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.

The Way to Say It Tips: Telling Your Guests “It’s Time to Go”

empty wine glass end of partyIs there really an acceptable way, a polite and appropriate way to let guests know it’s time to go?  I mean, no one wants to be rude to friends and visitors. It’s not as if we didn’t enjoy them or didn’t want them to visit in the first place. Even so on occasion, we want our guests to go home.

Maybe  our schedule the next day begins early.  Maybe we’ve been running too fast and are just exhausted. Or maybe we tend to be early-to-bed people and are ready to call it quits.

Can we say express that? What do you think? Have you ever suggested gracefully, or even awkwardly for that matter, to your guests that the night is over?

In situations like these most of us watch the clock. We say nothing. Some of us dance around and drop small hints, hoping our guests will get it. Sometimes we go so far as to begin the cleaning up as a signal it’s time.

Most of us don’t know what to do. We just wait. Few people actually tell the truth.

Let’s start with one of the easier, more clear-cut situations to see what we might actually say.

When Illness Is Involved:  

At the moment a dear friend of mine is home recovering from a serious, life-threatening infection.  Everyone in her circle wants to help and stop in to wish her well.  That support is a huge part of recovery, but it can also be a bit much. For her, some boundary-setting requests would help her preserve her limited energy and let guests know “it’s time to go.”

Here are some of “the ways to say it” that I recommend:

 “I’m so appreciative of your coming by to see me. Now unless I want my doctor, and my husband to yell at me, I have to get some rest. I hope you will visit again .”

“This has been such a gift having you visit.  It really makes me feel great. Unfortunately, if I don’t keep my visits short, I really pay for it the next day. I get so tired!  I’m planning on heading to bed in about 15 minutes.”

 “You know, I hate for you to leave, but if I don’t get lots of naps and rests each day, it really wears me out. I hope you understand I need to cut our visit short now. It’s time for me to rest.”

 “Oh, this has been a great visit. Now, if I am to get well I’m going to have to boot you guys out and go take a rest. Hope you understand! Thanks.” 

 Another skilled way to handle these communication challenges is before the fact. Instead of having an awkward moment trying to bring the visit to a close, set your time limits up front. When guests arrive, thank them and give them a head’s up of how long your visit can last.  Say something like:

“Oh it’s great to see you. I love visits but they do drain me so can we plan on about a ____ long visit?”

Or a bit stronger,

 “Thanks for coming to see me. Let me give you a head’s up….I turn into a pumpkin after about an hour and just completely run out of energy. Let’s keep our visit within that time frame.”

 Most people would agree sickness is a justifiable reason to limit our guests.  That doesn’t mean we must have such a dramatic reason to set boundaries on our time. The question remains, what about other situations?

boundary

When It’s a Normal Get Together:

 Here are some ideas to try out in your personal life:

  1. Communicate in Advance:  If you know you have friends who tend to stay long, or an early commitment, or some reason you need to limit your time together, communicate that up front. We have great friends who told us they wake at 4:30 most mornings and are in bed early.  This helps us respect their preferences. We tend to meet early and depart early as a result. No awkward moments.
  2.  Make Your Invite Specific:  When you are a host you get to call the shots.  When inviting, communicate clearly a beginning time and an ending time! There’s much less chance of needing to say anything more.
  3. Work Your Needs into the Conversation:  At some time in the visit, talk about your early commitment the next day and what time you need to be up. Or share how little sleep you have gotten and that you plan on an early night tonight. Whatever your need is, find a casual comfortable way to share it over the course of the night long before it’s actually time to leave.
  4. Be Open, Be Yourself:  Develop friendships that allow you to be yourself, that support honest communication. Get in the habit of using a casual, kidding, light tone of voice to share your preferences and habits. The more your friends know you, the more they will respect your needs and preferences, as well as express their own.

Taking these steps and having these kinds of conversations will take some practice. It won’t necessarily be smooth and easy the first few times. But we can work up to the more difficult conversations and start small.

My commitment is to honest, open conversations, even when it’s difficult. That may not be your choice. It’s really a personal decision each of us make. Just know if you don’t choose to communicate  your boundaries and limits on your time and get-together, you will occasionally have some friends who overstay their welcome. And given that you won’t have stated your needs, you’ll be part of the problem. Why not try speaking up instead?

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.

If You Don’t Tell Her, Who Will?

breaking the silence

You’ve been observing your best friend. You love her dearly, but—-and it’s a big but—- it appears she is headed towards a disastrous marriage. Or maybe she is dating a seriously controlling bad guy, an abusive guy. What do you do?

Do you say it? Do you tell her? Because if you, as a best friend or very dear friend, can’t tell her, who exactly is going to say it? Who is going to help her see what she can’t?

Clearly she is not seeing the whole picture.

Do you love her enough to say these tough things? Do you love her enough to risk facing her anger, her hurt feelings, and possibly a huge emotional outburst?

We worry friends might not like what we have to say. We’re certain they’ll be angry. We don’t know the way to say it. We fear saying it wrong, but deep down we really fear losing them, losing our friendship.  The social norm, “Mind your own business” comes to mind. Maybe it’s not our place we say to ourselves. Maybe they won’t want to hear it. Besides, maybe they already know it. Someone else will tell them, we hope. We don’t want to face this difficult conversation.

But no one else is going to tell them.  No one will speak up. If we are truly the friend we say we are, we need to be the one. We need to say it because true, deep, loving friends want the best for each other.  To be happy, safe, healthy and ideally to not experience pain…or much pain…in life.

If we are truly concerned for our friend’s well-being, our fears need to take a back seat.  Otherwise, we are actually putting ourselves first, not our friend. Some “bestie” we are!girls crying

Difficult conversations are just that. They include risks. They may trigger unpleasant reactions, but the message to be delivered is important and far outweighs the possible short-term reactions we may experience.  NOT delivering the truth, the message, the concern, the perspective includes far greater risks and far worse outcomes than someone being mad at us.

In my distant past, I had relationships with some real unhealthy guys. One in particular was dishonest, massively controlling, and manipulative; and over time, stole from me. Even so, not one of my friends told me the truth of what they saw, not until I was in pretty deep. Now I get that ultimately I was responsible for being in the relationship, but how might my life have been different if my friends at the time told me their truest deepest opinions and insights when the relationship started rather than after it was ended years later?  Might I have sped up my personal growth process? Might I have been able to see my patterns in relationship sooner? Might I have moved on to healthy relationships faster? What if, they told me what they saw and feared?  Maybe I would simply have been stubborn and continued in the same track. Or possibly, it might have saved precious time. I might have lost less of myself, my credit and even my savings.

Friends don’t let friends drive drunk, right?

Well, what if we added to that:

 Friends don’t let friends be disrespected.

Friends don’t let friends tolerate abuse.

Friends tell friends the truth, even when it’s really tough to say.

Here’s the deal. When as friends, we do speak the tough truth, we have to do so with these things in mind:

  • Your friend might choose not to listen. And that’s ok. It’s their choice and they may not yet be ready for the life lesson knocking on their door.  You still did the right thing.
  • They may get defensive. Sometimes the listener is still too mired in their denial, delusion, or pipe dream to see what we see. It’s ok; you still were a good friend.
  • Your friend may shut down entirely.  Your friend hearing your bad news may show no reaction and appear not to have heard you.  It’s ok; they did hear you, no matter how it looks.
  • You might become the bad guy. Upon hearing your perspective, your friend may defend their relationship choice and make you out to be the bad guy. That’s ok. You know the truth. You love them enough to speak up.

It’s important to keep in mind that none of us like hearing news that contradicts our feelings, especially those to do with “love” and relationships. Chances are your friend will react less than ideally to whatever tough-love conversation you have with them…at least initially.

As we deliver the news and observe our friend’s response, we must be neutral.  We need to be free of judgment. We must keep in mind the bigger picture… the long term well-being of our friends. Upon hearing what we have to say, our friend will need time to process. Time to think things over and maybe then ask more questions.

No matter what her reaction is, know this:  your sharing the honest truth planted a seed. Your friend may heed it now, or they may need time to process it, or even to hear it from others. But, you as their true friend have done your part by speaking truth. They and only they get to decide what to do with it.

tough love 2In my mind a really true friend loves me enough and has the guts to tell me the truth, plain and simple. The real good ones even love me enough to continue loving me even if I don’t “get it” right away. They wait. They give me time.

Have you ever had a friend show up for you at this level? A friend who loves you so much they are willing to piss you off, take the risk you will be ripping mad and even possibly shut them out, to protect you and show what you are not seeing for yourself?

I’d love to hear your stories. Then stay tuned for ” the way to say it”  in a tough-love conversation in my next blog post.

 

P.S. Sorry guys for ignoring you on this post, but in my experience guys tell their buddies when a woman is the wrong one for them. If I’m wrong on that count, let me know your experiences.

‘The Way to Say It’ Tips: How to Disagree without Conflict

different directions - test - it works in firefox and chrome.

It’s insanity to even begin to think we could be in agreement with others all the time. With so many different cultures and religions, a multitude of life experiences to draw from, so many diverse areas of expertise and education, and even just different family values, it’s a wonder we ever agree!

Even so, for some of us, the idea of disagreeing out loud is scary and something to be avoided at all costs.  As children lots of us were taught not to disagree, not to express ourselves openly, and not to share differing points of view. We learned to keep our mouths shut. We learned to avoid conflict, friction, and above all confrontation. 

But over time, that just doesn’t fly. At work, we must make difficult decisions. We must face opposition to our views. We must stand up for employees and defend funding for projects. At home, we must set boundaries on our time. We have to decide how to spend joint monies, how to raise children. In every area of life whether that means at work, at home, with friends, with family or with strangers, we are faced with differing opinions and ideas and contradictory points of view.

Rather than continue to avoid or be in fear of these other beliefs and opinions, how about learning to step into them? How about learning the art of difficult conversation and even some phrases for the way to say it when one disagrees?

disagree blackboard - test - I was able to edit the image via the icon on the image in firefox.

Here are some simple, but not necessarily easy, steps to take to work through disagreement with grace and an open mind.

Step One:   Offer Mutual Respect

Recognize the other has as much right to their point of view as you do.  And believe it; don’t just give it lip service. Come from that mindset right out of the gate. Before you even open your mouth, tell yourself multiple times “They have the same right to their opinion and beliefs that I have to mine.”

Step Two:  Establish Understanding

Now that you recognize you both have the same right to your point of view, take the time to hear out the other person’s perspective. Really listen and try to put yourself in their shoes. Can you see how they drew these conclusions? Why they feel the way they do?  Allow their perceptions while still having yours.

Step Three:  Seek Agreement

Once you have heard each other’s story, work together to determine where there is agreement.  Don’t expect total agreement. Simply find where you share the same point of view. Where is there overlap in your perceptions? What perspectives and beliefs do you share? Where do you agree? Where do you see things the same or similarly? Finding that common ground creates a great foundation to build on.

Step Four:  Clarify Points of Difference

While maintaining that there is some agreement, get clear on exactly where the point or points of difference lie.  After listening to each other’s positions (Step 3), most likely you have discovered there is more agreement than originally thought.  With that in mind, take a fresh look at where the gap is, where you each see things differently.  Is there room for compromise? Cooperation? Has anyone’s perspective changed?

If so, wrap up by talking about the common ground and the understanding gained.

It’s perfectly ok to disagree. The object is not to convince each other of your own point of view, but to educate each other on new viewpoints and to create understanding. If you can accomplish that, you have succeeded! You can each go on your way seeing things differently. But now you have an expanded view of the issue having  shared your perspectives.

Here are some phrases that will prove helpful in the art of disagreement without conflict:  

  • “I appreciate your point of view and I think I understand your feelings. Here’s how I see it. “
  • ” I wish I could agree with you. Unfortunately, I see it differently.”
  • “I respect your opinion and hope you can respect that my viewpoint is different from yours.”
  • “I understand your position and I agree on xxxx points. Here is where I think we see things differently.”
  • “We have some common ground and some points where we disagree.”
  • “Wow, I had never thought of things from that perspective. Thanks for sharing that point of view. It opens things up for me. “
  • “Thanks to your insights, I have some thinking to do on this topic. Thank you.”
  • “Now that we have talked it through, I see your point of view more clearly and I respect your opinion. We do agree in some areas and we do not in others, and that’s just fine.”
  • “I so enjoy that we can hold different points of view and respect those differences. Thanks for sharing your perspective.”

Having a different opinion than your spouse or co-worker or even your boss is not the end of world. Considering the wide range of factors that lead us to our conclusions, disagreement is to be expected and accepted. The key is doing so without judgment and criticism. If we give the level of respect we want, everyone wins. 

Respectful disagreement is healthy.

 

The Two-Letter Word That’s Killing You

Just say it!

Just say it!

 

Repeat after me, “I wish I could, but I just can’t right now. No thank you.” Now say, “Thanks for the invite. I’m going to have to pass.” Take a breath, and now out loud, ““I would love to help you, but right now I just can’t.” Or even a simple, direct, “Sorry, can’t make it. I have a conflict.”

Now that wasn’t so bad, was it? It’s that simple–acceptable ways to say no. Say it. Say “no.” In fact for an entire day, no make that and entire week, walk around saying,

  •  “No, I’m sorry. I can’t make it.”
  •  “No, thanks. I’m busy.”
  •  “No, actually that’s not a good time for me.”
  •  “No, I would prefer you don’t do that.”

Practice. Practice. Practice because half of the battle is just getting used to saying it. And it does get easier with time.

Saying "no" with grace is a learned skill.

Saying “no” with grace is a learned skill.

Saying “no” doesn’t equate to anger. Saying “no” won’t kill you. And, even more important, the less often you are saying no, the more likely it is that you should be. It’s about boundaries. If we never say “no” then friends, kids, spouses, families, bosses, essentially everyone in our circle learns to keep asking us. We’re an easy mark. We give in. We agree. We cave in to do things we don’t really want to do. We say yes when we mean no.

Our inability to say “no” costs us and it costs us dearly energetically and emotionally. Over time, any choices we make that are not in alignment with what our intuition or our heart wants, take their toll on our health. Not saying what is true for us affects how we feel about ourselves. It diminishes our confidence and sense of self-worth.

Generally women struggle with this habit more than men. Even so, we all could use some practice in honestly saying no when that’s what we feel, instead of losing ourselves in people-pleasing.  Though none of us like to think of ourselves as people-pleasers, that is what we are when we do what others want instead of speaking our truth.

Striving to be kind and generous is a good thing. Being kind is about the other person. About generosity. About giving.  People pleasing— well,  not so much. People-pleasing is about YOU. It’s about your need to be liked.  If you never utter the word “no”, it stems from a desire to not disappoint others or hurt them or just tell them the  God’s honest truth for fear of disapproval. Instead you choose to abandon your wants and needs and blurt out “yes,” when deep down you’re screaming “no” silently. It’s “no” that you want to say.

I think we can agree that it IS hard to hear “no” to one of our own requests. But wouldn’t life be oh so much easier if we told each other the truth? If we kindly, yet honestly. said what we want and what we don’t.  Personally, I would always rather hear the truth even when it’s hard. Even when it is not w hat I had in mind. I just hope the truth will be told to me directly and kindly.

Granted, sometimes it takes me a few minutes of processing to get comfortable with the rejection to my request. Still I prefer it to being lied to or to having to deal with passive aggressive resentment that I can feel.

This week promise yourself you’ll spout out a solid “no” to at least one request made of you each day.  Tell me how it goes. Saying “no” is a learned skill and you just might come to like it!

 

 

 

25 Habits that Kill Great Communication

Stop making difficult conversations harder than they need to be.

Stop making difficult conversations harder than they need to be.

The Way to Say It  is about more than just choosing the right words.  It’s also about what NOT to say and how NOT to behave.  It’s about conversational habits we need to break and remove from our difficult conversations. 

Many of these behaviors are so habitual we don’t even realize how they block powerful communication and sabotage our very efforts. Each of these 25 habits undermines trust, creates distance and keeps us from our conversational goals.  

What’s the point of stepping into a difficult conversation only to make things worse with your attitude or tone of voice, or even passive-aggressive behavior?

Learning to master difficult conversations takes effort. Make sure your tough talks don’t include any of these bad habits. 

Here are the behaviors that need to go:      

    1. Blaming others  while believing we are guilt free
    2. Using a sarcastic tone of voice
    3. Blind siding with a surprise attack
    4. Taking a defensive stance
    5. Attacking by using “you” statements
    6. Avoiding the actual subject
    7. Dancing around the issues with implications and vagueness
    8. Pretending all is well
    9. Fighting dirty with name calling or intentionally hurtful dialog,
    10. Talking over others
    11. Being a poor listener
    12. Playing the “I’m right, you’re wrong” card
    13. Saying the right words with the wrong tone
    14. Wanting to prove your point rather than resolve issues
    15. Making the issue public
    16. Not owning your stuff, your feelings
    17. Dismissing others’ opinions
    18. Patronizing and belittling others
    19. Interrupting others’ talk
    20. Not acknowledging honest effort of others
    21. Being dishonest
    22. Withholding the truth
    23. Avoiding eye contact
    24. Multi-tasking rather than being present
    25. Making excuses for your behavior

Which of these habits are yours? Most likely some, if not many, of these habits are things you have done when conversations are challenging. We all do. Especially  when we’re angry, hurt or impatient. To really lean into tough conversations and create dynamic, clear, honest connection, we need to eliminate these behaviors.

It may not be reasonable to expect to break all your bad communication habits, after all we generally learn them from our families and these habits go back years. But that is no excuse for continuing what is counter productive. One by one, we can learn the way to say it with respect, without tone, listening and owning our part and really breaking through to resolve issues and create powerful results.                                                                                           

something newFirst, we need to raise our awareness so we realize which destructive communication habits are ours. Once we identify the communication styles that are hampering our success, then little by little we can substitute a healthy alternative  that fosters trust, builds connection, and breaks down barriers rather than creating  new ones.

It’s a new year! How about starting off by observing your communication habits and admitting which ones are killing your communications?

25 Great Responses to Graciously Receive Gifts

pile of gifts

If you read my blog post earlier this week, 5 Things Never to Say When Receiving a Gift, you may have discovered you are not the best at accepting presents or expressing genuine gratitude. Maybe you struggle with finding the right words, or feel self-conscious. Or just don’t know the way to say it and express what you feel. No worries.

Now that you’re aware of how you come across, you can respond differently and be a gracious receiver.  People will love you for it, and you will enjoy gift exchanges much more yourself. Who knows, you might even find yourself the recipient of more gifts!

To begin, let’s go review those “Five Things Never to Say…” and offer better alternatives:

  1. Instead of “Can I open this later?” how about something more positive and engaging like, “Oh thanks! I’d love to open this now!Now your gift giver knows that you’re excited to be getting a gift and don’t’ want to wait to open it. What a great feeling they get, knowing you are excited! It’s a gift giver’s dream.
  2. Instead of “Do I have to open this now?”  Say “Can I open this now?  I’m just too excited to wait.” Think about it…if they hand you the gift now, it’s because they want you to open it now. Otherwise they would have waited. Generally, people hand you their gift when they want you to open it. Don’t disappoint. Let them enjoy the giving and witness your response.
  3. Instead of saying, “Thanks. I have one of these,” simply be gracious and receive it well saying, Thanks so much! This is a great gift.”
  4. If and only if, the gift is expensive and you have it already, your response will be a little more challenging to be honest. Consider saying something like, “Wow, I love this. I can’t believe how well you know my taste! I do have this item though. Do you think we can decide together on something to exchange it for?”
  5. Time after time I hear people (mostly women) lament, apologize, and fuss over the fact that they didn’t buy a gift as well. PLEASE, if this is you, eliminate this response from your repertoire. Take a breath and slip into the role of gracious receiver. Simply say, “Thank you so much for thinking of me! What a nice surprise!”

….and now twenty more choices to be a pleasant, gracious receiver this Holiday:

6.    “Thank you very much. This is something I’d never have splurged on.”

7.     “How did you know? …..I’ve been wanting a _________________.”

8.     “I love this. It’s so unique.”

9.     “What a great gift! Many thanks.”

10.   “I appreciate your kindness.”

11.   “That was very sweet!” (or kind, or generous or thoughtful)

12.   “What a fantastic gift! Thanks so much!”

13.   “I LOVE presents. Can I open this right now?”

14.   “This is really touching. Thank you.”

15.   “I’ve always wanted to have a _______________.”

16.   “I love handmade gifts. They have such meaning. Thank you.”

17.   “Thank you for thinking of me.”

18.   “Wow! You really know my taste. I love this.”

19.   “This is a perfect gift choice for me.  Thank you!”

20.   “I so appreciate your thoughtfulness.”

21.   “Thanks so very much. This is wonderful!”

22.   “I’m delighted. Thank you.”

23.   “Thank you so much. I will treasure this gift.”

24.   “How kind of you to buy me a gift.”

25.   “What a wonderful surprise! Thanks for thinking about me.”

It’s not too late to be a wonderful receiver of gifts, acts of service, or hospitality this Holiday season. Simply try these responses and allow yourself to be a bit more open.

Regardless of the way you say it this Holiday and whether you find the right words, don’t be a Grinch!  Enjoy and let the gratitude in your heart come through to those who love you enough to purchase a gift they chose especially for you.

How-the-Grinch-Stole-Christmas

THANK YOU for following my blog! That is a great gift to me!

Happiest of Holidays!

 See you after the New Year with more of the way to say it.

Three Ways to Say “No” This Holiday Season

Just say it!

Just say it!

Have you spouted out a solid “NO” yet today? How about yesterday? Last week?

It’s the Holidays and as much as we all want things perfect, in actuality, it can be a tense time.  There are long lists of errands to run. There are multiple demands on your time.  There are far too many people’s opinions to take into account for the dinner menu, the guests, the time, the gifts, and all the other details to plan a “perfect” holiday event.

Regardless of how you celebrate the holidays and whether you love or hate them, there is added stress not present the rest of the year.  It’s a stressful time, but it doesn’t have to be. Not if you open your mouth and say that two- letter word you’re screaming on the inside. Say it. Say “no.”

Say things like, “No. I’m sorry. I wish I could help you with the children’s school play this year. I’m going to have to pass.”

Or maybe you need to say, “Thanks for the invite to your Christmas party. I so appreciate being included. Unfortunately, we can’t make it this year.”

Possibly your “no” might be about setting limits on gifts and holiday purchases. Maybe what needs to be said is “I would love to exchange gifts with everyone in the family, but this year the budget just isn’t going to cover it. Let’s look at that again next year.”

It’s not critical that the actual word “no” be included in your sentence. Nor is it necessary for you to defend and explain why you can’t make the party or won’t host dinner this year. In fact the less said about why, the less likely you are to cave and be talked out of your response. Just find the simplest, nicest way of saying “no” showing appreciation to others and still protecting your own boundaries.

Saying “no” doesn’t have to be harsh and selfish. Nor does it have to be overly apologetic and guilty. The word “no” is an important element of difficult conversations and a small word with a huge impact. Neglecting to use this powerful word to set your limits and protect your time or your money or your energy will undoubtedly leave you giving too much of yourself away.

Start this holiday with a gift to yourself. Say “no” when that’s what your instincts are screaming inside. Say “no” when there is too much on your plate, or you just aren’t interested in the activity. Practice by saying “no” to one request each day, no matter how small. All totaled up, those little limits you set will leave you feeling lighter, less stressed and more in the spirit the holidays are all about.

Remember, difficult conversations mean saying, not thinking, what is true for you.

 

 

 

What Your Lack of Response Tells Others

ostrichMost of us think saying nothing is an acceptable and easy response to challenging situations. The ole ostrich-in-the-sand approach.  We hide out. We avoid, ignore and figure in time it will all go away. At the very least the other party will forget about things.

After doing personal coaching for 13 years, it’s clear to me this is not the case. No response, does not equal no problem. The issue doesn’t’ go away just because we aren’t facing it. In fact, more often than not, ignoring the issue leads to other problems.

We may THINK to ourselves, “I’m not saying anything. That will be safe.” But our silence communicates volumes anyway. It leaves things open to the interpretation of others, and, without our input. They decide on their own what our lack of response means. The meaning they give it is rarely what we intend.

Here are some of the conclusions that are often drawn by our silence:

  1. “You don’t care.”  –  If you did care, you would speak up and express your feelings.  Or at the least you would deal with the situation. Most of us interpret silence as indifference.
  2. “I’m not important.”  –   Someone waiting to hear your response might conclude, “I’m not important to you.” After all, in the midst of a misunderstanding or conflict, it would seem if I were important, you would do or say something.
  3. “Things are fine the way they are.” –  Sometimes when no response comes, we decide it means things are fine as is. Nothing needs to be done.
  4. “Do what you want.”  –  This is a convenient conclusion to draw. It allows us to do exactly what we want. After all, we haven’t heard from the other party (you), so obviously it doesn’t matter.  Without your input, we are free to decide what to do next. And considering there is a conflict, we love giving ourselves permission to do what we want.
  5. “It’s over.” –  Depending on the actual situation, sometimes we interpret silence to mean the relationship, friendship, or connection is over. That conclusion sets an entirely new set of circumstances in motion.
  6. “You don’t want to talk to me (or about it).” –  In either case, drawing this conclusion makes the other party completely reluctant to initiate a conversation. The gap widens. The silence continues.

Just because nothing is said, doesn’t mean no conclusions are drawn. Silence in the midst of an issue, argument, misunderstanding or crucial conversation only leads to more resentment and a greater distance to bridge for resolution.

breaking the silence

Are you an avoider? In the midst of a difficult conversation do you simply shut down and stop talking? Do you leave an issue hanging, never sharing your thoughts and questions? If so, remind yourself others will draw their own conclusions and most likely they will not be what you intend.

Want to resolve the issue? Want to affect the outcome? Speak up using The Way to Say It and allow yourself and the other party to talk it through and move on, whether that moving on means resolution, understanding, or just letting go. In any case, the wondering ends and there is clarity.

Want to learn more possibilities about what your silence is saying? Check out these links:  http://www.patheos.com/blogs/faithwalkers/2013/02/silence-speaks-what-you-say-when-you-say-nothing-at-all/

http://silenttreatmentblog.com/

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