Episode 336: Straight Talk by Dr. Rick Brandon

Episode Summary

In this episode, Dr. Rick explains how to acquire the Straight Talk mindset and how it can transform and upgrade our communication skills. We navigate his early passion for communication, his past as an educator, and the turning points that defined his path.

Steve Shallenberger: Welcome to our Becoming Your Best podcast listeners, wherever you may be in the world today. This is your host, Steve Shallenberger. And we have a terrific guest with us today. He serves as distinguished faculty for IMS and has taught graduate and undergraduate courses at colleges and universities. He earned a Ph.D. in Counseling at the University of Arizona, an MA in School Psychology from St. Lawrence University, and a BA in Psychology from Case Western Reserve. Welcome, Dr. Rick Brandon. 

Dr. Rick Brandon: Thank you so much, Steve. It’s good to be in your world. 

Steve Shallenberger: Thanks, Rick, appreciated. Look at all that training you’ve had. 

Dr. Rick Brandon: Yeah, piled higher and deeper, the Ph.D. I learned a lot and met a lot of great people.  

Steve Shallenberger: And not only that, you’ve been out practicing. And when you take that theoretical academic together with the practical application, you learn to get to a whole nother level. And so, I’m so excited to have you with us today. 

Dr. Rick Brandon: Thank you. It wasn’t about the books. I always say it cured me of reading ever again. But what I really cherished about it was the relationships I made at a personal level, but also the practical experience because it wasn’t just about thesis and dissertations, it was about doing the work, working with clients, doing communication skills seminars, running groups, etc. And that’s my jones. I get addicted to working with people. So, it was great. 

Steve Shallenberger: That’s great. And it’s also the payday, isn’t it? It’s the payday and the real satisfaction from what you do is seeing people get to a better place in life. 

Dr. Rick Brandon: Some of my work was counseling, so it was really being a psychotherapist. But I learned really quickly, that wasn’t what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to be a shrink; putting people in boxes and labeling, like a lot of psychologists do. People would say, “Oh, are you one of those shrinks?” No, I’m a stretch. I like to stretch people’s boundaries. So, it was always about teaching communication, and teaching some of the people skills that you talk about, that’s one of the factors of being your best. And of course, it’s my jam, as the young folks say. So, that’s what I love. 

Steve Shallenberger: Well, that’s great. I’ll tell you, to our listeners, just a little bit more about Rick before we get going then. We’ve got so much to cover, so I’m excited to get into this. Rick is the founder and president of the internationally-respected training firm, Brandon Partners. He has devoted thirty+ years to designing and delivering leadership and professional development workshops on influence skills – so, these should be Interpersonal Savvy, Political and Organizational Savvy, High-Impact Presentation Skills, Selling Skills, Self-Talk, and Self-Accountability. And he has taught for scores of Fortune 500 companies and others. He is so terrific in this area and really focuses on how to improve results and work relationships by increasing the candor clarity and impact of their communication. So, Rick, if you don’t mind, to get going, do you mind just sharing with us about your background and especially including any turning points that helped you get to where you are today? 

Dr. Rick Brandon: I’ve been into this communication game, literally, since before I was born because I’m an identical twin. So, I like to say, and I joke about it but I’m actually serious too that in a sense, at a cellular level, I was into connection before I was born. And then growing up, I grew up in what I would call a pathologically functional family because my family was really close and tight-knit. It was always about connection, not just as a twin, but my folks, my older brother, my younger sister, and I would watch my dad communicate with his customers. He owned a furniture store, and he was incredible about how he would connect through humor, and through understanding them, understanding their needs, and really having personal relationships. And then he was also the emcee of a lot of social events, which I started doing and loved doing. So, it was about communication, being in front of groups, and watching a master at it. And that’s what got me into wanting to pursue that in my schooling. And I already told you what the turning point was, was realizing that I didn’t want to sit in a room and deal with people’s problems all day. I care, but I needed to be in front of people, I like to call up my erogenous zone is being in front of groups, helping them grow. So, while I was doing therapy, I don’t do therapy now, but I consider it therapeutic, and I get turned on by watching people grow. So, that’s what I’ve been into. The turning point was some of my mentors in school, various professors, you wouldn’t know their names, but they made a big impact on me being into this area. So, that’s a little bit about me. 

Steve Shallenberger: I love it. And thanks for sharing some of that background about mentors and professors and the insights you’ve had and the turning point of going from this discipline to maybe something that you feel much more passionate about. And I know our listeners, they have those experiences as they go through their lives and they go through their careers. They start getting really good at something that allows you to see more. And as you continue to develop those skills, you get better and better. And that’s the heart of becoming your best is you’re just always bringing out the best within yourself and others, and that’s pretty awesome. 

Dr. Rick Brandon: Amen. You and I are similar birds. We’re into expanding our own potential, and then inviting others to take a look within and without externally too; how do they expand their boundaries? How do they push the boundaries and continually improve? Because if we ain’t improving, we’re dying. If we’re not getting better, we’re withering. 

Steve Shallenberger: Amen. Rick wrote a terrific book, it’s entitled “Straight Talk: Influence Skills for Collaboration and Commitment.” Do you mind telling us about the book? Why did you write it? And what are some of the main points there that are helpful for our listeners? 

Dr. Rick Brandon: Well, I’ve been into the communication game, so I wrote it because that’s been my passion, and I’ve been doing this for 30-40 years, as you said. But why now? Two reasons. One is we’ve been doing the workshops around the world, globally, as you said, and I wanted to really put the workshop in the book; that’s the branding of the book, it’s my workshop in a book. It’s teaching the Straight Talk skills for people who can’t attend a seminar with my firm, Brandon Partners. So, how could I disseminate this information, generously – I like to think – and universally? So, that was why. And why now? We were right in the middle of COVID, so it was a way to keep me busy, for one thing, my wife said. But also, my belief was remote work. And even now, hybrid work, what 53% of companies are, at least, hybrid, if not remote still. There’s a tremendous sense of separation, alienation, depersonalization, a lack of connectedness and loneliness. So, I would talk to friends about this, talk to my clients about it, read about it in Noreen Hertz’s book, it’s called The Lonely Century. She found that one in five adults are lonely, and that’s exacerbated during remote work and the push towards being disconnected. So, I figured all the more important, people skills were always important, but especially now. So, that’s a key theme of the book. Each chapter talks about virtual variations of the skills we teach. And those skills, the main point is active listening; Straight Talk, which is objective language, as we speak, and assertive speaking rather than being passive or aggressive.  

[09:20] Dr. Rick Brandon: Funneling those core skills and what I call the Straight Talk mindset, being in a place where I care about the business impact of positive communication, and that I hold myself accountable for being assertive, direct and respectful rather than passive and wimpy, or aggressive and harsh. So, it’s the Straight Talk mindset, getting my head and heart in the right place, active listening, straight talk. And then what the book does is it funnels those core skills into smooth sailing conversations at work and home and rough sailing. The smooth sailing are getting clear commitments and agreements with people, giving them positive recognition when they do keep their agreements and other things I appreciate. And the third smooth sailing skill set, that is the point of the book is advising and guiding people; how do we help people when they come to us with a decision? They’re wrestling with a problem. Muhammad Ali said, “Service is the rent we pay for our time here on Earth.” So, those are the smooth sailing. Rough sailing; how do we rang remind people when they dropped the ball on a commitment? How do we challenge ideas or say no? And finally, how do we constructively confront people? So, that’s the bottom line, those skills and those applications. And we’re saying, “That’s really tough.” People call them soft skills. They’re not soft skills; they’re hard skills for hard results. 

Steve Shallenberger: And in our experience, because Rick and I had the opportunity to visit a bit before we started this podcast and had a fun time, we talked about the 12 principles of highly successful leaders and how one of them is to be an effective communicator. And on the surface, sometimes we hear quite a bit about it. But like you said, these are hard skills that have a very significant impact in every phase of our life. And especially, having close relationships, and building high trust, and contributing to high performance, individually and for teams. Because if you get this, it makes it a lot more efficient and effective. But if you break it, if it can’t get these skills down, it is going to be tough sailing in your vernacular. 

Dr. Rick Brandon: Yeah, that gets to one of the themes of the book was they’re not soft skills. It’s not, “Oh, no, I’m going to charm school.” All this touchy, feely stuff. And I’m saying, “Cow cookies.” That’s not true. It’s hard skills and it gives a bottom-line advantage, a competitive advantage to your listeners, as individuals, and also to companies that have high-performing people when it comes to their people skills, those listening speaking, agreement skills, conflict. Why? If you think about faulty communication, it costs in the billions. One faulty listening mistake, and you multiply it times people’s salaries. So, it causes mistakes, loss, costs in the billions. But also, if it’s toxic communication, why do people quit and leave? Number one reason, according to Gallup, it’s either recognition or “my manager.” And that issue, if you think about people’s complaints about work, your listeners know in their personal lives and friends, it’s usually complaining about the boss and it’s the communication. So, they quit and leave, they go to the next company where the communication is down the tubes. Or worse, they quit and stay, and it affects their morale, their indignance, their upset, their motivation and their results, whether spending time whining about it at the watercooler or in the chat room in a Zoom meeting. So, it’s about retention, it’s about results because it’s about getting clear agreements, and holding others accountable in a fair but firm way to those commitments, and it’s about innovation. Innovation atrophy is when people feel like their ideas won’t be respected, listened to, heard even if they’re not implemented. Can I feel heard? Or do I feel stifled? So, it’s all about that engagement. So, you hear me getting passionate and going, “I don’t want to monologue here,” because that’s what the book is about is shutting up and checking the other person’s reaction. So, how’s my clarity? Is this making sense? 

Steve Shallenberger: Let’s spend just a couple of minutes on the act of listening. But then I’d really like to move quickly to the Straight Talk and the dynamics because I do think that’s hard for people sometimes. The act of listening, we all know, every one of us, all of our listeners, that sometimes they catch themselves talking when the other person is talking, they’re talking over them. So, they’re clearly not listening, and that is such a big deal is to take the time to thank when they have something to express, to actively cue in on these people, and to look at them, and to look at all the cues that they’re giving, the body language, the tone, and all that. And then thank them for the courage to share. And then, let me be sure I’ve got it. So, that is a big habit. Is there anything else you want to add to that one?  

Dr. Rick Brandon: You bet. So, you said that I need to shut up, and be silent, and hear them, and not just hear them, but prove to them that I’ve heard them and understand them and honor and accept what they’re saying. I don’t agree with it necessarily, but I can still show acceptance by paraphrasing. It’s that “act of listening” stuff we all hear about but we don’t always do it because we’re busy reacting mentally. We might be able to say the words, “I understand. I understand.” Can we prove to the person by paraphrasing? “It sounds like you’re really upset, and you feel like I dropped the ball when I–” Whatever it is. And can I do that without rehearsing what I’m going to say? I want to really absorb rather than react. And then the other mistake people make is they’ll paraphrase, but they’ll do it at a content level, not at a feeling level. So, can I zoom in on, as you said, really get what they’re about at that moment and paraphrase the feelings with empathy, and paraphrase the right feeling that the person has delivered with you. You don’t want to say, “Oh, you seem a little perturbed.” Now, this person’s a little unsure of what they’re going to do between two candidates, you don’t want to– so you’re paralyzed by this decision here, Steve. No, come on, back off. So, it’s the right amount of emotion, and to really do that in a way that doesn’t sound fake and phony. And that’s one of the other big mistakes is people will use this active listening; “So, what I hear you saying,” or “Sounds like you’re saying.” But they’ll do the same one, “Sounds like you’re saying.” And people feel technique. So, can you mix it up and just come across as letting the person know that I hear you, you’re upset. You don’t have to use those leading phrases that I just mentioned. 

Steve Shallenberger: That’s a great overview of that, and such a big rock in communication. We don’t get this one right. It’s really hard to communicate. 

Dr. Rick Brandon: So much so that, in fact, when I say Straight Talk, I don’t mean just talking. Straight Talk, for me, is the umbrella for positive assertive communication. So it includes speaking assertively, which we’ll talk about, objective language. And it also includes the act of listening. So, it’s a dialogue, not a monologue. And if I do that, I prevent what I call the duolog, where we’re in conflict. 

Steve Shallenberger: And I can just say it, and I know every one of our listeners can relate to this, but when I get it right, I know I got it right because it comes from my heart, it’s genuine, I really want to get it. But if I blow it, if I don’t take the time to listen, I usually have to pay the price. And it’s not fun. And I feel bad myself if I blow it. It’s something we all work on and have to double-check and be sure that we’re doing both the hard and soft part, that we’re using the skills but it comes from our heart, it’s genuine. And then you get the real fruits, the benefits. 

Dr. Rick Brandon: Yeah, it’s a behavior, and it’s also an attitude and a spirit. Carl Rogers, one of the forefathers of listening – he said, “Positive regard, empathy, and respect.” Those are that therapeutic attitudes. And we want to be therapeutic with each other and connect in a way that helps them and helps ourselves. So, the behaviors are active listening, objective language, genuineness, and positive feedback. But those are behaviors. If the spirit isn’t there, the heart, like you’re saying, then it comes across as fake and incongruent, and we feel disconnected from the other person and from ourselves. 

Steve Shallenberger: Let’s shift to the Straight Talk part. I’m so interested in that, and I’m sure our listeners are too. What do you have to say about that? Share something that’s on your mind. For me, that’s sometimes hard is I’ve got something inside, I don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings, but we need to talk about it. And it doesn’t have to be bad, it can be good. How do you approach that? And how do you recommend we’re most effective in communication this way? 

Dr. Rick Brandon: Well, the first thing is to realize there’s a difference between honesty and idiocy. People use a prelude, “Just saying.” Well, you might have been “just saying” in a way that bruises the other. So, I like to use the analogy of the old movie and the book, The Right Stuff, about the Mercury astronauts. They have the right stuff, the qualities. And the qualities of positive, appropriate Straight Talk are the right time – is the person ready to hear it? Or they’re not ready to hear it, something awful went on in their life. Right place – is it distraction-free? And is it private? The right place, the right time, the right reasons. So, am I doing it just to hear myself talk or to prove something or for the right reasons to really be of service to that person? The right risk level. sometimes not saying everything on my mind isn’t the same as lying. So, I want to be aware of the ego trippers; is it politically okay, the power dynamics? So, that’s important, that doesn’t mean to dummy up but I need to be careful about how, when, and with whom it’s safe to speak truth to power with. And finally right time, right place, right risk level, right reasons, and in the right way, and that’s about being assertive rather than passive and wimpy: “Is that okay, Steve? I don’t wanna– I can come back another time.” “Sorry, I got red on your carpet. Did you really mean to drop the ax on my foot?” And yet not harsh either. So, the language we talked about is behavioral language, objective language, or bias-free language. So, I’m not saying, “I really need you to be more professional.” Well, you might not know what that means. I like to ask what would a cameras see that makes you be professional or be a team player, you’re not a team player. You think you are because you participate in the meeting. I have a different picture in my mind of what I want from you. So, the message is to be behavioral: “I need you to share more information with the new salespeople, Steve, about your customers and their customers who you’ve worked with so that they can be more successful.” Now you know what I mean by team player; appropriate honesty, using behavioral language, and then checking and listening to their reactions. That’s a book in a nutshell. 

Steve Shallenberger: I love it. Those are good tips. How can you really do this in a way that you do express candor? You’re honest, people, and you’re clear, and it’s done in a way that they receive it right. So, I love all the five points: right time, right place, right risk, right reason. 

Dr. Rick Brandon: Right risk level. 

Steve Shallenberger: And the right way, I may have left one out, but that’s pretty close. So, how do you do this in a nice, clear way, that’s clear? How do you communicate clearly? 

Dr. Rick Brandon: Well, besides the behavioral language, I want to do it with a format that we call the GAIN: GAIN commitment, GAIN agreement. The G stands for goals. If I’m giving you a feedback, I simply give you the feedback in a behavioral way. Let’s say I wanted to correct something. Here’s what I saw you do in a way that the camera could see it. So, “I saw you be abusive to the customer.” No, that doesn’t do it. It might be accurate, but you’re going to get defensive and/or not know what I mean. So, if I’m giving you feedback, I’m going to say what a camera would see, “I saw you curse at her using certain words. And also I saw your voice raise, and you interrupted her.” Then what is the impact? Here’s what you did, the camera would see. Here what’s the actual or potential impact. “The customer left the meeting and called me and told me that she didn’t want to do business with us anymore.” So, behavior, impact. “Sometimes I’ll share my feeling in the middle.” So, behavior, feeling, impact; that’s for feedback. If I want to get in an agreement with you, it’s GAIN: I tell you my goal, what I want, and the behavior, and the results that a camera would see. A, I tell you the advantage of doing this, how it’s going to help me, the team; you, the company, the customer. I, here’s what people leave out where the listening comes in – I tell you my goal and the advantages of doing what I’m asking you to do, Steve. And then I say, “What could stand in the way? What’s an impediment? Are there any concerns?” So, I stands for impediment; inquire about why they don’t want to do it or what concerns them. And then the N is the next step – I asked you, not me, to summarize: “So, what’s your understanding of our agreement here of how we’re going to move forward?” GAIN. And if I can do that in a way that is using objective language and I can check your reaction along the way, and use the act of listening to hear your concerns and the impediments; I’m more likely to get commitment rather than compliance, command and control, “Just do it because I said so.” So, those are a few tips about Straight Talk when I want to get an agreement and when I’m giving feedback, that “behavior, feeling, impact” message. 

Steve Shallenberger: Two different situations. The “G” stands for you should have goals, the advantage, the impediment, what’s the N? 

Dr. Rick Brandon: Next steps. As we move forward with next steps and you take action. Just summarize for me. Sometimes, Steve, you can tell I’m a little talkative, and I want to make sure that we didn’t lose the forest through the trees. What’s your understanding of what I’m asking you to do? And then as you summarize, if you’re off a little, I’ll correct it. And finally, in the next steps, I say if there are next steps, and I’ve agreed to support you in a certain way, or certain action steps and support came up that we needed to do to make sure you’re going to deliver on time, and that I help you remove any impediments or obstacles, then that’s where this comes up to; GAIN, a nice acronym that helps folks remember. 

Steve Shallenberger: Rick, what are some of the common mistakes with implementing world-class listening skills that you’ve seen? 

Dr. Rick Brandon: It goes back to the ones that we mentioned, people don’t really listen. They rarely listen well enough or long enough to get to the real problem when they’re advising or guiding someone. They don’t use the act of listening, they only half listen. They have mental vacations. They’re reacting inside instead of absorbing. And they come in too soon. And they usually come in with what I call a short circuit response. They listen for 30 seconds, and then they come in with their advice, their solutions, and they say, “Well, I’m a manager, I was paid to solve problems.” But we rarely listen well enough or long enough to unpeel the onion skin layers – or the artichoke leaves I talk about – to get to the heart of the problem. So, we come in too soon with our premature advice. And it might not even be the real issue, and the person might not be ready because they’re still churning. I call it the clogged pipes – the pipes and the emotion is clogged up. They’re not ready to solve the problem yet because the pipes are clogged with emotion. So, good listening is like an interpersonal drain, Steve; it unclogs the pipes, and then I can come in with a solution. But the audacity, you’ve lived with this problem for 30 days, 30 months, whatever it is, and I come in after 30 seconds – who do I think I am? It’s presumptuous. So, that’s the main mistake: coming in too soon with advice, solutions, or worse, criticism, or even moralizing, “Well, you should realize if you really cared about the company, here’s what you would do.” So, how do we come in? And the book talks about eight short-circuit responses, that when we do react prematurely, what are the ways we do that? Some playing superior or playing boss, or giving advice, which is misguided help if it’s too soon, or just not wanting to deal with it, wanting to change the topic because we’re uncomfortable with your hurt emotion or you being in pain.  

Steve Shallenberger: Two questions that come to mind. What do you do if someone just doesn’t want to talk?  

Dr. Rick Brandon: You bribe them. Nah, I’m just kidding. 

Steve Shallenberger: For whatever reason, they don’t want to talk about it. They say, “Oh, it’s just not the right time,” or “I don’t want to talk about it.” 

Dr. Rick Brandon: Well, usually they’ll first be silent. If they’re silent and you’ve asked them a question or you’ve given them feedback, silence is golden but it’s not if they’re on the receiving end of it. So it depends on the situation, Steve, if they’re silent, and I’ve asked them how their day is going, or there isn’t a strong need for them to talk, then I want to make sure and keep myself honest that I’m not being the bully and pressuring them. Who the hell am I to say, “You have to talk to me. You have to tell me.” Now, if it’s an accountability issue, then they do. I’m holding them accountable, that’s where I might give them feedback or they’ve broke an agreement and I confront them constructively, and they’re silent. I just wait that one out because they’re feeling the heat more than me. So, Steve, when you agreed that you would get to the meetings on time, and didn’t, like happened today and last week, and we talked about it. I get frustrated with you because the impact is the team misses out on your input and your briefing. So, what are we going to do? Now, If you’re silent, then I’m going to wait it out. If you’re still silent, I will paraphrase, not your words because there weren’t any, paraphrase your body language. You said it before, I read the body language. “Steve, you looked uncomfortable and unsure how to respond.” Usually, someone will say, “Yeah.” If it’s still silent, it’s a different kind of not talking. Then I will say, “Steve, I’ve asked you, I really want to know. I want to make this safe for you. I’m not trying to criticize you. I’m trying to work.” Now, if you’re still silent, then I may confront and just say, “Steve, I get the sense that you’re silent is saying, ‘Up yours, Rick.’ You are really angry with me. You are tipped off that I’m bringing this, calling you to the car.” Usually, someone will say, “You’re darn right I am. Who are you? You’re not my boss.” So, what have I said? Someone doesn’t talk, give them the permission not to unless I’m holding them accountable to something they should have done, then just wait out the silence, paraphrase their body language, invite them to talk, reassure them you’re not trying to hurt them, you just want to talk man to man, person to person. If that doesn’t work, paraphrase their anger, reflect that anger they’re feeling. Do you buy that? What would you add? 

Steve Shallenberger: No, it’s good. All professional, I think it’s spot on. You’re just doing your best. We’re not perfect, we’re doing our best, and you’re kind, and you’re considerate, and you’re giving them an opportunity. But let’s switch the playing field a moment. How about for a partner or a family member? 

Dr. Rick Brandon: Well, what’s the specific situation there? 

Steve Shallenberger: Let’s say you’re dealing with an emotional issue, and they’re just saying, “I just can’t talk about this.” 

Dr. Rick Brandon: So, it’s the silent issue too. Well, if they are my family member, I can only control my half of the relationship. So, I want to do my best to create a safe space. And hopefully, before this, I earned the right to ask them to speak. But when they do speak, I don’t do those listening mistakes and cutting them off, or criticizing, or judging what they’re saying, or moralizing. “No, sweetie, you should realize, good boys and girls, it’s x, y, z.” You’re not going to want to open up. Can I censor my speaking from my own frame of reference and earn a history, have a history and a track record with you. And especially if you’re my kid, that I hear you, instead of come in with my own point of view. Then if you’re silent, I’m going to believe that you at least trust that if you do speak, that it’s okay. “I’m going to just invite you, sweetie. I can see you’re upset and you don’t feel like talking now. When you’re ready, Daddy’s here. And I really hope that you’ll come and talk to me because usually when we do, we feel better. I love you.” And then I walk away. Usually, they’ll come back. So, that’s a big piece of it. And then to ask open questions. “You look upset, Jonathan. Please tell me what’s going on? Because this isn’t like you. You usually want to share what happened at school. It looks like maybe you’re upset about something. What’s up, honey?” And so just a gentle, lower my voice, ask. And if they’re still not ready, I give them space. I would hope that I would give them space because otherwise, I’m usurping their space and their energy with my own need for them to talk at that moment.  

Steve Shallenberger: Great advice, Rick. That’s great advice. Of course, there has to be a real solid trust, that they can feel safe and secure, and it’s going to be okay. And you’re right, sometimes they just need time, and sometimes it takes a while. 

Dr. Rick Brandon: And sometimes the parent has a track record of lecturing, of advising, of all those things that come from being so omnipotently superior in our intellect and our wisdom. Well, we might be confusing our kids with someone that gives a darn at that moment. So, how can we show respect? Is by asking questions and hearing from them. Just holding ourselves accountable, it goes back to accountability and keeping ourselves honest. 

Steve Shallenberger: That’s great. Rick, I got a question for you. So, how does somebody develop the habits of doing what you’re talking about today? 

Dr. Rick Brandon: Well, yeah, ‘cause I don’t think it comes natural. A lot of people are like, “That guy is a born listener. That guy is a born listener.” And I say “cow cookies” to that. They learned it somehow, either through modeling of someone positive. Like I learned about people’s skills and communication from my dad, as I mentioned at the start of this enjoyable talk. They learned it, and I don’t think it comes naturally. So, it does take teaching, whether it’s a book, whether it’s coaching, whether it’s a mentor, whether it’s a course called “Straight Talk: Influence Skills for Collaboration and Commitment” or the book, operators are standing on call, it doesn’t come naturally. And we might think we’re effective listeners or speakers, it doesn’t mean we are because we all have blind spots, which is one of the beauties of your 12 principles, because people may think they’re okay, they might not even be aware of the behaviors, and they might not know that they’re not using certain other behaviors they’re aware of. So, it takes feedback, and it takes practice. To just care about the skill isn’t enough. That’s why the book, by the way, has an exercise journal that you can download on the website and it’s got fillable PDF, or to do it with a friend and to give each other feedback, and there are plenty of examples and practice scenarios. So, I think it takes awareness first, awareness is the first step to responsible behavior change, then it takes input and understanding and learning about the skill with feedback, and then it takes practice and reinforcement. It ain’t over. You and I have been at this thing a long time, and I know that we talked about this, it takes ongoing accountability work on this. 

Steve Shallenberger: Great. What a visit today. Oh my goodness, it has gone so fast. And any final tips for our listeners before we wrap up? And then love to have you tell our listeners how they can find out about you. 

Dr. Rick Brandon: It did go faster. Our first five minutes or I thought what are we going to do in the next 25? So, it did go quickly. Final thought is listen, listen, listen. Be a strength finder, not a fault finder with yourself. If you blow it, don’t have a guilt trip. Like you say, we’re going to make mistakes. My mom was a travel agent for guilt trips, so I’m not into it. Congratulate yourself; say, “Need that I’m a professional and I’m constantly growing and I have the courage to be imperfect,” and continue to go for it. You can learn more about the book and my firm, Brandon Partners at, Of course, will show you about the book and the workshop. But if you really want to deep dive in and get some free gifts, your listeners can get a free assessment and some other gifts to help them reinforce their reinforcement tools, whether or not you read the book, please feel free: Steve, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with you. We’re similar, passionately, into this stuff. So, hope you enjoyed it. I sure did. 

Steve Shallenberger: It’s been great. What a valuable visit. Thank you, Rick, for being with us today. It’s been a delight. I’m excited to read your book, personally. Can’t wait. A lot of tips that you’ve talked about. And we wish you all the best in the work that you’re doing. 

Dr. Rick Brandon: Thank you. All the best to you and your listeners, of course. 

Steve Shallenberger: Well, it’s been so wonderful having our listeners here with us today. I mean, we take our hats off to you. The very fact that you tune in to this podcast and perhaps others says so much about you; about your desire to want to become your best; to improve your life; to be happier, more fulfilled, and to bless others. So, it’s been great having you with us today. And we wish you all the best today and always. This is Steve Shallenberger, your host, signing off. 

Steve Shallenberger

Founder, Becoming Your Best
CEO, executive, corporate trainer, and community leader.

Dr. Rick Brandon

Founder and President of Brandon Partners

Inspirational Leader, Communication Expert, Member of Institute for Management Studies, Professor

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