How you can be more empathetic

pensive grandmother with granddaughter having interesting conversation while cooking together in light modern kitchen

The quickest way to gain credibility is to show that you care.

Treating others with empathy is something we are taught from childhood. Our elders would often say, “put yourself in their shoes.” We have come to believe that listening to and intellectualizing how others are feeling is enough. That is just the tip of the iceberg. Practicing real empathy is harder than that. It requires us to consider not only what but also why, others do what they do. When we can do that, we gain a deeper understanding of the other person, their needs and contributions.

Empathy is about finding echoes of another person in yourself.

Understand feelings

The first step of acting with empathy is understanding emotions. Our emotions are strong influencers in our decisions, both to attract and distance intended feelings. To get at the heart of another’s emotions is to have a better understanding of your own as well. 

When communicating with another person, consider initially how you would feel in their situation. Then ask questions to understand how they perceive the situation and why. Their view of the situation and needs will be different from your own, so listen deeply. This will help you understand what the person needs and how you can support them. When you understand the underlying cause of their emotions, you will improve your ability to consider the issues from their point of view.

Empathy is about standing in someone else's shoes, feeling with his or her heart, seeing with his or her eyes. Not only is empathy hard to outsource and automate, but it makes the world a better place.

Consider Preferences, Culture, And Motivations

Beyond the feelings and emotions of others lie their cultural influences, personality and mitigating circumstances. Considering these areas takes a lot of patience. We often want to use our own lense to see the world. But thinking about the other person’s cultural background (family, local, regional, and/or national), their experiences and their level of tolerance for novel and uncomfortable situations will help you to catch the nuances of what the true intention is beyond the words.

We All Act With Good Intentions

The vast majority of us want to see world peace, get along with our neighbors, and make gratifying contributions to our communities. When someone behaves in a way we judge as counter to this, consider how their action works towards those ends (even as part of something bigger). Interpreting the solution from their point of view will help you work together to find more viable alternatives in unraveling bigger challenges. 

Bob is planning on making a new recipe tonight, Chicken breast with roasted tomato. He needs those tomatoes to be soft and ripe. Unfortunately, all of them were a bit hard. So, he left them on the counter this morning with the intention of softening them up a bit during the day. Mary saw the tomatoes on the counter and assumed Bob had forgotten to put them back in the fridge before going to work.

That evening when Bob returned home, knowing that he had left the tomatoes on the kitchen counter, he was sure he had lost his mind, confused by the fact that he could not find them anywhere. When he opened the fridge there they were, just as fresh and hard as they had been this morning. He was more than angry. His plans had been completely disrupted. 

When he asked Mary about the tomatoes, she said that she had noticed them on the counter and thought he had forgotten to put them away. Anticipating a tomato and cucumber salad as part of a nice summer dinner, and that these ones were in perfect condition for that. She put them in a paper bag and set them back in the refrigerator.

Both people had good reason for their action and worked with the best of intentions for making use of those tomatoes. Yet without communication, each person’s action disrupted the plans of the other. Through an empathetic discussion, they will be able to decide whether to have the salad today or the chicken tomorrow. 

We always consider the intentions of our own actions. However, when it comes to others, we focus only on the behavior. We usually don’t take the time to consider their point of view, only considering the results as acceptable or unacceptable. Oftentimes, we incorrectly believe the other person’s action was a deliberate attempt to stir up problems, create conflict, or foster ill will. That is just not true. Instead, we need to take the time to focus on the ideal that they had good intentions when deciding on and taking their course of action. After such consideration, we can work together to discover future steps that lead to mutually beneficial results.

The opposite of anger is not calmness, its empathy.

Servant Leadership

In our relationships, if we focus on how we can serve others and through our service inspire them to pay it forward, we can create positive momentum alongside a sense of understanding of those around us. Doing this builds quality relationships that continue to build deep connections and understanding.

3 Steps to Being More Empathetic

Be in the moment

Focus your attention on the other person.  Watch them as they speak. Listen for the words they choose, the tone in their voice and facial expressions. Really give them your undivided attention. Tune out everything else and focus on the conversation.

Pay attention to body language

Listen not just for what they say, but also how they say it. Look at their facial expressions. Notice the way they fidget and their body positioning. These things are indicators of what is going on inside. 

Test Your Understanding

Use paraphrasing techniques and draw conclusions based on the previous points. Then ask them if you are hearing them correctly. You can use this as a springboard for developing solutions together.

A prerequisite to empathy is simply paying attention to the person in pain.

Summary

 Practicing empathy requires us to slow down, look others in the eye and consider situations from their point of view. We have to do more than put ourselves in their shoes, we need to live in their skin for a moment. While being truly empathetic can seem hard.. Practicing it at any level of ability will be appreciated by those you interact with.

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You Need Someone to Talk to

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There are so many important  things going on in our lives that we really need someone to talk to and share ideas in order to understand their purpose.  Whether those things are good or bad, it helps to talk about them with someone who will give you their undivided attention, even if it’s only for a few minutes. These dreams and difficulties we hold inside for fear that no one else could possibly understand us need to be shown the light of day. When you talk about your joys and concerns you make them tangible, and getting them out in the open you will give you a fresh perspective on them, allowing you to inspect and evaluate these issues in clear and vivid detail.

You just call out my name and you know wherever I am I will be there. You’ve got a friend.

But I can’t share my deepest thoughts with just anybody

It may seem frightening to let those deep secrets out of the closet. But there is no better way to face the issues that plague you and find viable solutions than to talk about them. Explain what you want your friend to do. For example, if you want them to listen, you might say, “I’m so frustrated that I need to tell you what happened this morning.” Or if you need  some advice, you might start the conversation with, “I am having a problem communicating with my daughter and need your advice.”  Start the conversation with your expectations for the conversation. 

Find someone you can share your deepest thoughts with. This  may require you to hear what is burning inside them too. Welcome the opportunity to build a bond and improve your communication skills. In discussing their issues, you may gain deeper insight into your own as well. Understand that if they are a good listening partner but don’t want to share their secrets, you should also find someone else to help and pay their support forward. This allows their kindness to create a ripple.

Trouble shared is trouble halved.

Be ready for direct feedback

The best feedback is actionable. It tells you something you can do right now to move forward. Often actionable feedback is direct and harsh. You may wince because it is something you don’t want to hear or have been avoiding, but take your medicine all at one time. You asked for the advice and you trust the person you are talking with. Keep in mind that it is through compassion and good intentions that they are providing you advice.. Don’t take them, or their time, for granted. 

You should also ask questions to understand the motivation and perspective they used to devise the solution. You may not agree, but at least listen graciously and consider what they said. Before dismissing the ideas, consider  how you would apply  the advice. If you are not sold on their suggestions, create an alternative option that moves you forward. It is vital that you consider some solution to work with from these types of conversations, otherwise it’s just a pity party. Those don’t serve anyone’s interest.

5 Places you can turn to with your problems and concerns

Friends

Friends can be a great resource for talking through personal growth and persisting dilemmas. Real friends care about you and your progress. You have a shared history that may provide a basis for deep understanding of your situation. Friends may be inclined to present ideas in a manner similar to the way you do because of the commonalities. For these reasons, they are a good resource for talking through your issues. 

However, friends may not always listen deeply or they may be dealing with their own overwhelming problems. They may still perceive of you as the kid from their childhood, or their drinking buddy whom they shared their woes with on Friday nights a few years ago. They may not see the version of you that exists today. That can be frustrating when trying to clear your current hurdle or get a fresh perspective on next steps to achieving success.

Trouble is part of your life - if you don't share it, you don't give the person who loves you a chance to love you enough.

Mental Health Professionals

Psychiatrists, psychologists and counselors are all trained in the understanding of the human mind and how we handle crises, These people can help you cope with issues now based on conquering roadblocks in your past. They may show you new techniques for overcoming recurring problems and guide you to overcoming challenges one step at a time.

Mental Health Professionals

Psychiatrists, psychologists and counselors are all trained in the understanding of the human mind and how we handle crises, These people can help you cope with issues now based on conquering roadblocks in your past. They may show you new techniques for overcoming recurring problems and guide you to overcoming challenges one step at a time.

Coaches and Mentors

Professional-minded coaches and mentors differ from counselors and mental health experts. Coaches and mentors are concerned with your future progress, not your past. As a professional coach and mentor, for example, my concern is where you are going, not where you have been. To me, you’re the total sum of all your previous experiences, and you will carry that baggage with you wherever you go. This outlook is very different from what you will get when speaking with mental health professionals who often apply familiar labels for your situation in order to identify your predicament or friends who may see things through their personal point of view.

Coaches and mentors are more mindful of your development. They will work with you on where you are going and don’t pay attention as much to where you’ve been as mental health professionals do. Since their relationship with you is professional rather than personal, they are motivated to see you succeed. Unlike talking to friends, coaches sole objective is your progress with no hidden agendas. 

Mentors have often been through similar situations as your own. They acquired  wisdom through hindsight. This knowledge can help you avoid pitfalls and speed up your development, because you can learn from their mistakes. Working with a mentor can help you lay the foundation for success or be an ongoing relationship that sees you through valleys and over the peaks too.

A coach, on the other hand, will help you improve a specific ability. You may seek a coach for public speaking and presentations, to manage conflict, or improve your relationships. Their advice will be more specific and directed at solving the crisis of the moment. That is not to say they will not help you through other situations down the road. Some coaches will, while others are more specialized in particular issues.

Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing.

Groups

Counseling and self-help groups are focused on bringing people together who are experiencing similar issues. They are also good places to discuss your concerns with like-minded people. Because they have walked a similar path, they will be more empathetic to you and the resources at your disposal to manage this phase of life.

These groups are often anonymous, so you can share your deepest thoughts without concern for who may find out about what you said later. Some groups like AA are beneficial for keeping on a path and handling struggles that last a lifetime. While others, like masterminds, will help you to climb to the next peak. If working with a group sounds appealing to you, try it out and see if it is a good fit. If it’s not, try another one. Good groups are about chemistry and they will all be a little different, even if the programs are the same.

Virtual  Mentors

Virtual mentors are people who you learn from via books, websites, podcasts, etc. Some people like reading biographies and find insight from the lives of others. Listening to talks and reading books from motivational speakers like Napoleon Hill, Zig Ziglar or Dr. Wayne Dyer may also help you tap their experiences to find answers on your journey. 

Virtual mentors have made available hundreds if not thousands of hours of content you can use to develop yourself and find solutions to the dilemmas you face. While not communicating directly with these thought leaders, you are gaining a wider base of understating to apply in moving towards where you want to go. Digital mentors help you know that you are not alone and that others have walked a similar path to your own. 

If you choose to utilize this do it yourself approach, you may want to write about your dilemmas and what you’re learning through their insights to give voice and consideration to how they would respond in your situation. Many good solutions start with the words, “What would Ben Franklin do?”

Summary

You need not carry life’s burden alone. There are people you can talk to that will provide you a fresh perspective on those predicaments you are facing. Consider what kind of help you need, an ear, advice or a model. Then seek out a friend, mental health professional, group or even a virtual  mentor. The clarity you find will have you wondering why you didn’t do this before.

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You Are What You Eat

abundance agriculture bananas batch

Get a daily dose of positivity

Your mind needs its daily helping of nutrition, just like your body. So what kind of nutrition does it need? It needs something positive for you to feel good about who you are and what you’re doing. You know what they say, “You are what you eat.”

Too often we sit down and read, or watch the news. Most of these stories focus on the negative. Crime, destruction and lack are common themes of most media outlets. To be more positive you need to shift your time away from these negativity snacks and towards a healthy diet of positivity and prosperity.

Choose what you consume

Filling your mind with positives will help you to reduce doubt and the feeling of helplessness. It is not something you can do just one time and expect lasting results, you’ve got to take your positivity daily. The world’s most successful people know this and they pay top dollar just to be in the presence of eternally optimistic people. You can do that too, inexpensively through video channels, podcasts, books and websites. 

Whether you choose old masters like Zig Zigglar, Earl Nightingale and Wayne Dyer, or a newer breed of motivational experts like Nick Vujicic, Tony Robbins and Eckhart Tolle. You will find that starting your day with a spoonful of their positivity will help you to feel more confident throughout your day.

Positivity helps you to keep limiting beliefs at bay. Limiting beliefs like “I can’t do it”, “I deserve to be unhappy”. “This always happens, so why should I expect anything different?” create a deep pain inside you that traps in your situation. Here Tony Robbins talks about how limiting beliefs create negative cycles and how quickly you can change them using what he calls ‘The Dickens Effect’

Positive affirmations

Another way to infuse your day with positivity is through affirmations. Positive affirmations are self-talk that focuses on what you can do and what is positive in your life. Doing affirmations helps you to increase your optimism and feeling of achievement. These help to chase away limiting beliefs that hold you in patterns which restrict your confidence in yourself and what is possible in your life. Here are 10 examples of positive affirmations. Use these, seek out others specific to your situation or make up your own.

  • Day by day in little ways, I am getting stronger.
  • If my mind can perceive it, my will can achieve it.
  • I will be the best version of myself today.
  • The only thing that stands between me and success is me.
  • This day is blessed, it is up to me to use its precious gifts.
  • I am a winner.
  • By meeting life’s challenges today, I will be more prosperous.
  • I will defeat my demons today.
  • The challenges I face today will make me a better person tomorrow.
  • At the end of the day, I will find pride in something I accomplished today.

Spiritual reading

Spiritual readings are also beneficial. Create a habit to take in a few verses or pages a day. This will give you a broader perspective on the issues and conflicts you face throughout the day, opening your mind to a plethora of opportunities you may not have considered otherwise. Enjoy these readings by ingesting them slowly, word by word. Let the ideas and concepts that resonate with you stick in your long term memory so that you can recall their lessons in the future.

You'll start to notice a change

Once you have let positivity in, it is hard to close the door to it. Eventually, you will start moving the needle towards having a more positive outlook on life.To continue the momentum you need to share your newfound optimism. Spreading that good feeling will not only help others but yourself as well. You will find that your moods are contagious.  So deliberately sharing positivity will help you to change your thought patterns and invite opportunity.

Increasing positive self talk reduces the space for negative ideas. Self talk, those ideas and internal dialogues you have, has a large impact on how you interact with your environment. Apart from listening to that conversation, actively change the way you frame those statements and questions to make them more positive ones. Here are some examples.

It’s too difficult. How can I get this done?

I don’t think I’ll like that. I don’t know if I’ll like it or not until I try.

It’s my fault. Let’s explore why this did not work.

This always happens. What can I do to make things better next time?

Summary

Finding ways to entertain positivity in your day will help you to have a more optimistic and happy disposition. It will support you in facing your challenges with a more creative approach. It will also make you more pleasant company, but it does take reinforcement to keep moving in the right direction. What you focus on expands, so choose to focus on the positive aspects of your situations and accept the challenges. They will move you forward.

According to the Mayo Clinic there are several benefits to being positive, those include: increased life span, lower rates of depression, better psychological and physical well-being, better cardiovascular health and reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease and better coping skills during hardships and times of stress. 

And that all starts with adding a dose of positivity to your life.

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Manage your habits to accomplish more

Thanks to Alex Guillaume for sharing their work on Unsplash.

Focus on the details that make up your day

Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny.

By scheduling the next day before I left the office for the night, I departed work with a clear mind, and I stopped having to bring physical or mental tasks home.

In essence, if we want to direct our lives, we must take control of our consistent actions. It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives, but what we do consistently.

Summary

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The Greatest Love of All

Photo by Chermiti Mohamed on Unsplash

You can’t give what you don’t have

Mainstream media has created images of life that are difficult, if not impossible, for us to compete with. This leaves most of us feeling inadequate. Adding to on those feelings of inadequacy are experiences like losing a job, ending a relationship or struggling to gain a new talent. All these experiences can lead to feelings of disillusionment. To combat that negative self talk, you need to believe there is something special in you and about you. Have faith in yourself and learn to love the person inside. 

Over a lifetime you will spend many more years with yourself than any friend, partner or family member. You know all the secrets, all the sacrifices and all the dashed dreams. You know the hard work that went into your accomplishments and the lesson learned from your failures. Find a way to love and be happy with the person you see in the mirror. To love yourself is to accept who you are, despite your flaws and inadequacies. Loving yourself means that you enjoy spending time with yourself, and that you are your own biggest fan regardless of the circumstances. Love yourself and your world will blossom. Here are three ways to enhance your self love.

Don’t take others opinions of you at face value

Relying on others for your feeling of self-worth is dangerous. Outsiders do not always have your best interest at heart. In actuality, they have their own agendas. Those are independent of and sometimes in direct conflict with yours. Seeking praise from someone else will only get you short-lived satisfaction. However, appreciating yourself and your accomplishments will feed your self-confidence continually.

Self-love focuses on benevolence, creating harmony with your environment, and high levels of self-esteem.

Accept the person you are

You are much better off accepting the person you are, with all your faults and frailties. Finding peace with yourself allows you to be an authentic contributor to your own life and establishes a sense of accountability to yourself. If there is something you don’t like, change it. If you are unsatisfied with the quality of your efforts, find ways to perform better. Having a deep sense of love and appreciation for yourself allows you to know what you’re capable of and increase your commitment to levels only you know you are capable of achieving. This leads to an enhanced sense of pride. When you have the confidence that comes with being content with yourself, you will see others as the valuable beings they are as well

Work on your self esteem

If there is one thing that leads to a deeper sense of self love, it is a high level of self esteem. When you feel good in your own skin, you can readily accept the world around you. Self-esteem doesn’t mean you need to feel that you are superior to others. It’s more about being comfortable with who you are so you can authentically engage in your environment. Start with eye-to-eye affirmations in the mirror. Tell yourself, “I love you” and “I’m glad to be me.” These will help you feel deep inside that you cannot trade your situation for someone else’s. You are who you are. You are where you need to be right now. Get busy fighting your good fight.

It is said that you cannot give what you don’t have. Therefore to give honest, deep and sincere love to others, you need to start by giving and receiving it from yourself. You do that through respect, trust and bringing a sense of joy to being who you are. This allows you to be in harmony with your environment. When you love yourself you are more supportive,  cooperative, and interested in others. You want them to flourish for their own benefit, with no hidden agendas.

I think the most important thing in life is self-love, because if you don't have self-love, and respect for everything about your own body, your own soul, your own capsule, then how can you have an authentic relationship with anyone else?

As you develop feelings of love and respect for yourself, hold yourself accountable to giving your best effort, win or lose. Love is not always soft. Sometimes you need to challenge yourself to become a better version of who you are.You develop trust through being true to yourself, your beliefs and your principles. Enjoy being with yourself by having a deeper understanding of your likes and dislikes, your preferences and your distinct tastes. As you experience these things, whether alone or with others, you will enjoy that you are able to have authentically fulfilling experiences that sustain the beautiful person you are.

Putting yourself first is an act of self-love

We have been told since we were kids that putting yourself first is selfish. That this approach to life will put-off those around us. That couldn’t be further from the truth. If you are going to give your best you need to understand how to achieve your best. What environment do you need? What tools?  What emotional state do you need to be in? Focusing on your needs will help you serve others as well. I know what I need to do when preparing to lead a seminar.  I don’t let anything get between me and my preparation, doing less would make me feel as if I were cheating my  clients. 

If you are going to accept no less than your best, you have to create the environment to do so. It’s not selfish at all, it’s being responsible to yourself and those your actions serve.

Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, it's at the end of your arm, as you get older, remember you have another hand: The first is to help yourself, the second is to help others.

Self-love vs. Narcissism

Those who consider putting yourself first a selfish act may be confusing self-love with narcissism. Self-love focuses on benevolence, creating harmony with your environment, and high levels of self-esteem. Narcissism is characterized by a need for being the center of attention, fulfillment through recognition, and a tendency to be antagonistic. This article by Sarah Elizabeth Malinak, M. Div. explains more about the differences between Self-love and Narcissism.

Self-love has very little to do with how you feel about your outer self. It's about accepting all of yourself.

Narcissists thirst for recognition and perfection, are competitive to a fault, are always right (even when they are wrong) and quick to assign blame. Yet they are slow to acknowledge their faults. When you have self-love, you do not need these false supports. You rely on creating good will, and gratitude. You have an authentic appreciation of your life and situation despite the flaws and difficulties.

Developing self-love is challenging. It requires you to accept yourself completely with all your scars and imperfections. Doing this, you can continue to develop into the best version of yourself. 

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Meet The Me You Don’t Know

Social situations can be difficult unless we bring the right mindset and social skills. Here are three ways to do that. As the holiday season approaches, we will attend more social events than we have in a long time. Whether with friends, family or business associates, we will be in the company of people we

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When your emotions talk, are you listening?

man person people emotions

Get to know your emotions

Your emotions are a set of powerful tools. Abraham-Hicks, best selling author of The Law of Attraction, calls this your emotional GPS. Experiencing emotions warns you of dangers, draws you into pleasant experiences and triggers an increasingly wide variety of responses that continues to grow as you understand your emotions and what they are trying to tell you.

According to Joshua Freedman, the CEO and founder of Six Seconds Emotional Intelligence Network, there are approximately 3,000 words for describing emotions in the English language. If you do not have an adequate emotion lexicon, you will naturally lump the description of your feelings into categories too small to effectively express what you are experiencing. One way to build your vocabulary of emotions is to use the Plutchik Wheel of Emotions.

Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions

How to use Plutchick's Wheel of Emotions

Using the emotions wheel to identify emotions starts with understanding the eight base emotions: anger, anticipation, joy, trust, fear, surprise, sadness and disgust. Each of these has an opposite. Anticipation is the opposite of surprise. Joy is opposite sadness. Trust and disgust are opposites, and fear opposes anger. As you look at the wheel, emotions are identified across a scale. There are names for the different intensities of these feelings. For example, on the scale moving from sadness to joy we would experience pensiveness, sadness, grief, serenity, joy and ecstasy. You may have feelings of optimism and love in happier moments, while emotions like remorse and disapproval could be linked to those times you are feeling down. The wheel identifies 32 emotional states, using synonyms and antonyms that will bring your emotion vocabulary to well over 100 expressions, which is more than enough to start taking an emotional inventory.

Emotions are neither good nor bad. They are a method of communication between your nervous system, your body and your conscious mind.

Using the emotions wheel to identify emotions starts with understanding the eight base emotions: anger, anticipation, joy, trust, fear, surprise, sadness and disgust. Each of these has an opposite. Anticipation is the opposite of surprise. Joy is opposite sadness. Trust and disgust are opposites, and fear opposes anger. As you look at the wheel, emotions are identified across a scale. There are names for the different intensities of these feelings. For example, on the scale moving from sadness to joy we would experience pensiveness, sadness, grief, serenity, joy and ecstasy. You may have feelings of optimism and love in happier moments, while emotions like remorse and disapproval could be linked to those times you are feeling down. The wheel identifies 32 emotional states, using synonyms and antonyms that will bring your emotion vocabulary to well over 100 expressions, which is more than enough to start taking an emotional inventory.

Now that you have internalized definitions of emotions and a scale for their level of intensity, you can identify what you are feeling in a nuanced way, not just in the extreme moments, but also in a wider variety of situations. Using the levels of intensity from above, you can now take an emotional inventory with the help of a journal or note taking app. This is an ideal way to document what’s going on inside of you. According to Harvard neuroanatomist Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, unfueled emotions only last only 90 seconds, so you’ll need to increase your ability to identify them quickly.

Listen to your emotions

The value in identifying emotions is not just in those 90 seconds when they are the most intense. It’s what you do after that really counts. Emotions are the trigger point. Considering what caused the emotion is almost as important as what you do once you have experienced that feeling. Intensifying or diluting is up to you.

Emotions used to give us two options: fight or flight. Today, however, there are many more options for responding to emotional signals. For example, we might need to consider a response, ask a question, or quickly invent a solution. By capturing the emotion, then pausing to consider how you will respond, you are becoming emotionally intelligent.

There are however, real dangers to just sweeping those feelings under the rug. A failure to recognize and effectively work through your emotions leads to high levels of stress, depression and a wide range of physical and mental health problems. You can’t fix a problem until you recognize it. Understanding emotions is vital to your ability to diagnose problems and reproduce pleasant experiences as well.

Respond to your emotions

It is important to realize that the discomfort that comes from emotions is not a bad thing. It helps move you to another action. Emotions that you consider to be negative could be alerting you to a high level of risk or that you need to have more information about a situation before responding.

As scientists and emotional intelligence practitioners learn more about these sensations, it is becoming increasingly apparent that these feelings are a means of our nervous system communicating with our conscious minds. As a result, it makes more sense to read emotions as non-verbal messages and respond to them. Instead of reacting immediately to the stimuli. Once you experience an emotion, stop and think about what to do with that information before acting.

There are approximately 3,000 words for describing emotions in the English language.

You will find that your responses are much more beneficial to your well-being when you add this cognitive step to your process. In fact, you may find that the energy created by a bad feeling can be redirected in a positive direction. Redirection creates momentum that moves you towards your target at a force greater than complaining and anger ever will. I call this the catapult effect. Basically, the catapult effect states that if you first react negatively to an emotion, you need to get back to zero before you can move in a positive direction. But by processing the emotion intellectually (at zero) and creating a viable solution, you can create positive momentum that will catapult you forward towards your desired results. You can read more about my theory here.

Emotions are neither good nor bad

Emotions are neither good nor bad. They are a method of communication between your nervous system, your body and your conscious mind. By widening your emotional lexicon you will more effectively identify your emotions, and be able to interpret with greater clarity the messages your nervous system is providing you. Then you can devise solutions that are intelligent and effective, advancing you in a direction that benefits your well being.

The best way to get a clear picture of your emotional intelligence is by taking an Emotional Quotient (EQ) test. Here is a free one from Mind Tools that will get you started. What is your EQ?

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Be more empathetic with active listening

Active listening requires listening deeply

It's not your turn to speak yet

It can be frustrating, infuriating and even disappointing when others don’t listen to your views and opinions. Everybody has an idea to share yet no-one takes the time to hear yours. So how do you get others to truly comprehend your words, your thoughts and your ideas? Try active listening first.

To communicate more effectively you need to start with listening. Not only will being a deeper listener help you to engage others, it will also allow you to present ideas in ways that resonate more lucidly with your communication partners.

We have two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as much as we speak.

Listen with your eyes and watch with your ears

When you listen, it has to be more than just waiting for an opportunity to speak. That’s confrontation, not communication. You need to slow down and really take the time to understand what is on  your communication partner’s mind.

One way to be an active listener is to look at the other person as they speak. Take in their posturing. Do they look nervous or excited? Read their body language. Are they swaying or fidgeting? Examine facial expressions. Is there a smile or does their face look strained? There are so many things that are going on inside the person you are speaking with. If you do not take the time to consider their thoughts and feelings, you will be unaware of what they are really expressing to you.

Using your eyes helps to increase your level of empathy  and more actively involves you in the discussion. Let your eyes help you unwrap a deeper meaning to the message than just the words that come from your communication partner’s mouth.

Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

It's about more than just the words

To be an active listener, you need to consider both what the other person is sharing and why. Why are they saying this now? Why are they saying it in that way? Are they framing the message in a way that will make more sense to you, or are they choosing their words carefully to omit something they do not wish to reveal?

Peter Drucker said, “The most important thing in communicating is hearing what isn’t said.”

Maybe her words are just coming off the top of her mind. Try to rephrase as a way of ensuring you understand the meaning behind those words. Stopping your partner with an occasional do you mean or are you saying builds trust that you are actually listening to them and helps them to focus their ideas as well.

Ask questions to dig more deeply into their point of view. Once you have the gist of their idea ask more questions to understand it deeply. Get the depth and detail you need to respond in an engaging way.

Gabriella Blum, the Rita E. Hauser Professor of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law at Harvard Law School recently talked about the dangers of not actively listening, “By failing to listen carefully and effectively’, she said, ‘we lose important information, act on wrong assumptions, and unnecessarily damage the relationship.”

Communication is what the listener does.

Respond with empathy

Now that you have a clear understanding of your communication partner’s thoughts, frame yours in a way that will be clear and insightful for them. You know their mindset from listening deeply. So you can now present an impactful response that will resonate with them.

Choose your words and phrasing in a way that will engage. Just because you are listening in a laser-focused manner, does not mean that your communication partner is too. In fact, they probably aren’t. So framing your response is even more important.

There are so many ways to say the same thing that presenting your ideas in a way that your conversation partner easily comprehends will make your message more impactful. Stop from time to time to ask, does that make sense or do you know what I mean?

Let them reply to your idea as you build it out. Weaving their ideas into yours, or even better yours into theirs, makes the discussion more collaborative. Even if you do not see eye-to-eye, you will have a better understanding of their views and they of yours. That all starts with listening.

So listen actively. Understand what your conversation partner is feeling and saying before you respond. Then when you do, reply in a thoughtful and insightful way. As you become a better listener you will be a good communicator too.

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athletes filling the Olympic Rings

We Can Transform the World

Participating in the Olympics is an opportunity to be on the world stage. It is a chance to let your light shine and brighten the lives of people from all over the world. While the number of people that we Tokyo 2020 volunteers will get to interact with is going to be smaller than originally

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The next time you’re triggered try this…

Image by Claudia Mitu from Pixabay

How to make exponential gains with emotional intelligence

After several weeks of work on my new client’s website, I was proud and excited for the unveiling. Not only had we meet every demand they had asked for, but we had also included a few extra features that would help them to analyze traffic and attract new leads. What’s more, we finished a week early! I went in happy and full of ambition. However, as the meeting dragged on and on they asked for more and more revisions. “like the catalog,” they said, “but this email reminder about what is in the shopping cart seems to salesey… We don’t want our potential customers feeling like we are spamming them for fear that doing that will drive them away”

Walking out, I mustered a smile and said we would handle all their changes in a fortnight. But inside I was seething, “Why weren’t they clearer from the beginning? Always more changes and delays!”

I was triggered.

It took me the whole trip back to the office just to cool down and then even longer to get the ambition to start tackling their requests. I just wanted this project done and paid for!

I am sure that you have had a similar experience. Where you have felt triggered due to the actions of others and need a reset before being able to regroup and take beneficial actions. There is a better way to handle these situations and learning how will enable you to create exponential forward momentum. I call this the catapult effect.

Emotions can help you and they can hurt you, but you have no say in the matter until you understand them.

— Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves Emotional Intelligence 2.0

In their book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0 Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves explain that our emotions first are felt and then reacted (or responded) to. This got me thinking about a catapult effect we could employ by first experiencing an emotion then taking a moment to decide what to do with that energy. This could not only help us to avoid destructive behaviors, but also move us straight to actions that will launch us forward.

How can you use the catapult therory?

If I were to have taken a moment to think about what my client was really saying and asking for, instead of feeling crushed that they weren’t as pleased as I was, it would have been more constructive. I could have felt anger about them asking for yet more changes but then clarified all the issues so that we won’t need to go down this same road again. That would have led to a discussion of exactly what their expectations were and how to implement them, instead of me boiling on the inside while smiling and agreeing on the outside.
I would have driven back to my office with anticipation for making improvement not dread about working with them ever again. This is the result of not backsliding by giving in to the emotion, focusing instead on solving the problem from the beginning. All my momentum would have been pushing me forward instead of pulling me back. This would have resulted in a 4X momentum swing.

Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions

Achieve your own 4X Catapult Effect

Identify the emotion(s)

What is the emotion, or emotions, you are feeling at the moment? Identifying your range of emotions will help you to recognize them faster and more objectively when they come around again. Using Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions (above) is a good way to identify your emotions and their intensity. In her article, The Emotion Wheel: What It Is and How to Use It, Hokuma Karimova, MA explains how to use the wheel to identify and manage your range of emotions.

Identify a better emotion to use

What were you feeling before the incident? When did everything go haywire? Does that always happen with this emotion and/or situation?

Understanding the answers to these questions helps you to see patterns and mitigate harmful emotions.

Identify a better emotion to use

When you understand your range of emotions, you will be able to choose some that create positivity and are easy to apply in any situation. Use this as your coping mechanism, telling your mind that you feel a certain way will fool it into action. Allowing you to filters and evaluate the situation through a different lens. As Hall of Fame, Martial Arts Grand Master Jim Buhisan says, “fake it until you make it.”

Create a solution

You have caught lightning in a bottle and now you need to unleash it. Think wide and deep about any and all solutions. Then choose the best action.

Move forward

No need to mope or seethe. Once you can see the target again, you can use your momentum to catapult you towards it.

When you can regularly identify your emotions and their triggers. Then consciously apply a more constructive solution for the situation that follows. You will have developed the ability to utilize the catapult effect.

Curious about your emotional intelligence? You can take a free assessment here.

Articles that will help you manage your emotions

The Power of Silence

5 Ways to Recharge Your Mind

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The end is just the beginning of your next big thing

Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.

-Albert Einstein

Doing a lessons learned exercise may seem laborious. If you’ve had a difficult time or outright failed, you may want to move on from that bad experience quickly. However, taking a bird’s eye view will help you to comprehend shortcomings and capitalize on incremental improvement. When you have success, celebrate; but also analyze why you were successful and how you can repeat that going forward. Taking some time to deconstruct your success is just as important as evaluating when you fail. Nothing is ever done100% correctly or incorrectly.

Discontent is the first necessity of progress.

— Thomas A. Edison

Here is a list of questions focused on success, challenges, and growth that you can use to self-evaluate and improve your future results. While you do not need to use all of them, getting in the habit of doing the lessons learned exercise, even for a few minutes, will help you to quantify your development and visualize greater success.

Focus on Growth

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4 Tips for Taking Control of Your Life

Tom is a software engineer. He recently got his dream job, working for a gaming company. He had a new girlfriend and life was looking great. Then he got furloughed when work slowed down. His girlfriend found out a dark secret from his past that made her doubt the relationship with Tom, and he doesn’t know where to turn or what to do next. His life is reeling, and it is all because of situations which are completely out of his control.

If you’ve ever felt like Tom and that the world is against you, it is time to end that pity party. Get to work on building yourself into a person who is able to achieve their goals, whatever they are. The world is not against you. In fact the universe is conspiring for you. That’s right. When you can focus on what is within your control and release what is not, you will find that a cornucopia of opportunities are awaiting you. Some you may foresee and others you’ll have no idea existed until they present themselves to you.

Maybe Tom’s work for a game developer was a sample of what is to come through the development of his craft. Maybe his new girlfriend wasn’t meant to be in his life for long. Perhaps she served as a bridge to something better and a lesson for an area of Tom’s life that needs attention. Conceivably life is really on the upswing for Tom, despite the immediate signs suggesting otherwise.

One key in getting to a place in your life where things align for your benefit is to take action that moves your life forward. You can improve your skills, spend time with people who are important to you, and check things off your to-do list that keep you progressing, focusing on what you can make happen instead of what happened to you will have you life propelling forward instead of sliding backwards. Here are four things you can do today to take control of your life.

Stop blaming others

Your life is your responsibility. Despite how it may seem, no one has enough malice towards you (or energy) to spend time plotting your demise. If you think they are, why are you letting people like that in your life to begin with? Be stronger than they are by working on ways to improve yourself daily and choose to take more control of your environment. Most people are too busy with their own lives to actively spend much time trying to disrupt yours.

Take the time to evaluate your situation and consider why opportunities are not coming into view. If you are not getting called for job interviews, your resume probably needs changes. If you are not attracting the right people into your life, it’s time for an attitude adjustment. These are just a couple of examples of the ways you can take more control of your situations and their outcomes.

Release the things that are out of your control

Being laid off, labels others place on you, the economy, or not getting an invitation to go out with people you thought were your friends are all things you have little control over. Dwelling on those will take you down the rabbit hole of anxiety and depression. Instead, work to understand what role you have in these things happening around you. Letting go of those things you can not control and making an effort to improve the things you can, will free your mind to focus on more constructive ideas.

This takes more than just flipping a switch; it is a complete change of mindset. As above, there is a fine line between your influence on outcomes and control of decisions. You cannot control who gets promoted at your organization. However, you can increase the odds that it’s you by doing high quality work and being professional. At the end of the day if you are not promoted, realize that you provide your company a high quality service that you are proud of. That is a victory unto itself.

Chose to do one thing that moves you forward

You don’t need a big action or grand result now to be successful. Take a small step towards your goals and the person you want to become. Capture that action on your calendar or in your journal. Over time your progress will materialize on those pages as clearly as the ideas in this story materialized out of my own reading and experiences.

Life moves incrementally, not exponentially. Thus, the small steps you take today are the ones that will pay big dividends in the future. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. You need to move forward one footstep at a time. Taking one step towards your goals everyday will have you 365 steps closer to those aspirations at the end of the year. That is something you have ultimate control over.

Look for an opportunity to make a difference in your own life

If you are not looking, opportunities will never find you. Carefully evaluate your decisions throughout the day and make conscious choices about what you do. That is the basis of taking control of your life. When you consider how simple decisions such as what to put on your grocery list or what to do first thing in the morning shape your life, you will start making choices that are more meaningful. These seemingly unimportant decisions will make a difference in your life over the long haul.

It is widely documented that we make an average of 35,000 decisions every day. Thirty-five thousand! Every time you say, ”I don’t care” or ”It’s up to you,” you are forfeiting a decision. Start being mindful of the decisions that have been placed in front of you. Consciously make choices as an exercise in seizing control of your life. Watch not only the outcomes, but also how your decision-making process changes. As a result, you will make better decisions and increase your confidence in doing so.

A caveat here is to be careful not to dismiss things you think are out of your control but that you do actually have influence over. For example, those friends who don’t invite you out may not like that you become increasingly negative the more you drink. Thus, cutting down on your alcohol consumption and avoiding complaining would make you a more desirable person to spend time with. When you find that many people have the same problem with you, then you are the problem. It takes a brave person to admit that.

Finally, don’t create added obstacles for yourself. Those recurring patterns and seemingly negative cycles you experience are a sign that you need to do something different to get past this life barrier. Look at your approach, your decisions, and your mentors. Then decide if you’re properly equipped to win. If you are not, ask yourself what you need to do to break through. The resources are undoubtedly at your disposal. You just need to consider all your options and ask the right questions. Then do something today to make the change.

At the end of the day, the control you have over your life solely rests in the decisions you choose to make, or to forfeit to someone else. Be mindful of those and choose to be the determining factor in your life. After all, you are the driver of your life.

This article first appeared on Medium.com as Who’s Driving Your Car

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