Articles by Maureen Merrill

Articles for Self-Coaching


Face the dragon: Slay your next challenging encounter 7 ways

I often help clients prepare for encounters in which they expect conflict, tension and opposition to rise up like fire-breathing dragons. No wonder we obsess, postpone or look for a way out of these meetings and conversations. Look: when we feel we’re going into battle, let’s not do it with no plan, no armor, and no real grip on our light saber. Read more

The Nerve: 4 Ways to Take Charge of Jitters

Sometimes, we have it down cold. Then, just when it’s time to show it, we blow it. From deer-in-headlights, sweating, shaking, can’t-do-it anxiety to mildly annoying apprehension, nerves are natural responses to being watched, heard, or evaluated. Read more

Refrain and Replace – “Banished Words” and What to Use Instead

Originally posted in 2016, updated in 2021; a rare curmudgeonly post from a usually sunny and optimistic writer. The annual ‘Banished Words” List, a favorite of mine, seeks to strike out nonsensical, over-used and tasteless expressions. 2016’s bad boys include bigly, dadbod, and guesstimate, and most of us can easily come up with better boys to use instead.

The clever folks at Lake Superior State University, who have complied the offending terms for about a half-century, don’t always offer alternatives to the words they want banished. Although once, they did suggest “concentrate” or “look” in place of focus, a word that has perhaps lost itself.

Note for 2021: On this year’s list, I love the banishment of “Karen” (how mean), “I know, right?” and “an abundance of caution.” The word “So” as a sentence-starter made the list in 2019, and should get a permanent place!

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Productive Meetings

“The purpose of meetings is not to talk – the purpose of meetings is to arrive at ideas, solutions, plans and decisions.” — Alexander Kjerulf, Happy Hour is 9 to 5. When we want most anything to go better, the basic how-to can be easy. Making the needed changes is much harder, so the problem persists. We all dislike boring, unproductive meetings. Read more

The Opinion Reflex: Take Command

Many of us perceive ourselves as pretty good listeners. When that’s true, it’s likely that we’re not being jerked around by a muscular Opinion Reflex.  As I see it, we do tend to have such a reflex. Nearly everything we hear prompts us to pull up our position on the subject – based mostly on what we already know, or think, or feel. Sometimes we judge and “vote” aloud, almost automatically, maybe even before we’ve heard the whole story. The Opinion Reflex can become a powerful, overwhelming habit, one that can kill genuine listening, and therefore genuine conversation.

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Good Listener?  You?  3 Ways to be Sure

Ask the next ten people you see, “Are you a good listener?” and you’ll likely hear “yes” in ten different ways. It’s a quality that we take pride in, like being a great driver or a bad liar.  But if you then ask, “Are most people good listeners?” you’ll get very different responses.   Which probably means that some of us don’t listen as well as we think we do. Oh, we know that good listeners pay attention, ask questions, and exhibit encouraging non-verbal cues while maintaining an open mind. Easy!  But how do we know we’re doing all that? To know when you’re listening well,

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Introvert Speakers: 5 insights

My most recent Public Speaking Boot Camp was unusual in that a majority of participants identified themselves as “introverts.” When it’s a sign-yourself-up event, extroverts tend to dominate (in more ways than numbers.) In this case, the client was an engineering firm training day.  How do introverts use their natural strengths when speaking to a group, leading a discussion, or in any situation that puts them in the spotlight?

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Nervous while talking? 3 signs of it, and 3 fixes

Talking too fast, funny voice, and fidgeting. These common signs of underlying nervousness can undermine your message. Everyone feels ill-at-ease, tentative, or anxious at times, especially when speaking, whether in conversation or as a presenter. Since you can’t always predict your “nerves”, learn a few ways to outwit them. Read more