Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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?

 

The New Workplace: Where Meaning And Purpose Are More Important Than Ever

Article contributed by guest author Renelle Darr.

(Published in Forbes [September 2017]:  https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2017/09/13/the-new-workplace-where-meaning-and-purpose-are-more-important-than-ever/#42e3c21f5a46)

 

More than ever, people are wanting more out of work than money. They want more meaning and more purpose. They want to be to be able to see how their contribution to the workplace makes a difference. Purpose and meaning is a two-way street where an employee is encouraged to bring their full set of values and strengths to work and, in turn, the organization supports the employee in using those values and strengths in service of its mission. For that reason, it is not only social enterprises that can provide purpose for employees, or that should. Research has found that employees who derive meaning and significance from their work are much more likely to stay with their organizations.

In order to shift our work environment to one that has more meaning, there are some pivotal employee essentials that must be accounted for by employers to enable such a transformation. In my 20 years of consulting on organizational strategy, I have observed what happens when these conditions are in place and the ramifications and limitations when they aren’t, which helped to develop the following framework.

Imagine a pyramid: The first element is a foundational requirement for the item above it. From the bottom up, wellness, emotional intelligence, conscious leadership and transformed cultures build toward the creation of an employee who gets more from their work than simply a salary — a sense of meaning and purpose.

Wellness

Many organizations have embraced wellness in some way, whether partnering with their health insurance carriers and offering employee wellness programs or providing pedometers that monitor daily steps. Other more advanced organizations are offering meditation, yoga and access to nutritionists and personal trainers. Health and wellness are basic essentials needed to bring our full selves to work. It fuels the energy to be our best and to continuously improve.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is defined as a set of behaviors that enable “your ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others, and your ability to use this awareness to manage your behavior and relationships.” It is nearly impossible to improve our emotional intelligence without wellness (adequate sleep, exercise and nutrition, etc). Emotional Intelligence 2.0 co-author Travis Bradberry found that emotional intelligence skills account for 58% of performance in all job types and that 90% of high performers also exhibit high emotional intelligence.

The most important aspect of EQ is self-awareness. Awareness of self (emotional self-awareness, accurate self-knowledge and personal power) is the launching point for individual transformation. Awareness holds the key to success in aspects of managing relationships such as building trust, visionary leadership, innovation, teamwork and many more. Self-aware leaders understand their triggers, their strengths and their weaknesses, which allows them to navigate many complex situations and more easily grow and develop themselves. It is cultivated through mindfulness, learning and intentional self-discovery (such as personality assessments). We must truly know ourselves and our own purpose before we can lead others and the organization with purpose.

Conscious Leadership

Highly self-aware, emotionally intelligent leaders are then able to make a shift to conscious leadership. Consciousness and competence move together: As leaders become more conscious on the inside, their outer competence grows to enable them to navigate complexity, make better strategic decisions and deepen professional relationships. They are able to move from operating in a more reactive state where decision-making is not shared and obedience is required to sharing authority and operating from a place of inner purpose where their values, talents and strengths are guiding the contributions they make to an organization.

This type of leadership is required to create lean, innovative, visionary, agile, high-fulfillment organizations and cultures. Leadership is shared: The leader takes responsibility for crafting the vision, involving others in the vision and helping them connect how it enables each teammate to fulfill their personal purposes collectively. The culture consulting work I engage in is always most successful when preceded by work that helps ensure the executive team is self-aware and operating at a more conscious level.

Transformed Cultures

Humans who embrace wellness, emotional intelligence and conscious growth become leaders and employees capable of working in new ways. Conscious leaders are able to look at the strategy and processes within an organization and begin shifting them by flattening hierarchies and empowering people to bring all of their gifts, talents and values to work. Conscious leaders are able to construct work as a place to truly grow and develop. It is these types of cultures where employees not only find meaning at work but produce extraordinary results.

The Way Of The Future

Recently, I facilitated a board and executive team strategy retreat for an organization where I’d been coaching and consulting the executive team for almost a year around emotional intelligence and conscious leadership. The quality of connection, strategic discussion and new possibilities that emerged were truly transformational.

Of pioneering organizations who have made such shifts, Frederick Laloux wrote, “They show how we can deal with the complexity of our times in wholly new ways, and how work can become a place of personal fulfillment and growth. And they make today’s organizations look painfully outdated.” Many organizations spend little time in onboarding on the company culture and relational training for new employees. Many organizations still have large top-down hierarchies which prevent employees lower in the hierarchy from making decisions they know the most about since they are closest to the work. And many organizations still do not provide meaningful development for employees. These current processes get in the way of purpose. In 50 years we may shake our heads that we ever actually ran organizations this way.

Where does your organization fall within the pyramid? How will you make these shifts in order to be part of the changing nature of work? Will yours be one of the organizations people shake their heads about in 50 years?

 

 

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.

Insights from a Year of Daily ‘Gratitude Journal’ Entries

Article contributed by guest author Dennis Hooper

We are approaching Thanksgiving, which means that Christmas is coming fast! It’s a special time of year for pausing and feeling grateful for our many blessings!

In October of 1863, during our bloody civil war, Abraham Lincoln issued an executive proclamation for a national day of Thanksgiving, to be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. It was not a new concept, as a day set aside for giving thanks had been celebrated in a variety of locations for years. Lincoln and many others hoped that an officially sanctioned NATIONAL holiday would contribute to restoring peace to the suffering disunited states.

As we approach Thanksgiving this year, would you be willing to experiment with setting aside a small amount of time EVERY day to express your gratitude for some unique aspect of your life? I started doing that a little over a year ago. I was deeply grateful for the experiences in my life to that point–and for the opportunities that I imagined still lie ahead for me!

This article has two purposes. First and primary is to encourage you to start a gratitude journal and work to keep at it for a significant amount of time. The second purpose is to provide a report on what the experience has meant to me–the two key insights that a year of daily reflections has provided.
Long-time readers may recall a similar article from years ago, 2006 to be precise. (You can find “The Gratitude Journal Challenge” on my Article Archives–address below.) Every day for a month, I acknowledged five items in my life for which I was grateful. Identifying 155 items without repeating any was quite a challenge, yet I found it both doable and deeply enjoyable.

In this recent effort–begun ten years after the first experience–my intent was to identify one item a day for a year. I expected to write about half a page each day; most entries wound up being longer.
Now, let me advocate that you consider starting a gratitude journal with the guideline being whatever you define. You can do five a day for a month, one a day for a year, or anything else you so desire.
Would you like to start in a fun way? Gather family and friends to watch the classic Christmas film, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” As soon as the movie ends, invite everyone to share examples of gratitude, affirming each other with enhancements and additions.

As the energy wanes, announce your plan to start a gratitude journal, explaining your intentions. Ask others to consider doing the same, to include perhaps periodically sharing what each of you have highlighted, appreciating your gratitude together.

Now, let me share my two overarching observations from a year of daily contemplations. First is that we’ve all been blessed with an amazing abundance of gifts that we did not earn, yet we’ve quietly accepted and treat as if they are entitlements. This awareness resulted in another article you can find on my website, “I Don’t Deserve This.”

My second recurring source of gratitude includes the many friends and family members who have meant so much to me throughout my life. I’m considering sending a hard copy of this article in my Christmas cards this year, highlighting my appreciation for the recipients. I am deeply grateful for both the good times we’ve shared and the hard times during which we grew together!

If you choose to generate a gratitude journal, I welcome you sharing your dominant insights with me. Maybe you’ll affirm these two. Maybe yours will be different. However, I can almost guarantee you that your daily outlook will be more positive than it is now.

That’s the point I want to make as I close. Yes, I’ve shared two content items that kept coming up for me from my daily reflections. However, what’s even more remarkable is that the process of daily focusing on blessings transforms over time from a challenge (“I can’t think of what to record tonight!”) to a contemplative choice (“Which one will I record tonight?”).

I won’t go so far as to say that “gratitude” becomes a habit. I will say that even in the most troubling of days, you’ll pick out blessings for which you are appreciative. Will your resulting attitude be one filled with more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and self-control? Give it a try and send me a note, telling me how it has worked for you. I can assure you in advance, I’ll be grateful!

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…

Does your boss have empathy?

Article submitted by guest author Harvey Deutschendorf

3 levels of empathy…which one does your boss have?

Fiona was Corrie’s manager at a branch of a large financial institution that had branches across the U.S. Europe and Asia. They had recently come up with a new process that

Fiona was hoping that the organization would adopt throughout their operations. As Corrie was instrumental in developing the process and was a recognized expert in her branch on the topic, Fiona decided she would be the natural choice to present to the annual meeting of the U.S. division. While Corrie was very knowledgeable, she was somewhat of an introvert and not comfortable speaking to large numbers of people. The annual meeting would have up to 400 employees from various levels from all across the country. She meets with Fiona and discusses her concerns and anxieties concerning the presentation with her.

Corrie: “I’m not really good with talking to a lot of people. I get really nervous and have trouble concentrating on what I have to say. I wish someone else could do the presentation.” Below are 3 examples of how Fiona could have responded, indicating 3 levels of empathy:

Level 1

Fiona: “You’ll do fine. There’s nothing to it. You know this stuff better than anyone else around here.”

In this response Fiona showed a complete lack of empathy. She failed to even acknowledge Corrie’s anxiety over the presentation which would be the first basic step towards working towards a solution with her. Instead she dismissed Corrie’s feelings entirely leaving Corrie even more anxious and feeling completely unsupported and misunderstood. It has been reported that public speaking is one of the greatest fears that people have, even greater than dying. Jerry Seinfeld joked that at a funeral most people would sooner be in the casket than have to give the eulogy. Fiona should have been aware that Corrie’s fear was very real and normal. Corrie was an excellent employee who was not known for coming up with excuses and trivial complaints, therefore Fiona should have taken her concerns much more seriously.

Level 2

Fiona: “Lots of people have a fear of public speaking. I used to until I went to Toastmasters. Now I’m okay, even though I get a little nervous. There’s nothing wrong with being a little nervous. You know your stuff well, so you’ll be okay. “

In the second response Fiona at least acknowledged Corrie’s anxiety. She did not address it, however, only speaking about it in general terms and talking about her own experience. She did not invite Corrie to help her look for ways to lesson her anxiety. As a result Corrie still feels that her concerns were not taken seriously and addressed in a caring manner.

Level 3

Fiona: “Sounds like you are feeling really stressed over the thought of having to do this presentation.”

Corrie: “Yeah, I get knots in my stomach and tongue tied when I have to talk in front of a group of people.”

Fiona: I remember feeling like that up to a couple of years ago whenever I had to present something. Since I started going to toastmasters a couple of years ago I’ve been able to lose a lot of my anxiety, although I still get a bit nervous. Have you ever considered going to something like toastmaster? It really helped me.”

Corrie: “I probably should. I’ve heard good things about it. A friend of mine has been with them for 5 years and always wants to take me as a guest. This presentation is only a couple of weeks away and toastmaster won’t help me this time.”

Fiona: “Is there anything I or anybody else on the team could do to help. Would it help if you did a trial run at our unit meeting this Thursday? You don’t have any problems talking to our group and it might help you feel more confident. If you want I can set up a meeting with Garret in Communications. I hear that he has some good exercises that you could work on that might take off some of that anxiety load that you’re carrying. If you want more practice I can talk to the folks in unit C about doing a trial run of your presentation at their unit meeting next Thursday. You know all of them pretty well and the more you practice, the more comfortable you’ll become. That’s the way it’s always worked for me anyways.”

Corrie: “Sure, I’ll give it a try. Maybe once I’ve done it a few times in front of people I know I’ll feel better.”

In this instance Fiona showed good empathic listening skills. She responded directly in a caring manner that indicated that she understood where Corrie was coming from. Corrie felt that she was heard, understood and cared about. Having been in Corrie’s shoes, she used this to build trust and understanding towards working towards a solution that they both could live with. She explored with Corrie some ideas that she had that might help her get the fear monkey off her back, or at least lighten his weight. It would have been better if Fiona had let Corrie come up with her own solutions to her anxiety. In this case, Fiona felt that Corrie’s anxiety would limit anything she could come up with on her own. Besides, time was running out and they did not have the luxury of a long term plan. Overall it was a great example of the effective use of empathy. Chances are Corrie will become more confident and will do a good job in the presentation. She knows she had the support of her boss and coworkers and her relationship with Fiona will become stronger. If things go well, she will come away feeling more self- confident. She may also feel grateful to Fiona for believing in her enough to not take the easy way out and give the presentation to one of her coworkers.

How To Be Assertive Without Being Rude

Article contributed by guest author John Drury.

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

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

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

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

5 Keys to being assertive without being rude

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

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

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

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

The result – healthier functioning relationships.

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

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leadership in Times of Chaos

peaceArticle Contributed by Amy Sargent

We are all saddened and disturbed each time we hear of another mass shooting or act of terrorism on this beloved planet we inhabit. The violence is unfathomable and the seeming lack of emotional intelligence by the perpetrators is repelling. Our hearts, thoughts, and prayers go to the families of those who suffer each time there is a loss of loved ones.

As our minds attempt to process the chaos, we are often quick to blame those in leadership. I witness this phenomenon all the time. The Broncos lose, it’s Peyton’s fault. The bus breaks down, it’s the driver’s fault. Our kids fail a test, it’s the teacher’s fault. We have conflict in the office, it’s the boss’s fault. I clumsily trip and fall on the ice, it’s obviously the city’s fault for not clearing the sidewalks. Finding someone on which to peg responsibility somehow seems to help us make sense of why bad things happen.

Though leadership does play a vital role in determining the course of our nation, teams, schools, and offices, this knee-jerk reaction of tagging blame on others can prevent us from developing our own conflict management skills. During times such as these, it’s a good practice to look at our own lives and assess both how we are managing our own emotions and how we are leading those in our realm of control. Are we practicing integrity in the office? Are we reacting appropriately when things don’t go our way? Are we working to resolve conflict in a healthy manner? Are we actively spending time coaching and mentoring others, building bonds and strengthening our interpersonal skills?

Let’s take some time at the start of this new year to do some self-assessment of our own leadership patterns affecting the peace of our current relationships, both at work and at home. Becoming aware is a good first step in appropriating change toward the better.  Start by asking yourself these questions:

  • How am I handling the difficult people in my life?  Am I working to resolve the issues at hand or using avoidance tactics?
  • Do I tend to help deflate arguments or spur them on?
  • What is one potential conflict on the horizon in my personal life?  What can I do to bring it into the open before it escalates?
  • Do I truly understand the perspectives of those with whom I am at odds with? How can I discover what factors are motivating them to come together to a place of better understanding?

 

“Each and every human being on Earth has both the responsibility and the privilege of viewing themselves as Divine beings with the power to bring about peace.”
– James Twyman

Happy Holidays!

happy holidays from the isei

Upcoming Classes