Tag Archives: Debra Fine
Posted on Monday, March 16th, 2015
Google ‘fear of public speaking’ and you will be inundated with articles. Not one of them says run from the room screaming, so you’re out of luck there.
I’ve written more than a few articles, book chapters, and cheat sheets on ways to overcome what still appears to be the number one phobia in the US.
Dr. Paul L. Witt, assistant professor of communication studies at Texas Christian University, claims making a public presentation is “even scarier than rattlesnakes.”
If you have an engagement coming up and you are nervous about it (and you probably are because everybody is), there are ways to ease the anxiety. Preparing, practicing, exercising, breathing, medication and even donning a pair of lucky socks can help. But what if you are under a surprise attack? What if, as bad luck would have it, you are asked to make a presentation or speech or toast right now?
First, don’t panic. (Don’t you just hate when people say don’t panic? I know, I know. But, really, try not to panic.)
And next, try this:
Take A Deep Breath And Then Take A Few More
Give yourself the gift of oxygen and time, both in equal measure. Remember, you don’t have to jump up and start the song and dance routine right away.
• Breathe (again)
• Stand up (if necessary – if the situation allows for you to stay in your seat, then do so and be grateful)
• Politely thank the horrible, hateful person who has done this to you
• Take a sip of water
• Remind yourself that you know what you are talking about and (no offense) not everyone is going to hang on your every word anyway, so you are not going to die
Now it is time to actually speak, here is a plan:
• Introduce yourself, if necessary
• Do not apologize for yourself with something like I’m not great at public speakingor I am not prepared or I know these pants are too tight but I was running late and I like donuts, because you just set yourself up for criticism or sympathy and neither are great in this scenario
• Reiterate what’s been said so you can get the ball rolling: As Jim (aka Satan) mentioned, we are launching a new product line in May, 2017 and it promises to bring major change to the marketplace
Engage the Three Two One Strategy and Use “We”
Pick three positive points, two potential negatives and finish strong:
• Our research shows that 68% of our potential customers will benefit from this product, and that interest is high based on market analysis.
• The marketing team has created a far-reaching marketing and advertising campaign that will incorporate social media, television and print, thus capturing a wide audience
• We’ve looked closely and carefully at the cost analysis and it appears that this product could potentially bring in more than $2 million over the next 18 months
• Our team still has work to do around the production schedule, but our goal is to finalize those details by year-end
• We are still in talks with investors on how and when we can bring this full-circle
• The future looks bright for our company and our customers
Open The Floor For Questions But Be Careful What You Ask For
Questions are a great way to keep the conversation going without having to carry the weight solo. It’s important to open the floor for questions without stepping too far down the rabbit hole, so instead of saying:
• Any questions?
• I’m happy to try to answer any questions I can or
• Great question and we will be ready to talk more about in November
• This will project a confident image even if you don’t have the specific answer at the moment
Wrap It Up
State that your time is coming to an end and wrap up the meeting:
• We have time for two more questions
• Thank the audience and that troll Jim for getting you into this nightmare, then smile, hold you head high and mentally pat yourself on the back (not literally, you just made it through a spur-of-the moment speech, don’t embarrass yourself now!) because You. Did. It.
Bring on the rattlesnakes.
this post originally appeared on The Huffington Post
Posted on Monday, February 23rd, 2015
The human heart is a truly amazing mechanism; so hard working and tough under pressure, but oh so easily damaged.
We all have heartbreaks (I can’t even discuss my 7th grade boyfriend saga. A tragedy of epic proportions). Disappointments and suffering and grief and anguish are all part of life. Hooray for us!
We have all heard bad news and immediately gone to that big Rolodex in our head searching, desperately, for the right thing to say. Or we’ve skipped the search and blurted out something clichéd and trite before quickly excusing ourselves to privately negotiate our own foot into our mouth. Or — the worst crime of all — we’ve been faced with bad news and said absolutely nothing.
Neil Rosenthal writes a stellar column in The Denver Post appropriately titled “Relationships.” His January 29th piece highlights the importance of an empathetic response. As Rosenthal points out, a thoughtful response is certainly needed in times of tragedy, but even the day-to-day frustrations that affect us all would benefit from a kind and compassionate acknowledgement.
When dealing with a loss, phrases like: Time heals all wounds or It was his time to go are common. And sort of a cop out. Why? Because they don’t really mean anything to the person who is suffering. They are just words. Words that can leave the listener feeling worse than when they started. Because only words that “honor your feelings of loss and sorrow,” writes Rosenthal, truly honors the emotions around an issue that causes turmoil.
Rosenthal, referencing How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It
written by Pat Love (not kidding) and Steven Stosny, makes a case for how important it is to “step into the puddle” with others. Stepping into the puddle means offering our “heartfelt presence, caring concern and participation” when others need it most. And even when they don’t. By employing the puddle technique to everyday life, communication and connection are bound to improve.
So, how exactly does one ‘step into the puddle’ without getting drenched? By offering statements with a little more meat and a lot less fluff — like this:
When your spouse walks in after a long day of work, it’s temping to pull out the eye roll or the Ha! You think YOUR day was long, well let me just tell you about MY day… instead try saying:
I am so sorry about your day and I am so glad to have you home safe and sound.
When someone is dealing with a death, resist the He’s in a better place or Call me if you need anything and try This must be really difficult; I can’t imagine what it feels like to lose a sibling. Your brother was one of the funniest men I’ve ever met — I still laugh at the fun we had skiing in Vail. How are you handling everything?
Whatever the situation — death, job loss, hard day at work, tough day at home with children or even the tragedy of a 7th grade break-up, by acknowledging, truly, the heartache of others, we can make a big impact and — just maybe — lessen the blow.
This blog was originally posted on The Huffington Post.
Posted on Friday, January 9th, 2015
I had grand plans to stay on track over the holiday season, but people kept FORCING me to eat and drink and be merry. It’s rude to turn down a glass of champagne. And a cookie. And then another cookie. It is.
As I was trying to figure out my 2015 resolutions while sweating it out on the elliptical, I had an epiphany. I — anyone really — can lose five pounds immediately by doing one simple thing: putting down the devices.
By ridding ourselves of the laptop, and smartphone, and e-reader, and tablet, and ear buds, and Go Pro camera, and selfie stick and charger (and backup charger and solar charger) and whatever else may qualify we can experience instant weight loss. Like magic. Try it:
Hold all your devices and get on the scale.
Toss all your devices and get on the scale.
See? It works.
But we all know that when it comes to these hand-held handcuffs it’s really not about the physical weight, is it? It’s about how being constantly connected, in-touch, and interrupted can take a toll.
I talked to a handful of mothers who were in a quandary about gifting their children with smartphones or tablets. Why? Because they were afraid of losing their children to the ever-addictive world of electronics. One parent sighed, “I’m afraid I won’t see him after 9AM Christmas morning if I give him the iPhone 6 he’s been asking for since August.”
But electronic addiction doesn’t just affect the under-20 crowd. My friend’s father-in-law received a Fit Bit and was so enthralled by the constant feedback he actually fell off the curb while trying to amass his 10,000 steps. So much for a peaceful walk on a chilly morning. He’s currently chilling his swollen ankle with an ice pack.
By now we know that technology is not going away. And technology is not a bad thing. Just like cookies and champagne aren’t bad things (the exact opposite in my opinion, but I digress) especially if enjoyed responsibly. It’s just about a bit of moderation and employing some boundaries or, if that’s too strong a word for you, some flexible agreements.
Maybe 2015 COULD be about losing the weight of technology. Maybe it’s time to sit down as a family and determine when using devices is ok and when it is not. Not ok might be in the early morning hours before the first — or second or third — cup of coffee. Or at night in bed, considering that blue light is apparently Mr. Sandman’s archenemy. Perhaps dinner and the hour after school is tech-free, ensuring that you actually have a shot of seeing your child’s face instead of the top of his head. Together, create a framework for when it is ok — the hour before dinner or the 15 minutes before school as long as other tasks have been completed.
And how about workplace situations? Is it really necessary to place the smartphone on the conference room table? Probably not. The office is tech-heavy as it is so an hour without being attached to a device is like vacation! If you’re running the meeting, offer an empty basket at the entrance to the meeting with a note that simply states: Please silence phones and leave in this basket until the meeting adjourns. You will get some huffs and eye-rolls (after all, we are all a little childish when it comes to putting down a toy/gadget of any sort), but your colleagues might just thank you later for the free weight loss.
I recently came across this very same topic in a magazine article about graciously managing technology when entertaining guests. It was in a below-the-Mason-Dixon-Line publication I was leafing through while sitting in a lobby NOT on my phone (full disclosure: that’s because I had inadvertently left in the car — oh the horror!). But — and forgive me here for such an obnoxious blanket statement — many Southerners appreciate the finer points of entertaining, and the article made it clear that playing a video from YouTube while the Shrimp and Grits are being served is not considered a finer point.
So I am dedicating myself to some easy weight loss goals this year. I am limiting the times I am tethered to technology. After all, I wrote the book (for real) on The Fine Art of Small Talk. I am spending more time listening and less time scrolling because face-to-face time is more fulfilling than any face-to-screen time. If you look down too long, you’re likely to miss out on the good things – like friends and family and colleagues. And the curb. And cookies. And champagne. And maybe another cookie.
Are you attempting a tech diet? Tell me about it. And cheers to a happy, healthy 2015.
Posted on Friday, January 9th, 2015
Of all the crazy things I’ve been asked about regarding The Fine Art of Small Talk (“Dear Debra, I know my boyfriend is going to propose but I don’t want to marry him” — ohhhhh.), it’s the everyday situations that can cause the most jitters.
We are in the thick of the holiday season, which means lots of parties, dinners, gift exchanges, cocktail events, company soirees and neighborhood gatherings. Here’s a short and sweet cheat sheet to get you through some of the stickiest situations.
There are some hard and fast rules:
• Arrive with three topics to talk about; think of these as your safety net should you need them.
• Always be polite.
• Always be gracious.
• Always smile.
• Remember that you are likely harder on yourself than necessary.
• Remember that a lot of people get nervous, a lot of people are shy, a lot of people are uncomfortable — and those people are dealing with their own anxieties so they are not paying attention to yours.
• Alcohol or 22 cream puffs will not make the situation better. Ever.
• Steer away from foul language and sexual innuendos or starting any sentence with ‘I heard this joke that is SO funny. You are going to laugh SO hard. Now let me see if I remember it…’
• If you have that little voice that says ‘maybe I shouldn’t say this,’ listen to that voice. And listen good.
• It is not your responsibility to babysit other adults; but it is your responsibility to be a good guest or a good host by introducing yourself and participating in conversation.
• If someone, including you, thinks you’ve had too much to drink you probably have.
• You don’t have to answer every question — your weight, your income and your relationship can be off limits if you wish them to be.
If You’ve Met Someone Before But Have Forgotten Their Name — Again.
It’s so good to see you again. Forgive me; I’ve temporarily forgotten your name. Will you remind me?
If You’ve Met Someone 20 Times Before But Have Forgotten Their Name – Again.
Discreetly ask a friend to remind you and if that doesn’t work: It’s so good to see you again. Forgive me; I’ve temporarily forgotten your name. Will you be kind enough to remind me?
If You’ve Been Given A Gift That You Hate:
Thank you for thinking of me.
If You’ve Been Given A Gift But Didn’t Give One to the Giver:
Thank you for thinking of me.
If You Were Expecting A Year-End Bonus and Received a Jelly Of The Month Membership:
Thank you for thinking of me.
If You Are Hosting A Dinner And Guests Are More Than An Hour Late:
Make sure nobody is stranded on the highway and then encourage your guests to begin dining. It appears John and Jane are running a bit late; let’s begin and they will join us when they arrive.
When John and Jane Do Finally Arrive:
We’re so glad you’re here! Let me take your coat and get you settled; we started dinner; please sit down and allow me to get you a plate.
When You Are Serving Alcohol But You Know a Particular Guest Doesn’t Drink:
May I offer you something to drink?
When Someone At Your Event Has Had Too Much To Drink And Is Being Obnoxious:
Wow — it’s getting late! Thank you for joining us. Let me get your coat.
When Someone At Your Event Has Had Too Much To Drink And Drove To The Party:
Wow — it’s getting late! I hired Uber for tonight’s party; your driver is outside. Let me get your coat and walk you out.
When Someone At Your Party Has Food Allergies or Sensitivities That You Were Not Aware Of Prior To Arrival:
My apologies for not being aware; the salad and dessert are both (fill in the blank: gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free) but the main coarse is not. May I offer you something else, such as a piece of chicken?
When Someone At Your Party Has Food Allergies or Sensitivities And Brought Their Own Food:
Thank you! Let me plate this for you and then we can sit down!
When Someone At Your Party Shares Big News That Is Not Necessarily Good News (divorce, job loss, illness, the latest Kardashian episode): I’m so sorry to hear this news, John. How can we be of support?
When Someone At Your Party Shares Big News That Is Very Good News:
What wonderful news, John! May I offer a toast to celebrate (make a heartfelt toast.)?
When Someone At Your Party Is Intent On Talking About Things You Do Not Wish to Discuss (politics, religion, money, the Kardashians):
Gosh, I don’t think we have enough wine in the house to tackle this issue tonight! Speaking of wine, I was thinking back to the best gift I ever gave and it was the trip to Napa I surprised Steve with in 2008. What was a favorite gift you gave or received?
When You Are Stuck In A Conversation That You Want to End:
It was great catching up with you. Excuse me, I see Jane just walked in and I must say hello.
You’ve Insulted Someone By Mistake:
Forgive me! I did not mean to hurt you in any way (change the subject quickly).
You Are Tired and Want Everyone to Leave:
This was such a fun night (stand up, begin clearing dishes, do not open more wine.) – thank you all for being here.
Whatever situation you are in, remember that being kind and generous usually solves most problems. If that doesn’t work, remember it will all be over soon.
Follow Debra Fine on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DebraFine
Posted on Wednesday, December 10th, 2014
I have been invited to many a party in my day. I used to think it was because of my good looks or great taste in wine or overall fantastic-ness. But, alas, as my husband so lovingly pointed out, it’s because I am conversational. A professional conversationalist at that. I realize that even though I barely know the party host, they want me there.
With me, there isn’t a lull in conversation. There isn’t that uncomfortable, awkward moment that feels like a year and a half when nobody is talking. Where people start checking their phones or shoving canapés down their throat. When you wish someone would choke just so there would be something to talk about.
You cannot imagine how many wedding gifts I have purchased over the years. And all because I can’t keep my mouth shut. I can’t handle the awkward lull. I am not tooting my own proverbial horn here, but I am the best wedding guest you’ll ever have: I keep the conversation flowing and I buy really nice gifts. It’s just a fact.
So, it’s rare that I find conversation icebreakers that I have not A. thought of or B. used or C. written about in a book.
But paging through Real Simple magazine’s November issue changed all that. One of the questions they recommend you ask at the Thanksgiving table was (drum roll please):
If you could eat only one food on this table for an entire year, which one would it be?
I know, great, right? Though the answers won’t be that interesting because clearly mashed potatoes is the only right answer here. Again, just the facts.
Last year, I wrote about what not to say at the Thanksgiving table. But the upcoming holidays encompass an entire season, so the pressure is on. Ever considered that holiday weight gain is not due to egg nog but rather hovering near the buffet to calm social anxiety? Keeping your mouth full of baked goods may seem easier than witty conversation. It’s not. Or maybe it is – for a minute. But then you’ve got that whole if I don’t unbutton my pants in three minutes I am going to die and that’s not very festive, is it?
Real Simple did a nice job of a few things you can say, so take a peek. Then relax, review and enjoy those potatoes.
Posted on Thursday, October 9th, 2014
I was two cups of coffee in to the Sunday Denver Post when I noticed this picture ofBob Beauprez fist-bumping his son. At first I didn’t realize it was his son; I was just momentarily mesmerized by the fist-bump. A fist-bump?
When I realized it was Beauprez’s son, I was a bit mollified (though I will admit I think a hug makes more sense, but it’s not my business and I mean that in all sincerity and without sarcasm because they are father and son and it’s their fist-bump, and at least they communicate and that’s always a good thing), but still pondering the fist-bump. When did this replace the handshake? And why?
A recent study in Germany touts the health benefits of the fist-bump. Yes, someone in Germany studied the benefits of the fist-bump versus the handshake versus the high five. The fist-bump won for least amount of germ transmittal. Researchers dipped a gloved hand into a vat of E-coli matter and then proceeded to shake, bump and high-five the participants. And you thought your job was bad.
I have asked a handful (pun intended) of adults why they fist-bump and most of the time the response is something along the lines of: Well, it seems to be the trend. AHA! This is not a good reason to forgo the time-honored handshake! By continuing to fist-bump you are only encouraging it. It’s like feeding a whiney toddler a lollipop or getting a tattoo in Vegas because the rest of the wedding party did. Just because everyone is doing it does not make it a ‘do!’
The handshake, at least in America, is still a ‘do.’ It’s still considered the most professional yet personal form of greeting. When should you shake?
• When introducing yourself to anyone (including your parole officer)
• At the beginning and end of a job interview
• When you meet the president of just about anything
• When greeting a colleague or client you haven’t seen in a significant amount of time
• When you’ve been introduced to someone by another friend or colleague
• When meeting your potential father-in-law (or parole officer)
• When acting as host or hostess to a business meeting or event
• When saying goodbye to a colleague, client, friend (or parole officer)
• When you need to indicate the end of an interaction or conversation and your impending exit
• Really any other time that seems obvious: when someone saves you from a careening bus,
when someone kills the mice infestation living under your stairs, when the guy in front of you tosses your 9 year-old the foul ball he just caught at the baseball game. You know when it feels right. Right? (In all of the above instances a hug is probably also warranted, especially in the mice instance.)
Wondering how to master the fine art of the handshake? It’s easy:
• Make eye contact
• State your name (if necessary) while extending your right hand: Hi, I’m Debra Fine
• Lean slightly in, grasp the other person’s hand firmly for a mere 2-3 seconds
That’s it. Really! So, don’t overthink it. And avoid the following:
• Dead Fish Hand: This limp, lifeless creature belongs in the grocery case, not in the handshake.
• Lady Fingers: The handshake involves the HAND, not just the fingers. Even Princess Kate does not daintily offer her royal fingers in that awkward way that makes it seem like you’re hiding a microphone in your palm. And she’s a princess.
• The “Make Mine a Double”: No need to cover the successful handshake with your other hand. Don’t ruin a good thing. The handshake is a singles match, not a doubles tourney. One and done.
• Be cognizant when greeting guests from other cultural backgrounds, as the rules may differ. If you are the guest, take your cues from the host to show your willingness to be flexible and respectful.
Handshakes are like parenting: Extend yourself. Be straightforward. Be firm. Smile even when you don’t feel like it. Practice what your preach.
On that note, teaching children the fine art of the handshake is a gift. After all, we teach our dogs to “shake” not “fist-bump” – shouldn’t we do the same for the little humans in our lives? Agree? Let’s shake on it.
Posted on Tuesday, September 30th, 2014
Bill O’Reilly photograph courtesy of NPR.org
Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, along with Bernie Goldberg, mentioned the latest Huffington Post blog on his show last week. Check it out here – and thank you to O’Reilly and Goldberg for addressing the topic of technology and kids; an issue so important I actually wrote a whole book about it.
Posted on Thursday, September 11th, 2014
James Adonis – thank you for this great article – and the clip! All you awkward conversationalists out there, you are not alone. Well, maybe you are alone now, but with a few easy steps, you won’t be for long. Promise!
Posted on Thursday, September 11th, 2014
Thank you Palo Verde Valley Times for the great article on Beyond Texting: The Fine Art of Face-to-Face Communication For Teeneagers. Read the article here.
Posted on Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014
Our goal as parents, besides surviving the sheer exhaustion and joy and agony that goes along with the most important non-paying job in the world, is fostering well-rounded, happy, successful, responsible, healthy, honest, interesting confident children.
So… sort of a big job.
We are on the far side of the pendulum swing when it comes to the “Everyone is a winner!” world and it appears to be causing more damage than not. Isn’t that always the way? You think you’re doing something fabulous (cutting out carbs! wearing sunscreen! encouraging my child!) and then wham!
The baby boomers are getting the blame for the introduction of helicopter parenting; probably because the baby boomers were raised in a different time — a time when they were not only allowed to ride their bike all over town, but were basically forbidden to show their face inside the house before dinner. And then God help you if you’re late.
Now there are helmets for everything. Trophies for everyone. Ice cream for good grades. Money for chores.
I refuse to jump on the bandwagon of “in my day…” because it is just so cliché. And nothing, besides the smell of Bengay, screams I AM OLD more than a cliché.
After all, helmets are a good thing. And I, too, am a fan of ice cream. But time is ticking and those little tykes out on the baseball field are going to the be the same adults walking the halls of a hospital, running for office, overseeing the Fortune 500 companies and raising the next set of children. Are they ready? Are they ready to be leaders in business? In their future family? In life?
In a word, maybe. Why? Well, in an effort to keep the under-20 crowd feeling loved and valued, we’ve devalued them. We’ve loved them the wrong way.
How can we mend our ways before it is too late? We need to back off – just a bit:
Raise a Risk-Taker:
Instead of chirping “be careful!” at every turn, allow your child to try something new. So what if he scrapes an elbow or spills the milk. How is a child every going to learn anything without trying it first? It’s amazing how many teens arrive at college without knowing how to do laundry, scramble an egg, introduce themselves to a stranger or pay a bill.
Of course there is a time for “great job!” It’s just not all the time. Kids are smart; and pretty soon they realize that mom and dad are the only people out there who are showering them with accolades. That can lead to a level of distrust between parents and children — the last thing any parent wants (especially when entering the teen years).
Making harder decisions now will pay off in the long run. Because of guilt or time constraints or fatigue, parents often patch things up for their children. Writing a note to excuse your child from an assignment or rushing home to gather up the missing soccer shin-guards will do more damage than good. While it might be easier in the moment to smooth things over (who wants to deal with a sobbing 6 year-old who forgot her math homework when the bus is coming and the baby is crying and you have a meeting downtown in 28 minutes!?), not rescuing from the situation teaches a child responsibility and accountability.
In the big world of adulthood, life happens for real. Allowing children to hone the skills needed to become productive members of society may cause a few bumps in the road now, but by doing so, they will be able to successfully navigate the twists and turns of the future so they, too, can enjoy the ride.
This blog can also be found at The Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/debra-fine/three-simple-ways-to-prepare-your-child-for-the-complications-of-life_b_5710963.html