By Lynne Franklin (reprinted with permission)
Kathy was my first assistant when I was working at a public relations agency in my twenties. I made a point of writing thank-you notes to her when she finished something for me.
Walking through the office one day, I heard Kathy talking to another assistant. She said, “Lynne writes me thank-you notes for everything. That makes them all kind of meaningless.”
I was shocked! I thought I was being a good supervisor … Not knowing what to do, I never discussed this with Kathy and just wrote fewer of them.
What’s the Difference?
Praise is defined as “the expression of warm approval or admiration.” It comes from the Latin pretium, meaning “reward, prize, value, worth.”
Gratitude is “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” Its root is the Latin gratus, for “pleasing, agreeable, thankful, grace.”
If this seems like so much hair splitting, here’s the sense I make of it. Praise recognizes something a person has done. Gratitude is about the meaning of what they do and who they are to you.
With that in mind, I can see how my notes fell short for Kathy. They didn’t show approval or admiration of her work. Nor did they show appreciation or a wish to be kind back. She was right: my scribbles were a meaningless pleasantry that made me feel good.
Our Brains on Gratitude
Here’s the great thing. Gratitude is a gift to the giver and receiver.
It stimulates both brains to produce the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, which make us feel good and boosts our moods. It also reduces fear and anxiety by lowering the amount of stress hormones in our systems.
When we practice gratitude every day, this rewires our brains. We strengthen these neural pathways, making us more grateful and positive by default. (This affects the people around us, because moods are contagious.)
Then we all get the documented benefits of gratitude:
- Being happier—having more positive emotions and thoughts, becoming more aware and awake, feeling greater satisfaction with ourselves, enhancing our mood
- Being healthier—building a stronger immune system, having fewer aches and pains, having optimum blood pressure and heart function, experiencing better sleeping and waking cycles
- Being better versions of ourselves—improving our communication with others, having more empathy, having stronger relationships, being more likeable, being a more involved team member
Don’t make my mistake of sending thoughtless thank yous. Whether giving praise or gratitude, be specific:
- Praise—“You did a great job of leading that meeting, Kathy. You kept things moving. We got a lot done—on time! And now everyone knows what to do next.”
- Gratitude—”You’re an inspiring leader, Kathy. This meeting is a great example. Not only did you get everything covered in an hour, but you made sure we all felt involved in the solution and know what to do next. I’m so happy to be part of your team because we’re making a difference!”
Look for opportunities to express gratitude. It could be a comment—face-to-face or phone/Zoom/Skype. It could be a note—which has even more impact when you deliver it in person, or even read it out loud to the recipient first. It could even be thinking about someone and thanking that person in your head. And don’t forget to regularly send yourself a note or thought of gratitude.
Make gratitude a practice. Some people keep gratitude journals, where they write what happened this day or week that they’re grateful for. Or they have a “gratitude partner” whom they regularly discuss this. Whatever path you choose, focus on how these instances made you feel.
In the middle of your over-busy day, take time to notice and express appreciation. Consider it the emotional equivalent of the boost you get from coffee or chocolate—without the calories!
Lynne Franklin is a communications expert who can increase your persuasiveness in three ways:
- Speeches, workshops and coaching that give you tools you can use right away
- Strategies that help you turn difficult business communications into opportunities to succeed
- Written and spoken communications created to reach your corporate and marketing communication goals
Get more people to do what you want. Let Lynne show you how. Call 847-729-5716
With April Fools Day approaching, tickle your funny bone with these puns to share with friends. These came from Todd Hunt:
1) Acupuncture is a jab well done.
2) If a clock is hungry does it go back four seconds?
3) Without geometry, life is pointless.
4) Corduroy pillows are making headlines.
5) I did a theatrical performance about puns. It was a play on words. (Barbara’s favorite)
These came from a faithful reader of Add Power to Your Pen:
- No matter how much you push the envelope, it’ll still be stationery.
- Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.
- Atheism is a non-prophet organization.
- A backward poet writes inverse.
- If you jumped off the bridge in Paris, you’d be in Seine.
OK – your turn. Write your best/worst puns in the comments!
By Abby Marks Beale
Don’t you just envy people who always keep up with their reading? You may be surprised to know that a quick reading speed is not the only way to get caught up. It’s those who devote an adequate amount of TIME to it are also the ones who are not haunted by their “to-read stack.”
Being Intentional with Your Reading
That makes sense, you say, BUT you’re feeling time-starved? It’s really as simple as being intentional about wanting to make more time to read.
Review these common-sense suggestions. Which ones do you already do? Which ones you can start doing to relieve your reading guilt and get more reading done?
Capitalize on free moments by always having something with you from your reading pile – be it digital or on paper – and kept in your car, in your purse or briefcase, etc. An unexpected delay in an appointment is now viewed as a gift of time.
Watch less (or no) TV! If you watch an hour or more of television a day, just think how much reading you could get done if you swapped some TV time with reading just a few days a week!
Only read things that are of value to you so you don’t waste your precious reading time on useless material.
Plan it! Make an appointment with yourself during work hours (this may mean moving to a conference room to get peace and quiet), on weekends (you can read while kids are watching cartoons) or during your commute (if you have one where you’re not driving!)
Try to read more at your peak time(s) of day – your most mentally awake and alert times. If you are a morning person, then make some time then. If you are a night owl, carve out time after dark.
Upgrade your reading skills so however much time you do spend, you get a lot more accomplished! You can take our interactive reading course online OR if you prefer to learn auditorily, you can start by listening to the 10 Days to Faster Reading audiobook available on Audible.com.
March is National Reading Month. Here’s to getting more time to read!
Abby Marks Beale makes a difference in the world through her speed reading programs, which I highly recommend. Details at https://revitupreading.com
How will you celebrate National Reading Month? Please comment here.
Dictionary.com’s 2018 Word of the Year—misinformation—is more than a word; it’s a call to action.
Dictionary.com defines “misinformation” as “false information that is spread” and goes on to say its rampant spread poses new challenges for navigating our communications today.
The meaning of “misinformation” is often confused with “disinformation,” but the two aren’t interchangeable. “Disinformation” means “deliberately misleading or biased information; manipulated narrative or facts; propaganda.” The difference between “misinformation” and “disinformation” is marked by intent.
That means when people spread “misinformation,” they believe the information they are sharing. In contrast, “disinformation” is crafted and sent out with the intent to mislead others. A piece of “disinformation” can ultimately become “misinformation” depending on who’s sharing it and why.
For example, if politicians strategically spread articles, photos, etc. they know to be false, that’s “disinformation.” When a recipient sees the information, believes it, and shares it, that’s spreading “misinformation.”
Misinformation vs Disinformation – Know the Difference
The point is to learn the difference between them, then heighten your sensitivity to their nuances—and don’t knowingly spread either.
What can you do to fight misinformation at work and outside of your job?
Armed with awareness, you can:
- improve your own media literacy by carefully considering your sources of information
- fact-check stories you read on social media before believing them
- commit to reading entire articles, and not just headlines, before sharing them
- point others to fact-checking resources when you see misinformation spreading
- learn to recognize misinformation and wrk toward stopping its spread
I encourage you to read more on this hot issue by doing an online search. Share your thoughts here.
By Mary Walewski, guest blogger
It’s time for holiday parties—a season when you attend parties where you only know a few people. There you are, chatting away with total strangers when someone asks you what you do for a living.
“I write books. I just published my latest one,” you say.
“Wow, you wrote a book? What’s it about?”
Before you start on a blow-by-blow description of your subject or plot that leaves them looking around the room for somebody—anybody—to interrupt you, STOP.
You’ve just received an invitation to practice your Very Short Description of What Your Book Is About. Its purpose is to keep the conversation going. Most authors feel they need to relay a lot when they’re asked, “What’s your book about?” But that’s not what people really want. They want a one- or two-sentence answer to respond to and generate a conversation.
What is Your Very Short Description?
Before you go to your next party, practice a 10- to 20-second description that will encourage others to respond with questions, not leave them looking for an escape. It’s natural for you to want to tell them all about your book. But, please remember, this is a conversation, not a sales call.
What happens when you begin to describe everything in your book? You shut down the conversation and the other person becomes a hostage to your narrative. Instead, reply with something like, “It’s a mystery novel set in a hospital.” This is short and concise, while encouraging the other person to say something like, “Wow, I’ve always wanted to write a book. How did you get started?”
Then the conversation can continue to a natural conclusion—and that person isn’t suddenly seeing someone across the room to speak to.
Ideas for What to Say at Holiday Parties
Examples of your Very Short Description of What Your Book Is About:
- If it’s nonfiction, what problem does it solve? Who is it for?
- “It’s a self-help book for single fathers on how to start dating after divorce.”
- “It’s a diet book for people who don’t want to give up carbs.”
- If it’s fiction, state the genre (Is it mystery, detective, romance, etc.) and where it takes place.
- “It’s a historical novel set during the California Gold Rush.”
- Who’s your main character and what happens to him/her?
- “It’s set during the California Gold Rush. It’s about a sheriff who falls for the local madam in a mining camp.”
May all of your conversations at holiday parties end with “Where can I buy your book?”
Enjoy the season!
Mary Walewski is a book marketing consultant who works with indie authors and publishers. Request her online report The 5 Marketing Habits of Successful Authors at Buy The Book Marketing.com.
by Barbara McNichol
Whether you’re writing an email, an article, a report, or a proposal, never leave your readers guessing what you really want.
Specifically, they shouldn’t have to wonder about these two critical components of communicating:
- Why have you told them this information?
- What are they are supposed to do with it?
It’s easy (and lazy) to say, “Give clear instructions and point readers to their next action.” But here’s a more concrete method.
Use a planning tool called Setting Your Objectives that echoes the traditional journalism basics: Who, What, Why, Where, When, and How.
Before you write the first sentence, answer each of these questions on paper as they apply to the written piece you’re crafting. The more detail the better . . .
WHO: Target Audience—Who will read this? What do you know about them already? Who will be affected by what your message says?
WHAT: Message or takeaway, including call to action—What do you want the reader to do, think, believe, or remember as a result of reading your piece? E.g., Attend this important meeting. Consider this point of view. Review this proposal. Refund my money.
WHY: Purpose and benefits—Why do the readers need this information? What’s in it for them? Why should they care?
WHEN & WHERE: Logistics—What details need to be spelled out? If it’s an event or meeting, specify the time, location and other essential facts.
HOW: Style and tone—How do you want your reader to “hear” you? E.g., polite, apologetic, excited, firm, demanding, laid back, urgent, or something else?
Once you’ve thought through all of these, it’s smooth sailing. Why? Because your brain has already included the critical points and especially the two we started with:
- WHY you have told them the information
- WHAT they’re supposed to do with it.
By consistently using the planning tool Setting Your Objectives, you’ll find you can craft your pieces more quickly and more completely every time.
How do you ensure your writing is communicating with your readers? Learn more at www.WordTrippers.com
by Kathleen Watson
Do you have difficulty when it comes to choosing who or whom in your writing?
Some think whom sounds stuffy and pretentious.
When did proper grammar become stuffy? I think that’s an excuse made by people who don’t know the difference.
Does anyone criticize Ernest Hemingway for using whom in the title of his famous novel For Whom The Bell Tolls?
Here are three guidelines to help you recognize whether to use who or whom:
- Who is the doer of the action.
Who was driving the car?
He was critical of people who didn’t support his decision.
The winner, no matter who she is, will wear the crown for a year.
2. Whom is the object, the person acted on, and it often is preceded by a preposition (at, in, for, from, of, to, with).
Did you speak to her? To whom did you speak?
Who gave you the check? From whom did you get the check?
Did you take a walk with her? With whom did you take a walk?
3. Consider these substitutions as shortcuts to helping you make the right choice:
he, she, they (subjects) = who
him, her, them (objects) = whom
Who was driving the car? He was driving the car.
You invited whom to dinner? You invited her to dinner.
For whom were members of the audience applauding? Members of the audience were applauding for them.
Do you have sentences that you question if who or whom is correct? Submit them here for a reply.
by Kathleen Watson
According to merriam-webster.com, scientists in the mid-19th century needed a word to describe the most favorable point, degree or amount; the best condition for the growth and reproduction of an organism. They took “optimus” from Latin to create the noun optimum.
It filled the scientific need, and optimum eventually gained use beyond the scientific community to broadly imply the best or most desirable.
A few decades later, optimum was being used as an adjective as well as a noun. That’s when optimal was coined to serve as an adjective, but the distinction is either not understood or not accepted by everyone.
A popular resource for writers, Garner’s Modern American Usage, prefers “optimum” as the noun and “optimal” the adjective.
Noun Examples: optimum
These examples show how optimum is used as a noun (the best condition or amount):
Professor Albertson was pleased that the soil conditions of the test garden finally reached their optimum.
The pass interception yielded the optimum the coach could have hoped for.
Your thorough preparation resulted in the optimum your job search could have achieved.
Adjective examples: optimal
These examples show how optimal is used as an adjective (the most desirable, most favorable, most effective). Note that optimal is followed by the element it modifies:
Once students achieved optimal soil conditions for the test garden, the plants thrived.
The quarterback’s injury contributed to an optimal opportunity for a pass interception.
Because of your thorough preparation, your achieved optimal results from your job search.
I align with those who recognize and appreciate the distinction between optimum and optimal. Consider these pairs of words that follow the same noun / adjective pattern as do optimum and optimal:
bacterium / bacterial
cerebrum / cerebral
cranium / cranial
minimum / minimal
If optimum and optimal mean the same thing — if they are interchangeable — why do both words exist? Choosing one word over another because of its precise meaning or nuance separates the thorough writer, editor, or publication from the rest.
Kathleen calls herself the Ruthless Editor. She has created Grammar for People Who Hate Rules to help people write and speak with authority and confidence. Kathleen can be reached at email@example.com.
In your opinion, are these two words interchangeable?