Flattery won’t get you anywhere.


Flattery will get you everywhere if you use it correctly. The problem is that most people miss the mark and their attempt at flattery comes off as a cheap, inauthentic Eddie Haskell impression. (if you’re younger than 35, ask your parents). When used the right way, however, flattery can unlock doors, open conversations and lead to positive agreements. When done correctly, it truly can get you everywhere.

Why It Works

Helen Keller once said that people forget what you say and they forget what you do, but they never forget how you make them feel. Everyone likes to feel good and everyone likes a compliment. We like people who are like us, and we like people who like us. When we give a compliment to someone, we’re telling them that we like them. People respond to it because it makes them feel good and they remember how you make them feel. 

How To Do It

Flattery is really much more art than science. Getting the feel for it takes practice and time, but once it’s mastered, it becomes a potent weapon in persuading others. The best way to approach it is from a place of genuine sincerity. The reason why most people look through it and see past it is that they think it’s coming from a self-interested place. When we comment on something that we’re genuinely impressed by, that can vanish.  There is, though, times when over-the-top flattery works as well. Pulling this off takes timing and a smile. When both parties know that the flattery given has a grain of truth but is being exaggerated, it can be charming and funny which leads it to be appreciated. It becomes something of a bonding experience that you’re both in on the joke and it’s effective. 

Making It Pay

On several occasions in my life, I have put on what I call Charm Offensives. These have been times when I wanted a particular person to like and respect me. When I’ve done this, it has always been a combination of authentic appreciation for a skill or characteristic, along with thick, over-the-top compliments that make both of us laugh. In nearly every case, this has worked and helped to establish relationships. In fact, I made one of my very best friends with a charm offensive.  When you work in a small town, the local newspaper can be a really great ally to have. The publisher of that paper has a pretty powerful position. When I was trying to establish this relationship, I was honest with her that I wanted to be her friend and that I was on a Charm Offensive. I told her that I admired how hard she must have worked to become a publisher and that I appreciated her paper. Every time I saw her, I mentioned her paper as “the paper of record” and made jokes about how no one could miss their daily addition. It was a combination of over-the-top and sincere. She knew that I knew that some of it was bullshit but that behind it was a real admiration. My flattery won me the friendship.   

Put It To Use

Whenever we’re beginning to build rapport with anyone, it’s helpful to keep in mind that everyone loves a compliment. Everyone loves to feel good and everyone loves to be flattered. It’s a fundamental fact of life that flattery will get you everywhere. ]]>

“I can’t do it. I’m just not good at it.” This was the phrase my daughter used with me when it was time to blow dry her show steer. Barn work doesn’t come naturally to her and because she doesn’t think she’s good at it, she was ready to give up.  I was ready to step in with a little coaching when her brother did the job for me. “Caroline”, he told her, “I’m not good at it either, but that’s why we do it every day, we practice and we get better,” I was so proud of the kid I about picked up and hugged him right there in the barn! He hit on something that I think holds so many people back when it doesn’t have to. When they view themselves as not good at something, anything, they believe that their ability is set in stone with no hope to improve. They aren’t good so they give up before they ever start.

How This Relates To Public Speaking

In no other area do I see this more than with public speaking. To begin with, it isn’t natural. No one stood up in their cradle and began quoting Churchill. Secondly, it can be nerve-wracking. Speaking makes even the most confident people nervous. Every good speaker that I’ve ever met gets a little scared before they start. The difference is that the great ones didn’t let their natural ability dictate how good they could become and they don’t let their fear stop them from starting. Put simply, good speakers are speakers who didn’t give up just because they aren’t good at speaking.

It’s About Mindset!

In her outstanding book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol Dweck divides the world into two groups, those with a fixed mindset; people who believe that their ability, intelligence, and skills are fixed from birth, and those with a growth mindset; people who know that how good they are at something doesn’t have much to do with how great they can become.  Her research and writing are changing the way that educators are teaching children and it should change the way we develop as communicators.

Focus on Effort!

According to Dweck, the areas where we need to focus are on skill development and effort. We don’t have a lot of control over where we start. Sure, some of us start out better at certain things than others, but we all have the ability to develop the important skills and to work hard to use them. Instead of focusing solely on performance, we should focus on improving the skills that lead to high performance. Going back to public speaking, not everyone will be as gifted as Tony Robbins on the platform, but everyone can focus on the skills that make Tony Robbins a great speaker. We can focus on our energy, our connection, and our story. All of these things can improve if we put forth enough effort. All of us can be better than we are if we develop the skills and put in the work. This week, there will be challenges and there will be times when we will think that we can’t do it because we aren’t good at it. Like Caroline in the barn, we will be tempted to give up because it doesn’t come naturally. When the moment comes, it’s my hope that you will remember that no one is born great and by developing skills and focusing on the effort, we’ll hang there and grow into how great we can become.]]>

Yesterday, I turned 38 years old. When I was 17 and my dad was 38, I thought he was ancient, and it’s funny that now the roles are reversed, I see how wrong I was about just about everything. In the 38 years, I’ve spent on this planet, I have realized two things: 1. I don’t know half of what I thought I did when I was 17 and 2. Wisdom only comes from making mistakes. I’m fortunate enough to have made enough mistakes, been around enough great teachers and kept good enough notes to put together a list of 38 things that I’ve learned that I want to pass along to my children. I wrote this list yesterday for Jack, Caroline, and Kate but I’m sharing it on my blog with the hopes that others can learn from my mistakes. It’s nowhere nearly complete, but it’s a start.  38. Soft skills are more valuable than hard skills.  37. How you treat wait staff says more about you than anything you will ever post online.  36. Grandparents don’t live forever.  35. Learning to pack a suitcase is one of the most important skills to develop 34. ZZ Topp sang All The Girls Are Crazy About A Sharp Dressed Man. It’s true but it works on everyone else too.  33. It’s better to eat for performance rather than for pleasure. 32. No one takes it well when you tell them they’re wrong. If you want them to believe you, you have let them get there on their own.  31. Everything great is hard and it’s the hard that makes it great.  30. We should celebrate small wins because often times, they’re the only ones we ever get. 29. An hour of quiet every week in a church is a blessing in and of itself.  28. Reading is more important than eating.  27. Caring too much is just as dangerous is not caring enough.  26. Save apologies for when you actually do something wrong and they mean much more. 25. It’s better to not eat than to eat garbage.  24. Interested is interesting. 23. When in doubt, favor action. 22. Hire personality, train skill. 21. Credibility is everything. Do whatever it takes to keep and never do anything to lose it.  20. Experiences are more valuable than things. 19. The book might be better than the movie, but the movie lets you feel the emotion faster.  18. The right words make all of the difference.  17. Follow your dreams, but pay the bills.  16. The Reds will always break your heart, but it’s worth it.  15. Hot dogs taste best at the ballpark. 14. Coca-Cola tastes great, but it’s not worth it.  13. Sometimes People Suck. Love them anyway. 12. Flattery can get you everywhere.  11. Always carry and handkerchief, a pocket knife and good pen.  10. A smile can change someone’s day. 9. First impressions are everything. 8. You never have to take back something you never said.  7. It’s best to think on paper. 6. The best days start early. 5. Consistency will always trump talent. 4. People like people who are like them.  3. Discipline = Freedom 2. Sweat the small stuff and the big stuff will work itself out.  1. Greatness is a choice we have to make every day.  In 38 years, I’ve learned a few things. Most of it took more than one lesson to get there, but I’ve survived to be a better person because of it. I’d love to know additions that others would make to my list. Drop a comment or two and let me know what I left out. ]]>

A couple of weeks ago, I shared something on Twitter that I had run across one morning that really intrigued me. It was before and after photos of someone who underwent a 72-hour water fast. Yeah, you read that right, some guy didn’t eat or drink anything but coffee and water for 72 hours. The pictures were pretty amazing and I knew I wanted to try it. 

Not For The Vanity

Although I couldn’t help but be impressed by the transformation this gentleman underwent in just three days, my main motivation went deeper than wanting to look nicer. Sure, if I could drop some fat in the process, that would be great, but my biggest reason for wanting to try it was because I saw it as the ultimate test of discipline.  I have a good friend and mentor who has been to several of Tony Robbins live events and has, on multiple occasions, walked across burning coals barefoot. I’m still not interested in doing this, but what Steve said to me years ago about doing that has always stuck with me. He told me that after walking across the coals, he got the feeling that if he could do that, there was nothing that he couldn’t do.  It destroyed every limiting belief he had. That’s what I’m hoping will come from my fast. It’s hard. It’s not something that I ever thought I could do, so if I can stick it out, there really isn’t anything else I can’t do either. 

Making It Work

I’m pretty good at not eating. On most days I’m pretty comfortable going about 16 hours without eating. On certain days, It isn’t much for me to go up to 20. When I’m busy, I don’t really get hungry. From this experience, I knew that busy was going to be the key.  I planned to start my fast on a Sunday night. This meant that I could sleep through the first part and be at work on Monday, through the most difficult stretch. What also helped, was that I picked a couple of days when my kids would be away with their grandparents which took away the added pressure of eating a family meal with everyone. And then I got busy. I filled my calendar down the minute from 5 am until 10 pm. I drank two cups of coffee in the morning and a ton of water throughout the day and I never got hungry. Later in the evening, before one of my meetings, I added a third cup of coffee, decaf this time and my mild appetite was blunted. I know this sounds strange but the only time that I got really hungry was driving home at the end of a pretty long night when an old habit of thinking about popcorn crept into my head. It didn’t last long though, and I was fine.  When I woke up the second day, I wasn’t hungry at all. I drank my usual saltwater and lime cocktail and went to the barn. I felt great all day and found that not eating is actually easier than not eating bad stuff. Once I fell into a pattern, it became easier and easier to maintain. 

When I’m Done

As of right now, I’m 12 hours away from my first meal. I’m planning to go easy on food and choose the ones that will be easiest on my gut. From research, I’ve settled on watermelon, hard boiled eggs, and some ground beef in butter. I want to ease back into eating and make sure that I don’t undo all of the good that I just did. Because I’m not too hungry, I don’t think this will be too hard.  When I started, I really didn’t think I could pull it off. Now that I have, I wonder what else I might try. If you’re interested in developing your discipline muscles, I highly recommend trying it. Trust me, it’s much easier than it sounds ]]>

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In every seminar I lead, I try to make the point that the there are really only three things that one has to in order to be a great communicator; Maintain Credibility, Make Others Feel Important, and Don’t Be Creepy. I know it’s simplistic, but try to poke a hole in this argument. If you’re credible, make others feel important and aren’t creepy about it, you’re going to be a great communicator. It’s simple, but it isn’t easy. 

The Hardest Part

Of the three things that make a great communicator, building and maintaining credibility is both the most important and most difficult to accomplish, but it’s the most critical. Credibility really is the starting point for communication because if people don’t believe what we say, what’s the point of talking?  We all know people who tell us everything we want to hear, and they tell us in a way that sounds so good that we really want to believe them, but we know they’ll never come through on it. In my seminars, I make the point that these people are called politicians and everybody laughs because most politicians lack credibility. They don’t do what they say they will do and everyone knows they’re making promises simply to persuade. Because there’s no credibility, there’s no trust and without trust, there’s no communication. 
What you are shouts so loudly in my ears that I cannot hear what you say. Ralph Waldo Emerson 

What Kills it?

There is simply nothing that kills credibility faster than gossip. I know this is bad news because we all love to gossip, but it it’s destroying our credibility every time we do it. I like to think of gossip as being just like Coca-Cola. I love Coke. I think it’s the best tasting soft drink ever made and I absolutely love it. But I know it’s not good for me. My body doesn’t handle the sugar very well and while it tastes good in the moment, an hour after drinking it, I don’t feel good and I need a nap. It’s the same way I feel about gossip. In the moment, it feels good. We know something about someone and to share it with someone else gives the feeling of being powerfulAfterward, however, if we’re really honest with ourselves, we feel a little sick about it. That sick feeling is the loss of our credibility with ourselves and if we don’t trust us, how can we ask someone else to?  On top of losing credibility with ourselves, other people recognize it too. They wonder what we’re telling others about them and suddenly, they don’t trust us either. It’s a lose / lose proposition. 

Build and Maintain Credibility

In order for our words to carry value, there has to be something behind them. People have to take us seriously to believe us. The only way to build and maintain that much needed credibility is to do what we say we will do, come through on commitments, and tell the truth.  Being a great communicator is actually pretty simple. It isn’t easy, but it is simple. Building and maintaining credibility is the starting point and it speaks even when we’re silent. Make sure it’s telling the story you want your listener to hear. ]]>

“The only stupid question is the question you don’t ask.” What a stupid phrase. There are absolutely stupid questions that people ask of one another every day. It doesn’t mean that the people asking the questions are stupid, but that they have fallen victim to doing what everyone else does and conform. I’ve found as I coach leaders at seminars around the country that this principle is universal and happens everywhere particularly at the beginning of a relationship when we’re trying to establish report. At a time when we’re trying to be most impressive is usually when people fail the hardest and ask one of the two stupidest questions we can ask when trying to build rapport. 

What Makes Questions Stupid?

Rapport building questions should do two things: establish commonality and stimulate conversation. We like people who are like us and we enjoy novelty. If we keep these two concepts in mind, it makes it pretty clear why some questions are better than others. In other words, our questions should stimulate answers we can relate to and make the person think but most of our questions don’t do that. They instead ask for answers we don’t understand, can’t relate to and can be answered without thought.

Stupid Question Number One: What Do You Do?

Man, I hate the question “what do you do?”! I hate it because the answers are always confusing. Ask ten people what it is they do and ten people will give you their job title. The problem with a job title is that they’re confusing, no one understands what they really mean and therefore can’t connect with it. There is little commonality built around it. Worse yet, no one has to think about their answers; they just spew it out. 

Better Question

A better way to ask the same question and get the real answer to that we’re looking for is to ask something like: “What do you love about your job?” Ask this question and you will likely get a pause before someone answers because they’ve been forced to think. They will most likely tell you something that is pretty common such as working with people or solving problems. These are things we can connect with and therefore find the commonality to build a relationship. 

Stupid Question Number Two: Where Are You From?

Where are you from is a stupid question for three main reasons. 1. It’s insensitive. 2. It requires no thought to answer 3. It’s ending a sentence with a prepositional phrase. None of these are good.  It’s insensitive when speaking with someone with an accent to ask them where they’re from because you’re highlighting that they aren’t like you. Instead of focusing on what we have in common, we’re hanging a lantern on the fact that they’re different. It requires no thought because we all know the answer and have told people many times before. Ending a sentence with a prepositional phrase doesn’t sound like much of a big deal, but it’s a small thing that smart people notice.

Better Question

My all-time favorite way to find out where someone calls home is to ask, “Where’s Home?” It’s my favorite way because it works. People love to talk about their homes. It gives someone with an obvious accent the opportunity to tell you where they live which is more in line with making them feel included and it’s different enough that most people haven’t had to answer that question hundreds of times. It hits both marks.  When building rapport, there are absolutely stupid questions. They’re easy to ask, but they are just as easy to not ask. By finding better ways to get the same information, we can engage in deeper, more meaningful conversations and build better relationships. All we have to do is stop asking stupid questions to do it. ]]>

In any business, interaction with customers and clients is critical. Though I do my best, I find that a lot of the interactions I both on this blog and on social media is one-sided. Unlike my live events where the audience plays a huge role in the direction a keynote or a training will take, there’s not a ton of feedback on this side. That’s why it was so encouraging to get an email taking me to task.  This is an actual email I received last week. In full disclosure, I asked her permission before using it here. 

Where’s The Communication?

Randy, It’s been a while since I attended your Presenting With Power workshop, but I loved it! Public speaking has always been something that I struggle with, and your process took out a lot of stress and simplified it for me. That’s why I signed up for your newsletter. I wanted more tips like the ones I got in your class. That’s not what you’ve been sending me though.  First, your newsletters aren’t coming frequently enough. OK, but then you’re sending too much motivation mumbo jumbo and not enough information. As you said in the class, feedback is a gift so I’m hoping you will take mine. Send me more of what I can use to solve my communication problems.  I don’t think anyone wants to get an email calling their posts “mumbo jumbo” but I get the point. There is a lot of truth in what she sent me. I do post a lot about mindset and what some might call motivation. The point, that to me that gets missed, however, is that the two, mindset and communication, are interrelated. Being a great communicator takes confidence. It takes courage, compassion, and commitment. I write about it because that’s the message that I believe needs to be hammered home. 

But She’s Right

That’s not to say that the person who sent me this email doesn’t have a point. She absolutely does. There are people who read my blog who have enough confidence. They’ve mastered their mindset and they come back here looking for communication advice, not motivation. For them, I need to do a better job of striking a balance. That’s why I’m going to rethink my Tuesday videos. From now on, instead of using Tuesday’s video to drive home Monday’s blog post, I’m going to focus it on solid tips that anyone can use to be a better communicator. 

Here’s Where I Need Help

In order to make sure I’m hitting relevant topics and delivering what people are looking for, I’m going to ask for your help. If there’s something that you would like to see me cover or a problem that you’re having, would please send me an email or engage online? Let me know where I should focus my Tuesday’s Tips and I promise that I will focus on answering you.  In any business, interaction with customers and clients is critical. Feedback is a gift and going forward, I’m going to deliver on it.  ]]>

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On Friday, I posted a blog titled The Recipe For A Great Life. It was a recipe shared with me by someone at an event who learned a valuable piece of wisdom for living a great life: Find someone to love, something to do and something to look forward to. Since hearing it, I’ve made it my mission in life to live this awesome advice and it’s made a real difference for me. I understand that it isn’t new or earth-shattering but to me, the power comes in its simplicity. That’s the power of simple. If it were complex, I’d be impressed but I wouldn’t remember it. If I don’t remember it, I’m not going to do it. Because it’s simple, I act on it. Even when it’s not easy.  Of the three parts to the simple recipe, finding something to do is usually that hardest. Not because there isn’t a lot to do, but because it’s easy to slip into the feeling of being overwhelmed and not knowing where to start. When this happens, making it simple gets me back on track.  I’ve written posts, shared videos and even released pictures of my “simple discipline” list. It’s my list of disciplines that I know that I have to do every day in order to stay on track and be successful. It’s extremely low tech – written on a post-it stuck in my journal. It’s extremely basic – things like reading, writing my goals down, taking my ten-minute walks, and journaling. Best of all, it’s simple- 12 items listed on a piece of paper where I put a check mark next to it if I’ve done it for that day. Because it’s low tech, basic, and simple, I can always find something to do even when I don’t “feel it.” It allows me to accomplish something and that momentum can grow into something bigger.  This is especially helpful when I’m in a low energy state. When I feel like there’s no point in trying. When I feel like giving up. Having simple, written tasks gives me something to do. That’s the power of simple.  Where can you make things simple? Where can you boil down the parts of your business or career into simpler parts in order to give you something to do? We live in a complex word and deal with a lot of complex issues. That doesn’t mean that we can’t make things easier by breaking it down and making it simpler. We just have to make the effort to look. Make the effort and make your list and put the power of simple to work for you. You’ll be glad you did.   ]]>