Negotiating with Empathy

I was a nurse for 11 years in Texas (six years in McAllen and five years in Houston). If you want to hear a remarkably inspiring, incredibly funny and moving story (yes, it’s all that), take me out for coffee and ask me about my nursing. I’m bringing up nursing because it allowed me to learn very early on that empathy was a very important leadership trait.

First of all, not all nurses are empathetic. Empathy is certainly something you get formerly introduced to in the nursing program, but not all nurses are genuinely empathetic. Empathy is something you develop, if you’re lucky.

But even prior to nursing, one of my former bosses, Charles L. H. (New Media Director for the also former, WHERE Magazines International) had indirectly introduced me to the notion of empathy in a round about way when he handed me Sun Tzu’s, The Art of War.

I read it front to back and back to front, often parked on a paragraph just to make sure I had understood its meaning. Perhaps, it was in the way that the book was presented to me, that I felt I really needed to understand the book’s teachings in order to be successful.

Looking back, I could see how the foundations of negotiating and strategy were being formed within me, and how my nursing allowed me to hone down on developing empathy.

Basically, it’s coming to the table with the knowledge that the other party is no less better than you because they are human just like you.

The notion that the skills of negotiation is based on a tough and unfaltering poker faced attitude has never been wrong. For me, an empathetic and confident approach goes a long way to both parties achieving a desired outcome.

The secrets of negotiating are:
1. Understanding the needs and desires of the other party;
2. Understanding and knowing the extent of their resources that they are able to draw from;
3. Knowing what skills, value, and resources you are able to provide;
4. Knowing what you are going to be comfortable with.

Basically, it’s coming to the table with the knowledge that the other party is no less better than you because they are human just like you.

It wasn’t hard to learn this, especially when you had to talk a grown man into allowing you to insert a rubber catheter into this urinary meatus i.e. penis. I’ve always said that nurses made great PR reps and negotiators.

I’m not saying that one would have needed to be a nurse or be in a similar profession to develop PR and negotiating skills. I’m just saying that many of the situations that nurses find themselves call for PR and negotiating skills to some degree.

After I left nursing (yet another amazing over coffee story), I quickly found myself in the world of freelance *something*. As most freelancers know, you may be great at what you do, but when it comes to negotiating what you’re worth, that is definitely something you have to learn to be comfortable with.

It was like that for me, anyway. It took some time for me to feel comfortable. Comfortable in asking stating a fee I would accept in exchange for a set of skills that was needed.

When I look back at my early days of freelancing I could see which clients were empathetic when it came to negotiating fees and resources, and those that were not. I am grateful. Having others being considerate to my needs as a personal approach to a business engagement taught me, likewise.

Regardless of who or what the company is, their net worth or rank, my first thought when it comes to negotiating any contract is that we are both humans, trying to figure out what are the best ways to work together, where both parties can be happy.

Next time you find you’re about to enter into any manner of negotiating, try empathy. It may surprise you.


If It Doesn’t Work Out, That’s a Good Sign

I could count the number of times in my life when things just didn’t work out. It could’ve been something I really wanted, had planned for (short or midterm), had anticipated happening, was told it would happen, and even a few relationships that I had hoped would turn out (personal and business).

A few of these involved loss of money, loss of time and/or effort, a loss of a person. Mostly, it involved the exercise of learning to lose my pride.

Pride aside, I will say this. For everything that has never turned out in my life, came a replacement of something or someone so much better. I quickly learned to recognize this pattern of “after the bad, always comes the good”, or the conscious act of “looking for the silver lining” whenever it felt as if I was in a bad place (again). More often, you don’t easily find the silver lining and the turn-around-time (TAT) for having the good present itself, can sometimes be slow. Real slow, as in a few years.

Now, when things don’t work out, I get giddy inside. I take it as a sign that something great will happen next. It always does. Always. But like I said, the TAT can be slow. In that case, it becomes an exercise in patience, perseverance, and preparing my mindset for the awesome that’s to come.

Let Go of Best Practices and Lead the Pack

Many companies still operate with the mindset of following best practices; methods and techniques that have been proven to work above and beyond the norm.

I’m often astounded at the number of clients that concern themselves with their industry’s best practices. When I consult on their brand’s digital presence, I’m often asked “Are we following the industry’s best practices?” When I hear these words (and I hear them a lot), I just want to pack up my things and leave.

More often, I’ll spend as much as two hours explaining to clients why letting go of best practices is the new best practice.

I cultivate game changers. I don’t want to waste my time working with clients that still have their heads operating inside their industry’s box. Packing up and walking away doesn’t happen too often. In fact, it’s only happened twice. I have gotten a lot smarter in quickly identifying, during the first phone meeting, whether or not a client will be worth my time. More often, I’ll spend as much as two hours explaining to clients why letting go of best practices is the new best practice.


I hate to bring up the word innovate (yet another annoying buzz word imho), but it’s relevant to this post. You’ve heard it said before and really, it’s the truth. Things are happening incredibly fast. There isn’t much out there that can be considered *original* anymore. Just as pretty blondes are a dime a dozen in L.A. (yes, I went there), so too are startups with great ideas (well, some not so great but I give then an A for effort). What sets these startups apart from all the other ones within the same category isn’t so much the first to market, though that helps too. Sometimes, being first doesn’t always mean being the best. In fact, being first leaves you open to others studying your offering, knowing your weakness, and improving on the wheel that you’ve just created – and making it better *ouch*.

Oooo. That was a long winded sentenced that didn’t even get to the point! Pardon me for that.

The point is, the startups that succeed are the ones that dare to be different. They don’t even have a box to “think inside of”. One or two of the components in their strategy is innovative. They innovate on something that has been done time and time again. They  understand best practices, but take it to another level and innovate for better practices. In other words, they lead the pack.

This is the million dollar question I ask clients. “Do you want to lead the pack?” If they say “yes” with a gleam in their eye (albeit a trace of doubt), then I know I can genuinely put my time, effort, bold creativity, and strategies into place. If they say “yes” without that gleam, I know it’ll be an uphill battle. I might as well change my name to Sisyphus. That might not be  an exact analogy. Hopefully, you get the picture.

Pssssst. Here’s a secret. Being innovative is so easy. Basically, it’s looking at what others are not doing, and doing it.  I know, I know, that doesn’t really sound like a recipe for success. That’s only part 1a. You need part 1b.

Part 1b is simply to be human.

Startups and companies that integrate basic human qualities and use these as a way to reach out to people (as common sense and logical as it may sound), is still an innovative way when it comes to communicating from a marketing standpoint. It’s innovative because it has not been readily adapted in best practices. In fact, clients are still worried and baffled at the idea of presenting their brand(s) as simply being human.


When companies are honest about what they want to do, and welcome others to help out in their goal, it ultimately results in a win-win. The company gets to achieve their goal(s) in a manner that people want to support. And, people will get something in return that they want (be it a product or a service).

After all, your startup idea or company goal(s) shouldn’t just be about doing something you are passionate about. You can’t really make money just from that, per se. Your idea or goal(s) should also include what others can get passionate about. Make them want it, or want to use it. You then have a foundation for monetization, should you go that route.

Moving forward, I highly recommend that we let go of best practices, innovate for better practices, and lead the pack.


Personal Relevance

Back in the day when Google first open sourced its mobile operating system (Android), I immediately knew I wanted to jump on that bandwagon. What transpired shortly had catapulted me into the realm of startups, mobile apps, augmented reality, location based services, and 3D printing. This was all back in 2009/2010.

My first thought was how to get my idea to connect with people that were interested in Android. It didn’t take long for me to come up with “What’s up, android?” I thought that by using a simple sentence to elicit a response, would relieve half the battle. The other half would be to reach out to people. It wasn’t just any people. I already knew who my target group(s) were; android developers. It was a no brainer. I would reach out to android devs by using humour.

In the beginning


In just one day I was able to obtain the domain, create a twitter account, a few cartoons, and it was on your mark, get set, go.

In that same time period I came up with Android PR Gal. I made it clear that the PR did not stand for public relations, but people relationships. I told people that I wanted to help build people relationships between the android devs, their apps, and the people that would most likely use them. The term social media was relatively new at the time and people were using phrases that helped to make sense of what was going on, in twitter. Twitter’s initial ask, “What are you doing?” made it clear that using twitter to ask, and show & tell “What’s up, android?” was the way to go.

Moving forward, the concept of social media started to grow, and marketers started using words like; connecting, networking, reaching out, building relationships. Today, all you ever hear are the buzz words connecting, building relationships, cultivating community, blah blah blah. I’m not negating the importance of these buzz words, or the positive reality that they have for brands. I just feel as if they’ve been said over a thousand times, rolling off people’s tongues, included in most if not all social media strategies, so much so that they’ve become so common now.

Common is good. Common sometimes lends itself to becoming a standard. Now that social media has become a household term, buzz words like connecting, building relationships, cultivating community are definitely standard online behaviours that you’d expect from brands. If they’re not online doing these things, somebody’s got to tell them. The unfortunate thing is, there are brands online that claim to be behaving in such manners, however, they just don’t seem to be doing it right. That’s my gut feeling. Well, it’s also how I see it.

One day, it had occurred to me that there has to be something more significant than what these buzz words tout. I looked at the letters P and R for a second. All of a sudden they no longer stood for People Relationships but Personal Relevance.



“To know the relevance of something is to know why it matters or how it is important.” BINGO!

From this day forward, I am relinquishing People Relationships and focusing on Personal Relevance. If I keep this in mind, the manner in which I connect, build relationships, and cultivate community will start from understanding, why someone would want to personally connect with a brand. I will ask myself the question: What are the things about [insert brand name here] that are personally relevant to a particular person, business, organization?


Why do you take so many pictures of cups of coffee?

Answer: Because I can.

No really, because I can.

If you follow me on twitter, foursquare, or instagram, and are my friend on facebook, you’ve probably noticed my daily pics of lattes, or pour overs. Truth be told, I take photos of coffee because I want to give credit to the café, or coffee brand. You know, because I’m in the business of brandPR (helping brands build people relationships personal relevance* a.k.a. social media).

Trust me. If you owned a café you’d appreciate the free advertising and marketing that I give you. Don’t believe me? Ask @garison or @themikepayne or a number of my followers, what affect my coffee pics from foursquare check-ins have gotten them to do – visit the café I’m in and grab a coffee. You’re welcome café owners.

If you’re annoyed by it I suggest you unfollow me, or just ignore it. I’ll tell you this though, I won’t be the one to complain about your food pics, or kid pics, or doggie pics, or cat pics.

In the words of a famous Beatle “Let it be.”

*I elaborate on personal relevance, here.

From a Distance

From a distance


I promised myself I’d start writing again. I broke that promise (sort of). Since the resurrection of this site I must’ve had a few dozen things I wanted to write about, but then one thing lead to another and yaddah, yaddah, yaddah.

I caught this tweet a few hours ago. I didn’t even know I was following @chickitgurrl. I’m glad I was. It was her tweet that prompted my lazy writing brain to just do it.

What can I say. Her tweet spoke to the romantic in me. Just from reading it, my heart seemed to have gone through all the collective feelings of those people who’d had similar experiences. I suppose most of these feelings were remnants of movie scenes in the past. I’m almost sure of it.

In any case, catching her tweet gave me a sudden, warm, and unexpected feeling that I miss.

Thank you for making my heart smile,  Shonell.

Livestream Please

For the life of me, I can’t understand why organizers don’t integrate a livestream for their events. WTF! It’s 2014 people. I’ve been livestreaming meetups/events since 2008 in Frankfurt, Germany for the rest of the world to peek in and have a looksie. Heck, I’ve even livestreamed RL(Real Life) events into SL (Second Life).

Are organizers actually thinking that if they were to provide a livestream then the number of physical attendees would drop? Or that those who haven’t paid for the event shouldn’t be privy to its content? Nonsense. Other events livestream.

You’d think that in this extremely connected world we live in, events that harp on topics such as social media or crowdsourcing would at least provide a livestream.

Just grab your fuckin’ laptop, turn it around and face its camera to the stage. Pppffftt!

If you’re thinking of having an event and you’re not sure how to effectively livestream, contact me on twitter. I’ll help you for FREE.

Why you would want to livestream your event:

1. Reach a larger audience (ummmm, the world)

2. Engage a larger audience.

3. Introduce your event brand to a larger audience.

4. Provide a larger audience for your speakers (they’ll really love you for this)

5. Let the world know what topics are being presented.

6. Oh, you know … connect to a larger audience.

I may have to write a detailed post on things to think about when livestreaming an event (logistics, positioning, audio, monitoring, moderating, livestream platforms *think Google Hangout connected to YouTube) because obviously it’s not that common.

Oranges Grow On Trees

I looked at my basket of oranges that I had purchased from Costco three weeks ago. Some were starting to dry out. I like oranges, but apparently not that much. How many oranges can one person eat anyway?

That was a stupid question. I could have easily consumed all the oranges if I had a juicer, or if I ate two a day. The truth is, I’ve been eating out a lot and the food in my fridge, just like the oranges on my counter, were being ignored. This has been a reoccurring situation over the past six months. I’m beginning to get tired of looking at the neglected food, and the need to throw them out. Basically, I’ve been throwing out money. *ouch*

I was feeling disgusted at the thought that I purchased a box of oranges from Costco of all places!

I decided to grab an orange to slice it up. I took out my little wooden chopping board and a steel knife and started to slice away. Half way through I was feeling disgusted. I was feeling disgusted at the thought that I purchased a box of oranges from Costco of all places! And that these oranges just sat on my counter. I was disgusted that I was using a knife and a chopping board (Yes, they were that dry that I needed to use a knife just to open them). Oranges grow on trees. I should be able to walk outside and grab an orange from a tree.

I remember seeing orange groves and lemon groves that grew beside the roadways that cut through the Costa Blanca. No one owned them. They were just there. I keep thinking about that. I would like that. I would like to be able to walk outside and pick an orange off a tree, peel it, and enjoy eating it under the sun. Living should be simple.

Learning to Let Go of a Dream

When I made the decision to live a minimalist lifestyle, I learned early on that I would have to let go of the one dream that I had been holding onto ever since I was a child. That dream was the idea of a home.

A home might sound like a silly thing to let go of but for me it was the one thing that I knew I had to let go. If I was ever going to really start living I knew I had to be free of this dream that has been burdening me emotionally.

… a house filled with stuff meant that you had a life worth living, filled with love, good times, laughter, and wonderful memories …

You see, my idea of a home is a place where myself, a husband, and our children would live out our lives and make memories (think of the houses in the movies Home Alone, National Lampoon’s A Christmas Vacation, and Father of the Bride). A home was a place where there would be an attic full of stuff that represented the passing years. A place where a collection of odds and ends, souvenirs from places traveled to, and old toys and what-nots would occupy hope chests. A place where Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, Birthdays, and Anniversary celebrations would herald an annual feast. For me, a house filled with stuff meant that you had a life worth living, filled with love, good times, laughter, and wonderful memories – a house filled with a collection of sentimental objects that held their own priceless story that would start with “Remember when … “. That was my idea of a home.

Ever since I was a little child I knew I wanted children, lots of children. Naturally, I would need a large home to comfortably house all these children. Movies portraying families in large homes where the children would grow up in, move away, and then return with their own families always had a heart warming appeal to me. I looked forward to this at an early age.

Making the decision to live with less stuff feels like I am betraying my childhood dream.

I never did get the large family I wanted. I was married. I never had that home. Even so, there’s still a part of me that yearns for it. There’s still a part of me that secretly hopes for it. I’ll never really admit it to anyone. I think the hardest thing is admitting to myself that I still want it.

Making the decision to live with less stuff feels like I am betraying my childhood dream. A dream that I’ve been secretly hoping for. Maybe the large home doesn’t have to have lots of stuff. Maybe the home doesn’t even have to be large. Maybe I won’t have more children. Maybe I won’t marry again. Maybe I’ll be without a husband. Maybe I’ll just be alone. Maybe I won’t have anyone to share life’s adventures with. Maybe I’m afraid of seeing what great things I can do on my own. Maybe I just need to believe in myself more. Maybe I just need to let go of that dream and replace it with a new one.

My new dream: to be happy living with less stuff because there are more important things in life than stuff (or being married, having a husband, a family, children). If I can’t be happy on my own, for myself, without the need for material things or people to make me happy, then there is no point being a wife or a mother. I don’t want to be the person that uses these to fill my life. Instead, I want to be able to add to them. And if I never get to be a wife or a mother again, it won’t matter at all because I am going to be happy, regardless.

Photo Credit: Letting Go by Bandico on deviantART

Addendum: I came across an article on the minimalists blog that helped me to let go of this dream. (on Feb. 18, 2014)