Category Archives: Emotional Intelligence

Chimpanzee with fingers in ears

It’s Okay, I’m Not Listening

Given that communicating well is so important for our happiness and well being, how much time and effort do you put into ensuring you are highly proficient in this with all your relationships?

Some of us have behavioural preferences that make it easy for us to talk about the task in hand without any warm up with social niceties (something that is an enigma to others who want to hear the personal stories). Others need space to ‘think as they talk’ or a slower pace that allows for them to be quiet and think, and then share their thoughts.

Do you recognise the importance of adapting your natural style to suit the needs of the person you are communicating with or do you plough on regardless?

We all know we should take it turns to listen, to ask questions, to speak – but how many of us fall foul of the following communication ‘no no’s’ in our relationships, at work or at home – without meaning to?

1.     We ask a question but instead of following up with more in depth questions that show we are interested and have been listening, we switch the conversation back to what we want to talk about.

2.     We listen to someone expressing their feelings about a situation but promptly offer solutions to the situation rather than acknowledge and validate their feelings.

3.     We interrupt; assuming we know what else that person is going to say, ready to show our quality of thinking rather than listening to help that person understand their own thinking.

Now I’m sure you’ve all done the above at one time or another, and experienced those conversations where you’re left feeling unsatisfied, that somehow you’ve failed the mark, not been heard properly or unknowingly, made things worse. So perhaps knowing whether we, and who we are in conversation with, are in terms of an ‘I, We, or It’ state can help bring more awareness  – and ultimately more satisfaction – into our conversations.

I, We, It ,Conversations

In the ‘Bodywork for Coaches’ training course I am currently doing with Mark Walsh, he highlights the importance of knowing what kind of state we are in.

When we are in an ‘I’ state, we want to go into ourselves and reflect on what is going on.  We’re more likely to bring things back round to us and our needs because that is where we are.

At other times we may be in a ‘we’ state, when we are ready, willing and able to be with another, to listen with an aim to understand the other person.

And then there are the ‘It’ states, when it’s all about the task and getting things done.  There is little space here for feelings, to recognise subtle undercurrents or meaning. In an ‘It’ state, we are best able to focus on the job in hand.

Problems in communication arise when people are in different states (or cross states) and are unaware of what state they are in. You will just not be able to give someone the quality of listening and engagement required if they are in an ‘I’ state but you are in an “It’ state for example.

So, moving forwards;

Firstly, spend time and effort to realise what your behavioural preferences are.

Secondly, consider how you can recognise when you are in your ‘I, We’ It’ states. How can you best then respond or instigate conversations that will ensure you aren’t in a cross-state with that other person?

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Delegating – The Curse of Letting Go

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Many of us struggle with delegating. We appreciate that we need to ‘let go’ of certain things so that we can focus on what we should really be doing. Whether we are growing our business, moving into a bigger management and/ or leadership role, we feel this even more acutely.

If you love something dearly, you want to hold it close, right? Whether it’s your baby, your child, a project, business or an idea, if you feel passionate about it being done well or the impact it should have, are you going to find just ‘dropping it’ or ‘letting go’ easy? Of course not.

Those very words ‘let go’ are likely to trigger your sub-conscious brain, specifically your amygdala, to register threat, triggering cortisol to flood into your system. This causes your pulse to rise and your breathing rate to increase. Your ability to relate and connect with others decreases. Your ‘reptile brain’ takes over and basically says ‘No, shan’t, I’ve got to hang on to that!’ No wonder you struggle then to delegate effectively….

So what to do? Can we go about this in a different way?

Make no mistake, it is of course essential that we delegate to others. As we progress in our careers, we have to evolve into being what is required at that level. To grow as individuals, we also need to learn to let go. To manage day to day stresses, releasing and letting go of tension is essential.

May I invite you experiment with something? Instead of seeing whatever it is you need to delegate as something you have to ‘let go’ of, try visualising it as actually a process of ‘letting in’.

You’re letting in others so that they can show their value to you.
You are letting in others to that you can show how much you value them.

Just as we experience a warm glow of satisfaction from being needed, wanted and valued in our personal lives, the same is true of our professional. Letting in others to do some of the work you feel is yours to ‘control’ allows you the opportunity to let others feel this glow (and hopefully someone is also doing that for you!).

Focus on your strengths – It will make you happier and more effective: Part 2

SO, WHAT ARE YOUR STRENGTHS? shutterstock_81178216

How do you know what your strengths are? You are probably aware of some, but identifying your strengths can be tricky. This is due partly to our innate ‘tuning into’ the negative about ourselves or situation, and the difficulty we all have in recognising what we are truly good at!

One way is to ask yourself what strengths you have just used when you have done something you feel good about.  You could also try asking a friend or trusted colleague who you feel can give you honest feedback (itself a real skill).

Research shows there are 24 character strengths recognised across cultures as being inherently desirable human traits.  Martin Seligman has used these as the basis for his ‘VIA Character Strengths Tests’ questionnaire which is available, for free, on his website http://www.authentichappiness.org You need to register and the questionnaire will take about 40 minutes to fill in. That time is well spent however, as the results can be truly illuminating.

“OH, THAT WAS NOTHING!”

If you do ask for feedback on your strengths, it’s worth noting how hard it can sometimes be to actually hear a strength being identified in you, or indeed for others to hear it said of themselves.  How many times have you heard, or said yourself, “Oh it was nothing” or “the others did it, I did very little” when being praised for something done well, whether it be at work or in your personal life. Giving and receiving positive feedback is a skill, and given that it can be so powerful in shaping many things, not just our ability to identify strengths, it’s good to know that we can all learn to give and receive it.

TOP TIP: USE EVIDENCE BASED, POSITIVE FEEDBACK

Here’s where providing evidence for the strength is so valuable. Next time you listen to a friend or colleague talk about something that went well, identify a strength they used in order to achieve what they did. Identify specifically what they did so when you then feed their use of that strength back to them, you can provide the evidence.  See and feel how different things appear by trying it out when you don’t use the evidence.  For me, it carries far more impact when my husband tells me I’m good with people when he also refers back to the specifics of the situation he has perhaps just seen me in, letting me see the strengths of kindness, patience and empathy, for example.  Collecting your evidence of where and when you have used your strengths is a great activity for building up your self-confidence and self-belief in your abilities.

RE-CRAFT YOUR WORK / LIFE AROUND USING YOUR STRENGTHS

The next, essential step, is to actively use your strengths in different ways across your day. Remember, using your strengths builds positive emotion, opening you up to new ideas and alternative ways of thinking. You’ll feel good and will be more likely to ‘get into flow’ at work or whatever activity you need to focus on, when you are applying your strengths. (Go back to Part 1 of this blog series if you’ve forgotten why it matters).

As a mum, I’m aware how powerful this all is for my children. I help them recognise the things they have done well and encourage them to reflect back on things they feel good about. Being a coach I find it fairly natural to bring into use all those great empowering questions with them, such as “How did that make you feel?”, “What did you learn from that?” And “How could you use (insert strength) with (new challenge or difficulty)? I actively help them identify their strengths, celebrate their use and encourage them to think of where they can apply their ‘good skills’ to tackle their problems.

I’m still not brilliant at doing it for myself though. So, time to apply a bit more positive psychology on me I think, and here’s an immediate opportunity: how can I use my ‘optimism, zest and energy for life’ to work out an approach to cooking dinner for the children when much of it is likely to be immediately scraped back into the compost bin…

Still optimistic that the next day's dinner will be eaten...

Still optimistic that the next day’s dinner will be eaten…

Three Facts About Emotions

Emotions signal to us to pay attention. They are quite literally “energy in 256px-Drill_instructor_at_the_Officer_Candidate_Schoolmotion”, as the chemicals in our brains let us know about risks or opportunities facing us. Learning to recognise what our emotions are telling us has been a tremendous benefit to human development.

Marquis De Vauvenargues, a french philosopher stated “Emotions have taught mankind to reason“. Seeing how our emotions actually give us important data helps us work out what is going on, how we need to react and subsequently how we can get the best outcome from a situation. Fundamental to all of this is understanding that ‘you’ are not ‘your thought’.

The folks at 6 Seconds, the Emotional Intelligence network, are brilliant at explaining this and provide some amazing and helpful tools to help us develop our emotional literacy – increasing seen as essential skills at work, play and rest. Working out what your emotions are telling you, and then what to do about it, is a key part to developing your sense of well being and life satisfaction. Check out their latest 2 minute YouTube video that explains …

Three Essential Facts about Feelings