Improve Your Communication in 5 Steps

We have spent years learning how to read, write, and speak; yet what about listening? What training have we received that teaches us to deeply understand another human being and to be an exceptional listener?

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#mindfulness

images-5After I wrote the #happinessNOW! post last week, I wanted to dig deeper on how each of the seven happiness habits can support our happiness quotient. Yup, I’m making up a new term: Happiness Quotient or HQ. I kind of like the sound of that! Don’t you? 😉

We can improve our emotional intelligence quotient through understanding, focus, and work; it has been proven that we can also improve our overall happiness. Remember what Christine Carter said: Happiness is a set of skills that we need to learn and practice so that we can become fluent in happiness.

habit1-300x300Mindfulness is a daily practice of moment-to-moment, nonjudgmental awareness of our surrounding environment, our thoughts, feelings, and the messages our body sends. There is no correct or incorrect way to think or feel in the moment, we are just sensing the messages without reflecting on the past or imagining the future.

images-7A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about finding what we are passionate about. One of the ways to discover our passion was to disengage from cruise mode and turn off our autopilot. Mindfulness is exactly that process. In fact, how about we permanently disengage our inner autopilot….It sucks our time, energy, and the fun out of life!

Many studies have shown that practicing mindfulness will provide us physical, mental, and sociological benefits. We can improve upon our well-being with our minds rather than with medication. Sign me up for that please!

imagesBy utilizing mindfulness practices on a regular basis, our viewpoint of the world will become more positive, our memory, emotional regulation, attention, and relationships will improve.

How? When we are mindful we look for the positives. Mindfulness is learning. Learning increases our cognitive ability which supports the improvement to our memory, our ability to be empathic, and our understanding of how our emotions are in the driver seat of our thoughts and actions.

“Mindfulness practices enhance the connection between our body, our mind, and everything else that is around us. Mindful living is the key to understanding what our struggles are which will in turn empower us to control them.” – Nhat Hanh

Here are some additional mindfulness processes to consider in our practice of becoming more mindful:

images-2Meditation: I know that some people are squeamish about this, well get over it! Meditation is just focusing on the present moment. It doesn’t have to take hours of your day, you don’t need to sit with your eyes closed, legs crossed, have incense burning, and repeat the word ohm over and over. Yes, this is one way but there are so many others!

One of my favorite ways to meditate, especially when I’m stressed, is to sit in a chair, eyes closed, both feet on the floor, and your hands resting on your thighs. Relax your body and breathe slowly and deeply several times. Feel your lungs filling with oxygen. Wherever you carry your stress (mine is in my shoulders) feel the oxygen in your blood stream reach that stress carrying part. Picture the oxygen carrying the tension away. When exhaling, imagine that stress leave your body through your breath. I can spend less than five minutes doing this and I feel more relaxed and refreshed.

Physical Reminders: Putting a coin in your shoe, wearing your watch on the other arm,images-7 putting a band aide on a your dominate hand’s finger, even putting a purposeful smudge on your glasses can all serve as reminders to help us stop and bring focus to the present moment.

Our Senses: Have you ever played the game where you are blind folded and another person leads you around and describes what you cannot see? You relied on your other senses – smell, touch, and sound to help you to understand the world you couldn’t see. This may not be practical but images-3another option is to sit on a park bench, close your eyes, feel the sun on your skin, breathe slowly and deeply, listen to the birds, and smell the fragrances in the air.

Another way to slow down and experience our senses images-8is when we eat. Next time you sit for a meal, appreciate the smell, look, and taste of the food. Take small bites and let the food be tasted by all areas of your mouth – feel the texture of the food as you chew and swallow it. Let the sensations linger before you take your next bite.

Unexpected breaks: When you find yourself waiting, in traffic, in the check out line, even for a web page to load – get present! Instead of getting impatient, be grateful for the short break. Take the opportunity to notice the sights and sounds around you. Breathe deeply and relax while you wait. Look forimages-12 things to appreciate. Notice the sun, clouds, rain, the leaves on the trees move, the baby giggling, etc…..the world around you is stirring as you sit/stand still. Watch, take it in and enjoy the present moment.

There are dozens and dozen’s of ways to practice mindfulness. Find what works for you and discover the physical, mental, and social benefits of mindfulness.

A quote on habits:

A habit is the intersection of knowledge, skill, and desire. Knowledge is the what to do and why. Skill is the how to do. Desire is the motivation, the want to do. In order to make something a habit in our lives, we have to have all three.” – Stephen Covey

Enjoy this next week increasing your happiness quotient by practicing the habit of mindfulness!

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What is Your Why?

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When I ask this, I’m asking what is your purpose? Why were your born? Why are you here on this earth? Why do you get out of bed every morning?

People have either shrug me off or they think that I’m drifting off into deep existentialist thinking with this question. Why do so many of us shy away from knowing what our why is?

I’ve had a couple of people tell me that they were worried about the process of reviewing their life’s purpose. What if they discovered there is no purpose to their life? Everyone has a purpose for being here and a reason to live their why! If you don’t know it yet you just need to take the time, move out of your comfort zone, ask yourself questions and discover it.

If we don’t understand our purpose, how can we experience true happiness, meaning, and contribution in our lives?

images-1Some people have been lucky to have parents, teachers, and mentors early on in their life to help them see, and even better yet, feel their life’s purpose. I would say I had a little bit of nudging from teachers and mentors throughout my life; yet it was through a relentless desire to know more about who I am, what I stand for, and what I like to do that helped me to find my purpose – my why.

“The two most important days in your life are the day you were born, and the day you find out why.” – Mark Twain

imagesDiscovering my why didn’t happen over night! It has taken a lifetime yet, the last several years I have focused intently on looking internally at who I truly am, to quiet my mind, peel back my protective layers, deeply listen and to question the status quo.

I started the journey with an assessment of my personal values and beliefs, my personality, and natural strengths. I re-read Stephen Covey’s 7-Habits of Highly Effective People, I took the StrengthsFinder and StandOut assessments, I evaluated the status of my emotional intelligence, I wrote a personal vision/mission statement (which I call my purpose statement), read dozens of books and returned to college to finish my Bachelors degree.

No it won’t take years to discover your why – that was just my journey, but it will require you to be introspective, self-aware, and to take all the time you need to dig deep to understand and clarify your why.

The result of all of my inner work was gaining an understanding of the benefits of personal mastery and a clarification of my life’s purpose – a solidification of my why.

“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” – Nietzsche

images-2I’ve coached for decades yet I had not been able to do so full-time. I have helped many individuals get unstuck, find clarity in what they want out of their career and personal lives, and to help them remove obstacles by learning to trust their natural skills and abilities.

imagesAs you know, I enrolled in an advanced Coaching Certification program to provide the missing tools and knowledge to support my why. The work I’ve completed throughout the program (which is likened to an MBA program!) has been affirming that I have made the correct decision to leave my 30-year banking career to follow my passion of becoming a Certified Coach.

I started this blog as an outlet to deepen and solidify the learning from all of my introspective work. It also helps to scratch my creative itch. 😉 As I write this I realize that the blog has become a way to share my passion and to live my why.

I want to thank you for the support and feedback you’ve gifted me. I cherish your willingness to listen to my musings! Hopefully you’re finding a benefit from following my blog a well!!

I know, I know…we didn’t get the part of reviewing ways in which you can discover your why…..in keeping with my promise to keep these posts between 500 – 800 words, I needed to cut this post off at this point. Sooooo…..

imagesTune in next week at the same BAT-time, the same BAT-channel – to learn ways to uncover and clarify your why. (Another post where I got to get my nerd on!  Love it! 🙂

Keys to an Effective Relationship – Part III

imagesIs this dress blue and black or white and gold?

Scottish musician Caitlin McNeill posted a picture on her micro-blogging website with a caption – “Is this dress white and gold, or blue and black? Me and my friends can’t agree and we are freaking out!”

The post went viral after BuzzFeed picked it up – it sparked a heated global debate. We all got exposed to this craziness in our national news. Really?!? Wow!

This is a great example of how our perspectives can skew our thinking and ability to be open minded. As I read numerous articles about the incident, I noted all discussions were focused around an individual’s thoughts regarding how they felt – not around a dialogue on why someone else thought the dress looked a different color.

images-3We’ve all developed a lens in which we view life. We interpret what others are saying or doing through our own set of past experiences, our culture, values, and beliefs about others, ourselves, and our world. Our minds are constantly making sense of our own world – forming opinions and judgments during every interaction.

“We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.” – Anais Nin

Picture yourself standing high on a mountaintop or flying in a plane. From this vantage point we can see things from a wider and less detailed perspective. It can be a varied and interesting perspective to help us understand more of the big picture. The same happens when we use Google Earth. We can zoom from our home’s street view to the view of our city, state, and country with just the click of a mouse. So how can we take the vantage point of being high on a mountain or using Google Earth to help understand another person’s perspective?

images-2We need to first seek to understand then to be understood; it’s Dr. Stephen Covey’s Habit 5. Do you remember this picture in his book?  It was an exercise to uncover if we see both the young beautiful lady as well as the old lady with a large nose and chin.

To understand another’s perspective, we need to understand why a person is thinking and behaving the way they are. What’s the best way to do this? Practice Channel 2 listening and asking questions. This gains clarity so we may obtain the vantage point of the other person’s perspective; to enter into their paradigm.

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To be clear, we aren’t looking to release our own perspective and understanding, this practice is to enhance our own perspective by adding another’s viewpoint. When we can understand the thoughts and actions of another and we can feel their motives within us we can start to understand their perspective. Feeling their motives doesn’t mean we agree with them but we now have greater clarity on their perspective.

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” – Wayne Dyer

Here’s a way in which we can help ourselves learn to understand other’s perspective.

Practice the STOPP method:

S = Stop and step back

T = Take a breath – feel yourself take a deep slow breath

O = Observe – What am I thinking? Feeling? Is this fact or opinion? Is it accurate? Helpful?

P = Pull back and put in perspective – Is there another way of looking at this? What would someone else see here? What is the Google Earth view? What meaning am I giving this interaction to incite this reaction? How important is this right now? In the future?

P = Practice what works – Lean on your values and beliefs. What is proportional with this interaction? What could the consequences of my communication and actions be? What is best for me? What is best for the relationship?

“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.” – Marcus Aurelius

Sometimes we need to remember put ourselves in another person’s shoes; remember that their background and experiences, which are different then ours, affect their perspectives.  We can also follow the modified golden rule – treat others the way they want to be treated.

Taking another’s perspective means trying to see things from their point of view. When we are willing and able to see things from another’s perspective, we can learn things we didn’t know before. These practices show a deep admiration and respect and they help to deepen the relationship.

Paradigm Shift – Receiving Feedback

images-4A paradigm shift is a fundamental change in approach or underlying assumptions; yet it is also a change from one way of thinking to another. “Paradigms are powerful because they create a new lens through which we see the world. The power of a paradigm shift is the essential power of change.” – Stephen Covey. Paradigm shifts can be transformational, even revolutional.

imagesLike it or not we receive feedback from people on a constant basis. It started when we were infants. When we did something that pleased our parents we knew it – when we stepped out of line we also knew it. Some of the feedback we receive is cherished and we learn from it; some of it we reject and/or deny. What if we made a paradigm shift regarding feedback and viewed feedback as a gift? Would this help our ability to actually embrace feedback? Here is a four-step process adapted from Nigel Bristow’s book titled Where’s the Gift? which can help us to make this shift:

  1. Acknowledge the gift – assume that you are about to discover something of value and be appreciative when receiving the gift.
  2. Open the box and seek the gift – sometimes the gift is hard to find in all of the packaging. Don’t discard the gift because you don’t like the wrapping. Ask lots of questions and use Channel 2 listening – be open-minded. Don’t look for what you want, look for what the other person has the ability to give. Remember to not reject the gift because you don’t like or respect the giver or you suspect their motives.
  3. Acknowledge the nature and value of the gift – summarize the feedback you’ve received, tell the giver how you plan to use it (if you can at this point.) Share your feelings or views (if you can without coming across defensively.) If needed, take time out to think through the gift you’ve been given. If you’re convinced the giver is misinformed, remain open to the possibility that you might also be misinformed. Ask yourself where’s the gift and continue to ask the question until you find the gift.
  4. Use the gift – when you incorporate the feedback you’ve received and experience the benefits of the gift, let the giver know how it has helped you. If you can’t use the gift immediately, store the information until you discover a use for it.

images-2Changing our view on feedback as a gift helps us see its use even when the feedback may be inaccurate. The quality of the feedback depends more on our ability to receive it rather than the skill of the other person giving it. We’ve all received feedback from someone who’s words stung. They may not be adept on giving feedback but there is always a take a way learning opportunity – even if it’s learning how to not take things personally. When we can assume that the feedback giver is giving us something of value, we listen to understand what they are saying and why they are saying it, we can then find the gift.