During a panel about women and entrepreneurship, a male investor fawned a bit about how much he prefers women leaders. He said we work harder, smarter, and get more results. He then lamented that the only problem with women is our lack of confidence, that it holds us back. The other women on the panel chimed in, agreeing and encouraging the women in the audience with, “Come on, ladies, believe in yourself,” and “You go, girl! You’ve got this.”

There is this generally accepted belief that women lack confidence and need more of it. As someone who has coached thousands…


Stop apologizing before you’ve even started

(image c/o gratisography)

Never, ever apologize for your public speaking performance, for not being prepared, or for having to lay the ground rules for the audience. Such hollow apologies turn off audiences. They make you seem insecure and make them wonder if they are wasting their time. My rule for public speaking: Only apologize if you step on someone’s foot.

Don’t Apologize for Setting the Ground Rules

If you feel you must apologize for setting housekeeping rules, let someone else do it — someone who doesn’t feel bad about setting appropriate boundaries for the audience. Though I challenge you to figure out how to make “housekeeping” interesting. …


That stuff you hide from others? Start showing them.

(image c/o the fabulous Gratisography)

People aren’t always committed to listen to what we say if they do not like us. Yet, our job as communicators is not to get everyone to like us. This is impossible, and in fact, could actually make people dislike us for trying.

If an influencer makes people feel small, they will find it hard to influence. Sure, folks may feign interest. If a person has a super-duper interesting bio or is “famous” in some way, some audiences might listen. If you’re just an average Josephine with no power or fancy background— forget it.

The audience is more likely to…


To change a mind, make a sale or change the world: We must first be heard

Photo via Gratisography

Tone is everything. Even without saying the actual words, people often call each other names with degrading or disrespectful tones. There is a wide palette of negative tones — sarcastic, passive-aggressive, cold and calculating, ridiculing — and so on. But they all will prevent you from reaching a desired outcome. When the neon sign of negative tone is flashing, it shuts down listening and commitment.

Your tone is showing

A passive-aggressive tone used during conflict reduces influence. When someone slows down his speaking, pauses a lot and gets a ridiculing smirk on his face, people notice.


Photo by Marcos Luiz Photograph on Unsplash

It happens a lot. I watch someone, often a woman, absolutely nail a presentation by doing something a bit different from the norm, something that really works for her. Immediately afterward, the speaker is besieged by people (often women) doing one of two things: either hawking business or offering correction, to restore their own comfort.

I’ve seen this so often that I, too, now flock to the front of the room after a woman finishes speaking. I do this so that I can observe the group behavior and offer something more helpful than crushing criticism.

Here are some examples of…


Be direct, don’t sugarcoat, and make it about what they want, not about you.

photo c/o Ryan McGuire

Humans can generally handle the truth — and truth- telling is full of nuances. When used inappropriately, truth is a powerful weapon; when wielded with awareness and integrity, it is a highly effective tool. In the latter use, we aren’t avoiding correction or conflict; we are being direct in order to build a relationship rather than break it down.

Be reminded: In the 1980s, an ill-conceived communication tool for leaders spread across the workplaces of America like a bad flu: the “feedback sandwich.” Tell an employee something good, then point out what’s wrong, then add something else good. …


Two hacks to improve communication at work or at home

Just waiting for a bus, or a perfect chance to practice better communication? (photo c/o gratisography)

Small talk can have a big impact on a career, a relationship and/or a childhood.

A better question can increase comfort and interest in a chat. “How are you,” gives the obligatory “Fine.” but “Tell me about your day?” is more detailed and specific — and can lead to a more detailed and specific answer.

Two easy hacks to incorporate this into your everyday life

1. Practice asking better questions:

Just changing the tone of a question can change the outcome — by being more thoughtful about your inquiry, others will pause and be more thoughtful about their answer.

Instead of “How are you doing?” try:

  • “Tell me about a project that has you jazzed?”


Robert Harbridge on the far right.

During the holidays I often think about my dad, who formed so much of my thinking as a human. He was a civil rights worker who believed in infiltration and joining the organizations he wanted to change. His methods of reducing “us and them” seemed to work well in Atlanta, Georgia.

Every year he wrote a poem for Christmas. This poem is particularly apt this year for me. At his essence, my dad taught me to love humans. …


12 types of conversations to avoid this holiday season

I’m outta here! (photo c/o gratisography)

“I don’t have to attend every argument I am invited to.” (author unknown)

I read that quote on Twitter the other day and my entire being cheered, “Hallelujah!”

The election happened. The holidays are here. The end of the year is here. There is a lot of opportunity for conversations to turn into confrontations. We do not have to engage in every conversation put before us. We all get to decide whether or not the topic, or even the person, deserves our conversation.

It sounds harsh to say that a person may not deserve a conversation, I know. I love the world and humanity. You may, too. That love for others doesn’t mean…


Earlier this summer, I finally put one of my behavior change models — the Context Model — into a book called Swayed: The Power of Context to Increase Influence. At Allegory, we believe that how you do anything is how you do everything. Frequent, deliberate practice converts theories into new, desired behavior. Thus, Swayed gives one idea that can be practiced in all types of communication and increase influence.

For the next three days, my book is on sale for only $1.99 — the list price is $4.99, so you’re saving $3.00 (60%). Here’s the link!

San Francisco Public Speaking Classes

We’ve also put together…

Allegory, Inc.

Behavior change company. Before you can change a mind, sell a product or save the world, you must be heard.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store