I’ve learned, over the years, that my best tool when I’m feeling emotional distress is SLEEP.
I simply don’t know if it’s the same for everyone. But for
me, when I’m not coping and nothing else is working, I know that sleep will
make things look different.
Maybe I should do some research, I don’t know. I just felt like telling you.
It’s pretty much ALWAYS related to one of my kids.
When I’m overwhelmed by my emotions because of something they’ve said or done or not done or are about to do, if I find myself ruminating and wearing dark glasses and everything looks TERRIBLE, here’s what I know:
I know that if I go to sleep, something happens in my brain.
Things look different in the light of a new day, or after a really solid nap.
Often, the thing that was upsetting me just seems like a non-issue after that sunrise.
Obviously sleep isn’t the cure-all
Admittedly, if things are shitty enough, I can wake up with a serious emotional hangover.
It’s not like sleep FIXES the thing that’s upsetting me. BUT.
The effect my emotions have on my body changes after sleep. The adrenaline or whatever other chemicals and hormones have had time to metabolise. My brain functions better.
I’m also aware that some of why this works so well for me is that I tell myself this is how it works. I believe it, so it becomes true.
Is there something going on in you right now that needs the light of a new day?
Is there something that you need to tell yourself will look better in the morning?
Maybe just take a nap, my friend.
I’m a firm believer that people don’t need to know the technicalities of grammar to be good at writing. If you can talk, you can write.
If we want to sound both professional and human in our business communications, then one of the things I think we should all know is the difference between active and passive sentences.
Here’s why. And how.
Knowing the difference between active and passive will rock your business world
We know what it means to be active – Get your ass off the couch. Go for a run.
We know what it means to be passive – Life is hard. I’m staying on this couch until the universe brings me good things. Poor me.
The concept is similar in writing sentences. The active sounds good. The passive is icky.
If you want your business writing to sound good, read on.
Get shit done. Don’t wait for it to happen.
Ultimately most sentences fall into 1 of 3 categories.
So just to recap – write about people doing things. Not about things being done.
(A bunch more useful but way less entertaining examples here.)
Academia’s got a lot to answer for
So why do we use that passive voice?
We can squarely lay the blame with universities. And lawyers.
And anyone older than you in your business who’s been around longer and thinks they know stuff and you should do as they do. And anyone who subscribes to the “It’s always been done this way” school of thought.
The academic voice has always been respected, and so traditionally as professionals, we adopted it so that we, too, would be respected.
The only problem with this is that the academic voice traditionally removes the personal, the human, the individual voice.
But to be successful in business, we rely on good relationships.
And relationships involve humans. People. Individuals – even when those individuals represent a company.
So we’re redefining ‘professional’
Professional writing once meant formal writing. They were one and the same. This is ABSOLUTELY NO LONGER TRUE.
I can’t even say that loudly enough.
Formal writing, the academic voice, the passive voice, creates all kinds of problems (see below).
To be professional in our writing today, we need to be:
- clear, easy to understand
- concise, to the point
- personal – to establish and maintain good relationships
- transparent and accountable
Problems with the passive
I don’t really want to labour the point, but if you’re still not sold on this whole active voice thing, here are the main problems with the passive voice.
- It uses more words (Complete the form v The form should be completed)
- It’s a learned voice, so it’s not natural to us. It’s hard work. (I’m going to town v Town will be gone to by me. WTF?)
- No one is accountable (Mistakes were made. It was observed.)
- It’s often ambiguous, requires your reader to make assumptions, and can be wide open to interpretation (Again: Mistakes were made. It was observed)
- You sound like a dick (Read this. Or this. Or if you’re really a sucker for punishment, all of these.)
Benefits of the active
On the other hand, the active voice does all kinds of great things for you!
- It’s shorter and more concise
- It’s more specific (less ambiguity)
- It’s shown to engender confidence and trust
- You sound human. What a novel idea.
But I’ve told you all this before.
Is it ever ok to use the passive voice?
Absolutely – we just don’t want it to be our default voice.
So use the passive voice as an exception, purposefully, when:
- you don’t know the WHO (The vehicle was damaged)
- you’re protecting yourself or someone else (The vehicle was damaged)
- the THING (object in the sentence) is what you want to focus on, not the action or the person responsible (The vehicle was damaged)
The zombie test
Who doesn’t love zombies?
And who knew they could help with grammar?
IF you want to know a cool trick to text for passive sentences, try this:
If you can add “by zombies” onto the end of a sentence, it’s passive.
It was recommended (by zombies).
Mistakes were made (by zombies).
The form must be completed (by zombies).
For more cool zombie-grammar stuff, read here.
Who ate the bacon?
And just for a final smile, here’s an old favourite to help us remember active and passive (Gotta love Grammarly):
A note to the grammar police
You’re probably thinking, ‘She’s way oversimplifying this.’
And you’d be right. If you know that, then
a) this post is not for you, and
b) reread my opening line.
Nothing to see here. These are not the droids you’re looking for. As you were.
I’m really angry about something right now.
Someone close has done some things that I feel hurt by and
I’ll get over this eventually – in fact, sooner rather than later, me being me – but right now, I’m feeling it.
Permission to feel
I give myself permission to feel pretty much every emotion as it comes, actually. It’s something I’ve developed through years of learning about myself (and therapy).
So I’m sitting here, with my anger, and reflecting on emotions.
We live in a society where some emotions are encouraged and
celebrated, and others are seen as negative – like sadness and anger.
But you know no emotion is inherently bad, right? They all have a purpose.
They can all be part of a process of movement, progress, working through stuff, getting from A to B.
For them to fulfil that purpose, though, they need to be acknowledged.
They need to see the light of day. They need to be given space. Because emotions have something to say.
So I’m sitting here with my anger and letting it do what it needs
It needs to bring me an awareness of what’s caused it.
- Why am I feeling angry?
- What other emotion is sitting beneath that?
- What caused that emotion? Why?
- What meaning am I giving the actions or words or absences that are
- Is that meaning based on fact?
- Is that meaning resourceful?
- Can I choose a different meaning?
What is this emotion telling me I need to do or not do?
So anger, my friend, come sit with me for a day.
Let’s do some work together.
I’m not going to let you run the show, but you are 100% invited to the party.
I’m really intrigued by spam.
It’s a spectrum of boredom to intrigue to eye-rolling to sheer offense, wanting to track people down and do… I dunno. Something.
Today I got a spam email
offering me funeral insurance PLUS A BONUS GIFT.
A bonus gift? To go with my funeral? Clearly I’m not the target market for this particular offer. Or if I am, as a woman in my 40s, they must know something I don’t.
I probably don’t really get it
Spam cracks me up.
I admit I don’t completely understand what’s in it for the spammers – how the ROI works. I mean, how many My dearest in the Lords do you have to write to get someone to actually give you money?
I get the hey big boys spam.
I get the URGENT, we need your help to get our money and we’ll pay you for it spam.
I get the I’m a lawyer and some relative you couldn’t possibly have has died and left you millions spam.
I’ve even had the We’ve been recording you through your webcam and if you don’t pay us we’re releasing the footage spam. Yuck.
Or my most favourite recent trend – the spam emails that have Hello in the subject line, like some angsty Valley Girl looking down on me and all my life choices:
Do you not want your free
Did you not get my last
Who (from a non-English speaking country, I’m guessing) has decided that adding the word HELLO to the end of an email subject line was going to be helpful?
They’re not the worst though
But my most offensive spammers?
- The ones who pretend they know
- The ones who write their email
campaigns to look like a person email, and hide any branding etc, and make me
think there’s a possibility this is a person I’ve actually dealt with and
should reply to.
They say things like:
I’m just running out the door but I’ve been thinking about that
thing we talked about. Can you give me a quick call on 021 SPAMMER?
I was thinking about you after we met and I think we should talk
more. Click here and make an appointment for a call?
As a trainer I meet and connect with (as in, on a first-name basis) about 1000 people each year. There’s no way I can remember them all.
There’s always a chance someone could email me exactly like that, so it always makes me hesitate. I think that’s what pisses me off the most.
I’m sooooo about authenticity, I feel personally offended by someone trying to take advantage of that and I feel resentful for the time and energy I put into filtering them out.
And then there’s these ones
Here’s maybe my least favourite spam email:
Have you got time for a new high paying client this month? I’ve got
an enquiry that might be a good fit.
These are all from one particular woman, and I’m so tempted to name and shame her. I’ve “unsubscribed” from her list enough times to know she has no integrity, because the emails keep coming. I don’t know how I got on her list in the first place.
But then I think, ahh shit.
Lately, I’ve had some technical difficulties with my email lists and a few people have tried to unsubscribe and it didn’t work and they’ve been pretty unhappy about it.
This running a business
thing isn’t easy, you know.
But still. I’m not lying to people. Cos Donna, you DON’T have a high-paying
client for me. STOP LYING.
AND…I know I shouldn’t be so offended. I know I should build a bridge. I know it’s my choice to dwell on how irritating and distasteful this marketing approach is to me. In fact, it’s time for me to get over it.
PS: Donna Davenport from
Customer.com, STOP FUCKING EMAILING ME.