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Communication Expert and Catawba College Alumnus Greg Alcorn ’79 Says Stop Saying Seven Dumb Things

February 12, 2019

Category: Alumni

gregalcorn.pngNobody wants to say dumb things, but we all do.

“The first step in fixing common communication blunders is to know what those blunders are,” says Catawba College Alumnus and Trustee Greg Alcorn ’79, author of  7 Dumb Things We All Say: Smart Ways to Improve Every Relationship(2019, “Don’t let the title fool you.  This book is loaded with positive words and terms.  Awesome replacement words to make your message powerful.  These hints and examples can be used to improve any conversation.  Simple, common sense suggestions.  Such as, say “thank you” instead of “no problem.”  Ask “tell me about the game,” instead of “who won the game.” Little points that make a big difference.

alcornbook.png“I wrote this book to help everyone and anyone.  It applies to an eighth grader getting ready for high school as well as to a doctor practicing bedside manners.  Everybody can improve their “conversational awareness.”  Me?  I say “uh” and “know what I mean?” too much.  Know what I mean?  Ugh.

“This book is not a page turner.  It’s a page RE-turner.  You will find yourself RETURNING to points and principles that ring true to YOU.”

Alcorn’s new book is a collection of communication wisdom learned while operating his companies during five decades of life in Salisbury – including his formative years at Catawba College.

Alcorn is the CEO of Global Contact Services (GCS) of Salisbury, N.C. His company has 1,000 employees and averages 30,000 customer service conversations every day.

GCS, which Alcorn founded in 2001, serves any company or organization needing a customer service team to speak with their customers. His company provides clients with outsourced staffing and management for customer interactions, across multiple channels from their contact centers.

“I have run customer service centers for 30 years and I have listened in on millions of calls,” says Alcorn.  “In that time, I have made, and I have heard, countless conversation blunders.”

Here are Alcorn’s top seven conversation blunders, listed in rank order:

  1. Using Bad Bookends. The first and biggest blunder is starting and ending what you say with the wrong phrasing. We call those Sentence Bookends and they are often harmful to clear communication.

    However, Conversation Bookends are the small comments or questions just before or right after a full statement or request for action. They help establish empathy and build effective communication. Be better with your starting and ending bookends.

  2. Starting with Wrong First Words. The second biggest blunder is starting off wrong with the first few words. Are you familiar with the adage, “Getting off on the wrong foot?" Conversations have first impressions, and they begin with your first three words. Hint: one of the words should be the other person’s name.

  3. Not Choosing Your Words Well. The third biggest blunder is choosing negative words over positive words. The words you choose paint a picture for the listener. Your words express your attitude and your personality. Keep it positive. Don’t start a sentence with the word “no.”

  4. Poor Questions and Bad Listening. The fourth biggest blunder is the poor use of mouth and ears. Meaningful questions always stay on subject, keep a conversation moving forward, and ensure the other person feels heard and understood.

    Becoming a better listener is easier than you might think. It starts by committing to be a great listener and making an active choice to listen. Ask good questions and really listen. This is the “You have two ears and one mouth” principle.

  5. Focus-on-Me Attitude. The fifth biggest blunder is to have a me, me, me attitude. Making it all about you is a turn off for them. Take the I and me statements out of your conversations and put in the word you. This is not a technique, this is an attitude.  

  6. Wrong Tone. The sixth biggest blunder is not saying your words with the proper tone of voice. People feel more comfortable with pleasant, variable tone quality. Voice tone is made up of rate, pitch, and volume. Think tone and don’t drone.

  7. Not Diffusing Difficult Drama. The seventh biggest blunder is creating drama or letting drama escalate. Stressful conversations, or drama, can be avoided by mastering word selection, listening, and questioning skills. Drama can be inevitable, however. Most stressful situations can be defused when you apply the three Rs: recognize, restate, and reassure. Ask others: “What would you like to see happen?”

In addition to running a company and being an author, Alcorn and his wife, Missie, are the founders of ApSeed, a privately funded pilot program that works to expose at-risk children to books and literacy tools to help them be kindergarten-ready.


About Indie Books International
Indie Books International ( was founded in 2014 in Oceanside, California by two best-selling business authors. Since then the company has released more than 100 titles. Similar to indie film companies and indie music labels, the mission of Indie Books International is to serve as an independent publishing alternative for business thought leaders. Contact Henry DeVries or 619-540-3031. 

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