For years we’ve spoken and written about the profound impact of nonverbal communication on our ability to persuade. In a recent Ted talk, Harvard Business School professor and researcher Ann Cuddy presents evidence for a direct link between body, mind, behavior, and outcomes.
Not feeling powerful? Cuddy says “Fake it ‘til you make it—or, better yet, ‘til you become it.” Before entering a high-stress situation where others will evaluate you—like a job interview or presentation—Cuddy suggests striking a “power pose,” such as Starfish (arms up in victory pose) or Superman/Superwoman (hands on waist/chest out). Doing this for two minutes (in private:) will lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. According to Cuddy: “You’ll feel better about yourself and others will experience you as more dynamic. The end game: more success!”
We want to hear: Give power-posing a two-minute try. Does it boost your confidence and up your game? Share your responses to the weekly discussion question here.
We recently came across a quote from a trainer of first responders:
"In emergencies, we tend not to rise to the occasion, but to fall to our level of training."
We were curious about the quote’s origin, but although we found it frequently cited in the training of firefighters and soldiers, it was always attributed to “Unknown.”
Well, our hats off to “Unknown.” The reason we teach communication as a set of observable, conscious skills is because thorough and reinforced training inoculates us against the pernicious effects of high-stress events. With proper training, we are far more likely to default to intentional, constructive communication behaviors, even when those around us may be “losing their heads.”
We want to know: Tell us about a time when you successfully used a conscious method of constructive communication when the going got toughest. Share your responses to the weekly discussion question here.
We know how important it is to be constructive in our communication with others, so why not try being this way when we communicate with ourselves? We expend a lot of mental energy and jeopardize our peace of mind and productivity by comparing ourselves negatively to others, or by creating “stories” about other people who we feel “lack respect for us,” or “lack compassion,” or “cannot be trusted.”
We all have an inner critic and an inner cynic, and silencing these voices is not necessarily easy. But since we can’t change something until we’re aware of it, try keeping track of how often you criticize yourself or impugn others over the course of 24 hours. Noticing the pattern of our negative thoughts and feelings—about others as well as ourselves—is the first step to realizing they are manifestations of our own internal fantasy life, which can fuse us to unhappiness with no basis in truth.
We want to know: Have you tried tracking your self-judging and other-judging thoughts? What were the results? Share your responses to the weekly discussion question on our Community of Practice Forum.
Most Americans are suspicious of one another in everyday encounters, according to an AP-GfK poll conducted in October 2013. Only a third of Americans say most people are trustworthy. About 50 percent felt that way in 1972, when the General Social Survey first posed the question. Now nearly two-thirds of us (a record high) say, "you can't be too careful.”
Although the results of this study might seem depressing, they are related to a cornerstone concept we have been teaching for many years: Trust is not a prerequisite for communication—it is a byproduct of communication. The implications of this are vast. Until we begin to communicate—in conscious and respectful ways—with people who have different opinions and worldviews, we are doomed to relationships fraught with mistrust and misunderstanding. It is when we begin to build communication bridges with people that we are able to create trust—even from conflict.
We want to hear: Do you recall a time when communicating with someone you did not especially trust at first ultimately led to a more trusting relationship? Share your responses to the weekly discussion question here.
In collaboration with neuroscience and psychology researchers, Facebook has made significant changes to the ways its users communicate. The New York Times reports that this year, “the company introduced a gentler formula for settling tension between users. Previously, someone tagged in an unfortunate Facebook photo could flag the image as offensive and hope the other person would remove it. Now, a form pops up with options like, ‘It’s embarrassing,’ ‘It’s inappropriate’ and ‘It makes me sad,’ along with a polite request to take the photo down.”
According to Facebook’s engineering director, Arturo Bejar—who came up with the idea after being inspired by meditation teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn’s maxim that “if people fully saw one another, they could get along better”—these new opportunities to communicate have tripled the likelihood that users will send a request for the photo to be removed. And the people they ask are cooperating!
“We didn’t realize how hard it was to feel heard in electronic communications,” Mr. Bejar said. “but now there are mechanisms for being more expressive and thoughtful.”
We applaud this mindful innovation in social media communication. Feeling heard is just as important in the virtual world as it is everywhere else.
We want to know: Have you ever been embarrassed by something posted on social media? How did you try to remedy the situation and did you succeed? Share your responses to the weekly discussion question here.
Research from NYU Stern Professor Justin Kruger shows that where email is concerned, there is frequently a wide divide between what the sender of a message intends and how the content of that message is perceived by the receiver. Says Kruger: “Overestimating the obviousness of one’s intentions can lead to insufficient allowances for ambiguities in communication—with occasionally destructive results.”
Problems arise because emails can’t convey body language, facial expressions, or vocal tone. In personal emails we might counterbalance this “flatness” with emoticons (i.e. smiley or sad faces), or acronyms like JK (just kidding). But these are often not business appropriate. Then there’s the problem of CAPITAL LETTERS, which a sender might use to suggest IMPORTANCE, but which receivers usually interpret as YELLING.
What to do? Be mindful in the workplace. Reread what you wrote before pressing send. If you think your email message might be at all ambiguous, take the time to insert a clarifying line or pick up the phone instead. Goldman Sachs and Farmers insurance are among the many companies teaching the value of pausing and paying attention when communicating at work rather than racing through the day on autopilot. This focus on conscious communication is what we have been advocating for decades.
Please share your experience: Have you ever had an email misunderstanding that could have been avoided? What happened when you reconsidered before sending your emails? Share your responses to the weekly discussion question here.
Writing in the New York Times, the Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman recently admitted that he is sometimes wrong. “If you write about current affairs and you’re never wrong, you just aren’t sticking your neck out enough. Stuff happens, and sometimes it’s not the stuff you thought would happen,” he said.
Needless to say, if Nobel Prize-winners can be wrong, so can any mere mortal. But as Krugman also noted, people are reluctant to admit mistakes in a climate where critics jump on them and say, “In 1996 you said A, and now in 2014 you say B. Gotcha!”
We agree! If someone admits they have been mistaken, let’s be gracious and avoid gloating. Rather than accusing the person of “flip-flopping,” we suggest a more productive re-frame: Acknowledge that admitting a mistake does not show weakness, but rather a strength of character and a willingness to learn.
Tell us your thoughts! How do you react when someone admits a mistake? And how have people reacted to you when you have done the same? Share your responses to the weekly discussion question on our Community of Practice Forum
Are you making any resolutions for 2014? Research shows that 40 to 45 percent of us start the New Year with a new resolve. As long as they are realistic, New Year’s resolutions can help us reach our goals. But it probably won’t surprise you to learn that many people—one U.K. study says as many as 78 percent—fail to follow through.
Some suggest that a good way to stick to your resolutions is to read them aloud each morning to yourself. Writing in the Huffington Post, journalist Delia Lloyd takes this a step further, suggesting that we say our resolutions aloud to others—the idea being that this will make us more likely to commit.
We agree that saying our resolutions aloud to others tends to make us feel more accountable and spurs self-discipline. Supportive friends, family, or co-workers can cheer us along and "going public" may give us that extra ounce of inspiration we need when will power wears thin.
Please share your experience with our Community of Practice: How are you planning to break old habits and set new goals? And whom are you telling? Share your responses to the weekly discussion question on our forum: Community of Practice Forum
Emotions of all kinds run high during the holidays. According to a 2006 study by the American Psychological Association, many people report positive emotions such as happiness (78 percent “often”), love (75 percent “often”), and high spirits (60 percent “often”). But 44 percent also report that family holiday gatherings “sometimes” or “often” cause stress.
Because the holidays can magnify sore spots in relationships, the APA suggests that we all manage our expectations. Barring a holiday miracle, a typically bumpy relationship isn’t going to smooth out overnight.
Along with this advice from the APA, we would like to reveal a family game that we play when the Glaser clan is together: We go around the table—with each person taking a turn being the focal point—and the rest of the group (one person at a time) saying what we appreciate and admire about the person who is “it.” (When we tried this with our 3 ½ year old grandson, he was utterly ecstatic!) We also suggest practicing your listening skills. Don’t focus only on saying something positive…also be sure to take in the positive things your family and friends say about you.
These tips might not cause a miracle, but they could magnify positive emotions— and set an affectionate tone for the bumps that might also come along.
We want to hear! How do you handle stress at family holiday gatherings? And if you try our “game,” please tell us how it worked for you. Share your responses to the weekly discussion question on our Community of Practice Forum
Have you ever had an argument with your spouse, significant other, or close relative? Just kidding… Most of us have had more than a few! But now we know that the way we behave during such conflicts may well affect our health—not just our relationships.
Researchers have shown that self-silencing during quarrels—i.e. the practice of holding in feelings one would like to express—takes a significant health toll. According to a report in Psychosomatic Medicine, women who didn't speak their minds in marital fights were four times as likely to die during the 10-year study period as women who always told their husbands how they felt.
Does this give us permission to take a no-holds-barred approach? Elaine Eaker, an epidemiologist who was the study's lead author, clarifies that this doesn’t mean we should “start throwing plates” at each other, but that there needs to be a safe environment where both people can equally communicate.
In a related study the health of spouses was studied in relation to the style of fighting between husbands and wives. A woman’s health risk increases if she perceives her husband’s style as “hostile”; a man’s risk increases if he perceives his wife’s style as “controlling.”
We want to hear! Do you have any tips for healthy conflict in intimate relationships? How do you express your feelings so that they can be heard and understood without damaging anyone’s heart (both literally and metaphorically)? Share your responses to the weekly discussion question on our forum: Community of Practice Forum
Saying “thank you” is the ultimate win/win. Research shows that expressing gratitude increases feelings of personal well being.
If you are looking for someone to practice your “thank you’s” on, start close to home. John Gottman, Executive Director of the Relationship Research Institute of Seattle says: “Masters of relationships have a habit of scanning the world for things they can thank their partner for. People whose relationships go down the tubes scan the world for their partner’s mistakes.”
Please share your thoughts with us! What happened when you upped the level of thanks you expressed to people around you? Share your responses to the weekly discussion question on our forum: Community of Practice Forum
What are some of the most off-putting email subject lines? BBC News Hour commentator Lucy Kelloway says they include: “Please Read,” “Request,” and “Reminder.” She also ignores “Dear Colleague,” asking why she’d bother to read something clearly sent to all employees, which she would doubtless find out about anyway.
Kelloway insisted she would be quite likely to open an email entitled “orange chocolate biscuits.” Okay, sure. But we all know this kind of ruse will backfire unless orange chocolate biscuits are actually in the offing.
Assuming no desserts are involved, the best subject line, she concluded, was one that conveyed the entire message—so that opening the email wasn’t even necessary. And brevity is the soul of any effective email.
Please let us know: How do you get people at work to open your emails? Share your responses to this weekly discussion question here.
The current news story about bullying incidents in the Miami Dolphins franchise has taken some extraordinary turns. At first there was disbelief, even derision, surrounding the notion that that one burly pro football player could be bullied by another. “Why not just ‘man up’ and have it out?” much of the talk went. But as details emerged, the scope of the problem began to dawn. While there is surely much we do not know about this situation, there is one thing we do know. Professional football constitutes a workplace, and no one should be harassed or “bullied’ in any workplace.
Statistics vary, but some studies reveal that nearly half of all American workers have been affected by workplace abuse, either as a target of such behavior—from yelling, threats, and rumors to manipulative techniques such as isolation and sabotage of work performance—or as witnesses to abuse aimed at a co-worker.
It’s not clear if bullying is actually on the rise or if more people feel free to discuss it now that the phenomenon has come to light. We are relieved that these practices have emerged from the shadows so that those who are vulnerable will feel freer to express themselves.
Please let us hear from you: Have you been bullied or witnessed bullying in the workplace? What did you do in response? Share your responses to this weekly discussion question here.
No one likes being taken for granted, at home or on the job. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, overwhelming numbers of employees are feeling mistreated on the job by their own co-workers. Consider how far the power of gratitude can go toward reversing lingering resentments.
Recognize, praise, and reinforce people you appreciate. Tell them how what they did made a difference. Remember that unexpressed gratitude is the same as ingratitude.
Please let us know: Think about a recent time you shared your appreciation for someone you work with. How did he or she respond? How does giving appreciation at work change the workplace environment? Share your responses to this weekly discussion question here.
In a study by Georgetown University and the Thunderbird School of Global Management, 96% of nearly 3,000 participants say they have experienced uncivil behavior in the workplace. Now organizations from Dish Satellite Corp to the NSA are following a lead set by companies like the employee-friendly Southwest Airlines, and implementing programs to improve civility among co-workers.
Warm and fuzzy time wasting? Not at all. Cisco Systems estimated the cost of employee incivility at $8.3 million annually and took action to counter the weakened commitment that resulted.
At the top of Georgetown U Professor Christine Porath’s list of rudeness-combating tips: Never criticize people behind their backs.
We agree. Everyone gets irritated with co-workers sometimes, but our belief is that if your frustration is great enough to vent to a third party, you need to discuss your issue face-to-face with the person concerned.
Please let us know: If someone comes to you with a gripe or complaint about someone else, what do you do? Do you get involved or send the individual back to the source of his or her concern? Do you ever enlist someone as your “sounding board” instead of going to the source of your concern? Share your responses to this weekly discussion question here.