Mastering Communication in Tough Situations with Sam Horn

Welcome to The Betty Rocker Show! Do you ever find yourself thinking back to conversations that you wish could have gone better? Maybe you lost your cool because someone was rude, or you felt uncomfortable and didn’t say anything because someone was talking nonstop, or pressuring you.

It’s easy to find yourself in a challenging situation with someone where you feel like you’re ‘walking on eggshells’ and feel afraid to speak up, or you end up feeling unseen, unheard or unappreciated after it’s over.

These feelings can cause a lot of stress and anxiety, and that’s why we’ve got bestselling author Sam Horn here today to give us some great tools and techniques from her newest book Talking on Eggshells so we can feel more confident, more capable and more competent when things like this come up.

Sam Horn is the Founder and CEO of the Tongue Fu! Training Institute. Her 3 TEDx talks and 10 books have been featured in New York Times, Fast Company and Forbes and presented to Intel, Accenture, Oracle and Capital One.

Talking on Eggshells received endorsements from Marie Forleo and Whole Foods founder John Mackey, who called it “the course-correct for today’s cancel culture.” This book is packed with amazing tips to help you navigate tricky conversations and find a lifeline when communication feels challenging.

In today’s conversation, Sam and I will be exploring many topics from her book so you can hear some great real life examples of how to apply some of her best techniques when you feel like you are “talking on eggshells!”

Here’s where to get Sam’s newest book, Talking on Eggshells.

Episode Transcript

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Betty Rocker (00:02):
Welcome to the Betty Rocker Show the place to be to nourish your mind, love your body, and rock your life.
What’s up, Rockstars? Coach Betty Rocker here and welcome back to the show. My guest today is Sam Horn, the founder and CEO of the Tongue Fu Training Institute. Her three TEDx Talks and Ted Books have been featured in New York Times, Fast Company, and Forbes, and presented to Intel, Accenture, Oracle, and Capital One. Her latest book Talking on Eggshells received endorsement from Marie Forleo and Whole Foods founder John Mackey, who called it, “The course correct for today’s Cancel Culture.” Sam served as executive director for the world renowned Maui Writers Conference and as the pitch coach for Springboard Enterprises, which has helped women entrepreneurs generate more than 26 billion on funding and valuation. I am lucky to call Sam a friend and thrilled to introduce her to you to explore how to master communication in tough situations. Join me in welcoming Sam to the show.

Welcome, Sam. It is wonderful to get a chance to spend some time with you today.

Sam Horn (01:21):
Thank you. Somewhere in our interview today we’re going to talk about the last time we saw each other in person. Aren’t we?

Betty Rocker (01:29):
We should talk about it right now because I bet all of our listeners would be so fascinated and find it so interesting. You want to share a little bit about that?

Sam Horn (01:38):
Well, it’s one of the things that Bree and I have very fond memories of is that we had an opportunity to go to Oprah’s last stop on her national tour at the PepsiCo Center in Denver. Imagine 5,000 women on their feet singing and dancing, because they had music even before they started. It was the happiest group of people I’ve ever had an opportunity to be around. Oprah interviewed her best friend, Gail King, and they got really personal. Daybreaker opened it up. I had a chance to go backstage, because I know Radda and Eli, founders of Daybreaker. Jesse Israel, who is a friend and founder of The Big Quiet. You and I had a chance to connect with Jesse. Jackie Cantwell, who was on Sound Bowls, was my son’s girlfriend in high school. It was this incredible event and the next day the world shut down. We literally went from that event to not being able to go out in public.

Betty Rocker (02:39):
What a crazy turn of events and also what a great sendoff for us to get to experience that. It was so special to get to experience it with you. You had so many people there that you knew that you were personally connected to, of course. It was so inspiring to get to see Oprah Live, wasn’t it? To see her presence, her ability to really share her personal… She’s incredibly vulnerable and yet always in command at the same time, which I find to be such an amazing juxtaposition in a leadership position. Someone who’s stands there as an example to so many of us how to overcome. She’s so articulate and she’s a hero, a heroine to me.

Sam Horn (03:27):
Isn’t it? And Bree, I think, one of the things you that really resonated with you and me is that so many people see Oprah is like, “Oh my goodness, she must have the perfect life.” She was so raw and real. She talked about her relationship with her mother, and her mother gave her up early in her life, and so forth. The last 10, 15 years of her mom’s life all Oprah did was try to connect with her. She bought her a house, she bought her cruises, she bought her… She talked about the next to last time she saw her mom. She went and all she wanted to do was to have a loving, honest conversation with her mom. Her mom was the glued to the soap operas and didn’t even talk to her.

Her sister, who for a while she didn’t even know she had, was taking care of her mom. Her sister had gone to Costco to get some things for her mom and when her sister walked in all her mom said is, “Why didn’t you get this?” The sister was in tears because she was unable to please her mom. Oprah said, “Hey, I bought her a boat, a car house. Do you think if you miss something at Costco you’re not going to get it?” It was such an important realization for us all to really be grateful what we’ve got, because we can focus on that and feel blessed or we can focus on the difficult relationships in our life and be adrift.

Betty Rocker (04:59):
It’s so true. You really touching on the heart of this work with communication and how it’s so important to be able to find ways to reach people and to take care of yourself within that when you maybe can’t like this story illustrates so well. We got to hear from Oprah about her core values, her mission, her story, and all of these things. I know you’re really on a mission to help us have more self-respect. I wonder what really inspired you to go on this journey and to make this so much a part of your own mission. Will you share with us?

Sam Horn (05:46):
These are the opening words to the book. I grew up in a Cold War and my dad was emotionally distant and my mom was emotionally wounded. They were really good people. They really taught us to do the right thing. They were really acted in integrity. Yet, they would have hours and hours of silence. We would go on car trips and there would be no talking in the car. We would sit at the dinner table and no talking. We would talk on eggshells, because we were afraid to say the wrong thing and we had this model of don’t say anything.

Then I was in the opposite. I was in the relationship with someone and when he planned every detail of our dates, I thought, “Well, that’s cool.” Did not know that it was a sign of controlling behavior, Bree. Did not know that that controlling behavior would turn into possession, and jealousy, and character assassination. Colette said, “The better we feel about ourselves the fewer times we have to knock someone down to feel tall.” He really did his best to knock me down so he could feel tall and I talked on eggshells around him.

I’ve been at both sides of the spectrum. It can define your life. The reason why I’m on a mission is so that instead of being conflict diverse, instead of avoiding hard conversations, and not having them, or instead of being in fear of people who are intense and violent how can we stand up and speak up for ourselves so we create the quality of life we want now and not someday.

Betty Rocker (07:33):
This reminds me of the title of Someday As Not Just Another Day of the Week. Another fabulous book of yours that’s helped me tremendously. Talking on Eggshells, I mentioned this in the introduction to today’s conversation, this is the name of Sam’s newest book and it’s such an apt phrase. We often say, “I’m walking on eggshells with this person” and yet I love how you turned it into talking on eggshells, because that is exactly how it feels. Often it’s our closest relationships and it’s almost always the relationships that have the biggest stakes. Where we feel the most need to be so cautious with what we say, because we care so much about the relationship or it has an impact on us. I love this phrase. I have already used it multiple times.

I want to share an example of when I was sitting in a coaching call where I was not the coach I was, it’s a women’s group of fitness people. The coach in this group was struggling, because there was a woman speaking who would not stop talking. She was… The coach was visibly uncomfortable. The other people watching were visibly uncomfortable. I was becoming uncomfortable, because the woman had no filter, no boundaries. She did not stop talking. You have a chapter about how to address in a kind way someone who’s railroading over, taking over the conversation. I think that probably happens to all of us at different points and maybe even we’ve done it ourselves and not realized that we’re doing it. What would you have advised this coach to do in this situation? I recommended your book to her after afterwards.

Sam Horn (09:18):
Well, first there’s a wonderful quote about this. The comedian, Paula Poundstone says, “You know what we need? A 12 step group for nonstop talkers.” We’re going to call on and on.

Betty Rocker (09:29):
That’s so good.

Sam Horn (09:34):
I really believe in interrupting. Now, we’ve been taught that’s rude, and we’ve been taught just to let people vent. To let it get it off their chest. Nope. That gives them a bully pulpit. Here’s actually steps on what we can do. If I say the old-fashioned scales of justice can you picture what I’m talking about? It’s two little plates and a lady of justice, et cetera. All right. I believe the success of any relationship whether it’s on a Zoom call, coaching call, whether it’s in a meeting, whether it’s a sitting around the dinner table depends on whether the needs being met are in balance. See if someone is talking, well, their needs are getting met. Well, what about our needs to say what we want to say? Or what about we have customers waiting for us? Or what about you have other coaches on that call who want to speak? Do you see how it is not rude to interrupt when the needs be met or out of balance? It’s right.

I’m going to say this again, because it flies in the face of what we’ve been taught. We’ve been taught to never interrupt. Please understand when over time someone’s dominating, monopolizing the conversation it is not rude. It is right. Now, here’s what we do we use their name, because if we just start talking over them, guess what they’ll do? Talk louder. Right? We say Charlie, we say Bev, because when we say someone’s name it causes a pause. Now, we can either say, “Thank you for your contributions and we have 10 more minutes on our call time for three more people to share their stories.” See, we thank them for their contribution and then we hand the conversation a ball to someone else. Or if it’s a customer we say, “I’m so glad you brought that to our attention. As soon as I hang up or right after this phone conversation’s over I’m going to get in touch with our account.” See, we’re letting them know we’re ending this so that we can do something about it.

By the way, if someone’s going on and on about their vacation, or their golf game, or their problems, or something like that a gentle one is to, and there’s no action to be taken, we can say, “I wish I had more time to hear about that,” and “I promised my kids I’d be home by six o’clock,” and “I’ve got to prepare for an important meeting tomorrow.” I wish is a little bit gentler and more diplomatic than I don’t have time to listen anymore.

Betty Rocker (12:17):
I love that. That is such an incredibly helpful tip. It makes me think of the phrase pattern interrupt. That’s one that you talk about quite a lot. It’s so important to know when and how to use at pattern interrupt for someone. You talk about how valuable pattern interrupt can be in different situations to get someone to pay attention. Or maybe you’re in a parenting situation and you’re trying to shift the framework that the kids are in at the moment. Have you had an example or a situation come up with something like that?

Sam Horn (13:01):
I love this question. It’s not even in the book, because it happened after the book was in. I was in New York and I was visiting my son Andrew and his son, Hero, who was about a year old was crawling across the floor and there was a guitar on a stand over in the corner. He hauled himself up on the guitar and he starts pounding on the strings. Now, Andrew could have said, “No, stop.” Yank the guitar away.

Betty Rocker (13:30):

Sam Horn (13:30):
He could have done any of that. Right? Bree, guess what he did? He said one word, gentle.

Betty Rocker (13:40):

Sam Horn (13:41):
I saw Hero’s face transform. He reached back to the guitar. He went strum. He reached up to some bells on the window and went ring. In that moment Hero made music and it was, because Andrew shaped his behavior instead of shamed it. If somebody does something wrong, as you just said, is if we tell them what not to do, what to stop doing, we actually reinforce the dreaded behavior. If instead what do we want them to do and we use words that paint a picture of that then we’re shaping their behavior instead of shaming it. We’re being a coach instead of a critic. They’re learning from that situation instead of losing face over that situation. My dad used to tell me we can’t make people do better by making them feel bad. When we tell people what they’re doing wrong we make them feel bad. We don’t tell them how to do it better.

Betty Rocker (14:49):
This is such an important mindset shift that you give us when you say don’t tell them what to stop tell them what to start. Reinforcing that positive behavior and it really makes me think about kids, of course, because they’re forming. And a lot of the inspiration that you’ve mentioned for the book were outlets for you of reframing things that maybe weren’t ideal. And we talked about Oprah and her experience, and so many of us have this experience. And so a lot of us, when we get to become parents, it’s a struggle not to just repeat the things that we learned as children, I think. And having resources and having tools is a wonderful thing because it gives us this chance to practice something different and have probably a better outcome than maybe we experienced. Because when we know better, we do better, right?

Sam Horn (15:44):
See, it’s everything you’re saying. In fact, unless people are driving, it’s like if they have a piece of paper they can put a vertical line down the center, and over on the left are words and reactions to lose. And as you just said, telling someone, “Stop interrupting me,” or, “Don’t run around the pool,” or, “Stop hitting your sister,” all that, all of that just reinforces what we don’t want. Over on the right what we want people to start. Now we’re shaping instead of shaming, learning instead of losing face. You want another example of how we can be a pattern interrupt if someone’s being rude to us or taking their frustration out on us?

Betty Rocker (16:21):
Please, please share.

Sam Horn (16:23):
Is that a rhetorical question, Bree? Yeah. I get to tell a story about my 84-year-old aunt, and so she volunteers at a hospital five days a week. She drives to the local hospital, and for four hours a day she helps out at the help desk. She did that even during COVID. And I asked what it was like, and she said one word, stressful. And I said, “Well, what’s an example that was really stressful?” And she didn’t even have to think about it. She said, “Last week a woman came running in, she was holding her phone up and she said, ‘I just got a text from my daughter. She’s been in an accident. She’s in the ER. I need to see her.’” Well, Kay called and someone was already with the daughter. Now, you maybe remember, the rules in COVID is that it was one visitor per patient per day or no visitors per patient.

So Kay had to tell the mother that she could not get in to see her daughter. Understandably, the woman lost it. She’s yelling, screaming, crying, beseeching, et cetera. Now, over on the left, if you’re taking notes, write down the words, “How rude.” Because often a reaction is, “How rude. Why are they taking this out on me? It’s not my fault. I didn’t make the rules. There’s nothing I can do.” And it makes the situation worse. Instead, Aunt Kay asked herself four words, you know what they were?

Betty Rocker (17:57):

Sam Horn (17:58):
“How would I feel?” How would I feel if my daughter was in the ER and I couldn’t get in to see her? And see, she didn’t like how the woman was treating her, didn’t agree with it, she understood it. And it gave her the incentive to turn, “There’s nothing” into, “There’s something.” It switched her from impatience to empathy and contempt to compassion. She thought, “Okay, instead of, ‘There’s nothing I can do, not my fault,’ what if there’s something I can do?” So she called the ER back and she asked a simple question. She said, “Who is with the daughter?” It was the Uber driver who had brought the young woman in after the accident. Kay was able to thank him, explain the situation, he left, and the mom was able to get her in to see her daughter. And now that is such an example of a pattern interrupt. No one likes to be yelled at. No one likes to have someone take their frustration out on us. We say, “How would I feel?” It actually can move us from impatience to empathy.

Betty Rocker (19:10):
And that empathy is what really connects us and helps us move through situations, because we have a shared humanity with others. And it’s a beautiful example of, I don’t know, just making a difficult situation a human situation. And you brought up a couple of themes that really come up a lot for people especially in family relationships, blaming and shaming. And these types of when we just want to somebody else to be the one who’s at fault so we can just react, because it’s so frustrating. But this is not constructive. So we want to deal with those people who are complaining and shaming and blaming in a confident way, I think, we want to take our power back, but how do we do that? What are the ways that we can get confident in situations where maybe we feel insecure or we’re feeling like we don’t have power and we want to blame or shame?

Sam Horn (20:12):
I’m really glad you brought up this blaming and shaming, finger pointing, fault finding. So we’re going to use a physical and a verbal pattern interrupt. Because once again, if people are getting into it and we try, it’s like we’re just adding to the mix. The voice of reason gets drowned out in the commotion. So Bree, you’re an athlete. How does a referee stop a fracas? If people are getting into it, what does a referee do?

Betty Rocker (20:40):
Blows the whistle, or time out, yeah.

Sam Horn (20:42):
Time out, right? We can do this at home. We can do this in the middle of a meeting where everyone is like, “Well, you were the one who dropped the ball. Don’t blame me. I never …” You know, you go, “Time out.” Or you go like a policeman would. Now, not in your face, it’s not offensive, your hand about face high, and then you say, “Let’s not do this.” Or you can say, “This won’t help.” Because, stop it, cause a pause with the hand gesture, that gives you an opportunity to get your verbal foot in edgewise. And those words, “This won’t help. We could argue until the cows come home about who dropped the ball on that, it won’t undo it.” You want one of my favorite examples about how this can work with a family?

Betty Rocker (21:30):
Please, yes.

Sam Horn (21:31):
Okay. Friends of mine.

Betty Rocker (21:32):
So sorry, I loved the Kay example because she figured out how to reframe the same thing. So yes, please. Please share another example.

Sam Horn (21:45):
And see, by the way, you and I are both storytellers, Bree, and we do that for a reason, is otherwise it’s just rhetoric. It’s just words. We may agree with it intellectually, we don’t know how to do it or say it in real life. So that’s why the book and my programs are full of real life examples. So I’m not just saying, “Don’t let people get under your skin.” Well, that’s a lot of help, right? I agree with it, I don’t know how to do it. So here’s an example. When I lived in Maui I had the good fortune of living next to the Petris family, and Jim Petris was the general manager of the Grand Wailea. And Anne Petris and I would walk out on that beach trail every single day.

Well, they went on a two-week vacation, and Anne got in touch with me and she said, “Sam, I used that idea.” I said, “What happened?” She said, “We got home, we walked into our house, and the place smelled to high heaven. We started walking around trying to figure out where the smell was coming from. We went in the kitchen, the refrigerator door was standing wide open.” She said, “The blaming began. ‘Well, you were the last one in the house. You were the one who got the Pepsi.’” And she said, “I remembered this.” And she went, “Yo.” By the way, yo also works, right?

Betty Rocker (23:07):
And she did the timeout hand gesture at the same time.

Sam Horn (23:09):
She did this, right. It’s yo, because see, this gets people’s attention. Instead of just adding another voice to the fray, this is a physical pattern interrupt and people really do stop just for a couple of seconds. And then she said, “This won’t get the refrigerator cleaned up. Instead, let’s everyone pitch in, take care of this mess, and then we’re going to come up with a system so from now on, when we leave for a couple of weeks, someone’s in charge of going around and shutting things up and shutting things down.” So next time people are getting into it, physical pattern interrupt, “Yo, time out. Let’s not do this.” And then do what John F. Kennedy said. He said, “Our task is not to fix the blame for the past, it’s to fix the course for the future.”

Betty Rocker (24:00):
Oh, what a lovely quote. And what you’re calling us here to do is you’re calling out our higher self. You’re calling out the best part in all of us, which we all have, and we all have the ability to be a lower version of ourself. We all have this spectrum because we are all human. And this pattern interrupt, and you’ve just mentioned John F. Kennedy, and I’m thinking again about this force for good. The fact that we all have this opportunity and responsibility to be a force for good. How can we tap into that?

Sam Horn (24:37):
Thank you, thank you for these great questions, Bree. I had an opportunity to see Peter Diamandis speak at the UN. Peter founded XPRIZE and wrote the book Abundance and so forth. And he said there’s two kinds of people in the world. There are red capers and there are blue capers. And now red capers fight evil and injustice. There are superheroes. Then there are blue capers. They don’t fight evil and injustice. They’re a force for good. And someone in the audience said, “Well, what’s an example?” He said, “Well, humbly submitted, XPRIZE is an example. We don’t lobby or march or talk about how it’s unfair for startup or innovators. No, no. We created a whole new system where we look for people who are solving the UN’s 12 sustainable goals, and we fund them and support them.”

And I’m sitting there, I’m thinking, “Actually there are three kinds of people. There’s red capers and blue capers, and then there’s gray capers.” And they don’t fight evil and injustice and they’re not a force for good. They just complain about everything and don’t do anything about it. And that’s the river through this book. As Elvis Presley said, you ready for my Elvis impression?

Betty Rocker (25:50):
Please, please. Lay it on us.

Sam Horn (25:52):
Okay, I’ve got to do the lip, right? Okay, you do the lip with me, Bree. Okay, got to do the lip. Okay. When things go wrong, don’t go with them.

Betty Rocker (25:59):
Yeah, don’t go with them. I love it.

Sam Horn (26:03):
So when things go wrong, don’t go with them. And you want another example of something goes wrong and we’re not going to go with it, we’re going to do a pattern interrupt and do something different that actually helps instead of hurts. Ready?

Betty Rocker (26:18):
Yes, ready.

Sam Horn (26:19):
Okay. What if someone makes an accusation? I’m speaking at a woman’s leadership conference and a woman in the audience puts her hand up in the Q&A and she said, “Sam, why are women so catty to each other?” Now, Bree, I’d heard this question many times before and I knew that if I denied it, I would reinforce it. And I said, “Ladies, let’s agree we are never going to ask or answer that question again. Because every time we do, we imprint and perpetuate that stereotype. We’re going to pull a Don Draper.” And the group went, “What?” And I said, “Don Draper in the TV show Mad Men said, ‘If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.’” So if somebody says something that you don’t like, don’t deny it, you’ll reinforce it. Instead, what do you want to go on record for? What do you believe?

I said, “So ladies, from now on, someone asks that, you change the conversation. You say, ‘You know what I’ve found? Women are real champions of each other. I wouldn’t even have this job if it weren’t for this mentor.’” Imagine if someone says, “You don’t care about your customers.” We say, “We do too care about our customers.” Now we’re arguing with our customers about whether we like our customers. So instead we say these four words. “What do you mean?” They may say, “Well, I left three messages and no one’s gotten back.” Oh, the real issue. Do you see how asking, “What do you mean?” reveals what’s really going on, and we can address that instead of reacting to attack? “You never listen to me.” “I do too listen to you.” Uh-oh, nope. What do we say? “What do you mean?” “Well, you have your head in your phone.” Ah, okay, now we can put our phone down, give them our eyes.

Betty Rocker (28:18):
I think this is such an art form, this type of communication, this type of, “How can I elevate what’s being said and uplift the conversation and get to the heart of whatever the problem is or help reframe the way that someone is maybe seeing this?” And it’s something that I observed early on as I got onto social media very early in my career, and it was a big part of what drove my success. And one thing that I noticed over and over and over was how much what I said in my captions or my posts influenced the comments that I got on the post. And I noticed this in stark juxtaposition to the comments I saw on other types of posts. And it’s a very hard thing to pinpoint sometimes, the way that people are using language.

But I noticed that there’s a lot of blaming and shaming in supposedly uplifting or inspirational commentary and inspirational posts. And I really had to read it deeply to understand that this person means well, but they’re secretly shaming others or they’re not being very nice to themselves or to other people. And that attracted negativity in the comment stream. And so I saw that and I said, “Okay, I’m not getting that negativity. What am I doing right, how can I keep doing more of this? How can I continue to elevate the conversation?” And this was for me very easy to do in a business setting, sometimes very hard to do in a personal setting. So just because you develop these skill sets in one setting doesn’t mean they always translate somewhere else. It’s also something that I feel is very important to recognize because we are so influenced by the things we read on social media. And I wonder, do you notice this type of hidden sort of negativity in a lot of online commentary? Because you talk about cancel culture and how your book can be the antidote to that. And I just find it really interesting to see this subtle blaming and shaming in conversations that I see that supposed gurus are putting out there that’s really actually bringing the conversation down to their audience.

Do you see this?

Sam Horn (30:48):
Thank you for surfacing the subtext. Thank you for understanding what may be going on under the surface with certain words that has an insidious effect. And it’s bordering on passive aggressive-

Betty Rocker (31:04):

Sam Horn (31:04):
… Because as you said it’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing, right?

Betty Rocker (31:09):

Sam Horn (31:09):
It’s coming from “I’m saying this because I care about you.”

Betty Rocker (31:12):

Sam Horn (31:12):
And the underneath is “but I’m feeling really bad. You’re supposed to be caring about me, but why do I feel so bad?” And over on the left, if we put words to lose and over on the right are words to use, and if it is a guru mentality, which you are not, it’s sage on the stage. I know and you don’t. These words start creeping in over on the left. The words should. Well, you should be more careful. It’s like, well, you should cut out carbs. You should whatever. Should is shaming language. It comes with the finger and it comes from I know and you don’t, or you have to need to.

Well, you to understand if you are doing this, this is going to happen. It’s well, you have to take better care of yourself. Do you feel the ordering around that’s going there? That’s not a peer relationship. That’s up here and I’m telling you what to do and inwardly be going, you’re not the boss of me even if they are. It’s like can’t because, or extreme words like never. Well, you’re never going to like yourself if you keep doing that. Or it’s like, well, I want to help you, but we can’t because you’re not listening.

It’s very insidious, which is why in the book and in my programs, it’s like, here are words to lose and here are words to use that really accomplish, I think, why people trust you so much. Listen to that word trust. Because you are not trying to fix people, Bree. Fix comes from, I’m right, you are wrong. I know, you don’t, and I’m going to try and make you better. It’s a self elevation guru status. It’s like your work is an offering. I am offering some things that I’ve learned the hard way in the hopes that it might have value for you. You have the free, if it resonates, run with it.

If it doesn’t, toss it. There is an equality. There is a respect for the person there that they are not broken. There’s a-

Betty Rocker (33:22):

Sam Horn (33:22):
… Whole different tone. So now I’ve got some specific words, although I know I’ve been monologuing. So what are-

Betty Rocker (33:27):

Sam Horn (33:28):
… Your thoughts about that?

Betty Rocker (33:29):
Everything that you said is just pure gold, Sam. And to be able to talk about this sort of deeper hidden undercurrent that impacts us in such a personal way day-to-day when we’re scrolling our social media. I think it’s just really important awareness to have because it’s an intangible as to why you respond to certain people the way that you do and why some people feel a bit off-putting to you. And you’re right in that I never feel like I’m above my audience. I feel like intrinsically they’re a reflection of me.

I like to share the things that I’ve learned the hard way because I know stories and examples help other people see themselves and help them go on their own journey. I think all of these different explorations are valid and start points. There are many different start points to the journey of growth and many stopping points along the way, many milestones. And so I’ve always felt that my role as a guide, if you will, has really just been to be an example and to help show some of the milestones along the way. And I’m certainly far from perfect.

And that’s something I often call out because I want my audience not to feel like they have to be perfect all the time either, because that’s such the such stumbling block for all of us when we are shoulding all over ourselves or someone’s shoulding all over us.

Sam Horn (34:53):

Betty Rocker (34:54):
It’s hard to feel like you can measure up. And that’s why I say flawsome instead of flawed. And putting flawsome, putting flawed and awesome together and to floss just makes me so happy because it allows us to own our imperfections and still strive for their greatest self within that. And you have this wonderful book someday is not another day of the week to help people take action and not wait for the perfect moment. I have this phrase all or something as opposed to all or nothing, which has been a sort of old phrase in the fitness industry for years.

All or nothing. All or nothing. You’ve got to get it all or nothing. And so many women are so overwhelmed by the fact that they’re not doing it all and they end up stopping themselves and blaming themselves for not being capable of doing it all because there’s so many things we tell ourselves we should be doing. And so I remember where I was, I sitting on my spiral staircase at my house and I was like, no, it’s all or something, not all or nothing. And that’s the only way I’ve been able to get this far. And I think of you when I say this because you’re so good at turning a phrase.

And that was the phrase that I felt was the most resonant and the most similar to that flawsome concept. So, that’s what I have to say about these sort of helpful reframes that help you see language patterns in what people are saying. And I’m talking about the online space and social media, but it’s contextual for everything, I think.

Sam Horn (36:34):
And let’s slide into, while we’re talking about how social media can uplift us. It can connect us with people like you who us gave us Ikigai. Ikigai is a Japanese concept. It means purpose in life, something to look forward to, something to wake up in the morning and have that we can’t wait to participate in. I think that’s one of the roles that you serve. And of course then there’s the comparison. And I tell you, there’s a lovely quote that said, “Curiosity did not kill the cat. Comparison did.” Right?

Betty Rocker (37:12):
So good.

Sam Horn (37:13):
And so it’s what I thought is that if we feel our life is like a seesaw, it’s because we’re depending on other people for our ups and downs. Going to say that again. If we feel our life is a seesaw, we’re depending on other people for ups and downs. And it’s like if we feel we’re better than other people, then we’re up, they’re down. Well, but that’s not good. If we feel they’re better than us, they’re up, we’re down. That’s not good either. So I think there’s three words that we can say to ourself if we start comparing ourselves to someone else.

And now whether it’s fitness or I’m on a book tour right now, so I could look at someone else’s numbers and think, oh, it’s like they’re selling more books. They’re higher rank than me. And guess what, I immediately feel bad, all because I made a comparison that has nothing whatsoever to do with the blessings that I have in my life. So we can say either good for them and then how can I? Good for them. I’m glad to see that their message is doing well and resonating with people. Now, if I want what they have, then I can say, how can I? How can I improve my rankings?

Or we can come back to center. And I just wrote about this today, Bree, I wrote about, now this is dating myself, so you may not even have remember this song. Do you remember Elvis’ song, return to sender address-

Betty Rocker (38:40):
Of course.

Sam Horn (38:41):
… Unknown? Okay. I’m glad. Well, I wrote this morning about return to center, return to center, and EE Cummings said, to be yourself in a world that’s trying all day every day to turn you into someone else is the hardest battle you’ll ever fight and keep fighting. And I think you model this. You are constantly returning to center. You understand the importance of being fit and healthy and active, and you also are reconnecting with your family. You also have a wonderful, joyous relationship with Bodhi.

Betty Rocker (39:24):
My lovely little dog.

Sam Horn (39:27):
And so you are the best of both worlds. It’s not striving for some holy grail that’s going to make you happy. It’s looking around with awareness and appreciation and realizing right here, right now, we got it pretty good, don’t we?

Betty Rocker (39:44):
Yeah, you really have a choice about what you focus on. And I love that you brought up the comparison angle because this is such a real daily struggle for so many people. It’s sort of the dark side of social media, and you have to make a choice about how you look at these things around you. If you’re going to constantly look for what you don’t have instead of what you have, it makes it very hard to navigate and move forward, as you’re saying so perfectly. I mean, we can totally relate this to the body because it’s such a real thing for women in our culture, especially to be so aware that they don’t look like the girl in the picture. Or they don’t look like this person or that person, or what don’t I have? And I’m always thinking about, because I’ve had these struggles too. I’m not immune. This is me as well. But what I kind of came to find my own piece within this very loud world that’s all about women’s bodies need to be a certain way and they should be this way, they should be that way, is to think my body is this human body that’s capable of so many amazing things, and I have so much compared to some other people who have even less than I do. What about the person who has no sight?

What about the person who can’t walk? What about? I am so fortunate and I have all of these amazing organs and muscular system, all these systems in my body that are constantly working in concert to support me. My entire body is working to dedicate it to the purpose of my life. And if I take that for granted and I am just constantly frustrated with how I look, I make poor choices that actually down regulate my body’s ability to support me because it’s all it’s doing. And so when I started to think about the communication that my body is sending me by how I feel and the communication I send back with what I eat, when I go to bed, how I exercise and rest and recover, I started to really appreciate this dialogue that it truly is.

It’s a very personal dialogue that each one of us has with our body. And by elevating the conversation, by losing certain words when it comes to talking to yourself and adding certain empowering words and how we talk to ourselves, you can choose how to feel every single day and how you see yourself. And this is the most intimate, personal, important conversation I believe that we have on a daily basis with ourselves as women.

Sam Horn (42:23):
Once again, just you used the word elevate earlier in our conversation, and I think that that is one of the clarities that we have is my son Andrew in college had a conversation with his buddies about what they were looking for in a woman. And so they batted it back and forth and Andrew came up with one word. Do you know what the word is?

Betty Rocker (42:47):
Is it elevate?

Sam Horn (42:48):
Well, it’s close. It’s very close. He said enhancer.

Betty Rocker (42:53):

Sam Horn (42:54):
Isn’t that lovely though?

Betty Rocker (42:56):

Sam Horn (42:57):
So I think what we’re talking about is on a daily basis in all of our situations, we have a choice of words. We have a choice of frame. And that if we are clear that we are here to enhance, to enhance the quality of our life, to enhance the quality of other people’s lives, to enhance what really matters, then it helps us make choices that help that come true. I have another example of the … You were talking about labels, and sometimes we’ve given ourselves labels. I’m shy. I’m a klutz. I guess I’m going to be single for the rest of my life, whatever.

And there’s a young woman who always thought she was conflict averse and she has learning disabilities, and she is a good friend’s granddaughter. And she finally found a job in her 20s at a Salvation Army. And so having a customer service job when you have learning disabilities is a challenge. And yet she just really applied herself and was thrilled when her boss told her that she was up for promotion. And then the very next day, her boss threatened to fire her. And now before, Bethany would’ve gone home, probably would’ve quit the job on the spot she would’ve been so def devastated.

She would’ve gone home, dissolved into tears, sobbed, maybe even fallen into depression. Her therapist had given her four words. And so she went back to work and she asked to meet with her boss. And do you know what the four words were that she used?

Betty Rocker (44:38):
No. Tell us.

Sam Horn (44:39):
Please help me understand. Please help me understand how I could be up for a promotion yesterday and in danger of losing my job today. And the manager explained that a customer had complained about her customer service and said she’d been incredibly rude and that she should be fired. Well, Bethany remembered the situation. The customer tried to bring in-

Sam Horn (45:00):
Well, Bethany remembered the situation. The customer tried to bring in a used mattress with the cover off, and their store policy is they cannot take back used mattresses with the cover off. So she had very politely tried to explain this. Well, the customer didn’t get what he wanted. He left in a huff. Once the manager realized what had really happened, she thanked Bethany for reinforcing the store policy, and Bethany got the promotion.

Now, look at the difference. If we have a label of ourselves, as you said, words have ripple effects. If we say, well, I’ll always be fat. Nothing I do works. I work out two hours a day and I still have apron belly or whatever it’s called, or something like that, right?

Betty Rocker (45:43):
There’s horrible words that we just want to… Those are words to lose, those types of words, those types phrases.

Sam Horn (45:47):
They are, and the labels become self-fulfilling prophecies. As you said, yes, they set up a ripple effect of hopelessness, of helplessness, of like, I’m locked in. Nothing’s ever going to be different. And if instead we use words like, “Please help me understand,” or “What do I want?” Or a good friend of ours, Mary Morrisey says, “Hold the vision, not the circumstances”. And when we shift over here, it sets up a whole different set of circumstances. We get the promotion instead of losing our job, so to speak.

Betty Rocker (46:23):
I love that example that you shared because it makes me think a lot about how the choices that we make in these situations, obviously they impact us, but they also have this ripple effect like you were mentioning. We are always being looked at by other people, often people who look up to us, often people who we don’t even know we’re impacting by the way that we are behaving. In the situation with Bethany, I’m thinking about how the manager probably learned a valuable lesson. She should have asked Bethany what happened before she fired her. Also, other employees were probably impacted by this set of circumstances because they would’ve heard that she had gotten… Potentially she was going to be let go, but then she came back to work and she tried something different.

It also would’ve impacted Bethany’s family. We’re always an example to other people by our behavior. And just our behavior, which is maybe sometimes an unspoken feeling of how we’re choosing to address the situation and how we are talking about the situation to others, how we’re presenting it, that influences their ability to also impact their own situations. It gives them an example, a model to aspire to in many ways. And maybe it shows them a way that they hadn’t thought of before. And this is why I think it’s so important. It’s your responsibility to learn how to communicate in a way that elevates, enhances; it makes the outcome a win for more people and isn’t just dragging us down. And I think it’s always okay to take a step back in any situation and take a beat for yourself and think about what you want to do.

One thing that I often do when I am… I get triggered and I get emotional. I get frustrated with someone and I want to react, but I’ve learned instead of… I’ll take a beat and I’ll reach out to someone I trust and I’ll tell them about the situation. And just by talking it through, I often find the way to have the right conversation, how to reconnect with the words that I need, with the person who I may be feeling frustrated with or triggered by. And I don’t always have that opportunity in the moment to do that, but just by taking a beat, taking a pause, even in a tough conversation, I find that’s really helpful to me to remember.

And it came from another idea from fitness, the fitness world, where when we’re having a craving, a craving for something sweet, there are a lot of reasons that could be. But one thing you can do is set a timer on your phone for five minutes and wait. And then if you’re still having the craving, that may have given you five minutes to sort of think about, did I have enough protein today? Did I get enough sleep last night? If I’m going to eat something sweet, could I take another step to mitigate the impact of the insulin surge that my body is going to have? But just that, taking a beat for yourself, seems to be very helpful. It’s a pattern interrupt of sorts for me.

Sam Horn (49:30):
See, a pause is a pattern interrupt. Well said. And also you brought up something that I think is really important for us to understand, and that is that this is a skill we’re talking about. We’re taught math, science, and history in school. We’re not taught this. We’re not how to get along with people. We’re not taught what to do when someone’s blaming us for something that’s not our fault.

I’ll always remember that I had an opportunity to do some training for Kaiser, and a couple years afterwards, I went back in as a patient. And when I walked in, the receptionist recognized me, and she looked around. There wasn’t anyone in the lobby, and she beckoned me over and she pointed, and the words to lose, words to use reminder card was still taped to her front desk. And she said, “you know, Sam, I used to wonder why were people so rude to me when I was so nice to them? Because I’m the first point of contact. I’m kind of known for my aloha spirit.” This was in Maui. And she said, “And I was thinking about quitting my job because people were so difficult”. She said, “Then I took your workshop and I realized I use all those fighting phrases on the left all the time. ‘But.’ ‘Well, I’d like to help you, but,’ ‘Well, I’m sorry that happened, but,’ ‘Well, you’ll have to talk to your doctor about that. You need to take that to the pharmacist.’ ‘Can’t because,’ ‘Well, we can’t give you an appointment this week because we’re already booked’. No wonder people were upset with me. It’s because I was using all these very adversarial, antagonistic words.”

She says, “Now I know what to say instead. Instead of, ‘You have to talk to your doctor about this,’ ‘If you could please talk with your doctor about this, she can probably let you know what’s going on.’ ‘You need to take that to the pharmacist,’ ‘If you could, please.’ ‘I can’t give you because you should have brought your insurance card in.’” She said, “It has completely transformed my whole experience at work, and I realized that I’m the lead domino. I’m the first point of contact. And even if people come in upset, if I handle them,” and these are words in the book, it’s proactive grace. It’s not just grace, because kindness, compassion, empathy are wonderful. We need to act on that in a way that we fix the course for the future, not the blame for the past. So what you just said, it is a skill and it doesn’t just impact us. It really does impact everyone we deal with.

Betty Rocker (52:00):
And you had said, it’s not something that we learn in school, but it’s something that we learn at home. And this is why this is so important for us to take responsibility as adults to do, is because we’ve learned from the people that we modeled after. And so it’s this opportunity for us to realize everyone around us is mod… We’re teaching them how to behave from how we behave. This is why it is our responsibility now to learn this in a new place and to apply it and practice it. And I will be the first to tell you that in learning to practice better communication skills, I made mistakes. I had to learn hard ways and not always get a great response because I was testing things out. And not everything works in every situation. You have to be willing to try things though. You have to be willing to put a new spin on an old way of being. And that’s a really important thing to do.

And you’ve mentioned now multiple times the words to lose, words to use activity. And I absolutely love this activity, and I know that you actually have a gift that people can get from you by sending an email to, very easy to spell and say. And if they just email you, you’ll send them a words to lose, words to use reminder card that they can put on their refrigerator or by their laptop to keep these ideas in their line of sight in the top of their mind, and that’s what a wonderful, generous gift that is. Thank you

Sam Horn (53:45):
And thank you. And you and I are both invested and committed to sustainable behavioral change so that we are a force for good for ourselves and for others. And we’ve all been to a workshop before and we leave and we’re all fired up and we’re ready to go. We listen to a podcast, that was fantastic. We have the best of intentions, and then life happens, right? And then those insights and epiphanies are out of sight, out of mind.

So this little reminder card you can put right on your refrigerator, it can help you catch and correct. And what’s even more special is that since it keeps it in sight, in mind, you’ll find your partner starts catching and correcting your kids do and so forth. One of the words on there is, “Mom, can I play with my friends?” “No, you can’t play with your friends. You haven’t done your homework yet.” “Mom, can I watch TV?” “No, you can’t because you haven’t done the chores. Look at that room. Look at that trash.” We say, “Sure, you can watch TV as soon as you finish your chores. Yes, you can play with your friends right after you clean up your room.” Now look who’s responsible for getting what it is they want instead of seeing us as the one who’s blocking them from what it is they want.

Betty Rocker (55:05):
Brilliant. I absolutely love that. So true, because empowering people to take an action that gives them a desired outcome is so much more effective than denying them something and making ourselves be the person who’s in charge of them. And of course we are as parents, but there is this other way to… Really such a teachable moment for anybody around you. I absolutely love that.

I really just can’t thank you enough for these lessons and this amazing conversation. And for those of you listening, you can discover so much more about communicating effectively from Sam on her website at She has a fabulous Instagram account @samhornintrigue, which I love. And you have a Facebook page, Sam Horn’s Intrigue Agency, and you also are on Twitter @samhornintrigue. So I really recommend that you guys follow up, connect with her, and check out the book Talking on Eggshells, because it is such a fabulous resource. I keep it handy. I’ve used it so many times since I got it. I started reading it from start to finish, and then within a day I already was needing to flip to the back to deal with a situation. How do I that? Oh, Sam’s got it right here in the book. So it’s a fabulous, fabulous reference.

I want to give you the last word, Sam. Is there anything that we didn’t cover today that you would like to impart to our listeners?

Sam Horn (56:36):
What a wonderful question. Mother Teresa said “The world is full of good people. If you can’t find one, be one.” And that’s really the river that runs through this book, is that how can we go first and set an example of respect so people are motivated to respond in kind? And not always, however, if we go first and if we set an example of how to get along and how to give good, it really does set up this ripple effect that positively influences everyone we deal with.

Betty Rocker (57:13):
Thank you very much, and thank you for all of your time and energy, and look forward to talking to you again soon.

Sam Horn (57:22):


Betty Rocker:

I just wanted to mention real quick that one of the most common mistakes I see women making when it comes to their health and fitness goals is putting too much emphasis on their workouts and not prioritizing nutrition or sleep or stress management.

Because one workout makes us feel good, a lot of us think more workouts will make us feel better and give us more results. So we get into this no days off mentality, sometimes going for two workouts a day, and endlessly pouring our valuable energy and time into exercise when that’s actually burning us out and breaking down muscle tissue as the body doesn’t have the building blocks in the form of nutrients or balanced hormones to support all that output.

It’s not really about how much you do, it’s about the way all these important elements, like sleep, nutrition, stress management, and exercise, come together that truly drives your results, supports your body long-term, and as a nice byproduct, produces the results you are looking for physically.

This holistic approach is a long-term sustainable approach that focuses on how you talk to yourself, how you nourish yourself, and how you care for yourself on every level.

And that’s exactly what we focus on in Rock Your Life, my online home workout studio and women’s fitness community. It’s a holistic approach to your health and fitness because you are a whole person.

And in Rock Your Life, you can enjoy the structure of a workout challenge program combined with a balanced guidance around eating healthy, getting good rest, and prioritizing your mental health. I’d love nothing more than to welcome you to our uplifting community.

And to make it easy for you, there’s even a 30-day trial for new members that you can take me up on. No obligation to stay. Just come enjoy the space and see how we can support you in nourishing your mind, loving your body, and rocking your life. Grab the trial at


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