Have you ever tried to smile and think a negative thought? Usually the result is that one of the feelings will win out. You will either feel better because you smiled or you will eventually feel bad and frown, this is an important fact in human psychology. Humans cannot really hold attention on more than one thought at a time. This is the key to mastering oneself in this life. Victor Frankl was an Austrian psychiatrist who ended up in a concentration camp during World War II. He witnessed numerous atrocities and was a victim of German experimentation himself. However, he observed that people trapped in the camp had different ways of dealing with their dire predicament. Some people lost the will to live, others went mad. Some men turned on their fellow inmates, while some ended their lives in suicide. There were others, though who turned out quite differently. There were men who went from hut to hut, and gave away their last piece of bread. They encouraged the men, women, and children of the camp to keep on living. They gave them a reason to hope for a better future. Why were these men, in the face of overwhelming despair, still able to master themselves enough to help others with their problems? This is what puzzled Frankl. But even he would eventually find out why when he was tortured. Frankl believes that between stimuli and response lays the choice of man to react to any given circumstance. He has practiced this in the concentration camps and his sense of future vision helped him survive. He realized he had a choice, and his choice was to live. The human animal is the only organism so far known to be aware of its own existence. Untrained, this awareness does not help him overcome his instincts to react to any given situation. Frankl has found out that it is possible to use the will to make a choice on how one can react. Other theories also hold true to this tenet. Sales people have long practiced that if one smiles long, he will eventually feel good about himself. In essence, he can make himself feel anything he wants. In essence, it is outside-in. Smile even if there is no reason to smile. It will foster a sense of positivism that drives out negative thoughts. This is a two-edged sword. Try to frown and you can find yourself too serious to even let people near you. Our thoughts are fluid and they are ever in one state to the other. The challenge is to keep them where you want them. The Buddhists have long recommended breathing methods to clear the cobwebs from your everyday life. They believe that a sense of detachment and awareness of one’s state is the key to dealing with unbalanced emotion. The effect of breathing is that concentrating on the breath is a source of steadiness that is much needed when one needs a sense of control. Breathing deeply and concentrating on it also loosens hold on the ego. It supplies the body with more oxygen to fight the effects of stress. The Buddhists sense of detachment lessens the stress of responsibility by teaching the practitioner to not be concerned on the outcome of a task, but to only enjoy the process. Coupled with an emphasis on simplicity, compassion, and exercise, the lifestyle Buddhists lead is full of activity yet does not affect their outlook in life. The test is still to catch yourself when you are too stressed to function well. This is where choice comes in. You make the choice to stop work when going on will be counter-productive. You choose whether it is feasible to commit to a project when you know you already have your hands full. Awareness is the gauge that tells you when you have too much. Choice is the lever that you turn to ease the pressure. Part of choosing is when to say no. When presented with an opportunity. One must ask if the opportunity is feasible and if there it time to devote to it? If it is not, then there should be no shame in declining. Overloading oneself is another sign of poor choice, and doesn’t do you or the inviting party any lasting good. The key is the awareness to respond with an appropriate choice. Take action today! Take a deep breath, smile and make the choice to live the life you desire.
Over the next three weeks I’m going to address Relationship Building. This week’s focus is on Reading others and Building Rapport. While the majority of people can learn the nuts and bolts of relationship building, focusing on some basic techniques that can be learned is a must. The main ones, in no particular order, are:
- Read: “Read” people well.
- Rapport: Develop rapport with others.
- Finesse: Have with finesse; i.e. handle conversations and activities in a cordial manner.
- Conflict Resolution: Resolve negative issues and conflicts without too much friction.
- Support Co-Op: Gain the support and cooperation in working towards a common goal.
Reading People: All about Body Language Body language is the meaning behind the words or the “unspoken” language. Surprisingly, studies show that only up to an estimated 10 percent of our communication is verbal. The majority of the rest of communication is unspoken. This unspoken language isn’t rocket science. However, there are some generalizations or basic interpretations that can be applied to help with the understanding or translating of these unspoken meanings. Here are some basics below:
- Smile – People like warm smiles. Think of a heartfelt warm-fussy, maybe your favorite pet, and smile.
- Eyes – -If you don’t look someone in the eyes while speaking, this can be interpreted as dishonesty or hiding something. Likewise, shifting eye movement or rapid changing of focus/direction can translate similarly. If more than one person is present in a group, look each person in the eye as you speak, slowly turning to face the next person and acknowledge him or her with eye contact as well. Continue on so that each person has felt your warm, trusting glance. Some suggest beginning with one person and moving clockwise around the group so that no one is missed, and so that you are not darting around, seemingly glaring at people.
- Attention Span / Attitude – Other people can tell what type attitude you have by your attention span. If you quickly lose focus of the other person and what is being said, and if your attention span wanders, this shows through and makes you seem disinterested, bored, possibly even uncaring.
- Attention Direction – If you sit or stand so that you are blocking another in the party, say someone is behind you, this can be interpreted as rude or thoughtless. So be sure to turn so that everyone is included in the conversation or angle of view, or turn gently, at ease and slowly, while talking, so that everyone is incorporated, recognized and involved in the conversation. Again some suggest the clockwise movement when working a group.
- Arms Folded / Legs Crossed– This can be seen as defensive or an end to the conversation. So have arms hang freely or hold a glass of water, a business card or note taking instruments while communicating with others. Be open with open arms. Note: If you need to cross legs, cross at your ankles and not your knees. Sitting tightly folded up says that you are closed to communications.
- Head Shaking – This is fairly accurate. If people are shaking their heads while you speak, they are in agreement. If they are shaking, “no,” disagreement reigns in their minds.
- Space / Distance – On the whole, people like their own personal body space. Give people room and keep out of their space. Entering to close can be intrusive and viewed as aggressive.
- Leaning – Sitting or standing, leaning is viewed as interest. In other words, an interested listener leans toward the speaker.
While you are with others, note how their bodies read. If a person suddenly folds his arms across his chest and begins shaking his head “no,” you’ve probably lost him. Try taking a step back and picking up where the conversation began. It’s all about strategic planning! Developing Rapport Now let’s take a quick peak at the basics of developing rapport with others. In a nutshell, what it takes is to ask questions, have a positive open attitude, encourage an open exchange of communications (both verbal and unspoken), listen to verbal and unspoken communications and share positive feedback. Here are a few details on each step:
- Ask Questions – Building report is similar to interviewing someone for a job opening or it can be like a reporter seeking information for an article. Relax and get to know the other person with a goal of finding common ground or things of interest. You can begin by simply commenting on the other person’s choice of attire, if in person, or about their profile, if online, and following up with related questions. For example, in person, you could compliment the other person on their color choice and or maybe a pin, ring or other piece of jewelry and ask where it came from. In online communications, you could compliment the other person’s background, smile or mention that the communication style seems relaxed and ask if he or she writes a lot. Then basically follow up, steering clear of topics that could entice or cause arguing, while gradually leading the person to common ground you’d like to discuss.
- Attitude – Have a positive attitude and leave social labels at home. Many people can tell instantly if you have a negative attitude or if you feel superior. So treat other people as you would like to be treated. And give each person a chance.
- Open Exchange – Do encourage others to share with you. Some people are shy, scared or inexperienced in communicating and welcome an opportunity to share. So invite an exchange with both body language and verbal communication. Face the other person with your arms open, eyes looking into theirs gently (not glaring or staring), and encourage a conversation with a warm smile.
- Listen – Be an active listener. Don’t focus your thoughts on what YOU will say next. Listen to what the other person is saying and take your clues from there, while also noting the body language. For example, if the other person folds his arms and sounds upset, you may need to change the subject or let him have some space and distance; maybe even try approaching him later on and excusing yourself to go make a phone call. On the other hand, if the other person is leaning towards you, following your every word and communicating with your as if you were old friends, YES! You’ve built rapport!
- Share – People like compliments. So hand them out freely without over doing it. Leaving a nice part of yourself is like a compliment. This will leave a good memory for the other person to recall – numerous times. That’s good rapport. But do be sincere! False compliments aren’t easily disguised.
We will review Finesse and Conflict Resolution next week. Practice in the mirror first and when you attend your next meeting or social gathering, put these to work. Start building relationships! Be alert to possible problem areas, and take action to improve your life.
When it comes to trying to find the answers inside yourself, you have to dig deep into your soul and your mind to find the right answers you are looking for. It is a long process and no one will tell you that it is easy, yet you can accomplish much by putting forth effort. To get started, you have to be able to take a long look inside yourself which is not easy for anyone, but in order to be able to find answers it has to be done. This is where a professional coach can help you. A professional life coach helps you to search your mind and insight to help you find your hopes and dreams as well as to feel motivated enough to make your wishes come true. This is all about finding yourself and helping you to have a better insight of yourself. It takes some time to become someone in a professional stance but as you grow, you will find that it will be easier for you to handle your responsibilities. This will help you to be able to define who you are and what you want in life as a person. The process will help you to become a successful businessperson, as well as a successful individual. In order to become a professional you have to work at it. This is not going to be something that does not take any time or effort; this is going to be an ongoing effort. People will experience hard times, but you will have to learn how to overcome this and walk through it. You will not only cross-over discrepancy but you will come across many self-emotions and experience the power of self-growth. You may feel anxiety, fear, resentment, guilt and a lot of uneasiness. However, when you are feeling this way, the professional coach will help you to learn to overcome it and move forward. How does one get on the right path? It will all depend on you and your mind frame on how fast you will progress. It is going to take some time but as you learn to work on it, it will come to you faster than someone who only thinks they want it. The coaching process will help you to go deep inside of your thoughts and feelings. Throughout the process you will create goals, both short term and long term. These goals, once down on paper, become real. You will place these goals in front of you so can see them and read them each day to keep your mind fresh. The more you see and read something the more it will become “real.” In order to become the successful person you want to be, there is work that you are going to have to do. Take action today!
There is a lot of talk about mindfulness. What is mindfulness? Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience. Mindfulness is now being examined scientifically and has been found to be a key element in happiness. It’s a busy world. You wash dishes while keeping one eye on the kids and another on the television. You plan your day while listening to the radio and commuting to work, and then plan your weekend. But in the rush to accomplish necessary tasks, you may find yourself losing your connection with the present moment—missing out on what you’re doing and how you’re feeling. Did you notice whether you felt well-rested this morning or that roses are in bloom along your route to work? What can mindfulness do for you?
- Increasing your capacity for mindfulness supports many attitudes that contribute to a satisfied life.
- Being mindful makes it easier to savor the pleasures in life as they occur, helps you become fully engaged in activities, and creates a greater capacity to deal with adverse events.
- By focusing on the here and now, many people who practice mindfulness find that they are less likely to get caught up in worries about the future or regrets over the past, are less preoccupied with concerns about success and self-esteem, and are better able to form deep connections with others.
What can mindfulness do for your health?
- help relieve stress
- treat heart disease
- lower blood pressure
- reduce chronic pain
- improve sleep
- alleviate gastrointestinal difficulties
- substance abuse
- eating disorders
- couples’ conflicts
- anxiety disorders
- obsessive-compulsive disorder
Some experts believe that mindfulness works, in part, by helping people to accept their experiences—including painful emotions—rather than react to them with aversion and avoidance. How do you practice mindfulness? There is more than one way to practice mindfulness, but the goal of any mindfulness technique is to achieve a state of alert, focused relaxation by deliberately paying attention to thoughts and sensations without judgment. This allow the mind to refocus on the present moment. All mindfulness techniques are a form of meditation.
- Basic mindfulness meditation – Sit quietly and focus on your natural breathing or on a word or “phrase” that you repeat silently. Allow thoughts to come and go without judgment and return to your focus on breath or phrase.
- Body sensations – Notice subtle body sensations such as an itch or tingling without judgment and let them pass.
- Sensory & Emotions – Notice sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touches. Practice a steady and relaxed naming of emotions: “joy,” “anger,” “frustration.” Accept the presence of the emotions without judgment and let them go.
A less formal approach to mindfulness can also help you to stay in the present and fully participate in your life. You can choose any task or moment to practice informal mindfulness, whether you are eating, showering, walking, touching a partner, or playing with a child or grandchild. Attending to these points will help:
- Start by bringing your attention to the sensations in your body
- Breathe in through your nose, allowing the air downward into your lower belly. Let your abdomen expand fully. Now breathe out through your mouth. Notice the sensations of each inhalation and exhalation
- Proceed with the task at hand slowly and with full deliberation
- Engage your senses fully. Notice each sight, touch, and sound so that you savor every sensation.
When you notice that your mind has wandered from the task at hand, gently bring your attention back to the sensations of the moment. Be in the moment. Live in the moment.
Sometimes, a person’s fears can become so strong that they play themselves out; becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. This happens a lot for people with low self-esteem. Low self-esteem itself can easily become somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy, but it doesn’t have to stay that way.
What Is Self-Esteem?
Many people are unaware of the true definition of self-esteem. It is much deeper than self-confidence, and even deeper than believing in one’s self. Truthfully, self-esteem is a measure of one’s self-worth and self-respect. It is important to realize that you are worthy of happiness, of love, and of every good in the world.
Understanding a Vicious Cycle
Often, self-esteem circles in on itself and creates a vicious cycle. For example, the person feels that they are not worthy or good enough for a promotion and so they don’t bother applying; therefore they don’t get the position, causing them to feel even worse about his or herself.
Where Does It Start?
A lot of times a low self-esteem begins somewhere during childhood. There might have been a tragic event, abusive behavior either towards the child or within sight, or it could be learned from a parent. Other times a tragic event or setback can cause low self-esteem.
Where Does It End?
There is an end to the vicious cycle, but it is up to the person to truly find themselves and believe in a better path. Sometimes it takes the help of loved ones or even therapists to overcome the power of low self-esteem.
The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
Low self-esteem can easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Allowing yourself to think that you aren’t worth something good happening and not working towards improvement will help those self-depreciating ideas flourish and eventually come to life.
It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way
Low self-esteem doesn’t have to be there forever. It is possible to overcome the ties of low self-worth and learn to love and respect one’s self. The cycle can be broken.
How to Overcome
Anyone can overcome low self-esteem and break the vicious cycle of the self-fulfilling prophecy. Sometimes it takes the help of friends, family, and other loved ones. When it comes down to it, though, it is ultimately up to that person to learn their own self-worth.
You Have the Power
If you struggle with low self-esteem and find yourself in a cycle of unfortunate circumstance, know that you have the power to bring yourself up and break the cycle. Know that you are a beautiful, wonderful person that is both capable and deserving of love and respect, both from others and from yourself.
Self-esteem can be a self-fulfilling prophecy, but it doesn’t have to. Understanding the cycle and where low self-esteem comes from are the first steps to breaking the cycle. After that, it is up to the person to truly find the self-worth and respect to do better for themselves.