Profiles in Jell-O®:

Cowardly, Crooked, Confused,
Credibility-Busting, Obviously False Communication

Ever notice those defensive, dumb, demeaning phrases that creep or blast into or, heaven forbid, dominate a communications strategy?  What you are seeing is living proof that the organization or its leadership is showing its profile in Jell-O®.  Everyone else notices, too.

These phrases lay the groundwork for credibility-busting communication.  Avoid them if you value your future reputation and the respect of your employees, customers, and key publics.

  1. “A subcontractor to one of our temporary suppliers did it.”
  2. Any phrase with the word “Not.” A lie always precedes or follows.
  3. “He’s not deranged . . . anymore.”
  4. “I am not a crook.”
  5. “I am not a racist.”
  6. “I did not have sex with that woman.”
  7. “It will set a precedent.”
  8. “It’s a merger of equals.”
  9. “It’s a vendetta.”
  10. “It’s a Witch Hunt”
  11. “It’s an isolated incident.”
  12. “It’s company policy.”
  13. “It’s not our fault.”
  14. “It’s not our problem.”
  15. “No comment.”
  16. “Nobody died.”
  17. “Only a few were guilty.  Why punish everyone?”
  18. “Only a few were injured.”
  19. “Restructuring will strengthen our balance sheet.”
  20. “The customer used it wrong.”
  21. “The perfect combination of two great companies.”
  22. “The vast majority are good, decent people.”
  23. “They don’t know what they’re talking about.”
  24. “They have no credentials.”
  25. “They were careless and didn’t realize what they were doing.”
  26. “They were really young when it happened.”
  27. “They’re just disgruntled employees.”
  28. “We are good corporate citizens.”
  29. “We don’t tolerate that kind of behavior . . .   (anymore)!”
  30. “We’d look silly.”
  31. “We’re not paid to find the weasels.”

If you would like to add additional examples that fit the profiles in Jello description, send them to Jim Lukaszewski at

The Lexicon of Trust Building

The most serious ongoing challenge to building trust and ensuring positive relationships with customers, allies, colleagues, government, employees, and relatives is establishing trust.  It is easier to recognize the patterns of those behaviors and attitudes that damage trust and bring credibility into question. Trust is a fragile magical substance like the lignin in trees, nature’s glue that holds the tree fiber together, Trust is what holds relationships together.  Trust is the most fragile and vulnerable agent in a relationship.

Here is the Lexicon of Trust Building ingredients. The more you use, the greater the trust level.

  • Apology: The atomic energy of empathy. Apologies can stop bad things from starting and start to stop bad things. Even with extraordinary injury and harm, a prompt apology, taking responsibility for some egregious, injuring act or decision, tends to detoxify bad situations. I truly believe that apologies are always on time. However, experience shows that the earlier the apology, the more powerful its effect.
  • Candor: Truth with an attitude delivered right now. Truth plus the facts, truth plus some perspective, truth that reflects the value of other’s observations.
  • Credibility: Always conferred by others on those whose past behavior, track record, and accomplishments warrant it.
  • Empathy: Actions that speak louder than words ever can. (No PR needed)
  • Forgiveness: In those cases where someone has harmed you or those things you care about, often the hardest action to take is moving on and finding ways to help the perpetrator move on as well.
  • Integrity: Uncompromising adherence to a code of values by people, products, and companies, with the attributes of credibility, candor, sincerity, and truth.
  • Sympathy: The ongoing, often continuous, verbalization of regret, embarrassment, or personal humiliation, promptly conveyed, i.e., feeling truly sorry for someone who is experiencing pain, but stopping short of taking on the blame or the pain.
  • Trust: Generally, the absence of fear, the feeling of reliability. The knowledge that adverse situations, pain, or mistakes have less impact or can be pre-empted if a trusting relationship exists or can be built.
  • Add your own. Please.
Whenever there is or can be fear, uncertainty, or doubt, always move towards trust.

The Bosses Most Critical
Roles in Crisis

Effective crisis responses are led by leaders with five specific personal and operational roles in crisis situations.

  1. Assert the moral authority expected of ethical leadership.
    1. Leadership takes appropriate and expected steps to learn from and deal with the issues crises situations raise, very promptly.  
    2. Moral authority consists of:
      1. Candor and disclosure.
      2. Prompt patient explanation.
      3. Commitment to communicate.
      4. Oversite with empathy.
      5. Commitment to zero errors, victimizations, and avoidable mistakes.
      6. Restitution, penance, or at least maintenance while victim issues are resolved.
  2. Take responsibility for the care of victims.
    1. Victims and victimization provide the energy that makes these situations so explosive, highly emotional, and unpredictable.
    2. Taking responsibility for victims moderates and mitigates the emotion of crisis events.
    3. Yes, it can be interpreted as taking responsibility. Just clearly explain the extent and duration of your assistance. Simply ignoring victims creates a raft of new complications and blame shifting towards you.
  3. Set the appropriate tone for the organizational response.
    1. If leadership gripes and groans, everybody gripes and groans.
    2. If leaders whine, everybody whines.
    3. Productive, constructive, instructive, and inspirational tone from the top will move the entire organization towards a more prompt resolution of the crisis, limit the impact, and mitigate reputation damage. An empathetic tone reduces the tension and stress victims feel.
  4. Set the organizations emotional voice.
    1. Be compassionate.
    2. Be helpful.
    3. Be courteous.
    4. Stop taking events, comments, and commentary personally.
    5. Communicate regularly directly with victims, survivors, and survivor families.
  5. Commit random acts of leadership at every level. Teach, encourage, and insist that every level of manager in the organization does the same.
    1. Walk the floor.
    2. Talk the floor.
    3. Encourage people.
    4. Knock down barriers.
    5. Help everyone stay focused on the ultimate response goals of the organization.

Silence is a Toxic Mistake to Your Reputation, and Possibly Your Career.

Above all begin communicating immediately. The most frequent, permanent, and avoidable reputation and career damage comes from remaining silent.

There is no believable or rational reason for saying nothing even for a brief period of time. If the crisis response is technically perfect, the leader will be criticized for doing nothing. Excuses for silence never pass the straight-face test. Whatever you do, it turns out that saying nothing means doing nothing. This becomes the legacy of even timely responses when there is failure to communicate.

The Challenge of Change
(Ugh, Not This Again?)

* This Phrase is used in a high number of CEO letters and management reports every year.

The truth? Bosses seem to love change, but when the subject is change, it scares the pants off of people.

Time to wake up about the destruction caused by “change”. CEO’s listen up. Find another approach. Successors get ready to move up.


The True Challenge of Change…is to Find Another Way to Talk About it,or Suffer the Consequences. 

  1. Change rattles everyone.
  2. Change disturbs community, personal, and organizational values.
    1. It better be good.
    2. It better be worth it.
    3. The tomorrow change promises must be better than the yesterday we know and want to keep.
  3. Change distorts, disturbs, and unsettles cultural norms and expectations.
    1. Creates stress, critics, and angry people who accumulate.
    2. Creates confusion from inadequate explanations, rigid deadlines, and failure to answer questions when those answers are needed.
  4. Cushion the blow, reduce the bad news.
    1. Change always causes bad news that ages badly.
    2. Bad news gets worse before it gets better.
    3. Bad news never ends in the place you expect, plan, or hope for.
  5. You have to meet with your fiercest opposition…because the victim’s change creates will have more power than you.
    1. Your most trusted people expect you to do this promptly.
    2. Delaying this activity forces opponents to lag behind and never catch up. They then resort to talking about yesterday when change is always about tomorrow.
  6. The truth metric is 15% facts and data, 85% emotion and point of reference. (Believe it.)
    1. Excessive reliance on data is defensive and irritates and re-victimizes, then agitates the rest.
    2. Understanding a person’s point of reference will determine if they will accept changes; not care about a change; or work against whatever you propose to change
    3. Emotion and points of reference are what drive people’s actual understanding of events rather than reams of data and facts. In fact, reams and facts simply make everybody else feel stupid barring even the remotest understanding of the changes you’re proposing.
  7. If you must talk about change, prepare for the negative impact.
    1. Even the threat of change will likely be resisted.
    2. Think about getting your successor off the bench and warmed up.
  8. Manage the politics of predictable stakeholder behavior.
    1. Tests to filter new ideas:
      1. Is it simple, sensible, constructive, helpful, or doable?
      2. How many critics and enemies will it create?
      3. How many will feel re-victimized/very inspired, and motivated?
      4. Will it be helpful in achieving management’s goals?
      5. Will it be helpful in achieving the organization’s overall goals?
      6. Even if the answers to 4 and 5 are yes, is it really necessary?
      7. Will it make for a better tomorrow? For whom?
      8. For whom will tomorrow’s change be worse after today?
      9. What will fail to succeed if change is delayed, denied, or significantly modified?
    2. Get your inside game working. So, your outside game can succeed.
  9. Leaders lose their jobs from a predictable series of possible causes:
    1. Failure to perform as expected.
    2. Distracted by questionable projects, programs, or expectations.
    3. People problems caused by new top people failing to help those in place understand the changes being proposed.
    4. AWOL, focusing too much on the new stuff and not what makes your organization succeed day to day.
    5. Actual success in establishing destructive changes.
  10. Ask yourself this question several times each day: Will the changes being proposed create more happier, more productive, satisfied, and constructively motivated people than it will wound or offend?

Communication Imperatives to Help Change, or Whatever you Call it.

  1. Communicate positively with energy and frequently from the start.
  2. Repeat essential concepts constantly.
  3. Repeat what you repeat.
    1. People who feel victimized or confused hardly hear anything but their own voices.
    2. Repetition benefits everyone, but especially those who feel victimized.
  4. Answer every question over and over again. When do you stop? When there are no more questions.
  5. Ask and answer questions people should be asking but may not be.
  6. Please avoid asking, “Do you have any questions?” (Chances are they don’t. Instead, spontaneously repeat things. Frequently supply the questions and answers you know they need to know, when they need to know them.
  7. Remember change was your idea. Take positive, aggressive responsibility for the process.
  8. Frequently repeat reports on progress as specifically as you can. “We’re making great progress; everybody is doing what they are supposed to.” Is a lie and a wandering generality. Be specific. Site names, dates, places, actions, and the impact of those achievements.
  9. Always publish the questions you detest, especially from those you may find detestable. You’re obligated to provide constructive, helpful, and useful answers every time.

Concise Advice #19: Your Mother Was Wrong About One Thing

“Words will never hurt you…,”
Is a Total Lie.

Remember, when you were five years old, and the first time you got beat up and shouted at on the playground by some kid you didn’t even know? Mom and Dad or Grandma and Grandpa said, “There, there…sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you!”. By age nine you knew this was a total lie. Abusive, Demeaning, Uncivil, Unconscionable Language, and Accusations victimize, producing hidden wounds that last a lifetime.

When those words and deeds come back to haunt you, unless you say something, you always suffer alone. That’s because wounds from words are:

  • Bloodless
  • Lifelong
  • Invisible
  • Irreversible
  • Revictimizing
  • Scarless
  • Unhealable
  • * Experiences of Others Can Trigger your Sudden Devastating Reliving of a Prior Experience of Anger, Fear, Terror, and Hurt.

*The last item is the worst, the sudden revictimizing suffered when something outrageous in someone else’s life triggers terrible and painful memories from your own life. The anger, terror, fear, and hurt rush back, you can’t stop it. Whenever I talk about sexual harassment, for example, or assault, I assume that at least 40% of the female members in the audience are reliving something awful from their past life.

In Every Culture:
There are words and behaviors you can never
take back, words that cause lifetime victimization
and suffering of others and yourself.

What I Believe and You Should Too

Appalling, questionable, inappropriate, unethical, unconscionable, immoral, predatory, improper, victim-producing, and criminal behaviors are intentional. Adults choosing to harm, damage, embarrass, or victimize.

I Also Believe

Compassionate, decent, honorable, lawful behaviors, leadership decisions, and moral behaviors are also intentional.

You Already Know This

The choice is always clear and always yours.

Remember and Apply
the Ingredients of Decency First


Keep this list handy near your phone, maybe in your wallet, when you are tempted to say or do something that might be irritating or offensive, choose and ingredient of decency instead.

Avoid These Real Causes
of Permanent Victimization

Assault, physical and verbalLies
Bullying, physical and verbalNeglect/negligence

Then, Even Worse are
Unconscionable Behaviors

All are unethical, and most are also evil because their use is diabolically intended to harm and victimize the innocent.

Unconscionable intentions, behaviors, actions, and decisions are those that:

*VilifyExpress Anger and Irritation, to Cause Harm
DamageDemand or bully
DemeanAre Mean
DismissAre Negative
Cause Intentional PainDisparage

Speak Up

Unconscionable intentions, behaviors, actions, and decisions and their perpetrators need to be called out when you see them or hear of them. It’s the only way we can rid ourselves of these behaviors and the people who intentionally abuse us and others with them.

Concise Advice #18: Benjamin Franklin’s Thirteen Virtues

I Couldn’t Resist

Benjamin Franklin’s Thirteen Virtues

  1. Temperance: Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
  2. Silence: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling
  3. Order: Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business
    have its time.
  4. Resolution: Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
  5. Frugality: Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.
  6. Industry: Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary act.
  7. Sincerity: Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you
    speak, speak accordingly.
  8. Justice: Wrong none by doing injuries or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
  9. Moderation: Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you
    think they deserve.
  10. Cleanliness: Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.
  11. Tranquility: Be not disturbed at trifles or at accidents common or
  12. Chastity: Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness,
    weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
  13. Humility: Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

My [B. Franklin] list of virtues contained at first twelve, but a Quaker friend having kindly informed me that I was generally thought proud; that my pride showed itself frequently in conversation; that I was not content with being in the right when discussing any point, but was overbearing, and rather insolent, of which he convinced me by mentioning several instances; I determined endeavoring to cure myself, if I could, of this vice or folly among the rest, and I added Humility to my list.

B. Franklin Source:

© Copyright 2023, James E. Lukaszewski. America’s Crisis Guru®
Get permission to reproduce or quote. Contact the copyright holder,

Concise Advice #17: Your Manifesto for Communications Success


Every letter, talk, and communication we send to employees or to other places has to flow through a self-imposed emotional and vocabulary filter system that keeps us on an even keel that preempts, deters, and reduces the attacks, provocative, and negative comments that are likely to occur. Here are your preemption, and peace-driving filter elements:

1. Eliminate, remove, and eradicate all negative words, language, and phrases. Each of these is a flash and attack point, viewed as intimidation, pushback, and pressure. These responses are what stir up bad headlines and angry people. They energize and enrage.

2. Avoid the use of the word “I” as much as possible, especially at the beginning of paragraphs. Any piece of copy that begins with the word “I” is about the sender rather than the recipient. When messages are about the sender, they will be misunderstood, negatively reinterpreted, and tossed back at you in a headline.

3. Reflect on the impact of every sentence and thought expressed. Whether we are talking to our friends or those who are attempting to irritate or organize us, plain, declarative, positive language will reduce contention and make it harder to credibly attack or challenge our words and deeds.

4. Bosses and leaders set a positive, peaceful example. Protect the outcome we seek. Employees at all levels, including managers and supervisors, will reflect and behave the way the bosses walk, talk, and behave. Say less but be important and positive.

5. All of our communications and actions must be targeted toward reducing the production of victims, critics, and combatants. These individual circumstances, once created, last essentially forever. In every communications setting, you need to ask this question, “How many critics, victims, or combatants does this approach create?” If even one is possible, fix it.

6. A single victim carries unimaginable explosive power. You are the target.

7. A single public victim tear can destroy millions of data and provable facts.

8. Wage peace everywhere, every day at every opportunity. Victims and casualties live, suffer, and remember forever. Most want to get even. Can you go home and talk about your plans and strategies over the dinner table with your children or grandchildren present or your mother? And they won’t roll their eyes?

9. Be prepared to promptly correct, clarify, and constructively, and productively comment as needed. This approach can have an enormously calming effect on employees and employee concerns, the community and community concerns, and even the victims, survivors, their families, and their concerns.

Concise Advice #16: The Tools and Playbooks of Decency’s Enemies

Unconscionable actions, decisions, and behaviors

that are intentional, premeditated, injurious, degrading…

unethical…and some tend to be evil.

Decency’s enemies are obvious, expansive, and culturally corrosive. as are the playbooks of bullies, misbehaved buggers, and bad people. These tools and plays are intended to hurt, harm, and harass. Evil targets the innocent.  

Your first response:

Start Naming and blaming the predators and perpetrators.

  1. Arrogance
  2. Beyond the Boundaries of Decency, Civility, and Integrity
  3. Bullying
  4. Defaming
  5. Demeaning
  6. Dismissiveness
  7. Disparaging
  8. Disrespectfulness
  9. Evil
  10. False Suspiciousness
  11. Humiliation
  12. Intentional Embarrassment
  13. Intentionally Injurious
  14. Intentionally Irritating
  15. Intentionally Painful
  16. Intentionally Victimizing
  17. Meanness
  18. Negative Surprise
  19. Overbearing
  20. Overzealousness
  21. Punishing
  22. Ridicule
  23. Sarcasm
  24. Tone Deafness
  25. Unfounded Accusations
  26. Vengeance
  27. Victimization
  28. Vilification

Your second response:

  • If the perpetrator is someone you know, find someone else to know.
  • If the source is from someone you buy something from, find another source.
  • If it’s from someone in public life, disavow and shout them out.
  • If it comes from your local pulpit, find another pulpit.
  • Spend your energy on building a better life, expectations, and circumstances for yourself and those you care about.
  • Stop trying to change or reform the perpetrators and predators. They are always toxic and worthless.
  • Perpetrators, predators, evil public figures, and leaders will never really change.
  • Your efforts are far better spent on new endeavors and new approaches where you can clearly make a difference and others will benefit more than you.
  • Predators and perpetrators are superb slimy liars and con artists.