You Admit You’re Difficult – So Now What?


Watch your thoughts; they become words.

Watch your words; they become actions.

Watch your actions; they become habits.

Watch your habits; they become character.

Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.

                                                                                                                                Frank Outlaw

Last week I offered a seminar on “dealing strategically with difficult people.”  During introductions, three out of twelve admitted that they were taking the workshop because they know that they themselves are difficult.


I admired their willingness to be upfront in a group of strangers.  At various points during the day, each of these self-identified difficult persons recognized various aspects of their ultimately self-sabotaging behavior in my presentation.  However, I had the sense that they had resigned themselves to the fact that “that’s just how I am.”


One man admitted that in his capacity as a manger he frequently yells and slams doors.  “My team knows that’s just how I am.”  When I asked him why he didn’t just stop, he said it felt good and he didn’t want to.  Everyone laughed.


I’ve no doubt that he does feel “good” when he has his hissy fit (that’s what it is).  But, why does he keep doing this when it’s not going to get him what he says he wants? The respect and eagerness of his team.


Thousands of books have been written on “how to change” bad behavior.  Anger management classes abound.  But, why, when we know we “shouldn’t” engage in certain behaviors, do we go ahead and do so anyway?


Perhaps, that is THE question each one of us needs to ask:


Why do you do what you do even though you know, consciously and unconsciously, that it is not going to get you what you really want? 


Each of us must answer this question and until the question is grappled with and answered a person is never going to be able to change destructive behavior.


I also don’t think you can change ingrained behavior without the help of a coach –someone who can help you stay honest with yourself, help you hold yourself accountable, and guide you in implementing new communication strategies.


Accountability is key to change. . .

THAT is the business of confidence!


Do you want to break through the negative thinking that is preventing you from being influential and heard?

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

contact me at:






10 Traits of a Confident Speaker

Nothing would be done at all if we waited until we could do it so well
that no one could find fault with it.

John Henry Newman


When I was going through files from a Public Speaking workshop I delivered at UCLA five years ago, I came across this checklist I had compiled.


Because it’s evergreen, I’m sharing it with you this week. . .


A confident speaker / presenter:


  1. Knows their stuff – maybe not inside and out, but they know what is required of them in any given circumstance and knows how to find the helpful answers when they don’t readily know an answer.


  1. Knows how to reassure the other person(s) that they are in good hands by being in the moment and using words that are true. In this way, confident people don’t waste other people’s time.


  1. Believes they have something worthwhile to give – whether it’s seemingly insignificant or operationally impactful. What they have to give may not be life changing, but it will make the other person’s life a bit easier.


  1. Knows they are “odd” – and in what way they’re odd. Hey, we’re all a bit whacky and we can only be confident if we understand our own quirks.


  1. Has a sense of humor – they can laugh at themselves and even helps others laugh at their quirks and foibles.


  1. Is willing to risk making a mistake for the sake of doing something new, better or bigger for the promise of elucidating their material.


  1. Doesn’t make their audience into something that they’re not. They understand that the audience (no matter the size) shares much in common with them and that commonness gives them access to their audience. But, they also understand the specifics of what makes their audience unique and do all they can to speak to that unique reality.


  1. Is not afraid of being nervous and recognizes that it’s a healthy feeling. Confident people know they can be nervous AND confident at the same time. They know that being boring is a choice.


  1. Can make adjustments on the spot. Because they’re sure of their material and overall goal, they can tweak as they engage. Yes, they can “think on their feet.”


  1. Understands they can’t do everything within the allotted time they have with an audience. And that allows them to not feel frustrated because their “gift” fits within the box created by the allotted time.


I think these ten traits can be condensed into just one:

 A confident speaker / presenter has realistic expectations of their own self, the other and their relationship AND based on those expectations, a confident person is happy to give an audience whatever gift they’ve prepared for them, believing that good can come from the mutual experience.


now THAT is the business of confidence!



Do you want to break through the negative thinking that is preventing you from being influential and heard?

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

contact me at:




Business, like life, is about how you make people feel.

It’s that simple, and it’s that hard.

Danny Meyer / Setting the Table

My brother, Peter, was in town for business and we made plans to get together for dinner. He asked if Rod, an associate of his, could tag along. Since Peter doesn’t know boring people, I said, “sure!”

That night Peter showed up alone. Seems Rod was nervous that we wouldn’t have anything to talk about and so decided to set out on his own.

I’ll admit – I was stunned. How could three world-traveled grown men not have “stuff” to talk about?!

Peter explained that Rod could be shy at times.

I get that Rod could be shy since I was painfully shy growing-up.

I was shy because I believed I was boring. And I believed I was boring because I didn’t live an exciting life by my definition of “exciting.”

Lost in the confusion of this jumble of draining thoughts, I shied away from people, claiming to be shy, lamenting that I was boring.

I really wanted to buy Rod a drink and assure him – all would be well! Alas, he never showed. . .

Conversation may be a dying art and skill. If it isn’t, there are a whole lot of people who do not understand what conversation is and why it is so needed for our well-being.

Conversation is not binary opposites centered on agreeing or disagreeing, arguing or withdrawing.

Conversation is something GRACIOUS because it is rooted in engaging another, being present to another. That means the graciousness of conversation is laced with matters of responsibility and respect and clarity and discovery.

Shy people offer me the common refrain, “I only like to speak when I have something to say,” while overly-confident people boast that they, “like to tell it like it is.”

Neither stance opens you to the possibility of conversation because neither attitude allows you to be gracious.

REAL conversation springs from a posture of seeing the other person as a Surprise.

In my UCLA class on business communication, I ask participants to reflect on who influenced them as communicators. I expect that they will tell me tales of family or teachers or friends who impacted them. It’s not uncommon, though, for people to name Oprah, Anderson Cooper, and even a Miss America!

BUT, these are larger-than-life personalities – not individuals who directly and immediately helped to shape a class participant.

We ourselves don’t have to be larger than life. We just have to be within life.

I have oft quoted the great poet Mary Oliver’s “lessons for living life” –

Pay attention.  Be astonished.  Tell about it.

Victoria’s mom (names changed) died when she was 16 and ever since she has been guarded in her relationships. She hesitantly wondered if there’s a connection. When I suggested therapy, she said her dad nixed the idea since therapy is only for “crazy people.” We ended up talking about what’s really “crazy” when being willing to give-in to fear.

Bethany was not forthcoming regarding why she is defensive around her co-workers. She played with her key card and kept her head down. I found her coy attitude annoying and had to force myself to stay with her. And then she randomly mentioned that her son introduced her to the writings of Malcolm Gladwell – and she lit up! We talked about the impact Gladwell had on each of us and I was gobsmacked when I learned she’d done her Master’s thesis on non-verbal communication.

Ken cried as he shared with me that he had not been kind to women and broke several hearts when he was younger. When he met the woman who is now his wife, he did not feel as strongly for her as she felt for him. She’s the one who wanted to get married, more than he did. He married her because he believed that he needed to be punished for having hurt those other women. We ended up talking about love – love for self and the place of forgiveness in love.

Michelle, a sales person at my favorite furniture store, shyly asked if I was a Cancer. She became alarmed when I told her I’m a Capricorn and that I was born in January. She anxiously asked if it was the 10th – and was relieved when I told her it was the 7th. Her mother’s birthday is January 10th.  She assured me that “Things will get better. These last six months have been hard, yes?”  She then abruptly started to talk about the company’s move of the manufacturing plant to North Carolina. Just as abruptly, she asked, “Why are people afraid to love? Is it something in the dirt?” And again, I found myself talking with a stranger about love – and dirt – and Wicca!


I didn’t change any one of these folks’ lives. Nor did any change mine. BUT – in the exchange of conversation, unexpected, poignant and, yes, odd – in a moment of vulnerable authenticity – we entertained, we bonded, we opened up each other’s world a bit.


Each was gift.

All of which brings me back to the “business” of confidence. . .

Confidence is about seeing the nooks and crannies of your life. About not taking the seemingly insignificant aspects of your life for granted.

Confidence is about talking about those nooks and crannies because somehow they are worth sharing.

Sharing implies benefit – for you and for the “other.”

Can you believe that there’s something “good” you have to share?

That’s ultimately what confidence is – it is about trusting that you have some good worth sharing.


Confidence is about being open to the surprise of another who is “other.”

Interesting people know their story.

Interesting people know others have a story.

What you share doesn’t have to be worthy of mention in PEOPLE.


There is value richer than PEOPLE from your unique perspective – as there is from that of the other.

When I leave a lively conversation I feel energized because it has encouraged me to be less self-centered, less afraid.

Conversation brightens.

Conversation makes you feel less alone.

And so, conversation can make you feel generously unique – can make you feel YOU.

and THAT is the business of confidence!

I look; morning to night I am never done with looking.


I mean not just standing around,

but standing around as though with your arms open.

Mary Oliver

People Are Consistent – You Know That, Yes?!


To grow is to change and to have become perfect is to have changed often.

John Henry Newman



My friend Veronica’s dad, Ed (names changed), had a heart attack last month. Veronica’s mom didn’t tell her until a week later as she didn’t want to worry her.


Veronica was ready to dash over but her mother said, “Don’t come. If you want, stop by on Saturday.”


Veronica felt frustrated, but decided to honor her mother’s wishes.


On Saturday morning she called her dad and asked if she could bring him anything. He told her not to come over. Upset, thinking he didn’t want to see her, she went over nevertheless.


Her mother’s car wasn’t in the driveway and when she rang the bell there was no answer.  Worried, she called her dad’s cell. Not realizing she was at the door, he told her to stay home.


“You’re not going to let me in?” she pleaded.

“Oh, you’re here?” He sounded surprised, which annoyed her.

“Yes, I’m here. I’m outside.” 

“Why did you come?”

Exasperated, she said, “Because I wanted to say I love you and give you a hug.” 

“Oh, you didn’t have to do that.”

And, yes, he did sound touched.


Later, Veronica told her mom the saga. Her mother sighed and asked, “Why do you pay attention to what he says? You know how he is!”


Veronica laughed because her mom was right. Her dad doesn’t like anyone making a fuss over him and he’s never been an affectionately demonstrative guy.


Why would she think a heart attack would change him?


Well, she thought it would change him because she wanted it to change him!


Veronica has shared numerous stories about how exasperatingly independent her dad can be. This latest fits within a pattern, so I asked why she’d been hurt when he told her not to visit.


Veronica knows that his first reaction in time of crisis is to rebuff people. Why take at face value what he says?


He was happy to see her and was touched by her care. Why does Veronica always allow herself to feel hurt when he initially rejects her help?

Old habits die hard. 


When people are in a relationship, communication patterns develop and take on a life of their own. 


This is especially true in families.


Veronica continually gets tripped up by her dad’s fear of imposing on her and so she finds herself trapped in a cycle of worry, hurt and relief.


It’s draining.


Veronica’s dad most likely isn’t going to change, but Veronica can.


She can change her attitude and more readily see through her dad’s fear (and her own).


What about you? 

Are you trapped in a dance that is continually tripping you up? 

Don’t wait for the other person to change – make the first move!


now THAT’S the business of confidence!


Do you want to break through the old habits that are preventing you from being influential and heard?


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

contact me at: