Posts Tagged ‘social intelligence’

Teaming Up: 9 Ways to Build an Emotionally Intelligent Team

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

The power of working together

You’ve probably heard about the teambuilding balloon exercise. No? Here you go, then. Each team member of a large group is given an inflated balloon with instructions to write their name on it, then throw it into a pile with hundreds of other inflated balloons in the room. After scrambling the balloons, the challenge was given: find the balloon with your name on it. After 15 minutes not one single person was able to find their balloon. They were then instructed to find any balloon in the room with a name on it and give it to the person whose name was on it. Within a couple of minutes every member of the team had their own balloon.

The team leader shared the lesson learned: “We are much more efficient when we are willing to share with each other. And we are better problem solvers when we are working together, not individually.” [https://www.teamworkandleadership.com/2015/10/short-teamwork-story-you-will-want-to-share-with-your-team.html]

What does a strong team member look like?

Teamwork can be defined as the ability to work well with others toward a common goal. I think the word synergy defines it best: “Synergy, n., the interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.” The word is derived from both the Latin word synergia and the Greek word sunergia, meaning cooperation, and the Greek word ergon, which means work. [https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/us/]

“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”

Helen Keller

People who exhibit this competence of emotional intelligence not only work cooperatively with others, but enjoy it, even when opposing personalities and perspectives are involved. They are good at creating an identity for the group, and know how to draw each participant into enthusiastic participation. They are sharers. They freely share ideas, plans, resources — and the credit, both for positive outcomes and disappointing ones. Somehow they are able to put team goals before their own goals. They know how to build trust and respect.

Who is the best team-builder you know?

Those who aren’t so good at teambuilding tend to prefer working alone and struggle to coordinate efforts with others — or simply don’t want to. They’re known for saying “that wasn’t my responsibility” when a ball is dropped, or, “that was someone else’s job.” They tend to avoid conflict, and withhold information, unintentionally, and sometimes intentionally. They are known for not wanting or needing help from others. Without realizing it, they can undermine team decisions and actions by isolating themselves as a lone wolf, an island, by not abiding by team norms or standards. They see the team as a weight which slows them down from reaching goals.

“Unity is strength…when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.”

Mattie Stepanek

Today’s challenges to teambuilding

In the United States alone, it’s estimated that 41.8% of employees work remotely, and 56.8% work remotely at least part time. It’s predicted that this number will double by 2025. And while there are many benefits to remote work, this upward trend can take a toll on team cohesion if we’re relying on in-person interactions to connect. For some, navigating internet platforms for online meetings has proved challenging. For those who have mastered the art of online meetings, they know well that communication can be muddled with internet drops and lags. We’ve all sat in an online meeting when someone is talking and suddenly their voice is reduced to electronic sounds and blurred images. As you know, not a lot of relationship-building happens in those moments.

In just one year alone, from 2020 to 2021, Americans received 40% more daily notifications from emails, texts. And because it’s impossible to read facial expressions and hear tone in texts and emails, these methods of communication can lend itself toward a great deal of, well, miscommunication. [https://www.techrepublic.com/article/the-future-of-work-by-2025-36-million-americans-will-be-remote-workers/]

Despite these changes, the need for clear, concise communication is vital to building heathy teams and promoting collaboration.

What you can do to be a better team player

“None of us is as smart as all of us.”

Ken Blanchard

If you struggle with teamwork and collaboration, you are not alone. The great news about emotional intelligence competencies is that they can be learned and developed. Here are a few ways you can start sharpening your teamwork and collaboration skills:

1-Seek out opportunities to work with others.

2-Take a genuine interest in learning more about others, both their professional and personal lives.

3-Make it a goal to ask each team member how you can best support them, regularly.

4-Keep your team members informed of your aspirations, plans, and timelines.

5-Ask for other’s perspectives and viewpoints — and be open to having your own opinions changed as a result.

6-Develop your conflict resolution skills.

7-Share your knowledge and don’t be an information hoarder.

8-Give credit to whom credit is due.

9-Make it a point to treat everyone with courtesy and respect, no matter their job title or role.

Which one of these will you try today?

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”

Henry Ford

Embracing Empathy

Article submitted by Amy Sargent

Have you noticed your empathy has taken a turn for the worse over the past few months? Is it getting harder and harder to really care about others’ complaints and concerns? Do others seem way “off” in their beliefs and opinions? Are you hanging out less and less with those who are different than you? Do you find yourself rolling your eyes at people’s “drama” instead of responding with understanding? At a time when it is needed most, why is it so difficult to comprehend — and even value — the feelings and perspectives of others?

Empathy can be defined as the ability to sense what others are feeling, and take an active interest in their concerns. It’s about noticing how others are feeling, feeling it yourself, and taking action to support them through the tough times. Empathy is the capacity to know – emotionally – what another is experiencing, AND being able to express or communicate your understanding in return.

It’s a noble skillset, and something I’d guess we’d all like to have more of. Then why is it such a struggle?

Why don’t I care?

In her article, “3 Reasons Why Empathy is Hard“, Rujuta Pendharkar,  Founder and Principal at People Plus Results, points out that your genetic makeup, and the amount that you were nurtured and taught empathy as a child, may play a role in the struggle. If empathy was not modeled to you at a young age, it may be more difficult for you to exhibit empathy than those who were brought up in nurturing homes. Good news, though, lest you think it’s hopeless! Empathy, being a competency of emotional intelligence, can be developed, even if you got off to a bad start. So don’t let that be your excuse to tune out to others’ emotions and feelings.

Simple distraction may be yet another cause. We live in an age where options abound, and there are many voices demanding our time and attention. “Buy this, sign up for this, attend this, learn to do this, join this, add this…” — the push to do more and be more and accomplish more bombards us from all directions. Rujuta notes, “We’re living in the age of distraction. We’re probably the most distracted of all generations in human history.” Research by Ryan Dwyer points to the fact that modern technology, while wonderful in many ways, can sidetrack us from deepening relationships with family and friends. [https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/08/180810161553.htm]

Another factor that deters us from empathy may be that we have become overly self-absorbed. Can you believe there was a time when “selfies” were not a thing? Notice on social media how many times the words “I” and “me” are used. Online platforms instruct users to build online profiles, using photos and videos of themselves, touting accomplishments, achievements, and wins. We are given ample opportunity to share, brag, celebrate, show, and tell — about ourselves! Don’t get me wrong, it’s terrific to exhibit self-confidence and possess personal power…but not so much that we neglect and dismiss others. Rujuta goes on to say, “As a society, we’ve undergone a tectonic shift. We’re now about selfies, self-promotion, personal branding, and self-interest. Sometimes this comes at the cost of paying attention to others’ thoughts, feelings, needs, and concerns.” [https://www.peoplematters.in/blog/others/3-reasons-why-empathy-is-hard-26826]

“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

Empathy and Stress

And don’t forget fatigue and stress. When we are tired, physically and emotionally, and experiencing chronic stress, it makes it tough to really care about what others are going through — and feel what they are feeling. Think back on the last time you were worn out. In that moment, how much energy did you have to pour into others? One study points out that those who are stress-prone are able to identify others’ emotions — exercising “cognitive empathy” — but that they weren’t so good at what scientists call “affective empathy”, or that ability to feel what others are feeling. [https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/what_is_the_relationship_between_stress_and_empathy]

Yet, stressful times are when empathy is needed most, especially for leaders. Quint Studer, in his article, “Why Empathy is the Most Important Skill a Leader Can Develop Right Now“, says, “When people are stressed and anxious, the ability to show empathy is the most important skill a leader can have. In hard times, building trust and engagement really matters, and empathy is the cornerstone of those connections.” When people feel listened to and understood at a deep emotional level, and when that understanding is acknowledged or communicated, people feel affirmed and validated. [https://thebusyleadershandbook.com/why-empathy-is-the-most-important-skill-a-leader-can-develop-right-now/]

Assessing your Empathy Skills

There are some tell-tale signs that your empathetic skills may need some work. Read the following statements, and see how many you agree with:

  • I find myself stereotyping people who are different than me
  • I do not understand why some people feel the way they do
  • Others’ strong emotions take me by surprise
  • I am finding myself in conflict with others more often than not
  • When I’m in conversation with others, I have a hard time reading what they are thinking and feeling.
  • I often do what is best for me without regard to how it may make others’ feel
  • Some say I come across as indifferent or uncaring

If you agree with any of the above, consider taking a step toward developing more empathy.

“Empathy has no script. There is no right way or wrong way to do it. It’s simply listening, holding space, withholding judgment, emotionally connecting, and communicating that incredibly healing message of ‘You’re not alone.’”

– Brene Brown

How to grow in empathy

The ability to empathize depends upon our ability to notice and identify our own emotions. A simple way to do this is to keep an Emotions Journal for a few weeks. Notice how you feel when you wake up, and try to name it specifically. Jot it down. Then notice how you feel as you get ready for work. Same thing — name it specifically, and write it down. Note how you’re feeling at lunch time. Then in the early afternoon. Then as you finish up your day. Notice your feelings in the evening, and before you go to bed. After a few weeks, notice any trends or patterns. Begin to attach a why to each emotion by asking yourself, “Why am I feeling this?” Try to withhold self-judgment as you do this exercise. Try not to label your emotions as good or bad — just notice them for what they are. If you need help, consider enlisting the help of a social and emotional intelligence coach to help you with self-awareness.

Once you are able to notice and label your own feelings, and starting to understand why you’re feeling what you’re feeling, you can now turn your attention to others. Becoming a good listener is key. There’s simply no way you’ll be able to feel the emotions of others and respond if you are not listening. Here are a few tips to tuning in to others in a more effective way:

  • Call out your Cynic. Cynicism and empathy do not play well together. Notice any hurtful behaviors you may exhibit toward others regularly, such as belittling, diminishing, rejecting, scorning, labeling, dismissing or ignoring. These behaviors make others feel invalidated and demoralized. You may exhibit these outwardly through words or behaviors, or may just be thinking them. Instead of shaming yourself when you notice your Cynic’s appearance, try saying, “There goes my Cynic again.” Then replace these invalidating thoughts, words, and behaviors with gratitude or appreciation if possible.
  • Make time for others. This means stopping what you’re doing to really listen — including putting down your phone. Stop. Stop walking. Stop typing. Stop thinking about what you need to do next, or what you’re going to say next. Stop, turn to face the person, and make eye contact. If now is not a good time to give your full attention, let them know that and schedule a later time to talk.
  • Attempt to pick up on the emotions that accompany words, and the whys behind them. Easier said than done, I know. But we so often get hung up on words (and which of us has never had something come out wrong or put our foot in our mouth?). When someone is speaks, ask yourself, “What is this person feeling? Why might they be feeling this way?” Notice their facial expressions. For example, when you ask them how they are, and they say “Fine”, can you see the flicker of pain in their eyes, or the fake smile they plaster on their face?
  • Adopt a “Me Too” attitude. When you notice someone else’s emotions, ask yourself if you’ve ever felt those same emotions.. You may not be feeling them right now, but surely you’ve felt that feeling before at some point in your life. Try to remember how it felt, and the why behind your own feelings. Though you may not feel that way on this particular issue, you can connect with them on the feeling itself.
  • Notice what underlying concerns the person may be trying to express. Often deep concerns are masked by annoying behaviors. For example, an over-attention to detail may indicate worry. An aggressive stance may be a fear of coming across weak. Bragging may indicate that they feel intimidated. Try to refrain judgment in these moments. Just notice what may really be going on behind the behaviors.
  • Acknowledge what you think you’ve heard with gratitude. After listening, paraphrase, repeat back, and clarify the emotions you think you are hearing (i.e., “Sounds like you’re feeling frustrated…am I hearing you right?”) Thank them for trusting you enough to share with you, to give you their time, to be vulnerable with you. Let them know how you appreciate them–even if you don’t agree with what they said or feel.

E.B. Johnson, in the article, “Why You Should Nurture Your Empathy Right Now“, says this, “Rather than allowing our apathy to set in, we have to learn how to understand our empathy and compassion and understand it in ways that empowers us to use it as a tool of change. If we want to overcome the pain and suffering of this modern world, we have to learn how to cultivate empathy in our lives and figure out how to relate to others in way that is both meaningful and lasting.”. [https://practicalgrowth.substack.com/p/why-empathy-is-important-2eb3d8c4f776]

Accepting and embracing the differences in others — in feelings, thoughts, perspectives, and behaviors — can be tough. You may be of the mindset of, “Wouldn’t it be easier if everyone just agreed with me?” And you’re right — it probably would be easier. But that is not how life works. Expressing empathy, despite the differences, provides fertile ground ripe for growth and learning. Comprehending and embracing those who are different is vital to harmonious living.

I don’t know if there’s ever been a time when empathy was needed more. What do you think? If you’re still not sure, consider giving it a try to find out.

Building Bonds

Article submitted by Amy Sargent

This month, we’re told to focus on romantic love, and encouraged to buy flowers, chocolates, and candy hearts to express our fondness for loved ones. And while these are fun — especially if you like candy —  there may be a better way to communicate your affections. Consider devoting some time this month to the emotional intelligence competency of building bonds.

Good friends and trusted colleagues are hard to come by. And there’s a reason. Many of us are lacking the skills it takes to nurture and maintain deep relationships.

With the rise of technology use, especially when it’s used to replace in-person interactions, and the ever-increasing number of people who are working remotely, alone, isolated from colleagues and clients, opportunities to connect with others face-to-face seem to be dwindling.

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

– Helen Keller, Activist & Teacher

Andrea Michelli, Professor of Early Intervention in Mental Health, King’s College London, reported in a January 2022 article that 45% of those in the UK reported feelings of loneliness. She notes, “With reports that loneliness has been on the rise since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are concerns that it could reach epidemic proportions by 2030, unless action is taken.”[https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2022/01/lonely-study-green-space-city/]

The ability to build bonds with others is not some magical quality which only a few individuals are gifted to possess. It is something we all can develop. Those who are good at building bonds tap into their extensive networks of connections to share ideas, offer collaboration, and gain support when needed. They’re able to build rapport easily and earn the trust of others. Not only do they have a close-knit web of personal friends, they get along with colleagues at work and are not afraid to be open and authentic to build friendships in the workplace. They’re respectful of others and value people and perspectives which are different than their own.

When people struggle with this competency of emotional intelligence, they tend to have troubles connecting with their colleagues, direct reports, and upper management. Part of the reason behind this is that they are unable to recognize the needs of others, and don’t pick up on social cues to notice others’ concerns. They can be competitive, and when conflict arises, quickly let go or sever relationships to avoid the frustration. Because they have an extremely limited number of connections, when they need help, they have very few people they can lean into, which leads to isolation.

“No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it.”

– H. E. Luccock, Professor

If you are struggling with building bonds with others, there are practices you can begin to help you improve your skills. On the other hand, you may be quite adept at connecting with others — if so, well done! But there’s always room for improvement. These same practices can strengthen and deepen those relationships.

Here are a few things to try:

  • Conduct a status report on your current friendships and connections. If you were to rate the quality of your relationships on a scale from 0 to 10, how would you rank your current friendships? Do you feel known and understood? Do they? And how about quantity? We’re not talking about having thousands of superficial interactions, but about increasing the number of connections upon which you can trust and rely. Maybe it’s time to make a new friend or two.
  • Note how your current relationships impact your success, both personally and professionally. Who is a major contributor to your achievements? Who do you turn to when you need help? Who reaches out to you for support? Take a moment to reflect on the impacts these individuals have on your accomplishments.
  • Reach out to those you are closest to and ask for feedback. Ask your besties what they would name as your strengths. Take some time to celebrate those. Then ask what behaviors hinder your effectiveness at building deeper relationships. Listen and take note of what they share with you.
  • Schedule time each week to meet with others, both to make new connections and strengthen current relationships. Even if you’re introverted, face-to-face time is best in developing better social skills. However, that may not be possible, so see if you can set up a virtual meeting at the least.
  • Notice what your friends and colleagues are going through. Can you tell when your personal friends and professional colleagues are experiencing stress or overwhelm? When is the last time you checked in with them — beyond the superficial “How are ya?”? Take the time to find out. Reach out with a phone call or text. Offer to help and support them. If you’re not sure what they need, try asking them directly.
  • Find someone you respect and trust and ask for support. It is not weak to lean into others. When we ask for help, it makes friends and colleagues feel appreciated and valued. It creates a safe environment for them, in turn, to ask for your help when needed. And, it provides us fresh with insights and perspectives as we work toward solutions…together.
  • Lighten your load. If you feel you have too much on your plate to spend time building bonds, consider taking a few things off that plate. Delegate where you can to carve out more time for connecting. Admit you have too much going on. Grab a trusted friend or colleague who can help you prioritize.
  • Seek out ways to connect with others, professionally and personally. Join the local Chamber of Commerce and attend the monthly meetings. Sign up for an industry-related workshop or conference. Join a social club or group who share your interests. Accept that invitation to meet for lunch. Jump on the optional Zoom call.
  • Become an excellent listener. More often than not, our inability to fully tune into others limits our ability to connect deeply. Put down your phone when someone is talking to you. Listen for the emotions they are conveying behind their words. Confirm that what you’re hearing is really what they’re trying to express. Here’s a simple test to measure your listening ability: note who is doing most of the talking in your conversations…you or them? If it’s you, a simple way to shift this is to ask more open-ended questions, and truly listen to their responses.

Which of these practices will you start with? Pick one and, if possible, spend 10 minutes in the morning thinking about how you might incorporate it into your day. Journal about it, and set some intentions. Who will you try this with? When? How? Where? What benefit will you glean if you do? As with any new habit, these practices may feel awkward or uncomfortable at first. That’s OK. If you get discouraged, remind yourself that building bonds with others is worth the effort, and your skills can grow.

Sure, buy the flowers, the chocolates, and the candy during this season of love. But if you want lasting, meaningful results, consider adding the gift of building bonds. What better way to express your affection this Valentine’s Day?

“Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.”

– Jane Howard

Gratefully, Yours

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

For whom do you feel a deep sense of gratitude? Have you let them know?

It’s that time of year where we’re reminded to offer up thanks. And why not? Developing practices of gratitude is one of the simplest ways to improve life satisfaction. Research shows that expressing gratitude not only benefits the person receiving it, but also the giver, with positive effects sticking around for months.

Psychologists Dr. Robert Emmons (University of CA) and Dr. Michael McCullough (University of Miami) conducted a study asking one group of participants to write about things they were thankful for during the week. A second group was to write about daily frustrations and a third group was asked to write about anything. After ten weeks of this, the researchers found that those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt more positive about their lives. Interestingly, they exercised more often and paid fewer visits to the doctor that the other groups! [https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12585811/]

Another significant study on the benefits of gratitude was conducted by Dr. Martin Seligman, Director of the Penn State Positive Psychology Center. He assigned study participants to write a gratitude letter and deliver it to the recipient. The participants who did this displayed a drastic increase in their happiness scores, and these happiness benefits lasted up to six months after they letter was written and delivered. [https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16045394/]

Gratitude is not only connected to reducing depression and worry-related anxiety, but boosts an overall sense of wellbeing and relationship satisfaction. When gratitude is expressed, the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain associated with our ability to imagine our future, becomes activated, allowing us to ‘see’ more optimistic outcomes. Additionally, exercising gratitude increases activity in the hypothalamus, the part of the brain which controls functions such as sleep, eating, metabolism, and stress management.  Know of anyone who could use some improvement in those bodily functions?! [https://draxe.com/health/benefits-of-gratitude/   and https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/prefrontal-nudity/201211/the-grateful-brain]

In an article in Psychology Today, author Amy Morin outlines these seven benefits of gratitude:

1. It opens doors to new relationships

2. It improves physical health

3. It improves psychological health

4. It enhances empathy

5. It helps with sleep

6. It increases self-esteem

7. It increases mental strength

[https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-mentally-strong-people-dont-do/201504/7-scientifically-proven-benefits-gratitude]

Still not believing it? Give it a try! Keep a gratitude journal for the next ten weeks. Or, take a moment to write a gratitude letter to someone who’s had a positive impact on you, and deliver it. If you can’t deliver it in person, set up an online meeting and read it aloud to them.

Then let us know how you are feeling!

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Managing Conflict with Emotional Intelligence

Article submitted by Amy Sargent.

It takes two to tango. It’s an old, overused phrase, yet one which still accurately illustrates the fact that conflict doesn’t happen in isolation. Think of the last conflict you experienced. Was it about you, with you, against you — or was another person involved?

Conflict is defined as a serious disagreement or argument. It can also be defined as an incompatibility between two or more opinions, principles, or interests, or, a word to describe when two people are at a variance. In more simpler terms, conflict means to clash. [https://languages.oup.com/google-dictionary-en/]

Do you clash with anyone these days?

A common way of dealing with conflict is to point the finger at the other person’s misses, flaws, and faults. It’s most likely the most preferred way of ‘handling’ conflict. However, you’ve probably discovered that finger pointing doesn’t make the conflict go away, and sometimes, exacerbates it. Another way we deal with conflict is through control — trying to control the other person. But try as you may, you probably realize it’s nearly impossible to make someone else do/be what you want them to do/be. There’s only one part of conflict you can control: you. Margaret Paul adds, “When it comes to control, it’s important to remember that the only thing we actually have control over is ourselves, our attitudes, our beliefs, our behavior – our intent.”

This should come as good news. It is tiring to attempt to control others. If you’ve tried it, you know what I mean.

“Attempting to constantly control everyone and everything around you is not only exhausting…it is also futile. The only real power you can achieve in this life is being in control of yourself.”

― Anthon St. Maarten

So, let’s talk about the emotional intelligence competency of behavioral self-control as it relates to conflict. What is it, and how do you know if you’re doing well with it, or struggling?

Behavioral self-control simply means keeping disruptive emotions and impulses in check. It’s not about not feeling certain emotions…or pretending they are not there…or stuffing them inside. It’s actually about fully feeling emotions — but not letting them have the driver’s seat. Instead, we feel them then choose how we want to behave.

A controlling nature

Trying to control others is a primary hurdle to developing behavioral self-control. If it’s always someone else’s fault, and if only you could make the _____ (fill in the blank), where is the space for you to look at your own areas of improvement to make a shift. You may be thinking, that’s not me — I don’t try to control others. What does a controlling personality look like? If you can answer yes to any of the following, you may be a bit of a controller:

  • I usually think I am right in most disagreements
  • It’s important for me to be right
  • I criticize others, either to their face or behind their back — or in my mind
  • I always have a better solution and offer it freely, even when not asked
  • I clearly see others’ faults, but don’t notice my own
  • I think things will be better if we do them my way
  • I’m often telling others what they should be doing vs. what they are doing
  • I have a hard time saying sorry (because I’m rarely wrong!)

[https://www.innerbonding.com/show-article/553/self-control-vs-controlling-self-and-others.html]

Sometimes having a controlling nature is a form of self-protection. Maybe you’ve experienced trauma where someone robbed you of your freedom or safety at one point in your life, and now, the only way to maintain any control is to control others. Controlling others may simply be a way to cope. If that’s the case, no shame. Seek the help of a professional therapist or counsellor if this resonates with you to further explore what’s going on.

“You always seek to control others when you are not in full ownership of yourself.”

― Cicely Tyson

Controlling rarely brings the relationship results we’re looking for. Instead, focus on something(one) you can control…yourself.

People who shine in behavioral self-control

People who are strong in behavioral self-control are good at managing their impulsive feelings and distressing emotions well. They stay composed, positive, and unflappable even in trying moments. They restrain negative reactions and stay focused under pressure. They are self-aware enough to maintain their stamina and performance in emotionally-charged situations. Instead of being a victim to tough circumstances, they choose not to escalate a problem when attacked, provoked, or aggressively confronted by another.

While there are some people who have mastered this, most of us struggle with one or more of the above. Which one of those would you like to improve upon? What benefits might you experience if you were to grow in that area? Which of your relationships would it positively effect?

Raven Ishak says, “While you may believe that you can control a lot in your life, the reality is that you really only have control over one thing: your emotions.”[https://www.bustle.com/articles/147204-6-ways-to-let-go-of-control-enjoy-life-more]

Think back on your last conflict. Which one of the above could have helped with the disagreement if you or the other person could have exercised more of it?

People lacking this competency

How can you tell if you struggle with behavioral self-control? You probably won’t be surprised, but those who could grow in this competency tend to:

  • React impulsively
  • Get involved in inappropriate situations because they can’t resist the temptation
  • Respond to problems in a non-constructive way (yelling, hurling insults, etc.)
  • Are quick to anger
  • Tend to be defensive
  • May become angry, depressed or agitated when faced with conflicts and stress on the job (may even think of quitting)

Again, no shame here. We all have areas in which we can grow. If you could choose one to work on first, which one would you choose and why?

Development tips

Self-awareness is the first step to developing stronger behavior self-control. Once you’ve identified an area (from the list above) you’d like to work on, make a list of things that cause you to “lose it” – your triggers or “hot buttons”. Note who pushes those buttons most. When is the next time you will be in contact with them? Then, write out a strategy to deal with each of these issues the next time they arise. If you’re struggling with ideas, consider enlisting the help of a social and emotional intelligence coach.

Having a plan of attack will help you to choose a more constructive response when issues come up in the future.

And while you do this, watch your self talk. That little voice in our head is really great at doing everything it can to justify poor behavior. Instead, tell yourself what it looks like to stay composed and calm. Describe to yourself what an optimal outcome would look like, and what you could do to achieve that. Then tell yourself you can do this.

That way, the next time you hear the phrase, “It takes two to tango”, you can make it about dancing, and not about conflict.

Accurate Self-Assessment

Article submitted by Amy Sargent

When you look into the mirror, who do you see? If someone was looking at your reflection with you, would they see the same thing(s) in you?

I’d like to think I have an accurate view of myself. I mean, I’m old, and I’ve lived with me for 50 some years now. You would think I would know myself well…and I do…in some aspects.

But, as we all do, I have a few blind spots. Blind spots are simply areas of life where others see us differently than we see ourselves. They often are aspects where we view ourselves stronger, higher, more adept, more suave, more competent — you fill in the blank — than what those around us see.

Know Thyself

Accurate self-assessment. What is it, and how can we know if we have it? It’s a competency of emotional intelligence, and one which is vital to building a healthy self-image and healthy relationships.

“What do you mean, Phib?” asked Miss Squeers, looking in her own little glass, where, like most of us, she saw – not herself, but the reflection of some pleasant image in her own brain.”

― Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby

Accurate self-assessment is an inner awareness of your strengths and limitations, without ill-placed pride, and without shame. It’s also knowing how to utilize your strengths and improve in your areas of growth.

Are you self-aware about your self-awareness?

Ironically, many think they are self-aware when they are not. Organizational psychologist and researcher Tasha Eurich notes, “With thousands of people from all around the world, 95 percent of people believe that they’re self-aware, but only about 10 to 15 percent really are.” [https://trainingmag.com/why-most-people-lack-self-awareness-and-what-to-do-about-it]. Do you think you fall in the 95% or the 15%?

Eurich goes on to note, “At the office, we don’t have to look far to find unaware colleagues — people who, despite past successes, solid qualifications, or irrefutable intelligence, display a complete lack of insight into how they are coming across.”

You’re probably thinking of someone (or somemany!) right now.

A question to ask — if they were reading this, would they be thinking of you?

Healthy self-esteem

Research shows that accurate self-awareness builds healthy self-esteem by making us more proactive and encouraging positive self-development (Sutton, 2016). It allows us to experience pride in ourselves and our accomplishments (Silvia & O’Brien, 2004). It lends itself toward better decision making (Ridley, Schutz, Glanz, & Weinstein, 1992), and can make us better at our jobs, better communicators in the workplace, and enhance our self-confidence and job-related wellbeing (Sutton, Williams, & Allinson, 2015). [https://positivepsychology.com/self-awareness-matters-how-you-can-be-more-self-aware/]

Qualities of a self-aware individual

People who are strong in this competency tend to do a lot of the following. Which one of these is your strength?

  • Reflective and learn from past experiences
  • Understand your potential
  • Recognize your strengths and capabilities
  • Welcome candid feedback
  • Are continually learning
  • See clearly your areas of growth
  • Admit you have blind spots
  • Are quick to ask for help from others
  • Have the ability to identify and target areas for improvement and change
  • Demonstrate a desire to improve

“Butterflies can’t see their wings. They can’t see how truly beautiful they are, but everyone else can. People are like that as well.”

― Naya Rivera

Healthy relationships

It’s also important we develop an acute self-awareness to experience successful relationships. In her thesis at Pepperdine University, Camille Fung concludes that “Self-awareness is positively correlated with self-acceptance and quality of interpersonal relationships. This means that self-acceptance and self-awareness tend to increase and decrease together and self-awareness and quality of relationships do the same.”
[https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/288853605.pdf]

Blind spots (those areas where your mirror doesn’t show you what you need to see)

If you’re not sure if you have a blind spot in accurate self-awareness, ask yourself, “How many of these behaviors show up for me on a daily or weekly basis?”

  • Tend to want to appear “right” in front of others
  • Fail to ask for help
  • Compete with others instead of cooperating
  • Exaggerate their own value and contribution
  • Set unrealistic, overly ambitious and unattainable goals for themselves and others
  • Push themselves hard, often at the expense of other parts of their lives
  • Push others hard
  • Tend to micromanage and take over instead of delegating (“if you want it done right. . . “)
  • Take credit for others’ efforts
  • Blame others for mistakes, even if they made them
  • Cannot admit mistakes or personal weaknesses
  • Can’t accept feedback or criticism

It’s normal to have blind spots, and it’s normal to have areas of accurate self-awareness which need improvement. Recognizing the area you want to do some work on is a great first step toward improvement. A brave next step would be to ask those closest to you, whether at work or at home, which of the above qualities do they notice showing up in you?

“It is good to see ourselves as others see us.”

― Mahatma Gandhi

Again, it’s OK to have areas around accurate self-assessment which need some work. No shame. Welcome to the human race. However, once you’ve raised your self-awareness around areas of growth, there’s no need to keep repeating patterns which aren’t working for you, or others. The good news about emotional intelligence is that it can be developed and improved.

Take a moment to brainstorm ways you could do LESS of one of the above behaviors. Then give it a try with the next person you interact with. Then try it again…and again…and again, until it become a new habit.

Development tips

In Nick Wignall’s article, “5 Habits of Highly Self-Aware People”, he outlines five ways you can tell someone IS self-aware. These can serve as ideals or goals to work toward. Which of these would you like to develop in your own life?

  • They listen more than they talk.
  • They’re curious about their own minds.
  • They look for emotional blind spots.
  • They ask for feedback (and take it well).
  • They reflect on their values. [https://nickwignall.com/self-aware-people/

Choose one and focus on doing more of that for a few weeks. As with building any new habit, it will take time and repetition. Celebrate your successes along the way. Then keep going. After a few months, take some time to journal what you’ve learned, where you’ve improved and where you still need work. You can continue to focus on that one aspect, or pick a new one to work on. Then do it. And give yourself a little grace in the process. Not to burst your bubble, but you’ll never be perfect at this. The goal is to express more accurate self-assessment more of the time.

It helps to have someone helping you along the way. Consider enlisting the services of a social and emotional intelligence coach to walk alongside you as you shift in a new direction.

Accurate self-assessment and our world view

And accurate self-assessment not only applies to our view of ourselves, but our view of the world in which we live. I’m continually surprised when sharing my perspective on something, which is absolutely clear — and right! — in my mind, only to discover it’s completely different than what the next person is thinking. Same events, different perspectives.  How could that be? Which is right? Which is wrong? Could I possibly be missing?

Yes, I could. And also, I could also be right. Possibly a better question to ask is, “Can opposing views coexist in reality, each containing aspects of accuracy?” If yes, then it may be a combination of our accurate self-view and the perspective of others which bring us closer to awareness and truth.

Evolved EQ

Article and graphic submitted by guest author Joni Roylance

The journey to “achieving” Emotional Intelligence is a long one, and I have yet to meet anyone who says they have finished that journey. In other words, it’s an ever-evolving set of skills and qualities that are a direct response to the current culture, needs, and expectations of the American workforce.

The past almost two years in the workplace have been life changing for all of us, culture shaping for many companies, and have resulted in different expectations that talent has of their formal and informal leadership going forward. This infographic highlights some of the key shifts of what used to be acceptable EQ versus the elevated expectations of 2021 and beyond.

Please let us know your thoughts! 

12 Strategies for Conflict Management

Article submitted by guest author Rosalie Chamberlain

At some point when working with others, conflict arises. What do you do? Avoid it, jump in thoughtfully or jump in reactively?

To start, we must identify the real nature of the conflict. This is not always easy. Whether solving a problem or working toward a specific outcome, when there is a conflict that needs managing it is because of variations of perspectives and desired outcomes.

These tips can help you achieve an effective, mutual outcome.

  1. Be clear about your intention. Are you in it to win or to discover a win-win for all?
  2. Identify the issue or problem. In most conflicts, not all parties will see the issue from the same perspective.
  3. Separate the people involved from the problem. Personalities, history, emotional projection, and biases about others and circumstances often get in the way of staying focused on the issue.
  4. Invite perspectives with an open mind and empathy. Realizing that someone else’s experiences and/or fears play into the situation.
  5. Identify your own fears and concern. Is there data to back them up, or are they based on opinion instead of facts?
  6. What specific facts need to be addressed? Here is another opportunity to gather others’ perspectives.
  7. Come to a consensus. What is the ultimate goal that all parties want to achieve?
  8. Brainstorm actions. Think about the next steps to achieve the mutual goal.
  9. Explore the impact of any actions on the individuals and the organization (or family or community if utilizing the process on a personal basis).
  10. Identify what resources you have to achieve the goals and what resources will be needed.
  11. Set out tasks for parties to own and be accountable for.
  12. Have regular check-ins and discussions in the process, honoring the steps all have taken.

Handling conflict gives us an opportunity to recognize judgment and assumptions and suspend them. It allows us to step in with positive intention rather than avoidance or reactive emotion. It provides the groundwork to be the best we can be and assist others in being their best.

Words Matter

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

How careful are you when choosing your words?

A friend recently complained, with annoyance in her voice, that she felt like she really had to watch what she said around certain friends. My immediate thought was, “Um, yeah…!” It’s a pleasant reverie to think our words don’t matter, and hold on to the belief that we shouldn’t have to make effort with those we’re close to. And I agree — it would be easier to never have to exercise self-awareness and other awareness in conversations — easier, and more comfortable — especially if we don’t care about damaging relationships!

Words matter.

Are you someone who speaks from your stream of consciousness, or do you slow down to think before you talk? Do you say whatever pops into your head or choose your words before uttering them?

“Be mindful when it comes to your words. A string of some that don’t mean much to you may stick with someone else for a lifetime.”

Rachel Wochin

If you long for healthier relationships, it may be time to give attention to effective communication–knowing how to speak clearly and listen actively, promoting open conversation, where everyone feels safe and heard. It may be to your benefit to notice what’s coming out of your mouth — or fingertips — and carefully choose your words, no matter whom you’re communicating with. And I’ll dare to venture, especially with your closest friends and loved ones.

So, let’s start here: Do you consider yourself a good communicator? If yes, how do you know? Would others say the same about you?

In a time when emotions are running high, it seems people these days are quick to state their opinions, but slow to hear the viewpoints of others. We’ve become a society who is easily offended. We take things personally, hear only what we want to hear, and get good at shouting about our beliefs while closing our ears to other points of view. Misunderstandings abound. And the fact that so many of us have moved from face-to-face conversations to exchanges on our screens hasn’t helped. Instead of building relationships and creating bonds, more often than not our words tear down and destroy bridges. Why is this?

“Speech has power. Words do not fade. What starts out as a sound, ends in a deed.”

Abraham Joshua Herschel

Words can make a lasting impression and stay with us for an entire lifetime. In the blog Words Have the Power to Make Relationships or Break Relationships, the author Joi writes this: “Words have the power to heal broken hearts and make dreams come true. They have the power to make people better about themselves. They also have the power to break hearts and  keep dreams from coming true. And of course they have the power to tear someone down completely and cause them to feel completely worthless.” [https://www.selfhelpdaily.com/words-have-the-power-to-make-relationships-or-break-relationships/]

Think of a time when someone’s words hurt you. Do you still remember what they said — and how you felt? Now think about a time when someone gave you a sincere compliment, which lifted your spirits for days. Do you still remember those words, and how it felt?

And it doesn’t make sense to let down when with loved ones. In her article entitled, Control Your Anger: How Hurtful Words Can Damage Your Relationship, author Rachel Moheban-Wachtel notes, “It’s not uncommon for someone to say cruel words to their partner during a heated argument. Often, they may not mean it but it’s hard to control anger when you are feeling hurt. Even so, painful statements can have lingering damage to the trust, commitment, and intimacy in a relationship.” [https://www.relationshipsuite.com/control-your-anger-how-hurtful-words-can-damage-your-relationship/

Words matter.

The makings of a good communicator

You may think if you clearly and succinctly share your perspectives, you’ve earned the title of a good communicator. Maybe you have a lot of followers on your social media pages which give you the illusion that your opinions are popular. Social media platforms have made it very easy to speak your mind, often to a large audience. But effective communication is so much more than stating your views. 

While a component of effective communication is being able to communicate your opinions in a logical, organized manner, it’s also about listening to feedback without becoming defensive (and how can you hear feedback if you never ask for it?) It’s about creating an atmosphere where everyone feels supported, ‘scooting over’ to provide ample room for others to share their outlooks. It’s about being an excellent listener, with the purpose of seeking mutual understanding. It’s about noticing emotional cues which the other person may be trying to communicate, verbally or non verbally. It’s about asking open-ended questions, and allowing the other person to speak until they’ve fully communicated what they’re trying to say, suspending your judgments and withholding advice unless asked. It’s about being someone who is easy for others to connect with, being approachable and open to soliciting differing opinions, and staying open to having your mind changed at times. 

It sounds like a superhero ability, doesn’t it?

When communication breaks down

Becoming an effective communicator requires an awareness of your strengths and areas of growth…and we all have room to improve! Below are a few indicators of poor communication. Which one best describes you?

  • You ridicule others for their opinions
  • People avoid talking to you about the ‘real’ stuff and keep things shallow
  • Everyone in the room with agrees with you
  • People wander off and/or make excuses to exit conversations with you
  • You’ve been told you lack tact or are “a little rough around the edges”
  • In 1:1 conversations, or in groups, you do most of the talking
  • You miss non-verbal signals such as body language and gestures
  • You fail to notice when your listeners are uninterested or bored
  • You often say, “I’m not good with names”
  • It’s difficult to hear the meaning behind others’ words; instead, you take everything you hear literally
  • You pride yourself in speaking the truth even if it hurts…and you’ve hurt a lot of people
  • You know very few personal details about the people you’re talking with
  • Your words sting and often cause others to appear upset, agitated, or angry
  • You find yourself often thinking, “I don’t care if they like me as long as they respect me”
  • Your opinion is usually ‘right’
  • You only hang out with people who think and believe the same as you
  • It’s your way or the highway

Can you relate to a few of these? If so, no shame. We’re human and sometimes we miss. But if any of these have become a pattern, it’s time to recognize your communication skills could use some improvement. What is excellent about emotional intelligence competencies like effective communication is that they can be developed. You don’t have to keep repeating behaviors which aren’t working for you (and others).

Steps Toward Growth

Self-awareness is the first key to developing better communication skills. If any of the above resonate with you, simply own that your communication needs some work. Spend some time thinking about and/or journaling about the points above. Which one shows up for you most? When does it show up? With whom? Why? How do you feel when it shows up? How do others feel when it shows up?

“A word is a bridge. It is a wave of light and sound that spans the perceived distance between one thing and another.”

Thomas Lloyd Qualls

Even if there are several areas needing attention, decide upon one which you’d first like to begin to work on. Not sure where to start? Ask yourself this, “Which one of these is tripping me up the most?”, or, “Which one of these is causing me (and others) the most angst?” Still not sure? Ask a trusted friend or colleague, or enlist the help of an emotional intelligence coach.

Exercising New Communication Muscles

Becoming aware that your communication needs improvement is a great first step, but awareness is not going to fix anything. You’ll next have to take a step in an new direction. It’s like when you want to build up a muscle in your body. It’s one thing to be aware that you need to exercise, but it’s the action of exercising which brings about muscle development. In the same sense, emotional intelligence needs to be exercised and practiced.

Here are some exercises to try:

Approach others with positivity. A smile can go a long way, and starting conversations on a positive note can set the tone for acceptance and connection. Humor is a terrific way to set the tone for a conversation, as long as it’s not the kind which comes from making fun of/putting down someone else. Relax, and be aware of your facial expressions and if possible, remove that frown at the start of a conversation.

Find the commonalities. Before spouting off how your beliefs differ, first seek common ground. What do you agree on? If you can’t find anything, know that there is one thing we all experience: emotions. Everyone has been afraid, or sad, or excited, or nervous. There’s not one emotion that someone else hasn’t also experienced. The circumstances (or beliefs) causing the emotions may be different, but those feelings are the same. Listen for the emotions the other person is expressing and acknowledge them with a “me, too.”

Gratitude goes a long way. It’s easy to label someone who disagrees with you as the enemy. Try having a political discussion with someone who is in the other camp as you, and watch the walls go up. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Offering up gratitude is one way to bridge the differences. When a conversation begins to get heated, try to think of the things you like about this person, what you appreciate about them. Verbally express your gratitude, and let them know what you value about them, even if you don’t agree with what they’re saying.

“It’s good to shut up sometimes.”

Marcel Marceau

Seek to first understand. Instead of starting every conversation with your views, make it a habit to spend time exploring the other person’s perspective first. Ask open-ended questions to learn not only what they think, but why. Try to refrain from passing judgements as they speak. Giving verbal feedback such as “I see”, or “I can understand how you feel that way”, can go far in making someone feel safe. It’s OK to offer this kind of verbal support, even if you don’t agree with them. You’re not agreeing — you’re simply validating their freedom to believe what they believe. One of my favorite questions these days is, “What else?”

Hone your listening skills. It’s tough, but try to stop thinking about what you’re going to say next while the other person is speaking. Instead, tune in. Ask questions to clarify your understanding, and repeat back what you’re hearing to check your understanding. Stop multi-tasking (put down those phones!). Maintain appropriate eye contact to discern what they’re saying, in between their words, looking for body language and other non-verbal signals. Nod often to let them know you’re tracking with them. A nod doesn’t mean you agree — it just means you hear them.

“Genuine listening means suspending memory, desire and judgement — and, for a moment at least, existing for the other person.”

Michael P. Nichols

Validate emotions. Often, when people are expressing their outlook and options, strong emotions arise. This is normal — and the emotions they’re feeling are probably very similar to your own. Validate them for feeling this way. More often than not, others need to know that it’s OK for them to feel the way they are feeling. You don’t have to agree with their statements to validate their feelings. Phrases like, “I see why you’d feel that way”, or “that sounds really tough” are ways to show empathy, in efforts to validate what they’re experiencing, emotionally.

Maintain composure when you talk. Irrational outbursts of negative emotions can prevent the other person hearing you…instead, they’ll just be thinking, “She’s really angry” and notice how quickly your face is turning beet red. If you truly want to be heard, maintain a calm demeanor. If you sense your emotions ramping up, which is normal, notice how they’re affecting your body (rapid heartbeat, dry mouth, for example), and breathe deeply. Take a break if needed to allow your emotions to move through the amygdala (emotion control center of your brain) to the cortex, so your words can come out more rational and reasonable.

Express appreciation often with genuine sincerity. OK, that’s hard to do, especially the genuine sincerity part. This is one of those fake it ’til you make it actions. Get in the habit of saying, “Thanks for sharing your opinions”, “I value what you have to say”, or “thank you for taking the time to explain that to me”, even if you don’t agree. It’s a good practice to express appreciation and often does wonders in changing your outlook toward the other person.

 “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”

Mother Teresa

Add some filters

You may be quick to add a filter to a photo to enhance its impact. What about adding a filter to your words? Here are three filters to pass your words through before you say them, either verbally or in written form:

1-Does this need to be said?

2-Does this need to be said by me?

3-Does this need to be said by me, right now?

[https://www.inc.com/justin-bariso/these-3-questions-will-immediately-increase-your-emotional-intelligence.html]

So pay attention to the words you use. And while you’re at it, hone your listening skills so you can begin to understand what those around you are trying to communicate as well.

“Words are seeds that do more than blow around. They land in our hearts and not the ground. Be careful what you plant and careful what you say. You might have to eat what you planted one day.”

Unknown

Becoming a Change Agent

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

“If you do not create change, change will create you.” — Unknown

A change agent is a person who initiates, promotes, and supports a new way of doing something, whether it’s the use of a new process, the adoption of a new structure or bringing about the transformation of an old way to a new one. In business, some are given this title to bring about the necessary change within an organization, whether it be in management processes or structure or a shift in the business model. But whether or not it’s in your job title, in some form or another, we all are called to be agents of change.

If you are change resistant, it may surprise you to learn that change happens whether you like it or not. Take aging, for instance, that process which happens to us all which is associated with biological, behavioral, physiological, and social processing changes. In her article entitled, The Science of How Your Body Ages, Nicole Saporita explains how change is continually shaping our bodies. Her words? “Aging is happening on a cellular level at every moment”. [https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/health/wellness/a27630177/aging-process-signs/].

And as your body reshapes itself, day by day, so does your brain. Dr. David Eagleman, neuroscientist, believes that our brains arrive in the world unfinished, and it takes a lifetime of experiences to further wire it. In his words, our brains are “rewriting themselves all the time.” You can read more about this at https://www.gettingsmart.com/2015/09/we-are-wired-to-learn-change-and-engage-the-brain-with-dr-david-eagleman/.

And I don’t think there is anyone who can disagree that the world around us is changing at rapid, if not alarming, speeds.

Being able to catalyze change when needed is a competency of emotional intelligence. People who have this ability demonstrate the mental agility needed to consider new ways of doing things. They recognize the need for change, picking up on early signals and signs which communicate a shift is needed. They are willing to take ownership of change initiatives, and when barriers arise, are quick to figure out ways to move them out of the way. They are open to challenging the status quo and aren’t afraid of resistance or opposition. Not only do these change agents champion change, they are able to inspire others to join in its pursuit.

“When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.”Benjamin Franklin

Don’t feel bad if you’re not strong in this area — many are not. How can you tell? You most likely are happy with the status quo and find yourself saying often, “But this is the way we’ve always done it!” or, “Things used to be better in the old days…”. You may have a bit of a closed mind when it comes to innovative ideas and those new employees with all the fresh ideas? They may really get on your nerves. While it’s normal to resist change, this fixed mindset can result in a failure to be adequately prepared for the future and keep up with changing times.

How do you know when it’s time to make a change? One of the primary signals of a necessary transition is the feeling of being stuck. Often in life, we hit places where we feel like we aren’t making a difference, or can’t, or feel as if life is just a series of dull routines which have no significant outcomes. You may feel bored. Frustrated. Disheartened. When you are experiencing that ho-hum feeling, it can be an indication that change may be just what the doctor ordered. And though there are some things in life you just can’t change, as we mentioned above, there are many choices we do have to bring about change.

“Resistance to change should be a thing of the past if we could develop growth mindsets and create organizations with growth cultures.” ― Paul Gibbons

Consider these simple changes which may create some movement for you in a new direction:

1-Change your scenery — It’s time to take a break from looking at your phone and computer. Most of us can agree we spend way too much time looking at screens. Get up, take a break, and get a fresh perspective. Work from a different room in your house, set up an outside desk if possible, or simply face a new wall in your home office. Take a walk down a path you’ve never explored. Drive along a different route than usual. Try a new restaurant. Read a new book. Take a weekend trip to somewhere new. Altering your surroundings can be an easy first step toward embracing change.

2-Change your media intake. Do you have the news on 24/7? Or always listen to the same podcaster with the same opinions? Try a new source of news, or listen to a podcast with a unique perspective. Even bolder, try turning off media for a while, or make a decision to stop scrolling on social media for a period of time. Listen to an audio book instead, chat with a colleague, or crazier yet — try enjoying some silence. Sometimes our best insights come when we create space to really hear.

3-Change your social interactions. Making new friends may be tough right now, but new connections can boost your spirits and spur a growth mindset from the sharing of ideas. Join a local social group, or a special interest group (kayaking, birding, book club, social justice, etc.) and join their next virtual meeting. Get to know a colleague better who shares a similar vision. Make a point to deepen a connection with a family member or neighbor, or simply ‘show yourself friendly’ with the next human you come into contact with.

4-Change your order of operations. We tend to develop routines and stick to them, and this can be a great asset toward accomplishment of goals. But don’t be afraid to mix things up once in a while, to stay open to new perspectives. For example, instead of always sitting at your office desk for work, try working from a coffeeshop or a shady spot in a nearby park. Instead of always eating at 5 pm, try a late-night dinner. If you always go on a run for exercise, consider trying a new sport or activity. Changing up the routines can fire new neurons in your brain which can boost creativity and innovation.

Learning to embrace change (and even initiate it) can add value to your life, bringing about advantages such as personal growth, flexibility, strength, and resilience…all qualities which help us get to the other side of tough times.

“So I beg you to think of change more positively. When we say “This is a game changer,” that connotes something good and positive.” — Allen Karl

In his article, 20 Reasons Change Is Good For You, Allen Karl outlines a number of benefits of change. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Change helps avoid stagnation
  • Change forces us out of comfort zones
  • Change introduces adventure
  • Change conserves energy (it takes more energy to fight change than to embrace it)
  • Change brings about learning
  • Change enables you to see possibilities
  • Change provides fresh opportunities
  • Change forces you to move in a new direction
  • Change can help you overcome fears
  • Change is a harbinger of possibilities

[https://www.allankarl.com/everything-must-change%E2%80%A620-reasons-why-change-is-good/?]

If becoming change agent is a competency you’d like to develop, you may find John Kotter’s book, Leading Change (Harvard Business School Press, 1996) , a good place to start. Kotter came up with eight steps to bring about successful change. You may want to start with number one and work your way up, or, notice which step you’re stuck on and brainstorm ways to gain traction in just that area.

  1. Create a sense of urgency
  2. Collaborate with others and build teams
  3. Establish the vision
  4. Communicate clearly to win your team’s buy in
  5. Empower team members to take action
  6. Figure out ways to celebrate short-term wins
  7. Build upon gains to push forward
  8. Anchor the change so it sticks

What is one area of your life which needs a change? As you ponder each step above, jot down a few notes around how each could move you closer toward your goal. As with most things in life, change can only happen when you begin. So start small, with one, forward-moving step.

What will you do today to initiate forward movement in an area of your life?

“Only in growth, reform, and change, paradoxically enough, is true security to be found.”Ann Morrow Lindbergh