Elizabethkuhnke's Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Relationships

When my mother died, she willed me one of her charm bracelets. On this bracelet is a charm that says: Live, Love, Laugh. When I think of my mother, these are the words that come to mind.

My mother died 3 ½ years ago after a 7 year battle with cancer. She was 83 and lived her life with dignity, courage and determination. In addition to cancer, my mother suffered from schizophrenia throughout her life.

I recently came across one of my mother’s journals written in the 1970s in which she documented her breakdowns and feelings about her mental illness. Without complaining or playing for pity, Mom spoke of her life with gratitude. In spite of her condition, she felt fortunate to have been financially astute so that she could provide for her daughters and afford treatment for her disease. (Mom and my father divorced when I was nine, and she raised my sister and me mostly on her own.)

In contrast to her mental frailty, Mom was physically fit. A club champion golfer, tennis player and swimmer and the first woman to be invited to join the USA Olympic Equestrian Team, she excelled at sport. Only in terms of her sense of self was she a fragile flower who struggled with life’s challenges. Friends and family would step in when Mom’s illness rendered her incapable, filling our house with love and laughter during times of stress and sadness. The tough times didn’t last long, and although Mom would come out of an episode feeling weak and embarrassed by her behaviour, she was able to laugh at her antics and express thanks for the love in her life. Frank Sinatra’s song, Nancy With the Laughing Face, could have been written for Mom.

Several days before my mother died she asked me to publicise her mental illness in order to enlighten people about what continues to be a taboo topic. This, in spite of mental illness – in its varying forms – affecting millions of families across the globe. I have yet to speak with anyone who doesn’t have some form of mental illness in their DNA. My current aim – in honour of my mother – is to build awareness and eliminate fear and prejudice around the subject. If I can contribute to ridding the world of mental disease, so much the better.

I leave you with this final thought: My mother exemplified fortitude, faith and fun. She would often say, “I know that if I can laugh at it I can live with it.” She did. I wish you a life filled with love and laughter.



Remember: There’s a lot of sadness, loss and strife floating in the universe. Counterbalance the negative effects by bringing love and laughter to your life and those of others. Find the beauty. Seek the good. You’ll feel better for doing so as will the people whose lives you touch.

Tip: When all else fails, find the humour in life. A bit of verve and vivacity goes a long way in helping you tackle life’s challenges.

Remember: If you can laugh at it, you can live with it.

Anecdote: Shortly before my mother died we invited a group of her friends to the house for chocolates, champagne and conversation. At a time when most people in her position would have preferred to be alone, Mom wanted to surround herself with people she cared about and who cared about her. At one point during the evening, Mom, who was seated in her easy chair with her friends surrounding her said, “It’s so nice to be at my own wake!” and burst into laughter, in which her friends joined. Mom could find happiness in the most unlikely events. As one of her friends wrote to me, shortly after she died, “Your mother laughed like she meant it and loved her friends and family. She lived her life with bonhomie and good will and people left her company feeling upbeat and good about themselves.” Another friend said, “You mother always made me feel welcomed and valued. I valued her enormously..”

For more information visit www.kuhnkecommunication.com

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Several weeks ago at a Sunday lunch with friends and family I embarrassed my son. I embarrass him on a regular basis, as doing so is part of a mother’s job. This particular day I went a step too far and Max demonstrated a degree of self-control that made me sit up and notice. While he didn’t say a word, his body tightened and he wrapped his arms around his torso as if keeping his emotion in check. His jaw locked and his lips puckered in disapproval. Add to that, his eyes became steely as he glared at me, suggesting that I might want to stop what I was doing. And I did.

Your body’s speaking and people are noticing. How you’re holding your body, focusing your gaze and what your feet and fingers are doing tells a tale of your inner state.

Below is a snap shot of gestures and the emotions they’re conveying. Before I go any further, remember that no one gesture tells the entire story. In order to interpret what the body’s saying, you must reflect on the whole picture of the person.

Fiddling fingers, bouncing feet and sideways glances reveal feelings of doubtfulness, rejection or suspicion. A combination of picking at fingernails, pinching the fleshy part of the hand, rubbing or caressing a personal object (ring, cufflinks, watch, for example) or chewing on an object, such as a pencil or pen translates into insecurity.

To spot enthusiasm, look for smiles in which both the lips and eyes are engaged. People who are enthusiastic move with a bounce in their step. Their posture is erect, their hands are open and they frequently extend their arms in the direction of their interest.

Negative emotions such as secrecy or nervousness tend to manifest themselves through minimal or no eye contact, throat clearing and covering the mouth while speaking. Boredom reveals itself through drumming fingers, swing feet, picking at clothes and jingling keys and coins.

People demonstrating superiority and authority come across as both relaxed and expansive in their gestures. They steeple their fingers, are comfortable putting their feet up or on their desk. You often see them leaning back with their fingers laced behind their head with their chin lifted upward.

When you notice someone with their hands on their hips or sitting forward at the edge of a chair, you’re right in thinking that they’re ready to go. As you may be by now.

For more about how body language reveals attitudes, emotions and feelings, buy a copy of Body Language For Dummies. You might want to wait to the end of January 2012, when the 2nd edition hits the stands with more photographs and expanded content. Until then, pick up an app to get you started.

For more information visit www.kuhnkecommunication.com

And…Follow us on Twitter! www.twitter.com/diamondpolisher

If you remember nothing else from this blog, remember this:  ‘No’ is not a naughty word.  It’s not a ‘four letter word’ nor is it one to be ashamed of saying.  People struggle with saying ‘no’ because of feelings of guilt. While it’s flattering to be offered opportunities – going on vacation together, being a God parent – they may not be what you want.  If you put yourself first by saying ‘no’ to some requests you can serve your friends and family better in other ways.  

Remember too, look at your reasons for saying ‘no.’ If you’re rejecting an opportunity to stretch yourself a bit – for example, refusing to speak at your best friend’s wedding because you doubt your abilities to do a good job – reconsider. Sometimes people say ‘no’ because they’re afraid to take themselves out of their comfort zones.

When you do say ‘no’ – mean it. Saying ‘no’ while nodding your head and smiling gives mixed messages. Speak like you mean what you’re saying. That doesn’t mean you have to be harsh – just clear, concise and committed to what you’re saying.

This blog addresses how to say No to common requests from good friends – not unreasonable, but ones which will cause you a great deal of time, anxiety etc, that you can’t afford, such as public speaking. We have chosen a few common situations to guide you through saying no.

1. Will you be my child’s godparent?  Before saying ‘no’ allow the person making the offer to ask and define what being a God parent entails. What commitments are involved?  Once you’ve given them time to speak tell them that while you’re flattered by their request and that you look forward to being part of the child’s life, you’re not in a position to accept the invitation.  You don’t need to give further explanation (Not religious, can’t meet the expectations, etc) Show your appreciation in your tone of voice and body language. A flip ‘thanks but no thanks’ can come off a bit gruff.

2. Will you be best man/woman? (You hate public speaking,)  If the only reason you say ‘no’ is because you hate public speaking, get over it.  Before saying ‘no’ outright, find out what the job entails.  If the expectations are beyond your capabilities , thank the person for the opportunity and suggest an alternative choice.  If the person is a good enough friend, you can find the resources to accept the offer even if it takes up time.

3. Shall we all go on holiday together? (You want a relaxing time with your own family) Tell them exactly that.  That another time you’d enjoy going on holiday together, this time you want to be relaxing alone with your family.  You don’t need to say a lot to get your point across clearly and concisely.

4. Can I come and stay after a marital row? (You’re busy/don’t have room/ don’t want to take sides)  Let her speak so she feels valued and cared for.  Then tell her that while you care for her the best thing she can do is rely on herself to work out the problem.  Unless  your friend is in physical danger – in which case you definitely don’t take her in , referring her instead to an abuse agency (Refuge, for example)– you’re not doing her any favours by treating her like a helpless child.

5. Can I borrow some money?  The answers below are perfectly acceptable reasons for saying ‘no’. The second response – don’t trust them to pay back – could sound a bit harsh.  You could frame your response in terms of ‘I wouldn’t want to put you in the difficult position of having to pay me back.’   Even Shakespeare knew not to mix funds and friendship (‘Never a borrower nor a lender be’ – Hamlet)
(You don’t believe in mixing friends & cash/ don’t trust them to pay it back)

6. Can you have my (difficult) teenager to stay while we go away for the weekend?  Express your happiness for them that they’re getting away together.  Empathetically, tell them that you have plans for the w/e that and are not able to help them out this time.  You don’t need to go into any great explanation.  As my grandmother used to say, ‘never complain, never explain.’
(Too much responsibility & you don’t want to row with him/her about drinking, lifts, etc.)

For those for whom ‘being liked’ is important, it’s hard to say no because it feels/sounds/looks like rejection.  If you change your viewpoint and see saying ‘no’ as a way of empowering others to come up with their own solutions without relying on others to solve their problems, you’re giving them a gift.

We find it hard to say ‘no’ because we’re taught to be nice to others, to behave in a generous manner, to serve others, and to pay back for favours done.  We also find it hard to say ‘no’ when the person asking is similar to us – be it background, beliefs, values, attitudes, behaviours, culture, religion, etc.  Similarities create bonds.  If you owe someone a favour it’s also hard to say no to them.

For more information visit www.kuhnkecommunication.com

And…Follow us on Twitter! www.twitter.com/diamondpolisher


Although it’s hard for colleagues to quarrel, as their mutual friend and workmate, it’s pretty rough for you too. But here’s how to stay sane (and supportive) while being pulled two ways.

What sort of issues most commonly cause colleagues to fall out?

  1.  Workplace gossip – the ‘he said she said’ scenario – leads to nothing but trouble at the workplace.  Simple rule:  don’t gossip.
  2. Workplace affairs.  If one person is having an affair or sexual relationship with a colleague it can lead to jealousy, especially if your other friend is on their own.  You could offer to go out to lunch/dinner with your friend so she/he doesn’t feel left out in the cold.
  3.  Promotions and bonuses.  When one person is rewarded and the other one isn’t, jealousy can rear its ugly head.
  4.  Not pulling his/her weight at work/laziness/time wasting.  We all have jobs to do.  If your friend is spending more time at the water cooler, out of the office having her nails done, surfing the net, or any other activity that impacts negatively on her work, others in the office may become resentful.
  5.  Feeling unappreciated.  See #3
  6.  Stress / seeing one another as rivals.

What is difficult about the situation that their other colleagues now find themselves in?

Once you were all friends, now there’s a spanner in the works.  Through no fault of your own the dynamics of the friendship has changed and you’re stuck in the middle or left out in the cold.  Having no control over what’s happening between the other two, you’re in an awkward situation because there’s nothing you can do to put things back where they were.  Your life has changed and you must decide how you’re going to proceed.  This may mean that you have to see them individually, rather than as the group of friends you were before they fell out.  Let each one know you care about both of them and that you’re not going to gossip or talk in any way about the other.  Then stick to that promise!

What is the best course of action for anybody who is working with two colleagues who have fallen out?

Should you try and mediate? Or keep well out of it?

  1.  If you care about each person you could offer to facilitate a conversation between them.  Only do this if you are able to remain neutral, non-judgemental and have experience in facilitating or providing feedback.
  2.  If you’re uncomfortable facilitating, tell each one that you care about them both and that it’s up to them to solve their problems between themselves.
  3. Sometimes people will try to use you as a ‘middle man’ like the corner of a triangle where two lines meet.  I call this the Triangulation Approach.  Do NOT get sucked into this trap.  You’ll end up being part of the problem (“Judy said that you said….”).  If they have a problem, let them work it out between themselves without getting you involved, unless you’re able to facilitate.

Should you ask how things are between them? Or just ignore it?

Stay clear.  Let them know at the beginning of their fall out that you care about them both and hope they can work out their problem.  Then stay away.  Asking how things are only pulls you into the problem.

How should you avoid getting drawn into taking sides?

Tell yourself that you’re not going to get drawn in and then live up to your word.  Taking sides does no one any good and exasperates the problem.  It can be tempting to become involved.  You may want to ‘help’ or be part of what’s going on (rather like people stopping to stare at a road accident). Other people’s lives can seem exciting – the truth is, they’re simply exhausting.  Too much interest in other people’s lives leaves you little time to pay attention to what’s going on in your own life.  Getting drawn in and taking sides doesn’t do you or anyone else any favours.  Don’t fan the flames.  The less attention you the sooner it will die out.  If the upset is causing problems at work, it’s up to the manager to deal with it professionally.


  • Demonstrate respect.  You’re not Ms Fix-It.  Act like a friend to both by respecting their privacy and emotions.  Treat them like adults, not quarrelling children.
  • Show your friends that you trust they’re adults and capable of solving their own problems.  Be trustworthy in all you say and do.  Don’t gossip about their fall out with anyone.  If/when they kiss and make up, don’t rehash what happened.  Let by-gones be by-gones and move on.  If they don’t make up, don’t discuss what happened.  Let each one know you care about them individually and that you’re not taking sides.  Stay neutral.
  • Stay out of it.  You’ve got enough to deal with in your own life.

 For more information visit www.kuhnkecommunication.com

And…Follow us on Twitter! www.twitter.com/diamondpolisher




Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer is a great story of how to influence others to do the work you are supposed to do.

The metaphor of getting someone else to paint your fence is one of life’s dreams in business.

Influencing is a key competence for all managers.   The dictionary definition says to influence is to ‘cause something without any direct or apparent effort’ and ‘a cognitive factor that tends to have an effect on what you do’

So, to use the stick method or the carrot method?   Carrot works best.   This is because once you begin to use the stick; you need to continue to use it and that simply leads to a disgruntled workforce.   The carrot works better but only if you understand what motivates your people.

In order to understand what it is that motivates them, make sure you fully connect with your people

Getting up each day knowing that the company (and your boss) value you and your work, can be very motivating and lead to great results.

Connecting with your people – understanding what their issues are; understanding what they need; what you can do to assist them

Talk to the people who report to you.  Ask them what you can do to make their work lives easier.

Help your people understand why you have asked them to do whatever you have asked them to do.

Helping the employee see how his or her contributions will make a difference is a good response to the ‘why’ question.

You will have to believe it first.  Employees who contribute do make a difference.

Be willing to celebrate personal and team contributions.   Appreciate.

The best part of being a good influencer is when you ask for employee input on how to make work better.

Staff contributions are valued.

Be out there with them

For more information visit www.kuhnkecommunication.com

And…Follow us on Twitter! www.twitter.com/diamondpolisher

Elizabeth Kuhnke’s ‘Persuasion and Influence for Dummies’ will be released in October and is available for pre-order now http://www.amazon.co.uk/Persuasion-Influence-Dummies-Lifestyles-Paperback/dp/0470747374/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1314173018&sr=8-1

Tip: Learning how and when to break rapport, without giving offence, is an essential rapport skill.

 Surprisingly, you don’t need rapport all the time. You also don’t need to worry about building rapport when you already have it with someone. For the most part, you need to learn how to get rapport when you don’t have it or the ensuing poor communication will cause trouble. When you get good at practising rapport skills, you’ll probably find that your natural ability to be in rapport with yourself and others greatly increases.

When could using rapport be a waste of time

There are times when breaking rapport is crucial. Some people get so good at creating rapport with others that conversation flows too fluently and they forget how to bring it to a close. So they end up listening to story after story, or hearing more detailed information than they ever needed to know. Either they are afraid to offend by disengaging or they don’t know how to finish an interaction gracefully. Time gets wasted. Appointments or meetings over-run. Work doesn’t get done. Irritation and boredom step in. Then people risk having to break off quite abruptly, which causes bad feelings.

The ability to break rapport by using simple skills of mismatching can be a lifesaver. You can elegantly give people nonverbal signals that it’s time to move on, finish the appointment and bring things to a close, without ever saying any words to that effect.

Avoid buyer’s remorse

Until you’ve practised matching and developed expertise at building rapport, you may not fully appreciate just how powerful this is. However, the subtleties will be familiar to those who are involved with sales. In a good sales interaction, there will be high levels of rapport, ideally with the sales person facilitating a good match between the buyer’s needs and his product. But it is most important to break this rapport at the crucial moment!

Because the buyer may feel such rapport with the sales person, it is vital to break this rapport before signing the contract. Why? There’s a danger that the buyer might sign without having fully thought the whole process through. They may feel that they got carried away by the good feelings generated by the sales person. Afterwards, when the buyer has time to think about it, they may suffer buyer’s remorse. By simply breaking rapport and giving the buyer some space to make their own decision, you can achieve more mutually satisfactory sales.

Elegant mismatching to break rapport

The ability to break rapport can be as useful as knowing how to create it. Particularly if you are the type of person that everyone enjoys talking to, learning to mismatch can save you time and help you handle people elegantly.

Tip: If people like to bring you their problems and leave their monkeys on your desk, you need to learn how to use mismatching.

 Bringing a conversation to a natural close, disengaging from a hot topic, finishing an interaction, ending a meeting and saying goodbye can all be done very gracefully by mismatching.

It is simple. All you have to do is reverse all the nonverbal behaviours that led to achieving rapport. The more subtly you do this, the more unobtrusive and elegant it will seem. Sensitive people will pick up the first few signals. With oblivious people, you may need to run through the whole list.

Seven ways to mismatch

1. Break eye contact

Look away more often, while maintaining the conversation. Stop nodding your head in agreement.

2. Turn slowly away from the person

Start with one foot, then gradually turn the leg, and then your whole body towards the door you want to exit from. Step back subtly to increase the distance between you and the other person. Alternatively, if you are seated, lean back and turn your gaze to the papers on your desk or glance at something that will give an unconscious message that there’s something you need to be getting on with.

3. Stop matching

Stop matching both movements and conversation flow. Answer more abruptly, without giving the other person conversation cues (uh huh, yes, oh really) and don’t ask any further questions that require them to respond.

4. Close the papers

Close your folder or computer – whatever you may have been working on together – and put things away in your briefcase. Clear the table. Throw away debris. Put out a visual signal that the meeting has come to an end.

5. Suggest looking at diaries

Begin to look at possible dates for the next meeting.

6. Stand up or move

Stand up, if you are seated, or move your chair back in a definitive manner. Physically move your body and take a small step towards the door, if you are standing.

7. Apologise

Apologise for having to end the meeting and give an excuse about another pressing commitment. Show them the door!

When you use these mismatching behaviours, most people will pick up the clues quickly and realise it’s time to close. That gives them the signal to wind up. This avoids those awkward situations where one person is still talking animatedly and the other abruptly finishes the conversation. No one loses face and there’s no risk of delivering the unconscious message that you are not interested in what they are saying. It also saves time and avoids long, unnecessary conversations that lead to irritation and boredom.


Mismatch to break rapport

If the sceptical part of your mind can’t believe that matching really works, try this out as an experiment with someone who you know will forgive you. When you experience the power of mismatching, you’ll appreciate the subtle power of matching more.

  1. Sit down and ask a friend or colleague to tell you about their favourite holiday. As they start talking, at first match them with physiology, gestures, breathing and ‘uh huhs’, to get them going. Create a good, warm, friendly atmosphere.
  2. Then cross your legs and pick up your foot to look at the bottom of your shoe. Regardless of what’s there, become totally fascinated with your shoe, maintaining full eye contact with your shoe and fiddling with it non-stop. If the person questions you about what you are doing, just keep saying ‘I’m listening, do carry on’. An alternative to fiddling with your shoe would be to examine your fingernails – care must be taken to focus eye contact completely on your hands – again, fiddling with them helps. A typical office scenario version would be to have them keep talking while you turn all your attention to your computer and start reading your emails.
  3. What usually happens is that the person finds it increasingly difficult to continue to tell their story. You appear so uninterested that they think you are being extremely rude and may feel quite upset.

If you wish to preserve and repair this relationship, you may wish to apologise; tell them about the experiment, and give them your full attention to finish the story.

 For more information visit www.kuhnkecommunication.com

And…Follow us on Twitter! www.twitter.com/diamondpolisher

With a flick of the hair, a tilt of the head and a pout of the lips you could have the one you want falling at your feet before you know it. Sending the right message with your body language is crucial to attracting the perfect partner.

It’s a fact that availability counts for more than beauty in the dating game. A person on the hunt will tend to pursue a woman who may not be the most attractive in the room, as long as she’s giving off signals indicating that she’s ready and willing.  So, if you want to hook up communicate your interest early in the evening.

Use our top tips to getting someone’s attention, and keeping it:

Play with Your Hair – Playing with your hair is an attention grabber. Whether you’re tossing your head, flicking your tresses, or running your fingers through your locks, this action sends signals that you’re interested and available. An added benefit of playing with your hair is that when your raise your hand to your hair, you expose your soft underarm, a tender, vulnerable and sexually responsive part of the body that’s hard to resist.

The Head Tilt – A head tilted to the side is an appealing gesture because it indicates submissiveness, causing a surge of compassion from the person you’ve set your sights on. Tilting your head makes you look vulnerable, a condition most people on the prowl find irresistible. By tilting your head you reveal your neck, exposing the soft skin on a defenceless part of your body. This in turn makes you look helpless and sexy, a seductive state that works like a magnet.

Pout those lips –Embrace your inner Angelina Jolie and put on the pout.  Full lips are highly erotic.  By increasing the size of your lips you can turn thoughts into kisses!

Crossing Your Legs – The leg twine is consistently ranked the most appealing sitting position a woman can take. Pressing one leg against the other makes the leg muscles look fit and toned, a look that is both pleasing and tempting. Crossing and uncrossing your legs is an enticing gesture and indicates your willingness and desire to be caressed.

 Women tend to focus on their hair, clothing, and make-up when preparing to go. Applying the right body language to attract a potential partner matters more than cosmetics or clothes. By putting these tips to the test you’ll be well on your way to finding yourself a perfect partner.

 For more information visit www.kuhnkecommunication.com

And…Follow us on Twitter! www.twitter.com/diamondpolisher

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