Archive for the ‘Other Awareness’ Category

Why show empathy, anyway?

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

We hear a lot about the need for empathy. Empathy is that ability to sense others’ feelings and to take an active interest in their perspective and concerns. People who are good at this listen for the unspoken emotions in a conversation. They are attentive to a wide range of emotional signals which clue them in to being sensitive to understanding what the other person really wants and needs.

“If there is any great secret of success in life, it lies in the ability to put yourself in the other person’s place and to see things from his point of view — as well as your own.” — Henry Ford

Those who struggle with empathy — and this may be you — have a hard time reading people and picking up on what they are thinking and feeling. They tend to be literal in hearing only the words which someone says and don’t know how to decipher the other communication that is going on through facial expressions, body language, tone of voice, etc. People with low empathy tend to stereotype others based upon outward appearances and show little deference to others’ opinions and ways of thinking. An unempathetic person can come across indifferent and uncaring.

Why does this matter in the workplace? A Gallup study done in 2015 reported that about 50% of the 7,200 adults surveyed left a job “to get away from their manager.” The study also found that employees whose bosses communicated with them directly and regularly (up to 3 times per week) — not just about work issues but who took an interest in their personal lives — felt more enthusiastic and dedicated to their work. But a lack of empathy — a boss that doesn’t show that he/she cares — can result in company money down the drain. In an article by Suzanne Lucas in CBS News’ Moneywatch (November 21, 2012), she wrote, “For all jobs earning less than $50,000 per year, or more than 40 percent of U.S. jobs, the average cost of replacing an employee amounts to fully 20 percent of the person’s annual salary.” She also shared that in lower-paying jobs (under $30k), the cost to lose an employee is only 16% of their salary — but still. Those dollars add up.

And what about outside of the workplace? “Empathy is truly the heart of the relationship,” said Carin Goldstein, a licensed marriage and family therapist. “Without it, the relationship will struggle to survive.” In his book Social Intelligence, author Daniel Goleman writes: “Our experience of oneness – a sense of merging or sharing identities – increases whenever we take someone else’s perspective and strengths the more we see things from their point of view. The moment when empathy becomes mutual has an especially rich resonance.” (Social Intelligence, Goleman, p. 110)

“Relationships often suffer because people get so caught up in their own experience that they simply can’t relate to what someone else is going through. They assert their opinions and hand out advice – all the while not truly appreciating the other person’s struggles.” – Leslie Becker -Phelps, Ph.D.

People with empathy are able to show a sensitivity to what the other person is going through and take action to help make the situation more tolerable for that person. Empathy truly is one of the ways we can begin to connect deeply with others.

I know it all sounds good. We should be more empathetic. But showing empathy is easier for some than others. If you come up on the short stick of empathy, do you just shrug and say, “Oh well. I’m no good at that.”? Empathy is a competency of emotional intelligence, specifically, social intelligence, the ability to discern others’ emotions in the moment and respond accordingly. Empathy is a behavior, and the good news for those of us who struggle with it, behavior can be changed. If you are self-aware enough to realize you may not be the most empathetic person, here are some developmental tips you can try to begin to make a shift in a new direction:

  • Listen. Becoming a good listener is the foundation. Stop thinking about what you’re going to say next and really tune in to what the other person is saying — and not saying.
  • Ask questions to clarify meaning. Sure, you heard what you think you heard, but asking a few questions not only shows the other person you are interested in learning more but provides clarity to truly understanding what they are trying to express.
  • Put down that phone. When someone’s talking, it’s easy to be distracted by other things going on around you. Let’s be honest, people don’t always pick the most opportune times to walk into your office to talk. Show them respect by putting away distractions while they’re speaking — put down your cell phone (and turn it over so you’re not tempted by the screen or even better, turn it off), close your laptop, and make eye contact as they speak.
  • Tune into the emotions behind the words. Sometimes what the person across from you is really looking for in a conversation is masked behind their words. Listen deeply to find the real meaning behind what is coming out of their mouths.
  • Suspend judgement. You may possess the gift of keen discernment and have that ability to pick up on the subtle nuances of what someone is trying to communicate, but with that can come the ability to pass judgement too quickly. Catch yourself if you are quick to criticize or dismiss the opinions of others. Often the other perspective can offer you fresh insights which you may not have been able to come up with yourself.

Though growing in empathy can take some work, your efforts can lead you down the path of healthier, happier relationships, both at home and at the office. If you feel you need some help, consider employing a social + emotional intelligence coach to walk alongside you on the journey.

“Maturity begins to grow when you can sense your concern for others outweighing your concern for yourself.” — John MacNaughton

Do you play well with others?

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

“This job would be easier if people weren’t involved.”

It’s one of my favorite tongue-in-cheek sayings.  While true, as most of our conflict comes from interactions with others (though we all do struggle with self-conflict from time to time), most of us wouldn’t have a job if it weren’t for those around us — peers, colleagues, supervisors, employees, customers, clients are a vital part of any business. But working collaboratively with others can be difficult, frustrating, and downright annoying at times.

At some point in most relationships, conflict is going to happen whenever there is more than one person in the room. And our conflict management skills, which are a competency of strong emotional intelligence, are what can make the difference between frustrating, unresolved disagreements or enabling conversations where all parties can pursue the best possible solutions.

We all have a role when it comes to conflict, whether we are the vocal one who loses our temper or the quiet doormat that stays silent.

“Conflict cannot survive without your participation.”  — Wayne Dyer

It’s no monkey business:  learning how to navigate conflict can increase our sense of well-being and job satisfaction and contributes greatly to the quality of relationships both at work and at home.

How well do you play with others?

Ask yourself the following questions and see how many you can answer yes to:

  • I can see potential conflict before it arises and help de-escalate the situation.
  • I can handle difficult people with tact.
  • I can lay down my own expectations and be open to hearing the perspectives of others.
  • I can manage tense situations with diplomacy.
  • I can create a safe space for all parties to share their perspectives.
  • I can help all parties involved understand the other perspectives in the room.
  • I can hear diverse opinions and find a common ideal.
  • I can orchestrate win-win solutions.

Five Conflict Styles and when to use them

We all have our own ‘style’ when it comes to conflict resolve, but that doesn’t mean we can’t grow and learn other approaches that may better serve us and the situation at hand. In 1974, Kenneth Thomas and Ralph Kilman created the Thomas-Kilman Conflict Mode Instrument, which identifies five styles of conflict. There are situations that arise when some styles work better than others. Here is a quick guide:

1-Competitive/Controlling – A quick and decisive action is needed (vital in emergency situations), or the other party would take advantage of cooperation on your part.

2-Collaborating – The issues (and/or relationship) are too important to be compromised and the objective is to integrate differing viewpoints.

3-Avoiding – There are more important things to tackle, there is no chance of achieving your objectives, the parties need time to “cool down” or take time to gather more data.

4-Accommodating – You realize you are wrong, or understand that the issues at hand are more important to the other person and/or you need to build ‘credits’ with that person.

5-Compromising – It’s too risky to be too controlling, both parties are committed to mutually exclusive goals, you need a quick or temporary solution under time constraints.

Time for a Shift

How do you know when it’s time to shift your approach to conflict resolve? Simply put, when your approach is not working.  Losing friends left and right? Colleagues can’t stand you? Coworkers shut down and won’t share their perspective with you? Feel agitated and stressed when conflict is discussed? People walk all over you in meetings?  You are the only one talking in meetings? You get what you want but no one is alongside you to enjoy it?  If you find yourself in a confusing or disturbing conflict, try asking yourself these honest questions:

  • How was my behavior received by others?
  • How did I feel during the conflict?
  • How much do I care about the outcome?
  • What were my expectations of the situation and did they match up with reality?
  • What judgments did I make about the others during the conflict and were they accurate?
  • What did I want to see happen? What did they want to see happen?
  • What is my investment into this situation? What is theirs?
  • Am I acting in an old pattern of behavior that no longer serves me?
  • What can I say/do going forward to optimize the outcome?

Which of the five conflict resolve styles is your primary ‘go-to’ when faced with conflict?  Does it serve you well in all situations or could you stand to develop a new approach? If you struggle in the area of conflict resolve, good news! Behaviors in conflict resolve are learned and can be changed. Finding a social + emotional intelligence coach to walk alongside you to make behavior shifts can be a great place to start.

“When team members trust each other and know that everyone is capable of admitting when they’re wrong, then conflict becomes nothing more than the pursuit of truth or the best possible answer.” —  Patrick Lencioni

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).

How does empathy (or a lack of) affect your love life?

Have you been in a relationship where your partner, in a particular moment, lacked empathy? Unfortunately, many of us know the scenario all too well.  You tell him about something you are struggling with, that thing that is frustrating you, and you just want him to hear you out and acknowledge that what you’re going through is hard. Instead, he puts on his Mister Fixit hat and gives you solutions and advice on how to change the situation, which leaves you feeling not understood. I think one of the funniest videos I’ve ever seen on this subject is the one where the girlfriend literally has a nail sticking out of her forehead, and she’s trying to talk to her boyfriend about how painful her head feels, and how it aches, and throbs, and how some days it causes her great consternation, and he’s looking at her in disbelief – with this nail sticking out of her head – and is so wanting to point out to her that what she is feeling may be because of this nail —  but she just wants him to show her some empathy.  (Have a watch – and a laugh — CLICK HERE).

As difficult as it may be for some of us, empathy is one of the most influential factors in building a healthy relationship. And empathy is a key competence of emotional intelligence.

Merriam-Webster defines empathy as the capacity for understanding, being aware of, sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experiences of another –and reacting appropriately. (www.merriam-webster.com) Empathy is the capacity to know – emotionally – the feelings and experience of others, and being able to express or communicate our feelings of understanding. Empathy is an integral component of a healthy relationship. When people feel listened to and understood at a deep emotional level, and when that understanding is acknowledged or communicated, they feel affirmed and validated.

“Relationships often suffer because people get so caught up in their own experience that they simply can’t relate to what someone else is going through. They assert their opinions and hand out advice – all the while not truly appreciating the other person’s struggles.” – Leslie Becker -Phelps, Ph.D.

People who are empathetic:

  • are tuned-in to a wide range of emotional signals
  • listen for and sense the felt, but unspoken emotions of others
  • show sensitivity to others’ perspectives
  • will take appropriate actions based upon their understanding of others’ needs

In his book Social Intelligence, author Daniel Goleman outlines, “…the word “empathy” is used in three distinct senses:  knowing another person’s feelings; feeling what that person feels; and responding compassionately to another’s distress.” (Social Intelligence, Daniel Goleman, 2006, p. 58).

In other words, we notice others, feel what they are feeling, then act in a manner that helps them.

“Empathy is truly the heart of the relationship,” said Carin Goldstein, a licensed marriage and family therapist. “Without it, the relationship will struggle to survive.”

Also from Social Intelligence (p. 110), Goleman writes: “Our experience of oneness – a sense of merging or sharing identities – increases whenever we take someone else’s perspective and strengths the more we see things from their point of view.  The moment when empathy becomes mutual has an especially rich resonance. Two tightly looped people mesh minds, even smoothly finishing sentences for each other – a sign of a vibrant relationship that marital researchers call ‘high-intensity validation’.”

Maybe empathy is not one of your strongest qualities – you tend to problem-solve for others when really what they need is to be heard. But empathy, like many behaviors, can be learned and developed.

Here are a few things you can try:

  • Learn to listen. Stop thinking about what you’re going to say next, and truly focus on what the other person is saying, both verbally and non-verbally. “Tell me more” is a great response when someone is trying to express their feelings to you.
  • Ask clarifying questions (without advice) so you truly understand what they are trying to tell you.
  • Develop sensitivity. Do you know the difference between behaviors that validate others and those that invalidate others? Diminishing, belittling, judging, or dismissing others and their feelings make others feel demoralized. Begin replacing invalidating, insensitive behaviors with sensitive behaviors.
  • Tune into hidden meanings. What is it he/she is really wanting, despite what they’re saying? (to be respected, to be included, to be acknowledged, etc.)
  • Learn to pick up on the emotions that accompany the other person’s statements.  Don’t just listen to the words, listen to the feelings that are being expressed.
  • Acknowledge what you think you’ve heard. Paraphrase, repeat back, and clarify the emotions you think you are hearing (i.e., “That must be really frustrating,” or ”Sounds like you’re pretty excited about this…”)
  • Withhold your judgments; when tempted to criticize or dismiss the opinions of another, stop. Step back and consider, on an emotional level as well as a cognitive level, what the other person may be experiencing and what merits another’s point of view may have.

“If there is any great secret of success in life, it lies in the ability to put yourself in the other person’s place and to see things from his point of view – as well as your own.” – Henry Ford

 

How to experience holiday cheer when you’re single and alone

Article Contributed by Amy Sargent

The telltale signs of the holiday season are here – colorful, twinkling lights, shoppers bustling, melodic music in every store, people smiling, and laughing, holding hands and kissing, joy and peace everywhere you look. It sure is lovely. But is this your reality?

As much as we may long for the picture-perfect scene from a Currier and Ives painting, honestly, it can be a tough time of the year. More accurate may be a slowdown in business causing financial strain, which can lead to frustration, worry, and depression, and boy do these have an impact on our relationships. Arguments over petty issues, impatience, and ugly words we can’t take back are so easy to fall prey to when we’re stressed. Before we know it, the merry Christmas season can become a time of fights, loss of love, breakups, and marital strain. Which doesn’t exactly make for a holly jolly Christmas.

In an article printed in the Healthline newsletter, the author writes:

Depression may occur at any time of the year, but the stress and anxiety during the months of November and December may cause even those who are usually content to experience loneliness and a lack of fulfillment.” (Holiday Depression, https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/holidays#1). And what is the biggest predictor of holiday depression? Social isolation.

Maybe you’re one of those people who is blessed to be in a healthy, happy relationship, surrounded by positive friends and family. If that’s the case, I’m so glad. Really. It’s the ideal, without doubt. Enjoy it, relish it, and continue to be thankful for the riches that abound around you.

But if you’re one of those who finds yourself alone, the holiday season can be difficult. Feelings of isolation, loneliness, uselessness, lack of purpose, and just plain sadness can envelope you and before you know it, you find yourself on Team Grinch. Personally, this season I’m experiencing the delightful duo of empty nest syndrome and a painful breakup, and I’ll just say that decorating the tree this year wasn’t exactly what we see on the Hallmark channel movies. Replace the perfect, smiling couples in lovely Christmas sweaters, falling in love as they hand each other ornaments, with this picture-perfect scenario: a weary, single mom struggling with the tree base, (the tree only tipped over twice before I got it up!), lights in tangled knots and missing bulbs, throat tightening over each ornament that reminded me of earlier days with the kids, a glass of wine in hand with tears streaming down my face. I wonder if Mr. Currier and Mr. Ives would’ve like to paint a picture of that?!

I don’t tell you this to evoke pity. I have a blessed life. I have three lovely children who adore me and try to get home on the holidays. I have an extended family that supports me and a daddy that holds me as the apple of his eye. I have an engaging profession, brilliant colleagues, dear friends who love me, a safe place to live, all the necessities of life, and a whole lot of positive thinking. As alone as I feel at times, I know that it is temporary. The pain of loss will eventually move along and be replaced with joy soon enough. I’m not negating the hurt – it’s tough and I’ve let my share of tears flow. But I know this won’t last. However, not everyone can see the light at the end of the dark, Polar Express tunnel.

If you’re one of the charmed ones this season, surrounded by loved ones, please take a moment – or two or three or ten – to be on the lookout for your friends who may be struggling. Please, especially check in on your single friends. Invite them over for dinner, take them out for drinks, buy them a cute pair of snowman socks and drop a surprise gift at their doorstep. Think of things you can do to make sure they feel loved, included, and cared for. It’s easy to take it for granted when you’re not alone, but remember many single people don’t have that special someone who is thinking of them this time of year, and if you don’t look out for them, no one will.

 “To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.” – Mark Twain

And if you’re one of those of us who are alone, you’ve got some homework, too. Sorry, but you don’t get to wait around for someone else to reach out to you. First, be sure to tune into how you’re feeling. Emotional intelligence is the ability to be aware of how you’re feeling, in the moment, and to use that information to manage behaviors. Don’t hide from those feelings of sadness, desperation, anger, or disappointment. Don’t bottle them up – instead, let them serve you. Our emotions are terrific indicators of what’s going on inside, so listen up. This may sound counter-intuitive, but if you’re grieving, grieve. If you’re hurting, hurt. If you’re worried, worry. Pretending we don’t feel the way we feel won’t get us anywhere. Experience your emotions– cry it out, punch your pillow, journal, write that email then delete it, whatever you need to do that’s safe and non-damaging to express how you’re feeling – then get up, wipe your tears, and get out. Spending too much time alone in social isolation will increase feelings of depression and increase your awareness of being alone.

Self-absorption in all its forms kills empathy, let alone compassion. When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection – or compassionate action.” – Daniel Goleman

I know you don’t feel like it (the pulls of Netflix are strong), but you’ve got to make yourself get out, with the purpose of getting the focus off yourself and onto others. Slip into a fun holiday dress or tie. Stop in the coffee shop and buy a stranger a drink. Sign up for a social event with groups like Meetup to meet new friends. Volunteer at the food bank. Take a walk along the brightly-decorated downtown streets. Press $10 in someone’s hand and wish them happy holidays. Buy gifts for your friends and take the time to wrap them in beautiful paper with ribbons and string. Invite a friend to a movie. Host a holiday gathering at your house…and if you’re short on funds, ask everyone to bring an appetizer or drink to share. Wear a silly Santa hat and make people smile. Build a snowman. Leave an extra-large tip for the waitress. Go to the Christmas parade. Invite some friends to go sledding. Find an outdoor ice skating rink and wobble around on blades. Attend the local tuba concert (yes, these exist!). There are so many fun events around town this time of year just waiting for you to enjoy! I know, it’s not what your dreaming of, being cuddled up by the fire with that special someone as Bing croons Silver Bells, exchanging gifts from Jared’s. I get it. But getting out and around others and doing fun activities will do wonders to lift your spirits and get your focus off yourself. Sure, you’ll cry again when you get home, but at least you’ll get a reprieve from the self-pity and enjoy the sights and sounds of the holiday season with others for a few moments.

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

I can only recommend the above activities because it’s what I’m doing this holiday season. I’m still sad, and alone, but am having bits and pieces of fun in between the tears. And my outlook for the future is getting brighter with each strain of Baby It’s Cold Outside I hear.

Of course, if you are feeling depressed and/or are experiencing overwhelming negativity, thoughts of inflicting harm to others or yourself – or suicidal thoughts – seek professional help immediately. Don’t mess around with that one. Sometimes we can’t pull ourselves up out of the slump alone and we need the help of others. No shame there – but don’t hesitate if your pain has taken a turn down a dark path. Get help.

Whether this is turning out to be the best holiday season ever, or looking a little bleak – we can all experience the joy of the season with a little extra effort in looking out for one another, reaching out to others, and living outside of ourselves. Whether you’re alone or with that special someone, you can practice kindness, a giving heart, and selfless love this season. Why not give it a try?

 

A time to let go

Article Contributed by Amy Sargent

Do you have someone in your life you’re not speaking to? That one you haven’t forgiven, or let go of the hurt they inflicted? The one that said the mean, hateful words behind your back, or who fired you without cause, or who offended you by their selfish actions? Broken relationships sit in our stomach like a sick pit and can leave us handcuffed to some pretty ugly emotions.  Listen, the pain you’re feeling — it’s valid. The hurt that comes from a friend is probably one of the worst. And the feelings that accompany that hurt are no fun to deal with — loss of appetite, listlessness, depressed, sad…you probably have your own set of feelings you can add to the list.

And while we can’t fix all relationships that end…we can choose to forgive the hurt and let it go.

Is it time to let that someone in your life off the hook?

“Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. ”  — Carrie Fisher

For some, the word forgive has religious overtones, and reminds us of a nicety we learned in Sunday School. “Forgive and you shall be forgiven.” But the word simply means to stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake.  Simple, right? Just stop feeling angry and resentful. Easier said than done, I know. I mean, they hurt you.  It was uncalled for. Out of the blue. Done in a very poor manner, in a way that may have embarrassed you, or in what felt like a personal attack on your personality or character.  The natural reaction is anger or resentment and that is completely normal. Our next step (and often a healthy next step) is to close off that friendship, at least for a time being, to reduce any chance of further hurt. This is a normal way to protect ourselves and a stage of the grieving process when a friendship is lost.

But how long you get to hang on to the hurt and resentment? Of course there is no formula, no time table, that works for everyone. The time it takes to heal and forgive is going to vary with each of us. But know this — the longer we hang onto the hurt and resentment, the more comfortable we get with those feelings, and the harder it is to let them go. It can easily become our new ‘safe place’, like a cozy blanket we curl up with on the couch. It is warm and comforting and keeps us insulated from the pain. But it also can keep us on the couch and prevent us from moving forward. You’ll know if you’re settling in with it. You’ll play back the situation where the hurt happened over, and over, and over again. You’ll hear yourself talking about it to others — often. You’ll have pretend conversations with the person in your head, finally saying all the things you wish you could’ve said to them in the moment.  And then — you’ll do the same the next day. And the next. And the next. And I get it. Again — it hurt, and hurt, well, hurts! But the longer we wait to let something go,  the more comfortable it’s going to become, and the harder it can be to release those ugly feelings.  The thought of forgiving can be frightening. I mean, what would we do if we reconciled? Would we have to get our lives together and move on? Possibly stop using it as an excuse and take some steps down a new path? And what would we talk about to our friends at the holiday party?!

The process of forgiving would be so much easier if the person came to you first and said I’m sorry. Got down on their knees even and begged you to forgive them. Sent you flowers.  Wrote you a long letter telling you how they so much wish they could take it back. Gave you money. Bought you a vacation. Announced to the world how wrong they were and committed to being forever in your service. Sometimes that happens. But sometimes it doesn’t. And if it doesn’t, do you carry the anger and resentment until they do? Or…is there a different choice?

“Life becomes easier when you learn to accept an apology you never got.” — Robert Brault

Change is hard. Forgiving someone is hard. Life is hard.  But we can do hard things.

Emotional intelligence allows us the ability to read how we’re feeling in the moment, and manage our behavior appropriately. Most likely you’re very aware you’re mad at this person. Pat yourself on the back — that is a good start and your emotional self-awareness is keen. But how is that behavior part going for you? How is holding on that anger and resentment working for you?

“Anger, resentment and jealousy doesn’t change the heart of others– it only changes yours.”  — Shannon L. Alder

The holiday season is a time to connect with loved ones, new and old. It’s a time of celebration, and laughter, and joy. Carrying the pain of a past hurt only dampens the holiday cheer. What a better time than this season to make the choice to let something go? Of course there will be those who have made choices that deem them unhealthy to let back into your life. You’ll need to determine the level of connection you maintain with the person depending on the safety and health of that person. Just because you forgive someone doesn’t mean you now become best friends. But you can be free of the pain they caused. The choice to yours–to forgive, and be free.

It’s a tough thing to do, but the freedom you’ll feel on the other side will be worth it.  Is it time to give it a try?

I hope you do.  And if not now — maybe soon. Either way — at some point give yourself this precious gift of freedom. It’ll be the best gift you’ve ever received!

Wishing you the happiest of holidays.

12 Must-Have Social and Emotional Intelligence Skills for the Workplace

Article contributed by guest author Karen Atkinson.

Over the past few decades, thanks to Dr. Daniel Goleman, the term “Emotional Intelligence” has become an everyday word in the American workplace. Most people have a vague notion that it’s something using emotions and smarts to make good decisions. When I read his first book “Emotional Intelligence, Why it can matter more than IQ” (1995), I was thrilled someone was acknowledging the emotional world we live. Today, when I talk to people about emotional intelligence, I would say, most people still don’t fully understand what it means.

Over the past two decades, Caruso, Salovey, Mayer, Ciarrochi, Goleman and Belsten have identified social and emotional intelligence attributes. These are qualities that a person utilizes which enable them to develop and maintain healthy communication, behavior and relationships. Several of these theorists have created their own assessment tools to help others determine where they fall within this skill set. The Institute for Social and Emotional Intelligence®, founded by Dr. Laura Belsten, offers the SEIP®, Social and Emotional Intelligence Profile®, which offers 26 competencies!

There’s much more to this than we realized.

Quick review: What is Emotional Intelligence?

The term “Emotional Intelligence” is now being expanded into “Social and Emotional Intelligence”.

Emotional Intelligence is the ability to be aware of our own emotions, in the moment, and to use that information to manage our behavior appropriately.

Social Intelligence is the ability to be aware of the emotions of others, in the moment, and to use that information to manage our relationships.  

– Institute for Social + Emotional Intelligence (ISEI)®

What they have found is that there are more than just a few things that make up Social and Emotional Intelligence. These are skills, meaning that they can be taught. And they are behaviors, that when utilized, are better indicators of workplace performance, productivity, and long-term success, for individuals and for businesses. They are not mutually exclusive, nor are they exhaustive. But they are definite contributors.

Here are 12 of the skills:

  1. The ability to be self-aware. It sounds self-indulgent but really it’s not. This is a skill needed as a foundation to develop healthy relationships with oneself and with others. The feelings (and thoughts) that someone has, in that moment, are what will dictate their responses and behaviors towards others. This is also the foundation for changes in behavior.
  1. Create an emotional vocabulary. Having language about emotions themselves allows for the healthy expression of feelings. This, by the way, is a normal process for people. When someone is self-aware and able to use an emotional vocabulary, they are also more able to develop healthy communication habits.

Note: Some people think that talking about or expressing emotions means they are weak, but that’s an outdated notion. Research actually shows the opposite – people generally function better in relationship when they are able to have a healthy expression of emotions.

  1. Practice empathy. This is the ability to feel the experience of others. This means stepping out of our own heads and trying to really get the experience of another. This is another tool that builds the foundation for social relationships. Different from sympathy, research shows genuine empathy is the key to building trust and deeper relationships.
  1. Be aware of your own body. Good self-care reflects in a person’s presentation of himself or herself, body image and impacts self-confidence. It’s also part of what Social Psychologists call the Self-World construct, which is our understanding of how we see the world and how the world sees us.
  1. Learn to manage emotions. This is the opposite of emotional hijacking. Actively choosing to manage emotions like anger, for example, directly reflects a person’s theory about emotions. And it’s directly linked to a person’s value system and moral choices. Managing emotions is also a sign of emotional maturity and gives a person a better sense of himself or herself. For leaders, it allows more control over situations and engenders support while providing a feeling of safety to others, which can be critical in high-stress situations.
  1. Develop coping strategies. This is critical for emotional resiliency and to develop emotional maturity. This can include stress reduction exercises, journaling, breathing exercises, and meditation or prayer, to mention a few. Many learn to develop these strategies in therapy or through coaching. Using habits like these, in a regular basis, increases emotional resiliency – the ability to emotionally tolerate and handle difficult situations.
  1. Practice assertive communication skills. The goal here is to develop an approach towards building healthy relationships through developing healthy communication skills. “I feel” statements are one example.
  1. Utilize limit setting. When someone actively chooses to put boundaries in place around a relationship or activity, they often can feel empowered or more in control. A feeling of managing things is also importance when managing the regulation of emotions.
  1. Learn how to understand others’ emotions. This is not the same as empathy. This is about learning to recognize cues in others’ behaviors. Tuning into others’ behaviors, facial expressions, and communication increases effectiveness in the communication. One way to build empathy is through the ability to recognize cues in a person’s expression, tone or body language.
  1. Manage negative emotions: like anger. Unbridled rage or passive-aggressive behavior can do more damage and actually hinder relationship building.
  1. Practice listening. Really listening. People generally need to not only be heard but also understood. One way to practice this skill is to listen to someone else and then reflect back what he or she said.
  1. Develop strategies for difficult situations. These are tools to think about in advance for when stressful situations come up. Some call if a “plan b”.

Executive, Performance and Life coaches have taught these skills for years. The great thing is that each of these traits can easily become skills that help a person function better in relationship and in life. For companies, they can be qualities that become embedded into the company culture through the employees and managers, to increase team building, improve performance and increase sales.


Resources:

Dr. Belsten, Laura, founder, Social and Emotional Intelligence Certification, Institute for Social + Emotional Intelligence®, 2017

Ciarrochi, Forgas, and Mayer (editors), Emotional Intelligence in Everyday Life, 2nd edition, Psychology Press, 2006

Goleman, Daniel, Emotional Intelligence, Why it can matter more than IQ, Bantom Books, 1995

Harvard Business Review, HBR’S Must Reads On Emotional Intelligence, 2015, Harvard Business School Publishing, 2015

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

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