Jan 312017
  • Can the language of a negotiation prevent confrontation?
  • Can a negotiation be a discussion without opposition?
  • Can the parties in a negotiation establish a working dialogue?
  • Can all parties in a negotiation come out with a gain?

The answer to all the above questions is YES!  In fact the last question presents a critical feature of a successful negotiation: creating a “win-win” situation for all parties.  

Establish Dialogue

A negotiation needs to be a dialogue between all parties so that a compromise can be reached and each party gains some positive outcome.  Language lies at the heart of a successful negotiation.  Verbal language, the words and sentences to establish a dialogue without opposition, remains critical.  Body language must support the verbal part of communication as well.

Dealing With Differing Viewpoints 

It is inevitable that the parties in a negotiation will have different points of view.  Objecting to the other side’s position needs to be respectful, while acknowledging that the other party represents a different set of ideas.

Using language that is conciliatory will minimize opposition.  Phrases such as “from my perspective… I’m sorry, but… unfortunately…”

Negative verbal language will shut down a dialogue.  Phrases such as “you’re wrong… that’s a lie/incorrect…” will not foster compromise, which is the goal of every successful negotiation.

Body language needs to support a respectful dialogue.  A stiff, hands-crossed across body posture, grimacing or head shaking will contribute to confrontation, not dialogue.

Taking a Different Perspective

In a negotiation both parties should be able to explain their position and the reasons for their point of view.  Understanding the other side’s perspective can prove highly valuable in fostering compromise. Words such as “I can see your point, but… let’s try to find a middle ground…” can reduce opposition.  Remember the need for a “win-win” philosophy that underlies every successful negotiation.

Foster Compromise

Verbal statements that propose a middle ground can be framed as “if… then…” possibilities.  Language promoting compromise creates a “give and take” attitude and the potential for a “win-win” solution.

Body language to support this compromise can be represented by open hands, palms cupped or turning upwards, indicating an inclusion of both sides in a resolution.

Confirming the Solution

If you’re successful in reaching a compromise — no one wins a negotiation — it’s important to verbally summarize and state the agreement that has been reached so there’s no misunderstanding later.  In formal situations, a written form of the agreement will be documented either by one of the parties or an impartial third party.  The handshake or some form of body language signals that the negotiation has concluded — and everyone has “won” in the process.


Check back soon for more articles on communications, speech-language pathology, writing and executive functioning.




Nov 122015
  • Isn’t communication more efficient through email, text messaging, voice mail and automated phone systems?
  • In our technological age, aren’t we wasting time by speaking to one another?

While email, text messages and social media have broken down barriers of geography and time, they have created an illusion that face-to-face communication has lost relevance.  As a global society, we run the risk of losing the skills to articulate our thoughts in spoken language if we place greater importance on technology over verbal interaction.

In the 21st century, the value of the spoken word, both for information as well as a learning tool, has been eclipsed by various forms of technology.  The need to speak to another person, to gather information and to learn, seems to have taken a back seat to the concept of efficiency.

In his excellent book, In Defense of a Liberal Education, Fareed Zakaria speaks about “a related method of learning through the ages… pure conversation.”  He quotes A. Whitney Griswold, former president of Yale: ‘Conversation is the oldest form of instruction of the human race… a great creative art.’

Zakaria adds the words of the scientist and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead: ‘outside of the book-knowledge which is necessary to our professional training, I think I got most of my development from the good conversation to which I have always had the luck to have access.’

Throughout the history of the United States, as well as well as abroad, coffee houses, taverns, even sewing circles have provided a venue for conversation and debate.  Would the United States exist without the word-of-mouth news and exchanges that encouraged revolution?  The verbal skills to express oneself, argue beliefs and present a personal point of view remain critical tools for everyone.

Many individuals contact me for speech coaching because they lack the skills and confidence to create a verbal statement of their work or their personal views.  Successful professional and social interaction continues to be a mainstay of our modern society.  Whether interviewing for college, a  job, even meeting new people, the ability to converse smoothly still counts.

But without practice by actually speaking to one another, these skills may not  develop or reach a higher level  of sophistication.  While contracting information into 140 character text messages–sound bites with abbreviations–may be efficient, we should not devalue the long history of personal, spoken interaction.  The ability to tell a story and to verbalize one’s thoughts remains a skill that still has relevance and importance in our technologically-driven society.  What we perceive as mere conversation can provide the means for significant learning and personal enrichment.


Check back soon for more articles on communication, speech pathology, writing and cognitive function.

Jul 212014
  • Are you a confident speaker?
  • Do  you capture the attention of your audience?
  • Are you an effective speaker?

These three questions are all entwined.   If you want to become an effective speaker,  you need to capture the attention of your audience.  If you’re confident, you can engage your audience and deliver your message.  Confidence comes from having the tools to connect with your audience.

Whether you’re one-to-one or speaking to a room full of people, you need to make a personal connection.   For a presentation this doesn’t necessarily mean speaking about your hobbies, showing slides of your last vacation, as some speakers like to do, or “warming up the audience” with a joke or cartoon.  It means being “authentic.”

“Authentic” speakers display competence about their subject; they prepare, research their topic and use relevant information and examples to illustrate their points.

“Authentic speakers” use a powerful voice.  Power in this case does not come from volume, but from authority, knowing your subject, displaying your knowledge — your competence. Showing conviction about your opinion engages the attention of the audience.  While you may be explaining new information, don’t simply “tell.”  Gauge the interest and understanding of the individual(s) by maintaining eye contact and watching for  body language — head nods and focus — signaling the audience is following you.

Professional speakers and actors know how to use critical vocal features to convey the powerful voice.  Be sure you’re using a natural voice by keeping a rhythmic intonation pattern.  Your voice should go up at the end of a question and down at the end of a declarative statement.   Emphasize important words and pause at the end of phrases.  Too many speakers sound robotic because they neglect these features.  Monitor your rate: don’t speak too quickly because you’ll lose your audience in a blur of information.

Engage your speakers by thinking of your presentation as a dialogue, not a monologue where you’re simply lecturing them with information.  This doesn’t mean you necessarily stop to answer questions, but rather you keep a mental note that you’re speaking “to” your audience, not “at” them.

Professional speakers maintain a divided consciousness: they have to be aware not only of “what” they’re saying but how they’re saying it.  Some communication coaches will maintain that your presentation skills are more important than the words you use to convey your message.  In my opinion it’s a 50-50 split.  Keep in mind the most knowledgeable speaker can be so boring the message gets lost in the delivery.

Take a tip from the professionals and make the delivery as engaging as the message.


Check back soon for more thoughts on communication skills, speech-language pathology and executive function skills.

Jan 152014

Ever try to write an essay, report or important letter and find yourself frustrated?

In my work with students and adults (of all educational backgrounds), I find a nearly universal theme — how difficult many people find the writing process.  This may be partly due to the differences between our less organized, less specific speech and what is expected in written text.

Some of the frustrations I hear:

“I don’t know where to start?”

“I don’t seem to be able to get to the point.”

“What I write never looks as good the next day.”

These are frequent issues people raise, difficulties even professional writers face at times.

One of the keys to being a good writer is organization:  Consider what you want to say and plan your writing before you begin.

I’ve written about strategies for planning and organization in previous articles on “being an effective speaker” and some of the points I raised in these entries apply here as well.  You may want to read two of my previous blog articles: “#1 Tip for Making a Good Presentation, ” Part 1 and Part 2.

Consider your purpose:  What is the point of your piece, or in academic terms, what is your thesis statement?

Once you’ve jotted down the idea in one or two clearly written sentences, consider the key points or information that supports your main idea.

Make an outline:  This is your map, your guide.  You can change the outline (and your thesis) if you find the writing moves in another direction.  Sometimes it’s the actual process of writing that helps us figure out what we’re really trying to say.

Be willing to write drafts:  Rarely is our first attempt our finished product.  Most people need to edit for sentence structure, grammar, spelling and punctuation.

Proofread out loud:  While annoying, this is the best way to catch errors and to be sure you’ve written what you intended, not just what’s in your mind.


Check back soon for more specific thoughts about drafts and proofreading techniques for writing, as well as articles on speech and language, communications and executive functioning.




Jun 142013

Here’s my radio interview on Peter Moses’ radio show on WVOX 1460 AM,  Monday, June 10, 2013 at 3 P.M. Learn how to give a great interview, whether you’re a new college graduate or a professional seeking a new job.

Apr 092013

You’re making a presentation at a meeting, a pitch for work, or requesting a raise from your boss… What’s most important for success?

When I speak to groups or coach individuals, I emphasis the importance of confidence. You need to feel confident when you speak and show that confidence. Fine, you might say, but how do I feel confident when I’m really not?

The key to confidence is preparation: knowing what you want to say and planning the steps in advance to make the listener follow your line of reasoning. All good speakers (and writers) know that persuasion is the key to communication. By persuasion, I mean that the speaker’s objective should always be to bring the listener to your point of view. How does this happen?

Before you speak, think carefully about your objective and what information you need to give to the listener. If it’s unbiased information, then plan your talk so there’s a flow and logic to what you want to say. But for most people, the hidden objective is presenting your point of view. Whether you want to teach or persuade, as a speaker you bring a perspective to what you say, so don’t lose track of this as you plan your talk.

Knowing what you want to say and the outcome you hope for will lead you closer to that key ingredient: confidence.
In my next Blog post I’ll be talking more about the nitty gritty of “Preparation”. So come back next week…

And if you’d like more tips for how to make a great presentation, come to my workshop on April 25th, 7-9 PM at Watercooler, a coworking space on Main Street in Tarrytown.