Assertion works well when you’re quick and nonjudgmental, and you listen

Diagram on enlarging the “No Problem Area” with various skills, showing where assertion works

Enlarging the “No Problem Area” with various skills

Assertion works sometimes when you’re just quick and nonjudgmental

John, I’m glad to have the opportunity to talk with you. Okay, Doc, what’s up?
Do you remember about a month ago, you came in with a cold and I saw you? Yes, I do.
Well, I learned that you returned after I left and complained to the on-call nurse about how you’d been treated. Did I? I don’t really remember.
Well, I just wanted you to know I was annoyed by your complaining, since I had given you the opportunity to tell your concerns at that visit.
Sorry, Doc. I didn’t think that what I did would bother anyone.
Okay. I just wanted you to be aware.  


Good morning, Carrie. I was just talking with your Mom about your diabetes. She’s quite worried. She’s always worrying. I’m doing okay.
I’m sorry, Carrie, but I have a problem with what you just said.
What problem?
You said that you were doing okay. I disagree, and I’m concerned because you’re not testing your sugar levels or following your diet, and that has resulted in two hospitalizations. If you are to stay out of the hospital, I need your cooperation.


Assertion works more reliably when you also listen

I have a problem with your taking so much time before letting me administer your shots each time. I’m afraid I won’t be able to get to my other patients.
I really hate those shots. They hurt a lot, and I’ve always been a baby about pain.
You’ve always been afraid of pain, and these shots really hurt.


I have a problem when you say you don’t walk every day. I’m afraid the circulation in your legs will get worse, and that would make me feel I haven’t done my job well.
It takes too much time. Right now I’m swamped with work at the office.
It sounds like your work has a higher priority right now, so there’s no time for walking.

 Assertion works amazingly well sometimes if you just try it

One morning the door swung open and in marched a resolute five-year-old boy with a diagnosis of leukemia. He was followed by four nurses, one of whom said, “This is David.” I was surprised to see so many nurses and was about to ask why, when one of them lifted David to the table. Suddenly there was a mass of struggling women: “Got his leg? I have his arm. Watch out, he bites… ” and the room was filled with David screaming and screaming.

A little arm projected from under the white mound of their bodies. As it was smaller than the rest, I drew blood from it, assuming that it was David’s. I said, “I have it,”…

…one by one the nurses, wrinkled and sweating, got up, and left David alone and quiet on the table. He was watching me.

My hands were shaking so badly that I could not transfer David’s blood from the syringe into the test tube. I brought my hands up against my chest to steady the transfer.

David said, “Why are your hands shaking?”

…I found myself saying, “I’m shaking because you yelled so loud you frightened me.”

A few days later I was again in the treatment room at dawn. As I glanced anxiously over the list of patients, my eye caught David’s name. I asked that he be called first, as I wanted to have it over with. The door swung open, and in walked David, followed by four nurses.

Waving the nurses back, he climbed up on the table and extended his arm to me. “There,” he said, “I won’t scare you this time.”

And he never “scared” me again.

  1. Gordon, Thomas, and W. Sterling Edwards. Making the patient your partner: Communication skills for doctors and other caregivers. ABC-CLIO, 1997, pp. 104, 113-117.

Reflective listening is interacting to understand

Reflective listening is interacting to understand[1]

Reflective listening reflects the speaker’s attitudes

Rogers offers two guidelines for clarifications. First, they must be crafted exclusively out of what the client has already said, and second, they must clarify an insight that the client has already had.

Later, Rogers refers to a session transcript that shows how a therapist… specifically mirrors the client’s attitudes, rather than the client’s actual words. In this transcript, the therapist rarely says anything that could be construed as a reflection of the client’s speech.

Rogers and Wallen contend that… only two therapist moves are needed: simple acceptance of the client’s remarks with statements like ‘‘I see’’ or ‘‘yes,’’ and reflection of feeling.

Rogers and Wallen sometimes refers to the client’s feelings, but at other times to so-called emotionalized attitudes. For example, Rogers and Wallen give the example of a client who feels his wife is inconsiderate, and suggests the reflection: ‘‘You feel that she is pretty selfish.’’ This is not exactly a feeling per se, and appears to be an example of what Rogers and Wallen mean by emotionalized attitude.

Reflective listening reflects the listener’s empathy

…the therapist’s attitude is also vitally important. Reflection of feeling, then, is not a technique, but a method of implementing client-centered attitudes of acceptance and understanding.

True empathy, Rogers implies, is inherently provisional. In this respect, reflections of feeling are verbalizations of thoughts that tend to naturally enter the mind of a therapist who maintains an empathic attitude.

When the optimal attitude is achieved, the relationship between the therapist’s inner experience and his or her verbalizations becomes nearly seamless. The therapist simply gives voice to her or his thoughts, which are already empathic.

Rogerian empathy… is an ideal state of exquisitely sensitive moment-to-moment attunement to the client’s flow of experience that is so thoroughly immersive that Rogers goes so far as to call it ‘‘trancelike.’’

He reconceptualizes empathy as an iterative relational process in which the therapist participates, rather than a process occurring within the mind of the therapist. Empathy is a way of being with another person.

Reflective listening is closer understanding

First, every reflection must include an implied question to the client: Is what I am saying now precisely accurate for you? Second, every reflection must include an implied invitation: If what I am saying is not precisely accurate for you, help me revise my perception so that it is closer to your own.

…he suggests that reflections be renamed ‘‘testing understandings’’ or ‘‘checking perceptions.’’ These phrasings are attempts to further transform the reflection of feeling into an interactional concept. Reflection, here, refers not to the therapist’s speech itself, but purely to how it is experienced by the client.

What is to the therapists a messy series of rough approximations appears to the client as a seamless surface of understanding.

Reflective listening recommendations

  1. Reflections should be directed to the emotional essence of what the client has expressed, and/or to the client’s felt sense of their emerging experiencing, rather than to concrete issues.
  2. Reflections must congruently implement therapist attitudes of acceptance and empathy.
  3. Reflections are part of an empathic dialogue. Accordingly, they must include the implicit invitation for the client to check their accuracy with the client’s inner felt experiencing, and to correct them if needed.
  4. Reflections may be safest when sculpted out of material drawn from the client’s remarks, and when they further develop insights that have already begun to emerge in the client, rather than referring to feelings and attitudes that the client has not yet expressed. However, if the empathic dialogue has advanced to the point that client and therapist are in a shared altered state of consciousness (=empathy trance), therapist understandings may emerge naturally as remarks that may appear unrelated to what the client has explicitly said.
  5. To be in a position to effectively use reflections, the therapist may cultivate an empathic frame of mind. If this underlying attitude is absent, reflections may be incongruent and, therefore, are unlikely to be effective.
  6. Reflections are best couched in provisional rather than declarative form [reflections are best when they’re tentative, not authoritative].
  7. Reflections should not interrupt the flow of the client’s process.[2]

  1. Minarik, Susan K. “Can You Hear Me Now? A Positive Guide to Listening Well.” Positive-Living-Now, 4 Sep. 2010, Accessed 1 June 2017.
  2. Arnold, Kyle. “Behind the mirror: Reflective listening and its tain in the work of Carl Rogers.” The Humanistic Psychologist 42.4 (2014): 354-369.

Rest from conflict is more common in older people

Rest from conflict — “loyalty” — is passive with respect to the social partner, and is constructive

Rest from conflict—“loyalty”—is passive with respect to the social partner, and is constructive.[1]

Rest from conflict means waiting hopefully

Conflict strategies are defined along two dimensions…

  1. The active–passive dimension indicates whether an individual confronts or avoids the problem.
  2. The constructive–destructive dimension refers to whether the strategy is likely to benefit or harm the relationship.

Based on these dimensions, 4 conflict categories arise: exit, neglect, voice, and loyalty.

  • Exit includes active destructive behaviors, such as yelling and hitting.
  • Neglect encompasses passive destructive strategies, such as pretending the social partner does not exist, sulking, or avoiding interactions.
  • Voice involves active constructive behaviors to directly solve the problem, such as discussing the issue.
  • Loyalty includes passive constructive strategies, such as optimistically waiting for things to change. For example, a person may be irritated but chooses not to say anything to avoid upsetting her social partner.

It is possible that individuals in all age groups usually respond to conflict with active constructive strategies. But, whether people also use active destructive strategies (e.g., yelling) or passive constructive strategies (e.g., doing nothing) varies with age group.

Rest from conflict is less common in younger people, in general

In this study…

…age differences were not accounted for by intensity of distress, relationship quality, contact frequency, or type of social partner.

…younger people were more likely to use exit responses (e.g., arguing, yelling) than older people…

…we did not find that younger people were also more likely to use neglect than older adults.

It is possible that neglect behaviors are not always destructive. Avoiding the person or leaving the situation may be advantageous for relationships if used immediately after a conflict because of extreme anger and the potential to engage in destructive behaviors. These behaviors may be harmful, however, if used over long periods of time.

…older adults were less likely to use certain destructive strategies than younger people.

…there were no age group differences in active constructive (voice) strategies, such as discussion.

…older adults were more likely to report loyalty strategies (e.g., doing nothing)…

…adolescents and middle-aged adults were less likely than oldest–old adults to describe loyalty.

Rest from conflict is more common in young adults and in older people

Young adults and oldest–old adults may have been equally likely to use loyalty because many of the young adults were enrolled in college or may have been employed in low-status jobs, which may encourage the use of loyalty.

It appears that individuals are better able to regulate their behavioral responses to interpersonal problems as they age.

…we found that older adults are more likely to use certain constructive strategies than younger adults.

…older adults were more likely to describe loyalty strategies (e.g., doing nothing) than younger people…[2]

  1. Dowding, Keith, et al. “Exit, voice and loyalty: Analytic and empirical developments.European Journal of Political Research 37.4 (2000): 469-495.
  2. Birditt, Kira S., and Karen L. Fingerman. “Do we get better at picking our battles? Age group differences in descriptions of behavioral reactions to interpersonal tensions.The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences 60.3 (2005): P121-P128.

Efficient peer teaching, starting in India, brought literacy to the modern world

A child who’s a little older teaches two other children, demonstrating efficient peer teaching[1]

A child who’s a little older teaches two other children, demonstrating efficient peer teaching

Efficient peer teaching was described in India in 1623

Peter Della Valle in 1623… “entertained himself in the porch of the Temple, beholding little boys learning arithmetic after a strange manner.” The method used a combination of four children gathered together “singing musically” to help them remember their lessons, and writing number bonds in the sand, “not to spend paper in vain . . . the pavement being for that purpose strewed all over with fine sand.” In the same way, they were taught reading and writing.

Peter Della Valle asked them, “If they happen to forget or be mistaken in any part of the lesson, who corrected them and taught them?” They said they all taught each other, “without the assistance of any Master.” For, “it was not possible for all four to forget or mistake in the same part, and that they thus exercised together, to the end, that if one happened to be out, the other might correct him.” It was, wrote the explorer, “indeed a pretty, easy and secure way of learning.”

…the “conditions under which teaching took place in the Indian schools were less dingy and more natural” than in Britain.

“When the whole are assembled, the scholars according to their numbers and attainments, are divided into several classes. The lower ones of which are placed partly under the care of monitors, whilst the higher ones are more immediately under the superintendence of the Master, who at the same time has his eye upon the whole schools. The number of classes is generally four; and a scholar rises from one to the other, according to his capacity and progress.”

Efficient peer teaching was learned in India by British Rev. Dr. Andrew Bell around 1787

Rev. Dr. Andrew Bell… arrived in India in 1787… to teach the abandoned progeny of British soldiers and native women. He found that the (expatriate) teachers in the asylum “had no knowledge of their duties, and no very great love for them.”

But then he had his moment of insight: “One morning, in the course of his early ride along the surf-beaten shore of Madras, he happened to pass a… school, which, as usual with Indian schools, was held in the open air. He saw the little children writing with their fingers on sand, which, after the fashion of such schools, had been strewn before them for that purpose.” He also saw them peer teaching, children learning from one another rather than from their masters. “He turned his horse, galloped home, shouting, ‘Heureka! Heureka!’ and now believed that he… saw his way straight before him.”

Bell first tried an experiment. He got one of the older boys who knew his alphabet to teach one of the classes that “the master had pronounced impossible” to teach. But this boy managed to teach the class “with ease.” Bell appointed him the class’s teacher. “The success exceeded expectation. This class, which had been before worse, was now better taught, than any other in the school.” He tried it in other classes, and it worked again. So Bell sacked all his teachers, and the school “was entirely taught by the boys” under his supervision.

Efficient peer teaching, popularized by Dr. Bell in London in 1797, rapidly boosted literacy in Britain

Bell returned to London in 1797 and published the description of his “Madras Method.” Following that, he was in great demand to introduce the system in British schools. First was St. Botolph’s, Aldgate in East London, followed swiftly by schools in the north of England.

…Joseph Lancaster, who created the famed Lancastrian schools across Britain—and with whom Bell was to have a furious dispute about who really invented the system— introduced peer learning in his first London school, in Borough Road, in 1801.

[Bell’s] method was adopted by the new National Society for the Education of the Poor in 1811.

…James Mill, father of John Stuart Mill, wrote in the October 1813 Edinburgh Review: “From observation and inquiry… we can ourselves speak decidedly as to the rapid progress which the love of education is making among the lower orders in England. Even around London, in a circle of fifty miles radius, which is far from the most instructed and virtuous part of the kingdom, there is hardly a village that has not something of a school; and not many children of either sex who are not taught more or less, reading and writing.”

How were such schools funded? Predominantly, it turns out, through school fees. These were very much private schools for the poor, in Victorian England. Mill noted: “We have met with families in which, for weeks together, not an article of sustenance but potatoes had been used; yet for every child the hard-earned sum was provided to send them to school.”

By 1821, 300,000 children were being educated under Bell’s principles.

Efficient peer teaching, described further by Dr. Bell in 1823, rapidly spread across the world

As it became widely emulated, Bell was asked to write an extended outline of the system, which he published in 1823. His ideas were adopted around Europe, and as far away as the West Indies and Bogotá, Colombia; the educational reformer Pestalozzi was apparently even using the Madras Method.

The system transformed education in the Western world and was arguably the basis by which mass literacy in Britain was achieved. But in its fundamental, “economical” principles, it…was based precisely on what the Rev. Dr. Andrew Bell had observed in India.

For England and Wales… “When the government made its debut in education in 1833 mainly in the role of subsidiser it was as if it jumped into the saddle of a horse that was already galloping.”

  1. “Peer teaching at the Marlboro Montessori Academy.” 30 Sept. 2014, Accessed 30 Apr. 2017.
  2. Tooley, James. The Beautiful Tree: A Personal Journey Into how the World’s Poorest People are Educating Themselves. Cato Institute, 2009, Scribd pp. 330-348.



English-language expertise and peak skill take decades

Age at best publication vs. age at first publication shows that English-language expertise and peak use take decades

Age at peak skill vs. age at initial expertise for writers. Expert-to-peak averaged 11-13 years, and took up to 45 years.[1]

English-language expertise starts with years to proficiency

… even in two California districts that are considered the most successful in teaching English to limited-English-proficient students, oral proficiency takes 3 to 5 years to develop, and academic English proficiency can take 4 to 7 years.

This paper follows on precedent-setting research… estimates of up to 10 years before students are fully proficient in English, i.e., are fully competitive in the academic uses of English with their age-equivalent, native English-speaking peers.[2]

English-language expertise is not necessarily automatic

…the ‘compressed’ discourse style of academic writing is much less explicit in meaning than alternative styles employing elaborated structures. These styles are efficient for expert readers, who can quickly extract large amounts of information from relatively short, condensed texts. However, they pose difficulties for novice readers, who must learn to infer unspecified meaning relations among grammatical constituents.[3]

This article presents a case study of a nonnative-English-speaking scholar from Hong Kong and his experience in publishing a scholarly article in an international refereed journal on his return from doctoral study in the United States.

…Oliver had considerable exposure to English throughout his life. His first contact with the language was at kindergarten, when he was 3–4 years old. Following kindergarten, he went to an English-medium elementary school. After that he moved to an English-medium secondary school that was staffed primarily by Irish Jesuit priests. His undergraduate education was at a Hong Kong university that has a bilingual policy of teaching in Chinese or English. On graduation, he worked for a time. Later, for his MA and PhD, he moved to a major research university in the United States, where he had very little contact with non-English speakers either inside the university or outside, where he had friends in the local community, living for 2 years with an American family. Oliver said that he considered both Chinese and English as his mother tongue.

Oliver was lucky in that… the single reviewer of his submission had the skill to see a publishable article in a manuscript that two nonspecialists (the research assistant/local editor and I) were unable to envision and that had what the reviewer described as “second language mistakes that interfere with clarity and obscure meaning”… The in-house editor did an aggressive job, cutting the paper from 43 pages to 29. Entire paragraphs were removed, and virtually every sentence was rewritten.[4]

English-language expertise and peak skill take decades

Most children these days are being taught grammar and are given creative writing assignments as early as Elementary school… …in our sample… it is certainly plausible that they started writing creatively at age 10. The average age in which any writer in our sample produced their first work is 32.8 years. The average age at which any writer in our sample produced their “best” work is 43.4.[1]

‘It took me fifteen years to discover I had no talent for writing, but I couldn’t give it up because by that time I was too famous.’—Robert Benchley [5]

In our sample of writers, it took an average of 10.6 or 12.8 years (depending on whether you exclude those whose best work was also their first work) to produce a “masterpiece” of fiction once they had started publishing. Since our sample included contemporary writers, mostly still living, there is still a good chance that the writer’s “best” work has yet to been produced, which would only increase our overall mean. According to Simonton (1997), the average peak year for novelists is 27.1 years into their career…

…many of the skills required to become an expert in literature (i.e., constructing a problem representation, goal setting, planning, etc.) are also required of any task in which people are trying to extend themselves or to achieve a novel or superior result.[1]

In many fields, English-language expertise and peak skill are only just a start

The most frequently reported outside ability for scientists is that of verbal ability… When disabilities are mentioned, however, disabilities in language are named for scientists…[6]

…it is quite possible that writers might require less time for expertise acquisition than other domains. It has been suggested… that the greater the knowledge base of a domain, the more formal knowledge is required for truly innovative work within it.[1]

  1. Kaufman, Scott Barry, and James C. Kaufman. “Ten years to expertise, many more to greatness: An investigation of modern writers.” The Journal of Creative Behavior 41.2 (2007): 114-124.
  2. Hakuta, Kenji, Yuko Goto Butler, and Daria Witt. “How Long Does It Take English Learners to Attain Proficiency?” The University of California Linguistic Minority Research Institute Policy Report 2000-1 (2000).
  3. Biber, Douglas, and Bethany Gray. “Challenging stereotypes about academic writing: Complexity, elaboration, explicitness.” Journal of English for Academic Purposes 9.1 (2010): 2-20.
  4. Flowerdew, John. “Discourse community, legitimate peripheral participation, and the nonnative-English-speaking scholar.” TESOL quarterly 34.1 (2000): 127-150.
  5. Kaufman, James C., and Claudia A. Gentile. “The will, the wit, the judgement: The importance of an early start in productive and successful creative writing.” High Ability Studies 13.2 (2002): 115-123.
  6. Raskin, Evelyn. “Comparison of scientific and literary ability: a biographical study of eminent scientists and men of letters of the nineteenth century.” The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 31.1 (1936): 20-35.

Self-editing clarifies meanings and increases readability

Self-editing is demontrated with a passage called Edit ruthlessly[1]

Make what you say as good as what you mean to say. To anyone sufficiently motivated to polish a final draft, this book offers ways and means.

Self-editing for conciseness

Routine Condensing

There are at least two larger opportunities [that exist] in this area.
(Or: At least two larger opportunities exist in this area.)

He believes that [in order] to study efficiently you need…

[In the case of] Layton Brothers[, the company] didn’t adjust quickly enough to the changing market.

Choosing Bargain Words

[He walked wearily and laboriously] He trudged…

Leaving Unsaid

[In this paper I will discuss] three aspects of contemporary life that…

Self-editing word order

…if you don’t put your sentence components where they belong, you risk confusing your readers or getting laughs you didn’t want. Take this sentence, for example:

Queen Elizabeth read the speech, which was handed to her by the 71-year-old Lord Hailsham, the Lord Chancellor, with the aid of half-moon glasses.

Imaginative readers might picture the lord chancellor handing the queen a furled parchment balanced on a pair of spectacles. The writer should have brought the queen and her glasses together:

With the aid of half-moon glasses, Queen Elizabeth read the speech handed to her by…

Self-editing for series balance

Deprived of their parallel structure, some famous quotations lose their punch:

Many are called, but God doesn’t choose more than a few.

…that all men…. have certain unalienable rights: to life, liberty, and to pursue happiness.

…brought forth on this continent a new nation that had its conception in liberty and was dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Self-editing for word-group agreement

Subject-Verb Disagreement

Enclosed is [are] my application and a check for the fee.

My chief concern in opposing tuition tax credits are [is] the metropolitan public schools.

Pronoun-Antecedent Disagreement

If a person wants to succeed in corporate life, you have to know the rules of the game. (Change to A person who wants to succeed in corporate life has to know . . . , or change a person wants to you want, or begin the sentence with To succeed.)

Other Disagreement Problems

Lawyers are told that if they do not become a partner [become partners] by age forty they never will.

Faulty References

The School Board is expected to decide at its next meeting whether to have elementary pupils attend schools 40 minutes less every day. This [ruling] would leave the children with the state minimum of five hours of daily instruction.

Self-editing punctuation

Helpful Commas

In the forties girls studied home nursing, and boys took shop. (The comma prevents boys from looking like the second object of the girls’ study.)

On the New York Stock Exchange yesterday the industrials were up 9.5, the transports were down 4.35, and the utilities were unchanged.

The chipmunk, or ground squirrel, hibernates in winter.

Their performance was hilarious, however serious its intent.

She was interested in, but also apprehensive about, the new project.

Running toward us, the man was shouting something and waving a newspaper.

If he enjoys driving, a car would make an ideal graduation gift.

Discretionary Commas

By 1952(,) he was ready to forsake the literary life for a steady job.

The sun is up(,) and the birds are singing.

If you’re invited to the dean’s reception, wear a simple black dress, or whatever you have that’s dark and decorous.

The senator agreed to support the project, but if he had known that most of his constituents were opposed, he might have decided otherwise.

The drive toward a lean punctuation is such that even if we still wrote the complex, periodic sentences of Johnson or of Macaulay, we should punctuate them much less heavily.


Since she had two college degrees, good skills, and excellent references, she fully expected to find a job easily, despite the high rate of unemployment; but what she did not expect, until she started looking, was the stiff competition for the positions available.

The consultants attributed the failure to increased costs, especially for fuel; the hostility of environmentalists, local residents, and the unions; abyssmal public relations, due in part to company policies; and shortsighted managerial decisions.


The diet was spartan: steamed fish, raw or steamed vegetables without butter or dressing, half a grapefruit, four ounces of skimmed milk, and unsweetened tea or coffee.

Dashes and Parentheses

My old dog—the whole neighborhood remembers him—always whined outside a closed door.

For lunch try a fruit salad—say, cottage cheese, grapes, bananas, orange sections, and strawberries (you can substitute melon balls if you’re prone to hives)—and see how satisfying it can be.

Skill, courage, stamina, and heart—all these qualities are essential if the team is going to finish on top.

Self-editing layer by layer, and eventually self-editing automatically

Sometimes you have to remove one layer of errors before others become visible, and new mistakes may slip in as you eliminate the original ones.

In editing my own writing, I cover a freshly typed page with scribbled corrections, retype to see what I’ve wrought, then sharpen my pencil and attack again. The vicious circle stops only when I find myself restoring the earlier version of a sentence I “improved” last time around. I’ve reached the point of diminishing returns.

With practice, you’ll develop a conditioned response to these faults and learn to edit them out as soon as you spot them—and, eventually, even before you put them down.[2]

  1. Forbes, Malcolm. How To Write a Business Letter. ERIC Clearinghouse, 1981.
  2. Cook, Claire Kehrwald. The MLA’s line by line. Houghton Mifflin, 1985.

Reflective listening is helped by observing and getting in sync

Active listening by observing and getting in sync makes you come across as good-natured[1]

Reflective listening is easier when you factor in social styles

The Social Styles Profile, an adjective checklist that shows how people consistently describe others, was developed using factor analysis. Originally, our factor analysis had shown us five clusters or scales: 1) assertiveness; 2) versatility; 3) responsiveness; 4) aloofness; and 5) easygoing.

For the assertiveness scale, a very high odd-even reliability of 0.93 was found. The versatility scale had a reliability of 0.91. In testing the responsiveness and aloofness scales, we found some overlap of adjectives; thus, we combined these two scales, with a resulting reliability of 0.70. The easygoing scale did not have enough reliability to be statistically meaningful, and it was dropped.

…our research group investigated the question of whether one rater’s evaluation of a subject correlates with that of two other raters… The results were that assertiveness and responsiveness showed a significant positive correlation among raters; versatility was also positively correlated among raters, but the correlation was not as strong…

…because it appears that the versatility score, unlike the other two, has some positive and negative connotations to it—more endorsement versus less endorsement—we chose to keep it separate from the other two scales. Numerous studies have proved our contention that assertiveness and responsiveness are not a measure of success or endorsement, but that versatility is.

After the raw scores had been tallied, the scales were divided into fourths, so that 25 percent of the population was in each quartile.

Successful, well-regarded career persons were found along all ranges of the assertiveness and responsiveness scales—just as were less successful individuals.

Social styles labels analytical, driver, amiable, expressive, assertiveness, and responsiveness help with active listening

Social styles labels [2]

Reflective listening using social styles in turn means focusing on observables

Observables labels bring out the dimensions and combinations of the social styles, which helps with active listening

Observables labels

Assertiveness is a valid observable. Assertiveness values run along a well-understood continuum of passive—assertive—aggressive.

Openness conveys that what’s observed is how much a person holds his emotions closed-in or out in the open. Openness values run along a continuum of controlled—balanced—emotive.

Looking ahead, observing will be simpler if you can focus on the strongest variation in assertiveness or openness. Also, getting in sync will be simpler if you can benefit from the existing balance in your social style.

The assertive style can be learned. Start out balanced, and you can flex with less effort, or you can flex further and sync up better.

Balanced openness may never become second nature. But you can recognize which openness style feels like home to you, and be better prepared to flex here to sync up better.

The closing section provides direct guidance on how to use social styles observation and social styles sync for active listening:

  • When you’re observing someone, what are characteristic combinations of their observable actions?
    What do you see?

  • When you’re then syncing up to communicate better with him, what are characteristic combinations of your sync actions?
    What do you do?

Reflective listening requires watching the observables, and getting in sync

Your objective in communication is not merely to express yourself. Your aim is to get your idea across to somebody else.

Style flex provides a way of communicating on the other person’s wavelength without losing your own integrity (the substance of what you say stays the same), or your naturalness (most of your behaviors will be your typical ways of relating).

Observable/sync actions help with active listening

Observable/sync actions

An employer has no business with a man’s personality. Employment is a specific contract calling for specific performance, and for nothing else. Any attempt by an employer to go beyond this is usurpation. It is immoral as well as illegal intrusion of privacy. It is abuse of power. An employee… owes performance and nothing else.—Peter Drucker [3]

  1. Bolton, Robert, and Dorothy Grover Bolton. Social style/management style: Developing productive work relationships. AMACOM Div American Mgmt Assn, 1984, p. 15.
  2. Merrill, David W., and Roger H. Reid. Personal styles & effective performance. CRC Press, 1981, pp. 210-216, 53.
  3. Bolton, Robert, and Dorothy Grover Bolton. Social style/management style: Developing productive work relationships. AMACOM Div American Mgmt Assn, 1984, pp. 70, 73-76, 15-16.

English-language networks bring a better quality of life

Per-capita income vs. English Proficiency Index score, showing rising impact of English-language networks







Low Moderate High


Where English skills are very high (where EF EPI Scores are 63.2 or higher), per-capita income jumps above the trend line, or well above.

English-language networks open up research

English serves as a bridge that connects employees across countries and cultures, weaving networks for innovation.

By a wide margin, researchers in the United States publish the most scientific papers every year, and the United Kingdom ranks third in publication numbers, after China. However,… Chinese research accounts for only 4% of global citations in science publications, compared to 30% for the U.S. and 8% for the U.K. …Chinese research is less integrated into the global knowledge economy.

English skills allow innovators to read primary scientific research, form international collaborations, bring in talent from overseas, and participate in conferences. English proficiency expands the number of connections innovators can make with the ideas and people they need to generate original work.

English-language networks open up business

English spread as a language of international trade and diplomacy first under the British Empire, and then during the postwar economic expansion of the United States.

An increasing number of companies headquartered in non-English-speaking countries (e.g., Rakuten, Renault, and Samsung) have adopted English as their corporate language.

Networks bring better salaries and quality of life

An improvement in English proficiency is tied to a rise in salaries… In many countries, higher English proficiency correlates with a lower unemployment rate among young people.

The Human Development Index measures education attainment, life expectancy, literacy, and standards of living. …all High and Very High Proficiency countries are rated “Very High Human Development” on the HDI.

…English is a core skill today. …it should be taught and tested at a level equivalent to native language reading and math skills.

EF EPI methodology

The data for this sixth edition was calculated using results from 950,000 test takers who completed three different EF English tests in 2015. Two tests are open to any Internet user for free. The third is an online placement test used by EF during the enrollment process for English courses.[1]

  1. EF EPI: EF English Proficiency Index. 6th ed., Education First, 2016.

Learning and communication drive projects

Learning by small teams and communication across projects drives productivity.[1]

Hiring and developing great people

“My first priority is to hire the best developers.”

Learning what customers want

The leading source of time delays in software development is rework: the redesign/recoding/retesting cycles made necessary by changes in requirements, changes in interfaces, etc.

To gain speed and productivity, managers must spend more time learning precisely what customers want in a software product and converting those wants into unambiguous specifications.

Devoting more resources to learning what customers want should be viewed as an investment, not just a cost.

…the high productivity firms tend to have a larger team devoted to determining customer requirements (which, if done right, may make coding more productive and less testing and correction necessary).

Front Loading is defined as the early involvement in upstream design activities of downstream functions– process engineering, manufacturing, and even customer service concerns.

Using proven components

When a component is reused in a subsequent product, the original design work is a form of virtual concurrency: in the initial effort, work is simultaneously carried out for all future products in which that component is used.

Concurrency across projects is the most difficult to visualize and accomplish, but also has the greatest downstream rewards.

Using small teams

…except for the customer requirements stage, faster firms tend to have smaller teams and smaller maximum team size. …smaller teams tend to be more productive (except in the early stages where input from many different sources is needed).

…adding bodies to a project to lower cycle time may have the opposite result because coordination and communication complexities make larger teams more difficult to manage.

…larger teams diminish productivity because of inefficiencies created by the difficulty of communicating within a large number of people. …communication demands increase in proportion to the square of the size of the team.

Helping information flow

…as you break problems into smaller pieces, interface complexities grow… …project managers… must ensure that the interfaces are simple and elegant.

…there are a number of important information flows…

Flying Start is preliminary information transfer flowing from upstream design activities to team members primarily concerned with downstream activities.

Two-way High Bandwidth Information Exchange is intensive and rich communication among teams while performing concurrent activities. The information flow includes communication about potential design solutions and about design changes to avoid infeasibilities and interface problems.

…project managers must establish two-way high bandwidth flows of information among the teams working on separate pieces of the problem…[2]

  1. Curtis, Bill, Herb Krasner, and Neil Iscoe. “A field study of the software design process for large systems.” Communications of the ACM 31.11 (1988): 1268-1287.
  2. Blackburn, Joseph D., Gary D. Scudder, and Luk N. Van Wassenhove. “Improving speed and productivity of software development: a global survey of software developers.” IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering 22.12 (1996): 875-885.

Boundaries are defined by thinking, feelings, and actions

Boundaries are displayed by two dogs that touch noses as each dog looks into the other dog's eyes.

Boundaries are defined by thinking—
including talents, values, attitudes, and conviction

Our talents are clearly within our boundaries and are our responsibility.

What we value is what we love and assign importance to.

We need to own our attitudes and convictions... They play a big part in the map of who we are and how we operate. We are the ones who feel their effect, and the only ones who can change them. The tough thing about attitudes is that we learn them very early in life. 

We must own our own thoughts. We must clarify distorted thinking.

Boundaries are defined by feelings—
including desires and delight

your feelings are your responsibility and you must own them and see them as your problem…

Our desires lie within our boundaries. “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps. 37:4).

Our ability to give and respond to love is our greatest gift.

We need to realize that we are in control of our choices, no matter how we feel.

Boundaries are defined by actions—
including behaviors, study, exercise, loving, and limits

Behaviors have consequences. As Paul says, “A man reaps what he sows” (Gal. 6:7–8). If we study, we will reap good grades. If we go to work, we will get a paycheck. If we exercise, we will be in better health. If we act lovingly toward others, we will have closer relationships. On the negative side, if we sow idleness, irresponsibility, or out-of-control behavior, we can expect to reap poverty, failure, and the effects of loose living. These are natural consequences of our behavior. 

we can… set limits on our own exposure to people who are behaving poorly…[2]

  1. Davenport, Barrie. “10 Ways to Establish Personal Boundaries.” LiveBoldAndBloom, 7 Nov. 2016,
  2. Cloud, Henry, and John Townsend. Boundaries: When To Say Yes, How to Say No. Zondervan, 2008. Chapter 2.