What Do You Want People To Say About YOU?!


Clients who come to me for either executive or communication skills coaching often tell me that they are afraid of what people will think of them, will say about them. This fear makes them overly cautious and timid in expressing their real views and needs.


I get it.


This fear was drilled into me growing-up. As my mother used to say, “Don’t give people a reason to talk.”


I expended a lot of energy worrying – and now as a communication skills coach I’m energized helping people not worry!


How does this play out in rough-n-tumble of daily work life?


Nora (all names changed) shared with me at the beginning of the year that she had a liberating “Aha! Moment”. Over lunch with a client she realized that people are not always logical – that everyone is illogical in their own way and it’s one of the ways that makes each of us distinct.


As we hashed out her insight, Nora explained that her client reminded her that not everyone thinks the way she does.

Duh! Basic? Sure – yet, how often do we forget, ignore or refuse to believe that truth?


Nora has resolved not to fall into the trap of presuming that SHE thinks the way everyone else thinks. She realizes she has to pay attention – she has to have a game plan with each strategic partner, client or colleague.


Art heads up a team in the financial department of a resort. At our first session of the year, he sounded pained as he asked, “Why can’t people show up for work and not be so needy? Why can’t people just do their job?”


Art doesn’t “get” that having needs is not necessarily a character defect!


Cut to this month. . .

Nora helped bring a significant project to the company. Two senior colleagues have now maneuvered to take full credit for client + project. (that one sentence reduces a complicated scenario to manageable terms)


Nora told me that she needed to talk with them about the situation as she found it unacceptable.


Calmly, she said, I cannot not talk to them.


Since the conversation she needed to have fits the classic definition of a “difficult conversation,” her matter-of-factness about it all was remarkable.


She had no intent to complain. She simply wanted to establish boundaries – gain clarity – have a working relationship – all for the sake of her self-respect and the well-being of the client.


She recently had the conversation and was surprised when her colleagues reminded her, “You’re not like us.”


It was an odd statement that could be interpreted several ways. Whatever they meant by it, though, doesn’t really matter since they were right – Nora is not like them.


She has a fundamentally different approach to collaboration or to how to work on behalf of a client.


Is everything now “good” between Nora and her colleagues?

“Things” are better in that there’s more clarity. Better in that the truth she is not like them has been acknowledged. Better because some ground rules were established.


What is important, though, is that Nora had the conversation she knew she had to have.

From a place of respect, she advocated for herself and for the client – and she did it without playing games.



And Art?

Well, he told me in our last session that he no longer tells his boss what he’s thinking. “What’s the point? Nothing changes!”


Fed-up he’s decided to shut-up.

It’s a strategy that clearly has given him no satisfaction.


Art’s approach to conversation is fundamentally different from Nora’s. His conversations with direct reports were meant to change behavior rather than to represent his point-of-view. When the behavior did not change – when people still did not do things the way he does things – frustration kicked-in.


Sadly, he became disagreeable and the more disagreeable he became, the more his direct reports steered clear of him. The more they avoided him, the more mistakes were made.


They acted from the belief, “You’re not like us” and so “You don’t like us.”


What do people say about Nora and Art?

You’re not like us.


Nora embraces that truth. Art bristles.

Nora claims her vision. Art folds like a victim.

And so THE question is –

What do you want people to say about you?


Consider these seven questions:

  1. What are 5 words you want people to say about you?
  2. Do those words help or hinder you in your relationships?
  3. Do those words compliment your work culture?
  4. Do they allow you to form successful relationships?
  5. Do you know what people now say about you?
  6. Do you view what people say as a compliment or a smack-down?
  7. Are you defensive or grateful?


What do you want people to say about you when they talk about you behind your back?

How are you going to make sure they say what you want them to say?


I help people “find their voice”

showing professionals how to communicate in smart, healthy ways

so as to develop successful relationships. 


To explore how I can help you find the happiness

that will let you present you with enhanced confidence,

please contact me at: 




How To Be “Good with People”

photo: Yevgenia Nayberg


To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.

Mary Oliver

I was at Starbucks waiting in line for my order – and listening in on a conversation a woman was having with the barista. Seems he’d left Starbucks for another job but returned after having been laid off at that short-lived job. The woman offered sympathy saying, “You’ll be okay because you’re so good with people.” He thanked her and tossed the compliment back, saying, “You are, too.” She demurred, “Not really. I’m not good with people at all!”

I don’t know why she thinks she isn’t good with people, but she did get me thinking – what does it mean to be “good with people”? 

Okay, so there are scores and scores of ways to be “good” with and to people. Recently, though, I was reminded that one of the best ways is simply to pay attention to people.

Last month I met with Lauren (names changed), an executive who was interested in bringing someone onboard for her team’s annual training. Although she was cordial, I couldn’t get a read on how things were going. When it was time to leave I wasn’t sure I had won the contract.

But, then, as we approached the door, I noticed a cluster of black-and-white photos of Pacific islands. Hawaii?

I asked Lauren if she’d taken them. She had. We spent another five minutes chatting about our mutual love of Hawaii – and, yes, Lauren hired me.

Last week I visited a new client at his downtown office. The receptionist, Amy, greeted me with a smile and a, “Nice to see you, JP.” Because it’s a large company and she encounters hundreds of visitors weekly, I was impressed she remembered my name (most people confuse my initials within minutes of meeting me). When I complimented her memory, she simply said, “It’s easy to remember nice people.”

Okay, I know this borders on the corny, but. . .

A couple of months ago, I met with that client on what happened to have been Amy’s first day. She incorrectly validated my parking ticket and I had to go back up to the office to have it fixed. Amy was apologetic and I just made a joke about it.

Last week she told me she had been embarrassed that her mistake caused me to waste my time. She appreciated my patience and understanding. I was floored. It really had been no big deal.

Here’s the thing – part of being good with people is paying attention to them. 

The Latin root of “attention” is “attendere” – to reach toward.  To reach toward another person with interest – with curiosity – with empathy and humor. 

Yes, that’s what it means to be good with people.

Would Lauren have hired me had I not noticed her photos of Hawaii?  I think most likely.  However, those last five minutes spent chatting made each of us more human to the other – and more likeable.

Would Amy have given me a friendly greeting had I been less than understanding over her mistake? She’s a smart woman and so she would have, even if she thought I was a jerk. But I helped her ease into a new job and in turn she’s making life easier for a whole lot of other people.

Being good with people is actually as simple as making a Starbucks Iced, Half Caff, Ristretto, Venti, 4-Pump, Sugar Free, Cinnamon, Dolce Soy Skinny Latte.

All you have to do is pay attention!


Having read this article you now may be saying, “This is all nice, JP, but. . .”

Whatever your “BUT” keep in mind –

  • Relationship is all about paying attention to the other person.
  • Do you see the person as a “person” or as a “problem”? Seeing a person as a problem will limit your ability to connect.
  • Being “good” with people simply means you have figured out a way to reassure the person you “see” them.
  • Paying attention will help you gain a perspective on the situation of the other person which in turn will help you be empathetic.
  • You won’t always be able to be empathetic because you’re human and limited in your capacity. So, the goal is to develop an orientation towards empathy.
  • Why is all this “being good with people” stuff important? BECAUSE you can’t do “it” alone – life – business life and personal life – is grounded in relationships.
  • Which brings us back to the beginning – the quality of your relationship is grounded in the quality of your willingness to pay attention. . .

Want help learning how to pay more attention to people?

Have you been thinking about Life-Skills Coaching?

Let’s explore how I can help you gain massive traction on your goals!




How Hungry Are YOU For A Life That Matters?

There are three hungers that people are trying to feed throughout their lives.

The first is to connect deeply with the creative spirit of life.

The second is to know and express your gifts and talents.

The third is to know that our lives matter.

Fulfillment comes from feeding these three hungers.

Richard Leider

I came across this quote a couple of weeks ago; I printed it out  and taped it to the wall behind my desk. It sits there as a quiet reminder and challenge.

When I first read it, my knee-jerk reaction was to ask myself how deeply am I connected to my creative spirit – how satisfied am I with how I express my gifts – and do I believe that my life matters?

Each morning I’ve been asking myself:

“How hungry am I?  How satisfied is my hunger?”

After the suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, I’ve been asking myself harder questions:

Am I aware of feeling hungry or have my senses been numbed? 

Do I value my gifts or do I so disparage them so that I don’t even value them as “gift.” 

Do I trust people enough to allow myself to feel the weight of their care for me or do I easily brush off love proffered?

I’m now venturing into TMI territory, but. . .

For much of my adult life, I’ve lived with, wrestled with, major clinical depression.  I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve had a support system, professional and personal, that has bolstered me so that I can function and I can succeed in so many facets of life.

When people ask me about depression it’s frustrating to explain what it’s like because almost any explanation can easily sound like irresponsible self-pitying.

Perhaps, though, the best way to describe depression (my experience of it) is that it blurs my vision. 

I’m not able to recognize what is in front of me – love, opportunity, gifts and reasons for hope and excitement. It brings about distortions so that when I say I “struggle” with depression what I mean is that I struggle with righting a distorted view of life.

Yes, there’s often been a physical struggle to muster energy, but more than that it’s about being able to draw a sense of urgency and commitment from the bounty surrounding me.

I feel challenged by the quote that opens this post because I know in my gut the author is so right – life is about making sense out of these three hungers.

As a communications coach, I occasionally meet a person who lives his or her life in a way that daily feeds these hungers. But then I meet so many others who, while not diagnosed with depression, live a hungry life.

Some are unable to name their hunger and why it makes them restless and distracted.

Others know where the hunger comes from and yet feel hopeless, lacking the “recipe” that will satiate their hunger.

And for others, they simply feed on junk food to satisfy the hunger and so become dull and vegetate.

What about you?

Sit with this quote for a bit and let it speak to you. 

How hungry are you?

How do you satisfy that hunger?

How do you help feed the hungry in your life?

Someone once said that “the world’s a banquet and most poor slobs are starving to death.”

What’s holding you back from joining the banquet?


Do you want to own the confidence that will allow you to live a “fulfilled’ life?

To explore how one-on-one communication skills coaching can help you present you with enhanced confidence,

contact me at:




Do You Let Your Perfectionism Silence You?!

Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life. Remember that fear always lurks behind perfectionism. Confronting your fears and allowing yourself the right to be human can, paradoxically, make you a far happier and more productive person.

Dr. David M. Burns

For over a decade, I had the good fortune to teach part time at Loyola-Marymount University here in Los Angeles. One of my most memorable students, Lauren (names changed), was a senior in my upper division seminar on Interpersonal Communication & Technology. There were thirteen students, all seniors, and all Comm. Studies majors.  Because it was a seminar, the final grade rested on just one, ten-page research paper due end of semester.

Lauren handed in an eighteen-page report that was printed on thick, brilliant white paper that she’d encased in a plastic cover.  It was so clean and neat I thought I should wear gloves when turning the pages!

It was an impressive piece of writing; a solid “A.”  In terms of her final grade, though, I didn’t think she deserved an “A.” The class was driven by discussion and, aside from introducing her self the first night, she’d never once contributed to any of our discussions.  I couldn’t recall what her voice sounded like.

I gave her an A-.

No sooner had she gotten her grade than she called me at home. Tears poured through the phone as she demanded to know why I had given her an A-.

When I explained my reasoning, she rebutted: “You didn’t put in the syllabus that we’d be marked down for not participating in discussions.”  Hmm. . .she was right.

I agreed to change the grade (and made a mental note to revise the syllabus).

I was curious, though. Given that she was so bright, why hadn’t she ever spoken in class?

Her answer still floors me all these years later. She told me that her goal always was to graduate Summa Cum Laude. She had a “rough” freshman year and screwed up in one of her classes – she got an A-.  In all her other classes, freshman year on through to senior, she received all A’s – until I spoiled her record with that damnable A- which would have knocked her down from Summa.

I was stunned.

If she hadn’t talked in my class, which had a very relaxed vibe to it, did she talk in any of her classes? She said “no.”  She was so afraid of not getting an “A” that she never spoke in any class for fear that she’d say the wrong thing and be marked down.

This girl went through four years of college MUTE! I was saddened (and, okay, a bit creeped out) that she had let her obsessive need to be “perfect” silence her.

Although I was amazed, I understood the logic of her debilitating thinking. As a “recovering” perfectionist, her decision to silence herself made sense to me.

Do you see something of you in Lauren’s story? 

Do you silence yourself, holding back in discussion and conversation?

Many of my clients, looking to improve their Emotional Intelligence, struggle with speaking.


If you are silencing yourself, then consider these questions ~

  • What are you afraid of that makes you unwilling to engage others in conversation, discussion and even argument?
  • What is the worst that could happen if you spoke?
  • Why is it so important for you to be seen as “perfect”? And for the record, you’re not perfect as no one is perfect.
  • What makes recognizing your imperfections so dangerous?

Implied in the cliché “practice makes perfect” is the fact that you’re going to screw up countless times while practicing!

There is power that comes from laying claim to your voice. 

Why are you afraid of your own voice?


I don’t know what your fear is BUT I can tell you that it is grounded on a lie!

Professionals who come to me for communication skills coaching come to realize that –

  • There is a power that comes from being comfortable in your imperfect state.
  • There is a power that comes from not being mute.
  • There is a power that comes from offering people insights they might not otherwise have had.
  • There is a power that comes from discovering new insights when actively engaging others in discussion.

Choose power!

Fear is a question: What are you afraid of, and why? Just as the seed of health is in illness, because illness contains information, your fears are a treasure house of self-knowledge if you explore them.

Marilyn Ferguson

Do you want to own the confidence that will allow you to engage others without crippling self-doubt?


To explore how one-on-one communication skills coaching can help you present you with enhanced confidence,

contact me at: