Words Better Left Unsaid: Do You Know What They Are?

The Words

I began hosting The Writer’s Voice podcast nearly a year ago. In each episode, I chat with one or more writers about the craft of writing, the process of writing, and books. I also attempt to draw out the true personality of my guests so listeners get a glimpse of the person behind the writer. This week, the podcast’s editor, Mike Royer, suggested that when writers plan what they’re going to say in advance of each episode they should also focus on … words better left unsaid.

Not only does he edit the audio and video for each podcast and its trailers, he is also a highly auditory person. In other words, he focuses on the music of the words my guests and I speak. According to Mike, attending to the words better left unsaid is the favorite part of his job. He has told me this before. Many times. In many different ways. For some reason, I never got it.

So, this week, he showed me.

The Sounds

Showing versus telling is a concept we writers learn early on in our careers. The concept is pounded into our heads over and over at writing workshops, during conferences, and in how-to books. We also learn to read our work aloud, especially the dialogue, to ensure the rhythm of the words, and the cadence and pacing, sounds right.

Until recently, I didn’t understand that we writers need to follow these same rules when we appear in public, participate in marketing events, and–yes, host or appear on a podcast. I also learned that showing how not to do something is equally as important as showing how to actually do it.

The Words Better Left Unsaid

When you hear the music of words better left unsaid, you’ll understand exactly what I mean … just listen!

Outtakes 1

Stay tuned for more outtakes – some of them are really funny!

If you’d like to learn more about The Writer’s Voice podcast, see past writers who appeared, or find links to listen, watch the YouTube trailers, or request a guest spot, click here.

How to Earn Customer Loyalty

Regardless of what business you’re in–whether you write and sell insurance or novels–customers are only going to buy you and your product if you earn their loyalty. No one is automatically entitled to trust.

How can you earn trust and loyalty?

  • Be authentic and sincere. If you’re a vegan selling Angus beef, that fundamental contradiction is apparent–if only in a funny feeling prospective customers sense.
  • Be open and honest. The popular word these days is “transparent.” And it’s appropriate. You don’t want people to lie to you, be deceptive, or withhold important information. So, don’t lie to, deceive, or withhold from others. The imbalance of treating people in a way you won’t tolerate being treated is going to topple you eventually.
  • Understand people. Do you know how your customers communicate? Would they prefer a phone call, a text, or an email? What do they believe? What do they want? What do they NEED? What do they consider important? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, how can you possibly give them what they want and need … or what they value?

The most important things to remember about people are that they want to:

  • Be viewed as important.
  • Know you care.
  • Be heard.

I talk about this subject in more detail in episode 14 of my podcast, Taking the Mystery out of Insurance. You can find it here.

If you’d like to read more about the subject, check out Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People or any of Jeffrey Gitomer’s sales books (gitomer.com).

How Homeowners Insurance Works When You’re Working from Home

The homeowners policy was designed to insure personal risks, not business risks. For this reason, virtually all coverage for business property and liability is explicitly excluded in the homeowners policy.

Very limited property coverage is included for business personal property. The limit usually ranges between $1,000 and $2,500 if the business property is at your house. The limit is much less for business property anywhere else–like in your car.

Liability coverage for business activities is also severely limited. It only applies to incidents that occur on your property at home, and only for those that arise when:

  • Your house is rented–either occasionally as a residence or when a part of it is rented to 1 or 2 boarders. This does NOT include Airbnb rentals, or any series of rentals. Neither does it include renting your barn to a neighbor who does lawn mower repairs.
  • A portion of your house or other building is rented for use as a private garage, office, school, or studio. Think designating a room for use to give music or dance lessons, or as an office for a writer.
  • An insured who is under age 21 runs a self-employed part-time or occasional business that does not have any employees.

What all this means is that if a person is working from home, any property used for business–regardless of whether it is owned by the individual or the individual’s employer–has very limited coverage. If the employer has insurance for property it owns, that property should be insured specifically on the employer’s policy with an indication it is located at the employee’s home. In some cases, the employer’s failure to cite the location of the property on its policy, especially if the property is valued at more than $5,000 or $10,000, might result in a lack of adequate coverage in the event of a loss.

Potential problems relating to the lack of business liability coverage under the homeowners policy are more serious. In most cases, clients do not visit employees working from home. But if anyone visits your home for business and gets hurt, your unendorsed homeowners policy does not provide any liability coverage. Similarly, if a FedEx or USPS employee trips and falls while delivering business mail or packages, any claim for injuries would not be covered. Basically, coverage for ANY other type of liability (think cyber liability, products liability, etc.) is NOT covered, either.

Endorsements are available to add limited business property and liability coverage to the homeowners policy but, in most cases, it’s probably not adequate. Some insurers also offer a home business endorsement that does include business, or commercial, coverage. That’s probably a better idea.

Remember, even if you’re working from home and your employer does have coverage for property it owns, and its own liability, your employer gets the broadest coverage under that policy. If you’re covered under it, you can still be held personally liable for property damage and bodily injury resulting from business activities conducted at your home.

Unless you buy and add business endorsements to your homeowners policy, you might find yourself uninsured in the event of a loss when you’re working from home.

For more details, listen to this week’s podcast at Taking the Mystery out of Insurance.

Elder Abuse: Be Silent No More

I’ve conducted a lot of research into the topic of elder abuse. I’ve also developed and written some insurance continuing education courses on the subject as well, as it pertains to financial fraud.

Here is another person’s take on senior financial exploitation, a despicable form of elder abuse. This account was written by Connie Johnson Hambley.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/uncomfortable-complicity-silence-connie-johnson-hambley

Can You Walk a Mile in Another Person’s Shoes?

Until four years ago, I never watched the news on a regular basis. I never felt the need to follow politics closely or share my political beliefs. My reasons are a story for another day.

Maybe it’s because I’m a writer, maybe it’s because I’m growing older, or maybe it’s because of something buried deeply in my unconscious, but I’ve found myself fascinated by all the drama playing out on the world stage during the past four years.

People are ridiculously simple and complex … all at at the same time. They’re transparent and deceitful, generous and greedy, considerate and selfish. They’re also damned scary.

Normally, I’m more of a participant than an observer. But during the COVID-19 lockdown, I’ve had no choice but to limit my activities to watching and listening to other people rather than dancing around on my own. Here’s what I’ve come up with during the past three months:

The world needs more compassion and empathy. For those of you without a dictionary:

  • Compassion is being concerned about how other people suffer and experience difficult times.
  • Empathy is being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.

I’ll use myself as an example because, like most people, I’m my favorite person and my thoughts and feelings focus primarily on myself. I am:

  • A woman
    • Short
    • The firstborn of 4 siblings
    • Brown-haired
    • A mother

Because of inherent traits I have no control over, I do not know what it feels like to be male, 6’ 7” tall, an only child, blonde, or childless. I will never know what it feels like to have a penis instead of a vagina, be able to reach the boxes on the top shelf in the kitchen without a stool, have all my parents’ attention every day, be the butt of stupid blonde jokes, or to not be blessed with the joys and pains of childbirth.

I will never know what these things feel like. I am not responsible for this deficiency in knowledge. It is a fact of nature. My traits are immutable. I have no control over them. However, I can be concerned for men and how they suffer. I can imagine what it must feel like to be a 6-foot-tall 13-year-old girl who towers over her classmates.

You can draw up a similar list of things that describe you, traits and characteristics you were born with or experiences that can never be reversed.

My list will be different from yours. But my list is no more or less important than yours is. My traits and feelings will be different from yours. And my traits and feelings are no more or less important than yours are, either. They’re just different.

This world contains billions of people, each of whom is different from everyone else. Do those differences prevent us from sharing traits and feelings? No! Many other people in the world are also short women who are mothers, women who have younger siblings and have brown hair. Regardless of whether you or anyone else shares these traits with me, every single one of us has been the victim of prejudice, bias, scorn, and mistreatment.

Nasty stuff happens. To everyone.

I believe we need to focus on the similarities rather than the differences. And when we can’t focus on a difference–when it’s too large, too scary, or too nasty to be surmounted–we need to practice compassion and empathy.

This doesn’t mean we have to accept certain behavior, or forgive it, or forego the pursuit of justice. It means we need to be concerned for other people. No, we don’t have to embrace them and take them into our homes. But it does mean we should listen to them and respect their basic, human rights.

None of us wants to be controlled. Not by our government or other people. None of us should be controlled–by anyone.

Living by rules society has agreed to adopt is not being controlled. Being forced to live by rules a small segment of society insists on adopting is being controlled.

Why do some of us believe we have the right to control others, even when the majority of society does not agree with us? Because we don’t have compassion for others. We’re so focused on our own perspectives and pain we’re unable to step into the shoes of other people and imagine what it must be like to be them.

I think it’s time for us to start imagining more.

9 Steps to Achieving Success

You can ask 10 different people what “success” is and you’ll get 10 different answers. However, most people agree about how you arrive at success, the destination, regardless of what your definition of the term is.

In my 40+ years working in the insurance industry, I’ve made my share of mistakes and learned my share of lessons. I’ve been mentored by some wonderful people and watch a boatload of people succeed. I’ve seen people fail to achieve their desired outcomes, as well.

Eleven years ago, I made a list of what I believed to be the required elements of success. That list included:

  • Attitude
  • Research
  • Resources
  • Essential knowledge, based on your goal(s)
  • Relationship
  • Organization
  • Time management
  • Money
  • Paying attention to other people

Some people will tell you luck plays a role in success. And maybe they’re right. But I tend to believe my father’s take on that perspective:

Why is it that successful people seem to have a lot of good luck? Successful people make their own luck by putting themselves in so many good situations good luck seems to follow them. Ergo: the harder you work, the luckier you are.

Donald F. McHenry

I believe a person’s mental attitude and relationships are the two most important elements of success. But I have an opinion about all 9 of those elements.

The nature of your job, occupation, or profession doesn’t matter. Your tenure at what you do doesn’t matter either–whether you’re a newbie or an expert. What matters is that you can take these 9 components of success and apply them to your job, occupation, profession, or task and accomplish your goals.

Launching a marketing campaign? They apply to you. Starting a new business. Ditto. The same holds true if you just want a fresh perspective on what you’ve known all along.

I discuss these 9 elements of success in my book, Taking the Mystery out of Business. The book is available right now on Amazon in both eBook and paperback.

What do YOU view as the fundamentals to success?

Spotlight on Matt Medeiros

I interviewed Matt Medeiros recently for Episode 3 of my Podcast, Taking the Mystery out of Insurance. Matt specializes in content marketing, from blogging to podcasting, all the way up to email capture automation and social media. Essentially, Matt can do anything to help a business or professional build an effective brand.

He’s a man of many talents, generous with his time, always willing to help others. I’ve known Matt for more than 20 years. In fact, I was his first business client–he built a computer for my first insurance agency when he was still in college!

Slocum Studio is a business Matt established with his father and, through that business, Matt and his associates helped me design a couple of websites and create two logos. Currently, one of his ventures, SouthCoast.fm helps entrepreneurs in the South Coast of Massachusetts build their businesses. He also works for Pagely, which provides Managed WordPress Hosting.

To learn more about Matt and what he does, or to reach out to him for help with your content marketing needs, visit him at CraftedbyMatt.com or on Twitter at @MattMedeiros. You can also listen to Matt’s interview on the podcast to pick up tips about what you DO want to do, and what you DON’T want to do, on your website and with social media.

Later in the week, I’ll be publishing 2 short video excerpts of the podcast on my YouTube channel.

The Person Who Mentions Price First Loses Control of the Negotiation

I’ve always had a problem with buying or selling anything based solely, or primarily, on price. You want to know why? Because each of us places a different value on every product or service.

Note: For a more detailed version of this blog post, listen to Podcast Episode 1 (4/21/2020).

To be an effective and successful salesperson, you need to know how your clients and prospects value whatever it is they’re buying. Why are they buying it–because they have to, or because they want to? How well do they understand it–both in terms of what it does, and what it doesn’t do? What are their expectations–not only about the product they’re buying, but about how you’ll be providing service?

Tossing a dollar amount at someone means nothing in the absence of context.

Over the years, I came up with a really good way to gauge how people valued their insurance. I started with a story, then offered my absolute best, top-of-the line, super-duper insurance policy. It didn’t matter what type of insurance I was talking about.

If you use the same concept, it won’t matter what type of product or service you sell, either.

The most important thing is to tell a story about an individual (not your client or prospect) with the same product or service your client is thinking about buying. Illustrate the negative consequences that might result if the individual didn’t buy the RIGHT product or service, or the right options and features.

An insurance salesperson would provide a scenario involving a claim, such as an auto accident, a house fire, or an explosion in a manufacturing plant. A car salesperson might provide a scenario involving a car breaking down, or a truck that didn’t have all the features a buyer might need.

Then, after this unnamed individual (who is NOT your client) experiences the horrible scenario, you ask your client what he or she would want their product or service to perform if they WERE the individual starring in your story.

When your clients answer that question, they tell you how they value the products or services they’re buying.

When I was actively selling insurance, I’d quote the most comprehensive insurance policy with the highest limits of coverage. Yes, my clients were shocked when they asked the price and I told them what it was. But I’d explain:

This  is the most comprehensive, top-of-the line insurance policy I can sell you. I certainly don’t want to offer you anything subpar. When I prepared the quote, I had no idea about what you wanted your insurance policy to do for you, or what YOU think is the best type of policy. Now that I do, all we need to discuss is what you DON’T want your policy to do and, together, we can design YOUR version of the “best” policy.

At this point in the negotiation, all I had to do was discuss the available policy features and options, and which ones the client/prospect felt were important and unimportant. Same thing with the amounts of coverage. Then, when we did start talking price, clients had a much better idea about what they were buying, what VALUE they placed on the product, and to what extent they were willing to pay out of their own pockets in the event of a claim.

When you mention price before your clients do, you’re handing them control of the conversation … and the interview. They choose the story they want to tell and, I guarantee you, they’re going to skip over the confusing chapters and get right to the one about “Price.” They’ll also skip the words they can’t pronounce, all the small print, and all the stuff that YOU know and they don’t. The framework of what gets discussed, and why, will be much narrower in scope than if you, the person with the knowledge and expertise about the product, tell the story

Clients seek the advice and services of insurance professionals because we have a whole lot more technical and hands-on experience about the subject of insurance than they do. If they think they can handle the purchase all by themselves, they buy online. So, when a client seeks you out, all you have to do is be a little creative to showcase that knowledge … and to provide the framework to ask them what they want, and tell them the whole story.

 

What the Coronavirus Stimulus Means to You

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law to help Americans and U.S. businesses survive the COVID-19 pandemic. Although I’ve downloaded the 247-page bill, I haven’t read all of it yet. However, here are some of the major provisions that might affect you and your family.

The $1,200 and $500 each adult and child, respectively, will be receiving. First of all, not everyone will be receiving this money. The stimulus gives a tax credit to those who filed federal income tax returns in 2018 and/or 2019. So, if a person DID file a tax return in 2018 (or already this year), the tax credit will apply and money will be sent.

Secondly, the $1,200 and $500 amounts are based on the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income (AGI) shown on that 2018 or 2019 federal income tax return. The amount is a $1,200 tax credit per individual and, once the taxpayer’s income exceeds a specified amount, the tax credit is reduced. AGI thresholds are:

  • $75,000 for individual taxpayers
  • $112,500 for taxpayers filing as Head of Household
  • $150,000 for taxpayers who file jointly

My understanding is that the tax credit is reduced by 5% of so much of the AGI that exceeds the above thresholds. Once I read the enter law, I’ll have more info for you about that.

The $600 additional weekly unemployment benefit. The federal government is funding additional unemployment benefits … with limitations. The $600 weekly amount is paid over and above the amount paid by the state, but only in accordance with specific provisions. Some employees will only be eligible for the extra benefit for being unemployed between April 5 and July 31, 2020. Others will be eligible for benefits for a longer period.

The expansion of benefits will apply to the self-employed, independent contractors, people with a short work history, and a few other categories of workers. However, these individuals must meet requirements pertaining to COVID-19, including being diagnosed with coronavirus, being a caretaker for someone with the virus, or losing one’s job because of the pandemic. Other conditions also make a person eligible for unemployment benefits, as well.

Special provisions about retirement plans:

  • Rules for required minimum distributions (RMDs) have been waived for certain retirement plans in calendar year 2020
  • The 10% premature withdrawal penalty for certain qualified plans is waived for distributions from retirement accounts for taxpayers with issues related to COVID-19 (this applies to IRAs, 401(k)s, qualified trusts, qualified annuities, and some defined contribution plans)
  • Certain NON-COVID-19 Medicare telehealth services were expanded

As I read and learn more, I’ll share it here, as well as on my podcast and You-Tube channel.

3 Ways Insurers are Helping Policyholders Affected by COVID-19

The insurance industry is an “essential” business during the coronavirus pandemic and all the related upheaval social distancing and self-quarantining has created. Those of us who are fortunate enough to be able to continue working in the industry are finding as many ways as possible to help those who can’t work, or who can only work limited hours, and are suffering financially.

Please check with your insurance agents and insurance companies to see what assistance is being made available to you. Here are 3 types of help you should be able to obtain immediately with respect to your current insurance policies. In many cases, these actions are MANDATED by federal or state law.

  • Health insurance companies are waiving patient cost-sharing in the forms of deductibles, co-payments, and coinsurance
  • Insurance carriers have suspended the issuance of cancellations for failure to pay premiums when due–for a certain time period (i.e., until May 1)
  • Some insurance carriers are allowing people to extend the due date of premiums due on renewal policies for a certain time IF they call the carrier at a designated phone number to make arrangements

Each insurance company will be responding differently based on a number of factors, so call your agent or insurer to find out what type of assistance is being offered. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners has created a Coronavirus Recourse Center on its website, which can be found here.

Many insurance companies, agencies, and other professionals are publishing and broadcasting all kinds of information to help but take care to be sure you’re listening to a reputable source. As we often see on social media, some individuals thriving on exploiting others.

Feel free to reach out to me with any questions you might have about, and I’ll get you an answer.