Steven Gaffney’s Communication Blog

Eliminate Negative Self Talk


Eliminate Negative Self-Talk to Find a Way

The struggle of negative self-talk is near and dear to my heart, because I was a negative self-talker for years. I actually thought that beating myself up inside was advantageous to me. My rationale was that it drove me to be successful, but the truth is that it also made me sad and, worse yet, not even able to appreciate the good times and successes.

Negative self-talk can actually create the very doom and gloom we are looking to avoid and even spin off unforeseen problems if not kept in check. After all, when we are not feeling good about ourselves, we tend to avoid taking necessary action. We might not even go for our dreams and if we do, we might not give it our all. Negative self-talk can easily lead to a life of regrets.

Fortunately, you have the power to replace negative self-talk with positive self-talk. Doing so can turn around all kinds of situations. One of my employees shared how when she was looking for a job in 2008 during the great recession, she was given some wisdom that she turned into positive self-talk. Someone told her to focus on the fact there’s always room for the best. Although she felt doomed by bad circumstances, she continually reminded herself that there are always possibilities and openings for people who are the best. She ended up quickly finding a job, and a year ago I hired her and she is one of the best employees I have ever had. Why? Because she is confident, open to learning, and constantly growing, among other things. Her self-talk impacts her actions and produces results.

If you tend to fill your mind with negative self-talk, use this five-step step self-talk turnaround strategy. I developed it for myself, and I am happy that you can use it to achieve the success you deserve:

  1. Be aware. You can’t fix a problem if you’re not aware of the problem, but what are your thoughts when you encounter a problem? Do your thoughts sound like these? Oh, I just knew something like this was going to happen. No good deed goes unpunished. Even good things turn to crud. I should have seen this coming. I just won’t get my hopes up anymore because then I won’t be disappointed. You get the picture.
  2. Don’t fight it, embrace it. As Carl Jung, the renowned psychiatrist, said, “What you resist persists.” In other words, if you try to deny it, rationalize it, fight against it, it will persist. Have you ever been thinking negatively, become aware of it, and then just tried really hard to think positively? How did that work for you? If you’re like me, it just aggravates an already challenging situation. Instead, it’s more helpful to take notice of how you’re feeling and not resist it: “Wow, I’m really thinking negatively about things. It is amazing how much negative chatter is going on in my head.” When you truly embrace it, as strange as it may sound, it loosens its grip on you and you can start to let it go like watching clouds pass by in the sky. You might even smile about it.
  3. Be clear on where it came from. You create negative self-talk, which is actually good news because if you created it, then you can change it. How did you create it? I don’t want to play psychologist here, but negative self-talk is often a result of things that have happened in your past that may have caused you to draw some conclusions about yourself. For example, maybe you lost your job, and as a result you decided that you are not that talented. Or maybe you had a relationship that ended badly, and as a result you made up in your mind you’re not very good at relationships. In other words, the conclusions you chose were and continue to be disempowering conclusions from your past. The point here is to ask yourself why you think what you think and then tell yourself, “If I came up with those conclusions, I could have come up with different conclusions.” For example, in the case of losing your job, you could have decided they didn’t recognize your talents and as a result you learned so much about yourself that will empower you to get a better job in the future. In the case of the relationship that ended, you could have just said, “It’s their loss, good riddance.” So own up that you created the negative conclusions and self-talk. You did it to you. No one made you think that way. Take responsibility. This is good news because you are in control of you and you can do something about you.
  4. Give yourself an upgrade and create new positive self-talk. Like buying an upgrade package, create new self-talk and install it in your mind. Write down your new self-talk. “I deserve success.” “Things have a way of working out.” “I’m going to accomplish my goals.” I think you get the point. Write down the new positive self-talk so you can install it in your mind.
  5. Repeat the new positive self-talk—with emotion—until it replays automatically in your head. Do this over and over again. Emotions help give it meaning and help it get ingrained in your mind. Until that happens, fake it until you make it. Even if you don’t feel it, keep saying your new positive self-talk with emotion. Repetition is key—just like going to the gym. You don’t just go once and expect yourself to be healthy; you go over and over again. You know positive self-talk has taken hold when you don’t need to be conscious of it.

If you still doubt that self-talk is critical to success, consider this: Diana Nyad was the first person to swim 110 miles from Cuba to Florida without a shark tank. She did it at the age of 64. In an interview she talked about the power of the mind, explaining that she used a mantra, something she said over and over again, to keep her focused and help her deal with the pain and adversity. Her mantra was “Find a way.”

Think how profound that self-talk is. Find a way. Find a way to solve a problem. Find a way to make your job great. Find a way to be a great parent or great spouse. Find a way to succeed. We all have down days, and being negative is part of the ebb and flow of life. The key is that even on those down days, our self-talk can lead us to remember that there will be better days and the brightest days with the biggest reward are ahead of us. Why? Because our self-talk finally says we deserve it. Find a way!


Detect and Implement the Three Levels of Honesty

For the full article and interview click here

7 Best Tips to Communicate Top Down and Bottom Up

7 Best Tips to Communicate Top Down and Bottom Up

Communication is only communication if the message gets where it needs to go and is received by those who need to hear it. Here are seven tips to successfully communicate top down, bottom up and even across your organization:

  1. Communicate face to face wherever you can. Research shows that less than 10 percent of the meaning of a message is carried through the actual words. If we just have written communication without any face-to-face communication, people are going to miss the message. If your workforce is geographically dispersed, then make use of technology. Seeing each others’ faces makes a huge difference.
  2. Clarity and simplicity are key. The person who defines whether a message is clear is not the sender but the receiver. Unfortunately, I often hear people say, “I must have said it five times. I was perfectly clear.” This shows the disconnect between what the speaker thinks is clear and what is actually clear. Be aware of your messages: Make sure your communication is to the point and not vague. A lack of clarity will only be magnified as the message gets relayed through the layers of the organization. Simple is powerful.
  3. Remember that messages can get distorted. When people are stressed, their listening decreases and so what they do hear becomes distorted. If you are trying to convey tough messages (which will cause stress), try to keep your message short, and then actually invite dialogue. For tough messages, one-way communication is not sufficient. Invite questions. Talk with folks. This helps people to absorb the message.
  4. Build in accountability. Many organizations suffer from what I call a thermal layer where communications do not penetrate. This is quite often the case when leadership conveys a message that they expect to get relayed down through the organization, and then they find out it was not relayed. When you have a message that needs to be cascaded down throughout the organization, give folks a deadline for making that happen and hold them accountable. One more thing: Check in with the bottom levels of your organization to make sure the message was received.
  5. Use multiple means of communication. For example, hold town hall meetings when you have to convey strategic initiatives and other vital information so that people can hear it directly from the leader. Use your organization’s intranet to post important information. Of course, you can’t expect people to always check that website, but you can incentivize them so they are more likely to use it. Email, website, meetings, and town halls all have their place. Important messages need to be shared in multiple ways.
  6. Make people aware of the central talking points. If you are expecting folks to cascade a message throughout your organization, make sure they are aware of the key talking points as well as the points not to say. This matters because people will often start expanding on less important points and miss the key ones. Be sure to emphasize what is most important so it can’t be missed.
  7. Watch out for lengthy emails with multiple points. Generally it is better to keep emails short. Remember, quick and easy is better than long and complicated.

Many organizations do employee surveys, and the results often show that there’s an issue with communication. I have worked with a lot of leaders who get these results despite the fact that they have been working hard at communication. Don’t give up. This is not an easy problem to solve, but it is one where you can make a difference step by step. You can always communicate more—and more effectively. Follow these guidelines and you can begin to make a real difference in your organization.

Communicating with Angry Customers

Communicating with Angry Customers

 Although it may be tempting, never dismiss an angry or upset customer—no matter how inconsequential their issue may sound. Unhappy customers are the much more vocal than happy ones, and with social media, one problem customer can turn into a firestorm of criticism and backlash. Just as important, one customer complaint may be the tip of the iceberg of a larger issue. Listening to your customer’s complaint will allow you to uncover the truth, which could be a systemic issue that needs your attention and resolution.

To help you approach the complaint with a good attitude, consider that your angry or upset customer could be giving you a gift of awareness. One thing that can seem intimidating about upset customers is that the situation feels tricky and unpredictable. Fortunately this six-step customer turnaround strategy provides a tool to manage the situation and bring it to a positive resolution:

Step 1: Make the correct assumptions.

After years in the trenches working with employees at all levels, I have learned that certain assumptions can empower lives and, in particular, our relationships. One such assumption is this: Assume good intent. People who handle customers, especially difficult ones, often assume that the customer does not know what they are talking about, just wants to get more for less, or will be unhappy no matter what they do to resolve the situation. Assuming good intent helps us use a different tone, and tone has five times the impact of the words we say. Assuming good intent is powerful.

Step 2: Probe and deeply listen.

When people are upset they may say things they don’t mean or things that are not the real issues. If you get defensive or become combative, things may spiral into a negative debate and, worse, you may shut the person down. If that happens, you’ll never uncover the real issue. Don’t argue. Ask questions and listen.

Step 3: Acknowledge their emotions.

Don’t get caught up in the words people say. Listen for the true emotions behind them. Emotions are one of the driving forces of human beings. When we acknowledge and reflect back someone’s emotions, we validate their feelings. This can be a calming influence with an angry or upset customer. Remember what Theodore Roosevelt said, “Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

Step 4: Apologize.

Apologies go a long way toward easing tension, even if you are apologizing on behalf of another individual or area. When you apologize, do not say, “I’m sorry you feel that way” or “I’m sorry that happened, but…” That is not an apology. An apology takes full ownership, which can lead to forgiveness and enable others to let go of their bad feelings.

Step 5: Facilitate an agreeable solution and manage expectations accordingly.

You can do this by asking solution-oriented questions. For example, you can ask the customer: “Given what has happened how can we best help you now? What can be done to improve the situation?” If they ask for something you cannot deliver, say so and offer a different suggestion or compromise. If you are not sure you can deliver what they’re asking for, say so and give them a specific time frame by when you will get back to them. Be clear and manage expectations.

Step 6: Close the loop.

Make sure the solution is satisfying to the customer before you take action and move forward. Be bold and ask the customer: “If we are able to do the following steps, will this resolve the situation for you?” People often shy away from asking a question of this nature because they are afraid the customer or client will say the solution is not good enough. If they do, go back to step one and start again. Be thankful that you found out now rather than later after wasting your time and company resources without ultimately satisfying the customer.

With this six-step customer turnaround strategy you can turn any upset customer into your best customer. Sound unlikely? It’s not. When you go above and beyond and resolve your customer’s issue, it is a chance to shine. Many companies report that their toughest customers end up being their happiest and most vocal customers. Use this six-step strategy and watch your business grow.

Overcoming Idea Breakdown

I love McDonald’s. I know some don’t, but I love it. My favorite sandwich is the Big Mac. The Big Mac, which is one of the most successful fast food sandwiches ever created, was created by a franchisee, not by McDonald’s corporate headquarters. Whether you like Big Macs or you don’t, the point here is that breakthrough ideas often don’t originate from leadership.

Any employee can generate a great idea, the problem is that good ideas aren’t always shared. We all need to innovate, which means we need good ideas. The trouble isn’t a dearth of good ideas, the trouble is in the lack of communication about those ideas. The number one way to motivate people to share ideas is to demonstrate that those ideas will be used. Unfortunately, the number one reason why employees don’t share ideas is because in the past they have had their ideas rejected or—even worse—they have not received any feedback at all about their ideas. The interesting twist to this is that the number one reason that leaders reject ideas is because they report those ideas are half-baked, not well thought out. In other words, the ideas are just too rough to be actionable.

The fix here is simple: If everyone is honest and shares their perspective, we will get more information, more yeses, and more ideas to act on, which will create even more ideas. In this scenario, everyone benefits. If leaders say yes or at least share what is missing from an idea, then employees will know what to do to get their ideas accepted. And if organizations do a better job of sharing how ideas are being used, it will encourage more people to give ideas.

Usually there is a breakdown somewhere in this process. I was brought into a situation where an organization was using ideas but doing a lousy job of sharing how those ideas are being used. So people wrongly concluded that ideas were not being used and therefore stopped giving them. Once we worked with the organization to broadcast how ideas were being used, the floodgates opened with fresh innovative ideas.

If an idea of yours is rejected, don’t despair. Instead ask for feedback. You can even ask, what would it take for you to agree to my idea? You may find out you are closer to getting a yes than you realized. Ideas are not usually the problem. The ideas may be half-baked, they may need work, but that is not the problem. That is normal. What is needed is feedback, explanation, guidance, and the broadcasting of success. With that we can get more yeses and therefore more successes.

Follow up to National Honesty Day 2016

In an effort to help you further celebrate and implement National Honesty Day, so that it is every day of your life, I wanted to share this radio interview with you.

In this interview, you will learn about:

•  How human beings suffer from Honesty Delusional Syndrome (HDS) and what to do about it

•  The three most damaging lies to pay attention to

•  What we can learn from today’s political situation

•  Social media: Is it helping or hurting honesty?

•  Whether or not people are more dishonest today

•  The number one way to make people tell you the truth

Share with us how you celebrated National Honesty Day at!

National Honesty Day 2016

How to celebrate National Honesty Day on Saturday, April 30th – How often are we really telling the truth? Is it ever okay to lie? Honesty has a significant impact on any business as well as your personal life. Getting the Unsaid, Said is key to opening up communication and building trust with others.

Watch this TV interview to learn the #1 reason people don’t speak the truth and the steps you can take to embrace difficult situations that require honesty.

Top 2 Key Strategies to Manage Negativity

Do you feel like negative thoughts or people are affecting your confidence level? Is it impacting your daily life and job performance? This two minute video will highlight two key strategies to take control of these negative situations and turn them around for the positive.

What To Do When Things Go Wrong

Life can be hard to compartmentalize, and when something bad happens in your day—whether it’s a meeting, an interaction with a co-worker, or a call—it has the power to send you into a negative spiral that ruins your day and even impacts others. That awareness is half the battle. The good news is awareness allows you to do something about it. Here are seven tips to help you recover from a negative incident. You can use the tips in order or just pick and choose what you want to do based on your situation or available time:

  1. When something bad happens in your day, be aware of it. Don’t simply dismiss it and pretend it didn’t affect you. Most of us are lousy actors. Can’t you tell when you’re interacting with somebody who is having a bad day? Don’t kid yourself. Others can tell, so be aware.

  2. Take a break. Disconnect if you can. Just stop before you go on autopilot to the next agenda item. Just like a lot of things in life, we need a break to rejuvenate our mind and our spirit.

  3. Do something physical—not to someone, of course! Get out of your chair. Take a walk. Change your breathing pattern. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Doing something physical will help you disconnect from what just happened.

  4. Get it out. Call a friend and vent about the incident. When you let out that negativity, it can clear your mind. Another option is to write down what is upsetting you. This way you don’t have to spend any mental energy trying to remember what you are upset about.

  5. Think about something that makes you happy. You could write down five things you appreciate, or even share those on the phone with your friend after you vent. Focusing on what you are grateful for will help you to reboot and reframe your mind.

  6. If the issue lingers in your mind, stop what you’re doing and jot down lessons you can learn from the situation so that it will not happen again. I have found this tip to be incredibly useful. It helps me to not only get over the situation, but to grow from it.

  7. Surround yourself with good, positive people. Remember: Input drives output. Garbage in is garbage out. Rid yourself of the downers so they don’t infect your mind. Positive, encouraging people will help you to engage and look forward to what is next in your day and your life.

    No one can ruin your day unless you allow it, but sometimes it takes effort and focus to keep it from happening. Don’t let anyone derail your day. Use these seven tips to move forward and stay on track.

How to Build Trust with Anyone


The foundation of all relationships—at work and at home—is trust. Without it, things fall apart. There are three essential keys to building (or rebuilding) trust with anyone—your boss, your customers or clients, your coworkers, your employees, and even friends and loved ones. Implement these and watch your relationships improve:

1. Make and Keep Commitments without Checking In

In other words, keep your word with anyone without them needing to remind you. I once asked a client why she had hired me, and she said it was because she trusted me. I asked how she knew she could trust me, and she said it was because I called her at the exact time I said I would for all of our conference calls. Small things matter. If you say you are going to send something over by 5:00, make sure it is 5:00, not 5:05. This may sound inconsequential and silly, but it is not silly to many people—even if they never say anything about it. On the flip side, if you find yourself constantly checking in with someone or reminding someone of their commitment, it is probably due to lack of trust. Be up front and resolve the issues rather than developing a culture of babysitting and policing. I do believe in trust but verify—but not constantly verifying. Think of the money organizations spend and the tremendous amount of red tape and redundant processes they engage in due to lack of trust. This is why creating a culture of trust increases productivity, revenue, and profits.

2. Proactive Honesty

One of the reasons you know you can trust someone is that person proactively lets you know about a problem. The key here is the word proactive. Don’t wait for someone to ask. If you cannot deliver what you said you could or when you said you could, notify the appropriate parties as soon as possible. If something is due by Friday at 5:00 and you know on Tuesday that you are unlikely to achieve it, update those who need to know. When I have worked with companies to build a culture of trust where people are expected to be proactively honest, then people hear about issues and problems before they become huge challenges that waste company resources. They also hear about ideas and recommendations that help their organization be more innovative, move with velocity, and ultimately be more successful.

3. Be Honorable in How You Speak about Others

You can judge the character of a person, and the degree to which you can trust them, by how they speak about others to you. If they bad-mouth others to you and break confidentiality, they will bad-mouth you to others and break your trust when you’re not in the room. There is no justification or excuse for such behavior. Watch what you say and how you treat others, and never break confidentiality.

A culture of trust and honesty boosts morale and employee engagement, allowing the organization to move fast, fix problems, and constantly grow. Use these keys at work and home and watch your life take a quantum leap forward.