My Kindle Called Me Stupid

The other night my Kindle called me stupid. When I read during the day, I read non-fiction and hard copies of the books. But when I read at night, I read fiction in bed, on the Kindle.

I have an obsession with words and what they mean. Not only do I need to know their definitions, I also need to know their origin. That means when I’m reading on a Kindle I will put my finger on a word that I don’t know the exact meaning of, even if I know the gist. Even when I can figure out a word’s meaning in context, I want to know the word’s actual definition. Because words are magic.

Let’s take “Abracadabra”. Do you know what that word means? I didn’t, so i looked it up. Abracadabra comes from an Aramic word meaning “I create as I speak”. Our words create our reality. In the courtroom, every word we say matters. When I teach my clients to advocate for themselves I tell them a word can be the difference between a win and a loss. And the same is true outside the courtroom. Whether you’re speaking to an outer jury of clients, customers, team members or family, or you’re speaking to the inner jury of voices in your head, the words you use matter.

So on this night I was reading a book on my Kindle, and putting my finger on a lot of words. That’s when my Kindle called me stupid. A box lit up and said “would you like an easier version of this book? ” I laughed and shook my head. I didn’t want easier. I wanted more magic.

Your words are magic. Use them wisely.

Heather Hansen

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Losing My Sunglasses and Finding Another Story

At the time I didn’t realize that losing my sunglasses would lead to finding another story. But I’m so glad it happened. I was late for a doctor’s appointment, and rushing. I had stuff in my pockets and my sunglasses tucked in my neckline. I heard a sound and felt in my pockets to be sure I hadn’t dropped my airpods or my phone. Nope–all there. So I kept walking. Then I went to put on my sunglasses and they were gone.

I retraced my steps, more than once. And I looked everywhere. But my sunglasses were gone. They were brand new, Tiffany sunglasses and I loved them. I spent the rest of the morning and much of the afternoon beating myself up.

“You need to pay better attention. You’re walking around clueless.”

“If you can’t take care of nice things, you don’t deserve them.”

“You have too many sunglasses as it is. This is a sign that you shouldn’t buy anything else for yourself.”

These stories made me feel bad. I wasn’t joyful, positive or brilliant in my calls. I was down, feeling unworthy and angry at myself. But then I decided to change my story.

I told myself a new story. This story had a woman behind me, finding my sunglasses. She looked around to see if she could find the owner and when she couldn’t she took the glasses home. She cleaned them with care, and put them on. They made her feel royal, elegant, and proud. She showed them to her husband and kids. And every time she wears those sunglasses she shines. She needed those sunglasses so much more than I did. Instead of focusing on losing my sunglasses, I was focused on finding another story.

This story made me feel happy, joyful and bright. It changed the way I treated myself and my team. And I found evidence to support that story. The glasses were definitely gone. Only a woman would pick them up. I collected evidence to support my story and then I chose to believe.

You can always choose another story. And then you can collect evidence to support that story. I hope you find a way to choose the story that serves you, and then you support that story with evidence until your inner jury believes. I found that in losing my sunglasses and finding another story, I found a way to change everything. Choose what you see, change what you get.

Heather Hansen

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Make Them Feel Significant

If you want to win someone’s attention, loyalty or engagement, make them feel significant. Every one of us wants to feel like we matter, and that our lives have meaning. It’s a universal need. No matter who your jury is–clients, customers, team members or family–you want to make them to know their meaning and that they matter. Then you can influence and persuade them much more easily.

In the courtroom I’d work to make my jury feel significant. I’d remember things each person had told me during jury selection. Then I’d try to refer back to that thing during the trial. I wanted each juror to feel like they mattered to me and my client. Because I knew that if we could make our jury feel significant, we’d make better connections. We’d be more credible. And we’d be more likely to win.

Now I work with my coaching clients on how to win jobs, promotions, raises or opportunities. We also work on how to get better relationships with better boundaries. And I always tell them everyone just wants to feel safe, smart and significant.

And remember–your first and worst jury is you. So be sure to make yourself feel safe, smart and significant. Remind yourself that you matter, and you have meaning. Do it with words and with actions. Because when you feel significant, you’ll blossom.

Anytime you’re getting ready to persuade or convince a “jury”, make every one of them feel significant. And watch what it does for your relationship, your business and your life.

Heather Hansen

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You Can’t Advocate Until You Believe

You can’t advocate until you believe. In my recent interactions with my coaching clients I’ve been repeating this mantra over and over. One woman wants to advocate for herself at work. She wants more money and a better title. But when it comes time to speak to her manager and make her case, she hesitates. She thinks there must be a better time or a better approach. But what she really needs is to believe. She needs to believe in herself, and her worth. And she needs to believe that she’s earned what she is asking for, and that she is deserving. 

Another client wants to advocate for himself at home. He has taken on the lion’s share of childcare in his household, and he wants to advocate for a little more time for him to focus on his work. But some part of him thinks that makes him a lousy partner and a bad parent. When I ask him why he should get this extra hour every day, he hesitates. It’s clear to me that he doesn’t believe. And you can’t advocate until you believe. 

You Can’t Be Convincing Until You’re Convinced

An advocate has to influence, persuade and convince her jury. But you can’t be convincing until you’re convinced. As I always say, your toughest jury is the jury of voices inside your head. When that jury doesn’t believe, neither do you. And when you don’t believe, it’s close to impossible to make anyone else believe. So whatever it is you’re advocating for, you have to believe it first. You must convince that jury of voices inside your head before you can convince any other jury. And the way you get there is the same. 

You use the right words when you talk to yourself. So you choose words of encouragement rather than negativity, and words of support rather than degradation. Then you collect your evidence. My client had to collect evidence that she’d earned that promotion and that raise. She had to lay it all out for herself so she could lay it all out for her boss. And my other client had to collect evidence of the disparity between the work he was doing at home and the work his partner was doing. He had to make himself believe first. Only then would his partner follow.

How to Be Convinced

So convince the jury inside your head first. Use the same tools you use with any jury. Choose encouraging words that will resonate with you. Collect evidence of why you’ve earned what you want, how it will serve your jury, and why you deserve it. Ask yourself questions to challenge yourself and investigate your motives. Build your credibility, and then use it as a foundation for self trust and self confidence. Make yourself believe, and then it’s a whole lot easier to advocate.

You can’t advocate until you believe. Do the work necessary to convince the jury of voices inside your head. Make them believe in you. Make you believe in you. Then the rest of the world is much more likely to follow.

Heather Hansen

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Your Toughest Jury is You

Your toughest jury is you. I always tell my clients and my keynote speaking audiences that they have juries. Your jury is anyone you want to persuade, influence or convince. It might be your clients, customers, or investors. It could be your team, your family or your bank. And the way you convince any jury is by advocating. But your toughest jury is you. It’s that jury of voices inside your head that tell you you’re not enough, you can’t risk, you don’t want to fail.That’s the jury you want to persuade. Because if you can convince that jury, anyone else is easy.

And you do so by advocating. The same tools I teach my clients to use to advocate for yourself and your ideas in your career and your personal life can be used to with your jury of voices inside your head. Evidence is one example. Collect evidence of all of your successes so that when you doubt yourself you have proof of your competence. Questions are another. Question yourself, your doubts and your fears. And use perspective. Try to see things from as many points of view as possible, and then choose the one that best serves you.

Your toughest jury is you. And that’s good news. Because when you use the tools of an advocate to convince that jury, anyone else is easy. So get to work. Now, more than ever, you’ve got to advocate for yourself. If you’ve been waiting for someone else to do it for you, the wait is over. Everyone else is busy advocating for their ideas, their checkbooks, their wants and their needs. No one is coming to do it for you. And that is good news. Because it’s true that your toughest jury is you. But it’s also true that you are your own best advocate. No one can do it better than you. Start today. Advocate.

Heather Hansen

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Imposter Syndrome Is a Lie

When my clients tell me that they suffer from “Imposter Syndrome”, I tell them Imposter Syndrome is a lie. And it quite literally is. My clients come to me because they want to learn to advocate for themselves, their dreams, their ideas and their needs. They want to learn to ask for what they want, in a way that they’re most likely to get it. And I can help, but we have no time for Imposter Syndrome.

If you haven’t heard of Imposter Syndrome, it’s  a psychological pattern where one is afraid of being exposed as a fraud. It shows itself as a fear of doing hard things, because the person who has to do those things is afraid. So she blames her failure to act on Imposter Syndrome and then goes on to feel even more like an imposter. Good stuff.

I teach people to advocate for themselves with the tools of an advocate, and one of those tools is words. Words have enormous power. They hold energy and their meanings matter. We have to know what they mean in order to use them well. Imposter means “a person who pretends to be someone else in order to deceive others, especially for fraudulent gain”. No wonder Imposter Syndrome is such a problem. Imposter Syndrome is a lie. In the basest terms, it’s lying. But when my clients get ready to advocate for what they want they aren’t lying–they’re aspiring.

My clients don’t have Imposter Syndrome–they have Aspiring Syndrome. Aspiring is directing one’s hopes or ambitions towards become a specified type of person. They aren’t pretending to be someone else. They’re hoping to become the best version of themselves. And that is a good thing. One of my favorite quotes is from Michelangelo, about his famous statue of David. He said that when carving that statue he “saw the angel in the marble and carved until he set him free”. You know there’s an angel in your marble. You know it, you see it, and you want to set her free. That’s Aspiring Syndrome. And it’s a good thing.

You have to aspire in order to advocate. In my book The Elegant Warrior I talk about the difference between faking it until you make it and showing it until you grow it. Faking it=Imposter. Showing it=Aspiring. When you are faking it you feel like a liar, and then it’s no wonder you think you’re an imposter. You sort of are. But when you’re showing what you want to be, you’re not an imposter. You’re simply on your way.

Stop telling yourself you’re suffering from Imposter Syndrome. or that you’re trying to overcome Imposter Syndrome. That’s an excuse, it’s beneath you, and Imposter Syndrome is a lie. You’re not an imposter. You’re simply aspiring to be the best version of yourself. Aspiring Syndrome is not a lie. It’s the truth of who we are–always carving away at the marble, always trying to set the angel inside free.

Heather Hansen

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Advocate Is a Verb

The word “advocate” is a verb and it’s time for you to start doing it. Before we started with social distancing, I was doing a lot of traveling. I’d been in San Francisco, Boston, Nashville and Miami in just ten days. On one of my flights the woman next to me noticed my bracelet, which reads “advocate”.

“Are you an advocate?”

I smiled and said. “Actually, I wear this bracelet to remind me to advocate. It’s a noun, but advocate is also a verb. I wear it to remind myself to ask for what I want in ways that I’m likely to get it. And to remind myself to build my credibility, use evidence and ask questions effectively. Because ultimately I believe that no one can advocate for me as well as I can. And no one can advocate for you as well as you can.”

Now she’s a client. She saw that if she could begin to see advocate is a verb, she could begin to start advocating. She’d stop looking for someone outside of her to be her advocate and she would start advocating for herself.

It’s time for you to advocate. You might need to advocate for yourself, your boundaries, your ideas or your checkbook. It might be that you need to advocate on the phone with your bank, in a meeting with your manager, or at dinner with your partner. There are all kinds of opportunities to advocate.

But the job is yours. Rather than looking for an advocate, start looking for ways you can advocate. No one can do it better than you can. Because no one has your passion, your talent, your experience or your drive. And no one wants what you want as much as you want it. You are the one who knows. So own your wants and needs. Advocate.

It means you have to build your credibility and use your evidence. You ask your questions and present your case. And you recognize that advocate is a verb. So you do it. You act. And you ask for what you want, and you get it. Advocate is a verb and it’s time for you to start doing it.

Heather Hansen

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Credibility Always Comes First

No matter what you want to win, credibility always comes first. You can’t win sales, attention, loyalty or engagement without it. For twenty years I’ve defended doctors in medical malpractice cases. If my juries didn’t find me credible, I couldn’t win. Game over. And you have the same challenge. If your jury of clients, customers, employees or investors don’t find you credible, you will lose.

Now I work with individuals and corporations to help them build their credibility. And sometimes they want to focus on other things. Authenticity was a trend for a while. Then it was vulnerability. And trust, of course, is a term often bandied about for leaders and those in sales. But while vulnerability, authenticity and trust are all valuable in their own ways and at their own time, credibility always comes first.

Let’s look at vulnerability. Vulnerability is defined as “the state of being exposed to harm”, and the root of the word is “wounded”. That’s not something I urge my clients to embrace. Though my clients are vulnerable, and probably more so than most. When they get up into the witness stand to advocate for themselves and what they did, they are exposing themselves to an adverse verdict. They could lose and so they are vulnerable. But we don’t focus on vulnerability and we sure don’t aim for it. Credibility comes first.

And you don’t want to expose yourself to harm either. You don’t want your business, your employees, your income or your potential to be wounded. Vulnerability has its place in some relationships, but even then I’d suggest that credibility comes first.

Now authenticity is a little different. It has many definitions, but one is really on trend right now. That definition of authenticity is “true to one’s personality, spirit or character” and the origin is “authentikos” or genuine. My clients could take the stand, turn to the jury and say “I’m scared you’ll find against me.” or “I’m mad that patient sued me.” That would be authentic. We wouldn’t use it to win.

And you won’t win with authenticity either. If you’re authentically feeling angry, cranky or bored, you don’t want to start screaming it from the rooftops. In fact, you are more likely to be successful in your career if you’re able to manage other’s impressions of you. When you manage impressions, you aren’t being authentic. You are “faking it until you make it”, or, as I describe it in my book The Elegant Warrior “showing it until you grow it”. You can show who you genuinely want to be and you will succeed. But that’s an aspirational authenticity–true to one’s potential–and not typical authenticity. Authenticity doesn’t win until you have credibility. Credibility always comes first.

Finally, you may have heard that trust will bring you success. You need to trust your clients, customers and team members, and they need to trust you. Trust is defined as a “firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability or strength of something.” And the root of the word trust is “strong”. I’d aspire to that, and I bet you would do. But aspiration isn’t now. And trust isn’t now. You have to earn it, over time. In business and in life you don’t always have the time.

I don’t have that kind of time in my trials. And you don’t have that kind of time either. Some of my trials take 2 weeks, some take 2 days. That is not enough time to build a strong belief in anything. It’s not enough time for trust. And you don’t have time either. You need new employees to contribute-now. You need customers you just met to buy-now. And you need clients you just encountered to engage-now. You don’t have time to build trust. That can come later. But you have time for credibility. Credibility always comes first.

The definition of credibility is “the quality of being believed.” And the origin of the word is credere–believe. You do have time to be believed. And once they believe you, you can be vulnerable. You can be authentic. And you can build that strong trust. But credibility always comes first.

Your focus should always be credibility. And you want to always be asking yourself “Am I credible?” “How can I be more credible?” “What can I do to build credibility here?” I can’t win my trials unless I am credible. And neither can you. Credibility always comes first.

Heather Hansen

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Video Calls Scare You

Why video calls scare you and what to do about it

Do you know why video calls scare you? It isn’t just because you have to comb your hair, or you don’t want anyone to see that you aren’t wearing pants. The reason that video calls scare you involves your lizard brain, the part of your brain that is concerned with fight or flight. It wants you to survive, and it is always looking, feeling, smelling, listening and tasting for danger. And video calls make it nervous.

During a video call, many of your senses are useless. You can’t feel, smell, or taste the person on the other end of the call. And many neuroscientists believe that we have more than 5 senses. There are things like proprioception, which is the ability to sense another’s location relative to yours. There’s themoception, which is the ability to feel the heat coming off of another body. These are lost on video as well.

Most of your body’s senses don’t work on video. That means your lizard brain doesn’t know how close the person on the other end of that camera is. And that makes it nervous. So if video calls scare you, they scare others as well.

In my book, The Elegant Warrior-How to Win Life’s Trials Without Losing Yourself, I talk about how we must quiet our own lizard brains in order to succeed. That advice will work here too. But if you want to win your next video call, you want the people on the other end of the call (your “jury”) to like and believe you. So you must quiet the others’ lizard brains as well.

There are ways to do so. In my work helping people advocate for themselves over video we use my FOCUS Process. The S is “sharpen your presence”. Your body language (and tone, facial expressions and energy) can help you to make the person on the other end of the call feel safe. I share many ways to do this with my clients and I’ll share one with you.

Use your hands.

When people can’t see your hands, their lizard brains see you as a threat. You might be holding a weapon. So show them your hands and the threat decreases. In real life, that means using your hand motions often and well. On video, it means the same thing. But it also means that you must be sure that your shot is wide enough that people can see your hands. If your camera is too close to your face, they can’t see your hands. But if it’s too far away, you can’t make a connection. So find that sweet spot.

Find the spot where the camera has your face and your hands in the frame. This may mean piling your computer on books or a dresser, like I do. Then use your hands to explain your points. Often, that’s easier when you’re standing up. Play with it, and check yourself out before the call. This small investment in time can have huge returns.

There are other ways to overcome the lizard brain. If you want more help, send me an email at or sign up for my email list here. But remember–there is a good reason that video calls scare you. And there are good ways to beat the fear.

Heather Hansen

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How to Be Interesting on Video

Many of my clients are coming to me lately asking how to be interesting on video. They’re having more and more video calls and Zoom conferences. So they want to know how to stand out, make an impression, and win the call. I’ve been sharing my FOCUS Process with my clients (and on my blog, here), and the F of that process helps them to be more interesting on video.

F: Figure out your jury. You have a jury. Your jury is anyone you can to persuade or influence. For some of you it might be your boss, your team members, your clients or your customers. For others it might be your college friends that you’re seeing on Zoom for the first time in years. The people on the other end of that camera are your jury. When you want to influence or persuade your jury, you need to understand them. And if you want to be interesting on video, you have to be interested in your jury.

During jury selection at trial, we try to find out as much as possible about our juries. We have jury questionnaires which explore who they are, where they’re from, what they do, and how they live. But we only have minutes to review those questionnaires. Then, if we’re lucky, we get to have very short conversations with them where we do our best to explore whether they can be fair. And that’s is. Next, we have to work to influence and persuade these people with the information we have.

But you have a huge advantage. Before most of your calls and conferences you have the opportunity to figure out your jury a little more thoroughly. Who will be on that call? Find out as much about them as you can. Look them up on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram. Find out what they love, what they hate, and what makes them worried. Then speak to that during the call.

I’ve seen this work in the courtroom. I once had a case where the jury was getting bored. Their attention would wander, and they’d even doze off. Two of the least engaged were a construction worker and a carpenter. When I had to put my expert on video for his testimony, I was nervous. If they were falling asleep during live testimony, how could we engage them with a video? My expert had the answer.

During his video testimony, he compared the surgery to building a house. And immediately, those two jurors were engaged. They leaned forward, nodded their heads, and took notes. When he spoke directly to the jury’s interests, they responded with obvious interest. And now we were getting somewhere!

You can engage your “jury” too. Figure out who they are, what they want, how they work. Then speak to that. That’s how to be interesting on video.

Heather Hansen

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