Jennifer Abrams -Consultancy that informs, inspires, and empowers VOICE
Voice Lessons June 2008

Hello! As school comes to a close, we all finally have a bit more time to relax and reflect. What did we really love about this year’s work? How might we want to do things differently next year? In terms of our teaching, working with our colleagues and our supervisees or coachees, how do we want to be? What changes might we want to make in order to have not only just more effective conversations, but also more honest and healthy ones? This newsletter will provide some ‘quick scripts’ for all of us interested in cleaner, more authentic communication. I call them scripts that help us be ‘two feet in the present.’

If you have any questions, comments or topic suggestions, please feel free to email me at I look forward to hearing from you!

Quick Scripts That Help Us Be Two Feet In The Present

I don’t know about you, but I sometimes leave interactions I have with colleagues and think, “Ouch.” I was hurt by the tone, I was insulted by the comment, or I was not in agreement with the content or what I was expected to do next.

And, sadly, I didn’t say a thing.

Unfortunately, the next time I interact with that person I bring that last ‘ouch’ into my present conversation. It sits in my head, and if something else is said that triggers me, I pounce; on a scale of ‘big deal or little deal’ I make the current comment a ‘10’ when it really is a ‘2’. I brought the past into the present.

Now we all know that every little comment couldn’t realistically be discussed and worked through, nor should it be. We’d be processing for days. But, if something is still bothering you, you feel that you are still stinging from the last interaction, you are getting a sinking sensation that you are this close to being overwhelmed, and any or all of those feelings are getting in the way of you working well with a colleague, chances are you need some help so you can better say what you need to say in the moment.

Here are three very short quick scripts for those challenging moments.

1) “Ouch”
A training group I work with uses this word when we don’t know what to say right away but we know we have been stung by a comment and we have to say something. It immediately offers a signal that something was hurtful. Saying, “Ouch” helps us all stop and think about what was just said and the impact it had. We restate our intentions, talk about the feelings it brought up and try then to move on without bringing the ‘slime’ of a past hurt with us.

2) “Here’s What I’m Thinking”
This ‘quick script’ is adapted from the “State My Path” piece in the book, Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson and his partners at VitalSmarts.

If you have just seen or heard something that you feel has been hurtful, or might come across in a way that could cause damage and you want to name what is going on from your perspective, try these three sentence stems.

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”I noticed..."
“I am thinking/feeling...”
“Is that what you meant?” OR “ Is this what’s going on?”

Here’s a quick example:

Someone doesn’t respond to your emails in a timely fashion. You have set deadlines and they aren’t being met. You are beginning to steam a bit. You could say, “I put a “Please get back to me by...” deadline in both emails and I noticed that you didn’t respond. I am thinking that there is something wrong. Perhaps you aren’t interested in joining the group? Is this what’s going on?”

In this 3 part entry into a dialogue, most specifically with the “I Statements,” you have just put out what you think might be happening and how it looks from your perspective.
Instead of playing the movie inside your head about what you think might be going on, this “Here’s What I’m Thinking” script, delivered in a sincere and open tone, gets the issue on the table so it can be discussed in real time.

3) “Are You Willing To Consider Other Options?”
Many of us have a difficult time disagreeing with our supervisor. What do you do when he or she has asked you to do something that, for whatever reason (time, resources, impact on others), doesn’t work for you? My colleague, executive coach and consultant Phil Berghausen, taught me this quick script to use when your supervisor has just suggested you do something that you feel might not be the next best step.

“I will do that if you want me to and are you willing to consider other options?”

By saying, “I will do that if you want me to,” you send a clear message your supervisor is still ‘in charge.’ By adding the words, “are you willing,” you are putting the next part of the discussion in the hands of the supervisor. You haven’t usurped any control. You have asked if he is willing to keep talking. And by finishing with the words, “consider other options” you have opened the door not only to the supervisor’s idea being a viable option, but the concept that there are also other options he might want to think about too. Then you can suggest your alternatives as well.

It takes some serious self-awareness and some strong confidence to speak up in the moment. Having some language in your toolbox for when awkward moments arise is essential. Addressing things when they occur, instead of sitting on them, keeps us ‘two feet in the present.’

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Cool Resources

On the topic of hard conversations...

  • For a cool audio lesson in negotiation, check out
    Dr. Josh Weiss, Associate Director of the Global Negotiation Project at the Program on Negotiation at Harvard has put up on his web site weekly negotiation tips in the form of a podcast. Check out these short, engaging conversations with experts in difficult conversations, generational negotiations, emotional intelligence and other topics. Worth a quick listen.

  • For anyone interested in what a good (vs. a bad) apology sounds like, check out either the book, On Apology, by Dr. Aaron Lazare, or the video of Dr. Lazare speaking at Wellesley College at On Apology is an exploration and analysis of the power of apology, not just for individuals, but also for groups and nations. As an old gospel song says, you need to learn to ‘clean up what you messed up and start all over again.’

Upcoming Events

Each month I will share with you information about a few of my upcoming trainings.
If I am going to be in your area, contact me so we can say hello, hopefully in person!

June 16
Being Generationally Savvy & Having Hard Conversations

Growing Teachers Institute
Colorado Academy
Denver, CO

June 25-29
The Heart of Teaching: Beyond Content

Teachers Training Center for International School Teaching
Miami, FL

July 2
Elements of Effective Instruction
Day School Leadership Through Teaching Incoming Cohort
Hebrew Union College
Los Angeles, CA

For additional upcoming events, please visit my Web site.

Until next time,


Feel free to forward this newsletter to friends and colleagues. You may reprint this newsletter in whole or quote with attribution to Jennifer Abrams and a link to

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© 2008 Jennifer Abrams | Email Jennifer | 4290 Wilkie Way #L, Palo Alto, CA 94306 |  (650) 858-0699


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