Words of Wisdom for
Leadership, Learning, and Life in
Exactly 99 Words

NEW at 99-Word Stories

Talk Quick!
99-Word Stories to Spark Discussion about Common Management Issues
by Brian Remer

Talk Quick! is a collection of group discussion starters designed to inspire meaningful conversations about important management issues.
(12 Discussion Activities, 33 pages, Cross Referenced, $10)

Learn more HERE.

99's On the Go

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99-Word Stories by ,
Creative Learning Director of
The Flirefly Group.
© 2016 Brian Remer
Updated July 2016

99's on the 9th

Ideas based on 99-Word Stories that
come to you on the 9th of every month.

July 2016 -
Threats: That's not what I meant!

Read this story aloud or make copies for your group or team members.

A Vermont town meeting is not representative. Anyone can attend and speak - and most everyone does. Last year we spent 45 minutes debating a $3000 increase in the town budget to contract for Rescue, Inc., the local ambulance service. That came to an increase in taxes of only $1.50 per household. Why was the debate so furiously hot? Because Rescue said they wouldn't serve the town unless their proposed increase was voted in.

People felt threatened and nearly voted it down. Rescue learned that you'll be dead on arrival if you drive the wrong vehicle to town meeting!


You can build upon the theme of this 99-Word Story by using some of the following questions for your own reflection or to spark a discussion within your team or organization.


There are many ways to understand this story as the discussion questions suggest. If you or your group would like to compare or contrast your interpretation with an outside viewpoint, consider this analysis.

It's not what you say but how you say it.

Choice of words, tone, time, place, and other factors all impact the message delivered and, ultimately, the productivity of the conversation that grows as a result. A You Tube video of breaking news has a different impact than the same event broadcast on TV at 11:00 PM. The critique of a colleague's work has a different effect when announced in a team setting or when shared in private. Dealing with the late night antics of a teenager can be either an interrogation of actions or an inquiry about intentions depending upon your assumptions.

It's easy to slip into the negative, to assume bad intentions and see only problems and barriers. Brain science has demonstrated that we are hardwired to notice the negative, identify the dangers, and keep ourselves safe. That's fine but we are not often facing down a saber tooth tiger. Instead, we need to be more subtle. We need to make a special effort in order to consider all the elements that influence our communication. And that's not easy when we are under stress or when emotions are on full throttle.

But anyone who has ever said, "That's not what I meant," knows there must have been a better way to send the message!

Recently, some people in the public spotlight have complained about having to be politically correct. They feel burdened by having to say the right thing the right way. They can't express what they really think.

But being politically correct is nothing more than being respectful. It's recognizing that everyone listens with specialized "headphones" tuned to their personal history, culture, gender, ethnicity, age, philosophy, spirituality, and experiences. People who are politically correct try to be sensitive to as many of these factors as possible. They know that when they demonstrate respect, they receive respect. And their message is more likely to be heard and accepted.

If, like Rescue Inc., you see problems as saber tooth tigers to be fought and overcome, the people you need to help solve those problems will likely also feel threatened. If, however, you see problems as an opportunity for growth, collaboration, and new possibilities, the people whose help you need will respond positively to your respectful approach. They will be excited to share their ideas, their time, and their resources.

And you will be accomplishing important goals rather than having to back track with apologies of, "That's not what I meant!"


Did you use this 99-Word Story and the discussion questions or interpretation in your work or personal life? If so, about your experience! If you would like help using 99-Word Stories in your organization, please me.

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