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I'm Just Sayin'

We are sharing our viewpoints on experiences - past, present, and future - based on our personal, professional, and educational encounters. We are not trying to sway anybody to see the world from our vantage point. We invite people to share their perspectives, respectfully--- "Respectfully" is the key word.

The Power of Our Words

by Carrie Spell-Hansson
May 31, 2021

"There are countless realms of reality, and the words we use wrap us up nice and tightly into whichever perception we’re participating in.’"

- Jen Sincero


Have you ever listened to yourself talk? Those conversations that you have in your head or the actual words you use during those internal dialogues or monologues? Are the words positive or negative? Do they build you up and empower you or do they tear you down and deflate you?


Last month, we discussed how Words Matter, reminding us of the power and implications of our words when we communicate with and about others. This month our focus is on the words that we speak to ourselves. Our words shape our perceptions and our beliefs about ourselves, determine our behavior, and create our world. 


According to Quantum physics, life is more of an energy flow than a collection of solid things. In other words, physical matter doesn’t really exist, everything is just energy in various states of vibration. What that means is if we remain aware of the emotions we feel and the energy we contain, we can make conscious choices to create the realities we desire with the words that we speak. 


Words are very powerful tools, and when used properly, they can lift our energy and improve how we navigate situations and circumstances in our lives. One way of doing that is to Reframe. If we are feeling upset about how we handled a situation, we can choose to look at it from another perspective and lift our own spirits or vibration. For example, have you ever listened to several people who witnessed an accident recount a story of what happened? Often there are several interpretations all with elements of truth for each person. Reframing is a great way to give us another perspective and an opportunity to have a higher, more positive vibration.


The Japanese scientist, Masaru Emoto performed several fascinating experiments on the correlation between words and energy. In his book The Hidden Messages in Water, he describes an experiment where he poured water onto vials, a couple labeled with negative phrases like “fear” or “I hate you” and a couple with positive phrases like “Peace” or “I love you”. After 24 hours the vials with the negative phrases water were frozen, and no longer crystallized under the microscope: it yielded gray, misshaped clumps instead of beautiful lace-like crystals. Whereas the vials with the positive phrases produced gleaming, perfectly hexagonal crystals! There are actual before and after photos of these water crystals in his book.


How often do we think or say negative words about ourselves? For example, “I always do stupid things”, “I’m an idiot”, or “I’m such a loser”. Realize that these words bring negative energy into our being and affect us on a physical level. I learned that Emoto’s experiments were conducted with water because sound vibration travels through water four times faster than it does through air! If we remember that our bodies are more than two-thirds water, we will begin to understand how quickly our cells respond to the negative words we think and say to ourselves.


In addition to reframing, some additional techniques we can practice are:


  • Listen to our self-talk. Make a conscious effort to change self-criticism and self-demeaning name-calling to positive words in real time.


  • Start to use powerful positive words. Instead of saying “the meal was okay, I’ve had better..” think of something unique and good about the meal and use words to speak to that such as ”I really enjoyed the …”


  • Evaluate the company we keep. If you have complainers, gossipers, negative people in your circle, limit the time you spend with them if possible. Negative energy has a way of pulling everything and everyone into it. Realizing that it isn’t always possible to stay away from them, find ways to lift your energy immediately after leaving their presence. 


  • Do something that brings us joy. When we experience joy, neurological chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin are released into our system boosting our mood. This helps put us in a frame of mind that enables us to change our mindset and move us towards positive thoughts and positive words. 


  • Use the power of repetition to reinforce positive energy. One of my favorite things to do is to put post-it notes around my home, office, and sometimes on the glove compartment of my car with affirmations. Affirmations are simple positive statements that help us to challenge and overcome self-sabotaging and negative self-talk. When we repeat them regularly over time, we will begin to see a shift in those internal dialogues or monologues.   


Remember the power of words --- words that are spoken to us and words that we speak to ourselves.


“Whether you think [say] you can, or you think [say] you can’t – you’re right.”

-Henry Ford

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Words Matter
Understanding the power of what you say

by Carrie Spell-Hansson

Apr. 30, 2021

I can recall as a child the saying “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." Often said to bullies while we held back our tears. After a great deal of research, study, and teaching effective communication and being the recipient of harmful words, I fully understand that ‘Words Matter’.


Albert Mehrabian's famous formula expressing the dominance of nonverbal communication was derived from two studies he carried out with colleagues in 1967. They pioneered studies on the importance of nonverbal communication. According to Dr. Mehrabian, a speaker's words are only a fraction (7%) of her efforts. The pitch and tone of their voice, the speed and rhythm of the spoken word, and the pauses between those words may express more than what is being communicated by words alone. His research provided the basis for the widely quoted and often over-simplified statistic for the impact of the words we use. The Mehrabian formula was established in situations where there was incongruence between words and expression. In other words, where the words did not match the facial expression or tone. In his research, people tended to believe the expression they saw, as opposed to the words spoken. Dr. Mehrabian's theory would not be applicable in a military environment which is a strongly autocratic environment. On the other hand, it could be applicable in management, business, and personal situations where motivation and attitude have a significant impact on outcomes.


In Conversation with Others


Understanding the importance of the words we choose when we communicate is extremely important for effective communication and relationship building. Remember, Dr. Mehrabian's research was performed over 50 years ago! When we reflect on all the changes in our world over the past 50 years --- from globalization, technological advancement, and people relocating all over the world for a variety of reasons. I have been teaching cross-cultural communication and multicultural team effectiveness for over 20 years. I am unable to teach many of the tools I taught a few years ago because of the increased use of emails, texting, and other forms of social media. These are all forms of communication where we only have words as a basis of understanding what the sender of the communication means. Therefore, the sender must choose their words wisely and keep in mind that they can have the best intentions in the world but the receiver will only respond to the impact of the words they hear. There are a variety of factors that go into how the receiver is impacted. 











Our communication is fueled by our filters, these filters include our experiences, stereotypes, biases, generalizations, and the biggest filter of all, our culture. Imagine two people having a conversation and every word must go through two layers of filters.


With the current social and political unrest and the COVID and racial pandemic of 2020, it has become more and more evident that words matter. Words are extremely powerful tools that we can use to uplift, heal, and improve the lived experiences of others. Words, fueled with fear, anger, hatred, frustration, resentment, and jealousy can destroy families, friendships, communities, cities, and countries.


Remember – Words have great power, so choose them wisely!


Giving and Receiving Feedback


We all need feedback – it is essential for our development. In the workplace, it helps us to recognize how we are progressing toward the agreed upon goals; specifically, we can learn about what we are doing well and should continue doing (Reinforcing Feedback), and what we need to do differently (Corrective

Feedback). It is equally beneficial in our personal lives as it helps us maintain and fortify successful relationships.


You may have all been asked at one time or another by someone if they could give you feedback and wondered why it caused you to get knots in your stomach. At some point during the conversation, they may have said "don't take this as negative feedback, it is meant to be constructive criticism". There is no such thing as constructive criticism. Merriam-Webster defines criticism as "the act of criticizing usually unfavorably."  Criticism implies judgment and who likes to feel like they are being judged? Daniel Goleman, in his HBR article What Makes a Leader, states that threats to our self-esteem in the eyes of others are so potent they can literally feel like threats to our very survival.


As I stated earlier, feedback is essential. What makes it beneficial is its usefulness to the individual receiving it. If the words used to provide the feedback makes it difficult for the person to hear,  triggering emotional buttons, then the likelihood of achieving a positive outcome will be diminished.


Some key things to remember when we want to give someone feedback:


• Always seek to understand completely before you offer someone feedback.

• Avoid "mind reading" or talking about the person's intentions.

• Ask specific questions and don't make assumptions.

• Use appropriate words and timing.

• Use nonjudgmental, non provocative language.

• Using "I messages" are less judgmental to the receiver than "you messages."

   For example,  "I am confused" instead of "You confused me again."

• Take responsibility for your words. Remember words are not simply sounds 

   caused by air passing through the larynx. 


Think about the fact that your words hold incredible power, positively or negatively. Everything that you express in words has the power to influence and change the lives of everyone in your world. You get to make a choice to use words that inspire or destroy. Once you speak the words, they cannot be retracted no matter how many ways you apologize.


It is important that we speak our truth, but in doing so, we must be mindful about what we say and how we say it. Assertive communication means that we take the needs, wants, and feelings of the recipient of our communication into consideration. Otherwise, it is defined as aggressive communication.


People will forget what you said

People will forget what you do

People will never forget how you make them feel

- Maya Angelou


Remember – The real meaning of your words is in the impact that it has on the receiver.

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4 Strategies to Successful Communication
A woman’s guide to being heard

by Kat Yamamoto-Calvo

Mar. 31, 2021

Have you ever asked yourself, how can I effectively communicate what I want, need, think, or believe to others in the workplace? What about in family and social interactions? The ability to successfully express yourself, deliver your message effectively, and be heard is a personal development skill that many women seek. Too often, we second guess ourselves or worry about what people might think of us.


Be assertive. This is one of those things that are easier said than done. Assertiveness is a skill that is developed and honed by fire. Once learned, it does not even guarantee that you get what you want but it will definitely get you heard. Here are 4 strategies to successful communication from TFI’s CEO, Carrie Spell-Hansson:


  • Acknowledge the need - Assertiveness is often confused with aggressiveness. Being assertive is not being aggressive. On the contrary, assertiveness combats aggression. It is the ability to express how you feel without negating anyone else. It is communicating your wants, needs, and feelings. Acknowledging that you need to develop this ability is the first step.


  • Clearly determine your wants, needs, and feelings -  Take the time to pause and think of what you need, what you feel, and what your values are. Be intentional and deliberate. Often, women may say that they are not being heard yet they are unable to clearly articulate their message. How can you ask for what you want if you are unsure about what you want? 


  • Get coaching - It takes confidence, courage, and practice to become assertive.  Attending workshops or engaging a coach can give you the tools you need to develop this essential skill. With years of biased learning to unlearn, having someone supporting you to tap into your power can give you the courage and confidence you need to become your best self and accomplish whatever goals you set for yourself.

  • Apply lessons learned and be accountable - Just like with anything, learning without application can be a waste of time. Assertiveness is a skill, and like riding a bike or playing an instrument it takes practice. One small step at a time consistently, will assuredly get you to your destination... a successful communicator. When possible, find a trusted friend or mentor to serve as an accountability partner, if that isn't available to you, be accountable to yourself. Just commit to staying on track!


Remember, assertiveness is a choice. How we communicate and make an impression on others, whether it is a first or lasting one, is a choice. And each of us gets to decide on a case-by-case basis if and when we want to be assertive. Doing so strengthens our personal power.


As this year’s Women’s History Month draws to a close, I challenge all of us to make a commitment to ourselves that we will do whatever is necessary to be proactive and continue moving forward not only for our own advancement but for the generations to come.  

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So What? Now What?

How to Continue the Work Beyond Black History Month

by Carrie Spell-Hansson

Feb. 26, 2021

As the sun is setting on another ending of Black History Month, let’s ask ourselves---So what? Now what? Are we as a nation ready to embrace and incorporate the concept of acknowledging the history of all people everyday and every month of the year? What if we called every year starting January 1st American History Year? And perhaps take each month as an opportunity to celebrate a group of individuals that have contributed to the formation, the making, and the success of this nation? What does the future look like for us? We understand that the past has many wonderful things that have happened in order to create and build this nation. And we also know that there are a lot of things that happened where people have suffered and blood has been shed. 


Where do we go from here? Let us honor this month, Carter Woodson, and those that realized the importance of acknowledging the contributions of people of African descent in building our nation. It is exciting to see the number of individuals, communities, organizations, and corporations making a conscious effort to celebrate Black History Month; from magazine articles to entire magazines being devoted to the history of African Americans; to commercials on TV, in sports, and organization leaders making declarations and announcements affirming their commitment to African Americans within their organizations, clients, and customers. All of these are incredibly encouraging and promising; that we as a nation are moving in the direction of a more inclusive society while keeping in mind that we have lots of work to do. 


What future do we want to create? What will it take to manifest our desired future? Let us consider continuing conversations on creating an inclusive future, where all individuals in our society are respected and treated as equals. These are the important conversations we want to begin having in our homes, our communities, our places of worship, and our organizations.


The inclusive leader


I invite organizations to take a more active role in taking the initiatives that they have started during Black History Month beyond the month of February. Even as technology makes the world appear smaller, managing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) remain a significant challenge for organizations. To succeed in today’s environment, they must commit to developing an inclusive culture. 


Increasingly, companies are working with and managing people who are spread out not only within countries but also across borders and oceans. Their managers are managing people from more diverse geographies, cultures, demographics, and backgrounds than ever before. People from a variety of backgrounds must work together— one-on-one and in teams—across locations that may or may not be formally linked. 


Organizational leaders need the skills required to manage this changing, diverse workplace. Leaders have the task of teaching the managerial skills needed in today’s multicultural work environment. Their job is to prepare leaders and managers to value differences among employees, external clients, and customers so that everyone is treated with dignity and respect. 


In an article in SAGE Open, Harold Andrew Patrick and Vincent Raj Kumar define diversity as “a set of conscious practices that involve understanding and appreciating interdependence of humanity, cultures, and the natural environment; practicing mutual respect for qualities and experiences that are different from our own; … recognizing that personal, cultural, and institutionalized discrimination creates and sustains privileges for some while creating and sustaining disadvantages for others; and building alliances across differences so that we can work together to eradicate all forms of discrimination.” 


Toward an inclusive culture 


The role of leaders is to move individuals and the organization toward philosophical and practical change in support of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The most effective way to help move an organization forward and provide a measurable, long-term impact is centered around what we call the Three A’s: “Analysis—Assessment—Action.” Here’s a look at each element: 


Analysis. This stage isn’t just about asking questions. It’s about asking the right questions. The initial goal is to capture the issues, concerns, and barriers currently existing within the organization and use that knowledge to develop a strategic diversity plan to address them. The plan should outline the specific steps necessary to reach the agreed-upon organizational goals. 


Assessment. Generally, an organizational climate study, cultural audits, self-assessments, and one-on-one, and group interviews are beneficial in capturing the existing climate. Both quantitative and qualitative measures of the DEI climate should be used. 

Useful documents include EEO/AA reports and data on pay equity, promotions, recruiting (what are the costs of finding diverse employees?), and retention (who stays? who is leaving and why?). Other important data include department/team effectiveness and how conflict is managed within the existing culture. 


Action. Based on the analysis and assessment, leaders must implement some proven practices: 

  • Conduct organization-wide training tailored to each level—that is, leadership team, managers, and employees. When possible, separate the groups so that each feels free to open up and discuss relevant issues. 

  • Provide data to help leaders and managers see the correlation between DEI and productivity and employee engagement. 

  • Develop a consistent operational definition of diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

  • As part of the organization-wide training, include a discussion of perceptions and how our perceptions unconsciously shape how we treat and respond to others. 

  • Illustrate the positive impact of cultural differences, an area that is commonly overlooked. Explore the values of cultural orientation. 

  • Examine personal values and how they influence behaviors and interactions. 

  • Acknowledge differences, define what the differences are, and leverage those differences within the organization. 


Achieving a high-performing, inclusive organization is a journey. The leadership team must develop milestones and target dates to assess where they are (actual) with where they want to be (projected). With that information, they can develop SMART goals for reaching the desired destination. 


The DEI imperative 


Most organizations are made up of diverse cultures internally, their suppliers, clients, and customer base. Current research substantiates acknowledging and respecting differences can create a competitive advantage and increase employee engagement, thereby increasing productivity. DEI is about creating a fair and safe work environment where all employees can contribute and have access to opportunities. 


As we look ahead to Black History Month 2022, I challenge you to set a goal---whether it be one, two, or more----for your organization to accomplish in advancing, acknowledging, and promoting the contributions of African Americans as well as other marginalized groups. 

(Adapted from an article originally published in the AMA Playbook under the title of Creating an Inclusive Culture in a Global Work Environment by Carrie Spell-Hansson on October 10, 2017)

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An Inclusive United States of America --- Dream or Possibility?

by Carrie Spell-Hansson

Jan. 20, 2021

My experience as an expert in diversity, equity, and inclusiveness (DEI) and facilitator of workshops in organizations is that the leadership often hires me and steps away. This leaves workshop participants clueless about how to affect the necessary changes in their organizations. Employees enjoy my sessions on a personal and professional level; they learn to be more empathetic, conscious of their biases, cross-cultural in their interactions, and more democratic at work, in the community, and among family and friends. On the other hand, I often have to convince leadership of the benefits of impact studies and assessments to validate the training. DEI initiatives should have pre- and post-evaluations to ensure stickiness.    

I don’t think it is too much of a stretch to compare my training experiences in organizations to where we are now post-election in the United States. Early last summer, we saw people of all ages, races, religions, sexual orientations, and vocations, marching for racial equality just as multitudes of people did 60 or more years ago. It is inspiring to see that the numbers have swelled, and the faces are more diversified than ever before. Will this public outrage sustain itself? How will it play out at the top where legislation is needed to ensure equity and make inclusiveness the norm? We were bombarded with contentious ads during the presidential campaign season, pitting candidates against each other with as many lies as truths. Contenders railed about the opposition party’s stance on everything from healthcare, immigration, to taxes, and the economy — you name it. Where else in the world, but here in the U.S., did a global pandemic become so politicized that people died because government leaders refused to come to the table in a timely, purposeful, and publicly-spirited manner? Thankfully, the new administration is the most diverse we have ever had; their promises of unifying the country and infusing inclusiveness in every institution makes me hopeful.  

I am not here on my pages trying to bend your world view to mine — even though I passionately believe in all the tenets of a real democracy. You have experienced whatever it is you have experienced, and so have I. Those experiences shape who we are, what we do, who our friends are, what we eat, and if we will even be open to listening to people who do not look or speak like us. Let me tell you this: the change many Americans want, whether they are black, brown, yellow, red, or white, is a safe world where we all have access to healthy food, excellent education, affordable housing, and good healthcare. 


When was the last time you heard someone say, “I want the best medicine and care available for my family and I don’t care how much it costs”? I think we Americans have more in common than we dare acknowledge. I blame the shaky economy, biased media, and the incendiary rhetoric of both the leaders of the major political parties and the voting public for making this campaign a battle between ethnic races rather than one between political platforms.  


How do you think things got so quickly and violently out of hand? Because racism — American-style — never went away. We need a novel grassroots movement to turn back this new tidal wave of racial unrest that exhibits itself throughout society: unequal access to quality health and education, food scarcity, underemployment, overpopulation of prisons due to unfair judicial policies, and too many ill-trained, biased, and bigoted officers. Now that we have a top leadership team committed to eradicating the divisiveness nurtured over the last four years, there is a great need to work from the bottom up.


Those of the new grassroots movement won’t be easily identified by the clothing they wear— recall the unofficial uniforms of Black Panthers and Guardian Angels, and today’s tee shirts emblazoned with Black Lives Matter. This movement will be — is already— composed of your neighbor, your boss, your local business owner, your clergy, your children’s teacher, and every single member of your community bravely working — whites, blacks, browns, yellows, and reds. 

However, the new civil rights movement needs a shot in the arm; we all need to work on our language and its delivery in conversations and discussions. We must learn what it means to respect each other and adopt standards of civility for public speaking, private conversations, and even on social media. Poor communication skills will continue to drive us apart. Learning to listen, empathize, become self-aware, and respect other worldviews is within every human being’s capability because we are social animals. We can all learn to appreciate and celebrate the diversity that this country was built on. Michele Obama, in her biography, Becoming, said each morning (as First Lady), she was reminded that she was in a house built by slaves. When I read that, I thought of other women like Eleanor Roosevelt, Shirley Chisolm, and Barbara Jordan who would have said something similar because they fundamentally believed in diversity, equity, and inclusiveness. America has a chance to become great — not “again,” as the departing president falsely claimed. Our history is too bleak. It was great for some and hell for others, particularly people who looked like me. Let us learn from the past and continue to grow in numbers of those determined to commit to and invest in creating an inclusive society. 


It is simple. This is nothing complicated. It doesn’t require any of us going to school or taking a course or a workshop to begin. It only needs us to be willing to take one step. There’s a Lao Tzu proverb that says, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” What matters is our willingness to take one step (one action) to see what is possible, whether we are Democrat or Republican, black or white, or female or transgender. What if we are willing to take that one step, whatever it might be? 

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