Do you feel sometimes like you are talking to a brick wall? Perhaps you are guilty of one or more of these offenses.

Everyone wants to be heard. Sometimes it can be hard to get people’s attention, or get above the noise. There’s nothing worse than having a conversation with people and feeling like you are the only person involved.

If you often feel like you are talking to yourself in conversations and meetings, it’s possible you are the problem. Granted, few people are great listeners, but you might not be giving them the reason to listen. Or worse, you might be shutting them down in some manner.

Here are a number of communication offenses that make people close their ears and brains in conversation. They are easy to recognize and remedy. Today is a great day to start.

1. You’re whining.

I’m not really sure why human beings are capable of whining. It doesn’t really serve a useful purpose for the whiner. On the bright side, your whining loudly tells others that you are a pain to work with and they should beware. You might choose a more stealth approach to getting your point across.

2. You’re thinking or speaking only of yourself.

Communication is an interaction between multiple people and you are violating the rules by being narcissistic and self-absorbed. Make your communication empathetic so you can engage the others emotionally. Save your self-interest for your Facebook page.

3. You won’t shut up.

If you go on and on in a redundant manner, not only will your audience be bored to death, but they can’t engage in your story or anecdote. At some point they will just tune out. Break up your droning and cut the long-winded speeches.

4. You interrupt.

When people are speaking, cutting them off mid-thought will not only distract them, it will likely offend them. Then, instead of listening to your new thought, they will be busy thinking about what an insensitive jerk you are. Even if you are a fast thinker, you may not actually know what others will say. Take notes with your own thoughts and give others a chance to finish.

5. You begin with, “Actually, you’re wrong.”

You may as well just put someone in a soundproof booth. When you belittle someone’s thoughts or ideas, you kick-start their inner voice. Their brain will now try to figure out how you are wrong and why you are such a mean person. Give their idea consideration and let your position stand on it’s own merits.

6. You cry wolf.

When you call the cavalry too many times, no one believes a word you’re saying. All the drama you’ve created is like a repellent keeping people away. Worse, you’ve lost credibility for when there is actually an important message you need to get across.

7. You don’t care about what you’re saying.

People can tell when you are dispassionate about your ideas and thoughts. If you don’t feel excited and energetic about what you’re communicating, what’s the point in saying it? Save your talking for the times when you have conviction.

8. You don’t know what you’re saying.

Knowledge is easily accessible these days. People can readily tell when you are communicating beyond your expertise, and they are not afraid to call you out on it. Most times they will just shut you off in their head. Show discretion. Be the expert when you can and learn from others when you can’t.

9. You wander.

Where was I? Oh yes, when you are trying to get a point across, people are following you. If you lead them off track, they will likely stay there. Slow down. Think through what you want to say. Then say it succinctly and with purpose instead of bouncing around.

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photo credit: kalleboo


Often you may be responsible but are you accountable? Here are the ways people will really trust you to get things done.

It’s a common story. You end a strategic meeting. There are several initiatives on which everyone agrees are important to complete by the end of the quarter. Everyone at the table says they will contribute to get it all done, but when the end of the quarter arrives very little of the list actually got accomplished. It’s not that these were bad people or that they didn’t work hard. In fact they were likely all highly responsible members of the team. The problem was that no one was actually accountable for making sure the initiatives were complete.

Many struggle with the definition of accountability versus responsibility. The difference is simple. Many people can be responsible for helping out on a task or initiative. But accountability belongs only to one person who will be judged on the completion of the project.

Truly accountable people are very hard to find. Accountability comes from within. It is not something you are given, you have to choose it to own it. Here are 8 of the many habits accountable people choose to make part of their everyday life.

1. They take responsibility.

When responsibility is forced upon people they can often be resistant or even resentful. Highly accountable people willingly take on responsibility and actively manage it so it gets done. They make sure once the initiative has their name on it, no one else need worry about its completion.

2. They don’t make excuses.

Objective hindsight is helpful when problem solving, but when something goes wrong, in-the-moment blame is a waste of time and energy. Highly accountable people don’t throw others under the bus for their own missteps or inaction. They also don’t excuse themselves based upon outside influences. They do good analysis and solve problems as they arise.

3. They are on time.

What good is completing initiatives if the usefulness of the result is long past. Highly accountable people understand that every project has a time value and that punctuality serves a purpose. Part of what makes them trustworthy is their efficiency and dependability to not waste a minute of other people’s time or their own.

4. They control their own fate.

In any project obstacles occur. But proper planning with a positive and pragmatic attitude can overcome nearly any obstruction. A victim mentality is not in a highly accountable person’s repertoire. They do not wait to be checked or monitored by others but work proactively and diligently with the team to finish the job.

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Intro by Terry Gault of The Henderson Group

Another blog post on storytelling?!?

You bet! Because storytelling is a topic that never gets old, in our estimation.

The only point they make in this piece from that needs some clarification is bullet 1: “Ask permission before telling a story.”

I am not convinced that this is necessary. Asking for permission can backfire in certain settings. If you ask permission (“Can I tell you a story?”) to a weary audience of executives, you may get shot down. In that situation, I recommend that you deliver the story in such a succinct way that the story is almost over before they figure out what you just did.

Otherwise, I concur with all the points in this piece from

Rock on with your bad storytelling self!

2. Anchor the story to a particular time.

Stories seem out of context when there’s no specific time when the sequence of events begin. That’s why the first 10 seconds of every movie either contains visual images that tell you when the story is taking place or words to that effect.

Wrong: “I once worked with a company…”

Right: “Do you remember the dot-com boom years? Right in the middle of all that craziness, I worked with a company…”

3. Anchor the story to a particular place.

Similarly, stories seem formless unless there’s a location where the action takes place. Again, that’s why the first 10 seconds of every movie sets up the starting location as well as the time. Classic example: “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…”

Wrong: “I was having dinner with my boss and he started telling me…”

Right: “Picture this: my boss and I were sitting in this fancy French restaurant…”

4. Feature a hero your audience identifies with.

The most common mistake in business storytelling is to make the story about you (or worse, your firm) rather than about your audience. The hero of the story should either be your audience or people similar to your audience.

Wrong: “XYZ corp. was founded in Boston in 1979 where we soon made software history by…”

Right: “The management team in this company was a lot like you guys: plenty of experience and industry knowledge, but skeptical of new technology…”

5. Use concrete words rather than abstractions.

Unfortunately, many business people are in the habit of using vague words that sound impressive and business-like but are divorced from experience and emotion. These abstractions weaken a story by making it vague.

Wrong: “The software was designed to enable users to utilize all the functionality they needed to empower their customer base.”

Right: “Our customers loved the fact that they could now tell their own customers exactly when their order would arrive.”

6. End the story with an emotional win.

In every story, it’s not the achievement itself that’s important; it’s how the hero (and the audience that’s been along for the ride) feels when the goal is achieved. Focusing on the achievement is like Prince Charming checking “rescue damsel” off his to-do list.

Wrong: “In the end, they doubled their ROI in three months.”

Right: “Doubling the ROI meant that, rather than declaring bankruptcy, he were able to turn his lifelong dream into reality.”

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The Henderson Group’s Storytelling Resource and Workshop >>

photo credit: mdgovpics


The Henderson Group delivers several workshops focused on creating dialogues with customers, partners, co-workers, family and friends.

In all of them, the distinction between Empathy and Sympathy is important.  One helps build connection, rapport and trust.  The other creates disconnect and, possibly, resentment. This 2:53 video by Brene Brown reveals which works … and which doesn’t.

photo credit: Sean MacEntee


by Chuck Kuglen of The Henderson Group

A tool from a company we’ve been watching of late (Accuvit) offers some interesting input about the “80-20” rule so often utilized by sales trainers.

It’s related to anyone who uses the phone in their sales, business development, client contact, service, or post-consulting (well, most of us).

First, a recent study suggests that the “80-20” rule, that you should get your customers to talk more than you (up to 80%) simplifies too much what we do and what we should try to do. And that this “rule” is rarely utilized in practice.

The 80-20 coaching, to get your clients talking more than you, is still helpful but it’s not typically achieved. The link below suggests that it’s more like 55% sales rep to 45% customer.

In the beginning of calls, they suggest, this can be helpful, but as you get deeper into the prospects needs you (the seller) actually may grow your percentage of the call. And you should.

A coach we’ve used says “control the call.” I think it’s more like “steer, quarterback, or guide” the call. Stay in some sort of “control” yes,…but that word has negative connotations. And, I suggest, you’re really not controlling anything.

Also, remember that, when you record your calls, it’s more important that the seller is actually setting mutually agreed on actions or steps. It works when the “buyer” or prospect sees value in those steps.

It’s not the 80-20 rule (essentially) that makes the call effective. And, even when callers “control” or guide a call in such a way where their prospect opens up, too often they take hopeful (rather than really powerful) steps which make sense for the selling company more than the buyer.

See more here.

Read Part One here.

by Terry Gault of The Henderson Group

Hannah Fry, who delivers a very amusing, charming and useful TED Talk on “The mathematics of love”, used Prezi to remarkable effect in illustrating her talk titled:”Top Three Mathematically Verifiable Tips for Finding Love.”

One point she makes that would give singletons who, like me are not considered inherently ‘hot’, hope: Being attractive does not directly correlate to getting dates and being known as ‘ugly’ by some can even work in your favor.


You can view her Prezi only, if you like, here:

You can learn how to make a remarkable Prezi with The Henderson Group’s Art of Prezi workshop

Check our Workshop Schedule here.


People with high emotional intelligence tend to do better at work. So what habits do they have that set them apart?

It has increasingly become accepted that emotional intelligence is an important factor in our success and happiness, not only at work, but in our relationships and all areas of our lives.

So what sets emotionally intelligent people apart? Here are seven habits that people with high EI have:

1. They Focus on the Positive

While not ignoring the bad news, emotionally intelligent people have made a conscious decision to not spend a lot of time and energy focusing on problems. Rather, they look at what is positive in a situation and look for solutions to a problem. These people focus on what they are able to do and that which is within their control.

2. They Surround Themselves with Positive People

People with a lot of emotional intelligence don’t spend a lot of time listening to complainers and tend to avoid negative people. They are aware negative people are an energy drain and are not willing to let others exhaust their vitality. Because they always look for solutions and the positive in situations, negative people quickly learn to avoid positive people as misery loves company.

Emotionally intelligent people spend time with others that are positive and look upon the bright side of life. You can spot these folks as they tend to smile and laugh a great deal and attract other positive people. Their warmth, openness, and caring attitude leads others look upon them as more trustworthy.

3. They Are Able to Set Boundaries and Be Assertive When Necessary

Although their friendly, open nature may make them appear as pushovers to some, people with high EI are able to set boundaries and assert themselves when needed. They demonstrate politeness and consideration but stay firm at the same time.

They do not make needless enemies. Their response to situations, in which there may be conflict, is measured, not inflated, and managed appropriately to the situation. They think before speaking and give themselves time to calm down if their emotions appear to become overwhelming. High EI people guard their time and commitments and know when they need to say no.

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photo credit: purple sherbert photography


by Terry Gault of The Henderson Group

It turns out that you are FAR more likely to make good decisions (or even make them at all) early in the day and just after lunch.

I came across this piece recently but it was published in The New York Times Magazine back in August 2011.

The piece opens with a story about 3 Israeli prisoners with similar situations who were appearing before a parole board.

The study reveals that:

“Prisoners who appeared early in the morning received parole about 70 percent of the time, while those who appeared late in the day were paroled less than 10 percent of the time.”

This is due to the fact that humans experience “decision fatigue” when called upon to make multiple decisions throughout the day. Each decision we make tends to draw down on our decision-making capability:

… experiments demonstrated that there is a finite store of mental energy for exerting self-control. When people fended off the temptation to scarf down M&M’s or freshly baked chocolate-chip cookies, they were then less able to resist other temptations. When they forced themselves to remain stoic during a tearjerker movie, afterward they gave up more quickly on lab tasks requiring self-discipline, like working on a geometry puzzle or squeezing a hand-grip exerciser. Willpower turned out to be more than a folk concept or a metaphor. It really was a form of mental energy that could be exhausted.

This situation is further exacerbated by the fact that modern corporate employees are called upon to make more and more decisions all the time. For example, deciding to read or skip over an email or tweet requires a decision. And the more decisions we have to make, the more we are drawing down on our decision bank account. By the end of the day, this bank account can be depleted and we tend to make compromised decisions or avoid them altogether.

Yet few people are even aware of it, and researchers are only beginning to understand why it happens and how to counteract it.

Decision fatigue helps explain why ordinarily sensible people get angry at colleagues and families, splurge on clothes, buy junk food at the supermarket and can’t resist the dealer’s offer to rustproof their new car. No matter how rational and high-minded you try to be, you can’t make decision after decision without paying a biological price. It’s different from ordinary physical fatigue — you’re not consciously aware of being tired — but you’re low on mental energy. The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain, and eventually it looks for shortcuts, usually in either of two very different ways. One shortcut is to become reckless: to act impulsively instead of expending the energy to first think through the consequences. (Sure, tweet that photo! What could go wrong?) The other shortcut is the ultimate energy saver: do nothing. Instead of agonizing over decisions, avoid any choice. Ducking a decision often creates bigger problems in the long run, but for the moment, it eases the mental strain. You start to resist any change, any potentially risky move — like releasing a prisoner who might commit a crime. So the fatigued judge on a parole board takes the easy way out, and the prisoner keeps doing time.

The piece goes on to make the point that the brain requires glucose to function effectively.

The brain, like the rest of the body, derived energy from glucose, the simple sugar manufactured from all kinds of foods.

Experiments revealed:

The benefits of glucose were unmistakable in the study of the Israeli parole board. In midmorning, usually a little before 10:30, the parole board would take a break, and the judges would be served a sandwich and a piece of fruit. The prisoners who appeared just before the break had only about a 20 percent chance of getting parole, but the ones appearing right after had around a 65 percent chance. The odds dropped again as the morning wore on, and prisoners really didn’t want to appear just before lunch: the chance of getting parole at that time was only 10 percent. After lunch it soared up to 60 percent, but only briefly.

What are the takeaways?

  1. Schedule key meetings early or just after lunch.
  2. Work on crafting presentations or preparing for critical conversations early or just after lunch.
  3. Avoid making important decisions late in the morning or more than 60 – 90 minutes after lunch.
  4. Don’t eat sugary treats when you know that your glucose levels are low. Eat foods with protein and/or complex carbohydrates instead.
  5. This fits under the heading of “Terry’s Speculations” but I’ll add it anyway:
    Identify, document, and review regularly your goals and commitments. These help you remember what’s important when making decisions. In a sense, you are making decisions beforehand and are more likely to make decisions that align with your goals and commitments especially when your glucose levels are depleted.
  6. While it may not always be possible to follow these guidelines, simply being aware that Decision Fatigue is compromising your decision-making effectiveness may help you to avoid a major fail.

photo credit: Daniel Oines