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The Wall of Busyness Situation
What's going on: You want to score a playdate for your preschooler with another mom. But she's racing across the parking lot toward her car, groceries in tow, her face a wall of concentration.

What not to say: "I'll only take up two minutes of your time?" First off, nothing takes two minutes, as communications coach Bill McGowan points out in his book Pitch Perfect: How to Say It Right the First Time, Every Time. Second, you're worth more than two minutes—be it for a playdate or for feedback from your boss as she strides down the hall.

What to say: Marla! "I know we're both juggling crazy schedules, so I'll get right to the point." This allows you to acknowledge that she is busy, while recognizing that you are, too, and to get straight to the point—Can we set up that playdate? Can I get your thoughts on my report? Focusing on eliminating the two-minute preamble and other warm-up sentences like it, writes McGowan, is similar to creating the awareness nutritionists ask their clients to embrace every time there's food present—when they say, "be thoughtful about everything you put in your mouth," only McGowan's suggesting you "be aware of everything coming out of your mouth."