Category Archives: Leadership

How to Have a Caring Conversation with Someone who is Making You Miserable

WomenShakeHands3“My boss is a bully.”

“My co-worker constantly berates me for making even the smallest error, or asking what she deems a ‘stupid’ question.”

“My colleague’s voice tone is condescending and insulting toward me when we are in meetings.”

Do you work with someone whose behavior is challenging your energy and enthusiasm for work? Maybe it’s a family member, who you find yourself avoiding because he or she is a real ‘downer’ at family gatherings.

Having a caring conversation with someone who is making you miserable can be challenging. Like most conversations that are worth having, this one requires a little bit of planning and foresight. Also, like most conversations that are worth having, this is one that you will surely be glad you have had, after it is done.

Remember these simple tips as you prepare for your conversation:

Purpose prevails.

Think about your purpose in having this conversation with this person. Why is it important? What impact is the challenging behavior having on your relationship? What’s in it for you and for the other person, to change the course of your communication in the future?

What’s recent is remembered.

When you are preparing for the conversation, think about and address only the most recent example of challenging behavior. For example, you might say “Yesterday you yelled at me and called me ‘irresponsible’ when I made an error in the order.” That is more effective than saying “You always yell at me.” or “You are a bully”. or “Three weeks ago you yelled at me.” When your language is about a specific occasion that is fresh in the other person’s mind, you can more easily focus your conversation on that one example.

Anticipation beats aggravation.

Before you meet with the other person, think about how you imagine he or she will react to what you wish to discuss. What might he say? How might she behave? If you are able to anticipate his or her reaction, you can prepare yourself for it. Sometimes this helps you in thinking about how you will open your conversation. For example, you might start with “Sally, I know that you are struggling with some tough things in your life right now.” or “George, we have not spent a lot of quality time together at these family gatherings because there is often so much going on.”

Empathy enlightens.

Whatever happens during the conversation, choose to empathize, to look at the situation from the other person’s perspective. When you empathize, you naturally ask questions to help you understand (their position), rather than defend (your position). “Joe, it seems to be frustrating for you to have to keep training new staff, only to have them leave after only a few months.”

Openness leads to opportunity.

Choose, as you prepare for the conversation, to be open. Although you prepare ahead of time for what you want to say, you are also open to hearing new information that can help you to determine – together – how you can get along moving forward.  Sitting in silence, breathing deeply, and repeating the words ‘I am open’ before you meet with this person, can help you be in a positive place when you enter the meeting.

Hopeful helps.

End with a statement about how you are confident and hopeful about the future of your relationship with this person. In fact, start with this as your opening also!

Opening: “Jane, I value you as my leader, and I’d like to have a conversation about something that is getting in the way of our working relationship. I know that after we have this conversation, my performance will be enhanced and so will our department’s results.”

Closing: “I sincerely appreciate your time today, Jane, and I am confident that we will be able to continue to develop the kind of working relationship that will help us both to achieve our goals.”

Positive propels!

The next time you see something positive from that person, point it out! Even if the positive occasion is a rare one, take time to show your appreciation. The more you focus on ‘what’s good’, the more of that you will get!

Have you got any tips to share – something that has worked for you?

Deri Latimer is an expert in positive possibilities for people! She is one of fewer than 10% of speakers globally who hold the designation of CSP (Certified Speaking Professional), the international measure of excellence for professional competence, proven experience, and optimal client satisfaction. Deri combines a business degree in human resources management with 20 years of experience engaging audiences across every business sector. Deri provides inspiration and information to create psychologically healthy organizations for increased positivity, productivity, and profitability!










Tell a Story, Change a Life

Ali and Max 2000

Ali and Max 2000

Christmas morning, 2000. Max was 3 and Ali was 6. Our tradition had been (and still is) that Randy headed down stairs to turn on the tree lights and grab the video camera. Then Ali, Max and I march down stairs for the big ‘reveal’ of the tree and all it’s splendor, the gifts waiting to be opened, the bursting full stockings, and – of course – the plate of crumbs and empty glass of milk left by Santa.



Ali and Max stood side by side, eyes wide open and smiles bigger than their faces, saying some version of ‘Santa came, Santa was here!’.
Randy began to ask questions (for our video collection which Randy and I are pretty sure we will spend our retirement going over and over and over!!).
‘So, did anyone hear anything on the rooftop last night?’
‘Yes, yes , yes!!’ says Ali.
‘I heard footsteps and I also heard some clicking sounds – I think it was Santa and Rudolph!!’
‘Then I heard some crunching sounds and drinking sounds – like chew, chew, chew and glug, glug, glug – it was Santa eating the treat we left him! He must have liked it – look, it’s all gone!’

Max’s eyes got even bigger as he listened to Ali describe all of the sounds she heard.
‘Me too…that is what I heard! I heard Santa and Rudolph too! I did!!!!’  Enthusiasm and conviction radiated from his every pore!

I can remember that morning as clear as a bell. As Ali described the story of what she had ‘experienced’, Max was also living that story. Just like maybe you are experiencing a similar story from your life, just by reading this one from mine.

Leo Wildrich wrote a blog post called What listening to a story does to our brains.  In that post, Leo shares:

“When we tell stories to others that have really helped us shape our thinking and way of life, we can have the same effect on them too. The brains of the person telling a story and listening to it, can synchronize, says Uri Hasson from Princeton:

“When the woman spoke English, the volunteers understood her story, and their brains synchronized.  When she had activity in her insula, an emotional brain region, the listeners did too.  When her frontal cortex lit up, so did theirs. By simply telling a story, the woman could plant ideas, thoughts and emotions into the listeners’ brains.”

Anything you’ve experienced, you can get others to experience the same. Or at least, get their brain areas that you’ve activated that way, active too.

That’s what happened when Ali told her story of Santa and Rudolph; Max’s brain synchronized with hers.  She, in essence, gave him his first gift that Christmas morning!

Brains love stories.  When we hear a story, we relate it to our own experience and that helps the story to ‘stick’ in our minds.

Leo adds four tips for using stories as a communication tool: 1) Tell stories that reflect something important you’d like the listener to think, feel or do (their brain will turn the story into something from their own experience – and it will become ‘their’ story); 2) Write using stories – your own or those of another expert to persuade your audience; 3) Keep your stories simple (less complex stories are ‘stickier’), and 4) Use colorful, emotional words in your stories (some words or phrases like ‘a bad day’ or ‘be responsible’ are overused and begin to lack meaning for people and, thus, lack ‘stickiness’).

So, as the holiday season approaches, what stories can you share – at home and at work? I’d love to hear one of your stories from holidays past (and my brain will definitely thank you – as will the brains of everyone else who reads your story!)  Let’s spread some good holiday storytelling cheer!!



Immunize Your Organization Against Negativity

positivity=productivityI just had my flu shot – the last couple of years the Government of Canada has recommended that we ‘Get the Shot, Not the Flu’.  The purpose of an immunization – although it is not guaranteed – is to provide yourself with as much protection as possible from contracting the influenza virus (which can be very nasty and long-lasting – in addition to being highly contagious).  I ran into a doctor friend of mine who said that last year she and her family missed the shot, and they were ‘down’ for about 2 months in total as the flu made it’s way through their home.

So, if we can immunize ourselves from the nasty effects of influenza with a vaccine, what can you do to immunize yourself and your organization against negativity (which can absolutely be nasty – and contagious – costing you and your organization time, energy, and money)?

Here are a few ideas to keep in mind.  The prescription is a daily dose of P.O.S.I.T.I.V.E.:

is for Present: This is about more than just showing up, it’s about really being there in mind and body. Something that can help you be fully present is to remember to take regular breaks, and during your breaks be mindful to how you are feeling, and what you are thinking.  If you are more present, you’ll help to encourage everyone in your organization to do the same.

O is for Optimistic: What are you thinking?  Literally.  Is your internal dialogue filled with hope and possibility?  Do you speak about setbacks as temporary, and as opportunities to learn? Change your internal and external dialogue and notice what new things you notice.

S is for Shared:  Ensure that everyone in your organization has a voice.  Your culture is shared – whether you know it or not – so why not make sure you seek out the voice that works FOR you, rather than falling victim to the one that might work AGAINST you.

I is for Intentional: Do not leave your organizational culture to chance.  Be intentional about what you want to create – within your organization, and outside in the community and world in which you exist.

T is for Thank-full: Gratitude is the #1 strategy for happiness (which equates to energy and productivity in organizational terms). Look for ways to be grateful each day.  (Start each meeting with a reflection on what’s good in your organization; at the end of the day, notice one thing for which you are thankful that day, etc.). And, of course, let the people in your life know how grateful you are for them.

I is for Inspired: Allow everyone in the organization to see – every day – how they are part of something bigger than themselves.  Help them to see just how connected we all are.  (I think this video illustrates some of that sentiment.)

V is for Vulnerable: According to Dr. Brene Brown, ““Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” Need I say more?  Be yourself, try new things, make mistakes and talk about them – get real with people around you.  You – and they – will be glad you did.

E is for Energized: If you do something from each of the above every day, you’ll be energized!  On top of that, remember these other things that are not only good for your body, they are good for your mind; smile (even a fake one has positive effects), eat well (most of the time – in grade 5 my son learned about the 80/20 rule…eat until you are 80% full, make healthy choices 80% of the time…makes sense to me), drink water, and move as much as you can (hop, jump, run, walk, dance).

What do you do to immunize yourself and your organization against negativity?  I’d love to hear your ideas.

Deri Latimer is an expert in positive possibilities for people! She is one of fewer than 10% of speakers globally who hold the designation of CSP (Certified Speaking Professional), the international measure of excellence for professional competence, proven experience, and optimal client satisfaction. Deri combines a business degree in human resources management with 20 years of experience engaging audiences across every business sector. Deri provides inspiration and information to create psychologically healthy organizations for increased positivity, productivity, and profitability!


Four Keys to Manage You Moods

Mood Manager App due to be released soon!

“He’s in a mood today”.  That’s what Sarah said to me when we met to talk about an event she was planning.  I was going to be meeting her manager for the first time, and Sarah wanted to warn me that Tom was in ‘a mood’, before he entered the room.  I wondered how Tom might feel if he had known that Sarah – and likely everyone else that worked with him – felt they needed to alter their behavior based on their manager’s mood.  In fact, it seemed clear to me, that Sarah’s mood was directly impacted by Tom’s.

Tom might argue that his moods are no one’s business; he gets the job done and that is what he is being paid to do.  But is he really getting the job done, if he is negatively impacting the people around him?

I believe that most of us would rather be in a ‘good’ (positive) mood (Tom too!), and we’d rather be working with people who are in a good mood too.  Stress, overwhelming workloads, and the constant connection to technology seemingly required to function these days can cause the most calm of us to feel tense and anxious in short order.  And that is costing us – big time.  

Arianna Huffington, in her article “Burnout: The Disease of our Civilization” shares some interesting statistics on the real costs of burnout, including how “not only is there no trade-off between high performance and living a full life, the former is not possible in a sustainable way without the latter. And this applies to both companies and individuals.”

She goes on to say “There is no company whose bottom line will not be enhanced by healthier, happier, less-stressed, well-slept, centered employees.  

One of the primary things keeping many businesses from adopting more sane and sustainable metrics of success is the stubborn — and dangerously wrongheaded — myth that prioritizing health and well being is incompatible with a healthy bottom line — and that there is a trade-off between high performance and taking care of ourselves. As countless studies show, this couldn’t be less true.”

While exercise programs, meditation rooms, and sponsored yoga classes are all great for creating a healthier (happier and more productive) organization, mood management is just as important. Moods are like viruses…they spread…within you and outside of you to others. In the end, mood management can be a matter of life and death.

I had the honor of delivering a TEDxManitoba talk, titled ‘Choose Life’ that goes directly to the heart of this matter.  Take a few mintues (14:39 to be exact) to watch, and let me know what you think.

In the video, I describe one strategy for mood management – be curious, caring and connected. When you start noticing even the slightest change in your mood (the way you feel), remember to PACE yourself:

Pause: Take a moment to stop and reflect.

Ask yourself (be curious): ‘What am I seeing, hearing, feeling right now?’  ‘What’s my story?’

Care: Express self-compassion.  Rather than judging yourself for the way you are feeling, or for the thoughts you might be having, simply say to yourself ‘This is a challenging time right now.’

Engage: Connect with others.  Speak with a trusted friend or co-worker to talk through a complicated situation.  (Connecting with others is REALLY important!  Check out this post about the dangers of social isolation.)

Tom could benefit from a little mood management – and he will likely be pleasantly surprised at the difference it makes to him…and to the people with whom he works.  Sarah too.  How about you? Need a little mood management in your life?

Deri Latimer is an expert in positive possibilities for people! She is one of fewer than 10% of speakers globally who hold the designation of CSP (Certified Speaking Professional), the international measure of excellence for professional competence, proven experience, and optimal client satisfaction. Deri combines a business degree in human resources management with 20 years of experience engaging audiences across every business sector. Deri provides inspiration and information to create psychologically healthy organizations for increased positivity, productivity, and profitability!



4 Tips to Flip a Bad Day

You know when you’re having one.  You feel drained of energy, you are grinding your teeth, maybe furrowing your brow… and people – even strangers – are avoiding you.  And, sometimes, you turn in to bed early just so you can start a new day sooner!!  You are having a bad day. We’ve all had them.

Well, you can do more than just wait for that bad day to end.  You can flip it…you can learn strategies to turn it around and end every day feeling satisfied with your results.

In her post titled, The secret to being happy at work – and loving it, Debra Killalea points out that ‘While cool perks ultimately help people enjoy their job, two Australian academics claim loving your job is a skill that can be learnt, even by the most disgruntled worker. Psychology experts Sue Langley and colleague Mel Neil, who have developed a university-recognized diploma in Positive Psychology and Wellbeing, say anyone can learn to love their job and be successful if they’re prepared to learn how. ‘  The course includes elements of positive relationships, positive communication, and setting positive goals.

Being happy at work is definitely learn-able.  Just as many of us have learned to be unhappy at work (i.e. viewing work as laborious, difficult, something we ‘have to do’), we can like-wise learn to be happy at work (i.e. viewing the work we do as a choice we make, believing we contribute to the organization, believing we matter).  And there is no question – when we are happy at work, we have way more good days than bad – at work and at home!

Think about these 4 tips to FLIP your bad day around:

Find a quiet space and … stop.  Be mindful of the moment.  Be ‘present’, right there.  Shut your eyes and tune into what is happening inside of you, and all around you.  Breathe.

Let your thoughts come and go…and notice them as they do.  Are they serving you?  Is there an opportunity to reframe the day, the experience, the other person, yourself?

Imagine the best day you could possibly have.  What is going on during that day?  What are you saying to yourself?  What are you noticing in others?  Perhaps all that you need for a good day is right there in front of you.

Proceed with optimism.  Look for what’s good in the people you meet, the meetings you attend, the clients you serve and the work you complete.  There is a lot to appreciate.  Do it…and notice how different you feel.

Daniel Goleman wrote a recent post titled, Identify the Script Behind Your Emotional Hijacks, in which he recommends that you ‘keep a log of regrettable angry episodes. Write down just what it was about, how it happened, what set you off, and what did you do that you think you shouldn’t have done.  After you’ve got 30 or 40 of them, try to see the commonality in the triggers and responses. You’ll usually find a particular script that underlies what’s causing you to have a particular perception on certain situations, to cast people into roles that they really aren’t in, and to try to replay a plot that doesn’t really fit.’

That sounds like learning to me!  Being mindful, reflecting and re-framing are all elements of any effective personal development process.

As you reflect on how you might FLIP a bad day, consider the wonderful words by Maclean Thiessen of Unklelephant in which his lyrics remind us of the importance of being mindful and seizing the day before us:

Life can be rough it can be tough people can be mean and all that stuff
But in the end it doesn’t matter, ’cause we are all just climbing up the ladder
And when we get up to the top and look at all the stuff we got
will we take a moment to see?

In a moment of clarity, like a gift from divinity
Will we see that we’re hurting you and me?
Cause it’s all gonna end
So lets start to mend


Maclean and I both spoke recently at TEDxManitoba…our talks were different, and yet both spoke to life, death and choices.  I was so honored to have been selected to deliver a talk – it was, indeed, a highlight of my life.  I was a wee disappointed as my rehearsal was better than my delivery on the day it was recorded (the remote was a little ‘sticky’). I persevered…and used lots of the strategies above to FLIP it as it was happening.  People were also very kind, saying things like ‘who cares about the remote’, ‘it’s the message that mattered”, and many other wonderful comments that are permanently etched into my mind and soul.  I so appreciated their kind words.  They really did help me FLIP. My daughter – who was a major part of a story I told that day – is away for the first time alone, travelling in Korea.  I am missing her – a maybe a little worried too.  She sent this text to me.  “Mom, I just watched your TED talk and you were amazing…I was in awe the whole time…good for you for doing this…it took a lot of courage”.  Wow.  When your teenager extends such powerful words, it hits right in the heart-center. That experience reminded me of how important I can be in another person’s day.  Just as Ali and all the other people at TEDxManitoba helped me to FLIP, a few kind words from me to others might just help them to FLIP too!

I will send the video of the talk once it is ready.  I am hoping that you’ll find the message meaningful, and will truly ‘spread it’, as is the spirit of TED.

Until then, I’d love to hear your ideas on how you have flipped a bad day into something better.

Deri Latimer is an expert in energizing the workplace! She is one of fewer than 10% of speakers globally who hold the designation of CSP (Certified Speaking Professional).  Deri combines a business degree with experience in government, health care, manufacturing, education, mining, transportation, agriculture, tourism, and the professional services sectors. Deri impacts individuals and organizations by offering practical strategies to move from overwhelmed to resilient, from absence to presence, from stuck to productive, and from exhausted to energized!