4 “Black Flag” Phrases

You know you’ve heard these phrases before… Perhaps you’ve likely said them yourself…

I call them “black flag” phrases (even worse than a “red flag”), and you should be very afraid of them… These statements are communication suicide for practitioners, though they usually don’t realize it at the time. These statements reveal much about the person saying them, and it ‘ain’t good. These phrases are screaming: “I’m scared; I’ve been hurt; I don’t want to let you in; I’m keeping my defenses sky high to avoid future pain from you, or anyone else.” While this is common stuff most of us have felt at one point or another, it doesn’t change the fact that saying any of the following is stifiling your credibility as an effective communicator:

  1. “I don’t like people, and I don’t trust anyone.” – This statement is made by people who have very likely been hurt, and hurt bad by others in their past. Their dislike and/or distrust for others, while perhaps real, is nonetheless a big wall erected to keep people at bay so they cannot be hurt again.
  2. “I don’t care what anyone thinks of me.” – This statement screams of low self-esteem and of one’s overwhelming desire to fit in and be liked. They care so much, they seek (and get) attention by claiming the opposite.
  3. “I tell it like it is. I speak my mind; when it’s on my mind.” – This statement is an intimidation tactic used to strike fear into others and to coerce compliance. It’s a technique to appear outwardly strong and confident when internally, this person actually feels weak and unsure of themselves quite often.
  4. “I’m not a conformist; I do my own thing.” – Making this statement is also evidence of the opposite because everyone says it. There seems to be this irrational fear of conforming to anything in our society. It’s as if you’re less than, or weak if you do anything that the majority does. Of course, extreme conformity and spinelessness are no good. But, everyone is a conformist to some degree or another. It’s a requirement for a civilized society.

Eradicate these statements from your lexicon. They’re weak; therefore they make you look weak. And you can’t afford that when others’ attention is today’s compensation… So how do you handle someone spewing this stuff?

the shiFt:

First, understand that the exact opposite of what is being said is typically the truth. These phrases are psychological defense mechanisms to keep danger away; to keep others at bay, and to avoid having to experience any more pain.

Second, ask these folks some questions, lots of questions. These questions should be tailored to expose the folly of these over-generalized, blanket statements. Practitioners of “blag flag” phrases won’t take your word for it. They need to be guided (by your skillful questioning) to believe they’ve arrived at their own conclusions about the ridiculousness of these statements. Then, and only then, will they begin to shift their behavior and counter these self-defeating declarations.

Stay tuned-in…

Click HERE for info on my Communichology course.

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“Human Relations”… not-so-common-sense

For years, I taught a college course called “Human Relations.” It was always my favorite class to teach because the content blended principles of communication and psychology, and was the inspiration for many of my Communichology™ concepts going forward.

The course was often misunderstood at the outset by both students AND staff because the title is so obviously deceptive.

Many people zoomed right on by the significance of these two words, and therefore missed the power of the course and its many practical concepts and applications in day-to-day life. Further, this course and its content was often dismissed as “common sense.”

This stuff is easy to talk about, but difficult to do.

>> Human Relations = to relate (effectively) to other humans… pretty straight-forward right? Not necessarily…

Here’s where it gets tricky…

Effectively relating to others, and demonstrating empathy, requires us first to effectively relate to, and understand ourselves, honestly. Again, easy to say, hard to do… no small task for many, dare I say, MOST people.

This subject is as internal as it is external… just like looking in a mirror is both an internal and external exercise simultaneously. We first have to see ourselves, and then hopefully we will “see” ourselves. Without being truly in touch with ourselves first, we will be arguably less effective when dealing with others. Communication works if it’s worked.

The mirror has to reflect both ways. Many “get” this, but fail to really get into it fully.

It’s work. It’s often very difficult work. But it’s very necessary.

the shiFt: there are 3 steps in this journey:

  • Awareness – We first have to tune-in and begin to know > what we don’t know, or think we may know > but may be mistaken about our own psychology and communication skills.

To do: Admit that perception isn’t always reality, and begin owning both your good and not-so-good tendencies and habits.

  • Education – Next, we need to set about learning more about ourselves; about our blind spots… and about how our history, and our experiences shape the complex nuances of our interpersonal communications with others.

To do: Take a Human Relations-type course, workshop, or seminar >> or two, or three…

  • Application – Finally, we have to act on this awareness and education and begin an ongoing process of applying what we now know… now. Define and then refine and repeat.

To do: Practice at home and on the job; a lot. Strive to miss less than most.

Bottom Line:

Far more than just common sense, human relations is a critical skill set that can be developed provided the proper amounts of courage, honesty, and ongoing diligence are present. The importance of this discipline cannot be overstated.

Becoming a master of yourself affords you the opportunity to be masterful with others… in many kinds of situations, most of the time.

And who doesn’t stand to benefit from that?

Stay tuned-in…

Click HERE for info on my Communichology course.

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Forty-Six (46)

“I’m sort of a spy.”

This is how a recently discovered, but now-deceased nanny-turned-street-photographer described herself in a new documentary about her life. I loved this statement for the spirit and the sentiment behind it. It hit home for me. Like a lot of young boys coming-of-age in the heyday of the James Bond boom, I’d always semi-secretly wished that I’d grow up to be a spy someday. Well, that never really materialized for me, or did it?

In some ways, my work today from my photography to my philosophies and speaking is actually very spy-like (or at least I like to think so). I enjoy inconspicuously peering into the complex phenomenon of human psychology and behavior, and gaining new perspectives from my perceptions. I call it “seeing things” and it’s truly this core principle that brings me the greatest joy and feelings of contribution. Sometimes, the details around getting it all out there are challenging, but the effort is worth it in the long run. It has to be, or I’d have stopped a long, long time ago. And if you can’t tell, I’m not stopping…

Stay tuned-in…

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Problem-solving – Part 1:

It’s everyone’s job; everyday. It has to be because everyone has problems we often need others to help us solve.

The big distinction is the degree to which you and I project our problems onto others and expect them to help us solve them.

Do others become a destination for your problems, or are they an additional resource to assist you with a solution?

Part of effective problem-solving is choosing the correct response to the above question. I believe its answer is self-evident.

Don’t become someone else’s problem simply because you are unwilling to work on solving your own shit first.

Stay tuned-in…

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Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison (The Doors), Janis Joplin, Brian Jones (Rolling Stones), Ron “Pigpen” McKernan (Grateful Dead), Pete Ham (Badfinger), Chris Bell (Big Star), and more recently Kurt Cobain (Nirvana) and Amy Winehouse…

These are just a few members of the now notorious “27 Club” – infamous musicians who all tragically died at the ripe old age of 27. This club also includes many other notable actors, artists, and entertainers as well. Causes of death range from addiction, to suicide, to freak accidents. Creepy coincidences? Seems like a lot doesn’t it? In psychology, the mental shortcut or cognitive bias known as the availability heuristic fuels this notion that information that we are more aware of, or that can be recalled easily, must have more significant meaning. For example, we assume plane crashes and child abductions are way more prevalent than they actually are, because these things make the news and are in our face frequently.

So because we’ve heard of so many of these famous “27” fatalities, we falsely assume that there’s something more to it than there actually is. When you choose to expand your perspective to consider all of the other musicians, actors, artists, and entertainers who have not died at the age of 27, you start to realize the very low statistical percentage that this group actually represents. But that doesn’t make for good headlines, stories, or folklore does it?

the shiFt:

The choices we make today put us in positions to experience our outcomes tomorrow. Good, and not-so-good outcomes, and everything in between. While I do believe, sometimes shit just happens for reasons unknown, I’d argue that this happens the minority, not the majority of the time. So are the “27 Club” members just an unlucky bunch then? Hardly… they were all very well-known and accomplished in their fields. Getting lucky, or unlucky then, is largely a matter of preparation mixed with opportunity. And both of these areas involve the choices you and I make moment-to-moment. Choices to excel at what we do; and choices to put ourselves in positions to win.

The unpopular point here is that the 27 tribe made a series of choices, over time, that put them into the places and circumstances that ultimately, directly or indirectly, led to their early deaths. Just as they also made choices that put themselves into positions to accomplish so much, so young.

You gotta look at it both ways.

It’s called critical thinking, and it’s critical to your success.

Stay tuned-in…

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The situation: When attempting to help or assist others, it’s simple: First, identify the problem; then provide a solution, right? Put another way: know their need, then give them what they want. Sounds simple, but it’s anything but…

The challenge: People want what they want over what they need. But when giving, most of us default to giving others what we think they need… not what they actually want. This is obviously produces a disconnect, and results in many communication breakdowns.

The shiFt: 1) Listen with the intent to hear what others really want. It often differs from what you think they need. You may be right, but attempting to force feed someone what they need vs. what they want is a dead-end road. Makes things worse most of the time. 2) You have to present what you know they need into a package that they believe they actually want. 3) Finally, you have to make it appear like the solution is actually their idea, not yours. How do you do this? It starts with demonstrating genuine empathy by doing much more asking of questions than telling. It must appear that your interest is more about them, and their plight, rather than your point-of-view. This is a process that requires masterful communication skills combined with a better than basic understanding of human psychology to pull off effectively ongoing.

Enter the science and art of Communichology™… Subscribe here.

Stay tuned-in…




I’m intrigued by deception… illusions… “magic” if you will, designed to entertain, educate, and to generally get people thinking about the boundaries of what’s real, unreal, possible, or impossible. To that end, I use principles of cognitive psychology, neuro-linguistic programming, and elements mentalism within my work here to illuminate and illustrate Principles of Communichology… again, I do this to challenge people, encourage critical thinking, and implore us all to make the necessary changes and cure whatever it is that’s ailing us (and we’ve all got stuff), to move toward higher levels of personal and professional growth.

But deception, in its negative form, always comes with a price tag. Sooner or later, visible or invisible, bigger or smaller, there’s always a price to pay for deceit… sometimes literally, sometimes only figuratively. And to clarify, I’m talking about the type of deception here that involves deliberately misleading others to their detriment. I could also be talking about the deception with oneself that involves the denial and avoidance of the very things worthy of your attention.

So arguably then, the highest price to pay for deception is the one to yourself. Deception is a dark debt you cannot personally outrun or hide from. It’s always there. Out in the open, unhidden to you, and for you, to forever see. The price is never worth it. Get out from underneath it. It’s never too late.

Stay tuned-in…