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Saturday, December 24, 2016

Your work habits are your real resume.

Almost everyone at some time has to document their work and educational history for prospective employers.  We do it in interviews and also on resumes.  But that guarded careful conversation called an interview or that carefully crafted document called a resume doesn't tell more about you than your work habits do--the habits that your references will know and report, or just people who know you will.

Your colleagues and fellow employees could write out a real resume for you by answering these questions about you.  Which ones apply to you?

Do you get to work on time?
Do you have a lot of explanations and excuses for being late or unprepared?
Do you return phone calls promptly?
Do you answer emails in complete sentences on point using language that is not abbreviated and makes sense?
Do you rely upon emojis and misspelled dialect words to hide your fear of being discovered as someone with inadequate communication skills?
Do you say "thank you" easily and often?
Do you place the words "I am" in front of the word "sorry" or is "Sorry" the most you can apologize?
Do you exaggerate the truth or spin the facts of the truth to benefit yourself?
Do you share credit at work when teamwork produced positive results?
Do you say yes to opportunities to get more training more at work, or do you answer:  "If it ain't broken I don't need to fix it."  (Translated:  If I don't know it, I don't need to know it.)
Do you add a disclaimer to messages like "Message dictated; expect mistakes" to make it the burden of your reader to figure out what you are trying to say?

If you are making it the burden of any of your colleagues to fill in the gaps for content you leave out, he or she will know and supply the kind of content you won't want from your references or on your resume.
Change the behaviors now, and the reports of your work habits will improve along with opportunities for advancement.  This is how your real-life resume grows along with you.

Daphne's newest book is Christmas in Fountain City

Monday, December 19, 2016

The chickens know how to lay the eggs.

Recently while researching the life of W. C. Handy, I read a story about a man who had a chicken farm but who was out selling insurance.  When asked why he was doing both, the insurance salesman replied:  "The chickens know how to lay the eggs."  His point?  The chickens could be doing their work while he did some other kind of work.

Today we casually and differently refer to doing more than one job as multi-tasking, but I think this chicken-farmer-turned-insurance-salesman's story tells the truth about how multi-tasking gets its value--from productivity, not simply by being busy performing tasks that can be done better sequentially than juggled simultaneously.

It is one kind of activity to start a load of laundry and then while it's washing sweep the kitchen.
It is another kind of activity to start a load of laundry and then go door to door selling encyclopedias.
The difference is profit.

There is a time in the working life of anyone where you start certain actions in motion and then you do not need to watch the chickens lay eggs or the washing machine wash. You are free to engage in other activities, but in business, those activities should ideally be profit oriented--the hope of making progress. That is the authenticity and purpose fulfilled of real multi-tasking.

We are often duped into thinking multi-tasking is something else, like checking email while talking on the phone.  That activity is splitting your attention, but it doesn't necessarily mean you do either or both tasks well.  There is a difference in a job done halfway and a job done very well.  There is an important difference in paying close attention to others in a focused way, too, so that people feel seen, heard, and understood rather than managed like an item on the to-do list that gets checked.

Multi-tasking dupes us in other ways, too.  It's sneaky.  Because we are busy being busy, we may discover that we are not doing the work we need to do--we are just doing something that makes us feel better about ourselves, but we are not accomplishing what needs to be done. In this way, sometimes multi-tasking is a form of procrastinating--doing stuff we want to do rather than the stuff we don't want to do. Because we are busy, we think we have the excuse of being busy. But that is not an excuse for avoiding work that needs to be done.

After reading that story about the chicken farmer selling insurance, I asked, 'How often do I walk away from a task to let it steep or lay its own eggs when it really needs me to be there and finish something I've begun?' For often multi-tasking is a form of procrastination when we put off finishing a task--we have started it but didn't stay around to finish it.

I look ahead to my work week and wonder when does the explanation multitasking fit and when is it an excuse to give less than my best effort, most focused concentration, my serious accountable-for- the-outcome results attention.  Certainly chickens don't need me to watch them to do their laying of eggs, but so many of the activities of work do need nurturing, watering, tending, and follow through. If you pride yourself on being a high-volume multi-tasker, can you truly say you are paying close attention to the work and relationships that require your best work and closest attention?

I can't. I am guilty of multi-tasking in ways to avoid my responsibilities and so that I have an excuse for failing at doing the work I should be doing.  But that chicken farmer turned insurance salesman got my attention.

From now on I shall pay attention to how I think about my work and how I use the excuse of multitasking to quit or procrastinate rather than the real and truthful explanation at times that while my particular brand of chickens don't need me to watch them lay eggs, there are times in the work day when it is my job to feed the chickens or gather the eggs.  I shall be careful to be attentive enough to the process involved in real-value productivity to finish my part of the work without excuses of any kind.

Daphne's latest book is not about making money; it is about giving, and it's called Christmas in Fountain City

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Are Christmas cards obsolete as a business tool?

Last Christmas my friends and I compared notes about how many Christmas cards we still send--or don't. Discussion ensued about the cost of the cards themselves, postage, and the easily accessible and so much faster electronic ways to send good will greetings, which are harder to send universally because of the variances in messages that are acceptable in terms of religious emphasis.

We concluded that we don't know how businesses can send out any kind of specific Christmas card anymore without possibly offending or alienating some of its clients or customers. And we don't think people need to prove their faith by sending overtly religious cards just to prove they're not afraid to do it.

Like the discussion of the Confederate flag and whether it represents racism or history, the sending of Christmas cards gets tangled up in discussions of faith and free speech.   For inside the Christian faith, like all faiths really, there is this persevering dogged determination to finish the race that has begun without losing faith, and saying "Merry Christmas" is as much about declaring that perseverance and intention to continue to persevere as it is any other message.  For this reason, some people find strength in saying "Merry Christmas".  To them, it is drawing breath from the moment when they first believed that sin is real, Jesus paid a price for it, and they will live their lives honoring the gift of Christ to the world celebrated in the Bethlehem story where this gift of grace is announced. Still, other people say "Merry Christmas" without thinking too much about saying anything else, and some people are surprised that it is Christmas again.  Already?  Didn't we just have that?

These are not the people who send Christmas cards, but they most likely will begin receiving them soon while some of us consider whether this habit of sending old-fashioned paper greeting cards through the expensive snail mail needs to continue.

There is no universal right or wrong response.

Today I received two personal Christmas cards from a niece and a nephew with photos of their children taken throughout the year.  I didn't notice what kind of greeting there was. I was just very glad to see the pictures.

Later in the day while at the drugstore I considered buying some Christmas cards but didn't find any I liked.  I will eventually, or I won't.  Maybe I'll find the right card after Christmas and buy some for next year.  I've done this a few times.  For I still send some to people I think about more than they know I think about them, and I like to send them a card not so much because they need to hear from me but because my affection for them is so ongoing and sincere that I need to express it. That may be as much because I am a writer as it is because I am their friend.

Do I fret very much about the political or religious correctness of the message and image I choose to send ultimately.  Sort of. I don't like to send overtly Christian sentiments to my Jewish friends or friends of other faiths because that feels bullying and disrespectful.  I don't feel that I am betraying my faith by thinking like that.  Rather, I hope that my friends know that my faith in the saving gift of Christ to the world means that I get to love everybody and I love everybody but I love them especially. That's pretty much what I mean when I send a Christmas card with "Merry Christmas" or "Happy holidays" on it.

It also doesn't mean that I don't love you especially if I don't send a card. If you are a friend of mine and don't receive a card it most likely means that I ran out of the small number of cards I bought and your name ends far enough down on the alphabet that I didn't make it to you, or I started at the bottom of the alphabet list this year and didn't make it to the top. It could also mean that I ran out of stamps and didn't want to go to the post office during this busy time of year when lots of people still stand in line to send packages and buy stamps for their cards.

This year I am still one of those people who continues  to send Christmas cards and is always glad to receive them, too, except from businesses whose message in the card has nothing to do with religion  They are more often about trying to sell me something in the new year. I don't like those cards and throw them away because they don't keep faith with the way that I keep faith at Christmas.  For me, sending Christmas cards is about love being expressed anyway you want to share it with the people you really love.  I love so many people that the Christmas season is too short for me, which is why I intermittently send all kinds of cards all year long.

Daphne's most recent book is:  Christmas in Fountain City

Audience analysis? Asked differently, "Who are other people?"

This question gets answered in all kinds of ways in the workplace, and experts who counsel others in marketing have all kinds of theories about how to assess who other people are.  They do this often in terms of categories like age, gender, level of education, and status.
Self-evident clues like factual tidbits tell others something about readers and customers and workplace colleagues, but they can’t solve the ultimate mystery of who other people are for their needs and personalities and drives and mysterious responses are as fluid as your own.  You can have a good day. You can have a bad day. Someone can be nice to you. Someone can be rude to you. It could be your birthday or an anniversary—either of which you would like to remember or forget.  The circumstances surrounding other people and the moments when they intersect with the words you have written are as fluid as the stimuli—both inner and outer—that affect the way you think and how you respond.
Does that mean you can’t figure out your reader?  Not necessarily and it also means that you don’t have to figure out your reader altogether. Writing with mindfulness about who is reading your work begins with what all people share everyone and that is a need for respect.
Respect the job the workplace document needs to perform and fulfill that basic goal.
Respect the reader's time by providing that content efficiently and in a style that does not impede understanding what is meant.
Respect the reader by choosing words that fulfill the task of providing unbiased content.
Respect sounds like courtesy.
Courtesy builds relationships out of discipline and takes the guess work out of doing it right or wrong.
To prove this consider the format of a business letter.  Here are its inherent structural parts which exist for logic’s sake but serve the nature of consideration called courtesy.
The return address:  Tells the reader right away who you are and how to get in touch with you.
The inside address:  Acknowledges the reader and allows him/her to see that you know his/her title.
The salutation:  Achieve instantaneous connection with the reader just by using his or her name respectfully (Rule of thumb:  Use the last name with the title until you have been invited to use the first name.)
First paragraph:  Makes a connection by announcing the purpose of the letter or connect the content of the letter to a question that has been asked so that no one has to read your mind about the intention of the letter.
Body of letter:  Provides the information that is required for documentation purposes or solving of a problem.
Complimentary close:  Supply a gracious good-bye--the kind you make in a doorway before you leave. (Tip:  Use a comma after the complimentary close, such as: Sincerely yours, )
Your signature:  Make it plain who you are again and for business purposes build your name recognition.  (Be reminded that in social settings when someone is introduced names are repeated back and forth in order for people to hear the name again in case he/she misses it the first time.  It might sound like this:  Jim Davis meet Lynn Smith.  Lynn meet Jim.) See how your return address and the signature at the bottom repeat this act of courtesy?
Asking the question about who other people are in order to write more mindfully is a process that never ends. You begin it and continue to do it, and people around you who are aware of how important it is to signal respect and build relationships in the workplace in order to create trust and increase productivity make a habit of relying upon the discipline of courtesy to keep the friendly exchange of information flowing with respectful good will. When that happens you don’t have to solve all the mysteries of who everyone is; you simply need to prove day after day that you are on top of your workload and handling your responsibilities in a timely and respectful way.
The natural trust that results from that discipline of professionalism will do the rest.

 Daphne's most recent book is about the tension between giving at Christmas and the kind of fundraising that goes on year round in churches:  Christmas in Fountain City

Monday, November 21, 2016

How do you know when your word choices and expressions need a make-over?

We are so accustomed to saying what we've always said that we forget that our word choice and expressions can become routine and tiresome to others.

Not only can they become tiring and repetitive, like "you know" and "etcetera, etcetera, etcetera" they can also have dated quality.

It's one thing to use the word "Groovy" as as kind of joke while watching a 70's program, but it's another event to keep using it in the 21st century without a 70's or even an 80's reference in sight.

The same awkwardness comes from using phrases like "You da bomb" which went out of fashion about three months after it was launched.

Just because you like saying something doesn't mean other people enjoy hearing it, and if they cringe when they hear it but don't tell you, it's like having bad breath and no one tells you it's time to change toothpaste or use a mouthwash.

So how do you fix a problem that you don't know about like repetitive word choices and dated expressions?

Listen to yourself.     Re-read your texts sent to others.


Are you seeing a pattern of repeating yourself?   Do you use the very same words and phrases--dated or not--with everyone in your circle to acknowledge an accomplishment or to avoid saying "thank you" or "I'm sorry"?   For many over used expressions are often place holders for other kinds of expressions that need to be made.

Reexamine what you are trying to communicate not only to them but about yourself, and assess whether you are accomplishing both goals.  Then take another look at your last few days of texts, and see if you have written the words "thank you" or "I'm sorry"  lately and ponder whether some of those over-used expressions were meant to cover up not wanting to be grateful because it feels vulnerable to you to be grateful or I'm sorry because it feels weak to you to apologize.

Depending upon what you discover about yourself and your expressions, find some other ways to communicate your enthusiasm or gratitude.   If you can't think of something catchy or phrases that make you feel hip or contemporary, try using the simple words you truly need to say instead.  The simple truth works pretty well in almost all circumstances and with all people of all ages and gender.

Daphne Simpkins' newest book is Christmas in Fountain City

Will Rogers: American Humorist (a story about a flyer)

Recently a flyer was created to announce that I would be speaking on Will Rogers, the American humorist, for an older group of people who enjoy the good food at the place where they meet once a
month and know who Will Rogers is--and not necessarily who I am.

Rogers is a great subject, rich in humor and acerbic wisdom that holds true today (live your life so that you are unafraid to give the family parrot to the town gossip).   He is the most important aspect of the presentation and second to him is the audience, who has had to listen to a great number of talks in their lives and should be treated with great care and consideration. Exquisite care.  Respectful consideration.  You cannot underestimate the amount of time spent in consideration of a group of listeners and readers when it comes to creating a document that acts as a matchmaker:  it introduces two different entities to each other.  In the case of the flyer for my talk, Rogers and the audience are the two parties who need to be introduced to one another.

I am the less important part of the story told in the flyer.  But if you must tell my story to introduce Rogers' story to the audience use a picture that evokes story and interest—not a head shot or a selfie.  Figure out the part of your personality as a speaker that will most appeal to an audience and choose a picture of you to appeal to them and signal: I’m this kind of person.

People are aware that images matter, but they don’t always know how to help you with these images. 

“Are you going to dress up as Will Rogers?” a friend asked me, who had heard about the talk and likes to dress up when she gives a presentation. 

“No,” I replied, keeping the reasons to myself.   

When giving a speech, I am not acting, so I do not need a costume. 

Like a person who is not acting while giving a speech and does not need a costume, so a flyer that is telling a story of an event does not need a get-up or decorations to make it a powerful matchmaking document.

 It does require thought from the creator.  And the first thought is that the template that is chosen should not dictate the lowest possible denominator of content chosen to highlight about the event.

Each presentation should be considered in terms of which part of it is most important, less important, least important.  Once that hierarchy of significance is confirmed, choose the content that fits the template.

For the Will Rogers presentation, a picture of that lassoing cowboy should have been used in that premiere spot rather than the easily-grabbed picture of me from the church directory that is four years old and not only not flattering (lighting is bad, angle of my head is strained to help the photographer not add a garish light to my eye glass lenses) there is no story.  It is just an image of a woman from the church directory.  Because I am not a famous person there is no immediate connotative value either.  It is just an innocuous picture chosen for the flyer because it was easy to find and use.  That should never be the reason you choose artwork for your fly, especially if the artwork dominates the flyer.


The content of the photo caption and the headline for the flyer:  Will Rogers, American Humorist and Political Satirist is almost enough.  Add the date, the time and the name of the speaker.

The next time it is your job to create a flyer for an event, take the time to think about the three decisions that need to be made before you create a flyer:

  1. What’s the most important part of the event:  the subject of the event or the person talking or presenting?
  2. Who is the audience and what about that event will matter the most to them?
  3. What is the least important part of this event?  Add whatever image or piece of information that enhances that needed emphasis, like previously published books or articles.

Then, use a font and type size that is readable and almost never written in reverse print—any kind of white letters on any kind of dense, solid color or black.  Dark letters on a light or white background are more readable than white lettering on a dark background.

Stay with those three (okay, four) considerations and your flyer will draw more people to your event because it will meet the needs and interest of the audience before it tries to communicate any other message.

Daphne Simpkins offers a speech on Will Rogers through the Alabama Humanities Foundation speakers bureau.  Her latest book is Christmas in Fountain City

Friday, November 18, 2016

New book by Alabama writer Daphne Simpkins: Christmas in Fountain City

Press Release from Quotidian Books

RE:  New Release Christmas in Fountain City

Synopsis of Christmas in Fountain City:
Ostensibly a simple love story set in a small Southern town not unlike Prattville, Alabama, Christmas in Fountain City takes on bigger themes than the holiday or how and when to use the phrase “Merry Christmas.”   Thematically tied to a  fundraising slogan called “Faith Promise,”  the residents of Fountain City explore giving from a variety of angles, and reach the conclusion that the love they have for each other is enough to keep them looking out for one another and even strangers.
The eighth book by Alabama writer Daphne Simpkins, Christmas in Fountain City is a feel-good read which  has arrived just in time for the holidays but also in time for the January discussions that happen inside churches which involve pledge cards for missions and other goals for the coming year.

For jpegs of Daphne Simpkins or the book cover, contact:
About Daphne Simpkins:

Daphne Simpkins has written over two hundred articles, essays and short stories which have been published in the United States and Canada in periodicals like The Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, Tropic Magazine, The Christian Century, the Christian Courier, Esprit, and many others.  Named recently by MOSAIC magazine as a top speaker in the state, Daphne is an active member of The Alabama Humanities Foundation Road Scholars Speakers Bureau.  She may be contacted at

Christmas in Fountain City

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Do you need a bigger vocabulary in the workplace?

Chances are you are moaning about the size of your vocabulary.  Most people feel self- conscious about the size or limitations of their vocabulary, which is too bad because most people have a set of words at their disposal that will tell the truth just fine in the workplace. 
The words in your vocabulary are timeless and potentially each one is valuable for all kinds of reasons.  The precise word is what you need, but sometimes you will choose a word for the way it sounds and fits inside a sentence or because it is a go-to word and you have forgotten to think carefully about the impact of certain words upon readers.  It isn’t complicated.  Just use the precise word that you need to say what you want to say.  It can be a short, good word.  For instance, when some people are trying to sound more businesslike, he/she might choose the word “utilize” over “use.”  But “use” works just fine, and it doesn’t sound better or impress the reader, which is why people often use it.  Don’t look up any big words to show off.   Everyone has enough words to write in the workplace because the words you use in the workplace should be everyday words—not dress up words or big words for the sake of using big words.  Choose words for clarity.  Choose them for color or action or courtesy.  Choose them mindfully with a purpose you hope to achieve.  Choose them for the sake and interest of your envisioned reader.
 You don’t have to learn 100 new words; you simply need to be more careful about using the ten most commonly overused and not specific-enough words:

  1.        Things—vague and over used
  2.        Do—an all-purpose verb that often stands in for actions like chop, mow, eat lunch
  3.          Get—Listen to yourself use this word and ask:  Which action am I trying to point to with this vague imprecise word?  Use that verb instead of get.
  4.         So—For a word as small as this one, “so” tries to accomplish some very big jobs. Most often that job is to prove a logical conclusion that may not exist.  Listen to how people use “so” and you will see it as the connector between one action and the implied effect of that action. Just because people use the word “so” to connect an action to an effect doesn’t mean that the conclusion is trustworthy or reliable.  That is true of how the word sounds to other people, and when you use “so” very often and recklessly, others may view your logic in just the same way.
  5.        A lot—A description for many items or a great deal of time, money or things in general.  If your answer is:  a lot of things, then you are using two vague ideas to try and represent a concept or item that is much more specific than these two words.
  6.        Is—Try to see this soft, passive verb as a yellow caution light.  When you see it and you are the person who wrote it, ask yourself:  “Is there an action verb that could precisely replace it?”   Sister words for is include:  are, was, were, be, being, and been. 
  7.       Awesome—This word is almost a filler now and means about as much as the sound of a sneeze or conversational fillers, such as “Hmmmm” or “Yay.”  Look for the adjective that describes that awesome sunset, that awesome dessert, that awesome song, that awesome bug on the wall and any other focus that has your attention.
  8.       Amazing—See the above description for awesome. The same logic applies.
  9.        You—Think “you” for the reader but don’t use the word very often in writing.  Minimize its use because while many writers intend for the use of the word to create a bond with the reader, it can sometimes feel to the reader as if he/she is being jabbed in the chest with a pointed finger.
  10.     I—Presently our culture is built on building everyone’s self-esteem by celebrating the “I” in all of us.  Celebrate other people more than you do yourself, and you will be a far more effective communicator and your self-esteem and theirs will be just fine.

Maybe you use or overuse some words not on that small list of ten words. They key to creating a sharper and more powerful vocabulary is to know which words you overuse and start using more precise words that say exactly what you mean.
            Here are the key ideas to remember about your vocabulary:
  • ·          Big words are not more valuable than smaller words.  
  • ·         You already have enough words.    
  • ·         The right word carefully chosen is priceless.

  • Daphne Simpkins' newest book is Christmas in Fountain City

Monday, November 14, 2016

Will you help me out?

Like you probably, I receive frequent requests from former colleagues (often very short-termed colleagues) who seek an endorsement for their employment opportunities.

I am not always sure how to respond.                                                          

I know the standard way of thinking about recommendations:  say what you know about the work performance in relation to the job for which the applicant is applying

Only with the various new ways of seeking generic endorsements from kith, kin and acquaintances (often I fit this latter category), I consider how to write what doesn't feel so much like an endorsement as it does a word of encouragement. These words are often recruited for public forums that are the professional social media version of Facebook, often   Instead of writing, "Excellent work habits. Reliable.  Professional.  Customer-oriented. Logical.  Innovative thinker" I have to say more truthfully, "Nice guy who showed up when he was supposed to. Didn't make much fuss about anything.  Flew under the radar unless it was necessary to take a stand and he took one at what I considered the right time."

Truthfully I think these short declarations of what are my lasting impressions of people with whom I worked briefly tell the truth in ways that longer, more formal letters of recommendation do not.  And in a way that is different from the well-behaved letters of recommendation that are only positive for who would write a bad one (why waste your time and the reader's?), they tell a fresh kind of energized truth about the person who is seeking endorsements that show up in your e-box with words like "Can you help me out?"

Sure. If I can.

Do these short blasts of encouragement built on fragments of memory and good will help others?

I don't know.  No one who has ever asked me for this type of professional endorsement has ever sent a follow-up and said, "That did the trick."

In looking for a job, it's hard to know what the tipping point will be in the landing of a job.

One can deduce that every action of effort to get a job--and every act of good will that helps anyone along the way--has some part to play in the development of another person's professional life.

So, when someone asks me for some help that is partly an endorsement and maybe more encouragement, I try to write something good and true.

If I can't, I write nothing at all.

Daphne Simpkins' most recent book is Christmas in Fountain City

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Make a proposal that others will accept.

Recommend what you prefer and watch what happens when you do it mindfully.

There is a difference between recommending an idea for consideration or a product and showing your own unbridled enthusiasm for it.

Sometimes I receive emails or Facebook messages that begin with LOOK! or CHECK IT OUT!  What follows is a gush of description that captures the honest, excited feeling the writer had to a product or idea but there is no summary of the benefit of the product itself for me, the reader and targeted customer. 

 To effectively pitch a product there must be a benefit for the intended reader or customer, and the enthusiasm can lead them to it but it is not a substitute for it.

How do you know whether you are offering a cheerleader response or a considered evaluation of a product or idea whose strengths rests upon reasoning rather than an effusion of emotions?

Check your wording and the style of the sentence you use.

A description contains adjectives and exclamations points, often.

A recommendation built upon a summary always points out a benefit for the reader that makes logical or common sense. 

Here’s an example of a recommendation for a book.

Description:  There’s some rich content in it.  I loved it!!!!

Summary:  Dr. James Doty’s new book Inside the Magic Shop explores the dynamic of neuroplasticity  from a neurosurgeon’s perspective, reaching the unexpected conclusion that practicing compassion builds better mind muscles and creates a more harmonious lifestyle for people who understand this.

How to know if you are someone who writes descriptions rather than summaries with benefits just watch how long it takes you to write an excited description and how long it takes to write a summary with benefits.

Time to write:  It takes five seconds to write a description. It takes about two-minutes to write a summary.  

The big difference is that the first grows tiresome to people who confront and brush off spammy posts, emails, and recommendations; the second one builds trust and offers benefits to the reader who knows the difference between an emotional response and a well-conceived logical one.

If you are trying to build a rapport with a consumer base through social media or your email contact list, take the extra minute and a half to craft a summary rather than spout an exclamation that could also just as easily be represented by an emoji.  How often do you think long and hard about an emoji’s content?

That’s about as long and as focused as a reader will respond to your recommendation that is based on your excitement rather than benefits to be gained from the product you admire.

 Daphne Simpkins' most recent book is Christmas in Fountain City

Monday, October 31, 2016

A Proverbs 31 Businesswoman

Often read at weddings and on Mother’s Day at church lady groups, this last chapter in the book of Proverbs is underestimated if read only in the context of a good woman being described as the ideal wife.  It is more than that.

For, when you look at the actions that prove her virtues, you see that she is a hard working business woman who sees a field and buys it, keeps her hands busy making crafts and clothing to sell or for her family, and gets up early and works late into the night to make sure she has provided for her family.  In the story, her husband strolls through the town admired and respected by all for having such a hard working wife, but the reader doesn’t see the husband working. The wife is holding the family together by being a good provider. 

In many ways this description of the hard-working provider encapsulates many of the nuggets of business advice offered throughout the book of Proverbs that points readers to look at how ants and other animals and insects store up food for the winter and how sluggards who don’t work won’t eat eventually.  It is a lesson is a work ethic and is written by a King’s mother to her son, who says he has special responsibilities because he is a leader.  Because of his great responsibilities he is urged to avoid heavy drink so that his mind is clear to make good decisions and if he really wants to be a leader he needs someone who will work as hard as he needs to.  There you see the description of what is called a Proverbs 31 woman:  a hard working business person who puts in long hours but works smart.

Good Manners Make You a Better Writer

Good manners can make you a better writer because the stance of courtesy helps you to remember to put others first.  When you do, you write with someone else in mind.  Your agenda becomes what would help the other person.

Putting someone else first puts you in a position of vulnerability called being humble.  That is not a place America or many countries celebrate.  If people thought about the power of humility more, they would recognize that being in a "one down" position makes you stronger. The reason?  When you are in a more humble stance, others do not wear their defenses for long.  They trust you more easily. When people trust you they are more likely to work with you in the solving of problems or the selling of goods.

To build upon that position of trust actively express gratitude.  The simple exercise of good manners, like saying thank-you, greeting someone by name, offering to help, signing off with your own contact information on all  correspondence, make it easier for the other person to remember you and not have strange feelings of discomfort about you.

There you are in their memories:  offering to help, ready to say thank you, willing to say 'I am sorry' when you're wrong, able to listen to them and keep your opinion to yourself if it does no great good to offer it.

The more I think about other people and what they need the better able I am to understand how to write what will make sense to them and to provide information that anticipates their questions and concerns and respond appropriately.  All of these activities make a person a better writer and easier to work with in any environment--virtual or otherwise.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Worse than cussing in the workplace is the use of the word: "Whatever"

Emojis and other shorthand ways of communicating in the workplace have promoted the overuse of the dismissive word "Whatever" to suggestions and ideas sometimes tremulously suggested or thoughtfully constructed and offered with hope.

Meant to sound agreeable--perhaps even a compromise-- answering in response to a suggestion "Whatever" often creates the opposite effect of what people believe that they are achieving by using it.

"Whatever" said with a shrug signals to the speaker that the idea being mentioned isn't important enough to elicit a thoughtful response.

"Whatever" said while not looking up from the screen suggests that you are not really listening.

Look "whatever" up in a dictionary that captures popular culture words that have lost a precise meaning, and it could say:  "Anything goes and nobody cares."

If not having standards in the workplace and no passion for the job either are the ethics and attitudes you want to promote, then use the word. If not, don't say it.

Word to the whatever-wise:  Don't replace "whatever" with the word "Awesome."  

Awesome is not an awesome word.
Whatever isn't either.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Better manners means better tips (and ultimately, more loyal customers)

Yesterday I went to my hairdresser in a nearby town who when I arrived was engaged in a conversation with a co-worker—the hairdresser working at the next station. 

 A nod of hello to me, she continued to talk with her co-worker, while using her hands to signal that I should sit in the shampoo chair which I did.

I  submitted to a head-washing that made me think she had a dog at home that she bathed rigorously in the family bathtub.

As some people do when washing a head and find themselves distracted, she kept returning to the same place behind my right ear, and I fought the urge to say “Woof!!  Woof!”  for I had never felt more like a dog in the hands of an animal groomer.  Because I like dogs this did not offend me.

What did offend me was my hairdresser wasting her opportunity to earn more money, for I know something that my hairdresser doesn’t know:  she is better at her job than many other hairdressers I have tried, but other hairdressers with lesser skills have a more cultivated and refined professional personae than she evidences.  They charge more for their work, and they get much better tips because the environment where they work requires good manners and a professional personae.

The skills of creating and using that personae are not out of anyone’s reach for they are based in simple courtesy:  greet the customer, ask and answer questions according to what the customer needs and wants to know, be present in the experience (perhaps humbly or flexibly present), and smile often and generously.  Thank the customer for coming in and say, “I’ll look forward to seeing you next time!”

My hairdresser didn’t do any of that though I gave her ample opportunity.  The only question she asked was:  “Whatcha want today?”

I replied, “You have always given me an excellent haircut, but today I hope that the lengths in back can be evened up to simply one length, and I would prefer that my bangs not be shorter than my eyebrows.”

She gave me a superior haircut while her attention flitted back to her pal-co-worker, and their exchanges were like cheerleaders who band together and exclude other people who have come to the game.  They talked about other customers.  They talked about an absent co-worker who had called in sick, and they knew for a fact she was hung over.   It is not an uncommon dynamic in various places about town where you go to do business.  People at work often talk among themselves, and pretend that the customers are deaf, invisible—or simply not there.  

Yesterday at the beauty shop,  another customer was sitting with perm rollers in her hair and her head wrapped in a long string of cotton to keep the fluid from trailing down into her eyes and down her back, and she tried to enter their conversation to no avail.  We were adult customers but we were treated like children who should be seen and not heard.  We were customers who were handled efficiently but could have been handled better, and if we had been the tips would have increased and our willingness to recommend their services to others would be more often expressed.  The business would thrive. 

I will most likely go back to my hairdresser because she gives a good haircut, but I grieve for her future, which could be so much more prosperous than it is in the small town where she works hard all day long to deliver low-priced haircuts and earn the low wages and proportionately small tips that come with it.  Her work deserves the kind of price and profits other hairdressers earn with better manners in better beauty shops but don't cut hair as well as she does.   She could have more money and a brighter future, if she knew.  I want it for her.  All she needs to do is learn better manners and use them.  

The discipline of courtesy can flesh out a professional personae that will take anyone farther in life than bonding with your co-workers while customers sit quietly in your presence.   

Friday, January 1, 2016

Self Doubt is not Always Alzheimer's (It's something else.)

It has been happening too often—that forgetfulness that makes me think, “Uh oh.  This is more than a senior moment.  This could be That.  It could be Alzheimer’s.”
Some of the worst moments I have kept to myself.  I have shared the less dramatic ones with family and friends—can’t exactly remember where I parked my car, lost my keys, the mail, my ten dollar bill that used to be called mad money but had become emergency gas money—it’s gone.

 When did I spend it?    I couldn’t remember. 

I told those stories to a few people who knew how to sigh or click their tongues sympathetically.  Yes, that has happened to me; the sighs and moans agreed.  No biggie. 

Only there were some biggies, and I wasn’t telling those too-big stories because I didn’t want to convince people I was developing Alzheimer’s disease.  I just wanted to see where I fit inside the broad range of how people as a group were losing it (memory, control, and my bearings); I hoped, similarly as we grew older together in the South where going crazy is kind of expected in certain ways—not feared either.

 I miss that socially acceptable way of growing older really, because as I have aged I have censored the telling of my Southern eccentricities and become more serious about monitoring behaviors that fit under that scarier heading of “symptoms.”

More serious than I have ever been before about how memory slips in aging, I still didn’t tell the other stuff.   I didn’t really tell the scary times when I couldn’t remember great chunks of key information, like my confusion about the amount of money for an online fundraiser for the local animal shelter (1,000 not 300, 000) which I was vigorously supporting on Facebook in front of many people who also love animals, only to get the amount of money to be raised wrong.

 I was forgetting what people wrote to me in their emails, missing the news of distant relatives who had died.  Really? When did she die?   I told you when she died in my email. Didn’t you get my email?  Yes.  I think I got it.  But I wasn’t sure.
And here is where we slip up on the truth:  I have been hastily managing emails because I receive many of them, and in my haste I have not really been reading the messages.  Only I didn’t really know that.  I thought I was reading them.

I am a veteran reader who grew up on Galsworthy, Tolstoy and Austen.  I have always been a lover of reading, only with the onslaught of email, texts and the bombardment of information on the front of every page, I have become something I didn’t know I could be or was:  a skim-reader.  Only I thought I was reading.  Only I wasn’t really, really reading so I wasn’t really, really forgetting key information because I wasn’t really reading content.  But, I was holding myself responsible for knowing that content.
As a result, I have known some miserable moments of self-doubt, confusion and done a rather poor job of tamping down the fear that something worse was happening inside of me.  I was going to make that shift from charmingly eccentric to someone afflicted with a form of dementia of the Alzheimer’s variety.

It took me a while to figure out that so far, that isn’t the case.
The first clue that I had become a skim-reader and didn’t know it was when I asked friends and relatives to tap the Like button for a page I supported, and people who loved me, ignored me. I could see being ignored by people who don’t love me, but when your family and friends don’t respond to a fairly benign request, your brow furrows.  Whassup?

I didn’t forget to ask them. They didn’t forget to respond.  There was a breakdown in the communication.  The answer?  I smiled when the truth dawned in me:  They were skim-readers too. 

I wasn’t the only one.  I come from a family of skim-readers, and I suspect that we fit inside a nation of them with lots of people like me (us) unaware of how much we are only skim-reading—and later, when held accountable for the details, don’t know them and fear the worse.

The good news?   It isn’t worse.  We just have too much to read and have begun to hit the delete button before we have actually read the whole message.

  The answer became clear when a friend of mine told me this:   “My book hit the floor again last night.  I thought I was still reading, but I wasn’t.  Finally the bedside light woke me up, and I realized that my eyes were closed and I was imagining that I was reading, but I wasn’t.  I was sleeping.”

 I have been doing a version of THAT—not the Alzheimer THAT!

The same realization hit me about that dollar amount for the animal shelter. I didn’t forget the rules; I never really read them, but I kind of thought I had, only I hadn’t. My eyes moved down the page—scrolling, is what they call it—but I wasn’t registering specifics because skim-reading isn’t the same as reading thoughtfully and carefully, digesting information and storing it away.

When I began to realize that I wasn’t forgetting so much as never actually reading what I thought I was reading, a great sigh of relief rose up in me.  My word!  I am not demented! I have become a skim-reader, and I didn’t know it.

I imagine that there are other people out there doing the same thing, keeping the same kinds of scared secrets about how much they apparently have forgotten of what has become common knowledge among other people (although there were a number of us who didn’t know our aunt’s mother had died ).  Maybe they have.  Dementia is real. My father had it—my grandmother, too.  But there is an alternative explanation for some of the behaviors known as “loss of memory” and in my case, it turns out that I wasn’t so much forgetting as never reading the whole articles or emails in the first place, only I thought I was.

I have pushed my glasses up my nose and pledged to pay more attention to the flying documents that sail across my screen so when I think I’ve forgotten something, I really will have.

Daphne Simpkins is the author of two memoirs about Alzheimer’s and caregiving:  What Al Left Behind and The Long Good Night.  Both are available on Amazon.