Sean Riley


Communication Research Tool, Re-tooled.

The IMPACCT© (Interactive Media Package for the Assessment of Communication and Critical Thinking) is an online exam that measures the communication and critical thinking skills of communication students. Results of this application are used to assist the School of Communication at SDSU (and other universities) to better design curriculum to meet the needs of its students. Working with the researcher and Scholar Dr. Brian Spitzberg, Sean Riley recently released a complete rebuild of his original application. The program, over the last decade, has helped 10s of thousands of students understand the quality and effectiveness of their communication skills.

Simple compliments bribe the moment at the expense of that relationship's future.

Friend: So what were your parents, what's your heritage?

Me: Hmm, I was adopted and I don't know anything about my birth parents, except that they were young, so I guess I'm young. My heritage is young.

I make rational decisions. But, when I slow my thoughts down and really look at how I decide: I actually decide first . . . then rationalize reasons to support that choice. Dammit.


How to Give a Compliment

"You're a genius!" "You are so pretty!" "You do the best work in the office." Hearing such statements always made be bristle a bit. But why? I mean getting such a compliment feels good. It provides a tiny happiness hit, as that drop of dopamine is released and sweetens your bloodstream. So much so, that some communication consultants tout compliments as an efficacious tool to motivate staff in the workplace and customers in the marketplace. Except in the long run, it doesn't work. Simple compliments bribe the moment at the expense of that relationship's future. They do not "enliven" or invite life to the exchange, but rather cheapen the moment by subtly dehumanizing the target of the compliment by imposing a category onto that person in the form of a sugary feel good reward. Complimenting to motivate is manipulation. A culture that motivates through the reward of compliments is a culture rooted in domination and control.

Don't compliment, express gratitude:

  • Describe the action.
  • Detail what need was fulfilled by that action
  • Reveal the positive feeling that the action created for you


Your suggestion of using a SSD for the data storage arrays has reduced the backup sync time significantly making me feel much more confident about our backup process.

It really made me happy to see how your patience with the angry customer deescalated a potential troublesome situation.

I know what you are thinking: This is wordy and a lot more work. Well, it is. However taking the effort to express more detail and touching the 3 points (of describing the action, problem solved, and how you feel) in your own words will enliven the discussion and invite more possibilities to the moment. It provides information to the recipient encouraging the behavior for which you are grateful. Additionally, and especially for companies worried about workplace culture, expressing gratitude is far less creepy than complimenting. At least you will see less eye rolling from the others in the room.

For more see Marshal Rosenberg approach to Nonviolent Communication.

10,247 days left

The projected average life span for a male in my generation is just over 82 years or 30,000 days. 30,000 days to grow, learn, work, live, love, and give. 30,000 days to make enough meaning to be remembered. After doing the math: I have 10,247 days of life left. That feels so abundant. That is 20,494 cups of coffee, 13,991 glasses of wine, 1,260 books, 71,729 times to say "I love you", 1,559 mornings sleeping in late on Sunday, at least 16,171 meals shared with people I love. And against all of that, just 1 last day.


While anticipating our trip to Paris: I cannot wait for my first Parisian meal. The French have a word: terroir which roughly translates into territory when the discussion flows to wine and food. It is this ultimate provenance that "informs the bouquet flavor notes of wine . . . indicates that mixture of soil climate temperature geographical location," (Christina, Waters) that all combine to express themselves into a single glass of wine. I am coming to understand that in Paris the terroir applies not only to wine but extends to capture a restaurant's essence based on that establishment's sources of food, culinary touch, and even (possibly) down to the music preference of the chef. When discussing food, there is no American equivalent to the French term terroir with the possible blunt label of organic. As an American, food is understood as chemistry and economy, programed for mouth feel and flavor bliss. It's relationship is limited to the body of the eater and various metabolic signaling pathways it's ingestion produces. Every bite an equation solving between calories, carbohydrates, satisfaction and guilt. Whereas, to the French (at least in my idealized mental image of them), the meal is a sacrament to taste and discovery, it contributes and supports the conversation and overall relationship of those sharing it. I cannot wait for my first Parisian meal.