Posts Tagged ‘communication’

How to talk with your hands

French Bartender Using Gestures and Expressions While Talking Behind the Bar

It was a July day in 1975, and Judge Rudolph T. Randa’s municipal courtroom in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was packed. As the defendant stood before sentencing, the judge asked if he had anything he wanted to say on his own behalf.

Needing to use his hands to speak his piece, the defendant automatically pulled them from his pockets … where he’d been holding up pants that were four sizes too big. His trousers fell to the floor. No underwear. Thus the defendant’s unplanned statement was to moon the crowded courtroom.

The poor man quickly pulled up his pants as the spectators tried to smother their snickers. But with the guard’s admonishment to “keep your hands in your pockets,” he probably found it even more difficult to come up with appropriate words for his circumstances.

A recent study conducted at the University of Birmingham in England found that talking with your hands triggers mental images that helps people solve complex problems involving spatial visualization. In other words, people who use their hands when talking find it easier to put things in mental order. Other studies have found that people tend to view those who talk with their hands as more warm, agreeable, and energetic … and those who don’t as more cold and calculating.

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3 ways to bridge generations

Generations of Women Rollerblading Together

So we were driving along in the family van, three generations of Robertses ranging in age from eight to over 80, when the topic turned to music. My sister-in-law had been to a funeral that day for a young man just out of his teens, and commented that they’d laid him to rest with Green Day’s “The Time of Your Life.

“I’ve always wanted that played at my funeral,” I said, prompting my mother to ask again the name of the song.

Good Riddance,” I replied, using the alternate title of the composition Billie Joe Armstrong originally wrote about the breakup of a relationship. “Good grief,” my mother said, “what kind of song is that to play at a funeral?” My sister-in-law, brother, and I quickly assured her it was an appropriate song about endings.

Suddenly my nine-year-old nephew piped up from the back. “This is the song I want at my funeral.” He held up his iPod


“Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road.

Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go.

So make the best of this test and don’t ask why.

It’s not a question but a lesson learned in time.

It’s something unpredictable, but in the end it’s right.

I hope you had the time of your life.”


“That’s it!” the middle generation chimed together.

“That’s beautiful,” my mother said.

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Voice your self-esteem needs

Lonesome Dove, 1989

One of my favorite books is Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove, and I’m equally crazy about the miniseries adaptation. I particularly love the scene when Captain Call takes exception to an Army scout whacking young Newt, who’s trying to prevent him from commandeering Dish’s horse. Captain Call sets the scout straight with some brutal whacking of his own, then quietly tells the stunned onlookers: “I hate rude behavior in a man. Won’t tolerate it.”

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Quotes on emotional needs

Clouds Give Dramatic Backdrop to Russian Space Station Mir, from Space Shuttle Atlantis

Have you ever taken a trip thinking you’d planned everything perfectly only to discover you’d forgotten something critical, such as reservations or directions? In a way, that’s what happened to Dr. Norman E. Thagard.


It was the summer of 1995, and in the 34 years since the Soviets first blasted off Yuri Gagarin, more than 300 American and Russian astronauts had totaled 38 years in space. Finally, the two Super Powers had arranged for their space travelers to spend some quality time together. Thagard would join two Russians for four months aboard the space station Mir. It would be the longest space trip ever undertaken by an American.

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Leave a positive impression

The Magic of Radio, Transistor in Pink Gloved Hand

My parents didn’t get off to a great start.

He was a technician working in a shop that sold and repaired radios and televisions, and she came in to buy a small radio for her boyfriend. Because the boyfriend was in the military, she had to give his full name for the shipping label. Part of the young man’s given name was … Elsie. My dad had an aunt named Elsie. He was very amused. Mom, not so much.

They met again when my dad came into the fountain where my mom worked a second job as a soda jerk. The first meeting had been somewhat out of character for both of them. Typically, he was more reserved and she had a better sense of humor. Things began to go more smoothly after their second encounter … for everyone but Elsie.

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Taming a rogue tongue

Staffordshire Bull Terrier Bitch Looking Up and Licking Her Snout

 Nooooo! Stopppp! I ran toward my friend, making wild arm gestures, desperately trying to wave him off as he unwittingly stumbled toward the precipice …

Too late. Crash and burn.

Okay … so my friend didn’t really take an accidental header over the side of the world then spontaneously combust. And my dramatic slo-mo attempt to save him was all in my head. I wanted to save him. The second he veered from his prepared comments into “I shouldn’t tell this story, but …” it was clear he needed saving. But I could only listen helplessly as he off-the-cuffed himself off the cliff. Later, as he tried to defend his inappropriate anecdote, he probably thought spontaneous combustion wouldn’t have been so bad.

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How to avoid risky conversations

The Man Who Knew Too Much, Top Doris Day, James Stewart, 1956

Imagine you’re traveling in a foreign country and a man you’ve just met comes stumbling toward you through a crowded marketplace, collapsing into your arms with a dagger plunged into his back. Just before he dies, he whispers to you that a head of state is about to be assassinated.

Fans of film director Alfred Hitchcock will recognize that as the plot to the 1956 version of The Man Who Knew Too Much, starring Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day. And of course, that tidbit of unwanted information plunges the tourist into a world of trouble.

These days most of us can identify.

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Handling button-pushers

To Hell and Back

We all go through rough patches. But for whatever reason, the journey through life is much tougher for some people than others. If you’ve had to travel over a lot of rocky ground, you’ve probably found that the people who’ve tried to give you a hard time along the way never had to endure the same kind of difficulties you did. So since they didn’t have to fight those tough battles, they have plenty of excess energy to spend trying to make themselves feel important at your expense.

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Write letters, change the world I

Love Letter

Like most people, I sometimes get caught up in politics and want my voice to be heard. That was the case a few years ago when the U.S. Senate was preparing to vote on a controversial measure. I’d had some personal experience with the issue, and since one of our senators was still undecided, I wanted to tell him my story. Fortunately, I worked for an association that had a lobbying presence in Washington. With some well-placed phone calls, a few like-minded colleagues and I were able to arrange for our faxed letters to be hand-delivered to the senator prior to the vote. We confirmed that he received and read them before leaving his office for the Senate chambers. Then we anxiously huddled around a television in a conference room and waited for the outcome.

When they called our senator’s name, he voted against the measure—as we hoped he would.

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3 big communication mistakes

Business Couple Walking Down Stairs Towards Each Other While Talking on Their Cell Phones

Recently I attended a big celebratory gathering of more than 100 friends. After everyone enjoyed a huge potluck lunch, we settled down for a DVD presentation. My dad was among those asked to say a few words, so while he was speaking I got up from my table and went to sit next to my mother. It was one of those sentimental occasions that drew a lot of laughter and a few tears from the crowd. And looking around at one point, I happened to notice my friends Sarah and Whitney standing with their arms around each other at the back of the room.

Of all the mothers and daughters I know, Sarah and Whitney are the duo that most remind me of the relationship I have with my own mom. Though Whitney is an independent woman carving out her own unique path in life (, she maintains a special closeness with her mom.

But relationships like Sarah and Whitney’s don’t just happen by magic or luck. They take a lot of work. Watching them through the years, I know Sarah directed much of her parenting effort the same way my mother did—toward effective communication. They approached parenting from different perspectives: My mother worked full-time outside the home while Sarah was a stay-at-home mom. Both also had many responsibilities on behalf of their extended families. But when their children needed to talk, they were there to listen.

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I'm Deborah, survivor of everything from multiple cancer battles to major business setbacks. Join my search for ways to move the mountains, big & small, that block your path to success.
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