A Scary New Year’s Resolution!


The truth is, of course, that what one regards as interruptions are precisely one’s life.

C.S. Lewis


Late last October I landed in the hospital for a couple of days with A-Fib + fluid on the lungs + congestive heart failure thrown in for good measure. Ask my friends and they’ll tell you that when I do something big, I go all out!


My friends might also tell you that I’m thick-headed – and I won’t argue with them (for a host of reasons). Here’s the thing. . .


I had not been feeling well for quite some time (am embarrassed to say how long was “quite some time”).  I was aware that something was “off” BUT I continually came up with myriad reasons for why there was absolutely no need for me to see a doctor.


Looking back, I realize I engaged in what can only be called “magical thinking.”


When I became increasingly short of breath, I thought, “Gotta get back to the gym.” Racing heartbeat? “I should eat better and get to bed earlier.” Go to the doctor? “Why make something out of nothing? (In case you’re wondering, no, I didn’t go to medical school and so I’m not qualified to make a diagnosis of “it’s nothing.”)


I told no one. I asked no one for advice or help. When I finally told friends the saga, they were uniformly annoyed (to put it mildly) I hadn’t reached out.


So, here it is a new year. I’m fine (really) BUT I am chastened as I feel “a bit” like a hypocrite. This is a blog focused on Confidence and Communication and Relationships. And here I was – arrogant and silent and self-sufficient!


As I’ve written here many times – old habits die hard!


In reflecting on my experience I’m amazed at the sheer force of my “magical thinking.” At a deep level I knew I was sick. I knew I should see a doctor. Yet, I chose to ignore the symptoms and declared that my gut was wrong – that all those symptoms were “nothing.”


I lied to myself. And my lie almost killed me.


Why did I engage in Magical Thinking?

There were several reasons and they can all be reduced to one word – FEAR.


I was afraid of what might be causing those symptoms and it was easier (in some respects) to make reality conform to how I wanted it to be.


Crazy? Oh, yeah!

I also know, though, that I’m not the only person who practices Magical Thinking.


My client Clint (name changed) has a boss who is toxic and has caused him untold stress. Clint knows he needs to make some significant decisions about his job but has convinced himself that the situation is “not that bad.” When I ask him why he has high blood pressure if the situation is not that bad he just smiles. Clint’s situation at work is bad – and much worse – based on the stories he’s told me.


In the face of having to make decisions we don’t want to deal with we can come up with an array of magical phrases to transform the issue into “nothing.” Phrases such as, “It’s really not that bad.” “It’s really getting better.” Sure, it’s bad, but it’s not affecting me.” “I can compartmentilize, so I don’t bring any of it home.” “Others have it so much worse, I can’t complain.”


As we set out on this new year, I encourage, challenge YOU to consider:

Is there any part of your life where you engage in Magical thinking?


In your gut do you know some truth about your job – your career – your self – your relationships – and you are choosing to ignore that truth and to label the situation, the problem as “nothing”?


I don’t want to get corny or glib. I do, though, want to suggest that if you’re looking for a healthy New Year’s resolution, then consider making 2019 a year free of Magical Thinking.


A year of honoring what you know is the truth and acting on behalf of that truth.


Here’s to a healthy 2019!


Want help breaking through YOUR patterns of Magical Thinking?

Have you been thinking about Life-Skills Coaching?

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


[email protected]


To Become More Confident – Ask Yourself the Right Questions!


Often, all that stands between you and what you want

is a better set of questions.

Tim Ferris


Years ago, I taught high school on the remote Pacific Island of Chuuk. At the beginning of my second year, a new science teacher arrived. Sue (names changed) had a cute smile, a sharp wit, and she was 6 feet, 350 lbs. She came from Los Angeles. In a town of starlets and models, she couldn’t get a guy to give her the time of day. Disgusted with men, she decided to go far from the maddening crowd.


Chuukians prize big women. The heavier a woman, the more beautiful she is thought to be. Within 48 hours of her arrival, word spread that “Venus” had landed. Sue had “suitors” from all over the island. She was pinched while walking through the village; men serenaded her at night.


She endured three months of this passionate attention – and then practically ran back to Los Angeles.


In LA Sue felt ugly. She gave up on finding love; she gave up on her self. She fled so as not to have to see the competition. Once on Chuuk, though, she became the “competition.”  Still, she was not happy. For her there was only one standard of beauty – the LA standard – and she didn’t match up.


From pre-school through to that business meeting you had last week, each of us is constantly comparing ourselves to others.

Are we smarter, wealthier, more clever than__?

Consciously and unconsciously, we engage in this game of comparing – convincing ourselves that “the other” is the true and only standard of what and how we “should” be.


In working with clients, the refrain I often hear is, “I’m not as confident as___”  “I’m not as experienced as___”  “I’m not as outgoing as___”


While these comparisons might give you some sense of what and who you are “not”  –

do they really give you a fair sense of who you are?


You need to challenge your thinking by asking:

Against whom are you comparing yourself?

How fair is it to compare yourself against that person(s)?


What would happen if you did genuinely recognize and respect you?

Consider these questions:

  • in the past 3 months what are 3 accomplishments of which you feel proud?
  • what do these accomplishments tell you about who you are?
  • is there a personality trait(s) that runs through each of these accomplishments?
  • how comfortable are you in recognizing and respecting who you are?


Comparisons are inevitable – it’s just part of being human –


Do these comparisons give you a true and healthy sense of who you are and

what you have accomplished?


Do these comparisons allow you to wallow in a sense of helplessness?



Want help discovering the questions you need to be asking yourself?

Have you been thinking about Life-Skills Coaching?

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


[email protected]





Are You Selling Yourself Short?


The story of the human race is the story of people selling themselves short. People have a tendency to settle for far less from life than they are truly capable of.

Many people are spinning their wheels in careers

where they should be moving rapidly onward and upward.

Abraham Maslow


In addition to my communication skills coaching and teaching here in Los Angeles, I officiate non-denominational wedding ceremonies (check out my bio for this part of my story). I belong to several national wedding associations, including one named WIPA.


At a recent networking event, I looked around the ballroom at my fellow wedding vendors and realized what a lucky guy I am – because in this sphere of my life I get to work with some of the most deep-down good people you will find anywhere. While the wedding industry is not all fairy tale dreams, it is an arena that attracts some remarkable people.


In reflecting on what allows my colleagues to shine, it occurred to me that wedding professionals work from a place of heightened awareness of the client. Because it is a people-centric industry, the world of weddings is demanding and challenging, but so much of it is creative and innovative.


The folks I admire take pride in their “brand” and relish being part of a larger endeavor.  They respect their colleagues’ brands and admire each other’s handiwork and skill wanting to know, “how did you get to be so good at what you do?”


A wedding pro knows that without the satisfaction of the couple their work means nothing. And this truth guides them in the joy they take in their work.


Critics of weddings say that it’s all a whole lot of nonsense for just one day. I think a real wedding pro knows that it’s a whole lot of something for the purpose of celebrating life.


While I enjoy officiating weddings for many reasons, the chief reason is that I’m part of something bigger than me – something that is life-affirming.


That is also the reason why I love being a communication skills coach and trainer.

I help people “find their voice” – and what could be more life-affirming?


I think that at some point you need to look around where you work and ask:

 Am I happy sharing my energy with these people?


What’s more, I think eventually each of us has to answer this question:

Why do I do what I do?


If you’re unhappy in your work, then I’ll tack on the follow-up question:

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?


And, hey, I’ll tack on this follow-up to the above follow-up:

Why aren’t you doing it?


I know you need a job.

Each of us, though, needs something else – we need “meaning.” 


Mark Twain said ~

The two most important days in your life are

the day you are born and the day you find out why.


Let that sink in – and let me leave you with two final questions ~

Have you found out YOUR “why?”

What are the sources of meaning in your life?


Want help discovering YOUR “Why?”

Have you been thinking about Life-Skills Coaching?

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


[email protected]


How To Train People To Treat You With Respect

Clare’s the owner of a sportswear design firm (names changed). In her late twenties, she’s bright, driven, has accomplished much and yet she doubts herself. That’s why she hired Madge as her assistant. Madge has been in the biz for almost thirty years and knows all the players.


As it turns out, Madge sees Clare as inexperienced and privileged (she told her so to her face). Madge jabs at Clare’s insecurities with surgical precision.


Clare believes she can’t run the business without this woman’s know-how and is afraid to upset Madge – what if she quits?


Whenever Clare has tried to speak with Madge so as to make needed adjustments in their relationship, Madge inevitably breaks down and cries. Clare panics and caves in.


Knowingly and unknowingly, we give people permission to treat us in certain ways.  Over time those ways become a routine. If we don’t like the way a person is treating us, then it’s our responsibility to “re-train” them. 


Although Madge is in her fifties, she reminds me of my niece Gracie when she was four years old.  I adore Gracie – she’s bright, beautiful and what I call a “phony-baloney.”


At four, Gracie knew how to flash that cute smile of hers so as to get what she wanted. On one visit, her mother had an emergency and asked if I could watch Gracie.


As soon as her mom left, Gracie asked me for ice cream. Usually I was a sucker for this kind of request, but her mother had given me strict orders – no sweets! And so I said “no.”


Gracie pleaded until she finally burst into tears that looked a tad “rehearsed!”  The girl wouldn’t stop, blackmailing me with, “if you loved me. . .”


Her crying was killing me.


And so, I lifted her up, carried her out to the deck and gently put her down. With a big smile and gentle tone, I said, “Gracie, I love you, but your crying is driving me bonkers. So, I’m going to let you cry out here and when you’re done, just come back inside. Okay?”


She looked at me like I was nuts!


I went back into the house and within moments, Gracie ran inside.  She was laughing and wanted to watch a video. Not a peep about ice cream.


What happened?


I did something she wasn’t expecting and hadn’t prepared for.

I changed the dance step. I retrained her.


Clare needed to treat Madge like a four-year old. I urged Clare to say something along these lines when Madge next cried: “Madge, clearly you’re upset. I know you want what’s best for the company and me as I do for you. This conversation is important to both of us, so why don’t you take some time to compose yourself and we can talk later.”


When Clare tried out this new script, Madge resisted as the tears kept pouring.  Clare repeated the script three times before Madge stopped crying. She became Gracie! Later that same day they had a conversation without the special effects of tears.


Is everything “fine” with Clare and Madge?  No. However, they’re now having conversations that they didn’t have before. Madge is learning that her old ploys no longer work.


We train people how to treat us.

Is there someone in your life who needs retraining?


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 strategy

that will let you present you with enhanced confidence,

please contact me at: 

[email protected]

10 Ways to Be Resilient at Work

Our souls are not hungry for fame, comfort, wealth or power. Those rewards create almost as many problems as they solve. Our solves are hungry for meaning, for the sense that we have figured out how to live so that our lives matter, so that the world will be at least a little bit different for our having passed through it.

Harold Kushner


People come to me in pain. Often the pain is from not claiming a sense of meaning for their life because they are blinded or crippled with fear. Fear of change. Fear of failure. Fear of success.

They also come out of fear that the recent curve ball offered at work will so deform them that they will not recover. They are afraid of becoming useless and of dying from being useless.

Heavy. I know!

Recently I met with Adam (names changed) who was let go from work over two years ago. He’s extremely bright in a field that is analytically demanding – and relationship based. He also happens to be sixty years old.

As he told the story of his undoing, it appears he came up against a toxic boss and he had no game plan for protecting himself. He’s filed a lawsuit and has been laser-focused in seeking work. Yet, he’s still unemployed.

Adam feels angry, disillusioned, scared and outraged. In the words of the classic Network’s Howard Beale, he’s “mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

The one thing he’s not, though, is – resilient. Determined, yes. But being resilient is different from being determined.

While he is resolute in finding a job, he is struggling to be resilient, i.e. to be “able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions.” (Oxford Dictionary)

Being resilient is about being able to recover. But to recover what?

To recover the sure sense of who you are and who you want to be.

Adam shared that enjoys creating systems that help people in the health care field. Impressive – genuinely. And now that he’s not able to create systems, he doesn’t know who he is.

He’s fighting to find a place where he can return to being a solutions guy. Because he’s afraid he’ll never work again, he’s gripping his resume all the while forgetting the story of who he has become at this juncture in his life.


Adam came to me in pain and while he wants me to help him work through the pain in our last session he accused me of not knowing how hard his life is. And he’s right –  I don’t. I only know what was hard for me at a time in my life when I didn’t know what it was to be resilient.


In the early years of my life I had been a Jesuit priest. It was a deeply rewarding life but my own theology became more liberal than the Church’s and it became increasingly harder to reconcile the differences.


When I resigned ministry, I moved into my first apartment with a mattress and a few boxes of books – and no job prospects. Being a priest had been my “job” and after leaving I thought there was no “me” outside of me being priest.


I resigned ministry so as to go in search of who I wanted to be (not who others wanted me to be) – and I was overwhelmed. I felt numb. Soon I was scrambling to figure out what to do. I paid little thought to who I wanted to be.


I was way more determined than I was resilient – and so I needlessly complicated my life.


Adam reminds me of that me. . .


We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.

Joseph Campbell


Resiliency = strength grounded in confidence that allows you to proceed graciously, assertively while being true to who you are and who you want to be.


You cannot be resilient if you do not know who you want to be. Knowing your “who” let’s you choose your “how.”


To be resilient let’s you answer the question:

 What about this situation challenges me to be who I want to be?

And that is a qualitatively different question from:

What do I want to do?


Here’s what I now know ~

How To Be Resilient At Work


  1. Know who you want to be and be willing to do what is necessary to be who you want to be. Once you know who you want to be you will behave in a certain way.


  1. Do not hand power over you to those who do not have the right to power over you.


  1. Take care of your self – physically, emotionally, spiritually – so you avoid becoming a martyr.


  1. Give yourself the time to absorb any shock and then steady yourself with the words, “I’ll handle it.”


  1. No mistake defines you – no crisis derails you – as long as you are committed to being the hero of your own life.


  1. Reject being held captive by self-destructive thoughts including, and most especially, the thought, “I’m a fraud.”


  1. Have a life outside work that is populated with people who love and enjoy you.


  1. Create a strong professional network that you nurture and are nurtured by.


  1. Never allow yourself to be defined by your job, title or salary.


  1. Embrace that you can’t grow if you don’t know what you did wrong AND you can’t grow from what you did wrong until you know what you did right.


There will come a time when you believe everything is finished.

That will be the beginning.

Louis L’Amour


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 strategy

that will let you present you with enhanced confidence,

please contact me at: 

[email protected]


How to Overcome Fear Grounded In Lies!


Taking a new step, uttering a new word, is what people fear most.



I’m afraid of heights and especially hate roller coasters. So, of course, what did my godson Finn want for his birthday? He wanted me to take him to Magic Mountain! Last week I made good on my promise.

I told Finn he could pick the rides we went on. When I got strapped into a ride I closed my eyes and breathed deeply. I was determined to keep my fear in check, but when the ride rocketed, I just screamed my head off.

After each ride I felt like vomiting, yet I also felt satisfied. I hadn’t let fear win out.  More than roller-coasters, I hate being afraid.  I don’t want to be controlled by fear.

This summer I taught a course at UCLA Extension on “breaking through” the fear of public speaking. Of all the communication skills I teach, public speaking is my favorite.

I think it’s because I was painfully shy in high school.

I headed off to college determined to vanquish my shyness. Intuitively, I knew my shyness went deeper than not wanting to speak. It was about my fear of people.  I didn’t think people would like me, that they’d find me boring and judge me.

I joined the college’s radio station and landed my own interview show. Quickly, I learned how to talk to people. It was simple – all I had to do was show them that I was interested in what they had to say! And in turn, they showed an interest in me.

My skill and my confidence soared.

While I’ve not discovered a “secret” formula for overcoming fear, what I have learned is that fear is fueled by clinging to a lie – a lie that seems so true that to deny it seems to be a lie in itself.

I see this in many of my communication coaching clients.

Kathryn, who is from Hungary, was one of the students in this summer’s Extension class. She sat cross-armed, scowling through the first half of the course. Eventually, her arms opened and she smiled.

For her first presentation, she told an odd story that had the class laughing. Yes, she was obviously nervous, but that energy didn’t derail her tale. The class gave her honest, encouraging feedback. Her accent didn’t distract them; her nerves didn’t distract them. She surprised them and they wanted more from her.

When I asked if she believed the feedback, she said she didn’t because she knew the presentation wasn’t very good and that she’s not a good speaker. She smiled saying this!

She clutched this lie because she was too comfortable believing it.

How can a person stop believing a crippling lie?

Here’s some of what I wrote in an email to Kathryn.

We only grow by building on our strengths. 

In order to build on those strengths, we have to know what they are AND we have to know why we have those strengths. 

If we don’t understand what we’re good at, then we can’t grow. 

Oftentimes people resist taking a hard look at their strengths because it’s more comfortable believing that we suck at something. Being helpless can be consoling in an odd sort of way. 

I think, Kathryn, you’re so used to beating up on yourself that it just seems ‘natural.’ I think you have a hard time accepting compliments because you don’t see much point in dwelling on what you do well. 

Well, no one ever becomes great at something by focusing solely and intently on mistakes. It doesn’t work that way.

You gave a presentation, without being glued to notes, in a way that connected with an international audience. You made people laugh. That’s a significant accomplishment. 

If you choose to downplay the importance of what you did, then you’re sabotaging yourself.

You need to understand what you do well, what you don’t, and why. I think you only want to understand what doesn’t work and you want to ignore what does work.

You have to believe you’re worthy of people’s attention.  If you don’t believe you have anything worthwhile to say then that will come across and people will tune you out.


It’s really up to you: are you going to own your strengths and work on your weaknesses OR are you going to continue to dismiss any progress you’ve made and focus solely on your belief that you will always be a lousy speaker? 


Only you, Kathryn, can choose your attitude!”


Kathryn is not an isolated case of someone refusing to acknowledge progress towards a goal. Odd as it sounds, it takes courage to recognize growth.


True confidence means owning one’s strengths and acknowledging one’s weaknesses – and using both to reach a goal.


What about you – what comfortable lie are you clinging to?!


Do you want to break through the lies 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:

  [email protected]



A Labor Day Challenge – to Get You through the New Year and Beyond!


Last week I popped into Gelson’s Supermarket to pick-up a loaf of bread. Walking by the bakery section, I spotted a bag of dinner rolls and also grabbed those. The check-out clerk rang up the bread and rolls and then asked me, “For here or to go?”  Huh?  Confused, I said, “To go – don’t think I can eat all this bread in one sitting!”  He smilingly assured me, “The register prompted me to ask – I wouldn’t have on my own.  I’m not that crazy!”  Really?  Given that he “obeyed” the register when prompted to check if I was going to stay and eat a loaf of bread and six dinner rolls does make me wonder if he isn’t a teensy bit crazy!


Next day, I met with a group of managers at Pine Hill Industries (names changed) who were frustrated with inter-departmental communication. At one point, a manager who’s been with the company twenty years, smiled and said, “Hey, it’s the ‘Pine Hill Way’ and there’s nothing we can do.”  Really?  You can’t develop effective methods?


As Thoreau said – and as I remind my communication coaching clients:

“There is nothing so rare as an act of your own.”


Several years ago my friend Sue threw a Labor Day party for folks she hadn’t seen in a while. With drinks flowing, Ella, one of the guests, mentioned she recently did something she’d wanted to do for a long time and hadn’t allowed herself to do – she started playing guitar again.  And she loved it!


Soon, each of us was confessing to what we had wanted to do for a long time and had simply not gotten around to it.


That’s when we challenged each other – before the year was out to commit to doing something we’ve put off doing for way too long.


I dubbed this the “Go Big!  Go Bold! Challenge” – and you didn’t have to have a bucket of cold water dumped on you!


A study at the Wharton School of Business found that people are more likely to pursue a goal after a major holiday (for reasons too abstruse to explain here). Based on Sue’s party, I think Wharton is right, so why not use this Labor Day to create your own “Go Big! Go Bold!” Challenge?


Get together with friends, family and/or colleagues and confess – what have you wanted to do for way too long and have been putting off? 


In your own life, in your relationship with your “tootsie-wootsie” or even with your team, or department?

Define your own life.

As my coaching clients come to realize – for as long as you leave your life in the hands of other people (or cash registers or company mottos), you’ll never truly live your own life.


Have a dinner roll and dare yourself:  Go Big!  Go Bold!

How To Tell the Story Of – YOU!

A human life is not a life until it is examined;

it is not a life until it is truly remembered and appropriated;

and such a remembrance is not something passive but active. . .

the creative construction of one’s life.

Oliver Sacks


A friend of mine, Ted (all names changed), is in the throes of a job search.  He’s interviewed at one company that seems interested as they asked him to take an Emotional Intelligence assessment.  His answers were analyzed into a fifty-page report!  He was pleasantly surprised by much of what the report outlined and disagreed with some aspects of the diagnosis.


I’m not a fan of personality assessments as I think they’re limited in how they can actually help a person.  I don’t think the results allow for a person to “appropriate” who they are in all their nuance and complexity.  Taking an assessment is not the same as examining one’s life.


This past week I was an instructor at a three-day college essay writing boot camp for seniors at a private high school.  As you may know, part of the college application process requires at least one, sometimes two essays.  The prompts are common to all schools.  Check out some of the prompts that high schoolers across the U.S. are writing about:


  • Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.

  • Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.

  • Describe a character in fiction, a historical figure, or a creative work (as in art, music, science, etc.) that has had an influence on you and explain that influence.

  • Describe the world you come from — for example, your family, community or school — and tell us how your world has shaped your dreams and aspirations.

  • Tell us about a personal quality, talent, accomplishment, contribution or experience that is important to you. What about this quality or accomplishment makes you proud and how does it relate to the person you are?

  • The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure.  How did it affect you and what did you learn from the experience?

  • Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act?  Would you make the same decision again?


Imagine you were applying for a job and the director of H.R. handed you these prompts and asked you to select two and write a six-hundred and fifty-word essay on each. Could you do it?!


I worked with an impressive group of seniors and each of their approaches to selecting an essay moved me.

Jared loves molecular biology – it’s what makes him come alive.

Darren still wrestles with the death of his dad who taught him the importance of devoting ten thousand hours to whatever skill he wants to master.

Lacey is a nice Jewish girl who went away to summer school and had the shock of her life – she became friends with a Jordanian Muslim.

Ted has a diagnosed OCD condition that complicated his coming out gay to his family and friends because he needed to do it “perfectly.”

When Eddie began high school he went around saying, “I’m not just a freshman” and he’s been resisting labels ever since.

David used to play soccer until he climbed on a surf board, caught his first wave and found inner calm.


I was moved working with these kids as they agonized over what prompt to choose and what story to tell.  I marveled at their excitement as they realized they did have a story to tell, that they are different today than when they began high school.  I thrilled as each released his or her grip on fear and found their own individual voice.


The wonder of the boot camp was seeing each kid learn how to live a life worth examining and sharing.  And they learned this greatest of skills by being willing to not worry if a particular story is what “they” (school admissions officers) want to hear but worry rather – does this story tell who I am?


What about you – what’s your story?

Are you the hero of your own life?



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:

  [email protected]


How To Control A Conversation


My client Clint (names changed) recently began our coaching session with a classic question:

“How do I professionally counter when someone starts with ‘you should’? I’m not quick enough to evaluate the situation and defend myself. I had an incident where I expressed a desire (totally insignificant) and got a ‘you should.’ In this kind of situation, I tend to cave and say ‘right,’ pretending like I’m not insulted. I’m holding a resentment against this person because when I review the facts, I was on the right track and was frustrated because I had no control.”


This is a situation so many of us encounter and I reassured Clint he was not alone in feeling frustrated.  BUT – more times than not, you do have control.


Seldom do we find ourselves in a conversation where we have “no” control.  Thinking you have no control simply makes you a victim.


I asked Clint to consider why he felt insulted. Turns out, it was the “helper’s” tone of voice that made him feel inept.  In addition, he hadn’t asked for advice and he didn’t want advice!


He acknowledged, though, that this person often offers unasked for advice.


Yes, it’s annoying when someone launches into a “you should” monologue.

  • Some people have an obsession with wanting to help others by offering advice.
  • Some people have an obsessive need to control.
  • Some people think they’re helping most by controlling!


So, how do YOU maintain control in a conversation? 

Simple, really.  Speak up!


When the person asks, “Do you know what you should do?” Smile and playfully give one of these responses:

“No – and I don’t want to know!”


“I don’t know what to do but I have a feeling you’re about to tell me!”


“Only if you tell me in five sentences!”


Make a joke out of it and then cut them off before they have a chance to start preaching.


If the other person manages to give you advice, you can politely, smilingly say, ”Actually this isn’t something I plan on pursuing, so I’m not really looking for advice.”


AND why do you cling to the resentment? 

Why cave-in and fume as the other person speaks?  Hmm. . .is it because it’s easier than directly addressing the situation?

Why are you afraid of speaking-up? 


The real reason we are afraid to respond to the other person is because we’re telling ourselves something that is making us mute:

  • Don’t make waves.
  • Don’t cause a scene.
  • Don’t hurt feelings.

Whatever it is you’re telling yourself, it’s a lie.


So, what should you do when people tell you what you should do?!

  • Stop feeling powerless.
  • Identify the lie you’re telling yourself which is shutting you down.
  • Start smiling.
  • Take control of your half of the conversation.


And remember:

Don’t automatically think the worst of the other person for telling you what to do. Chances are, they’re not even aware of this annoying habit because no one has told them about it.

You do have power!


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:

  [email protected]


3 Questions That Will Change Your Life

Our purpose is to realize our potential. Each of us has been created for a purpose, a reason, but if we don’t know what it is or what we want, our untapped potential stands idle.

Peter McWilliams


Last week I received an email from Clare (names changed), a former UCLA Extension international student who wanted to give me an update on her efforts to become an effective communicator. Here’s an excerpt:


“I ‘ve been trying to work on finding my voice. I think I’m generally a better listener than talker. Often I don’t express my opinion or defend my point. I don’t insert myself in a conversation, preferring to take a back seat and let other people enjoy the spotlight.

As convenient as this can be, people don’t have a chance to know what I think. This doesn’t always happen, but when it does I’ve been trying to make a conscious decision to make my voice heard and insert myself in the conversation.

Sometimes it’s easy, other times it’s hard, but I feel better once I’ve made myself heard.”


Clare had been painfully shy in class and so I was happy to learn she’s committed to being engaging and approachable.


The great reminder from her story is that change doesn’t just happen.


You have to wrestle with the demanding question –

What do I really want?

And then with the equally challenging question,

What am I willing to do for it?


My friend Ted is a staff writer for a late night show. When he was offered the job, friends and family were shocked because the offer was unexpected. Ted, though, had prepared for the day when just such a job would be offered him.


He submitted unsolicited jokes to this show, as though he actually had a job. He kept his name in front of the head writers, so they knew not only that he wanted a writing gig, but that he was prepared and qualified. Sure, he was surprised when the call came – BUT he had worked with, in and through hope for that day.


Change is always scary because you have to deal with the consequences –

What would happen if you got what you wanted –

if you successfully made the changes you claim you want to make?


Life, though, only makes sense from honestly grappling with:

What do you want?

Why do you want it?

What are you going to do to get it?


A few weeks ago I was having pizza at my favorite local bistro. Sitting at a nearby table was a twenty-something guy who had an athletic build and the air of a competitor.


He was in animated conversation with the waiter, and as a typical nosey ex-New Yorker, I couldn’t help but overhear. Seems he was taking acting classes (so L.A.!) and he sounded enthused and proud when he said, “I’ve always been good at everything I did” which made me wonder what he’s done in the past.


When the guy left I mentioned to the waiter that I admire the guy’s unbounded confidence. He laughed and said that guys like him were always too “cocky” for their own good.


Turns out, the guy is an adult film performer and he’s trying to segue into legit acting!


Chalk it up to my twisted sense of humor, but I like the idea of a porn actor taking pride in his work. I know, I know – but there is something refreshing about being able to assess what you’ve done and declare that it’s good work!


Realistically, his chances of having a legit acting career are against him. However, I don’t think he’ll give up easily because I suspect he’s determined to continue to explore his potential.


Any growth in your life, like it or not, is going to build on who you are right now. We don’t get to start over.

So, you might as well accept yourself as you are and go from there.

Peter McWilliams


Was this guy a smug, delusional porn “star”?  Maybe. But I’d like to think he’s a guy who realizes he doesn’t get to erase the past and he’s hell-bent on making the effort to build upon his successes and reinvent himself.

He knows what he wants and from what I overheard he’s prepared to do what he needs to achieve what he wants.


A timid student, a late-night comedy writer and a porn star – hmm – sounds like the opening of a joke – but they’re not – just three people striving to fulfill their potential.


What about you? What do you want? What are you willing to do to achieve it?