Archive for the ‘Other Awareness’ Category

What the world needs now

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

“What the World Needs Now Is Love” was a song recorded in 1965, made popular by Jackie DeShannon. The chorus lyrics are as follows:

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love,
No not just for some but for everyone.

While there is no doubt in my mind that this world could use more love, I would like to propose one minor change to the words:

What the world needs now is emotional intelligence, sweet emotional intelligence,
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is emotional intelligence, sweet emotional intelligence,
No not just for some but for everyone.

Of course, it doesn’t have the same ring and flow of the original, but with reports of yet another mass shooting, and violence of varying degrees from domestic fights to conflicts at the international level, can anyone disagree that this world could benefit from a little more emotional intelligence? Imagine a world where we all could be aware of our how we’re feeling, whether negative or positive, and respond accordingly, managing our own behavior to have a positive impact on others? And add to that the ability to read how others are feeling, in the moment, and manage those relationships appropriately, improving competencies like communication, empathy, conflict management, teamwork & collaboration, just to name a few.  Can you dream with us about what a different world this could be?

Those of you who have been trained in emotional intelligence coaching are out there helping others realize that behaviors, especially negative ones, CAN be changed, and that we can ‘grow up’ in our social + emotional intelligence (S+EI). I have no doubt that you are making a positive impact on the clients, teams, and organizations you are working with to make this world a better place. We thank you and applaud you for your dedicated efforts to this cause.

But it’s not enough. As the lyrics of the song confirm, it’s not enough for just a few to possess emotional intelligence. It’s not just for some…it’s for everyone.

Help us spread awareness of the importance of S+EI and the positive impact it can have on our lives so everyone can benefit from it. Tell your friends and colleagues about it, share the articles we post on social media, and encourage those you know to start doing the work needed to change poor behaviors and raise our levels of S+EI. Present a workshop about it to your local Chamber of Commerce or Rotary Club. Write a blog about it. Talk about it with friends over dinner. Teach your children about it. Offer to give a talk at a local school. Take an assessment with your spouse and work with a coach to improve your relationship. Share one of Daniel Goleman’s books written about it with a coworker. Recommend S+EI coach training to other coaches you know, or if you haven’t already, consider taking it yourself. Have a trained professional come in and speak on it at your next company luncheon. The more of us who are actively involved in raising the awareness levels around S+EI, the more people can be aware of their own and others’ emotions, the more people who can start doing the work to manage behavior to create healthier, happier lives.

Sound too heavy? Maybe so. But we at the Institute happen to be big fans of social + emotional intelligence and place great importance on its relevance and impact upon our world. And the more people that can help with this the better. Contact us with questions or to learn more about how you can measure your own S+EI, or about becoming a certified S+EI coach, and join in a cause that can make a difference.

No, not just for some, oh, but just for everyone…

Who’s the problem?

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

Think of all the negative issues that can arise in a typical workplace.  A peer takes credit for your work. Your manager has an over-inflated ego. Your subordinates don’t work as hard as you. Your boss can’t control his temper.  A colleague drops the ball.  A customer backs out of a contract. No one notices when you go above and beyond.  You don’t get enough vacation time. You’re underpaid, overworked, and understaffed…to name a few. If you’re like most of us, you’re quick to point the finger at the culprit, and most often that finger is pointing away. But what if you — we — are the source of our frustrations?

“Think about how different your work environment would look if everyone understood and embraced ultimate responsibility.” — David Naylor, EVP of 2logical

Emotional intelligence is the ability to be aware of our own emotions and those of others, in the moment, and manage our behavior appropriately. It’s not about getting others to behave better.  It’s about learning how to  recognize our emotions and manage OUR OWN actions in a way that most benefits the situation at hand.  But how often do you see people focusing on their own behavior?  It’s so much easier to bad mouth or lay the blame on those around us when things aren’t going so well.

In this terrific article by David Naylor below, we’re called to view our conflict in life with a different lens. Have a read!

https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2017/05/17/if-theres-a-problem-youre-the-problem/#5f182eff668b

7 ways to make others avoid you at networking events

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

You know the drill. You don your best business attire, turn on your extroverted switch, write your name and company on the name tag with bold letters, then stride in with your head held high offering a firm but not-too-firm handshake, fully expecting the others to notice your confidence and professionalism as you enter the room. Despite your careful preparations, though, be ready: Most won’t. (Find out why in #3 below).

If you’ve ever attended a professional networking event, either by choice or because your company sends you, you can’t deny that though you claim you’re there to ‘just meet new people’, secretly you hope to come away with a few business leads. I mean, that’s the whole point. Establishing new business connections is a tried and true way to promote your business to people that your current marketing strategies may not be reaching. And while some people are great at networking with others, some, well, just aren’t, and those that aren’t are often the reason you find yourself glancing at the clock once too often and looking for the first opportunity to dash out the door to freedom (once you’ve used up your two free drink tickets of course).

The ability to connect with others, demonstrating compassion, sensitivity, and a true interest in their interests, is a rare skill and a valuable component of emotional intelligence. Those that are good at it can put others at ease, build rapport, and seem to attract new friends/contacts/clients without much effort. Truth is, they have most likely put a lot of effort into becoming more self-aware and ‘other-aware’ — tuning into the wants, needs, and desires of the person across from them and responding accordingly. Those that lack interpersonal effectiveness tend to come across as selfish, arrogant, or a little ‘rough on the edges.’ Have you ever met any of the latter at a networking event?

Here are 7 ways you can make others want to avoid you at your next networking venue:

  1. Tell others how great your company/product is before they ask. As soon as the introductions are over, be the first one to start talking about how great your company and products are and how everyone within earshot desperately needs what you sell/do, before you’ve even assessed if those in the conversation are interested or not. Be sure to use the phrase “you should” often.
  2. Don’t look people in the eyes while you’re talking. Be sure to look ‘out there’ as you talk, as if your inspiration is coming from some far-away land of enchantment. If you look people in the eyes, you might notice they aren’t listening and you’d have to adjust…yikes! In fact, just avoid eye contact in all circumstances.
  3. Don’t ask questions. A great way to make people want to avoid you is to only talk about yourself and your company, and never ask them questions about theirs. Remember, what you have to say is far more important than what they possibly could come up with, and this event is all about marketing yourself, right? If you express a genuine interest in them, they might start telling you about what they do, and you don’t want that!
  4. When others begin to share, don’t pay attention. Get out your phone, send a quick text, glance at those around you, check out the attractive person by the food table, and by all means be thinking about what you’re going to say next. Don’t nod as they speak and never, ever ask them for more details so you can better understand what they do. If it seems like they’re going to talk for more than 5 minutes, excuse yourself to go get that second drink.
  5. Bore them with details. It’s best you dive quickly and deeply into the intricate details of how your company was formed, why it was formed, the levels of training you’ve received, how many clients you have and the names of all of your branch office locations. Use a lot of acronyms. Tell them about the day when your wifi crashed and how you had to call the IT team and work with them for hours on the phone to get things resolved, making sure to share the ins and outs of the support call. Don’t check in during your stories to see if people are interested and/or listening. Just keep talking! Remember everyone in your conversation circle came to the event just to hear about you. A good rule of thumb: Talk for 20+ minutes at a time without pausing or allowing others to chime in.
  6. Brag! Tell others about every accomplishment for which you’ve been awarded, how far-reaching your clientele base is, how many times you’ve been published in the newspaper and featured on the local news. Tell them how your product is far better than anything your competitors produce be sure to throw out little masked insults toward other companies so they know that yours is superior
  7. Only talk about your work. Don’t try to get to know people on a personal level first and don’t share any personal details about who you are (vs. what you do). If you ask about their families, or what they do in their spare time, or if they love what they do, or if they are currently struggling through any personal issues, you might start to connect with them on a human level. And don’t try to find things outside of work that you have in common, whether it be a shared interest in a sport, or a musical group, or a favorite vacation destination. Remember that connecting to people on a personal level might require a relationship rather than just being able to hand them your business card and be done with them.

A lack of self-awareness and other awareness can go a long way — at least make people go a long way — away from you! Approaching your next networking event as an opportunity to truly get to know others instead of it being all about you may be a good place to start. Tune in next time to how you’re coming across and if possible, start making some shifts toward a more emotionally-intelligent approach for more successful business connections.

“Treat each event you attend and each person that you meet as if it were an appointment with your one of your best clients — even if you are meeting that person for the very first time.” –Timothy M. Houston

Taking Leadership To Heart – Success Stories

Article contributed by guest author Dawn Cook.

From Dawn’s blog at DaybreakEQ.com…

This month’s featured leader in the Taking Leadership to Heart series is Eric Adams, Senior Manager -Business Operations for Verizon Wireless.  As we look at his leadership style, you will see there are some commonalities with the others leaders who employ emotional intelligence – the first of which is transparency.  When I asked Eric about emotional intelligence, this was his response.

I haven’t always had emotional intelligence.  For example, when I moved to the south, I discovered people talk more slowly here.  I was impatient and anxious for them to get to the point.  I would interrupt and look at my phone with impatience.  Then I took an emotional intelligence class and had an aha moment. I quickly realized that was not the way to do business here and that I needed to listen with an open mind.  You must also assume the other person is not going to change which means you must adapt.  I also cue into others’ nonverbals and tone.  Body language tells you a lot.  It helps you recognize others emotions.

Adaptability is a key emotional intelligence skill and without it we become irrelevant (think ‘Who Moved My Cheese’) or at the very least we appear obstinate.  Adapting your style to the environment means using your social awareness to recognize you aren’t connecting the dots, using your selfawareness to see how you are missing the target, and using your selfmanagement to make the necessary adjustments.  Instead of letting your ego or pride rule your actions, you make full use of your brain.

Listening without judgment is part of empathetic listening – also a critical emotional intelligence skill.  So often we are driven to jump to judgment so we can apply a quick solution.  Unfortunately, that solution may solve the wrong issue, or worse yet, create a new issue.  To really be present and listen without judging requires selfawareness and selfmanagement.  We must recognize that we are making a judgment before we can suspend it.  And we have to wrestle with the emotions that support our need to be right over our desire to listen with an open mind.

Eric initiated a Behavior-Based Document which outlines how he expects his team to behave.  For example, think before you respond is a requirement for communication style, as is walking away instead of engaging in destructive conversation. This is classic impulse management and so valuable.  Taking even a moment to pause and think before reacting to a trigger enables you to get a grip on the emotion that is tempting you to react.  In that moment, you can coax your logical brain to re-engage and overrule your emotional brain which is trying to take over.  And walking away is a great strategy because it gives your emotional brain time to settle down and allows the logical brain to come back online.

Neuroscience has proven time and time again that emotions drive behavior which drives performance.  Plus, it’s well documented that an employee who feels valued is more engaged and productive than one who is not.  Eric capitalizes on these facts by making recognition a cornerstone of his leadership.  He implemented a program where he sends an email to all his customers with an organizational chart and asks them for input on his team.  He then uses that feedback as the basis for rewarding team members who are performing well.  The especially cool part of this program is that the team member who wins gets to see exactly what customers say about them – and all their colleagues see it as well.  Not only does it create a sense of pride for the winner, but a sense of appreciation from customers and colleagues as well.

Effectively managing relationship landmines is a skill most of us aspire to have, but few people do.  Eric is one of those few.  Last year Eric was promoted to a leadership position in IT over one of his peers who was up for the role.  More interesting is the fact that Eric did not have a background in IT and his peer did.  This was a delicate situation, one ripe with the possibility for animosity.  Eric’s approach was to address it head on and be transparent.  He acknowledged his peer may have some reticence or even resentment to working for Eric and assured him he understood that.  He also impressed upon his peer (now direct report) that he was there to support him, learn from him, and help him succeed.  Eric worked to help restore that team member’s confidence and he was eventually elevated back to a lead role at a similar level.

Turnover is typically an easy way to measure employee engagement, a standard success metric for many organizations.   Eric has had zero turnover on his team from people leaving because of his leadership.  However, Verizon did have a reduction in force and reorganization which resulted in losing 30% of his staff due to layoffs and promotions.  The motto was ‘do more with less’.  Eric knew it was critically important to keep a close eye on his team members to see how they were feeling.  His efforts to continually check in with them and show genuine concern about their well-being resulted in the team rallying and keeping production relatively the same.  That’s no small task!

Here is an example of how Eric builds loyalty and keeps turnover down.  A team member worked until 9 pm a few nights putting out fires.  When he learned this, he told her to go home, work from home the next day for a couple of hours and take the afternoon off so she could enjoy a long weekend.  With that gesture, Eric made it very clear to her that he cared about her as a person, not just as an employee.

Eric doesn’t just check in with his team when there are challenges; he believes that day to day conversations like ‘how was your weekend’ are the key to building a good team.  Maintaining high visibility and high accessibility are two more cornerstones of his leadership.  His door is always open and he is constantly texting, calling or IMing his people to see how they are. He serves as a sounding board.  It’s not about micromanaging either.  Eric trusts his team to do the job.  He believes in empowering them and is hands off until he needs to be hands on.  In return, they trust him completely.

His direct reports will tell you that Eric is big on personal development for his team.  He brings in guest speakers on topics like emotional intelligence and personality styles and he encourages continuing education for self-improvement.  They also feel like he supports them.  One person shared this example.

Not long after I started reporting to Eric, I was called out by the Region Vice President (Eric’s boss) for an issue in a store.  The RVP was so angry that he questioned whether it was the right move to put me in the role.  The conversation was completely demoralizing.  I went to Eric and asked him to reassure the RVP I was competent.  Eric was calm and collected as he listened to my story and said, “I did my research on this team before I took this job; no doubt you are competent.  I will call him and share responsibility for this.”  I knew in that moment that he had my back.

For fifteen years, Eric has been making a difference at Verizon Wireless.  Starting in a store and working his way up the ladder has given him great empathy for what it takes to be successful in the various roles.  Undoubtedly it has paid off for him as he continues to be promoted year after year.   His emotionally intelligent leadership is serving both him and the organization well.

Do you know a leader who uses emotional intelligence?  Drop me an email at Dawn@DayBreakEQ.com and we will get them featured in this series.

How To Be Assertive Without Being Rude

Article contributed by guest author John Drury.

Have you ever walked away from a situation where you wanted to say something straight to someone but decided against because you did not know how to be assertive without appearing rude?

Just this week I have become aware of several work situations where this has happened. The awkward conversation has been avoided, again, for fear of causing some kind of offence.  Instead of being assertive and talking through an important relationship issue the whole thing was left unsaid with one party feeling frustrated and the other largely unaware.

Consider this: two sales team members who are bringing in 80% of the income into a small business and both have grievances with the owner that could impact severely on their future in the business. Expectations about incentives for their future employment have been left unclear for months. They are both hard working people who do not like to cause a fuss. However, both of them are becoming more frustrated and disillusioned every day.

I have seen ridiculous situations develop in workplaces because of the fear of being assertive. Such as: a position being made redundant because a boss did not know how to have a difficult discussion with an employee who was not performing; a person resigning from a job they enjoyed just because they were unable to discuss an issue with their supervisor; and a company changing suppliers because of a misunderstanding with a new salesperson. All of these could have been resolved with a simple conversation. Avoidance was perceived easier than risking conflict.

5 Keys to being assertive without being rude

  1. Get your emotions under control – It is important that you deal with yourself first. If you are too nervous or upset you may be afraid that you will say something you regret. If you follow the steps below it will give you a process to follow that will take much of the emotion out of things for you.
  2. Have a clear objective – Clarify in your own mind what it is you want to speak about. Know what it is you want as the outcome of the conversation. E.g. the sales people from the above example want to clarify their incentive agreement with their employer and ensure that verbal promises have a time frame for implementation.
  3. Frame the conversation clearly – The best way to ensure a person takes you seriously and listens is to ask if you could have 5 – 10 minutes to speak to them to clarify something. Make it clear what the conversation is about. Stick to the issue you raise. Have a clarification mindset rather than a confrontation mindset. Aim for an outcome that works for both of you.
  4. Be respectful – As the instigator you are leading the conversation. Be assertive, but stay respectful and clear headed, and you will stay in your power. Do not ever make personal remarks. Hold any anger. Have an expectation that things can be worked out. However, consider what your non-negotiables are and do not allow yourself to be talked into something to which you cannot agree.
  5. Summarise to conclude –  Say, the following. “Thank you for discussing (insert issue) with me today. I understand we have agreed (insert agreement). Do you agree? Is there anything you would like to add?” If there are any remaining differences at the end of 10 – 15 minutes say, “I want to respect our agreement around time. I understand there are still some differences (summarise any unresolved differences). Do you agree? What do you suggest we do from here?”

The reason why conflict escalates and arguments develop is usually because people wait too long to speak about things. They have a few unspoken small issues bubbling away under the surface. They are waiting for an ideal time to talk to the appropriate person. Trouble is the ideal time rarely comes. Rather, something happens that causes them to snap and suddenly words are spoken with an emotional force that confuses and complicates the real issue.

I have discovered that unresolved relationship problems tend to grow larger. They are always easier to resolve early on. Don’t wait and allow them to become larger and more complicated.

If you follow this simple process you are being assertive. You are taking the initiative. You are far more likely to resolve awkward issues quickly and cleanly without being rude.

The result – healthier functioning relationships.

L-O-V-E: How to make it last

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

L, is for the way you look, at me
O, is for the only one, I see
V, is very very, extraordinary, and
E, is even more than anyone that you adore…

Most likely you’re familiar with the jaunty 1965 Nat King Cole song. It’s been the theme music in romantic comedies and played on radio stations for generations. It so very well describes the giddy, elevated feeling we experience when falling in love. Whether it be in a romantic relationship, a business partnership, a friendship, a new work team, or a new job — the sparkling freshness at the beginning of a relationship can send you down the hallways dancing and humming. But it’s not long after the wear and tear of life sets in that those feelings can quickly turn to disillusion and discouragement.  We’ve all experienced it. What starts out as the opportunity of a lifetime turns into the ball and chain around our necks, similar to how that new car smell is so quickly replaced by the odorous aroma of abandoned fast food wrappers left lying on the floor. Falling in love doesn’t seem to be the issue. Staying in love is another story.

How do we prevent the adversities of life from ruining our relationships? Jack Canfield, an American author and motivational speaker, says this:

“Successful people maintain a positive focus in life no matter what is going on around them. They stay focused on their past successes rather than their past failures, and on the next action steps they need to take to get them closer to the fulfillment of their goals rather than all the other distractions that life presents to them.” 

Research shows that people who are able to maintain a positive mindset have better relationships. Robert Ackerman, researcher at the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences (University of Texas), worked with middle school students to assess how well they resolved conflict with their parents, and videotaped the subjects for over 17 years. With nearly 20 years of data at his fingertips, he discovered that kids who grew up with loving, supporting parents, exercising positive communication and warmth, were more likely to experience adult romantic relationships that were positive.* To quote Ackerman:

“I think that studying more positive behaviors is important because it may shed more insight on how to better enhance romantic relationships.” 

How is your positivity–or lack of–affecting your relationships?  If you struggle with letting negativity get a hold of you when life gets tough, here are a few things you could being to look at:

  • What are your core beliefs about adversity?  Do you see it as fate or something you can control?  Do you see suffering as part of being human or a result of particular actions?  Do you see setbacks as having long-term effects or are they short-lived?
  • Start listening to your self-talk when adversity strikes. Do you tend to go to an “I can do this” place or a “I’m doomed” place?
  • Ask an honest question:  is there anything about the drama that accompanies adversity that you enjoy?
  • Can you look back on past adversity and see that you overcame the obstacle and moved on, or are you still experiencing negative effects from that event to this day?

We all know it’s not about having a happy, trouble-free life that brings joy. It’s more about our ability to roll with the punches (resiliency) and allow the event(s) to shape us into better human beings. Kahlil Gibran, a Lebanese-American artist and poet, put it this way:

The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain. Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven? And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives? When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy. When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see in truth that you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”

Finding a life coach to work with you to combat negative tendencies can be a good first step of heading down the road of positivity, which can lead to healthier, happier relationships.  Though it doesn’t happen overnight, behavior can be changed, and with some help you can begin to shift your focus from the negative to the positive.

Two in love can make it
Take my heart and please don’t break it
Love was made for me and you
Love was made for me and you
Love was made for me and you.

  • (2013. Study finds good marriages more likely for teens of happy homes. University of Texas at Dallas News Center (n.d.): n. pag. Web. http://www.utdallas.edu/news/2013/3/21-22501_Study-Finds-Good-Marriages-More-Likely-for-Teens-o_article-wide.html?WT.mc_id=NewsHomePage).

Do you know when you’re getting in your own way?

stuckArticle contributed by guest author Dawn Cook.

Self awareness is a beautiful thing.  However, the challenge to acknowledge you need to increase self awareness is daunting. Most of us go along our merry way without giving thought to how we may be getting in our own way with limiting beliefs, unconscious fears or simply a lack of emotional intelligence.  How do we even begin to check in with ourselves and look for opportunities to grow?

Probably the easiest way is recognize it in others.  It’s much safer and less threatening to observe someone else’s self sabotaging behavior than to look in the mirror.  So let’s take a look at a few examples to sharpen your focus.

Joan is complimented by her client on her performance in completing a project.  Instead of accepting the compliment, she rejects it by saying it was really not a big deal.  The client makes another attempt to praise her work but she passes it off as ‘no biggie.’  The client begins to wonder if the cost of the project is commensurate with the effort required.  As they discuss her next engagement with them, the client negotiates hard for a lower price – much to Joan’s dismay.  She’s appalled that they seem to undervalue her work.

Tony emailed a colleague this morning with a request for information on a critical project.  As of this afternoon, he has still not heard back.  He proceeds to call his colleague and leave a voice mail, insisting he get the information ASAP. As the minutes roll by, Tony begins to wonder if his colleague is intentionally dogging him.  That notion angers him even more and he finds he cannot stay focused on his work because he is so agitated.

Kathryn calls to schedule a company dinner meeting at a restaurant they’ve used many times in the past.  The restaurant manager informs her that, due to the holidays, they need confirmation of the number of guests to secure the reservation for a private room.  Kathryn indicated she would not know the actual number until three days before the dinner.  The manager reiterates their requirement and Kathryn triggers.  In haste, she tells the manager she will find another restaurant.  However, at this late date, she will be hard pressed to do so.

In each of these situations, the individual was unaware how their deficit in emotional intelligence affected their reactions.  Joan lacks the self esteem to accept that she had done great work; Tony lacks empathy to understand his colleague has his own challenging time table, and Kathryn lacks impulse control to reason out a better solution in the moment.  They all got in their own way yet each of them places blame elsewhere.

The common denominator in these scenarios is the need to look within at your contribution when life throws you a curve ball. Certainly you don’t cause every bump in the road of life, but a few may have your hand print in them.  Your next step in the self awareness journey?   Simply ask yourself, “How may I have contributed to this?” and “How would my best version of myself do things differently in the future?”  If you answer honestly, you just might be amazed at how quickly you stop getting in your own way.

Thank you for reading.  Make it an EQ day!

The gift that everyone needs

holiday4

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

In many countries, this time of the year is marked by the telltale signs of people scurrying around from store to store trying to find the perfect gift for friends, family, and loved ones. And while we may fuss that this holiday season has become too commercialized, most will admit that it feels really good to give, especially when we’ve chosen a gift that is well received! Seeing the delight on someone’s face as they unwrap a present they like can warm our hearts on any cold, winter day.

But there’s a gift that many of us possess, yet, often unbeknown to us, withhold it. We’ll spend our hard-earned paychecks on new toys or colorful housewares or the latest electronic gadget for those we love, and even at times for strangers, but this particular gift is a little more difficult to part with. It doesn’t come wrapped in brown paper packages tied up with bows, and you won’t find it online or at your neighborhood retail store. Yet, it is a gift that each of us wants — and needs.

I don’t like conflict.  Not many of us do.  Whether it be with family at home, or colleagues at the office, or with strangers on our daily commute, conflict with other human beings can leave us feeling used up, empty, and numb–the very opposite of what we’re ‘supposed’ to feel this time of year. The holidays are a time for peace.  But we all know how difficult relations with each other can be at times.  How much peace are you feeling at the moment with those you interact with?  And more importantly, how much peace are you giving at the moment to those in your life?

When my kids’ dad and I divorced years ago, I can’t exactly say we were feeling the love, joy and peace of the season in our household those first few winters. There was arguing. Crying. Yelling. Disenchantment. The ending of family as we knew it left raw wounds, which would at times begin to heal over, until a word or action ripped open the flesh once again with new hurt and pain. I was angry, he was angry–we were angry.  The kids got their presents: princess dresses, Batman masks, bicycles, movies, gifts laced with all the trimmings of the holidays, yet the most vital ingredient was missing:  peace.  I remember one particular night we were dropping off the kids and the interaction between us was so bitter than I was shaking with rage.  Peace?  It just wasn’t an item in Santa’s gift bag for our family that year.

Peace can only come about when we are able to get along well with those around us. Even if you don’t consider yourself to be a ‘people person’, it’s almost impossible to avoid interactions with others, and it’s these interactions that greatly affect our ability to experience peace. Believe me, I understand how certain circumstances can cause our relationships to be strained, to say the least, but unless we develop healthy conflict management skills, and interpersonal skills, both key components of emotional intelligence, even when there are valid reasons for the controversy, our ability to experience peace– and give peace — will be stifled.

Is there anyone in your life who’s robbing you of your peace?  Or, more importantly, is there anyone from whom you are stealing it? Maybe it’s a coworker who drives you nuts, or pushes your buttons, or…. you name it … whatever it is they do that’s causing you distress. Maybe it’s a family member that hurt you a long time ago in an angry argument.  Maybe it’s the guy who just pulled out in front of you at the intersection. Whomever it is, how does it feel?  If your reaction is anything like mine, the sick pit in your stomach when you think of the person or interact with them is enough to dampen the brightest of holiday spirits.

Forgiveness is often thought of to be a religious term, but it is helpful in bringing about peace to all, no matter what religion, belief system, or god you serve.  A quick internet search of the word ‘forgive’ leads you to this definition: “To stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake.”  But I like the second definition that comes up even more so:  “To cancel a debt.”  Cancel means to cross it out, delete it, to let it go. It is inevitable that when in relationship there will be cause for offense. But it’s our choice to let go of the punishment that we feel they deserve for their bad behavior.  It’s a gift that we all possess and have the ability to give, and it’s our choice whether to give it — or not. And while not offering it is definitely an option, we’ve all heard the famous quote by Marianne Williamson:   “Unforgiveness is like drinking poison yourself and waiting for the other person to die.”

My years of holding on to resentments tainted my joy, and it was no one’s fault but my own. Sure, I could blame my ex for the unrest, but in actuality it was me who was refusing to offer the olive branch of peace. It took several years, but when I was finally ready to cancel the debt I felt my he owed, it was only then that peace could begin to seep back into my life. Hurtful words became just a little less hurtful. Unrealistic expectations of each other were put to rest, and oddly, a sense of respect for each other began appear, faintly at first, like the first twinkling star at dusk. Although these moments in the beginning were few and far between, it soon became more and normal to treat each other decently. It was as if we were tentatively exchanging little trinkets of peace, like stocking stuffers, and as we rebuilt trust, the gifts became more substantial, valuable, and frequent. I’d compliment him on his parenting skills, he’d thank me for teaching the girls to sing.  He’d offer to pay for something extra, then I’d do the same next time an expense came around. It wasn’t easy, and I struggled with extending kindness when the list of his wrongs always seemed to be much longer than the rights. But I found it hard to maintain a hardened heart when he’d offer a kind word, and visa versa. Sure, we’d often backslide, but for the most part we could tell our relationship was moving to a healthier place. Long story short, just last week, we were attending one of our kids’ choir events, and stopped into local coffee shop beforehand, and all sat together and shared coffee, and actually got along.  No arguing, no hurtful digs, no unkind words. We even laughed a bit and snapped a group photo.  What a different scene than from those early days of conflict. Will he ever be my best friend again?  Most likely not. I don’t think I’d even want that. But we have been able to finally lay down the years of bitterness and begin to again experience the love (well, “like” may be more accurate!), peace, and joy that Christmas carolers croon about.

Forgiveness. It’s gift that we all possess, but one that can be hard to give, especially when we can justify the reasons someone doesn’t deserve it. Offering forgiveness is much easier said than done — but know it can be done and can lead to the peace we all desire, deep down. Who will you offer this gift to this season?

 

Mindfulness: the cure for the ‘checklist life’

Article contributed by guest author Fern Weis

Go here, do that, make the calls, pay the bills, quantify, measure, check it off. Are you living the checklist life?

“Who me? I don’t have time for this!” You may think that a week before school starts is the wrong time to hear this message.  In fact, it’s the perfect time. As you gear up for highly structured days, running your kids here and there, supervising them, meals, homework, your own job, and everything else it takes to run a family and a household, consider how stressful it all is. How can you include some peaceful, mindful time in your day? It’s not optional anymore, not if you want to be more patient, healthy and creative.

I don’t believe we are supposed to be always doing; arranging our calendar so we can fit in just one more thing; attaching a measurement to everything we do. When was the last time you really paid attention to where you are without thinking about the outcome or checking it off your to-do list?

My family has a little vacation home in the Poconos. We don’t come up nearly enough, but I’ll take what I can get. Time seems to stand still here and I embrace spending my days reading, talking, eating meals on the porch. I can’t seem to do that at home without feeling guilty about it, but up here it works.

This morning I took the dog for a walk, and also set my phone app to track time and distance. (It’s one tool I have to motivate me to get the exercise.) Mid-walk I was so tempted to check it. How far had I walked? Had I hit the 30-minute mark yet?

You can’t know (well, maybe you can) the self-control it took to not give in to that impulse. You may consider this a non-issue, but in a world where we’ve come to expect instant information and gratification, it’s a big deal to resist. I consciously shifted my focus to the sounds of the crickets and the wind in the trees, and to noticing my surroundings. It took an effort to make it about the experience, rather than about accomplishing something. I arrived home more relaxed, and with less of the chatter that clutters my brain. Mindfulness works.

The more structure and stress, the more you need these moments. Whether you call it balance, self-care or calm, mindfulness will give you a much-needed break from the checklist life. Here are a few ways to get started:

     1) Meditation. (I can hear the groans. Please, keep reading.) I was resistant to it, too, until someone helped me understand that meditation isn’t something you have to do for an hour, and it isn’t about completely clearing your mind.

Meditation helps me shift my attention away from my thoughts and onto my breath. That mind-chatter can be constant, draining, anxiety-producing. Meditation, even for a minute or two, changes that energy.

Check out The Mindfulness App 1 & 2 to get started. It has guided and silent meditations, from 3 to 30 minutes. You can read about the other features yourself. No pressure, just the gift of a few quiet minutes.

     2) Focus on the task at hand. This is a technique borrowed from Family Recovery Resources. Its original purpose was to help people when they are ‘flooded’ by intense emotions, and it can work just as well for our purposes.

It’s pretty simple. Notice what your hands are doing, and pay attention to the experience. If you are washing the dishes you may notice, “I’m squeezing dish liquid onto the sponge. I’m turning on the water, and putting the sponge under the running water. The water runs over my hand. It is warm and smooth. I rub the plate with the soapy sponge…” and so on.

Take the focus off of just ‘getting through’ the task so you can move on to the next thing. Experience it. Be mindful and in the present moment.  Again, it’s a way to ease the stress of all that fills your day.

     3) Add a couple of minutes to your shower and let your mind wander. Many people report that the lack of distractions and the warm water are not only relaxing, they spark creativity!   (I know this works.)

     4) Pay attention to details and the natural world around you. Look at the brushstrokes in a painting; notice the patterns in wood furniture; be aware of the tastes and textures of your food; or contemplate the clouds. Give yourself a break from the to-do list, just for a few minutes.  You will feel refreshed.

There are many ways to be mindful. If you want to be more peaceful and patient and reduce the mad rush of life, try one of the suggestions above, or do your own search for mindfulness methods. Which one will you try?

I love to hear what you do, or are going to try, to take a break from the checklist life.  Share your best tips below.

Who should I choose to lead?

handsinairArticle contributed by Amy Sargent

When looking to fill a managerial position, promoting a reliable, hard-working employee seems to make sense, and happens often.  We think, “She’s such a good staff member and consistently completes her projects with expertise – she’s the obvious choice to lead our team”

But the gulf between being a doer and a leader can be vast, especially if the individual lacks social and emotional intelligence – specifically, the competency of coaching and mentoring others.

A Gallup study released in 2015 found that approximately 50% of the surveyed employees left a job to get away from their manager. The impact of this kind of turnover on a company’s bottom line can be staggering, leading us to conclude that it is imperative to get the right person into leadership roles.

How can you spot someone who has this ability to lead— one who can sense the team’s capabilities and give them the tools and experiences that will help them develop to their fullest potential? Keep an eye out for these three telltale qualities:

  • They take time to learn about and get to know their coworkers. They have a good grasp of the personal goals of those around them, and understand the hurdles that may be preventing him/her from reaching them.
  • They show a genuine interest in helping their colleagues improve their performance and at times have provided solid support and direction when needed.
  • They demonstrate on a regular basis that they clearly recognize both the strengths and blind spots in their teammates, yet treat each individual with the same amount of respect.

To put it succinctly, I’ve modified Brian Tracy’s quote below, substituting the word “managers” for “people”:

“Successful people [managers] are always looking for opportunities to help others.  Unsuccessful people [managers] are always asking, ‘What’s in it for me?’” – Brian Tracy

So what qualities are yellow flags when choosing a manager? Someone who may potentially struggle as a leader probably doesn’t like to delegate and believes that individually, they can do the best job. They are restless in meetings, especially when collaboration is necessary. They are annoyed at having to share details of their personal work projects with others and don’t enjoy communicating the details with teammates. They may resent having to receive and give feedback and only do it when necessary (at performance reviews, for example). They find it a waste to time to connect with their colleagues on a personal level and most likely don’t know the names of their teammates’ spouses, children, and pets. Time spent with coworkers after-hours is minimal. They are feared more than liked and others do not naturally turn to them to share struggles, doubts, or missteps.

Just because an employee is coming up short in the area of coaching and mentoring others, though, doesn’t mean you should write him/her out of your managerial prospect book forever. Social and emotional intelligence can be learned, and with the help of a trained coach, a solid self-assessment—and a willingness to learn – an individual can begin to develop and hone his/her interpersonal skills and move toward a managerial mindset.  And if you’ve got the skills, consider setting aside time to mentor him/her toward growth by modeling both in and out of the workplace what good coaching and mentoring looks like.  Benjamin Franklin summed up the value of coaching and mentoring others like this: “The greatest good you can do another is not just share your riches, but reveal to him his own.”

Taking the time needed to put the right manager in place will have positive long-term effects on your organization.  In an article in Forbes.com, contributor Amy Rees Anderson puts it like this:

 “When good leadership is in place in a company, it can be felt throughout the entire organization…The result of good leadership is high morale, good employee retention, and sustainable long-term success.” 

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