Welcome to Merri's Blog!

Thanks for being a reader and for sharing these posts with others!

Please leave comments.

Search This Blog

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Because I have so often stepped into an airport in search of a screen detailing flight status updates, I can relate to what people go through when they realize what they expected to happen was cancelled, forgotten or even ignored.

As kids we fear whether our loved ones will forget our birthday, let alone not give us what we most want. Showing up to give us support is key.

Yet when we turn into adulthood, we see the problem persists. When we arrange a time to meet someone for lunch, coffee, make an appt to see a service provider or schedule a time for an interview, with that comes a level of expectation around follow-through. Not only for us - for them as well. We have set aside time in our day, we may have also deferred time from someone or something else to schedule the agreed-upon appointment.

As a result, no-shows are irritating. They are actions that speak to our character. Certainly life gets in the way adjusting our focus, slowing us down or giving us momentary lapses. Yet today's technology allows for life to get in the way without a character flaw arising.

Phone calls made out of respect to those awaiting our presence demonstrate vulnerabilty while representing respect. Yet not all offenders follow through with these common courtesies. We wait, we wonder and no connection is made. Finally, we make the decision to place a call, to leave the location or to give up on the promise made.

Cancellations aren't all bad. Yet when they happen with regularity, we begin to question the character of those not showing up. Especially when no connection is made.

From my own experiences, I will give anyone the chance to make a mistake. Yet more than one starts to grate away at the trust I had in them. And without trust, the communication that follows is just as questionable.

Much worse than a flight cancellation which is usually a safety precaution, one that happens without regard to the others involved is disheartening. It's the first step toward discomfort with that individual.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Is Communication Coaching for me?

Most people have no idea what to expect from a communication coaching experience. Some wonder whether it's for those who are required to speak in front of groups, or whether it's for leaders, let alone for those who want to improve relationships, focus or a better understanding of themselves.

Consider the following questions and how you may respond to discover whether communication coaching will break down those barriers you want broken down:

1 When you are scheduled to speak to a group, are you at a loss as to how to prepare?

2 Has your speaking fear grown into speaking anxiety no matter what the environment or event is?

3 Is your challenge in how to handle "off-the-cuff" responses?

4 Do you sense that you need to simplify your technical information? Do you want to learn how to edit your material - when everything seems important?

5 Is influencing others, especially key people, your challenge?

6 Do you want to learn how to easily adjust and adapt to feedback?

7 Do you want to be wiser about how you impact people so you can tweak habits accordingly?

8 Do you need to learn how to condense a talk when your time is cut short?

9 Want to learn how to handle tough conversations?

10 Want to manage the voice in your head?

11 Have others asked you to slow down or speak louder?

12 Would you like to be one of those people who walk into any room with presence and confidence?

These are the most common questions clients have that bring them to coaching. If three or more of these relate to you, then you are ready to ask for help, to create a breakthrough for yourself and to generate behaviors that lead to confidence whether in handling tough conversations, presentations, that voice in your head or the relationships around you.

And when you take action around coaching, you are in the top 10% of individuals who actually follow through with what they most desire. Congratulations!

Email Merri at merri@bdbcommunication. We can get started right away.

Difficult Conversations

Whether you're an introvert or an extrovert, some conversations are just difficult to have. Although an introvert may find this to be the case more often than his/her assertive counterpart, the truth is, sometimes any of us could be at a loss for words.

I recall a great number of times when I struggled with conversation - all having to do with being honest. Not wanting to hurt anyone's feelings, I would rather tell a white lie than speak to someone's faults, errors or inadequacies. Likewise, I had difficulty pointing out my own mistakes, especially when around those I knew well.

All of us are fairly good at communicating. We listen, voice, encourage, discern, account, question, connect, engage, articulate, inform, seek and understand. Yet when any of three key triggers grip us, we stumble.

The triggers are
when we think others will disagree
when our emotions are challenged
when we perceive risk escalating

At these times we will either handle the conversation well (at times this is the case), we will mishandle it (often the case) or we will avoid it entirely (at least a third of the time).

There is no one thing to keep in mind to improve our responses. In fact, moving from avoidance to participation and from mishandling to handling well requires us to do several things.

1. Manage yourself
Doing this means it's okay to you that you make mistakes. You know lessons are learned this way, and as long as you follow through with the appropriate apologies and honest while supportive feedback, you can let yourself be a work in progress.

2. Use objectivity
Let information be information. What is true to one person may not be true to others, yet what is true to them should be validated. Although your emotions may be engaged, focus on facts. This isn't about backing down. It's about discovery - and that moves people forward.

3. Influence others
When people like and trust us, they allow themselves to be influenced by us. On the most basic level, respecting them can move them to like or trust us. What will it take for us to respect them before they even respect us? This step is critical to anyone in leadership as well as to those wanting influence in other circumstances.

With these steps also comes the need to frame conversations well, to be accountable, to plan in advance and prepare to connect well with your audience. Difficult conversations will always stretch us. Yet what we hope comes from them is practice, good experiences, respect and true appreciation for others.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The hardest part

Now what?

I've done what I said I would do.

I showed up. I made the call. I sent the information. I am ready and waiting.
And the clock keeps ticking. My alarm is about to ring. Why? I'm impatient.

One of the hardest things in life is waiting. It allows us to question, to reconsider, to doubt and even to regret.

Yet the ironies that multiply around our impatience have to do with what we have failed to do. While we are patting ourselves on the back regarding a specific individual, task or priority, we fail to engage in the activities others are waiting for us to act on.

In life ironies abound. While we are getting impatient with others, yet others are already fed up with us. It just happens that way.

The hardest part of life is finding the balance in our inconsistencies. What we see in others applies to ourselves. There is always an inconsistency. So we either stop getting impatient with others or we settle for looking within to find the inconsistency. And then do something about it. Now.

Connect. Just do it. There is someone you've been meaning to get back to. Stay in touch. All it takes is a simple connection. Next thing you know, others will be reaching out to you.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Someone's Out to Get Me

Lately I've been reading Nobel Prize-winning book, The Appointment, by Herta Muller, Romanian-born author who writes of characters living during the Romanian dictatorship.

A chilling tale of many flash-backs with well-written, poignant first-person narrative, the work echoes with characters living out of fear.

There is a time when the main character shares a horrifying discovery to her friend Lilli of a narrow package in her purse containing a human finger with a black nail. Through this she implied someone was out to get her.

Unmoved by the tale, Lilli retorts with a experience something along these lines: Once I bought a jar of pickles which I ate in 2 sittings. When I stuck my fork in the jar to pull out the last one, clinging to the fork was a dead mouse. Do you think someone was out to get me? No. Anyone could have bought that jar of pickles.

Lilli lived her life as though she had something to gain. Her friend was the opposite. Daily she saw the things she had to lose, suspecting folks around her while amplifying her own dismal circumstances.

Many of us today, in our own country, our own city, our own homes live life with Fear in the Driver's Seat. We hold ourselves back by focusing on the What If's. The look in our wild eyes or slanted, questioning visage tells the world our tale. Someone's out to get me.

It isn't that life has given us lemons as much as the fact that we chose to squeeze their stinging juice into already opened cuts while running away screaming. So of course we are confirming that someone's out to get us. It's us.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Re-evaluating Structure

What works for you?

Pretty broad question to ask, especially without first asking, what do you want? When I think of what I want, I uncover things that are in opposition to each other. Here are my 2 main things: Peace, Fun.

With peace I feel at ease, unhurried, in-the-moment and rested. Fun brings to mind many opposites - speed, adventure, thrill, planning for a specific outcome.

I still want both. Life brings us experiences that both fit our nature and test it. Challenge is what we all crave, even though it requires risk, endurance, difficulty and emotional involvement. It gives us life!

Peace gives us a way to reflect on life, after we've had the challenges. They work together, yet if not seen that way, if we don't evaluate how they work together, we will quickly dismiss them as not being able to exist together. We will question the need to plan, when being in-the-moment feels more natural. But then, we will bore easily.

How is life working for you? When I answer this question, I see the many days when my structure is supported by my need for fun. I push, I plan, I gruel through my days in the hopes that I get the results - the chance to enjoy life! I forget about the days of non-structure, for peace and reflection. Forgetting this, I then tend to question the value of my time spent with rigor.

Funny, huh, how when we re-evaluate the structure that works for us, we may see the beauty of the inconsistency. And then understand its value.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Anxious Movement

Steps in the hallway, around the coffee pot, outside for a smoke, into a cubicle for whispers. Anxious energy leads us further away from the most important tasks at hand.

I can't do this. It doesn't feel right. I'm not any good. Why me?

These comments leave our lips or infect our thinking and before we know it, the energy within us - digging away at our psyche - furrows deeper ruts into habits that make poor use of our resources. Time is squandered, emotions are drained and our useful energy has been wasted.

We all have energy within us to do whatever we have to do. It pumps our blood that fuels whatever level of physical, emotional and mental activity awaiting us. And just like so many natural resources today, we waste it.

Pacing, fidgeting, eating, drinking, fighting, peeling out of parking lots and shouting expletives. Unfocused energy which can no longer be contained, leaks out. Because our bodies must move. We must do. We have a natural flow that requires motion. When we resist, avoid, balk and hinder, we give our nervous system few choices in how to cope.

Is this the way to be? Sloshing, waving, in turbulence? Out of focus and uncontrolled, it's not a manageable existence. Step one of managing ourselves is determining what steps need to be taken. And you've guessed it, step two is taking them.

No more sloshing, avoidant behaviors. No more excuses. Take the steps. Enough said.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Learning to recognize stop signs

Sometimes we don't quite recognize important stop signs. Whether it's written in an unfamiliar language or a new color or shape, a stop sign is a stop sign, and therefore we must STOP!

In our daily communication, stop signs are written in a number of ways. We must get familiar with recognizing them and adjust our behavior accordingly. For instance, most of us communicate fairly well, yet we should become aware of 3 indicators of barrier producing habits. In other words, there are 3 stop signs to get familiar with and adjust our behavior when there.

First: When we expect our listeners to have a different opinion. If in these circumstances we respond as we always respond, there is a chance the impact we make will be disasterous. We may either avoid the communication or push through.

Second stop sign: When our emotions are challenged. Now it is possible we will create disaster, it may impact relationship as well. Unless we develop objectivity our decision-making is at peril.

Third stop sign: When risk escalates. At this point our senses are heightened, limiting our good judgement. If we don't stop our typical behavior we may create irreparable damage and regret our actions.

These signs are important to pay attention to, so we develop self-management as well as the savvy to lead and influence others. Through this we are able to speak with confidence.

I know. I am an introvert, someone who often held myself back. Yet I had ideas that needed to be shared, skills with people, that when used, could make a difference. Regardless, for quite some time I held myself back. I assumed people would have a different opinion from me, so I didn't offer mine. Repeatedly I avoided connecting with people, yet when they reached out to me my emotions were challenged. Eventually, it led me to isolation, risking my sense of self. All three stop signs were there, yet I didn't know how to manage myself when I saw them. Unfortunately, this created disastrous results. I lost all confidence.

Today I am glad to say that when any of these signs show up, I can now manage myself. The signs may be spelled out differently, yet there is enough familiarity to me that I know to now modify my responses to adjust.

What a difference being aware of these signs has made.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Running on Fumes

Within a year of getting my driver's license, one of my biggest fears as a 16-year old was running out of gas. All I could picture was being stranded on a rural county road with no more fuel in the tank and the red light indicator blinding me.

Of course that was before the time of cell phones, so I also pictured myself walking at 10pm to a nearby farmhouse to seek a gallon of gas. An introvert, I would have hated simply ASKING for the gas, let alone dealing with the conditions of pitch dark, fear of danger on the isolated road, the search for a farmhouse and the need to find a willing neighbor.

Ironically, I don't have the same fear when I've metaphorically exhausted my fuel with early mornings and late nights. I don't consider that I may collapse under pressure - instead I fear I will look bad. So I get up early to hit the gym, to work out with Ipod tunes and get my body revved up, thinking there is a spare tank in there somewhere, and collapsing exhausted in the evening once I let myself shut down.

When it's up to me to personally run on fumes, my heart instead of my head wins out. When I'm loving my activities I keep pushing them, driven by enthusiasm - the fumes of passion. But when I am presented the opportunity to commit to activities I'm uninterested in, my head wins out. NO, I say. I need my rest. I need my space. I will have to pass.

Seemingly the fumes I choose to run on are selective. That's a good thing, though. It allows me to prioritize, commit and develop a practice of refueling, so I can drive forward with confidence. Nothing but green lights and Full signals going on here!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Unexpected Gifts

Eventhough my reactions may vary, I enjoy getting gifts, whether expected or not. When the gift is expected, (birthday, holiday, achievement, formal recognition)there is heightened anticipation of what level of choice the giver has made on my behalf. Is the gift personal, pertinent, whimsical, monetary, extravagant, sensible, etc. So when I encounter the moment, levels of anticipation compound through my experience.

Once the Package is opened, will I approve of the choice? I would hope that regardless of the gift, the giver's intention is of primary importance. Yet I know myself enough to be critical of the selection, which means sometimes I am worse off than before I opened the gift if I momentarily hope for something in particular and then end up with an unrelated, maybe less than desired result.

There are even times when the gift is so extravagant I feel guilty. What's that about? Actually, I think it's about my unwillingness to be extravagant with my resources when it comes to myself that I am just as cheap when giving to others. Very telling awareness. This awareness has lately led me to consider other perspectives on human behavior.

Our level on Maslow's hierarchy of needs determines our reaction to unexpected gifts. Or at least that's my understanding of human behavior.

Depending on what level of needs we personally attribute to ourselves, we respond in willingness to give to others. For instance, those of us simply eeking out an existence will be downright basic in our response to a monetary gift. If we are handed a $20 bill, we will either seek to accomplish a basic need (food, shelter, sex, etc.) or buy a comfort we would otherwise not afford (dessert, alcohol/liquor, toy,etc.) Regardless, our focus is on ourselves, since so far we view ourselves as without priviledge.

The higher our view of our own priviledge, the quicker we respond with willingness to give to others. So let's say we are given the same $20 and this time we feel our basic needs are met and so are many of our psychological needs. Now we may turn our focus to giving the money for the good of those around us. Our enjoyment shifts from spending on us to spending on others.

The more we feel confident, respected, accomplished the higher our frequency of giving.

Recently I was recognized as an expert by several business professionals and highly rewarded with given the opportunity to travel on someone else's expense account while being paid (well) to deliver a quality service. At first I wanted to share in this travel with my partner Kim, and then realized I should never expect the client to endorse that expense. Suddenly it dawned on me I could definitely afford to provide this treat for someone else, so I decided to offer the trip as an early birthday present to Kim.

What a gift the giving was! For her it suddenly validated her value when I shared my interest in sharing the opportunity. For me it told me I am finally growing up. I can cause someone else to enjoy a gift. Although my business efforts have been focused over 10 years, I haven't often seen the reward. Now I do. It's in the giving.

When unexpected gifts come my way, I respond based on my impression of where I stand on Maslow's hierarchy of needs. The higher I stand, the better my response will be. This tells me I must continue the drive toward both psychological and self-fulfillment needs. That allows me to truly receive gifts by giving.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Bumping into the world

I ran into a basket pole on the school playground when I was 12 and smashed my glasses. Yet the alarming thing to me was immediately afterwards finding half my front two teeth still stuck to the pole. Ouch. Oh, were my parents going to be upset.

Walking home from school afterwards my mind was in a whirl around how I would broach the topic. Yet all I needed to do was walk in the back door with my glasses on and see the look on mom's face. Then I grinned sheepishly and mom almost fainted. The remaining teeth weren't pretty.

It seems I've often spent my time bumping into the world. That day it was simply because I wanted to practice "catch" before an upcoming softball game, yet knew the field was muddy. So my friend and I tossed and caught on the playground. I forgot where I was when I took off running backwards, watching the overhead lob, and then smashed into the cement pole on the BB court. I guess you could say I was stunnned.

Simply because I let my emotions get a hold of me. I am an "in the moment" responder to life. My spirit soars when I live fully in this way, yet often I bump into the world because I haven't thought things out in advance. After years of being that way, I eventually entered a very adult life with a strategy.

Strategy took me a long time to understand. Today I have learned the need to be objective about facts and perspectives yet balance it with passion around acting on them. It's a constant balancing act for sensitive, people-focused people like me. Yet without this balance, life experiences could lead me to believe that I'm out of focus, even fragmented from all the emotional peaks and valleys.

Today I still bump into the world, but now I look for the bigger picture more often. And if I've forgotten to, I remember to calm down, pick up the pieces and study the lesson. I get a lot of them.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Cleared for Take-Off!

When sitting in a plane while on a runway, I enjoy awaiting the time when the captain breaks through the din of chatter around me to say, "We've been cleared for take-off. Please be sure your seatbelts are fastened." I almost always break into a grin, anticipating the surge forward.

A similar feeling overcomes me when I've let myself relax into tense circumstances, especially after I remind myself that I only need trust that I can handle a situation and then it happens that way.

Recently I had two instances of this while coaching. The first was a group scenario that included going deep to uncover some sensitive information. My old self works to avoid tough conversations, either by not going there or by cramming the moment full of information to steer conversation to the palatable rather than the meaningful. Yet when I'm focusing on the impact I want to make instead of the comfort I'm seeking, my mind is clear and I'm able to navigate through the otherwise cloudy circumstances, encouraging hopeful possibilities to open up.

Such was the case with the group above. When I sat back, relaxing into the moment ahead, I had clarity. My focus was sharp and I could be fed the information I needed to help the group resolve its issues. And this happened without stress - with blue skies seemingly ahead.

A second case is when I approached a circumstance new to me in my coaching. A gentleman asked for guidance in helping him renew faith in himself. Having lost many things in his life recently, he decided it was finally time to ask for help. The new piece here for me was in helping him find his value, for he truly lost it. While approaching this client, I just let my past old processes go, telling myself I must be open to the moment, open to letting him talk. From this approach I hoped whatever I needed to respond to while helping him would become clear.

It did. Relaxing into letting him share, helping him clarify things he really wanted to simplify was the key, in this case. I saw what I needed to see and he walked away with something concrete. Consequently, I walked away once again renewed in the belief that we were lifting off - simply because I didn't get in my own way, nor in his.