Ideas on People and Performance, Team Building, Motivation and Innovation

Kernels of Wisdom — by Lucy Freedman

Sometimes the most profound lessons come in small packages. A quotation that gets only a ho-hum response at one point in time may pierce to the heart at the moment you need to hear it.

(Editor’s note: Lucy Freedman is an old pal of mine from so long ago that it is hard to remember (but she is much younger than me!). We connect every so often and I always respect what she has to say.  The content below is from her new email newsletter and I thought to republish it here. Hope you like it.)

Much of what we teach in SYNTAX (her training company) can seem obvious–once you know it. We deal in the currency of everyday life, how we communicate and behave.  Every moment has potential for an aha, which sometimes can make a difference for the rest of our lives.

Here are some thoughts that remind me to pay attention, to go deeper, or get back on track. I hope you enjoy them and perhaps take a moment to reflect on how you are taking these into account in the way you communicate.

The first one comes from a little book called One Hand Haiku by Avi Bob Markman:

“What I understand is not what you understand. Understand?”

It’s so simple and so much of the basis for our continuing efforts to find mutual understanding.

Another kernel of wisdom that has served me well came from Ramona DiDomenico of Lake Tahoe.  When I ask someone whether they want to do something, and they dance around it, I remember her saying,

“If it’s not a yes, it’s a no.”

I can often acknowledge it and let them off the hook. This doesn’t apply in every single situation, and when it does, it really helps. Many people aren’t good at saying no so you can help them by voicing it. Also you are then free to move on and get what you need another way.

A longtime favorite at (Lucy’s company) SYNTAX  acknowledges our human limitations and reminds us to document what we were thinking:

“It seemed obvious at the time.”

I can be a lot more forgiving when I remember that whatever decision people may have made, it must have seemed obvious at the time.  Nothing is obvious the same way later on. So we write it down.  Or inquire into the thinking that made this the obvious choice.

I was having trouble deciding between the next two kernels of wisdom so I am including both. They support each other.

One is the totally obvious truth that we forget over and over again. I thank Daniel Kahneman for emphasizing this in his book, Thinking, Fast and Slow. He calls it

“What You See Is All There Is.” (WYSIATI)

We can benefit from reminding ourselves that if we don’t know, we don’t know that we don’t know. The most important behavioral choice that comes from this piece of wisdom is to listen with as open a mind as possible. Most of us listen by relating what we hear to what we already know. Seek what lies beyond!

Last kernel of wisdom for today, from SYNTAX lore, that opens doors with all kinds of people. Especially since what they see is all there is,

“Meet people where they are.”

It’s so easy to fall into expecting people to come to where we are. After all, it makes so much sense. Well, turn your attention to what makes sense for the other person, from their point of view. Meet them there. Practicing this will provide all the personal growth you will need for a while!

  • Do you already know and use these kernels of wisdom in how you communicate?
  • Any new insight here?
  • What other reminders help you succeed every day as a communicator?

Lucy Freedman


Lucy would love to find out what helps keep you conscious and on track. Let us know your thoughts. You can email her by clicking on this text or at



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Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at

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Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.


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1 Comment

  1. Thanks for posting this, Scott! Would love to hear from your blog readers. I am warming up to the next post with even more wisdom! Always appreciate your gems, insights, and humor as well. Best to you and all who read this.

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