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Fort Wayne author shares tips on improving communication skills for everyone

Local business consultant Michelle Gladieux has published a new book called Communicate with Courage: Taking Risks to Overcome the 4 Hidden Challenges.

Great communication, according to Gladieux, is a, “full-body, full-mind and full-heart effort.”

Galdieux shared her inspiration for the project, as well as the best ways to maximize our “pro moves” along the journey.

Copies of the book are available on Amazon and you can connect with Michelle at the Gladieux Consulting website.
Read a transcription of the conversation:
Julia Meek: Michelle Gladieux, welcome.

Michelle Gladieux: Thank you.

Julia Meek: So communication is your passion as well as your profession. Where did it all begin?

Michelle Gladieux: I would say it all began when I was probably 4 or 5 years old a I would get in my mom's car and we would do a little discussion about what I saw or heard or felt that day, relating to classmates and teachers.

She always had a philosophical view of how communication could help improve our own world and other's worlds. And so I had a lot of deep discussions with her from a very young age.

Julia Meek: So nature versus nurture--50/50. Great. Meanwhile, how have you honed your own skill set by now? And how does it influence your writing?

Michelle Gladieux: I started to enjoy presenting as a kid in first through eighth grade, would enjoy science fairs, continued with the love of learning through graduate school at Purdue, studied Organizational Psychology and all types of communication and then became a young adjunct faculty member at Purdue Fort Wayne, Indiana Tech Trine University.

So I started teaching young at 23. And now writing is every day at Gladieux consulting, we're creating workbooks, we create tools, articles, blogs. I'll have a meeting tonight with a couple of my co workers, and what we do for each other is continuously improve the way we speak and write.

Julia Meek: What specifically then motivated you to write your new book, "Communicate with Courage: Taking Risks to Overcome the Four Hidden Challenges," Michelle.

Michelle Gladieux: I've had that intention for a few decades, had not made the time. I think it is getting older. And as we grow, we start to realize we don't have forever here on this planet. I try to be a source of information and inspiration to my clients and loved ones, friends and family.

And usually that's in a one on one conversation, or one on 30 in a class, or maybe 300 in an auditorium. But the book is a vehicle to be able to help people improve the way they communicate, thus improve their lives. Perhaps we can reach a larger national or global audience with something like a book.

Julia Meek: So in one way, you're still one on one, just amplified, magnified and now in print, and you're reaching everybody you can?

Michelle Gladieux: It's a wonderful way to say it and I hope that it holds the reader close to the page and feels like an intimate discussion. Because as I was writing, that's exactly what I was picturing.

Julia Meek: Well, having read the book, it certainly comes out as you wish, so congratulations on that. And you say that great communication is a full body, full mind and full heart effort. Very briefly, what do you mean by that?

Michelle Gladieux: (chuckles) Sure. A full body effort for great communication, someone comes in, I'm busy, I'm looking at my computer screen, do I turn toward them? Or do I remain facing my other priority, the email? When we think about full mind effort, I'd like people to watch their self talk just for a day, just for an hour and see what they're telling themselves because that relationship we have with ourselves is the most long standing and most important we have in our lives.

And when I say that great communication is a full heart effort. What I mean is that we need to expect and tolerate rejection, when we give it our all, as a communicator. Sometimes we will be overlooked, not heard. Or you know, as Tom Petty says, "it's only a broken heart." So some of the worst that can happen to you, you can survive and continue to grow through it if you are trying your best as a communicator, and I'd like to see more people have the tools they need to do that.

Julia Meek: And a lot of that comes with self confidence and the self confidence is going to come as these skills are actually honed and perfected.

Michelle Gladieux: Well said, yes.

Julia Meek: Now these four pesky obstacles you mentioned that do hinder our quest to be communicators. What are they?

Michelle Gladieux: The four hidden challenges as I've experienced them in working with others and trying to help them overcome their fear relate to hiding, defining, rationalizing and settling.

Julia Meek: Okay, which of these has been most important for you or your coaching clients to overcome would you say?

Michelle Gladieux: Well, defining is one that I get stuck in sometimes, and that's putting too much stock into my own opinion or my own assumptions. And I also catch myself hiding. And that is a fear of exposing my weaknesses, when actually sometimes when we expose a weakness, others learn that it can be overcome, because we're brave enough to admit it.

I'm sure I have many clients today working on overcoming rationalizing, which is leaning on pessimism to prevent yourself from taking chances as a communicator. And also many folks struggle with settling which is satisficing or stopping at good enough. Well, no one else is answering when a question is asked.

So I think I'll sit back and wait for someone else to participate first, one very simple example that happens every day everywhere.

Julia Meek: In a lot of ways this is all about being a better human being as well as a better communicator. Is it all really one?

Michelle Gladieux: You got it! I don't know that I'm deserving of trying to instruct people about being a better human, but I will never stop trying. So it is a view from the same road they're on.

Julia Meek: And meanwhile, what really big pitfalls are associated with simple lack of communication.

Michelle Gladieux: I have strong opinions about this. One of the pitfalls that I see with lack of communication or lack of effort or attention to communication is failing to meet life. Life gives us all these opportunities. And we in the four hidden challenges and the ways that we allow fear to take over, we miss opportunities to really live.

So we could be missing out on living up to our potential, we could have lower self esteem because we're afraid of what might happen if we try. It's really a difference between scarcity thinking and abundance thinking. The person who is focused on abundance is going to say, well, I gave it a shot, I stood up, I did the presentation, my hands shook, and my face turned red. But next time, I bet they'll shake a little less. That is abundance. thinking.

The scarcity thinking is nobody wants to hear what I have to say, oh I could never do that. And I try to be right there with students and clients, friends and family to encourage them to let their light shine.

Julia Meek: Now back to taking those risks. How can simply understanding risk improve our relationships and our careers?

Michelle Gladieux: Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? (chuckles) So we always have something to lose and something to gain with every communication choice. There's a lot of research out there that shows that most humans make 2 to 3 thousand decisions per day.

Now that might be something simple like, do I hit snooze or not? What shirt do I pull on to wear today? But a lot of those are related to written and verbal and even unspoken body language communications. So the goal is to try to calculate risk and take intelligent risks remembering that even though there's something to lose, there's something to gain.

It's almost a pull between pessimism and optimism and trying to look at the bright side of the effort instead of look at what might go wrong. It is intelligent to look at what might go wrong, but if that stops you from interacting in ways that would be meaningful to your life then it's worth overcoming your fear. And this book is built to help people do that.

Julia Meek: And fear factors--how do you get the point across of how debilitating they can be to a whole life and lifestyle, to a whole way of being for a person.

Michelle Gladieux: So one of the ways that I've tried to help people see that fear is a natural part of the process of growing as a communicator is for the first time in my life as a writer, I decided to lay down some stories that I've never shared before...

Julia Meek: (chuckles) Oh my goodness!

Michelle Gladieux: And put them in writing over the last four or five years. It's a short book, and it's harder to write a short book, takes longer, I think to write a short book.

I included real life stories that required courage for me to share. So they'll see my heart on every page. And I think that will help give people some courage to accept themselves and to face their fears as they come along with me for the ride.

Julia Meek: And you know, once we get it get what this is about, get what we are all about how can we really own it and owning it, how can we continue the practical app to make us better now?

Michelle Gladieux: How can we own that journey to communicate with courage? We can take a brave look at ourselves and try to recognize our strengths and weaknesses and realize that it's much more pleasant to focus on strengths. But even our strengths, create our weaknesses, because we overuse them. And then we end up with a blind spot or one of these hidden challenges.

So through the book, there are a lot of pro moves and tools and an exercise at the end of every chapter that anyone in any station in life at any age could employ to learn a little bit more about how others see them--taking that with a grain of salt, but gathering data so we understand better how we come across, right? And once we have that we've unlocked a lot of doors, because then we can set some goals that are meaningful personally.

Julia Meek: The magic can start happening.

Michelle Gladieux: Hopefully!

Julia Meek: And you do share dozens of communication pro moves throughout this read Michelle, how does a communication strategy earn that designation in your opinion?

Michelle Gladieux: I'm so glad you asked that. May I read a few sentences from the intro?

Julia Meek: Please do.

Michelle Gladieux: This is from the introduction on page five: "A pro move is a communication strategy others might see as involving too much trouble or skill to undertake. So they walk on by, missing a chance to get closer to their communication potential. Making a pro move requires passion for learning and a desire to improve your life, your surroundings or someone else's life.

It often means you'll use self and other knowledge in the action you're taking or deciding not to take. For example, you know, your preference when communicating is to do or say X but you read a situation to call for Y so you zig when you're used to zag. Maybe you stand out stand up or stand down but it's not the easy choice. What is it then? It's the pro move.

Julia Meek: Okay, so this method, Michelle, is 100% actually your Tao, your way. How did you turn that into a Self Help for others? What was your conversion process to go from you to them, as you say is so important.

Michelle Gladieux: Lots and lots of notes and one on one executive coaching with clients in all types of jobs and getting to know 1000s of college students over 18 years of teaching at three universities and paying very close attention to what loved ones might need when I can. When I'm not failing to do that I'm succeeding at that, right? (chuckles)

So a lot of notes, a lot of study, a lot of research, a lot of great mentors, a lot of great teachers, I was taking it all in and I was writing at the right time it felt like in the last four years, so it was a worthwhile sacrifice to not do much else really other than work and sleep and eat, you know, kept the full time job rolling and took all my free time and tried to put it into this book that would be a condensed version of how you can overcome the four hidden challenges that keep you from your potential as a communicator.

Julia Meek: It IS your Tao...your way, then.

Michelle Gladieux: That's a beautiful way to say it. And I'm going to meditate on that.

Julia Meek: I am curious, did any of your ways of thinking which are obviously together and where they need to be so you could even write this book? Did they change along the way while you were writing this book?

Michelle Gladieux: Hmm. You know, in my life, I've been honored to provide a lot of feedback to people, college students, you know, in their writing and their papers and clients when they take personality assessments with us. And when I observe someone's presentation and give feedback about public speaking.

But what I learned through this process was that I had to have an open mind to what all the professional editors at BK publishing, distributed by Penguin Random House, so now it's on a larger scale, larger stage, more so than just my team of nine wonderful development professionals. then I had some folks looking at it from the world of publishing. And believe me, they didn't hold back with their opinions, with their edits. And I'd say we easily made 10s of 1000s of edits back and forth over these four or five years.

And there was no room for me to let ego in or to get too possessive about the way I wanted to say something, I might have debated them. But what I had to learn to do better than I ever have before was to accept constructive criticism, but it was worth it. You know, it was worth it, if it makes this better and more readable for others.

Julia Meek: And actually, what knowledge do you hope very, most of all, that readers will gain through your book?

Michelle Gladieux: I hope they will pull out the exercises and the pro moves and give them a shot, say what the heck, I'm going to trust this author, she's clearly trying to give me a gift and she has my best interests at heart. So as they try these exercises, and play with pro moves in their own way, my way won't be their way. But my way is a light to another person's unique way of communicating.

So then end game is that they raise their game as a communicator, and they start enjoying life more, they make a difference in their own world, which will then make a difference in other's worlds because perhaps they'll be able to pass on some of the things they learned. And that would be wonderful. I think that's what we all want no matter what our job or vocation.

Julia Meek: And that would certainly be your success to you if that would happen!

Michelle Gladieux: It's the way you live too Julia, let's make a difference. Let's make a small difference. And we never know what a small action can bring to another. Let's give it a try.

Julia Meek: Amen. Now, Michelle, you are cool as a cucumber. When do you personally have to summon your courage as a communicator?

Michelle Gladieux: It's tough for me sometimes to admit that I am wrong or to say that I'm sorry. And I think that, as you said earlier, as we discussed nature and nurture, I think that comes a little bit from family ties and examples. And early role models. Debate was very common in my household. And that's written about in the book as well. And so I'm competitive, and I like to win.

And you know what? If you can't say that you're wrong, and you can't say that you're sorry, then you lose. So that's been tough for me. But I've noticed that every year that I live, it's getting a little bit easier. Another challenging thing for me is to give feedback. It's everyday for me that I'm giving someone feedback about how they could be a better leader or communicator or writer. And that can be difficult because you don't want to insult the other person, certainly, but you have to be straightforward so that they can improve.

So my coping strategy for that is I tried to blend my assertiveness with diplomacy, and I try to think of it as maybe four cups of each in almost all communication and stir that together. And other humans are generally more open to our feedback if we use both diplomacy and some assertiveness.

Julia Meek: That is a great recipe and so, advising others about their communication is your business. It's also your passion, Michelle. You do it very, very well and we do realize the big change you are able to help everyone make in their lives.

So bottom line, just what does all of this do for you, Michelle Gladieux?

Michelle Gladieux: Wow, Julia. We all need meaning I think we can survive stress, surf change, all the waves of change that come at us, if we keep a mission in mind. So living this mission helps me not get too knocked around by all the waves that are coming at all of us all the time.

It's good to have an anchor and helping our readers become better communicators is going to be my anchor and is my mission.

Julia Meek: Michelle Gladieux is president of Gladieux Consulting and author of "Communicate with Courage: Taking risks to Overcome the Four Hidden Challenges." Thanks for sharing your story with us, Michelle, do communicate on!

Michelle Gladieux: You too, Julia, rock on! Long may you run.

Julia Meek: Thank you. And where can people learn more about you and your book?

Michelle Gladieux: They can check out our website at gladieuxconsulting.com Or they can find the book everywhere books are sold and on Amazon. Thanks Julia

A Fort Wayne native, Julia is a radio host, graphic artist, and community volunteer, who has contributed to NIPR both on- and off-air for forty years. Besides being WBOI's arts & culture reporter, she currently co-produces and hosts Folktales and Meet the Music.