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

July Coach Certification Course

Coach Certification Course

Thursdays, July 13 – August 31st

3-4:30pm Eastern Time

All classes are online!

Register now to secure a seat in our July Coach Certification Course! You’ll receive 12 hours of online certification in social and emotional intelligence coaching, and earn 12 recertification credits from the ICF, HRCI, or SHRM while you’re at it. Register or learn more at: https://lnkd.in/eqNbZ3p

Summer: A time of refreshing

Article contributed by Amy Sargent.

Stress. A quick Google search tells us stress is “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.”  I don’t know about you, but May can bring with its flowers a multitude of demanding circumstances.  It’s a month of must-do’s, especially if you have school-aged children.  ‘Tis the season for the ‘final final’ of every club, activity, sport, and academic arena that your child has ever participated in, and though they are all wonderful things, just looking at your calendar for the month ahead can cause a state of mental strain!  And this comes after long, demanding days at the office. It’s enough to wear even the strongest down.

If you were to self-assess in this very moment how stressed you are, how would you rate?

If you’d like a little help in determining your stress levels, consider taking this short quiz from Psych Central (psychcentral.com):

https://psychcentral.com/quizzes/stress-test.htm

Emotional and mental tension from life’s demands can take its toll on our mental and physical health and contribute to many health issues. This article from the Mayo Clinic cites these negative symptoms of stress:

On your body:

  • Headache
  • Muscle tension or pain
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Change in sex drive
  • Stomach upset
  • Sleep problems

On your mood:

  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Lack of motivation or focus
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Irritability or anger
  • Sadness or depression
Many of us have fond memories of summer break.  No school, sleeping in, running barefoot, catching lightning bugs, throwing water balloons, sipping lemonade, swimming, picnicking, camping — all wonderful earmarks of the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer. It was a time of refreshing between the demands of the school semesters. When we were kids, my brothers and I would play hide-and-go-seek until it was too dark to see where we were running.  I remember the exhilarating feeling of sprinting back to the old ash tree just steps ahead of my chasing brothers, tangled hair flying as my swift, grass-stained feet carried me to the safety of base.  Even if your summers were spent indoors, or taking a summer class, or working at your first job, the season still usually signifies a refreshing break in the routine, a change of pace. But how often do we get that time of refreshing in our adult lives? Seasons come and go and we plod on, day in and day out, consistently meeting demands and solving problems with no respite, leaving us exhausted.

Changing up your schedule to spend time to do things you enjoy is a valuable way to combat stress. The obvious thing to do is to take some time off work and go on vacation. But many can’t afford to take the time off, or have the funds to do so.  Yet they need a break as much as the next person! Look how Maya Angelou celebrated author, poet, and historian so succinctly states it:

“Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.”

Here, here!  We all probably agree, but how do withdraw if time and funds are a constraint? It’s really quite simple.  For the moment, put aside your visions of lavishly escaping to a tropical island in the South Pacific, and just daydream for a moment about things do you like to do when you have some free time. Maybe it’s just taking a walk at lunch. Or riding your bike. Maybe you like to fish. Maybe it’s listening to your favorite tunes, or shooting basketball, reading a book, or going on a jog.  Maybe your thing is to meet a dear friend for coffee. Or visit a museum, or browse your favorite clothing store. You may be one who likes to hike, or binge-watch your favorite show or … take a nap!

I have found that I have to escape city life from time to time to find my place of refreshment. I keep my tent and camping gear tucked neatly away in the trunk of my car, so that at a moment’s notice (i.e., 5:01 pm on a Friday afternoon), I can hop in my car and take a short drive out of town to find a scenic spot to set up camp. For me, something about physically removing myself from the city and escaping to the mountains instantly renews my sense of excitement and wonder. Add to that breathing in the crisp, clean mountain air, feasting my eyes on greens and blues (green trees, green grass, blue skies, blue waters), and turning off my cell phone! gives my soul the peace it longs for.

Whatever it is that suits your fancy, make sure it’s something that you truly enjoy and has nothing to do with your day to day routine that leaves you drained. But you’ll find that the most difficult part of refreshing is not determining what to do, but when.  It’s easy to decide that activities that serve no purpose other than fun aren’t as important as our day-to-day work demands that shout so loudly, and just push the fun stuff aside. You’re going to have to make a commitment to fun. Maybe you can carve out a new morning routine before the commute. Maybe you can find some time at lunch to have some down time. Maybe one evening a week you can leave the office right at 5 pm and go play. Or take a half day on the weekend and commit to spending that time doing something you love.  Though fun may not seem as vital as work, truth is, we need both.

There is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest. Use both and overlook neither.” — Alan Cohen

When is the last time you did something just because it was fun? And if it’s been way too long, how are your stress levels? Our souls need refreshing and it’s important we figure out how to provide this form of self-care for ourselves. As summer approaches, try to carve out some time for fun. Your body and soul will thank you for it!

“A little nonsense now and then, is cherished by the wisest men.” — Roald Dahl

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

Showcasing Emotional Intelligence on your Resume

Article contributed by guest author Patricia Edwards

Show ’em your Career Smarts…emotional intelligence that is

Show 'em your Emotional Intelligence

Unless you are alone and counting beans in a cave, the ability to understand yourself and others, communicate and influence others are all critical skills and abilities of career success. With increased emphasis on collaboration and diversity, EI is becoming even more important  and companies are hiring with those attributes in mind.

What is EI?

EI is generally defined as a person’s ability to understand and manage his/her own thoughts and emotions as well having insight into others and responding in such a way to influence outcomes.  Generally speaking, the higher levels of EI you have, the more easily you can sell your ideas to others, resolve conflict, inspire and lead teams in complex and ever changing work environments.

How can I present my EI in my resume?

Start with the job posting or job description.  If it requires interpersonal communication skills, ability to work with a team or manage other people, you have a competitive edge if you can showcase those abilities on the resume.  Simply saying “I have high emotional intelligence” is not enough and may, in fact, create question since two dimensions of EI are “reality testing and self regard”.  Rather than list communications as a strength, list examples of how you:

  • overcame objections to influence a decision
  • communicated a controversial message with positive consequences
  • increased sales team effectiveness
  • improved patient satisfaction scores
  • resolved conflict between two opposing business units

Do you control your own emotions well under stress?  Highlighting that much needed ability can be accomplished by describing how you have responded well to emotionally stressful situations:

  • have you been able to manage conflicting priorities and assignments?
  • have you met demanding deadlines?
  • were you able to exceed a difficult sales quota?

Have others told you that you are insightful and read others’ emotions well?  Describe specific circumstances in your career when you used that ability.  For example:

  • if assigned to improve a process, you may have designed questions and facilitated focus groups to solicit ideas from people most impacted
  • if involved in a merger of two business groups, you may have conducted a needs assessment to gain concensus before pursuing any change

When showcasing your EI, be mindful of the position and work environment.  Customer service, sales, human resources, medical delivery, or research all have industry specific responsibilities.  Conflict resolution might look different in different work settings; however, if you have ever managed a team of employees or were responsible for firing someone, you can certainly speak to your emotional intelligence competence.

Remember:  specificity speaks louder than generality.  Your resume can briefly explain the situation and provide the hiring manager with good discussion starters for the interview.  Be sure to be prepared with details to expand upon your top three EI traits.  You will make a very favorable impression during the interview.

Speaking of interviews…

Most companies ask behavioral interview questions to determine how candidates might fit into the organization.  Many organizations also use EI interview questions to hire and promote.  The questions answer:

  • stress – what are your hot buttons
  • how you relate in conflict situations
  • what motivates you to do your best
  • how you define your own work success

Not just for Execs

Lest you think this is only used for manager positions, this type of screening and interviewing is common in healthcare, customer service and sales, financial services and most other professions. Here’s an example.  A leading collection agency uses EI interview questions to determine candidates’ levels of optimism and self esteem.  It turns out that the perfect candidate for this company possess fairly  low optimism and very high self esteem.

How can you measure your high EI?

Options include online EI assessments or working with someone certified to report out detailed findings and work with you toward a customized development plan.

Want to learn more about emotional intelligence and your job search or career success?  I help professionals and executives get hired by designing strategic job searches. Contact me at Patricia@CareerWisdomCoach.com or tweet me @CareerSmartz.

Taking Leadership To Heart – Success Stories

Article contributed by guest author Dawn Cook.

From Dawn’s blog at DaybreakEQ.com…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emotional Spring Cleaning

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

In some parts of the world, springtime is just around the corner. And as the weather turns warm and the sun peeks out from behind the grey, winter clouds, many of us turn our attention to spring cleaning. Something about the nesting we tend to do during a long, cold winter creates an innate desire to clean house and get a fresh start with the budding of spring. We open up the windows, organize a closet, and clear out the clutter. We get rid of things that no longer serve a purpose or are slowing us down.

Our emotional homes need a similar ritual of spring cleaning. When is the last time you spruced up your emotional well-being?

Emotional intelligence is the ability to be aware of how we are feeling, in the moment and respond accordingly. As well, it includes social intelligence, the ability to read how others are feeling in the moment and to manage your relationship with that person appropriately.

Emotional intelligence differs from our intellectual quotient in that it can be modified and improved. It’s all about behavior and behavior can be changed! Increasing our emotional intelligence is a great way to clean house, emotionally, to rid ourselves of stumbling blocks and open the windows to the refreshing scent of emotional health.

What behaviors are you seeing in your own life that no longer serve a productive, positive purpose? Maybe it’s an old hurt that you allow to continually rise to the surface and trigger anger. Maybe it is a cutting, sarcastic tone that causes damage to those on the receiving end. Maybe it is an inability to see your own worth and lead others with inspiration. We all have our areas that could use some sprucing up. But while most of us know how to use soap and water to clean our physical homes, where do we start to freshen our emotional homes?

Often the cleansing process begins with some accurate self-assessment, to pinpoint the things that are weighing us down. In the words of Cyla Warncke, freelance writer and journalist:

“By taking the time to identify and understand our baggage and making a conscious decision to let go we free ourselves to experience life in a richer, deeper, more meaningful way.”

What are some ways to begin your journey of accurate self-assessment?  There are many tools on the market that can help. Here’s an online quiz created by LiveHappy.com you can take to see how much emotional baggage you are carrying around: http://www.livehappy.com/self/quizzes/quiz-how-much-emotional-baggage-do-you-carry. You also can dive more deeply into your self-assessment by working with a life coach to help you discover the areas that could use some work. Good coaching, teamed up with an assessment such as the Social + Emotional Intelligence Profile® created by the Institute for Social + Emotional Intelligence® can give you an accurate, detailed evaluation of your current emotional state: (take our assessment free at http://www.theisei.com/PreviewVideoforCertCourse.aspx).

Once you’ve established the areas of your emotional health that need refreshing, the next step is to make sure you have the right tools to get the job done. There are four tools that anyone in an emotional cleanup project will need:

  • Self-Awareness
  • Other Awareness
  • Self-Management
  • Relationship Management

Howard Gardner laid the framework for these four quadrants in 1983 with his theory of multiple intelligences, and in 1998 Daniel Goleman introduced these quadrants as keys to emotional growth. But just knowing the tools you need doesn’t necessarily get them into your hands.  A shopping trip is in order. Again, I can’t stress enough the importance of having a good coach, counselor, or colleague who you trust and can speak honestly into the crevices of your life that may be collecting dirt. Sometimes it just takes an outside eye to spot the cluttered areas that we don’t notice on our own. And if you’re at a loss as to where to start with finding someone to serve as a guide, here at the Institute we have a team of trained coaches who are experts in the field of social and emotional intelligence who can offer insight and direction down your emotional housecleaning.

If you’re not ready to work with a professional on your emotional spring cleaning, there are many self-cleansing practices you can incorporate to jump start your emotional well being.

“Nourishing yourself in a way that helps you blossom in the direction you want to go is attainable, and you are worth the effort. ” – Deborah Day

Many are just basic self-care for our physical bodies that quickly transfer to our emotional health. Get more sleep. Take a yoga class. Drink water. Check your diet and begin to replace unhealthy choices with more nutritious ones. Exercise. Meditate. Learn something new. Serve others. Dream. Spend time doing things you enjoy. Rest. Journal. Practice thankfulness. With a quick search on the internet you can find a multitude of resources to begin to give better care to your emotional self. Many creative ways to nourish your spirit can be found in this enjoyable read by Alison Miller:  http://alisonimiller.com/spring-cleaning-for-the-soul-25-ways-to-nourish-your-spirit/.  In addition, here at the Institute we offer online courses in social + emotional intelligence that can not only help you clean up your own emotional house but train you how to nurture it in others.  Learn more at www.the-isei.com and click on the Classes tab.

Taking the time for emotional spring cleaning will not only give you a mental ‘lift’ but will clear away the clutter that may be preventing the emotional-well-being you long for.  So as you get out your broom and dustpan this spring to tackle the task of cleaning your home, don’t forget about doing some spring cleaning in your emotional home as well.

How To Be Assertive Without Being Rude

Article contributed by guest author John Drury.

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

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

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

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

5 Keys to being assertive without being rude

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

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

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

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

The result – healthier functioning relationships.

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

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

stuckArticle contributed by guest author Dawn Cook.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for reading.  Make it an EQ day!

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