Constructive Conversation

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Series: The ABC’s of Professionalism

“The character of a man is known from his conversations.” — Menander (342 BC – 292 BC)

Professional conversation is first and foremost about being a good listener. Becoming so is nothing more than learning to care more about what the other person is saying than what you want to say.

“There are people who, instead of listening to what is being said to them, are already listening to what they are going to say themselves.” — Albert Guinon (1863-1923)

So, listen like you care — it shows respect. It has the added advantages of keeping you more alert and helping you to remember more.

“All people want is someone to listen.” — Hugh Elliott, Standing Room Only weblog, May 8, 2003

“The first duty of love is to listen.” — Paul Tillich (1886-1965), O Magazine, February 2004

“Listen and attend with the ear of your heart.” — Saint Benedict

For those times when you have trouble caring, listen like you’ll be tested. Unless it’s a business conversation this doesn’t mean taking notes. Just try to remember the key points. This technique will reinforce your attitude toward listening.

“A good listener is not only popular everywhere, but after a while he gets to know something.” — Wilson Mizner (1876-1933)

When someone rambles on with no apparent end in sight, resist the temptation to “return the favor.” Instead, politely listen as if there’s a hidden gem in what he is saying that you can’t afford to miss.

“Opportunities are often missed because we are broadcasting when we should be listening.” — Author Unknown

When you hear something interesting or useful, you have the opportunity to take control of the conversation with your response. Return both comments and questions to keep him focused on that one point of interest. To avoid turning the conversation into an interview, respond by paraphrasing what the other person said. This demonstrates that you were listening and creates an opportunity to correct any misconceptions. Practice these techniques to become adept at turning a monologue into a dialog.

“To listen closely and reply well is the highest perfection we are able to attain in the art of conversation.” — Francois de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680)

“Listening, not imitation, may be the sincerest form of flattery.” — Dr. Joyce Brothers

When listening (and speaking), look at the person’s face, not out the window, at your cell phone or at the television.

“You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” — M. Scott Peck

“Few are agreeable in conversation, because each thinks more of what he intends to say than of what others are saying, and listens no more when he himself has a chance to speak.” — Francois de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680)

In addition to the previous points, professional conversation requires polite language. Name-calling, gossiping, accusations, vulgarities and profanity interfere with the message and tarnish the speaker’s professional image.

“The art of conversation consist as much in listening politely, as in talking agreeably.” — Atwell

“As I get older, I’ve learned to listen to people rather than accuse them of things.” — Po Bronson, quoted in Publishers Weekly

“A filthy mouth will not utter decent language.” — Chinese Proverb

Even innocent errors in phraseology can alter the direction of a conversation. Imagine how the following statements, which differ by only one word, could change the tone.

“What you just said struck a chord.” vs. “What you just said struck a nerve.”

Conversations occur across different channels in different configurations: one-on-one, group, business meetings, teacher/students, self talk, conversations with God (i.e. prayer), in person, over the phone or video phone, and via Internet or cell chat. Each has special nuances, but all are most effective when exercising respect.

As these principles and techniques are mastered, you may not always remember a lot about every conversation. But, you will at least be able to say something like, “I remember that interesting talk we had last week. What you said about ‘x’ really got me thinking.”

“People may not remember what you did or said, but they will remember how you made them feel.” — Attributed to Maya Angelou

Last of all, here’s some good advice for public speaking and for conversations.

“Make sure you have finished speaking before your audience has finished listening.” — Dorothy Sarnoff

“The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right place but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.” — Dorothy Nevill

God bless,

— CC

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© Copyright August 2008, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
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Friends are Priceless!

Relationships are the fabric of life, each with a unique color, style, and texture. We have first-hand relationships with our spouse, family, friends, business colleagues, neighbors, church family, and casual acquaintances. Also, the concept known as “six degrees of separation” implies that we have transient, distant, indirect, and/or transcendent relationships with virtually everyone in the world. We are all intricately connected to one another.

Friendships are the most valuable of all relationships. As I sorted through hundreds of quotes about friends, I was surprised to notice that recent quotes tended to be more cynical than older ones. I suspect this reflects our culture. So, rather than turn this into a “Dr. Phil session” I’ve simply avoided the issue by selecting quotes that define friendship in a positive way, identify the benefits of friendship, and that speak of how to choose, value and respect our friends.

Who Are Our Friends?

“My friends are my estate.” — Emily Dickinson

“The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Go through your phone book, call people and ask them to drive you to the airport. The ones who will drive you are your true friends. The rest aren’t bad people; they’re just acquaintances.” — Jay Leno

“When the character of a man is not clear to you, look at his friends.” — Japanese Proverb

Strategic Partners with Ziglar, Inc.

Finding a Friend

“There was a definite process by which one made people into friends, and it involved talking to them and listening to them for hours at a time.” — Rebecca West (1892 – 1983)

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” — Dale Carnegie

“A true friend is the greatest of all blessings, and that which we take the least care of all to acquire.” — Francois de La Rochefoucauld (1613 – 1680)

“Good friends are hard to find, harder to leave, and impossible to forget.” — Anonymous

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” — C.S. Lewis

The Value of Friendship

“Without friends no one would choose to live, though he had all other goods.” — Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC)

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” — Martin Luther King Jr.

“Friendship makes prosperity more shining and lessens adversity by dividing and sharing it.” — Cicero (106 BC – 43 BC)

Be a Friend

“When a friend is in trouble, don’t annoy him by asking if there is any thing you can do. Think up something appropriate and do it.” — Edgar Watson Howe (1853 – 1937)

“Reprove thy friend privately; commend him publicly.” — Solon (638 BC – 559 BC)

“Consult your friend on all things, especially on those which respect yourself. His counsel may then be useful where your own self-love might impair your judgment.” — Seneca (5 BC – 65 AD)

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” — Bible, John 15:13

Let a friend know you care. Call or write TODAY!

God Bless,

— CC

© Copyright June 2008, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
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Phony Excuses

What is the difference between a reason and an excuse? A reason is objective, rational, and generally truthful – an excuse is subjective, emotional, and usually deceptive. A reason can transform into an excuse when its purpose is to shift blame, to reassign responsibility, and/or to justify giving up. Excuses are conveniently used in place of the truth usually because the truth is embarrassing.

“It is easier to find an excuse than to find a reason.” — Doug Brown

My father did not tolerate excuses. To this day I can still here him say, “That’s a phony excuse.” To him, all excuses were “phony excuses” as if the two words were inseparable.

“He who excuses himself, accuses himself.” — Gabriel Meurier

When the first excuse failed, I usually followed up with my back-up excuse. It took me years to learn that just made things worse. To my dad, a second phony excuse was like telling a second lie to cover up the first one.

“Several excuses are always less convincing than one.” — Aldous Huxley

As a result of his fatherly intolerance, I probably made fewer excuses than I might otherwise have. Although, I must admit that I also learned to invent better excuses.

How can someone break the excuse habit? First, eliminate “Yah, but …” from their vocabulary. “Yah but, he started it.” “Yah but, I was tired.” “Yah but, it’s not my fault.” Instead, begin with, “My weak excuse is.” Imagine starting an excuse with these words and keeping a straight face. The second solution was inspired by my friend Andre. He further suggests making excuses irrelevant by focusing on something more important.

“My dream is bigger than my excuses.” — Andre Maronian

There are also words used to disguise an excuse. Words like “hard” and “impossible” were once part of my bag of tricks.

“Nothing is impossible; there are ways that lead to everything, and if we had sufficient will we should always have sufficient means. It is often merely for an excuse that we say things are impossible.” — Francois De La Rochefoucauld

“Difficulty is the excuse history never accepts.” — Edward R. Murrow

“Destiny: A tyrant’s authority for crime and a fool’s excuse for failure.” — Ambrose Bierce

That’s enough of my personal history. Here are some instructional quotes about excuses.

“I attribute my success to this — I never gave or took any excuse.” — Florence Nightingale

“Excuses are tools of the incompetent, and those who specialize in them seldom go far.” — Unknown

“One of the lamest excuses for doing something wrong is: ‘I was just doing my job.’ A hit man is just doing his job. A prostitute is just doing her job.” — Thomas Sowell

“Every vice has its excuse ready.” — Publilius Syrus

“If you don’t want to do something, one excuse is as good as another.” — Yiddish Proverb

“For many people, an excuse is better than an achievement because an achievement, no matter how great, leaves you having to prove yourself again in the future; but an excuse can last for life.” — Eric Hoffer

“The trick is not how much pain you feel but how much joy you feel. Any idiot can feel pain. Life is full of excuses to feel pain, excuses not to live; excuses, excuses, excuses.” — Erica Jong

“There’s a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when circumstance permit. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results.” — Art Turock

“Don’t look for excuses to lose. Look for excuses to win.” — Chi Chi Rodriguez

“Love will find a way. Indifference will find an excuse.” — Unknown

“He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.” — Benjamin Franklin

“Ninety-nine percent of failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.” — George Washington Carver

God bless,

— CC

© Copyright June 2008, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
Read more “Clancy’s Quotes” at: