On International Women’s Day, kitchen table wisdom on shame, from Brene Brown

American social psychologist Brene Brown has developed a professional speaking and consulting career (rooted in her psychological research), that shares everyday (what I term “kitchen table”) wisdom that nonetheless strikes listeners to their core.

Recently, on International Women’s Day (March 8th), while doing research for another project, I happened upon one of Brown’s TEDTalks that I had not heard before, on how shame affects women and men (and she implies, young and old, Western and Eastern cultures, newcomers and lifelong citizens)—a no-holds barred insight that in shame, the worst (most unempathetic) critic is ourselves. It will have started outside ourselves, with someone likely in our early lives. But we have internalized it by necessity and now incorporate it as part of ourselves.

When charting a path toward shame, Brown earlier contends that human “vulnerability is not weakness,” but instead involves “risk, exposure, uncertainty, [and] fuels our daily lives.” She says that vulnerability is our most accurate measure of courage. To let ourselves be seen, to be honest.” Vulnerability is “the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”

But when trying to understand the relationship between our vulnerability and the courage we need to act on it, Brown rightly stipulates that we have to talk about shame.

“We learn about the deepest emotions not from studying vulnerability, but from studying shame,” what Carl Jung called “the swampland of the soul.”

We can’t have a conversation about sexism, racism (or other -isms), Brown asserts, without talking about shame. When people start talking about privilege or success, they get paralyzed by shame.

Yet, “no one who gets on a stage never fails,” she insists. “I have failed miserably many times. I don’t think the world understands that.”

She famously cites the US President Theodore Roosevelt’s Man in the Arena” speech: “It is not the critic who counts. It is not the man who sits and points how the doer of deeds could have done things better, how he falls and stumbles. The credit goes to the man in the arena, whose face is marred with dust and blood and sweat. But when he’s in the arena, at best, he wins. And at worst, he loses. But when he fails, when he loses, he does so daring greatly.”

Life is about “daring greatly,” about “being in the arena,” Brown contends: “When you’re striving to dare greatly, shame is the gremlin that stops you when you’re about to walk on stage, that says, ‘Uh-oh. You’re not good enough. You never finished that MBA. Your spouse left you. Your Dad wasn’t in Luxembourg, he was in Sing Sing. I know those things happened to you, growing up. I know that you don’t think that you’re pretty enough, or smart enough or talented enough or powerful enough. I know your dad never paid attention, even when you made CFO.’”

Shame is what stops us. “And if we can quiet it down and walk in [to the arena] and say, ‘I’m going to do this,’ we look up and the critic that we see pointing and laughing, 99% of the time is who? It’s us.”

Shame drives two big tapes: “never good enough” and, if you can talk it out of that one, “who do you think you are?”

Shame is not guilt. Guilt is a focus on behaviour (“I did something bad”). Shame is a focus on self (“I am bad.”)

Brown asserts that “shame is highly correlated with addiction, depression, violence, aggression, bullying, suicide, eating disorders. You need to know even more that guilt is inversely correlated with those things.”

“Shame feels the same for women and for men,” but it is also calibrated by gender. (Shame for women is “Do it all, do it perfectly and never let them see you sweat.” ) Shame is a “web of unobtainable, conflicting, competing expectations about who we’re supposed to be. And it’s a straight-jacket. For men, shame is not a web of unobtainable, conflicting, competing expectations. Shame is one: Do not be perceived as weak.”

Shame is an epidemic in our culture and underlies many kinds of brokenness.   “[T]o get out from underneath it, to find our way back to each other, we have to understand how it affects us and how it affects the way we’re parenting, the way we’re working, the way we’re looking at each other.”

“Empathy” is shame’s  antidote. “Shame grows on secrecy, silence and judgment. But if you . . . douse it with empathy, it can’t survive.”

When we feel ashamed, Brown says, the two most powerful words when we can use are “’Me too’” (cited before many women used to term to disgrace perpetrators like Hollywood mogul, Harvey Weinstein). Brown says: “If we are going to find our way back to each other, vulnerability is going to be that path. It’s seductive to think that we’ll go out into the arena and ‘kick some ass’ when we’re bulletproof and when we’re perfect. But the truth is that never happens.”

And “even if you enter the arena “as ‘perfect’ as you can muster, what your listeners [clients/ students/colleagues] want is not for you to be perfect when you go in there. That’s not what we want to see. We want you to go in. We want to be with you and across from you. And we just want for ourselves and the people we care about and the people we work with–we just want [you, as Roosevelt said] to dare greatly.”

As Brown has since commented in other talks and books, “Braving the Wilderness,” often a landscape of shame, is what each of us must do. She says: “The whole idea of the wilderness being those times when we stand alone and those times when we go out on a limb, the times we walk away from what we know, our ideological bunkers and our beliefs, braving is the tool to help us manage the wilderness. . .

There will be times when standing alone feels too hard, too scary, and we’ll doubt our ability to make our way through the uncertainty. Our shame for past mistakes can creep in on us, on all sides. Someone somewhere will say, ‘Don’t do it. You don’t have what it takes to survive the wilderness.’  This is when you reach deep into your wild heart and remind yourself, ‘ I am the wilderness.’”

We must get past ourselves, with all of the shame and related baggage we carry, to reach the sky above.

This is a truth for men as well as for women, and for those who experience themselves in-between, everywhere—a truth for every day and not only for one nominated as “International Women’s Day.”

Does stoicism bring resilience? Read this month’s issue for an answer!

February 2023 Vol 5 Issue 2

Tell Your Story Newsletter (TYSN):

Specializing in Entrepreneurial and Organizational Storytelling

Let me tell your story!

Welcome Mid-February2023!

Although winter hit us early and hard toward the end of 2022, more recent weeks (apart from a cold interval in January) have been unseasonably mild—and lately sunny, too!

However, in the middle of February (often thought in Saskatchewan to be winter’s “cruellest” month), the cold has returned and more of it is promised next week.

Friends who suffer from migraine headaches, people with sinus challenges and those with weakened immune systems, can be overheard lamenting recent weather fluctuations. But now into year three of the global pandemic, good readers, aren’t we all happier that 2023’s cold spells don’t seem to last? Saskatchewan winters demand such resilience from us.

The principals or directors of “ei advantage (Emotional Intelligence Advantage),” Winnipeg-based Hayley Hesseln and Janice Gair, published a blog posting recently on how stoicism can foster that same resilience in all of us–especially in these costly, challenging, Covid times. So in “Article One” this month, I review some of the arguments of their posting, “10 Stoic Quotes to Build Resilience.”

What’s in store in Article Two, “Word Nerd’s Corner,” you may ask?  For a change of pace this month, I present some compelling book dedications— intriguing or inspiring statements that I’ve encountered when reading business books, entrepreneurial guides, fiction and more.

May the next month be kind to you, good readers, as we are closing the long loop of winter!




Storytelling Communications




ARTICLE 1: Does stoicism build resilience?

STORYTELLERS’ CORNER:  Book dedications from assorted authors




Article One: Does stoicism build resilience?

Hayley Hesseln and Janice Gair offer progressive programming for leaders and entrepreneurs through their “ei advantage” company. In one of their recent blog postings, they offer “10 stoic quotes that build resilience.” Why? Because as part of our unending global pandemic, soaring inflation affects every sector of life, the bottom drops out of the stock market and even routine aspects of life now sometimes feel that “they’re too much to handle.”

When “such vicissitudes have always been part of the human experience,” Hesseln and Gair are among many business thinkers who give credence to stoic philosophers whose writings (as early as 300 BCE) still have value and “ring true to this day.” Ryan Holiday’s book (whose title encapsulates his value for stoicism), The Obstacle is the Way (2014), has sold like hotcakes.

Hesseln and Gair write that stoicism has been practiced by “kings, artists, thinkers, presidents and entrepreneurs” from the likes of Adam Smith, Ralph Waldo Emerson, George Washington, and many more. Its perspectives, from writers like Marcus Aurelius, Seneca and Epictetus, are designed “to increase resilience, manage adversity” and (writes Aurelius), to “stand ready and firm to meet sudden and unexpected onsets.”

“Emotional Intelligence,” Hesseln and Gair write, can arise from the four central virtues of Stoicism: (1) Courage—reframing the world of difficult situations as opportunities to learn and better ourselves; (2) Temperance—doing nothing to excess when being brave can lead to recklessness; (3) Justice—doing the right thing because it is more important than anything else; and (4) Wisdom—recognizing that there is always more to learn, so we should strive to deepen our understanding of the world around us.

Among the 10 quotations of ancient Stoics that are cited in the blog posting, more than one  argues Seneca’s point that “we are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more in imagination than in reality.” In other words, most of what we worry about is in our heads, or that things do not disturb people but only the judgments we make of those things. So we get anxious running imaginary arguments, mapping out situations in our minds that never occur and worrying about risks that never lead to disasters.

These thought patterns are what contemporary psychologists and psychoanalysts call anxiety. The key to resilience, then (say the stoics), is to “pay attention to your thoughts and the things you worry about” and ask this: “are these real problems or just my imagination?”


Some other quotations advocate against hoping that events will turn out as you want them, but welcoming whatever happens, as the “path to peace” (Epictetus). It can be hard to welcome pain, loss and violence and make peace out of them, I might counter.


The posting concludes with Seneca’s teaching that “Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness”–i.e. that “we [can be] remembered for how we treat others in our lives.”


Hesseln and Gair show that Stoicism does underpin some of contemporary thought and familiar expressions, such as “learn to roll with the punches” and “be the change you want to see in the world.” It’s good to know that such thinking dates to times as long ago as 300 BCE—we should not reinvent the wheel!


But while I admire the leadership training and coaching of Hesseln and Gair,  and I while I admire some of Holiday’s writing (that I reviewed in an earlier blog posting), what concerns me most about such ideas is that they assume that we can all “hurry-harder” (to borrow a curling term) in trying times, and that adopting an attitude of “tough-love” for oneself is healthy, tenable, and sustainable.


To push through the obstacles we meet in life (as Holiday’s title suggests), we would have to curtail our emotional lives, bracketing off our feelings indefinitely and apparently without repercussions. This assumption is patently false. Who among us hasn’t experienced a breakthrough in our work only after we have grieved heavily over stressful obstacles, disappointments and lost time and energy that undermined our goals?


To deny our emotional lives is guaranteed to lead to thinkers’ and writers’ block (i.e. more obstacles) which reflects depression, not progress. Yes, contemporary life requires us to grapple with life’s obstacles first-hand. But if we are to force ourselves through them, blind to the pain and emotion involved, that would

require self-abnegation.


American psychologist Kristin Neff has argued over the past 20 years that we need compassion for ourselves, not self-denial, if we are to find satisfaction in life. She cites the Buddhist belief that “suffering = pain x resistance”–that when we resist emotional pain, we only compound our suffering. But the “highlights” of stoicism by their very nature resist pain and fail to connect how it pertains to suffering. When we experience at least some of the pain of our lives (instead of denying it), we stop resisting it, and, with the support of a therapist, good friends or family, that process can (albeit counterintuitively) actively reduce our suffering.

In my 2017 book of interviews, Keep Going: Five Creatives Build Resilience, I cite the Concise Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of “resilience” as the ability “to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions.” More intensive definitions come from psychoanalysis, which a whole volume of blog postings could only begin to address. (But do consult Diane Coutu’s masterful article on the topic in the “Harvard Business Review”).

But if we are to recover and so find resilience from these “stressful and overwhelming times” (Hesseln and Gair), I still contend that we won’t be able to do it with stoic thinking or “self-mastery”– an inconvenient truth.  The annual mental health expenditures of most Western nations (including ours) provide ample evidence that many sufferers are not achieving resilience, despite the popularity of Holiday’s and others’ tracts on stoicism.

We also need leaders who recognize the importance of health care and, in particular, mental and senior health care, so that our communities have resources to turn to, in especially these “stressful and overwhelming times.” Not coincidentally, evidence shows that quite the opposite is happening.  In this week’s news, our second (and last) gastroenterologist has announced that she’s departing Saskatchewan, leaving more than 1000 local patients without specialist care. And at the same time, support is growing among seniors for physician-assisted dying, as at least some of the time, a tragic alternative to the very broken senior health care system in SK.

On these matters, stoicism could (and may already) underpin political quietism. For that reason, either the stoics’ ancient or contemporary formulations should be vigorously analyzed before they’re adopted as truisms for life.

And now it’s your turn: Do you find writings of stoicism (whether ancient or recently adopted) to help you find resilience within? Please write in; I’d be delighted to hear from you.



STORYTELLER’S CORNER: Words, Stories, Riddles and Jokes on Writing and Editing . . .

This Month:  Memorable Book Dedication Pages

Do you ever wonder about the “dedications” of the books you read? I often find them intriguing. Here’s a recent sample:

  •   “To Amazon Addict” (Dr. Jud Brewer, Unwinding Anxiety: Train Your Brain to Heal Your Mind [2021]). Psychiatrist Jud Brewer dedicates his latest book to the anonymous reviewer of his first book. The reader protested in his/her Amazon review (ie. s/he is the “Amazon Addict”) that Brewer provided no insights on how to heal. And I agree! (His comprehensive online program of the same name now addresses  that.)
  • To Evan, who always trusts his cape. And to Caroline, who does things that scare her.”  (Ann Handley: Everyone Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content [2014]).
  • For all the children left behind when fathers and mothers go off to war.” (Laurel Corona:  Penelope’s Daughter [2010]).
  • To my wife Maggie, who always believed. She just always believed” (Pete Savage, co-author of The Wealthy Freelancer [2010]).
  • To all the well-fed writers around the globe—past, present and future” (Peter Bowerman, The Well-Fed Writer: Financial Self-Sufficiency as a Commercial Freelancer in Six Months or Less [2009]).
  • To Dad, for driving an old tan Chevette while putting us through college.  To Mom, for making us breakfast every day for eighteen years. Each.” (Chip and Dan Heath: Made to StickWhy Some Ideas Take Hold and Others Come Unstuck [2007]).

Do you have a book dedication or a story, riddle or joke on any aspect of communications? Please share it with me; I’d be delighted to use it in an upcoming issue. 




Special thanks every month to Parish Nurse, Laura Van Loon, for so generously assisting me as I continue to provide elder care. As I’ve observed in past months, the cuts to senior care in Saskatchewan for more than 20 years have left the burden of care to living family members, who often lack the time, funds, space and health to bridge the gap.

Laura has witnessed much mishandling and mismanagement and still advocates for fair and better senior health care. The words “thank you” do not really suffice, but I offer them again here to her (she is also  a faithful reader of this newsletter)!


And in other spaces and places . . . .

A hearty thanks this month (and maybe a Reuben sandwich?) to Brent Kreuger, IT specialist, VP of Global Infobrokers and founder of Praxis International Institute (the province’s first entrepreneurial high school, based in Craik, SK). Why?

Brent continues patiently to handle the tech side of meetings and classes for a local charity’s “Women’s Employment Readiness” program, for whom he also facilitates on diverse and numerous topics, including digital competency and software skills. He teaches on expansive terms how to think and live well, to our newcomers and to budding entrepreneurs.


The same local charity recently contracted me to facilitate on business communications these same newcomer women, who are already fluent in English. (And thanks for the referral go to Monica Kreuger, CEO of the  Praxis School of Entrepreneurship).

Thank you also to Employment Specialist, Nuru Nyoni, and Women and Family support coordinator, Hannah Enti-Brown, for discussing the contract with me, last month.


And as a part of this work, I’ve been delighted to start learning about the experience of African-Canadians in Saskatchewan by tuning into activities for “Black History Month.”

Discussing themes of “Black resistance, resilience and resolution” and leading to a discussion on black women entrepreneurs in Saskatchewan, our local African Canadian network (in SK) asserts many ways that our province’s history is black history. I look forward to discussing further some aspects of that history, as I meet course participants.


Entrepreneur of the month: I have meant to add for months (if not years) how much I appreciate Massachusetts-based Michael Katz’s postings on LinkedIn, where he grapples with some of the most vexed aspects of freelance creative life.

For instance, how do entrepreneurs sustain prospecting, when they have been self-employed for over a decade (and suffer burn out)?


How do we adapt to AI, without losing our writing practice, or our minds (e.g. ChatGPT, air tag surveillance, etc.) !?


And how can we value fellow newsletter-ists and bloggers, despite their differences (or because of them)?


Michael’s humourous approach belies his shrewd and well-read mind. As “Chief Penguin” of Blue Penguin Development, he inspires his followers: a few sentences from him can warm even the coldest winter morning!  (And, btw, Michael tells me he once dated a woman from Saskatoon whom he met as an undergraduate student at McGill University in the 80s! Small world. . . .)


Thank you, Michael, for caring and not just doing!


There are always new businesses and ideas to promote and discuss. Please write me to share your stories . . . . . .But this is a wrap for mid-February.




Between 2011 and December 2018, Elizabeth Shih Communications chronicled the stories of B2B marketing and communications on the Prairies and across the country.

Effective January 1, 2019, I rebranded as “Storytelling Communications.” I now help newcomers to Canada to secure better jobs by improving their language skills; I help small- and medium-sized businesses to close more sales by communicating more effectively; and I help major companies tell their legacy stories.

Interested in learning more? Please contact me through my CASL-compliant website (www.elizabethshih.com).

After I receive your message, I’ll be pleased to discuss projects with you!

Please visit my website for more information (www.storytellingcommunications.ca).



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Working with TAYFFI through the Praxis School of Entrepreneurship: Preparing newcomer women to advance their careers in Saskatchewan!

training promotion

Last week, I was delighted to facilitate (and learn from) eight  business communication classes for 15 newcomer women to Saskatchewan! All were registered with Saskatoon’s charitable organization, Truly Alive Youth and Family Foundation Inc.  (TAYFFI). Participants’ countries of origin included Nigeria, Kenya, Mongolia and China. We were enacting, one week early, our own “international women’s day,” by discussing job readiness strategies and entrepreneurial possibilities, all (appropriately) in the classroom of the Praxis School of Entrepreneurship! Here’s a peek at the group; more cohorts will follow!


Do you know newcomers seeking better jobs? Read this month’s issue of ‘Tell Your Story Newsletter’

January  2023 Vol 5 Issue 1

Tell Your Story Newsletter (TYSN):

Specializing in Entrepreneurial Storytelling

Let me tell your story!

Welcome Mid-January, 2023!

Although Saskatchewanians (indeed, Western Canadians) had extended blasts of arctic cold during November and December, the new year has brought much welcome relief, with daytime highs in (only) the minus teens or single digits. As Jeff Rogstad quipped on a recent weather report for CTV Saskatoon, “It’s like we’re in England,” with the fog and mild air.

Although January is often thought to be the gloomiest month in the calendar (and January 16th, “Blue Monday”), I continue to thrive while connecting with die-hard locals at Saskatoon’s YWCA! And this isn’t any “New Year’s Resolution,” as 2023 marks my 17th year of gym membership. . . .  Enthusiastically staffed by kinesiology grads, customer service reps and personal trainers, the YW provides reasonably priced memberships to land fitness classes, a fully appointed gymnasium, a cardio theatre and weight room. And you can’t beat their extended daily hours.

Covid has been brutal for gyms like the YW. So if you find January and February to be times of winter blues or blahs, please consider stopping by! Previous fitness training and conditioning are not required.

The appreciable lengthening of our days, as winter proceeds, also give us hope. If you have not been able to travel successfully this winter (given the woes of holiday travel on Sunwing and other airlines), I hope that you, good reader, found time for a staycation of reading great books and maybe catching up on Netflix releases for December!

Happy midwinter and keep moving! To quote Tom Webster in Paul Feig ‘s holiday classic film, “Last Christmas,” “Keep looking up!”

Friends, the sun will return–and with it, eventually, spring.




Storytelling Communications




ARTICLE 1: Do you know any newcomers searching for better jobs? 16 tips in this month’s issue of ‘Tell Your Story Newsletter’

STORYTELLERS’ CORNER: Word nerd alert: The case of “weasel words” with Bryan Garner




Article OneDo you know any newcomers searching for better jobs? Sixteen tips to help them in this month’s issue of ‘Tell Your Story Newsletter’ 

One of the “side-effects” (as I jokingly call it) of becoming an ESL facilitator (a term I prefer to “teacher,” because “students” range so widely in age, approach and skill level) is that one’s often asked to bridge a gap between a newcomer’s English language skills and the career goals they want to achieve in our community.

As a result, while discussing phrasal verbs or idioms in Business English classes, I sometimes receive questions on how best to search for jobs, how to write a strong cover letter or how to prepare for an interview that uses behavioural (or other, intensive) questions.

So in this inaugural issue of 2023, I thought I might automate some of my advice for newcomer clients by sharing some knowledge about the job search process, as promoted in various webinars I’ve attended with the Career Centre (University of Saskatchewan), over Linkedin and/or Flexjobs.com .

So let’s get started. One of the first tips professional career coaches give is to job seekers is to “manage your expectations”: On average, it takes three to six months to obtain a new job, especially if it is not an entry-level one.

The higher the salary, said Toni Frana recently (over Flexjobs.com), the longer the search will take. But continuing to customize your resume for each application and networking in your field and among targeted companies can speed up the process.

(1) Career coaches generally recommend that job seekers analyze their own values, interests, skills and cultural fit; these can be assessed on sites like careeronestop.org . Be sure to research companies you view as potential employers: consider what you most (and least) want to do in a potential job and if such preferences would fit with the job they’re interviewing for.

(2) Job seekers should also explore the field(s) of their expertise. Sites like onetonline.orgStatistics Canada (https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/en/subjects?MM=1),

YouTube and independently organized informational interviews can help inform job seekers, early in the process. Try to talk with someone doing your “ideal job.” Ask them what an ordinary day looks like in the position and whether the job is sustainable or (too often) viewed as a stepping stone to something else.

(3) Companies of particular interest can be researched over  LinkedIn (where companies will have detailed profiles), Google Maps (to locate companies), professional associations in your industry (not-for-profit organizations) and Chambers of Commerce in relevant cities.

(4) Although it’s been said for decades in Canada, newcomers may not know that one should never send out “mass applications” to a number of employers, effectively spamming them with one’s resume and generic cover letter (itself an oxymoron).

(5) Job seekers should always keep their application materials updated: customize each draft of resume that they submit to target the job in question. What transferable skills and experience do you have, if the position is not in your niche?

(6) Always send a customized cover letter (even if the employer says it’s “optional”). Whereas one’s resume describes the candidate, the cover letter should reflect the needs of the employer, as gleaned from the job posting and research one can do to learn more, beyond it.

(7) Build a strong Linkedin profile—after reading you resumes (taking 30 to 45 seconds, maximum), employers next go to Linkedin. Applicants should update their profiles so that the employment section matches their resume and use the opportunity to upload special projects, detail volunteer work and provide work samples, which a two-page resume alone cannot convey.

(8) Applicants should also check their social media (including searching their own names) to clean up one’s profile (if you have photos from high school in it), and to adjust one’s privacy settings. Make sure anything about you online is acceptable for an employer to see or read.

(9) It’s still true that the number one way for a person to get hired is by networking to increase their connections. People should take care to contact others inside of the companies they like, to seek advice. Tell family and friends about what kind of work you are seeking, so as to benefit from their networks, too.

(10) Informational interviews have helped many ambitious executives to secure a foothold in companies they eventually lead, as described by many, including Lisa Lisson, in her 2017 memoir, Resilience: Navigating Life, Loss and the Road to Success (and reviewed in an earlier issue of this newsletter). And do be gracious enough to return support provided by others with professional favours, gifts, “thank you” cards and the like.

(11) Seven to 10 days after applying for a position, send a follow-up email, of two to three sentences (short, sweet, positive), making sure they received your application. Job seekers should keep track of all applications, as they go, updating  notes with new developments of a company, in case if they are contacted for an interview (and possibly not even one for the job they had in mind!).

(12) While many job seekers dread interviews, they can be manageable. Researching the company and its online postings is the place to start; job seeker should learn their own resumes very well, to be able to defend the claims they make there.

Rehearse answers to challenging behavioural questions (predicated on the theory that one’s current and future work can be measured by their past performance), using the STAR method (name situation, task, action and result). Now’s the time to bring forward questions for the company. Since most interviews are now held via online meeting software, make sure you can handle that and that your technology is functioning properly before any interview starts.

(13) Make sure the physical background for the interview (in your home office, for instance) is neutral and professional (e.g. without clutter, inappropriate furniture, food, etc.).

(14) Before leaving any interview, seekers should secure the hiring committee’s contact information (if they don’t already have it), so they can send a “thank you” note within 24 hours. Then follow up on that note. If the job is not offered, seekers should ask if there are other opportunities in the same company, saying “I’d be happy to know and be considered for another position, because I believe deeply in this company,” etc.

(15) And on their own time, I tell seekers to research issues like salary. “Know your worth, or you leave money on the table,” says Frana. Most of us have looked at glassdoor.com,  but salary.compayscale.com and careeronestop.org can also be helpful in tracing remuneration levels.

(16) For those lucky enough to get the job offer and resign their old posts, virtually everyone would agree that it’s essential to resign gracefully (never “burn bridges,” even if the company was a poor fit), wrap up loose ends, offer to train the next hire and prepare for an “exit interview,” where you can suggest some changes you would like to have seen, while also being gracious and professional.

The above are 16 tips I’ve uncovered during my own research and that newcomers (not to mention job seekers born and raised in Canada) may find helpful. “This isn’t rocket science,” many professionals would say. Yet  committing to the process with sustained energy is crucial to any job seeker’s long-term success.

And now it’s your turn: are there particular strategies not mentioned above that have helped you in your job search? Are you a newcomer or were you born and raised here and how has that affected your job search?

Please share your thoughts through the “contact” link below. I’d be delighted to hear from you.


Word nerd alert! The case of ‘weasel words’
with etymologist, Bryan Garner

American etymologist, Bryan Garner, recently blogged on the phenomenon of “weasel words.” Garner quotes the former US president, Theodore Roosevelt, who first used the term in a speech in Missouri on May 31st, 1916: “One of our defects as a nation is a tendency to use what have been called ‘weasel words.’ When a weasel sucks eggs, it sucks the meat out of the egg and leaves it an empty shell.

If you use a ‘weasel word’ after another, these is nothing left of the other.”

Garner writes that “some writers have incorrectly assumed that the metaphor (‘weasel words’) suggested itself because of the wriggling, evasive character of the weasel. In any event, sensitive writers are aware of how supposed intensives (e.g. “very”) often have the effect of weakening a statement.”

Some other words have a similar effect of making uncertain, or hollow, the statements in which they appear, such as “candidly,” “clearly,” “manifestly,” “seriously,” “obviously,” “perfectly,” and more.

Garner recommends using such words sparingly, at best, and more in casual conversation than in print.

And now it’s your turn: can you share ‘weasel words’ that have infiltrated your speech or writing? Please write in; I’d be delighted to hear from you. 



As the first month of 2023 flies by, here are some “bits n’ bobs” of items that have crossed my screens or desk . . .

I’m delighted to share that two talented and valued colleagues, podcaster and communications specialist Christine Cherneskey; and geographical planner, sociologist, facilitator and interviewer extraordinaire, Lenore Swystun, have joined forces to broadcast over Saskatoon’s community radio station, CFCR!

As the page of their shared program,  “Civically Speaking,” says, it is now “a podcast that focuses on all things civic in the 21st century.”

These two multi-talented hosts “invite guests and guest panels to discuss all things current and topical. . . . We talk planning, politics, people . . . civically speaking!”

You can read more (and tune in) here:


Last week’s interview featured Dave Meslin, author of Teardown: Rebuilding Democracy from the Ground Up.


Although I prefer not to exchange many gifts with family and friends at Christmas, especially during pandemic financial times, I was deeply touched by the handmade gift that an dear friend mailed me last month.

My former copywriting buddy Christine Loff, with whom I trained through the American Writers and Artists Institute (AWAI), back in 2010, has since worked as a freelance photographer, and now enjoys extensive sewing, embroidery and handmade craft making.

Although not “local” in the strictest sense of living in Saskatoon or Saskatchewan, Christine is an entrepreneur whose creative talents and instincts warrant promoting, this month!

She has formally retired to a farm near Riverton, MB, in the province’s interlake region with her husband, a professional bassoonist, formerly of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.

There, when Manitoba’s flooding does not destroy the family garden, Christine plants and harvests enough food for a large army (!), makes crafts using skills she learned as a child from her mother, a European-trained tailor. She makes everything from dolls’ clothes to cell phone cases, bookmarks and mug pads.

You can learn more about Christine’s work here: https://www.sew-fashion-doll-clothes.com/aboutme.html

She takes custom orders on handcrafts- and finds the work both soothing and fulfilling.


Special thanks this month go to the recently departed Fitness Director at the YWCA, Fred Dyck. For the past seven years, Fred has manned the helm of the cardio, gym and weight rooms, welcoming everyone, while also maintaining a respectful atmosphere in which all of us could move, safely and positively.

Fred could often be found helping at the reception desk, teaching classes and even shovelling snow behind the building, to make the facility more accessible.

Fred has moved on to direct the SPCA and we “regulars” miss him already! Thank you so much, Fred, and all the  best for your next chapter!


And as I prepare intensively to teach business communications to local newcomers for a local charitable organization, I remain ever grateful for the sharing of resources and mentorship offered me by my long-term advisor, dear friend, and (always) attentive listener, Monica Kreuger. 2023 marks ten years that I have known her through another of our province’s gems, the Raj Manek Mentorship Program.

When not chairing our local Chambers of Commerce, or LutherCare Communities with umatched insight, Monica continues to forge new markets as the Chief Visionary (and Executive) Officer of the Praxis Group of Schools, including the Praxis School of Entrepreneurship (PSE), where many of my colleagues and I are alumni.

Bringing passion to everything that she does, Monica inspires her proteges and affiliates to reach beyond their limits, and strive for the greater good of our community–and ourselves.

And speaking of that, intake for a new cohort of PSE’s flagship course, the startSMART program, is underway: Help support a fledgling entrepreneur in your life by contacting PSE administrator, Elaine Mantyka, for all the details. And do so now, so you don’t miss out on the programming!

(306) 664-0500.



Between 2011 and December 2018, Elizabeth Shih Communications chronicled the stories of B2B marketing and communications on the Prairies and across the country.

On January 1, 2019, my company rebranded as “Storytelling Communications.” I now  assist new and economic newcomers to secure better jobs by improving their English-as-a-Second-Language skills; I facilitate business communications courses for job seekers and budding entrepreneurs; and I write the legacy stories of major companies.

Interested in learning more? Please contact me through my CASL-compliant website (www.elizabethshih.com).

After I receive your message, I’ll be pleased to discuss projects with you!

Please visit my website for more information (www.storytellingcommunications.ca).

On Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Content Creation . . .

Lately, it seems like everywhere a writer and language facilitator (or teacher) looks, there’s more discussion about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and how it’s changing the landscape for content creators.

Once termed “luddites” would shudder at the prospect of displacing creative effort with machine made intelligence. But the technological improvement of AI sources like “ChatGPT” are urging tech-aware contractors like me to get onboard.

American marketing guru (and professional speaker), Jennifer Darling, published a blog posting last week on “using AI for Content Creation” whose tips could streamline the process of researching, writing and editing content. These are her most salient points:

  • We can use AI to conduct research for us; find relevant articles, data and statistics faster and easier—Content writers and copywriters need to do research to find industry insights, relevant articles, and data or statistics. Darling leverages AI to reduce the time involved in the search for these resources: “AI powered tools can quickly scan and search through thousands of sources to provide highly relevant results in a fraction of the time that manual research would take.” By accelerating the speed of our research, AI can take care of the mundane and free us to focus on creative aspects of writing (concepts, strategy, sensory language, etc.).
  •  AI can format our content to give us consistent tone and readability—AI can format prose to keep its tone consistent and easy to read. Here, too, the technology saves time and ensures that our writing is accurate and “has the same feel” (formatting) across all pieces of a project (and from project to project)–beginning to end. This keeps our content better organized and improves production speed without sacrificing quality.
  •  We can use AI to brainstorm ideas for content—AI is growing in popularity because it can help us think of innovative ideas. If we use the right prompts on an automated platform, we can develop content that’s “both captivating and relevant.” For those who fear we will lose our creativity, Darling and other proponents suggest that AI can leave “more time to develop more original content . . . and spark [our] own creativity.”

Some of the projects that Darling has leveraged AI for include creating images for presentation and creating social media banners; writing simple blog postings in 15 minutes or less; and designing “flipbooks” in less than five minutes.

Like most content writers, I hear warning bells when I consider how AI could circumvent the human processes of dedicated thought and expression. But I want to stay open to advances in technology: there is no future in a “head-in-the-sand” (or “luddite”) defense against machine-based work. The question becomes how we can control the terms and conditions by which we use AI.

And now it’s your turn: Have you used AI for any of your projects? What advantages and limitations have you found through it? Please write in; I’d be delighted to hear from you.