651: How to Defuse Verbal Conflict and Prevent Toxicity from Ruining Your Day with Sam Horn

By March 18, 2021Podcasts

 

 

Sam Horn says: "No one can make us angry without our consent."

Sam Horn explains how to deal with difficult people more effectively by shifting the language we use.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Words to lose and words to use in a conflict
  2. The mindset shift that makes us feel like less like a victim
  3. Two strategies for dealing with workplace bullies 

About Sam

Sam Horn, is the CEO of the Intrigue Agency and the Tongue Fu! Training Institute. Her 3 TEDx talks and 9 books – including Tongue Fu!POP!Got Your Attention? and SOMEDAY is Not a Day in the Week – have been featured in NY Times, on NPR, and presented to hundreds of organizations worldwide including Intel, Cisco, Boeing, U.S. Navy, Nationwide, and Fidelity.

Resources mentioned in the show:

Sam Horn Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Sam, thanks for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Sam Horn
You’re welcome, Pete. I’m looking forward to sharing some ideas with your listeners.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I’m excited to hear your wisdom. You’ve written a couple books which are helping resolve an issue that our listeners have been asking with regard to difficult bosses and coworkers, how to deal with them well. And you’ve got a wealth of expertise. Maybe you can start us off by telling any particularly noteworthy stories about a bad boss or bad collaborators that might make our jaws drop and captivate us? No pressure, Sam.

Sam Horn
Aha. Well, you know what, the origin story for Tongue Fu, actually does that, is that Dr. Ray Oshiro out of University of Hawaii had asked me to do a program on dealing with difficult people without becoming one ourselves. And in our first break, there was a gentleman, he didn’t even get up to get a cup of coffee, some fresh air. He just sat there gazing off into space.

And I was curious, I went over, I said, “What are you thinking?” And he said, “Sam, I’m a realtor.” He said, “I would deal with some really demanding people, and they seem to think they can treat me any way they want to. I’m tired of it.” He said, “I thought you were going to teach us some zingers to fire back at people and put them in their place.” I said, “That’s not what this is about.”

And he was the one who said, “I’m a student of martial arts.” He said, “I’ve studied karate, taekwondo, judo.” He said, “What you’re talking about is not about putting people in their place, right? It’s about putting ourselves in their place so we can respond with compassion instead of contempt.” And he said, “It’s kind of like a verbal form of kung fu, isn’t it?” Eureka! The perfect title, that’s what it is – Tongue Fu; martial arts for the mind and mouth.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, that’s a great summary right there. Like, it’s not about zingers, it’s not about sticking it to them, but you put yourself in their place and are able to respond with compassion. Can you give us an example of how that could play out conversationally?

Sam Horn
Oh, boy, can I give you an example. Now, Pete, unless people are driving and listening to this, I hope they grab a paper, and I hope they put a vertical line right down the center, and put words to lose on the left and words to use on the right because we’re going to go right into what we face every day on the job.

So, on the left, put complain, because we hear complaints. Customers complain, coworkers complain, so put complain over on the left. Guess what we don’t do when people complain? Explain. Put explain on the left because explanations come across as excuses. If someone says, “Hey, the Zoom call was supposed to start at 9:00 o’clock,” “Oh, I know, it’s just some people are late.” Nope, explanations make people angry because they feel we’re not being accountable.

Over on the right, put A train. When people complain, don’t explain, take the A train. A for agree, “You’re right, the Zoom call was supposed to start at 9:00 o’clock.” Apologize, “And I’m sorry we’re running a few minutes late.” Act, “And I’ve got that information you requested. Let’s jump right into it. Rock and roll.” Do you see how the A train expedites complaints and explanations aggravate them?

Pete Mockaitis
I do. And, Sam, it is just a joy to hear the way you explain things, that your keynote background is just shining through, words to lose, words to use, the A train, and it’s memorable so I appreciate it. Keep it coming. So, agree, apologize, and act, and not to get too into the weeds here, but when something is late, you suggest the act there is just “And we’re going to just get started now.” Any alternatives coming to mind?

Sam Horn
Absolutely. Here’s another one. Say, people are arguing, right? Say, something has gone wrong, and people are finger pointing, blaming, shaming. Over on the left, put find fault, “Well, hey, it wasn’t my fault. So-and-so was in charge of it. Well, I never saw that memo.” Back and forth we go. Finding fault serves no good purpose. Over on the right, put find solutions.

And when people are arguing and it is this blaming, shaming, interrupt them and then say these magic words, “Hey, we could argue for the rest of the day, and that’s not, again, get this done. Instead, let’s figure how we’re going to prevent this from happening again. Or, instead, let’s put a system in place.” And you see how when we switch the attention to finding solutions instead of fault, now that conversation is serving a good purpose instead of a waste of everyone’s time.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. That’s good. Do we have some more?

Sam Horn
Do you want more?

Pete Mockaitis
I do. I do.

Sam Horn
Oh, do I have more.

Pete Mockaitis
Lose some words, words to use. Let’s hear them.

Sam Horn
All right. Now, over on the left, put negative accusation. Say, somebody says, “You women are so emotional.” If we deny a negative accusation, if we say, “We’re not emotional,” uh-oh, we just proved their point. If someone says, “You don’t care about your customers,” and we say, “We do, too, care about our customers.” Now, we’re proving their point, right? So, on the left, instead of denying an accusation, over on the right, redirect an accusation. I’ll give you two quick examples.

I was speaking at a conference, and a woman put her hand up in the Q&A, and she said, “Sam, why are women so catty to each other?” I decided to Don Draper that, Pete. Don Draper, in Mad Men, said, “If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.” So, I said, “Ladies, let’s agree to never ask or answer that question again because every time we do, we perpetuate that stereotype. Instead, don’t repeat a negative accusation because it reinforces it. Instead, redirect it, say, ‘You know what I found, women are real champions of each other. In fact, I wouldn’t have this job if someone hadn’t stepped up and recommended me.’”

Or, here’s another thing you can do on the right, instead of repeating it, which reinforces it, say, “What do you mean?” or, “Why do you say that?” Because if someone says, “You don’t care about your customers,” and we say, “We do, too,” we’re in a debate. If you say, “Well, why do you say that?” they may say, “Well, I left three messages and no one’s called back.” “Oh.” “What do you mean?” or “Why do you say that?” gets to the root of the accusation, and we can solve that instead of reacting to the attack.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s great. Okay. Well, so, hey, if you’ve got some more, I’ll take them.

Sam Horn
I do. Okay, let’s talk about when something goes wrong, shall we?

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Sam Horn
Okay. Someone has made a mistake, someone has dropped the ball, right? Isn’t it true that that word should is right there on the tip of our tongue, “You should’ve been more careful,” “You should’ve brought that up in the staff meeting,” “You should’ve asked George; he’s handled that before,” and yet the word should comes across as a critique. People will resent us even if what we’re saying is right. So, over on the left, put mistake. The word should punishes the past. No one can undo the past. They will resent us even if what we’re saying is right.

Over on the right, we’re going to shape behavior instead of should it. And with these words, “Next time…” “From now on…” “In the future…” Because if we say “From now on, if you have questions, please bring them up in the staff meeting because other people are probably wondering the same thing.” “In the future, if that happens, if you could…” Do you see how we’re being a coach instead of a critic? We’re shaping behavior instead of shaming it, and people are learning from their mistakes instead of losing face over their mistakes.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, absolutely. Okay.

Sam Horn
Want more? Want more?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s good. Well, so I guess I’m thinking about, so these are great best practices in terms of when you’re just engaging, you’re collaborating, you’re talking to folks, and you’ve got your communication flowing, so great choices in terms of words to lose and words to use. I’m thinking now, let’s say the listener finds themselves in the victim seat, or they are the ones being blamed, they are the ones people are finding fault with, they’re getting some criticism that might even seem undue bully-esque, just some meanies. How do you recommend we deal with the emotional stuff there and just sort of find our way forward effectively?

Sam Horn
Well, a lot of people find themselves in this situation these days, Pete, with COVID, there’s a lot of things happening. We have to enforce policies we don’t agree with, or we need to tell someone there’s nothing we can do, or we’re thinking, “Hey, it’s not my fault.” Guess what? Over on the left, put the words “There’s nothing…” or “It’s not my fault.” Because if something goes wrong, and people are blaming us and we’re saying, “Hey, not my fault. Nothing I can do. No way I can change it,” do you feel that people are concluding we don’t care?

So, over on the right, put “There’s something…” instead of “There’s nothing…” and I’m really going to give you one of my favorite examples of this. My Aunt Kaye is 80 years old and she still volunteers five days a week to go to our local hospital and to work from the 4:00 to 8:00 shift. So, I’ve said, “What has it been like these last few months with COVID?” And she said, “Sam, it’s so stressful because we have a policy with only one visitor per patient, and you can imagine these people, I’m the point of contact, they’re taking all their anger out on me.” And I said, “Well, what’s a specific example?” And she said, “Last week, a woman came rushing in. She held up her phone and she said, ‘My daughter just texted. She’s in ER. I need to see her.’”

And so, Aunt Kaye called the ER and the nurse said somebody’s already with the daughter. The mom could not get in to see her. So, the mother, understandably, goes ballistic and is taking all that anger out at Aunt Kaye. Now, she could’ve said, “Hey, I’m not the one who did the policy. Don’t blame me.” Instead, she said, “Let me see if there’s something…” instead of “There’s nothing…” “…that we can do.” She called and she asked the ER nurse, “Who is with the daughter?” It was the Uber driver who had brought her in from the accident. Well, they explained the situation to the Uber driver, thanked him, he left, the mom got in to see the daughter, and that is a shift in mentality.

You use that word victim, and if we’re being blamed for something that’s not our fault, the more we think, “Hey, this isn’t fair. Don’t blame me,” the angrier we get at them and we perpetuate that. Instead, if we say, “This won’t help. Let’s focus on what we can do. There’s something we can figure out,” it shifts the whole situation.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. And that’s a great point in terms of like even if it is you are absolutely the victim, no joke, an injustice has occurred, you are suffering unjustly due to the hostile aggression of another, like a full-blown victim-work situation in which someone has said something wildly inappropriate at you, it’s true that if you continue to reflect on the fact that you have suffered an injustice, it’s going to make you angrier.

And by shifting your attention elsewhere, you can make some things happen. And, I guess, of course, there’s traumas and there’s crimes and there’s gradations here that kind of require some different responses but, yeah, that’s a good thought in terms of I felt that as well. If I fixate on the fact that I am experiencing injustice, I just get really mad and it usually doesn’t propel me into a helpful place, in my own experience.

Sam Horn
You know, Pete, what you’re referring to is “Why should we? Why should we take responsibility to try and be the one to solve this, or to try and make this better?” And let’s use another real-life example. I was interviewing a principal recently who…and you can imagine, a principal these days, faculties are upset, students are upset, parents are upset, the school board is on them, right? It’s a really hard job these days.

And I asked her a situation where she was able, when someone was piling on her unfairly, how she had the presence of mind, in pressure like that, to be resourceful instead of resentful? And so, she has a situation where there is a young man with a spinal injury, and his grandmother is taking care of him, and yet they had a classroom on the third floor for third grade, and this young man, and she had to tell the grandmother that he could not come to school because the elevator wasn’t working and there wasn’t an escape plan for him.

She spent three months dealing with the fire department, trying to figure out how to hack this. The grandmother is calling her almost on a daily basis, saying, “I’m exhausted. I can’t take care of this young man 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.” Now, her heart is going out to this grandmother. Her heart is going out to this young man. She’s trying everything she can to resolve this and, finally, she had this epiphany. Do you know what she did, Pete?

Pete Mockaitis
Tell me.

Sam Horn
She moved the third-grade classroom on the third floor down to the bottom floor, and fixed the whole situation. Now, by the way, I’m not being a Pollyanna because I’m not saying, “Everything was perfect. Everything went well.” The teacher of that third-grade class said, “Now, I’m not going to be with my peers,” and that is true. It was not a perfect solution. And she asked the teacher, “Who do we serve? We serve the students, right?”

And it served the students to be able to have their third-grade classroom on the first floor so that this young man could attend, so that they also served the parent, and it was something that was, in the circumstances, the best decision. And, once again, it came from this mentality of “If I put my mind to it, if I keep being proactive instead of reactive, I will come up with a rising-tide solution, and it doesn’t just serve me. It’s going to serve the people I’m serving. And it may not be perfect, it’s better than what we’ve got.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, absolutely. And those sorts of creative ideas, I’ve discovered and I think there’s some good neuroscience behind this as well, don’t tend to come when you’re angry and riled up and ready to fight. They more so tend to come when I feel kind of relaxed, I’ve got some space to chew on things, to let my brain kind of dance and play around and land somewhere because it’s natural to say, “Well, hey, the third-grade classroom, this is just where it is. That’s how it’s always been. That’s how the school is set up,” and then it does take a little bit of a shift to say, “Oh, but I suppose we could swap it because why not?” I think that’s a great example right there.

Sam Horn
So, let’s go to something you’re talking about, this anger we have. And, by the way, Pete, this is why I juxtapose things, that’s why we put a column on the left of something has gone wrong, and Elvis Presly, of all people, has a great quote about this. Do you know what he said?

Pete Mockaitis
“I’m all shook up.”

Sam Horn
He said that, too. He said, “When things go wrong, don’t go with them.”

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Sam Horn
Just see, on the left, when things go wrong, we can find fault, we can tell them it’s not our fault, and it will not help. So, we shift over to the right, to these responses instead of reactions. Here’s one of my favorite examples. You were talking about angry. I often close my Tongue Fu programs with this quote from Eleanor Roosevelt. She said, “No one can make us feel inferior without our consent.” And I’ve adapted that, with credit to her, to say no one can make us angry without our consent.

And there was a gruff construction boss, and he stood up, and he said, “Sam, you’re pulling a Pollyanna with this one.” He said, “You have no idea of the kind of people I deal with.” He said, “Do you mean if someone’s yelling in my face, that’s not supposed to make me mad?” And there was a woman who stood up and she said, “I’m a surgical nurse.” She said, “I agree with this because I’ve lived through it.” She said, “I deal with a neurosurgeon who’s the most abrasive individual I have ever met.” She said, “He is a brilliant physician, he has zip people skills.” She said, “Last year, I was a fraction of a second late handing him an instrument in surgery, he berated me in front of my peers. He humiliated me in front of that team.” She said, “It took all my professionalism just to continue with the operation and not walk out.”

She said, “When I was driving home, I got so mad at him. I sat down at the dinner table, I told my husband what happened, I said, ‘Oh, that doctor makes me mad.’” She said, “My husband had heard this before. He said, ‘Judy, what time is it?’” She said, “It’s 7:00 o’clock.” He said, “What time did this happen?” And she said, “9:00 o’clock this morning.” He said, “Judy, is it the doctor who’s making you mad?” And he got up and left the table. And she said, “I sat there and I thought about it, and I realized it wasn’t the doctor who was making me mad. The doctor wasn’t even in the room.”

She said, “I was the one who had given him a ride home in my car.” She said, “I was the one who set him a place at my dinner table.” She said, “I decided right there and then that never again was that doctor welcome in my home or in my head. And when I left the hospital, I was leaving him there, and never again was I giving him the power to poison my personal life.”

And so, I’m asking all our listeners, Pete, who do we take home with us? Who do we give a ride to in our car? Who do set a place for at our dinner table? And can we promise ourselves that we will leave that person at work? We will no longer give them the power to poison that precious personal time with our loved ones at home.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Sam, that is inspiring and wise, and you’re really like, “Well, heck, yeah, I should not allow that person to co-op my brain for that length of time. That’s just silliness.” So, I think that that really installs some conviction in our hearts, like, “Yeah, I’m not going to let that happen anymore.” That being said, when the rubber meets the road and you’re in the heat of battle, it can be sometimes easier said than done when ruminations start to crop up. How do you recommend we put the kibosh on them?

Sam Horn
Oh, Pete, I love that question. That’s the perfect follow-up question, as I agree with you in theory, “How do I do it in practice?” I wrote a book called ConZentrate. Stephen Covey said it was the best book he ever saw on focus. And what you just brought up, we cannot not think about something, right? If we tell our kids, “Don’t run around the pool,” what are they going to do? If I say I’m not going to get mad, what are we going to do? If we’re an athlete, and we say don’t double-fault or don’t drop the ball, what are we going to do?

You are right. Instead of saying, “I’m not going to let that person make me mad. I’m not going to take that person home with me.” Over on the left is what we don’t want. Over on the right is what we do want, so it’s called catch and correct. As soon as we become aware, whether we are telling ourselves what we don’t want, “You better not be late again,” “Don’t forget,” “Stop hitting your sister,” “Don’t get angry,” that’s over on the left.

No, switch over to the right. What do you want? Well, you want to stay calm. You want to focus on what’s right in your world. You want to look at this person across the table as if, for the first or last time, so that you see them and you are present to them instead of preoccupied with what happened ten years before.

We want to tell our kids, “Give your sister space, a hula hoop of space,” which is something to do instead of stop hitting your sister. We want to say, “Be five minutes early,” instead of, “Don’t be late.” It’s, “Remember to tell your boss this when you walk in in the morning,” instead of, “Don’t forget.” So, you are right, is that we fill our mind with words and language and images of what we do want instead of telling ourselves what we don’t.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s handy. And so then, I imagine in the nasty surgeon example, you have an intentionality associated with, “This is how I’m going to be, do, feel, conduct myself.”

And by visualizing that and prepping it in advance, you’re more likely to remember, “Oh, that jerk, I want to kill him. Oh, wait a sec, okay, okay. I’m going to be like calm or joyful or curious,” fill in the blank, and that’s how we’re going to roll as opposed to fixating on, “Oh, don’t imagine stabbing him with a scalpel. Don’t imagine cutting his finger off,” whatever. Getting really violent here in the surgery room.

Sam Horn
And, Pete, see, I’m a pragmatist as well. So, if people are thinking, “Oh, this is just woo-woo Pollyanna stuff. What if this person is really egregious? What if what they’re doing, I’m just supposed to ignore it?” So, here is the bottom-line action we can take as well. There’s the mindset and there’s also then the mechanics of a pragmatic action.

When we’re not happy with a situation, there’s three things we can do. We change the other person, we can change the situation, we can change ourselves. So, we jump to number three – changing ourselves. Let’s look at the first two.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, how do you do that?

Sam Horn
Okay. Here is the good news. There is strength in numbers. And so, changing the other person, in many industries these days, it used to be that if this neurosurgeon was a rainmaker, even if the nurses were complaining, administrators didn’t care because this neurosurgeon was famous and a rainmaker. Now, there’s strength in numbers. And if you document the behavior, if you have witnesses to the behavior, if you report objectively with the Ws: what was said, when was this said, what was the impact of what was said; and is reported to HR, they are required to act on documented reports of egregious behavior that is not subjective, “I didn’t like what this person said.”

Pete Mockaitis
“He was rude. I was bullied.” That’s a little bit subject to interpretation as oppose to, “He said, ‘You are a moron and I hate you.’” Okay, that’s a direct quote.

Sam Horn
Remember action is it. And that’s why what you just said, Pete, about it needs to be the dialogue. Not like, “He was really offensive.” HR can’t do anything with that or a business owner can’t do anything with that. When you quote what someone has said, when you put the time that it happened, not yesterday, “No, it happened at 9:17 right in the middle of this,” the more objective evidence of this unacceptable behavior, the more actionable it is.

So, we can maybe change the other person, we can change a situation. Now, you maybe think, “Well, I don’t want to switch to another department,” or, “I’ve got three more years in this government job. I’m not going to retire or something like that.” So, sometimes though we can change the situation and the good news is, even if we can’t change the person or can’t change a situation, even if you decide, “That person is a jerk. I’ve done everything I can. No one’s taking responsibility and I don’t want to quit. I don’t want to leave. I need this,” then that third act is always an option and we change ourselves.

We could almost put like a plastic bubble around this. And whatever that person says just bounces harmlessly off us. It just bounces off it. It never gets under our skin. It never invades us so that we’re still thinking about it a day or a week or a month later.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thank you. And we talked about changing the other person, and one pathway is the, okay, documentation, building a case, HR, a business owner, senior executive, kind of direct challenge in that way. Do you have any suggestions in terms of how one might do this delicate, diplomatic dance associated with, “Hey, boss, you know, when you did this, I didn’t like that”? Any thoughts for how to have that conversation like when and how and if?

Sam Horn
Okay. See, now, we’re going to move into bully territory here because I believe 95% of people care what’s fair. I believe 95% of people have a conscience. They actually want to cooperate. They want a win-win. Guess what? Five percenters, they don’t want a win-win; they want to win. They don’t want to cooperate; they want to control. They don’t follow the rules; they break the rules because they know that it’s going to get them what they want.

So, if we are dealing with someone at work and this person is a five percenter, and that means they have a pattern of violating people’s rights, of not playing by the rules, it’s not a one-time they’re now having a bad day. It’s like they do it all the time on purpose. I’m going to say something that flies in the face of everything you’ve heard. Ready?

Pete Mockaitis
I’m ready.

Sam Horn
Do not use the word “I” because haven’t we been taught, Pete, that we’re supposed to say, “I don’t think that’s fair,” “I don’t like to be spoken to in that tone of voice”? Guess what? Bullies don’t care what’s fair. They don’t have a conscience. They’re actually going to think, “Good. I’m glad it’s bothering you. It was supposed to bother you.”

I am going to suggest we use the word “you,” “You back off,” “You! Enough!” “You, speak to me with respect.” So, here are just a variety of ways to do that. Say, there’s somebody that’s handsy on the job, and this person is in your space. And now, Pete, this isn’t an abstract concept. We have a hula hoop of space. Right now, people, put your hand out, stretch out in front of you, stretch out the side of you, stretch out behind you. That’s three feet.

We have our physical space, and animals know, “You don’t get in my space,” right? It’s like you get in my face or in my space, we have the right to back someone off, which is why if someone has a habit of getting in your face or in your space, number one, stand up. Because, often, they do that when we’re sitting down because they’re in the dominant position, we’re in the submissive position, right?

When we stand up, what we are letting them know is not only are we leveling the playing ground, we are saying, “I won’t take this sitting down. I will stand up for myself.” We haven’t said a word. We’ve changed the power dynamic of, “I am dominating you. I am towering over you. You are sitting and cowering and submissive.”

So, you stand up, number one. Like, someone puts their hand on you or something like that. You look at their hand, you look at them. You look at your hand, you look at them. Often you don’t have to say a word. Do you see how though you are calling them on their behavior? You are keeping the attention where it deserves, which is what they’re doing that is out of line. They have crossed the line and you are drawing the line.

And another part of that, once again, is the word “you.” It’s just to say, “You. Keep that to yourself,” “You. That’s enough. That’s the last time you say that to me.” And when we say it standing tall with our shoulders up and back, instead of our shoulders crunched up like this, which is the weak submissive position, then essentially what we’re saying is that we are letting that person know, “That doesn’t work here anymore.”

Pete Mockaitis
All right, intriguing. So, if we diagnose that we’ve got a 5% straight up bully without a conscience, and I guess we’d assessed that, as you mentioned, by seeing a track record of violating people’s rights and just not giving a hoot about it repeatedly, then we completely flip the script and change the rulebook that we’re following instead of that sharing how it made you feel and your concerns and why that’s important because they don’t care about any of that, but rather, just straight up, establishing, “This is the boundary.”

Sam Horn
And if you would like, Pete, I’ve got a quiz, it’s a bully quiz, and there are ten behaviors. And many people, they don’t even use the word bully, and they don’t understand that an 8-year old can be a bully, an 80-year old can be a bully. And the lights that go on when you say, “Yes, this person, I talk on eggshells around this person because they’re so volatile, I never know what he’s going to say,” “Yes, they’re Jekyll and Hyde. They’re charming one moment, they’re cruel the next,” “Yes, they have to control every decision and anyone who dares to say something else, they’re going to railroad that person.”

So, if you would like, I’ll send that to you, you can make it available to your listeners, and if you take that quiz, and this person you’re dealing with does many of these behaviors most of the time, then it requires a whole different set of skills because, once again, appealing to their sense of fair play, appealing to their good nature or their conscience, they will never think, “Oh, that wasn’t fair. That wasn’t right. I am so sorry.” They will never self-reflect or self-correct. It will always be someone else’s fault, and that’s how we need to set up and keep the attention on what they’re doing instead of our reaction to it.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thank you. Well, Sam, tell me, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Sam Horn
How about ask another question? I love your get-real, “If I’m in this situation, say something that I actually can do. It’s just not sounding good.” So, one more question from you and I’ll give you a response.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure thing. Is there ever a time in which we should consider just exiting that situation entirely? Like, the bubble isn’t going to cut it. How do we know that that’s just where we are in terms of the hopeless situation?

Sam Horn
I’m just so glad you brought that up. Tennessee Williams said, “Sometimes it is time to leave even when there is no particular place to go.” And in the bully book, toward the end, after all of these pragmatic things that you can do to improve the situation, to stand up and speak up for yourself, etc., if none of that works, then it’s time for us to remove ourselves from the situation and to make sure to not see it as a failure.

One of the reasons I wrote the bully book is because, here I was, the queen of Tongue Fu, which, of course, is based on what Gandhi said about, “Be the change you wish to see,” it doesn’t work with bullies, Pete, because, once again, they’re not trying to act in good conscience. They’re trying to control. So, a good friend said, “You know, Sam, William Blake said that we are all born innocent, and at some point, we will encounter evil. And at that point, we either become embittered and we see the world as a dark place, and it defines and it defeats us, or we become…” Are you ready for two really fantastic words, Pete? “…informed innocence.”

And informed innocence are no longer naïve or idealistic. We understand that evil exists. We understand that there are people out there who will wreak havoc and they will not be responsible for the consequences. And that removing ourselves from the sphere of that individual is not defeat; it is us stepping up on behalf of what we believe, and that is that people treat each other with respect, people act with integrity. And if we have tried everything and this person is not going to change, and the situation isn’t going to change, then I’m going to remove myself from it, and align myself with people who do act in integrity and do behave responsibly because that’s how I believe life is supposed to be.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thank you. Well, now, could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Sam Horn
One is from Arthur Rubinstein, he said, “I have found, if you love life, life will love you back.” Ain’t that wonderful though? And the other is from Katharine Graham of The Washington Post, and she said, “To do what you love and feel that it matters, how could anything be more fun?”

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Sam Horn
I love podcasts. I believe angels whisper to a woman when she walks, and so I walk and I listen to podcasts, and that’s my favorite research. And a quick example of that is…do you ever listen to Jonathan Fields, Good Life Project, by any chance?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I have, yeah.

Sam Horn
Sure. He had Adam Grant on yesterday, a Wharton organization development guy, just came out with a brand-new book called Think Again. And he said something counterintuitive and contrarian which is one of the reasons I try to listen to podcasts, to challenge my thinking. And he said, “We all talk about impostor syndrome and how doubts take us down.” And he said that he believes that impostor syndrome can actually serve us by instead of assuming that we know what is best or that this is the right action, that that questioning process of looking at it again and getting different input actually produces a better result. And I love the contrarian nature of taking something that we all think is bad and twisting and turning it and seeing that it actually can add value.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. And a favorite book?

Sam Horn
I grew up in a small town in southern California, more horses than people, so I read The Black Stallion series by Walter Farley. And I will always be grateful to Walter Farley because he gave me a window on the world, and we had a thousand people on our entire mountain valley, and reading about these international adventures and these exciting horse races, and this young boy who was adventurous and independent really helped me see beyond where I was. And so, The Black Stallion was really pivotal in my life.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite tool, something you use to be awesome at your job?

Sam Horn
I juxtapose everything. People say, “Sam, how does your brain work?” And I believe the quickest way to make a complex idea crystal clear is to put a vertical line down the center of a piece of paper, and on the left is what doesn’t work, and on the right is what does. It’s what sabotages our success, what supports it, what compromises our effectiveness, what contributes, what hurts, what helps.

And if we want support for an idea, if we juxtapose problem and solution, issue and answer, and we make those words alliterative, then we are going to be able to get people on the same page because we will be able to show the shift with this crystal clear, clean, compelling language. And by the time people get to the end of the page, you’re going to say yes.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks; they quote it back to you frequently?

Sam Horn
You know, I gave a TEDx Talk, and I understood that if we want to make a difference over time, it’s got to rhyme. And so, I said if you want to succeed, you must intrigue. And I really believe that our career success depends on our communication skills, and it depends on saying something that is so memorable that people can repeat it and act on it, weeks or months even years after they first heard it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Sam Horn
Well, they’re welcome to go to our website which is real easy to remember, it’s SamHorn.com. And we’ve got three TEDx Talks there. We really try and make it so that if you go there, it’s not just about my products and services, it’s about, “Boy, here’s a post on how I can be repeatable and re-tweetable. Here’s a post on that quiz on how I can deal with bullies. Boy, here’s those words to lose, words to use so that I can think on my feet and handle challenging people in the moment instead of thinking of the perfect response on the way home.”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, this has been a hoot. Sam, thank you for bringing the goods and best of luck in your continued communication adventures.

Sam Horn
Thanks so much. I enjoyed it. I hope people found this inspiring and insightful and useful, Pete.

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