A simple skill that can make a big difference for you

How’d you spend your extra hour last night!?

The wind and rain and a few snow flurries whooshed through the woods all night and day here on Martha’s Vineyard.  I took full advantage of that extra hour and stayed under the covers, occasionally peeking out the bedroom window at incredible autumn beauty!

Welcome to you – and to hundreds of you who are new this week to The Spark!

Women on Fire came into existence more than a decade ago with the belief that if you have access to inspiration, strategies and support, you can greatly increase your ability to live your dreams and make a difference in the world.

Our topic today focuses on an important strategy for your success — having the awareness and skills to respond.

Responding is a simple skill and essential behavior for effective communication, that if not practiced can lead to upset, conflict and diminished success.

Years ago, when I coached women one-on-one, responding was often one of the first skills I would work on with leaders to help them achieve.

Here are two recent emails I received that reveal what happens when we fail to respond:

Dear Debbie,

My boss never tells me I’m doing a good job.  Even though my performance reviews are always stellar, I’d like to hear throughout the year when I do a good job.

It makes me nervous and it’s so stressful to have to wait until my annual review to learn whether I’m on track.  I don’t want to seem too needy by asking for an occasional compliment.

I’ve started to look elsewhere for a job, but I really love the work I do and don’t want to leave. Any thoughts?

Love, Cathy

And this one:

Hi Debbie,

My husband and I see a couple we enjoy a lot.  But they both have the same quirk.

Sometimes when we’re invited to their house, they don’t even look up and greet us after we’ve come in.  Other times, I might share something personal or exciting or important and they don’t comment – or they’ll change the subject.

Other than that, we have fun with them and would like to continue our friendship. Is there anything we should say or do?  I’m sure we have our own quirks that bug them!

Thanks, Liz

The issue both Cathy and Liz are frustrated by is a lack of response from people who are important to them.

Most likely, if Cathy’s boss or Liz’s friends knew how much their behavior hurt them, they’d be shocked.

People don’t respond for a variety of reasons. In my two decades as a life and executive coach, I’ve observed that most people who don’t respond simply never learned the skills and are unaware that they aren’t responding.

What non-responders don’t realize is that by failing to react, they can leave others feeling wronged, confused, embarrassed, shut down or unimportant.

We talk here often about how changing other people’s behavior is difficult, and usually nearly impossible! So the best place to start here is with ourselves.

In this instance, being a great communicator, vital in today’s Information Age and connection economy, starts with you becoming aware of how well you respond.

Check out your skills in the nine-point quiz below. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 as never and 10 as always, how would you rate your ability to “respond?”

1)   When I notice someone doing something positive or good, I almost always acknowledge it.

2)   When I am distracted, and someone speaks to me or arrives in the room, (this includes your kids!), I apologize and inform them I’m distracted and not focused on them right now.

3)   In conversation, I am aware of when I change the subject, and why.

4)   I make sure people feel heard and celebrated, if appropriate, when they are sharing important news.

5)   If I don’t know what to say in response to someone, I at least acknowledge them. (i.e., Wow, I see you’re excited about that, etc.)

6)   If I truly have no words in response to someone, and I sense they are needing one, I ask permission to think about it and get back to them.

7)   When someone gives me a compliment, I thank them and tell them how their compliment made me feel.

8)   If someone has crossed a boundary with me, I tell them clearly and directly without being confrontational, allowing the moment to pass, or shutting down. (i.e., “It’s not OK with me”…”that doesn’t work for me,” etc.)

9)   I believe there is plenty in this world for me, and I easily and enthusiastically honor the achievements and successes of people I care about.

Cathy and Liz, I see you are disappointed by the lack of response from your boss and your friends.

Make sure that you become the outstanding communicators and exemplary role models in “responding” that you are wishing for from them.

For Cathy, it is perfectly appropriate to approach your boss multiple times a year and ask: “I am eager to stay on track, will you please tell me one thing I’m doing well so I continue to do that?”

For Liz, when your friends fail to respond to your achievements or news, you might say: “There aren’t very many places I can celebrate my success and I feel safe in our friendship to share. Are you OK cheering me on?”

And, when they don’t greet you with enthusiasm when you arrive at their home, you might ask: “Should we come back at another time?”

Or, you could throw your arms around them, take their faces in your hands, and say “HELLO, I’ve missed you and I’m so happy to see you!!!”  If that doesn’t work, you might need new friends 😉

Keep us posted on how things work out for you.

As for you, which of the “responding” skills in the quiz do you need to work on?  What support do you need to make it happen?  Good luck and feel free to share onthe blog.

Have a wonderful week and I’ll see you next week!


Debbie Signature

P.S. Women on Fire monthly members, I’m thrilled to announce you will receive in your mailbox this week an extraordinary interview with Thirty-One Gifts FounderCindy Monroe!

At 29 and with two small children, Cindy started a business in her basement. Eleven years later, that business now has more than 1,500 employees and 100,000 sales consultants. You are going to love hearing just how Cindy did it!

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