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Who Stole My Lunch?

Handling sensitive issues in the workplace with colleagues (such as personal hygiene) is one of the most challenging conversations we will have. This article suggests five steps to make these conversations a little easier and less confronting.

I recently heard the story of Michael, who inadvertently (well, according to him), ate his boss’ lunch. Michael arrived for work one morning without having had breakfast. As the busy morning progressed, Michael’s stomach started to tell him (and others) that something was missing. Finally, one of his colleagues said “I’ll fix that for you”. Next thing, she returned to his desk with a nicely toasted sandwich, which Michael proceeded to thoroughly enjoy.

Sometime later, Michael heard his boos scream out “Who stole my lunch?”. You can probably guess the rest.

Have you ever had your lunch, snack or drink stolen by a work colleague? Or perhaps, you may have helped yourself to some food or drink that seemed to be “waiting for you” in the fridge?

While this might seem like a frivolous event (and yes, sometimes it can be), there’s also a serious side to stolen food. You may be surprised to know that a survey carried out in New York last year found that:

  • 71 per cent of employees have had their personal snack, drink or meal stolen out of communal-office kitchens
  • Not only that, but in urban areas, 40 per cent of employees admitted to having been the perpetrators of lunch theft.

The tough part about this situation if it happens to you, is confronting others (colleagues, bosses or employees) about such sensitive issues in the workplace. “Who stole my lunch?” is probably not the way to approach the situation.

So how do you raise sensitive issues with others in the workplace?

Let’s look at one of the most challenging – personal hygiene. How would you approach a colleague whose personal hygiene is causing issues in your workplace? Perhaps drop a hint? Confront them head-on? Allude to it through others?

I know of a supervisor who once left a cake of Palmolive Gold soap on a person’s desk who had bad body odour. It created a really bad atmosphere in the workplace. Hints do not work. Tackle the situation head on.

There are five steps to take:

1. Keep it private – one on one. On no account mention that “others have noticed” or similar. Make sure that they understand that it’s just between the two of you and will go no further – both now and in the future.

2. Be careful with your words – if it’s hygiene – avoid words like “stink”, “smell”, even “offend”. Instead of “odour”, use “scent”, “aroma”. Avoid trying to be politically correct such as “hygiene impaired”.

3. Make them feel safe – show your good intentions – “I wonder if I could talk about something that would help me out a bit. It’s not a huge deal, but it’s worth mentioning”.

Note here that you have:

  • Asked permission to talk, “I wonder if I could talk about something …”
  • Asked for their help, “… that would help me out a bit.”
  • Shown that you will not lose any sleep over it, “It’s not a huge deal …”
  • Shown that it is still important, “… but it’s worth mentioning”

(This process is similar to my recipe for handling performance problems covered in my book “What To Do When You Become The Boss”, the “I have a problem … recipe”).

4. Where possible, try to give the other person an out. “I get the feeling that maybe you’ve been exercising before work recently. In any case, we work so closely together that I’m wondering if I can talk about a change that’s affecting our working environment.” “I get a strange scent or aroma when I’m close to your desk and also when we meet in my office – could it be your deodorant?

5. Thank the person for listening. “Thanks for your understanding with this, I really appreciate it”.

Raising sensitive issues with work colleagues is one of the hardest occurrences any of us will have to face. Using the above five steps should make it a little smoother, although it can still be quite confronting.

And to return to the stolen lunch situation, as they say in the classics “prevention is better than cure”. So, you may consider (apart from eating out every day):

  • Get a cute bag, e.g. a pretty pink bag or cloth-covered coloured container.
  • Put your name on it.
  • “Please leave this in the fridge, as I’m coming back for it. Signed, John Smith”. This personalises it, so that the perpetrator is less likely to steal from someone (there are always exceptions, of course)

And if all else fails … someone suggested to me, “Lace your food with laxatives … then watch who runs to the toilet … that should flush them out!​”

 

The Train Story – a journey, an experience, and a feeling!

When people are happy in their work it shows in what they do and say. This story highlights the benefits that can accrue from thanking people for something they’ve done, particularly when it’s not expected.

I was travelling by train from Circular Quay to Central (in Sydney) one morning some years ago. Quietly sitting there reading, I found myself suddenly listening to the train guard’s announcements. Now train travellers reading this will readily testify that when the guard makes an announcement, rather than the recorded message, it’s often quite dull or hard to understand. Whether it’s the recorded message or the guard’s message, few people (apart from tourists) listen to these messages.

This one was different.

As I looked up from my paper, I noticed that other passengers (previously engrossed in their smart phones or tablets) were also looking up and appeared to be listening. Not only that, everyone was smiling!

Why was so much attention being paid to this message?

As best I can recall, the guard said something along these lines, “Good Morning Ladies, Gentlemen and Children, this is the 7.35am from Penrith to Central and you’ll be pleased to know that we are right on time. This means that we’ll get you to where you’re going in plenty of time. And what a lovely morning it is in Sydney today. The sun is shining, temperature is about 21 degrees, birds are singing, and all’s right with the world. I trust you have a great day wherever you’re going. Thanks for catching my train this morning and I hope to see you again soon. Have a great day.”

Wow! Have you ever heard an announcement like that? I certainly hadn’t.

And how contagious was it? As well as getting everyone smiling, there were quite a few people (obviously previously strangers) who started talking to one another. They were all talking about the guard’s fabulous message and how good it had made everyone feel.

I started thinking about this and as I exited the train at Central, I approached the Guard’s cabin and started to thank him, to which the guard replied “Don’t know what you’re talking about mate, I’ve just come on”. So I asked where the other guard had gone and he pointed to the exit stairs.

I raced down the stairs, taking them two at a time, and caught the young guard at the bottom. He had obviously finished his shift and was on his way home.

I tapped him on the shoulder and said “Were you the guard on the 7.35 from Penrith?”. The guard seemed a bit stunned at first replying, “Yes, yyyyes.” (In hindsight I think I too would have been a bit stunned if someone had approached me like that). Pressing on I said “Well, I just wanted to thank you for your fabulous message this morning on the way from Circular Quay to Central. The message was so upbeat and pleasant. Most importantly, it got everyone’s attention and had everyone smiling. Thank you so much for giving me and the other passengers such a good start to the day. Please keep doing it.”

There are two messages for me in what happened that day. Firstly, when people are happy in their work it shows in what they do and say.

Secondly, the story highlights the benefits that can accrue from thanking people for something they’ve done, particularly when it’s not expected. Can you imagine the conversation that guard would have when he got home … “Guess what happened to me today – a customer actually thanked me!”

Bob Selden, author “Don’t: How using the right words will change your life”. Bob often asks the question “Have you thanked someone for what they’ve done today?”. He’d be very pleased to hear your “praise” stories at www.therightwords.co

Reviews

5 Stars
Unlock the do in don’t…

I’m sure all of us have gotten the lyrics to a song stuck in our heads and find ourselves incessantly humming or singing it. When I’m aware I’m doing it I try to stop before I drive myself crazy. (e.g. the Barney song. You’re welcome.) That’s similar to what I do now that I’ve read this book—catch myself as the word don’t is about to trickle off my tongue. I’m learning to search for alternative ways to say (or write) my statement to infer a more positive feel or outcome. In essence, I’m reprogramming my brain.

“When we use positive words they strengthen areas in our frontal lobes and promote the brain’s cognitive functioning, making us more cognitively healthy.” (excerpt)

I’m a positive person, a picker-upper. In seeking for the positive in even the most tragic or unfortunate circumstances we influence others (knowingly or not) to do the same. This book’s message does something similar—showing us how using the right words not only influence our behavior and thoughts, but those of others as well.

“…the average child hears 432 negative comments or words per day, versus 32 positive ones.” (excerpt)

The bottom line is WORDS HAVE POWER. If you’ve ever received a backhanded compliment, then you understand how particular words and phrases project negative connotations. This is true even when the words are said with the best intentions. (Don’t touch the hot stove! Don’t give up!) Words like don’t automatically put our brains in a defensive or negative mode. Motivational speeches encourage and inspire people by using positive words and an affirmative approach. Therefore… need I say more?

DON’T, by Bob Selden, is an interesting book, written with authority, and humble, easy to understand language. (I especially enjoyed the sections dealing with creating images with your speech and using metaphors.) A truly inspiring read.

5 Stars!

Cover Lover Book Review

5 Stars
Communicate Much More Effectively

A must-read to communicate positively and effectively. After reading “Don’t” you will find yourself communicating much more persuasively and easily, especially in those difficult conversations when you have a different point of view and are communicating your opinion. My favorite advice from the book is, “Completely eliminate the word ‘don’t’ from your vocabulary. Think of what you would like (or want) people to do, and say so.” Many more golden nuggets on good communication skills are in this gem. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to be a better communicator.

I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Kirt Manecke, author Smile: Sell More with Amazing Customer Service-The Essential 60-Minute Crash Course”

5 Stars
Change your life

This is not a book, but a very well thought out, evidence based instruction program on positivity. As a person with a PhD in psychology, I know that the communication strategies it teaches work, but you don’t have to take my word for it. Bob Selden references his sources as meticulously as for any academic writing. Fortunately, though, this is the opposite of typical academic writing: easy to read and simple to follow.

Learning is through doing. Reading a book about tennis won’t teach you to play. Appropriately, this book is full of exercises. Follow the instructions, and watch your life improve.

Five stars for an excellent, enjoyable program.

Dr. Robert Rich

5 Stars
Unlock the do in don’t…

It’s a pleasure to read a book which blends both current research with the learning that comes from life-experience. “Don’t: How using the right words will change your life” is a refreshing approach to the “positive thinking” genre. It gives practical examples of methods to change language and therefore to create positive outcomes. The book addresses use of positive language and its effect on others and on our own brains.

There’s extensive coverage of Conversations; notable for its incorporation of proven conflict management principles. These principles are supported by extensive research, and a variety of applications of the principles in different scenarios.

You might choose to apply only some of what the book offers: it’s a smorgasbord of wisdom and learning. So even a small helping from it will offer you a satisfying and nourishing feast.

“Don’t: How using the right words will change your life” is an easy read, but it has a depth that warrants regular re-visits. Activities enable you to lock in the behavioural changes it offers. My view is that this book is a good investment of time and energy. Well done Bob.

David Millar, Director, Future Perfect Training & Project Management Pty Ltd

5 Stars
Moving towards harmony/respect

After reading just the first two chapters of Bob Selden’s book DOn’t I found I was automatically rephrasing my own statements as well as those I observed. For example at a school recently I noticed a well intentioned plaque on the wall which read, “moving away from violence”, and I thought, would “ moving towards harmony/respect” have a more positive impact?

Bob persuasively points out the power of “Clean Language”. Having conducted courses on communication for many years I was interested to learn how “Clean Language” can have such an effective impact on ensuring both parties have a common understanding of a particular position, even more so than reflective listening in many instances.

As one who often laments the lack of proper conversations I hope that many readers will gain valuable insights from this book. It reaffirms that the true nature of dialogue is as the Greeks intended it to be which an exchange of proposals, indeed is thinking together!

The quote on page 113 says it all for me:

“Where conscious and constructive conversation happens, trust begins, cooperation starts and violence disappears.”

Robert Re, Principal, Robert J Re & Associates

5 Stars
Selden brings out so well the fact that the good use of words only comes alive when they are …

We all are well aware of the fact that the meaning and use of words is going through dramatic changes – and that’s life as it is today. What isn’t changing however is the need to communicate clearly and using words that create an intended understanding. This brings up the dreaded word ‘discipline’ – the need to discipline our thinking in how we communicate our messages. Reminiscent of the classic “Plain Words” of Sir Ernest Gowers, but far more practical and realistically reflecting 21st century society needs.

Bob Selden’s book is therefore not just welcome but indeed a highly essential volume. I particularly cheered that the core message, not just in the title but throughout the book, is the tried and true philosophy of ‘accentuate the positive to eliminate the negative”.

Selden brings out so well the fact that the good use of words only comes alive when they are considered in the way they are used for two-way communication. The rise of electronic communication is rapidly killing the art not just of saying the right words but more importantly the art of listening to understand and absorb the words and messages of others. Selden’s use of practical exercises does much to help translate what might otherwise be text-book information into true-life reality.

Selden’s book gives strong attention to the fact that so much communication in today’s stress-ridden society is about managing difficult conversations to achieve mutually-satisfying outcomes. No easy task. Inter-generational conversations – especially between parents and teenagers – come in for detailed and constructive attention. The aforementioned rapid changes in the meaning and use of words is placing huge pressures on people of differing generations even understanding what is in each others minds, let alone achieve mutually-understood outcomes. Selden tackles manfully a problem about which so many parents (and teenagers?) despair.

It will be interesting to learn who buys this book – the older person or the teenager? The person who wants to be heard or the person seeking to better understand? Only time and the results of Selden’s efforts will tell.

Peter Nicholls, Australia’s People Gardener.

4-stars

I say ‘Don’t’, read it. Or, should I say, do read ‘Don’t’.

Bob Selden’s book ‘Don’t’, attempts to ‘unlock the do in don’t’. Using examples from everyday life; parent to child communication, work scenes, disputes with ticket sellers (you’ll laugh at this one), he gently highlights a paradox: when we issue negative instruction, ‘Don’t’, it is perceived as an invitation to ‘Do’. Further, that different languages use different perspectives, nuances, that can often create, or if understood properly, unlock, problems of miscommunication.

Seemingly insurmountable problems are reduced to the changing of a single word, under Bob’s masterful analysis. It turns out that a word changed, can illicit a different tone, different message, and altogether more successful outcome. Something we all want in our lives. Imagine the possibility for relations between partners, parents, managers & friends. Awareness is so important, as once you have grasped the concept, you find yourself walking on egg shells as you spot the problem everywhere. We have become so entrenched in the ‘Don’t’ side of the equation. When what works is the ‘Do’ side.

Bob Selden explains a simple yet poignant issue, that blossoms into a life changing approach to how we communicate with, and are perceived by, the world around us. I am a convert. I believe that my own quest, to remove negative words from my speech, will help me to make a positive impact upon the world. When the sign states, Don’t walk on the grass, I will be sticking to the path, that leads to a trouble-free future.

Don’t is not an unpleasant read, it is a totally enjoyable one! Far more than a manual for the Sales or Business man, it is an agenda for life. Bob’s effortless gentle persuasion has a curious way of winning you over, with examples, exercises and scientific fact. He does succeed in making a difference to the way we understand language and communication. This is a unique and new perspective on a much examined and written about phenomena.

I say ‘Don’t’, read it. Or, should I say, do read ‘Don’t’.

R J Salisbury, author and publisher, Lime Books

4-stars

A useful book for all who manage a family, an office or a business

Pixie Emslie, an IABC Fellow and author, talks about Bob Selden’s new book and says she wishes she’d had something like it when she was younger and new to leading a communications team.

“Don’t do that!” How often we have said those and similar words to our kids, or worse to someone who may work for us. And how wrong we are: Bob Selden’s new book, “Don’t”, shows us just how much negative words and sentences – even thoughts – influence us and those around us.

While this is not a new concept his approach to the power of positive speaking is refreshingly modern. “Don’t” is a neat combination of some very astute and highly acclaimed academic studies and a number of workable, easily applicable explanations and exercises. It is fascinating to see how Selden has gone from the simplistic to what is in fact a highly complex subject. He says he is not a linguist, but some of his work hinges on linguistics and the effect of words on the psyche of both speaker and listener.

Selden takes what appears to be simple: the use of positive language – and illustrates the innate difficulties people have with the concept. As he says it is much easier to say “Don’t hold that”, when what one means is more like: “Do put that down”. In both the statements the thing one remembers is the instruction: “Hold that” or “Put that down”, so in the first, the “Don’t” sentence, the meaning is almost instantly lost in the negative.

So, the way we talk impacts on the way we act, the way we give instruction, the way we liaise with employees, colleagues, friends, our children; in fact on everyone around us.

In IABC, and in our roles as Communicators, these are essential lessons. They are the basics one would think, but no, they can be very complex and not easily applied. Indeed, Selden says it took him personally as long as a year to master the technique of never using the word “Don’t”.

‘All this suggests,’ he says, ‘that we need to work harder at producing positive words both in our conversations and in our self-talk.’ He adds that in addition to common negative words we may use from time to time there are also a number of negative phrases many of us use on a regular basis. These include: “That’s not a bad idea”, “No problems” and the Australian “No worries mate.” All of these, he points out, are intended as positive suggestions but in fact they reinforce the negative – “bad idea”. “problems” and “worries.” Selden goes so far as to suggest that one should be on the lookout for ‘negative speak’ even in our e-mails. Another common trap we all fall into is the ‘Yes, but’ – clearly meaning ‘well yes, but actually I don’t agree with you.’

Taking this further he looks at our daily use of metaphors: ‘It’s raining cats and dogs’, ‘He’s bouncing off the walls’, ‘Chill out!’, ‘Let sleeping dogs lie’. The list is endless and we all use metaphors in our everyday speech, our writing, and probably even more in social media. Metaphors are more often than not visual comparisons which give immediate access to the visual part of the brain, making for quick and easy understanding. And, because metaphors often use sensory descriptions – ‘the singer had a velvet voice’ – they also have an impact on our feelings and senses. So, he says, be aware of what metaphors you use and when.

Selden’s book includes exercises which one can very usefully complete alone, or use with others in a fun interactive way. The bottom line of all this is to change your negative view and way of speaking into a more positive one.

‘A positive view of yourself will bias you towards seeing the good in others, whereas a negative self-image will lead you towards suspicion and doubt about others.’ He adds that there is even more evidence from ‘an unlikely source – fiction writers. When we read detailed descriptions or an emotional exchange between characters, it affects our mood and how we act in life.’

In the final chapters Selden takes his theory into how to communicate with those people close to you – your spouse, partner, your teenagers, and even how teenagers can use this to communicate with their parents! Though I doubt that the teenagers in my life are likely to want to read the book, (or take any other advice!) no doubt preferring to leave it to their parents.

How I wish I’d had something like this book to help me when I was young and new to leading a team of communicators who all thought they knew more than me. I would have made it compulsory reading for the whole team.

Pixie Emslie, IABC Fellow and author, Southern Cape, South Africa

5 Stars
How to become MUCH more effective in your communication

Has it ever happened to you that people don’t do what you would like them to do?

Well, here is a book that explains why…. It may be because of the language you use. Really ? Yes. You may be surprised how negative wording puts a negative spin on even well intentioned, helpful messages to our colleagues, loved ones and people we encounter. The good news is that you can do something about it by adopting a more positive phrasing of your communication.

Bob Selden’s book in a very practical way takes you to the steps to get more out of day-to-day as well as critically important conversations at work, at home and anywhere else where you want to influence people’s behavior.

Dr. Paul Vanderbroeck, Geneva, Switzerland

5 Stars
Review of “Don’t. Unlock the do in don’t…How Using the Right Words will Change Your Life”

Bob’s background includes training coaches and people in organizations. A driving theme of the book is the idea that we can in fact change the locus of control of our lives and of others. That is, we can learn to take more responsibility for the things that happen, and don’t happen, rather than looking for external factors to blame.

And a key insight into this approach is to avoid using a negative framework to suggest a behavioral change. Don’t say “Don’t do this…” but say instead what the right thing would look like. An example is to change “Don’t touch anything in this shop” to “Put your hands in your pockets until we leave this shop.” Or change “Don’t run across the road” to “Stop. Walk slowly.”

The book argues that eliminating this one don’t word can make substantial change and Bob did this himself 15 years ago. He then goes on to show how the use of more positive words can also affect the outcome of group tasks. He has some great examples of negative self-talk we have fallen into: “I’m stuck in this rut…” I found these very helpful. Bob is an Australian and a wonderful Australian movie “The Dressmaker” takes the theme of someone feeling cursed into deep places. (The idea of framing problems as challenges is now thoroughly into the mainstream and once politicians are all over this we know the idea is in danger of becoming clichéd.)

I loved the implications of Keith Chen’s insights on how different world languages emphasize different approaches to the future. This may impact large cultural attitudes and outcomes. This chapter is a highlight for me as it has very large implications and yet is very subtle.

Bob’s work on metaphors is an extension of a classic set of studies by Lakoff and I have also used metaphors for helping groups describe their current and future states. Bob does a good job of giving credit to the people who have made some breakthroughs in the area of positive communication, and the book overlaps more and more into the techniques and ideas of assertiveness training.

Bob goes deeper into more specific examples as the book progresses and it becomes a hands-on manual for increasingly specific occasions, which many people really love. There are very tightly written concluding examples of handling a range of situations and one can dip into this book by topic as a reference text. The stages of a conversation (opening the channels, committing to engage, constructing meaning and converging on agreement) are classics we may need to brush up on. One feels these could be reprinted in high school classes and they would also be welcome in many work situations.

The book is well laid out with the needed pieces of theory and research handled very concisely. The volume becomes increasingly practical and there are great small exercises to keep the reader engaged. This is a very clear, well-written and tightly edited text. Highly recommended.

David Cawood Ph.D. Owner of David Cawood Consultancy Inc, in Vancouver, Canada. Adjunct Prof of Strategy and Leadership at the University of British Columbia. Author of “The Secret Sabbatical.”

5 Stars
‘Do read this book.’ It makes a positive change even as you read it.

I am practicing Bob Selden’s advice while writing this review. I recommend you read it book to see exactly what I mean.

The book is helpful from the first page, which asks the reader to reflect on the positive and/or negative aspects of their own mindset and the way they express themselves. The brain is naturally tuned in to what is negative, more than what is positive. (Ever give a performance review? Say ten good things and one bad thing – what did the person hear?) Add to that that the evidence in the book about how language and attitude can have a reciprocal impact on each other and you begin to see that effective communication is as much about your own attitude as it is about getting your message across. Words can hurt us (think internet trolling) and help us.

The book gives clear explanations of how words impact behaviour, which words to avoid, and which ones to use in order to communicate more effectively, especially during difficult conversations. All the concepts are demonstrated with relevant examples and ways to apply the concepts. In fact, I found the structure of the book one of its most appealing characteristics. I have read a number of books with excellent problem or issue descriptions that fall flat in the end because there are no suggested approaches or solutions. In this case, issue and problem descriptions are followed up with concrete examples of effective language plus practice activities, some with suggested answers.

In my work as a facilitator, one of the questions I am most often asked is how to handle a difficult person. After reading this book, I can see many new ways to answer that question. I recommend reading the book so you can see for yourself.

Dr Melinda M Muth FAICD, Managing Director, Streamwise Learning, Institute of Food & Grocery Management.

5 Stars
I love words and I’m always curious to know and understand …

As a writer and a linguist, I love words and I’m always curious to know and understand more about their inherent power. This is why I decided to read DON’T: How Using the Right Words Will Change Your Life.

Admittedly, I went into reading this book thinking that I would probably know most of the information in this book. I was pleasantly surprised. The author is incredibly knowledgeable in this particular area and does a lot more than simply explain how using the right words will change your life. He provides fascinating evidence, employs meaningful examples and also shares some of his own experiences in relation to each topic.

The book is also very easy to read and follow. Bob has a very engaging style and the ability to take dry research studies and turn them into interesting anecdotes. The book is structured in a way so the reader always knows where they are up to. The book is broken into three sections and there is an introduction at the beginning of each section as well as a summary at the end. Also, at the end of each chapter there are practical exercises in which to put into action the information learned. I found this very helpful in retaining what was clearly very important and useful information.

This book is for anyone who is looking to improve their lives, experience greater happiness and satisfaction and feel more positive and fulfilled on a day to day basis. The information is interesting and told in a way that’s engaging and holds the reader’s interest. The exercises are simple and can be done throughout the day without adding further stress. In fact, these activities will help to reduce stress and help the reader to feel a greater sense of positivity in their lives.

I really enjoyed this book and I’m already putting the information into practice. I’m using negative words less and focusing on using more positive words in all my communication. It’s a process but it’s one I’m really enjoying thanks to this book and Bob’s expertise. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to get more out of life simply through using the right words.

Hedley Derenzie, Author, Creative Keynote: 7 Keys to Public Speaking Artistry for Creative Professionals

5 Stars
This book really moves you …

Now this is one book that every person should have nearby. With excellent examples, guides and templates this book moves you from the negative to the positive with everyday language. It reinforces using positive language rather than negative words and what is wonderful it provides numerous examples, and thought provoking exercises throughout.

The language we use impacts our thinking, feelings and finally behaviours. So approaching conversations using positive language is truly an important skill for everyone from student to leaders to parents to teachers. I highly recommend this book. I personally found it invaluable and will definitely be keeping it on hand as a reminder of how I can turn a phrase in a more positive way.

Babette Bensoussan, MindShifts

5 Stars
DON’T READ THIS REVIEW

So you’re reading it? That’s Bob Selden’s point in his fascinating new book, ‘DON’T’. If you use words like ‘Don’t’ you’ll often get the opposite result to the one you expect. For example, is that paint really wet? Sure, the sign reads ‘wet paint, don’t touch’, but we touch it just to make sure….

Selden suggests we can unlock the positive ‘do’ in the negative ‘don’t’ by choosing affirmative language and by simplifying the mental images our words provoke. He shows us how using the right words can change our social life, home life and our life on the job. Use ‘we’, not ‘you’. Use ‘us’, not ‘you’, and many more. Perhaps the most telling examples show how to get better outcomes from conversations simply by using the right words, metaphors and images. ‘DON’T’ is above all a warm and practical book which builds on points made in Selden’s best-selling ‘What To Do When You Become the Boss’.

Whatever you do, don’t read ‘DON’T’. You know what I mean.

Peter Burleigh, author and media communication expert

5 Stars
Bob Selden tackles an area that other books go near but no one has quite hit the mark

Bob Selden has produced yet another superb book to compliment his original What To Do When You Become the Boss. Bob tackles an area that other books go near but no one has quite hit the mark that Bob’s book does. By combining a number of different areas and bringing them together he has created a brilliant and practical ‘how to’ book that is a ‘must’ for business people, parents, teachers and anyone who wants to communicate effectively. I still find myself thinking of yet more “don’t” examples months after reading the book.

What’s more impressive is that he has taken a number of fairly complex areas and put them into plain English that actually makes sense as well as providing examples of how to use the different skills in different situations.

Finally the section on parenting teenagers should be required reading for every parent.

Philip Pryor, Principal, Morphthink

5 Stars
I loved this book.

Whether we have any experience with changing our language, or are new to the idea, Bob Selden puts an excellent case for using different words to improve relationships, our own and other people’s behaviour and our own feelings.

As someone who coaches executives in personal leadership and has taught conflict resolution, and communication skills, I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants more effective conversations and outcomes. There are plenty of practical tips and thoughtful ideas to use everyday.

Highly recommended for every bookshelf.

Valerie Orton, author Everyday Resilience – Creating Calm from Chaos

4-stars

Don’t offers readers a fascinating look at the way words impact our behavior, as well as the behavior of those around us.

Utilizing numerous studies and research findings, Bob Selden delves deeply into the reasons why the words we choose matter, and how simply re-shaping statements from negatives to positives can make a world of difference in communication and leadership abilities.

Full of real-life examples and practical exercises to help hone your skills, Don’t explains which words to use, which to avoid, and the correct way to use words to diffuse conflict in difficult situations -all the while helping readers develop a more positive outlook through using more positive language.

Don’t is a fascinating book that will inspire you to take a deeper look at how you communicate -revealing just how impactful words can be, and how changing our words can actually change how we think and interact with others.

Wow- as an avid student of animal learning theory and behavior, I was struck by the parallels between positive-reinforcement training and the information presented in this book regarding human behavior and motivation. Many of the basic concepts are the same, especially when it comes to the notion of “don’t” (or “no”) -words positive dog trainers drop in favor of teaching incompatible replacement behaviors (“do this instead”). In a similar fashion, Selden teaches readers how to re-frame “don’t” statements into positive instructions, changing difficult conversations and situations from negative to positive for the best possible outcome. I enjoyed reading the real-life success stories as well as the intriguing, if not sometimes humorous, studies, and appreciated the summaries at the end of each of the book’s three parts. In addition to discussing which words to use and avoid, Selden also covers topics such as the importance of tense and inflection, and how certain words impact specific regions of the brain. Includes a 21-day plan to help you get started in using more positive language.

This is a fantastic book not only for those in a management or a leadership position, but also for anyone who would like to improve their communication skills and develop a more positive perspective in general. An intriguing and insightful read, highly recommended!

I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Johanna Bouchard, Epic Book Quest

5 Stars
An excellent piece of work that should be on all book shelves.

This book has a couple of informative subtitles: ‘Unlock the do in don’t…’ and ‘How using the right words will change your life’ I could add, ‘How using the right words will change the lives of those around you’, too.

So, what’s it about? Essentially, it’s a manual for using the right language to make life smoother, easier, less confrontational and more enjoyable for all. That may sound like an ambitious project, but Bob Selden has carried it off.

I first came across the idea of not using ‘don’t’ on a civil service course many years ago. The image I was given then has stuck with me ever since as an illustration of the way we can easily make mistakes when using language. Try this: ‘Don’t think of pink elephants.’ You are now visualising pink elephants. Your response to language is largely visual and there’s no visual image for don’t, so your brain’s response to that command is the same as if you’d heard ‘Think of pink elephants.’ The ‘don’t’ is invisible.

Bob Selden enlarges on this simple basic fact that corrupts so much of our communication. He does so with examples that brilliantly illustrate the problems of both conversation and written communication. For parents, he gives a wonderful example of an alternative to the much used, ‘Don’t touch anything.’, which, of course, the child hears as ‘Touch anything.’ I won’t give his alternative: read the book.

He develops the theme of positive versus negative language, discusses how effective these two approaches to communication are and uses exercises and examples to demonstrate how positive words and phrases are often the key to successful transactions.

There are chapters on: the ‘don’t’ rule, accentuating the positive, applying the futureless concept, using metaphors, changing mood by applying more positive descriptions to your feelings, conflict issues in conversations, tone of voice, and how to handle those difficult conversations we all experience with colleagues, bosses, employees, family and friends.

In short, there’s something for everyone here. No matter what your employment status, your relationship role, your family position, you’ll find words of practical wisdom here. I shall keep this book handy for reference. And I’ll re-read it from time to time to reinforce the very positive message it contains. An excellent piece of work that should be on all book shelves.

Stuart Aiken, author The Methuselah Strain

5 Stars
The bottom line is WORDS HAVE POWER

I’m sure all of us have gotten the lyrics to a song stuck in our heads and find ourselves incessantly humming or singing it. When I’m aware I’m doing it I try to stop before I drive myself crazy. (e.g. the Barney song. You’re welcome.) That’s similar to what I do now that I’ve read this book—catch myself as the word don’t is about to trickle off my tongue. I’m learning to search for alternative ways to say (or write) my statement to infer a more positive feel or outcome. In essence, I’m reprogramming my brain.

“When we use positive words they strengthen areas in our frontal lobes and promote the brain’s cognitive functioning, making us more cognitively healthy.” (excerpt)

I’m a positive person, a picker-upper. In seeking for the positive in even the most tragic or unfortunate circumstances we influence others (knowingly or not) to do the same. This book’s message does something similar—showing us how using the right words not only influence our behavior and thoughts, but those of others as well.

“…the average child hears 432 negative comments or words per day, versus 32 positive ones.” (excerpt)

The bottom line is WORDS HAVE POWER. If you’ve ever received a backhanded compliment, then you understand how particular words and phrases project negative connotations. This is true even when the words are said with the best intentions. (Don’t touch the hot stove! Don’t give up!) Words like don’t automatically put our brains in a defensive or negative mode. Motivational speeches encourage and inspire people by using positive words and an affirmative approach. Therefore… need I say more?

DON’T, by Bob Selden, is an interesting book, written with authority, and humble, easy to understand language. (I especially enjoyed the sections dealing with creating images with your speech and using metaphors.) A truly inspiring read.

C.E. Hart, author, Piper’s Passion Cookies and How to start home gardening

5 Stars

A Manual for Life

This really is a manual for life’s communications. I found it particularly useful in rethinking my conversations with my teenager and wish I had it for some of those difficult moments talking to my father when he was alive. I’m now handing it to family members so we can all be gentler in our communication with each other. Essential reading.

An Amazon customer.

5 Stars

Everybody should read this book!

Bob Selden has done it again! Here is a book that brings new skills in your life in a painless and efficient way. Backed by research and science, full of humour and true life examples, with practical, simple and effective exercises, the book is easy to read and the concepts quickly translate into new behaviours. This book will change the way you communicate and even think!

Louisa Grisoni, Grandson, Switzerland.

5 Stars

Don’t is a must for every household and business

Thank you for the opportunity to read your new book, Don’t in my role as a Small Business Advisor.

I have now tested with remarkable success all three parts of your book. For example, a client recently sought assistance with a draft of a complex proposal with potentially significant regional outcomes. However, it was over salted with “don’ts”, to the extent that the intended recipient I am sure, would have uttered:

“don’t’ consider this proposal”

By choosing more appropriate words the client now has an appointment to meet one to one with the recipient.

Initially I put a few hours aside to sit down and read “Don’t”, but found after reading the first chapter I was flipping in and out of other chapters and pages as ideas started to flow. Now, I use the book almost daily as a reference-check prior to meeting clients and to encourage clients with your three-stage process.

Don’t is a must for every household and business; wishing you every success.

Ian McGinn, Business Connect Advisor

BEC

 

 

 

Teenagers

Remember it’s a period of challenge for young adults as they frequently question parent authority. They can go to great lengths to remind you that you aren’t the font of all wisdom as they once thought.

The Top 6 Ways to Communicate With Your Teenager

How can you engage, really engage, with your son or daughter?

By Bob Selden, June 2016

“Why do I have to get stuck with such dumb parents?”

And you know what?  They’re right!

It’s not that we parents are “dumb” it just seems that way to some teenagers.  Why?  During the teenage years, people are very black and white in their thinking – there are no shades of grey as can be seen by older adults. People do not mature emotionally until their mid-twenties.  The limitations of the teenage brain have been well publicised, helping parents, teachers, and others understand why it may be difficult for them to meet our expectations for managing emotions, handling risks, responding to relationships, and engaging in complex school work or employment. In early and mid-adolescence the brain undergoes considerable growth and pruning, moving generally from back to front areas of the cerebral cortex. Continue reading “Teenagers”

Cancer

If you assiduously follow these three steps, I can personally guarantee you’ll become more positive in your outlook, your self-image and self-esteem will greatly improve and you’ll start to see many opportunities that other less positive people will miss.

How I beat cancer
by Bob Selden, July 2016

On the 12th April, 2015 I decided I needed to do more exercise and get fitter – ride my bike more.  By 16th April 2016 I had completed 369 days straight on either the road bike or the home trainer.  My starting mantra was “I’m now riding my bike regularly each day”.  Notice how this is expressed in the present tense rather than “I am going to start exercising (today/tomorrow)”.  Science has proven that the brain responds by at least 25% more actively to words that are expressed in the present tense rather than the future – it seems to think that the action is already happening, so it visualises us having already started the new regime.  Clever brain!

All of this is by way of introducing the 17th April 2016 when I got out of bed feeling unwell and did not want to exercise.  I’d had a dry cough for about three weeks without any other symptoms. My astute GP said “I cannot find anything wrong, therefore there must be something wrong, I’ll send you for X-rays”.  Short answer – I had cancer, lymphoma and before I could make it to the specialist appointment some days later, was rushed to hospital for emergency treatment. Continue reading “Cancer”

Labelling

Over recent weeks, there’s been a spat of comments in the press (mostly on ABC radio and TV) about “labelling” of people and groups. For example, how are people seen when over a certain age they are labelled as retirees? This has a particular impact on their employment prospects and their potential (lack of opportunity) to pass on years of knowledge that will otherwise be lost.

Labelling of people, genres and groups – what does it mean and what does it do to people’s behaviour?

Over recent weeks, there’s been a spat of comments in the press (mostly on ABC radio and TV) about “labelling” of people and groups.  For example, how are people seen when over a certain age they are labelled as retirees?  This has a particular impact on their employment prospects and their potential (lack of opportunity) to pass on years of knowledge that will otherwise be lost.

The press reports around labelling (which is often negative) started with: Continue reading “Labelling”

Negativity

Researchers have provided substantial evidence of the Pollyanna Principle. They found that people expose themselves to positive stimuli and avoid negative stimuli, they take longer to recognise what is unpleasant or threatening than what is pleasant and safe, and they report that they encounter positive stimuli more frequently than they actually do.

Has Australia become too negative?
by Bob Selden, June 2016

Since returning to Australia after living overseas for seven years, one of the things that has struck me is the negativity of our language.  “No problems”, “No worries” (I’m even getting these in emails and texts now) have replaced “That’s Okay”, “It’s fine”, “Sure thing”, and in shops “My pleasure” and “You’re welcome”. The country sayings of “She’ll be right” and “She’s apples” have virtually disappeared although I’m told you can still hear these occasionally outback.

Although I’ve heard “No worries” referred to as “the national motto” of Australia, it is extremely negative.

Continue reading “Negativity”

Press

masthead-main

 

 

Bob Selden book launch

June 1, 2016, 9 a.m.

HOW often do you use the word don’t? Think about it. It’s a word we use just about every day, so what effect does it have on us?

In his new book DON’T, Bob Selden has tapped into the zeitgeist of the importance of positive language.

The book explains how words impact the brain giving us a more positive or negative outlook. Positive people use positive language and see opportunities that others miss.

Bob sets out negative words and phrases to avoid – the ones that create negative thinking, and then suggests some words and phrases that do just the opposite, activating the positive parts of your brain and resulting in positive behaviour.

Bob uses relatable examples when dissecting day-to-day language. He has worked with experienced coaches of sporting team throughout his career and has witnessed the results of a change in linguistic behaviours. He suggested that “coaches who use positive language always seem to get the best out of their athletes – firstly on the training field and subsequently during competition”.

The book will be launched by Bob Selden and Goulburn MP Pru Goward on Friday, June 10 from 6pm to 7.30pm at The Bookshop Bowral, 309 Bong Bong Street, Bowral.

This is a free event and drinks and snacks will be provided.

RSVP by Friday, June 3.

Details: 4862 1634

ShoreTel Survey Upends Common Assumptions about the Value of Meetings

Global survey delivers surprising results from Millennials, Remote Workers and other age groups . . .

See results at ShoreTel Press Release.  Bob Selden was asked to comment…

ShoreTel Survey Upends Common Assumptions about the Value of Meetings

1.     Meetings are a waste of time

Although anecdotal evidence supports this result (probably because of poor content, design and/or structure), stats show otherwise.  This may seem surprising, yet not unexpected.  People have an inherent need to be involved, included and to know what’s going on.  Apart from the grapevine, meetings fill this need.

2.     Time spent in meetings

Generation X’ers (28 per cent spent more time) were born in the era where meetings were seen as the basis of gaining employee involvement and have grown up with them, hence they spend more time in their “comfort zone”.

In many areas of technology (30 per cent spent more time), work is very individual, hence the need to come together to share information and more importantly, social interaction.

3.     Meetings are productive?

Baby Boomers (47 per cent productive) versus Millennials (34 per cent); the later will see meetings as less productive because of the formalised structure and pace of meetings as “too slow”.

4.     Getting other work done during meetings

25 per cent of respondents saying “Yes” seems rather high – one quarter of all participants.  However, with the ease of access to personal technological devices, understandable.  It would be interesting to see if this figure is increasing over time as more participants now use their devices to take notes during meetings rather than hand written notes.

5.     Cultural impact on the effectiveness of meetings – time spent and productivity

“Asia had the fewest hours of meetings a week (57 percent citing 0-4 hours) and Australia the most (45 percent citing 9+ hours). Both Asia and Europe found meetings to be more productive (48 percent and 52 percent respectively) than North America (40 percent).”

Here culture and the way organisations operate in different regions explain these meeting results.  Asian meetings are top-down, information giving with little or no involvement of the team/group in decision making – hence their short time span – everyone listens to the leader.  European meetings are more consensus-oriented with the aim of involving all to reach a decision shared by all; hence they take longer.  Australian meetings are longer because there is more talking and questioning of decisions.  They may aim for consensus (which takes longer) but rarely achieve it – decisions are often made outside of the meeting.

With the consensus-orientation of European meetings, it’s easy to see why participants would rate them as more productive – they have been involved in decision making. The positive results for Asian meetings may seem counter intuitive to these results as participants are not being involved in decision making, rather they are being talked to.  However, this can be explained as it is likely to be one of the few times their managers are telling them why something has to be done rather than how to do it.

North American meetings have a greater emphasis on hearing the “wisdom” from people with status (leaders and participants) hence the need to be seen and heard by the “right” people rather than to be productive.  This explains the difference between European meetings (52 per cent seen as productive) versus North American (40 percent seen as productive).

There’s also a further point of difference in the type of meeting that is run in different regions. European and Australia meetings for example are more likely to be “problem solving” type meetings whereas Asian and North American meetings are more often “information sharing” making the former seem far more productive.

6.     Location of meetings

With the increasing ease of communication via technology, it’s evident why people want to meet face to face in conference rooms.  Data and information transported electronically only carry reason and logic, not feelings; people need both.  In fact where feeling-type communication is attempted via technology or inadvertently occurs, it’s impact is often counter-productive. People need to understand the “why/how” (reason) of issues and also the motivation (feelings – both their own and others) behind the reasoning.  Feelings can only be gauged through face-to-face interaction, hence the need to meet in conference rooms. This also explains the lack of difference in ratings between various generational groups – people of all ages have the same basic needs despite their differences in upbringing, education and experiences.

Millennials, who were born with today’s technology rate highest desk-participation because they’ve being doing it since they first learned to talk and walk. It’s a natural part of who they are.

Bob Selden, author of “Don’t: How using the right words will change your life” www.therightwords.co

24th June 2016

Money Magazine – Book Of The Month – “Don’t”

"Don't" - Book of the month
“Don’t” – Book of the month

For interviews with Bob Selden

please cvontact:

dmcprmedia
Tel: 02 9550 9207 | E: kate@dmcpr.com.au 
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Radio and TV Interviews

See and hear Bob being interviewed by the panel on Studio 10

Hear the latest interview with Libbi Gore on ABC 774

The art of using the right words to get your message across by 774 ABC Melbourne _ Free Listening on SoundCloud

You can hear previous interviews with Bob about his new book “Don’t”:

  • Monday 6th June, 8am EST, Radio 2ST with Graeme Day