What’s your SQ (Stranger Quotient)?


What’s your SQ (Stranger Quotient)? When you pass someone in the street, walk into a mixer or enter into a crowded elevator do you speak? How likely are you to engage in conversation with the clerk behind the counter, the artist at the fair or the person standing next to you in line? Up until very recently my SQ has been embarrassing low (I know, hard to believe, right?). I’ve watched enviously as people around me effortlessly connect with strangers. How do they do it?

I’m not shy. In fact, most people would say that I am wildly outgoing. And, much of the time, that’s absolutely true. More often than I like to admit, however, I am not the bubbly, friendly, confident people-person that I seem to be.  There are exceptions but, although I am almost always comfortable and gregarious in front of a large audience, the prospect of talking in small groups or with individuals I don’t know makes me a nervous wreck!

I’ve always envied people who can confidently strike up a conversation with a stranger. Whether it’s at a party, a trade show or standing in a line at the post office, there are those among us – maybe YOU – who eagerly engage in small talk with strangers. What a gift!

Although I haven’t yet figured out where my debilitating discomfort comes from, I do have my theories. It’s possible, I suppose, that it’s a direct result of the ‘stranger danger’ that we were all warned about as children. But, as a child of the 50’s and 60’s… it’s not likely. Back then it was considered courteous and kind to befriend someone new. My grandma was constantly bringing home a hungry stranger she met on the bus! And even today I know people who just seem to make new friends wherever they go. How do they do it? What’s stopping me?

Okay, I often say that ‘understanding’ is the boobie prize (unless, of course you use that understanding to change or create a new behavior that works for you). So, I decided to officially give up the ‘why’ and move directly into the HOW. How could I be the person who enjoys meeting and talking to someone new; someone who’s ‘brave’ and willing to start a conversation with a stranger… and feel really good about initiating it?

That’s actually the question I posed to myself as I started my month long adventure on the road – traversing across America. There was almost an obsession on my part to meet and greet, to interact and to connect with the proverbial strangers in my path.

Serendipitously, I was travelling with an expert in the realm of ‘talking to strangers’. My friend, Marita, is wildly gifted at engaging ‘newbies’ in conversation, so I decided to observe and copy! Here’s what I learned:

  • Start with a smile! (It makes them and you feel more at ease.)
  • Comment on something you have in common… might be the weather, the locale or the current situation.
  • Be interested. (Ask a question and LISTEN to the answer.)

It was astounding to me that it could be that simple, but it truly was.  And the result??? Nothing short of terrific. By connecting with the strangers around me I was ‘gifted’ with insights (most people really want to talk to you), information (about my surroundings and great restaurants) and (dare I say it) joyful opportunities (to meet foreign travellers and hold a Big Horned Owl on my arm) and that I would have otherwise missed.

Turns out that there’s great value for all parties when ‘stranger danger’ disintegrates. When’s the next party? The next trade show? The next mixer? The next social gathering? Bring it on… I am SO ready to engage!!


Use Clarity to Get What You Want – When They’re Not Getting It. What Do I Say, What Do I Do?

You get what they think they heard

The value of clarity in communication

It’s possible that, all by itself, the title of this blog could eliminate the need for the entire blog. Read it again. The title actually spells out two of the most powerful and effective tools for getting THEM to get YOU: Communication (clarity) and Action!

That was NOT a spoiler alert. I simply told you what I was going to tell you ‘cuz that’s good communication. When I truly care about having someone accurately and fully receive my communication which, I must admit, is most of the time, I tell them what I’m going to tell them. Then I tell ‘em. And finally I tell them what I told them.

Okay, it’s possible that, by following this formula, you could over-talk a topic to its early demise, I’ll give you that… but when I want to get a point across or it’s important for me to have someone do something by a certain time or in a particular way, this works. Whether I’m coaching, teaching, training – or making an important request – I do all this PLUS I add another vital step. I have the listener repeat back what they heard.

I didn’t always follow this formula… and I didn’t always get the results I wanted, either. When I had my event and party business it was not unusual for me to say, “Somebody grab some tools, please (politeness was one of my boss-virtues)”.  And then, when a fully stocked toolbox didn’t show up on the job and I didn’t have my desperately needed scissors, wrench or clips, guess who was stressed and furious…  but where could I point that fury? Who was supposed to grab the toolbox? Right, I had assigned the job to “Somebody”. Where the heck was “Somebody” and why didn’t she do what I asked her to do?

Doesn’t the problem, my mega-mistake, seem so obvious to you? You can clearly see that assigning the task to a specific person, not making a general, non-specific public request/announcement, would have made a huge difference to my end result, can’t you? Because it was me and my screw up – and you’re listening to this story in retrospect, it’s easy to identify the error of my ways. Much easier than it might have been to actually get it right in the first place. At this moment, it’s easy to see that I didn’t actually assign the task to anyone – though I didn’t realize that at the time. And, yet, I was surprised when what I wanted and needed didn’t get done and upset when there was no one to hold accountable… except me!

Now, don’t be feeling all superior and stuff. I’m not the only one here who’s ever been vague, unspecific or incomplete with my requests, directions or instructions, am I? Come on, I know there have been times when the recipe didn’t come out quite right because you forgot to tell them about that one important ingredient or you didn’t show up for something because you misheard the time.

Life is a game of telephone. It’s only by being clear and specific and repeating back what we heard that we can even begin to expect the results we’re after. So often we give only partial instruction or explanation and expect people to get the whole story by mind reading… Newsflash: THEY WON’T because they CAN’T!

And then there’s ACTION! That’s the follow through; the accountability. Where you are ultimately responsible for the outcome it’s to your advantage to make sure that you do everything possible to make sure that the outcome is favorable. My taking action started by writing out a check list and assigning one person to see that we never left on a job without having everything we needed.  (And there was always a compliment for a job well done!)

When you use full and complete communication to ask for what you want and then actively follow it up with some checks and balances, you do get what you want and need. Communication and Action… two tools that belong in every personal toolbox!



Oh, You Don’t Say! I Thought I Didn’t Hear Something.

Dr, Seuss

When he brought me that first box of chocolates – that very first time – I should have said, “Thanks, but I don’t eat candy and I don’t do chocolate.” But, it was so sweet of him and he looked so pleased with himself and I didn’t want to embarrass him, so I just said “thanks” and offered him a piece. On Valentines’ Day he sent me a dozen long stemmed CHOCOLATE roses… and I politely called to say “thanks” – grateful that he’d be out of town and not notice that they hadn’t been eaten. But when he showed up with two-dozen chocolate dipped strawberries on my birthday, I lost it. Somehow I made him the bad guy for not knowing that I didn’t eat candy. No, I never told him… but he should have known! I mean, really, if he truly cared about me… Needless to say, we aren’t ‘together’ any more.

My ex sister-in-law (who is, coincidentally, also my ex best friend) is in a coma and I honestly don’t know why she hasn’t spoken to me (except for a second at her dad’s funeral) since her brother and I split up ten years ago. Though I didn’t call her, I did make two somewhat awkward written attempts to reconcile over the years, but she didn’t acknowledge either. Then I sent a letter when I heard about her cancer and an email when she went into remission. She never responded. Word is I won’t get a chance to talk to her now…

If she had just told me that she was a vegan, instead of trying to be the perfect ‘trouble-free’ guest and cause no hassle, I would have made something that all of us could eat and enjoy. Instead, she said nothing; ate only bread and butter and a little salad (picking out all the ‘bad’ stuff). I felt like the world’s worst hostess and she wasn’t feelin’ so great, either!

He was one of my oldest, dearest friends so I guess I cut him more than a little slack. I didn’t tell him how much it upset me when he changed his plans to do something with me at the last minute or showed up hours late.  I guess I figured it was ‘just the way he was’ and there was nothing I could do about it. Besides, on some level, as miserable as it made me feel, I did think that his life was somehow more important than mine. So I just ‘sucked it up’ and said nothing. When I finally did snap (right after I wrote the blog about boundaries – coincidence???) I let him have it with ‘both barrels’! And, by the way, after a bit of a cry, we’re now closer than ever!

My mother (who will be 93 this year) has always ‘just sucked it up’. ‘Guess that’s where I learned to do it. This wonderful lady mastered the art of seeming to be unimportant. Rather than say what she wanted, needed or felt, for her it has always been about someone else. She made herself ‘less than’ so someone else (usually my father) could be ‘more than’. Throughout the last 50 or 60 years, no matter what was going on, she was ‘fine’ (which, I’m sure, is why I detest that word!) and no matter what she wanted or needed, she said ‘nothing’, asked for nothing and generally refused whatever she was offered. I think it’s fair to say that I have developed a tendency to ‘over-share’ and speak my mind as a backlash to watching my mother train others to undervalue and disrespect her. Now, in her ‘twilight’ years, still quietly (or silently) declaring to the world that she is unimportant, she cannot understand why no one seems to put her first.

I admit it, there are those times when, either fearing that I will make an enemy, or make a fool of myself, I withhold. Not wanting to be judged by others, I judge myself and sentence me to silence.

You’d think that we humans would be savvy enough to say what we mean, mean what we say and ask for what we want and need, wouldn’t you? So, what gets in the way? Dr. Seuss knew…  “Be who you are and say what you feel… because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind!”


MISS-Communication and the MR-y of Conversation



If you have time, I’d love you to try and come over for dinner tonight.” That’s what I said to him on the phone. He seemed a little distracted, maybe watching a game on TV while he offhandedly said, “Sure.” So I made a lovely dinner of roast chicken and potatoes (his favorite)… and he never showed! He didn’t call and he didn’t show. I was furious.

I called him the next morning – still fuming. “I sat here until the dinner got cold, waiting for you to show,” I wailed. “Whaaat? You said to try – if I had time. I went bowling with a couple of the guys and by the time we finished it was after 9 so I went home.”

It wasn’t my first miscommunication (and it is not likely to be my last). Similar incidents are happening all over the world right now… as I type. They are happening in homes, at work, on the ski slopes and at restaurants. What is said isn’t ‘exactly’ what you meant’ and what is heard isn’t ‘exactly’ what you meant.


There’s communication and there’s ‘effective’ communication. Effective communication is simple and direct and requires, among other things, a shared understanding. Ooops, missed that!

If I had been more direct and clear the conversation could have been more like this (and we’d both be happier):

“I’m making roast chicken tonight. It’s your favorite and I want to share it with you. Can you be here at 7 for dinner tonight?”

“Sure. I’m going bowling with the guys and I’ll make sure to leave by 6:45.”

“Great, so you’ll be here at 7 for dinner?”

“You bet. I can taste it already!”

I didn’t want to sound pushy so I gave him a couple of false cues… “if you have time” and “try”. I didn’t mean either one, but I expected him to get the underlying meaning. And, although I wanted to know that he was definitely joining me, I never got any strong assurance – in fact I remember thinking that he wasn’t ‘really’ listening at all. He, on the other hand, focused on the conditional components of my conversation and felt no guilt about not showing up. We both felt misunderstood and wronged.

And so it goes, when you don’t say what you mean and mean what you say… when you don’t ‘check in’ to make sure that your message was heard and understood as you intended.




By Sandye Linnetz

Okay, here’s a topic that really STINKS! Telling someone that they have nasty body odor – or bad breath – can be unbelievably uncomfortable, right? You want to tell them but, ooooh… how do you do that without being a real jerk? We know that WE would want to know (if it was us)… and yet, we’d be so embarrassed to hear it. So, What Do You Say? What Do You Do? when someone near you (and possibly dear to you) smells bad?

Go with the thought that you’d want to know about it, if it was you. I like to say that I’m that friend who will tell you if you have spinach on your teeth, and I cultivate friendships with like-minded folks. Close friend or not, being direct and honest works!  Now, when I say direct and honest, it doesn’t have to live and in-person. If you want an easy out, consider a bottle of mouthwash and a short “you need this” note left on the doorstep. But, in any case, don’t do the hint drop – it doesn’t work! Tell it like it is.

You can even tell the ‘offensive’ one that you’re concerned about a possible medical issue like a mouth infection or blocked sweat glands. I wouldn’t go with the Acute Hygienic Arrest… the humor might go unnoticed. And, remember it’s more about ‘how’ you say it that the exact words you choose. Be nice. Tell the BO Babe that because she’s always so neat and clean you know it’s not a hygiene issue and that’s why you’re so concerned. Mention to him that smelling good is a chick magnet and you’ve got his back. Soften the blow with a compliment.

But wait, there’s more… real life examples from Sandyeland:

Relative with bad breath: “Hey, I’m worried about you. Your mouth doesn’t smell ‘minty fresh’… could you have a gum disease or something’? That actually started a very honest conversation about offensive smells!

Close friend with an underarm issue: “Okay, who smells like dead rats? Is that me or you? (After sniffing at each other, she went to shower).

Employee with bad body odor (and everyone was complaining) – Knowing that others were complaining would have been waaay to embarrassing for her, so I called her into my office and said that I had a ‘tough one’ to discuss with her – tough for both of us! After assuring her that her job was not in jeopardy (and telling her two or three things she was doing really well), I simply said: “You’re undoubtedly not aware of it, but I’ve noticed an unpleasant odor when I get close to you. I brought in some stuff that I think might help.” In a brown bag I had soap, deodorant and cologne, which I explained would be kept in the bathroom at work… for anyone at anytime. I neither required nor expected her to respond other than with a quiet “thanks” – which she did.

And my favorite (for it’s straightforward – No holds barred honesty): “You want to get into my bed? Go wash your feet. They stink!”

You just say, (Deep breath for courage and jump right in.) “Look,” (if the person is a visual communicator*) or “Listen, (for the auditory*) I’m going to tell you something that I would want you to tell me. It might not be easy to hear and it’s certainly tough to say… Your {fill in the blank} doesn’t smell good. Maybe it has to do with a {insert possible medical condition here}. I’m no doctor (unless, of course, you actually are a doctor, in which case you shouldn’t say this), but you might want to check it out with yours.” Yes, they may be embarrassed, but not permanently. You’ll get through it and they’ll get over it.

Note: Real friends report bad breath, flies that are open, chin hairs, boogers, and anything else** that might be humiliating on a first date or when meeting the president for the first time!

*More on listening styles in another blog…

** if you’re over 50, add bra straps and slips showing

Parenting Your Adult Children – Oh Baby, You’re No Baby Anymore

adult children


By Sandye Linnetz

I have found that the best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want, and advise them to do it.  ~Harry Truman

I’m a mom. I’ve been a mother for over 40 years now, and based on history (mine – as a child and as a parent) I have developed some rules that, although they may require some in depth conversation, all work for me… most of the time. So, until such time as they work only a little bit of the time, I’ll keep following them. It’s interesting to me that so many of the ‘rules’ on my list are the same rules I live by in other relationships.

For your consideration, here they are – my rules for dealing with my adult children (or at least the ones that I am currently using):

  • Keep your advice to yourself unless it’s requested.
  • When you do give an opinion, identify it as an opinion, not a fact.
  • Always let them know how much you love them.
  • Be very interested – be marginally involved. Whose life is it, anyway?
  • Remind them (frequently, almost to the point of nagging) that you’re available.
  • The child in each of us wants to be acknowledged… be their #1 cheerleader.
  • Show up.
  • Keep your word.
  • Be free with your use of the ‘attaboy’, ‘you go girl’ and ‘YAY you.
  • If they don’t call and you want to talk, you call… honoring their privacy if they request it.
  • Get over yourself and don’t take things personally – it’s their life.
  • Did I mention don’t take it personally?
  • When there’s an issue, discuss it ASAP… no festering.
  • Share everything except your .
  • Learn from your children – and thank them sharing.
  • You taught them how to use the toilet (and I’ll bet that’s come in handy a time or two) so be willing to ask them to teach you what you need.
  • Be clear and straight when talking and generous when listening.
  • Their adult life and decisions may feel like a reflection of you… they are not.
  • When you absolutely MUST share your brilliance, do it gently and without judgment.
  • Set clear boundaries and discuss them.
  • When you give money to your children it is never a loan.
  • Recognize that your children may not have turned out exactly as you imagined – and that’s okay.
  • You may not ‘like’ everything about your children – and that’s okay.
  • Your children may not ‘like’ everything about you – and that’s okay.
  • Emotional support goes both ways… give it and accept it.
  • Love your children AND yourself. You can’t be there for them if you don’t take care of YOU!

Okay, that’s a good start. I constantly remind myself that sometimes (not all the time) we humans learn more from our ‘mistakes’ than we do from our successes. We made ours. This is their time. Let them make their own. Just be there if they want to talk about it. And remember… it’s their time, their life and, hey think of a tree…

Maybe you planted a sapling and watered it and nurtured it – maybe pruned it and even cured its diseases. You probably had ‘professionals’ groom and trim it. You sat under it, picnicked near it, danced around it. Now it’s all grown. There’s not much more to do except love it.

NOTE: Yes, this blog is a happy, skippy blog (hey, I’m a happy, skippy kinda gal) and you may be going through something HEAVY. Let’s talk about it and see if any of these ‘rules’ can guide you.




By Sandye Linnetz

No, that’s not a misprint. I actually meant patience, because patience is probably the number one requirement when loving or living with someone who has even early signs of Alzheimer’s or other type of dementia. It may be an aging parent, a close relative or neighbor. It may be someone who’s related to someone else…  Regardless of who it is in relation to you, all the rules of communication and ‘plays well with others’ go right out the window.

So What Do You Say? and What Do You Do? when you want to exercise generous listening  and compassionate communication… and the person on the other end isn’t playing with a full deck, forgets A LOT, has difficulty expressing thoughts and seems to hear you but not understand?

Most of the rules we learned about communication don’t work: there is no reasoning, explaining doesn’t work, confronting can be terrifying and arguing is pointless. Although they may sometimes appear to be nutso, they aren’t. They simply have a disease. They are not testing your patience, trying to aggravate you or from another planet, sent here to destroy the nerves of the human race. They are suffering. They cannot remember… and often can’t remember that they can’t remember. Can you ‘of sound mind’ even imagine what that must be like?

So here’s what I learned today (care takers take note, please)… When elderly people ‘lose’ things it may just mean that they put them somewhere ‘safe’ so they wouldn’t get lost. Problem is, they then tend to forget where that safe place was – or that they ‘hid’ them to begin with… I found my mother’s missing hearing aids – in a baggie under a box under some clothes in a drawer. I found my phone charger in a baggie in her purse. Her ‘lost’ phone turned up in her closet in a shoe. Note to self: NEVER look for mom’s missing items where you think they should be – check the most well hidden places, first! Although patience is personal, the patients’ behavior should not be taken personally. Want more blogs on this topic? I’d be happy to share… comment below and let me know!