eww

eww...verbal diarrhea is so not cool (seriously dude, it's not a good look)

I should start this post by coming clean. I am so guilty of this that my picture should probably be next to the definition in Webster's Dictionary. 

It is because of the fact that I am basically an expert in this that I can give advice on why it is just not cool. First, let me explain. Verbal diarrhea sounds pretty gross. It is supposed to. You have experienced it before I'm sure. It is when someone feels they have to speak about everything and they just keep talking and adding so much information that it causes a mental overload in the people who are listening. Once they are done talking, you actually feel like they just threw up (their words) all over you and now you want to take a shower because you just feel gross.

One of my motto's has always been to stand up, speak up; stand out, speak out. so you can imagine why this one might be a struggle for me. In the workplace there are generally three types of people in a conference room.

  • the person who diligently takes notes and nods their head from time to time but says very little

  • the person who participates sparingly and calculated, waiting first for what the boss and everyone is going to say

  • then there are the people that have to speak so bad that they sometimes have to sit on their hands to stop themselves from jumping in

that's me

yes I like to talk and yes I have a perspective and opinion and I suppose I just feel like if I don't say anything nobody will know that. This by the way is perfectly normal and acceptable. When it gets to be too much is when it starts to backfire against you. I am also very fond of the saying

You don't have to tell everyone, everything.

I am fond of it because it is something I need to be reminded of constantly. When you tell everyone everything some interesting stuff starts to come to the surface

  • you start to become the white noise in the room

  • they stop thinking what you have to say is important or valuable to the discussion because you couldn't possibly have an opinion on everything and be right

  • people start to get antagonistic just to see if they can get you rattled

  • it doesn't create a collaborative environment

  • other group members will back up, not wanting to delve in to the discussion that you may be so passionate about for fear of getting cut off

  • you may go one step too far in what you say and kill your whole case

How does a serial verbal up-chucker move past their tendencies? 

Like most things in life, this has a simple solve. Let me explain.  Most people enter a meeting room with some sort of agenda. You want the other people in the room to buy into your idea, appreciate the work you put into something or help you get something off the ground. When you have verbal diarrhea, you come in hot, guns blazing for battle. This is before you even know if a battle is necessary, it puts people on edge.

If you prepare for the battle, however, things go differently. Understand what your goals are going to be before you head in to your next meeting, ask yourself one or more of the following questions:

have i eaten yet?

I know you're laughing at this but it's like the Snickers commercial says; "you're not yourself when you're hungry". If you're going to get people to collaborate with you then you need to be on your A game, so get something in your belly. Besides, food is amazing so why wouldn't you want to be eating all the time? 

It is also good to be well hydrated and have used the restroom, this might take a while.


who do i expect will be in the room & who do i expect will object to what i am bringing to the table?

This is sort of a "know your allies", "know your enemies" kind of approach. There is nothing worse than going to battle in the boardroom and watching someone switch sides in the middle. It throws you off you game and is often difficult to recover from so know who you are going up against. Know their arguments, position and where they are vulnerable or open to suggestion.


what is your point? what is your ultimate takeaway?

the things that almost always accompanies verbal diarrhea is panic, fear, a bad feeling in your stomach that you aren't being heard or not being understood. What if that is your own fault? What if you didn't come in with a clear idea and path to explain your position? You think that you are prepared but are you really? I will admit, I am an extremely passionate person. I will fight to the death for what I believe in with high emotions and vigor. That being said I have been in situations where someone came back with some good counterpoints and I was there with my mouth open and nothing coming out because they stumped me. I under estimated the objections to what I was bringing to the table and then wasn't prepared to argue against them. Rookie Mistake.

I guess what I am really trying to say here in WAY TOO MANY WORDS...(hard habit to break), is be aware and keep the following in mind...

  • be aware of your surroundings

  • know who you are going after

  • know what you really want to happen

  • know when you have lost your audience

  • know that sometimes silence is best

I realize I am trying to blog for the masses, but I will readily admit that this one is for me. Everyone has a journey and if you're lucky it takes a long time to get to the end. Make sure you are enjoying the view and course correcting along the way.

a lil' swag goes a long way ... just ask Kanye

Yesterday I started a 5 day series that I am calling "5 in 5"  each day this week I will cover a different hurdle and tips for clearing them as we start climbing those ladders so that we can shatter those glass ceilings. It's a lot of work, so let's get started. First, a reminder of the topics the topics...

  • Sorry not sorry (Posted Monday August 3, 2015)
    • I"m here for a reason, get over it
  • A lil' swag goes a long way
    • Just ask Kanye
  • Eww, verbal diarrhea is so not cool
    • Seriously, dude, it's not a good look
  • I got shot gun, I called it
    • (and other ridiculous game you should learn to play)
  • Let em' hear you roar
    • (it's okay, we promise)

Today, we talk SWAG. Not the free stuff brands give out to convince you to like their product. I am talking about real swagger here. 

graceful confidence

First, a definition. Swagger is a hip-hop term that you are probably farmiliar with but I am putting a bit of a spin on my definition. You will notice I defined it as "graceful confidence". I did this because when we are talking workplace, hustle and purpose, there has to be a certain grace to your actions. You have to balance between being cocky, self assured, confident and a total jerk. If I had a visual for this it would be Sammy Davis Jr. and Gregory Hines. If you do not know who they are, shame on you.  They were both dancers, singers and actors who moved with a quiet, distinguished and definitely graceful confidence. There was something about it that was just.....well...

cool with out even knowing it. Don't believe me? Watch for yourself.

Ok, so what do tap dancers have to do with swag and what does swag have to do with the workplace?

It's simple, every single thing in the workplace comes down to one thing... confidence. With out it, you aren't going very far. But if you are a woman the rules are a bit different. 

There are studies out there that show identical resume's being looked over by people. The only difference was the name on the top of the resume, for example John vs. Jennifer. The men were always evaluated much more favorably than the women regardless of the gender of the person doing the evaluation. Studies range by occupation and industry but the result are startlingy similar.  All of the things that people use to describe men as competent and exception at work are the same traits that are used to say the women are not.

Negative words are more often used to describe a woman's performance. In many cases, the woman can't win. If she acts "like one of the guys" she is deemed unpleasant, aggressive, bossy etc. If she acts "like one of the girls" she is emotional, unstable, fickle. Talk about playing a game with a loaded deck.

I ran into the situation more than once during my career. I can pull out review after review that use the following adjectives to describe me:

  • too passionate
  • outspoken
  • aggressive
  • need to develop your leadership skills more
  • emotional
  • too invested in the job
  • bitchy or condescending, bossy, 
  • rub some people the wrong way
  • doing too much, other people are feeling "dwarfed" (yes that is a real quote)
  • "maybe take it down just one notch"

Sadly, this list could go on. It is this same list however that would have co-workers come to me for advice and bosses asking me to take lead, be an example and to grab the bull by the horns and get things done. All of my reviews in my career have been marked with an "exceeds expectations" and full raises/bonuses, you name it but the negative language you see above was also in all of them.

How do we then deal with this catch 22? I can only speak from my own personal experience and so I will share with you what I have experienced.

When all of this negative language is presented to you, find out what they would suggest you do to change it for the better. Ask you bosses questions. Questions and insight are powerful weapons. Use them to navigate the "aggression" which I call "confidence" to your advantage.

Don't just ask any questions though. Ask them tough question that require your superiors to have just as much responsibility for your success as you have. Ask what you can do. Ask for examples of when what you did or said could be perceived negative. You will start to see some patterns.

I noticed that the things they were complaining about were also the things they liked in other employees. So I did the comparison game. Now I do no normally recommend this but in this instance it made sense.

Seek out people in your organization that you admire, people who are hard working, have great reputations for getting things done and being effective leaders. Ask all of these people to coffee or lunch or even drinks. Now ask them questions as well.

When I did this I asked both the women and men the same questions.

What do you struggle with in the workplace if anything regarding your gender?

Is it hard to work in an office full of people of the opposite gender?

Got any tips for how to navigate the corporate structure with regards to these things?

When the women responded I started to see similarities. When I asked the men the same question I got a lot of blank and/or confused stairs and a question in return "I'm not sure I understand what you mean."

This was an interesting experiment and one I highly recommend. Next pull your bosses aside and ask some simple questions. Ask them to compare you to a male counterpart. GASP! right? Ask the following:

  • Am I more or less passionate than him?
  • Am I more of less aggressive than him?
  • Is my work better or worse than his?

When asked these questions, every single manager I asked answered "no" or in some instances "more and better". Well, that's not confusing at all. It's like the boys who says he likes you one day, then pulls on your pigtails the next day.

picture borrowed from http://sorryiamnotsorry.com/2012/06/27/taking-the-mystery-out-of-romance-how-to-tell-if-he-likes-you/

The cherry on top for me was the question below:

have you ever heard anyone in leadership use these same words to describe him?

do they call him a bitch?

Do they say he is bossy?

do they tell him to take it down a notch?

Blank stares, sit back in chairs, shadow of understanding comes across faces followed by a frantic brain scan to figure out what to say were typically the responses I received.

This is a long way to say that having the confidence to ask the questions and speak up when something isn't right is swag. It is graceful confidence because it is trying to determine where and if improvements truly need to be made. It puts the focus on the work and not the gender. 

I can not necessarily say after this happened, I no longer felt a gender bias at work. If that were the case, it would have been once boss I spoke to instead of multiple. However, I did notice in all cases, a different level of respect from those particular managers. In one case, my next review raved about all of the changes I had made to become a really "solid leader" of the team and that I had really taken the criticism to heart and made the necessary changes to go further in my career.

I swear to you, I changed nothing except the fact that I asked those questions. 


Sometimes we have to get people to see us in another light and sometimes you have to work your way around the path to get to the final destination. Do whatever works for you but don't shy away, get quiet and sit down in the corner. We gain nothing from shrinking into the background. Sometimes, you gotta get a little Kanye West up in the place (in the most respectful way possible of course.) So turn up your collar, put on those high heels (as my friend Suzanne just emailed me) and get your swagger on.

To the cool kids, hipsters and people in the hip-hop game, thanks for letting me borrow your slang for this. I realize I may not be the intended demographic for such language but it works and it resonated with me, so again ... no apologies, just thanks.


Have you ever got all Yeezy on a situation at work? Tell me about in the comments below or on social media using the hashtags

  • #kanyemademedoitdawne
  • #dawnehanksdotcom

Tomorrow we continue the series and just to prepare you, things may sound a little gross because we are talking about verbal diarrhea. I know, as Jimmy Fallon would say ...  EWW.