Spirited Communication

Tag: lesson

Getting Untangled

This week I brought in my Christmas decorations from outside my home and the power cords and timers that I used to light them at the appropriate time. I only had a short time to do that and so I piled the decorations, cords and timers on a workbench in my garage.

Today I finished packing the decorations and cords. When I looked at one 100-ft. power cord, I saw it was a tangled mess.

The cord was still functional; if I plugged it in it would provide power to whatever I plugged into the other end. But because it was tangled, it was more difficult to use. It couldn’t stretch to the distance that it was made to reach.

Isn’t that like us when we get tangled up in emotional and spiritual dilemmas? We can’t stretch ourselves to think and do some things that we are made to tackle.

Just like I had to work to untangle the power cord, we sometimes have to untangle our hurts, habits and hangups with the help of friends, family or professionals.

I felt so much better when the power cord was neatly wrapped around the holder. If you’re feeling tangled up today, use your faith, friends and family to begin loosening whatever is entangling you.

An uncluttered home, mind and soul is so freeing!

7 Tips To Reduce Physical Clutter

In my previous post, I suggested that we look for ways to remove clutter from our lives. That clutter could be physical, emotional, spiritual, or some combination of them all.

Knowing that this will be easier said than done for some of us, I’m allocating the next couple of posts to specific tips for reducing clutter.

Today, let’s take a look at physical clutter.

We may be able to hide emotional and spiritual clutter from people around us, but physical clutter tends to stand out. Unless we keep people away from our desk and surrounding office space, closets, garage and basement storage area, we WILL be found out.

A close family member and his spouse continue to rebuff my suggestions that they invite me to visit with them at their home. He is clear about the reason: they have too much “stuff” scattered throughout their home, and he doesn’t want to:

  • Clean and organize it
  • Deal with the reaction of visitors like me, if we would see the “mess.”

When I point my finger at my relative, I absolutely have three fingers pointed back at me. My wife and kids have commented several times regarding the number of boxes and bags that I have filled with notes and reference material for books and other projects that have not yet been completed (or started, in many cases).
Here are tips that I’ve found helpful, as I’ve begun to remove physical clutter from my home and workplace:

  1. Admit that you have a clutter problem. Because most people don’t spend time seeking out individuals who might require an intervention from a clutter issue, face reality if more than one person comments about the clutter in your workplace, car or home. Accept that your clutter is particularly noticeable—and that you probably could benefit from reducing it.Ask yourself: ”Would I feel less stressed and more efficient if I were to reduce the clutter in my life?”
  2. Get help—from an “accountability buddy.” At a minimum, you will achieve more if you ask someone to serve as an objective voice of reason and accountability. As you begin to decide what to keep and remove, this buddy will keep you focused and help with difficult decisions. The accountability buddy also will provide encouragement as you achieve small successes that you might not otherwise consider worth celebrating.
  3. Take it one step, one closet, one box at a time. I began my decluttering project recently by emptying one of the many bags that I have stored in my home office and basement storage area. I put aside a few items that were important and useful, threw away or shred many documents that were unnecessary, and made digital memories of items that I want to remember, but don’t need to keep.
  4. Digitize! I have accumulated a great number of trophies, certificates and knickknacks from my participation in professional organizations including Toastmasters and the International Association of Business Communicators—as well as from work-related conferences, workshops and promotional events. I’ve begun to scan the documents that I want to remember (drawings made by my kids when they were preteens are particularly valuable to me). I use my iPhone or a digital camera to photograph bulky items such as trophies. Then I either find a place that accepts those items (like the Nationwide Trophy Recycling Program), or I dispose of them.
  5. Donate. In addition to old trophies, look at other items to donate to worthy causes.
  6. Organize. Once you have cleared a shelf, a closet or a desktop, only put back items that are necessary, and be intentional about how you use that space, so that you aren’t tempted to put something there that doesn’t maintain the space’s primary purpose.
  7. Repeat. Understand that reducing physical clutter is not a one-time event. It is a daily necessity. Use discretion as you make choices regarding whether to bring new items into your work or living spaces.

Have you used any techniques for reducing physical clutter? I’d love to hear them. Either comment here or send me an email.

Next post: Reducing emotional and spiritual clutter

As Part of ‘Spring Cleaning,’ Remove Clutter

Physical, emotional and spiritual clutter can take a toll on us!

Physical, emotional and spiritual clutter can take a toll on us!

“It’s interesting to see that people had so much clutter even thousands of years ago. The only way to get rid of it all was to bury it, and then some archaeologist went and dug it all up.”
― Karl Pilkington, An Idiot Abroad: The Travel Diaries of Karl Pilkington

What would an archeologist dig up 1,000 years from now if he or she found your home or office?

What would a counselor dig up if he or she talked with you about the physical, emotional and/or spiritual “clutter” currently in your life?

Use today as an opportunity to begin to remove clutter from your life.

“A simple life is not seeing how little we can get by with—that’s poverty—but how efficiently we can put first things first. . . . When you’re clear about your purpose and your priorities, you can painlessly discard whatever does not support these, whether it’s clutter in your cabinets or commitments on your calendar.”
― Victoria Moran, Lit From Within: Tending Your Soul For Lifelong Beauty

Who Needs Training on Social Media, Anyway? (Part 2)

Commakazi was taught to prepare employees before launching a new business tool. But is social media different? Does it offer a 'new way' to roll out social media tools?

Commakazi was taught to prepare employees before launching a new business tool. But is social media different? Does it offer a ‘new way’ to roll out social media tools?

In Part 1 of this two-part post, I posed the question of whether the success of a social media implementation requires training and a formal introduction within an organization. I provided the context for a discussion that I had with a colleague from the company IT Department after a pilot implementation of the social media tool, Yammer, grew exponentially for a period of time, then stalled.

When I noticed that employees weren’t engaging on the Yammer site, I asked my IT colleague whether he had put together a plan to train employees on how to use Yammer. His response was to state that if an employee needs training on any social media tool, it is not intuitive enough to be successful in the long term.

Here are snippets of our email conversation.

 Do you think that people received training on Facebook, LinkedIn or other social media sites?  If a user needs training and the interface is not intuitive, it will ultimately fail.  It is the responsibility of the provider (in this case Yammer or Microsoft), that has the responsibility to make sure that the user can utilize the site without significant training. — My IT colleague

My response:

Points that you are not considering are:

A large portion of our non-I.T. employee base do not have the interest in technology that someone in I.T. has—and may struggle to find software “intuitive.”

We are all time-crunched, and simply WILL NOT spend time “reading the online manual.” That boils down to: “If I cannot quickly understand the value of this tool, and feel confident in using it in a productive way, I will put it aside.”

The “training” that we should provide goes beyond what you describe. Most people understand Facebook, but I have heard several comments from employees who do not understand the business use of Yammer and Lync. THAT, along with frustration over the limitations of this free Yammer version, is what ultimately will limit uptake of the tool.

I was amazed that the IT colleague thought that NO ONE receives training on Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media sites. A quick Google search returned millions of results for courses, webinars and other training just on Yammer!

As of the end of March 2015, only a handful of employees remain active on the company Yammer site. One area of the company regularly collaborates on the site, sharing questions, ideas and information. That is the only exception, save for a couple of people who regularly regurgitate company and product news that originates on other sites.


  1. Should employees receive training and introductory information prior to the launch of social media tools within a company?
  2. What has YOUR experience been with learning new social media tools?

Who Needs Training on Social Media, Anyway? (Part 1)

New Skills Concept.While cleaning out old emails from my work inbox, I reread an exchange with an IT colleague from a couple of years ago. I had purposely left the email unanswered at the time because I wanted to take a fresh look at what the IT colleague had said regarding the introduction of social media within the company.

Quite frankly, his response had floored me, and at the time, I didn’t want my incredibility at his response to cause me to write a harsh reply.

About two years later, my thoughts are the same, so here is what I hope becomes the start of a discussion with you regarding whether the success of a social media implementation requires training and a formal introduction within an organization.

Yammer LogoThe background is that some mid-level members of the company’s IT network area decided to make Yammer available to all employees by unblocking it on the company firewall. Not everyone is familiar with Yammer, so I’ll describe it here as “Facebook for companies.” Only people whose emails end with the company domain name (e.g., ju**********@us********.com) can register to that company’s Yammer site. Once someone registers, the site offers similar features to Facebook:

  • The option to post articles, links, photos and videos that other members of the Yammer group can like, share and use as the starting point of discussions.
  • Capability to see which group members are logged into Yammer at the same time, and the option to send a message just to a single member, in the spirit of instant messaging.
  • The option to save and share files.
  • The option to invite other people from within the company to join the Yammer group.

That last feature caused an unexpected (to IT) situation that led to me “talking” with the IT colleague via email.

The IT colleague decided, without input from me, marketing or company leadership outside of IT, to invite a few people into the company Yammer Group as a “pilot group.” To his credit, the IT colleague thought to include me, the communication guy, at that point.

However, the “pilot” quickly grew out of control, because Yammer wouild send a notice to the newly added group member with the names of several other employees, whom Yammer suggested inviting as well. What began as a small pilot group of 5 to 7 people soon ballooned to more than two hundred—and the number of new members continued to grow. That’s because people would ask their coworkers whether they had seen the new Yammer application. Not wanting to be left out, the coworkers would ask to be invited, and they, in turn, sent invitations to everyone they knew within the company.

Here’s the rub, and the point of my discussion with my IT colleague: The Yammer “pilot” was launched before anyone had discussed or developed:

  • Introductory communications that would ease concerns of employees regarding whether they were “allowed” to use Yammer at work
  • Basic user instructions regarding how to get the most from Yammer
  • Feedback and measurement mechanisms that would allow the Yammer “owners” to evaluate the effectiveness and value of Yammer within the company
  • A plan to promote and encourage Yammer usage throughout the organization and to align it with other communication vehicles already in-place
  • Contact information for employees who needed technical or administrative support

When I saw hundreds of employees who blindly joined the Yammer group without understanding what it was, and who mostly stalled after inviting their coworkers and making a single post of “Hi, I am on Yammer,” I reached out to the IT colleague.

Our interesting “discussion” is the subject of my next post.

‘Me, Myself and I’—The Correct Ways to Write About Yourself

Me Myself IMost of us want to make a good impression when we write and speak. The sad fact is that too many people have fallen into a grammatical quagmire by incorrectly using “me,” “myself,” and “I.”

Each of those three words has a specific, non-overlapping purpose.

“Me” is a singular personal pronoun used as an object in a sentence. For example:
“He gave additional work to me.” “Penny asked me to finish the assignment.”

“Myself” is a reflexive pronoun used in conjunction with “I” when describing something about yourself. For example, “I, myself, had to retake the test several times.” “I’m going to push myself to complete the run by 3 p.m.”

“I” is a first-person singular pronoun used as a subject within a sentence. For example:
“I completed the task.” “You, Elizabeth and I scored the highest.”

Here are some recent examples that I’ve seen, followed by a suggested correct construction. To avoid embarrassing anyone, I’ve changed names and other identifying nouns.

WRONG: “Please email myself, Mary and Carol a profile picture of yourself to help us promote you and the program.”
CORRECTION: “Please email me, Mary and Carol a profile picture….” It helps to read the sentence without the other names. It wouldn’t sound correct to write, “Please email myself a profile picture.”

WRONG:Myself and our former editor could not see the little twerp succeeding in the NFL.”
CORRECTION:I and our former editor could not see the little twerp….”

WRONG: “Between you and I, that last call was terrible!”
CORRECTION: “Between you and me, that last call was terrible!”

WRONG: “She sent the email to Sue and myself.”
CORRECTION: “She sent the email to Sue and me.”

Helpful Reader Gets a Free Plug

My thanks to freelance writer Hyrum Taffer (@HyrumTaffer on Twitter, who emailed to tell me that one of the links on an archived post of mine needed to be updated.

Hyrum then politely asked me to consider including a link to an infographic that provides data regarding teen drug use and the value of parental awareness. The broken link in my original post was to the DARE project, another teen drug awareness site.

When you come across broken links in sites you visit (and you will!), rather than ignore them, consider whether informing the site’s owner might open an opportunity for you to connect with a person, site or message that could benefit you or others.

'Have the Conversation' graphic


FORE! Drilling Communications Best Practices Into My Family

I’ve sometimes had to be creative in linking a thought or experience to a communication lesson or principle. It’s worth the effort in this case, so that I can tell you about how I accidentally drilled my 10-year-old daughter in the butt while golfing last week.

My wife and I had bid on a golf package offered at our church’s annual silent auction—and won. It covered greens fee and cart for a foursome at the same golf course where my company holds its annual charity golf outing. We decided that it would be fun to take our 12-year-old son, Kevin, and daughter, Caitlyn, for an afternoon of non-competitive golf. It had to be non-competitive because my wife had only golfed one other time, my kids were beginners, and on my best day, I have a bad day in terms of golf shots.

Communication lesson #1: Explain the rules clearly and before your son decides to tee-off. My friendly conversation with the starter turned ugly when my son decided that he was ready to tee-off—without waiting for the elderly gentleman who was about 75 years away on the near fairway, taking his second shot. As Kevin’s ball whistled past the elderly golfer, the starter began to yell, “Tell your boy to wait until the golfers are out of range!” I was so rattled, my subsequent tee shot dribbled about 20 yards.

Communication lesson #2: Establish the proper order for tee-shots. How many times have the best communication ideas gone flat because someone decided to jump out of order and messed up the timing or message flow? In this case, as the only member of the foursome who was hitting from the back tees, I should have hit first, while the rest of the foursome stayed behind me until after the shot. Their failure to do so resulted in Communication lesson #3.

Communication lesson #3: It doesn’t help to yell “fore” after the ball has tattooed your daughter’s rear-end. Yes, crisis communication needs to be ready in advance. In this case, my family had decided to take positions on the front tee before I had shot from the blue tees behind them. I was upset that they didn’t know the basic rule of golf etiquette that tells you to stay out of the way of a golf shot. I was about to say that, when my wife started driving herself and Caitlyn toward the rough on the right. The cart was moving slowly away from me, and was a little over 100 yards away, when I decided to tee off.

It was my hardest tee shot of the day, and it sailed straight toward the cart carrying my wife and daughter. Kevin said he yelled “fore,” but I was mesmerized, watching the perfect trajectory of the ball as it traced the path of my wife’s cart, and then caught it. We heard a loud crack that I thought was the sound of the ball bouncing off of the cart. But when I saw that my wife was hugging my daughter, I rushed over in my cart. Somehow, the ball had cleared the golf bags and the cart frame, and had struck my daughter’s butt on the fly. Kim was muffling Caitlyn’s cries, which was good, because anyone who would have heard Caitlyn crying at full throttle would have thought that we had amputated her leg without anesthesia. That gets me to the final point.

Communication lesson #4: People don’t want to hear facts when they are hurting. As it became clear that Caitlyn would survive the golf “spanking,” I grasped for words to express my feelings. Unfortunately, my feelings were less than sympathetic. “That’s why proper golf etiquette tells you to stay behind someone about to hit the ball,” I said, in as kind a tone as I could muster. In retrospect, I probably should have been clubbed myself for that comment.

Anyway, after some more hugging (with me reminding them that we were holding up the foursome behind us), we continued. My family stayed a respectful distance behind me on every shot that followed—even the putts. My daughter eventually forgave me, and stopped trying to hit me with her golf ball. My son enjoyed the day, because he constantly out-drove me and sometimes out-putted me.

My wife is still trying to figure out why she bought me golf clubs for Father’s Day. Next year, I get a tie, or something else equally soft.

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