Category Archives: Articles and Interviews

Service with a Snarl

Service with a Snarl

Customer Outrage is Justified

by Catherine Rahal

Shelle Rose Charvet says there’s a crisis in customer service.
Judging in part from the mail I received in response to my columns on bank and cable company services, she’s hit the nail squarely on the head.

Rose Charvet is an expert in below-conscious communication: the factors that, outside of their awareness, make people do or not do things. Her company, Success Strategies, focuses on helping people communicate better, primarily in business.

According to Rose Charvet, two observations apply to corporate customer service.
First, everything you do affects the emotional state of your customer. Second, everything you do determines what the customer believes about your organization.

Rose Charvet says corporations tend to work from their own perspective and don’t see what it is like to be a customer.

I guess we need to get a bank employee to try opening a chequing account in the same way the rest of us have to do it.

The Customer Is Bothering Me, Rose Charvet’s book in progress, due to come out next year, will take corporations to task and offer them suggestions on how to improve. The chapter on Customer Outrage says customers have a reason to be angry.

Trying to get someone to make a change, particularly in large institutions, is nearly impossible, because such organizations rarely listen to their front-line employees, the ones customers get to see. How often have you heard, “I wish I could help. You’ll have to write to head office”?

From the consumer’s side, Rose Charvet says a major shift began to take place in the mid-1990’s and is in full swing today.

We customers are strapped for time; a service glitch can throw off a tight schedule for a day or more – not to mention what it does to one’s frame of mind.

As a result, we are more willing to vote with our feet now.

Think about it. Would you have threatened your mortgage lender with defection over half a point on your rate 15 years ago? Today, we do it without a second thought.

Until customer care actually provides effective service as the rule rather than the exception, Rose Charvet says we can make our lives easier on the consumer battlefield by choosing our words carefully.

Many customer-service reps are programmed to particular procedures and don’t seem able to function if it isn’t in their computer. Never say to such a person, “Can we find a way around this?” or “Is it possible to do this?” Instead, feed into the rep’s programming and ask: “What is the procedure to do this?”

Rose Charvet’s web site,, explains her thinking. At, you’ll find a place to contribute your own customer-service stories (good and bad) to her book.

You’ll also find a wonderful Customer Talkback Sheet to download. It’s a little slip of paper that rates the service you receive from No. 8 – “made an incredible difference to me” – down to No. 1 – “sullen and morose.” Print it out, circle the appropriate rating and don’t be shy to hand it out.

I’ll be sending my first No. 8 to, a Montreal computer books and software store that offers excellent service in-store, by phone and on-line.

I don’t need to tell you who’ll get a No. 1.

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The Right Moment to Close the Sale – Shelle Rose Charvet

The Right Moment to Close the Sale – Shelle Rose Charvet

Jamie was listening patiently to his potential customer. George had said what he was looking for, why he wanted it and what would happen if he didn’t solve the problem soon. Jamie was eager to close the deal but couldn’t tell if now was the time to close the sale.

Like Jamie, many sales people know there is a moment when people are ready to buy. They just don’t quite know how to identify when to close the sale. Often it is because they’re listening for the clue, not watching for it. The tip off is more frequently in the client’s body language than in what he or she is saying.

Sales people often miss the tell-tale signs of when to close the sale because they haven’t set up the situation correctly at the beginning of the interview.

Want more sales tips and techniques to increase sales?  CLICK HERE

Sales is the art of helping people make a purchase, rather than selling something. If sales people operate from this principle, they adapt their communication style to that of their prospective client and gather crucial information along the way.

When a client is being visited for the first time, they should be asked about the last time they made a similar purchase. Listen to the answer and pay attention to their body language – facial expressions, gestures, posture and voice tone.

The next question is key: “When you decided to buy that time, (pause) what made you buy that one?”

Notice the changes in the non-verbal behavior as they answer because the second question takes the client back to the previous moment of decision. Does the customer smile, turn a little red, make bigger gestures? These are the signs that indicate the client is ready to buy.

After verifying what the client wants and why, he or she can be presented with an appropriate solution. But when is the right moment to close the sale? Summarize the benefits of the proposition, demonstrating how it can meet the client’s criteria. Look at them carefully while talking. If the non verbals are the same as when they answered the second question above, they are ready to purchase.

Don’t see the signs? Don’t panic, it simply means they are not ready yet. Ask the client what else she needs to make a decision. That’s the way to determine the missing pieces and improve the proposal on the spot. Again, summarize the benefits of the offering and check the body language. If the right signs are there, go ahead and ask for the decision.

The fact that the client was not pressured to buy when they weren’t ready is a sign of attentiveness to his or her needs. Most people appreciate the consideration.

Marketing Tips to Ponder on Route to the Next Sale:

  • Preparation pays
  • Remember to ask yourself: “What’s in it for them?”
  • Have clear objectives
  • Have pricing strategy
  • Brief team before a presentation; include a message on manners
  • Select appropriate clothing colours; red is aggressive, blue is dominant
  • Assess whether the other person is sociable or factual.
  • Present accordingly
  • Be personable
  • Make your advantages easy to understand
  • Don’t be everything to everyone
  • Don’t sell; help people buy
  • Shift the risk to yourself and you will profit
  • To be heard, lower your voice
  • After a contract is signed, give the pen to the buyer
  • Email “Thank you.”
  • Always leave with a plan of action, even if it is, “I will call in six months.”
  • Reward your lead generators
  • Work for referrals
  • Partner with other companies reaching your market

Top Sales Questions –  Shelle’s Top Tips

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Words that Work

Words that Work

Despite sea change in customer attitudes, companies are still talking down to their clientele.  All it takes is a subtle shift in your marketing language to produce noticeable results

by Shelle Rose Charvet / February 12, 2004

There’s an old joke about Canadians:  How do you get 25 Canadians out of a swimming pool?  Tell them to get out of the pool.

When it comes to sales, those days are over.  A shift in customer attitude over the past two decades means that now, more than ever, customers have switched from needing external direction to deciding for themselves whether or not to buy a product.  They treat the sales pitch as grist for the mill, which they compare to other offers on the table.

In other words, they’ve gone from compliant to resistant – they no longer want to be told what to do.  But while many companies understand this shift on an intuitive level, they have yet to take the right tone with their customers.

Firms that invest in uncovering exactly what makes a customer buy have had great success.  They use the information to create their branding, design advertising compaigns and to train their employees on the exact language to use (or avoid) with customers – and they report astonishing results.  Here’s how you can get in on the action.

Rethink your marketing message

The shift in consumer attitudes means you need to change how you address your customers.  Some companies are still touting themselves as “the best” or “the right choice.”  Discount fashion retailer Winners’ slogan is “You should go.”  These firms essentially tell customers what to think and what to do, which is no longer an effective strategy.

To test this out, notice how you respond when told what to do.  What’s your reaction when you’re presented with unsubstantiated claims?  Don’t you scoff when large corporations insist how much they care about you through their TV advertisements?  When you enter a retail environment, doesn’t it raise your dander when you are told to go to another store to get an item that’s in the retailer’s catalogue and should therefore be available at all stores?
Have a good look at your marketing materials and look for examples of commanding and suggestive language.

Tweak your sales approach

Once you incorporate the right language in your advertising, your next step is to properly train your staff.  Otherwise, you risk raising and then dashing your customers’ expectations.

Listen to your salespeople as they advise customers.  Do they make suggestions or assertions?  Ask them to try out the following kinds of phrases with your customers and notice the response:

  • “Here’s some information to consider …”
  • “Only you can decide …”
  • “Why commit before you know?  Give us a try and judge for yourself.”

There is a world of difference between “This is the best option for you,” and “Here’s what I suggest for your situation.”  The first is a statement of fact and implicitly issues a command to the customer, while the second is a suggestion to consider.

The challenge, of course, is getting your sales staff to follow your instructions to use suggestive rather than command language.  You may wish to use suggestive language when explaining what you want.

Customers’ attitudes are changing in many ways, and this shift from being externally motivated to buy to making the decision internally is just one of them.  But even if you only address this one change, your customers will notice and appreciate the difference in approach.  Of course, there’s only one way to know for sure – try it yourself.

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The Fruits of Wrath

The Fruits of Wrath

Believe it or not, angry customers represent your highest revenue potential.  Here’s how to win their hearts.

by Shelle Rose Charvet / April 16, 2004

Unless your company is perfect, lucky or both, you and your staff have been confronted by angry customers who issue threats, demand refunds or expect all the make-goods under the sun.  Front-line customer service representatives dread angry customers, and understandably so – too often they’re not equipped to deal with the problem.  But business managers should relish the opportunity to engage even the most furious clientele.  It may sound counter-intuitive, but there is a higher potential for increased business and loyalty when the customer is angry than at any other moment in the sales and service process.  That’s because the customer will be enormously impressed if you handle the situation to his or her satisfaction.

The trick is cutting through the rage to find the solution.  Whether you’re a CEO or a CSR, follow these four steps to quell the customer’s wrath.

1. Help them vent.

When someone is upset, that is all they can think about.  If you don’t recognize and deal with the emotion first, nothing else you can do will have an effect.

Traditionally, staff are trained to stay calm and listen to what the customer has to say.  But when you stay calm, the customer is likely to believe that this incident is something that happens all the time; that you know there is a persistent problem and you’re not trying to fix it.

Instead, get upset on behalf of your customer!  Demonstrate shock, horror and dismay.  Raise your voice to match the client’s tone, treat the situation as an emergency and echo the customer’s key words.  For example:  “You’ve been billed for the same item twice?  And no one has called you back for three days?” This drives home the impression that this particular problem is the exception rather than the rule.  More important, they’ll see you as their advocate; their confidence in your desire and ability to solve the problem will rise, and their anger will subside.

2. Find out what they want.

Once your customer has calmed down and you fully understand the situation from his point of view, it’s time to uncover what he wants or needs.

But tread carefully.  A statement like “So, what do you want me to do?” can throw the customer back into a negative, accusatory mindset.  Instead, offer a couple of options and ask which would best meet his needs.  For example:  “So that we don’t waste any more of your time, I suggest two options: either we credit your account right away or apply this against the purchase you are making today.  Which is best for you?”

3. Offer something special.

You’ve fixed the original problem.  Now’s your chance to rehabilitate your company’s image and to lock in loyalty.  This can be challenging, because while talking to a customer is an ordinary event for many staff, making a complaint is a rare event for most customers.  You have to make the customer feel like this is a special offer for only them.

Naturally, it helps to know what your choices are.  That’s easy when you’re the boss.  However, unless your front-line staff have been equipped with some decision-making power or a list of make-good options, they will have to refer the customer up the management ladder.

When introducing the offer, make it sound like you’re sharing a secret.  For example:  “I shouldn’t really do this, but since you had to call us three times, I’d like to make it up to you by offering you one month free of charge.”

4. Nourish the relationship.

You have just convinced a client that doing business with you is a positive experience, even when problems occur.  Still, your job is not done.  Set up the future by suggesting how similar issues might be avoided down the road (presuming the customer contributed to the problem to begin with).  End the call on a personal note.  “Is there anything else I can help you with right now?” This keeps the customer in a positive frame of mind.

Following these steps is critical when doing business, because it only takes a few short moments to win them back or lose them forever.

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Campaigners Sent Knocking in Tight Races

Campaigners Sent Knocking in Tight Races

Door-to-door approach gains in popularity for one very good reason:  It actually works.
by Gloria Galloway
The Globe and Mail / June 7, 2004

CALEDON, ONT – The slightly built woman folded her arms in front of her chest and stared at Lynn Gibson as he stood on the doorstep of her home in a forested subdivision of Caledon East.

“I am voting Green,” she told him matter-of-factly.  Mr. Gibson, campaign manager for David Tilson, the Conservative candidate in the commuter riding of Dufferin-Caledon, northwest of Toronto, took in the news in stride.

“It’s a protest vote,” the woman explained.  “I have voted Conservative all my life but I am so terrified of Stephen Harper.  I am so ticked off and I am so worried.”

The following night in Bolton, a larger community in the same riding, Gerry Elema strode up the walkway of a modern two-storey home where an elderly man was enjoying the early evening sun.  Mr. Elema handed the man a pamphlet outlining the accomplishments of Liberal incumbent Murray Calder.

“No thank you,” said the man, brushing away the election material.

“I am a dyed-in-the-wool Conservative.  Off my property, you bad Liberal.”

Mr. Elema walked away, grinning.  He’s heard a lot worse during the many elections that he has spent knocking on doors for his Liberal friends.

In the past two decades, many candidates have embraced electronic methods of message delivery such as television ads, recorded telephone solicitations and the Internet.  But experts say door-to-door campaigning is experiencing a renaissance for one reason:  It works.

Donald Green, director of the Institution for Social and Policy Studies at Yale University, has written a book called Get Out the Vote which compares various methods of campaigning.

“Door-to-door, when feasible, is the most cost-effective approach,” he said.
“It tends to have a fairly big impact on the people who are approached, raising their turnout by roughly eight or nine percentage points as opposed to direct mail, which might raise turnout by a half a percentage point.”

Which is why, in these hectic weeks leading up to a federal election, small armies of volunteers are walking the streets of the nation, bringing word of their candidates to an electorate that is largely cynical about politicians and the political process in general.
“No matter what you hear at the door,” said Mr. Elema, “you campaign as if you are one vote behind.”

The race in Dufferin-Caledon is close.  Both candidates are well-known to constituents.  Mr. Calder has held the riding since 1993, but this is traditional Conservative turf and Mr. Tilson, a long-time provincial politician, has a good shot at winning.

So every night and all day every weekend, the door-to-door battle is waged.

Alyson Robb is working with Mr. Gibson on the Tilson campaign.  Ms. Robb, 25, works for an insurance agent all day before hitting the streets.  This is her third political campaign.
“Issues are very important to youth, even though they don’t realize it,” she said, before heading to the next doorstep.

The woman who answers takes a pamphlet but does not say anything to indicate how she will vote.  That’s how it is at most houses.

“Even if they don’t feel the same way you do, they are very polite about it,” Ms. Robb said.
Mr. Elema said that isn’t always the case for him.  “Sometimes you get your ears chewed out,” he said.  “But you go to the next house and there you see a smiling face.”

“I have been bitten by a dog once, but never people.”

He even stops at those homes that have a competitor’s sign on the lawn.  Often there are mixed marriages, where a husband’s political views are not shared by his wife, he explained.

“And very often,” said Mr. Elema, “I’ve heard them say, ‘I don’t know who put that sign there.  Why don’t you replace it with a Liberal sign?'”

Sometimes it’s a tough slog, but Dr. Green says the door-to-door campaign has clear advantages over mail.

“Mail doesn’t signal anything about the importance of voting,” he said.

“I think that the typical recipient realizes that anyone can send direct mail, whereas, when a candidate or a set of volunteers appear at one’s doorstep, I think that everybody thinks ‘Hmm, this must be important enough for them to be out here.'”

The door-to-door campaign fell out of favour when politicians started turning to campaign consultants, who found little financial incentive in that style of electioneering, Dr. Green said.  “The cost of building a infrastructure of door-to-door canvassers in a particular geographic area doesn’t make economic sense for campaign consultants who may not be hired in that area again.”

But in recent years, as the advantages of the personal approach have become recognized, some consulting firms in the United States are actually specializing in the door-to-door approach.

Shelle Rose Charvet is the head of Success Strategies, an Ontario firm that teaches effective communication, and author of Words That Change Minds:  Mastering the Language of Influence.  She too praises the door-to-door method.

“When things remain merely information, they have no impact.  So spam has no impact, basically.  Television commercials barely have impact because they remain in the realm of merely information,” said Ms. Rose Charvet.  “Where you actually get a result in terms of people doing something is when they have a personal experience.  How much more personal can you get when somebody knocks on your door and you open your door to them?”

So today, and every day for the rest of the campaign, people such as Gerry Elema, Lynn Gibson and Alyson Robb will be knocking on doors.

Even though the process is repetitive and the reception not always warm, Ms. Robb said she looks forward to it.

“I love it,” she said, as another large dog bounded toward her.  “To me it’s just energizing.  I’ve found my passion in politics.”

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So Why Did She Stay?

So Why Did She Stay?

“The first time anything violent happened my husband broke my nose and kicked me in the shins.  We had been having dinner at a friend’s place and he had been drinking heavily all night.  At midnight, after many attempts to get my husband to leave with me, I finally gave up, picked up our sleeping baby, put his coat on and said ‘Okay, I’m leaving.’ That’s when he lost it.”

by Shelle Rose Charvet
January, 1996

She is assertive, articulate, professional and warm.  She runs a business, is raising two kids and sets an impressive pace – How could this have happened to her?  Why did she stay?  And how did she get out?

These are some of the questions I asked myself as I was working as a counselor with several women in abusive relationships.  These questions held a real interest for me as I myself had been through the experience of escaping a violent relationship.  After getting back on my feet and helping my kids recover and adjust to a new situation in a new country, I did a great deal of research and thinking because I felt compelled to address a lot of questions:

What is the difference between women who get into abusive relationships and those who don’t?  How is it possible for someone to stay in a situation that ought to be intolerable?  How can we help them?  Then what?  What about life after it’s all over?

Let’s start with the first questions.  Much has already been written about patterns of violence and abuse being passed on from generation to generation.  I wanted to take a new approach by exploring if there were differences between the women themselves; those who choose (or fall into) abusive relationships and those who do not.  I feel that by doing this, we could find ways to help more women establish satisfying relationships with their mates and assist those who need it to change or end dangerous ones.  While women who have experienced abusive relationships with their mates come from all walks of life, I believe that there is a fundamental difference between them and women who do not get into these kinds of situations.  From my experience, women who do not seem to hold somewhere in their bodies a rule, or a statement that goes like this:

“If ‘x’ ever happens, it’s over.” For example:  “If he ever hits me, it’s over.”

These women seem to have a firm bottom line about the minimum acceptable behavior in a relationship.  If that rule is ever violated or comes close to being violated, they act immediately.  And they communicate those bottom lines to their partner in a firm, congruent way.  Should their partner’s behavior even start to enter the “warning zone”, they respond by confronting and making their position and desires very clear as well as the consequences of not meeting their needs.

They probably also hold a solid sense or vision of the kind of behavior they want in a relationship that is important enough that they are willing to work towards it or to walk away from situations where they cannot have it.

Women who have gotten into abusive relationships do not seem to have the same kind of inviolable bottom line.  Since most relationships do not instantly become abusive, they get used to a gradual downward slope of behavior.  Because they have no bottom line, their tolerance stretches and stretches as they adapt to the circumstances.  They learn to “cope” with each situation that goes beyond what they had been used to.

“I tried hard to keep things on an even keel.  I felt like I was always walking on egg shells, choosing my words carefully to avoid upsetting him.  He also became abusive in other ways – he embarrassed me in front of my colleagues and then, I realize now, cut me off from the others who cared about me by getting me to move from Paris out to the country and criticizing my friends.”

“He told me not to trust one of my closest friends because she was only looking out for herself.  My husband had some fine qualities and was committed to my marriage  I had married this man for better or worse and I committed myself body and soul to him and our family, no matter what.  I made my bed and slept with the crumbs.”

I am reminded of an old Jewish expression:  “May God protect you from what you can get used to.” As NLP Practitioners, we encourage flexibility, meaning that if something doesn’t work, try something else.  However, flexibility in the situation of women in abusive relationships usually means for them “figuring out a way to cope” with what is going on.

Using NLP, we also teach people to break through limiting beliefs and patterns.  Perhaps we should also remember to encourage people to set limits;  the limits of what they are willing to tolerate in their lives.  While it is essential that people identify outcomes that they aspire to, it is also healthy to identify those things that are unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

“When I was pregnant with our second baby he beat me up twice.  I never knew why he was mad at me.  I started having contractions and was hospitalized for a few days and had to spend the last six weeks in bed.”

My second question was:  How is it possible for someone to stay in a situation like this?  The statistics on wife abuse do not discuss this much.  My work with clients and my own experience shed some light on the matter, I strongly suspect that it is possible to stay in such a relationship provided that one stays focused on the day-to-day details of life.  Get the meal on the table.  Change the baby’s diaper.  Cover up the incident.  The women who I worked with were not perceiving the larger picture:  i.e. “This has been going on for over two years and no matter what I have tried to do about it, it just keeps on getting worse.”
When the women complained of the abuse they had suffered, they treated each example of abuse as an incident.  Few people would end a committed relationship over one incident.

Another contributing factor is the fact that the abuser is rarely confronted by other people about the abusive behavior.  The women may get moral support, but no one seems to help.  They end up feeling isolated and helpless, dealing with each separate incident as it occurs, rather than seeing it as a continually worsening pattern.

“We were staying with friends in England, spending the evening talking and playing cards.  When I interrupted my husband by making a joke, everyone laughed.  He glared at me and threw his wine in my face.  I left the table and our friends each individually told me how disgusting that behavior was, though no one said anything to my husband.”

“Eventually I slept by myself on the couch, swearing that this was the last time.  In the morning over breakfast he said that I was overreacting and that nobody in their right mind would break up a marriage over one incident like this.”

Women who are “coping” have essentially learned how to accept what ought to be intolerable.  They often take the responsibility for his outbursts by jumping through hoops in the hope that they do not reoccur.  Coping this way is not about making changes.  They go through life day-by-day, feeling alone and exhausted by the effort needed to just keep on going.

Because they are too busy giving the details of life’s primary importance, they tend not to really consider the alternatives.  One of my clients insisted that she had to stay where she was because she would never be able to afford a decent dining room table like the one she had then, if she were on her own.

After I had unburdened myself on the phone with a friend of my husband, he said that the situation was unacceptable.  Soon after that a colleague of mine asked me how things were.  I told her they were just awful.  Then she asked me an amazing question:  “So what’s stopping you from leaving?” I was dumbfounded.  I had never asked myself that and what was stopping me from leaving?”

So how can we, as counselors, help these women?  It is not my intention to suggest that the only alternative is getting them to leave the relationship.  Here is an outline of the process I followed with my clients.

When they first came to see me, they apparently needed to vent.  When I asked them what they wanted, they expressed sorrow, helplessness, frustration and anger at their situation, themselves and their mate, described through numerous examples of abusive behavior.  I established the rapport while suggesting that after they had explained their situation we would move onto discovering what they wanted and how to achieve that. (I believe that if an authority figure shows too much empathy with a client in a stuck state, it only legitimizes that state in the eyes of the client.)

Once they had gotten their story off their chest, I changed the subject. We laughed about a few things and then I asked them about what is important to them in a relationship.  The purpose of the question was to shift the level of discussion from the specific incidents to a more general overview of the kind of relationship they truly desired.

They each gave me a list of what had to be in a relationship and how would they recognize each item. This took some work, as most well-formed outcomes do.  I tested the list several times to make sure that they got out the things that were really, really important.  “If you had that, what else would then become important?  And what else?”

I anchored this desirable relationship to a space about 1/2 of a meter directly in front of them.  Then, pointing to the past area of their timeline, I asked them to compare this desirably relationship with the one they had been having with their mate.  Shock and dismay registered on their faces, then confusion, disbelief and surprise.  Most of them stated in an unequivocal yet astonished tone that this is not what they wanted at all.  We sat quietly, letting this realization sink in.

Several of my clients began processing a stream of thoughts.  When they came back to the present, I asked them what they wanted now.  They sat up, looked at me as if I were crazy and said that they had to get out and create their own life, of course!  They wanted to work on a plan to do that right away.  We planned where, when and how they would go.

“After talking to those two people, a startling revelation hit me.  Nothing was stopping me from leaving.  This was not the life I wanted.  I made a few phone calls and planned my escape for two weeks later when my husband was to be away on business.  I hid our passports only to find them missing several days before we were to leave!  I panicked and rifled through every drawer in the house, becoming hysterical.  He was outside, what if he came it?  But I had to find them!  I finally located them after I had calmed down.”

“The next day my husband went out grocery shopping with our oldest son.  When he hadn’t returned 5 hours later I went to look for them in the village bar.  I found my three and a half year old son playing behind the bar and tried to slip him past my husband who was involved in a drunken conversation.  He saw me and became quite annoyed.  We fled and got into the car where the baby was in his seat.  I watched my husband stalk out of the bar with his fists clenched, heading for home.  Night was falling, the baby was hungry and my oldest was crying.  All my friends lived 100 kilometers away.  Where was I to go?”

The way out for these women is frequently not easy.  Often they need to be crafty and sneaky.  They may get caught preparing.  Sometimes the safest way is to get them and their children to a women’s shelter right away.  Many times they fall back into the details and get overwhelmed.

One client, who was not in physical danger, came to me in tears with a list of 45 things she had to do before she could leave.  We narrowed the list down to four items.  She completed these quickly and left.

“After my husband had left on his business trip, I had arranged for my uncle and aunt to come and pick us up.  I packed 2 suitcases and we left the farm and drove overnight to London where we got on a plane to come home to my mother’s place in Canada.  The whole time I didn’t know if I was doing the right thing or not.  When we arrived I told my oldest son that we were going to stay here and why.  He was very upset.  Even the baby who was 8 months old felt the tension.”

“I had difficulty sleeping, alternating between berating myself for getting into such a mess in the first place, blaming my husband and feeling overwhelmed by what lay ahead.  The welfare people were either sympathetic, which only helped me feel more sorry for myself, or they treated me like a case with a file number.”

Women who leave abusive relationships need practical support, not merely someone who will commiserate with them.  They need, almost simultaneously, to mourn the passing of the relationship, to set short-term goals and get started on a plan to get their family’s basic needs met.

I found that once out of the toxic atmosphere they had been living it, most of the women I worked with had a sudden increase in their level of energy and focus.  They accomplished amazing things very quickly, finding work, a new home, making new arrangements for their children.  They also continued their counseling with me for a while to make sure they were on the road to healing and to stay grounded through the heady number of changes they were making.

“As I casted (sic) about for what to do next I found I had to stop reading the newspaper.  There were just too many stories about single mothers whose kids were hungry.  When I read the statistics, I kept feeling that I might as well give up and got a job as a cashier at the grocery store.”

“So I quit listening to the news.  I was too fragile to handle it.  I also had many weird and wonderful ideas about career options.  Thank goodness I checked them out with family and friends before I jumped – some of them were just too unreal to make work.  And having just jumped out of my marriage, I was a little to ready to jump at anything that seemed like a good idea at the time.  I guess I felt I had jumped ‘out’ and needed to be ‘in’ something.”

“I finally found a good job in my field and was very excited about starting.  I placed an ad and got an excellent baby-sitter, arranged transportation to school.  This all happened very quickly, once I got started on deciding what I really wanted.”

Here the counselor can be useful as someone who can help a client focus on fulfilling her needs and evaluate options, while helping her heal the wounds and set limits.

“For the first few months after I left, I was very militant and intolerant of any form of transgression.  I judged everyone and jumped in whenever I heard, real or imagined, anyone slight anyone else, particularly in couples.  As I got over my anger, I calmed down a lot.  Now I only comment when I think that someone has really behaved unreasonably.  I never did that before, because I would have considered it interfering.  Now I know that insulting someone’s intelligence, or ordering them around as if they were a subordinate is unacceptable.  My own relationships are also a lot clearer, particularly with my children.”

There can be lots of ups and downs once a woman takes her life into her own hands, but all of the women I counseled felt that the best decision they had ever made was leaving the poisonous atmosphere they had been living in.  Just taking that step and learning from it created a significant shift in how they now choose to live their lives.

I know.  All the voices you have read in this piece are mine.

I hope that this article will be of help to those who know or work with women in negative relationships.

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10 Tips for Surviving the Health Care System

10 Tips for Surviving the Health Care System

by Shelle Rose Charvet
The Globe and Mail, May 4, 2000

“The good news is that your condition is pre-cancerous.  The bad news is that it is untreatable and I strongly recommend that you have a mastectomy.”

“I’m sorry, what did you say was the good news?” The doctor’s mouth continued to flap open and closed; I know he made sounds, but the words disappeared into a vortex.

Over the last couple of years I have been in and out of crowded doctors’ waiting rooms, been pinched by mammogram machines, had needles shot into my body to remove tissue samples while I was held in a vice, had a large piece surgically taken out of me and my whole breast removed.

Luckily, my mother often came with me on doctor visits.  Luckily, my friend who works at the cancer information centre showed up with a large pile of information.  Luckily, my brother accompanied me through the procedures to hold my hand and get answers when my brain shut down.

“Gee, you sound really mellow after your operation.”

“I don’t do mellow.  I’m still drugged.” But even in my groggy state, I realized that there must be a better way to go through this.  So I thought up 10 tips for surviving the health care system.

1. Always assume that you have fallen through the cracks, unless you get proof to the contrary.  No news is not good news.  It may mean that someone forgot to do something.  Medical care can be complicated and need a lot of co-ordination among large numbers of people.

2. Never blame anyone.  Recognize that everyone working in the system is very busy and probably stressed-out.  While you are only concerned with yourself, they are juggling dozens of people, or hundreds.

3. Create positive relationships with everyone who can help you. Introduce yourself to every nurse, receptionist, technician and doctor that you will need to see again.  Ask them for their first name.  Remember it or record it for quick reference.

Next time you see them establish rapport by using their first name and engaging them in personal chat before you get down to business.  It only takes a few seconds.  This will help ensure that you become more than just a file, and will give you some insight into what each person does.  It also makes it easier to request things when you need to.

4. Apologize before you make a request.  “I’m sorry to bother you when you are so busy, but since I hadn’t heard from you, I thought I’d better check whether you were able to make the appointment.”

Canadians naturally apologize for anything, even when we are not responsible.  It’s time we learned to use the power of apology.  If you say you’re sorry, you can ask for just about anything – and still be perceived as nice.

5. Take someone with you and give them a job to do.  For any important meeting or procedure, take a friend or family member with you.  Their job is to remain sane, create rapport and ask good questions.  This way, if you lose your grip, someone else still has it.

6. Use all your contacts.  Surely someone you know, knows someone who knows someone who can find out what you need.  At times this may be the only way to obtain information, a second opinion or to get in to see someone quickly.  If you are hesitant to use your contacts, apologize for bothering them.

7. Be prepared to do a lot of waiting.  Make appointments early in the day before the doctor has a chance to get behind schedule.  This way you’ll see the doctor before she/he gets tired and cranky.  Just after lunch is okay too.  Remember to take something you like to do in case you have to wait anyway.

8. Take everything your doctors way as information instead of gospel.  Allow yourself time to think about it.  Remember that medical professionals are trained to think about and discuss the worst possible scenarios.  Ask them what each treatment is supposed to accomplish and repeat that message over and over to yourself to create a goal-oriented mindset within yourself.  Write down your questions prior to the appointment and write down the answers – or ask your companion to do the writing.

9. Do what you need to do to stay upbeat and positive.  It’s perfectly normal to feel depressed and demoralized upon hearing bad news.  I’ve been through shock, numbness, denying that this could be happening, panic, anger and feeling depressed.  You can let yourself feel all those things, knowing that this is how you are felling at this moment in time, and that you will move on.  Continually remind yourself that you are good at healing, that you get better quickly.  Notice what has improved each day and comment on it to yourself and others.  While some may think this weird; you can even speak to your physical self; cheer for your immune system and thank it for sticking up for you.

10. Hang out with cheerful, upbeat and helpful people.  I found it wearing having to cheer up other people when I told them I had cancer.  I was also subjected to everyone’s personal dogma regarding what I should do.  It ran the gamut; from slavishly following every instruction from the doctor to never believing anything the doctor says.

There is only so much sympathy you can take before you begin to believe that you ought to feel sorry for yourself.  Only see people who make you feel good – who make you laugh, who get you out, who bring over lovely things to eat.  If someone asks you how can they help – get them to make morale-raising food, take you to a funny movie, or bring over a good video.  If depressing people want to come over, apologize and tell them you’re not up to it.

At the beginning of last year I went through several major reconstructive surgeries, some of which were quite difficult.  A few months ago my 11-year-old son was diagnosed with cancer.  So far, so good – the tips have helped a lot.  Although, I have to admit that it’s been much harder dealing with my feelings about my son’s illness than my own.  While I’m able to be positive about his healing with him, his brother and the care-givers, the challenge has been keeping myself positive when I’m alone.

I’ve been getting extra support to help me.  I go to a therapist to get frustrations off my chest and insight.  I shrug my shoulders and forgive myself when I forget where I’m going.  I play solitaire on the computer.  And I’ve discovered a great excuse to have a lot of little rewards.  Where did I leave my pack of Werthers?

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Workplace Politics

Workplace Politics

by T.K. Maloy, UPI Deputy Business Editor
Subject: Politics can flare at the watercooler
Date: Monday, October 04, 2004 4:34:30 PM EST

WASHINGTON, Oct. 4 (UPI) — With Election Day only four weeks away, the races are heating up to the point where many normally affable colleagues find themselves arguing in the office place and creating a hostile political battleground.

Workplace experts warn, watch out for too much politics at work.

“What we have is a polarized electorate, and this stark contrast in beliefs has spilled over into the workplace. At one point, office debates had cooled somewhat as people had tired of arguing with their coworkers. However, with the start of the presidential debates, people are fired up again to discuss their differences,” said Rich Chaifetz, chief executive officer of Chicago-based ComPsych, a large provider of employee assistance programs.

Chaifetz added, “Often, tolerant companies see diversity of views as enriching. But office debates can also be patently counterproductive, not just in terms of time wasted, but in terms of employee morale. At its worst, differences in political ideology can be used to intimidate workers who are seen as ‘dissenters.’ At its best, finding out that a work friend has completely opposing views from you can put a strain on the work relationship.”
Ashley Kaplan, an employment law attorney with Sunrise, Fla.-based G.Neil Corp, a human resource consulting firm, notes that as election day gets closer and the political races on all levels get hotter, employers must make sure that rules are clear on office political debate. She warns that otherwise, the ramifications can be costly to the company’s bottom line.

“Allowing your employees to engage in political activities at work can lead to a host of problems,” Kaplan said. “Political disagreements can lead to employee dissention and reduced productivity. And, when a manager or executive brings a candidate into the workplace or visibly endorses an issue, employees may feel pressured or in fear of negative job consequences if they do not have similar views.”

She added, “Employers should be aware that numerous federal, state and local laws protect employees from threats, discipline, retaliation and rewards for their political decisions. But these laws were intended to protect employees’ beliefs, not their actions on the job.”

Kaplan advised that by not having a written policy, employers invite political debates to become too heated.

“Employers should implement rules — preferably in the form of a written policy — setting clear limits on political activities at work,” Kaplan said. “Make sure your policy focuses on employee behavior, conduct that interferes with work, and actions that directly affect the company and other employees.”

According to Kaplan, the specific policy provisions should be tailored to fit the applicable workplace laws in your area.

In general, Kaplan advised the following:

Prohibit employees from using company time, materials, property and other resources for political purposes; prohibit employees from distributing political literature, soliciting contributions, collecting signatures, or performing political work on company premises during work hours; prohibit employees from displaying posters, signs, stickers, buttons, hats, clothing and campaign slogans at work; and do not allow employees from using the company’s name or logo in connection with any political activity.

Kaplan added that as with all other workplace policies, employers must enforce their political activities policy consistently at all times.

“When an employer treats employees differently, even if it’s inadvertent, employees may perceive the treatment as discrimination. You don’t want to give the impression that you have a bias against someone’s cause or candidate, or that different standards apply to different people,” Kaplan advised

“Exceptions should not be made for anyone, senior management, even the owner of the business, unless there’s a business justification and it’s documented. The policy must be consistent,” she said.

Don Gabor, author of “Words That Win: What to Say to Get What You Want,” said, “If you’re like lots of people these days, you’re talking politics. But are you persuading your coworkers that your favorite candidate is the best choice or are you simply offending — or even worse — making political enemies?”

He suggested several ways to avoid arguments when talking politics, including: Don’t lose your temper, don’t lose your sense of humor, don’t make personal comments about people or politicians with whom you disagree, don’t be disagreeable when you disagree with someone’s opinion, don’t interrupt when someone is making a point, don’t argue one point to death — whether you are right or wrong, don’t expect to get someone to agree with you just because you think you’re right, don’t continue to talk politics if you or the other person is upset.

For some management experts, talking politics at the office can offer a chance for colleagues to exchange views.

Shelle Rose Charvet, a communications management consultant, and the author of “Words That Change Minds: Mastering the Language of Influence,” noted that, “In fact, political discussions, if handled properly by co-workers, can be an opportunity to increase respect in the workplace.”

She said, “When someone makes a statement of a political stance, co-workers can respond by saying: ‘Aren’t we lucky to live in a country where we can hold and discuss different points of view? Your comment makes me be grateful for that. My view on this is different from yours. Can I tell you what I think?'”

Susan Solovic, small business expert and the chief executive officer of St. Louis-based (Small Business Television), said that too much debate can poison the waters both at work and with clients.

“From a small business perspective, I don’t believe that too much exchange is healthy,” she said, adding that things said in the heat of the election can have a hangover “long after the election.”

“It’s not real world,” to expect that everything a worker or boss says during an election-time political argument is chalked up to temporary partisan fervor.

And, Solovic noted, not all workers even want to debate.

“We all have a right to political beliefs, we also have a right to keep our mouths shut,” said Solovic of not being drawn into election battles in the workplace.

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Office Crisis Averted

Office Crisis Averted

By Jill Andrew for METRO TORONTO
Published November 20, 2004

Crises are a part of life and the crises in the workplace are no different.

What you define as a crisis, how your company copes while it and the type of mood you set in the office during the storm makes all the difference between whether everyone drowns or lives to learn from and tell others about it.

Shelle Rose Charvet, president of Success Strategies, travels around the world to train and consult organizations on solving difficult communication problems.

“Unless they [companies] learn to balance the need to prevent and solve immediate problems with the need to achieve strategic ‘bigger picture’ long-term goals, they put the entire organization at risk,” says Charvet.

Charvet mentions the way a crisis is defined can also have an impact on a company’s success rate in surviving it.

“Crises should be looked at as … something the company failed to predict this time that needs to be dealt with and incorporated into future planning to make sure to be ready next time,” says Charvet.

Looking at a crisis as an intense teachable moment gives employees the chance to learn from the crisis rather than simply reacting to the fear of the high stress environment a crisis can bring to the company, says Charvet.

“Some employers are crisis-driven meaning that somehow or another this type of employer finds a way to transform everything into a crisis. This essentially is unproductive since you end up creating a reactive rather than active team always on edge,” Charvet says.
The wrong reaction to any crisis, Charvet explains, can make employees lose faith in their manager’s leadership abilities.

“Yelling, blaming others, creating panic and unreasonable demands or deadlines of your employees … focusing on an inevitable disaster about to occur rather than looking at solutions or improvements for next time will only raise the stress barometer. When companies react only to a crisis without the long-term company goal in mind their solutions may in fact be good for the immediate ‘crisis’ but unproductive for the larger picture,” Charvet says.

Charvet encourages a four step plan that teams can use for dealing with ‘constructive’ rather than ‘destructive’ crisis management.

She encourages companies to briefly describe the crisis and determine its importance and urgency, clearly define the company’s immediate and future goals even within the crisis, outline a step process as to how to survive the impending danger and then lastly act on their survival plan and evaluate its effectiveness.

Charvet agrees that “crisis” is a word loosely thrown around in today’s workforce. For this reason, it is essential for businesses to understand how to define real ones and work throughout them towards success while still maintaining focus on the final prize.

“If everyday is a crisis then obviously the team is not learning from previous ones,” Charvet says. “The more you can learn from them the less stressed, more productive, more people friendly your team will be.”

Workplace Crisis

  • Make a list of ‘possible crises’ that could occur at the office. Have a contingency plan and practise it every now and then.
  • Breath first at the moment of the crisis. It’s often within the first 10 seconds of any crisis that you are most likely to make the biggest irreversible mistakes.
  • Be observant. It never hurts to keep mental notes of how other companies/experts deal with certain industry snags along the way.

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Out to make Harper ‘a hell of a guy’

Out to make Harper ‘a hell of a guy’

by Gloria Galloway
Focus / May 7, 2005 / The Globe and Mail

Ottawa — Stephen Harper’s recent tour of Southwestern Ontario took him to a Wallaceberg children’s rehabilitation centre, where his handlers sat him at a knee-high table to join toddlers as they finger-painted pictures of trees.

With cameras rolling and reporters jostling for the best view of the disconsonant scene, the Conservative leader leaned away from the paint-covered hands of the youngsters and muttered a quick “Don’t touch me.”

He loosened his tie, looking very much like Rodney Dangerfield under pressure.  Then, for five minutes, he sat there tortured for something meaningful to say to his tiny companions.

It wasn’t until the reporters were ushered from the room that he was able to relax and enjoy the staged exercise.

The 46-year-old Mr. Harper has taken baby steps to improve his public persona since he watched his chance to govern slip away during the last federal election.  He makes jokes, some of them funny.  He throws snowballs at reporters when the cameras are not running.  He even smiles occasionally, though certainly not often.

Now, another shot at the nation’s top job is looming.  But has Mr. Harper come far enough to convince voters that he has the human touch needed to be prime minister?
When Canadians are polled, they say they trust Mr. Harper more than Paul Martin.  They say they believe he is more likely to rid Ottawa of corruption.  But when asked who would make the best prime minister, they give Mr. Martin the edge.

This is not lost on the Conservatives who are trying to lay the groundwork for the fast-approaching election campaign.  Their leader is intelligent.  He is perceived as a thinker and someone of integrity.  But they wonder if he will ever be able to kiss babies with credibility.

“What I see is that the general electorate does not like Harper.  And they look for things for him to do or say that justify their gut feeling that they have about him,” one high-placed Tory organizer says.

“This is a guy whose entire life in politics has been based on negativity so far,” the organizer says.  He’s “cold, cold, cold, cold, cold.  He doesn’t seem to like people, he doesn’t seem to like to go out and talk to people.  He’s so weird how he approaches things.”
Barry McLoughlin of McLoughlin Media, a media-consultancy firm in Ottawa, says what Mr. Harper seems to lack is the “HOAG” – hell of a guy – factor.

Mike Harris “had the hell-of-a-guy factor going for him.  Gary Doer in Manitoba, he’s got the hell-of-a-guy factor.  Most successful politicians have got the-hell-of-a-guy factor,” says Mr. McLoughlin, who has coached current party leaders but is emphatic that none used his services before the last election campaign.

“Do we see enough of [Mr. Harper] outside of a suit, outside of the House?  Do we see him in our living rooms in a way that we can relate to him and, more importantly, can he relate to us?”

In fact, Mr. Harper has occasionally worn golf shirts – something that inevitably prompts the media to comment on his middle-aged paunch.  He just looks better in a suit and tie.
He also lacks the physical and verbal mannerisms that put people at ease, says Shelle Rose Charvet, who runs Success Strategies, a firm based in Burlington, Ont., that teaches communication skills.

“He doesn’t respond when other people make gestures.  So you can be talking and he will not move.  It’s like a machine,” Ms. Rose Charvet says.

“You have no idea what’s going on in the black box.  His eyes don’t flicker” – eyes that have been referred to as icy blue so often that the phrase has become a cliché.

Linguistically, she says, he relates to people as things.  He’ll “refer to the electorate, as opposed to people who vote . . . . He uses impersonal nouns to refer to people.  He’ll talk about the group or the population.”

But do Canadians really need a nice guy to lead their country?  Isn’t it enough to have someone who can keep the economy on an even keel, preserve the social fabric and keep us out of hot water internationally?

“They need a nice guy in as much as, at some levels, people want a leader to reflect who they think they are,” Ms. Rose Charvet says.  “And Canadians, as a population, like to think they’re nice – so our leader has to be nice.”

One of the strangest things about Mr. Harper’s icy public persona is that, more than many past prime ministers, he is an everyday kind of guy, Mr. McLoughlin says.

He has a tremendous sense of humour and a deadly accurate ability to impersonate others, but that is rarely seen in public.

He is also a devoted father.  “You see him walking the neighbourhood with his kids to school and back,” he says.  On weekends, he plays road hockey in the driveway.

Compare that with Jean Crétien, a man Mr. McLoughlin says had a large dose of HOAG factor.  “Was he really the hockey-dad kind of dad?  Not really.  But you could easily decode from him that he was not a fancy guy – he was down to earth.”

The bottom line, Mr. McLoughlin says, is that Mr. Harper seems to be uncomfortable playing a role, playing for the cameras.  And “to be a successful politician, you have to be able to play a role,” he says – even when you are up to your elbows in finger paint.

Gloria Galloway is a member of The Globe and Mail’s Ottawa bureau.

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