inspiration, mentoring

The Importance of Being Kind

October 9, 2017

“Is it true; is it kind, or is it necessary?” –Socrates

These days, everyone seems out of sorts—cranky, irritable, stressed out, and sometimes downright mean. We say or do things that we later regret, but can’t take back. We add to other people’s stress with our impatience. We infect those around us with our bad moods.

It’s time to take a deep breath and a step back, and remind ourselves that we are only minor characters in other people’s stories. We have no idea what tragedy lurks behind the social veneer, what hurting heart hides behind that display of bravado or anger as we rush through our days and scroll through our social media. We compare our insides to everyone else’s outsides, never really knowing or understanding the people around us.

Let’s instead infect people with kindness and compassion, rather than responding or escalating when someone is being ugly or cranky. Pausing before reacting to ask ourselves, “Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?” and, unless we can answer YES to all three, choosing to say nothing.

Is it true?

Can what you want to say be independently verified? Have you checked your facts? Made sure you understand the full story? Are there other interpretations that are equally valid?

Before saying something critical or giving constructive feedback, especially in an emotional situation, try asking questions.

Before reacting to the other person’s emotions or comments, ask how they might be right, even if they expressed their view in a less-than-helpful manner. Avoid injecting your own negative emotions into your response. (Sometimes, the best response is no response.)

Is it kind?

Does what you want to say serve the greater good? Can you say it in a way that gives the other person room to grow without damaging their psyche or your relationship? Are your motivations pure? Will what you say be with the highest and best intention for yourself and the other people involved? Did the other person ask for your advice or feedback? How would you feel if someone else gave you that feedback?

Actively seek out positive traits, actions, communication. Give specifics when complimenting someone. For example, “I loved your talk,” is nice, but less helpful than, “You did a great job of keeping me engaged by having visually interesting slides that reinforced your points, and a compelling story that got me excited about your topic.”

Be both honest and compassionate when giving feedback. For example, “your presentation sucked,” might be honest, but is definitely not helpful or kind. Instead, you could say, “It would improve your presentation if you had a more clear agenda, made your slides less busy, and narrowed your topic to 2-3 clear takeaways.”

Is it necessary?

Will someone be harmed if you don’t say anything? Conversely, would it make someone’s day if you do say it? Does the other person need the feedback in order to grow, or in order to understand the consequences of their behavior? Does it facilitate a good relationship with the other person? Are you presenting the feedback professionally, or are you injecting your own emotions into the situation?

In the case of injustice, we have a moral and ethical obligation to speak up and, if it is within our power to do so, to protect the victim from further abuse. We can do this without hating the haters, and without being violent or ugly ourselves. Responding to ugliness with more ugliness, while sometimes cathartic, only escalates the situation and damages us in ways we might not recover from. It takes creativity and courage to respond with compassionate honesty (“loving kindness” as the Dalai Lama puts it).

Despite the poor examples being shown by many public figures, it IS possible to disagree without being ugly about it. It is possible to provide necessary, honest feedback in a way that is also kind and compassionate. In fact, it is often more effective to do so. When you are angry and ugly when giving feedback, it immediately makes the other person defensive, even if that feedback is true. They can’t hear your valid concern if it’s wrapped in negativity or general ugliness.

Let’s go forth and be kind.

global communication, localization, thought leaders

The Language of Localization: Seeking Contributors

June 26, 2017

Thanks to Richard Hamilton of XML Press for providing the instructions.

I’m working with Scott Abel and Richard Hamilton on another contribution to the Content Wrangler’s Language of… series. The team believes that “agreeing on a shared vocabulary for any discipline provides a starting place for a common understanding of that discipline for its practitioners.”

The Language of Localization collects the wisdom of 52 experts, each of whom will contribute one term that all localization practitioners should know and understand. It will be published as a book, a website, and a deck of cards. We plan to release the book in time for LocWorld Silicon Valley (1-3 November 2017).

We are still seeking contributors for the following terms:

  • Script
  • Bitext
  • Character Encoding
  • Character Set
  • Desktop Publishing (DTP)
  • Ethnography
  • Interoperability
  • Leverage
  • Post editing
  • Primary Market
  • SRX
  • TMX
  • Unicode

Contributing is easy and won’t take a lot of your time. In return, you will receive 2 free copies of the book as a thank you for participating.

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Tell us which term you want to work on.
  2. Sign the author agreement with XML Press.
  3. Provide a 150 x 150 pixel head shot as a JPG and 50-word bio.
  4. Help us craft a dictionary-style definition of the term, accompanied by a short statement that explains why the term is important.
  5. Create a short (250-word) essay that answers the question, “Why does a localization professional need to know this term?”
  6. Moderate the comments section on a blog post dedicated to your term. Each term will be featured on a companion website after the print and eBook versions are published.

The Language of Technical Communication came out Q2 2016 and is a good example of how this project will look when it’s done.


Reconnecting Across the Divide

December 7, 2016

My company tagline is, “Communication for a Connected World”, and I firmly believe that it is only by communicating effectively that we can solve problems and work together.

The events with the U.S. election show how deep the divide can be when we are stuck in an echo chamber and do not heed the cries of people who are different from us and who are suffering, and how easy it is for the wingnuts on both sides to hijack the process and the relationships.

I normally don’t post political stuff in this space because I generally focus on professional topics here. However, what is happening in the U.S. is directly relevant to other conversations about multicultural communication, and the techniques we use to manage virtual, multicultural teams are also useful here. Make no mistake; this rift is a cultural one as well as a communication one.

Here are some practical things we can do to help get the conversation started and to protect the vulnerable members of our communities.

Listen with an Open Mind

Many people surveyed said that they didn’t know anyone who was voting for the opponent of their preferred candidate. This is how bias and entrenchment grow, and it is deadly to solving problems.

  1. Read articles written by the opposition. Try to look past the ugliness and vitriol to the core issues.
  2. Seek out people who think differently from you, and ask them to explain their point of view. Listen to what they say without interjecting judgments.
  3. Ask lots of questions to better understand the goals and dreams of those around you.
  4. Make a list of the issues that you have identified where you can find common ground.
  5. Focus on goals and objectives, not positions.


Just because it’s on the Internet, doesn’t make it true (even if we want it to be so). The proliferation of fake news sites is disturbing, particularly with how easy it is to share it on social media. We need to be wary of confirmation bias, propaganda, and social engineering.

As professional communicators, we have a responsibility to stop the spread by making sure anything we share is fact-based, accurate, and well-researched. We need to actively debunk misinformation when we see or hear it.

Stand Up and Speak Out

North America is a land of immigrants, and has always been glorious melting pot of cultural and linguistic diversity. The first languages spoken on this continent were Native American/First Nations languages. Norse, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Hebrew were spoken here long before English was. Approximately 11% of the US population and approximately 40% of Canadians are non-native English speakers.

Yet, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported 867 incidents of hate crimes and harassment in the week after the US election. This ugliness erodes the safety of our communities and harms all of us, not just the people being targeted.

When we see such harassment, we have a duty to speak up and to stand up for those being targeted. This is not what America is all about. For some helpful instructions on how to stop bullying, check out this anti-harassment infographic.


In an era of demonization of the opposition and when it feels like blind partisanship on both sides has hijacked the conversation, it can be challenging to hold the middle and refuse to take the bait. We must remember that compromise is not a dirty word, and that it is only by coming to agreement and working together that we succeed as a society. We must remember that disagreement and civil discourse are important to a healthy democracy.

We must find common ground and reach out to people who think differently than we do about the important issues of the day. By keeping in mind the larger ideals of truth, equity, justice, and compassion, and by communicating respectfully with each other, we can continue to move forward and make the world a better place.


Here’s a list of articles and other resources that you might find helpful for continuing the conversation.




interviews, STC, thought leaders

An Interview with Dr. Temple Grandin: 2015 STC Honorary Fellow

November 17, 2015

In April, I had the privilege and honor of interviewing Dr. Temple Grandin when she was selected as one of our STC Honorary Fellows for 2015. Here are the links:

As I mentioned in the Notebook blog post, it was a delightful and fascinating conversation, covering a wide range of topics from leg conformation in cattle and cattle chute design, to autism and education, to Web design and mobile, to 3D printing and augmented reality. The power of her observations transcends disciplines and fires the imaginations of everyone from livestock managers to UX designers.

getting started in tech comm, global communication, localization, Uncategorized

5 Things You Need to Know about Global-Ready Content, Part 2

September 24, 2014

Earlier this week, in Part 1, I shared the first two things you need to know about global-ready content. Here are the other three.

3. Manage Change

One of the biggest reasons for content strategies and content management systems to fail is poor change management, both the human kind and the technical kind. 

You can have the best technology and the most user-friendly system in the world, and it won’t matter one iota if you are having team issues that prevent you from maximizing the benefit. If you are asking people to significantly change the way that they approach their work, you need to prepare them properly, give them training and support, and reward the new behaviors that you want to see.

On the technical side, if you are not being proactive about your change management, you are costing your company money. Making changes to source content while it is being localized costs the company money and time, especially if the change is not vital. (Yes, I know everyone thinks their changes have to be done right now, but they are wrong.)

4. Watch Your Language!

English is a difficult and confusing language, even for native speakers.  Homonyms and false friends abound, the grammar is inconsistent, and often has more exceptions than rules…and then there’s the fact that “English doesn’t just borrow from other languages, it drags them down dark alleys, knocks them over the head and rifles their pocket for loose grammar and vocabulary.” (from a t-shirt I saw at a gaming con).

According to Global Language Monitor, there are ~1,025,109 words in the English language as of 1 January 2014 (up from 1,009,753 in 2011). This statistic includes all words (jargon, idioms, variations of a word, neologisms, etc.).

The reality is that most dictionaries contain about 200,000-250,000 English words that are used most commonly. The unabridged Oxford English dictionary contains about 650,000 words.

When you consider that most other languages have fewer than 500,000 words, this difference has significant implications for how we write for localization, for terminology management, and is a strong argument for controlled language initiatives like Simplified Technical English. It is also one of the reasons for text expansion.

5. Be Excellent

Last, but certainly not least, do your best and produce excellent work in everything that you do, no matter how small.

Localization is a garbage in/garbage out process. If you have crappy source content, you are going to have crappy localized content and those issues will increase your costs, increase liability, and decrease usability and customer satisfaction. Make sure your source content is as error-free and high quality as possible with the project constraints. And, this is where an effective QA process comes in as well.

If you are in the habit of excellence and you have good QA processes, you will improve your chances of quality localized content.