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Saturday, August 05, 2017

Trump's (only) communication skill

President Trump has poor language communication but he does well in one nonverbal area. When he speaks extemporaneously without the advantage of a teleprompter speech written by someone else, he can't complete sentences. He puts phrases together in which the subject is often missing or unclear because he has changed the subject from when he starts a sentence until he reaches the end of it.

Here's an example from Time's interview with Trump:

Scherer (the interviewer): "So you don't feel like Comey's testimony in any way takes away from the credibility of the tweets you put out, even with the quotes?"
Trump: "No, I have, look. I have articles saying it happened. But you have to take a look at what they, they just went out at a news conference."

The first phrase, "No, I have, look." doesn't make any sense and doesn't answer the question. In the second phrase: "I have articles saying it happened.," who knows what "it" is related to. In the third phrase, who in the world is "they" and what does "they just went out at a news conference" mean?

He jumps all over the place when he is speaking without a teleprompter, and makes me feel like I am listening to Dory in Finding Nemo

His vocabulary of adjectives and adverbs is very limited and he mostly uses "biggest," "greatest,"
"best ever," etc. And I don't think he has uttered a single quotable sentence since he took office. I know, "Make America Great Again." but that was a campaign slogan that someone else thought up.

But there is one area in which he surpasses Barack Obama, who was an elegant speaker with command of the English language and who had the ability to put coherent thoughts together, unlike our current president.

Trump always ends his sentences with his voice going down at the end.

If you want to make your point, and in speeches he is reading, there generally is a specific point, lower your voice at the end as if your sentence is walking down stairs. This technique literally gives weight to the words you are speaking.

Here is Trump - notice how his voice goes down at the end of each sentence:

He asks some questions, "Have you seen any Russians in West Virginia?" and then his voice goes up appropriately. But every sentence he utters goes firmly down at the end.

Barack Obama often raises his voice at the end of sentences, potentially detracting from the power of his words. This is a clip of his best speaking moments - notice how often, even in these powerfully uttered words, he does not go down at the end of his sentences. In the first clips, he makes sentences that go down at the end, but in the middle segment, his words often rise at the end of the sentence.

To Barack Obama's credit, his words were so well put together and so powerful, it often made no difference that his voice tone rose at the end of his sentences. He exuded sincerity and honesty, unlike our current president who speaks in a chameleon way - changing his words to accomplish his goal of selling himself.

In Obama's speech at Selma, you might notice that his voice stays up at the end of sentences. This happens so much in the clip that I wondered if it may also reflect his audience in Alabama which would probably have included many people in the southern gospel tradition where one's speech often rises at the end.

Generally if you want to speak and be heard, there are three main things one must have:

1. Words that are well put together into coherent sentences
2. Sincerity and passion
3. A delivery that expresses the power behind your words, which in most cases, means that your words go down at the end of your sentences.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Quick Response to Feedback to Chipotle

I wrote my feedback to Chipotle at about 12:45.  By 5:30, I had received an email response from customer service.  Here is what they said:

Thank you so much for bringing this to our attention. It is so disappointing to hear that we have let you down a couple times with this restaurant. It is concerning to know that the high chairs are not up to standard and that our team was not helpful with you. We should not be using a cell phone at the register and I'm sorry this happened. I will reach out to the restaurant and make them aware of your concerns so we can look into this further.

If you'd like to send me your mailing address I'd be happy to put a few free burrito cards, good for any main menu item, in the mail for your next visit. You can use them at any location you prefer. We'd love to make it up to you with a better experience.


Amanda Spilos | Customer Service Consultant
Chipotle Mexican Grill


So sending the feedback was very reinforcing for me in that I got a quick response to my concerns.  I don't know if anything will actually change at that Chipotle, although I'm sure that having the high chairs without safety belts probably violates some restaurant regulation or another.  

I did email her my mailing address and will be glad to receive some coupons because we do go to Chipotle on many a Friday, although I will not be returning to the one on North Druid Hills.

I encourage you to practice your assertiveness in this way - send feedback when you think it would be helpful or worthwhile for a place of business to know about your experience.  You may have an impact and cause a positive change.  In addition you may get some concrete reward for your time and effort - like the coupons I expect I will receive!

Importance of Feedback

One of the joys of my life is that I get to keep two of my grandchildren every Friday.  One is three year old Lark and the other is sixteen month old Max (her cousin).  Usually we do some fun activity away from the house in the morning, eat lunch out and return to my house for nap and for the afternoon which sometimes includes construction paper crafts or baking cookies.

Today it was cold and rainy so we went to Fernbank.  Fernbank has a great children's area and both kids really enjoy it.  As luck would have it, many Atlanta schools are on spring break, so the museum was not overrun with kids from school buses, so we had a great time.  Here they are working a puzzle together.

At the end of our Fernbank fun, we often go to Chipotle for lunch.  There's a very close-by Chipotle on the Emory campus, but it is often hard to park there, so today we chose to go to Chipotle in Toco Hills which is about a 10 minute drive from Fernbank.

We went there two weeks ago and it wasn't a great experience.  I didn't see any high chairs so I took both children through the line with me.  This means that when I got our food on a big round tray, I was carrying Max in one arm and balancing the food in the other.  Often at other Chipotles, the staff will offer to carry the food to the table under these circumstances - not at the N Druid Hills Chipotle.  The cashier was chatting with a friend on her cell phone and barely glanced at me.  When I put our food down on a table, I then, with Max still in my arms, went a carried a high chair (and Max) to the table and put him in it, only to find that the safety strap was broken.  With a sixteen month old who is very active and likes to stand up, this is not a safe situation, but we already had our food and just made do with a bad situation.

Today as I imagined the Emory Chipotle, it seemed preferable to give the N Druid Hills location another try.  We got there and I told Lark we would get a table first and then I'd order our food.  I went over and got a high chair.  When I got to the table with the high chair and the baby, the strap was broken.  Leaving it there, I went to get another one.  It too had a broken strap.  I looked at the third one (the last one) and it also had a broken strap.  Still carrying the baby, I went up the cashier and asked if there were any high chairs without broken straps.  Without even looking at me, she said, "The high chairs are over there," and pointed.  "I know," I said, "But all of them have broken safety straps."  She SHRUGGED.

We left and went to nearby Steak n' Shake where the meal isn't nearly as healthy as at Chipotle but at least we could sit down and order and the high chairs (10 of them) all had safety straps that looked workable.

I came home and wrote the following feedback on Chipotle's web page:
I'm a grandmother who keeps my 17 mo. old grandson and my 3 year old granddaughter every Friday.  We frequently eat at Chipotle - the Ponce location and the Emory location - our favorite for service and food is Sandy Springs on Roswell Road.  

Last week we went to the N Druid Hills location.  Unlike other locations, the staff was unhelpful with the children as I attempted to get their food to the table as a grandparent by myself, carrying the baby and the tray at the same time.  Generally the staff will help carry the food when I am alone with two children, but not at this location where the cashier was talking to a friend on her cell phone.  When we sat down, the high chair for the little one had a broken safety strap.  I was very surprised by the lack of help and wrote it off to a bad day, since this has not been true at any other Chipotle location to which we have gone.

We gave the same location another try today with a new plan.  Since the staff was unhelpful, I would put the baby in a high chair with the three year old and go through the line by myself this time.   However, the only three high chairs all had broken safety straps and the staff was remarkably unhelpful.  I couldn't leave the children and get in line to order because the 17 month old would stand up and fall out of the high chair without a strap,  so we left and went to Steak n Shake instead.  I will not return to this extremely unhelpful and unfriendly location although I love Chipotle's food which is so much healthier than other fast food restaurants.  I will choose to go back to the Ponce location or the Emory location, where it is impossible to park, over another visit to N Druid Hills.

I don't know if I'll hear from them, but it makes me feel more empowered in an impossible situation to at least send feedback.  I'll post if I hear anything in response.

Lark at Steak n' Shake:

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Resolution to the Recycle Can

After hearing on SUNDAY from both my councilman, Alex Wan, and the head of Atlanta's Solid Waste collection department, today I came home in the middle of the day to find a lovely surprise waiting for me on the curb:

It's brand new and both of the hinges are intact:

This whole thing was resolved in 24 hours after I stopped calling the department and did what Clark Howard calls:  Move up the Food Chain.  So for Atlanta's Department of Public Works, "as soon as possible" only has a definition if you go above the level of the call receivers.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Futile attempts to replace my recycle container

Atlanta has a great recycling program.  Almost everyone I know is finding that the recycling container provided by the city of Atlanta is more filled than the regular garbage can as we all learn how to recycle more and more.

In November, the guys who collect the recycling broke the hinge on my container.  I have been trying since then to get the container replaced.  I wrote the following assertive letter to the Department of Public Works:

Dear Sir:

In late November the recycling collectors broke the hinge on my blue recycle container so that the lid is hanging by one hinge.  I called in early December to request a replacement.  I was told one would be delivered within the next three weeks.  That never happened.  I felt forgiving about that, given the holiday season, so in good spirits called again in early January to repeat my request.  After putting me on hold, the call person reported that my zip code had been improperly entered and she had corrected the error.  She told me I would have a new container "as soon as possible."

It's now past the middle of February.  I called on Friday and the call person did not answer my question about what had happened but said, "I'll put you through to my supervisor's voicemail and she'll call you back."  That never happened.

I would like a replacement for my recycle container.  It is extremely difficult for me to open and shut the container when the lid hangs by one hinge.  I don't know if that's because I am 5'1" or because I am 64, but either way, it's difficult.  Neither of those factors should count in why I need the container replaced.  I did not break it - the collectors did - and it seems completely unreasonable that it has been this long and I have still not gotten a replacement container. 

Please replace my recycle container.  I started to say "as soon as possible"  but since I now know from experience that that phrase does not have the same definition for your office as it does for me, I will simply say, please replace my recycle container.


Linda Tillman
Home Address
Atlanta, GA 30...

I sent this letter to the contact person for the Sanitation part of the Public Works department and also cc'd my city councilman, Alex Wan.  My son-in-law tells me that the only way to get the Public Works department to take action is to cc your council person.  So in addition to the letter above, I also filled out a form on Alex Wan's web site with this problem described.  Maybe between the two attempts, I'll get a replacement.

Alex Wan is know to be responsive (and he's a fellow beekeeper), so I think this will have impact.  In assertive letter writing, if you can get more power by copying to another person, even if that only serves as a record that you wrote the letter, it's important to do.

For example, if you are struggling to solve a problem with another person in your department at work, then any email should be sent to that person, but also copied to someone who might need to know about the issue you are addressing.  That both ups the possibility of solution and adds to the possibility of collaboration.

We'll see if this has any impact and I'll add to this post when/if I get the new container.  We'll find out what "as soon as possible" means to the Atlanta Department of Public Works.

Note:  I sent the email at 8:30 on a Sunday morning.  Within 30 minutes, I received an email from Alex Wan who was cc'd on the email, saying that he would get this figured out when he gets to the office on Monday morning - wow - that was quick!

Note #2:  At 7:24 PM on the same Sunday night (not at all during business hours), I got an email from the director of Solid Waste Service, Mr. Raikes.  This is what it said:

"Thank you for the corrected address information Dr. Tillman. I will have a replacement delivered on Monday please leave the broken cart curbside so we can remove. I appreciate your patience and apologize for the delay."


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Taking a Stand

When an ice storm hits Atlanta, trees fall. 

Unlike many large metropolitan areas, Atlanta is filled with tall pines, old oaks, and streets lined with dogwoods.  An ice storm takes a heavy toll on the trees in every part of the city.

In our last ice storm several years ago, a tall pine near the entrance to my neighborhood cracked about three feet from the ground.  As it fell, the top of the tree caught on a small branch from an adjacent tree, leaving the pine leaning precariously toward the street at a forty-five degree angle.

I watched the tree, a huge gaping crack in its trunk, held up by a tiny branch, for three years, waiting for it to fall into the street.  I had so little belief in the tree’s ability to stay balanced on that branch that I drove in and out of my neighborhood by a different way.

In spite of the appearance of weakness and instability, the tree remained standing for three years.  Finally this year, the neighbor on whose property the tree had grown cut the tree down. 

I was greatly relieved.

Although the tree was an obvious presence, I had little confidence in its capacity to maintain its angled stance.  I did not trust its ability to hold its own.  I avoided it.

When people make assertive statements, but present a weak or off-balanced appearance, the listener is likely to disregard the power of the statement.  Just like the tottering pine, a person who is not standing on his/her two feet will look less effective and less able to maintain his/her position.

You’ve seen public speakers who, because they are nervous, shift back and forth from one foot to the other.  Their movements are distracting and disconcerting.  Sometimes I find I am watching the motion rather than listening to the speech.

“Don’t fidget,” Richard Gere admonishes Julia Roberts in the movie Pretty Woman.  While he is trying to make her look like a lady, he also is trying to help her maintain a positive presence. 

Try to become a keen observer of yourself.  Do you fidget? Are there habits such as playing with your hair or swaying back and forth that you use during stressful communication? Do you betray your fear of speaking up through your nonverbal indicators?

Nonverbal assertiveness is a powerful tool.  The words that you say are empowered or diminished by how you handle yourself physically.

When you are speaking, plant yourself firmly on both feet.  If you are seated, uncross your legs and put both feet flat on the ground.  Not only will you look more solid in your stance, but also your words will seem more powerful both to you and the listener.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Crocs and the Power of Writing a Letter

Writing letters (or in today's world, sending an email) can be very powerful.  Sending your thoughts to another person can serve many purposes.  Sometimes we want to effect a change, sometimes we want to give feedback, and sometimes we just want to vent.

I ordered a new pair of Crocs from Zappos.  The pair I've used has been around for about four or five years.  The toes are scuffed, but they have continued to serve their purpose - I wear them for gardening and house shoes - they are quick to slip into to take the dogs out first thing in the morning.

A few weeks ago my Crocs disappeared.  I looked in every closet.  I live in a tiny house and I looked in every room.  I had a memory of sitting somewhere to take them off and exchange them for the "real" shoes I was going to wear but for the life of me, I couldn't remember where I was sitting.  I looked everywhere.  I surmised either that I had left them by accident in the mountains a couple of weeks ago or that I had set them on an unlikely shelf that had not yet gotten my attention.

I do love them even though when I went to the beach several years ago with my nephew, I asked him if I looked cool enough in my new sunglasses to go to the beach with him.  "Well, Aunt Linda," he said in a matter of fact way, "The sunglasses are cool, but lose the Crocs."

Now I have succeeded in losing the Crocs and despite their uncoolness, according to Avery, I miss them.

So I went online to Zappos where I have ordered many a pair of shoes, found the basic navy Crocs I wanted, pushed the necessary buttons, shared the necessary PayPal information and ordered a new pair.  The very next day, the Crocs were sitting on my doorstep when I arrived home.

I opened the box to find that the Crocs waiting beneath the cardboard were not what I had ordered at all.  They were Black and Grey rather than Navy and not only that, they were a different style of Croc as opposed to basic Crocs which I had wanted.

I sent an email to Zappos:
I ordered classic crocs in navy - xxxxxxxxx is my order number.  My shoes arrived yesterday and I'll keep them but they are not what I ordered.  I ordered navy classic crocs and I received black crocs - I believe this is the shoe I received:
 Crocs Yukon sport in black/graphite.

They fit and will serve the purpose - I only use crocs as hangout in the house shoes, but your robot picked up the wrong box in selecting my order.

 I've ordered from you many times and this is the first time I've been disappointed.

 Linda T


I had seen a Wired article about the Bots that collect shoes on order from Zappos so I was amazed that I was the recipient of a failed "bot."  They report almost no failures now that Kiva is serving their fulfillment needs.

Here's the response I got from Zappos within 48 hours of my email as their customer service center had promised:

Hello Linda,

Thank You for contacting the Customer Loyalty Team. I hope this email finds you well!

I am so sorry to hear you received the wrong color Crocs (not to mention the wrong style). Since I am not a big fan of disappointing our awesome customers such as yourself I am going to send you a free replacement pair of Crocs in the correct style that you originally ordered. Your new order for the Navy Classic Crocs will arrive on Wednesday. Don't worry, there is no need to return the original pair of Crocs, you can keep them as a backup pair. You were not charged for the replacement order, I simply transferred your funds over to the new one.

To ensure you get the correct shoe this time, I have transmitted a message to our Warehouse-Bots to double check your order before it is shipped out.

In the meantime, I have also upgraded your account to VIP! This is completely free and entitles you to next business day shipping, expedited returns, and other perks. Be on the lookout for a separate VIP email for more information!

If you need any further assistance, please let us know! We are here 24/7 for the early birds, night owls, and everyone in-between. Have a great weekend!

Your Friendly Zapponian,
Jason C.
Zappos Customer Loyalty Team


My email was intended to allow me to vent.  I expected nothing else - but now I will have a navy pair of classic Crocs which was my original wish.  

And today my granddaughter found my old Crocs under a piece of furniture that was easier for her to look under at 2 1/2 than for me!