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26 Oct WE SEE RUDE PEOPLE

by Laurie Schloff/Senior Coaching Partner

Bravo to columnist and author of the new book I See Rude People by Amy Alkon. Fed up, she invoices telemarketers for interrupting her evening peace, and makes considerate calls to tell others they lack consideration.  I was shocked to find that Amy lives in California.  We communication professionals in the Northeast thought that perhaps the cold well….made people cold.    Seems like there just isn’t motivation for minding manners anywhere.

All people want good relationships and a safe, pleasant community.
So,why are we creating a surly civilization?  Amy Alkon thinks it’s human nature.   Amy, I (respectfully) disagree on this point.

As a career observer of why people may not always choose the right words, I want to explore why most of us are, at least at times, not on our best behavior.  Understand the causes and then we’re ready for the cure.

So here we go with some reasons Why We See Rude People:
1. Values Issue—Being kind isn’t emphasized or rewarded.
2. Impulse Issue–Not having much control over emotions, especially when there are few consequences
3. Skills Issues–Some don’t have the words, tone or demeanor to act more kindly
4. Empathy Issue–Trouble understanding impact of behavior on others

Let us know your reasons for rudeness.  Then we’ll move on to what to do about it.
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14 Sep ALL TOGETHER NOW: TAKE A DEEP BREATH

by Laurie Schloff/Senior Coaching Partner


World peace is getting harder to imagine.  It seems that there’s a daily news headliner about losing it.

Kanye West just jumped on the stage and grabbed the microphone from Taylor Swift in the middle of her acceptance speech at the Video Music Awards to announce who HE thought should have won.

Come on Kanye, a lot of us are bonkers about Beyonce too, but somehow we learned it’s just not nice to grab awards away from winners at ceremonies.

On September 12, Serena Williams told the judges at the 2009 U.S Open that she didn’t like their call. “You can take this (expletive) ball and stuff it down your (expletive) throat.”

What separates the dignified from the sore loser?  Keeping your cool and grace.  Forget tennis for now, Serena and head directly to Anger Management Class.

And don’t forget that fiery moment one week ago.  President Obama is giving his healthcare address and Representative Joseph Wilson of South Carolina blurts out “You lie!” when Obama asserted that illegal immigrants wouldn’t receive government covered healthcare.

Did you catch Joe Biden shaking his head with a how did we get to this level of disrespect look?

Reasonable American citizens of both parties agree with the Vice President that it’s rude to interrupt a presidential speech and to insult even worse.

We need to keep our eye on the scary bonding between  irrational citizens who are overtaking town halls, hosting mad tea parties and flipping their lids when the Prez gives a pep talk to the kiddos.

It’s just not good for a society when anger becomes contagious. Venom is too easily spread online and on the airwaves and it’s worrisome.  No matter what your politics, let’s get behind President Obama’s call for civil discussion and a calm manner.

Let’s hear your thoughts

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Katie Ackerley
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11 Sep Obama’s Healthcare Speech

By Senior Coaching Partner Dr. Dennis Becker
President Obama gave an impassioned presentation  on the topic of Healthcare Reform.  We have been monitoring and critiquing his speeches and speaking style from  the outset of the primaries.  We have reviewed and commented on many, many of those speeches and press conferences, etc..  This  speech had  some of the same techniques and cadence.   But, in this speech I heard and saw something different.  Yes, he had the same articulation prowess.  Yes, he had the same powerful use of language.  Yes, he had the same air of confidence.  Yes, he had the same control of the moment and the audience.  Yes, we saw the usual dynamism of a good speaker.   But, this time, I saw more.  This time I heard more.  This time I saw and heard the President  use many more “color words”.  These are words which any speaker emphasizes in a slightly different way than other words.  Those words add “color” the otherwise black and white sound of the speaker.  Mr. Obama often depends on his exquisite use of language and his precise skill at presentation.   He is very good.  Whether you like his politics or not, most reasonable people will agree that Mr. Obama is a very good speaker.
His use of “color words” was carefully applied.  We saw most of it in two places in the speech.  We heard  “color words”  used effectively in the first 10 minutes of the speech.  We heard “color words” used effectively  again in the segment that referred to the late Senator Kennedy.  To me, that was the most touching and poignant part of the speech.  The addition of this “color” to his speaking style was a positive.  It helped him seem more human and less robotic and practiced.
It was also interesting to note that he showed his comfort in using the media, in this case TV,  to his benefit.  He looked directly into the camera, at us at home, seven times.  Each time he was referring to  “Americans”, “Seniors”, etc.  It was a very effective use of the camera.
Finally,  he handled the very rare and unexpected outburst from a Republican attendee who shouted out “you lie!”.  He handled it very well.  Basically, he recognized it with a glance in that direction and went on, unshaken.   This was one of President Obama’s best deliveries of a speech.
One closing thought on a slightly different topic:  I watched the speech on CNN.  Unfortunately, the  program was hosted by Wolf Blitzer.  This  intelligent and experienced newsman continues to have one of  the most distracting, unprofessional, and unattractive speech habits.  It is his constant use of  the vocalized pause, “uh”.   Mr. Blitzer, pleeease learn control this awful habit.
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01 Sep I FEEL VERY SORRY FOR THEM

by Senior Coaching Partner Dr. Dennis Becker

Today I heard  another one of the ultra conservative talk show stars talking about Ted Kennedy’s funeral and the things that people said as part of the eulogies.  Oh, yes, I do refer to them as “stars” because I have to believe that is their desire – to be seen as some sort of media star or public figure which gives them the call to fill the airwaves with vitriol an childish, schoolyard name calling….but ,I digress…

Todays verbal bully was Laura somebody or else.  I’m sure she would like me to use her name.  That’s truly insignificant.  What she said is more bothersome, and should be more insulting to everyone who cherishes the kindness that humans of all races and cultures show to one another during times of pain,tears, and suffering…times like the death of a loved one…ah, I digress again…
Todays insensitive and inaccurate bullying was about what President Obama said  as part of his eulogy.   She accused the President of “politicizing” this sad event.  Todays whining claimed that President Obama urged us to honor Ted Kennedy’s memory by passing the Healthcare  legislation that Kennedy had fought for during his life.  First of all, and as usual, that is not true.  I heard the entire eulogy , listened to it twice, in fact, to be sure of what I was hearing.  He never urged such a thing.  But bullies, verbal of physical, don’t care much about accuracy or truth.  They shape it to fit their form of bullying.  So, in effect,  todays whining and bullying  was not much different than any other day, or any other schoolyard, by any other common bully.
I feel sorry for them.  I really do.  As a communication coach,  I feel sorry for their inability to be more productive and  more friendly toward those who may see things differently than they do. I feel sorry for their insistence on showing a fist rather than an open hand.  I feel sorry that they can’t rise above  schoolyard posturing . The simple fact that they can earn or buy time on  radio or tv to draw attention to themselves and stir the passions of those less informed or less capable of understanding the complexities of legislation and politics is weak justification  for using their “star” role to step on the solemn proceedings of a funeral, anybody’s funeral.   It would be nice to hear some answers to our problems rather than simple minded accusations and insults.  Who does that really help in the end?
On the other hand,  I guess these are the type of people who my grandmother was talking about when she told me,  “it’s easier to tear down a cathedral than it is to build a dog house”.
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27 Aug Communication Lessons from the life of Senator Edward Kennedy

by Senior Coaching Partner Laurie Schloff

It is difficult to say goodbye to such a larger than life communicator as Senator Edward Kennedy. When greatness passes away from our midst, yet lingers in our consciousness, our team pauses to ask, “What did we learn about greatness and communication from this man? What lessons can we pass along to our families, clients and ourselves?” Here are three to ponder:

1. Focus on Others, Not Yourself.

Tribute after tribute describes Senator Kennedy literally showing up in a friend or citizen’s time of need. Recently, Mayor Tom Menino of Boston had knee surgery. His first phone call upon arriving home was from Senator Kennedy. “Why are you worried about me?” asked the mayor. “I’m worried about you!” You don’t need to be a large and famous man to have a large heart.

2.Be Dynamic and Emotional.

Senator Kennedy had a loud, over the top style, different than the poetic strength of Bobby or the poise of JFK. He hugged and patted. He was effusive at eulogies (and he gave far too many of them) and persuasive even to those who disagreed with him. John McCain said “If you want something done in the Senate, call Teddy.” Like many speakers, he was best with the passionate delivery of memorable lines like these from his 1980 political convention after losing the nomination to Jimmy Carter: “The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die”

3. Be Resilient.

Perhaps more than anyone else, Senator Kennedy taught us that we have to work on being resilient in order to deal with life’s cruel blows and frequent letdowns. Recently, I came across a young woman who was devastated to learn that her boss thought her follow through on projects was inadequate and she was having trouble coping emotionally. Get over it! We must work as hard as possible to develop emotional muscle without becoming a tough person, to achieve as we grieve. Let your cause, your passion, the lessons you’ve learned from your losses keep you going strong until the day you die.

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Katie Ackerley
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27 Aug Remembering Senator Edward Kennedy

by Dr. Dennis Becker, CEO, The Speech Improvement Company

When Robert Kennedy was murdered, like a lot of people, I was devastated. To me, he represented the most hope for bridging the gap between the haves and the have-nots in our society. Of course, I was particularly impassioned by his fight for the civil rights issue. He had the ability to both reach out and to point the way at the same tie. His communication prowess was an inspiration to me and my work as a Communication Coach.

At that time, I was also President of the New England Speech Association. On behalf of the association and as a citizen, I wrote a letter of condolence to Bobby’s brother, Edward (Ted) Kennedy. I’m certain that he received many, many such letters. To my amazement I received a personal reply from Teddy (as we all came to know him). It was a warm letter, thanking me for my expression and and encouraging me to carry on what his brother (s) stood for. He signed it in ink, Edward Kennedy.

He and his brothers John and Robert will always be a living example of why and how important it is for all of us to learn to speak and listen to others, especially those who are different and less fortunate than ourselves. I will continue, in my life, to carry their example of good communication.

Here are some inspiring words Ted spoke at his brother Robert’s funeral in 1968, which so resonate today:

“That is the way he lived. That is what he leaves us.

My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life; to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it.

Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will someday come to pass for all the world.

As he said many times, in many parts of this nation, to those he touched and who sought to touch him:

“Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.”

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Katie Ackerley
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14 Aug DON’T GET ME STARTED ON HEALTHCARE AND LANGUAGE

by Monica Murphy.

As a Communication Coach, I know that one of the best ways to move someone is through the language you choose to convey your message. Use the “appropriate “ language and you can persuade almost anyone to a certain response.

The Healthcare reform bill is falling in to a battle that is being fought with language of interpretation. It is really based on language more than fact. In fact, many Americans do not even know the details. They have heard and seen phrases that move them like:

“Death panel, cut off your rights, government wins, tax dollars pay for abortion, socialism”. These phrases evoke an emotional response. The associated press put out an article this morning citing that many of the town hall protesters were folks who have never been politically active. This can create a unified emotion of distrust in the government. Whether it is right or wrong, carefully chosen language can motivate in a powerful way.

Aristotle pointed out language can be used in three modes of persuasion: Ethos, persuading through the use of credibility, Pathos, persuading through the use of emotion, and Logos, persuading through the use of logic.

What we can expect to see now are more media pieces that use Logos, or logic to explain what these proposed healthcare reforms actually are. Chief Medical correspondent Dr. Timothy Johnson has been on air Fact Checking the reform bill. The network uses his ethos, or credibility to establish him as a trustworthy resource. He then uses Logos language, phrases like “ medicare has existed since 1965, advanced care planning provision, private and public options..” This logical language will help de-escalate the emotional reaction and allow the public to review the facts and make their own choices. The associated press ran an article this morning using the positive side of pathos language in referring to Glenn Beck’s 9-12 Project: which seeks to unify Americans around nine values such as honesty, hope and sincerity and 12 principles, including, “I work hard for what I have and I will share it with who I want to. Government cannot force me to be charitable.” The words “unify, honesty, hope, sincerity.. all emotionally charged words.

Language plays a key role in how we feel when receiving a message. A good communicator must choose their words wisely when speaking. They must consider their listeners. A good communicator will ask themselves: How do I want my listeners to feel and what do I want them to believe after they hear me speak? As communication coaches, we ask our clients this question as one of the starting points to delivering a successful message.

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Katie Ackerley
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06 Aug How To Know If You Need a Communication Coach

by Laurie Schloff, Senior Coaching Partner

Our coaching team at The Speech Improvement Company was delighted to hear that Google CEO Eric Schmidt knows the value of having a good coach. We’ve often been asked how to determine when engaging a communication/presentation coach is a good idea. So, here are five good reasons for working with an expert in communication:

1. You’re in a more visible positon than ever and you know your communicaiton prowess will be scrutinized.
2. You want to overcome a fear of speaking to groups and find your avoidance of speaking situations troubling.
3. You want to learn techniques for conveying more confidence and impact
4. You know you’d be more successful if you had more communication polish
5. You’re already a good communicator, but want to be GREAT.

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Katie Ackerley
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04 Aug Why Do People Fear Speaking?

by Dr. Dennis Becker

“This question presupposes what to most of society is a given. Speaking to groups is a scary proposition. In fact, it is one of the most prominent fears of all humans. Each survey that is taken places it in the top three, almost every single time. It would be interesting for you to ask a few friends if they feel nervous or fearful about speaking before groups. I’m sure you’ll get mixed replies, of course. One thing you’ll notice, even from those who express little or no fear, is a caution. You will hear statements like ‘It depends on who’s in the group,’ and ‘Well, only some groups.’

It’s not uncommon to hear of career opportunities that have been passed by because they require ‘public speaking.’ It’s not only anxiety about groups. It is also common to find that the anxiety extends to certain types of individuals such as those in positions of authority, or people who are more senior, or, perhaps, people who have different cultures, etc. The fear can be triggered by many things.

So, how do we help people to control that fear? I am not using the term ‘overcome’ to describe the outcome. The very word ‘overcome’ can be too compelling. It can put too much pressure on sufferers to eliminate the fear. So, we strive to gain control over it. This is not a capitulation. It is a recognition that each person will go as far as is needed to regain control over the experience of speaking to groups.

As Speech Coaches for The Speech Improvement Company, we bring 45 years of experience to this effort. We recognize that there are two popular methods for ‘treating’ fear of speaking. They are Visualization and Cognitive Restructuring. Over the years, we have utilized each of these. However, by far we have found most positive results with the Skills approach. That is, we help clients identify and understand exactly what it is that triggers the fear. Then we introduce specific skills to fill any void in the ability to combat that trigger. This process eventually leads to the elimination of the fear inducing triggers. It has been very successful.”

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Katie Ackerley
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30 Jul Catching Up With the Coaches – Monica Murphy

This week, we caught up with Senior Coaching Partner Monica Murphy.Monica Murphy

Monica is currently leading a lengthy customer service training program with software developing company Pega Systems. This unique program, called Communicating Extraordinary Service, was developed by Monica and fellow TSIC coaches Kristen Curran-Faller and Debbie London, and has led Pega Systems to great success.

>What is Pega Systems and how did you become involved with them?

“Pega Systems is a software developing company that helps businesses automate their business processes. We have had a 10-year relationship with them, originally beginning with Presentation Skills Training for some of their managers in the engineering group. It was a combination of presentation skills coaching and individual communication coaching.” (more…)

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Katie Ackerley
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28 Jul New Management

The Speech Improvement Company Inc., has announced today the promotion of Ethan F. Becker to President, and Kristen Curran-Faller to COO (Chief Operating Officer). Dr. Dennis Becker will remain on as the firm’s CEO and Dr. Paula Borkum Becker will remain as the firm’s CFO.

“For 45 years, Paula and I have been holding the reigns for all the operating functions of the firm. We will continue to coach and remain infuential in the firms decisions as we hand over the day to day operations to the next generation,” said Dr. Dennis Becker. Dr. Paula Borkum Becker added “Kristen has been with the firm for 18 years and heavily involved in the daily operations, from engaging with clients to back end office to billing and other company needs. Ethan has really expanded the thinking of the firm, bringing in new technologies and clients from all corners of the world. I’m excited about the engery and expertise they will bring for the next 45 years.”

Ethan, 38, holds an undergraduate degree in Communication, a graduate MBA with double focus in International Business Communication and Leadership. He is currently enrolled in a PhD program in The Psychology of Business Communication. He has been a senior coach and trainer with TSIC since 2001. Prior to joining TSIC he held positions as Project Director and Team Leader for Media One Hundred. Ethan has also held positions as a motivational trade show speaker for major corporations. In addition, he began his career as a corporate video producer, and music video producer.

Kristen holds an undergraduate degree in Speech Communication, and a graduate degree in Training and Development. Before assuming her role as senior trainer and coach, she worked in advertising and marketing, and served as Director of The Customer Service Training Center. During her 18 years of service to TSIC, she has initiated many policies and pioneered many programs, including the worlds’s first, and TSIC patented, Virtual Reality Therapy regime. She has strong integral knowledge of the inner workings that keep the firm strong and thriving.

“We are all excited about the transition to these two highly qualified and dedicated professionals. It represents the foundation for growth and the clear continuation of the firm in its mission to help all people strengthen their oral communication skills. Kristen and Ethan hold the respect of everyone on the team and we support the move 100%,” said Monica Murphy, a Senior Coaching Partner with TSIC since 1990.

More about Ethan’s background may be found at http://speechimprovement.com/ethan
More about Kristen may be found at http://speechimprovement.com/kristen

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Katie Ackerley
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28 Jul Are women better managers than men?

A recent article on the New York Times titled: “No Doubts: Women Are Better Managers” sparked this reaction from Coach Laurie Schloff.

Communication Coach Laurie Schloff of The Speech Improvement Company (Boston and Tampa) agrees with Carol Smith (right) of the Elle Group that women are often better managers, but based on her work with hundreds of females aiming for the C level she cautions ambitious females:

1. Women are still cut little slack in terms of ‘acceptable’ management behaviors.

Not only do you have to be viewed as competent, you must also be warm and nice. (more…)

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27 Jul Dr. Dennis Becker on The arrest of Henry Gates

by Dr. Dennis Becker.

“Isn’t human communication fascinating?! This whole Gates-Cambridge Police-Crowley-Obama flap is just the latest in the ongoing saga of humans attempting to communicate with each other. By this time, we all pretty much know what happened:

Gates lost his keys to his home and couldn’t get in, Gates asks help of his limo driver to push the door in, Neighbor observes two “black men with back packs” doing this, Neighbor, being good neighbor, calls the police and reports attempted break-in, police arrive, Officer Crowley knocks on door, Gates comes to door, Crowley asks for identification, Gates retrieves Harvard ID card to verify his ownership and occupancy, Crowley accepts response and turns to leave porch, Gates complains about being harassed because of being a black man, Gates emerges from house onto front porch and continues commentary, Crowley replies with comment on Gates being public disturbance or disturbing the peace and arrests Gates.

Gates is placed in handcuffs behind his back, Gates complains he uses a cane and can’t walk with hands behind him, different officer intervenes and handcuffs are changed to front of Gates as he is taken to jail.

Now, obviously I’m summarizing broadly here. You can watch the video of both Gates and Crowley describing what happened.

I realize that there were nuances of inflection, facial expression, body language, volume, vocabulary, and more which were in play during the actual incident. I realize that it is important for us to engage in rhetorical analysis of the micro elements of this communication, if for no other reason than to learn from it. All of this can be justified from the perspective of wanting to help others who may be confronted with similar situations. I get that.

So, as a communication coach with more than 40 years of experience, allow me to suggest what would have served better for both Gates and Crowley. These two intelligent, accomplished professionals should be embarrassed for themselves for not being able to simply chalk this up to poor, but understandably human judgment at the time of the incident.

Each of these men entered that situation with personal and professional “baggage,” probably harkening as far back as early childhood, regarding issues of authority, privacy, race and respect. Each of these men, in retrospect, is still being controlled by those same long-standing attitudes which enable the “baggage” they carry. Gates should have thanked the officer for doing his duty. He should have overlooked the “attitude” that may have been conveyed in body language, vocabulary, etc. He should have immediately called his neighbor and offered thanks for the caring, watchful eye.

Crowley should have, after verifying the identity of Gates, apologized for any inconvenience and explained that he was simply responding to a report of a break-in and following usual protocol. He then should have simply turned and left the premises. He has probably done this many times before. So, as my Jewish friends would say, “Why should this night be any different than any other night?” Well, that’s human nature. We get very defensive as an initial means of interaction in what appears to be a threatening situation. No, not necessarily physically threatening, but threatening to authority, privacy, race and respect. Most of us lash out with the first two human communication tools we have – body language and speech. That is, we give a “look,” a “gesture,” a “mumble,” a “snicker.” You all know what I’m describing. We have all done it on occasion. It’s a human’s way of “defending” turf and self. On the receiving end, it gets regarded as disrespect or a challenge. If the reaction isn’t strong or obvious enough, there are always onlookers who can add “Ooh, are you gonna’ take that?” and we all know where it goes from there. Suddenly, all our “baggage” starts to unravel and the humans have two options: one is verbal/nonverbal and the other is physical.

Both of these men were at fault. Each should have acted more responsibly in recognizing the setting and circumstances that brought them together. Both of them should simply recognize their actions as the heat of the moment, while not being “wrong” were triggering and were triggered.

To top it off, now Obama is in it! His remarks did not serve him well. His vocabulary did not serve him or others well. He does not have an equal right to proclaim positions and expect little or no repercussion. He too has “baggage.” He’s human. All humans have “baggage,” but he is the President of the most powerful nation on the planet. He is a historical figure in so many ways. Whether we agree with him or not, he must be a bit more accepting – his casual, over the back fence, friendly, neighborly opinion just ain’t that. He’s The President of the most powerful nation on the planet! However, the rest of us must also accept his humanness and be able to step back from the fake heat that is generated by those who live off the “baggage” of others.

There are so many more critical issues in the world. Why are we not blogging about Darfur, or child molestation, or hunger, etc. Come on folks, keep it real! Try carrying your “baggage” in the other hand for a while.”

Dr. Dennis Becker is CEO , Principal & Senior Coaching Partner at The Speech Improvement Company.

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Katie Ackerley
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