49 Difficult Conversations: Which Ones Are You Avoiding?….Or Don’t You Want to Talk About It?

Difficult conversations. Life is full of them. More often than not people avoid them. They are uncomfortable. Embarrassing. Wrought with tension. They can be emotional. Are almost always awkward and well, they are just plain difficult.

There are numerous books about difficult conversations at home or with the boss or in relationships. It’s because unfortunately we really can’t move through life without encountering the need for difficult conversations.

crucial conversationsRather than avoid them, however, a more successful response is to simply dive into them. It reminds me of the expression, “the only way out is through.” Postponing and putting off these talks accomplishes nothing. The procrastination only intensifies the dread. The tensions mount and discomfort builds.

Nope. I’m not a believer in walking away. After years of coaching individuals in business and personal situations, not to mention my own share of challenging experiences, I’m certain it’s best to take a breath and lean into the awkwardness. Once begun, the conversations actually become easier than we expect. Half the battle is forging THROUGH the trepidation to just start. Kind of like Nike’s motto, “Just Do It.”

A difficult conversation is the need to address any subject or issue that creates the following:difficult conversations

  • Desire to run the other direction
  • Hope the circumstances will simply go away
  • Feeling of dread and anxiety even thinking of “talking it out”
  • Concern about “the way to say it”
  • Feeling of awkwardness when faced with the situation
  • Fear of saying it all wrong
  • Potential for drama, hurt feelings and emotional reactions

Here is a comprehensive, though not exhaustive, list of 49 topics most experts agree fall into the “difficult conversations” category:

1.       Asking for a raise

2.       Terminating an employee

3.       Resigning without burning bridges

4.       Breaking up with a girlfriend or boyfriend

5.       Ending a friendship

6.       Reminding a friend they owe you money

7.       Saying no to someone’s request for help, money, etc.

8.       Talking to loved ones about their end-of-life wishes

9.       Turning down an invite or opportunity that’s of no interest

10.   Bidding on a home or piece of real estate

11.   Refusing to compromise on a principle

12.   Expressing dissatisfaction with an employee’s attitude or work

13.   Cancelling a commitment

14.   Letting someone know you aren’t interested in developing a social relationship with them

15.   Expressing anger when someone violates a boundary

16.   Standing up to people who take advantage

17.   Apologizing for a mistake

18.   Delivering a poor performance review

19.   Negotiating a salary package

20.   Asking for a refund

21.   Accepting a gift you don’t like

22.   Expressing disagreement during conflict

23.   Speaking up when no one agrees with you

24.   Admitting an affair or indiscretion to your spouse

25.   Pointing out the flaws of a new plan or program at work

26.   Letting your friend know their new boy/girl friend is a loser

27.   Telling your spouse you overextended the family financially

28.   Confronting emotional or physical abuse

29.   Negotiating prices on services for your home

30.   Telling your parents you are going to break with family traditions

31.   Talking to your kids about sex

32.   Confronting your kids about drug use

33.   Telling your spouse you suspect them of  infidelity

34.   Talking to the police in confrontational situations

35.   Handling employee complaints

36.   Addressing inappropriate dress, language or hygiene in the workplace

37.   Confronting second-hand insults and comments

38.   Telling an employee they spend too much time on personal emails at work

39.   Drawing a line in the sand about behavior you’ll accept in a relationship

40.   Owning your mistakes in a relationship

41.   Making intimate requests of your spouse

42.   Telling your spouse you’re leaving, you want a divorce

43.   Confronting someone of suspected misconduct, theft or lying

44.   Giving honest feedback on work poorly done

45.   Facing your partner after a particularly ugly, out-of-control argument

46.   Apologizing for a deeply hurtful comment

47.   Telling your children you and your spouse are divorcing

48.   Talking with your spouse through the divorce process

49.   Sharing bad information with a client

Actually, the topic itself is less important in making it a tough conversation. What matters most is YOUR feeling about having that conversation.  If the mere thought of it brings up the anxiety and dread mentioned above, then for you it’s a difficult conversation and you might seek out some support to face it and get it behind you.

ostrichTell me, when do you stick your head in the sand instead of speak up? What topics do you avoid even though you know deep down the talk needs having?  I’d like to add your dreaded conversations to this for a future post. What are some of your most difficult conversations?

…..or don’t you want to talk about it?

[contact-form][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Website’ type=’url’/][contact-field label=’Comment’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]

Office Talk: Ten Changes to Make Now

watch your mouth

 To immediately improve your communications at home and in the office, make these “don’ts” rules to live by.

Don’t begin sentences with “honestly, truthfully, frankly, or to be honest.”  Doing so implies that what you said before might not be honest. If you are honest in your communications, you will never need to say so. Your words will speak for themselves.

 

Avoid adding “but” between sentences. Use “and” instead. “But” negates everything you said before it.

 

Don’t use absolutes like “you always” or “you never.”  It’s rarely true and doing so exaggerates, quickly making people defensive.

 

Don’t let your tone and body language contradict each other. Get all aspects of yourself in line. If your tone is carries a different meaning than your choice of words, your listener will always go with the tone.

 

Don’t be a steam roller  OR  a pushover.  Neither extreme is effective in business or in relationships. Find a balance of being firm and assertive, while also being open and flexible.

 

Don’t “collect stamps” saving up old “wrongs” to use later as surprise attacks in conversation. Deal with issues when they occur. Don’t collect them for later. Stuffing issues only makes them fester and expand.

 

Don’t beat around the bush. Good communications can be challenging enough. Don’t complicate things by beating around the bush and making your listener work to figure out what your words mean.  Just get to the point with direct, clear statements.

 

Don’t deliver your feedback and bad news in a “sandwich” surrounded by positive words. Combining good and bad news as a sandwich is confusing and misses the point. If you have bad news to deliver, or negative feedback, speak up. Be honest and straight so your listener can hear the real message. 

 

Don’t come in guns blazing without thinking through your intentions and approach for a difficult conversation. Especially when the news is hard to hear, be sure you don’t just shoot from the hip unprepared. Think things through….then speak.

 

Don’t say “You  made me feel……..”  When sharing your feelings, own them. Don’t shift your feelings to be someone else’s responsibility. Start your sentences with “I”, not “you.” 

 

Making these simple changes in your conversations will have an immediate impact. Your listener will feel more at ease and you’ll find the entire communication easier, and less tense.

Give it a shot…try a few of these and then let me know in “comments” how your next difficult conversation goes using all or any of these rules. After you’ve mastered these rules, share them with your department and watch communications improve for everyone!

Ten Questions to Stop a Complaining Employee

Day at the office started off well enough, until your employee started in again complaining about his coworker.  Not only is it getting old, it is wasting valuable time and distracting your employee from his work.

He is focused on the co-worker, not his own stuff.  What SHOULD be different. What isn’t right or fair or logical.  Wah. Wah. Wah. He can see only what should be, rather than what is.

stop whining and find something to do

Assuming, for your own reasons, the co-worker is valuable and isn’t going anywhere, this issues needs addressing.

Here are some great questions to help your employee change his perspective:

1.  “What makes you certain your way is right? Can you step back and accept that others have “their” way?”

2.   “Are you willing to help your co-worker out to get on the same page?”

3.   “What can YOU do differently to shift this situation? Or to shift your feelings about it?”

4.   “What would happen if you simply ignored all of this?”

5.   “How might you be contributing to this situation?”

6.   “What is the cost to you of focusing on them rather than yourself?”

7.   “Imagine being able to just let it go. What would that be like for you? How would things be different for you? “

8.   “Instead of focusing on what they are doing wrong, are you willing to spend the next week looking for what they do right?  What their contribution is? Their value?”

9.  “In the big scheme of things, is this all that important?”

10.  “What humor or insight can you find in this?”

Frequently some of the best “workers” are the most vocal about others whose output or system doesn’t match their own.  Most likely BOTH employees are valuable or I’m assuming you would have made a staffing change, right?

Use these questions (not all at once, simply pick and choose a few to begin) to coach your distraught employee into seeing things differently.  Keep in mind, your employee must feel valued by you for these questions to be well received.  As always with “the way to say it”, your delivery and tone are as important, if not more important, than the words you choose.

By creating a simple shift in your employee’s perspective, you can alleviate the friction and redirect him back to his own work, plus get some peace of mind yourself.

Tell me…how have you successfully, or even not so successfully, handled these situations in the past? Love to hear your comments and ideas. [contact-form][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Website’ type=’url’/][contact-field label=’Comment’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]

 P.S. Your complaining employee could be a “he” or a “she.”

 

Before You Say Another Word, Are You Guilty of Using These 30 Phrases at Work?

silenceEvery group seems to have its own insider language. Phrases that are commonly used. Abbreviations that everyone knows. Shortcuts to speed up communication. And of course, jargon and overused terms that are repeated ad infinitum in conversation.

It’s bad enough when you are part of that group and know the expressions. In fact as one of the team, you may not even notice the ridiculous repetition. You have become immune.

Now, imagine being part of those same conversations as a newcomer to the group, a new hire. Or as a vendor or service provider listening to the crazy talk. If you want to have some fun with this (being totally irreverent) next team meeting count how often these common expressions are used. Just don’t get caught counting and of course, include yourself and your repetitive use of these words.

I’m not against using some common phrases or words among team members. What is troublesome is when these phrases take over conversation, becoming so habitual that everyone forgets how to communicate without the “secret language.” Years ago I recall being part of a team that couldn’t have a two-minute conversation without saying “going forward” or “we’ll build a straw dog.” Honestly, it drove me crazy!

Apparently, I’m not the only one interested in the way to say it, or in this case, the way NOT to say it. I came across this post last week and wanted to share it with you. Check it out:  Stop Using These 30 Phrases at Work.

start todayTake a look at this article and the 30 phrases it recommends omitting.  Find the ones you most commonly abuse and begin today to take them out of your communications at work. Or if that’s too big a shift, at least set a limit on just how often you will these  sayings. Whatever you do, know that your choice of words are important in the image, response and relationships your build at work.

Got other phrases and expressions that stand out as over-used in your organization? Let me know what they are so we can share them with others. And, I invite you to point out to me any abuses you notice in my blog posts!

Are These 20 Phrases Damaging Your Career and Holding You Back at Work?

holding woman back at officeSome phrases we learn from our parents. Some we pick up listening to others. Some are just filler that make us more comfortable when we’re speaking. Many, unfortunately, are ineffective in creating great communications.

Check these out. Do they sound like you?

 

1.  “You really should…”  –  No one wants to be told what they SHOULD do.

2.  “You really shouldn’t…– And possibly even more what they SHOULDN’T do.

3.  “You made me feel…” – No one makes us feel anything. Our feelings and reactions are our choices.

4.  “You never listen” – This phrase is sure to shut down listening even more!

5.  “……… but ……….” – Any phrase followed by “but” negates anything said prior. Use “and” instead.

6.  “To be honest, I ________” –  This infers that maybe you weren’t being honest before, or that you aren’t always honest.

7.  “Basically”– It’s filler. It weakens your message. Learn to just say what you need to say without this lead-in.

8.  “You never” or “You always” – These generalizations are sure to shut down conversation or spark conflict.

9.  “We need to talk!”  – It sends heart rates up and folks running, as it is NEVER followed by good news.

10. “Why can’t you be more like …….?” –  You may have heard this as a child, but even there this phrase can produce nothing positive.

11. “You do that every time we …..– It’s accusatory, generalizing and will shut anyone down.

12. “Maybe” (when you really mean “no”) – If you are thinking “no”, learn to say it. Clearly, honestly and appropriately. Maybe leads to confusion down the road.

13. “It’s not my fault!”– True or not, let that fact be made clear by your conversation and explanation, not by sounding like a child defending themselves.

14. “What you have to understand is………”– No, it’s not true. No one HAS to understand anything. What you mean is “what I hope you understand is”…

15. “That’s not fair” – Unless you are under the age of 5, omit this phrase from ALL communications.

16. “With all due respect”– This phrase usually precedes passive/aggressive communication and is not offering respect at all, and it’s overused.

17. “That’s not a good idea” – You may think that, but a better way to respond might be, “Here is a concern I have about this idea” or “let’s examine that idea together.”

18. “Why would you do that?”  This one is usually full of “tone” and judgment. If you can deliver it as a genuine, neutral question of curiosity, it might work. Otherwise, skip it.

19. “Don’t take it personally– First of all, this phrase never stops someone from taking it personally and it usually precedes feedback that is potentially upsetting and personal to the listener. Just learn to deliver your feedback well…without this phrase.

20. “You need to …… – Another form of telling someone what to do. It’s not up to you to determine what someone else needs. You can request or suggest, or as a boss you can say, “Here is what I need you to do.”

If these expressions are part of your communications at work, it’s time to delete them and master some new, healthier responses.

Let me know you’re out there. Which ones do you struggle with? What expressions do you need a new response to substitute?

The Way to Say It at the Office: Your Boss Wants Solutions Not Just Problems

Recently a friend of mine….a CEO…was sharing his number one frustration with employees:

Bringing Problems without Solutions      

no dumping allowed two

After questioning other managers, business owners and presidents of companies in my network, I discovered my friend is not alone in his frustration.

Apparently this is a shared issue common among all types of businesses. Employees encountering problems in the workplace often dump them on their managers and bosses without offering any solutions.

Let’s consider this. Each level up in a company encompasses a broader scope of responsibility, problems, and challenges, hence more and more demands on time. An employee who shares a problem without any potential solution has just added to that burden.

Bosses shared this thought, “What do they think they were hired for?” Employees are hired to manage a share of the workload, to attend to problems and support the boss. When the problem is more than they can handle, they must at least attempt to offer ideas, possibilities and solutions to work through with their boss’s support. Ideally they can learn from each experience and in the future manage similar problems on their own.

Below are guidelines for “the way to say it” at the office:bring solutions

Don’t just bring problems. Show your ability to problem-solve by sharing both the problem and possible resolutions with your boss. Most bosses hate having their employees simply dump problems in their laps.

Don’t wine and complain. Learn to state the facts of the problem, what isn’t working, and your best thoughts on “why” this problem exists.

Leave your “tone” at home. Think of it as a factual/informative conversation, not as a time for drama and stories or wining.

Don’t throw your co-workers under the boss. This is a sure sign of YOUR weakness and immaturity. Throwing your co-workers under the bus is a clear indication you are not a team player.

Own your part. If you have contributed to the problem, be clear about that ownership. Own it without self-degradation. Offer detail, but minimal detail. Explain how you have already corrected, or plan to correct your contribution.

Do your homework. Prepare before you talk with your boss. Gather your facts. Do your homework. Think it through. Don’t overreact!

Edit.  Get to the point, refraining from a long drawn out “story” that leads up to the issue. Don’t waste your boss’s time. Just explain the situation as succinctly as possible.

 Here are other sites with helpful tips.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/lisaquast/2013/05/13/dont-bring-problems-to-your-manager-bring-solutions/

 

http://www.bothsidesofthetable.com/2010/08/14/bring-people-solutions-not-problems/

 

Use these tips yourself next time you have a problem too big to solve on your own. When it requires the help of your boss, respect his time and prepare. Then let me know how it went. What was your experience?

Stop Being Being a Scaredy Cat….Just Ask

afraid to ask

What is it? What is so hard about asking questions? Is it simply fear of not getting the wanted response? Or fear of what others may think of us for asking?

Here are some thoughts to reframe how you think about asking and reduce any hesitation you might have. “Asking” includes asking for favors, for help, for clarity, for a raise, or even just asking a question because you are curious.

cats you go first

There’s no harm in asking.

Always ask. There is no harm in asking. Whether it’s for a letter of reference or for help carrying files from your office to the car, it makes sense to ask for help. Most people are helpful by nature but may be distracted or unaware of what you need. A simple direct request for help is easily fulfilled more often than not.

Know there’s no guarantee.   If You Wanna Win, You Gotta Play. It’s like the lottery. You might not win when you play, but you certainly will not win if you don’t.  When you ask something of another, be prepared.  You may get turned down. They may say no. But the simple fact that you asked for what you need, immediately raises your chances of getting it. Now they know what you want. Take a shot. Your odds certainly improved by asking. Few people are good at mind reading! Just ask.

Keep Your Energy Unattached. If you make your request from an unattached and neutral place, you’ll be ready to deal with either response, a “yes” or a “no.” You will also know it’s ok either way. One prerequisite for asking is accepting this rule as truth:

 EVERYONE HAS THE RIGHT TO SAY “NO” TO YOUR REQUEST,

EVEN WITHOUT OFFERING A REASON.

Deliver Your Message with Clear Intent. When making a request, check yourself. Be certain you’re good-spirited, direct, and clear about what you’re asking. Know in advance what you would like and how best to ask for it without demand, powerlessness, or expectation. Regardless of the response you get, be sure to express gratitude for their consideration.

There are many gifts to adopting this way of thinking. One is the number of times others will step up and provide exactly what you need. Another gift of the process is that by freeing up your mind to always ask and to accept a yes as well as a no, you will realize the process works in reverse, too.

You will be able to graciously receive requests from others, because you too are free to say “no” just as they are.  It’s a win-win mind shift.

Begin asking for what you need rather than hoping others will figure it out, or feeling victimized and powerless because they don’t. The difference between hoping and waiting vs. asking and knowing is powerful.  I can’t wait to hear your experiences!

 

The Right Words to Turn Down a Reference Request

testimonials2

Just because you have been asked to provide a reference or testimonial,
doesn’t mean you are obligated.

Recently I’ve gotten numerous requests for testimonials and references.  Providing references is a great way to support those in our network. But suppose the reference request is from someone we hardly know? Or from an individual we never worked with, never purchased from?  What’s the right call then?

The answer is simple.

We tell them the truth.

We tell them we are not in a position to give what they are asking.

We remind them we have not worked together, or not worked together in years, so offering a testimonial feels out of sync.

We tell them we don’t know them well enough to speak to their strengths with confidence.

We wish them well.

It’s perfectly acceptable to not provide the reference. Opting out of such a request is always an option. The challenge is doing it honestly. Wording it well. Finding the way to say it.

Of course, saying “no” to a reference request might be slightly uncomfortable. Saying “no” usually is.  But it’s better than writing a testimonial we don’t feel comfortable giving.  To film a video testimonial, or write a letter of recommendation, or provide a verbal job reference that we can’t honestly stand behind, compromises our integrity.

And I am never never “for” that.  Saying yes when we want to say no is a people-pleasing act.  Helping is great. Supporting others is gracious, but doing so when it conflicts with our own feelings is a bad choice.

The question becomes how do we say “no” to a reference request?

 We start by:reference

 * Being truthful and genuine
* Saying it courteously and with kindness
*  Keeping  it simple, keeping it short
* Valuing our own integrity
* Not being overly apologetic  (Once will do)

 

As to the way to say it, here are some one line responses to graciously turn down a request for any kind of reference:

“You know, it’s been so long since we worked together that I can’t comfortably write you a reference.”

“Should we successfully work together in the future, I would gladly consider providing you with a reference then.  I’m sorry but till then, it’s premature.”

“I’m honored that you asked for my reference. Please know that I only provide references when I can really attest to someone’s work. I just don’t know you well enough.”

“I’m not in a position to really speak comfortably about your skills and attributes.”

“I wish I could help you out, but our working relationship is too new.”

“I’d love to see you get the job, but I won’t be able to help you with a job reference since I don’t know you in that capacity.”

These are just a few simple, honest ways to say “no” without offending the requester or looking unsupportive yourself.  You can always follow these statements with softeners like, “I’m sorry I can’t help you” or “I’m sure you understand” or even “I wish I knew you more. It’s just too soon.”

Occasionally someone will ask you to provide a testimonial anyway. Just remember, should they become pushy, it will be even more important for you to maintain your professionalism and obviously, NOT write the reference.

just say noIf you want to maintain the value of your opinion, your word, and your integrity, make it a personal rule:

Only give references for those people you feel certain about backing,

whether it’s for their skills, their character or their abilities.

Your references will carry so much more weight and substance when you do write them.

How “Gender Speak” Damages Office Productivity

communications differencesYou might not know the term “gender speak,” but you experience it every time you converse with the opposite sex.  It’s the difference in communication patterns for men and women.  That means not only what we say, but the way we say it.

Gender speak is about our tone of voice, our inflection, and our body language. It includes eye movement, how close we stand, whether we interrupt, how we listen, even whether we ask many questions. Gender differences in communications cover a broad spectrum of habits and behaviors.

Unfortunately, these differences are the cause of much confusion.  Each sex tends to interpret the communication of the other sex through their own gender filter. That changes the meaning and intent of the message. It shifts nuances.

And we know what that leads to…..misunderstanding. Confusion. Conflict. Mistakes. Frustration.office arguing

In our personal relationships, most of us are accustomed to some of these communication differences. Over years together in a romantic relationship, we learn to navigate our different gender styles of talking. We KNOW there is a difference in our approaches.

In an office setting, however, we just aren’t as tuned in to each other.  We’re in business mode, not let’s-all-try-to-understand-each-other mode. Often we react to what we think we heard, processing communications through our perceptions and patterns. We may see the body language and hear the words, but the meaning we give it is from OUR gender’s perspective.  We think little about what the speaker intended, what they meant. That’s when things go sideways and communications suffer.

When a businessman notices his female business colleague asking many questions, he knows what it means—-to him. To him, she is uncertain and exhibits a lack of confidence. He loses respect for her and doubts her credibility. What he doesn’t know is asking lots of questions has a different meaning for her. It is a natural pattern of female conversation. To her and to other women, it has nothing to do with certainty. Yes, some questions are to clarify, but in general women ask questions to create connection. Women are socialized to connect, to pull others in and include them in conversation. Most women remain unaware their questions are costing them personal power and respect in the workplace.

Another female tendency is taking in a lot more peripheral information during conversation. Women notice manner of dress, body language, facial expressions, and even what’s going on in the background. Men focus more on a speaker’s content and don’t tend to notice or care about these same details. More often than not, men don’t make it a practice to read between the lines and try to read other’s non-verbal clues. For women, this is a sure sign of men’s  indifference and lack of interest. For men, it’s the opposite meaning.

In each case, two interpretations of the same actions create two different perceptions, leading to potential misunderstandings and differing opinions on someone’s power, competence, and leadership skills. The challenges are especially apparent in a business setting because so much is unsaid and, unfortunately, politics play an important role in career success.

Here are just a few of the many communication differences among men and women:

 Women tend to:

  • End sentences with a raised inflection
  • Rely heavily on non-verbal cues
  • Nod their heads and smile to confirm their interest
  • Use conversation to establish connection and intimacy

Men tend to:

  • Speak in directives
  • Focus more on content than non-verbal cues
  • Consider it more polite to just listen and not confirm interest
  • Use language to negotiate status and power

The important thing to remember is neither behavioral pattern is right or wrong, better or worse. They are just different, and unless we learn to “translate” gender communication styles, misunderstandings are bound to keep affecting our bottom line in business.

We will continue thinking we know what is being said, when in fact we are assigning a different meaning than our speaker intends. We will continue to make inaccurate judgments about each other’s personal skills, intentions, and needs.

If instead, we learn and understand gender speak and what it entails, we will be aware and informed of our gender communication differences.  We’ll be able to check in and confirm with each other what meaning was intended. We’ll be aware there are differences and will be better prepared to deal with them, both at work and at home. We might even be able to laugh at them.

By learning what meaning both sexes give to the same habits, by learning what each sex needs from the other to feel heard and understood, we can bridge the gender gap and work better together with more understanding.

Think of your recent communications at work. Got any great stories to share about costly misunderstandings created by gender speak?

 

Four Un-Romantic Thoughts to Share on Valentine’s Day

valentines beary muchRemember Valentine’s Day as young children?  Everyone in class got a card….everyone!  The goal was to be inclusive, to make everyone feel good. It was less about romance and more about friendship and kindness, about relationships with the people (kids) we spent every day with. Of course we had our favorites, but no one was left out.

The romantic relationship in each of our lives is important, but today, I’d like to focus on all the other ones.  Male or female, young or old, personal or work, family or business, these friendships make a huge difference in our day-to-day experiences. They connect us, ground us, and make us feel like we matter.

What I’m wondering is this……just how expressive, appreciative, and grateful are you in these relationships?   I’m not asking what positive thoughts you have about these people. I want to know if you share those thoughts with them…out loud.

Do you tell your friends what they mean to you? Or do you think “they just know?” Are you uncomfortable expressing your positive thoughts, or just wonder what to say, or if you should say them at all?

To some, this might qualify as a difficult conversation—one where you say the pleasant, nice things you think or feel about these individuals.  In actuality, it’s not difficult at all. It might simply be a conversation you never got accustomed to having. Or maybe you wonder what words to say. It’s simple. Say what’s in your head.

With each passing year, I am more certain that sharing these positive thoughts make all the difference in the quality of our relationships of all types.  Not just the romantic ones. I’m talking about partnerships. Friendships. Family connections. Social groups. Long-distance friends. Electronic friends. Business network connections. Neighbors. Our service providers. Our employees, and co-workers. They ALL matter. Each connection enriches our lives in some way. Some very greatly.

What if you started telling these people the good thoughts that come to mind and the good feelings you have about them?

Let’s talk about some of the things we could (and maybe should) say more often to those around us:

thanks, etc.Express Gratitude – Most of us automatically and frequently say “thank you” during the course of each day.  Take it further, consider saying more. Elaborate. Give. Say, “Thanks that was really kind of you” or “I so appreciate all of your extra efforts for me,” or “Thanks, you are always so helpful.”

Share Compliments – Seems most of us think compliments far more often than we speak them. What is that about? Why not just verbalize those thoughts?”  Every day we should share the complimentary thoughts we currently keep locked up in our minds.

Don’t just think, “Wow, you look great today.” Say it. Tell your UPS guy, “You’re always so friendly. Thanks.” Say the nice thoughts that come to you. There’s no cost, but the payback to such honesty is priceless.  Everyone is uplifted by a compliment–the giver and the receiver. Whether it’s your gardener, your dry cleaning lady, your mailman, your neighbors, or your employees, share your positive thoughts.

Show Your Respect – Many of our daily interactions are with other professionals. Imagine these professionals respect you and your output, but never tell you.  Doesn’t feel right, does it? Why not “go first?”  Open up communication. Express your respect for the great job your doctor’s office does. Tell your employee you find him to be the ultimate on follow-through and detail. Share with your hairdresser how much you love her timeliness. Tell your colleague how their feedback helps you in your job.  Whatever nice thing crosses your mind, don’t hold it hostage. Don’t keep it. Give it away. It will come back to you.

Offer Support – At one time or another, each of us struggles with a personal or professional challenge.  And more often than not, we attempt to minimize that struggle and “suck it up.” In the midst of those difficult times, a few words of encouragement are invaluable. Whether it’s a co-worker, a business colleague, or a friend, reach out with even a few simple words of support. Tell them you understand. Offer your help, if appropriate. Provide an ear to listen, or if it makes sense, share your similar experience so they know they aren’t alone.  A few words of support go a long way in strengthening your connection.

heart candies

Honest, authentic communication is a great habit, a useful tool, and a wonderful way to live your life. Why not spread the love around a little wider this Valentine’s Day (and every day)?  Start sharing all the wonderful, grateful, kind, supportive thoughts you often think of others in your life. It will enrich not only the lives of those around you, but yours as well. It’s hard to say who will benefit more.