Tongue Fu!®: How to Deal with Difficult People Without Becoming One Yourself

Would you like to know what to do when:

* people complain, gossip, tease, blame or argue?
* people are accusing you of something you didn’t do?
* people keep interrupting you and won’t listen to reason?
* someone at work is not treating you with the respect you deserve?
* a customer, coworker or family member is getting on your last nerve?u

We’re taught math, science and history in school; however we’re NOT taught how to deal with difficult people – without becoming one ourselves.

That’s where Tongue Fu!® – martial arts for the mind and mouth – comes in.
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Tongue Fu!® is a trade-marked process (and course and book) that’s been endorsed by Tony Robbins who calls it “terrific,” and Executive Book Summaries who says it’s a “MUST for anyone who deals with the public.” It has been taught to groups as diverse as Honolulu Police and Boeing and featured in Readers Digest and Washington Post.

These are the techniques you wish you’d been taught back in school on how to deal with the challenging situations you deal with on and off the job. Read ‘em and reap.

Tongue Fu!® Tip #1. “What can I do when people complain?”

When people complain, don’t explain, Take the AAA Train. Explaining why something wasn’t done when it was supposed to be done makes people angrier because explanations come across as excuses. Instead, Agree, Apologize, Act. “You’re right, Mrs. Smith, we were supposed to send that material to you last week, and I’m sorry you didn’t receive it yet. If I could please have your name and address I’ll personally put that brochure in an envelope and make sure it goes out today.” Voila. Complaint over!

Tongue Fu!® Tip #2: “What can I do if people accuse me of something untrue?”

Whatever you do, don’t defend or deny it. If someone blindsides you with an unfair allegation, “You women are so emotional!” and you protest with, “We’re not emotional!” you’ve just proven their point. Instead, put the conversational ball back in their court with, “What do you mean?” Asking them to explain themselves will cause them to reveal the real issue and you can address that instead of reacting to their attack. Imagine an upset client claims, “You don’t care about your customers.” Protesting, “That’s not true. We pride ourselves on our quality service” turns this into a “Yes we do – No you don’t” debate. Instead ask, “What makes you think that?” The client may say “I’ve left three messages and no one’s called back.” Aaahh, the real issue. Now you know what’s really bothering her and you focus on that instead of reacting to her attack.

Tongue Fu!® Tip #3: “What can I do if people are arguing?”

Stop disagreements with a hand gesture. No, not that one! If people are arguing and you try to talk over them, what will happen? They’ll talk louder. The voice of reason will get drowned out in the commotion. Putting your hand up like a policeman will cause them to pause for just a moment, which gives you a chance to get your verbal foot in the door. Then say these magic words, “We’re here to find solutions, not fault.” Remind them that John F. Kennedy said, “Our task is not to fix the blame for the past, it’s to fix the course for the future.” If the conversation starts deteriorating into a gripe session again, make a T with your hands and call out, “Time out. Calling each other names won’t help. Instead, let’s focus on how we can keep this from happening again.”

Tongue Fu!® Tip #4: “What if I have to give bad news?”

Don’t use the apathetic words, “There’s nothing I can do” or “There’s no way I can fix this.” A front desk manager at a hotel asked, “What can we say when people grumble about the rain? There’s nothing we can do about the weather. We’re not Mother Nature.” I told her, “The words, ‘There’s nothing” and “There’s no way’ come across as a verbal dead-end. People will conclude you don’t care. They’ll get more louder in an effort to make you care. Use the words, ‘I wish,’ ‘I hope,’ or ‘There’s something’ to let people know you’re trying to help them. Say, ‘I wish I could bring out the sunshine for you. I know you were looking forward to some beach time’ or ‘I hope it clears up soon. In case it doesn’t, there’s something I can suggest. Here’s a list of rainy-day activities so at least you can make the most of your visit even if the sun doesn’t cooperate.'” In the real world, we can’t always give people what they want and we sometimes have to deliver bad news. We can at least give people our concern and offer options.

Tongue Fu!® Tip #5: “What can I do if someone makes a mistake?

If something’s gone wrong,don’t “should” on people. When we tell people what they should have done, they will resent us – even if what we’re saying is right. Why? People can’t undo the past. If they’re being reprimanded for something they can’t change, they’ll channel their feeling of helplessness or guilt into antagonism towards us. My mom used to tell me, “We can’t motivate people to do better by making them feel bad.” Telling people what they “should” have done makes them feel bad and doesn’t teach them how to do it better. When people make a mistake, be a coach, not a critic by using the words “in the future” to shape their behavior instead of shame it. Focusing on what they can do “from now on” helps them learn instead of lose face and they’re a lot more likely to do things differently “next time.”

Tongue Fu!®Tip #6: “What can I do if someone’s teasing me?”

Develop a repertoire of Fun Fu! remarks. Erma Bombeck (bless her soul) said, “If we can laugh at it, we can live with it.” Are you sensitive about something? Perhaps you’ve put on a few pounds. You have a choice. You can be hyper-sensitive about this and give people the power to embarrass you, or you can come up with clever, non-combative comebacks and keep your wit(s) about you.

Want an example? I ran into a very tall man in an airport. The people in front of me were laughing and pointing at him. I thought, “How rude!” Then he got closer and I could see his t-shirt which said, “No, I’m not a basketball player!” The back of his shirt said, “Are you a jockey?” This man told me he used to dread going out of the house because everyone made smart-aleck remarks. He finally decided if he couldn’t beat ‘em, he might as well join ‘em. “This is nothing,” he said with a smile, “I have a drawer full of these shirts at home. My favorite says ‘I’m 6’13” and the weather up here’s fine.’ Ever since I started wearing these shirts,” he added, “I’ve had fun with my height instead of being frustrated by my height.” Fun Fu! responses can help you lighten up instead of tighten up so no one has the power to get under your skin or knock you off balance.

Tongue Fu!® Tip #7: “What if I have to tell someone no?”

Turn “NO, you can’t because” into “YES, you can, as soon as.”

Imagine a staff member asks, “Can I have my paycheck early? I’m going on a trip this weekend” and you answer, “No you can’t have your paycheck because it hasn’t been approved by payroll.” That’s the truth, however people will get upset because they feel you’re brushing them off.. The words “can’t because” are like a verbal door slamming in their face. Want good news? You can often approve requests with the words, “Sure you can, as soon as” or “Yes you can, right after.” Re-word your reply to, “Yes, you can have your paycheck, as soon as it’s approved by payroll. Why don’t we give them a call, explain the circumstances and see if there’s any way they can speed things up.” One manager said, “I can’t wait to use this idea at home. My kids see me as a ‘big meanie’ because I’m always telling them ‘no.’ Next time they ask if they can go outside and play with their friends, instead of saying, ‘No you can’t, because you haven’t done your homework,’ I’m going to say, ‘Sure you can, as soon as you finish your homework.’ Instead of seeing me as the one blocking what they want, this makes them responsible for getting what they want. It changes the whole dynamic of our relationship.”

Have these been helpful? Want more ways to turn conflicts into cooperation and keep your cool – even when other people aren’t? Check out Tongue Fu!®and Tongue Fu! at School.

Are you thinking, “I’ve tried these win-win approaches and they work with most people. However, there’s ONE person in my life who ignores all this.”

You may be dealing with a bully. Check out my Never Be Bullied Again video and take this quiz to see if you’re dealing with what I call a 5%er. If so, the tips in my Bully books can keep that person from mistreating you and ruining your quality of life.

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Sam Horn, Intrigue Expert and TEDx speaker, is on a mission to help people create mutually-respectful communications. Her work- including POP!, Tongue Fu!, Take the Bully by the Horns and Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? – has been featured in New York Times, Forbes, INC and on NPR and MSNBC and presented to clients as diverse as National Geographic, Four Seasons Resorts, Capital One, Accenture, Boeing and Cisco.

LeadHERship: Position Yourself for Pay Raises, Projects and Promotions

“Anyone who waits for recognition is criminally naïve.” – Congresswoman Barbara Jordan

Years ago, I had an opportunity to speak for the women’s leadership program for a well-known Silicon Valley company. My session was on Personal Branding, in particular how the women in this male-dominated company and industry could be more pro-active about fulfilling their potential; earning the respect they want, need and deserve; and positioning themselves for pay raises, promotions, projects and positions.

I had an opportunity to interview one of their senior executives to get his input on what I could cover in my presentation to make it maximally timely, relevant and useful. He shared an insightful story about how some women sabotage themselves when it comes to maintaining the visibility necessary to be considered for career advancement.

He said, “Sam, I try to be a champion for women, but sometimes they don’t help themselves.”

I asked, “What’s an example?”

He said, “Last year, we opened an office in Paris. A woman in my department had lived in France as a foreign exchange student and speaks French fluently. I thought she would be a real addition to our team there so I threw her hat in the ring when we were discussing possible staff selections.

The other executives at the table just looked at me with puzzled expressions. No one knew who she was. I went to bat for her and tried to explain why I thought she could help us ramp up this new location.

One of my colleagues finally recognized her name. He said, “Okay, I know who you’re talking about now. She’s sat in on some of my meetings. But she never says anything.’

She ended up NOT getting that position, and it wasn’t because she didn’t deserve it or wouldn’t have done a good job. It was because those decision-makers hadn’t witnessed her adding value and weren’t willing to take a risk on someone they didn’t know.”

I asked, “Did you talk to her about this missed opportunity?”

“I did. And when I asked why she didn’t speak up in those meetings, she said, ‘I tried to, but everyone just talked over me. I suggested a way to streamline some of our procedures, but no one listened. In fact, a few minutes later one of the men said pretty much the same thing and everyone went, ‘Great idea!’ I finally just gave up.’

I told her, ‘Don’t you realize, if you don’t say anything at meetings, you make no mark? The people there conclude you don’t have anything to contribute.”

I shared his input during my presentation and suggested several ways women could speak up at meetings so participants experience them adding value and have first-hand evidence of their LeadHership ability. Here are those six tips.

Six Ways to Add Value at Meetings so People Experience your LeadHership

1. Promise yourself you’ll contribute at least one ACTION-oriented suggestion at every meeting. Notice, I did not say an opinion, I said an action. Instead of simply sharing what you think or feel, contribute specific options of what can be done to move a project forward, turn an idea into reality, or achieve a company objective.

2. Never point about what’s not working – unless you immediately follow up with how this could be replaced with something more efficient and effective. In other words, instead of focusing on a problem and what’s wrong, focus on a solution and how this can be done right.

3. Do not defer compliments, graciously honor them. If someone praises you, instead of saying, “It was nothing.” or “My team deserves the credit.” say “Thank you. Your feedback means a lot.” Then, add a detail, e.g., “Our goal was to exceed our sales quota this quarter, so we identified three high-profile clients, reached out to them, and we’re pleased to land three new major accounts.” Then, talk about your next goal or upcoming initiative so people are aware of how you’re continuing to add value.

4. Keep your comments to two minutes or less. No one likes a windbag. Richard Branson said, “Time is the new money.” In today’s rush-rush, impatient world of INFObesity, time is the new TRUST. By keeping your remarks succinct, purposeful, pro-active and to the point, people will always want to hear what you say because you’re always a good use of their time and mind.

5. If someone interrupts, speak up instead of suffering in silence as they talk over you. Look at the person, use his or her name, and say, “Mark, let me finish” or “Elizabeth, I want to hear what you have to say right after I wrap up my report,” or “Bev, one more minute and then it’s your turn.” Then, be brief, but conclude your remarks. You’re not being rude, just clear and confident that you have the right to speak.

6. SIT TALL. If you slouch, tuck your chin in, or use a tentative, high-pitched voice, people will doubt your clout. Instead, roll your shoulders up and back and sit up straight. Think “Tower, don’t cower.” Speak with a warm, firm, lower-pitched voice of authority that projects so every single person can hear every single word.

A program participant chased me down in the parking lot after that Silicon Valley talk to thank me.

She said, “Sam, I was on the verge of quitting this company. I wasn’t getting credit for all my hard work and overtime, and I’d become really resentful. I’ve been putting out fires, saving the day, and no one seemed to notice or care. You helped me realize that I can’t blame my boss for not giving me the recognition I think I deserve if I’m not giving him evidence of all the ways I’m making a difference for our clients and company.”

Her feedback made my day because it reinforced the premise of my LeadHership program. It is idealistic and unrealistic to expect organizational decision-makers to know all the ways we’re contributing and to initiate on our behalf. They’ve got enough on their plate without taking responsibility for our career advancement.

It’s up to us to, diplomatically, give organizational decision-makers evidence of how we’re contributing so they experience our LeadHership first-hand. Only then will they be motivated to give us the promotions, positions, projects and pay raises we deserve. Only then will they know we’re “up to the task” and can be trusted to add tangible, real-world value because they’ve personally experienced us doing just that.

The career ball is in your court. How will you be a LeadHer at your next meeting?

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Sam Horn, Founder/CEO of the Intrigue Agency, is the author of Tongue Fu!, What’s Holding You Back? and Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? Her work has been featured in New York Times, Forbes, INC, NPR and MSNBC. Want Sam to inspire your group? Contact Cheri@IntrigueAgency.com to discuss your goals and ask how Sam can contribute to the success of your professional women’s group or event.

Got Focus?

Do you know one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned as a result of researching, writing and speaking about attention, concentration and focus?

If we want to truly FOCUS, we must first truly SEE.

Yet, to really SEE someone – or something – takes time, attention and intent.

Yet, as explained in Got Your Attention? … goldfish have longer attention spans than we do.

I’m not making that up. That’s from research by Harvard professor Nancy F. Koehn. Goldfish = 9 seconds. Human beings = 8 seconds.

What that means is we tend to rush through life distracted, impatient, perpetually on to the next thing.

At work, we’re constantly interrupted and besieged with conflicting priorities.

We rarely really focus on anything. As a result, we don’t really engage, we don’t really connect.

The good news? There’s an antidote to this.

Three times a day, take three minutes to do this simple ConZentration exercise:  stop what you’re doing and really SEE who you’re talking to, SEE what you’re doing.

As soon as you do, you will feel a newfound appreciation for that person or activity. You will find yourself really listening to that person. You’ll find yourself more deeply engaged in that task.

It’s amazing how accessible focus, engagement and connection are. They are, literally and figuratively, a moment’s NOTICE away.

I’ve collected my six favorite quotes about seeing – with some added comments – and share them here. they’re excerpted from Got Your Attention? on how to connect with anyone, anytime, anywhere  … and ConZentrate, a book I wrote about how to stay focused in an unfocused world.

Hope you find them thought-provoking. You might even want to post a favorite where you’ll see it every day as a reminder to stop and really SEE who you’re talking to, SEE what you’re doing.

Really seeing is the first step to being IN your life and truly experiencing and appreciating it – rather than rushing through it,  missing it and wondering what it was all about.

It’s the first step to staying focused at work instead of feeling constantly frazzled, frustrated and frenetic.

Six Quotes on How to SEE Your Way to Improved Focus and Connection

1.  The first words of our National Anthem, The Star Spangled Banner, are, “Oh, say, can you see…” The real question is, “Oh, say do you see…”

2. “Nobody sees a flower, really, it is so small, we haven’t time, and to see takes time.” – Georgia O’Keefe As mentioned, to see takes time and intent. We must give our mind an order and decide to focus our attention on THIS thing for THIS amount of time.

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3. “Develop interest in life, in people, things, literature, music. The world is simply throbbing with rich treasure, beautiful souls, fascinating people.” – Henry Miller There is no excuse, ever, for being bored. That is simply a lack of imagination.  Give your full focus to what you’re doing. Instead of doing things by rote, NOTE. Remind yourself what a miracle it is that you’re seeing, breathing, thinking, hearing, moving, feeling.

4. “Life is postponed until further notice.” -Sam Horn The quality of your life and work are directly proportionate to the quality of your attention and connection. Notice someone or something NOW.

5. “When the eye wakes up to see again, it suddenly stops taking anything for granted.” – Frederick Franck The second you really SEE someone or something; you’re flooded with renewed appreciation. Attention = appreciation.

6. “The whole of life lies in the verb seeing.” – Teilhard de Chardin Every time I see this quote, something deep within me says, “YES, emphatically YES.” Not seeing = not connecting.   Fully seeing = fully connecting.

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Want more? Check out Sam Horn’s books –  Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? which Marshall Goldsmith calls “a must for every leader” and  ConZentrate which Dr. Stephen Covey ( 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) endorsed as “Remarkable, fascinating, thought-provoking, motivating.”

Or, contact Cheri@IntrigueAgency.com to arrange for Sam Horn to present her GOT FOCUS? keynote to your convention or corporate meeting. Discover for yourself why her programs on how to focus and concentrate have received excellent ratings from NASA, been featured on NPR; and how they can help your employees be more focused, mindful, connected and productive at work.