The So–Called Randomness of a Communication Coach’s Life in Los Angeles

A couple of weeks ago, driving south on the 101 freeway, just before I got to the 110, I passed a building I never noticed before. Spray-painted on the side: “You deserve the right kind of love.”

I smiled in ready agreement but then wondered, “what is the right kind of love? Is the right kind different for me than for others?”

Later that day, I met with Rita and Peter (all names changed) who are getting married this summer at a 5-star resort. Rita’s parents are divorced and her father is footing the entire bill. Only catch – if she invites her mother, he won’t pay for the wedding.

Rita wants a wedding that will blow up Instagram but since her father is paying for it all, she didn’t know what to do.

She claimed her father had put her in a hopeless situation. So, she’s caved and isn’t inviting her mother who lives in Florida.

Actually, though, Rita’s dad hasn’t put her in a hopeless position. Rita has a choice and so as to lessen her guilt, she’s chosen to believe she’s caught in a hopeless predicament.

A couple of days later, while waiting for a haircut, I glanced through an Esquire Magazine interview with the actor Tom Hardy (“Dark Knight Rises” and scores of films).  The guy stunned me with this quote:

I have always been frightened with men, to the point where I couldn’t go into a gym because of the testosterone, and I felt weak. I don’t feel very manly. I don’t feel rugged and strong and capable in real life, not how I imagine a man ought to be. So, I seek it, to mimic it and maybe understand it, or maybe to draw it into my own reality. People who are scary, they terrify me, but I can imitate them. I can stay terrified, or I can imitate what terrifies me.

If you’ve caught one of his movies, you would be puzzled by his admission of fear as he presents as a no-nonsense “tough guy.” In fact, he’s so tough, he’s determined not to be held hostage by the fear-inducing lies he tells himself.

Then, while procrastinating writing this post by cleaning my desk, I found this quote I had scribbled on a post-it:

95% of the beliefs we have stored in our minds are nothing but lies and we can suffer because we believe all these lies.

Don Miguel Ruiz, author of The Four Agreements

Reflecting on the week’s random moments, I’m now wondering if the “right” kind of love we deserve is the love that allows us to not drive ourselves nuts with lies we tell ourselves!

In my experience as a communication skills coach and trainer, I’ve discovered that the biggest lie of all is the lie that “I have no choice” – the lie that my happiness and well-being rests in the hands of others.

I now tell my coaching clients that maybe the “right kind of love” is a love “right” enough that we can face down the fears that our lies conjure up.

A love that lets us wiggle free of the crippling belief that if we don’t match others’ expectations of us then we’ll be harshly judged.

Maybe the right kind of love (for self and others) is the love we take responsibility for. And that’s why undertaking communication skills coaching really is an act of love!



  • Where are you feeling helpless in your life – professional or personal?
  • Are you really helpless – or are you afraid of the consequences that may follow doing what you know you need to do?
  • Why couldn’t you find a way to manage those consequences?
  • Who or what could help you?

Answer these questions and realize that –

Deserving the right kind of love means we stop feeling helpless.

That’s the “business” of CONFIDENCE!

Saying YES! To Good Surprises

The other day a friend of mine surprised me with a generous gift. For a host of reasons, I find it difficult to accept gifts – especially generous and unexpected ones.

My instinct was to politely, firmly turn down the gift – to run from it like it was some alien, toxic matter! But I also instinctively knew that was not the right thing to do, that kindness should not be rejected.

And so with a note of thanks I accepted the gift.

In turn, my friend wrote back:

This is all part of my renewed pledge not to starve at life’s banquet. I’m on my 3rd day of 4 hours’ sleep working on a project with no end in sight, so I’m taking my joy where I can.

I’ve decided that nothing will stand in the way of celebrating what deserves to be celebrated – achievement, fellowship, friendship and love. All the time and at every opportunity.

I’m going to be a card-carrying member of the 47 percent and I’m entitled to be happy and make and share that happiness.

“Bon Courage” for the day to us all––every day.

I think we all would do well to follow my friend’s example.

What and who can you celebrate this week?

Bon courage to you this week!

What Starbucks Taught Me About Difficult People

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.

Philo of Alexandria

I’m a Starbucks kind of guy. Although I don’t drink coffee, I do enjoy a latte and my favorite is made by Starbucks. Now, I know that many of you might disagree and argue for Peets or Coffee Bean or some local haunt. My taste loyalties, though, are with Starbucks.

Not that my preferences mean much for the purposes of this post; however, I was intrigued when I recently learned that Starbucks instructs its associates to treat customer complaints with the “latte” rule:

Listen to the customer
Acknowledge the problem
Take action to resolve the problem
Thank the customer for bringing it to your attention
Encourage them to return

This guiding rule is so basic. So simple. So humane. So smart.

Yet, far too many places of business don’t have a policy for dealing with customer complaints and don’t have the right instincts for handling those complaints.

Years ago, the Sociology and Anthropology Departments of Harvard University did a joint study researching graffiti. The project’s goal was to determine if there is a common theme among worldwide graffiti artists. They found is that there is!

The common theme of all graffiti can be summed up in the phrase, “I am here.” 

Graffiti artists are seeking not simply attention; they’re seeking acknowledgment of their existence. And this is what we all hunger for – recognition.

A disgruntled customer can be angry for many reasons, but all those reasons can be reduced to the fact that the person feels no one is paying attention to their needs. They think (rightly or wrongly) that they’re being disrespected and ignored.

Offering a “latte” is the most reassuring thing we can give to an upset customer because it reassures them that someone does “see” them.

In fact, a “latte” can be offered to anyone who feels ignored by you – a co-worker, friend, relative or partner.

To listen,

To acknowledge

To act

To show appreciation

To make normal the relationship

are the five keys to dealing with someone during a difficult conversation. 

More times than not, a “latte” goes a long way to healing a potentially ugly situation because the other person feels valued and they feel valued because the person offering the latte is taking responsibility and being dynamically pro-active.

I’m tempted to end with some cute latte joke, but I won’t embarrass myself!

Suffice to say, next time you’re dealing with a complaining customer or colleague, no matter what your business, just remember to offer them a “latte!”

R-E-S-P-E-C-T !


Often, all that stands between you and what you want is a better set of questions.

Life punishes the vague wish and rewards the specific ask. After all, conscious thinking is largely asking and answering questions in your own head. If you want confusion and heartache, ask vague questions. If you want uncommon clarity and results, ask uncommonly clear questions.

Tim Ferriss

Since writing last week’s post, I’ve had nine clients vent to me their frustrations over not being respected – by bosses, colleagues, direct reports and a mother-in-law! My week was filled with the refrain, “I don’t feel respected!”

Each of these men and women feels hurt, angry, confused and each has reached the point where he or she feels like they can’t take it anymore. And adding to all of this is a feeling of helplessness.  While each has handled his or her own situation differently, no one feels confident.

Five of the people opted not to say anything. Two got in the other person’s face. One found the courage to assertively confront her boss and another decided to respond with sarcasm and walk away.

One man claims he’s gained valuable insight into his boss’ unpredictable mood swings, but wishes he had been more assertive. One woman, who did find the courage to assertively address her boss’ irrational and demeaning demands, isn’t sure where she found the nerve and is surprised that her boss has backed off.

There are no hard and fast rules for communicating effectively.  You constantly need to assess who is involved, what’s the situation and what’s your goal. You can’t figure out how to attain your goal unless you know what it is.

The issue of respect (or lack of it) is so pervasive among, yet so many of us are afraid to confront a person who we think is disrespectful.

What to do? I’ll tell you what I suggested to Louise. . .

Louise (name changed) works for a small firm owned by her brother. She directly reports, though, to Anthony and her problem is with him. Louise doesn’t think he respects her. Although she feels disrespected, she actually doesn’t know how he feels about her because she’s never talked with him about their relationship.  Why?  Because she doesn’t want to upset him – even though she continues to feel upset about the way he treats her.

When I suggested I moderate a conversation between them, she almost started to hyperventilate.

But, here’s the thing – she only has two options. 

She can continue to say nothing and nurture her fantasies of being emotionally abused and then one day explode, after which she’ll be labeled a b*tch.


She can have a non-accusatory, non-manipulative conversation by which to clear the air.

Louise offered me a battery of “yes, buts” that make perfect sense since she’s not used to expressing her feelings in a non-explosive way.  BUT having that tough conversation is what real respect is all about.

Years ago, I taught high school on the island of Moen in the South Pacific. The school had nine languages represented and an international faculty. I learned much about myself and life – one of those things being that humor doesn’t easily translate from culture to culture.

I’ve a twisted New York sense of humor and enjoy teasing people.  One day Ernie, a teacher from the Philippines, point-blank asked, “JP, why do you hate me?”

Stunned, I reassured him that I didn’t hate him. But he proceeded to enumerate various times I joked with him, all of which he took as proof I despised him.

Ernie interpreted what I said in a certain way, i.e. that I hated him.  He then turned his interpretation into a fact, after which he confronted me with the “fact” and demanded an explanation.

Only problem – it wasn’t a “fact” that I hated him. My humor was not intended to hurt him, though that was its impact.


Louise thinks Anthony doesn’t like her. However, she doesn’t know that for a fact because she’s never talked with him about their relationship.

Louise (and Ernie before her) is doing what so many of us do – she’s treating her interpretation of a situation as a “fact” when it’s not.

I’m urging Louise to do something called Perception Checking.

It’s a type of conversation where you seek clarity from the person whose actions are confusing you. It goes like this:

First ask the person for time to talk. It’s best to do this in person and not by email!

Second, describe the behavior that’s confusing you, without attaching any judgment to it. In Louise’s case, she might say, “Anthony, you yelled at me in front of my team, you didn’t inform me of an important client meeting and you’re slow to return my calls.”

Third, offer at least two possible interpretations for why the person is behaving in this manner. “Anthony, I don’t know if you’re stressed and feel safe taking it out on me or if I’ve done something to offend you or if there’s something else going on.” 

Fourth, ask the person to clarify. “So, Anthony, what’s going on?  Please help me understand.”


Is this an easy conversation to have?  No!

However, it gives the other person an opportunity to non-defensively explain their behavior. If, though, the person, simply says, “nothing is going on” then repeat the steps until the person is able to offer some insight.

The beauty of this technique is that it helps to separate intent from impact because it helps us get out of the soap opera we so easily create in our heads.

Do you have the confidence to respect – and be respected?

What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do.

Tim Ferriss