Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson was a remarkable man, who began his learning very early in life and never stopped.

At 5, he began studying under his cousins’ tutor.

At 9, he studied Latin, Greek and French..

At 14, he studied classical literature and additional languages.

At 16, he entered the College of William and Mary.

At 19, he studied Law for 5 years, starting under George Wythe..

At 23, he started his own law practice.

At 25, he was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses.

At 31, he wrote the widely circulated “Summary View of the Rights of British America” and retired from his law practice.

At 32, he was a Delegate to the Second Continental Congress.

At 33, he wrote the Declaration of Independence.

At 33, he took three years to revise Virginia ‘s legal code and wrote a Public Education bill and a statute for Religious Freedom.

At 36, he was elected the second Governor of Virginia succeeding Patrick Henry.

At 40, he served in Congress for two years.

At 41, he was the American Minister to France and negotiated commercial treaties with European nations, along with Ben Franklin and John Adams.

At 46, he served as the first Secretary of State under George Washington.

At 53, he served as Vice President and was elected president of the American Philosophical Society.

At 55, he drafted the Kentucky Resolutions and became the active head of the Republican Party.

At 57, he was elected the third President of the United States ..

At 60, he finalized the Louisiana Purchase , doubling the nation’s size.

At 61, he was elected to a second term as President.

At 65, he retired to Monticello   .

At 80, he helped President Monroe shape the Monroe Doctrine.

At 81, he almost single-handedly created the University of Virginia   and served as its first president.

At 83, he died, on the 50th anniversary of the Signing of the Declaration of Independence. Ironically, he died the same day as John Adams, July 4th.

Thomas Jefferson knew, because he himself had studied the previously failed attempts at government.  He understood actual history, the nature of God, God’s laws and the nature of man.  That happens to be way more than what most understand today. His is a voice from the past to lead us into the future.


John F. Kennedy held a dinner in the White House for a group of the brightest minds in the nation at that time.. He made this statement: “This is perhaps the assembly of the most intelligence ever to gather at one time in the White House, with the exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”

When we get piled upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, we shall become as corrupt as  Europe .
Thomas Jefferson

The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.
Thomas Jefferson

It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes, a principle which if acted on, would save one-half the wars of the world.
Thomas Jefferson

I predict future happiness for Americans, if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.
Thomas Jefferson

My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.
Thomas Jefferson

No free man shall ever be deprived the use of arms.
Thomas Jefferson

The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.
Thomas Jefferson

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.
Thomas Jefferson

To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.
Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson said in 1802:
I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies.  If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around the banks will deprive the people of all property – until their children wake up, homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.


7 Ways to Get over Your Fear of Asking for the Sale

In the seventeen-plus years I have been working with sales people and helping them increase their sales, I have noticed that many of them fail to ask for the sale.  It is impossible to calculate how much business is lost each year because of this fault alone.

In my sales training workshops, people express a variety of reasons why they don’t ask for the sale.  Here are 7 of the most common reasons why sales people don’t ask for the sale and what you can do about it.

Fear of rejection

This is by far the most common reason why people don’t ask for the business.  I don’t know many people who actually enjoy being rejected, and sales people are no different.  However, it is critical to realize that a “no” is not a personal slam against you.  It simply means that your prospect or customer does not need or want your product, service or solution or that they don’t have enough information yet to make a decision.  It doesn’t mean they dislike you as a person — unless of course, you were pushy, rude or arrogant.

They don’t know how

Some people, especially individuals who are relatively new to sales, simply don’t know how to ask.  I remember my first sales call more than 20 years ago.  I had gone through my presentation, and my prospect appeared interested.  However, I didn’t know what to say so we sat there in silence for a few moments until I finally blurted out, “So, would you like to go with it then?”  She said, “Sure.”

The key here is to develop a variety of closing questions that you are comfortable asking.

Don’t know when

The timing can be critical.  Some sales people don’t know exactly when to ask a prospect for their business so they wait — often waiting too long, and thus, missing the opportunity.  Although you don’t want to ask too early, you can’t afford to wait too long either.

An approach that can work is to build it right into your sales presentation.  Take the guesswork out of the equation and figure out the best place to position the “close.”  I generally position it after we have discussed my proposal or solution and addressed any questions my prospect may have.

I usually say something like, “What other questions or concerns do you have?”  If they say, “None,” I reply with, “Should we book a date for the training now?”

Afraid of being perceived as being pushy

Unless you use manipulative sales tactics, aggressive closing lines, or the wrong tone of voice, people will seldom think you are being pushy when you ask them to make a buying decision.

The key here is to ensure that you have done an effective job at identifying a potential problem, presenting your solution in terms that make sense to your prospect and that you have addressed any potential concerns they may have.

If you achieve that goal, you have earned the right to ask for the sale.

They don’t like being asked for their business

People in my sales training workshops have said, “I don’t like it when someone asks me for the sale so I won’t do that to other people.”

I respect that position.  I also believe, however, that we need to eliminate our personal biases.  I know that this is easier said than done.  The key is to identify the personal biases you have related to sales and selling and figure out a way to get past them.

My personal bias is that I abhor aggressive sales people.  However, I have learned that you don’t need to be aggressive in order to ask for the sale.

Afraid of objections

Objections, as you know, are a natural part of the sales process, and the best way to deal with them is to anticipate them and address them in your sales presentation or proposal.

It is also important to realize that when someone expresses a real objection it actually demonstrates an interest to buy.  It is much better to hear an objection than to walk away from a potential sale with no idea of why your prospect didn’t buy.

It feels awkward or uncomfortable

I will be the first to admit that it does feel uncomfortable taking this step — at least at first.  But that’s just like anything else you attempt for the first time.

The key is to create a variety of lines, phrases, statements and questions that you are comfortable using and then practicing them until they flow smoothly and comfortably from your brain to your mouth.  Don’t dismiss this simplicity of this idea.  Verbal rehearsal and practice is one of the most effective ways to remove any discomfort from a new sales approach, question or response.

I believe that it was Wayne Gretzky who said, “You will always miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take,” and this applies to sales, too.

In today’s highly competitive world you need to be proactive in asking for the sale.  Otherwise, a competitor who is more assertive will capture the business you deserve.

By: Kelley Robertson,


The Mentalist and Real Estate

I have a friend who’s not only both honest and smart, but is consistently one of the top sellers in her brokerage.  One day over coffee she let me in on a secret — she watched a particular television show every week, because she felt it helped her to sell real estate.

I was surprised to learn that the show was not a real estate show, but The Mentalist, a detective show whose main character, based on the Amazing Kreskin, uses psychic powers and his ability to observe to solve crimes.

“How does The Mentalist help in your real estate career?” I asked.  The question itself reveals that I don’t have any psychic ability.

“Because,” she replied (a cream moustache had formed over her upper lip after a particularly large gulp of her flavored coffee), “real estate involves 30 per cent the spoken word, and 70 per cent trying to either figure out what they’re really saying, or what they’re not saying at all but revealing through their body language.  The Mentalist is not just mindless entertainment; it actually provides me with tools and tricks that allow me to hear what my client isn’t saying out loud.”

I thought of another popular television show from my youth: Kung Fu.  “You must listen to what you can’t hear, Grasshopper!”  Fortunately, my friend did not pick up on my thoughts.

I signaled with my hand for her to wipe away the moustache and admit I was impressed that, after a few minutes, she picked up on it and wiped away the unflattering residue from her lip.

“Can you give me some examples of body language and real estate?” I asked.

“Well,” she began, “you never enter a home or, for that matter, a room — first.  Always let the perspective buyer be the first to enter.”

“I suppose that’s just good manners,” I wisely noted.

“No, you don’t get it!  It has nothing to do with good manners.  This allows the buyer to get the full impact of the room without your large body blocking the view.”  (Sensitivity to body image is apparently not covered in The Mentalist.)  “So, while your potential buyer is taking in the view, you watch their shoulders.  If they sag, well, then they’re not really interested.  Also, watch their facial expressions.”

“But, I’m behind them!” I interjected.  I felt my shoulders sag; she didn’t pick up on this.

She waved my comment away as though it were a fruit fly.

“You have to get around in front of them and then watch their facial expression.  It’s very important to watch their facial expression, because the truth may just be a momentary flicker of what they really think, and you have to see that flicker; so get around to the side, and watch for the flicker.

“Oh,” she added, “don’t check your Blackberry when showing a home.  That’s not body signals — that’s just common sense!”

We finished our respective coffees and air kissed.  She was then on her way, smart phone ringing with three simultaneous deals, while I pulled up my collar against the cold winter wind and watched.  She confidently walked to her car, looking every inch the successful business woman that she is.

As I drove away from that meeting, I remembered the experiences I had 20 years earlier while working as a waiter.  At first, I was the world’s worst waiter, but as time passed I found that I could accurately judge the dynamics of a new table long before I approached it.  It was all in the person’s body language, and once I learned what to look for the tips improved.

So, I have started watching The Mentalist, because in real estate the words left unsaid are often just as important as those that are spoken.


1) Watch for body language, both yours and theirs.  What message are you sending your client by crossing your arms?

2) Avoid sending off any signal that suggests you are not listening.  (I struggle with this one)

3) Let the client walk into the home first.

4) Allow the client the time to imagine how the house would look if they owned it.

5) Watch your clients’ facial expressions and those knowing glances between spouses.

6) If you fold your arms, don’t tuck in your hands.  This means you’re closed to information or that your hands are cold.

7) Look up from that Blackberry when showing a house.


By: Peter D. Wilton,


Sales Wisdom

Here’s a collection of sales wisdoms I found along the way. And although the wisdoms are pointed at sales people, they are equally applicable in any persuasive situation.

Start with rapport

You won’t sell anything until you get rapport with the other person. Rapport is a state of emotional bonding where they are aligned with you and vice versa.

If you move, and if you are in rapport, then they will move, too.

Customers don’t have needs — they have problems

A lot of sales training and books tell you about the importance of selling to customer needs. Although this is basically true, customers don’t sit down and think “I’ve got a need.” Instead, they experience problems and, hence, seek solutions to these.

The customer has to perceive the problem, of course. You may perceive the problem, but if the customer doesn’t, then there’s no way they can bite the solution line.

So the sales job is about finding, eliciting and solving these problems. Where understanding of needs does come in useful here is that problems appear when needs are not met. But when you talk to customers, it usually works best if the subject is problems.

Urgency is proportional to pain

Problems are like health. The more a problem hurts now, the more the need for a solution now. And the more it hurts, the more they’ll be prepared to pay for a speedy solution.

It’s got to hurt enough

The operation of resolving the pain is itself a painful process, so if the pain is below this threshold, the patient will prefer to continue suffering rather than accept any treatment.

Research has shown that most people will seek a solution when they have three problems. About a quarter seek solutions earlier, and another quarter seek solutions later.

You don’t sell products, benefits or solutions — you sell feelings

Sales used to be about selling products. But a sole focus on products leads to objections, so sales moved to selling benefits. Better still, the focus turned to understanding the underlying problem to be solved; but this is still not the whole story.

When we make any decision, including the “buy” decision, we do so by an emotional process. It may not seem that way, and there may be much logical processing, but the point of decision is always emotional, and usually subconscious.

Ask for the sale

A lot of sales people are so paranoid about the customer saying no that they keep on selling long past the close-by date. They may even talk the customer into buying and then talk them out again.

The trick is to swallow your fear and ask. When the time comes, ask for the sale. Ask “are you ready to buy now?”

Ask for honesty

Ask them for honesty, and you will get it. Ask “can you be honest about this?” They will say yes, of course. Then you can ask them for critical information and you will get the truth.

By asking for honesty, when they say yes they must then maintain consistency with that statement and actually be honest.

The best sale seems to be driven by the customer

Great sales people give so much apparent control to customers that the customers seem to sell the products to themselves.

They do this by being incredibly sensitive to the customer’s situation and state of mind then nudging gently with the right questions such that the customer realizes their need and ends up asking for the product.

They have turned casual conversation into an art, persuading by subtle inference and influence rather than more overt presentation and persuasive talk.

Love that customer!

Love is a funny word that is much misunderstood. Loving the customer doesn’t mean hugs and kisses, but it does mean caring about them both before and after the sale.

When sales people truly care about the success of their customers, it shows all over their faces and all over their actions, too. A loving sales person will never dupe their customers and will always give them a fair deal. Note the emphasis on fair. That means the sales person gets something out of it, too.

It’s difficult not to trust someone who loves you. In fact it’s difficult not to love them back, and loved customers often love their sales people. Now, there’s a relationship to kill for!

Be paranoid

Paranoia is a normal and healthy state. This is as compared with the enormous dangers of complacency. The sale is never in the bag until the ink is dry. Even then, customers can often change their minds. They can also complain like mad and never buy from you again.

Always assume there’s a competitor lurking. Always assume the customer has not fallen in love with you or your services. Never assume that a sale will fall into your lap without due and continuous effort on your part.

You said

“You told me you wanted a widget? Well here’s a great one.” Frequently use their words, needs, and so on. Use “you said,” “you mentioned,” etc., to make undeniable connections.


Always Be Closing is a common wisdom, but it isn’t always wise. If the customer is not ready, trying to close them will result in more objections, often false ones, put up as a defense.

ABT is better: Always Be Testing. Always test that they are with and that you are with them. Test for outstanding objections and misunderstandings. Test for commitment. And, yes, test for readiness to close. But only at the right time.

Let them discover things

There’s a world of difference between you telling them things and them finding them out for themselves. The difference is ownership and a sense of identity. If they find a great benefit from your product by themselves, their identity will connect through the benefit directly to your product. When you tell them, then they don’t get that connection.

If you don’t talk product, they won’t object

If you want to avoid price (and other) objections, stay off the subject of your product. It’s difficult to object to something that is not in the conversation.

Of course, you will have to talk product at some time, but if you can stay off it until they are crying out for a solution just like your product, then the only product conversation will be short and sweet.

It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you

Having a great list of contacts is not much good if you have to explain who you are and rebuild trust levels every time you call them.

When people know and trust you, just the sound of your name will send good feelings surging through them. They will be ready and willing to do your bidding.

Not only that, but rather than you calling them, they will be calling you and telling other people to call you. When people know and trust you, sales turn from push into pull.


Name Recognition is Important to Attracting and Keeping Clients

Before the Internet took over our lives and marketing, Realtors actually had to get out in the world, interact and see what the other guys were doing to drum up business.  Those who did so discovered that the most successful agents were the ones with whom clients and prospects were most familiar.  Business just seemed to flow to the agents who stood above the crowd.  They weren’t known because they were successful; they were successful because they were known.

It’s a philosophy that still works today, but we now have even more tools and gadgets to get our personalities and messages across.  Building a recognition base is mainly sticking to a program of constructive and repetitive exposure.  The goal is to become so well known that, when a consumer hears the words “real estate” or is finally ready to buy a house, your name or image immediately pops to mind.

Once you set a marketing and promotional budget, establish a priority list for related expenditures that might include customer service, client retention, electronic marketing, current condition releases, testimonials, signage, target marketing, direct marketing, mass media marketing, publication advertising and miscellaneous recognition tools.

But the most important aspect of any recognition-building program is consistency, so set aside at least a few minutes each day to monitor, update or tweak your activities.

Even after you build name recognition and a pipeline, don’t stop your branding efforts.  Clients still need to feel wanted and prospects still need to be nurtured, so continue to make calls, send e-mails and distribute materials as much as possible.  Not doing so is simply inviting the competition to swoop in and take over.

Some of the tools and ways you can keep your message active include:

Videos: As long as your face or company’s name and logo are in the corner of the frame your video can be as creative or straightforward as you like.  Just be sure that you’re comfortable and personable, because your message will be better received.

Branded e-mails and documents: Include the company motto or logo on all correspondence to ingrain your message in the mind of a client or prospect.

Business cards: OK, these relics are falling by the wayside as electronic communication takes over, but handing one out does add a professional touch and can be an ice-breaker when meeting a potential client for the first time.  It also adds a personal touch that’s often lacking these days, such as a handwritten note or letter.  Speaking of which ¦ hunting down a pen and some paper probably wouldn’t hurt either, eh?

Rise above the Competition by Standing out from the Crowd

Expecting buyers or sellers to use your services simply because you’re available won’t cut it these days.  Real estate agents need to cultivate leads and be creative to attract new business.  A little ray of hope and a slight nudge are incredibly powerful tools.

Say you have a buyer and have narrowed his or her neighborhood choices to a manageable size.  As a way to drum up transactions, send postcards into the targeted area saying that you have a buyer who wants to purchase in the neighborhood.  This could flesh out people with a desire to sell their home but who haven’t tried because of the recent negative news.  By approaching these homeowners with a ray of hope — a potential buyer — you can generate listing opportunities with a nudge that builds seller interest.

You can also manufacture new business every time you take a new listing.  Once you have the listing, determine the neighborhoods where homeowners might view the listing as a good move-up property.  Usually this is in neighborhoods priced a level below the value of your new listing.  Target these potential buyers with a letter stating that you have an opportunity for the recipient to move up to a more prestigious neighborhood or one that would be a better fit for their lifestyle.  The power of suggestion is a great tool and often encourages people to act on an unfulfilled wish.

Other ways to actively get the word out about you and your business is to be involved in community organizations, activities and select interest groups.  If any of the groups hold seminars, offer to do one on home-buying and selling strategies.  Promote yourself on your website as the community expert, and if you’re capable of producing videos, create ones that highlight happenings around town or focus on your favorite spots, such as farmers’ markets and parks.  You can also give virtual tours of some home listings.

Most of all, never forget the personal touch by showing clients that you really appreciate their business.  Karen Taussig, an agent in the Southern California communities of Camarillo and Oxnard, says her favorite part of the job is her interaction with prospects.

“I look at them as pen pals more than as potential clients.  I enjoy talking to the people and meeting them.  I enjoy working the database from HouseHunt and the MLS to find properties that they might really like, and the minute I do they’re hooked.”

Another way Taussig stands out is to host parties for clients and, as a show of appreciation, to introduce them to each other and cultivate new leads.

“It’s a little thing, but people appreciate the gesture,” she said.  “It’s an enjoyable thing for me to do, and it also makes good business sense.”

Make things happen by doing things other agents might not be willing to do.  Be creative, unique and aggressive when it comes to finding new business opportunities.  If your career isn’t generating the income you desire, spend some time on developing ways to change that scenario.  It will likely pay off down the road.



Personal Values as the Keys to Contentment

Though he’d been a bankrupt cotton farmer before WWII, by 1975 many people considered H. L. Hunt to be the world’s wealthiest man.  When someone asked him the key to his success, he said, “Son, only two things ya gotta decide in life — whatcha want, and watcha willing to pay to git it.  An’ the most important one is the first one.”

Indeed.  What we’re “willing to pay” means the work required (or its equivalent) to achieve what we want.  But what we want — truly want — is the most important thing, and that is a reflection of our values, who and what we are inside, at the core of our being.  Satisfying those values is the key to happiness and security.  Synchronizing your goals to your values brings great personal power to the decisions you make in life.  Chasing other goals can eat up huge amounts of effort, time, emotion, and money for things that will never bring lasting gratification.

What and where are your values?  They lie in what you know to be true about yourself and in how you use — or ignore — that knowledge in your decisions.  Your values are defined by who you are, by your evaluations of yourself, and by how you judge the material and moral worth of life’s options.  How faithfully you act on those judgments shows your values’ depth and stability.  Simply stated, our actions reflect our values, giving rise to the old aphorism, “Actions speak louder than words” when judging a person’s true self.

Contentment and Values

Values, goals, and security are major motivators in our lives.  Our values shape our expectations of ourselves.  Fulfillment of those expectations brings us deep psychological and emotional rewards (and failing in them brings injury).  These outcomes cause us to repeat (or shun) that behavior.  In pursuing self-expectations and the values that underpin them, we’re after goals that bring us pleasure, promise, and a sense of belonging.  As we develop, we also generate images of who we are, a sense of self.  We then try to fulfill those images, or visions, that are in our best interests.  These “best interests” reflect back on our values and reinforce our goals.  Values provide critical directions on the road to happiness and contentment, so they need to be a big part of how we choose and act.

Achieving goals will not by itself bring you happiness.  Gordon Livingston, in Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart, tells us that happiness comes from good work to do, someone to love, and something to look forward to.  Those things revolve around a person’s values, so it’s essential that your goals be bound to what has real meaning and worth for you.  If not, if you build your goals around artificial views of what’s desirable and rewarding, you will spend your blood, sweat, toil, and tears accomplishing things that won’t bring you contentment, things that can, in fact, bring you poverty.


Our ambitions reflect our values and our usefulness to other deserving people and to life in general.  Fulfillment of values and achievement of ambitions rely primarily on our ability to maintain and exercise personal power, especially over ourselves and the natural inclinations we all have to take our gratifications today, to take the easy road.  Learning about yourself, day by day and year by year, gathering information on who you are and how you live your life — these are the keys to controlling your power, to keeping your goals in focus and your life on track.  Using your power well is how you will reach the goals that match your values and find the most meaning in life.

If you can see yourself, really see yourself — your strengths, your flaws, your values — you have a power in life that few people do.  It’s a power that can understand and control all the other powers inside you.


We know money is not life’s most important element.  So why do we blog and sweat and worry about it?  Because, good, bad, or ugly, we live in a world in which money plays a critical role in nearly everyone’s life and future.  As such, it requires a certain amount of attention and planning.  Many of the same principles that apply to solving the problems of life also apply to solving the problems of your finances and your monetary future.  Goals, values, power, security, planning, selfishness, overindulgence, being thoughtful, being thoughtless, exercise of insight, flexibility, stubbornness, self-deceit, self-esteem, the power of the subconscious — all these factors bear heavily on the ebb and flow of money as well as the management of life.

The Monster that is Marketing

The marketing industry and the merchandising world have no interest whatever in your values or your future.  Only you and those close to you do.  Stunning hairdos, great suits, new skis, jewelry, teeth bleaching — all these things are fine in the right context, but don’t become obsessed with images or choices that chase unreality, empty values, and false security.  This is simply surrendering your power.


Do community attitudes and personal ethics play a role in our financial future?  Yes.  Part of building a healthy bank balance is making dozens, even hundreds, of decisions that must mesh not only with one’s personal values, but also with one’s social values as we interact with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people.  Four hundred years ago, John Donne wrote “No man is an island, entire of itself.”  Much of what we do financially involves interaction with others.  Losing sight of the value of others boxes you into a life based solely on your ability to fend for yourself.

Do we get what we deserve?  What we deserve as individuals in a society should be based on what value society places on us.  To decide for myself what I “deserve,” on the basis of my singular view of myself, is to divorce myself from the values of society, from my community.  Then, separated from that community, I am alone, with a long, often unpleasant road ahead.

This is not to say we must let society dictate who and what we are.  We must maintain individuality for our own well-being and unique rewards, but as integrated parts of our communities.


Your core values are extremely important in setting goals for your life, but rigidly worshiping all those values all the time can be suffocating, and can strangle your ability to survive and prosper.  So be flexible in how you apply those values at least some of the time; even test the validity of those values if they seem to be too great an obstacle to your goals.

So, if you’re sometimes disappointed in yourself for not achieving the high standards you always try to live by, take comfort in one of my favorite sayings: “Only people who are mediocre can be at their best all the time.”


By: Dr. Lance Mason,

16 Common Phrases to Avoid in Conversation

Some things should never be said — like these phrases.  Here, what to say instead.

What Not to Say about Someone’s Appearance

Don’t say: “You look tired.”

Why: It implies, of course, that person doesn’t look good.

Instead say: “Is everything OK?”  We often blurt the “tired” comment when we get the sense that the other person feels out of sorts.  So just ask.

Don’t say: “Wow, you’ve lost a ton of weight!”

Why: To a newly trim person, it might give the impression that he or she used to look unattractive.

Instead say: “You look fantastic.”  And leave it at that.  If you’re curious about how the person got so svelte, add, “What’s your secret?”

Don’t say: “You look good for your age.”

Why: Anything with a caveat like this is rude.  It’s saying, “You look great — compared with other old people.  It’s amazing you have all your own teeth!”

Instead say: “You look great.”

Don’t say: “I could never wear that.”

Why: It can be misunderstood as a criticism.  (“I could never wear that because it’s so ugly.”)

Instead say: “You look so good in skinny jeans.”  If you slip, say something like “I could never wear that ¦ because I wasn’t blessed with your long legs.”

Expert: Clinton Kelly, cohost of the TLC show, What Not to Wear.

What Not to Say in the Workplace

Don’t say: “That’s not my job.”

Why: If your superior asks you to do something, it is your job.

Instead say: “I’m not sure that should be my priority right now.”  Then have a conversation with your boss about your responsibilities.

Don’t say: “This might sound stupid, but ¦”

Why: Never undermine your ideas by prefacing your remarks with wishy-washy or negative language.

Instead say: What’s on your mind.  It reinforces your credibility to present your ideas with confidence.

Don’t say: “I don’t have time to talk to you.”

Why: It’s plain rude, in person or on the phone.

Instead say: “I’m just finishing something up right now.  Can I come by when I’m done?”  Graciously explain why you can’t talk now, and suggest catching up at an appointed time later.  Let phone calls go to voice mail until you can give callers your undivided attention.

Expert: Suzanne Bates, president and chief executive officer of Bates Communications, an executive-training firm in Wellesley, Massachusetts, and author of Speak Like a CEO.

What Not to Say during a Job Interview

Don’t say: “My current boss is horrendous.”

Why: It’s unprofessional.  Your interviewer might wonder when you’d start bad-mouthing him.  For all you know, he and your current boss are old pals.

Instead say: “I’m ready for a new challenge” or a similarly positive remark.

Don’t say: “Do you think I’d fit in here?”

Why: You’re the interviewee, not the interviewer.

Instead say: “What do you enjoy about working here?”  By all means ask questions, but prepare ones that demonstrate your genuine interest in the company.

Don’t say: “What are the hours like?” or “What’s the vacation policy?”

Why: You want to be seen as someone who focuses on getting the job done.

Instead say: “What’s the day-to-day like here?”  Then, if you’ve really jumped through every hoop and time off still hasn’t been mentioned, say, “Can you tell me about the compensation and benefits package?”

Expert: Mary Mitchell, president of the Mitchell Organization, a corporate-etiquette training firm in Seattle, and author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Etiquette.

What Not to Say about Pregnancy and Babies

Don’t say: “Are you pregnant?”

Why: You ask, she’s not, and you feel totally embarrassed for essentially pointing out that she’s overweight.

Instead say: “Hello” or “Great to see you” or “You look great.”  Anything besides “Are you pregnant?” or “What’s the due date?” will do.  Save yourself the humiliation and never ask.

What Not to Say to a Single (or Newly Single) Person

Don’t say: “You were too good for him (or her).”

Why: You are basically saying he or she has bad taste.  And you’ll be embarrassed if they ever patch it up.

Instead say: “His loss!”  It gets the same point across without disparaging her judgment.

Don’t say: “I’m glad you got rid of him (her). I never liked him (her) anyway.”

Why: She’ll wonder about your fake adoration for him while they were together.

Instead say: “I’m confident you’ll find someone who will give you exactly what you want.”  It focuses on what’s to come, not on the dud you’re glad she’s done with.

Don’t say: “How could someone as perfect as you still be single?”

Why: A statement like this comes off as a backhanded compliment.  What the person hears is “What’s wrong with you?”

Instead say: “Seeing anyone?”  If they are tight-lipped about their love life, move on to other topics.

Expert: Bethany Marshall, Ph.D., a psychotherapist in Beverly Hills and the author of Deal Breakers: When to Work on a Relationship and When to Walk Away (Simon Spotlight Entertainment.

What Not to Say during a Fight with Your Beloved

Don’t say: “You always” or “You never” or “You’re a [slob, jerk]” or “You’re wrong.”

Why: Speaking in absolutes like “you always” and “you’re wrong” is playing the blame game, and resorting to name calling makes your partner feel helpless, which puts them on the defensive and makes a bad fight worse.

Instead say: “I’m upset that you left the dishes in the sink again.  What can we do so that this stops happening?”  Starting with the pronoun “I” puts the focus on how you feel, not why your partner is in the doghouse, and it will make them more receptive to fixing the problem.

Don’t say: “If you really loved me, you would …”

Why: The more you treat your partner as if he or she will never satisfy you, the less satisfied you’ll be.  Controlling your partner by imploring him or her to do something isn’t a good way to build intimacy.

Instead say: “I feel taken for granted when you don’t help around the house.  I would feel better if we could ¦”  The best way to keep a productive fight from becoming a dirty one is to be clear about why you’re upset and then offer a solution.

Expert: Terrence Real, a family therapist in Newton, Massachusetts.


By: Kristyn Kusek Lewis,


10 Smart Uses for Your Tax Refund

If you have a refund check coming your way, consider using it to bolster your personal balance sheet.  The average refund has been around $3,000 for the past two years (most people receive their refund within three weeks of filing their returns).  That’s a nice chunk of change.  Here are ten good things you could do with the money.

If your refund was substantial, consider giving yourself an immediate raise by adjusting your tax withholding to increase your take-home pay.

Pay Off Credit-Card Debt

Using your refund to pay off a balance with an 18% interest rate is like earning 18% on your investments — an incredibly valuable use of the money.  And if you pay off your balances, you can afford to close some cards that are now charging high fees.

Rebuild Your Emergency Fund

Many people had to raid their emergency fund over the past year and had little extra money to restore it.  You could use your refund to start rebuilding that fund, which can help you avoid landing in credit-card debt if you have an emergency.  Keep the money easily accessible in a money-market account or savings account that earns interest.

Boost Retirement Savings

You can contribute up to $5,000 to an IRA for 2012 (or $6,000 if age 50 or older).  If your modified adjusted gross income is $125,000 or less if you’re single, or $183,000 or less if you’re married filing jointly, then you can contribute to a Roth IRA, which lets you withdraw the money tax-free in retirement.  If you earn too much for a Roth, you can contribute to a nondeductible traditional IRA, then convert it to a Roth.

Fund a Taxable Account

Use the extra cash to buy shares in a mutual fund or stock you’ve been considering — but may feel is too risky for your IRA or not available in your 401(k) plan.

Fill Gaps in Your Insurance

For less than $1,000, you can get coverage for flooding and liability.

Flood Insurance Policy.  If you live in a low- to medium-risk area, it costs about $350 to $600 per year from the National Flood Insurance Program with the maximum $250,000 in dwelling coverage and $100,000 for possessions.  Get a price quote at

Liability Insurance.  Cover your legal expenses if someone is hurt in your home or by your car.  It generally costs just $200 to $400 to buy a personal umbrella policy that provides $1 million in coverage over the limits of your auto- and homeowners-insurance policies.

Build Your College Savings

It’s always hard to juggle saving for college and retirement.  Here’s an opportunity to use your extra money to contribute to a 529 account.  You’ll be able to use the money tax-free for college bills, and you could get a state income-tax deduction for your contribution.

Help Your Kid Save

You can use the extra money to contribute to a Roth IRA for your child.  Your kid is eligible as long as he or she has earned income — from mowing yards or babysitting, for example.  Your child can contribute up to $5,000 or the amount of his or her earned income for the year, whichever is lower, and you can give him the cash to do it.

Prepay Your Vacation

Set aside some money for vacation rather than using your credit card and paying interest long after you have returned.  Stash your refund in a separate account, then add money automatically every week.  You could also set up the account for other expenses — such as a new car or holiday gifts.

Invest in Your Home

Your refund won’t be enough to redo your kitchen or bathroom, but it can pay for some smaller home improvements.  Use the extra cash to add a backsplash, paint a room or cabinets, replace your bathroom sink, swap out your faucets, organize a closet, install a programmable thermostat or spruce up your yard.

Give to Others

If you have your financial bases covered, consider using your refund to make a charitable contribution to help others in need.  You’ll feel good — and you’ll be rewarded for your good deed when you file your tax return in 2013 (charitable contributions are deductible if you itemize).