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Rudeness is NOT a Core Competency

June 21st, 2018

By: Karen Colligan

Is it just me, or does rudeness seem to be on the rise?

You walk through an airport and it’s like “bumper-people” – people walking and talking on their phones and not paying attention to what’s in front of them. Or what about people who have a long (and loud) conversation on their phone without considering that maybe no one else really wants to hear it?  Or when you’re in a restaurant with someone and throughout your conversation you can see that they have one eye tilting toward the mobile which they’ve left on the table top because they’re waiting for an “important call.” So what am I, chopped liver?

Seriously, people. Put the phone away. Talk softly. Look where you’re going.

And it’s not just phone etiquette. It’s common courtesy and respect for others that seem to be taking a back seat to some individuals’ needs to be first in line, to take all the credit for something (that they worked on with others) or to shape their environment so that it works best for them, regardless of the consequences or how it might impact others.

A while back I wrote a blog about “The Young George Washington’s Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation.” (Leading by example. Ahem.)  I’ve borrowed a few and added a few to create Karen’s Rules of Civility.

Smile – even at a stranger – you never know what amazing things may come of it.

Say “Please and Thank you.” Always.

Be accountable. Do what you say you’re going to do by when you say you’re going to do it.

Be on time. Being chronically late to meetings or events or dinner shows a lack of respect for others.

Remember, we’re all human; we have good days and bad days. Don’t glory in someone’s bad day.

Listen. Put down your cell phone and engage in conversation.

Be kind to one another. (Borrowed from Ellen DeGeneres).

Tell the truth. Mark Twain once said, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”

Be curious. Never stop learning.

Forgive. Life is too short to hold a grudge.

It’s not rocket science. Set the example and hopefully others will follow.

You can hear more on this blog topic in my podcast, Rudeness is NOT a Core Competency.  Let’s bring courtesy and kindness back!

Till next time,


Accountability, Gratitude, Kindness, Life, Personal development

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Don’t Give Up, Give Back!

April 10th, 2017

By: Karen Colligan

It seems that everywhere I go these days, people tell me that they’re not feeling like their “best selves.” In some cases, it’s winter fatigue – tired of the rain, tired of the cold; in others, it’s a feeling of being overworked and overwhelmed (so ready for a vacation!); and in others it’s just a general malaise brought about by the uncertainty of our world today. It feels like one…big…collective…SIGH out there.

I get it. And…I’m proposing that the way through these doldrums is not to just sit back and wallow in them. Don’t give up, give back! Help yourself feel better by helping others.

Most of us try to give back in some way during the holiday season – we write our annual check to our favorite charity, or we volunteer at a food kitchen. The fact is, though, that organizations who serve need volunteers all year long. Where can you carve out a couple of hours in a week or a month to help those in need? What skill/knowledge do you have that you could share? What issue or need touches your heart?

For me, it’s helping other burn survivors. I was burned by hot water at the age of two. This experience has impacted my entire life, and inspired me to get involved with the Phoenix Society, which provides support and resources to burn survivors and their families. After volunteering for many years, I joined the Board in 2014 and am now Board Vice President. I’ve conducted workshops for volunteers, I’ve run for Team Phoenix in the Big Sur Half Marathon for the past 3 years, and I’ll be a featured speaker at the World Burn Conference in Dallas this fall.

There are myriad volunteer opportunities available. Here are a few of them.

BUILD is nonprofit organization in the San Francisco Bay Area that matches volunteers with high school students in under-resourced communities to help the students learn the fundamentals of business while developing critical 21st century skills. “Entrepreneurship is the hook. College is the goal.”  BUILD has volunteer opportunities that range from 2 hours a week to 2-3 hours a year.

One Brick provides opportunities to make an impact without a long-term commitment. This nonprofit has 8 chapters nationwide – San Francisco, Silicon Valley, New York, Chicago, Washington D.C., Seattle, Boston, and national. Their model is to build local communities of volunteers that support other nonprofits “by creating a friendly and social atmosphere around volunteering.” Volunteer activities are usually followed by a gathering at a coffee shop or restaurant.

If you live or work in San Jose and enjoy reading with children, Grail Family Services is a local nonprofit that is always looking for Reading Mentors to help kindergarten and 1st grade students with their literacy skills. For an hour a week during the school year you can help launch an early elementary school student on the path to school success.

VolunteerMatch has opportunities all over the Bay Area for a variety of interests, including the environment, hunger, education and literacy, immigrants and refugees, crisis support, homeless and housing, and more.

And sometimes to give back you need look no further than your own organization. Do they have a mentoring program? Become a part of it. If there isn’t a formal mentoring program, start one. Or simply let it be known that you are interested in helping others move ahead on their career paths.

Most people who volunteer will tell you that they get back as much or more than they give. That has certainly been my experience. I am forever grateful for what I have received from the Phoenix Society. I signed up to 'give back' and I have gotten way more than I could ever give!

Often volunteers get to use or develop skills in a volunteer role that they may not have the opportunity to use or develop at work. They learn to better appreciate what they have by feeling the appreciation of those who have so much less.

Volunteering warms the heart and heals the soul. Not only that, according to an article in The Atlantic, people who volunteer live longer and healthier lives!

So what are you waiting for?

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Till next time,



Gratitude, Health, Life, wellness

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Igniting a Campaign for Civility

October 27th, 2016

By: Karen Colligan

Is it just me, or have you also noticed that people seem to be increasingly cranky, rude and self-absorbed these days? Certainly the polarizing rhetoric of this election campaign doesn’t help. And it’s reflected in our everyday communications and behaviors.

“Please” and “thank you” have all but disappeared. And the immediacy and fervor of social media seem to have unleashed a flood of negative and nasty comments that years ago would have kept Proctor & Gamble soap distributors in business.

Enough already.

It’s time for us to pause and consider, “The Young George Washington’s Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour in Company and in Conversation.”

Apparently this is not the first time our society has suffered from a lack of kindness, civility and manners. Originally from a list made by French Jesuits in 1595, Washington wrote out the rules as a handwriting exercise when he was a teenager. There are 110 of them. I won’t share them all, but here are 5 that seem especially relevant today.

25th - Superfluous Compliments and all Affectation of Ceremonie are to be avoided, yet where due they are not to be Neglected. Say what you mean and mean what you say.

65th - Speak not injurious Words neither in Jest nor Earnest. Scoff at none although they give Occasion. If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything. Be kind!

82nd - Undertake not what you cannot Perform but be Careful to keep your Promise. Do what you say you are going to do.

89th - Speak not Evil of the absent for it is unjust. Don’t gossip or speak behind someone’s back.

110th - Labour to keep alive in your Breast that Little Spark of Celestial fire Called Conscience. THINK before you speak, before you write, before you act.

In the spirit of George Washington, I’d like to add some modern-day rules to the list. So here are Karen’s Rules of Civility.

1. Smile – even at a stranger – you never know what amazing things may come of it.
2. Say “Please.” Always.
3. Say “Thank you” and acknowledge the gift or deed or service received.
4. Remember, we are all human; we have good days and bad days. Don’t glory in someone else’s bad day.
5. Listen. Put down your cell phone and engage in conversation.
6. Be kind to one another. (Borrowed from Ellen DeGeneres).
7. Say: “Yes, and…” not “Yes, but…” Be positive! See the possibilities…
8. Tell the truth. Mark Twain once said, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”
9. Be curious. Never stop learning.
10. Forgive. Life is too short to hold a grudge.

Thank you for listening.

Till next time,

Communication, Gratitude, Kindness, Life, Relationships

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Bring Back the Handwritten Note!

June 20th, 2016

By: Karen Colligan

When was the last time you sent or received a personal note? I’m not talking about an email or a text or a “comment” directed only to you, but a handwritten, personalized note on stationery and in an envelope. When was that? Last month? Last year? Can’t remember?

The handwritten note has become a rare commodity. A U.S. Postal Service survey found that in 2010 the average home received a personal letter only once every seven weeks, compared to once every two weeks in 1987. With so many electronic media options available to us, it’s much quicker and easier to whip out a “thank you” email, a “TY” text, or the equivalent via emoticon, than to take the time to write a personal note.

But here’s the thing. None of those electronic options are as meaningful or as memorable as a handwritten note. A handwritten note:

- Says you think the other person is important enough for you to invest the time to write it

- Stands out from the flood of electronic messages we receive every day

- Has longevity, compared to emails that can get buried or accidentally deleted

- Is truly personal – crafted word by word rather than from a template

And best of all is the way it makes the recipient feel. I was reminded of this recently when I received a note from someone thanking me for a personal note I had included for her with a copy of my book, The Get Real Guide to Your Career.  Here’s what she said:

“Thank you very much for the personalized note that came with my book. I forgot how wonderful it is to receive handwritten messages. I just wanted to say your book is a masterpiece. It has been an amazing tool for me and it couldn’t have come at a better time in my professional life. Thank you again for your amazing guidance.”

In my quest to return us all to a gentler, kinder society, let me suggest that the next time you want to say “Thank You,”  “Happy Birthday,” “Congratulations,” or just catch up with an old friend, you take the time to do it the old-fashioned way – the personal, handwritten note.

Till next time,


Communication, Gratitude, Kindness


Feeding the Right Wolf – The Power of Positivity

May 12th, 2016

By: Karen Colligan

Unless you’ve had your head buried in the sand for the past nine months or so (and who would blame you?) you’ve probably felt the effects of the big black cloud of negativity that’s looming about. I see it hovering in the buildings of the organizations I work with, reflected in the grim expressions of people on the street, and bolstered by the politicians and pundits we hear every…single…day. Even Pollyanna might have difficulty finding something to be glad about today.

So what are we to do? Give in to the negativity? No! Despite what’s going on around you, you have a choice as to how you respond to it, just like in this Native American legend.

One evening an old Cherokee was teaching his grandson about life. "A fight is going on inside me," he said to the boy. "It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil - he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego."

"The other is good - he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you - and inside every other person, too."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

I’m here to suggest that you feed the right wolf. Make a conscious effort to focus on the positive, and increase what Shirzad Chamine calls your “positive intelligence” (PQ). Not only will you be happier, you’ll improve your relationships, increase your success at work, and, let’s face it, be a lot more fun to be around!

Here are some ideas for feeding the right wolf.

• Think about one thing that is causing you a lot of stress. Now think of three ways you can turn that into an opportunity.
• Practice saying “Yes, and…” instead of “Yes, but…”
• Keep a gratitude journal. Every day, write down something positive about the day.
• Surround yourself with positive people.
• Turn off the news and turn on a comedy.
• Get away from your computer and go for a walk, a hike, a run or some other activity OUTSIDE.
• Play.
• Watch kids at play.
• Meditate.

Let’s make positivity “trending…”

“You cannot have a positive life and a negative mind.” – Joyce Meyer

Till next time,

Gratitude, Health, Kindness, Relationships, success


Calling for Random Acts of Kindness

November 23rd, 2015

By: Karen Colligan

Kind-2In light of the events over the past month, I imagine many of you wake up wondering, “What is this world coming to?” I know I do. It would be so easy to just crawl under the covers with a good book and a powerful flashlight, and wait until the world gets better. But then, I’ve never been one to just wait around for things to change. I think we each have a responsibility to make the change we want to see in the world – even if we can only make it one small step at a time.

I’d like to suggest that, during this season of thanking and giving, we start the change by committing to a random act of kindness every day. It doesn’t have to be big. It can be a kind word, a smile, opening a door, helping someone across the street.

“Unexpected kindness is the most powerful, least costly, and most underrated agent of human change.” – Bob Kerrey

As much as it’s about the kind things you do and say, it’s about NOT doing and saying the unkind things that may sometimes fight to be heard. The rant against someone who thinks differently than you; the angry email to a co-worker who let you down; the horn or (admit it) hand gesture in response to a careless driver; the snarky, anonymous comment on an online article. Pack those away in a “venting box” in favor of a kinder world.

Tomorrow, instead of waking up wondering what the world is coming to, wake up and ask yourself, “How can I be kinder today?” Then commit to looking for opportunities to show someone you care. Here are some ideas.

• Do a chore or run an errand for an elderly neighbor.
• Let people merge in front of you – even when they’re rude about it.
• Call your Mom.
• Say “please” and “thank you.” Always.
• Volunteer at a food kitchen.
• Smile and say “hello” to everyone you pass on the street.
• Buy breakfast or lunch for a homeless person.
• Donate to a food bank.
• Give a blanket or some warm clothes to those in need.
• Help a stranger.

You probably will find lots of opportunities, big and small, this season to be kind. I’d love to hear about your random acts of kindness and how they made you feel.

“Never believe that a few caring people cannot change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.” – Margaret Mead

Till next time,

Gratitude, Kindness, Life, People