Express Gratitude This Holiday Season

The holiday season is a time of gratitude, a quality we often neglect to express throughout the year. But expressing thankfulness is a gift we can give others and ourselves during the holidays and every day.

The ability to express gratitude is a social skill that demonstrates leadership. Leaders who utilize gratitude are better able to develop strong relationships with their employees, which promotes trust, effort, and respect.

The words “thank you” make us feel appreciated and valued. All the thought and energy that went in to finding the perfect gift for a family member, planning the party for a co-worker, or completing the project for a client seems worthwhile when our efforts are acknowledged.

When we let others know we appreciate them, we feel better too. Expressing gratitude “may have lasting effects on the brain” (Wong and Brown, 2017) and benefit both mental health and interpersonal relationships (Fox, Kaplan, Damasio, & Damasio, 2015).

Say “thank you” to your clients, customers, coworkers, teachers, family members, and friends this holiday season.  It is a win-win way to build and maintain social relationships.

Six Ways to Express Gratitude During This Holiday Season

  1. Be genuine, honest, and sincere.
  2. Say it like you mean it.
    Smile, make eye contact, and use a tone of voice that conveys the meaning of your words.
  3. Speak to specific actions, personality, or achievements.
    Strive to find a noteworthy comment that indicates thought and attention: “Thank you for your efforts on the project. Our new client was extremely satisfied with the outcome.”
  4. Use words appropriate to the situation and your relationship to the person you are thanking.
    There is more than one way to say “thank you,” such as “I appreciate…” or “I am grateful that…”
  5. Write a thank you note.
    A hand-written note demonstrates your interest and appreciation.
  6. Share your gratitude for a person or group with others.


Fox, G. R., Kaplan, J., Damasio, H., & Damasio, A. (2015). Neural correlates of gratitude. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 1491. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01491

Wong, J., & Brown, J. (2017). How gratitude changes you and your brain. Retrieved November 28, 2017, from

The Law of Attraction

Anne Marie at trade show, business expo

Have you ever strolled through the exhibit hall at a convention, trade show, or business expo? So many booths, so little time. How do you decide where to stop? It may be an interesting sign, a product display—or perhaps, the exhibitor.

Yes, the exhibitor, specifically one who looks interested in speaking to you. How can you tell? Take a look at their body language.

In her book, Power Hands: A Leader’s Guide to Hand Gestures, Dr. Linda Talley states, “By monitoring seven specific hand gestures, you can change the way you are perceived by viewers, followers, peers, and you can do it within minutes” (Talley, 2015).

These gestures are described as positive, negative, or neutral. Her research indicates that positive hand gestures attract people to you, while defensive hand gestures distance people from you (Talley and Temple, 2015).

Defensive Gestures
  • Arms crossed over chest: Creates a barrier between yourself and the listener. May be perceived as defensive, uneasy, insecure, or shy.
  • Hands behind back: May appear arrogant, over-confident, or superior.
  • Hands in pockets: Perceived as hiding something. May convey unwillingness, mistrust, or reluctance.
Neutral Gesture
  • Hands by side: No emotion is indicated. May be confusing without other situational cues, such as a smile or frown.
Positive Gestures
  • Steepling: Fingertips pressed together or fingers and palms pressed together (like praying). This position conveys confidence.
  • Community hands: Palms open and facing each other. Conveys a sense of inclusion.
  • Humility hands: Clasp hands in front. Conveys a sense of deference and humility.

What kind of hand gestures do you use?

Do you want to distance people or attract them to you? Does your body language sync with your message? Can you read the body language of others?
Attract your listener. It may be the determining factor in making a sale, getting a promotion, or maintaining a satisfied customer.

Talley, L. (2016). Power Hands: A Leader’s Guide to Hand Gestures [Kindle]. Retrieved from

Talley, L. & Temple, S. (2015). How leaders influence followers through the use of nonverbal communication. Leadership & Organizational Development Journal, 36(1), 69-80.

We get good at what we practice

Anne Marie golfing

Last summer, I shared with you my desire to improve my golf game. (Read the post here.) I made a commitment to devote time, energy, and resources toward improving my skills by enrolling in golf lessons.

One year later, it is time to assess my progress. My game has improved, but I have not yet achieved the personal goal I set for myself—to break 90 in a round.

The instructor provided me with the tools to take my game to the next level. So why was my improvement less than expected?

The answer came to me in an “aha” moment as I watched a TEDxTalk by Willoughby Britton titled, “Why A Neuroscientist Would Study Meditation.”  (

Britton explained that the neuroplasticity of our brains allows it to change with our experiences. The takeaway: “We get good at what we practice.”

Aha! That was the missing ingredient to my progress!

Our desire to develop a new skill requires that we replace old habits with new habits. To develop the neural networks necessary for a new skill to become natural and effortless, repetitive exercises are required.

Intermittent attention is not enough. Regular, mindful, and focused time to train the brain is a must!

Like golf, our speaking habits can be modified and changed by allowing our brain the opportunity and time to learn something new.

Start a New Habit Today

How can you fit this type of training or practice into your daily schedule? Here are some suggestions:
Choose a specific time to practice each day. Schedule your practice as you would any other appointment. Set a daily reminder or alert and make the appointment with yourself a priority, but be flexible. If you have to adjust the time to accommodate other commitments, do so.

  1. Schedule short blocks of time.
    Just 15-20 minutes will allow you to maintain awareness and attention as you train. If your schedule allows, schedule two or three blocks of time throughout the day.
  2. Select a goal or focus for your practice each day.
    Choose a specific sound or speaking skill that you are developing and devote all your attention and effort to creating the change you desire.
  3. Maintain your awareness of the selected skill throughout that day.
    With this focus you will begin to utilize the new skills in real-time speaking situations as you form new habits.
  4. Keep a practice log or journal.
    Monitor your attention to training, goals, and impressions. Set your intentions for the next day or the week ahead.
  5. Be patient!
    Change happens over time. Acknowledge your daily positive changes as you develop new habits.

Make time for yourself.
Learn something new.

Could you repeat that?

image of Norah O'Donnell of CBSI made the dreaded customer service call…

When it comes to shopping, I am a “see it-feel it-touch it” kind of person. That makes online shopping a challenge for me. I don’t want surprises when the box arrives, so sometimes I make the dreaded call to customer service for more information.

Most of the time, the frustration comes from the wait time, but last week a representative answered promptly. Unfortunately, she spoke so quickly I struggled to understand what she said, from her name, to the product information, to the price.

She repeated herself when asked, but I sensed her impatience, and she sensed mine. Needless to say, I took my business elsewhere.

Speech rate is a necessary component of speaking clearly, especially over the telephone.

Below are a few exercises to improve your rate of speech. They will teach you to slow down and speak clearly.

Don’t give your customers or clients a reason to take their business somewhere else. Take your time; it will save you in the long run.

5 exercises to slow your rate of speech

  1. Practice.
    Select an article from a newspaper or magazine. Highlight the punctuation, then read the article aloud. Make a conscious effort to pause when you see a comma, period, or question mark.
  2. Breathe.
    The end of a sentence is the perfect time to pause and take a breath. This will help slow your rate of speech.
  3. Pronunciation.
    Make an effort to say each word completely when you read and speak. Slower speech allows time for all the sounds in a word to be produced. When your rate of speech is in the average range (120-150 words per minute), your speech will be easier for others to understand.
  4. Awareness.
    Listen to the speech rate of others. TV news reporters, especially the anchors, maximize the power of the pause. Count the pauses in each segment next time you watch a TV news report.
  5. Emulate.
    When you are conveying information, whether at work or at home, emulate the style of broadcast journalists. Pause after each thought or piece of important information. A pause gives your listeners time to process what you have said and to anticipate what you will say next.

Photo credit: By user Onetwo1 via Wikimedia Commons.

Get the tools you need and have a barbeque. Everyone’s invited!

summer barbeque
Last month’s discussion about everyday leadership—the behind-the-scenes leadership that is threaded throughout our lives—continues.

Now let’s take a look at social skills, another component of a successful leader’s exceptional communication.

What are social skills?

Social skills are the way we use verbal and non-verbal language to interact with others in a meaningful way based on social norms and rules. They are how we put our language to use.

As soon as the weather gets warm, I take my cooking outside to the grill, so let’s try a barbeque analogy: Say you buy a new gas grill for your backyard. It comes in a box and a million pieces. You have all the pieces (words and vocabulary), and you have the instructions (grammar and sentence structure), but you don’t have the tools (the social skills) to bring it together. The barbeque has to wait until you get the tools you need!

Similarly, you must develop your social skills to turn simple words and grammar into effective communication and leadership. Read on for three ways to enhance your social skills.

3 social skills of great leaders

Next time you’re in a social situation—a work meeting, a networking event, or a family gathering—pay attention to how you interact with others. Try one or two of the following suggestions, and let us know how it felt.

  1. Demonstrate genuine interest in others.
    Listening is a key component. Leaders listen, ask questions, and demonstrate genuine interest in the lives, thoughts, and feelings of employees, friends, and family. The focus is on the other person, not themselves.
  2. Interact with others and encourage a social environment. 
    Leaders light up a room with their presence. They speak masterfully to others, with the appropriate words, tone of voice, and body language. They encourage and facilitate the conversation and interaction of others.
  3. Convey enthusiasm and positivity. 
    It is a leader’s job to influence, persuade, and motivate employees, clients, or even their own child. Using words that are positive, in a manner that conveys emotion, is crucial to sharing a vision and getting others on your side.

Leaders are made, not born.

Social skills can be developed and improved. Do you have the social skills to take your leadership to the next level, for today and everyday?
Contact me for a free telephone consultation, and together we can find out!