More than Meets the Mouth: How Food Conveys Messages and Memories

ElyseTwo years ago at secular New Year I mused about my observation that food does, in fact, communicate. In this Jewish New Year of 5776, I was struck by how food communicates. Like any responsible modern pundit, I googled “communication” as a point of departure of sorts and my license to proceed popped up as definition #2: a “means of connection between people or places, in particular.” Bingo. Food provides a “means of connection between people or places” –geographically, and across time.

For instance, when I pulled out my late friend Elyse’s mouth-watering and family favorite recipe for apple kuchen (cake) to prepare it for Jewish New Year, that handwritten recipe transported me back to her tiny kitchen in Israel where she dictated it to me from memory. I treasure it now—the physical notes I wrote with the pen she handed me. The lined 5” x 4” pad on which I wrote her every word and which is now stained with the coffee we drank thank day and the oils from the margarine that I cream together with sugar and cinnamon each New Year as I remember her and commemorate her culinary skills. Actually, it’s not her skills but rather the unabashed love with which she cooked for her family and friends. Her apple kuchen is an “oral tribute” of sorts – not a speech, not a eulogy, but something much more visceral and eternal– aromas and tastes that rejoin us year after year.  And my friend Deborah and her family are part of that now as well. Their enjoyment of her recipe occasions me to tell them about Elyse, to “introduce” her to them, in essence, posthumously.

Interesting that this year as I was trucking through the tedium of washing, peeling, coring and chopping the half dozen apples that Elyse’s recipe requires I realized that my dislike of those processes is also a message of love. You couldn’t pay me to do it. But I did it, and I do it, because to prepare delicious holiday food for those we love is to connect them to our rituals and our faith and our bonds as human beings. Even—and maybe especially—the unpleasantries of food prep, dare I say, facilitate connection. I think about Elyse doubling and tripling her recipes for her large family.   And when my daughter saw me grimacing as I cored the apples, she learned that her culinary pleasure comes at a cost.   She said as much. And, we chuckled together reminiscing about her phone call to me the first—and last—time she prepared herself a roast chicken for dinner. She had just finished cleaning it when she rang me and said, “That was the most disgusting thing I have ever done! I can’t believe you did that each Friday night for twenty-plus years for Shabbat dinner!” I can. The labors of love and connection echo in food preparation. That traditional meal connected me to my faith, my children, their late father, and our faith’s rituals. The meal whispered, “We know who we are.”

As I write this on the eve of a ritual fast for Yom Kippur, I realize, too that the absence of food facilitates connections as well. The escape from food shopping, preparation, consumption and cleanup leave me free to devote my thoughts and feelings to G-d and my atonement. I know that from years of fasting. As well, I know that hunger—the deprivation of food as physical sustenance—is a painful and uncomfortable experience. I get a headache. My maladies are more pronounced. Thirst, in particular, challenges me on my walk to synagogue, then distracts me and later preoccupies me.   So as I write on the eve of the Yom Kippur fast I expect that both my empathy and my sympathy for hungry people—the homeless, refugees fleeing violence on foot or by boat, farm workers and migrants denied the predictable daily meals someone like myself can take for granted—will multiply and my “micro-charity” will increase.  They commit me to bring the sandwich and beverage to the farmhand who delivers grain and water to my horse and to make the extra effort to drop off food at the local men’s shelter—as an equal priority in my regular, busy “first-world” schedule.   The debilitation of my fast will remind me of how human food—with its need to be transported and washed and cooked and presented—requires us to invest so much more time and resources in it than other mammals need to do. I see my horse accessing his forage so effortlessly; I open the gate, he exits and sniffs the ground and greenery and flora and assesses what is safe and nutritious at his “all you can eat buffet.” And then he eats. It’s that simple.  Whereas for me, a complicated “human” – Oy! My lunch must be shopped for, prepared, packed on ice, wrapped up and eaten “safely” or at least “cleanly” with utensils. The least I can do is double my effort and feed the human being who fills the trough while my horse grazes. That sandwich and bottle of water connects us. And, they say “a lot,” I hear. They say, “I notice you, I care about your well-being, I can alleviate or help avoid your discomfort.”

Food is an impressive communicator in my book. It is multilingual, speaking the languages of love, memory, tradition, faith, family, friendship and compassion through the dialects of hard work, sharing and repetition—all in all, connecting us to one another—past and present—and across the globe.

Minding our Ps and Qs: The Legacies of People and their Quotations

I have spent much of June editing an anthology of quotations for use by public speakers.   It is a joy.   I am immersed in the wit and wisdom of those of great renown – from Aristotle to Zig Zigler – each of whom offers us the chance to feel connected to the human journey by relating their timeless sentiments and keen observations about life expressed in fantastically “user-friendly” snippets.   Quotations are their legacies and we avail ourselves of them with impact and pride when we speak for work, in our communities and our places of worship.   And as we remember them, their words resonate with our listeners.   Quotations from the titans of the arts, world affairs, sports, literature and other distinctly human endeavors work like magic; the right one can instantly focus an audience or change the mood in the room.  Over the twenty-five years I’ve worked with orators, the use of quotations has been bankable for making us sound smarter than our experiences and more educated than our degrees.  Their pearls do more than adorn our remarks; they contribute to the precision and reception of our messages.  The sparkle of their eloquence polishes our own.  Quoting those who came before us is a win-win-win exercise.

I am also grateful for the good humor of my family, friends and associates during this project as my enthusiasm occasions me to send them the quotations I deem pertinent to whatever they enjoy, feel or might be doing this summer.  My girlfriend received Marilyn Monroe’s priceless, “I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.”  My cousin opened an email that shared the Sicilian proverb, Only the spoon knows what’s stirring the pot. And my beau and fellow empty-nester was the recipient of Mr. Roger’s, “Parenting forces us to get to know ourselves better than we ever might have imagined we could.  We’ll discover talents we never dreamed we had … and as time goes on, we’ll probably discover that we have more to give and can give more than we ever imagined.”  On my LinkedIn page I have called for and received my colleagues’ most cherished quotations. Their participation is an exciting and unexpected plus to my already enjoyable work.

But there is another gift this project has brought me.  And that is the realization that what we mere muggles say – here and now – in our lifetimes, in our private lives – has the potential to resonate with future generations and with deeply meaningful consequences.  This summer has been rich for me with my family “quoting me back to me” with appreciation.  Last month, I was in an awkward spot when a friend asked me for help at a time when my own deadlines and commitments were pushing the limits of feasibility.  Yet, I was uncomfortable saying a flat out, “no.”  It was my twenty-one year old daughter who, in sensing my unease, jumped in and said, “Mom, ’no’ is the most important word in an adult’s vocabulary.  The ability to say ‘no’ when we are overburdened is the very reason we can later say ‘yes.’”  She sounded so mature.  And I said as much.  And she replied, “You taught me that.  You say it whenever I am overwhelmed with school and work and need to recharge.”

This week, my brother made me ecstatic when he quoted me from a day of tremendous significance for him some twenty-one years ago.  He had come to my (now late) husband and me to share that he was gay and about to come out to the family.  He expressed concern about how life would go for him and I said (as he quoted me back to me), “Your life will be wonderful because it will be honest.”  In response to my brother’s concerns about how the family would take his news, my husband—without hesitation—said, “If there is anyone who doesn’t support you or brings negative energy, just let them step-aside.“ Twenty one years later my brother is successful in every respect and a genuinely happily married man and sharing with me the maxims that made such a difference to him as he navigated the unchartered waters of the last two, very significant decades.  I am so grateful I said what I said.  I didn’t just think it.  I said it out loud.  I spoke and he heard me.  That is effective communication.  And it made a difference for someone I love.

Given my work on the quotations anthology, the irony is not lost on me that two giants – Dr. Seuss and Bernard Baruch – have both had the following words attributed to them: “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”  I will continue my professional due diligence and get to rightful source of that sage phrase, but here, first, I note that my late husband’s expression of that axiom is what made an indelible and pivotal impact on my brother’s personal journey.  That’s a legacy.  That’s the kind us muggles can leave so they remember us, so they quote us, and so they feel confidently connected to the journey larger than their own – while we are here and then when we are gone.

Lisa Bernard is editing an anthology of quotations, proverbs and aphorisms for Cue Card Communications ( and wants to know, “What quotation, adage or proverb speaks to you?” 

Viva Voce! Liberation at Last from the Tedium of Your “Written” Work

Did you schedule your Viva Voce?   Got your date?   Great!   Now let’s stop worrying and start talking.   Yep.  In the first post on Viva Voce I proffered the notion that you “write” your thesis for the “experts” but “tell” the story of your journey to “all.”  Writing and speaking are two distinct media—one written, one oral.   So let’s start talking – literally.  Take out your mobile phone and select a recording app.  Now go ahead, speak up.   I know you feel self-conscious and you likely don’t appreciate the sound of your own voice.  That’s unfortunate, but neither an excuse nor an obstacle to skillful preparation of your Viva and that begins with “talking up” the story of your thesis and getting it recorded.   You are converting here from scientist to storyteller, researcher to narrator.   And you know how powerful a narrator can be.  Think Morgan Freeman in The Shawshank Redemption and March of the Penguins.

Start Talking and Taping.   You may feel some anxiety about this.  That’s normal.  It was Sally Ride who said, “When you’re getting ready to launch into space, you’re sitting on a big explosion waiting to happen.”  You are about to be launched into your liberation from the tedium and intensity of your highly sophisticated research and writing and you can sense it.  You have license now to exhale and simply tell the story.   Where to begin?   Start with an Introduction, an orientation of about six sentences to acquaint the listener with this project.   And be bold in this Introduction.   State clearly who you are and the title of your work.  Share your motivations for your research.   Credit the people whose work inspired you in the first place.   Be gracious.   Speak about those who guided you along the way.  Thank them for their roles and contributions to your progress and ideas.   Begin the story about the day you realized what you would explore for your thesis.   Remember that exciting moment?   Describe it with enthusiasm.   Outline the plot.   Name the characters involved in addition to you.   Provide just enough detail to make it clear why this line of inquiry had your name on it.

Next, share your Methodology.    Make a clear affirmation describing your approach.   Elaborate a bit, but use your judgment about just how much more you need to tell people given that there will be a Q&A session during which you can provide more information and details if listeners want them.

Then it’s on to the fun stuff – your Results.   State your findings in language that non-experts can absorb.  Sounding like Sheldon Cooper won’t help and sounding like the guy or gal next door goes a very long way when the community already knows you’re smart.   And don’t skimp on the humor.   Most projects have bumps and bad days and setbacks that are comical in retrospect.  Don’t be shy about sharing these vignettes as they are humanizing and make your message more memorable.   Here, too, elaborate on your findings – again, using your judgment as to how much more to share as the Q&A provides time for elaboration.

Finally, bring your listeners to the end of your “story.”  Resolve the plot.   Summarize.   Put your hard work into perspective and among the works that define your field.   Take your earned place in your discipline.   Consider that your thesis is like the first book in your trilogy.

Transcribe and Translate.   Why record yourself?   Your recording is to your words like a glass jar is to fireflies.   You can capture them and examine them at your own pace.   If you examine something recorded and can do better, let it go.   When on the other hand something comes out of your mouth and sounds good, you got it and can TRANSCRIBE it.   Yep, type it up.   Type up your spoken English, the language that all in attendance at your Viva can appreciate.

Then review your transcript.   Comb it for each and every scientific, field-specific piece of jargon or phrase from your discipline’s lexicon and highlight them all in yellow marker.   Then translate the highlighted into spoken English for those at your Viva who are not experts in your field.   Be a “simultaneous translator” similar to when we bring a friend or colleague to a family event.   Somebody uses an expression in the family tongue which is unfamiliar to a newcomer or outsider.   And so we politely translate, sometimes with a stage-whisper, frequently with a wink, always with a smile.  We do it in a way that they feel welcomed to the fold, not excluded as outsiders.

Rerecord and Rehearse.   Record your revised Viva and again transcribe this now polished version.   Then rehearse – aloud.   If you are presenting in a standing position, practice your Viva out loud from a standing position.   If you will be seated, practice aloud from a sitting position.  You breathe differently depending on your body’s position so to get accustomed to the way you feel as you breathe and share your story as well as the sound of your own voice as you narrate.

How many rehearsals?   About a dozen, including two dress-rehearsals in the attire you will wear for your Viva.   You will feel more confident when groomed, dressed and accessorized like a professional.  What to do with your recording?  Listen to it as often as you can between rehearsals.   Work your wiring:  just as you learn songs by hearing them over and over and singing along, you can internalize your presentation by hearing it as well as telling it repeatedly.   You’ll know your Viva presentation and can deliver it as well as the guests at your celebration will serenade you with “For s/he’s a jolly good fellow … that, nobody can deny!”   They’ve heard and sang it often enough to deliver it right on cue when you enter the room after a successful Viva.

This post is second in a series of three that began with “Viva Voce!  Now Doesn’t that Sound Nicer than ‘Defending Your Thesis?’”   Stayed tuned for the third and final piece, “Viva Voce!  Conducting  Your Q&A with Confidence.”   The series is an adaptation of a two-part workshop Lisa Bernard conducted in April 2013 for seniors in the Program of Neuroscience & Behavior in the Department of Psychology at Barnard College at Columbia University. 

Please, Call Me a “Pansy” Anytime

You may even add “little” and “purple” as adjectives before the insult.  Or is it really an affront at all?  To be sure, when I was a kid and someone called another kid a “pansy” it suggested they were “weak” or a “pushover.”  Perhaps “cute” but lacking any real mettle.  As an adult I realize what a misnomer this is.  Tending to “my little purple pansy” this year has changed my view of the class and the connotation of the word.

My little purple pansy was a rescue of sorts from one who had less than a green thumb with her.  She was hanging in a basket without full sun exposure.  Half of her was blooming beautifully and healthfully while the other side was like the dark side of the moon-shriveling and drying up.  So I staged a friendly intervention with a wink and a nod from the homeowner.  Off we went to my deck where her future buddies, sage and basil, were blossoming and welcomed her happily into the neighborhood.

My little purple pansy plant flourished with full summer sun warming her each day and the rain bathing her much of last fall.  When I harvested my basil and sage for pesto in late August I was grateful for the enduring beauty this little pansy plant brought to my balcony.  Purple is a buoyant color and she indeed rose above the paler shades of my condo and the deep greens of the trees alongside my deck.  I just loved looking at her.  And I was so I impressed at how she grew even as temperatures fell.  One night I brought her inside concerned that the drop below freezing would be too much for her.  Turns out, she wilted.  So I breathed-in deep, said a little prayer and put her back outside.  She was blooming and robust by my first sip of coffee that next morning.

Late this January on a Monday morning Mother Nature hurled her first snow balls at us and I remember the moment I realized that my little purple pansy was outside all alone to brave the nasty chill of the sleet that was falling fast.  She was on my mind in an important appointment I had and on my mind when I dashed up to prepare my horse for the change in weather.  She was on my mind when I entered and exited my session all the time being careful not to reveal to my client my worry that would seem so silly in the context of our serious work.  I drove home as fast as slippery roads would allow and ran into my condo and over to the deck.  There she was, covered in snow.  I felt terrible, even guilty.  I knew when I left that morning that I had forgotten something.  The forecast was spot-on but I blew it with my little purple pansy.  You know the story of the winter of 2015.  She was buried in snow like the rest of us.   I put her out of my mind with pseudo-comfort stemming from the notion that pansies where “annuals.”  Heck, they’re just nice to look at.  Good for garnish.  Not meant to last.  They’re even edible.   You can “have ‘em for lunch.”

I put her out of my head, but not my heart.   Once the snow started to melt this March and the tippy-top of the black handle on her hanging basket came peeking through my heart skipped a beat.  As the sun and warmer temperatures melted away the snow the more I found myself becoming irrationally hopeful that she was there.  I looked out there for her every single day.  But what little creature could have survived Mother Nature’s relentless assaults this winter?

Turns out, my little purple pansy is alive and well!   Yep, I Just stepped out on my deck, mouth open, eyes wide and there she is.  Greens fill her basket and that little purple bloom is intact.  I can’t stop smiling!

This has me thinking about those of us who have been through so many seasons and exposed to both harsh and loving treatment.  Humans and Mother Nature have been cruel, kind and indifferent.  Sometimes we flourished.  Some parts of us withered.  Sometimes someone benignly neglected us or we tried an environment that didn’t facilitate our growth.  But none of that dooms us or seals our fate – not if we are “pansies.”  We may appear buried or disposable to some, but underneath— if we’re true to our nature—we are both in bloom and looking forward to the next season.  Call me a “pansy” anytime.

Viva Voce! Now Doesn’t that Sound Nicer than the “Oral Defense of your Thesis?”

When my children were toddlers and getting rowdy I would certainly set limits and reprimand any bad behavior – but I did it in Italian.   I found that especially in public it sounded so much more pleasant and was in fact much more effective to warn, “Non toccare!” instead of “Don’t touch that!”  And “Sta’zitto” said with emphasis sounded much more polite than, “Be quiet!”   Somehow my kids understood my admonitions more clearly and reacted faster and more favorably to them when spoken in Italian.   And it didn’t put them on the defensive.

Turns out, the same thing is so when it comes to degree candidates who find it the time of year to schedule “the oral defense of their thesis.”  Yikes!  Just the sound of it makes my stomach hurt and my heart race and I “defended” my thesis years ago.  Sounds like you’re going to the dentist and need to grab your sword and shield and put on your armor.   And it begs the question, “Defend it from what?”  Defend it against whom?

Doesn’t it sound kinder and gentler to say, “viva voce?”  In Italian this means “in live voice” and in Latin something akin to “with living voice” or even “by word of mouth.”   In fact, viva voce is what most of the world outside the United States calls the oral defense of one’s thesis.  Europeans call it “viva” for short and it connotes a live and lively exchange in good spirit between the researcher and the attendees.   And this makes sense because it better describes both the process of preparing for, and objectives of, this very special face-to-face meeting between researcher, faculty and community.

Let me be clear that I mean in no way to diminish the significance or implications of this necessary, focused and catalytic academic event.  Instead, I offer this fresh perspective to ease the unnecessary stress that seems to accompany the scheduling of and preparation for this occasion.   By thinking “viva” instead of “defense” you can begin to orient yourself to your role as teller of the story of your thesis.   You can begin to prepare excitedly your viva to be the best it can be for what it is.  And simply put, your viva is the sharing of your story as a researcher motivated to explore an unchartered area using a particular approach that produced certain findings.

“Simply” is a useful notion for preparation of your viva insofar as people inside and outside your area of expertise attend and can make use of your findings.  We present our thesis findings to a wider audience so others outside our disciplinary expertise can also benefit.  We will see that it is helpful to regard the “other” audience at your at your viva – the lay audience – before your supervisors and the experts in your field.  Why?  For the experts there is the written document, replete with details and composed in the jargon of the field or discipline.

So let us not make more or less of your upcoming viva voce, the live voice to be given the story of your research and findings.  Schedule your viva.  Finish writing-up your thesis.  Then we can focus on translating the written work into spoken language others can understand and appreciate.  We can then focus on telling your story clearly and comprehensively so adults in and outside your area of expertise can apply and make use of your findings as you earn your place among experts.

Make sense?  If so, check-in next month.  I’ll begin sharing my step-by-step guide to preparing a viva from Introduction to Q&A.  Write me if you have any specific questions that can’t wait.

This post is the first of a three-part series adapted from a workshop Lisa Bernard conducted in April 2013 for degree candidates in the Program of Neuroscience & Behavior in the Department of Psychology at Barnard College at Columbia University in the City of New York.

Do U have a Signature “Textyle” 2?

Yesterday morning my daughter called worried that something happened to me. Why? I didn’t respond to her early morning text. We routinely exchange morning greetings via text. We’re both early risers and get a lot done at dawn percolating right along with our coffee. So when her screen was blank she noticed. All was, in fact, well. My cell phone was simply charging after being drained of battery after a long day the day before. Her worry was palpable and got me thinking about how much we have each developed patterns in our texting which I call “textyles.”

Some themes are resonant of other channels of communication. Take silence, for example. If we normally speak on the telephone with someone at a particular time of day, say after work or before bed and there is no call, we feel the absence and the silence sends a message. It may be ambiguous but it is a signal. Anger? Danger? Mishap? Same seems true for texting. When we exchange texts with someone at the same time each day and there is a break in routine, we feel the absence and it is conspicuous. We keep checking for that little blinking light. Are they okay? Is our relationship okay?

And like other channels of communication, our interpretations and responses are often person-specific. If my former boyfriend didn’t text me later in the evening before bed I knew he dozed off on the couch. I was reluctant to text him first as he is a light sleeper and can be easily disturbed by the ping of an alert. When he awakened, however, my “silence” would prompt him to respond with his signature blend of curiosity and humor. He’d text me something like “Knock-knock.” In similar circumstances my daughters would likely write, “Everything okay? xox“ Different approaches but one thing in common: Each of them always uses proper grammar and spelling if it is at all possible. If, in fact, I see my daughter’s text with a typo in the middle of the afternoon and no correction in the next text, I know she’s very busy at work and texting hastily. If there was a typo in my boyfriend’s text on a frigid winter morning I knew he was out with his dogs but without his gloves.

One’s textyle is so distinct that it becomes obvious when there is an imposter using someone’s phone. My heart stopped for a nanosecond when a text came in from my daughter’s phone number but it was not her textyle. It read, “Hi there Mom.” Creepy. “Hi there” is not her parlance. Nor would she include the “Mom” specification. Then I recalled that her roommate likes to play practical jokes and suspected she was behind the prank text. I was correct. That alien textyle was my first clue.

Like hearing someone’s voice, the “tone” of a text can suggest attitude as well. I texted my daughter twice this morning each time in a different mood. My first message was spirited and fun and communicated my pride in a job well done. It had a salutation, a photo and a lot of exclamation points: “Hi sweetie, I painted the banister all by myself!!! xox” The next was serious and reflected my business persona: “What’s your student ID number? I need it to send in your tuition check. Xox” Both had my kisses and hug signature but each reflected a different mood. My guess is that if either of my daughters received a text from me without my signature “xox” they’d sense something was off—either with me or between us.

When we first text folks and don’t know their textyles we may be surprised at the difference from their face-to-face, phone or email styles. One of my warmest, most affectionate gal pals stopped me in my tracks the first time she texted me back to confirm a get-together. I was so excited to see her and about our plans that my text included my signature “xox” plus an exclamation point and a ;). She wrote back, “KK.” KK? Uh-oh! Was this subtext? I do catch myself sometimes trying to “read between the lines” of texts. It seems to be about as accurate as translating poetry from one language to another –hardly a science. Of course, when I saw my girlfriend she was smiling, tactile and as receptive as ever and all was indeed well between us and with her. Her “KK” shorthand was just her “work-day textyle.”

I imagine the above applies 2 u 2, 2 some DgrE. Do you ever read between the lines of texts? Does it work 4 u? It B Gr8t ;) and works 4 me if u write and share. Lol! xox

Is Transparency Always Beneficial in Business?

Of course not. We know this from the extreme scenarios. You use your cell phone in the bathroom. Probably better not to let on where you are when you email your client from that private “office.”

Yet “transparency” is still cresting as the way to operate in business and this is worrisome. Just this fall, I have seen and experienced a few situations where it might have caused unnecessary harm. It seems that when we allow and seek transparency we run the risk of miscommunication about our intentions and abilities. And I don’t mean the obvious blooper when your employer sees a photo of you holding a bottle of vodka and dancing atop a table in a restaurant after you call in sick. I am referring to the stand-up, ethical and professionally responsible behaviors in which we engage but the virtues of which transparency can actually cloud.

Take my weekly ritual of devoting an hour to reading up on a topic about which I know little. I have been doing this for years as “continuing education” of sorts for my ghostwriting of speeches and coaching of respondents in employment inter views. Staying abreast of ideas and trends in fields as diverse as retail, finance and education have each paid off when that email comes in with someone from that field in immediate need of my services. I have some sense of their subject matter, and combined with the intake and subsequent research, I can move expeditiously to meet their needs.

Last month my ritual had a most direct impact on mine and my client’s success. It was positively serendipitous. On Monday afternoon I took my Wall Street Journal and my lunch to the farm where I board my horse. I set him free to graze in a field as I sat and ate and read a section of the paper called “C-SUITE” which is devoted to the “pressing issues for CEOs, chief information officers and others in the C-suite” as the Journal describes it. It was interesting reading but not nearly as interesting as the coincidence that the assistant to a CEO phoned me that very evening with an emergency request – could I help with a speech on corporate culture to be delivered that same week? Yikes! It was already Monday night. On Tuesday I teach two three-hour classes and commute from CT to NY to do so. No time for an intake until Wednesday and another client was counting on me to finish her projects that week as well. My response to her: “Absolutely. I was just thinking about this subject earlier today.” My lunch-time excursion and exercise in fact left me with my brain already parked in precisely the right lot for this assignment. But what would have happened if a fellow boarder had posted and tagged a photo of me on Monday afternoon? In other words, what would the transparency of my study habits have suggested to my client? Imagine the image: I am in jeans in the middle of the day sitting in a field reading the newspaper. Hardly looks like “work.” And it certainly could have called into question my credibility if I shared verbally the fact that my work schedule for the week was already crowded.

These days with our digital footprints guiding much of the due diligence our business associates conduct, the risk of being misunderstood is real. Personal posts on Facebook are just a click away from our professional activities on LinkedIn. So, while transparency can indeed be valuable for the confidence it engenders and the credibility it inspires, transparency may erode both if it is not managed well. Like communication, to be effective, transparency must be timely, purposeful and mindful of the audience – today, a global one with access to quite a bit of information about our personal, professional and private lives absent context for it.