11 Things I Learned about Verbal Judo

George J. Thompson and Jerry B. Jenkins' Verbal Judo: The Gentle Art of Persuasion was originally written for police officers who have to deal with difficult and deadly situations, but its lessons work for all careers, especially writers who encounter their share of criticism. Hey, there's a chapter entitled, "Taking Crap with Dignity...and Style."

Here are my key take-aways for writers/bloggers:

1. Empathy is the "single most powerful concept in the English language" (53).

2. "Your presence and your words when skillfully combined are knowledge and power in action" (93).

3. "Your first goal should be to win the person over" (130).

4. When you deal will difficult situations, apply LEAPS - Listen, Empathize, Ask, Paraphrase, and Summarize (153).

5. "If you disagree with the criticism, hold your tongue for the time being" (178). The authors also recommend that you ignore your inner voice in tense situations because it is usually negative.

6. "Anything decided in the moment will likely be counterproductive" (181). "Use adrenaline; never be ruled by it" (197).

7. "Train yourself to do the opposite of what you feel. If you feel like shouting, whisper" (182).

8. "Always maintain your professional face" (195).

9. "Always treat the other person as you would want to be treated" (195). It's the Golden Rule.

10. "Flexibility requires strength; rigidity equals weakness" (197).

11. "Use positive feedback when you least feel like it" (198).

If you deal with people face-to-face or in the digital world, you'll come across criticism or disputes. Thompson and Jenkins' book offers some good advice and techniques for taking the high road.

Happy reading!

What I Learned from David Casullo about High-Energy Cultures

I read a lot of books on leadership and customer service. David Casullo's Leading the High-Energy Culture is a good reference for new or seasoned managers. But his life lessons also apply to writers. Here's what I learned...

1. "Raise the Bar" should be your rallying cry for yourself and your team.

2. Energize those around you.

3. Communicate clearly and with purpose and passion.

4. Behave consistently with your values and beliefs.

5. Know the lay of the land at your organization and adapt as you need to.

6. A successful leader demonstrates Character, Commitment, Competence, Courage, and Communication.

7. People are fascinated with secrets and mysteries. As a mystery reader and writer, this was my favorite.

8. Focus on face-to-face interactions. Important information should be delivered face-to-face and not through email or texts.

9. Communication is an art and a science.

10. Simple is hard. People don't have time for elaborate explanations. It takes longer to craft your communication for your audience.

11. When people remember your story, they remember the point, and they remember you.


Leading in a Changing World

I finished Ollie Malone's 101 Leadership Actions for Managing Change in the 21st Century recently.   His text is good if you're dealing with teamwork and change. Here are my key learnings.

1. Focus on the STAR model (Significant Tasks and Results).

2. Pay attention to what you resist. It will help you understand yours and others' resistance to change.

3. Ensure that your vision or plan includes others.

4. WIGS are Wildly Important Goals and WAGS are Wildly Aggressive Goals. You need WIGS and WAGS.

5. Watch what your industry is doing. Observe the trends and what's going on in your professional community.

6. Make sure that everyone on your team is cross-trained. Have lots of coverage for critical skills.

7. Breathe frequently. Make sure that you are not always going 100 mph.

8. Stress good communications.

9. Embrace technology.

The Hamster Wheel

This week, guest blogger, Cortney Cain is writing about her work and writing experiences for Crazy for Words. Cortney is a recovering writer/editor who now teaches English for speakers of other languages. She and her husband, along with their tween and teen daughters, moved to the Shenandoah Valley recently after living near the coast for years.

A look at my Pinterest page is, admittedly, disappointing by most people’s standards. I’ve followed some pretty prolific posters, though, and *their* prowess might give you the impression that I’m upbeat and in touch. I’ve been neither of these for some time, but my family’s recent move from one corner of Virginia to the other has made me realize that it is not an area’s employment and entertainment offerings (or lack thereof) that are to blame for my current state of mind. It’s me.

I’ve cycled through boredom, self-doubt/depression, and then bootstrap-pull-uppance like a clumsy hamster for a while now. I picture myself as a little furry thing that runs really hard for a bit, trips comically and rides the momentum for a number of loop-de-loos, titters in annoyance as she stumbles off into the shavings, and then shakes the shavings off after she realizes how ridiculous it all is, only to look over and discover this shiny silver thing that could be a nice diversion.

Yep, that’d be me.

That cycle is something I noticed only recently when I found myself complaining about my job. (I should note that I’m between paid jobs at the moment.) It’s not that stay-at-home parenting is unfulfilling or tedious, though let’s admit it—we love that back-to-school commercial with “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” playing in the background because WE CAN RELATE. It’s the feeling that other women have this work/home thing worked out, and I’m the only one struggling with split personality disorder.

I had a job offer recently in something that I love: writing and editing. I went so far as to accept it and even get fingerprinted and background checked. If they’d asked, I would’ve peed in a cup. But then I got a call from the most persuasive HR person I’ve ever encountered anywhere—much less for a school system, which is notoriously “take it or leave it” in my experience—and voila! Yes, I found myself saying, I know teaching is the better fit for me right now because I owe it to my kids to be on their schedules. I called the writing/editing job offerer back and apologized for the late news, but I’d been given an offer I couldn’t refuse. How could I refuse being home with the kids on their breaks?

So now I’m in that resentment stage, where I’m dusting my shavings off, but I can already feel the allure of the silver wheel. Maybe, even with only a few weeks until new teacher orientation, there’s another job in writing and editing that will save me from the classroom. (If you have to ask why you need saving from the classroom, that’s a whole other series of blog entries. I don’t even really have horror stories, either, but all you have to do is turn on the TV to get some good ones.)

But then even if I could pull that off, there’d be the guilt. Sure, I’d feel guilty leaving a school to scramble to fill a job they’re already having difficulty filling. (I don’t flatter myself into thinking my resume is that impressive. My specialty is just in demand, and supply is low.) I’m talking about the Mom guilt. Ah, I remember the Mom guilt so well from my last writing job seven years ago, especially during the inevitable lulls. What are my kids up to right now? I should be home with them.

Doing what, though? Watching Spongebob’s latest exploits is my 10-year-old’s favorite pastime, and reading fan fiction about some androgynous lead singer of a band long disbanded is my teenager’s favorite. So now there’s another source of guilt: why am I not using this time to teach the girls about the world? Oh yeah. That usually takes money. Ironically, that’s a resource that, like Superman and Clark Kent, can’t be in the same room with another commodity: time. But isn’t Pinterest just chock-full of thrifty mom-as-inspiration and educator ideas? I hop on that wheel with all the gusto of a never-before-tripped rodent.

Alas, I am a hamster at heart. One of those pre-makeover ones from the cube-shaped car commercials. No, wait, I’d be one of their moms. The one covered in shavings.


How to be an Internal Consultant

I recently took a class on internal consulting. The information is good for leadership as well. Many thanks to Bob Huebner. 

Here's what I learned:

1. You need to know your role. Are you the expert, a pair of hands, or a partner?

2. The critical skills you need are listening, questioning, and advising.

3. The communications triangle is an equilateral one. All three sides are valued the same. You need to ask questions, check in frequently, and share information. Keep the balance.

4. If you want detailed information, ask open-ended questions (e.g. how and why).

5. Three quarters of the people you work with have a different style than you. You need to remember that not everyone thinks and communications just like you do.

6. You also need problem-solving, decision-making, and conflict resolution skills.

7. In conflict resolution, you need to address issues immediately. Don't wait until they fester and build resentment and anxiety.

8. Build strong relationships.

9. Communicate throughout your project.

10. The instructor also suggested "brain writing" instead of "brainstorming" as an idea-generating technique. It helps introverts and extraverts work better together.