Hard To Talk About

Fall is when I often get to teach fresh-faced young persons at various universities. I generally do this for free, so you might wonder why your kid’s tuition is so high when colleges get dropouts like me to work for coffee mugs and t-shirts. The answer is simple: I enjoy hanging out with energetic, smart, not-yet-cynical people.

However, it can be challenging being this kind of pro bono professor, primarily because my topics of communication, engagement and related human interaction require them to occasionally look up from their smart devices to make actual eye contact — that’s when they break out in a cold sweat. It’s unnerving for them but, then again, it’s unnerving for a lot of people these days. This is a problem.‏


The End of Conversation  

“I used to have a hard time remembering names until I took that Dave Carnegie course.” (Rimshot!)

That’s a very old joke about the memory, relationship, communication and sales skills taught by the Dale Carnegie system which apparently still thrives after more than 100 years:


People have even argued that face-to-face and interpersonal communication skills are old-school and just not worth the trouble to learn. What do you think?


Hard conversations scare most people. A lot of us are “conflict averse” and will do anything we can to avoid them. That usually means just kicking the can down the street and hoping that somebody else has to deal with it. As a result, things that should be dealt with and resolved are not.  Problems languish, bad feelings fester and smaller problems grow in status and volume. This is very common in government these days. Here’s one way to turn the temperature down:


And for even more details about managing tough conversations:


Shooting the Messenger  

Related to the topic above is the challenge of delivering bad news to people. The EPA’s recent handling of the Animas River spill comes to mind. It’s a fact of life, especially for regulators and elected officials, but nobody likes to do it. As a result, these folks often wait too long and then try to spin it, thinking that somehow people won’t get mad if they can come up with a good excuse or backstory. Don’t do that, and read on:


In tense, highly emotional confrontations, there are some people who can stay as cool as the other side of the pillow. These are the people who can manage their own reactions and calm troubled waters. Here’s some advice:


Getting Into Their Heads  

A long time ago, somebody taught me that you can’t force information into people’s heads…it has to be pulled in. Today, that little piece of wisdom still validates the basic understanding that people need to want to hear what you have to say before you stand any chance of getting your stuff into their heads. These 17 kind-of-unorthodox presenting tips are worth considering:


I have a client with an important public presentation to deliver late this month and she’s very nervous about it – she hates public speaking. A lot of people can relate, right? So, I’m working with her to tell an understandable and interesting story by growing her comfort level and confidence. I’ll use at least some of the following:


I’ve always thought that any kind of public speaking requires at least a little bit of performance art. Consider these tips:



One of this newsletter’s readers recently sent me a note asking that I include some more basic writing suggestions. I’m nothing if not obedient…


I have partners who actually paid close attention during English class, and now work hard to make sure that we don’t screw up the language like this:


TPC Training & Coaching  

The Participation Company (TPC) offers a variety of one- to five-day customized workshops dealing with public engagement, risk communication, public communication for technical experts, facilitation and other related topics. We can help you.

* “…the most professional, interesting, and worthwhile … class I ever attended”

* “As government employees we have our fair share of training. Not many rise to the level, as this one did, where you can say that it is one of the best courses you’ve ever taken”

* “That was definitely one of the very best training experiences I have had” 

Some of TPC’s  open classes include:

* The updated International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) 5-Day Foundations course:

* Fort Collins, CO November 3 – 5, 2015 (3-Day Planning)

* Great Falls, MT December 9 – 11, 2015 (3-Day Planning)

* Chicago, IL: December 14 – 18, 2015

* Arlington, VA: February 1 – 5, 2016

* Fort Collins, CO February 2 – 3, 2016 (2-Day Techniques)

* Fairmont, MT February 25 – 26, 2016 (2-Day Techniques)

* Phoenix, AZ: February 29 – March 4, 2016

* Austin, TX: April 18 – 22, 2016

Click on www.TheParticipationCompany.com for all of the registration information.

The Participation Company LLC is a strategic partner and provider for the International City/County Management Association (ICMA). 

Please forward this newsletter to anyone that you think might find it useful. We never, ever SPAM anybody and subscribing/unsubscribing is painless.
Remember: We waste our time surfing the Worldwide Interweb so you don’t have to…


Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in General