Career change is a major life event. This transition affects your life cycle in many ways. We continue to grow and develop throughout life—mentally, psychologically, interpersonally, and spiritually.

My research, described in Questers Dare to Change Your Job and Life, describes our life long journey.

Progressing Through Life With Career Change

As we progress through life, we move through alternating developmental and transition stages. Each developmental stage presents a unique set of tasks to master and problems to solve. Between developmental periods we experience transition periods that allow us to question who we are and where we want to go.

career change

These transitions give us time to re-examine our needs and values, take another look at our external world including job and relationships, explore and evaluate options, and make decisions to either deepen or alter earlier commitments.

Handling Transitions in Your Life and Career

Adults in transition may be every bit as miserable as adolescents. But those who reassess values and set goals for their next developmental stage are healthier, happier and wiser than those who do not. Failure to resolve the challenges of transitions can lead to severe problems including alcoholism, depressions, even suicide.

Chapter 5, The Career Cycle Meets the Life Cycle, in Questers Dare to Change Your Job and Life, shows how to navigate transitions and realize your potential.


The term “ambush interviews” refers to unscheduled job interviews that occurs because someone has forced or tricked another into on-the-spot participation. Although the press typically uses the term to describe a journalism interview tactic, it can also refer to a tactic used by some employers and job seekers. An ambush interview can have a negative or positive result depending on the ambusher.

Are you prepared for job interviews? Do you know what to expect? Do you know how to behave in unusual interviews?

job interviews

There are numerous kinds of interviewers and interview styles. Most interviewers are competent, professional. Some can turn a formal interview into a cordial discussion, make you feel at ease, and elicit information. Others are less proficient.

Although all interviews involve evaluation of the applicant, interview styles differ. Two or more styles are often combined in a single interview.  Knowing something about each can help you prepare for interviews and boost confidence and performance.

What type of job interviews are there and how can you handle them?

Screening job interview.

This initial interview is most common with entry level positions. It’s often used to eliminate candidates who don’t possess necessary qualifications.

Structured job interview.

This directed interview proceeds from a pre-selected list of questions. After all candidates have been interviewed, their answers are objectively compared.

To introduce more information about yourself into this lockstep procedure, politely ask if you could offer information.  Most interviewers provide opportunities for comments.

Istructured job interview.

This non-directed interview offers candidates the opportunity to take charge of the interview. Interviewers ask open-ended questions. One favorite question is “Tell me about yourself.”

Demonstrate your employment objectives, qualifications, and accomplishments using concrete examples. Ask questions to obtain additional information and show interest.  Demonstrate how your strengths will contribute to the company.

Board job interview.

This interview may be used to select candidates for high level positions. Several interviewers may ask questions focusing on their areas of expertise, while another may observe nonverbal behavior.

Ask, in advance, about people who will be in attendance. During the interview, talk to the person questioning you. Concentrating on one person at a time, enables you to appear relaxed, confident.

Behavioral job interview.

This popular style assumes past behavior predicts future performance. Candidates are asked questions about how they’ve worked in the past. For example, “Tell me about a conflict you had with a co-worker and how you dealt with it.” Employers expect candidates to tell stories about themselves to give insight into behaviors such as teamwork, initiative, problem-solving, and flexibility.

When answering questions, describe the situation and task to set the stage. Next, review the action you took to demonstrate past performance. Finally, emphasize successful results. Ensure your answers are honest, concise.

Case job interview.

Interviewers present you with a real task to complete. Usually, you complete the problem during the interview; sometimes, you may be asked to finish it at home. Show you understand the problem and can reach a conclusion through logical analysis.

Before you read the case, understand expectations such as time limit.  Ask questions to clarify understanding. Pay attention to hints. Analyze the case from many perspectives to demonstrate ability to think through many scenarios. 

Analytical job interview.

This interview is designed to observe how you think on your feet and analyze data. You may hear some strange questions such as how many gas stations are located in your region. 

Think creatively. Try to respond humorously. The interviewer is interested in your thinking process, not necessarily the correct answer.

Stress job interview.

Some interviewers intentionally introduce stress into the interview to assess candidates’ reactions to pressure. Stress techniques include silence, being unfriendly, asking sensitive questions.

Smile pleasantly, maintain composure. Ignore offensive comments. Answer insulting questions candidly. Imagine answering these questions when you’re with friends.  Reframe questions to demonstrate suitability to the position.

The dining job interview.

You may be taken out to lunch if you’re in an all-day interview. While conversation may be informal, evaluation is present.

Maintain your guard. Order what you want in the medium price range. Avoid spaghetti, other food that could be awkward to eat; don’t drink alcohol.. Discuss common interests.  Don’t reveal more about yourself than planned.

Serial or successive job interviews.

After an initial screening you may be given a series of interviews with several interviewers, each on a one-to-one basis.

Treat each interviewer as though he or she is the first. Establish a good relationship with everybody, and repeat information you may have given others with enthusiasm. Employment decisions are often made by a committee composed of these people.

International job interviews.

Because different cultures have varied expectations and perceptions of appropriate interview behaviors, know the company culture. In some cultures, interviewers expect candidates to show modesty and wait to be asked before volunteering information. In Anglo America, interviewees are expected to show initiative, competence, and ask questions.

Follow-up tips.

Evaluate your interview performance. Did you create a favorable first impression? Were you prepared? Did you demonstrate your qualifications for the position? Other?

Write a brief thank you letter to the employer within 24 hours following the interview. State your appreciation for the interviewer’s interest, and restate your desire for the position demonstrating what you can contribute.

Don’t take rejections personally. These are normal. Use varied job search strategies, and persist.


Tina’s lay off from her retail position provided the impetus to follow her passion — art therapy. Bruce aced his interview for a cyber security position. They both attained their desired career goals. So can you!

Positive thinking is powerful. Whatever your mind can conceive and believe, and your heart desires, you can achieve. But you must have persistence and patience.

career goals

Achieve you career goals with the following strategies:

Know what you want.

State your goal in specific terms. Dare to dream. Ensure your career goal is consistent with your passion or purpose.

Confirm your goal is sound and desirable.

It should benefit both you and other people.

Write your goal and all your reasons for wanting it.

State your outcome in positive terms.

Identify and minimize barriers.

Specify any obstacles that may keep you from reaching your goal. If the worst thing happened what could you do? What information do you need to pursue this goal? Where could you go for this? From whom could you get support? What can you do to make this less risky? What kind of measures could you build in to make it less urgent? Less irreversible? Less overwhelming?

List all the groups, people, organizations, resources, character traits, education, personal strengths, and tools you have at your disposal for assisting you in overcoming obstacles. Use these to help you move forward.

Set a schedule for completing your career goals.

Be flexible so that you can incorporate new ideas. Use a daily organizer to plan activities that will enable you to attain your goal.

Break the goal into small steps.  Every day, do at least one activity related to achieving your goal.

Ask a friend or relative for support.

Meet often to review your progress. Call when you need a boost.

Continually focus on your desired outcome.

See yourself living your goal today: see, hear, smell, and touch aspects of the goal. Act as if you have already achieved your goal.

If you find this challenging, create a collage or drawing depicting it. Tina glued pictures from publications on a large sheet of poster paper. The collage illustrated her desired goals, how she wanted to look, the personal and professional image she desired to project, people she wanted to be with, and other things that represented her concept of “success.” Every day, she reminded herself that she was this successful person. She also stated affirmations daily, and continued to have faith that she would attain her goal.

Associate with positive people who support your career goals.

Remove all negative mental obstacles…

Such as hate, worry, anger, jealousy. Avoid phrases such as, “I can’t.” Do not criticize or blame others.

Bruce was convinced he wasn’t getting job offers because employers didn’t want to hire men in their 50s. But when he changed his attitudes, documented his updated skills, and illustrated how his previous accomplishments and experience could contribute to the company, he had three job offers in one week.

State and write intentions and affirmations daily.

Affirmations, potent statements of truths which sink deep into your subconscious, help you to become the person you want to be. Use positive statements such as “I can be what I will to be,”  “My life is changing for the better,” and  “I am proud of myself.”

View failures or setbacks as learning experiences.

They are detours as you move toward your goal.

Keep mind, body and spirit in top working order.

Eat healthy, exercise regularly, and nourish your soul.

Review your goal periodically.

Feel free to modify it as you learn more about yourself and your options.

Achieving your desired goals will give you feelings of accomplishment and confidence. You will gain a sense of purpose, inner harmony, and greater control over your personal and professional life.

Learn other goal attainment strategies Questers use in Questers Dare to Change Your Job and Life.


Questers, who are redefining how we look at career and work, look forward to the New Year with optimism! Questers are described in the award winning, Questers Dare to Change Your Job and Life.

Positive psychology has demonstrated a clear relationship among, optimistic thinking, job satisfaction and health. Optimism can be developed.

optimism for the new year

Tips for Improving Optimism

Believe in yourself.

William James, the father of American psychology, said: “Your belief at the beginning of a doubtful undertaking is the one thing that ensures the successful outcome of your venture…” When you expect the best, you release a magnetic force in your mind, which by the law of attraction, tends to bring the best to you.

Recognize you create your own thoughts and have power to change them.

Think and talk about the kind work you want. Use positive statements about such things as enjoying your colleagues, having a supportive boss, and being in control.

Focuses on successes.

Prepare a list of personality and work-related accomplishments, or create a collage using pictures that illustrate you succeeding in your ideal work setting. View this daily.

Review work accomplishments. Note the role belief and hard work played in achieving successes, and strategies used to accomplish results.

Be genuine.

Discard preconceived notions of what others think, and recreate the person you are, and want to be! Don’t compare yourself with others. Judge your job accomplishments against personal standards of self-improvements as well as company standards. Strive for excellence rather than perfection. Ask your supervisor for feedback and support.

Break the worry habit.

Empty your mind of worrisome thoughts about your job before sleeping to avoid retention of these thoughts in your subconscious. Picture the troublesome thoughts flowing out of your mind like water flowing from a basin.


Forgiveness is pardoning without harboring resentment. Release an old hurt about a colleague who started a malicious rumor about you. You don’t have to befriend the individual, but you must release negative emotions associated with that person. When you hold onto pain, you’re allowing that person’s actions to continue to hurt you.

Define a clear career goal, and expect success.

Be motivated by desire and goal attainment. When you arise in the morning, review this goal. Take one forward action step. Reward yourself for attaining this.

Remember, spring is about new beginnings and cultivating optimism. Use this time to create and pursue your desired job and lifestyle!


2018 is just around the corner and it’s time to create your ideal life!

The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking. – Albert Einstein

ideal life

Change is constant, just like new years. It happens all around us every day and embracing it is the key to your success.

Valuable lessons can be learned from change or adversity, if we look for them with open minds. Winston Churchill said: “A pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty”.

Eastern thinkers believe everything in life is impermanent. Everything exists for a finite time frame. When we accept the fact that nothing lasts forever, we’re equipped to manage changes and uncertainties. We should enjoy good times, and remember that challenging times are temporary.

Since change will occur in most aspects of our lives, we can learn to respond to change with positive anticipation, believing change facilitates growth and brings new opportunities.

Create a Master Plan for Success and Your Ideal Life

Take responsibility for your career.

Create new opportunities with your current or another employer. Consider time out, full or part-time study, travel or self employment.

View career growth as a lifelong process of personal and professional development – a continuing quest to maintain harmony between who you are and what you do.

Identify and pursue your purpose.

Your purpose is your compass which will guide you through chaos. When you’re in touch with the real you and live out who you believe you are, you’ll have you a sense of direction, inner peace and satisfaction.

Identify personal and transferable skills.

These enable you to perform in varied situations. Employers value adaptive skills like openness to ideas, persistence, critical evaluation, enthusiasm, helpfulness, patience, optimism and tolerance.

Strengthen “meta skills.”

These skills for tomorrow can’t be easily automated. They include problem solving, decision making, learning, research, judgment, inspiration, relationship building, performance management, ethical leadership, mental training, and emotional intelligence.  Continuously update technical and professional skills.

Enhance “Quester qualities.”

Cultivate and use intuition, continue to learn, use mind power, develop the will to risk, think critically, strengthen creativity, and bolster communication and interpersonal skills.

Expand horizons.

Go beyond borders. Prepare for and welcome the unexpected.  Innovate, adapt, explore, seize opportunities. Nothing is beyond reach!

“I wanted to change the world. But I have found that the only thing one can be sure of changing is oneself.” – Aldous Huxley


The Holiday Season can be a good time to start job hunting!  Professional get-togethers, office parties, and year-end meetings abound during the Holiday Season.

job hunting season

As companies complete their financial planning for 2018, they’re under pressure to fill certain openings or risk losing budgets. Hiring managers with new goals are eager to find productive workers.

Several organizations interview in December for positions starting in the New Year.  Some successful candidates begin new jobs between Christmas and New Year. Starting work during the holidays can be a bonus. The work pace is usually slower, and new employees have time to settle in.

Holiday Job Hunting Tips

Be prepared.

Know yourself and job target. Specify your preferred job title and industry, your special skills and accomplishments, and what you can offer the company (value added). Match your qualifications to employers’ needs. Know key industry words to describe your skills throughout your job hunting.

Investigate jobs and prospective employers.

Consider small and medium-sized companies. Check the classifieds, online job boards, local newspapers, business and trade publications, and company websites. Use search engines to learn about organizations and identify decision makers of desired companies.

Use social media.

Build an on-line professional profile on LinkedIn and Twitter to expand your network. Employers research potential candidates. Ensure information about your professional accomplishments and background is current. Keep personal life private. Ensure privacy settings are secure.

Consider industry-related Twitter chats to communicate with the right people. Share information by re-tweeting and forwarding links or articles. keep it professional while job hunting

Prepare an elevator speech.

This mini speech introduces you and what you like about the organization. Describe your experience, accomplishments and skills, and demonstrates your value added. Introduce yourself over the phone, in person, and at professional or other gatherings.

Call hiring managers. Before phoning, investigate the organization and hiring manager. Ask for five minutes. Give your speech conversationally demonstrating how you can help resolve employer challenges like save money or manage people. Be friendly, genuine.

Create a separate resume for each job target.

Also, design a business card that highlights areas of expertise and directs recipients to your resume in an accessible format, such as the URL for a web page.

Network at holiday events.

Job hunting doesn’t stop during fun events. Attend as many functions as possible. Include events sponsored by professional associations and Chambers of Commerce. Ask for invitations to friends’ company functions. Go with the objective of catching up with old friends and meeting new ones. You may learn about a great position before it’s advertised.

Present a professional image.

Dress conservatively and stay sober. Discuss business in general terms. Talk about industry trends, and what you contribute to your profession.

Be sociable, informal. Don’t aggressively ask for employment information. When work topics come up, casually mention your job search. Discreetly exchange business cards with professional contacts. Follow-up with phone calls in the New Year.

Send holiday greeting cards and emails.

Mail these to well connected friends and work-related contacts. To be culturally sensitive use generic cards with messages like “Season’s Greetings.” Write a short note and sign your name. Mail cards early in the season.


You’ll meet new people, learn about job opportunities, and gain experience and confidence.

Take a survival job.

Temporary work can stretch finances and may lead to a permanent job. Employers often need temporary help as they try to complete annual goals with regular employees wanting vacation time.

Maintain a flexible schedule.

Allocate time for job hunting, relaxation, and holiday celebrations. Be available, adaptable. A prospective employer may unexpectedly call. If you’re accessible, you have an advantage.


Contact hiring managers within two weeks of sending correspondence. A brief phone call reasserting your interest and strong qualifications for the position is effective.


You may get your Christmas wish.


The telephone is the most common business tool and its proper use is essential for career advancement. Your phone skills can make or break your future.

phone skills

Are your phone skills good?

When you make calls do you:

1. State your message briefly and clearly?

2. Leave your name, organization and phone number, repeating these twice, slowly and clearly?

3. Give the full name of the person for whom you’re leaving the message?

4. State the date and time of the call?

5. State whether you’ll call back or you’d like the other person to call?

7. Ask for a return call at a time you’ll be available?

When you receive calls, do you:

8. Identify yourself?

9. Use courtesies such as “Please hold while I complete another call?”

10. Offer to take messages when you’re answering for someone?

11. Repeat the caller’s name and number to make sure they’re correct?

12. Speak in a professional manner?

13. Does your answering machine have a pleasant, professional and courteous message? Leave a good impression?

Scoring: Give yourself one point for each “yes.” The higher your score, the more telephone skills you possess. A score of 9 or less suggests you could enhance your skills.

Tips for strengthening your phone skills

1. Knowledge: Before you make a call have the required information.

2. Goals: Know what you want to accomplish.

3. Attitude: Make the recipient feel you’re interested in her/him and the message.

Make a great first impression.

Show the caller that you’re helpful, confident and competent. If a potential employer’s first contact is over the phone, she gets cues from your voice.

You can influence your listener’s reactions by controlling the pace, pitch, inflection and tone of your voice.  Strive for an energy level that matches your normal conversation. A soft voice suggests shyness or uncertainty; a loud voice implies anger or worry. Be alert to your caller’s needs. If he’s having trouble hearing, speak louder, more slowly.

Speak briskly but pronounce words clearly. When you talk too fast, you sound hurried or excited and are difficult to understand; when you too speak slowly, you sound tired, lazy or uninterested.

Inflection adds special meaning to your message. If, for example, you say, “–John– needs help with his resume this afternoon,” you’re suggesting John needs help. If you say, “John needs help with his resume — this afternoon —  your indicating he needs help this afternoon.

Different tones of voice can make us feel differently — happy, angry, hurt, etc. Keep your tone attentive, interested and friendly. Smiling adds a pleasant tone to your voice.

Be courteous.

People are turned off by careless or rude remarks. Always say hello and identify yourself. Ask how you can help. Use courtesy words, “Thank you for waiting.”  If you need to put the caller on hold, ask, and wait for an answer. If you need to phone back, indicate when you’ll call.

End the call positively, for example, “Thanks for calling.”  Let the caller hang up first. This gives him control of the ending as well as an opportunity to ask further questions. Don’t eat, drink, or chew gum.

Leave clear, concise messages.

State your name and phone number. Repeat these twice. Give the name of the person you’re calling and date and time you called. If the person doesn’t return your call, phone again a few days later. For other message skills, review the telephone savvy questions.

Ace the job phone interview.

If you’re not prepared to speak with an employer who calls you, ask the employer if you can return the call, or if he can call back at a mutually convenient time. This gives you time to prepare.

Your confidence and career advancement will improve as you hone your phone skills.


Are you an individualist or collectivist? How does this influence your work relationships?

Most experts agree that individualism is the belief that the individual is the primary unit of reality and the ultimate standard of value. No person should be sacrificed for the sake of another. This view does not deny that people benefit from living in societies, but it sees a society as a collection of individuals.

Collectivism views the needs of the individual to be subordinate to those of the larger group, and should be sacrificed for the collective good. The group is the primary unit of reality and the ultimate standard of value. One’s identity is determined by one’s group.

collectivist or individualist

Western cultures, such as those found in Europe and North America, tend to be individualistic. Eastern and Asian cultures are usually collective.

There is, however, variation in the extent to which individuals are representative of cultures. Demographics are important. Studies suggest that the well educated are more likely individualists than the less educated. City dwellers are more individualistic than rural residents. Men are more individualistic than women, and young more than old.

Thus, we need to consider peoples’ experiences when interacting with them. A 43-year old Japanese executive with a Harvard MBA, who worked in England, will probably be more individualistic than a 55-year old Japanese who has worked for the same organization in Japan.

Are you an individualist or collectivist? 

Agree or disagree:

1. I prefer being direct when speaking with people.

2. My parents influenced my career choices.

3. Winning is everything.

4. I like sharing things with colleagues.

5. I enjoy competitive situations.

6. What happens to me is my own doing.

7. My aging mother lives with us.

8. I like being different.

9. My successes are usually the result of hard work and abilities.

10. I enjoy exploring.

11. I’m free from group influences.

12. When making work decisions, I try to please others.

13. I have friends from different cultures.

14. I have a university degree.

15. I have lots of traditional education.

16. I grew up in a large family.

17. My leisure activities allow me to do my own thing.

18. I like working alone.

19. I value privacy.

Scoring. 1 for each agree to items 1, 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 17, 18 & 19;  and disagree to items 2, 4, 7, 12, 15 & 16.

14 – 19. You’re individualistic. You’re independent, like giving opinions, enjoy doing your “own thing,” and value privacy.

7 or lower. You’re a collectivist. You like maintaining harmony, respect authority, are interdependent, and value tradition.

8 – 13. You balance individualistic and collectivist traits.

Many North Americans combine characteristics of both orientations. However, North America is becoming more diverse and collectivist as a result of waves of immigration.

The Pew Research Center reported (…) that Immigrants are driving overall workforce growth in the U.S. As the Baby Boom generation heads toward retirement, growth in the nation’s working-age population (those ages 25 to 64) will be driven by immigrants and the U.S.-born children of immigrants, at least through 2035.

Without immigrants, there would be an estimated 18 million fewer working-age adults in the country in 2035 because of the dearth of U.S.-born children with U.S.-born parents. However, immigrants do not form a majority of workers in any industry or occupational group, though they form large shares of private household workers (45%) and farming, fishing, and forestry occupations (46%).

Working with individualists and collectivists

To be successful, we should know the culture, demographics, and experiences of individuals with whom we’re interacting.

Most organizations now offer training programs that show employees how to respect diversity, and encourage leaders how to draw on the multiple strengths of a diverse workforce.

Examples of programs offered include cultural awareness and sensitivity training courses designed to help employees respond to diverse issues and enhance communication. Employees learn how to treat others with respect, and honor and value peoples’ differences.

In many organizations, employees enjoy sharing diversity by having “pot luck” lunches in which employees take turns bringing sample foods of their culture for others to taste.

Dr. Geert Hofstede, who researches workplace values, provides a model of five cultural dimensions which can help business personnel better understand intercultural differences. He advises people not to approach others from their own, but from others’ perspectives.

Power distance.

The degree of inequality which the population considers normal.

Individualism versus collectivism.

The extent to which people feel they should care for or be cared for by themselves versus the group.

Masculinity versus femininity.

The extent to which a culture is oriented toward dominance, assertiveness and materialism versus people and quality of life.

Uncertainty avoidance.

The degree to which people prefer structure over unstructure.

Long-term versus short-term orientation.

Long-term values oriented towards the future versus short term values oriented towards the past.

Check Hofstede’s Analysis of different countries (, and select the country about which you want to learn more. Discuss the culture with colleagues, and brainstorm how you can apply knowledge acquired to a work situation.


“I’m having problems with a difficult co-worker. We don’t speak to one another, and avoid each other at department meetings. The situation is very stressful…” Difficult people at work require professional tact.

Have you ever worked with an impossible colleague? Do you avoid approaching some people unless absolutely necessary? Do you alienate co-workers?

difficult people

Difficult people come in many forms. They are our bosses, subordinates, co-workers and friends. They include attention grabbers, complainers, intimidators, backstabbers, prima donnas and followers. Difficult people range from suck-ups, who hang on your every word, to critics who find fault with everyone.

Unmanaged employee conflict causes financial loss for the organization as well as varied employee challenges. Results include stressed employees and concurrent high company health care claims, low productivity and turnover.

In almost every conflict situation, both parties bear some responsibility. Most of us don’t think of ourselves as difficult, though. It’s the others who make work stressful. Being difficult is usually in the eyes of the beholder. Someone who tries your patience may be lovable to someone else.

We can’t avoid difficult people, and usually can’t change them, but we can often improve situations. Here are suggestions.   

Managing difficult people at work

Address the situation early, politely and firmly.

Don’t discuss issues with colleagues or talk about the person negatively.

Shift the focus from the other person to yourself.

You are the one having difficulty. Since you have no real control over others, the only person whose behavior you can change is your own. Ask yourself why you’re having difficulty, what you’re contributing to the situation, and how you can improve it.

Identify other people whom you find difficult, and indicate why. Observe how you usually cope, and whether these strategies work.

Question your assumptions and stereotypes. Your perceptions often determine how you view others. Note whether you pigeonhole people to expect certain behaviors because of age, ethnicity or other traits.

Restructure your thoughts. 

Think of challenging situations, rather than difficult people. Identify what you can do to make a difficult situation easier. This perspective shifts the focus from trying to fix the person to fixing the situation.

Shift your perspective.

This alters how you and the person perceive each other. Invite the person for coffee. Stand side by side to study a chart instead of leaving the chart on the table between you. When you shift your position and survey the scene from a new perspective, you see things differently.

Volunteer to serve on the same project.  When you get to know the person better, you may learn that you misinterpreted his behavior.

Communicate calmly, non-combatively.

Approach the person in a positive, problem-solving manner. Believe she is eager to resolve the issue, as well. State your perception of the situation factually, succinctly. Don’t overreact, complain or lecture.  Indicate how the behavior is affecting you or your team. Listen to the other person’s interpretation of the situation.

Discuss the factual basis of each others’ thoughts to learn new truths and get a different interpretation. Be willing to recognize you’ve contributed to the problem.  Agree on a resolution that is mutually satisfying.

Set behavioral limits and consequences if abusive behavior is directed at you. 

Use appropriate language.

Language that makes people feel bad invites defensive, antagonistic responses, escalating the difficulty. Use inclusive language to draw people together to meet a common challenge. It recognizes the situation as a shared difficulty. “What can we do to make our meetings more productive?”

Try speculative language that poses possibilities and raises questions. This conditional mode of expression draws others into a dialogue. “Maybe it’s possible to . . .”

Also use progressive language to build involvement and commitment slowly. Start by getting agreement on small, least contentious issues and build. “Would you have any objection . . . “

Silence is often most effective. If you listen attentively, the other person is more likely to feel heard, understood, respected. Reflect what you hear to better understand the person and the issue.

Don’t use categorical language which puts everyone and everything in boxes. The world is not black or white.“You never have anything useful to offer.” This type of language carries distinctions to extremes.

Avoid judgmental language which tends to blame. “It’s clear from the design that you didn’t have time to work on it.” Similarly, avoid language which denies responsibility or shifts blame. “It’s policy; I don’t make rules.”

Don’t belittle or talk down to the person. The foregoing not only fail to help you deal with difficult people, but turn you into a difficult person, as well. Never use email to criticize.

Offer constructive face-to-face feedback.

Often chronically difficult people don’t know how to act. They may be unaware of how they affect others, and how their behaviors block career success. Give people constructive feedback, ask for their input, and involve them.  “Maybe we can . . .”

Seek assistance.

Reevaluate the assumption that a relationship can be made to work if the situation doesn’t improve. Seek help from management or a reputable professional.

Healthy work relationships are necessary for personal, professional and organizational growth. Respect others and their opinions. Share beliefs.  Every day, find something to appreciate and comment on favorably. When people feel your allegiance and support, they’ll be drawn to you despite differences.


Are you aware of the nonverbal communication signals you send? Do you know how to interpret the body language of colleagues and clients?

We both send and receive conscious and subconscious nonverbal messages.  Experts say that 70 to 90 percent of communication is nonverbal. 

nonverbal communication

Gain a competitive edge in the business world. Attend to nonverbal messages. What you say as well as how you say it give you advantages during interviews, presentations, company meetings and client negotiations.

Check your body language communication knowledge

Answer “true” or “false.”

1. Eye contact is disrespectful in some cultures.

2. Listeners who look away from speakers demonstrate confusion or disbelief.

3.  Eagerness is exhibited with simultaneous displays of smiling and head nodding.

4.  Confidence is exhibited by hands in pockets.

5.  Well-dressed professionals project success, credibility.

6. Placing both hands behind the head reveals self-doubt.

7. Speakers who make eye contact with listeners increase credibility.

8. It’s best to interpret nonverbal communication along with simultaneous verbal communication.

9. When conducting business, it’s best to stand or sit at the client’s level.

10. Defensiveness is indicated by arms crossed high on chest and crossed legs.

Scoring: One point for each “true” to statements 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 9; and 10; and “false” to 4 and 6. The higher your score, the more you understand nonverbal communication. A low score suggests you could enhance body language knowledge. Consider the following:

Understand and use nonverbal communication

Eye contact and facial expressions.

Establish eye contact to demonstrate open communication flow, and convey honesty, interest, warmth and credibility. Smile frequently to encourage approachability. Smiling transmits happiness, friendliness.

Body orientation and movements

To show approachability, lean slightly forward to face the person with whom you’re communicating.  

Be aware of positive and negative messages sent by other cues. Boredom is indicted by looking away from speaker, sloppy posture or preoccupation with something else.

Attentive listening is demonstrated by cupping chin between thumbs and fingers or putting hands to bridge of nose. Expanded chests communicate confidence in men and openness in women, while shrunken chests convey self-consciousness.

Dishonesty is demonstrated by frequent eye blinking, covering mouth or looking away while speaking. Insecurity is exhibited by hands in pockets, fidgeting, coughing or hand wringing.


Some hand and arm gestures while speaking are good; they demonstrate animation and capture interest. But excessive gestures turn some off, and not using any suggests no enthusiasm. Head nods communicate interest and positive reinforcement.

In today’s business world touch is avoided because of “sexual implications.” However, touch demonstrates “You’re OK.”

Interpersonal distance

Too much or too little space between people causes discomfort. Signals of uneasiness include rocking, leg swinging, tapping.

Appropriate amount of space for intimate communication is one and one/half feet or less. Close interpersonal contact requires one and one/half to four feet, and business transactions need four to 12 feet. Formal communications are beyond 12 feet.

Vocal cues and linguistics

Speak in a level, modulated voice. Talk loud enough to be heard, but don’t shout. A low voice can make a strong point.

Vary the tone, pitch, rhythm, timbre, loudness and inflection of your voice. Monotone suggests boredom. High pitch suggests excitement, and low pitch projects anger.

A rhythmic voice pattern projects confidence, authority. Irregular speech is considered thoughtful or uncertain. Slow speech frustrates listeners. Speaking too fast suggests nervousness, and is difficult to understand.

Physical appearance and grooming

Project a confident, energetic, enthusiastic, professional image.  

Look savvy, contemporary. Maintain standards of good taste. Dress according to company norms. Coordinate pieces. Wear spotless, well-tailored clothes. Maintain shoes, have hair cut professionally. Avoid strong fragrances, bulging briefcases.

Stand tall, sit erect. Slumping posture projects subservience, exhaustion and age.


Convey a positive first impression. Communicate power, confidence and sincerity with a firm grip. Support your grip with consistent nonverbal messages.  A loose handshake projects weakness, insecurity. A vice-like grip suggests intimidation and causes pain. Use a handshake after an agreement to symbolically seal it

Awareness of nonverbal behaviors enables you to send positive messages and eliminate destructive ones. To improve nonverbal communication, videotape yourself interacting with others.  Ask a friend to suggest refinements. Practice those you want to perfect.