speaker Lynette

The Power of “Yet”

Personal note

I first wrote this article in July 15, 2011. The concept is just as true now as it was then. If we all followed this advice, our happiness would increase.

As a writer, I believe in the power of words. Words can heal and bring hope. They can also destroy hope. This week’s article is about one little word that can carry a lot of power.

The Power of “Yet”

When I had a heart attack a little over five years ago, I asked, “Why?

And my doctor told me that I had a high level of a rare form of cholesterol that sticks to itself and to artery walls like Velcro, making me three times more liable to have a heart attack than the average person. Furthermore, my doctor told me there was no medication, diet, or exercise – nothing I could do – that would lower this level. I felt nothing but despair. It sounded like a death sentence to me.

Nothing I could do? I fired the doctor. And found a new one. The new one said, “We don’t have a solution for that…yet.” What healing those three little letters brought to me! They suggested that my doctor believed:

  • Someone somewhere in the world was working on this problem;
  • There would be a solution…sometime;
  • She would be aware of that solution because she believed it was possible; and
  • She would pass that solution on to me.

My level of hope rose steadily. Today, neither my doctor nor I believe I will have another heart attack. All because of one little powerful word – “yet.” Well, not just this one word: energized by the hope this word aroused in me, I also took all kinds of action designed to lead to great health.

I then started to play with this three-letter word. For instance, what if we all started to add “yet” to our conversations with ourselves and with others:

I don’t have a job…yet.
I don’t have my dream house…yet.
I haven’t become an expert in (fill in the blank)…yet.

Moving on, I thought of:
I haven’t mastered a double Axel in figure skating…yet (ok, I’m not working too hard on this).

Feeling heady with all the possibilities, I began to soar even higher:
I don’t speak fluent French…yet.
I haven’t quite grasped quantum physics…yet.
I haven’t met the love of my life…yet.

The only time we (or anyone) can make definitive final statements about our lives is when the comment can be chiseled on our tombstones:

Never won the World Chess Tournament.
Never really got calculus.

Until then, anything is possible, but we will never know it if we are not open to the possibilities. For good ideas are like birds carrying good news, circling excitedly for a place to land, then flying away disappointed at the lack of a landing field.

Our openness to possibilities of which we haven’t even dreamed yet is what provides that landing field.

Keeping your eyes open to possibilities only works if you have hope in your heart. As the song says, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”

Despair is a destroyer.

Hope is a healer.

The Confident Introvert

“What are they afraid of?” my department manager used to ask after meetings in which a number of department members sat, silent and resentful, while he was unaware that his habit of springing surprise agenda items and asking for an immediate decision was very upsetting to these talented, educated introverts. Understanding, appreciating and utilizing the skills of introversion are foreign ideas to some – even to introverts. Now you can read about it in
The Confident Introvert.
Order now at http://www.ConfidentIntrovert.com

Are you suffering from “Brain Buzz”?

Personal note

I spent last Saturday at a seminar, “Stress: The Silent Killer,” at which I delivered “The Angina Monologue” as well as listening to other skilled experts. Each of us had different information to add to the growing body of knowledge about our bodies, our minds, and our lives. It was exciting, illuminating … and fatiguing.

I got home, flung my briefcase down, and waited until Sunday morning to unpack. It took all day (moving slowly) to store leftover handouts, put away charge slips, follow up with a new client, and deal with all the little scraps of paper on which I had scribbled or other people had scribbled and handed to me.

The most exhausting part was the fact that my brain was filled with so many ideas, images, creations … and yes, some worries, too … that I could hardly function.

Instead, I hunkered down and took a day off, only to return to work on Monday with renewed energy. Sometimes, taking that time is the only thing we can do. Other times, there are little skills we can use to keep from being overwhelmed. That’s the topic of today’s article.

Don’t forget: April is “Coming Out” month for introverts.
(Introverts are people who really get buzzed by too much stimulation.)

Here are some offerings I have crafted especially for you introverts. 
They are all teleseminars, and they’re all FREE.

  • Wednesday, April 3     8 p.m.      Baffled  by Bluffers & Blusterers? Discover how to handle these challenges to introverts.
  • Wednesday, April 10   8 p.m.     Throw off Your Cloak of Invisibility
  • Wednesday  April 24   8 p.m.     Questions you always wanted to ask about introverts, but didn’t know who to ask.

Sign up now at  http://creativelifechanges.com/the-confident-introvert/teleseminar/  

Mindful Aging
A while back I was interviewed by Lori Campbell, Visionary Gerontologist, in whose book, Awaken Your Age Potential, I have a chapter.

Now you can hear us talk about her ideas and mine, and the relationship of self caretaking to aging,  in this interview at
http://www.agepotential.com/category/agepotentialtv/
or
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1kJxc4PE7_4

Are you suffering from “Brain Buzz”?16903730_s

Do you feel as if you have invisible gnats buzzing around inside and outside of your head? Are you so overwhelmed by possibilities that you start to work on one task, then set it down and switch your attention to another, and then another?

Welcome to the World of Overwhelm. It happens to all of us and it is happening more and more in our increasingly complex world.

Here are some solutions I have come up with, besides simply shutting down for a day or so:

Organize in advance
Make a list before you go to bed of all the things you need to do, in order, the next day. Tell yourself, “There, now my day is all organized.” Then put it aside before you go to bed. Don’t even think of taking the list into your bedroom, which should be a serene space where you can relax.

Stick to your organization
Never, ever, EVER (did I say that enough), start up a computer without knowing in advance exactly what you are going to do next, and after that….
Make a list (on paper, in real handwriting) and post it where you can see it while you are on the computer. When you get distracted by incoming emails, instant messages, and internet searches, return to your list for grounding.

Switching tasks
Switching tasks can be confusing. Always take a few minutes to breathe and center before doing this, clearing your mind of the previous activity just as you should tidy your desk or workspace before switching tasks.

Avoid multi-tasking:
We all do it: talk on the phone while opening mail, or jot down notes on one topic while listening to another. No, it doesn’t make you doubly efficient; just the opposite, in fact. It can leave you exhausted, and you haven’t even accomplished much of anything.

When all else fails, take a day off and do something pleasurable. You will more than make up for that lost time by being re-energized.

And finally, remember the words of Mahatma Gandhi: “I have so much to do today, I must meditate for two hours instead of one.”

The Confident Introvert

“What are they afraid of?” my department manager used to ask after meetings in which a number of department members sat, silent and resentful, while he was unaware that his habit of springing surprise agenda items and asking for an immediate decision was very upsetting to these talented, educated introverts. Understanding, appreciating and utilizing the skills of introversion are foreign ideas to some – even to introverts. Now you can read about it in
The Confident Introvert.
Order now at http://www.ConfidentIntrovert.com

How can I soar with eagles when I work with turkeys?

Personal note

The birds outside my bedroom are getting noisier every morning, and the increasing number of rabbit tracks across my yard tell me they are venturing out more and more.

Meteorological Spring is here, and with it comes more hope for transformation in our inner and outer worlds. I have spent the winter hibernating and studying more and better ways to make significant behavior change happen, including the newer research in how our brains function and are remodeled. My heart is lifted; I hope yours will be, too, when I share these techniques with you during the coming season.

How can I soar with eagles when I work with turkeys?

I remember this sign in an organization for which I worked years ago, and when I thought of some of my colleagues, I laughed in recognition.

Much later, I recognized that some of them probably had my face in mind when they looked at the sign and laughed.

The expression refers to someone (me, of course) who would be a high performer in this environment, if it were not for the underperforming people around one.

In fact, it often describes people who are doing something so annoying that we feel frustrated and avoidant.

Here are some common turkey behaviors.turkey

  • Bluffer & Blusterer: sounds so confident that others clam up and stop offering ideas, even if they feel the B & B is wrong.
  • The Clam: doesn’t offer ideas in a group setting but confides criticisms to a favored few later on, leaving others feeling mystified or betrayed.
  • The Checker: constantly protests and wants to slow down others until all the facts are in. They never are.
  • Just likes to have fun: turns every meeting into a kind of party or joke-fest which can derail actual progress.

Have you noticed that all of these people seem to be motivated by insecurity? They’re not doing it to YOU; they’re just doing what they do to protect themselves. These behaviors are signs they are under stress, and everyone has typical ways of dealing with that stress. For example:

  • The B & B is just trying to avoid feeling out of control. Listen, appreciate the offering, and then speak up. This person isn’t keeping you from speaking up; you are.
  • The Clam is terrified of speaking in a public setting. Ask the Clam in advance of a public meeting what he or she might contribute. Listen carefully in a relaxed manner so the Clam isn’t afraid to speak in your presence.
  • The Checker is afraid of being wrong. Lavish praise for the carefulness he or she brings to any situation, then gently bring the Checker back to the original goal that is being pursued.
  • Just likes to have fun: This one is terrified at not being liked, and is competing to get the most attention. Suggest that the JLTHF use this enthusiasm and high energy level to inspire and motivate others.

Once again, they’re not doing it to YOU. They are displaying the fact that they are under stress, and maybe could use a little help in de-stressing. Offer that help, if you can.
By the way, what kind of turkey are you?

The Confident Introvert

“You don’t look like an introvert” is a phrase I hear frequently when people learn about my new book and program, The Confident Introvert. This is a sad reflection on the way introversion is perceived in our society, as some kind of defect rather than another way of thinking and being – a rich, productive way, I might add.

Surviving in this kind of culture is not easy, and I have spent years learning how to do it successfully. Share my journey and my wisdom. Go to http://www.ConfidentIntrovert.com to find out more about my book and programs.

Are you bothered by public speaking?

Personal note

Last Saturday was my first ever “Confident Introvert” seminar, and I’m still pleased, proud, and a little exhausted from that event.

Like many opening nights, it was successful, but with small glitches: people having difficulty registering, a Power Point program that worked superbly up until the time the webinar actually started, and a telephone system that acted up half-way through the seminar.

Why didn’t it bother me?

Well, I come from a theater background, where you know anything can happen at the last minute. You prepare a wonderful program, and a piece of scenery falls down, or the sound system decides to misbehave, or anything, really, and suddenly you have to improvise. You rehearse well, learn to roll with the punches and practice what a friend of mine used to call “The art of instant self-forgiveness.”

That’s what prompted this week’s article.

Are you bothered by public speaking?

Your work or life may require speaking in public. Some people think of public speaking as delivering a talk to a large audience; others think that two or more people constitute a large enough audience to be intim14039343_sidating.

Are you one of the rare people who is frightened of public speaking? Note the use of sarcasm here: actually public speaking has long been the #1 fear in the United States, just ahead of nuclear warfare. You are most emphatically not alone.

It’s just that people who have this fear seem to feel so very alone, as if everyone else is blasé about it, and only the victim feels somehow publicly naked and ashamed, sure that everyone else is seeing that fear.

So you need to know that just about everyone who performs in any sphere – speaking, music, dance, acting – is scared to death.

One famous artist I can think of regularly faints before going on stage; another vomits. Yet they both go out and deliver superb performances.

I personally wake up the day of a big talk feeling a little as if I were going to my execution. Yet as the day wears on, I become more and more energized and excited, and finally end up, always, loving the very act of speaking.

So what distinguishes stalwart performers from the chickens?

As the New Yorker said to the tourist, who asked, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” – practice, practice, practice.

You can’t think through a talk and expect to deliver it with ease. You cannot perform any skill in public that you have not practiced in the exact form in which you expect to deliver it. No one would think to compete in the Olympics by thinking through their skill, suiting up at the last minute, and then trying it out live for the first time.

If you’re going to speak, you need to open your mouth and learn to project your voice. 

Ideally, your practice should not only be live, but you should replicate the environment of your talk as closely as possible. What will you be wearing? What props will you use, including microphones? What size room will you be in; a large room to which you are unaccustomed can be intimidating.

Find a room – in your church or your school perhaps? – that will resemble your upcoming venue. If you can assemble a small audience of friends or supporters who will give you feedback (important information, kindly delivered) not criticism (blaming and shaming), so much the better. If not, use a recording device to hear how your voice sounds and if you need to adjust the volume.

What if your venue is simply a networking meeting, at which you must get up, introduce yourself, and deliver your elevator speech? Same model – practice, practice, practice.

For example, vary your distance from the recorder to see how much volume your voice needs to carry across difference spaces. You could say, “I am (name) and I am six feet from the recorder.” Then say a few more words. Then try it again at a different distance. This will give you a good idea of how to control your sound, and relieve that embarrassing feeling that you either sound too soft and timid, or that your voice has suddenly boomed out embarrassingly loud.

Don’t expect one practice session to produce results so superb that you never worry again. After all, if performers who earn $50,000 per concert still have to practice, why shouldn’t you? Step up to the practice; don’t let anyone else star in your very own Carnegie Hall.

The Confident Introvert

“I used to be an introvert – but I got over it.” I hear this a lot when I go out in public and talk about my new book and program. It’s a little like saying, “I used to have blue eyes – but I got over it.” Or, worse yet, “I used to be introspective and richly imaginative – but I got over it.”

Often the person who has offered this observation then gets up to speak, and leaks insecurity in tiny ways, declaring subtly that there is internal discomfort.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Our extroverted culture has made us overlook the valuable contributions of introverts. Discover your inner richness, strengthen your pride in it, then learn to express it openly and safely.

Read The Confident Introvert, then sign up for the programs of the same name.  For information and to purchase, go to http://www.ConfidentIntrovert.com.

What does confidence have to do with your heart?

Personal note

In keeping with the fact that February is National Heart Month, I am presenting another article that deals with cardiac disease.

But it does more than that; it deals with daily life and how well we live it. To be slightly (but chronically) anxious is not only dangerous to your health but also leads to a limited life in terms of pleasures and fulfillment.

So long as the heart is beating, we are alive, even if we are brain dead. But when the heart stops, all is lost. It seems to me that to be fully alive we should be dedicated to taking care of our hearts.

What does confidence have to do with your heart?7968714_s

 

Confident people know when to be afraid; they then take action – to run away from the saber-toothed tiger, leave the burning building, or whatever. Unconfident, or socially anxious, people, on the other hand, are wracked by numerous anxieties over what are called “paper tigers”:  fears about how they are perceived. If they speak or act, are others silently (or not so silently) going to criticize them? Do they appear foolish, awkward, unstylish…? The list goes on and on.

In fact, unconfident people fit the description of the Type A, or heart-attack prone personality, proposed by cardiologists Friedman and Rosenman: someone who is engaged in a relatively chronic struggle to obtain an unlimited number of poorly defined “things” in the shortest possible time, and if necessary, against opposition. In other words, they’re constantly fighting paper tigers.

The absurdity of this, of course, is that the events which they fear most – meeting new people, going to new events, speaking up in public – don’t call for the tremendous spurt of strength or speed that the stress response gives them. So they simply endure these events, stewing in their own chemical juices that have been released in response to what they perceive to be a threat.

Researchers in the United Kingdom evaluated ten studies of men and women enrolled in the Health Survey for England from 1994 to 2004. The data (published in the British Medical Journal), which involved more than 68,000 adults aged 35 or older, not only showed an association between psychological distress and mortality, but also showed that even mild anxiety or depression raised the overall risk of death from any cause by 29%.  The risk of death specifically from cardiac disease increased by 29%. So even the mild but chronically anxious were putting themselves at risk for serious consequences.

Therefore, it’s worthwhile to notice how often you feel attacked by paper tigers.

Whenever you feel even a little uncomfortable (and there’s no real tiger on the horizon), use the StressBuster Formula – Pause, Breathe, Choose.

Start by noticing the paper tigers, and then pausing to breathe. When you pay attention to your breathing, you are becoming aware of your body.

As you reflect, notice when the tension rises – in response to what events, key words, memories?

Where does it affect your body? That may be a clue to a chronic discomfort or illness that you are developing, because stressing your body regularly is a great way to break down physical systems.

Ask yourself, “Is there really a tiger out there?”  

People who suffer frequently from social anxiety often have more reactive nervous systems than do cooler, more confident people. If that is true of you, does that mean you’re stuck forever being intimidated by life situations and other people?   No, but it does mean that you need to take time every day to calm your mind and your body.

You can unlearn these maladaptive responses, become calmer, and learn to respond powerfully and well to real tigers.

In fact, your life may depend on it.

The Confident Introvert Networker

Personal Note

Some years ago I had a close friend whose personality can only be described as extravagant.  When she entered a room, she did it with great style, capturing everyone’s attention and keeping that attention for most of the event.  She favored large, showy hats, and often compared herself to the iconic Auntie Mame.  An introvert, I admired her style and wondered how she did it so easily.

She had an annoying habit of being late.  Only later did I find out that, during the hour or so that she was late, she was actually crouched on the floor of her closet, curled up in the fetal position, waiting for her medication to take effect so that she could go out and face the world.

Sad though that realization was, it helped me recognize that insecurity wasn’t my lonely challenge; even confident-appearing extroverts may have deeply-hidden  insecurities.

In a sense, those of us who have recognized our own insecurity are in a stronger position, because we can admit, at least to ourselves, that we have a challenge with which to work.  Sadly, she never did.

Today’s article offers some suggestions, based on my (now) years’ of experience, as to how to handle those challenges.

 The Confident Introvert Networker

Whether you are networking for business or for personal reasons, being an introvert can make the process painful.  It doesn’t have to be.

16217672_s

My interest in confidence and its opposite, social anxiety, came as the result of a painful end to a marriage in which I had become increasingly socially isolated. Finding that I had to seek new friends, I decided to go to join groups, such as alumnae groups, and go to meetings and events where I would meet people, only to find that this was very difficult.

At the event, I’d enter the room hopefully and see that there were little clusters of two, three or more people standing in a circle and talking animatedly to one another.  Hopefully, I’d edge closer to the group, only to find that the members would close the distance between them, effectively cutting me off, and literally giving me the shoulder.
I went home time after time, rebuffed and hurt, convinced, as many unconfident people are, that I had a special  secret mark on me that read “unlovable” or “not very interesting, don’t bother” or as a friend of mine liked to say, “They saw the zipper down the back of the pretend suit.”

But I learned from people like the publisher’s representative who came to my college office that most people are a little insecure.  When I described the above kind of experience, this skilled sales person blushed and said, “I’ve done that, too.  I just don’t know how to behave in those circumstances.”

Here are some hints to help you:

Assume everybody’s insecure: they just show it differently.  Regrettably, the social anxiety that we call shyness has escalated in the United States in the past two decades, with an astonishing 50 % now saying that are chronically shy ( up from 40% several decades ago) , and another  40 % saying that have been shy in the past, while 15% admitted to being shy in certain situations. Only 5% of people say they have never been shy. The probability that you will encounter insecure behavior from others as time goes by is very high, even if you don’t immediately recognize it.

How about those folks who come to events  with friends, and continue animatedly talking to the same people without reaching out or making eye contact with anyone else, much less conversation?  Yup.  If you want to observe confidence, locate someone who is circling the room, moving from one person to another, and holding conversations in which they hold eye contact and look interested in meeting someone different.

Become part of the action: Arrive early and offer to help, particularly with a task that involves greeting newcomers: hand out name tags or materials, pass hors d’oeuvres, give directions ….

If there isn’t a task for you, learn the directions – to the meeting room, bathroom, or whatever – and station yourself near the door, ready to direct people who look a little uncertain.

Round up the mavericks:  When I attended events with my godmother, she would often scan the room and say, “There’s someone alone.  Let’s ask him/her to join us.” And she would.

At Christmas, her home was flooded with Christmas cards She, incidentally, traveled all over the world,  being greeted by residents, staying in the homes of people whom she had met at an event, or in a line at a museum, or wherever she was. She was actually a shy person, but she had mastered the art of connecting with people – one at a time.

Make up a group of people who came along and start your own little circle.  But never forget to look for newcomers and welcome them.

Be alert for people who make a casual, friendly remark as you hurry by.  They may be wanting to start a conversation, too.  Help them out.

Don’t try to “make a sale”: Whether you’re actually selling a product or service, or just trying to meet people for personal reasons, pay attention to this wisdom that I got from a friend who was a very successful, prize-winning sales person.  When I asked her the secret of her success, she said, “I never try to make a sale.  I just try to make a friend.”

As you implement these little social skills, become aware that you are becoming more socially powerful than 90% of the population.  That should boost your confidence.

Do introverts have more stress?

 

Well, yes and no.In our extrovert-oriented culture, being an introvert is not easy.

While extroverts thrive on outer stimulation, deriving their energy from it, introverts need quiet time to let the energy tanks fill up – alone. Introverts think deeply before speaking, and as one researcher demonstrated, leadership in a group often goes to the person who speaks up first and most often. Thus extroverts more often end up leaders. Their ideas are more often listened to and implemented.

Because we are an action-oriented, full-speed-ahead culture, introverts can lose out, feeling marginalized, their expertise overlooked.

Many introverts nevertheless lead a satisfying life, immersed in an activity that relies on their ability to be alone and to focus deeply on that activity, supported by those around them.

Others are not so lucky, perhaps hearing the question, “Why are you so quiet?” or “Why don’t you get out there with the others and have fun?” too often from those who are not introverts.

To add to the challenge, the area of the brain that is involved with fear and anxiety is more sensitive in introverts.

The result can be shyness, a form of social anxiety that is rising in the United States, with 50% of respondents admitting to being chronically shy (all of the time), and another 47% being situationally shy (shy in some situations).

Does this mean introverts are doomed to live stressful lives? No, it means that we (I’m including myself here) must lead mindful lives, actively searching for and creating those “Islands of Peace” our natures crave, and being firm and quietly assertive with others who would deny them to us. Saying, “I need time to reflect on this” when faced with an event or a request for an immediate decision is a real and an acceptable response.

And does this imply that extroverts don’t have stress? Not at all. Being a leader of people who are sitting there quietly without sharing their expertise can be unnerving, for example. Think about it next time you choose not to participate.

Feedback

Personal note

What a week!  I gave a talk on “Expand Your Time and Tame Your Tension” at the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation’s health fair on Saturday, delivered while swaying a bit from fatigue, as my aging cat decided to get me up – and keep me up – at 3 a.m. that day.

The response of the audience members was great, as they clustered around me at the end to ask questions, apparently not noticing that I wasn’t in top form. Perhaps I was; I only knew that I felt the passion I usually do when I talk about this topic, and the words just flowed out of my mouth.

The beauty of truly understanding good stress management is that you learn to roll with the waves that try to batter you, and not fight them.  My head was not filled, as it once would have been, with thoughts of how terrible it was that I was so exhausted, and that my talk would suffer as a result.  I didn’t have to cope with a frantic feeling that once would have lasted from those early morning hours right up to the time I picked up the microphone and spoke.  I didn’t feel rushed; I had a sense of timelessness, as if I was just strolling through life and nothing was terribly urgent.

That’s one of the  many things that I will be teaching in my upcoming seminar, “Expand Your Time, Tame Your Tension … and Expand Your Life,” coming up  on June 9.   Make sure you register before May 30 to get the reduced rate for this transformational experience.  Click here to learn more about it.

Feedback

(How often do you criticize yourself during a given day? How often do you hold yourself back from doing or saying something because you’re afraid you will make a mistake? Then you’d receive that awful thing, criticism – if not from yourself, then from someone else.

None of us wants to live in a world with no standards; what would it be like to have surgery from a surgeon who was not qualified, or to fly in a plane with a pilot who was not held to the highest standards?

And yet, hardly anybody admits to enjoying the process by which we sometimes have to reach those standards –that is, criticism.  We’d prefer not to get it; we’d prefer to be perfect, or at least OK, much of the time.

Sometimes – for many people, often – we avoid putting ourselves in a situation that is likely to trigger criticism, for example, taking a risk.

But we can’t even get away from criticism when we’re alone; sometimes our severest critics are with us all the time – ourselves.

Luckily there is a way to reduce the stress and fear associated with criticism:  change it into something useful called feedback.  Here is a story that illustrates feedback and how it works.

Many people don’t realize that the Apollo space module was off target 90% of the time on the way to the moon.  90%!  How terrified or discouraged would we feel if we were that muchoff target on the way to an important goal?

Yet all we remember is that Apollo hit the moon.  And here’s how it did it, with the aid offeedback.

Picture the moon, way out there in space, and then picture the spot on the earth from which Apollo was leaving.  Now draw an imaginary line between that spot and the moon.

When Apollo blasted off, it didn’t follow that straight line.  In fact, it went wildly off at an angle to that line.

Here’s how Apollo might have reacted if it were human, filled with self criticism:
“Hullo!  What’s this!  I’m   w  a  y   off track.  Stupid, stupid me!  Now what am I going to do … Mrs.  Murphy, my 3rd grade teacher, always said I was too impulsive.  …  By gosh, it’s lonely out here. … Mother was right!  I always think the grass is always greener…. When I get safely back home I’m never going to do this again.”

But Apollo was a machine, and it got feedback, not criticism, from mission control, that went something like this:

“Apollo, you are off course x degrees in y direction.  Correct.”

And Apollo corrected. Actually, it over-corrected, veering wildly off course at an angle in the other direction.  But … not quite as far off course this time. And a little nearer to the moon.

Once again, it did not have that internal critic saying, “You’re so stupid.  I already told you the right direction.  What’s the matter with you anyway?”

It just got another feedback message.

“Apollo, you are off course x degrees in z direction.  Correct.”

Again it over-corrected, but a little bit less this time.  It was a little nearer to the straight line, and a little nearer to the moon.

In this manner, correcting, and then correcting again, it zigzagged its way to the moon.  Each move was a little less erratic, a little more accurate.  And all we remember is that Apollo hit the moon – because of good feedback.

The path that Apollo took to the moon is the path of human beings, too, when they are learning a new task or a skill.  We may start out a little shaky, a little uncertain, feeling our way until we become more confident of the right path.  We dash off in the wrong direction, then (if we are lucky) we correct, then over-correct.  We need good feedback, not criticism.  Without it we may continue stubbornly plowing in the wrong direction, or give up in despair.

Here are some differences between criticism and feedback:
Criticism looks backward, at what went wrong.  It focuses on the individual, and it involves blaming the person, sometimes slapping on a label, such as  “dumb,” or “careless.”

Feedback looks forward to improving performance the next time.  It focuses on the action, and provides information as to how that action might be better the next time.  That word “information” is important:  it should tell you what to do in order to improve, not just what not to do.

Pay attention to what you’ve been saying to yourself, then write it down!  If you talked to your best friend that way, would they still be your best friend?

Insist on feedback from others.  Don’t accept criticism that doesn’t provide useful information about how you could do better.  Ask for good feedback, and be sure to select people who have knowledge about what you are trying to accomplish when you do so. Choose to ignore critics that can’t provide that useful information.

Pause, think, then choose to be your own best friend.  Give yourself feedback that will help direct you to your “moon.”

(Next week: how to win friends and influence people by learning to give feedback, not criticism.)

Watch How You Tell Your Story!

Personal note

This week I’m off to London, Ontario, Canada, to meet with my coach in person, as well as the other wonderful people in my Master Mind group. The very thought of traveling (which makes me more creative, especially at 30,000 feet altitude) and sharing stories with others has lifted my spirits so much that I’m almost giddy.The last week has been a mixed bag: some wins, some losses, but all of it, in retrospect, has had an element of humor in it.  So I resurrected this article from last year…..

Watch How You Tell Your Story!

When bad things happen to good people (you), there is an irresistible urge to share the load by talking about it.  This can have two good results:

You relieve yourself of some of the pressure by sharing
You may have insights into a problem when talking with someone else.

It feels comforting to rush to friends or loved ones to tell them all the bad things that have been happening to you, but it can backfire.  Along the way, you may mentally rehearse everything you’re going to tell them, making sure not to omit any details.  It can be calming to see the look of sympathy in the eyes of someone else, and to hear their consoling words.

When you tell your story in all its intensity, you are reliving the event.  If it was stressful when it happened, your recounting of the story may bring back the same physical stress.   Even your mental rehearsal may do that.

The fact is, an estimated 10% of our stress is due to what happens to us; the other 90% is due to how we think about what happens to us, or how we habitually react to what happens.  So for one real stressful event, you may experience the same reaction many times.  It’s like getting a lot of bang for your buck, except it’s much less desirable than a buck. Each time you go through your story, you are undermining your physical health and your happiness, too, by putting your body through the same raised heart rate and blood pressure, muscular tension, troubled digestion, and mental confusion.

How can you get the release of telling your troubles to others in a way that is healthy?

First, position yourself as a problem-solver, not a victim
Instead of saying something like,  “Why ME?” or “Things like this always happen to me?”, try something like, “This was a real test of my ingenuity.” Or “Once I calmed down, I figured it out.”

Find some humor in the situation – particularly when you’re in the middle of the situation.  When my garage door froze shut, I cobbled together all the extension cords in the house, plugged my hair dryer into the end, and trudged out through the snow to warm up the lock.  No power!  I had to giggle when I realized that I had to go back in and plug the other end of the cords into an outlet in the house, and I giggled even more when I had to make another trip to push the re-set button.

Which brings me to the next point:

The joke’s on you  It happens to everyone, at one time or another – stress leaves us feeling so confused that we overlook simple details and make obvious mistakes. I like to say that Stress Makes Us Stupid.  It’s not the fickle finger of fate poking us once again; it’s a fairly natural and predictable process – but it can be avoided.

When you find yourself blocked at implementing a simple solution during a stressful period, pause, take a deep breath, and think the whole process through before you make a move.  Don’t rush because you want to the stress to end – it’ll just make it worse.

Determine in advance whether you’re asking for advice or help
Be careful who you choose as a listener.  Some people just have to jump in and solve your problems. Other people (often, but not always, men), see the disclosure of your feelings as a call for help

Tell your listener what you want.  Say, “I’m not asking for help in finding a solution at this time/ I really just need to get this off my chest right now.”

Express gratitude to your listener for listening to you
“Whew, it’s great to have a friend like you. Thanks for listening.”

Make it a two-way street
Needless to say, being a good listener who doesn’t make judgments or give unwanted advice when other people tell their stories is a great way to get reciprocity.

When you tell your story the right way, other people will be willing to listen to you again and again rather than avoiding you

Regarding that frozen week of minor crises that I mentioned at the start; I figured I must have told my story right when the friend I e-mailed  wrote back, saying, “That’s the funniest story I’ve heard all day.”

Creative Writing for RAWs

Personal Note

Last week I coined the acronym, RAW, to stand for Really Advanced Worriers: those people who have spent their lives practicing and developing their skills at writing dramatic mental stories.

It takes time and patience, but RAWs can switch from drama to comedy.  I know; I’ve done it.  Well, at least my office manager laughs at my humor, and I definitely feel more light-hearted.

Creative Writing for RAWs

Some years ago, I called a dear friend of mine, Mary, to ask her advice. All I got was her answering machine, hour after hour.   Alarmed that this usually accessible person didn’t seem to be available, I called her best friend, Amy.  Together, we become more alarmed.  Both of us started making calls to mutual friends, asking if they had seen Mary.

We then started looking at sites she might be visiting: coffee shops, cafes, stores.  No Mary.

Tight-lipped, neither of us discussed our fears openly, but I know mine included accident, abduction, and even murder.  I suspect that Amy, because of the diligence of her search, had similar fears.

When Mary returned the next day from a relaxing weekend and was told of what had been going on, she asked us, plaintively, “Didn’t anybody imagine I might have met the love of my life, and we had gone off together?”
Nope, all we had were disaster scenarios.  Not a single upbeat one in the bunch.

Imagining danger in advance was probably healthy for our primitive ancestors, who had to be prepared for a host of life-threatening events.  It’s not so successful a tactic for us modern descendants.

To stop creating so much drama, do this:  next time you catch yourself becoming anxious over something in the future, jot down the details quickly. No need to be fancy, just something like this: “Son insists on taking dog to cabin with us this weekend.  Dog will get lost in woods, or be left at a gas station.  Son will be heartbroken.”

By Monday, your true RAW will have forgotten that dismal little scenario, and be on to constructing another one: “Husband’s sister coming for a visit.  House is messy.  She’ll be critical.”

So, on Monday morning, write the outcome next to the notes you have made, as the dog looks at you anxiously, begging for food or a walk.  Oh, yes, the dog survived the trip, you note.  And so did you.

Really good RAWs are great storytellers but terrible predictors of the future.

How about taking a minute (that you might have otherwise devoted to worrying about your sister-in-law’s visit) to jot down the pleasant details of your trip: the sunsets, the great food, the fun, the laughter?   Then have a good laugh at yourself

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Lynette is a member of MVP Seminars. Visit her at www.MVPSeminars.com

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