Real Communication. Real Results.

Author, speaker, and coach, Betty Lochner is a passionate leader, with over 25 years of experience specializing in improving interpersonal skills, building and leading teams, training supervisors, and working with different communication styles and generations. 

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7 Last Minute Gifts You Can Give for Free

by Betty Lochner on December 12, 2017

Are you running out of ideas and/or money to finish your holiday gift list?  Do you want to give someone something that may be more valued than anything you can buy from the mall?

I’ve compiled my top 5 holiday gifts that cost you absolutely nothing and express your heartfelt appreciation for someone you love.  And, those are the best gifts ever.

Holiday Gifts of Appreciation: The favorite gift of all

These gifts of appreciation are tried and true, and they all have three things in common:

  • No money required. You will not have to spend a dime.
  • Your time. They all include you giving your time to communicate your appreciation and gratitude.
  • They are all small actions that can have  a huge impact.

These gift ideas can either be written down and given as a coupon, or wrapped as a gift under the tree.  However you choose to present them, they are all gifts that focus on your relationship instead of “stuff.”

1) Schedule a call.

Skip the online messages and give a real, live, uninterrupted phone call that includes more than just a few minutes of talking.  You can give a coupon that includes a schedule or a date to call every week at the same time, or on an agreed upon time.  This gift brought my 90 year old dad to tears one year. It’s the perfect gift for those on your list who don’t live close by, or you don’t get to see often.  Or in the case of my dad, he just loves to have a nice chat with me once a week. So simple and so appreciated.

2) Promise to do a good deed.

This gift involves making a card or handmade coupon that describes a service you will do. They can be running an errand, baby or pet sitting, giving a ride, making a meal or doing a chore that they hate to do (the dishes, cook a meal, clean a closet).  This is the gift of you time and service and is always a big hit.

3) A personal, hand-written note.

Write a simple note to let them know how they have made a difference in your life. Be specific and authentic. Include a photo if you have one. The written word is powerful.

4) Volunteer for their favorite local charity.

Find out what their favorite charity is and volunteer there in their honor.  It could be the food bank, an animal shelter, or another favorite local charity. Send them a note or card describing the work you did in their honor. I have a friend who makes a simple wreath ornament from construction or other scrap paper, writes the year on the front in glitter pen, and on the back describes the charity they are donating time (or money) to.

5) Write a word.

Look in your garden, at a local beach, or anywhere you may find an interesting smooth stone to write on. Write a word, or words, on it in a sharpie pen that reminds you of them,  a special date, words of inspiration, or simply “I love you.”  You can write on more than one stone to give a small collection (or give a new one each year to build a collection).

Try one of these ideas that focus on your relationship and your appreciation, or come up with your own variation.  Remember to keep it personal and to have a plan to follow through with your gift.

A gift of appreciation may just be one of the favorite gifts your loved one will receive this year.


Betty phot 2 214x300 Be delighted experience The Honey In Your Heart

Betty Lochner is the Owner of Cornerstone Coaching & Training. She specializes in personal and organizational transformation and is the author of Dancing with Strangers: Communication skills for transforming your life at work and at home.   Check out her live and online communication skills training.




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The Thanksgiving Gratitude Challenge

by Betty Lochner on November 17, 2017

Thanksgiving Squash“Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold a rather large amount of gratitude.”  – A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh
 When my kids were young we went around the table at Thanksgiving and shared what we were thankful for. The adults went with the family, friends and health theme but the kids – well, they kept it real. Some examples: “I’m thankful I found my lost lego man;” “I’m thankful that Christmas is coming next;” and one of my all time favorites “I’m thankful I’m not a Pilgrim.”
Yes, Thanksgiving is  the one day of the year that we all agree we have a lot to be thankful for.
 In my workshops, I often explore what a difference the daily practice of gratitude can have on how you communicate with others, and with yourself.
 Most of us are generally wired to focus on the negative things going on in our lives, so changing to a focus on the positive requires us to build a habit of being grateful and recognizing  every day what is going right in our own personal world.

Changing your daily attitude to one of gratefulness will change your perspective forever.  How do you do it?  Since gratitude isn’t always an automatic response, we have to consciously learn the habit of being grateful.

One of the ways to do that is to take the Thanksgiving Gratitude Challenge.

It starts with making a list.

Compile a list of 10 things that you are grateful for in your everyday life.

Think about your blessings, and all that you are truly thankful for and make of list of your “Top 10.”  When you complete your list, keep it close at hand and revisit it everyday.  Put it on your mirror, or hang it on your wall.  When you look at it, remember how very lucky you are.  And then, take a minute to say “thank you” – to God, and to the people you are grateful for.  Expressing your appreciation is how you can pay your gratitude forward to family and friends.  And, when we talk openly around others about the things were’re grateful for, we can help others (think children and grandchildren!)  learn to think about the good things in their lives.

As we get ready to celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends, think about your Top 10 and work on your own attitude of gratitude  – it will set the tone for all your interactions and you will see small changes that will make a huge difference in your life and those around you.  And that’s something to be grateful for.


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 Betty Lochner is the Owner of Cornerstone Coaching & Training. She specializes in personal and organizational transformation and is the author of  Dancing with Strangers: Communication skills for transforming your life at work and at home, and 52 Communication Tips. To find out more about Cornerstone’s services and offerings visit our website:

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Controlling the Conversation: Using a Communication Bridge

by Betty Lochner on September 10, 2017

controlling conversation

Whenever I travel away from home I’m reminded that no matter where you, or what the topic of the day is, getting around is all about controlling the communication to get what you need.

For example, in many southern states, they have the important skill of  “greeting people well” down. If they know your first name, they put a Miss or Mr. in front of it.  It feels familiar and welcome to be called “Miss Betty”. This is an effective way to make a connection and build trust.

And, once you get past the formalities, you can bridge the conversation to make it work for you. This can be especially true when working with the media, and is a great skill for all communicators. Learning how to bridge conversations is  learning how to move someone from where they want the conversation to be to where you want it to go. In other words, bridging is all about how to take control of an interview, or conversation.

A communication bridge can be used to get from a question asked of you to the message that you want to get out. It can help you avoid getting trapped into saying something you didn’t mean to say.

For example, when you are asked a question that you don’t want to answer directly, or if you simply want to change the focus or topic of the conversation, you can use one of these communication bridging techniques:

1. Briefly answer the question, but quickly move to a message you’d like to give:

Yes, but…


You know, I’m not sure about that. However, what I can tell you is…

2. Pose a new question and answer it yourself:

The real question here is “what are we doing about the problem?”


The heart of the matter really is “what we are doing about the problem?”

3. Redirect the conversation to what you want to talk about:

Let’s talk about something I am more familiar with…

4. Stop talking

Another effective way to change the focus is to just stop talking.

If you don’t have something that you want to say, be careful not to start talking just to fill space. Be thoughtful. And, don’t say something until you are ready to,  even if it creates a bit of an uncomfortable gap.

These bridging tips really work.  Practice one the next time you feel yourself in a conversation you need to change the direction of, or even one you didn’t really want to be in!



Betty Lochner, Communication Skills ExpertBetty Lochner is the Owner of Cornerstone Coaching & Training. She specializes in personal and organizational transformation and is the author of Dancing with Strangers: Communication skills for transforming your life at work and at home.

To find out more about Cornerstone’s services and offerings visit our website:

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How to Facilitate Good Meetings: My Top 7 Tips

by Betty Lochner on August 28, 2017

Meeting Facilitation - AgreementsI’ve talked alot about the importance of running a good, efficient meeting, including how to  improve meeting engagement and how to end them well.  But, a good meeting only runs well if it is facilitated well from start to finish.

Ever Been in Meeting Hell?

When I’m in a poorly run meeting, I get distracted and find myself doing unproductive things like calculating the cost of the meeting (number of participants x approx cost per staff hour x number of hours/minutes). And if I’m distracted, there’s a good chance others are as well which means a whole lot of time is wasted (and productivity lost).

On the other hand, a well run meeting will keep participants engaged, productive, and feeling like the time is well spent.

What makes a good facilitator?

While some people are naturally good at getting a group to focus and get results, most of us simply need to learn or improve our skills in meeting facilitation.

To get you thinking about the areas you need to improve, I offer some of my favorite facilitation tips.

1. Develop a list of agreements.

First – and very important – make sure the expectations of the meeting are agreed upon right from the start. Make a list on a flip chart that includes going over the agenda and agreeing to time limits on each issue and when the meeting will end. The list should include when breaks are expected and how long they will be. This first step will help you solve many of your meeting challenges. If things start to get off track, refer back to the agreements and timeline.

2. Offer thinking tools.

Many people think more creatively with their hands are busy. Try putting legos or pipe cleaners on the tables.

3. Keep a list of “parking lot” items.

Use a flip chart or white board and write the words PARKING LOT across the top. Anytime a participant goes off topic, stop them, capture the topic and write it on the parking lot list for future discussion.This helps you stay on topic and avoid spending time on items not on the agenda, that are better suited for further discussion at a later time.

4. Write it down.

Use a flip chart, white board, or scribe on a computer to capture any key points and decisions throughout the meeting.

5. Keep on time and on track.

Check in every 15 -30 min or so (depending on length of the meeting), and note where you are compared to the agenda and timeline. Note how much time you have before you need to move on. Give time limits for topics – say something like: we’re going to listen to the presentation, then will have 15 minutes to discuss. At the 15 minute mark, we will move on to the next item.

Consider using a stop watch, and announce when there are 3 minutes to go.

6. Encourage participation from your introverts.

It’s not unusual for 2 or 3 participants to dominate most meetings. Ask some of the less vocal participants for their thoughts.  And, give those who need some time a minute or two to think first.  Those members of the the team are good at observing and processing the information and often come up with the best questions or ideas if given the time and opportunity.

7. Take time to talk about next steps.

At the end of the meeting, make sure you leave time to recap any decisions, actions to be taken, assignments given and what happens next.

Using good facilitation tools will make a difference between faciliating the meeting from hell and one with a productive outcome.  Practice these the next time you run a meeting. The more you do it, the more confidence you’ll have and the better your meetings will go!


Betty Lochner bio


Betty Lochner is the President and Owner of Cornerstone Coaching & Training. She is an award winning public servant, human resources professional, an author, and national speaker.  To find out more about Cornerstone’s services and offerings visit her website.






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