September, 2015

Welcome Mid-September!

With cooler days now upon us, I am happy to see fall arrive as I prepare this issue of “Communications Digest.”  I continue to explore options for enewsletter layout, to ease any eye strain you may feel.

Over the Labour Day weekend, I spent a wonderful few days with relatives, discussing family and career plans over some scrumptious meals–eaten out, so no cooking and cleaning were required!

In last month’s issue,  I visited an interview with Robert McKee who has written extensively on the role of storytelling in business. And I shared some e-newsletter insights from Michael Katz on more effective networking. Thanks to those of you who wrote in to say you found those articles helpful!

This month, I feature two briefer articles on timely topics: as you return full force to work and/or college, I visit Steven Benna on how to prevent others from “walking all over” you; and Shana Lebowitz on how to become a “morning person” (even if you’re usually a night owl). I also revisit a recent blog by tuning in to Bryan Garner (American etymologist) on how to discern between “uninterested” and “disinterested.”

Enjoy this issue and the beauty of early autumn. Good news! Even though we dread the snow, Environment Canada is forecasting a mild winter!




Elizabeth Shih Communications


How “Mentally Strong People Keep Others from Walking All Over Them”

Do you ever find that someone “walks all over you” in business? Or would you like simply to be more assertive in your professional relationships? For the online magazine,“Business Insider,” Steve Benna recently wrote an article on how to maintain your strength in the stress-filled arena of business. The article adapts portions of psychotherapist Amy Morin’s book Thirteen Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do (2014).

Morin’s argument is that “mentally strong people don’t give away their power because it can negatively affect [their] career, relationships and self-worth” (in Benna 1).

But even powerful people like CEOs and government officials say that they struggle daily with this issue. Do you, too?

Morin writes: “ ‘It’s clear that even really powerful people still find themselves giving away their power by blaming other people for how they feel. . . . Sometimes they also acknowledge that they spend way too much time and energy thinking about negative people” (in Benna 1).

So here is Benna’s digest of Morin’s book, in which he cites “6 ways that mentally strong people “avoid giving away their power” (Morin):

(1)   Use language that acknowledges your agency and choice:  You can give away your power by saying simply that “Mr. X makes me mad,” or by saying “I have to do” something (Morin in Benna 1). Certainly it’s true that other people will influence your thoughts and feelings. But your language should show how you’re responsible for your own feelings and actions:“Recognize that you have the power to control how you think, feel and behave” (Morin in Benna 1).

(2)   Set emotional and physical boundaries with people: If you’re feeling angry or stressed, Morin says to set emotional and physical boundaries with people and don’t let others run over them. She writes: “People with poor boundaries are likely to get upset when you set limits, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing anything wrong.”

Don’t get upset by others’ distress: try to avoid co-dependency.  Morin says that “Each time you say yes to something you really don’t want to do, you’re giving the other person power over you. The same thing happens if you don’t like the way someone treats you, but you refuse to stand up for yourself.”

(3)   From the get-go, “make conscious choices (in accord with your values) about how you’ll respond to others.”  Be aware of people who tend to overpower you, and be prepared to assert yourself, but without entering into an argument or losing your temper. When your date tries to order a porterhouse steak for you, interject politely that you’re vegetarian and capable of ordering for yourself.

(4)   Take responsibility for how you spend your time and energy.  Morin writes that you “don’t allow yourself to feel a victim of other people,” because your behaviour “is in your control.” Rather than telling friends that you had to clean out your garage last weekend, recognize that doing so was your choice.

Morin says that working late/overtime is your choice, even if your boss expects it: “There may be consequences if you don’t work late, but it’s still a choice.” Any organization that tries to fire you on such a basis may not be one you should be working for.

A good recent example is some of the people who are reported in the nightly news for lamenting their high hospital bills, accrued to treat chronic or pre-existing health conditions, when people travel out-of-province. Although I’m not looking to defend health care insurance companies, I also know that sometimes these claimants do not take responsibility for travelling when in sensitive health.

(5)   Forgive others, whether or not they make amends. Morin says not to wait for someone to apologize, before you “offer forgiveness,” because otherwise you give that individual power over you: “Let go of the hurt, pain, or anger for your own sake, rather than waiting for another party” to apologize. You may feel that you don’t want to continue a relationship with that person, but you should not let the hurt prevent you from forgiving them and moving on.

“Holding a grudge will only hurt you,” Morin says (in Benna 2).

(6)   Examine feedback and criticism without getting defensive. Everyone receives feedback on their work, regardless of what they do for a living. Sometimes it will be positive and other times, negative. Morin says it’s crucial not to allow the negative feedback “to dictate how you feel about yourself.” Try to adopt a neutral stance while considering if the feedback has value and can help you to improve at what you do.

Becoming defensive won’t help you. For instance, avoid thinking that “He’s always finding fault with my work,” or “I did everything perfectly but one last section and that’s what she faulted me for,” etc. View work and life as a journey, not a destination, and certainly not a contest, in which we can all learn and grow, without feeling threatened by critics.

Take some time to consider how you relate to others with both more and less power than you, in your business, or in your life beyond work. Do you act in mentally strong ways? Where is there room to grow?

Please share your comments to the “contact” page of my website ( I’d be delighted to hear from you.


“Word Nerd’s Corner”: Disinterested vs. Uninterested . . .

Disinterested or uninterested? Which is it and when?

The primary meaning of “disinterested” (Oxford English Dictionary) is “impartial,” or “not interested by considerations of personal advantage.” But, very surprisingly, its earliest recorded sense is in fact “not interested” (i.e. a synonym for “uninterested”).

Using “disinterested” to mean uninterested is widespread, but the OED says it “should be avoided in careful writing.”

In Garner’s Modern American Usage, etymologist Bryan Garner distinguishes between the nouns, “disinterest” and “uninterest”: For “disinterest,” he cites “(1) impartiality or freedom from bias or from chance of financial benefit [‘the judge showed disinterest in the way every judge should’].”

Garner also cites the other use: “(2) lack of concern or attention [‘the team suffered from the disinterest of their traditional supporters]” (Garner 260).

Of this distinction, he writes that “leading writers and editors almost unanimously reject sense 2, in which uninterest (recorded fr. 1952) is the better term [i.e. should be used] because it’s unambiguous” (Garner 260). These writers and editors he refers to as “traditionalists.”

Garner writes that “given the overlapping nouns [“disinterest” and “uninterest”], . . . writers have found it difficult to keep the past-participial adjectives [“disinterested” and “uninterested”] entirely separate, and many have given up the fight to preserve the distinction between them.”

But he adds: “the distinction is still the best recognized and followed because ‘disinterested’ captures a nuance that no other word quite does [almost onomatopoeically, I’d add!]. Many influential writers have urged preservation of its traditional sense.

Garner says that usage expert A.R. Orage “rhapsodied over” the term, “disinterested,” writing in 1922 that “ ‘ No word in the English language is more difficult [than disinterested] to define or better worth attempting to define. . . . it contains all of the ideas of ethics and even. . . . of religion . . . . whoever has understood the meaning of ‘disinterestedness’ is not far off understanding the goal of human culture” (Orage 29).

Garner doesn’t make that large a claim for the word, but gives several examples where incorrect use detracts from the writing in question.

Here’s just one: “ ‘On a day when seeded [tennis] players fell by the wayside like overripe tomatoes, Agassi looked sickly and almost disinterested [should read: “uninterested”]’ ”(George Gross, “Mighty Have Fallen,” Toronto Sun 25 June, 1996, p. 67; in Garner 261).

If, in business or academic writing, you’re aiming for clear (unambiguous) meaning, I’d recommend taking the traditionally favoured definition of “disinterestedness.”

A thought for today: “After watching the nightly news for a week, I felt uninterested in the details that indicated that Harper was no disinterested player in the Mike Duffy/Nigel Wright scandal.”


Have you confused “disinterested” and “uninterested” in your mind, or avoided them because you weren’t sure how to distinguish between them?

Please send me your usage issues and bugbears on my “contact” page and I’ll use them in a future blog or issue!


“Ask an Expert”: Shana Lebowitz on How to Become a ‘Morning Person’. . . .

This month, through Arlene Dickinson’s YouInc network, I’m sharing an article from “Business Insider,” in which author Shana Lebowitz writes how to rise earlier, each morning, to make the most of your new fall days.

Here are some highlights:

Lebowitz cites that famous people like CEOs of Fortune 500 companies and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson “wake up with (or before) the sun.” And because not many of us are doing that, she cites the insights of many readers of a Quora thread on “the simplest and most innovative” ways to set back your internal clock. These work, even if  you’ve been a night owl for years:

(1) Have something to look forward to:  Lebowitz says that if all you have to look forward to each morning is a long day at work, then you need more incentive to get up early. One Quora user suggests taking some time, the night before, to write down five things they’d like to get done the next day—especially including things you love to do, such as reading a novel, making a cake that you can later share with a friend, or meeting that friend for breakfast.

(2) Set a bedtime alarm: getting to bed early enough the night before is compulsory, if you want to rise early. Set an alarm that forces you to stop your non-sleeping activity, especially if it involves stimulating screen time (t.v., computer, tablet, phone, etc.). The alarm should remind you to start getting ready for bed, so that you’ll stop work day behaviours. Remember that this transition to earlier mornings takes time and may not feel good for the first few days.

(3) Drink a full glass of water before bed: Although it may sound foolish to drink water at night so as to force yourself to rise for the bathroom in the “wee hours,” this strategy can help you to rise on time, say at 6 or 7 am. For those who are afraid to sleep in and miss the alarm, drinking at bedtime initially disrupts  your sleep, so that you will rise a few hours later, on time for the day. (The intial waking up functions as a practice start.)

(4) Do something enjoyable before bed: Friends of mine have joked over the years that “life gets more interesting at 10 pm”—and that it’s easy to procrastinate over your bedtime, because it’s so “borrrinnngg” to turn off the lights and brush and floss your teeth. One Quora respondent recommended watching a “non-intense movie,” or listening to relaxing music, so that the time before bed becomes something to look forward to.

(5) Don’t oversleep: From trial and error (and it’s a good idea to test this when you’re on holidays), you should be able to tell how many hours of sleep you need to work optimally, the next day.  Everyone knows that sleep deprivation will leave you exhausted. But oversleeping can also leave you “feeling lethargic,” as one Quora reader wrote. Lebowitz reminds us that “change in your normal sleep patterns can throw off your internal clock and increase daytime fatigue.” Although this sounds cruel, you should try to get the same number of hours each night, including on weekend nights.

(6) Sign up for an early morning activity: If you love yoga or weightlifting, sign up to start your day with that activity. And Lebowitz says that if you pay for that activity, you’ll be more likely to follow through.

(7) Wake up someone else: Try your hand at waking up a family member (long distance) or a friend, at the hour when they’re supposed to rise. This adds incentive to your plan of waking up at an early enough time to make that call and get on with your day.

Have travel or other plans forced you to wake early in the morning, when you’ve long been a “night owl?” Please share your experience setting back your internal clock, on  the “contact” page of  my website:

I’d be delighted to continue this conversation.


Shop News . . .

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed auditing five seminars of the Praxis School of Entrepreneurship, towards organizing the school’s curriculum for its President, Monica Kreuger and Vice-President, Brent Kreuger. It’s been a pleasure to shadow course facilitators Deanna Litz, Fawn Nielsen and Tanya Wagner, as well as Monica and Brent. And it was great to meet seven of this year’s ambitious and motivated new entrepreneurs.

More of my copy promoting October 19-20th “Getting to Great” 2020 Health Vision Conference in Saskatoon has been published in this month’s Chamber of Commerce’s “Business View” magazine. The innovative event on how to promote Saskatoon’s considerable health market is co-chaired by Sanj Singh (CEO, AdeTherapeutics), Dave Dutchak (former CEO, MD Ambulance) and Corey Miller (VP Saskatoon Health Region). If you’re working in or moving into the health industry and haven’t registered for this event, please email me and I’ll update you.

I have continued in spare moments to work on my e-book project on the lives of local creatives who are “over 40” (some are over 60) years of age and whose experience has allowed them to endure (or overcome) various adversity. Special thanks this month to veteran writer and editor Wilf Popoff and to acclaimed Regency novelist Lesley-Anne McLeod, for discussing final revisions and edits with me. Up next: community developer Tracey Mitchell.

I also keenly anticipate another year of editing faculty and graduate student papers and theses, at the University of Saskatchewan, and to sharing those projects with my colleague, artist and editor, Kat Bens. Special thanks to Kat for designing a great ad to promote my services!

The Raj Manek Business Mentorship Program (RMMP) has started up for the new year, with the networking annual “Business Mixer,” on September 10th. It was a remarkably congenial gathering of new/young entrepreneurs and experienced mentors. Many thanks to Kanchan Manek for organizing the event.

And after having a late summer heat wave (perhaps because of it), I look forward to creating another fall and winter of your marketing and communications materials. Please contact me with your ideas and projects!


About Us . . .

Since 2011, Elizabeth Shih Communications has provided B2B marketing and communications services on the Prairies and across Canada.

Do you need help writing your “marcom” materials? Please contact me through my website, via the CASL-compliant email form, on the right-hand side of each page (

After I have received your permission, I’ll be pleased to discuss projects with you!

I help small- and medium-sized businesses create e-newsletters, blog postings, promotional emails, press releases, case studies and related documents that secure good clients. Please visit my website for more information (