Select the right words. Say them well.

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There are two ends of this spectrum — and you’ll probably recognize each. The question is, do you recognize yourself?

First, don’t be the professional world’s equivalent of a smile button. Do you ever run into people like this? They seem to be so disconnected from life around them they loose all relevance to most of the people they meet. Right up until the time they declare bankruptcy they’re telling you everything is great!

Then there is the person with the ever-present rain cloud overhead. No matter what’s going on they are ready to tell you what’s gone wrong, or, more accurately, how they have been wronged. Often these people complain about the jerks they work with or are in business with and sooner or later you realize the one constant in all those stories — is them!

What got me thinking about this is the need to tell a credible good news story in a down economy. It’s more than just saying, “Hey, things are great!” With all the difficulty being experienced in different parts of the economy, it just doesn’t ring true for many people. The key in this day and age is to really respond to the person asking instead of just throwing off a “usual answer.” In most cases that means being able to give a quick example of what is going right for you or your organization these days.

For a business that might mean saying, “Our phone keeps ringing and we are very happy about that.” It doesn’t say you’re hauling in the big bucks but it says you’re still moving forward. How about, “We’ve taken the time to really appreciate our steady customers.” In other words you’re spending time on the core of your work during this critical time. For a government agency or a non-profit you can say, “We’re really emphasizing how we can accomplish our goals by keeping everyone focused on the people we serve.” What you’re saying is you know how to keep the mission real even when resources have to be cut.

The goal here is to be able to effectively talk about what you do, even when times are tight. If you just have complaints or are overly sunny people might rightly wonder if you really know what you’re doing!

Finally, there are those who are actually seeing a boom in business in these down times. I often wonder what a person who runs a collection agency says to friends at a Holiday party this year. “Gee, business has never been better!” That message must also be tempered when you know others might not be doing as well.

As for me, the phone keeps ringing — and indeed for that I am very grateful. My best to you in the New Year and let’s look forward to better times ahead!