Before reading this second article on Speak with Good Purpose, you may want to look at last month’s article where we considered:

  • Why Speak with Good Purpose?

  • It’s all about awareness

  • Think about the intention of your words


Give positive, honest and direct communication.

Let’s look at some of the more subtle aspects of this Key Catalyst, such as Visible Communication, Communication Killers, and Active Listening. This is all about positive, honest and direct communication, although some of it may appear to be less than positive on the surface. First let’s consider the most negative of all communication forms-gossip.

When it comes to Gossip, keep a NO TOLERANCE zone.

I have very strong feelings about gossip. In fact, I don’t think anyone in my organization who was here a few years ago doubts the intensity of my feelings. Overhearing a new employee deep in gossip about a coworker, I “lost it”! Gossip is the worst form of negative communication. Sometimes we don’t even give it a second thought. Employees gather in the lunchroom and without much thought begin complaining about their day or about a coworker. Students quickly spread gossip to impress their friends. Siblings tell tales about each other in families. I have absolutely no tolerance for gossip-it always has a damaging impact. We need to be constantly on the lookout to avoid and discourage any form of this type of communication wherever we encounter it-in our home, in our workplace, wherever we interact with others. Of course, my angry outburst in the office probably produced its own gossip, so keep that in mind!

Visible communication-let people know your intent

“Got a minute?”

Have you ever had someone ask you this? Doesn’t it immediately send up a yellow flag in your mind: Why is he asking me this? Does he want me to have a cup of coffee with him? Does he want advice, or a favor? It’s an invisible question-you don’t know what he wants, you do know it probably won’t take just a minute, and you don’t know how to respond. Your honest answer is probably, “For what?” But you don’t feel comfortable being so blunt-and you feel cornered.

I get this a lot at work. I handle it by reminding the person to be visible with “Why are you asking?” and if that doesn’t bring out the purpose, “Tell me more.” This way, rather than uncomfortably saying, “Yes” with my questions unanswered, I’m being direct in my communication and the final result will be better for both of us.

Another example of invisible communication is “What are you doing Friday night?” You wonder, Is she just curious? Does she want to invite me somewhere? Or maybe she wants me to help her move or some other project? What if she simply said, “I have an extra ticket for the concert on Friday night … would you like to come with me?” How easy is that to answer?

We all speak invisibly at times. When I catch myself doing it, I remind myself to finish the sentence: “Do you have a minute to discuss …?” “What are you doing Friday night? I have concert tickets and I’m hoping you can join me.” When your intent is clear, people don’t feel as if they’re being manipulated or trapped-and they feel comfortable responding to you.

Visible communication grows stronger relationships. Make your intent visible, make your purpose clear, and strengthen your relationships.

Don’t be a communication killer-be an active listener

Beware! Some conversation responses-like reassurance, advice, and identification-that seem helpful on the surface can actually hinder positive communication, and may even end a conversation before it has a chance to become meaningful communication.

Here are the three don’ts that I try to remember: don’t deny, don’t resolve, and don’t me-too.

  • Don’t deny: “You don’t need to lose weight, you look fine.

    When a friend shares an experience, a fear, or a feeling (“I’m so fat …”) and you respond with reassurance, you may mean to comfort her, but what you’re really doing is cutting off her sharing with the statement that she shouldn’t feel that way-you’re denying her feelings.

  • Don’t resolve: “If I were you …

    When someone tells you about a problem they’ve having, and you quickly hand them a solution, you shut them right down. Think about it. If you wanted to chat with a friend about a problem and maybe share some ideas and they quickly throw a solution at you, it wouldn’t feel very good. Their two-minute solution to a problem you’ve been struggling with for weeks would probably (a) be unlikely to work, (b) be something you already though of, and (c) be very likely to end the conversation.

  • Don’t me-too: “I know exactly what you mean-the same thing happened to me …

    In a similar situation to the above, when a friend begins to share something they’re going through and you cut them off with a “Me, too” and go into your “story”, you’ve killed the conversation. Your friend may never get to finish telling you about his experience, but he’ll know all about what happened to you.

None of these responses gives a conversation a chance. Often the best “conversations” are very one-sided as far as speaking is concerned. This is called active listening and it’s a vital ingredient in meaningful communication. The “listener” listens very intently and hardly says a word, only contributing enough to let the other person know they’re really hearing them. Think about the difference active listening would have made in the three don’ts examples above.

There is an exercise we’ve done in our programs where a couple people are told privately to be silent and only listen for one day. If asked a direct question, they answer yes or no, or with as few words as possible. It’s quite enlightening to do yourself. The surprise at the end of the day is usually that no one noticed you were being silent. They think, What a great listener he/she is … I feel great!

When you are direct and honest in your communication,
people feel safe and respected
and relationships grow.

About the Author:

Bobbi DePorter is the author of Quantum Success and other books on learning and teaching, and is president of Quantum Learning Network (QLN) and cofounder of SuperCamp. QLN produces programs for students, educators, parents and business people across the United States and abroad. For more information, visit or email