No One “Just Is”

It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.

 e.e. cummings

For the past month I’ve been consulting at a family-owned clothing company.

The president of the firm, Rachel (names changed), asked me to coach Betsy her supply manager, a woman who is loyal to the company, is willing to put in long hours and who has strong relationships with manufacturing plants in Mexico.

The one thing she doesn’t have is people skills.

Betsy treats her team with barely a trace of respect – she yells, slams doors and habitually lies when it suits her.

When I asked Rachel why she tolerated Betsy’s antics, she told me, “I need her. I don’t want to go through a search for her replacement.”

Last week I laid it all out for Betsy.

She bristled and then declared,“Betsy is who Betsy is and there’s no changing her, do you know what I mean?”

Yeah, I did – she meant she has no intention of changing!

When I challenged her, she lamented, “I can’t change. This is who I am.”

That wasn’t the first time someone has boasted to me that they “can’t” change.

However, please understand – that statement is simply not true.  It’s a lie. 

We ALL have the ability to change.

We ALL are responsible for how we present ourselves to other people and how we interact with them.

No one “just is.”

Which brings me to Ken.

He and his fiancée Alice are getting married later in the summer and are in the process of interviewing officiants. Ken didn’t smile when we met and seemed uncomfortable when he sat down.

Alice was friendly and engaged (pun intended) as we talked.

Ken never looked at me, never offered an opinion and answered my questions in a low, mumbling tone.

Hey, there’s shy and then there’s “creepy shy” and Ken was creeping me out!

Something seemed “off” and finally I asked him directly if he was happy getting married.

His head shot back, he nervously smiled and said “of course!”

I asked if anything was wrong, as he seemed unhappy or troubled.

Alice gently smiled and explained, “Ken is reserved; that’s just how he is.”

Once again, there’s that phrase, “just is.”

Here’s the thing – if you need your fiancée to explain that you’re reserved, then you’re more than “reserved.”

Just because a person is reserved doesn’t mean they have to present themselves in a rude, weird manner.

Just because someone is loud and impatient, doesn’t mean they have to intimidate team members by screaming, slamming and shutting down.

“Just is” is never an excuse for feeble, off-putting behavior. 

You don’t have to “just” be an a*hole.

You can “just” be someone who strives to be a more dynamically engaged person!


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:


How Not to Get Sucked-Up in Workplace Drama!

There are two primary choices in life:

to accept conditions as they exist or

accept the responsibility for changing them.

Denis Waitly

I recently came across an article that offered the results of studies showing that the #1 source of distraction and the #1 energy-drainer at work is – DRAMA. Based on the pain many of my communication coaching clients experience I know this is true.

So, what is drama?

While drama has many manifestations, essentially it is when a customer or client or colleague declares they have a situation that it is more important than anything you might be working on.  “Urgent” is an understatement. They are working under a deadline that is hard and fast and they need you to meet that deadline.

The customer or colleague feels like they are in a bind and therefore they feel a desperate sense of panic. They are afraid of what will happen to them if the situation is not taken care of within the given time frame.

Oftentimes this situation is of their own making.

The drama-inducing person can play up to you by making you out to be their hero. Who needs Super Woman or Superman – they have YOU! Their praise is seductive – most of us enjoy coming to the rescue!

The drama-inducing person may tap into your “niceness” – you’re someone they can always rely upon and they flatter you by reminding you that you got them out of a jam last time, so you surely can do it again.

The drama-inducing person can also simply try the nasty tactic of pulling rank or threatening to go over you. Essentially, your job is to serve them and they remind you of this unequal relationship.

As I remind participants in my communication skills workshops –

We all do what we do and say what we say for a reason and so THE question is:

What does a drama-inducing person want? Really want?

They want an immediate YES from you.

They want you to take immediate action.



They want both of these things BECAUSE they want their fear to go away immediately.

More than solving the problem, challenge or issue the drama-inducing person wants you to take away their fear.


This is the #1 skill I explore with my communication coaching clients – how to reduce and remove fear!

A critical aspect of your job is to calmly and clearly reassure the person that you understand they are concerned (afraid) and that you will work with them to manage and resolve the situation.

Your job is to make sure that you:

  • Understand the situation – thoroughly
  • Think both inside and outside the box
  • Explain clearly what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it
  • Execute the project with care
  • Keep the customer in the loop

Obviously, you won’t be able to do any of this if you’re caught-up in the drama!

The Business of Confidence is the business of YOU being a professional.

Much like a doctor, you want to have a solid “bedside manner” AND you want to be able to prescribe the correct remedy based on the information you’ve personally collected.


Remember: People cause drama out of FEAR – fear that what needs to get done will not get done and then they will be punished.

When a customer or colleague is creating drama, take a deep breath, step back and remember that you are in the presence of FEAR.

In order to address the fear YOU need to  –

  • Determine what the issue is
  • Determine the true urgency
  • Determine a course of action – waiting for everything to be in order is seldom     the correct course of action
  • Determine how best to confirm and follow-up, i.e. email, phone, face-to-face, on-site

As my clients quickly learn – Follow-up is crucial to managing fear.


The two questions you’re always considering:

  1. How can I be most effective in working with this situation + person(s)?
  2. What do I need to do to make sure we are clear going forward?

AND – after the completion of each project consider what went right. Assess what you could have done differently.

Remember –

We most easily get caught-up in drama when we forget the responsibilities of our own job.


Your three main responsibilities are:

  • Assess accurately the needs of a particular issue/project
  • Implement a plan that makes sense and is efficient
  • Keep the customer/colleague in the loop with laser focus

Confident people understand DRAMA for what it is –

fear based in panic –

and so are able to manage and defuse it!

Interested in learning how YOU can rise above workplace drama so as

 to lead and present with confidence?

Let’s talk!

Email me at:

12 Most Basic Speaking Mistakes That Crumble Seasoned Presenters

When I’m not giving seminars or coaching professionals on interpersonal communication skills, I officiate non-denominational wedding ceremonies. (check out my Bio for my story!)

Recently, I attended a networking event where the keynote speaker, Jack (name changed), introduced a marketing platform aimed at the millennial wedding market.

Within minutes of Jack’s talk, I began to wonder, “Does this guy know who we are?”

Because I coach nervous professionals on how to present in smart, strategic ways, I’m used to dealing with jittery neophytes. However, it had been a long time since I attended a presentation by a seasoned pro who truly bombed. Ouch! I know. . .

It happens to the best of us (yes, including me). In reflecting on Jack’s talk, I was struck by how he made the most basic speaking mistakes. He reminded me why those mistakes are so basic.

Here are –

The 12 Most Basic Speaking Blunders That Will Turn Off an Audience


  • Fail to establish credibility. Jack was not introduced by anyone in the wedding industry. He introduced himself by giving us his resume – which didn’t contain a connection to the wedding industry. He had no story that could assure us he knew who we were as a professional group.
  • Dress inappropriately. Jack wore a standard blue suit and red tie that made him look uncomfortable and too much like a salesman. Am I nit-picking? Sure. But because he failed to connect with us through a story, his clothes enhanced his overall appearance as an outsider who wasn’t clued-in to who we were.
  • Use a schoolmarm tone. After arousing our suspicions that he had little understanding of who we were as an audience, he began to recite statistics about the U.S. wedding industry. He presented canned information most of us already knew in a tone that made me feel like I was in a classroom. He didn’t grasp that we were seasoned pros at the top of our game.
  • Manhandle the mic. The microphone was on a stand. When Jack spoke, he tended to move away from the stand, which meant his voice frequently dropped out. Those in the back of the room had a hard time hearing him.
  • Fumble with the PowerPoint. Jack got off to a shaky start, and when he couldn’t smoothly transition from slide to slide, he rapidly lost our trust in his competence. He became distracted, thrown off balance and had difficulty talking to us.
  • Turn your back on the audience. At one point there was a major glitch with the laptop. Jack focused on fixing the tech problem (even though there was a tech guy nearby), turned his back on us and stopped talking. We all started talking with each other – about him!
  • Presume your co-presenter is prepared. Jack co-presented with a tech guy whose job was to explain the site’s technical gaming innovations. However, the tech guy failed to clearly set up the concept of the website’s game. People quickly felt lost, and asked questions tinged with annoyance. His abstract answers did not smooth over our concerns.
  • Play video of someone more engaging than you. At one point, Jack played a video from the website’s founder. While the video was polished, it added two problems. First, the founder was more engaging than Jack. Second, the founder lives in Ireland and said nothing to make us believe he understood the American wedding market.
  • Avoid answering questions directly. Jack had an agenda and was determined to stick to it. He spun all of his answers to the purposes of that agenda.
  • Make lame jokes. Jack’s jokes were at the expense of his younger, better-looking tech colleague. He aimed the jokes at the women in the audience, but he didn’t realize the group’s collective sense of humor was more sophisticated than his jokes.
  • Insult potential buyers. Jack explained that the website’s vendor page does not list photographers and videographers separately. It lumps them together under the “captured memories” heading. When a videographer pointed out that what he does is different from a photographer, Jack dismissed him with, “It’s all visuals.” Ugh!
  • Offer no way to follow up. Jack ended by thanking us and said he hoped we’d consider joining this new and exciting marketing venture. But he didn’t give us any information about how we could join and if we could get a special introductory rate for attending the talk.

Twenty-four hours later, I couldn’t describe in one sentence what Jack’s talk was about.

And as I tell those I coach in public speaking skills, the first thing you want to do before crafting your presentation is – state in one sentence what you want an audience to remember 24 hours after your talk.

And what is THE one thing we want every audience member to remember?

They were seen. Their needs were understood.

Jack’s biggest mistake was that he focused on selling a product, not forging a relationship with a new demographic – high-end wedding professionals.

He wanted to impress rather than connect.

It only makes sense he made so many basic presentation mistakes.

Every audience member silently asks the presenter,

“Do you see me? Do you know what I need?”

Mistakes abound when we forget that competence is rooted in seeing the customer.

People leave a winning presentation believing that the presenter understood them and offered them something worthwhile.

My presentation coaching clients know that this is what the “business” of confidence is all about!

Jack made me re-examine my presentation style and reflect on where I’ve become sloppy.

What about you?

What can you do to reassure audience members that you see them?


Do you want to develop as a smart, strategic presenter who is remembered

for all the right reasons?

Let’s talk!

Email me to set-up a call

Right now there are people who need to hear what you have to say and I look forward to helping you reach them!

How Life Skills Coaching Can Help You Stop Saying, “I Don’t Know What to Do With My Life”

Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.

David Copperfield


When I was twenty years old, I entered the Catholic religious order of Jesuits to prepare for a life as an ordained priest. I was filled with idealism and determined to please my New York Irish-American parents – especially my father.

Almost twenty years later I resigned from ministry, not in repudiation of all I had done, but rather, in the conviction that there was more I needed to learn and do and that I couldn’t do it within the safe borders of religious life. I left the Jesuits not in rancor but in the conviction that I needed to “find my voice.”

When I joined the Jesuits, I thought that religious life would allow me to become the hero of my own life.  From this vantage spot today in my life, I realize that was just the first phase.

These many years later, I’m now coaching a growing number of clients who are struggling with how to become the hero of their own life. They come to me for life skills coaching because they sense their very life depends on it!

Jared (50) (all names changed) came to me for life skills coaching because he doesn’t want to become his father, who was a verbally abusive man, who only had transactional relationships with his family and had no friends.  Jared is self-aware enough to recognize that, indeed, he has more than begun to replicate his father’s ways.

Mary (32) recently sought out my help because she’s exhausted from having resisted turning into her father, a workaholic who lives to make a buck and who is controlling in his family relationships.  Mary has carved out a life for herself and her family that contradicts the career path her father demanded she march down.  Mary, though, is riddled with guilt and has become adept at sabotaging herself professionally. She wants to take back her life.

Kim( 46) was recently demoted at work, the victim of office politics. He came to me wanting to find a new job, a job that will give him money – lots of money.  Job satisfaction is his #2 priority, so he claimed.  As we explored his goals, what became apparent is that he wants money because he wants to prove himself to his father.  He’s never allowed himself to go after a job that he actually wanted because he thought it would bring deep down satisfaction – to him but not to his father.

Jared, Mary and Kim each feels frustrated, angry and helpless.

Each repeatedly said, “I don’t know what to do!”

And by that each means, “I don’t know how to become the hero of my own life.”

Each is courageously embarking on life coaching because each wants to live a life-giving life.

So, here’s what I now know about becoming the hero of your own life – and it’s what I did not know and could not have known when I was that idealistic Jesuit.

10 Things You Can Do to Stop Saying, “I Don’t Know What to Do With My Life!”

  1. Recognize the courage that was needed to get this far – which may not be where you ultimately want to be – but you’ve outsmarted some of your demons.
  1. Grieve and feel the anger for choices made that did not bring you to where you had hoped to go but do not beat yourself up. Being harsh isn’t going to aid you.
  1. Come to terms with the reality that change and newness of life will never come as quickly as you would want.
  1. Resist saying, “Yes, but. . .” when options appear in your life. The forces of darkness don’t want you to heal.
  1. Decide which pain you want – the pain of healing or the pain of self-injury.
  1. Brutally answer this question, “Who do I want to be?” Describe in detail what you would look like and feel like, how you would move and think and react.  And then make peace with the fact that that person cannot be the original version of who you wanted to be because you are changed by pain, loss and, yes, successes.
  1. Those early impulses in your life – impulses of generosity and idealism – they were real, genuine and enduring. They may have been half thought out, gingerly or callously handled BUT they are still your North Star.  How can they be reinvigorated?
  1. Expect self-resistance. Old habits resent newly forming habits especially when the new ones are healthy and effective.
  1. Believe that what you’re doing is a gift – to your self – to those within your immediate circle – to those within that small slice of humanity you interact with.
  1. Find a mentor, a coach, a “mid-wife” – someone you can trust, who you don’t have to idolize, and who can assist you in your heroic becoming.

Want help becoming the hero of YOUR life?

Have you been thinking about Life-Skills Coaching?

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