All posts by Corinne Wilhelm

Women in Banking – A Review of the DIW Summit in Berlin

This week I was fortunate enough to be one of the women at the Women in Finance Summit, here in Berlin. It was a one day event run by the DIW (Deutsche Institute für Wirtschaftsforschung) at the Deutsche Bank.

I was impressed by the calibre of the women there, I was there as a voluntary member of the advisory board for a small but impactful microfunding organisation. I was perceived by some bankers as the enemy but for business women we are far from that.


You see Goldrausch e.V is a microfinancing charity purely serving business women in Berlin. We lend relatively small amounts of money to get these entrepreneurs up and running in their businesses.  Many women see this as less intimidating than having to borrow a larger amount actually. Although we cannot offer as competitive rates of interest as our conventional counterparts, the banks, it seems that that is due to change very soon according to experts speaking and mingling.

So as the idiom goes, I was wearing a different hat, to the one that you usually see me in at the event.

You see, banks, particularly here in Germany are being forced to go through a fundamental and far-reaching transition which is in part being led by and influenced by women. The diversity of the world we live in and the economy that finance is fuelling is inhabited by 50% women but perhaps more interestingly 30% of the globe’s capital is in the ownership of women. So you see banks are learning that by mirroring the demographics they will be seen to be more approachable and trustworthy.

Quotas or Targets?

The topic of quotas came up, one that has fascinated me from the word go and there was a mixed bag of opinions on this one. Initially many women preferred to be promoted on merit not ‘just because they were a woman’ but as the momentum behind quotas started to take hold, it was apparent to both genders that quotas were not a replacement for internal targets. Instead or rather an accelerating factor moving leadership from lip service to action for the sake of reaching business goals.

Brenda D.H Trenowden who heads up the 30% Club in the UK was a charming mix of feminine, feisty and fabulous. She sadly pointed out that although the club has become more global than UK based, there was no interest at all from chairmen and CEOs in Germany.  Frankly, that sent a reality check through the room.

Diversity in Banking

Brenda talked about how the more advanced companies in terms of accepting and embracing diversity, were the ones that asked the toughest questions. The companies that did not hold up their hands in defeat if the numbers weren’t available but who insisted, probed and analysed until they got them. Like any other business policy, these facts and figures enable leadership to make more informed decisions about how to tackle diversity for the sake, not of social conformity, but for business success.

Wait in Line Ladies

Apparently, on average, female VPs spend on average 6 years longer ‘waiting, hoping’ to get promoted than men. In those 6 years other men get past the post because “She isn’t ready yet”. This isn’t helped by the fact that management training has faced cost cutting as a result of the global banking crisis. Inherent gender biases that we all have are being increasingly addressed with gender awareness training.

Mindset darling!

Ultimately though above and beyond quotas and internal targets, it is, of course, a shift in mindset that we are fundamentally in pursuit of.  That is deeply ingrained in the minds of each and every one of us, we as parents need to be great role models, as bosses we need to lead by example, our teachers, need to welcome girls into maths and boys into linguistics.

Disruption in the Financial Services Industry

In an industry being disrupted by fintech, it was disappointing to hear that the percentage of women in these startups was even lower than in conventional banks. Unfortunately, such providers were not afforded a place on the stage to provide any answers to what for me is a puzzling statistic.

The ugly

Another disappointing subsector was fund management with a shocking 84% of men on the boards and getting worse, not better. Women lose their jobs disproportionately more often than males int the same sector and yet in healthcare women represent 42%. One could argue that the sector has an impact but BHP – a mining company is on target to have 50% female workforce at all levels from mining to management by 2015. It’s doable with the right mindset, policies and persistence.

There is no silver bullet.

However work is being done in retention through returnship programmes. Other diversity measures discussed were insisting on having at least one female candidate for all job interviews and encouraging women to ask for a pay rise or ask for more responsibility. A greater focus on retention through returnship programmes was also showcased. Networking, mentoring but especially sponsorship were all seen to be absolutely essential.

Ultimately though, as Viviane Reding, Member of European Parliament and sensational speaker said, you have to “Rock the Boat” but ultimately if you’re not getting anywhere, take Brenda Trenowden’s advice and look after number one and take your talent elsewhere.

From flexibility to corporate entertaining to suit women

It was a fabulous summit and I hope that this has given you a sneak glimpse of what was discussed. I couldn’t resist a smile when they said that things that the guys take for granted like corporate events that appeal predominantly to the men, like rugby are not a good fit for women in finance. That’s one of the reasons why I chose Ascot for my next event, check it out if you want to nurture your career through networking.

The finance industry is not alone in it’s struggle to accommodate women on a level heading with the guys, but more about other industries in another post. Let me know if you are affected and how.

If you feel that the time is right to start networking more productively with other go getting women, then join us at Ascot.

Further Information…

  1. Article from the Handelsblatt about the event in German

Noch 80 Jahre bis zur Gleichberechtigung

2. TED Talk about Saudi women succeeding

I’ll check my comments now, won’t I? Question Tags for Business

I have just noticed that the majority of your blog comments were going through to spam. I have only just discovered them and was so touched by what people have said.

Thanks for Motivating Me Today!

On a day like today when the sun is shining and my mountain bike is … Continue reading I’ll check my comments now, won’t I? Question Tags for Business

Ms 80%. Perfectionists never Reach Last Base

There are weeks like this one when you are really firing on all cylinders and it is easy to beat yourself up about not having done X, Y or Z but the bottom line is that 80% is normally good enough and certainly better than never getting anything off the ground.

Think of it this way, when you are having a bad hair day, who notices? Nobody. Do you EVER notice someone else having a bad hair day, I know that I never do.

It’s the same with our businesses, just because we strive for perfection, it shouldn’t be a monster that overwhelms us.

So this week in the VIDEO below, I explain a little bit about how I managed to break free from my obsession with perfection…

Giving Instructions in English, clear but polite, a fine balance.

Being able to give good clear instructions is an important skill to learn both for your career and family life. To avoid having to do everything in life yourself, you are going to have to learn to delegate, but to do that you need to be able to give good clear instructions. If you neglect to tell people how to do something, the chances are that the task will be done in a different way (not necessarily worse I hasten to add) but giving instructions gives you a handle on quality control.

Delegation frees up your time for what you do best.

Coco’s Britspeak Byte

The Brits are a polite nationality, we insist on pleases and thank you’s. We are a little odd; we apologise, even though it was us that got pushed and shoved. We are a generally quite a chaotic nationality by German standards and yet we like to keep things fair by joining a queue in an orderly line. We complain about those very same queues but would never push without asking or sneak in at the front.

We generally try to avoid confrontations and keep to first names because being liked and approachable are seen to be key leadership values. Ultimately being liked and a team player are both more important than being right or first.

Giving instructions and taking on the role of boss can be a real challenge for many Brits because clear instructions are clear and consise, the Brits feel bossy without politeness to protect them and nobody likes a ‘bossy boots’. (A  poem to demonstrate)

The right structures to give easy to follow instructions.

In theory at least, in the English language, we use the imperative form to give directions.

1. “Take the bus to Zoologischer Garten, then walk to the Hop on/Hop off bus stop on Kururstendamm, Keep going until you get to Kaufhaus des Westens. The sightseeing buses stop right there!”

(not ride the bus, that would make it sound like you were sitting on the roof)

2. “Turn left and go straight on.”

3. “Do something in English for at least ten minutes a day, every day!”

4. “Be careful!”

5. “Take your time” can loosely be translated as ‘pay attention to the details’, depending on the situation.

6. “Please take a seat.” Request

7. “May I take your coat” Invitation 

8″Take a seat.” Command

NOT “I take your coat” Daylight robbery 😉

Instructions Vocabulary
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Infinitives first for imperative Instructions

Let’s take a look at how to use the imperative. Firstly, you need to work out what the infinitive form of the verb is (to go, to sit, to take, to drive etc), now just forget about the ‘to’ and you are ready to put that infinitive at the beginning of the sentence for emphasis.

Get ready

Go to the meeting, I’ll join you in there

Try to contact the client again, we need his support with the beta testing by the end of the week if we are to keep to schedule.

 To make it negative, it’s easy, just put a  “do not” or “don’t” before  the  verb.

 Don’t is less assertive or strict than “do not”.


Don’t go to lunch without me, I’m just finishing this email!”

Do not leave your computer on when you leave the office.”


Giving instructions

You might well be familiar with the imperative form if you are the

type of person that reads instruction manuals. In the spoken English

language we also use the same format to show someone how to do

something. Check out the huge range of “How to…” videos to see

how versatile this structure is.

It is helpful in terms of helping someone to get their head around

the bigger picture.


We tend to use “sequencing” words to give details of the steps in the process.



For example “firstly“, “secondly” and”finally” helps a lot.

Even simple instructions can be broken into ‘byte sized’ chunks.

Firstly, open the lid of the printer

Secondly, check which cartridges need changing

Then, unwrap a new cartridge and slot it firmly into position

Finally, close the lid and test the printer.


Watch this How To Video

It’s about how this father to a teenager tries to break down the clearly monumental (huge) instructions of changing a toilet role.


People also say “after that” instead of “then” and “first” / “second”

instead of “firstly” and “secondly”.


Breaking something down into manageable steps will make it much

easier for people to understand the process, making your business

communication more effective.

Tips & Tricks

When you are giving instructions, you can help the other person to

follow your instructions with additional information and advice.

Remember: have the cartridge handy, before you open the printer

Be careful not to … put the empty cartridge down in a way that left

over ink can leak and damage a desk or the carpet.

Try to … have your printer at a height where it is easy to get to

Try not to … change the cartridges unless they are really empty

You need to … check that the paper is correctly aligned too

It’s important to … order more cartridges when there are only two

more in the storage cupboard.

Examples of Imperatives in a Dialogue to provide instructions.

It helps to … get the cartridge before you open the printer

Make/Be sure to … reload the paper at the same time so that any

backlog in printing can be quickly processed without further


Always … check your printer in tray and delete any duplicate print


Never … take the last cartridge without checking that new ones

have been ordered.


Check out the Online Support for this Week’s Blog HERE 

This clarity would make it easy to understand.  Unfortunately, native

speakers like to take the sting out of instructions by adding

colloquialisms without even realising it,

Use adjectives and adverbs.

This adds an element of ‘how to’ to your instructions. Compare.

1. Rehearse your speech beforehand, making notes on your script.

2. Rehearse your speech repeatedly beforehand, read slowly and

clearly and make notes on your script in green so that you can edit

your script to reflect your own personal speaking style.




We can also use the imperative form to give a warning or advice,

and (if you use “please”) to make a request.

The Devil is in the Detail

Subsequently (after you have given the basic instructions) , to be more specific, you might want to use words like simultaneously, immediately, incidentally.

Instructions Made Easy

Big words perhaps, you might think. Is it really necessary to use such complicated words? Well it depends on whether you are giving instructions to your child about how to open a can of sweetcorn or whether you are showing your deputy how to handle the press in a crisis doesn’t it?


Instructions Ask for the Meaning
It is better feel silly for a moment than ignorant for a lifetime

One thing is certain, if the person carrying out the instructions does not understand these words and is not self-confident enough to confirm their meaning, then frustration is inevitable.


Praise – Making people feel valued is the most genuine way to secure their loyalty.


So what is the big deal about praise?

Praise pleases people. The bottom line is (ultimately) that we all feel better about what we are doing if someone notices – somehow it makes it more worthwhile. Praise shows appreciation and that makes a big difference. It’s a key motivator and costs nothing.

Let me give you a classic example: If you are a mum like me, you probably feel like some of the domestic chores that are all part and parcel of having a family are so insanely dull and yet nobody ever comes home and says “Ooh, the kitchen is nice and tidy!” or “Thanks for making our home look so nice on a Friday”. It’s self-explanatory and yet just a kiss would make all the difference wouldn’t it?

You don’t need to ‘spread it on thick’ (exaggerate). That can make people feel uncomfortable and most people see right through it any way . Finding the right balance between ignoring someone’s talents, efforts or personality traits and overdoing it on the compliment front comes naturally for some and less so for others.

Like anything, practice makes perfect and if you are the type of person that would rather run a marathon in the rain than give a compliment or praise someone, the chances are that your relationships suffer as a result. What a shame, keep reading.

So what can I say?

The Americans would say “Great Job!”, “Awesome!” but to the Brits, this would sound patronising, in the UK we might talk to a Kindergarten child that way but not to an adult.

Same language, culturally, a world apart.

Try these for size, say them out loud or in your head

“You must have worked hard on that”
“I appreciate your support today, thanks”
“It looks like you have spent a fair bit of time preparing for that, the time investment certainly paid off.”
“I loved how you handled that guy’s question about…”

Psychologists claim that positive reinforcement works better than punishment. Thank goodness for that! The carrot works better than the stick in other words and after all, we are adults. Punishments for adults just seems so rediculous to me.

IDIOM “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink

Meaning that you can give someone an opportunity to do something, but you cannot force them to do it if they do not want to. If they don’t see why there is no guarantee that they’ll want to do it.

With compliments and praise,  it is the same. If you try to make someone feel appreciated or a valued member of the team but they don’t think you mean it, then it won’t have any impact on them and they will not respect you, no matter what you say to them.

Don’t worry about making grammar mistakes.

You really don’t need to worry about getting the grammar right, if your intentions are honest and sincere, the words will be much more important that the grammar or pronunciation.

Coco’s Cultural Insight

I tend to make mistakes with du and Sie in Germany, I understand the rules for it but find it really difficult to be consistent with implementing this. I can manage a couple of sentences but then I go off the rails and make mistakes. It annoys me but evidently not enough to change it, so what’s going on? When I talk about this to my clients or friends they often say “Oh don’t worry, people realise from your personality that you wouldn’t want to offend someone”. Well I certainly hope so.

Confession Time

To be totally honest though,  and I must confess that I thought hard about deleting this part deep down I have been raised (in the UK) to treat everyone with respect. For me, respect has to be earned, whereas here in Germany it is often determined by your age and superiority. I have huge respect for people that are brilliant at what they do or obviously older members of the community but I have serious problems saying Sie to someone who is clearly incompetent, rude, obnoxious and less qualified than I am. I think the Germans do to actually.

This mindset is something culturally ingrained, so I suspect that it is this innermost belief that subconsciously holds me back. You can take a horse to drink (teach them the rules) but you can’t make them drink (obey the rules perfectly). I am working on it! Honest!

Perfectionist Workaround

If you feel the need to get praise grammatically correct, why not write a short handwritten note instead?  It can be a card or letter, (any excuse Corinne!) or it can be something as simple and understatement as a Post-it note. There is something about a compliment in writing that makes people feel special. You can cheat when it comes with the help of ‘’ via Windows. Alternatively, you can cheat with one of the following:

“I noticed how you helped that customer today in a wheelchair, you were so kind and supportive, exemplary customer service, it was a pleasure to watch.”

Or better still, make it more of a casual dialogue, like this…

“That client was firing on all cylinders today wasn’t he?”
“Oh yeah, you mean the guy with the broken cable? Yeah, something got his goat all right (smiling)
“You were so patient, that’s incredible, I find it so hard to control my temper when a customer is being as rude as he was. How do you do that?”
“I dunno, perhaps he was just having a bad day” (Trying to make light of it)
“Well I thought that you handled him brilliantly/well/very professionally”
“Oh, cheers” (goes away feeling kind of proud too even though he might not have thought much about it until now)

Notice how this was specific, you mentioned exactly which behaviour or action you were impressed by and ASAP “today”, don’t make people wait for their regular appraisal, the impact is greater if you ‘strike while the iron is hot’. The sooner you mention something the greater the impact.

Letting someone overhear you praising them is also a great way to praise someone, as too is introducing someone in a flattering way. “Meet Caroline, she is the brains behind our marketing and she’s brilliant at it, she is one of the most organised people I know!”

So how does the brain react to praise?

Now we are getting to my own way of thinking, the neurologists think about praise in terms of dopamine, which is released into the brain when we hear something that we like, or achieve a goal, it’s a powerful chemical. Isn’t that amazing that you don’t have to find a dealer, you can just make someone feel good, to give them a healthy fix.

Low dopamine levels can have a negative impact on your motivation, make you feel exhausted, trigger addictive behaviour, mood swings and memory loss. I think you’ll agree that it makes sense to learn how to increase dopamine naturally.

Here are some dopomine boosting foods that you can eat.

More about the dopamine building strategies here 

Praise as a Talent Retention Tactic.

So if praise is so important,  then surely the easiest way to retain your best talent is to stroke their ego with praise. No need to go overboard, but believe me, a few kind words about performance, go a long way.

But it is not just about saying nice things is it? If it was that easy we could just sign up for regular phone calls like the ones from, Ultimately it is not enough to be told that you are good, hard working, efficient, great with clients or a good presenter, you need to really believe it and that is a matter of trust and respect.

That’s a different story altogether.

Try this experiment

Check out the Leadership AdvanEdge Podcast, there John Kenworthy talks about how to earn respect and he had an incredible experiment that I have already done.

The Podcast Details are:

How do I leverage my Influencing Style? The Trust/Respect Matrix


I reckon you should try it out for yourself. Just make a note of all of the people that you would like to respect you more. Perhaps your list includes
a) some existing or potential clients that don’t seem to have as much faith in your abilities as you would like them to have or
b) someone you work with who doesn’t seem to believe that you have their best interests at heart or
c) a member of staff that seems hell-bent or determined on doing things his own way rather than learning from someone who has been there and got the T-shirt or has more experience.

So next to each name, make a note about what you respect or appreciate about them.

Give and you shall receive

The chances are that the names of the people that you would like to have more respect from have nothing next to their name. That’s not a coincidence.

There is a fair deal of reciprocity involved in trust and respect. Have a good hard think about what it is about them that you admire. Perhaps you are in awe of the fact that they keep overtime to a minimum for the sake of their family, or that they have a tidy desk. Whatever it is, find a way of mentioning it. You don’t need to make a ceremony out of it.  Just mention it. If you are not in the habit of doing this, you might get a suspicious look,  but just mentioning it in a genuine way is enough to make someone sit up and take notice. No buts, ifs etc, just the positive mention, smile and that’s it.

Keep it simple and sincere.

The chances are that they will start taking more notice of you and observe you a little closer, they might want to make a better impression and try to return a compliment. Now the aim of the game is not ‘feel-good ping pong’, it is about picking up on everybody’s talents. It is mission critical that your words are genuine, otherwise, you’re heading for disaster. It can be something small or self-explanatory, it all counts.

You will notice that people will appreciate being on your radar and will want to stay on your radar.

So how give praise effectively and authentically?

The top two tips I can share are to be specific and do it as soon as possible. Relating your praise to a particular situation and not just saying good job, but going deeper, makes it more sincere.

By describing what you liked about a specific behavior goes the extra mile. After all it is the impact of that behavior that counts , particularly if it had an impact on the team.

The Five Love Languages

Now those of you that heard my Facebook Live session this Tuesday (28th March) will have heard me talking about the book The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman.As I read, I realised that a lot of it is very transferable to business and leadership.

The five love languages are:

Words of Affirmation (today’s topic)
Physical Touch (clearly something you have to be careful about in a professional situation but even this can be useful if that person is a touchy person themselves)
Receiving Gifts The person at work that puts little chocolates on desks at Easter or Christmas, or brings in cake will relate to this
Quality Time These people will appreciate you taking time to really listen to them and perhaps eat lunch together or go for a walk together
Acts of Service (or little favours)

“If your deepest pain is the critical, judmental words of your spouse, (or boss/colleaugues) then perhaps your love languge is words of affirmation” Five Love Languages”

Who is it in your working environment who struggles with accepting criticism? Perhaps you need to focus your praise efforts on them first.

I won’t go into much detail because the book is a totally worthwhile read and I don’t want to butcher Gary’s theory but you get the idea. We all feel loved or appreciated as a result of different actions. Remember that just because you like to give presents, the person you are giving to might actually be hoping that you’ll just spend some time with them or do them a few more little favours. Read the book. Adapt it to your professional relationships and report back.

Boost your Concentration

If you would like more information about how to boost your concentration then I can highly recommend this article froma blog that I have a soft spot for

soft spot …a sentimental fondness or affection

To summarise about praise then…

So when it comes to praising,  be genuine, don’t wait, be specific and start earning respect by noticing the good things in the people, not just at appraisal time but peppered through your professional life. Little and often is the name of the game.

Praise Giving Tips
Be authentic

Why not come into the Facebook group “Professional English for Women”, where we will be putting together an exhaustive list for a range of different situations.

Facebook "Professional English for Women" - where we get to practice our English

Finally, this is just a part of the lesson

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On a personal note:

When I was younger I used to write a lot of poetry – a few lines telling them what I thought it was about them that made them so special. I would try to write one for my friends or family when it was their birthday, (A word of caution, once you start this all of your friends will expect one, so be careful)

I’m no professional so the words didn’t always flow but the appreciation for those poems was touching and inspired me to write more. When I moved to Germany, I still had the same urge, no doubt they are a grammatical minefield but you can tell that people are really touched by the hugs and sometimes tears.

A hand written note has a huge impact, try it out and let me know how it made you feel to write it (a good excuse to get out a beautiful fountain pen) and how it was received. You can do this for a friend, partner, your children, a colleague or a neighbour.

Children love little notes, why not write them little English notes, using words that they will easily understand.

“I love it when you play so nicely with your sister”.

“Thank you for eating all of your salad, I know that you don’t like peppers much.”

“Grandma said that you called her last night, I think that really made her week, that was so thoughtful!”

Compliments: The kindest way to start a conversation or small talk.

Why it feels great to give and receive Compliments.

Giving a compliment is just a way of expressing your thanks, or showing someone that you appreciate them. There are fundamentally two types of compliments.


Compliments of this nature refer to the way that you look. So someone might compliment you on your hair, handbag or something that you are wearing.


These compliments are ones connected to what you can do well. More about that next week.  Here is an article from Forbes that you might find interesting about how compliments can be compared to receiving cash.

No strings Attached

We have all received a compliment at some time or another and I think it is safe to say that it often makes us feel good, especially if you have the feeling there are ‘no strings attached’ or unconditional.

Unfortunately, some people use compliments to manipulate people or to break bad news. This is why compliments tend to be viewed by some with cynicism. What a shame that is!

I love giving people compliments and in the UK, I get the feeling that compliments are given more often and accepted more generously and openly than in say Germany or Finland. If you disagree, I would love to hear your examples and stories. I can include them in Tuesday’s Coffee with Coco.

Receiving compliments graciously isn’t rocket science, but failing to do so can definitely put a big barrier up between you and the person that you were just trying to be nice too.

I don’t compliment people on things just for the sake of it. If someone has a new haircut and I think it is terrible I won’t say anything. I was brought up with the saying

If you can’t say anything nice,
don’t say anything at all.

Take yesterday for example. I was at a Mompreneurs meeting and there was a lady there with a really simple but professional and yet comfortable looking outfit. Perhaps I should have made a photo. It was just a pair of loose trousers and jacket in black/grey and a yellow top. Now I am not normally into yellow, I am British and pale, so I tend to look dead in yellow, but this lady was blessed with dark hair and it looked — great! I told her so and she accepted the compliment with thanks and ease. I think I made her feel good.

Can you see the lady in black, grey and yellow in the audience? That’s the lady I paid a compliment to.

I like to make someone feel good about themselves or appreciated in some way every single day. It was never a big decision or anything but to be honest it makes me feel good to make someone else feel good.

As they say in the UK “A compliment costs nothing”.

So how do you compliment someone?

“That’s a nice ….(handbag, shirt, blouse, pen)” etc
“Oh thank you.”

So you could stop there, couldn’t you?
What a wasted opportunity though!

The chances are that if you have the same taste in pens, bags, coats etc, that there are other parallels as well. Compliments are my absolute favourite routes into small talk.

Let me share a story with you…

There was a time when I used to sell Usborne books to international schools here in Berlin. I used to be known as the British Book Buddy so whilst the kids would get really excited about having brand new wonderful children’s books to look at, some parents were more cautious. After all I was there to sell something wasn’t I?

Now the great thing about kids is that they are not as cynical as grown ups or adults, they accept people for who they are and that is normally based on how that person treats them. Kids love you to show an interest in them and they love it to receive a compliment, especially little girls.  I often only had a few seconds time to capture their attention and awaken their love of literature and lovely knowledge. The space between the pop-up book shop and the door was frighteningly small.

A simple comment like “That’s a pretty T-shirt” was enough to get their attention – there was me, just being kind, behind a sea of beautiful books.  The compliment was enough to break the ice and that is what I love about compliments, they make strangers into acquaintances and only then can you move onto “know, like and trust”.

So what about the cynics though?

Well you know what, if someone has had a bad experience, you have to accept and respect that. Just imagine if you used to have a boss that used to pass you a compliment as he went past and then you would hear him ‘slagging you off’ or bad mouthing you behind your back, well that would put compliments in a completely different bag wouldn’t it?

Likewise if you had a boyfriend that used to pay you compliments all the time, bring your presents and make you feel a million dollars but then went and cheated on you, that would put a dampener on compliments too wouldn’t it.

You can’t change those experiences and perhaps in their hearts they would like to be able accept compliments more openly but you cannot force a compliment on anybody. You can’t make anybody like you either but  if you have had compliments rejected in the past, don’t take it personally.

Rejecting Compliments.

Culture Byte

So as you can imagine when I came to Germany there were a few changes that I had to make to fit in here. First of all I am a very touchy feely person, which makes some people flinch. So that had to stop and the other thing was my gushing compliments.

Knowing that compliments were a great way to break the ice and keen to meet people I probably paid people a lot of compliments, bearing in mind that the fashion here is different, there are different brand, shops and labels that I had never come across, everything was new and exciting. I was finding my feet.

Sometimes though when I would pay someone a compliment (perhaps forgetting the du/Sie form on reflection) then I would be met with one of those scary stares. As if to say “How dare you speak to me!” Perhaps that wasn’t their intention but that is how it came over to me at the time (little insecure new girl on the block)

Sometimes people aren’t used to receiving compliments and simply won’t be able to find the right words at the right time. Don’t take it personally like I did, it is a waste of energy.

Resist playing it down

The other way of rejecting a compliment is to play it down. Now this is something that the feminist in me wants you to stop doing. If someone says to you

“That’s a pretty ring”
you can say
“Oh thank you” or if you would like to share a little nugget of background about the ring, you can say where you got it from, why you like it, whether it is one you wear all the time, if you enjoy wearing rings…. it’s small talk honey.

other people will say
“Oh it’s ancient, I have had it since….”
“It is scratched actually, look here…
or for a dress…

Accepting Compliments

Here is a handy little reminder of how to show gratitude for and accept a compliment in a polite way. Check out the newsletter for the accompanying audio recording for you to listen to and repeat as often as you need to

compliments, gratitude, thanks, thankful, praise, accepting compliments, danke, dankbarkeit, annehmen
Your ability to accept a compliment with gratitude says a lot about your self confidence. Rejecting a compliment can have a bigger impact than you might imagine. Practice saying the one that feels right for you, over and over.

To summarise then…

Give and receive compliments, it is good for the soul and for performance.

Please learn to accept a compliment and remember, we are all role models for our children, so when we are in front of our children it is even more important to accept gratitude so that our children can model our communication for their self confidence.

For a more indepth look at the language used for this topic of compliments, why not subscribe for my newsletter, where you will get a lesson to go with this blog post.Complimentary

We’ll be looking at words like Complimentary, compliant, complaint as well as support with learning to use the vocabulary in this blog, grammar, pronunciation, an audio recording of this blog and access to my Byte Sized English Bootcamp on Facebook, which is a secret group where you can practice and discuss with other HR professionals, entrepreneurs and ladies on the board.

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Sign up for your newsletter today, to get vocabulary quizzes, grammar tips, pronunciation audio recordings, idioms, quotes, jokes and much more all around this week’s communication topic, “compliments”.

Each week, there is a new communication topic, to help you get your message across professionally and authentically to take your brand global.

Power up with Personal Boundaries

Setting, Communicating and Keeping your Personal Boundaries

This week we’ll be talking about setting your own personal boundaries, how to tell people politely but assertively what your boundaries are and how to stick to those boundaries for your personal health and ultimately the profitability of your company.

A boundary is another word for border.  So imagine a farm for a moment, surrounded by a big hedge. That is the farm’s boundary.  If you were to go over the boundaries of the farm you would be trespassing.

We can set our own personal boundaries, with our partners, clients, staff and suppliers for instance, so that we do not feel threatened, bullied or restricted.

Do you respect your own boundaries though? 


Limits only work when they are kept to,

flexibility weakens boundaries and ignoring your own boundaries, KILLS them. Click To Tweet


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So what are personal boundaries?

Personal boundaries are those guidelines, rules or limits that we create for ourselves to identify reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave towards us. It also shapes the way that we respond when someone goes or tries to go past those limits.

We need to know, communicate and insist upon personal boundaries for the good of our health and business success

Most entrepreneurs are in business to help their ideal client to overcome a problem and so it is in our nature to want to do just that. But we all have personal standards, unique rules about how far people can go with us and we need to be clear about those, especially if you work from home.

Everyone has their own unique values, rules, procedures and preferences. Only you can know what you need.

Perhaps as entrepreneurs, we sometimes allow our personal boundaries to be abused because we all started small and there was a time when most of us were pretty desperate to get our businesses off the ground. It’s my guess that not setting and maintaining boundaries is just a bad habit we need to say goodbye to.
Starting today.

I want to help you set, communicate and uphold those boundaries. We can’t run a business successfully if we are spending 80% of our time doing free and cheap stuff and only 20% doing the profitable activities that solve the problems of our paying customers, after all that is what keeps them happy and coming back for more.

There are three main types of boundaries that you should set for yourself.

  • Financial Boundaries.
  • Time Boundaries
  • Communication Boundaries

Financial Boundaries

Being taken advantage of financially, makes you feel undervalued and not appreciated. Don’t let people push you into a corner where you are just breaking even.

Financial boundaries include for example what you give away for free and which of your services are paid services. You’re in this to make a profit honey!

You wouldn’t even work for a charity for free, would you?

In my case, I have a free blog, a newsletter that rolls my blogs into a lesson, and plenty of advice, tips and information on social media plus a free Facebook Page. That’s where people are invited to come in and find out a bit more about who I am, how I work and if I could be the right coach for you or consultant for your organisation.

Everything else is a paid for service. Simple.

Just like you, I have people wanting to ‘just’ pick my brains, but if they do that, I have learned to stick to my guns and point people to my free offerings, (the newsletter, blog and Facebook Page). If people have a question, I get them to post it on my facebook page. That way at least my gems of wisdom can help someone else too.

Some people are really persistent, but you have to hold your ground. Just keep repeating yourself as if you are not picking up on their hint for free help or a discount at all.

What about people that ask for a discount
Just say “No!”

People pay what they think something is worth. You do it too!

Let’s talk about clothes for a minute, any excuse hey?
Think about the last thing that you bought really cheaply. Perhaps it was a t shirt or a pair of shoes. Got it?

Now think about something you really had to be careful about buying, something more expensive, perhaps a gorgeous pair of boots (yes another) but ones that you just slip your toe in and feel amazing as you zip them up.

Which do you appreciate the most? For me and for most of us, the most expensive things are those that we value most. I love a bargain from time to time, but there’s nothing quite like treating yourself is there?

The more people invest financially, the more they are likely to invest in terms of commitment and support, meaning better results for them and a better reputation for you.

Waiting Workaround for Wimps

If you are a total wimp then make them wait. Most people are too impatient to wait so they find a workaround. So tell them

“ok but it won’t be until next week/month I am afraid, I’m just too busy right now, if it can wait that long then sure.”

It sends a clear signal that you put your clients first. Perhaps they’ll even want to be one of those treasured clients. it will certainly make them appreciate your time more and the chances are that they will found a workaround or wait.

If you have real problems charging what you are worth, then I can hand on heart recommend Denise Duffield-Thomas from, here is one of her recent videos that in fact inspired me to write this post…

Time Boundaries

These can be a lot more subtle.


For instance, I used to have a client that used to wait until the very end of the session and mention an (of course very important) question.

Now if it was one off, then no big deal right? But this started happening most weeks. I was the newest freelance trainer on the block, so I was broke and inexperienced. I was also desperate to be liked and recommended and he probably knew that. (Do you remember those desperation vibes that you first used to give off, when you went solo?)

Now of course, if it was genuinely important, he would have mentioned it right at the beginning of the session, or even sent it to me in advance by email, (many of my clients do that, meaning that I can be perfectly prepared). That way we can really do their communication task justice by taking the time and focus, to tackle it professionally and thoroughly. After all,  I genuinely prefer it when my clients bring something from the day to day running of their business to work on, that ensures relevancy. But waiting until the very end of the session was disrespectful of my time and if you let clients continue like that, then you are accepting that lack of respect. If you do it for long enough, they will come to expect it and that could get really uncomfortable.

. It did. It was. But when I mentioned it, it didn’t create bad feelings, he turned out to be one of my most loyal and long standing clients. Phew.

Remember: You are the expert and you deserve to get paid for that expertise.EVEN IF YOU LOVE WHAT YOU DO.

If they could do it themselves, you wouldn’t be there. Your talent is something they either cannot or don’t want to do.

So what do you say?

“Sorry, but there isn’t enough time left to cover that properly this time, we can certainly look at that in the next session” If they still insist (and some people are extraordinarily thick skinned) then invite them to sign up for a paid service. “Why not sign up for a power hour, I’ll send you the link”

Remember, saying yes to someone that isn’t prepared to pay, is in effect saying no to a paying customer or client or perhaps even to your children, hubby or SELF.

What about people calling out of hours? It is the same thing, set your working hours, put it on your website and then stick to them. Between you and I, you can be working, but you don’t need to be available out of hours. Be careful though, if you are engaging in social media during those times, you are abusing your own boundaries,  it makes the impression of you being ‘available/working”.

Schedule your posts strategically via Buffer or Hootsuite for instance and put those devices out of reach, so that you can unwind. We all need downtime and we owe it to our families and partners too.

Not even Obama, the former president of America, used to look at his phone until after breakfast! We all have a right to personal boundaries. Set, Tell & Protect

Communication Boundaries

We all deserve to be spoken to with respect, whether it is our children, our partner, our clients or our neighbours. You can be assertive and respectful, polite and direct.

Communication boundaries are about how people talk to you. So for example, here in Germany, you have to accept that there is a formal and informal way of speaking to people and there are rules about who you can address in which way.

Standing up for yourself, doesn’t mean that less people will like you but it does mean that more people will respect and appreciate you. Remember that when you do have time for them, what you do will be really helpful and supportive,  not a compromise.

The ranting client

If you have a slightly chaotic client who tends to lose his temper when he is running up against schedule, this could affect communication. Especially if they expect you to compensate for those organisational shortcomings. If they talk to you, or worse still, shout at you in a tone that makes you feel uncomfortable, anxious, taken for granted or reluctant to help him, STOP.

You need to tell them either immediately, if you feel that you can have an adult conversation with them at that moment in time, or wait until the dust has settled and schedule a meeting. Do it face to face if you can. Nobody has to accept being spoken to like that and this too is overstepping the mark in terms of your boundaries.

The customer is king, but you don’t have to spoken to like dirt.


Remember, you are the boss! Absolutely nobody has the right to speak to us in a way that makes us feel uncomfortable, even clients.


If you feel uncomfortable with other people swearing, say so.

If someone has slipped into the informal language that makes you feel on edge, mention it.

Why do you have to set, communicate and insist on these boundaries?

The chances are pretty high that people that push any or all of these boundaries, are the very people that zap our time, energy and patience. These are normally the clients that consume 80% of your time, then pay late or whinge about price increases. In contrast, the people that respect your professionalism will be happy to pay what you are worth. These wonderful clients are the ones that deserve your time and attention, not the trouble makers.

Those of you with children will be able to relate. Think about a situation when one child is acting up and getting all of the attention, and the other(s) are being good and yet ignored. We have all slipped into that, we’re cannot be great parents all of the time, we all have limits, but do you see? There are parallels.

Don’t let these barrier pushers dominate your time.

Let them go to the competition and abuse their personal boundaries instead. You don’t need people like that on your client list, so create your boundaries, communicate them and stick to them. You’ll feel less stressed, you’ll have more wonderful clients, you’ll love your business more and you’ll feel in control.


So in the Byte Sized English Bootcamp group on Facebook we’ll be talking about what your personal boundaries are, how to communicate them and how to keep to them when the going gets tough.

So what you need to ask yourself is not only what your boundaries should be, but why?

If someone pushes your boundaries, what are the implications for your productivity, your patience, time with family, availability to your own clients etc. So get really clear about why you need these boundaries. (Otherwise you just won’t keep to them!)

Newsletter SignUp For more language learning based on this blog, just sign up for my newsletter. You’ll get:

* a vocabulary crossword,
* grammar tips
* an audio pronunciation workout
* a relevant  idiom, quote or joke
* the audio version of this blog

In March 2017 only you will get exclusive access to my closed FB group, “Byte Sized English Bootcamp”

Once you have subscribed….I’ll See you in the SECRET Byte Sized English Bootcamp, where those that are serious about improving their English will be carving out time to discuss the article above.



What are you agonising over?

What are you agonising over? Contemplation in business

For fear of procrastination, here’s the deal, instead of me ‘not getting this blog post done’ I’m going to bite the bullet and go for a quick video instead, feels lazy to me but apparently video is all the rage, so here goes.

I would love you to really take me up on the offer to try out some agonize over’ sentences and questions in the FB page “Professional English for Women

  Here’s the video explanation

#decision #contemplate #phrasal verb #agonize

Oh and don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter, from March there will be a crossword in each one for you to print out and do alone or as a family effort.

Cambridge says

Bite the Bullet explained >>>


What’s a walking dictionary anyway? Let’s Walk The Talk!


When I ‘walk the talk’ with the sharp entrepreneurs who are incorporating their language learning into her fitness regime, I’ll often hear “Oh this is cool, it’s like having my personal walking dictionary”.

Continue reading What’s a walking dictionary anyway? Let’s Walk The Talk!

Native Speaking Trainer Takes You From Procrastination to Professionalism.

You know how it is –  you keep meaning to “do something about your English” but find yourself reaching for your English novel, thinking “Well it’s better than nothing”.

It is.

Continue reading Native Speaking Trainer Takes You From Procrastination to Professionalism.