New Beginnings

Posted by on Mar 31, 2013 in Business, Writing and Speaking | 1 comment

For many years of my adult life I bought into the idea of the New Year beginning on January 1st. Every where I looked–friends, courses, books–there were indicators that this was the perfect time of year to make new resolutions, chart my path for the upcoming year, hit the reset button, and swing into action. Yet, in my inner world, I was still in deep hibernation mode. The weeks leading up to the New Year were usually filled with traveling to see family in Ohio, Connecticut, and New New York. I tucked in as early as possible on New Year’s Eve exhausted from our family travel and fun. Projects and presentations were already in full swing for January and February, and January 2nd was a day full of pre-ordained work that had been put on hiatus throughout the holidays. Nothing about this time of year felt ripe for new beginnings. Within my Jewish faith, I had another opportunity. The Jewish New Year, based on a lunar calendar, often occurs in September. This felt more aligned to me. There was shift from summertime to school schedules, from warmer days to cooler ones. I welcomed the traditions that invited me to complete unfinished business with my loved ones and go forward with intention into a new year. Yet, the transitions–from summer to fall, from vacation weeks back to school, from Rosh Hashana to Yom Kippur–filled the month. September often felt more like the final sprint at the end of a marathon rather than a new beginning. I finally chose to stop looking around me for direction, and began to look inward, to my inner world for guidance. When do I feel most peaceful? When do I have the inner peace and focus to create, design, and plan? What are my rhythms for beginnings and completions? I realized my answers were with the seasons, not the solar or lunar calendars. Tomorrow is April 1st, one of my personal New Beginnings dates. Here in New England, the buds are starting to bloom without fear of buckets of snow landing on their little heads. The birds are chirping with greater confidence. The sun is warming our days. Everything around me is literally coming back to life. I am beginning to make plans for next year with clients who follow the school year calendar. I am beginning to step up my game for training for the triathlon I do in the summer. Without needing to navigate any massive schedule changes in this moment, I feel free to look ahead to the next six to twelve months and set goals and action plans. The days are warm enough for cool walks on nearby beaches and trails....

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Grace and Grief

Posted by on Mar 24, 2013 in Relationships | 0 comments

Over the past several years, I have been on both sides of the grieving process. I have been the person grieving the loss of a loved one. I have been touched and loved by those who knew how best to support me through the days, months, and years of grief. I have also been the close friend, relative, and distant acquaintance to others who were navigating the uncharted waters of grief. How we communicate with someone who is grieving directly relates to how well-supported the grieving person feels. I use these five reminders to help me stay present and supportive when someone I know and love has experienced a loss.   Make the call. It was the first year anniversary of the death of a young relative. I wanted to reach out to his mom to let her know I was thinking of her. I paused, though, worrying. What if too many other people were calling her? I didn’t want to bother her. What would I say when she answered the phone? Would my call add value or distraction to her day? Then I had a new thought. What if most people she knew wondered these things and talked themselves out of calling her that day? I picked up the phone and made the call. She answered on the second ring.   Listen well, say little. I recognize that there is no way to predict how a person is feeling or what the person is thinking when I reach out to connect. She may want to talk about her experiences and memories of her loved one, or she may not want to talk at all. All I need to say is, “Hi.” If I feel a need to say more, I can offer, “I wanted to let you know I am thinking about you.” Let her guide where the conversation goes from there.   Keep personal sharing to a minimum. As humans, we naturally work to relate what someone is telling us to something similar that we have experienced. When we hear something a grieving person shares, we often think of something similar in our own lives and may want to share the story as a way of relating and showing our support. Yet a grieving person’s brain is already consumed with integrating new information. Other people’s stories can feel like a distraction or even an irritation. This may continue to be true for months and even years after the initial loss.   Honor the altered attention span that comes with grief. When a person is grieving, there is nothing anyone can say or do that remotely compares to the magnitude of what that person is currently navigating. Be...

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How to Write a Eulogy

Posted by on Mar 17, 2013 in Articles, Writing and Speaking | 0 comments

At some point in your life, you may be asked or you will offer to give a eulogy for a loved one. A eulogy is a speech that acknowledges and praises someone who has died. While the eulogy you give may be one of the most important speeches you will ever deliver, you may have a very short period of time to prepare, and you may experience a wide range of emotions while you are creating it. Here are five strategies for writing a eulogy that will have the positive impact you intend and will leave a lasting impression with those who hear it. Keep it short. While you have a plethora of stories you want to remember and share, your audience will have a shorter attention span because they are grieving. Unless you are told to do otherwise, keep the length to no more than four or five minutes. Three to four minutes is ideal. If you are speaking at a Catholic mass, the priest may ask you to keep it to about three minutes. Even in a less structured setting, less is more. Give your audience the gift of brevity. Consider what your audience wants to hear and provide appropriate content. When I spoke at my Ukrainian grandmother’s funeral a couple of years ago, I thought about what would most make her family and friends smile. Everyone knew how she loved gardening and feeding people, so I told a story about how she would pick an enormous amount of strawberries–my favorite fruit –in the summer, freeze them with a little sugar on top, and then would produce this warmed-up succulent treat every time I visited her house in the winter. The story helped everyone in the church that day recall a time when my grandmother had joyously gifted them with fresh fruit or cooked up something scrumptious for them to eat. Include a personal vignette–preferably one that is new for your audience–to reinforce the message they want to hear. I recently spoke at my paternal grandmother’s funeral. My grandmother was predeceased by two of her three children. I knew there would be eight grandchildren at the funeral who were not only grieving their grandmother, but also missing their parent. Each of them felt peaceful about my grandmother’s death, but few had been with my grandmother in her final days. I chose to share with them something my grandmother said in a quiet moment a few days before death. She said, “I’ve lived a good life. I’m ready to go.” And with hope in her voice, she said, “Maybe I’ll get to see my children again.” One of my cousins came up to me after the funeral and...

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Creating Connections: Part 3 – Choosing to Connect

Posted by on Mar 10, 2013 in Business, Writing and Speaking | 0 comments

Creating Connections is a three-part blog series. Part 1 explored how employers speak with their employees about utilizing our services. Part 2 focused on how employees can take the lead in introducing our company to theirs. In this third and final part of the series, we’ll share a few of the behind-the-scenes reasons people choose to engage with Express Yourself Write.   By the time our company has an opportunity to partner with someone, the person standing in front of us already has a lifetime of experience. Part of our process involves understanding what hasn’t worked for our clients in the past. When working with topics as personal as writing and presentation skills, we know that how we work with clients is as important as the skills we share with them. This list reflects how we do what we do in the privacy of our meetings, and explains what differentiates us from our clients’ previous experiences. We lead with respect. The granddaughter of immigrants, the founder of Express Yourself Write learned at a very young age that expressions of oneself on paper or in spoken English may not be a reliable reflection of a person’s wit, intellect, or work ethic. Some of the most intelligent, capable leaders we know have experienced challenges in the areas of writing and presenting. With this in mind, we begin our work by focusing on the areas in which our clients feel successful and confident, and use those strengths as a foundation for working on their challenges. We model what we teach. One of the most important pieces of communication is speaking to people in a language that they can understand. When we present our work to top-level executives, we know which points to emphasize and how to quantify our work in tangible ways. We also know that clients need to receive information in a straightforward language. We match the register of the person with whom we are speaking, and model the same strategies we teach. We make it personal. Each one of our programs is customized to fit the individuals with whom we are working. Our clients say this is the main reason why engaging with us works better for them than anything they tried before. One client said, “I remember the teacher talking about these things in the class I took, but it didn’t make sense to me. When you say it this way, I get it.” We smile and use humor. Who said learning new skills has to be a bore? People take in much more information when they are interested, at ease, and engaged. Additionally, working on writing and spoken communication is an intense and personal process. We are intentional...

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Creating Connections: Part 2 – Making a Request

Posted by on Mar 3, 2013 in Business, Writing and Speaking | 0 comments

Creating Connections is a three-part blog series. Part 1 explored how employers speak with their employees about utilizing our services. Part 2 focuses on how employees can take the lead in introducing our company to theirs. Something has sold you on us. Perhaps you have seen, first hand, how we assist people with their writing and presentation skills. Maybe you have heard from a friend how they benefited from working with our company. Maybe you are struggling with your own writing or presenting skills, and believe our company will make your life easier. How do you approach your employer about hiring our company to work with you? Making requests and asking for help can feel like risky endeavors. Even when we know we would benefit from additional support, actually asking for what we need requires intentionality and courage. The key to making requests is being able to identify, in advance, how your proposal will be a win-win for everyone involved. Here are some steps you can take prior to making a direct request.  • Be clear on how and why working with our company benefits your company as a whole. Think beyond how you personally will benefit, and identify several ways our company will bring value to the entire organization. What matters most to your company? How will our services align with your company’s mission and goals? • Know who makes the decisions. The person who may be most interested in providing employees with this kind of support may not be the same person who makes budgetary decisions. Do your research, and be sure you know in advance the responsibilities and priorities of each person with whom you plan to speak. • Have a plan. Based on what you know about who makes decisions, consider where you want to start. Rather than going directly to the person who makes budgetary decisions, you may want to start first by talking with other decision-makers in your company who are likely to see the value of this work. Gauge their level of interest, and see if they will help you present information to others who may have additional concerns or questions. • Do your research! Consider what questions you will be asked about our company, and be prepared to answer. By knowing what matters most to the decision-makers in your organization, you can anticipate the data they will want to see and hear. While our company welcomes the opportunity to answer these questions directly, you will need to offer enough information in the initial conversations so that your employer has enough interest and confidence to take the next step and contact us. • Practice, practice, practice. Talk to a mirror, talk to...

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