Category: Wednesday Word

Wednesday Word: What We Mean When We Speak About Women.

May I have a Wednesday Word with you?

Weeks later, and I am still thinking of Michelle Obama’s brilliant, master class of a speech in the wake of Donald Trump’s gross and vile statements recorded while he was working (and not palling around in a locker room). That’s a testament to how powerful her speech was. I also am thinking of the near-universal outrage expressed after the release of the recording.

But all outrage is not equal. And it was a reminder for us all to take greater care when we write and speak about each other as human beings. Take a look at the following quotes.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “As the father of three daughters, I strongly believe that Trump needs to apologize directly to women and girls everywhere, and take full responsibility for the utter lack of respect for women shown in his comments on that tape.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan said, “Women are to be championed and revered, not objectified. I hope Mr. Trump treats this situation with the seriousness it deserves and works to demonstrate to the country that he has greater respect for women than this clip suggests.”

how-not-to-sound-sexist

Illustration by Leah Goren for TIME Magazine

I appreciate their outrage, but look deeper at their statements. “As the father of three girls” and “championed and revered” lessen the impact of what otherwise would have been strong statements.

Why? Two reasons. The first statement makes it seem as if women only can be spoken about in relation to other men, as if it takes a man to validate us human beings. The “championed and revered” phrase in the second statement otherizes and patronizes women, as if we are some sort of odd creatures instead of–wait for it–human beings.

 

Emily L. Hauser perfectly captures this sense:

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Wednesday Word: Patience.

May I have a Wednesday Word with you? That word is “patience,” a virtue we all need to practice.

Including me.

I planned to blog on March 1, and share this picture.

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The fabulous followup to my December 1 class.

The blog post was to be an update for the “Now Year’s Resolutions” challenge (not “new”) I issued to my cycle class.

I blogged about it on December 1. I challenged my class members that day to think of one small aspect of their lives that they wanted to change, and to commit to writing down the change and taking steps to achieve it, instead of waiting until New Year’s Day to do so.

Little did they know that I planned to follow-up with them and ask them about their progress on March 1.

That class was an awesome one. I was well-pleased with the level of effort they displayed. It was a challenging class with new music and routines, and they didn’t miss a beat. Most of all, I was very impressed with the individual changes they had made since December 1. I walked out of the gym with a bigger-than-normal smile on my face. Since I was feeling so good, I decided to do a bit of a yoga before starting the work day.

Little did I know–as I tried to move from chaturanga into an upward-facing dog–that my left ankle would have other plans.

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Wednesday Word: You Know More Than You Think You Know.

Today’s Wednesday Word is actually a sentence–a powerful one. 

It’s been some time since I’ve blogged about my fitness side. Perhaps it is because some major changes have been happening as of late–namely, that I am now teaching yoga as a substitute instructor.

Home practice tools.

Home practice tools.

I am absolutely thrilled about this new leg of my professional and personal journey. I am excited to share my passion for exercise and explore new facets of what is possible for me in a different way.

Even though I’ve been practicing yoga off and on for years, I don’t pretend that I have mastered it. Quite the contrary–I still have so much to learn.

Although I have to admit that bit of self-knowledge made me nervous. Very nervous. 

But sometimes, we have to remember to use our nervousness as fuel. It fueled a reminder of the best advice I have ever received–advice I hold close to my heart, and have leaned on ever since:

You know more than you think you know.

Several years ago, a dear colleague treated me to a celebratory lunch. I had won a new position in a new office: one that offered both higher pay and a higher level of responsibility. As happy as I was to have won the role, I was nervous. VERY nervous. I didn’t think that I knew enough to excel in the position. I questioned if I was ready and wondered what I’d do if I made a mistake. And I decided to share my apprehensions with him, hoping I could count on him as a resource.

My colleague smiled, assured me that I could indeed count on him as a resource and said, “Erica, you will be just fine–because you know more than you think you know.”

I returned to that conversation before I taught my first yoga class. To say that I was nervous is to understate my feelings. I “team-taught” my first cycle class with another instructor, which removed a bit of the pressure and nerves that I felt at the time.

This time, however, it would be just me before the class. 

I was fine.

Of course I was fine: I have guided classes before; I was simply applying my knowledge differently. I knew the sequences I wanted to share. And I wouldn’t have been trusted to lead the class if I hadn’t earned the approval from my group exercise management. 

We sometimes become nervous before beginning a new adventure. That’s to be expected. Just remember that you know more than you think you know.

And that’s your Wednesday Word.

Wednesday Word: Don’t Wing It.

Today’s Wednesday Word is a word of advice.

If you have to deliver a speech or a presentation–no matter how big or small–please know what you’re going to say. Don’t wing it.

Or you may end up like Governor John Kasich of Ohio–a smart man who nevertheless decided that the best way to  announce his presidential run would be to opt against a prepared text, and instead speak more or less “off the cuff” for 43 minutes.

That is not a practice to emulate.

Courtesy C-SPAN

I understand the impulse to “ditch the script.” People in the spotlight–particularly politicians–seem so scripted. Even “Reality TV” follows a script. Audiences hunger for genuine people who will speak truthfully from the heart, and speakers want to be able to deliver.

But use of a prepared speech isn’t a signal to the audience that the speaker is fake and insincere. The prepared speech is a guide for the speaker, and to the speaker’s audience as well.

A prepared speech is like road directions: it tells you where you need to go without veering off on every side road that may look interesting. Similarly, a prepared speech helps you make the points you want to make, while making sure the audience can follow the ideas you wish to express. Simply going off the cuff in order to seem more authentic is not only a less than ideal way persuade or inform an audience, but also itself can be seen as a ploy.

So when you have to deliver a speech or presentation, know what you’re going to do. “Going with your gut” is neither a game plan nor a genuine way to connect with your audience. Plan and practice what you will say.

Don’t wing it.

And that’s your Wednesday Word.

Wednesday Word: Where I Am.

‘Where are you at?!’ Hiding behind that preposition. —My Dad…and countless other parents.

Today’s Wednesday Word features a little word–“at”–used in a widespread and annoying practice: its use at the end of sentences.

The biggest offenders?

Where I’m at.

Where they at?

And, in what I describe as the “corporate team speak” version of this offense: Here’s where we’re at.

Clearly, my father did his work well.

Nothing makes me gnash my teeth more than hearing those phrases uttered, particularly in a professional setting. Now I admit that I do not end sentences with prepositions, even though writer and editor Mignon Fogarty (better known as Grammar Girl) said that I am allowed to do so. I simply re-write the sentence. So perhaps I am a bit fussy about using prepositions in that way.

But she backs me up when it comes to ending sentences with “at”:

The problem is that “Where are you at?” doesn’t need the preposition at the end. If you say “Where are you?” it means the same thing. So the “at” is unnecessary. You should leave it off.

So please help me stop gnashing my teeth. Unless you’re Beck, refrain from the grammatically incorrect (and extraneous besides) use of the word “at.”

Where I am.

Where are they?

Here’s where we are.  (If you must use this construction. I prefer “Here’s where we stand” or “This is the situation.”)

And that’s your Wednesday Word.

Wednesday Word: Editing in a Hurry? Disrupt Familiarity.

Today’s Wednesday Word is a quick hit.

Pressed for time, but need to edit a letter, talking points or a presentation?

First, slow down and be calm. You have more time than you think. Even say to yourself, Breathe and find your focus if you must.

Now you’re ready to take action. Print your work. Take it to another office, focus/quiet room or conference room. Then read aloud, starting from the end of the piece, and work to the beginning.

Yes. I absolutely thought I read the first line as "The quick brown" at first. Photo by volkspider

Familiarity can breed errors: I’ll admit it–I initially read the first line as “The quick brown.”
Photo by volkspider

Sometimes, familiarity can breed errors. After working on a piece for a while, our eyes may skip over what is actually written. We become so familiar with our stories and what we are attempting to express that we may miss glaring errors. “Disrupting” your flow of thoughts by changing your surroundings and reading your work “out of order” is an excellent way to weed out the mistakes in your work that you may miss otherwise.

Ideally, we should let our work products “sit” for a day so we can review it with fresh eyes, but sometimes we don’t have that luxury. Keep this tactic in your back pocket for those times.

Have I had to take my own advise advice over the years? Over the past few days? Yes, I have.

So the next time you have to edit in a hurry–pause. Find another space to do your editing. Then start to read from the end of your work to the beginning. You may be surprised by what you find.

And that’s your Wednesday Word.

Wednesday Word: Say What You Mean.

Today’s Wednesday Word is not a tip, but an exhortation: When speaking, be neither precious nor pretentious. Be clear. Say what you mean.

What does it mean to be “precious and pretentious” in this case? In short, it is the use of multisyllabic, “$50 words” and corporate speak when clear, more direct language is much more effective.

I completely understand the impulse to use such words in our work life. We want to sound professional, knowledgeable and perhaps even a bit sophisticated when we speak with colleagues and clients. We “know our stuff” and want to show it. And occasionally, the big, “$50 word” is the most precise one.

Often, it is not. Using clear and direct language and is best.

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Wednesday Word: Take 10 Minutes.

Today’s Wednesday Word is the answer I give to people when I am asked about motivating myself on the days when I don’t feel like exercising (yes, that happens), or those times that I can’t seem to start writing (yes, that happens, too).

Take 10 minutes.

Set for 10 minutes--and go!

Set for 10 minutes–and go!

It’s easy. Grab a timer. Use a mechanical version, the timer on your microwave or stove or the timer found on a smartphone. Set for 10 minutes. Pursue the action–whether exercising or writing–for the entire time. Don’t look at the timer. Work diligently for those 10 minutes, and just those 10 minutes.

When the timer stops, assess what you’ve done, and how you feel.

If, on the eleventh minute, you cannot possibly perform another rep, move into another yoga pose or pedal another second, then stop. Same thing with writing: If you can’t seem to find the words to write, then stop. You will have given it your all for the moment.

Here’s the thing: You will find that you can keep going. You can hold the pose, take another hill and master another sprint or jump.

Similar to writing, you will find that the ideas will come. The words and phrases will flow.

Feeling accomplished? Good. Reset the timer and work for another 10-minute burst, and again assess where you are at the end of that burst.

So take 10 minutes. That burst can help on the days when you are not feeling as focused.

And that’s your Wednesday Word.

Wednesday Word: Without Apology.

not_sorry6/23/2015 UPDATE: I update this post to bring to your attention When An Apology is Anything But by Sloane Crosley, appearing in today’s New York Times’ op-ed page.

We need to say what we need and want, directly, forthrightly–and without apology.

 

Today’s Wednesday Word features a great piece by Tory Paez on a word that women, in particular, should not use in business communication.

And that word is, “Sorry.”

Her post, Five Things to Say Instead of “Sorry”, is a great reminder of the care we should take when we speak. Even seemingly innocuous words and phrases can shape perceptions.

To be precise, we should always be wiling to express apology when showing actual remorse for an actual offense. But if we say “sorry” as verbal filler for everything, then the actual word “sorry” will mean nothing. Also, we undermine ourselves–especially women–when we apologize for no reason. It robs power from our speech.

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Wednesday Word: You Have Everything You Need to Succeed

Our Wednesday Word is a dose of inspiration from First Lady Michelle Obama.

The Hugger-in-Chief delivered the commencement to address to the graduating class at Martin Luther King Jr. Preparatory High School, verbally wrapping the students in a warm embrace with her wise words to them as they move to the next phase of their lives.

Before sharing her “lessons learned” with the graduating class, she made this statement:

I want you all to know, graduates, that with your roots in this community and your education from this school, you have everything — you hear me, everything — you need to succeed. (emphasis mine.)

Read the speech when you have time. But telling these young people–and us all–that we have what it takes to live full, productive and meaningful lives is a message well worth taking to heart.

“You have everything…you need to succeed.”

And that’s your Wednesday Word.