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What my mum has taught me about communication skills

I spent this past Sunday celebrating Mother’s day with one of my favourite human beings in this world, my wonderful mum.

My mum and I are very close and have a great relationship. She is someone I respect and admire enormously and in the words of Celine Dion – I am everything I am because she loved me.

All that said, my mum and I are very different.  She is a text book introvert whereas I am a typical extrovert. When we completed the Myers Briggs profile we discovered she is an INFP to my ESTJ (these are complete opposites) and in our Insights profiles my mum leads with green and I lead with red. Again, fundamentally poles apart.

Being raised by someone who experiences this world so differently to me has been such an education in every way. Today I wanted to share with you the three things my mum has taught me about communication skills.

  1. Self and other awareness

Before Daniel Goleman there was my mum aka Little Sue.  Daniel may have introduced the world to Emotional Intelligence in his book in the late 90’s but for years before that my mum put self and other awareness   at the heart of her parenting approach.

My mum always believed EQ (Emotional Intelligence) was just as important, if not more important, than IQ. She always considered success in life is determined by so much more then exams and grades. My mum knew to thrive in this world, to navigate the grey, you had to be able to manage yourself and understand others.

Through my mum I learned, from an early age, the importance of having insight into myself as well as being mindful of others. She taught me the value of empathy, of really understanding and feeling the world from another’s point of view.

Today and every day I try and start with this awareness when I communicate. I ask myself who I am taking to  and  how might my  verbal and non-verbal communication impact them when delivering a message.  I even have a name for it – Audience Profiling.

  1. The power of silence

When I was growing up and the people in my life went silent I took it very personally. It felt like a cruel form of torture designed to punish me in some way.

Why wouldn’t they talk to me? Why wouldn’t they tell me what they were thinking, share every idea or tease out every possibility? Why wouldn’t they debate, discuss and argue with me? Anything .… ANYTHING but go quiet.

It took me a while to understand that for some people, when it comes to communication,  silence is essential. Silence allows them to hear their own voice. The need to go quiet, withdraw and reflect  is essential for them. I also discovered  their withdrawal  had nothing to do with me directly  therefore it was and is vital for me to respect someone else’s need to go silent.

I have learned from my mum that I must be disciplined enough to say something once and then stop talking. Saying it more than once is shouting and shouting is obnoxious communication.

Today I believe there is a  great power in silence. It means I pause and I listen. It means I  can hear my own voice. It means I am thoughtful in what I say and how I say it,  instead of blurting out words  without regard for how it might impact others.

Silence has become one of my favorite  secret weapons when it comes to great communication.

  1. Not to make assumptions

To explain  this lesson I need your help. I want you to elect a new world leader for me please.

Here are the facts about the three leading candidates.

Candidate A- Associates with crooked politicians and consults astrologists. He’s had two mistresses. He also chain smokes and drinks 9-10 martinis a day.

Candidate B- He was kicked out of office twice, sleeps until noon, used heroin in college and drinks a bottle of whiskey every evening.

Candidate C – He’s a decorated war hero. He’s a vegetarian, doesn’t smoke, drinks an occasional beer and hasn’t had any extramarital affairs.

Who would you choose as your world leader ?

We all make decisions and judgment’s based on the information we have. And often we  communicate before we have the full story

Without having the  full story, without asking the right questions and listening to the answers properly we can say the wrong things, in the wrong way, at the wrong time. We can make bad judgements that in turn lead to bad decisions, which in turn lead to bad communication.

Not judging a book by its cover and making sure I have the full story was something my mum required  of me before I judged or spoke.


Here are your World Leader candidates’ names

Candidate A – Franklin D Roosevelt

Candidate B – Winston Churchill

Candidate C – Adolf Hitler

I voted for Hitler too.

Our words have a great power. Every time we speak we have the potential to build or un -build a relationship. This is not something we necessarily get taught in school, college or the workplace  so I am incredibly grateful and blessed  I had such a great teacher  in my lovely mum.

For more information,  tips and strategies  check out The Presentation Book here


Ladies, do you want to communicate better? Then STOP doing these 3 things

Let me begin by saying ladies we have some massive strengths when it comes to our communication style. We are excellent listeners ( You know it ),  we are capable of great empathy ( Yes we are ), and we are excellent at picking up on body language and voice cues ( Go us !)

However, there are few things we do when we communicate that is sabotaging our ability to speak with impact.

  1. Being indirect

Let me be direct. When we speak we can sometimes take a while to get to the point right?

What this means in real life is when we speak we build up to our strongest point instead of leading with it.  We;

  1. Begin with background
  2. Go into detail covering all possible areas
  3. Finally, at the end, we get to the point !


The main reason we do this is we want to establish ourselves and our credibility before we give conclusions.  Unfortunately it is perceived by others are waffling, rambling and dithering.

If you are using this style I do understand why but you must ask yourself if your listener is going to wait until the end to get what they need. Would you wait that long?

To communicate with Impact you must be confident in yourself and your communication and lead with your strongest point for the listener

You then spend the rest of the time building your story and credibility around that opening point.


  1. Using weak language and filler words

This is probably the biggest weakness I see in women when they communicate.

‘We feel, we just need to, maybe, kind of, you know, make sure, we, em , ah, I guess, you  know, you understand where we are coming from’

Filler words represent a verbal hesitation that has to be filtered out by your listener. Repeated and excessive use of filler words weakens your credibility. It may be perceived as indicating lack of preparation, lack of knowledge, or lack of passion.

So why do we fill our communication with words that add no value and in fact detract from both our message and our overall impact?

There are three main reasons for the use of filler words:

  1. We are thinking as we are talking. We are thinking about what comes next because we haven’t quite figured it out yet. The reason is a lack of proper preparation and rehearsal.
  2. We are afraid of silence. A three-second pause can feel like three hours and rather than feel the discomfort we fill every second with a sound.
  3. We really are not sure what we are talking about so our filler words reflect the real amount of understanding we have about our topic – i.e. not enough

So how do you overcome these challenges?

  1. The first step is awareness. You must become aware of what filler words you are using and then identify from the list above why you think you are using them.
  2. The most simple and effective way to reduce and even eliminate filler words is to practice out loud a minimum of three times before you speak for real. This way you will have done your thinking and found your flow.
  3. Replace the filler word with a pause. You must plan to pause at key points either before or after you deliver an important message. A pause is when you stop, breathe in and breathe out. It lasts between two to three seconds. It will take time to get used to the silence but persevere.
  4. You must understand and get to grips with your own topic before you can communicate it to someone else. If you are not sure of your message no one else in the room is going to get clarity.


  1. Letting a lack of confidence define you

This is also a big one. When I run courses with women, anywhere in the world, at any level, they always tell me very honestly how they don’t feel confident enough. They tell me how they struggle with imposter syndrome and worry about having enough gravitas and presence.

Here’s the interesting part. Men feel the exact same way. They really do. They just don’t talk about it.

The good news is. Doubting ourselves is a human condition. Everyone feels it……….. Especially the ones who say they don’t.

The bad news is. I don’t have a magic solution to this I am afraid.

To have confidence you must have experience of doing something a lot and belief you can do it without making a fool of yourself (this comes from the experience).

We feel confident about the things in our life we are skilled at. We are skilled at them because we work hard at them and have earned the right to feel confident and competent. Just think for a second about something you feel confident about – I bet you worked very hard to earn that feeling.

Confidence is not acquired easily and you don’t get it for free. There is no shortcut to real confidence. The reasons you don’t feel confident as a communicator is:

  • You lack the experience (the skill);
  • You are not preparing properly or enough (you have not earned the right to feel confident).

Do your best to gain more experience to build the skill or do as much preparation as possible and you will feel more confident.

Most importantly though stop sabotaging yourself by telling yourself you are not confident enough.

You are brilliant, amazing, incredible and fabulous. Don’t you forget it.

Happy International Women’s Day 2017




What the biggest mistake in Oscar history can teach us about presenting

In what was the most dramatic moment in the history of the Academy Awards, La La Land was announced as the best picture  winner at the 2017 Oscars on Sunday night – but then had to hand the award over to the actual  best picture winner  Moonlight after a mistake was made.

The question is what can we learn from this extraordinary presentation blunder.

  1. Mistakes happen

If the Oscar mix up can teach us anything it’s that mistakes happen. Even to the best of us. Even at an event produced and presented by a team of media professionals in front of and behind the camera.

The Oscars ceremony, running for 88 years now, has back up plans for their back up plan.

A supposed fail safe system of having duplicate envelopes for each award in the wings for presenters ironically appears to be at the heart of this fiasco.

When you stand in front of a room full of people to present, like the Oscars, you are  live ! No editing, no cutting to commercial, no double takes and like live TV,  no guarantees.

So what do you do when the worst case scenario happens ?

  1. Choose integrity and credibility

Imagine  if, upon realising their mistake on Sunday, the people in charge  said nothing. What if they saved themselves the embarrassment and just let La La Land win ? Would that be ok ?

Of course not.

When you’re  in front of  an audience and you or someone on your presentation team realizes there is a mistake  you must admit the mistake.

“There’s a mistake. Moonlight, you won best picture,” announced  Jordan Horowitz, La La Land producer .He then held up the card clearly showing the winner was Moonlight.

There was nothing elegant about his announcement.  Just an abrupt interruption of cold hard fact which left the audience and the world shocked and  confused.

The truth is no matter how well a mistake is handled and communicated the surprise and  embarrassment will be fever pitch for all involved.

It’s  in this moment of mortification however a presenter, you,  must make the right choice.

You must choose to communicate with  integrity. You   must choose to maintain your credibility.

You  must tell the audience  there has been a mistake and most  importantly you must explain why the mistake happened.  The second part is vital to helping an audience process what has just happened

An audience is not out to get you. They will understand human error if you explain it to them.

Which brings us to lesson 3 –Your reaction matters.


  1. Your reaction matters

The reactions on the stage on Sunday were mixed

Warren Beatty was bewildered, Emma Stone was suitably shocked and Ryan, well Gosling giggled.

And it is Ryan Gosling’s  reaction that is gaining the most  attention in the aftermath.


It wasn’t  a funny situation per say but what Ryan’s response did was remind us it was not the end of the world. Nobody died.  Ryan’s giggle   allowed some relief to the audience amidst the tension of the situation.

Humour is not always appropriate but what is appropriate when mistakes happen is to relieve the audience of the burden of situation. You must get over your own feelings and ensure the audience is absolved of what is happening.

Even with preparation and planning mistakes happen. All I can tell you is when your moment comes take some solace in the fact it will not be watched by 32.9 million people globally and like Ryan, try and have a giggle if you can.

For more insider media tips and tricks check out The presentation Book here