Funny situation. I was part of a team that was consulting to a large group. We each had responsibility for a section of the large group. I had grown to like the people in my section a lot. The people were visiting our town and were wondering what nooks and crannies to explore. So a few of us had a light-hearted and fun idea: for each of us consultants to write down our favorite, personal recommendations about the city, and to hand it out to the people we were working with.

There was just one problem.
Not everyone got the memo.

Not a literal memo. There was no literal memo. Not everyone heard the idea. So one person who volunteered to collect all the information and print it out to give to our people did something funny. She removed each of our identifying names. So instead of —

“Senia recommends this bakery on the corner of X and Y, and says “make sure to go to the chocolate shop on Z Street and ask for a chocolate-covered strawberry to go.” ” …

Instead of that, we got this —

Bakery – Corner of X and Y
Chocolate Shop – Z Street

Ladies and gentlemen, these two are not the same.
One had a heartbeat. The other didn’t.

How to Give Good Recommendations (for Places, People, Things)

RULE NUMBER 1: Make the recommendations personal. Why is this your FAVORITE place? Why is it the BEST chocolate? What does this place have the MOST of? (Try using the first-best-most language).

RULE NUMBER 2: Ask them how it was. That way you can taylor your next recommendation to them.

I used to have a big mouth when I was a kid. A huge mouth. When people would tell me secrets, I used to tell them to other people right away. I was a jerk.

And when I was a teen, one specific person told me that she couldn’t trust me to not tell things to others. I’d realized she hadn’t told me something crucial to her, and we were good friends at the time. That made me really sad and upset for weeks….
Until I realized she was right. And then I realized I needed to change my ways. And did immediately.

And it was hard. Until with practice, it became easy.

So it only fits that I went into a career in which I can never tell anyone anything about anyone. Coaching.

The first phone call I ever have with any client or potential client, I tell that person, “Anything you say will be only between me and you. If I’m going to refer you to another coach, I will clear with you in advance what I can say about you (typically describe your career and what you’re interested in coaching for).” Beyond that, I don’t say a word. I make that clear up front. And that’s how it goes. And to do that, I’ve had to get comfortable not telling things about people.

I know someone who works in a sensitive area. Let’s call this person a lawyer in a discreet practice. I took a wonderful example from him. He never recognizes a client in public. If this lawyer is sitting next to his client at a restaurant, he won’t say hi. He won’t make eye contact. He won’t even smile. And he tells his clients this in advance. A lot of his clients are celebrities. And people often don’t want other people to know what they’re coming in for. I love that.

Some coaches talk about their clients: “I’m coaching so-and-so, and I’m coaching so-and-so.” Unless the client himself tells people that he’s being coached by me, nobody will ever know who my clients are. This is why it’s difficult when I’m contacted by media or press. I go to my clients and ask them if they’d be interested in this press opportunity (when the press wants to cover, for example, entrepreneurs being coached by a positive psychology coach), but it’s often hard because I won’t describe what my clients are doing except in a general way unless the client also wants to be interviewed. But clients do tell their friends they are working with an Executive Coach, and they talk about me. So, yes, the information can come out, but not from me.

Why do I say all this? Because it’s hard to keep confidences. Unless you know that that’s your rule. … That’s it. It’s my rule, There are no questions. I just keep confidences and don’t tell anything to anyone.

But what if you have an amazing story? Or what if you want to share the experience of one client with another client because they are related experiences?

“My friend Emily”

This is my answer. If I want to tell a story about a client that will not identify them, I will say, “I have another client who was also going through job interviews right around the December bonus season. Let’s call my client Emily. Emily found out that she could do job interviews in the early morning by phone because she was applying to jobs in Europe. Maybe that’s something you could go since you’re looking for jobs in London while living in NY.”

If I want to tell a story about a friend, same thing. “Oh, I know what you mean about messing up socially in front of your boss. I have this one friend. I’ll call her Emily. Emily was once at a Christmas party, and she….” Fine. No problem. No way this friend could identify your “Emily” friend. And if you think the friend might be able to identify your “Emily,” then see suggestion #5 below.

Look at my examples above: “when I was a teen, one specific person….” and “Let’s call this person a lawyer in a discreet practice.” The lawyer could be a lawyer or someone who deals with sensitive information. And the teen example doesn’t give away anything personal about my friend.

In short, YOUR WORD = YOU. If you break your word, or talk about people, or spread gossip, YOUR WORD gets broken down. Your social capital goes down the drain. YOU become less trustworthy and less desirable to talk to. All you have is your name in this life. Keep it clean. Keep it spotless. Keep it trustworthy.

How to talk about secret confessions:

  1. Don’t mention identifying information.
    You may not want to say, “I have a friend who’s a laser surgeon” or “I have a friend who works at the Department of Energy.” Those are identifying. “A doctor” or “works for the government” is less identifying. “A friend” is even less identifying.
  2. Don’t say where you physically were when you talked to the person.
    “When I was visiting my friend in Florida, he told me…” The friend you’re talking to may know your friend in Florida. “Oh, Richard?” “Doh!”
  3. Be careful about “he” and “she.”
    Here’s how I get around this. I say, “A friend of mine told me this story. Let’s call my friend Emily.” I always use the name Emily. Even if it is a guy. It’s easy for me because I have practice doing this, but it will be hard the first few times you try to explain a story about a guy by saying, “So I was talking to Emily and he – she said that her boss was telling her to work 100 hours a week. Her mom was sick at the time, and Emily needed to visit her mom often. Here’s how she handled the situation….”
  4. Time frames can be identifying.
    If Yahoo wanted to buy your friend’s company in 2003 but the deal fell through, maybe it’s better not to mention 2003. If you don’t want to give out someone’s identity, just be aware that time frames – like locations – can identify a situation.
  5. Most importantly, DON’T TELL the story if you have even the slightest hunch that this could result in something uncomfortable.
    Trust your gut. If you have a sense that someone could be unhappy with you telling this story, DO NOT TELL THE STORY. It’s just that simple. This is part of being a confidant. This is part of being a friend.

And you can always talk about your friend Emily.
It’ll be interesting to see a bunch of Emily friends popping up.

I’m still working this out – – –
. . . I think it’s the same as being a good guest: care about the host, about other guests, about being clear, about a nice good-bye, and about having “a-ha” moments.

  1. Lisa WexlerCare about the host of the show! Find out what the host is interested in. What aspect of your topic he/she most wants to talk about. I think a good radio host is like a good lawyer – this person will lead you through the right questions to make a compelling case for the listeners! Plus, you’ll have more fun is this interview is not like all the other interviews you’ve done (it never is!). You’ll have more fun if you speak to the host ahead of time: send a few bullet points or talk on the phone. Just get a sense of what’s fun for the host. If the host is having fun, the listeners are having fun!
  2. Care about your listener – help them. Prepare info for them. Before I went on this radio show with Live! with Lisa host Lisa Wexler, I put together some reference materials for listeners and posted it on my blog. (Because with radio, you may not have time to write everything down).
  3. Care about being clear – simplifying, repeating, and summarizing. Being clear in audio format means speaking not too fast and definitely not too slow. It means simplifying a message into the core ideas and not into all the information you know about that topic. This is really, really hard for me. The authors of “Made to Stick” call this “The Curse of Knowledge.” Trying to explain ideas to friends helps you simplify them for future re-telling. : )
  4. salsaCare about a good ending. There’s a concept in positive psychology called the “peak-end rule,” which states that people remember the high point and the end of most events. So your last vacation – what do you remember most? Likely the peak experience and the end. This means that as guests, we’ll want to leave on a great note. Just like if you’re dancing with someone at a salsa club, you will remember how that dance ended. End the show on a fun note.
    This also means “care about the time.” The first radio show I did about positive psychology was 15 minutes (that means 11 minutes if you count the commercials). I had prepared a fun walk-through of the ABCDE Resilience method for getting out of a slump, and I got the C part of ABCDE by minute 10. I summarized D and E, and did not have a great ending that time. C’est la vie.
  5. a-haCare about “a-ha” moments. Think about when you’ve gone to a party that you’ve really enjoyed – just a few people at dinner for example. Typically, there was something that resonated with you – some “a-ha” thoughts. “A-ha” thoughts don’t happen with a gaggle of words. Care about pauses, questions, and time to think. Care about what Kathy Sierra calls the “oh cool! / oh sh#t!“/ two words of passion response: if your listener thinks it’s really cool or a really big mistake, he or she will remember it much clearer – that’s how the brain works.

If you’re a rock star, also keep these optional mastery-level techniques in mind:

  • Come to the interview with THREE STORIES. People like stories.
  • Know in advance what your two-three summarizing points will be – people will only remember a few take-aways, especially on radio. One of these can be mentioning a resource or website for people about the topic you just discussed.
  • Make fun of yourself in some way. Yes, you’re on the show as an expert, but show vulnerability. Show that you’re a real person because you are. And that makes you much more approachable through the radio.

Have fun! Let me know how it goes.
All of the above applies to being a guest in general.

Find me here:

I started “tweet”ing at the end of 2008. There is an entire vocabulary and etiquette associated with twitter. For example: DM – send a “direct message” to someone. RT – ReTweet what someone else just posted.

What is twitter? It’s a website where people update new information relevant to their fields ALL DAY LONG. People can post as may as tens of thoughts a day, every hour sometimes. Each thought is about the length of one sentence. For example: “Best time to be in finance, technology, and journalism: ”

Other examples can be:
“Went to the movie Yes Man – great fun although expected it to be”
“Highly recommend this Top 20 list [and a link here]”

Here are the FIVE STAGES OF TWITTER ACCEPTANCE (written by the Influential Marketing Blog, and I read it at Tiny Gigantic):

1. Denial
“I think Twitter sounds stupid.
Why would anyone care what people are doing right now?”

2. Presence
“I don’t get it, but I guess I should at least create an account.”

3. Dumping
“I use Twitter to send people links to my blog posts
and to send people my press releases.”

4. Conversing
“I don’t always post useful stuff, but I am using Twitter
to have authentic 1×1 conversations.”

5. Microblogging
“I use Twitter to post useful stuff that people read,
and I’m having authentic 1×1 conversations.”

Come join if you want!, and let me know in the comments below what your twitter account is, please! Like Facebook, this takes a bit of time when you start. Somehow it becomes rewarding very, very quickly!

What’s the one most important thing to know or do when negotiating:
* with your colleagues about the direction of the business?
* with your boss about getting a promotion?
* with your friends about going to the restaurant you want to go to?

See my answer here at Coachology – I’m the featured question today. Would love to read your thoughts and your comments – let’s start a discussion over there. Best,


Hi! Tomorrow, I’m producing a one-hour show segment for Karen Salmansohn‘s show “Be Happy, Dammit.” Karen Salmansohn is a great NYer and author of over 25 books. She asked me months ago to produce a segment of her show during which a panel talks about the research findings of “HAPPINESS AT WORK.” I invited a few classmates onto the program. Would love it if you can listen in, and she takes callers too!

On the air: Karen, me, Margaret Greenberg, David Pollay, Doug Turner
CALL-IN NUMBER: 1-866-LIME-114 (She often takes call-ins)


* If you have SIRIUS RADIO, it’s
ch. 114 Thursday (10-25-07) 8-9am live

* If you want to listen ONLINE on Th morning 8-9am,
1) Go here
and click “FREE 3-DAY TRIAL.”
2) Then follow the directions in your email to logon and look in

Look forward to having a fun chat with this great panel!


Margaret Greenberg, President of the Greenberg Group – an organizational effectiveness consulting and coaching practice.
David J. Pollay, Syndicated columnist with the North Star Writers Group, and president of, an international training and consulting organization.
Doug Turner, Vice President of HR for the Washington, DC division of Balfour Beatty Construction company.

Senia Maymin, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of, and Instructor at the University of Pennsylvania in positive psychology.

“What is a Teacher? A Teacher is the special person who has the responsibility to provide the “Eyes” for a student, and helps the student to “See”. A good Teacher directs the student’s eyes to the simple parts first, and slowly, bit by bit, gently guides the seeking hands along a proven path. He carefully points out the next bits of knowledge, skillfully combining the simplicities, until the top of the mountain unfolds, not as a “complexity of facts”, but as a workable system, perfectly understood and usable by the student.”

~ Violin method book by Eden Vaning-Rosen

One of my favorite people in the world emailed me this today. I absolutely love it. So often, I say, “life is easy. it really is. I can choose the easy way to do something or the hard way. what if it were easy?” And the easy way needs to also be the right way.

I love too that this is in a violin book:
* Directs the student’s eyes to the simple parts first
* Points out the next bits of knowledge
until …
* a workable system
* the top of the mountain

I also like that the end result is not a “complexity of facts.” By the time you get there, you’re not memorizing facts; you’re using parts you understand. This is how I want to be as a teacher.

Make it a conversation.

That’s it. That’s the most important thing. Make your interviewer Joe have a good time; make your interviewer Joe enjoy himself in interviewing you. Make your interviewer Sally have something that she can say back at home to her spouse about how her day went. Make something you say able to be repeated by your interviewer Marcel at a cocktail party.

Make it a conversation.

Well, what do I mean “make it a conversation?” Specifically, I mean:

These may be a lot of bullet points to remember, but you don’t need to remember them. All you need to think about is “How can I make this into an interesting conversation?” I work with clients frequently on interview practice, specifically the interview start.

Two specific tips:

1) How to start the interview in a fun way

  • Ask the first question. Intrerviews follow a path of inertia once they get started. If the first question is to you, you’ve alredy turned the tides into a routine interview. So ask the first question. Ask about the company. Ask about the specific position. Learn something from the answer, and then address what you have learned in some of your follow on questions.
  • Be curious. You don’t know everything. No one expects you to. Ask for clarification when you need it.
  • If boxed into answering first, clarify the question to create a sense of back-and-forth.

2) How to have a conversation within a question

  • Clarify the question. If you’ve been asked something and you don’t want to fall into the routine, “Interviewer asks, interviewee answers,” then clarify the question.

    Interviewer: “Tell me about a time when you’ve shown leadership.”

    YOU: “Would you like that to be in some recent experience or my overall largest example of such a time?”

    Interviewer: “An example from your current job would be great.”

    YOU: “Ok…”
  • “To answer this, could I first ask you a couple of things about [the position, the work environment, the projects]?”
  • Respond to conversational invitiations. Sometimes your interviewer Reggie may take an important call, and then after hanging up, may say, “That was from Operations. We’ve announced that we’re looking to buy a new plant.” Respond to this. Feel free to ask, “Is that good news or bad news?” Be open to these parts of the conversation.

Why do you need to travel to Scandinavia to enjoy a hot cup of tea after a meal in a restaurant? This is an idea I spoke with my friend E.C. about years and years ago. I still so simply and truly buy into this. You can be more observant. You can enjoy life more. You can do something different. You can enjoy a hot cup of tea right where you are – both in your kitchen and at a local restaurant.

E.C. told me that he had traveled to China, and had seen so much, and had observed so many details of regular life. And had taken so many photos. And then he wondered why people don’t do the same where they are? Why don’t people look for the details and observe the anomalies of daily living? Why don’t people explore what’s really underfoot?

There’s no expectation to do so, and people are busy, and people are not in a relaxation-enjoy-life mindset, and people feel rushed with daily chores, errands, expectations. But … does it need to be this way?

You don’t need to go to a monastery in India. Or break bread in the mills of Poland. Or dip into the Dead Sea.

Right around where you are. What can you do?

Gretchen wrote about breaking the hedonic treadmill by not having access to sending emails for a few days. Then, when she came back to email, it felt soooo good! Exactly.

My grandmother tells a story of a family with seven children that all lived in one room. The family went to the Rabbi and asked the rabbi, “What can we do? We have no space.” The Rabbi said, “Go get a goat and put her in the center of your one room.” The family said, “What?! That doesn’t make sense.” And the Rabbi said, “That’s my recommendation.” The family came back a week later, and told the Rabbi that didn’t seem to help. The Rabbi said, “Now, take the goat out of the room.”

That’s it! That’s the hedonic treadmill. Change things up. Feel too cramped? Make it more cramped, then relieve the pressure.

And you can create your own new experiences to also break the hedonic treadmill. How can you do something very, very different just exactly where you are?

There’s a folk story about a man for whom everything had gone badly, and he went off to live in a far-off country. He wrote letters to his parents telling them of things going on with him, and eventually, things were not going great in the new place either. So his father write him a letter, “Son, how do you expect things to be very different there? You took down there the same thing that was an issue here – you took yourself. So come back and figure yourself out here. We’d love to see you.”

I read this story as very positive. Like, look inside and make the changes you want to make, and then enjoy yourself and your life more. I can see how it could be read differently, and give the father an overly didactic and moralistic tone, but I don’t think about it that way – I read it as a dad’s concern and suggestion for his son.

In summary, try any of these 6 ways to do something differently – exactly where you are:

  1. Go to a new restaurant nearby with your spouse or good friend. Dress nicely. Enjoy each bite. Write a review to each other over email afterwards.
  2. Walk in an area of town you know, but take photos as if documenting for National Geographic and email them to friends later.
  3. Do your regular sport but pay attention to each muscle. This is an idea I picked up from David Seah. If you’re not actively doing a sport, do this with walking.
  4. Go enjoy the sun in a new way. Find a day that is sunny. Go outside for ten minutes with the idea of enjoying the sun in a new way. What can you try? With your eyes closed? Sunning just the back of your neck for example? Dancing in the sun?
  5. Buy one flower, and spend ten minutes smelling it differently. Smell it when it’s near you, when it’s far away, when it’s in water, when it’s not, when it’s in the sun, when it’s in the shade. What works best?
  6. Hug something soft – a stuffed animal, a dog, a cat. Really feel how the softness feels. Describe it to a friend.


You’ll notice a lot of the above ideas are also about sharing the feeling of the something different that you’re doing – sending an email about it, describing it. Go ahead and share. As Karen Salmansohn says, really share. Shaaaaaare.


* In a job interview, he who names the salary first loses.

* In a discussion with a teenager, he who loses his temper first loses.

* In a triathalon, he who starts off first often loses.

* At work, he who insists his way is the right way loses.

* In relationships, he who insists that there’s only one way to see things loses.

* In competitive skating, gymnastics (and other sports of an aesthetic nature), the skater or gymnast who goes first loses.


* In a sprint, he who starts off out front often wins.

* In pool, he who starts first often wins.

* In apologizing, he who goes first often wins.

* In starting a project off, he who is assertive and starts first on a productive note often wins, in many cases taking the entire team towards that win.