Archive for the ‘Communication Skills’ Category

Exploding emotions: Do you know your triggers?

Article submitted by Amy Sargent.

I couldn’t help myself. I knew it would be better to stay silent, to not comment, to cool down and walk away. But my frustration levels had hit an all-time high and I could feel my heart beating faster and faster as I thought about what I wanted to say…what I needed to say…what I had to say. So I opened my mouth and out it came. It’s as if I had no filter to screen out the ugly, hurtful, harmful words — they just tumbled out in a jumble of anger, resentment, and fury. I regretted them immediately as I saw the pain on my friend’s face — he didn’t deserve this lashing.  Sure, I was upset — but my lack of self-control made an already difficult situation even worse.  Now I’d inflicted hurt upon another with my sharp tongue, and both of us now felt bad.  Oh, if only I could take those words back! But the harm was done and it would take weeks to repair our relationship.

How many times do we act on impulse only to regret it later? If only we had a way to control our reactions…

Wait a minute. We do. It’s called behavioral self-control and it’s a competency of emotional intelligence. It’s that ability to keep disruptive emotions and impulses at bay. It’s that capacity to stay composed, upbeat, and unflappable, even in moments where our patience is tested.  It’s the power to restrain negative reactions and keep a clear head when we’re under siege. Those who are good at this are able to maintain their composure even in high-stress situations, and when faced with hostility or opposition, remain ‘cool” under pressure. Behavioral self-control is a powerful competency to possess, and we are all capable of owning it.

But let’s admit it: some of us aren’t so good at it. We react on impulse and become angry or agitated when conflict arises. We tend to be quick to anger, defensive, and can get involved in inappropriate situations because our ability to resist the temptation of a non-constructive response is weak.

What is it that causes us to make knee-jerk reactions when our emotions are involved?

Have you ever attempted to open one of those cans of pre-made biscuit dough?  You know the drill — you peel off the paper at the “Peel Here” tab, slowly, carefully, knowing once you pull it back to where it’s sealed, the trigger, there’s no going back: the can will explode and out pops the dough. It can be a bit of an unnerving process. I’ve actually heard of people who have a fear of that impending explosion and choose to not open the cans!  Similarly, we can be afraid to open our ‘can of emotions’ as our brain has a trigger point, too. The Amygdala is located in the temporal lobes and is the part of our brain that is involved with experiencing emotions. Part of the limbic system, its primary role is to process decision-making, memory, and our emotional responses (http://brainmadesimple.com/amygdala.html). An Amygdala hijack is a phrase coined by Daniel Goleman in his book Emotional Intelligence, to describe an overwhelming emotional response that does not match up to the actual stimulus. Fear is usually involved. Looking back on the interaction with my friend, though my angst was understandable, my reaction was over-the-top in comparison to the reality of the situation. I exploded just like that can of biscuits, startling and disturbing both of us in the process. I experienced an Amygdala hijack. Instead of responding with reason, an emotional trigger caused me to, in the moment, experience fear, then determine that the situation was of much greater significance than it actually was.  The result? I said things that weren’t exactly the most beneficial to our relationship.

“He who blows his top loses all his thinking matter.” – Chinese proverb

We all explode from time to time. Losing it is natural, and normal if you will — but not conducive to building healthy relationships.  The good news is that behavioral self-control is something we can grow in, even if we’re pretty bad at it.

A good place to start is to keep an emotional mood journal.  It doesn’t have to be anything fancy — just grab a piece of paper and a pen and/or your cell phone memo pad and start taking note of how you’re feeling in the moment…and why you’re feeling it.  Go ahead and try it — right now, how are you feeling?  Try to be specific with the emotion — especially around the negative ones. Instead of “mad”, maybe you’re frustrated, or disgruntled, or discouraged, or just plain tired.  Alongside the emotion, write down what you think the cause may be.  These ‘whys’ are your hot buttons — your triggers — that place where the seal on the can will burst.

Do this for several days — a week maybe — and look back over your entries to see if you notice any trends. Are certain emotions coming up at a particular time of day (pre-coffee, maybe?).  Are they only when you’re around a certain person? Are they occurring when you feel stress, or a pending deadline, or are they arising when you’re fearful about something? Jot down any patterns you observe.

Once we are aware of the emotions we are feeling, and when we’re feeling them, we then can move to managing our behavior. In week two, write down how you react when you are feeling these emotions. Do you get quiet? Do you say something mouthy? Do you stuff the feeling down deep and distract yourself with something else? Do you eat? Do you get negative and depressed? After noticing your reactions, note whether your reaction is helping the situation or making it worse. Then do a damage report. Access the destruction your actions are causing, on yourself and on your relationships with others. Sometimes, unfortunately, it takes seeing the harm we are doing to spur us to make a different choice.

“Anyone can become angry — that is easy.  But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, and the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way — this is not easy.” — Aristotle

The next step is to begin to look for new and more positive responses to those emotions. Brainstorm what  you could do differently and write these down. Post these somewhere where you can see them throughout the day. If the biscuits would stay fresh, I’d recommend setting a can on your desk as a reminder of how quickly an Amygdala hijack can occur — and how powerful the explosion can be. Maybe just download a picture and keep handy to serve as an admonition. When that old familiar feeling arises, glance at the photo and check your list. Take a breath, pause, and choose the response you want rather than reacting. Easier said than done, I know. Working with a trained social + emotional intelligence coach can help with this process.

“Our ability to pause before we react gives us the space of mind in which we can consider various options and then choose the appropriate ones.” — Daniel Siegel

Finally, once you’re able to respond to these emotions in a more constructive manner, note how you feel after making better choices. With most skill sets, practice makes perfect. Well, in this case, you won’t be perfect, but with practice you can start down the road toward behavior change, improving your mental well-being and making choices that lead to happier, healthier relationships. And maybe take some of the fear out of opening that can.

 

 

Learn to coach emotional intelligence!

DATE: Thursdays, September 13 – November 1, 2018

TIME: 3-4:30 PM (ET)

LOCATION: Online

Event Details

Learn to coach social and emotional intelligence and become certified to administer the Social + Emotional Intelligence Profile (SEIP)®.

By completing the Coach Certification Course, you will earn 12 recertification credits from the ICF, HRCI, or SHRM. This course is conveniently delivered online by webinar, so there’s no need for expensive travel or time out of the office. Classes meet once a week for eight weeks. Each class is an action-packed 90 minutes, highly interactive, with a variety of case studies discussed. Class participants report they learn a great deal from their colleagues in the classes, as well as from their expert instructor.

Our full 8 week class is priced at $1,799 and includes:

  • Our course workbook (”toolkit”) with 200+ pages of worksheets, exercises and other tools you can use to bring social and emotional intelligence training and coaching into your practice
  • Customizable PowerPoint presentation
  • Certification to administer both the self and 360-versions of The Social + Emotional Intelligence Profile-Self (SEIP)®, the most comprehensive, statistically-reliable, scientifically-validated instrument on the market today. This includes the Work, Adult and Youth Editions.
  • 12 recertification credits (ICF, HRCI, or SHRM)
  • 10 free Self-SEIP® credits

Classes are kept small and availability is limited, so register today!

Attendees are expected to attend all 8 sessions, but we record the sessions in case you need to miss a class or two.

 

#emotionalintelligence #socialintelligence #EQ #coachcertification

Free webinar: How to coach emotional intelligence

Free Webinar Thursday, September 6
Time: 4-5 pm Mountain Time (USA), 6-7 pm Eastern time (USA)
CLICK HERE TO REGISTER
This FREE online class (delivered via webinar) is designed to give you an overview of social and emotional intelligence, its history, and its impact on individual lives, relationships, and employee engagement. We’ll show you how coaches are expanding their practice and helping their clients build stronger companies with social and emotional intelligence and how HR reps are bringing social and emotional intelligence into the workplace. It’s a preview look at what you will learn in our online Coach Certification Courses.

The first 20 people who register and attend this online class will receive a FREE Social + Emotional Intelligence Profile®, to begin your own journey down the path of social and emotional intelligence.

– Grow your business; attract more clients
– Stake out a new niche
– Expand your coaching expertise skills and knowledge

“Leaders with higher social & emotional intelligence produce more powerful business results and greater profitability.” –Steven Stein in Emotional Intelligence of Leaders: A Profile of Top Executives, Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 2009

As a coach, leader, or HR rep, you can positively change a person or an organization’s culture by improving their social and emotional intelligence. And the beautiful thing is that social and emotional intelligence can be learned! Through the Institute for Social + Emotional Intelligence (ISEI)®, you will learn how to use and effectively administer the Social + Emotional Intelligence Profile (SEIP)® to help clients:

– Become more aware of their impact on the people around them
– Learn to manage their emotions — anger and frustration — more productively
– Manage conflict more effectively
– Develop people skills (including communication and interpersonal skills)
– Learn techniques to build trust in the organization and its leadership

The desire to inspire

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

My very first boss made me laugh. Hard. As in, sometimes I’d have to leave the room to regain my professional composure because of one of his antics. And not only was he funny, he was a clear communicator, and praised my work with specific encouragement. He complimented me in front of others and took an interest in my personal life.  He and his wife treated me like family. In return, I was more than happy to work long hours, putting in extra effort whenever I could, and even babysat his children on numerous occasions in my free time.

He was an inspiring leader.

And in being so, I was motivated to develop a strong work ethic. We accomplished a lot of great things together. He made work fun and engaging and others were envious of my job.

Are you familiar with the attributes exercise? Take a moment and think of a person who has been an inspiration to you. It could be a mentor, or a teacher, a parent, or a friend…someone who has made an impact in your life. Jot down their name, then list the qualities about them that you admire most.

Now look at the attributes you wrote down.  Do these fall under IQ, intellect quotient, or EQ, emotional quotient?  It’s most likely that the attributes you noted are a competency of the latter, social + emotional intelligence. These competencies– self-awareness, self-management, other awareness, and relationship management — have a powerful impact on us.

One competency of emotional intelligence that has far-reaching effects on others is inspirational leadership.  It’s that ability to mobilize individuals and groups to want to accomplish the goals set before them. It comes in many different shapes and forms, and there are various methods (humor, being one) that feed inspiration. People who are inspiring are able to articulate goals clearly and stimulate enthusiasm for a clear, compelling vision. They have the ability to bring people together and create a sense of belonging. They know how to create  an emotional bond that helps others feel they are part of something larger than themselves.  They are able to invoke a sense of common purpose beyond the day-to-day tasks, making work exciting and something people want to be a part of.  Does this describe you?

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams

Each of us is capable of increasing our ability to inspire others.  But there are some hurdles that can slow us down.  Which of these tends to trip you up?

  • You don’t have a clear vision for the future of your team/organization
  • You lose the big-picture view of the organization and get lost in the weeds
  • You aren’t a good team player
  • You are not passionate about your work or those you work with, thus aren’t able to create a sense of passion in others
  • You too often think your opinion is more important than others’ opinions
  • You tend to think work should be a “one-man-show” … you lead, they follow
  • You … (fill in the blank with your own stumbling block)

What’s great about emotional intelligence is that these competencies can be learned and developed.  If you’d like to become more inspiring as a leader, finding a social + emotional intelligence coach can be an asset.  As well, consider these tips:

  • Figure out what your vision is for your personal life as well as the vision of the organization you work with. Not sure?  Ask yourself, “What am I passionate about?  What is my company passionate about?”
  • Learn to put words to that vision and articulate it in a way that expresses your feelings around the vision.
  • Don’t be afraid to challenge the status-quo.  Be creative; come up with fresh and innovative perspectives.
  • Ask yourself what you admire in a leader (the above attributes exercise will help!) so you can develop your own definition of inspirational leadership.
  • Open up high-level discussions to include your team members and value their input as substantive and valuable.
  • Look for ways to create opportunities for ownership in your vision with your team members.
  • Give specific compliments and don’t hold back praise for work well done. Most people thrive on kind words.
  • Avoid micro-managing, and give capable team and group members latitude to move things forward without needing your stamp of approval on each step of the project.
  • Evaluate if you are living in integrity — do your actions match your values? People are inspired by those who live out their belief systems in their day-to-day activities.
  • Keep it fun.  People like to laugh.  A sense of humor can go a long way in creating an engaging work environment.

Here I am, twenty five years later, and I still remember the gift of inspirational leadership my first boss bestowed upon me. And now, as I lead my own teams, I find myself trying to emulate his style to hopefully inspire those I work with.  Inspirational leadership has far-reaching effects that can carry over to the next generation of employees. Let’s all commit to taking a step forward in this competency this week.

“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” – Henry Adams

4 Disciplines Create “The Advantage” for Growth

Article submitted by Pam Watson Korbel

In my years of consulting, a few common issues arise for small and medium-sized businesses that always inhibit their growth:

  • Infighting among the executive team;
  • Failure to get out of the weeds and take the time to plan for growth;
  • Poor communication cadences leading to problems with culture and productivity;
  • Lack of appreciation for the need for a strong employee base.

One book tightly delves into all these topics – The Advantage (Jossey Bass, 2012) by Patrick Lencioni.   Known as a fable writer, in this book Lencioni focuses instead on the “how to’s” of organizational health.  I recommend it for executive teams in any industry.

Building upon the same premises that Jim Collins (Built to Last and Good to Great) and Verne Harnish (Scaling Up and Mastering the Rockefeller Habits), The Advantage starts out by laying a foundation of four disciplines necessary for strong organizational health:

 1.  Build a cohesive leadership team – Anecdotally, I have found that when members of a leadership team spend a lot of time together, professionally and socially, their growth rate is faster than those who do not.  Interestingly, the personal bonds often spur the commitment to the business more than the professional bonds.  Lencioni espouses team building and makes a strong point that it is a process not an event.

2.  Create clarity – Lencioni lays out six strategic questions that every leadership team needs to answer on behalf of the company.  Beyond answering “why” the firm exists and what the culture is, the Lencioni system provides a framework for setting priorities. 

 Most importantly, it helps a leadership team to focus on less than a handful of matters at a time; completing them before it progresses to a new set of priorities.  In my experience, mid-market companies fail to advance when everything needs to be done today.  I have seen many companies improve revenue and profit just by reducing the number of initiatives for the company and for individuals.

 3.  Overcommunicate clarity – Smart people who lead entrepreneurial growth companies often assume that their employees are as smart and agile as they are.  Generally, the employees who fit this description leave your company and start their own.  Which leaves you with people who want stability and consistency along with understanding of priorities.  And that requires that you develop a strong communication system within your company so that employees always know what is important and then they can execute.

 4.  Reinforce clarity – The Advantage concludes by laying out a foundation of hiring the right employees who fit your culture and then providing high-quality feedback to each so that they are motivated to excel.  Especially in today’s knowledge-based industries, involving staff in decisions and direction keeps them motivated.  And as Ken Blanchard (The One-Minute Manager) says, “None of us is as smart as all of us.”

 The bottom-line is that reading and implementing The Advantage in your company is a simple, direct way to encourage financial growth while engendering a strong team of supporters.  Lencioni lays out a process to address the four disciplines and implement them that leadership teams can manage effectively with coaching.

 You can study this system by reading the book and you should also check out The Advantage app, which includes an overview of the content plus an organizational health assessment. For help with the four disciplines and implementing The Advantage, contact Pam Watson Korbel.

Tune in to today’s discussion: S+EI & Personal Power

Do you or your clients struggle with exercising personal power?

Click here to have a listen to today’s Virtual Coach Coffee as 8 expert social + emotional intelligence coaches engaged in a rich discussion around the topic!

 https://vimeo.com/portfolio/868622/settings/videos

#emotionalintelligence #EQ #coaching #coachcertification #socialintelligence

A jump-start to personal power

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

Personal power is a competency of emotional intelligence, and for some, can be a difficult one to embrace, especially if you’ve had a history of not speaking up.  But it’s never too late to stand up for our values, no matter how inexperienced we are at it.

I sheepishly admit I have never hooked up the cables to jump start a car battery. Whenever mine has died, someone else has done it for me. But there was a young college-aged girl standing by her old, beat up Chrysler at the rest area this morning looking worried so I offered to help.

As we lifted the hood to look for her battery, which surprisingly was not in plain sight, a skinny, greasy-haired man came over and laughed, making a snide comment about girls trying to do things they can’t. I noticed he hooked the first clip to the wrong car…if it matters… I thought it did. I questioned it and he retorted , “You really think you know more than me?” I hushed not because I felt dumb but because I really didn’t want to touch any of the car parts and was glad he was getting his already-dirty fingernails dirtier. But then he looked me up and down and said, “By the looks of you you’ve probably never used a tool in your life.” I bit my tongue, not really seeing how any tools would be involved in this, but when he next made a rude comment about my dress, my pre-coffee-slept-5-hours-in-the-car brain took the wheel and I said, “You’re being rude and derogatory, and you need to stop”. His eyes flashed and he said, “Fine, good luck jumping it yourself”, threw the cables on the ground, and stomped off.

I apologized to the girl for chasing off our only help but said being spoken to that way is not cool. She nodded and said he was making her feel uncomfortable. So we googled the make of her car since she didn’t have a manual and together found the elusive battery ports, hooked it up (switching around the cable he’d put on), and following the online directions, had her car running again in a few minutes. We high fived and I smiled and jokingly said, “We’re rock stars!,” and she agreed.

One small step for man, one giant leap for womankind.

Then we each got in our cars, bonded by our shared success, with a new notch of confidence under our underused tool belts, and headed down the freeway in opposite directions, two solo female travelers making our way home.

Does your personal power need a jolt?

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

I had three people this week ask me to do something that I did not want to do.

A nice person would say yes, right?

But I am a nice person.  And I said no.

It’s not that I couldn’t do it – I could have changed around my schedule, cancelled a few appointments, overscheduled, and put myself into a situation of stress. Saying yes to them would have meant me saying no to things I already had set up and was looking forward to working on. It wasn’t that I couldn’t – I just didn’t want to.

In my people pleasing days, I would have said yes, even if it created a burden on me and others. Like many of us, I was taught to accommodate others first at a young age and was told I should always put the feelings of others before mine. As objectionable as it sounds, I actually attended a college where if a guy asked me on a date, I was expected to accept, whether or not I wanted to go out with him.  Serving others was of highest priority.

The thing is, helping others is a good thing. Having an attitude of service toward others is a competency of emotional intelligence. But so is the competency of personal power.  And there are times that we need to stand up for who we are, for what we believe, for what we want – and that’s OK.

“Saying ‘yes’ to one thing means saying ‘no’ to another.”  — Sean Covey

Does the thought of putting yourself first make you cringe?

Personal power is a sense of self-confidence with an inner knowing that you can live the life you choose. It’s the confidence that you can meet life’s challenges and navigate difficult circumstances, having those tough conversations when needed, and speak your truth.  It’s not about being rude – or hurtful – or careless of others’ feelings. It’s the ability to do all the above in a quiet, sincere, assertive and appropriate manner.

People who have a strong sense of personal power have a calm inner conviction about who they are. They are not afraid to go after the things they want in life. They are able to tell the difference between the things they have control over and the things they do not. They know they can determine the direction their life will take and make efforts to head that way.  They define themselves as capable and can give their convictions a strong voice.

“Remember, NO ONE has the right to control your emotions, thoughts, and actions, unless you let them.”  — Kevin J. Donaldson

For some of you, you’re nodding, recognizing these traits in yourself.  If that’s the case, kudos to you.  Those around you are most likely blessed by your confident leadership and sense of self. It’s a delight to be around someone who believes in themselves and can portray that with a calm, kind spirit. We’re not talking being bossy or demanding, which often indicate someone who is trying too hard to show others they have control.  Someone with personal power doesn’t need to be the center of attention or try to control everything (or everyone!) around them.  They are solid with who they are and how they fit into the world.

But for some, exhibiting personal power can be a struggle. These folks tend to avoid confrontations even if it would lead toward resolution of a problem that’s slowing them down. They have difficulty speaking their mind, for fear of overstepping bounds or being judged, and lack confidence in their own judgement. They avoid challenges, give in easily, question their abilities, and don’t set clear boundaries. They can be labeled as a pushover or a doormat. Often, though they say yes to something, they want to say no, and end up resenting the situation or the people involved. They tend to need approval from others and fear rejection or disapproval if they say no. Is this you?

“It’s better to say no now than be resentful later.” – Chantalle Blikman

If your personal power needs a little jolt — good news!  As with all competencies of emotional intelligence, we’re talking about behavior, and behavior can be changed.  Here are some energizing tips to try if you struggle with personal power:

  • Make a list of your accomplishments. Try to recapture how you felt when you reached your goals.
  • Take note of the things you excel in, whether it be a simple task or a specialized skill set.
  • Listen to see if you put yourself down and take notice in which circumstances you tend to do that.  Next time those situations crop up, make an effort to avoid self-deprecation. If you can’t say something nice about yourself, don’t say anything at all!
  • Examine your boundaries with others. Do you let people take advantage of you?  Do they walk all over you?  This is not about their poor behavior so much that it is about you allowing them to.
  • Let your no mean no and your yes mean yes. If you do not want to do something, practice saying, “No thank you”, “I ‘m not available”, or “No, I don’t want to.”  And you don’t need to make up an excuse as to why!
  • Did you mess up on something that is gnawing at your confidence? Congratulations, you’re human!  Admit your faults then let your failures go, learn from them, and move on.
  • If you don’t know something – no need to feel shame — own it and learn to say, “I don’t know…but I’ll find out.”  If it’s something you’re not comfortable with not knowing – get out there and research the answers.
  • Can’t control a situation? Hooray! You won’t believe how wonderful it is to let go of things (and people) you can’t control. Try it, you’ll like it.
  • Journal about your best self. Dream a little dream and write down how you’d envision yourself as if you were living out that dream.
  • Learn to speak loudly and clearly so others can understand you on the first try. The simple task of having to repeat yourself too many times can tug at your confidence.
  • Consider reading a book or taking a course on assertiveness.
  • Team up with a social + emotional intelligence coach to help you make shifts toward increased personal power.

Sometimes it’s helpful to take a step back and look at yourself in third person. It is hard to see a friend not stand up for themselves and allow themselves to be walked all over. Think of yourself as a friend and treat yourself with dignity, respect, and honor as you learn to stand tall and live out your life as you desire. It’s OK to put yourself first sometimes, especially when not doing so threatens your confidence, health, and mental well-being. Practice saying no when appropriate and release the guilt that can accompany not always putting others’ needs first.

We need people who will stand up for what they believe in, speak up for themselves, and act in a courageous way according to their values. It means living in integrity and is vital to strong leadership — and this world needs good leadership! Exercising personal power gives others something to follow. Always giving in to others, especially when it’s in conflict with your values will not benefit anyone. If you’re not used to standing up for yourself, this will be difficult – I get it – a lifetime of patterns can be hard to break.  But behavior can be changed. Isn’t it high time to learn to embrace and use your personal power?

“You have a lot more power than you are giving yourself credit for.  Please embrace it.”  — Queen Tourmaline

Are you a realistic optimist?

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

If you admit to being over 40, you probably remember the movie Pollyanna, the story about a little girl who saw everything through rose-colored glasses. The phrase “You’re being Pollyannish” was coined to describe someone who naively sees only the positive side of a situation. You know those kind of people. The ones who are always smiling. The ones who always have a cheerful word, no matter what’s going on around them. The ones who never have a bad thing to say about another, and always walk with a bounce in their step. You know, the ones who are, well, annoying.

It’s as if the frustrating, negative, painful aspects of life can’t touch them. They only feel the ups of the ups and downs, the highs of the highs and lows. I don’t understand them. I once walked into a retail store on my lunch hour, brooding about a previous incident at the office that rubbed me the wrong way, and was greeted by an enthusiastic attendant who, stepping a little too close into my space, chirped a cheery “It’s a great day — how can I help you?” with a smile so sincere that I felt a stab of pain in aversion to the overflowing joy. I turned around and walked out. If I’m in a mood, I can hardly make eye contact with these eternal optimists, for fear their wide-eyed brightness will rub off on my foul state of mind…one that I’m happily relishing in the moment. Especially if I haven’t yet had my morning coffee.

There’s a reason Pollyannish optimists get under our skin. It’s one thing to be optimistic, and it’s another thing to be realistically optimistic. Optimists of the naive sort tends to gloss over the negative aspects of life and lacks experience and wisdom. Without these it becomes difficult to respect them or trust their reliability. They are hard to relate to and we tend to close up and not want to enter an authentic relationship with them because they just don’t get it. Realistic optimism, on the other hand, is the ability to expect success rather than failure, see opportunities instead of threats, and expecting the future to bring positive change, in light of negative circumstances. Realistic optimists know how to make others feel accepted by showing they understand that life can be tough — but they don’t let the tough times take them down. It’s not that realistic optimists don’t see the downside of situations; they’re just able to look ahead with confidence that things are going to turn out all right. Realistic optimism is a competency of emotional intelligence and is a far cry from being Pollyannish.

“If we define optimism broadly as the tendency to maintain a positive outlook, then realistic optimism is the tendency to maintain a positive outlook within the constraints of the available “measurable phenomena situated in the physical and social world” — Sandra L. Schneider

People who possess this valuable skill are able to think clearly and stay focused when under pressure, restrain negative responses that will cause the situation to deteriorate, and manage impulsive feelings even in trying moments. In effect, they can adjust their emotional responses to fit the situation at hand. Without this competency, we tend to react impulsively, are quick to anger, can be defensive, and may become agitated, depressed or sullen when faced with stress on the job or at home.

Wondering which you are? Here are 5 traits of a realistic optimist:

  • ·        You view negative circumstances as surmountable
  • ·        You perceive setbacks as a challenge rather than a sign of defeat
  • ·        You operate from a mindset of taking action vs. inaction from fear of failure
  • ·        You recognize that unpleasant events are temporary
  • ·        You temper negative self-talk with a knowing that you will succeed

Exercising realistic optimism can great affect your productivity and ability to enjoy your daily work. Realistic optimism is not a personality trait but a learned behavior that can be developed. One way to increase this competency is to practice gratitude. A study was done by psychologists Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough on the impact gratitude has on our well-being. They put people into three groups — one group with instructions to simply keep a daily journal, no specifications as to content. The second group was to only record negative experiences, and the third to make a list of things they were thankful for. The results? Those who daily expressed their gratitude experienced less stress and depression and had higher levels of enthusiasm, energy, and determination, concluding that those in the third group were more likely to make progress toward the achievement of personal goals and exhibit an optimistic view of life.

“To say we feel grateful is not to say that everything in our lives is necessarily great. It just means we are aware of our blessings.” — Robert Emmons

If you struggle with an outlook of realistic optimism, try tuning into your self-talk about the adversities in your life. Take notes on the how you hear yourself describing your setbacks–and your responses to them. Dispute the negative beliefs and look for evidence of successes, avoiding phrases like “this always happens to me” or “I’ll always fail at this”.  A great resource for developing realistic optimism is Martin Seligman’s book, Learned Optimism.

An optimist, in the words of the late Walter Winchell, an American newspaper and radio commentator, is “…a man who gets treed by a lion but enjoys the scenery.”

How’s the scenery from your tree?

4 Ways to Increase your Integrity

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

I tried to lie once.

It was winter in Colorado, when outdoor fun is a way of life as the snow envelopes the mountains. Funds were tight but I’d determined to take my three small children skiing. I’d collected ski gear at various thrift stores and concluded I could offer them this amazing experience on a frugal budget. Bundled up in their mix-and-match ski wear, they could hardly contain their excitement as we headed out of the city on our adventure.

I waited in line at the ticket window to purchase our lift tickets and noticed a sign that read “Children under the age of 5 ski free”.  Free–that word caught my attention like the burst of icy wind that hit our faces at 9,000 feet elevation. My older two were well over that age — but my youngest had just turned six years old a couple of weeks ago.  Immediately my brain went into scheming mode.  “I could tell them she’s five.  She just turned six, so it won’t matter. She’s small for her age anyway…I could get away with this — and save $55!”  So, when my turn came up, I asked for our three tickets and, patting my little one on the head, said “This one’s free.”  The attendant smugly looked at me and asked, “What’s her birth date?”  I flushed and panicked.  Do I add a year or take away one to her actual birth year? Subtract, yes. I quickly blurted out an answer and he grinned smugly, and said, “Yeah…that would make her seven.”

I was caught red-handed.  I paid the full price for her and walked away in embarrassment, not wanting to make eye contact with my three children looking at me with their innocent eyes wondering why mom had flat-out lied. How do you explain to kids that I was trying to get around the system? That I wanted to bend the rules for my benefit? That I wanted to pay less that others needed to pay by not telling the truth?  I avoided the situation and distracted them by heading to the ski lift lines.  Later that day, caught up in my guilt, I decided that lying about her age just wasn’t worth it.

It’s a silly story, I know, but one that made an impact on me.  It is so easy to be dishonest in the little things.  It’s not a big deal, right?  Or is it?

Integrity is the ability to maintain high standards of honesty and ethics at all times, even when no one else is watching. Those who have high integrity do what is right, even if it’s not personally rewarding.  They build trust in others through their reliability.  They are authentic.  They’re not afraid to admit their mistakes and confront unethical actions of others. They can take the ethical stance despite its unpopularity. They keep their word, give accurate reports, and treat all people with the same level of respect.

Think of the people in your life — how many of them can you say live in integrity in their personal lives? It’s a tall order to fill and not many are able to pull it off. Far too often, their own self-interests take precedence over doing what is right…especially if they think no one is watching.

The workplace is susceptible to a lack of integrity as well.  How many coworkers have you heard make it sound like they did most of the work on a project when you know you did?  Or fudge just a bit on recording work hours? Or spend a little too much time on social media during work time? How does that make you feel when you are working hard?  And we all love those who brag to a coworker about their depth of connection with the boss, when we know it’s just not true, right? Those who are dishonest in the little things can be annoying.  But are there greater consequences?

A study done in 2000 titled Human Communication Research (Kim B. Serota, Timothy R. Levine, Franklin J. Boster), showed that:

1-The average person tells 1.65 lies a day. Sounds low? It’s possible some participants lied about the extent of their lies!

2-40.1% admitted to telling a lie in the past 24 hours

3-22.7% of the lies told were committed by one percent of participants

Do these figures surprise you? If you asked yourself how many times you stretch the truth in a day, and in the last 24 hours, how would you answer?

Those who are low in integrity tend to be impulsive, thinking only of the ‘now’ vs. long-term outcomes.  Most often they haven’t taken the time to sort out what their belief systems are and what values they hold as important. Those with low integrity tend to show little independent thought and are easily influenced by others, often caving to peer pressure.

“The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.” –Dwight D. Eisenhower

If we continually act with our own interests in mind, especially if our choices are wrong, others will not be able to trust us.  And trust is key to effective leadership.  In an article by Michael Ray Hopkin in 2012, he says:  To succeed as a manager you must live with integrity. It’s crucial for managers to build trust with the teams they work with and depend on. Trust grows through meaningful interaction with your teams and consistent application of proven principles. Developing trust and leading with integrity will increase the confidence others have in your work. When engineers, salespeople, marketers and others have confidence in their product managers, they will do amazing work. (https://leadonpurposeblog.com/2012/01/21/leadership-and-integrity/)

But living without integrity can also harm ourselves. You know how it works.  You lie, then need to cover up the lie, then need to make sure you tell the story the same way if it ever resurfaces, all the time worrying if you will be found out.  The stress and angst that comes from covering up the truth can be agonizing, and keep you up at night, eroding self-confidence and assurance.

“The truly scary thing about undiscovered lies is that they have a greater capacity to diminish us than exposed ones. They erode our strength, our self-esteem, our very foundation.” –Cheryl Hughes

Those who aren’t able to act with integrity need not be stereotyped as a “bad”. Integrity is a competency of emotional intelligence and is a behavior which can be learned. Consider completing an integrity inventory, to see how you’re doing (Contact us for a free inventory). If you would like to grow in integrity, consider engaging a social + emotional intelligence coach to walk alongside you to help you  begin to make behavior shifts.   In the meantime, try  these developmental tips:

  • Establish a clear picture of what your values are.  Know what you stand for — what you believe, what you’d fight for, what will stand the test of time.  Jot down fifteen values that are most important to you and prioritize them. Post these somewhere where you’ll see them often.
  • Ask yourself this question: Is my behavior consistent with these values?  Going back to your list, circle the ones that you’ve lived out this week. Journal about the circumstances in which you acted according to your values- and notice the situations where you tend to shy away from your values.  Is there a pattern?
  • Consider the consequences of living in dishonesty. What effects does your lack of integrity have on your mental well-being?  on your physical well-being?  on others?
  • Envision what your life would look like if you incorporated more integrity. What specific circumstances would be affected and how?

“Living with integrity means: Not settling for less than what you know you deserve in your relationships. Asking for what you want and need from others. Speaking your truth, even though it might create conflict or tension. Behaving in ways that are in harmony with your personal values. Making choices based on what you believe, and not what others believe.” –Barbara De Angelis

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