Success Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry

sorry-229978__180Love Story was a popular move in 1970. It starred Ryan O'Neill and Ali McGraw. In one scene they have a fight and go their separate ways. O'Neill finds McGraw after he cools off and apologizes for the fight. She stops him and says through her tears, "Love means never having to say you're sorry." I don't know if most people in conflict would agree with that. What people may agree with is the overuse of the word "Sorry" in the workplace. This is especially prevalent among women. When I speak to organizations about executive presence and confidence, I advise women to avoid weak speak or what I call wimpy words. Certain modifiers such as "only," or "just" weaken conviction. That is, the speaker negates everything that follows the words "only" or "just". For example, "This is just an idea," is less powerful than saying "This is an idea."

Related to these two modifiers is the word "sorry". To use the word "sorry" in emails and spoken language is to the detriment of women. An apologetic communication style sabotages leadership and authority. Leaders are perceived as decisive and willing to take a risk. Saying "sorry' too frequently is a way to avoid taking a stand and not be taken seriously.

The word "sorry" is also used as a substitute for "excuse me". Instead of asking the speaker to clarify or repeat, some women will say "Sorry?" rather than use the more effective phrase, "Excuse me?".

There's an app for that

How can women rid this undermining word from their vocabulary? The first step is awareness. Technology to the rescue! Now there is an app that identifies wimpy words when they are used in emails.

The Just Not Sorry extension for Chrome is downloadable at the Chrome app store. The app identifies wimpy words in Gmail by underlining them in red and providing explanations of how the word weakens the message in the email. Whether the reason for using wimpy words is a subconscious lack of confidence or simply a bad habit, this tool can create conscious awareness for women so that they can become more successful leaders and communicators.

After all, success means never having to say you're sorry.

The One Word That Will Get You What You Want

thinking headsOn Monday, I decided to try a test. I declared my intention that I was going to book business on that day. I didn't know how. I didn't know where it would come from. I didn't start calling a list of numbers. By late afternoon, I went to my inbox and there was an email. It said, "Could you send us dates when you are available?"


The email was from a new prospect. We had a prior conversation, but no commitment had been made. There was only one problem with this manifestation. They were asking for dates in January. I forgot to tell the universe I wanted the business for October. So on the one hand, I was happy with my quick manifesting skills. On the other hand, I was laughing to myself because I should know better. The universe is literal. The subconscious mind is literal. If you're not specific, it causes confusion. And while you may manifest, it doesn't come to you in the way that you desire.

There's one magical word that we all learned as children: Abracadabra. This literally means, "I create as I speak." But you need to be specific. It's the same with communication. You say the word car. You're envisioning a Mercedes, and somebody else is seeing a Prius. Same word, different pictures. The more specific we are in the way we communicate, the more effective we'll be in our conversations and presentations. And the more we will manifest and get what we want.

I've been reading a lot about quantum physics lately. This is not airy fairy, positive thinking. Science is now explaining how matter materializes, and it's all about thought and energy. So what are you giving thought and energy to in your presentations? In your communication? In your life? Are you being specific?

Fear of speaking is an old model. It doesn't have to be that way. Simply by changing how you think and speak about presentations can totally change your experience. Affirm what you want. Aim to be a quantum communicator and start manifesting success in all of your interactions and presentations.

Are You Speaking English or Alphabet?

A good friend sent me an email about a possible speaking engagement. I contacted the meeting planner to tell her about my background and talk about what I could provide her organization as a speaker. I received a text message saying, "Hi Diane. Thanks for reaching out. I am on PTO but will write to you when I get back." PTO? What the heck does that mean? I was thinking... part time? But I couldn't figure out what the O stood for. So I emailed my friend to ask her the meaning of PTO. She shot back an email saying, "No clue." My friend is at least 10 years younger than I am, so I thought she would know. I've been in business for 20 years and worked in corporations prior to starting my business. So I'm not unfamiliar with some of the terminology. But this really threw me.

I asked my assistant when she came in today, and she knew the answer right away. She recalled first hearing the term in 1997 when she worked for a law firm. Why didn't I know this? Is it because I'm in my own business? My clientele are corporations.

This made me realize the importance of clear communication. I tell my clients and my audiences to never assume and to avoid jargon, acronyms and buzzwords, even if they're speaking to an internal audience or within their industry. Always define the acronym or term, and then you can use the abbreviation. Surely there will be people in the audience who don't know what it means and will be afraid to ask.

The world of technology has influenced the way we communicate. Texting and social media have overridden traditional grammar and spelling rules. While abbreviations serve technology, they can create communication breakdown. This is especially true with spoken communication because you can't go back and re-read the sentence for context. When presenting or communicating one-on-one with someone for the first time, avoid using acronyms and abbreviations.

For those of you who are like me, who may not be up to date on some of the latest alphabet soup terminology, here are some terms to avoid using in your presentation:


  • PTO - Paid Time Off
  • ITO - In The Office
  • WFH/WAH - Work From/At Home
  • LOA - Leave of Absence
  • IIRC - If I recall correctly
  • FWIW - For what it's worth
  • BTW - By the way
  • LMK - Let me know.
  • OOO/OOTO - Out of (the) Office
  • AR - Action required/requested
  • AI - Action Item

What are your favorites? Share them in the comments - and don't forget to let us know what they mean!


Delete These 3 Annoying Words in 2013

Resolve to delete three deadly words from your vocabulary this year. We make resolutions on January 1st and then we go back to our usual habits in less than a month. But you can't afford to let your communication and presentation skills slide. Why? It's a new game. It's tougher, more competitive, and harder than ever to be heard above the noise. Your speech can undermine your success in an interview, a sales presentation, or a promotion opportunity. And it can sabotage your leadership. Jargon, non-words, and slang will not serve you.

According to a Marist poll, the most annoying word in 2012 was "whatever", followed by "like', and "you know" was a close third. The word "whatever" topped the list for a third year. Other annoying words included "twitterverse" and "gotcha".

People under the age of 45 in the Northeast were most annoyed by the word "like" while  "you know" was offensive to people over 45 years old. Go figure.

Regardless of demographics, using these words will, like, undermine your executive presence, you know? So choose your words carefully during your next communication or presentation. When tempted to use these three words in presentations, hit the delete button and pause. It's up to you.  Whatever.


Va Bene: What the Italians Taught Me About Public Speaking

It’s been a while since you’ve heard from me. I just got back from vacation in Northern Italy. In the big cities, a lot of people speak English but in the smaller towns, it helps to speak a few words of Italian. We were in the town of Quinto, a suburb of Vicenza. While we were paying for our food, the cashier asked my husband if he spoke Italian. He shook his head and said, “No parla Italiano.

Change your Language to Lead... or Crash and Burn

Languages of the WorldAccording to Malcolm Gladwell's book, Outliers, language can impact bottom line results. He suggests that in the airline industry, where Korea is the most hierarchical culture, lower ranking flight crews were afraid to voice concern to superiors. As a result, Korean Airlines had the most crashes. How did they resolve this problem? They changed the language of the cockpit to English.  By changing the tone in the cockpit, staff had a different context, culture  and a way of being heard.

Although there's some controversy over whether their improved flight record was a result of a change in language or a change in personnel policies, the bottom line is that the language one uses directly impacts one's ability to influence a situation. Men and women sometimes use language differently, which can cause miscommunication and an erosion of influence. Speakers or leaders who use clear, specific, definitive language increase their credibility.  Language is powerful.

How do you speak to your audience? To your superiors? To your peers and direct reports? To your customers? To your shareholders?  Leaders who lack executive presence, may not be using language effectively.

Ambiguous questions and weak language can undermine leadership, and result in lost opportunities and sales.

The DiResta Communications approach to presentation is the Science of Speaking-what confidence looks like, sounds like and how to speak the language of confidence. Our coaching programs improve leadership communication and organizational effectiveness.

Speech Habits Guaranteed to Kill the Sale

Yesterday I received another cold call. This time it was from a woman with a strong accent. She talked about free video emails and doing webinars online. As she rattled on she caught my attention because she was talking my language.  She wasn't smooth but I was interested in knowing about this service and how it was different. She started to give me the website. She said "Go to www.voe..."  "Voe?" I echoed.  "No, /w/." she stated.  "Is that www.vow?" I clarified.  "No," she countered. "www.wo....." After going back and forth several times, a man's voice cut in and he said in a clear voice, "Excuse me mam, we have training calls. Let me give you the website." We then went through an online demo.  While we were looking at all the features the man would say, "I know you busy."  When demonstrating the next feature he'd say "I'm a show you.." and when he turned the controls over to me he said he made me the "presentator."

Throughout the conversation he called me Diana instead of Diane.  Although the product was worth researching I was not impressed with his presentation. His poor grammar made him sound uneducated and that raised a red flag. When a seller or any professional uses incorrect grammar, I question their legitimacy. Was this really a bona fide  web conferencing system or some  fly-by-night basement operation? He ended by asking if he could call to follow up. I decided not to take him up on his offer and said I would look at the website on my own.  Will I use this service? I don't know yet. But I do know this. I won't buy it from the telemarketers who contacted me. I don't trust them.

It's fine to have an accent as long as you know how to speak clearly. In this case, the woman should have spelled out the url. / w/ as in william, /o/ as in oprah, etc.

There is definitely an ROI (return on investment) for public speaking skills. I show people how to monetize their mouth. When you speak with clarity and confidence, you inspire trust. And that brings in more business. When you're inarticulate or use the wrong grammar, you create skepticism and distrust.  This is true whether you're cold calling, interviewing for a job, pitching a story to the media, or convincing your boss to give you a raise.  Success requires good speaking and communication skills.  To learn about Six Sloppy Speech Habits, click on the link and watch this youtube video.

For grammar tips visit Grammar Girl

The Language of Influence

There's an old Jimmy Cliff  song, "You can get it if you really want but you must try, try and try, try and try." I would make one change to that. You can get what you really want if you use the right language. Yes, words have power. Words have magnetic attracting power.

So often a speaker has a great product or service but it gets lost in translation. You hear this daily at networking meetings. People drone on with their elevator speeches and nobody understands what they do. Why? Because they're not using the language of influence.

Language can make or break a sale. The right words can uplift or offend. It's all in the language. Marketers know that certain words have selling power. Words like free, guarantee, gain, results, new and improved move people to action.

What if you could change your results simply by tweaking the language? Take a look at this video.  Pause it and try to imagine what the woman writes on the sign. And then tell me why you think the final words worked magic.

Words Have Power

Monday, January 24th was National Compliment Day.  I had to travel two hours to coach a CEO who was out- of - state and I didn't have much computer time. So before I left, I sent a tweet telling my followers to compliment five people. I was surprised when one person immediately sent me a compliment. It made me feel good. I emailed a few people my compliments and took off for my trip. I was not prepared for what was about to happen next. People started responding to my words. One friend wrote:

"YOU have no idea what a wonderful friend you are and always will be to me, or how much I needed this today.  I had a horrible day at work and your compliment lifted my spirits to the sun and back. Thank you."

Another person wrote:  "Thank you so much, Diane. You have no idea how much I needed that."

When I told my husband I sent him a compliment he started walking upstairs. I asked him where he was going. He said, "I'm going to the computer to read my compliment."

It truly hit home what power there is in words and how starved people are for a word of appreciation. They weren't sent a testimonial letter-just one simple compliment. Their reaction surprised me. It made me want to continue wrapping people in  words of praise.  Words not only have the power to change people's emotions and self-esteem, but they empower the speaker who uses them. Imagine how one sentence can change the way someone experiences their day.

Public  speakers  have an incredible power.  It's the power of the spoken word. A  public speaker has a platform and what a privilege it is! The right word, perfectly timed, and said in the right voice can LITERALLY lift people's spirits. Martin Luther King had this gift. Joel Osteen has this gift, too. But you don't have to be a gifted speaker to impact lives in a positive way. You don't even have to be in front of a group. All you have to do is speak your word. And then the magic happens.

When the Speaker Turns a Toast into a Roast

Sunday night we watched the Golden Globe awards spiral downward into a verbal slapfest. Ricky Gervais, the emcee for the evening, pushed the envelope and went beyond edgy to offensive. A comedian is supposed to be funny, witty, and a little risque. However, as a public speaker, Gervais seemed to be oblivious to the fact that he was speaking in public. Rather than being funny, his comments and barbs were insulting and at times downright mean. Although others may disagree, an awards ceremony should honor the winners while using wit and humor to poke fun at the recipients and film industry. Think Billy Crystal. What makes the commentary funny is that there is a kernel of truth in the joke which makes the audience laugh. When introducing actor Robert Downey Jr, Gervais  said, "But many of you in this room probably know him best from such facilities as the Betty Ford Clinic and Los Angeles County Jail." Ouch. As a listener, it didn't feel good and it didn't make me laugh. It felt like an attack. The real humor was missing because the comments lacked a lightness.

Downey shot back, "Aside from the fact that it's been hugely mean-spirited with mildly sinister undertones, I'd say the vibe of the show has been pretty good so far, wouldn't you?"  As a coach, I must say that this was a good comeback. It was quick, clever, and he acknowledged the elephant in the room. I've attended roasts at the Friar's Club in New York City and they can be brutal. But one thing is different. Most of the jokes are funny and there's a lot of laughter. When hosting an awards ceremony or even a roast, it's not about the emcee. It's about the honorees.

Gervais was not alone in his bad behavior. After accepting the Cecil B. DeMille award, Robert De Niro  hurled a zinger at the foreign press.  " I'm sorry more members of the Hollywood Foreign Press aren't with us tonight, but most of them got deported right before the show. Along with most of the waiters. And Javier Bardem." De Niro was not gracious. This kind of poor judgment is exactly the kind of communication that causes people to lose their jobs. As a public speaker, your presentation is your brand. And your words will live on long after you exit the stage.

How is a Magazine Ad Like Public Speaking?

I was on the ferry this morning reading the paper and having my green tea when I was distracted by the woman sitting next to me. She was aggressively ripping out pages from a magazine. I looked at the pile of pages next to her to see if there was any pattern to her choices. They seemed random- a page of text, a good looking male model. Curiosity finally got a hold of me as I leaned over and asked, "Are you creating a vision board?" She paused for a moment as if trying to process what I had just said. "No, " she explained, "I'm pulling out the ads. It makes it easier to read." She went on to say, "It's disturbing to realize the magazine is mostly ads." She was right. I find those paper pull-out ads to be annoying and they make turning the pages difficult.

What a novel way to read a magazine! I'd never seen anyone prepare to read. Yet, that woman on the ferry was more prepared than many of the presenters I observe.

And it made me realize something about speaking. Those paper ads are like non-words in a speech. Those irritating fillers such as "um", "you know," "ah", "like" are everywhere. Non-words are analogous to those annoying ads in magazines that prevent you from reading the article or even finding the article with ease. Non-words, like ads, are distractions that blur the message.

What are you doing to prepare your audience to hear your message?

How are you weeding out non-words that distract from your content?

If everybody practiced their presentations out loud and determined where they inserted non-words, they could then write reminders in their notes and verbally tear out those insidious fillers. When you use non-words you lose credibility even if you're a subject matter expert.

Last week I reconnected with a woman I hadn't seen in years. We figured out that she had attended my Learning Annex Class on How to Give a Knockout Presentation in year 2000! She confided that I had inspired her and that she still thinks of me. How did I inspire her? She said, "You told us never to use non-words and since that time I stopped saying /um/. I tell other people to stop doing it."

Well, apparently, it made a big impact on her presentation as she is now being called as an expert in the media and doing a terrific job. Think of non-words as clutter. Just as we don't like ads in our magazines or commercials on TV, your audience doesn't like hearing a cacophonous trail of ums and ahs.