Archive for the ‘Other Awareness’ Category

The perfect gift

Article contributed by Amy Sargent.

In many countries, ’tis the season for finding the perfect gift for your friends and loved ones.  It truly can be a special time of thoughtfulness and giving.

But just to mix things up, I’d like to challenge you to give a unique gift this year… one that has a great kick-back incentive. It’s not a store-bought gift or one you order online, but one that comes from your social intelligence — the ability to be aware of those around you and manage your relationship with them. This gift is empathy.

Empathy is a competency of emotional intelligence and one which can be easier to offer to some than others. Empathy is not only sensing others’ feelings and perspectives, but it is showing an active interest in their concerns.

For those we care about and love, showing empathy comes easy.  When a friend is in trouble, we hurt with them and want to do what we can to help out.  But have you tried showing empathy toward those who have disappointed you or let you down?  Easier said than done.

There is no magic formula to doing this. Offering the gift of empathy toward those who are not on your “Nice” list is difficult. We naturally tend to withhold kindness toward those who’ve been hurtful and even can find a sense of twisted satisfaction when we choose to not forgive their wrongdoing toward us. But we all know it’s us who suffers most when we choose anger and resentment. And opting not to forgive someone, to not put ourselves in their shoes and try to understand the why behind their behavior, instead skipping down the path of resentment, damages our own well-being.  In an article published by John Hopkins Medicine, Dr. Karen Swartz, M.D. at John Hopkins Hospital says this: “Chronic anger puts you into a fight-or-flight mode, which results in numerous changes in heart rate, blood pressure and  immune response. Those changes, then, increase the risk of depression, heart disease and diabetes, among other conditions.”  (https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/healthy_aging/healthy_connections/forgiveness-your-health-depends-on-it)

Dr. Swartz goes on to say, in contrast, “Forgiveness, however, calms stress levels, leading to improved health.” Anger toward someone who’s been hurtful is normal.  It’s just not a place you want to hang out for long.

Who are you holding a grudge toward or harboring anger toward?  I’m guessing someone’s name came quickly to mind. Try writing down that name on a piece of paper and, for a moment, attempt to lay aside their hurtful behavior. List out all the positive things about them you can come up with. (There’s no need to write down the hurtful behavior — no doubt you’ve replayed that in your mind countless times!) Your list of positives might be short. That’s OK. But looking at their whole person instead of focusing only on the hurtful behavior can help shift your perspective, even if just a bit. Then write down what you know of their current situation — what are they going through? Are they lonely? Are they depressed? Are they scared, worried, or trying hard to impress others? Are they financially burdened or seem full of themselves? Are they struggling with insecurity? Most of our poor behaviors occur when we’re not in a good space.  Attempting to understand their situation and offer a little understanding can have tremendous power over the anger in your heart.

“As human beings, we all have reasons for our behavior. There may be people who have certain physiological issues that dictate why they make certain choices. On the whole, though, I think we’re dictated by our structure, our past, our environment, our culture. So once you understand the patterns that shape a person, how can you not find sympathy?” — Forest Whitaker

To begin to heal, you may need to have a conversation with this person to let the know the pain they’ve caused. You may need to journal about it, talk with a friend, work with a coach, or see a counselor to sort things out. Whichever action you need to take to put this behind you and move on, do it. Every minute you hang on to  resentment and anger is one more minute you are robbing yourself from living a full life.

You don’t have to become best friends with the person.  In fact, in situations of severe hurt, it may be best to not have contact with them if possible. But whatever your ongoing relationship with them may be, there’s no need to keep replaying their destructive behavior over and over in your mind.  Why relive something so pain-filled? It happened. Past tense. No need to keep bringing it into your present. Offering a little empathy — not in any way justifying what they did — by attempting to understand why they did it, can help you begin to move forward again.

Offering the gift of empathy doesn’t make light of the pain, nor does it give license for the person to continue to inflict damage upon you.  Forgiving someone doesn’t tell them what they did was OK. It tells them that you’re not going to punish them (and yourself) any longer for something in the past. It can free you from the hurt and enable you to move forward again…with or without them.  In fact, offering someone empathy isn’t really for them — it’s a gift of love to yourself.  Yes, your empathetic behavior may bring about a shift in that person’s mindset–but that’s not your concern. Your emotions and behaviors are the only ones you can truly manage. Think of empathy as a gift you give to others which comes with an incredible kickback incentive — healing for your heart.

Empathy is probably the most perfect gift you’ll find this season. And I promise, it’s a gift you’ll never want to return. Why not give it a try?

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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.

 

 

How to inspire others

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

We so often think we need to something amazing, fantastical, and over-the-top to be an inspiration to others.  Climb a mountain, travel the world, invent a new medical device, write a best-selling book. I recently read of yet another woman who started a company that enables impoverished women in regions of Africa to use their skill sets to make a profitable living. Wow. Don’t we all dream of doing something big? Something where others are awed by our efforts and are motivated to do the same?

But dreaming and doing are often two different things, and though we may have high hopes for living large,  the reality of our day-to-day existence can sometimes prevent us from getting there. And while those who accomplish these far-reaching feats are truly inspiring — being an inspiration to others can be much simpler than you  may think.  I’m not saying don’t pursue your dreams — please do — but in the meantime of getting there, don’t negate that your current, seemingly mundane existence can be an inspiration to others.

Inspiration is simply the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something — usually something new or creative or challenging. Leading with inspiration is a competency of emotional intelligence, but it’s not a quality resigned for those in a well-defined leadership role. Each of us is capable of inspiring others by living by these two mantras:  1-Doing what you love and 2-Living the best version of yourself.

Let’s start with the first.  A dear friend recently told me she doesn’t even know what she enjoys doing anymore — work and raising kids has been her go-to for years now and she’s lost touch with things that make her spirit soar.  It’s easy to do.  Life is full of demands and in the struggle to keep up, we often let our beloved pastimes slip and slide away.

So what is it you love to do?  Chances are you already know.  Think back on a time when you felt excited, filled with joy, when you did something that “made your heart sing”.  The activities and experiences that are tied closely with our passions are the things that we love.  Maybe it was time spent at a family reunion this summer with your favorite people in the world. Maybe it was seeing a beautiful waterfall on a challenging hike.  Maybe it was crooning at the top of your lungs in the car, or laughing with friends, or reading a good book in cozy chair. Maybe it was working hard and completing a project at work, or running your first 5k.  Write down the things that bring you joy.  Note how you felt  and list out the emotions that surrounded the event.  Journal about why you felt the way you did and why you think that particular activity aroused such a strong emotional reaction.

It’s easy to think we’re too busy to do the things we love — and maybe we are — which means it’s time to make some adjustments.  Start with small steps. Carve out a little time each day/week to do something you love…even if it’s just for a few moments. I enjoy being in the outdoors and when I spend time in nature, I sense a healing of my soul. But I haven’t yet figured out how to take large chunks of time each day to be outdoors.  In the meantime, I sit outside for five minutes in the mornings as I sip my coffee. It’s just a tiny dose of the outdoors each day, but it does wonders for my well-being. We all have a few minutes here and there to spare if we prioritize a bit. Remember, it may take saying no to something to open up space for another.

When we do the things we love, our joy is spontaneous — and spontaneous joy is hard to hide. Those who live a life they love have a twinkle in their eyes, a curve of a smile on their lips, and excitement in their voice.  You’ve heard the phrase, “She had a face that launched a thousand ships.”  The reference is to Helen of Troy, whose face was said to be so lovely that, after she was abducted, a 1000-strong fleet of ships was sent to win her back.  I think the joy that others see in our faces can launch a thousand ships.  Try it. It’s hard not to smile back at someone who flashes a toothy grin your way.  It’s difficult to not feel excitement when someone shares their fervor about a new endeavor. It’s next to impossible to not be motivated by another’s enthusiasm around a recent accomplishment. Studies around the ‘mirror effect’ show that the same neural activity that’s stimulated when we are performing an action is engaged when we see someone else perform an action.  (). Passionate people breed passionate people. The joy from doing the things you love will spill over into your relationships and serve as an inspiration to those you interact with.

Secondly, to inspire others, we want to be living out the best version of ourselves.  What is the best version of yourself?  Just like discovering what you love, you probably have a good idea of what your best self looks like. Remember the times when you felt a great sense of accomplishment…when you were proud of yourself…when you felt whole, well, and healthy, both physically and mentally? These times may be fleeting but they are good indicators of our best selves.  Again, journal or talk to someone about the times you felt that sense of wholeness. What triggered those feelings?  Describe the lifestyle that embraced  those emotions and list out the way you were spending your time. Again, adjustments may need to be made to get back to that sort of oneness with self.  A change of diet maybe, or being more discerning about who you spend your time with, or adjusting the input you allow into your head each day. Living the best version of yourself may mean revisiting your values and making sure you are practicing them…and if not, making shifts to get back there again. Many studies have been done on correlations between our lifestyle and its impact on our happiness levels (to see a few, click this link:  https://ourworldindata.org/happiness-and-life-satisfaction. Sometimes our lifestyle needs a face lift to help us get back to who we really are.

When others see you living out the best version of yourself, just like living the life you love, they will be motivated to do the same.  You’ll find others will start asking about your ‘secret’.  A friend recently told me, “You look happy. What is it?”  People notice the joy that results and want a piece of it.

“Your soul is attracted to people the same way flowers are attracted to the sun, surround yourself only with those who want to see you grow.” — Pavana Reddy

Please note that none of this is about having a perfect life.  We all go through trying times, difficult circumstances, and situations that are nothing short of stressful and ugly.  It’s part of being human to experience suffering. However, our reactions to these negative life events — how we manage our emotions and relationships in the midst of them — can serve as an inspiration to others as well.  In an article on the Mental Health America site, researchers found these benefits of staying positive through difficult times:

  • People who were pessimistic had a nearly 20 percent higher risk of dying over a 30-year period than those who were optimistic
  • People who kept track of their gratitude once a week were more upbeat and had fewer physical complaints than others
  • People who obsessively repeated negative thoughts and behaviors were able to change their unhealthy patterns—and their brain activity actually changed too. (http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/stay-positive).

“It’s your reaction to adversity, not adversity itself that determines how your life’s story will develop.”  — Nelson Mandela

How we choose to react to difficulties is vital to being our best selves.  How do you respond to trying times? If you find you tend to go down a negative path, consider teaming up with a social + emotional intelligence coach to help you make some shifts.

Pursuing a life of doing what we love and being our best selves may not sound glamorous.  We may not have a biography written about us, or be interviewed on a talk show, or get thousands of followers on our social media pages.  But others will notice and be prompted to pursue a life they love and be their best selves…which will in turn motivate others to do the same…and thus begins the cycle of inspiration.  Why not start today?

“It only takes one person to mobilize a community and inspire change. Even if you don’t feel like you have it in you, it’s in you. You have to believe in yourself. People will see your vision and passion and follow you.” — Teyonah Parris

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

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

That thing called integrity

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

Integrity is an essential aspect of emotional intelligence. Yet, “studies have found that we are quite willing to cheat for monetary gain when we can get away with it. We also tend to lie to about 30 percent of the people we see in a given day.”

Do you maintain high standards of honesty and ethics? Are there times when you choose not to and are you aware of those triggers that ‘allow’ you to choose a ‘lower road’?

Read more in this terrific article by Christian B. Miller: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_can_we_become_better_humans?utm_source=Greater+Good+Science+Center&utm_campaign=d4dd3fb1e5-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_GG_Newsletter_May+23+2018&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_5ae73e326e-d4dd3fb1e5-70747947

 

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How can I help?

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

They bought me a car.

It happened a number of years ago, as I was putting myself through grad school, going to classes at night and on the weekends, working two jobs during the day, and somehow trying to find time to spend with my three kids as a single mom. Times were a little tough financially though we always found ways to make ends meet and have fun while we were at it. We’d driven our tired, old red Subaru, “Bessie”, into the ground. She was limping along, radiator problems and engine troubles, and was held together by duct tape in several places on the bumper. Some dear friends of mine found out — friends I had known in college and hadn’t seen for 15+ years — and called me up one night and said, “We’re buying you a new car.  Go out and figure out what you want, then let us know. We’ll cover everything.”

Who buys someone a car?!

The simplest way to explain it would be to say that servant leaders focus on identifying and meeting the needs of others rather than trying to acquire power, wealth and fame for themselves.” — Kent Keith, former CEO of Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership

Have you ever met those people who just seem to think of others first? Those that want to make a difference in others’ lives and pursue opportunities to impact others for the better? Having a service orientation is a competency of those with strong emotional intelligence. People who possess this amazing quality anticipate, recognize, and meet others’ needs. Not only do they notice when someone is in need — they respond. Those who are strong in having a heart to serve others seem to understand what others are lacking before the need arises and have an uncanny ability to grasp the perspective of others, quickly, and readily take action to help. They creatively look for ways to make others’ lives more comfortable — and do so with a willing attitude.

I want to be like this.

Many of us, on the other hand, tend to focus on our own objectives most of the time. We don’t exactly want to go out of our way to help someone and often think, “This isn’t my problem”, or, “They should’ve made better choices so they wouldn’t be in this predicament”. If someone needs our help, we may offer “easy-way-out help” — solutions that don’t require a great deal of time, effort, or money on our part. We tend to not want to go above and beyond for others, unless there’s something in it for us.

No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” –Charles Dickens

Why would we want to develop an attitude of service? One reason is that it simply brightens the other person’s day…and not just theirs but of those around them! For example, if someone at the bus station doesn’t have enough money for a ticket, and you step in and buy them one — most likely they’ll tell their friends/family later that day about the awesome thing that happened to them today, spreading the cheer. Give the check-out lady a compliment on how you appreciate your positive attitude and most likely she’ll exhibit that positive attitude with the next customer — and the next. Helping your coworker on a task which feels overwhelming to them will relieve them of the stress they’re carrying and result in less stress they bring home to their loved ones. Doing kind things for others can be the very thing that turns someone’s bad day into a good one. And knowing we’ve turned someone’s day around can only lift our own spirits.

When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.” — Maya Angelou

Another outcome of having a heart of service is that it transforms us. Servant leadership helps us switch from an outlook of lack to an outlook of abundance. In Nipun Mehta’s article Five Reasons to Serve Others, published in YES magazine in 2012, we learn that when we begin to serve others, we discover the “full range of resources” at our disposal — not only financial gifts but our time, presence, and attention — and can begin to discover  opportunities to serve – everywhere — enabling us to operate from a place of abundance instead of scarcity. Abundant-thinking helps us build trust more easily, welcome competition, embrace risks, and stay optimistic about the future…all great qualities for a leader to possess.

In Robert Greenleaf’s book, Servant Leadership, he outlines ten principles of servant leadership.  Which of these could you stand to improve in?

  1. Listening
  2. Empathy
  3. Healing
  4. Awareness
  5. Persuasion
  6. Conceptualization
  7. Foresight
  8. Stewardship
  9. Commitment to the growth of others
  10. Building community

You may not feel you are wired for service oriented-leadership, but there are simple steps you can take to enhance your relationships with an attitude of service.

  • Become a better listener.  Listen for meaning and suspend your judgments and opinions unless asked. Most people are longing to be heard and understand — just tuning into others when they speak can help with that.
  • Be available. Carve out time in your schedule to “be” with others, simply enjoying the time with them. And put down that phone while you’re at it!
  • Offer compliments. Kind words are such a gift! A proverb says, “Kind words are like honey—sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” Be on the lookout for sincere compliments you can offer another.
  • Make a giving list.  Think of the people who you regularly interact with — and ask yourself, “How can I help?” Jot down their names, and beside their name, write down one thing you could do for them to satisfy one of their needs, hopes, or dreams. It could be buying them their favorite coffee or inviting them to lunch.  Then go do it!
  • Keep your promises. You might not think of this as a way to give to others, but being true to your word, reliable, and someone others can count on is an act of service in and of itself.

I felt like the luckiest and most-loved girl in the world the day my friends bought us the car. Their kindness had a powerful, positive impact on our family, and ever since we have looked for ways to give back to others, so they too can experience the joy we did. You may not ever have the financial means to buy someone a car…most of us don’t…but we can find small and simple ways to serve others in our everyday lives.

I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.”  — Albert Schweitzer

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