There can be a tendency to look for professional growth and personal development strategies that are complex. But the truth of the matter is that sometimes, the most effective skills are actually simple to develop.
Of course, that doesn’t mean they’re easy. In her new book, Get It: Five Steps to the Sex, Salary and Success You Want, award-winning speaker AmyK Hutchens explains why life happens one conversation at a time. She also provides expert tips for successfully navigating even the toughest conversations. As MSNBC host, Ali Velshi puts it, AmyK gets that life is about possibility.
She inspires and instructs you about creating, capturing, and executing on possibility in your life and in your career.
Nikki Van Noy: I’m joined today by AmyK Hutchens, the author of the new book Get It: Five Steps to the Sex, Salary and Success You Want. This sounds good to me. Welcome to the show, AmyK.
AmyK Hutchens: Well hello, Nikki.
Nikki Van Noy: I’m so happy to have you here.
AmyK Hutchens: I am so honored to be talking about this. I’m super excited too.
Nikki Van Noy: Awesome. Let’s start at the very beginning. Tell me why you wanted to write this book in the first place?
AmyK Hutchens: Well, when I was two days old–we won’t go back that far. You know, there’s a couple of different reasons, some very personal. I feel like in my own life, I was given this voice box and not really told how to use it and so I didn’t use it very well for a really long time. Then from an outside perspective, when I started sharing how to use it better with my clients and they were starting to get miraculous transformative results, I thought, okay, I need to share this because it works.
Nikki Van Noy: Is talking and having conversations that are meaningful, something that has always come innately to you or did you have to learn that over time?
AmyK Hutchens: Well, I’ve been talking, and I’m not exaggerating, I’ve been talking in full sentences since I was nine months old. So, my mother would set the timer for quiet times. The talking part came naturally. The effective, productive, getting what I wanted took a lot of labor.
Nikki Van Noy: Nine months old. That is extraordinary in the truest sense of the word.
AmyK Hutchens: But it didn’t actually work for me because I used it so poorly. I’ve heard a lot of people say that where your greatest pain, sits your greatest gift. I have found that to be very much true for me. The pain that I have gone through and not speaking up, not knowing how to ask for what I want, not understanding the power of my own voice is really what has made me write this book. So that other people figure it out faster than I did.
Nikki Van Noy: Talk to me about that phenomenon in your experience. Because I feel like this is probably something that a lot of women, in particular, relate to, which is not knowing exactly how to use their voice or being comfortable doing that?
AmyK Hutchens: We can be so successful in these compartmentalized areas of our life. I tend to work with really successful men and women, CEOs, business leaders, influencers, go-getters, and on the surface, it’s like, “Wow, they have this amazing life,” and then you start to peel back the layers and you realize, that their relationship with their spouse or significant other is falling apart or they have a kid that’s not speaking to them or the business looks amazing on the outside but it’s like really crazy in debt.
What I’ve discovered is that communication is an absolute skillset that we really don’t teach young people, let alone entrepreneurs, adults, and business leaders. You know, we’ll teach them a business model, Nikki, but we don’t teach them, how to communicate what it is that you want, whether it’s with somebody else, at home, or at work, or it’s with yourself.
It’s going to sound really cheesy when I say this, but I so believe it.
Life happens one conversation at a time and the quality of your life is a direct reflection of the quality of your conversations.
Nikki Van Noy: Wow. I’m sitting with that for a minute because that is one of those simple ideas that I just have never thought about before. I think that I personally have the tendency to over complicate things when you put it that way.
AmyK Hutchens: I think that’s actually really normal and I think that makes sense. I think we’re giving all these sophisticated and complex diagrams about communication channels and really, at a profound level, if you think about the fact that the life that you desire is on the other side of a tough conversation, then the more that you can navigate the tough conversations successfully, you can turn it into a highly profitable one. When I say profitable, I want to be really careful about how we define that because profitability can be everything from, money and dollars or time or energy or ideas or a boundary established or relationship healed or just a job that you love.
I’ve spent 28 years traveling the globe, sharing with people that I love and care about, how to do that.
Nikki Van Noy: As you are working with all of these people, what have you found to be some common themes in terms of where people perhaps stumble the most?
AmyK Hutchens: We react. It’s really human. We get triggered and then we say something that we regret or we give our power away or we damage a relationship. I don’t know about you, Nikki but I’m old enough that I grew up in the era of sticks and stones will break your bones but words will never hurt you.
I don’t know how much we can say but I will say, bullshit. Malarkey. Words really do hurt and they can really damage. Or, they can be incredibly energetic, incredibly inspiring or they can simply be effective in helping you get what you want.
Nikki Van Noy: How do we become more effective in our conversations? What are some of your top tips for doing that?
AmyK Hutchens: We prepare, and it’s not rocket science, but it is neuroscience. For those people who are listening and have no idea who I am, my background is in the brain and cognitive behavior and education. I love the idea of when you have a critical conversation on the horizon, that you take five or six minutes to set yourself up for success by preparing, thinking about what it is that you’re asking for and why you’re asking for it and how to frame that ask, and then have your key phrases and to think about your word choice.
Nikki Van Noy: That’s so interesting to me because again, it’s so simple. I know personally, when I have big conversations, if I sit there and unwrap this for myself, what I do is sort of fret over them but it’s not preparation. It’s not a productive conversation that I’m having with myself before I go into big conversations usually.
AmyK Hutchens: Again, that’s really normal. What we often do is we hash it out inside our head, instead of moving it forward. I’ll give you a real-world example, I’ll be vulnerable. I have two teenage girls in my life right now and one of them, let’s just say she did something yesterday that is just beyond egregious. What most of us do as parents are, we get triggered and then we yell, and then we say something that we regret.
I looked at her and I said, “Right now, a part of me is angry and a part of me is disappointed and I’m not ready to have this conversation with you. We will have it but we’re not going to have it right now.” What I did was I gave us both a chance to breathe, I gave us both a chance to come to the conversation later when we’re a little bit calmer.
But here’s the magical phrase, “a part of me is angry, a part of me is disappointed,” gives her grace and wiggle room to know that I still love her, I still respect her, we’re still going to be connected. When most parents react, they say a thing like, “I’m angry,” or, “I’m disappointed.” And then all your kid hears is that absolute. They don’t feel that there’s still that connectivity and that love.
Just that magical phrase, “a part of me,” can entirely shift a conversation.
It Takes Practice
Nikki Van Noy: I like that, it’s very intentional.
AmyK Hutchens: It is. It takes practice, that’s the other thing. You don’t learn to use your voice overnight. Where I’m going with this is that I have five easy steps. I say that they’re easy because they’re straightforward but they have to become a part of your DNA, which means you start to use them, and you use them a little bit more, and then you practice them a little bit more and then before you know it, “Oh my god, I’m a master communicator.”
Nikki Van Noy: Yeah, the thing that’s cool about this, and your subtitle points very clearly to this, but it is a skill that translates to every aspect of our life, not just one.
AmyK Hutchens: Correct. You know, it’s interesting, I’ve spent my whole career working with folks in a very corporate environment and I cannot tell you the number of times, Nikki, that I’ll be on a coaching call and somebody will say, “AmyK, do you have five minutes?” And I think “Okay, it’s either going to be marriage or kid. Where am I going to bet now?”
It is so funny because that’s what it boils down to. As soon as they see that it’s effective with shareholders, direct reports, and team members, they think, “Well, what about my personal life?”
Nikki Van Noy: Now, are there different strategies when it comes to having conversations in your personal life versus in a more professional setting? Obviously, if it’s about your sex life, the content of the conversation is different. But are the strategies similar?
AmyK Hutchens: The strategies are actually quite disparate. I talk about in the book, whether you’re going to have ‘connection with’ or ‘power over’ somebody. I talk a lot about power plays in the workplace but if you’re having a power play at home, you will disintegrate or erode the relationship.
When both people at home come together, seeking connectivity, that relationship will thrive. But if somebody has power over or wants to dominate, that relationship won’t work. I have very different strategies about what you do in your personal life with your most important and cherished relationship, to really get that intimacy that you crave. But it’s not necessarily appropriate in the workplace.
Nikki Van Noy: Let’s talk about this notion of power and take it into the workplace. Obviously, you know, power can be a very tricky thing. What are some ways of navigating that in effective ways rather than ways that are off-putting or that frankly might make you look like an asshole?
AmyK Hutchens: Yeah, I think, there again, it’s that understand that being triggered and understanding that you have an emotional reaction is very human. It doesn’t define you and I think that’s really important to say–that your reaction does not define you, but your response does.
That’s where I give a lot of tips and tools about how to have a better response. For example, when somebody is really egregious or they’re yelling or they’re upset, there’s a lot of different things that you can say to still put a boundary there. Just starting with, “Hey, tell me the thought behind your frustration. Help me understand, what’s going on behind this?” You don’t start to engage in this battle of wills, you don’t start to engage in this tension escalation, but you are actually leaning into saying, “Help me understand what is going on.” Then from there, you can say, “All right, well, I am going to make an offer,” or, “I am going to request that either this behavior stops, or we find another one.” There are a whole series of things that you can do to zip up, put up a boundary with yourself, and not allow somebody to dominate over you or to say that their behavior is acceptable.
Nikki Van Noy: What I really love about that strategy is how human it is.
AmyK Hutchens: Probably one of my core truths is that we have more in common than we have differences, and what often makes us feel so alone and disconnected is what actually ironically connects us all.
Nikki Van Noy: Yeah that makes a lot of sense. Talk to me about that–for all the years that you’ve been doing this, are there any stories that stand out in your mind about times where you’ve seen conversation be particularly effective or really move the dial in someone’s life in a way that just stands out for you?
AmyK Hutchens: I am so blessed to have more stories than we have time for and that is a really good thing. I think it is part of my why, and so again, sometimes people go to my website and see, “I want you to be brilliant in business and happy in life,” and they’re like, “Oh,” and then they meet me and they’re like, “Oh she’s not kidding, she’s real. This is her why, this is her mission.” So yeah, I have a fun story that happened last year.
We will keep it anonymous because he is a well-known CEO, but we have been working on corporate issues–again just a bunch of secular stuff we were trying to do to help them scale and grow his business and then we get that classic, “Hey AmyK, do you have five minutes?” And this is so sad Nikki, but stay with me because the outcome is amazing.
So, he says to me, “AmyK, do you have five minutes?” and I am like, “Okay–marriage or kids? Okay, I am going to go with marriage.”
Sure enough, he said, “I have been married for 30 years,” and I said, “Okay,” and he says, “29 pretty miserably,” and I was just like, “Oh,” you know what I mean? That just hurts your heart to hear something like that and so then he says, “Can you fix her?” and I said, “Oh my god are you kidding me?” and I said, “Oh for crying out loud, no I cannot fix her and by the way, this coaching call is about you, not her,” but I asked him this question.
This is the power of a better conversation. I said to him, “Who do you need to become in order to be worthy of a 30-year marriage? Who do you need to become to be the type of person that is somebody’s best friend 30 years in?” I said, “Who do you need to be to become the person that somebody still wants to chase around the globe and have this really intimate, connected relationship with?” You could have heard a pin drop.
Then over the course of another four coaching calls, and this is the fun, fun outcome. He calls me and he says, “AmyK, I am having the best relationship I’ve ever had in my life and my daughter is talking to me again,” and I said, “That is why I do what I do and that’s the power of being this incredible communicator. You get what you want, and you get the life you desire.”
Nikki Van Noy: That is pretty powerful after 29 years.
AmyK Hutchens: I was stunned and you know it’s so funny. I think the reason that I love telling the story and I mean this sincerely. it is not my story. It is his story and that’s what is so powerful about it. I can just hand somebody the tools and they say thank you and then they actually go use them. So that is the one thing where I always say, “I don’t have power in this.” I can share all of my stuff. I know it works, It is my clients that prove that it works and now I am hoping that the readers will prove that it works because unless you use it, it doesn’t work.
Nikki Van Noy: Let’s turn the microscope back on you now. Obviously, you are an expert in this. What you do is conversations. Are conversations pretty effortless for you at this point or do you still have to think about and practice this?
AmyK Hutchens: I still practice what I preach because it is never a one and done. Kind of the messiness and also the beauty of life is that we are constantly evolving. We are constantly in new scenarios. Do I ever say something stupid? Yeah, probably on a weekly basis. I mean that is just life.
Where I come from is that the tools are so helpful for me. When I have a difficult conversation on the horizon–and that’s life because we are evolving and growing and expanding–I actually use them, I go back and sometimes it will be funny because I go back and read something and I think, “Oh yeah, I actually wrote on this years ago and now I need it again,” and I think, “Oh that is not so bad.” That is helpful. So again, you can’t take yourself too seriously.
Nikki Van Noy: Yeah, absolutely. One of the things that it seems like has to go hand in hand with having good conversations is listening. What do you have to say to people about that?
AmyK Hutchens: Most people don’t. Most people are either waiting to share their perspective, to share their input or to put forth their own personal agenda, sometimes a hidden agenda. So, a lot of times what I have noticed is that leaders are looking for answers to validate something that they have already thought to be proven in their own minds. So, it is like, “Hey I have this hypothesis and I turn it into a thesis and now I am just looking for you to tell me I am amazing.”
What I really love about brilliant leaders is that they will constantly be challenged by their own thinking and invite that and really listen to the feedback. For high achievers and go-getters, sometimes it hurts to get constructive feedback because we are trying so hard, we are working so hard and when somebody gives us feedback it can sting a little bit but if you really listen to it, it makes you better.
A Learning Curve
Nikki Van Noy: One of the things that really strikes me about you–obviously I have conversations with a lot of people due to doing this podcast. You have a very distinct way of speaking, which I am really enjoying, which is you leave space in the conversation. There are very clear breaks with you that at the same time feel natural and inviting rather than awkward, which I feel like it can sometimes when people are being, I don’t know overly intentional about breaking. Does that make sense? It is a hard thing to articulate actually.
AmyK Hutchens: It allows us to create space for possibility. For instance, there are times, because I am human, when I will interrupt or I will interject because I am excited or I am enthusiastic, you know that is understandable. But when we stop and allow somebody to really finish what it is that they’re saying then we remove a lot of false assumptions about where we think they might be going, and we also prevent from truncating an idea that could have changed the course of the conversation.
Again, that’s a learning curve. I had it happen when I was younger when I would get so excited and I’d interrupt and say, “So this is where you’re going?” Then that person would say, “No, I was about to make this point.” I would say, “Oh, that is not where I thought you were going.” If I had just stopped and listened, the course of that conversation would have unfolded more naturally. It would have taken me into a far more intriguing or fascinating direction.
Nikki Van Noy: I love that point. I don’t think I have ever thought about it quite that way before. The last thing that I wanted to touch on with you is that I really love that you’re addressing this notion of honoring the worth of our own voice in this book. Talk to listeners a little bit about your thoughts on that.
AmyK Hutchens: I think today more than ever, we are bombarded with the noise of everybody else’s voice and so it is really hard to find the worth on our own, especially if we feel like ours is different or a little bit unique or maybe not as good as somebody else’s. That it is normal. We have heard about things like imposter syndrome. We have heard about the comparison condition. We know that there are more anti-anxiety prescription drugs than there ever have been before and that is not a judgment statement, that is just a fact.
It is an understandable fact when you realize that everybody seems to be competing to be heard in an extraordinarily crowded world. So, to take a deep breath and realize your definition of success does not depend on XYZ. It depends on how you chose to define it for yourself. And so, we were having a conversation the other night in our family and I said to my cousin, “You know you’ve raised two extraordinarily strong and brilliant women.”
I mean if that is not success, I don’t know what is. She was like, “Oh but I never had your career,” and I was like career-shmere. I mean we all have different things that we are doing. Rather than comparing–again, she’s got kids and she thinks that my life is amazing because I have this career. I am looking at her girls and I think if we stop long enough to say, “Yeah, these are all worthy of being recognized and we each have our own way to play and we could all contribute and have a positive impact when we just start to use our words.”
Nikki Van Noy: It feels so good just hearing that. I think that is something we all need to be reminded of. I would love to leave listeners who are feeling like they resonate with this or are feeling inspired by it with one thing that they can think about today after they turn off this podcast and take with them in terms of being more effective in their own conversations. What is the small starting point here?
AmyK Hutchens: I love the idea of chunking this down because it does allow you to set yourself up to success. So, I would say, take away the thought that your life is happening one conversation at a time, and then take away the action item of how you start and how you stop these conversations matters more than anything else you say.
Nikki Van Noy: Again, the book is Get It by AmyK Hutchens. Amy outside of the book, where else can listeners find you?
AmyK Hutchens: Super easy. You just go to my first name, which is spelled AmyK, so it is super easy, amyk.com. One of my core tenants is generosity and so listeners will find an extraordinary amount of free resources, just tons of different conversation templates, depending on what it is that you are challenged by in the moment. Then, of course, you can follow me on Instagram @amykhutchens.
Warning, I am very irreverent. So, if you follow me just be warned about that. Then you are more than welcome to take our online program, which is The Power of Profitable Conversations. It is our most popular signature program and it is global. So again, we are just trying to make you a more masterful communicator so you truly can be brilliant in business and happy in life.
Nikki Van Noy: Awesome AmyK, thank you so much for joining me today.
AmyK Hutchens: Thanks, Nikki.