Conversations Take Their Toll

Hurtful conversations that bring on feelings of anger and resentment are telling you “things must change.” These feelings are killing you, literally. There’s a song from my favorite musical, A Little Night Music called “Every Day a Little Death.” If you listen to the words, you’ll know why I’m writing this. Holding on to bad feelings, fueling that fire within you by re-playing who has done you wrong and why, gradually accumulates to cause mental and physical deterioration. Repeated mental rehearsal of the wrongdoing may be the root of your aches and pains. Research claims that cardiac disease, certain cancers, skeletal health, drug and alcohol use have their roots in the endless looping of hurt you permit yourself to re-live every day. Jealousy, disappointment and worry, the kind that you can feel in your chest, your gut and your limbs, takes their toll on your health.

As an example, I was asked to consult to an employee of a large software company. I’ll call her “Lynn.”  Lynn’s boss, the finance manager, was dealing with many personal problems. Feeling sorry for her boss, Lynn agreed to her boss’s inconvenient and non-work related requests despite having a pile of her own work. The CEO, unaware of the manager’s issues, complained that Lynn wasn’t getting her assignments completed on time. Lynn began having mysterious abdominal and back problems requiring two hospitalizations. Test after test was negative. Lynn confessed, “All my life I let others take advantage of me. I never wanted to hurt their feelings, so I put aside myself and put them first. I was angry and resentful.”  She had many of these looping, resentment-laden conversations over the years with herself, which she believed led her to sickness. With coaching, however, her inner conversations began to change. Lynn learned to be okay with saying “no” and politely refusing to submit to unreasonable requests. Instead, she offered options and other solutions which satisfied her need to be helpful. Feeling more confident and in control, Lynn’s health is making a change for the better.

You can reverse these “little deaths.”  When the anger and resentment seep into your mind, have a mental escape plan ready. Change the conversation within immediately. Do something health-promoting: review your gratitude list, take a brisk walk, listen to a podcast or do something nice for someone. Taking some immediate action, making a rapid and positive shift, weakens the circuit of resentment and strengthens a path of self-regulation. Lynn goes on to say, “…in applying this practice, when I’m reminded of a past hurt, I no longer feel my heart beating and my stomach churning. The dialogue is dimmer. I observe it like a bystander from across the street. I can choose a different way of responding and my body listens.”

How effective is your communication with yourself? How fluently can you change the subject, pick better words, speak the truth and listen to your intuitive voice?  For more mindful communication tips visit or write to me at [email protected]             


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A Tale That Could Be Your Truth

Over the years I have studied procrastination and its roots. For many of my clients, procrastination is an affliction that rivals the fear of public speaking. Getting started and following through on difficult, overwhelming and intimidating tasks no matter how much you may want to accomplish them can be tough. You need a powerful thought, a mind hack that immediately gets you in gear.

Thanks goes out to Tim Ferris who recommended the book Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives by David Eagleman. Of all the weird afterlife possibilities Eagleman suggests, there is one tale from the book that scares the livin’ daylights out of me. It makes me want to spring out of bed at an hour earlier, add another 20 pushups, learn to like wheat grass, and relentlessly tackle every task on my agenda. It’s this:  If you procrastinate and ignore your potential greatness, imagine that “after you die you are forced to live out your afterlife with annoying versions of who you could have been.” Yikes!

I think there is a strong likelihood of this. I believe that we are born with a wide array of potential talents for the purpose of making the world a better place. It would make a lot of sense, on judgment day, to be compared to what you could have been minus laziness, lacking a plan, or harping on irrational fears. I submit that entrepreneurs like you, people who build something from just an idea, have been awarded a unique opportunity (and a responsibility perhaps!) to make a difference in the world. If we put off doing things that a higher power has given us the chance to do, it’s like casting aside a precious gift.

Whether this prediction is true or not, why not make it YOUR truth? Before bedtime and when you wake up every day, imagine your ideal self in all aspects of your life.  How would you compare today’s performance with your potential performance? Without blame or shame, how can you get closer tomorrow? Therefore, if having to watch annoying versions of who you could have been is your fate, your best defense on Judgment Day will be: I Tried!

Having trouble creating that vision of your ideal self and making it happen? Let’s strengthen the likely culprits – your core skills and routines! Contact me at  [email protected] 

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Leadership Is a Posture, Not Just a Position.

Leadership is a posture not just a postion by beckky shafirThat suggestion from Dr. John Izzo’s book Stepping Up should strike a chord in the minds of those who want to be more effective leaders. “Posturing” yourself as a leader is a way to inspire others by your actions. It includes how you choose your words, the sound of your voice, how deeply you listen, how you problem solve and respond to setbacks. The title of CEO means little if the person holding the position lacks the presence of a CEO. Currently, I’m working with a small business that is training managers to be leaders. I asked them to write down the traits that they aspire to and want to communicate to their direct reports. Interestingly, many of the traits listed are the traits these budding managers admired in the CEOs who came before them: direct talk, caring, efficient, organized, energetic, etc.

The Number One rule in Dr. Jordan Peterson’s book The 12 Rules of Life: An Antidote to Chaos is to “Stand up straight with your shoulders back.” Presenting yourself physically as confident and strong sends powerful messages to your team. More than an influential pose, good posture can change your mood and your physiology. Research shows that a strong physical posture releases a flurry of neurotransmitters, serotonin, for example. Standing up straight sends a message to your brain to release serotonin which mimics the effects of anti-depressant medication. You feel happier and get better sleep when your serotonin levels are high.

Start your day standing up straight with the intention to consistently demonstrate the leadership qualities you aspire to. Write them down and post them in a few different places as reminders. Watch how your behaviors shape the actions of your employees and, consequently, how your combined actions boost the bottom line.

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Coaches and Consultants: Give Social Media a Back Seat

Coaches and Consultants: Give Social Media a Back SeatAre you exhausted and overwhelmed by the time and energy strategies for amassing social media followers? Have you been taken to the cleaners by social media gurus who promise   to skyrocket your exposure? I refuse to spend valuable time luring people to my mailing list with phony contests, insincere dialog, vacation pictures or funnel systems that drain me. It feels disingenuous. I don’t want to spend my time connecting with people in those ways. Do you?

I suggest a better starting point that has greater short and long term payoff  – get good, darn good, at what you do. If you’re focused on getting more exposure, a simple and targeted social media strategy can help, but I suggest you spend the majority of your resources on improving your knowledge base, reading, taking classes and applying that knowledge to your sessions with clients. Ignore the recommendations that defy your authenticity and intuition. If it feels goofy and sleazy, you’ll hate doing it and the universe will pick up on that! Instead, let stellar “word-of-mouth” reports be your goal. Show that you care more about your audience and their needs versus the number of “likes” you rack up. Collect and post feedback from those you have helped. Ask them to spread the word to their friends and colleagues. If you’ve done a good job, few will forget to tell others. Connect with your targets by being a frequent podcast guest or doing public talks. I’m not telling you to ignore having an online presence; but it’s intelligent content that will make you stand out and draw the folks you can help. Simple, meaningful and authentic engagement social media is a more sane and ethical way to build your business.

Become exceptional in your field! Let me help you create a plan for building your expertise to be one of the best in your industry. [email protected]


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Mindful Communication Newsletter July 2018

Beware of “Yes” and the Soft No’s

Listening to yourself is one of the hallmarks of a mindful listener, and the most difficult aspect to master. If you are like me, you probably say “Yes” or give a Soft No a bit too often. There are many reasons to control for the reflexive “Yes” and the Soft No’s. They steal our time away from the things we want to do and should do. We end up resenting the people we reluctantly said “Yes” to − they become the bad guys. You may have a kind heart and extend your goodness a bit too often. But if you can’t follow through, your kindness backfires and you disappoint those you intended to help. If you’re a parent, replying “Yes” or giving a Soft No when you can’t follow through makes you look weak and untrustworthy. When you say “Yes” to a work project that is well over your head and you don’t produce, you’re perceived as unreliable. We all know what “Yes” sounds like, but Soft No’s are less obvious. Soft No’s are sticky. The indecisive response can make the person who wants your “Yes” pursue you relentlessly. Here are some of the most common Soft No’s we utter:

  • I’ll think about it
  • Not right now
  • Call me in a few weeks
  • I’m too busy right now
  • I’m on vacation

My suggestion to you this month is to catch yourself before you agree directly or indirectly to requests that you’re not 100% sure about. If it’s uncomfortable for you to say “No, thank you,” practice saying it aloud several times until it is as easy as saying “Yes.”  Notice how “No, thank you,” lifts the weight of undesirable obligations, reduces resentment towards others, frees up your time, and lets you focus on what you truly want to say “Yes” to.

Did you know that the audio version of the Zen of Listening: Mindful Communication in the Age of Distraction is now available at Start listening in a more mindful way today!





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Mindful Communication Newsletter June 2018

Start Something Magical

 Have you ever tossed a stone in a pond and counted the ripples? Did you know that the ripple effect continues well beyond what the eye can see.  Inspiriting words can do the same. How often do you experience excellent customer service, someone’s cool T-shirt or a very courteous child and think, Wow, I’d love to tell them what I’m thinking right now, but you don’t? For the introverts among us, or for those who think that compliments to strangers are imposing, I urge you to reconsider. A compliment is more welcome to the recipient than you think. It is a very simple and magical way to set off a positive chain of events in the world.

I rather enjoy flexing my magical powers and seeing how a genuine compliment lights up a face. I’ll wager that my comment triggers a shot of serotonin and dopamine in the brain of the complimentee! For example, this morning I thanked a very cheery and helpful Panera server (within earshot of the manager) for his “refreshing attitude and exceptional service.” The server’s step picked up even more as he helped the next customer, and the next.

Later that day at work, I got another chance. A very quiet and sullen patient, who regularly visits oneof our psychiatrists, arrived wearing a strikingly beautiful coat. I remarked on her stunning taste and asked her how she found it. Her face lit up and stayed lit up as she entered her doctor’s office. The psychiatrist, unaware of the compliment I paid her, noticed his patient glowing and standing up straight. He couldn’t figure out why she made an appointment to increase her anti-depressant medication!

How can you create a ripple effect? Start small. Note some outstanding feature that other people seem to ignore: Thank a cop who’s guarding the bank. Give a “thumbs up” to the son helping his grandparent with a heavy load. Tell the teenager who bagged your groceries that they did an excellent job. Lifting up someone spirits makes you feel good too. The power of that compliment can transform someone for hours and perhaps days. And, like the ripple in the pond, we have no way of knowing how many other lives will be touched by that one act.



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Mind-Map It or Journal It – Get It Down on Paper

Q: There are times when I’m concerned or worried about a problem with my business and there’s no one I can talk to about it. My family and co-founder will listen, but I have to be careful there. Even though the problem is fixable, they will tend to overreact and that’s not helpful. What to do?  Janice B.   Portsmouth, NH

Break away from the crowd and write down your thoughts, worries, fears and concerns. My clients often roll their eyes when they hear the word “journaling,” mostly because it sounds too earthy-crunchy, or it suggests just another to-do. Not something you need to do every day but writing down the problems, how you feel about them and possible solutions, is helpful when you need clarity before taking action. Expressing yourself to yourself on paper, ignoring the need for perfect grammar or punctuation, relieves stress. Swear, doodle and write down all the non-PC things you’d like to say! Put it all out there…on paper, of course. How liberating! Writing out self-affirmations, or your WHYs can perk up your spirits and jostle you out of that stuck, murky state of malaise.

If your concerns are multi-factorial and don’t take well to a narrative or bullet point format, draw a mind-map so you can see the interconnectedness between problems, people and things. Plus, writing by hand is soothing. It provides an inner peace in a way that typing on a computer cannot. Keep the entry or mind-map for reference and make changes when an idea pops up.

Don’t let stress strangle your startup. Meditate, exercise, and strengthen your core with CoreFour coaching. Contact me at [email protected]

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Mindful Communication Newsletter April 2018

Seven Steps to Mindful Reading 

Being an efficient and prolific reader makes you a more interesting conversationalist and a better critical thinker. Lifelong learning is a great way to keep your marbles. But isn’t it frustrating, weeks or months later, to barely recall the title, maybe the author and only glimmers of the content? Some reasons include:

  • distractions
  • slow reading (btw, that’s not a bad thing)
  • time constraints so books get read in bits and pieces
  • trying to read multiple books on different topics at a time
  • not finishing a book
  • a lack of note-taking
  • an aging working memory

All these reasons affect deep processing of information and shake our confidence for learning new things. Here are 7 very effective steps to enhance reading comprehension and recall:

  1. Have an intention for choosing certain books or articles over others. I usually choose books on communication, psychology, mental health and brain research, because these areas are most pertinent to my work.
  2. Skim the book or article first. Review the table of contents; flip through to find graphs or illustrations. Your brain will immediately start scanning for what you already know about the topic.
  3. Elect to read when and where your concentration is maximized – low distractions, emotional readiness to focus, a decent chunk of time, good light, etc.
  4. Have pencil in hand. Annotate, or use small yellow stickies as bookmarks with key words or concepts you want to remember. Highlighting is overrated; it’s mostly a good hand exercise. The act of writing typing your thoughts aids retention.
  5. Use visual imagery when possible. For fiction, imagine the characters and the settings as you read. With non-fiction, pause to visualize situations, behaviors, concepts and processes.
  6. After each chapter, particularly with non-fiction, review your annotations or yellow stickies to burn in what you learned. Learning builds on what you learned previously. In this way, by chapter 8 you would have reviewed notes from chapter 1 seven times! This kind of rehearsal significantly enhances retention.
  7. For extra credit, start a journal called Books 2018. Take 1-2 pages per book and jot down the title, the author, and the main points in bulleted form. Write a paragraph or two about what you learned and how it applies to your life or work. Use your stickie notes or annotations if you must.
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Team Communication is Core to Success

Q: I’m almost finished gathering a team that will support my startup. Having been on many work teams before, I believe this group has the right chemistry. I also know how teams that seem good from the outset can become dysfunctional and kill a startup. What are some “core” ways to keep a team connected and productive from the start?  Gina B. Chicago, IL

Most experts on teams and team building agree that good communication early on is “core” to a startup’s success. Therefore, consistent and on-going efforts to strengthen your team are a worthwhile investment. One of my favorite books on the subject of teams and team building is “The Best Team Wins: The New Science of High Performance” by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton. This book does a great job of exposing the obvious and not-so-obvious ways teams break down, especially in light of the fact that many teams are composed of several different age groups and cultures and that much team work is done electronically. At the end of their book, the authors offer 101 ways to inspire your team. Let me point out three of the most successful suggestions, I have witnessed, that build a strong core of connection/communication with your team early on:

1) Take time to get to know your new hires. Go for a walk or to a coffee shop, but get out of the office. Let them do the talking and learn about their interests, background, goals, values etc. Watch and listen to them go from being an “employee” to a real person. Look for commonalities and interests you share. It is a rarity for an employee to experience genuine interest from an employer. Conversations like this enhance loyalty and trust. By listening mindfully and discovering more than what their resume had to say, you as the CEO or founder, can use your creative instincts to help them be greater assets to the company. You may also pick up on some warning signs that could come into play later in the game.

2) These “get to know you” conversations can also be done on a group level. Employees pair up, go out for coffee or lunch and learn as much as possible about their partner. At the next meeting team members share their findings to the group. They are encouraged to look for opportunities to work together to advance the company’s mission.

3) Don’t stop there! Gostick and Elton suggest Ninety-Day Questions. By that time people will know whether they fit in or not, and whether they are making important contributions. Asking questions like: Is the job what you expected? Are you experiencing any roadblocks towards your goals? What can we improve upon? What makes you want to come to work every day? These are great ways to reinforce the positives and to identify weak spots or concerns that could become costly to the business.

Strong teams (and money!) are the lifeblood of successful startups. Send your questions about team communication to [email protected]. Confidentiality is honored.   

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Share the Stage with Confidence

Bill H., a founder of a nutrition startup, asks, “How can I get more comfortable speaking in front of groups, investors mostly? I have my top sales guy do all the talking, but apparently it’s starting to look odd that I don’t “share the stage” with him at these presentations. If I lost him, I’d be in big trouble. What to do?”

This is a common concern for many founders wanting to project strong leadership. I define public speaking as any kind of speaking you do with the public: phone calls, 1:1 or small group conversations. Chances are you could not have gotten this far if you had trouble on the phone or in small group conversation. Keep in mind — listeners really care about the substance of what you have to offer, not how slick a presenter you are. They want to make money, period. It’s true that investors like to work with confident and energetic people, but that is secondary to their main interest.

To take action, I suggest you identify where your discomfort in public speaking breaks down and work to refine that level. This is where a communication coach comes in handy. Are you generally anxious, unprepared, unsure of your content, a poor listener, vocally weak or disfluent, etc. at the small group conversation level?  If so, getting some guidance managing those aspects would be a good starting point. Then, consider polishing up one segment of the larger group presentation that you are most comfortable with. This way you can start “sharing the stage” with your sales guy in a small way. With practice and an understanding of what your audience really cares about, you’ll be able to take over more of the presentation in time.

Need more help with public speaking or presentation skills? I’m happy to help you. Contact me at [email protected]

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