The keynote you’ll never forget

I’ve always had this thing against putting “keynote” or “speaker” on your LinkedIn headline

I mean, anyone can say that right? And everyone does. (OK, eventually I caved and put it there anyway, cos #expertadvice.)

But what differentiates the amazing speakers from the solidly decent ones?

What lets people see your worth on a stage?

The journey

Figuring out how to show the world I’m fucking good at what I do – that’s been the journey. 

SHOW [don't tell].

In developing my speaking career I’ve looked for advice, joined professional groups and organisations and you know the main message I kept getting? 

“You don’t want to offend. You don’t want to put people off. Be enough but not TOO MUCH.”

Well, fuck 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. 

If that means offending people who are #notmytribe? BRING IT!

So, here’s me SHOWING UP

Shelly Davies – The keynote you’ll never forget

Love you.

(And if you need an unforgettable speaker, hit me.)

Download my speaker promo pack

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Evidence of growth

Is that little mess just evidence of your growth?

So I redid my office recently and made it all beautiful and I’m a bit in love with it cos I’m so good with making spaces functional but not pretty but I won’t bore you with all the details (*aaaand breathe*).

My pretty little plant

What I wanted to tell you about is this pretty little plant:

I wanted a wee little plant on my beautiful white desk

(with the beautiful white monitor and the beautiful white speaker and the beautiful white marble little tray for pens and things


Told you.

A bit excited).

So I bought one and re-potted it into a little white pot and gave it a bit of a drink.

(Here you go, wee plant. You’ve earned a drink. Think I’ll have one too.)

Shelly’s Ninja taking photographic evidence of how epic Rarotonga is – February 2019

The morning after

And the next morning, my beautiful white desk had a ring of dirt around said beautiful wee plant.

So I wiped it away.

And the next morning, my beautiful white desk had another ring of dirt around said beautiful wee plant. So I wiped it away.

On the third morning, I realised what was happening.

My wee plant was growing.


Each night, while no one was watching, it was getting imperceptibly bigger and stronger.

And as it grew and stretched, it was shaking loose tiny bits of the potting mix I had got in amongst its foliage as I re-potted it.

That little ring of dirt was evidence of growth.

And it just made me think.

Growth is a process

Often, we look around our lives and see a bit of a mess, and we blame ourselves for it.

I shouldn’t have said that thing. I shouldn’t have done that thing. Look what I’ve done now, I’ve made a mess of everything.

Maybe you’re just growing

Before you rush to punish yourself and file away a note not to do that thing again, maybe just ask yourself:

Is this ‘mess’ just evidence of my growth?

That argument. That tension. That disapproval. That thing you walked away from.

Maybe that’s just you growing.

(Love you.)

Assertive business emails

How to be assertive without being blunt

(AKA how not to sound like a bitch in an email)

Can I tell you how long I angsted over whether to write bitch or dick in that subtitle?

One’s offensive to women, the other to men. So then I considered fuckwit…(please laugh).

Anyway, bitch is what you get. Deal with it.

So let me set the scene:

You need to write a tricky email.

You need to push back, or say no, or deliver bad news, or correct someone.

You’re quite comfortable delivering this message, but you have been told you’ve got a tendency to be a bit blunt. Or abrasive. Or downright rude and offensive.

Or maybe you’re completely uncomfortable delivering this message because you’re worried about sounding bitchy.

And after all, you still have to keep working with these people, right?

Here’s what you need to accomplish:

  1. Humanity
  2. Clarity
  3. Just the right amount of info – not too little, not too much

1. Humanity

The way to balance out an assertive message is to make sure you’re being an actual human. Don’t write like a professional robot.

Use the words that feel true to you – sorry instead of apologies. Can’t instead of cannot. Happen instead of occur – you get the picture.

Greet the person as a human. Say Hi instead of Hello or Good morning or Dear.

And then connect in a human way:

  • Hey, thanks for explaining that
  • I’m so sorry, that’s not quite right
  • I see things a bit differently
  • Bad news, I’m afraid

DO NOT have an overly friendly, happy-sounding first line if you’re about to say no or get tough or deliver bad news.  It’s the worst thing you can do.

The way you connect with your reader has to be 2 things:

  1. Authentic to who you are (ie, don’t be fake)
  2. Congruent with the message (ie, happy email = positive greeting. Push back or bad news email = friendly but real and honest greeting.)

Above all, don’t fall into the trap that digital communications allow us to so often: don’t let the digital and physical distance between you and your reader lull you into feeling safe to say things you’d never say face to face.

Be a good human – in person and by email.

2. Clarity

The trick with clarity is using FEWER WORDS. Your message needs to be clear. Unambiguous. And the more words you use (usually to soften, or mitigate your fears about sounding rude or abrupt), the muddier the message.

You CAN make a clear, succinct statement of the bad news/hard message because you’ve already connected as humans in a very authentic and empathetic way. 

You really WON’T sound blunt if you’ve done that part right!

So, if you’re writing to say no, make sure the no is in a simple clear statement, like:

  • No, I’m sorry we can’t do that
  • We won’t be able to do it quite like that (but here are some options of what we can do…)
  • Unfortunately, the answer is no.

Pushbacks are one of my favourites!

You can pushback in a very friendly assertive way:

  • Yes, I can do that for you once you’ve done XYZ
  • Yes, I can do that – I’ll be able to start [date/time-next week, next month, next decade (just kidding, don’t do that!)]
  • I can do X part of this, who can do Y and Z?
  • I can do ABC once I receive XYZ

Do you notice how every one of my examples is very short?

The main message MUST be concise. You can elaborate afterwards.

3. Just the right amount of info – not too little, not too much

Here’s the trick – giving just the right amount of info AFTER your very succinct, clear message.

You probably can’t get away with:

Because that’s simply not enough information. By the same token, though, you also shouldn’t write 3-5 paragraphs when your reader really just wants the yes or no plus a reason why.

So the way to figure out how much information to give is to get over yourself.

Rude, aye?

What I mean is, it’s not about you – it’s about them.

The way to figure out how much info to give your reader is purely based on WHAT THEY NEED TO KNOW, and NOT what YOU WANT THEM TO KNOW.

Those things are vastly different!!

It’s called being reader-centric, or empathetic. Putting yourself in your reader’s shoes.

So let’s look at how that works:

So all of those parts work well.

Now we need to figure out how much info our reader needs.

We do this by putting ourselves in their shoes, reading the clear, succinct message as if we were them, and then asking ourselves “What would I want to know now?”

A vast amount of the time, it’s “Why?”

So, in a new paragraph (or even better, in a bullet list), explain why!

And then ask yourself again, “What would I want to know now?”

This is where there’s a huge amount of scope depending on the context. It might be a timeframe. It might be a next-step. It might be other options. It might be an apology.

As long as you’re writing with a clear perspective of your reader’s experience, you’ll do this well.

If you truly put yourself in the position of someone getting a no answer when they were hoping for a yes, this is the best way you could hope to receive bad news. 

It’s not overly formal (which can easily offend – AKA sound bitchy).

It’s not too blunt (because we’ve provided enough info).

It’s not fluffy and wordy (which is just irritating because you have to work hard to get the key messages).

So there you go, good humans!

You CAN deliver the hard messages, be assertive, and NOT sound like a [insert your preferred insult here – don’t get me started. I have an impressive profanity vocab]!



If you’re really looking to end the email torture forever, I can help!

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What if I said you could sit down right now for ONE HOUR and learn how to use it and never look back? Less-chasing. Fewer games of email tennis. Significant amounts of time saved. Significant increases in productivity.

My online Write Better Emails course will change your life, today!

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In the light of a new day

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.

Angry, much?

I’m really angry about something right now.

Someone close has done some things that I feel hurt by and resentful of.

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.

Bad 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.

Reaching awareness

So I’m sitting here with my anger and letting it do what it needs to do.

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 affecting me?
  • 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.