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,


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."

How to take a compliment

By Wayne EliseThis is the companion piece to my earlier 'How to give a compliment.'

On a cosmic scale, life, organization and purpose are temporary. Culture, architecture, the internet, cars, Sunday-fun-days, language and everything human kind enjoys and has made are temporary exceptions in a Universe intent on running down and spreading out into a thin cloud of radiation.

"Ta-da! I bought you a Vespa!"

"Wow! It has a sidecar and everything!"

"And racing stripes. They won't have Vespas in the future."

"No they won't. Entropy."

"Yeah, dang entropy. Enjoy the Universe of useful clumpy energy and matter while it lasts."

"You know we're here by a quirk of fate, right?"

"Oh yeah, I know. To hell with it. Want to rob a bank?"

"With a Vespa?"

"Makes a stylish getaway vehicle."

"We'll need googles."

One day, many years from now, the only thing left will be neutrons floating in space and a state of uniform, low-level radiation distribution. And nothing will be interesting - forever more. See The Heat Death of the Universe.

Compliments take effort. And that is wonderful because it is in opposition to the nature of the Universe which is nudging us toward apathy and decay.

"You are the best amateur sushi chef in the world."

"Oh, no way. I'm not that good."

"Dude, your rolls are tight."

"Sure. But not the tightest."

"I think they are."

"Have you seen Deb's rolls? Now those are tight."

"They're not bad."

"What? Are you arguing with me now?"

"No. I was just saying I like yours the best."

"Well, I'm not ready to handle that level of appreciation."

"Apparently. Sheesh."

When someone gives you a compliment you may think it insincere. You may think they have ulterior motives. Maybe they do. But as Shakespeare said, "Nobody cares. Because all of life is a stage and to be a charismatic you gotta go with it. Sincerity is just good acting bro."

Think of complimenting as staging Shakespeare at your community theater. There are roles to be cast and lines to be delivered.

If you're lucky enough to be cast as The Complimented, your intention is to wow the audience with your social grace and generosity. The proper response to a compliment is to shift the focus back to The Complimentor's generosity.

"Good deed my friend. With that sacrifice of yours I have made the break towards daylight. In no small measure am I to be made whole again and meet with the restoration of my fortune."

"My fortune was made by your acquaintance sir and by your words. You are forthwith full of courage and vigor to speak such to one of my station."

"I only speak the marrow of my bones. Truth!"

"It t'would be easier to let the moment go unannounced tho my lord."

"Nay, would be harder. Things are turning out right, save for the spear in your side and this crimson puddle at your feet, dear corporal and friend."

"The cost is small. In a fortnight the republic will be yours. I have made a good death of it."

"Good night sir. Sojourn off and I will remember you well."


And the curtain falls on the scene.

I can see the review in the Times now. "Dazzling! Whoever that person was in the role of The Complimented took likability to a new level. What an egoless performance! Too bad the character was killed off in the first act."

When someone gives you a compliment, they are willing to stick their thumb in the Universe's eye. Give them some love. Focus the conversation on their courage and kindness and then use the conversation to PLAY.

Ding Ding!

"Awesome. You're the best bike messenger we have."

"No worries. I'm just doing my job."

"Seriously, most of the bike messengers get the package here ten minute late. You always get it up here early."

"It's my fancy bike."

"I beg to differ. It's the rider."

"No. I'm sorry, it's the bike!"



"Shut up and accept my compliment or I'll take that silly mohawk helmet off your head and throw it out the window!"

"Okay. Fine. Thank you for the nice words! It's kind of you to go out of your way to say them! Now can I have my helmet back?"

"What are your plans for lunch tomorrow?"

"Uh, no plans exactly."

"Good. You can have your helmet back if you take me to lunch."


"Fine! Here, take it."

"Good! Thank you."

"Good bye! By the way, nice buns!"

"Right. Uh… thanks. That's kind of you to say."

"There you go. Good response. I took a photo of them. Hope you don't mind."

"Sorry. Of what?"

"Your buns. I uploaded them to one of those Hot or Not sites."

"I see."

"Sorry. Hope that's alright."

"Well um, how did they do?"

"Your buns? Yeah, they won best buns. CNN wants to interview you."


"No. Not really. April Fools!"

"Ha. Aren't you a day late?"

"You were supposed to come yesterday."

"Something you should know. These aren't my real buns. They're implants."

"Ha. Nice try. I know the real deal when I see them."

"No really. Look."

"Dear god!"

"Ha. Just kidding. That's just my water bottle. See you tomorrow."

Ding Ding.

Let's review. Step 1) Appreciate the effort to make the compliment. Step 2) Use the topic to find a way to play together. Step 3) Come back here and report. :)