Monthly Archives: May 2008

A Sandwich Needs Bread Too!

I am surprised by the number of emails I get where a new contact i.e. a stranger is emailing me for the first time and they just send me a one-liner, with no polite introduction or sign-off. For example:


I need to improve my English – what should I do?



How can coaching help me? Please explain.

Now I can appreciate that, as the old idiom states, Time is Money. And I realize that in some busy offices or cultures there is little time for ‘fluff’ and people speak directly to each other. HOWEVER in international business communications, it is vital to learn how the other party expects to be communicated with and on what level of formality or politeness to use, especially for the first contact.

Don’t get me wrong – I am not angry or personally offended by these short emails. I can read between the lines and realize that these are people who genuinely are asking for my help, so that they can achieve greater success in their personal and professional lives. I appreciate that and am happy to respond. But my job is to teach communication skills, so today the message is this: Don’t forget the bread when making your sandwich!

When we eat a delicious sandwich we savour the meat or cheese or whatever garnishes are inside, but we need the bread to hold it together from top to bottom, right?

The same is true in polite, professional, positive communications, even emails.

The bread is the polite intro and ending. For example, let’s improve the above emails:

Hi Ric,

I am happy to receive your newsletters, and have learned some interesting communication tips from you. However as English is not my first language, I need to improve it. What should I do?

Any suggestions or resources would be appreciated.

Best regards,



Hello Sir,

I am intrigued by your website and broadcasts, and am interested to improve my personal communications, however I am not really sure how coaching can really help me personally. I wonder, could you explain the coaching process in a bit more detail to me, or send me a resource to read?

Thank you very much,


By using the sandwich analogy it serves as a quick reminder to be polite in the beginning and end of your communications, whether speaking or writing, especially when you are communicating with a new person. You want to set the right tone and make a winning first impression.

Thank you and have a good lunch!

Body Confidence: How to Like What You See in the Mirror

From childhood we are sold on an ideal image of beauty, one few of us ever see reflected when we look in the mirror. This article will show you how you can look in the mirror and despite the ideal, see only a beautiful you.

When you look in the mirror, what’s the first thing you notice, and how does it make you feel?

If you’re like most people, the first thing that catches your eye is probably your least favorite asset. If so, don’t worry you’re not alone. Here’s why.

Can you guess how much money is spent in just one year by advertisers to sell us on the concept of the “ideal” image of beauty? Well, I can’t either but I do know this—it’s a lot of money, certainly somewhere in the billions of dollars! So, technically, you can consider yourself brainwashed.

From your earliest childhood days—whether you played with He-Man or Barbie—you’ve been receiving constant, consistent images telling you what beauty is supposed to look like. Never mind that these images are for the most part, anatomically impossible! And, would you really want to look like them anyway? Honestly? I’m guessing probably not.

So, here’s how you can build your confidence with the body given to you:

  1. Look in the mirror
  1. This time, really look at yourself. Reflect on the compliments you have received.

Do people tell you how great your hair is?

How beautiful your eyes are?

That you have a really nice smile?

Try to see what they see – take them at their word.

  1. Stand far enough away from the mirror so that you can take it all in. What do you see? Find at least three positive things.
  1. Now, get up close. Really close. Look at your eyes—the irises. What colour are they? Are they all one colour or are there flecks of various colours? How would you describe them using positive analogies or adjectives?
  1. Now, smile. What does your smile convey? Warmth? Happiness?
  1. Find at least three characteristics you like best about yourself, and then accentuate them as you dress to go out. For example, if you love your eyes, make sure your hair doesn’t cover them up. Love your lips? Make sure to keep them soft and moisturized. Your hair? Get a flattering cut and condition it regularly to keep it shiny and healthy. In short, amplify what you like, and don’t worry about the parts that you don’t.

Here are some ways to do just that:

1 – Go shopping and bring a good friend. Ask them to help you pick out colours and clothes they think flatter you. Don’t worry if your first reaction is “that’s not me!” Experiment!

2 – Feel better about whatever it is you don’t like about yourself by picturing the absolute worst-case scenario. Exaggerate whatever it is you’re hung up on and blow it up in you mind until it’s comical. Then look in the mirror—not so bad anymore is it? Accept yourself for who you are, how you look, and focus on what really matters—the things about you that can’t be seen—your heart, mind and soul!

3 – What do you want people to praise you for? Is it really how you look? Probably not. You probably want people to think you’re funny, smart, nice, or generous—something along those lines right?

4 – Make a list of your positive personal qualities and characteristics. Then ask yourself, what’s more important? Get involved in activities that build on your personal characteristics—volunteer, join a club, take a class to sharpen a talent. These will help you emphasize and focus on the more important qualities that get you through life successfully, and with more fun.

Live life, love fully and laugh often!

Talk to Trusted Friends and Mentors

As a Communication Coach I get the opportunity to meet and work with people from all walks of life. Sometimes what they are lacking, in addition to “ideal” interpersonal or professional communication skills, is a person or two in their life who they can ‘bounce things off of’, before they go ahead and make a decision that involves others.

Often I fill in for that roll. People ask me if what they are saying matches what they intended to say. They want my opinion on their email or proposal before they send it out. Others ask me to check their speeches (in written form) to see if they can’t be spiced up a bit. The list goes on.

I am honoured and happy to help in these requests, and it reminds me that all of us, even communication coaches, need a trusted friend, family member or mentor to bounce things off of first before communicating the idea to others.

I am lucky I guess, as I have in my ‘circle of influence’ a pool of knowledge to draw from on subjects such as entrepreneurialism, teaching English as second language, marketing, the H.R. profession and so much more. I talk to these few but oh so important people often about my ideas, conflicts, business ambitions and goals in life.

My advice to you today is to ask yourself who can be in your ‘circle of influence’ to help you with your communications. Who do you know and trust to bounce ideas off, to check your emails for content and appropriate messages, or discuss your interview or meetings. They may not call themselves ‘communication coaches’ but they certainly can offer valuable insight and life experience.

Go ahead, don’t be shy – bug them, and bug them often. Just make sure you return the favour to them!

Have a great week!

Further to your request…

“Further to your request, I have attached my resume.”
“Further to your request, I am faxing you the contract immediately.”
“Further to your request, I am happy to join you for lunch.”

Which sentence does not fit in? If you said the last one, you are correct. This is a great expression to use, but only in the office. And it is only used in writing and emailing, not in speaking over the phone or in person. It is an older, more formal business English expression, and a good one.

My advice is to use it often, but not always with the same person. If you do, you may sound ‘canned.’ Understand that expression? It means fake and too well-prepared.

If your job requires a lot of business correspondence (i.e. writing) then it is a good idea to have a list of useful expressions (like this one) or even templates available to you on your computer or at your desk. That will help you be more efficient and sound professional!

Just don’t forget to leave it at the office!

That is all for now. Have a good weekend!

Confident Verbal Communications

Here is a sample of what was taught at a previous public 3V communication skills workshop to help our participants communicate their confidence:

Even though only 7% of our communication is verbal, which is our word choice, phrases and expressions used etc. we still need to acknowledge the impact of what we say on others.

A confident person knows when he or she is good at something, and trusts themselves at all times. They know that the words we say affect our belief system. Not cocky, not meek, a confident person simply states the truth.

Now you finish these sentences with confidence!

I am…

I will…

I trust that…

I can…

I’m able to…

Yes, that’s correct. I am…

I trust you. You can do it. I know because…

We also sometimes use ‘softeners’ when we want to be more diplomatic, professional, non-aggressive and non-offensive. A confident person never wants to offend anyone, and is not easily offended either. They always take the higher ground. They are expert managers of conflict. They are excellent listeners and have developed their empathy levels. They have no need to assert their strength to put others down. They can defend themselves politely, yet firmly. They do not argue. They discuss.

Some example softeners are below.

Would you mind…?

Could you please…?

Could I ask…?

Is it possible to…?

I’m wondering if…?

How do you feel about…?

I’m curious to know…

Sometimes changing a small phrase in your sentence or question will make all the difference between being a confident communicator or a wishy-washy or even offensive speaker. Remember that the next time someone tries to bully you as well.  

All the best!

“What is NLP and how can I use it to improve my communications?”

This was a valid question given to me recently by one of my coachees. At first NLP can seem (and sound) daunting and scientifically complicated, but I can help you simplify it and use it everyday.

First of all, NLP stands for Neuro-Linguistic Programming. If you are thinking “brain-language training” you are correct. NLP assists in re-programming or re-conditioning your sub-conscious responses to certain words and situations. Actually it has been around for a while in the coaching world. Richard Bandler and John Grinder founded it in the mid-seventies, heavily based on hypnotherapist Milton H. Erickson’s work.

Do you know the name Anthony (Tony) Robbins? This self-help life coach and motivational speaker (although he hates to be called that) uses the same techniques, but calls them neuro-associative conditioning. I remember seeing Tony Robbins live at a Toronto conference last year. He was amazing, and certainly knew how to ‘condition’ the audience with excitement and energy!

Okay, history lesson over – here is the NLP lesson for today:


This pattern is useful to help influence, persuade or sell things. Why? Because we are conditioned since childhood to believe whatever answer comes after ‘because’ must be the truth. Think about your childhood. When you did not know an answer to a question, you asked your parents, your teacher, your religious leader. When you asked Why… they answered Because… and it was good enough for you. So even today, as an adult, we are still conditioned to accept the reasons given after this key word as truth. Here is an example of it in use:

Taking your communication skill-set to the next level is beneficial to you because you are aware of the strong need for soft skills in today’s workforce.


Because you know excellent personal communications will benefit your career, you will sign up for Ric’s communication training immediately. (ha ha!)

That is it for now. This is just one example of an NLP word-pattern. As we go along I will introduce more to you, or you can do some research on your own. Now go and practice your new pattern-word on someone, and please check out the coaching programs on this site if you think it will benefit you or someone you know.

Thank you all!

PS – for those of you using English as a second language, I have almost finished creating a new ebook on English idioms, and how to use them wisely. Stay tuned for this new resource.

Thanks again to all of you!

Are You on a Confidence Tightrope?

Do you know how confident you should act in your presentations?

Robert Herjavec (one of the angel investors from the TV show “Dragons’ Den” and “Shark Tank”) was recently asked this question: “What’s the most common fundraising flaw you see in entrepreneurs?”
His answer: “Overconfidence, bordering on arrogance. Or lack of confidence, bordering on insecurity.”

As a coach and a believer in the power of confident communications, I know how hard it is to walk this tightrope. You don’t want to fall right?  So what should we do? Well the answer for communication is the same answer for the real situation – KEEP YOUR BALANCE.

You must be confident in your pitching and presentations. If you are trying to convince others to believe in you or follow you, you must give them a reason and a feeling to do so. That is right, both logical and emotional reasons must be there. You need to be passionate about what you are saying (or selling) and you need to have hard facts and figures to back up your beliefs.

A confident presenter is challenged less than an unsure or meek one, even on Dragon’s Den or Shark Tank. When a confident person handles the first challenging question successfully, smoothly and convincingly, there is less desire to challenge again and again.

To be confident you must believe in what you are saying, have data to back it up and be comfortable talking about it to others. Confidence comes from competence, and vice versa. Make sure you prepare well.

Keeping your balance means that you must be confident to succeed, especially in North America, and you must balance that with logical reasons so that it is not just your opinion.

For example:

“I think you should buy my soft drink machine because I think it is the best value for money and I get a lot of revenue from it

could be transformed into:

“To get the best value for your money and a three to one return on investment, choose our soft drink machine. Recent statistics show that there is a growing increase in soft drink machine use when a variety of drinks are offered, and I strongly believe this is the way forward for our company.“

In this example we do not start out with our opinion. We start out with compelling facts and numbers that the logical brain can absorb. Then passion is displayed. It sounds more confident, doesn’t it?