Never Met A Verb I Didn't Like

By Wayne Elise

Effective conversation is about capturing the imagination of other people.

Try this exercise. Close your eyes and imagine a banana. If other thoughts intrude, go back to the banana. It’s yellow. It grows in a tropical climate. It’s what your mom sliced up and droppled into your Rice Krispies. Just keep thinking about that banana. If other non-banana thoughts intrude, push them out and go back to your fruit.

5… 4… 3… 2… 1…

Okay, you can stop now. I apologize. This is an impossible exercise. With all due respect to Buddhist Monks, if you’re like me, your mind just refuses to hold a constant, unmoving, static, boring image in mind for very long before it starts to wander.

We crave movement and change.

Now let’s try a slightly different exercise. Imagine a banana. But this time, do something with it. Peel your banana. Walk your banana over to a vat of boiling chocolate and dip it. Pull it out and watch the steam rise off the chocolate as it cools and hardens over your banana. Put your nose close and sniff.

Now imagine taking a bite. Chew your banana and swallow the mash. Feel it make it’s way down to your stomach and quench your hunger. Smile in satisfaction.

Okay. Chances are you stayed with our banana story the entire time. Your mind didn’t wander much.

People naturally focus on movement. Like most predators, our eyes are forward facing. That's so we can use ‘binocular summation’ to detect the smallest movement ahead in the bush. We are geared to detect and pay attention to movement. If we want people to listen to our conversation we should strive to stick more action in them.

Comedians often talk about Jokes Per Minute - JPM. They always trying to pump up their JPM. We can create a similar metric and call it Verbs Per Minute - VPM.  This is a metric to help us judge the quality of our conversation and storytelling.

This week let's try to focus on increasing our VPM. Here are some suggestions to help enable that:

* Make a conscious effort. It's easy to forget to work on our conversation skills once we arrive at work and the day gets busy. Try tagging a reminder in your calendar: '4 O clock meeting with IT team. Yo, use more Verbs to inspire.' 

* Rework your ritual conversations. We all recognize and participate in ritual conversations daily: "How are you?" "Fine, how about yourself?" "Good." "Good weekend?" "Yes. You?" "Splendid."

 Few people spend much time thinking on making these conversations more interesting. But it's a good place to start because you can work up something more 'verby' ahead of time. 

"How are you?"

"If you were to measure it on a scale from one to ten, you can write me up as an eight. Thanks for asking."


"Welcome to Starbucks. What can I get started for you?"

"I'll have a chocolate latte please, and if you can sprinkle in some extra love that would probably make me smile."

* Put in more Reaction Shots too. AKA, talk in the same way a film director films a movie. There are only a few type of shots in movie making. After the director hits us up with a few shots to establish the setting, she sets about showing us a series of Action and Reactions Shots. 

These two type of shots help each other. An action shot (man drives his car off a cliff) gives rise to a reaction shot. The people standing on the edge of the cliff cry out or they smile or they just stare expressionless. The flavor of their reactions tell us the meaning of the action we just witnesses. When a movie editor gets the raw footage from a director his primary task is to match action and reaction shots. 

Often we forget the importance of saying how we (or other characters in our conversation) feel. Instead we speak in judgements. "Holland Park is great." Right. That may be true, but that's a judgement. A judgement is an opinion disguised as a fact. It doesn't carry the personality of an emotion which is individual. Better to say, "I love Holland Park." This then leads to the natural use of more action in our conversation. We can then show how we love it. "I like walking my dog Betsy at seven o clock in the morning and enjoy seeing all the Russian nannies struggling to juggle their Starbucks and prams."

Okay, hope you enjoy these ideas and putting more verbs in your conversation. If you want to know more just page through the posts here on the site or come to a Conversation Camp and learn from me in person. I'd love to help.

All the best,


The French Bakery in London

By Wayne Elise

On Mondays after the Conversation Camps are finished I often have a few hours to sit and watch the world. And while watching, sometimes stories present themselves.

I sit and watch them work. Their hands pour lattes, load ovens, make change for customers. Their voices call out in French mostly - in English when necessary.

The Black Girl seems tall for a woman and strong. She is very black. Nigerian I would guess. Men usually make an impulse decision when they look at a woman. But it's more fun when we have to ponder. After a minute of watching her move around colleagues, strong-arm the La Marzocco and smile at customers, I decide I would.

The Small Girl's ruddy cheeks betray her youth. She greets an old woman at the counter with a smile.

The old woman scowls and looks up at the menu board. "Don't you have tea - simple English tea? We're in Briton, if I do recall."

Her Yorkies take the moment to tangle their leashes around her cane and begin yipping at each other. This doesn't phase the old woman. She stares the Small Girl down through horn-rimmed glasses.

"I will see what I can do for you," says the Small Girl. She turns and speaks rapidly to the Tall Man behind her in French.

"Oui," The Tall Man says in response. "Nothing's impossible." I take him for the manager but later watch him scratch his head for a moment in front of an oven and press the wrong button on the cappuccino machine.

It's the Small Girl who's in charge. It becomes apparent when I observe her parcel out rewards. She's the most efficient of managers. She guides her staff with a nod here, a touch on the shoulder there, a flash of smile. I'm jealous of her easy ways, but also somehow proud. I drink my coffee and everything feels right with the Universe.

The morning rush passes. Though they never cease in their labors, the staff have time to joke with each other. They laugh and while their hands wipe down machines, arrange cups, sweep floors, recheck temperatures on ovens. La préparation de la prochaine attaque, I suppose.

I notice things now… the Small Girl's eyeshadow, the Black Girl's coy glances at the Tall Man and the tattoo at the nape of his neck.

A man of middle years walks into the shop. He holds his arms out. "Ah, my favorite boulangerie!"

The Small Girl comes out from behind the counter to greet him. He hugs her. She's careful to keep her flour-covered hands away from his clothing. He puts a hand on her shoulder and tells her how amazing it is that his wife has gotten a job in the theatre in the West End at her age. The Small Girl smiles, looks up at him, says kind words of congratulations to deliver to his wife, but then she makes an excuse to go back to her labors.

A couple of schoolgirls walk in. Their uniforms would be considered scandalous in America. They buy scones and walk out. I watch them through the window feeling like a pervert. In the street a woman wearing a business suit loads a suitcase into the boot of a Volvo. The driver stands on the curb waiting for her to finish.

My flight out of Heathrow departs in three hours. I want to take the tube in order to save the coins and watch a more diversity crowd than the express train. Time to leave. I think about Erika as I pack my things. She's surely sleeping at this hour in LA, probably talking in her sleep again.

I step out the door and onto the street. I pull my sweater tighter about me against the cool breeze.

Minutes later I stand on the platform waiting. I look down the tunnel towards where the train will appear. The Small Girl is standing there. She's wearing a hoodie over her baker's smock. She scratches her nose and checks her phone. The train arrives with a screech. People push past, bumping her. I step into the crowded train and she's gone from my thoughts.

Attraction is a Reflex

By Charisma Arts

Feeling physically attracted to someone is a reflex. It's like when the doctor taps your leg under the kneecap and your shin kicks out.

There's no reason to suppress your reflexes.

Just the other day we met an Australian girl. "You're very pretty," we said. "We're charmed by you. We're under your spell."

She blushed.

We were not hitting on her. We were expressing our attraction.

Hitting on someone is the act of trying to make something happen. People usually think of showing attraction as the equivalent of hitting on someone. But we are free to separate them if we want.

"By the way. We're not hitting on you. We wouldn't do that unless we knew your situation."

"What would you want to know?" she'll ask.

"The works. If you were in a happy relationship we'd suggest something different than if you were completely single or just broken up last weekend."

"Oh. How would you hit on someone in a happy relationship?"

"We would go for the friend close. 'We think it would be excellent if we were to be friends'. That's what we would say."

"But that is after you have hit on me."

"No. It's before. Showing attraction isn't the same as hitting on you. We haven't hit on you because we don't know yet how to hit on you."

"I see. And if I were single?"

"This must be tailored of course. Everyone's version of single is different."

"Yes. But what sort of thing would you say to hit on me?"

"We may suggest making our way back to our flat and spending the night making love."

"All of us?"


"And does this work?"

"Work? What do you mean? When we say it, it is the right thing for the right person at the right time. There can be nothing better. We know this so we can put our soul behind it. We can go 'all in'."

"And is this always accepted?"

"It's pondered very well."

"And now what?"

"We find you beautiful, but what of your life? Where are you at? Who has your loyalty?"

"I'm loyal to myself and no other. I'm free to travel, seek adventure."

"Then let us be about adventure. Going somewhere and pretending we are characters and perhaps end up at our place with a glass of wine. You are single and life is short. We want to give you pleasant memories to look back on when you are one day not so free."

"This sounds inviting."

"It's mutually beneficial, given your situation."

"You make a good case."

"Take our hand then and let's see what can be done."

"I feel nervous."

"That's normal when you face your desire."

"Okay. I'm ready. Let's make some memories."