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Make Your Moment: The Savvy Woman’s Communication Playbook for Getting the Success You Want: The Savvy Woman’s Communication Playbook for Getting the Success You Want

Make Your Moment: The Savvy Woman’s Communication Playbook for Getting the Success You Want: The Savvy Woman’s Communication Playbook for Getting the Success You Want

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Make Your Moment: The Savvy Woman’s Communication Playbook for Getting the Success You Want: The Savvy Woman’s Communication Playbook for Getting the Success You Want

3.5/5 (4 ratings)
266 pages
4 hours
Oct 25, 2019

Editor's Note

An essential guide…

Everyone knows you’re supposed to network to get ahead, but how exactly do you go to a networking event and not end up hiding in the bathroom? ABC News anchor Dion Lim talks you through the proper ways to respond to many difficult office interactions in this handy guide (that’s based on many funny, cringeworthy personal experiences).


ABC News anchor Dion Lim’s empowering workplace communication strategies for women in any industry

“As women, we’re constantly told to speak up, lean in, and be a badass . . . We absolutely should. We must! But we have to execute these things in the right way.”

In a fast-paced world where opportunities appear—and shift—at a moment’s notice, how you communicate can, quite simply, make or break your career. Your work environment today includes a diverse array of people and personalities. The ability to interact with all of them, think on your feet, and grab a good opportunity when it’s facing you is the special sauce that will help you achieve your goals.

Dion Lim has seen it all. As an Asian-American woman in the hyper-competitive, white—and male—dominated business of TV news, her career path required a powerful blend of street smarts, determination, and a willingness to learn from mistakes—all of which she learned on the job. Today, she’s an ABC anchor in one of the biggest cities in the country.

In Make Your Moment, Dion guides you through what she has learned on the career battlefield and what it means for other working women today. She’ll take you through the treacherous—and often entertaining—landscape of the modern workplace, covering virtually every situation you’re likely to experience. From the art of thinking quickly on your feet to #MeToo moments, you’ll learn how to master office politics, make online/social media dynamics (good and bad) work for you, and thrive under pressure.

Dion learned how to stay true to herself, so she could find her moment and make it, rising from a local reporter to the national stage.

Now it’s your turn.

Oct 25, 2019

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Make Your Moment - Dion Lim


Reacting 101

Sounds Basic, but It’s Everything

YEAH, YEAH. We’ve all heard the sayings about reactions to events: Loose lips sink ships! Think before you speak! Never let them see you cry/sweat! I am woman, hear me roar! To some extent, these things are true. It’s probably not a good idea to talk about your manager’s foul egg-salad body odor to his assistant. Or to call out the IT guy as a creeper when he holds your hand in a handshake a little too long. But we’ll get to that part later.

Ladies, you already know this.

But what we don’t realize is that every encounter we have in the workplace is like a performance review . . . and that review may not come from our bosses, but from our peers and those who are watching these interactions happen. We are constantly being judged on our abilities to get along with others and be trustworthy and valuable to the organization. The magic of communicating to get the success you want starts with identifying the reactions of others, so you can properly respond yourself. Because half the battle in staying alive (we can talk about thriving after we’ve figured out how to just survive) in a workplace chock-full of people with varying opinions, skill levels, and backgrounds is learning how to react to the odd, awkward, and downright crappy situations and interactions that may come your way.


As I was growing up in a traditional Chinese household, my parents taught me it was best to avoid ruffling feathers in the face of adversity. I think this came from their early years in the United States, when they feared being deported. They would tell me cliffhanger stories of their first few years living in Texas before I was born and how neighbors would throw eggs at their windows and call out to them using racial slurs. I’d beg, Then what happened, ma? which almost always resulted in an anticlimactic response of, Nothing. And it was on to the next topic. In their eyes, keeping my head down, working hard, and doing my best would always yield success! As a chemist, my dad was the perfect bookworm in school who studied hard and then regularly worked 12-hour days to advance in his career. This was just how they were brought up and how they chose to define their path to workplace triumph.

While this was perfectly fine for my parents and perhaps those of their generation, the pendulum swings far the other way for women today. We’re constantly being told to speak up! and firmly beat our chests to be heard. Hear me roar! Be your baddest bad-ass bitch! (Aren’t you sick of these affirmation T-shirts yet?)

Unfortunately, even though this is the message we’re receiving, speaking our mind doesn’t always fly in the workplace.

When I started working, it took a long time for me to learn how to stand up for myself in the right way. At first, I didn’t think I had a right to protest or fire back because of my age and (lack of) experience level. When I did become experienced enough where I felt like I could respond, I went to the opposite extreme and was unnecessarily combative.

There were so many inappropriate, awkward interactions, and I had no idea how to be ready for them. There was the client who insults Greek people (They all smell like feta cheese!) not knowing my husband is Greek. The boss who asked me to compromise my ethics and exaggerate numbers and figures from a research document. And my favorite: the on-air coworker who was shamed after gaining several pounds when a manager accused her of carrying twins. All true stories.

I quickly learned that it wasn’t actually about having the biggest voice, but rather having the right one. Whether it’s by sassing someone back, getting creative in how to gradually nudge a coworker, or sometimes by being still and doing nothing, there’s a way to handle these situations where you don’t compromise your own ethics, values, and beliefs or get labeled a combative, raging maniac. There is a way to react to situations where you can feel totally in control.


Let’s be honest. The idea of being controlled or trying to control anything doesn’t sound fun. Nothing is more abhorrent than a controlling significant other who doesn’t allow you to go out with your friends on a Friday night. Or a controlling parent who won’t let you go outside and play but instead forces you to stay inside, plinking away at piano keys for hours until you perform the sonata by memory. (I speak from experience on that one.) Or even the self-control to not eat the entire block of aged Irish cheddar, even though you know how good it tastes. This is why I detest the idea of controlling your reactions and emotions, which is the advice my parents doled out when I tried to talk to them about workplace issues. Ay-yahhhh. Didi, just control your anger! It’s that easy! my dad would smile. That never worked. Instead, I think of it as training yourself to have the discipline to use your reactions correctly. Because when you do, some pretty powerful things can happen. It all starts with understanding the potential in a reaction.

The Power of a Reaction: In storytelling, the magic, the hook, the most compelling part is in the reaction. The joy on a little boy’s face when his father comes home from deployment. The shock of a new mom and dad to be discovering they’re having triplets. This happens in the news world all the time. Ever notice how the camera always zooms in on someone crying or laughing hysterically? I once had a producer who would, in all seriousness, ask the team after we came back from a day of shooting in the field, Did you make tears flow today? in a half-joking-yet-not-joking-insensitive way. Simply said: reactions have power. Choosing how to use your first reaction is the beginning step in effectively getting what you want.

While reactions in the workplace may not be as emotionally charged as the examples I just gave, recognizing others’ reactions and calibrating yours can be the difference between landing a big contract, getting a no and not making your monthly quota, or winning the support of a higher-up who has never noticed you before.

Adjust Emotionally: Act and React Like the Pro You Are

Years ago, a news manager who was trying to get me to sign another contract at the television station with no raise told me I would never be able to land a job as good as the one I had. In hindsight, this manager’s intentions weren’t to be cruel. He just really wanted me to stay at the station and get away with not paying me the raise I should have gotten in order to stay. But in the shock and anger of the moment, without thinking, I started sobbing. How dare he devalue my skills and say I wasn’t skilled enough or talented enough, or anything enough to find a higher-ranking position that paid more than my current salary?

My rage and disappointment were so strong, they didn’t brew inside me. They exploded. In-between ugly, guttural sobs, I went off the rails, ranting how, actually, stations across the country had already expressed interest in having me come in for an interview. Bigger ones that paid much more. The result of this Niagara Falls of a reaction? The manager ended up calling my agent shortly afterward to inform him an ultimatum was in place. Either renew my contract at a flat pay or leave.

In hindsight, that experience was a disaster. Deep down, I didn’t want to stay because I was hitting a professional wall and not growing. There was no challenge to the work. Knowing there were more lucrative jobs available on the horizon meant I had an opportunity to explore new options. But my explosive, messy, snotty-nosed response just escalated the situation and caused me to divulge secrets about my job search and sent an ugly message to my boss that I was not the leader he thought I was.

But there was a leader within me. It just happened to get bogged down by the emotional gut-punch. There’s a leader within you, too—it just needs to be unleashed. Read on for your 101 on how to turn that seemingly devastating/unexpected/upsetting encounter around to make your moment.

Train Your Brain to Wait a Minute . . . or Maybe 1,440 (Prevent the Knee-Jerk)

As a reporter, the knee-jerk reaction is usually the best video and sound bite you’ll get. It’s the response immediately after something wonderful/violent/unjust happens. How can we not be transfixed by intoxicated and elated Philadelphia Eagles fans climbing greased telephone poles after winning the Super Bowl? Or be captivated by a young woman who discovers she has a long-lost twin after taking one of those at-home DNA tests?

But the problem with reacting without thinking in the workplace is that your emotions aren’t fully processed and fleshed out, so they may not be accurate. Rioters who are protesting the minimum wage certainly aren’t thinking through why they’re setting a car on fire or thinking about the consequences of doing it. Instead, their pent-up frustrations at the government brim over into violent, angry acts when there are other ways to take a stand and get your voice heard with a little thinking and brainstorming. It’s only after they get arrested and charged with disorderly conduct that they realize their spur-of-the-moment reactions didn’t serve them so well.

The same applies to the workplace.

When I get an email that infuriates or frustrates me, I never respond right away, or even an hour later. Instead, I’ll give myself the satisfaction of typing out my initial response but not pressing send. By waiting a full day, I let the true meaning of what happened that prompted the email sink in and process. After waiting 1,440 minutes, I revisit the email and 100 percent of the time, I never send the first draft. Allowing the emotion to temper with a bit of time usually results in a response that’s a more thought-out and intelligent reaction that can lead to a solution instead of creating a bigger problem. (You’ll read about my own professional, or should I say unprofessional email flop later.)

When it comes to real-life conversations, you may not always be able to wait a full day, or even five minutes, to respond. But you can at least take a breath, excuse yourself temporarily (there is no shame in admitting that the three caramel lattes you had before work necessitate an immediate trip to the restroom), or ask to revisit the subject at a later time. In hindsight, I should have suggested my boss talk about money directly to my agent and politely excused myself from the conversation.

Practice conscious pausing. Doing so will eventually become second-nature and you’ll find your responses more fully developed and appropriate for the situation at hand.


Every business professional, mentor, or friend will tell you not to cry at work under any circumstances. But I’m a crier. As a child my mother told me Chinese girls weren’t supposed to cry unless their mother dies. My mom’s harsh approach had the opposite effect—I started crying at everything, even a papercut. But later on, after the botched contract-renewing conversation, I discovered by accident that whenever I was upset or unhappy with someone’s actions or words, a slight show of sentiment could hammer home my point more effectively than if I were to deliver my response stone-faced. Allowing just a tiny prickle of tears to form behind my eyes but not quite fall conveys the seriousness of a situation, or how hurt I am without having to go into full-on snotty-nosed where’s my tissue weepy mode. Before you label me as manipulative, hear me out. I’m showing genuine passion and feelings, not trying to deceive or put on a facade. When you’re truly frustrated, angry, or upset, tears may be your actual response. They’re just adjusted down to the point where your message can be heard loud and clear and not caught up in the fog of a full-on sob session.

It’s also not just the tears that can be effective. Kind of how growing up my mom—and probably your parents, too—would give me a look that said, "Didi, you in big trouble!" With a slight frown or furrow of a brow, you can show disappointment and can send a signal to the other person that you’re not pleased without having to say anything at all.

In the end, what the manager did was not effective on many levels. He should not have talked to me about finances in that manner, and instead of using a negative (me not being able to find a better job), he would have been more successful with some positive reinforcement and encouragement to stay. Dion, your recognition score is high, and we appreciate your hard work. We’d really like you to stay on for many years.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I did get a job better than the one I had. A larger market, that paid almost double.


News Flash: The words that come from someone else’s mouth are just a small indication of how they’re really feeling. Just like the watering of the eyes I mentioned in the previous section, there’s a lot that can be told from a person’s tiny, sometimes nearly undetectable body language. You just need to know how to look out for it.

Watch the Eyes

Watching someone’s eyes is one of the most crucial ways to learn how to react. Notice subtle cues like eyes drifting, shifting, or glazing over. Whenever this happens, I know whatever I’m saying is not interesting and it’s my job to either (1) present the content in a more riveting fashion (because what’s the point of continuing if someone’s zoning out and not absorbing what you’re saying) or (2) it’s time to change the subject. (More on capturing and maintaining the audience’s attention later.) When there’s a total lack of eye contact, you can even go so far as to say, I won’t take up much more of your time or I’ll let you go in a second . . . or just ask a question right back, which allows the other person to talk and give his or her own answer (because nobody thinks their own answer is boring!). This technique re-focuses the person so that when it’s your time to speak again, he or she will be paying better attention.

The Twinge

As someone who asks a lot of questions for her job—and many of them difficult ones—I’m always attune to any signs of discomfort or displeasure. The split-second frown or cocking of the head to one side are among the signs that what you’re saying isn’t sitting well with the other person.

Sometimes the reaction is pretty obvious, like when I asked the attorney for a tech company why the company didn’t remove bullying comments from its website. At first her eye started pulsating. As she continued avoiding my questions, she started briskly walking away. Chances are, you’re never going to escalate an interaction to what I did next: chasing the woman down the street, thrusting a microphone in her face, using brut verbal strength to get her to’fess up to her company’s wrongdoings. This was not real everyday life. But since your goal is to have a civilized, successful conversation where the other person comes away having heard what you said and feeling positive, as soon as that first twitch, neck rubbing, or forced smile appears, know it’s time to change the subject, go into damage control, and use kid gloves.


Here in California, I can spot them from a mile away. East Coasters. Particularly people from New York City and Boston. And having grown up in Connecticut, I consider myself to be one. East Coasters have mastered the art of reaction. Maybe not in the way where road rage–charged drivers will step out of their cars to fistfight in the street (yes, I have seen this on several occasions) or how I once witnessed a man thwack a taxi with his briefcase when the cab failed to yield for a pedestrian. There is something useful to be gleaned from the in-your-face fearlessness and the fast pace of folks from the major cities in the Northeast.

In every newsroom I’ve worked in, people know I’m coming around the corner based on my footstep frequency, which hits the pavement at a 1.5- to 3-times speed compared to everyone else. Decades ago psychologists Marc and Helen Bornstein proved there is a correlation between walking speed and the pace of life in a city. This escalated pace is my signal to the world that I’m busy and on a mission and can’t take time to stop and chat about your weekend/dog’s neutering/why astronauts grow six inches while living in space at zero-gravity.

This being said, when I get caught in someone’s verbal vortex (when someone just can’t stop talking and the whirlwind of words traps me in their cyclone) I usually excuse myself and walk away with conviction, as if I have something important to do. The other person usually understands. However, sometimes despite the social cue as loud as a foghorn there will be people who just don’t get it.

This brings me to a well-intentioned colleague we’ll call Gerald. You probably have your own Gerald. You know, the coworker who, when you see him walking toward your desk, your first inclination is to get up and speed walk to the restroom to avoid engaging in any kind of conversation. Or rather, to avoid being the victim of his word waterfall, which usually has to do with his childhood growing up in Tanzania, or what he made himself for dinner the night before.

So it began with my Gerald. The exchanging of pleasantries and asking how my weekend was. Without listening to my response, Gerald dove deep into his day’s one-way conversation. This time it was about eco-friendly gardening and the importance of composting. (The man clearly possesses a wide range of interests.) Intentionally turning my shoulders away from him, making uninterested-sounding murmurings, and not engaging about my own composting habits didn’t seem to faze him. He just kept going. Gerald was at the point of telling me about the difference between conventionally produced fertilizers and independently sourced manure when I got desperate and decided to get up and briskly walk toward the restroom. He would surely get the idea and leave me alone. But to my horror, as I excused myself rather abruptly, he followed me around the corner, down the hall, and kept talking even as I opened the restroom door. He kept talking after I went inside and waited for me after I was finished! It was unreal. Then and there I decided I could stay subtle no longer. Something had to be done or I would never finish my assignment now . . . or ever. I had to channel my East Coast personality.

As he followed me back to my desk for round two of unilateral random talks, I turned around and physically stopped him in his tracks. Firmly but with a kind tone, I said to Gerald, Hey, can we pick up this conversation again later? I’ve got so much to do today and I’m running behind!

To my surprise, Gerald nodded and without missing a beat said, Oh yeah, sure. I’ve got so much to do, too. Thanks for the chat! We’ll catch up again soon! Amazing. The three-minute beeline to the ladies room may have set me back three minutes, but it also prompted me to realize how sometimes it’s best to just be direct with even the most well-intentioned colleagues. That trip to the restroom helped me realize not everyone can pick up on social cues like I could. Instead of being overly sensitive in not hurting someone’s feelings, a well-phrased, polite but blunt message can solve this and many other office challenges.


So, what happens if your reaction wasn’t the right one? If only there was a magical wand that allows you to erase a phrase as it comes out of your mouth. Or a feature

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