010058 m normal none
Business Communication, Communication, Networking

Warning: The Surgeon General has determined that loneliness is dangerous

Loneliness is dangerous. Maybe you’ve made the same mistake. Dr. Vivek Murthy had been the U.S. Surgeon General during the Obama and Trump administrations. When his tenure ended in 2017, he found himself in a pickle. Dr. Murthy had been working long hours, spending most of his time with government colleagues, neglecting other friends and even family. When his gig caved in, those work connections ended right along with it. The newly unemployed Dr. Murthy found himself alone. And lonely. He blamed himself for having failed to nurture friendships in favor of focusing on his work and professional relationships.


photo of young woman on a couch looking lonely
Business Communication, Women in Business

Set the Stage for a Little Laughter

Set the stage for a little laughter. There’s a reason radio stations still tout their “morning man.” The main players in morning drive radio are, in fact, still men. There’s a reason for that too. Everybody knows women are not funny. I’m not kidding. The broadcasting bigwigs will tell you that, to your face. And they’ll use it as an excuse to hire women for the later time slots with smaller audiences, or for morning sidekick roles doing the news or the traffic. This assumption that humor is exclusively a male purview has implications way beyond broadcasting though. It influences how women are perceived when we’re speaking at conferences, board meetings, and even on webinars. Here’s what turned up in research for a piece in Harvard Business Review:


photo of audience laughing and applauding
Business Communication, Speaking

Sitting and Speaking

Sitting and speaking. You know those high-top tables you see in hip restaurants and bars? The chairs that go with them are a problem for a person who wants to stay grounded. Especially when we need to speak while perched on one of them. The high chairs seem to be typical for panel programs. And in a way they make sense—that extra bit of elevation makes it easier for everyone in the room to see the people speaking. The downside, as I discovered while participating in one panel recently and facilitating another one, is having our feet floating off the floor. I found myself violating my own advice to those who need to speak while seated.


Catherine Johns seated (far right) on NSA panel discussion - April 2023
Business Communication, Speaking

Fear of speaking: Exhibit A

You and I were focused on the fear of speaking just recently. Why so many of us dread delivering a talk or a toast, and what we can do to feel more comfortable standing up in front of a group and sharing our thoughts. This week’s New York Times profile of their city’s new fire commissioner gave me a wry chuckle. The knives are out for this woman in a big way. Laura Kavanagh is wrestling with an entrenched (and overwhelmingly male) hierarchy. Grappling with resistance to her decisions, to her resume, and, it seems, to her, herself. The guys need to adjust to how she “looks and seems” is the way Kavanagh puts it.


photo of NYFD fire engines in station