When did we first stop being causative?

Ingrid's 6th Grade Report Card cropped.jpg

Causative [kaw’-zuh-tiv], adjective: Making what you want HAPPEN. Being able to cause your intended effect or outcome at will. 

When did we first stop being causative?

Well, if it didn't happen sooner, it probably happened for most of us when we started school and were told to SIT DOWN and BE QUIET for hours at a time. They told us exactly where to sit and we weren’t allowed to leave that seat. 

They made us ask permission for everything, including leaving the room. If we did something without permission, we were bad.

If we wanted to talk, we had to raise our hand and wait to be called on. Raising your hand was dangerous because the teacher was usually asking a question that had a right and wrong answer and if we were wrong, it was very public. Where I went to school, not many hands went up and we became skilled at avoiding eye contact with the person in the front of the room.

We weren’t allowed to talk to each other, only the ONE person in front. 

Everything we did was graded and compared to what everyone else did. We were graded based on one person's opinion of us, a person who might or might not understand or like us. Most of us did not get straight A’s. Grades could easily make us feel that we were mediocre.

We were severely restrained from being causative. For years.

The photo above is my sixth grade report card. 

I felt totally betrayed by it.  I worshiped my beautiful red-haired 6th grade teacher, Mrs. Zinn. My 10-year old self did everything I could in my power to try to please her.

As you can see, she hand wrote Talks too much and checked the Improvement is necessary box for that item 6 semesters in a row, and then, in the last semester, finally exploded with her opinion that I annoyed others. To my knowledge she was the only one I annoyed. I don’t recall ever annoying anyone else. 

The beautiful Mrs. Zinn did everything she could to get me to stop talking. 

Fortunately, she didn’t have much success.

Neither did the long train of other teachers who also tried. I've been a rebel all my life and it's been quite impossible to make me sit down and behave according to the “Sit down and be quiet” standard of good behavior.

I still talk a lot, but now I get paid for it

My profession became delivering workshops and coaching communication. I make a living from talking, and from helping others communicate successfully. I don’t even know how many thousands of people I’ve coached, from professionals to CEO’s. 

The one trait Mrs. Zinn tried the hardest to suppress became my greatest strength, the source of not only my wonderful career but also the greatest moments of joy in my life, both professionally and personally.

My point, however, is that many people were silenced

For years.

Large corporations CONTINUE this trend

I see it all the time with my corporate clients who are constantly seeking permission to speak up. To speak to their boss about a raise, to ask for what they want, to tell people what they really think, to communicate their deeply held beliefs, to tell others what they really need. 

They try and, if they don’t experience immediate success, they too easily withdraw, sit quietly in their chair and let the subject be changed. They hold it in. 

They’re overly concerned about what others think of them, very afraid to say the wrong thing and create a negative reaction. 

Worse, it's been so long since they really spoke up, they’ve forgotten how. So, it’s awkward when they do. 

They overthink it, they’re overly careful, too weak and indirect, or they explode with too much pent up force and energy and overwhelm the other person by being unfriendly, too forceful, too aggressive and then they do upset the other person and make it unpleasant. 

They don't know how to speak up successfully and build a relationship at the same time.

Mostly they're afraid that speaking up will be destructive. So they hold back. I had one person even today say, “I don’t want to bring it up because he’s my boss - I know what he thinks and I don’t want to argue with my boss.”

I want to pass on to you something I've learned from many years of delivering workshops and coaching people to develop the communication skills they need to get what they want, to make what they want happen, to create the reality they really want.

Speak up.

Stop waiting for permission, because no one's going to give you any. 

You don’t need a license to communicate. 

Being causative means you are the source of your own permission. Don’t deny it to yourself just because other people have been doing exactly that to you for years.

Do it gently but firmly, in the FRIENDLIEST possible way, lovingly even if you can, but speak up.  

Truly, make it very friendly, you don’t have to stop being friendly just because you’re speaking up. So, make it very friendly. And speak up. I always make sure I am filled with affinity for the other person when I’m speaking up about a touchy subject. That alone makes all the difference in the world to how the conversation turns out.

speaking up

I recently had a situation where the VP Global Legal & General Counsel of a major international corporation cancelled one of our programs because he didn’t like our license and didn’t see any hope of our coming to an agreement. I was told, “This was discussed with the CEO and senior leadership. The decision has been made and it’s final.”

He works in Boston, 3,000 miles away. I spoke up and managed to get a phone call scheduled directly with him. I did a little research on him ahead of time and discovered he’s been a successful trial attorney for over 30 years. Clearly not an easy guy to persuade to change his mind.

It would have been easy to be angry or outraged by what he did, to dislike him. But even before I met him, I deliberately looked for and found many things to like about him from his LinkedIn profile, and I approached the call with my mind solidly on the things I truly liked and admired about him.

He on the other hand, clearly did not feel the same way about me. 

When he got on the phone his first words were, “This is going to be a very short conversation, less than 5 minutes. Decision’s been made.”

We hung up 2 hours later. The conversation had gone so well, he was willing to keep talking and we had 2 more phone calls and came to a beautiful agreement, not to mention a surprisingly wonderful and lasting long-distance friendship.

At the end he said, “You really made this happen. You did not descend into anything adversarial.  I was surprised by how pleasant you are. You managed to keep it an open line. We listened and respected each other. I found myself wondering ‘Is it possible this problem could be solved?’ And we found a way! How great is that?!”

Then he paid me one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received. 

He said, “I wouldn’t say you’re aggressive, but you’re a force.” 

That’s what being causative is all about. Impactful communication without being adversarial or aggressive.

When the program was first canceled, 12 other people felt completely derailed by it and passionately shared my views, but they were afraid of “risking” their careers, so I was the only one who spoke up. 

I never want to be the only one

That’s why I coach others. 

I want everyone around me to find their voice, for you to find yours. 

Speak up!

Especially in those parts of your life where you don’t feel powerful, where you feel like you have not been being causative, about those topics where you feel like you’re at the mercy of the other person or the situation. Speak up!

I guarantee you that if you spend one day, the whole day, truly speaking up, magic will happen in your life and, at the end of that day, you'll fall asleep with a smile on your face. You’ll feel much more free, liberated even.


By the way, I still passionately adore Mrs. Zinn and feel immeasurable gratitude to her.  She introduced me to poetry and fanned a flame of love for it that burns fiercely in me.  My introduction to poetry at such a tender age was a true gift and I love her for it.