No Comment

It’s a familiar trope. The disgraced politician facing flashbulbs and screamed questions from hordes of reporters shouts back “No comment!”

Of course just like you probably wouldn’t want your doctor to do the things she sees on “Grey’s Anatomy,” saying “no comment” in real life situations is a very bad idea.

“No comment” is universally interpreted as “I’m a big fat lying liar.” It also tends to inspire journalists to dig into whatever you aren’t commenting on.

A recent post on Ragan.com offers 5 alternatives to no comment. While there are few good ideas here, I think the author misses a big first step. Why are you not commenting?

Times when you are tempted to say “no comment” fall into three buckets:

1. You are asked a question that you don’t know the answer to and you don’t have access to the answer. I tell people all the time, it’s perfectly okay to say you don’t know the answer to a question. It can get tricky if the writer believes you *should* know the answer. (Example: “Mr. CEO what precautions did you take to be sure this big, bad thing would not happen?” Answering “I don’t know” is rarely going to take you down a good road.) But if you being asked to comment on something about which you don’t have information you can say so, and make it clear that you aren’t hiding anything, you simply don’t know anything.

2. You are asked a question that you don’t know the answer to, but you could get an answer. This is easy. Get the answer. Or give the journalist directly to the person with the answer (working with your friendly neighborhood PR pro, if applicable). This is where you can say “I don’t know the answer to that question, but my colleague Bob will. Let me send him an email and see if he’s available to talk to you.”

3. You are asked a question you don’t want to answer. Ah well. This is really the problem, right? This is where the suggestions on Ragan.com can probably help you, though truthfully I see most of them leading to something like “Mr. BigWig would not comment for this story.” Which is the real point, right? It’s not about whether or not you say the words “no comment” — if you don’t answer the question you will be called out for not answering the question. So at the end of the day you have to pick your poison. Do you answer the question and take the hit (presuming the answer is bad)? Or do you refuse to answer and get portrayed as hiding something? Only you (and your execs) can decide what is the worse scenario.

Being a Better Public Speaker Is Child’s Play

Want to be a better public speaker? Read to your kids. Don’t have kids? Borrow some.

Like a lot of things in life the best way to get better at public speaking is to practice. But unless you are pursuing speaking engagements as a professional activity there’s only so much real world practice you can get.

But reading – out loud – comes pretty close. Reading is different from talking. And children’s books are great – if you get a good one they have good rhythm and pace. Dr. Suess is great for really loosening up your tongue.

It also helps to read the same story over and over and over (which is very easy to do if you have a toddler. “No Mommy, read this one again!”). After a couple readings you need to do something to keep from losing your mind, so you play with the voices, vary the pace and pitch. You start to play with the story and, in turn, play with your voice.

Try it.

Have you got an unusual trick for improving your public speaking skills? Post it below!

Mother’s Day 2011

What a difference a year makes.

Last Mother’s Day Sam was just shy of 6 months old. Maddie was almost 2 1/2 and had only been walking a few months. I can’t remember if he was sleeping through the night. I don’t think so. I’m guessing he was still getting up once. But I know he was sleeping in his crib with Maddie in her new toddler bed. In part I remember because the one and only time that Maddie got out of her bed and came to our room was on Mother’s Day last year.

This time last year I had been back to work for about two months. I was in that stage where mommyhood was still consuming me — literally, as it were, as I was breastfeeding or pumping throughout the day and night. I was tired. So, so, so very tired.

This year Maddie is 3 1/2 and smart as a whip. She loves preschool. This year I got the special joy of getting a gift made at school — a necklace made of plastic beads strung on yarn. I’ve promised that I will wear it to work tomorrow.

Sam is 17 months and delightful. Happy, mostly, though guarded with new people in a way that Maddie never was. Eating anything that doesn’t eat him first.

I’m still tired, but not like then. Mostly I just feel like I have a bit of my life back. I was able to go to the gym yesterday and today. I can wear normal bras again. I’m finally back to my pre-baby weight. I didn’t overly stress on that point either time — it took about a year with Maddie and longer with Sam. But still, it’s nice to be back into some of my favorite clothes and to even buy some new things.

I love being Mommy, but I also love being Tami. The past three Mother’s Days have been all about the Mommy piece — in 2008 Maddie was 6 months old, in 2009 I was pregnant again and last year Sam was very little. This year it finally feels like the balance is swinging back, just a bit, to the Tami side.

Beauty School Dropout

Me: Maddie, I’m going to get my hair colored today.

Maddie: Pink?

Me: No.

Maddie: Purple?

Me: No.

[Maddie proceeds through the rest of the colors she knows, including orange and green.]

Me: No, honey. Brown.

Maddie: But it’s already brown.

If only.