Like when I picked up 3 young guys hitchhiking and I had just started blasting Lizzo and I said I hoped they could sing like a large back woman. Two of the guys pointed at the other and he said, “Oh yeah. I am definitely that bitch” (it’s a Lizzo reference, if you didn’t know). I belly laughed and had to fist-bump him. Best come-back!
Riding an inflatable pink flamingo while drinking iced coffee. Long story. But it was FUN.
Walking by water with my headphones in listening to P!nk or Six60 with the sun on my skin. That is SHEER JOY for me.
Just dancing while I wash the dishes. Turning up the music and moving my body. That feels sooooooo good.
People ask me a lot about how to deliver hard messages by email.
My answer? Keep it short, keep it simple, and above all, be MATTER-OF-FACT.
The art of being matter-of-fact – (avoid the dramas, people!)
What do I mean, hard messages?
I mean the emails you don’t want to send.
The ones you procrastinate. The ones where you need to let someone know you disagree. or the ones where you need to push-back or the dreaded NO email.
I also get asked how to let someone down gently, how to decline a request, how to say “this isn’t for me” (and no, I’m not talking about breaking up your relationship by email. #BeAGoodHuman).
What we get wrong with the hard messages
We think we need to justify our position
We really don’t. Or we don’t need to go into detail, anyway.
We think that if we’re saying no to someone that we need to give lots of good reasons so they can see where we’re coming from and ULTIMATELY so they still think we’re a decent human.
But the problem with this is that every justification you provide when saying no to someone is another opportunity you’re giving them to argue or push back. It’s another door they think they can get a foot in to change your mind. To help you see things their way. If you don’t want that to happen, if you want them not to have a comeback, just say no with minimal reason.
Is IS your right to say NO. We live in the age of consent and all that.
We think we need to use a formal voice to sound more professional
Please don’t make me say it again.
The formal voice is problematic.
It’s no longer fit for purpose. It causes problems. It doesn’t come across as polite, it comes across as all kinds of bad things.
You could read about it here, here or here (I may have mentioned it a few times before).
We try to soften the message
And that just makes it less clear!
Do you know what’s worse than getting bad news?
Having to work hard to find out what the bad news is.
The other problem with the softening is emotional leakage. The more we narrate, the more we write sentences and paragraphs, the more chance there is for your emotions to leak through (passive aggressive, anyone?) or for someone to *think* they can read between the lines.
Avoid that by being as factual and brief as possible
Avoid emotional leakage by staying matter-of-fact.
How to sound matter-of-fact
Ask yourself, “What is the high-level message I want to get across?”
WRITE IT DOWN. IN ONE BREATH. ONE SHORT STATEMENT.
Now imagine if you’d say those words to someone’s face. No? Feels a bit harsh?
Good – you need to identify that. So now, what would you change?
Then, if you need to soften, use a “sorry” but don’t use an “unfortunately.”
What might that look like?
We don’t need dramas.
Let’s just be good humans, be boundaried, be awesome, and get shit done.
Being #matteroffact will help you do that.
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So when did jeans become appropriate business wear?
I was training at Air New Zealand a few years ago and I walked down a corridor behind two senior pilots. They were wearing dress shoes, business shirts, and jeans. And it dawned on me, all things change.
At some point, jeans became appropriate business wear.
I wonder when that change happened? I wonder what the process was? I wonder how rebellious that first man wearing jeans to work felt, and how much shit he got about it?
I wonder how strongly he just didn’t give a fuck anymore because he realised that his pants didn’t affect his ability to do his job well.
I wonder about this because, #plainlanguage.
Plain language and change
People ask me all the time, when did plain language become acceptable? Appropriate? How come we’re still resistant to it?
Why did we ever even write formally? What will people think if I use plain language?
I have so many answers to these questions. So many thoughts. Lots of educated opinions, assumptions based on experience, and conclusions supported by research.
But for me the most important thing is to draw the parallel:
Yes, once upon a time, jeans were considered UNPROFESSIONAL. Yes, once upon a time, a more personal, conversational voice was considered UNPROFESSIONAL.
All things change, my friends.
Plain language is EVERYWHERE
Take a look around you.
Plain language really is everywhere (as are jeans at work).
It’s in the emails you get from your utilities providers, your insurance company, your airline.
It’s in the terms and conditions you’re signing (if you’re lucky).
It’s in government communications and forms and systems.
Where it isn’t, necessarily, is in your own business documents and communications.
Because there’s a preponderance (*not a plain language term but I just like it, ya know?) of examples of old-fashioned, overly-formal, ineffective documents in most workplaces.
And because, when things are in writing, we think they’re set in stone.
And because, that first time you need to write a report, what do you do? You go find one that’s been written before, and you emulate it.
Before your first day at work, you look at what others are wearing to work, and you emulate it.
Instinct check: Is it your gut you’re listening to, or fear and anxiety?
One of the foundations of my last 8 years in life and business has been trusting my gut. My intuition. My instincts. Having faith that if it feels right, it’s at least worth testing to find out.
And it’s absolutely what saved me in an experience I had earlier this year – the weirdest most unexpectedly traumatic experience.
I was shopping for a consultant to help me expand my business in a new direction. I didn’t want to learn that part of my business through trial and error, which is my usual MO. I was ready to invest in the expertise to help me start, and continue, in a strategically planned way.
As with most of my networks, I’m drawn to women who are experts in their field, and someone suggested a 29-year old who seemed to seriously know her shit. Impressive, at her age. Her voice felt authentic and her experience seemed legit. I was excited.
I messaged her and we began chatting and booked a call.
Superpowers and kryptonite
From my perspective, this was a get to know you chat. Test the waters. See how things feel. I didn’t consider that for her this was a sales call. An actual, hard sell, NLP-manipulation, scripted, exquisitely skilled, completely fuck-with-my-mind-to-get-the-sell, sales call.
So I didn’t go in with my eyes wide open. I went in with my heart wide open cos that’s how I roll. Integrity, authenticity, vulnerability. These are my superpowers.
For about 80 minutes on this call, they were my kryptonite.
She took me on a journey that was so exquisitely skilful (and I know, I’m repeating myself, but it feels like the only accurate description) that I got lost in the conversation. I was supposed to go to a meeting with a beautiful young businesswoman I’m mentoring, and I stood her up. Completely. Left her drinking coffee alone in a café. I was so engrossed in the coerced journey I was completely unaware of the time.
I love NeuroLinguistic Programming (NLP). I love how we can use it for good. To open people’s minds. To help people work through resistance. To become more powerful in our own world by changing the languaging we use and the way we talk to ourselves.
But this – this was downright evil.
She had me agreeing to so many things that were reasonable and aligned with my values, so that they were locked in and later, they would become the basis of me agreeing to things I never would have, going in cold.
She used anchoring and double binds and presuppositions and EVERY TRICK IN THE BOOK.
The effect was gaslighting.
I became thoroughly confused.
My gut was telling me things felt wrong but my mind was telling me the logic was sound. After all, I was coming to her as an expert in her field – I was open to learning, to advice, and to having my own beliefs challenged. If I rejected her advice that’s the opposite of what I was there for.
I called her out on the scriptedness of the call.
It was at that point she started to get aggressive: “This script has been designed specifically to weed out those who haven’t got what it takes to be successful.” Again, double-bind: If you hang up on me, you haven’t got what it takes. If you trust me, you have to ignore your intuition.
I haven’t had so much fog in my brain for a long time. This was expertly engineered self-doubt and confusion.
She said, “You know what you store in your gut, right? Trauma.”
Here’s where she made her mistake: when she tried to suggest that my gut isn’t trustworthy. That it would put me wrong.
Because EVERY SINGLE PART OF MY LAST 8 YEARS CONFIRMS TO ME THAT MY GUT IS GOOD. Every single step I’ve taken, every stage of growth and development, every exciting change has been because it felt right, so I did it.
And each time I’ve always paused to look back and see if there was evidence to confirm that my gut had led me well, and there was evidence of that. Every. Single. Time.
I don’t carry trauma in my gut, mother fucker. I CARRY THE VOICE OF TRUTH. My most basic, most trustworthy instincts keep me safe and move me forward.
It was that moment I was able to leave the call.
After 85 minutes of mind-control and manipulation, my gut, my heart, my intuition was more powerful than her weapons. I told her, “Well then your script has worked because I am going to hang up on you. This isn’t how I want to work.”
Trusting my gut
As I pulled the phone away from my ear I could hear her hurling abuse at me: “Well that attitude isn’t going to get you anywhere, is it? You’re never going to be successful if you think like that…”
I shook for 20 minutes after the call.
I reflected for days to unravel what had happened. To understand. To learn from it.
And here’s where I landed: The things that were my kryptonite that day will always have the potential to be my kryptonite: Integrity, authenticity, vulnerability, trust in people as my default position. I’ve known this for years. If you start with a position of trust, you will occasionally get hurt. Absolutely.
On the flipside, 9 times out of 10, my trust is rewarded with trustworthiness. Integrity engenders integrity. Authenticity attracts authenticity. Meaningful connections are very quickly formed. We win, 9 times out of 10. Or maybe 99 times out of 100.
And that 1 other time? Out of 10 or 100? I’m strong enough to handle that. I’m willing to take the risk because the rewards far, far outweigh them.
And what saved me here was my intuition. Trusting my gut.
Believing the good in a stranger got me into a hole. Trusting my tried and true strengths pulled me out.
And I think that’s exactly how it’s supposed to work.
Locking in the learning
If trusting your instincts is something you want to get better at, watch Brene Brown’s TED talk. It’s not about instincts, it’s about vulnerability. Because you have to be vulnerable if you’re going to trust your gut. And vulnerability is STRENGTH. If you don’t know that yet, oh my friend, come on a journey with me. Sooo much joy awaits you.
And then, start listening.
In any given situation, ask – what is my gut telling me? Why? Play it out in your mind: what might happen if I listen to it and act? What might happen if I don’t?
Double-check that it is your gut you’re listening to, not fear and anxiety – they come from a different place.
And then, after you decide and act, pause to reflect: What evidence is there that listening to my gut was the right thing to do? What evidence is there that ignoring my gut put me wrong?
Lock in that learning, so that next time, you can build on it.
Reminding you that the world needs people who bring their whole selves to each moment. The world needs people who are imperfect and can revel in their imperfection. The world needs people who are vulnerable and courageous enough to show up that way so that others feel safer to do the same.
And that means hanging up on people who are #notmytribe!