October 2014

Welcome Month of October!

As we enter the final quarter of 2014 (where has the year gone?), autumn is fully upon us, with cool and frosty nights. We hope that the snow will be late in arriving and later still, in staying.

Thanksgiving comes to us as the leaves turn and fall; and I continue a busy month of writing your marketing and communications materials.

In this issue, I’ll address a book on the issue of women’s confidence in business; visit Saskatoon’s “Word on the Street” book festival; have a laugh or two under in “Word Nerd’s Corner;” and report  sundries, as usual, in my “Shop News.”

Enjoy this issue and Happy Thanksgiving!

CEO, Elizabeth Shih Communications


Women Who Think Too Much: On Women’s Confidence in Business . . .

In a recent, prominent book, The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance—What Women Should Know (New York: Harper, 2014), American journalists Katty Kay and Claire Shipman analyze the “epidemic” of professional women who lack confidence.

Exploring the latest research and perspectives of neuroscientists, psychiatrists, as well as the experiences of some of the world’s most powerful women, the authors analyze why and how overthinking life’s challenges undermines women’s confidence.

Human confidence is understood to start in early childhood. But a generation of children has been nurtured to have false self-esteem and false confidence by being told they’re “great” or don’t need to improve, merely for completing a task.

Kay and Shipman argue that caregivers need to address children’s failures by talking about what they did well and also what they can learn to do better the next time. This approach is called a “growth mind-set.” Caregivers must focus on the child’s actions and not on her (or his) thoughts or feelings about them.

Authentic confidence is about developing ability and mastery in a “growth mind-set,” since “the most successful and fulfilled people always believe that they can improve and still learn things” (128). Women often lack such a mindset. With it, people find that the process of taking action but sometimes failing yields confidence.  As British business guru Jane Wurwind observes, “You’re not born with confidence. You build and you build it.”

Without a “growth mind-set,” women too often ruminate, in “tortured cycles of useless self-recrimination. [Over-thinking] is the opposite of taking action, that cornerstone of confidence,” the authors write.

Women in business especially tend to ruminate–we worry much more than most of the men we work with and end up with anxiety and depression. Women more frequently personalize setbacks. Such perfectionism causes us to “hold back” in the face of challenges and therefore  “perfectionism inhibits achievement” (107).

When we stop thinking too much that undermines our confidence, women–and men who share this issue–can thrive in a time that is long ago due.

This is an issue with implications for both women and men. How can these insights on confidence enrich the way you do business? What distinction do you maintain between conscientiousness and overthinking?


Nerd Alert! Word Nerd Corner:  Jokes and Stories on Writers and Writing . . .

  • “If you can’t annoy somebody, there’s little point in writing”
    -– Kingsley Amis (Author of Lucky Jim)
  • “These days it seems like any idiot with a laptop [tablet?] can churn out a business book and make a few bucks. That’s certainly what I’m hoping. It would be a real letdown if the trend changed before this masterpiece goes to print”
    Scott Adams (The Dilbert Principle)
  • “This wallpaper is dreadful. One of us has to go
    Oscar Wilde (on his deathbed)
  • “Your manuscript is both good and original; but the part that is good is not original and the part that is original is not good”
    –- Samuel Johnson to an aspiring writer
  • “A writer in residence never knows who will come through the door and my visitors ranged from ex-cons with short stories about exotic dancers to former accountants being retrained as creative writers . . . . One gentleman visited me every day until I gave him a writing assignment for his next visit. He never returned
    Armin Wiebe (Saskatoon Public Library Writer in Residence, 1992-3)

(Please share your “funnies” with me via my website at www.elizabethshih.com)


Some Highlights of “Word on the Street” (September 21st) …

Like many Saskatonians, I was fortunate to take in the city’s fourth annual “Word on the Street” festival in civic square on September 21st.

Of the more than 50 presenters, Amy Jo Ehman, one of the province’s best food writers, read from her new book, Out of Old Saskatchewan Kitchens, a history of food production in the province that includes more than 80 pioneers’ recipes (pre-1920). She chronicles how the procurement and policy of food affected the growth of the province.

Did you know that wheat was first grown in SK in 1754 in a fur trade post? Or that gardening was first done by First Nations and Metis people, through agricultural treaties?

In another session, renowned novelist, writer and activist Yann Martel spoke powerfully on how Martin Buber (I Thou [1923]) and Lewis Hyde (The Gift  [1983]) are two books that “might save the world” at a time when governments use the language of corporate exchange, not authentic self-other relationships, to write and enact policy.

The day’s standing ovation went to Alberta-based (former) freelance journalist Amanda Lindhout, who spoke candidly of the 15 months from 2008 that she spent in isolation and captivity, after being kidnapped by armed resistants in Somalia. Her captors were as young as 14, and held her in a country often described as the most dangerous in the world.

Lindhout survived by the power of her imagination (her memoir is thus named, A House in the Sky), while her family back home raised the $1.5 Million ransom to secure her release.

Through therapy, Lindhout has found it possible to empathize with her captors: “From the seed of compassion, you can begin the process of forgiveness.”

She has since developed the “Global Enrichment Foundation,” raising money to assist the people of Somalia.

Other remarkable sessions included new readings by award-winning writers Alison Calder and Dave Margoshes.

These and many other presentations made wonderful use of our last, glorious Sunday of the summer.


Shop News . . .

Besides attending Saskatoon’s “Word on the Street” and an exciting “media tour” by the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC),  I recently joined in a mentoring circle of businesswomen, organized by the non-profit organization, Women Entrepreneurs of Saskatchewan (WE).

This circle, which includes professional women from every sector of the business world, is a place to share business histories as well as expertise. The circle’s smart, energetic and ambitious members create thoughtful community, support and share some laughter, too. Thanks to WE for organizing the group!


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 each page, at www.elizabethshih.com .

Once I have received your permission, I’ll be delighted to discuss projects with you!

I help small- and medium-sized businesses create e-newsletters and related documents that secure good clients. Please visit my website for more information (www.elizabethshih.com).