Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Best Letter of the Alphabet?


Email, texting, and instant messaging is a big part of how we communicate now.

With only words on a screen, we lose the face-to-face dynamic, but we gain the ability to think more carefully about what we say.

I’m continuously experimenting with how to use “magic words” to create more connection and be more influential through written communication.

One obvious way to do that is to use people’s names (don’t worry, that’s not the tip today). Dale Carnegie said, “A person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”

He had no idea just how right he was.

Modern science has shown that the human brain not only over-focuses on the sound of one’s own name, but it also gives extra attention to the letters in that name (particularly the first letter).

For example:

  • People whose names begin with T are more likely to purchase Toyotas than Hondas.
  • People whose names begin with J are more likely to live in Jacksonville than Albuquerque.
  • People whose names begin with C are more likely to prefer Coke to Pepsi.
  • People whose names begin with K are more likely to marry Kim than Lori.

Crazy, right?

Maybe not. Here’s some research and a possible explanation WHY:

Okay, back to our discussion. Want to grab someone’s attention in an email?

Use their name, AND use more words that prominently feature the same letter as their name.

For example, tell Fran that your product is fabulous, fantastic, or affordable, and tell Gary that your company is great and going places. Tell Tom that it’s a time-saver and tell Mike that it’s a money-maker. Offer Dan a deal but offer Barbara a bargain.

Simple, but powerful.

(And yes, this post contains all 26 letters of the alphabet. I made sure to include everyone.)

Is Your Phone Rotting Your Brain?


For generations, parents have been saying that too much television rots the brain. This means we also have generations of scientific investigation into the question of whether they were right. As it turns out, while more time spent in front of the tube does correlate with criminal behavior, psychological disorders, poor language skill, social deficiencies, and obesity, we’re not entirely convinced TV is to blame.

But what about your smart phone? Does that rot your brain?

Smart phones haven’t been around for as long, but people are already accusing them of making us dumb.

There have been many theories about exactly what phones are doing to our brains. Do they emit cell radiation strong enough to pop popcorn? Do wifi and blue tooth waves interfere with brain activity? Have our thinking muscles atrophied due to an over-dependence on Siri? Are we all getting hypnotized by Candy Crush?

There’s no question that cell phone use is a major part of our modern lives:

  • 91% of people report that they NEVER leave home without their phone.
  • We check our phones an average of 85 times a day (including immediately after waking up, just before going to bed, in the middle of the night, during meals, while spending time with family, while in the shower, and even during sex.)
  • 46% of people say they couldn’t live without a smart phone.

And there is legitimate concern that our brains are being affected by phones in ways that television never could. Empathy is down, narcissism is up, attention-deficit disorders have skyrocketed, depression, addiction, prescriptions of psychiatric medication, and many more all correlate with the rise of smart phone technology, social media, and the like,

But why?

A new study suggests that it might have something to do with how close your phone is to you.

The study found that having your smartphone on your desk reduces your working memory capacity by 10% and fluid intelligence by 5%. Even if you’re not using it!

Having it in your pocket is a better option, but it’s best to take it out of the room entirely, according to the study.

A 2014 study found that having a phone in sight (even if it is face-down and turned off) reduces the quality of in-person communications.

This isn’t caused by any kind of radiation beamed at you from satellites, however. Instead, it has to do with how often you think about the phone.

If your phone is on your desk, you can see it. Every time you see it, you’re reminded of it. Every time you’re reminded of it, you’re tempted to check it. Every time you’re tempted, it takes mental energy to resist that temptation. If it buzzes, forget about it.

It’s the mere presence of the phone; the idea of it that causes the effect.

So, while our brains aren’t physically rotting out of our skulls, these smart phones aren’t exactly making us smarter either.


Biggest Questions About Negotiation Answered

This morning, I spoke for IBTM America on the topic of how (and why) to create moments of human connection during a negotiation with either buyers or vendors/suppliers. (Above)

Before my presentation kicked off, I invited them to ask their biggest question about negotiation. Here are my answers:

  • How do I get most of what I want?

That’s the big question isn’t it? Zig Ziglar has some advice that lines up with the human connection message, “You can get anything you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.”

There’s that magic word, “help” again. Viewing the negotiation as a collaboration instead of a competition, and taking the perspective of the other party works wonders for increasing your piece of the pie…AND theirs.

  • What does the client want?

This doesn’t have to be a big mystery, although often it feels like it is. One of the first rules of negotiation is to be prepared. Many times you can find their priorities right on their web site. If not, it’s perfectly appropriate to ask, “If I had a magic wand, what would your ideal outcome look like?” Then be sure to follow up with, “What else?”

To find out what they REALLY want (on an emotional level), then you’ve got to dig deeper.


You: “If I had a magic wand, what would your ideal outcome look like?”
Response: “I’d need a space for 500, with free WiFi included.”
You (digging deeper): “If you had that, what would that do for you personally?”
Response: “I’d get a huge sigh of relief, because last year we didn’t have it and everyone was breathing down my neck.”‘

Now that you know what the client REALLY wants, suddenly it’s not about the WiFi. Things that were previously non-negotiable become a little more flexible if you can find a way to scratch the real itch that underlies their request.

  • How to do it right using email instead of talking?

The last thing you want is to get blindsided by a fast-talker. Email is great because it slows down the process and gives you time to think. Also, email gives you a written record. If they try to pin you down on the phone, you can say, “I’m happy to get you that information. What’s your email address so I can forward you a proposal?”

The challenge with email is you lose the human element and simply become words on a screen. Here are three ideas to create a human connection, even through email:

  1. Include your photo in your email signature file. One study showed that when medical professionals saw a photo of the patient, they were far more accurate while reading their CT scans. It’s amazing the power that a friendly face has to create a connection.
  2. Match their typing style. If they use short quick sentences and frequent paragraph breaks, you do the same. If they decide to go with one huge block of words, then mimic that. We like people who are like ourselves.
  3. We also like people who are HUMAN. So stop with all the professional-speak and write like you’re talking to them face to face. And don’t worry about the occasional typo. People who make small mistakes are seen as more likable and trustworthy than someone who is “fake-it-till-you-make-it” perfect.

Other than that, many of the same techniques will apply.

  • I like to ask the question, “Can you work with me?” to get negotiations going. Thoughts?

Great! A small change I’d make is, “Can you help me?” Helping is so much more fun than working. 🙂

  • How do we work together for a win-win?

Create a real human connection! Telegraph that you’re willing to collaborate, that you understand their side, and that you need their help and it’s amazing how quickly the whole vibe can change. They’ll be actively helping you find win-win outcomes instead of trying to rake you over the coals.

Be a giver first. If they choose not to “touch gloves and fight fair,” then switch to “matcher” mode and counter punch. Don’t let yourself get taken advantage of.

  • How can we speed up the negotiation process?

Simply asking for their “highest and best” offer (Or “lowest and best”) is perfectly appropriate if you offer a reason. In fact, some studies show that you don’t even need a reason as long as you say the word, “because” (yet another Magic Word).

“Is that your lowest and best? Because I’m fielding a lot of proposals right now and I won’t have time to follow up with you on this.”

  • How does one acquire great negotiating skills?

Study people! Read up on social psychology. Practice with small transactions (for example, try to get a free drink at Subway). Attend a training (Fred Pryor offers 1-day seminars on this topic all over the US and it’s cheap to attend).

Finally, join me for my two-minute Tuesday “Good At People” emails. You can sign up at the top of this page.

  • When to negotiate?

It’s always worth a shot. The simplest technique that I almost always use is to say, “Ouch” when they propose something. If I’m in person, I’ll visibly flinch. Even if they don’t come down on price, they walk away from the deal thinking they got every last cent. Which is good for future interactions as well as everyone having a sense of win-win.

  • What’s fair?

Trust your gut on this one. The fact that you’re even asking the question is a good sign. It shows you care about fairness. Don’t lose that.

Have a peek at Adam Grant’s great book, Give and Take to see why nice guys don’t have to finish last.

If you were there, thanks again for attending this morning’s session!

A Sneaky Idea for Your Next Staff Meeting


Because none of us is as dumb as all of us, right?

Could there be a less efficient process?

Have you ever left a regular staff meeting feeling fantastic and energized? Probably not. After all, you just spent forty minutes discussing what needs to be done, who needs to do it, and all the reasons why it won’t work. Now you probably feel like you’re at the bottom of a small mountain with very little motivation to begin climbing.

Fortunately, Ron Friedman, the author of The Best Place to Work, has a better idea. He suggests mixing in a different kind of staff meeting – one focused on accomplishments instead of upcoming projects.

He recommends broadening attendance to have at least a representative from various departments throughout the organization. The more the merrier.

Then open the meeting by simply asking, “Does anyone have any wins to share this week/month?”

I know this doesn’t sound very sneaky on the surface, but just watch as the scene unfolds. You can expect people to begin deflecting attention away from themselves and offering gratitude to others. That’s what you really want.

If you’ve read my book, Magic Words, then you know the power of a simple “Thanks”. People who feel appreciated work harder, longer, and are more innovative. But that’s not even the best part. Those who FEEL and EXPRESS gratitude enjoy a host of benefits, including less stress, better sleep, and longer life spans (an average of seven years longer!)

However, cultivating gratitude can be challenging. If you try to force it, then it feels inauthentic and loses its magic.

Without taking a moment to reflect on accomplishments and express gratitude to each other, you and your co-workers will feel stuck in the rat race. Each project turns into yet another project and there are endless emails to get to. If it’s always go, go, go, then you can expect diminishing returns, burnout, and high turnover.

Here’s what you can do RIGHT NOW:

  1. Take a minute at the end of each work day to jot down what you got done that day. (If you like crossing items off a to-do list, then you’re going to LOVE adding items to a “DONE!” list.) NICE BONUS: This will give you a pile of documented accomplishments for when it comes time for your next performance review or salary negotiation. You’re welcome.
  2. Reach out to those who have helped you along the way and offer a simple “Thanks!” every day. This alone will noticeably improve your relationship with your co-workers and your own job satisfaction.
  3. Forward this article to whoever runs the staff meetings in your organization and suggest that you give it a try.
  4. Share a win and thank someone at the next staff meeting. Just do it. You don’t need permission. Others may even pick up on the practice and the idea can spread rather quickly.

How to Spot a Liar’s Verbal Misdirection

Liar nose

When a magician makes a girl disappear, she’s not really gone. Spoiler alert – she’s usually hiding in some tight, cramped spot out of sight. That’s part of the reason why magicians hire petite assistants. (The other reason is the fact that petite women draw the eyes of the audience. That’s called misdirection.) Sometimes the word “not” pulls a similar disappearing act.

Very often, we take out one of its three letters and attach the other two to whatever word came before it. It hides. “Do not” becomes don’t. “Is not” becomes isn’t. “Have not” becomes haven’t. The “not” is still there, it’s just hidden.

When we’re lying, however, we don’t want the “not” to be hidden. Interestingly, we’re much less likely to contract our “nots” when we’re lying. According to Pamela Meyer, author of Liespotting, an intentionally deceptive denial will feature extra emphasis placed on the word “not”. It will rarely be hidden within a contraction.

“I am NOT a crook!” and “I did NOT have sexual relations with that woman…” are both well-known examples of deceptive statements in which the speakers, in these cases, past Presidents of the United States, both avoided using contractions. I’m sure you can think of dozens of examples from history or even your own life where this was also the case – especially if you’re a parent.

On some level, liars know the word “not” is prone to vanishing so they shine a spotlight on it to make sure it doesn’t go anywhere in hopes of making their statements seem more truthful. See? Misdirection.

Does this mean that everyone who uses the word “not” is lying? Absolutely not. Deceptive denials will show up out of the blue and without any prompting from you. When your teenage daughter says, “I don’t have anything!” even though you didn’t ask, or when your coworker says, “I’m not racist,” despite the fact that the conversation had nothing to do with race, then – contracted or not – it’s a good sign that there might be some deception going on. When they come out of the blue like that, “nots” should raise a red flag. However, when you ask someone a direct question, whether or not they contract their “nots” hints at the truthfulness of their answer.

For example, you might ask an employee the direct question “Did you claim any non-work expenses on this report?” If they respond with a contracted statement such as, “I didn’t falsify my expense report.” then that’s an indication that the statement is more likely to be true. However, if they come back with, “I did NOT falsify my expense report” then you’re more likely to have a liar on your hands.

Of course, no one thing is 100% accurate when detecting deception. Be sure to keep in mind all factors* in a given situation if you ever attempt to distinguish truth from lies.

* For a crash course in detecting deception taught by Tim David, visit: