The Law of Reflection


Abide by the Law of Reflection

The Law of Reflection states that what we give out is what we tend to get back. You may also know this law as the Golden Rule, or by the phrases “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” or “What goes around comes around.” 

We have all heard these phrases in various forms and often recite them ourselves, but what strikes me is how easy it is to forget the powerful role this philosophy plays in honest communication.

Just think about it. How often have you experienced someone who does not listen to you or is not fully honest with you? In the spirit of National Honesty Day, be truly honest with yourself. Have there been times when you did not listen to that person or when you failed to openly share with them? As leaders, parents, colleagues and friends, we must model the behavior we seek.

When people blame us, we tend to blame them; when people accuse us, we tend to accuse them right back; when people withhold information from us, we tend to keep information from them. It also tends to hold true in the positive direction. When people take responsibility for their actions, we tend to take responsibility for ours; when people apologize, we tend to apologize back; when people focus on the solution; we tend to do the same.

Abiding by the Law of Reflection motivates you to be honest with others and compels others to be more honest with you. Be honest in acknowledging your mistakes, communicating your concerns and expressing your appreciation. Doing so will encourage others to do the same. Take that a step further and really listen to people if you want people to listen to you. Listen, no matter who are speaking with.

As National Honesty Day quickly approaches, abiding by the Law of Reflection is one way to increase your level of honesty.

Cure Your Email Headaches!


Do not hide behind your keyboard to avoid uncomfortable or difficult conversations.

In the spirit of National Honesty Day, let’s be honest. We have all decided to send an email to deal with an uncomfortable or upsetting issue instead of having a direct conversation. Do emails really help resolve issues or confusion more quickly and effectively?

Research shows that 90% of a message’s meaning is conveyed by tone, body language, context and source; not just words. Therefore with email, tensions rise and problems escalate when people hide behind their keyboards to avoid the discomfort of talking directly about issues. This leads to distorted one-way conversations that lack the tone, context and body language that clarify messages in two-way dialogue. Thus, email wars erupt, clutter mailboxes, eat up time and thwart collaboration, morale and productivity.

Email can be a terrific, quick and efficient form of communication, or it can be horrific. It all depends on how it is used. Below are a few tips for how to effectively use email:

Use email for its four main purposes: to communicate information, to receive information, as a form of documentation, and for friendly correspondence.

For example, use email to keep everyone informed of a project’s status, to verify what was discussed in a face-to-face or phone conversation, to ask a quick question, to say hello, and to compliment.

Do not use email to resolve emotional upsets.

In other words, if you are upset with someone or someone is upset with you, do not use email. Call the person or go talk to the person face to face. Given the inherent difficulties with communication via email, it is not a good way to communicate emotions or resolve difficulties.

State the purpose of your email immediately.

By stating the purpose in the subject heading or in the first sentence of your text, you minimize the possibility that the recipient will misinterpret your message or delete it before it is read.

Write email as you would a newspaper article.

The first paragraph should contain the most pertinent information, with details following in subsequent paragraphs. People are busy and need the highlights. They may never finish the email and may miss important information if it is buried in the body of the text. If appropriate, have a quick summary sentence at the end.

If an email volleys more than twice, pick up the phone.

If you email back and forth with someone more than two times about the same issue, it is time to pick up the phone and get clarification. When emails volley back and forth about the same issue, it is often a sign that something else is going on (someone is really upset, doesn’t understand, is being resistant, and so on).

If you don’t want an email published in a newspaper, don’t send it.

You never know what will happen with your email or to whom it will be forwarded once you press send.

This National Honesty Day, choose to use email for the right purposes. If you are upset, confused or have a serious issue to resolve, pick up the phone or walk down the hall and have an honest two-way conversation. Do not use each stroke of the keyboard to brush issues under the rug. Remember, email can be either a terrific or horrific tool. It all depends on how it is used. Be careful!

Keep an eye out for tomorrow’s honest communication tip in honor of National Honesty Day (April 30)!

Did this tip help you? We welcome your feedback at or 703-241-7796.

Want Higher Performing Employees? You Need to Ask These Three Critical Questions

steven-gaffney-newsletterIn working relationships, whether as an employee or a consultant, creating an opportunity for success is key.

Everyone wants their employees to succeed and reach critical objectives but often a crucial step in the feedback process is missed. This misstep can sometimes leave the employee unsure about how to adjust their behavior and the employer unable to effectively measure said change.

In this audio interview, with Kelly Riggs of The Business LockerRoom, Steven shares the three critical questions that must be asked to get honest, practical, measurable advice.

This content is based on his newest book, “Be A Change Champion. Mastering Momentum: 10 Factor’s for Sustaining the Boom and Avoiding the Bust of Change.” It is the only book out there dedicated to sustaining the momentum, motivation, and morale of change- big and small.

Listen In Now, Click the Icon Below


The Halloween Principle

Are there life principles that you used to live by, but now you don’t? Have you ever allowed someone to spook you to such an extent that you change your behavior? It’s natural to let someone’s bad reaction derail us from doing what we know needs to be done. I encounter this reality so often as I speak with people across the country about communication issues that I have a name for it: The Halloween Principle – because people get spooked, and then they start living according to fear rather than the life principles they believe in.

The sad part is we often do this subconsciously, meaning that we’re unaware of how much a past situation is affecting our present. If left unnoticed and unchecked, our changed behavior could even alter our future.

It often takes someone to point it out before we can say to ourselves, “That is so true. I know what needs to be done and I know certain life principles work, but I’m not living that way.”

To help you see whether you’ve been spooked, let’s look at a few life principles that most people believe in but have trouble living by because the Halloween Principle has taken over.

1. Honesty Is The Best Policy

Most people I meet believe that honesty is the best policy. They may even believe they live by it. But on further examination, they don’t. When they are upset, they stuff what they are thinking and feeling and tell others that things are okay. Or when people ask them for feedback, they spin their answers to sound nice and pleasant out of fear that if they say what they really think, that person will get defensive and react badly.

The result is that people don’t get their issues handled. In our personal lives this can lead to all kinds of trouble. Spouses fall out of love and get divorced. Kids fear telling their parents the truth or just don’t feel comfortable talking, so they stop talking with their parents and get advice and support from peers instead. Good friends get annoyed or angry, drop out of communication, and friendships slip away. When issues aren’t handled in our professional lives, program and project problems can escalate into bigger problems; good employees get fed up and leave, and clients and customers stop hiring us.

Considering all these negative ramifications, why do people continue to withhold, spin, and alter the truth when they know that honesty is integral to fixing problems? After all, someone can’t fix a problem if they don’t know about the problem.

When I ask people why they withhold or spin the truth, they often say, “I used to be more honest and straightforward. But awhile back, I was in a situation and …” And then they proceed to tell me how a boss, a spouse, a co-worker, or a friend got upset when they spoke the truth and took it out on them in one way or another. No wonder people get spooked.

2. The Law of Reflection

The Law of Reflection says that whatever we give out in life, we tend to get back. You may say if another way: what goes around comes around, you reap what you sow, do unto others, but it’s all the Law of Reflection.

Most people know this is a sound principle to live by, but few implement it to its fullest capability. For example, sometimes a person chooses not to give as much as they could because in the past they encountered someone who took and took – and kept on taking until they drained that person dry. So that person allowed someone’s selfishness to stop them from giving their heart and soul to others. In other words, they allowed the person to spook them and started to live by the Halloween Principle.

On further reflection, this person may realize that we all run into selfish people from time to time, even people so selfish that they’ll take advantage of others. But that is no reason to stop living the Law of Reflection – because there are always exceptions to the rule. In general, however, the more we give and help out others – whether that’s our boss, our co-workers, our employees, our spouse, or our friends – the better our life will work.

Choose to Overcome the Spook

No principle will always work out just right. But as a whole, these life principles do work and provide benefits to us and to others. For that reason, we have to stop letting people spook us. We need to make our choices and live by our principles rather than allowing others to derail us and dictate how we’re living.

When we become aware of the Halloween Principle, it gives us the power to choose a different course of action – the one we know is right for us.

Here are a few practical recommendations for disarming the Halloween Principle:

  1. Separate:  When you feel an internal disconnect between the way you want to live and the way you currently are living, try to remember when that disconnect started. Then ask yourself why you’re allowing that situation to continue to affect you. Maybe it is time to separate from the situation by forgiving and letting go. If you can’t let it go yet, implement some practices to work on it. If you are not sure of one, contact us and we can give you some simple recommendations that produce a profound effect.
  2. Counteract:  There are several ways to counteract the Halloween Principle. First, surround yourself with people who have the attributes you want to live by. If you believe that honesty is the best policy, make sure the people around you are willing to tell you the truth. If you want to live by the Law of Reflection, then choose to be around people who try to help out and give value to others. Another important key to counteracting the Halloween Principle is to read books and articles, listen to podcasts and radio broadcasts, and watch DVDs that provide information, advice, and encouragement to live by the principles that are important to you. Remember this: insights can happen in an instant, but sustained change takes effort, reinforcement, and reminders.
  3. Model:  In the future when you encounter someone who spooks you from being yourself, ask yourself whether this is an exception or the new rule. Remind yourself that every life principle has exceptions, but overall, they do work. Choose to live your life principles – modeling them for yourself and others – rather than being controlled by your reaction to an exception. Think about the situation as a valuable reminder of the importance of standing up for what you know is right and taking responsibility for your life.

Who have you allowed to spook you? Have you stopped living by any of your life principles? Now that you are aware of the Halloween Principle, what are you going to do about it?

If you need help or would like more information, please call us or send an e-mail to

Dan Rivers Radio Show

In recent weeks, I have been invited to do a number of radio interviews. In my latest interview, which is embedded below, I discuss a variety of topics; from the government shutdown, to how to facilitate more honest communication in the workplace, and what leaders can do to move their organizations forward. Enjoy the interview below:

Keep me posted of your feedback.

Five Essential Keys to Rebuilding Trust in Today’s Political Environment

The foundation of all relationships is trust. When trust is lost, it functions like a sinkhole – it takes down everything else with it! In today’s environment, it seems that many of our typical ways of doing business and ways things have been done in the past have been lost. Trust is hard to build and easy to lose. Unfortunately, in today’s political environment, it seems that trust has crumbled and almost been lost entirely.

Congress is at a 5% approval rating which begs the question, “Who are those five percent?” I think that when you ask most Americans, we have lost trust in many of our elected officials and their ability to do the jobs we elected them to do. The good news is that there is a path forward that is applicable not only to our politicians, but to all of us in our everyday lives to help us rebuild trust. The following are five essential keys to rebuilding broken trust:

  1.  We need to constantly be talking to one another. You can’t just have one conversation with someone and expect to have trust; trust is built through multiple conversations. You can’t go to the gym once and expect to be healthy; you need to go multiple times. You also build trust through transparency and by taking with each other, not at each other.
  2. We need to have honest, open communication. The biggest problem when it comes to honesty is not what people do say to each other, but what they don’t say. For example, politicians need to share the actual truth that they are afraid to alienate certain parts of their party. They are scared they will not be re-elected and if they compromise, it will show weakness.  However in reality, the ability to compromise shows strength.
  3. We need to hit “reboot” and begin to discuss what we have in common as the building block to move forward.
  4. We need to create a plan that actually shows we will not find ourselves in our current situation in the future.
  5. We need to make sure that there are consequences to prove our commitment to rebuilding trust. We need to reward the right behaviors, not the wrong ones.

With these five keys, we can take the very difficult situation that our country is currently in and make it a better tomorrow. Hopefully this is a wake-up call for us all to make sure we have elected officials who understand that trust is critical, are willing to do what it takes to keep that trust trust, and have the courage and strength of character to do what’s best for our country. Having worked with many corporations, associations, and government agencies, I have come to realize that no matter how dire certain situations may be, with the right leadership anything can be overcome. The key question is “What are we willing to do about it?”

11 Questions to Uncover Communication Problems

All you have to do is turn on the news to see how a lack of honest communication is affecting the workplace as well as everyday relationships we have with one another. In fact, it seems these problems are very common. Therefore, honest, effective communication is even more critical to teamwork, productivity, and profitability and an organization’s lifelong success than ever before.

People at all levels of an organization must be willing to honestly share the information, ideas, and opportunities that come up on a daily basis. This honest communication must also be done in a time-sensitive manner, because things change so quickly in today’s world. If an organization does not receive critical information in time, it can cost them millions or even billions of dollars. Why? Because problems need to be caught and resolved when they are small, and no organization can afford to miss key opportunities.

People make better decisions when they get an accurate, truthful view of problems and situations. They are more focused, proactive, and creative with their solutions, because they know what the problems are as they occur. And they have all the information they need to respond quickly and effectively.

In addition, honest communication allows organizations to attract and retain talented people, because those people feel as if they can succeed in such an honest and healthy environment. In this environment, people listen to and trust each other. They exchange valuable feedback so that goals are achieved and organizations are properly positioned to seize opportunities.

How are you and your organization advancing in the area of honest communication? Do you think there may be some areas that need improvement? Is a storm brewing? To see if you might have some hidden problems with honesty, please answer these Eleven Key Questions to Detect an Honest Communication Problem. (Although this focuses on work issues, you can easily translate it to personal or home issues as well.) If you answer no to any of these questions, an honest communication problem that could threaten you and your organization may be looming.

1. Do you always react positively when someone shares difficult information or unpopular opinions with you?

Many times we say we want honest communication, but when someone gives it to us, we become upset or defensive. We may respond with a nasty look, a raised voice, or by ignoring what has been said. These types of responses speak volumes to the messenger and discourage this person from sharing difficult information or unpopular opinions in the future. In essence, a negative response trains and conditions people not to be forthcoming. If this continues, we might one day say, “Why am I the last one to know? Why didn’t anyone tell me?” The key is to own up to the situation and create a safe environment. Then people can say what needs to be said.

2. Are you the first to hear and find out about things?

People who are afraid to say things directly to you often tell others in the organization what they truly think and feel. Unfortunately, when you finally hear this information indirectly, it is often severely distorted. Remember the game of telephone? Do you remember how distorted the message became after it had passed through several players? Distorted information thwarts our actions, because it is inaccurate. I have watched many projects and contracts become problematic, because they were built and executed based on hearsay information. Being the first to hear and directly find out facts is the key to handling things efficiently and effectively. That is why some of the best executives and managers develop ways to receive direct communication from their customers, potential customers, and all levels of their staff.

3. Do people tell you everything you need to know?

How many times have you finished a project or made a decision only to find out that people did not share key information and ideas that would have altered or changed what you did? You may have thought, If they had just said something, I might have taken care of this issue more effectively and in a fraction of the time. Key information is often there — we just need to receive it. Honest and open communication is crucial to getting a quality job done on time, within budget.

4. Do people argue, debate, and share opposing opinions in your presence?

President Lyndon Johnson said, “If nobody is arguing, only one person is thinking.” I would add, “or only one person is being honest.” It is normal and healthy to have differing opinions; the key is whether people have the freedom to share those differing opinions, tough news, and other information. If people around you never oppose your ideas and plans, they may not be saying what they are really thinking. If everyone always agrees with you, they probably do not. One reason for this dynamic is that people often suffer from The Authority Pleasing Principle — telling their leaders what they think they want to hear. Many people have been conditioned that the way to make people happy and advance in life is to do just that. Think about how our schooling may have conditioned us in that way. If we gave the teacher what he or she wanted, we were rewarded. In addition to the desire to please, employees often fear potential backlash if they share unpopular points of view. When we try to move forward and make a decision, we find that others are dragging their feet and not doing what we need them to do. In other words, they have not bought into the idea. We need to create a safe environment so people can say what they are really thinking — because receiving difficult information and feedback is essential to taking care of problems before they become huge issues.

5. Do people keep their promises to you?

People who blatantly break their promises may be breaking other promises we are unaware of. As the saying goes, “Where there is smoke, there is fire.” Watch out for those who say they may not keep their word on small stuff but will keep their word on the big stuff. This is usually not the case. People who do not keep their promises or who constantly adjust their promises and still don’t deliver are probably not being upfront about something. Sometimes they know inside that they can’t deliver, but they are afraid of our reaction or they don’t want to let us down. Others feel weak or defeated when they admit they can’t accomplish something. So, they are not truthful and upfront about what is really going on. Of course, the failure to come clean only compounds the problem, and in the end everyone pays a severe price. So an undelivered promise is often a symptom of a problem that needs to be discussed and resolved.

6. Can you ask the questions that need to be asked?

People who have something to hide often don’t react well when questions are asked. By getting defensive and having a strong reaction, a person can create an environment in which others back off because they are afraid to ask questions. This enables the hiding to continue. On the flip side, we have to recognize our contribution to the problem and our history of asking questions. For example, have you asked the person questions and then used the information later to punish them — even inadvertently? If so, this may explain why the person is defensive or guarded. So if you are uneasy about asking questions, this might be an indication to further examine the situation.

7. When you ask a question, do people answer it directly?

People who are hiding things often skirt the issue, change the subject, or answer questions in global, ambiguous, or vague ways. Often they gloss over the present situation and jump to the future. In fact, some people not only don’t answer the question, they turn it around and ask you a question that distracts you. This tactic often works. For example, if you ask someone about the status of a report, they may say, “Fine. Just working hard. So, what do you have going on for the rest of the week?” How often have you walked away from discussions thinking, I don’t think they ever answered my question. Further and persistent questioning is often the key to discovering and eventually resolving the problem.

8. Do people tell you consistent things?

If you listen closely to what someone says and they are not being upfront, you will often notice inconsistencies. Not being upfront takes energy, a great memory, and lots of creative stories. Most people are unable to maintain this over time. Their inconsistencies should spur you to probe further.

9. Do the people around you display a range of emotions?

People who only show one emotion are often not telling us everything. Displaying a range of emotions is natural and normal. Have you ever had someone, like a co-worker, client, or a friend, always tell you how great things are or how wonderful you are? Although this might be nice to hear and believe, the reality is that no one is always happy and, in particular, always happy with us. We have all heard stories about someone who thought others were happy only to later discover the real truth — their co-worker was not pleased with their work, the contract was not renewed, their spouse filed for separation, or their child was having major problems in school. So seeing and hearing only one emotion from someone can be a sign of a problem that should be further explored.

10. Do people associate with others who you know to be upfront and honest?

By looking at who people surround themselves with, we can get an indication of the kind of person they truly are. The old saying, “Birds of a feather flock together,” is true. People tend to surround themselves with those who are similar. If someone who claims to be trustworthy is constantly in the company of those who are not, it begs the question: why would they choose to be around people who do not share the same values? There may be a good explanation — the associates may be relatives or long-time friends who have been there during tough times. At the very least, however, someone’s odd or questionable associates should cause you to be extremely cautious until you can fully understand the situation.

11. Are people sharing innovative and even crazy ideas and opportunities with you?

In today’s incredibly competitive work world, we must tap into the resources, ideas, and knowledge of the people around us. Research indicates that many of the greatest ideas do not come from headquarters but the front lines. Staff on the front lines are the closest to the problems, issues, and challenges. They know the way things really work. Without front-line information, feedback, and perspective, an organization can become stale, lose its competitive edge, and ultimately become extinct. This is why we need to constantly ask people for their ideas. Honest communication is not only essential to resolving issues but also in exploring new ideas and opportunities.

If these questions have exposed some problems in your organization or your personal relationships, you are now aware of the situation and can do something about it. Many individuals and organizations don’t ask the hard questions quickly enough to uncover problems before the damage is done. Many people believe it is better not to rock the boat. They just hope things will get better. Maybe it is time to rock the boat and find out what may be lurking below so that you don’t pay an even heavier price later.

Here are three suggestions that can have an immediate impact.

1. Organizations, no matter the size, must take specific and tangible actions to create a safe environment for employees to openly and honestly communicate.

2. Leaders must set the tone and the example by consistently demonstrating honest communication and being open to receive honest communication. They must show that it can be done, it is appreciated, and will be rewarded.

3. Employees need to have or need to be taught the skills and techniques to communicate honestly and effectively. People talk about being honest, but few are actually shown how to do it and produce the desired results. These skills will enable employees to effectively express concerns about thorny or complicated issues without fear of a strong reaction from the receiver.

By approaching this on several levels and from different angles, an honest communication environment can flourish and thrive. This way, people can say what they need to say and find out what they need to find out. Ideas can be freely and safely exchanged, and everyone benefits. One easy, first step is to share the Eleven Key Questions to Detect an Honest Communication Problem as a point of conversation.

If you detect honest communication problems, then iron out a plan to make a significant difference in the level of honest communication. Take action before it is too late!