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.
As grandparents now for almost four years, we have started to look more closely at the impact of adult communication on children. Researcher Angela Duckworth, a MacArthur Genius Award recipient who operates the Duckworth Lab at the University of Pennsylvania, caught our attention in her identification of teaching "grit" as a key to laying the groundwork for success.
Grit means a growth mindset where failing is never seen as a permanent condition; where setbacks do not lead to disappointment, and where pushing yourself farther than you thought possible is a life pattern that leads to finishing what we begin. So, it's not about telling our children that they are "smart" or "good at" certain things. Instead, notice their effort and acknowledge the small steps they take that add up to any specific accomplishment.
BTW, if you are interested in determining your own grit score, click here: “Get Your Grit Score.”
Please share your thoughts: Do you have suggestions for getting your children to persevere toward long term goals, even when they face setbacks? Share your responses here.
The most effective leaders are talented at skills that require empathy, such as persuading, motivating, and fostering collaboration. But in his book FOCUS: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, Daniel Goleman identifies a danger for leaders: As people rise in power positions, research shows that they tend to pay less attention to those whose social status is not as high. Empathy can be a casualty of this dynamic.
Some antidotes for the potentially out-of-touch leader: create a group of colleagues who will be candid with you (inside or outside your organization) and keep in regular touch with them; wander around the office and spend informal time getting to know employees; and create a workplace atmosphere where people feel safe “speaking truth to power.”
Leaders, we want to hear: What are some of your strategies for staying in touch with the needs and goals of the people who report to you? 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.
Welcome to our Community of Practice Forum, a forum dedicated to highlighting people and organizations around the world who have created best practices by applying our core communication tools and models to real life, real time situations.
The purpose of this forum is to serve as an incubator for ideas, where people share and learn from each other’s experiences. It is a place to inspire others and also be acknowledged for your cutting edge communication practices. Our goal is to create a community of people practicing together; a powerful support network with the purpose of helping each other to transform engrained communication habits into sustained, positive outcomes.
So please share any applications – big or small – that have worked for you. We look forward to joining the conversation.
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
Last night we heard NPR's report on toxic leaders. In a study that looked at eight suicide victims in the army, all had toxic commanders who made the soldiers' lives miserable with no let up. "When you're ridden mercilessly, there's just no letup, a lot of folks begin to fold," the study's author concluded. He went on to describe toxic leaders as "abusive and self-aggrandizing, arrogant and petty, and ‘unconcerned about, or oblivious to, staff or troop morale.’" The researcher also described toxic leaders as "good at snowing their superiors — so they kept getting promoted." The report suggests that the impact of destructive leadership goes beyond the military. A key question posed: Are we tolerating this kind of leadership?
We applaud the army's initiation of an evaluation system where officers get anonymous feedback from those who report to them. We believe in the power of such information. Please let us know: Have you experienced the impact of 360° feedback? What happened when such a system was introduced in your organization? Share your responses to this 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
Is stress always harmful? A long-term study of 30,000 individuals published in Health Psychology in 2012 revealed that people who reported experiencing high stress were 43% more likely to die prematurely, but this was only true if they believed stress adversely affected their health.
For decades, in our public speaking courses we have been teaching that stress is the motor of performance. So rather than dreading the stress of speech anxiety, we learn to embrace it as ‘the juice’ that energizes us. This new research suggests that this is also likely to be true in interpersonal communication—where avoiding conflict is often done to avoid stress!
Begin to think positively when you feel your stress rising as an important communication event approaches. Think: "This is the feeling I need in order to perform at my maximum. I am ready…" This reframing may save your life.
Please share your thoughts with us! What happened when you began to appreciate those sweaty palms and that rapid breathing that signals stress? 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.