Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Here are two recent examples. A new roommate moved into my office space. Some of her coworkers started to visit and talk loudly in our tiny shared office as I tried to work. What to do? At home, I rehearsed carefully worded “I” statements. It was my problem; I was the one who found it difficult to work with nearby conversations. Still, I worried that my coworkers would be angry if I made any requests regarding sound.
As I sat with the issue, I realized that the context of this interaction was also key. I had barely given my roommate a chance to settle in and I was ready to ask for more quiet. As I explored my feelings, I realized that my intuition (that the conversation could be unproductive) was warning me.
No matter how perfectly I communicated with my coworkers, I doubt it would have gone well because of the fear and anger hidden in my own psyche. After examining my feelings, I began to see that it was my inner-pessimist that was afraid and upset (“My quiet workplace-ruined forever!”). Once I admitted these deeper feelings, I recognized that my desire to jump in quickly with “assertive” communication was really an unconscious desire to control the new situation. If I tried to talk with my coworkers without understanding these feelings, they would come through. My colleagues would probably sense my fears and anger.
Emotional awareness is vital in these everyday dilemmas. If I am conscious enough of my feelings, I can admit them (“I'm feeling afraid that my quiet workplace…”). This “I” statement is more likely to work, since I'm “owning” my feelings and not unconsciously “throwing” them at my colleagues. Without emotional awareness, I'd be unable to do this. My coworkers would be right to be offended: I would have acted on my feelings without even knowing if they were justified.
After discovering my deeper reactions, I immediately felt better. I also knew that any conversation would now be much more successful. My willingness to handle the uncertainty of the situation took the pressure off myself (and my co-workers).
Postscript: within a short time, I adjusted to my terrific, new officemate. If my work required extra quiet, I used a pair of earplugs.
My husband and I enjoy traveling and spending time with my parents. But when they recently talked about joining us on a cruise together, I felt strangely uncomfortable. Why? As I quizzed myself, I realized I was worried about my father's fragile health. Was he really able to handle a cruise? What if something happened to him while in my care? I was worried about my Dad but also forced to admit my more selfish concerns. Would our dream vacation become mired in taking care of a sick parent?
I didn't like seeing my own selfishness, but it was important to acknowledge. I could then make a choice. I wanted a carefree vacation but I also love my parents. I knew I'd be happy to support their choice in joining us on a cruise.
Unlike my earlier example, in this case I concluded that I needed to share my concerns with my mother. Was this really a good trip for Dad? My new clarity meant that our conversation wouldn't be confused by my own inner contradictions. Before my awareness, my concerns may have merged with my more selfish fears. Now I knew my own inner truth: I was concerned and also ready to support their voyage, if they chose to go.
The only way for me to act with integrity is if I know the deepest dimensions of my reactions. Armed with this knowledge, I have the best chance of not sending a mixed message to others. Mixed messages cause stress for the receiving party. This is why a mixed message (I am trying hard not to be angry with you but am actually very angry with you) often results in conflict.
I first must communicate with myself before I can communicate with another.
© 2009 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved
Monday, June 29, 2009
An emotionally deadening routine that threatens their true selves.
Indeed a reluctance to explore your inner landscape not only
weakens your own motivation but can also corrode your ability
to inspire others.“
The Harvard Business Review
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Because nearly half of all students who start doctorate programs don't finish,
educators have long wondered how best to judge applicants to graduate schools
and reduce that attrition rate.Now, the Educational Testing Service says it has
just the thing. The ETS, which runs the Graduate Record Examinations, will soon
offer a supplemental assessment of graduate-school applicants on those personal
characteristics that could help students tackle advanced studies.
The main GRE, a widely used, four-hour exam of multiple-choice questions and essays, tests academic skills and is a valuable admissions tool, but it is not enough,
said Patrick Kyllonen, an ETS research official who helped develop the new
personality rating tool, called the Personal Potential Index."Every faculty
member can tell you about students with very high GRE scores who never finish
their degree and some who get barely admitted based on their scores and go on to
become academic stars," he said from ETS headquarters in Princeton, N.J. "We are
hoping this will go a long way to capture some of those qualities."
Entire article is here.
Friday, June 26, 2009
I had been moving forward on a few ambitious writing projects. Then, as I became busier with training events, seminar preparation claimed my writing time. I wasn’t worried. I would begin again when my schedule allowed.
Big mistake. As I’ve tried to re-enter the creative stream, I find that my thoughts (and some papers) are hidden from me. I sense that it will take some time to re-discover the unique path I was exploring.
How does this relate to the workplace?
I talk in my Time Management seminars about “flow” and the need to allow ourselves time to get deeply into a project, without being constantly interrupted. I’m pretty good at blocking out distractions in a single day but I’m reminded that maintaining creative flow may require staying connected to a project. Even if I only have brief segments of time to spare, I can ensure higher levels of productivity and creativity, if I revisit my writing endeavor daily.
Do you have highly challenging projects that would benefit from daily review? © 2009 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Then suddenly, Becky gives notice. Why?
Becky’s story is a great illustration of employee motivators illustrated through Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (3 top levels). Becky wasn’t getting her social/belonging needs met at work since she had become the office pariah. Dodging work couldn’t have helped her self-esteem or her need for self-actualization.
It was amazing to witness Becky give up the Golden Goose. Although she was getting away with not doing any work while making good money at a stable institution, Becky’s basic goodness prevented her from staying in a job she hated.
Have you seen similar events at your workplace?
© 2009 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
I reassured her. From what I’ve learned, it is great for employers to offer rewards, perks, incentives etc., to show appreciation. When rewards are directly tied to performance (i.e.bonuses), this is where productivity can (ironically) suffer (read “Punished by Rewards” by Alfie Kohn for more). My colleague’s work offered the best kind of recognition--that which honors the worker themselves. Recognizing an employee’s worth to an organization is always a good thing. © 2009 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Watch out for and alter extreme statements.
Instead of "I can't control my worry" remind yourself that "I am learning skills to conquer my worry."
"Why do I always mess up my presentations at work?" becomes "I sometimes make mistakes, but not all of the time."
The statement: "I shouldn't feel angry at Bob" becomes "It’s uncomfortable to be angry at Bob, but it's not the end of the world.”
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Research by Dr. Martin Seligman has identified 3 types of thought patterns of optimists and pessimists. Optimists see failures as:
2. isolated events,
3. that they can change through effort.
A pessimist sees the opposite: successes are viewed as temporary, isolated, and lucky (i.e. not related to their effort).
A pessimist sees failures or setbacks as:
1. Permanent (will never end)
2. Pervasive (always happening)
3. Unrelated to any effort exerted.
I’ve always seen myself as exceedingly optimistic. But this morning, as I practiced some of the exercises I would give my participants, I was surprised to find that only some of my thinking is optimistic.
When I lost a job several years ago, I plunged into a job search with zeal and excitement. I have always had an extremely high “locus of control,” i.e. I see my efforts as directly impacting my success. I work hard and expect good things to happen. That’s the “utilizes effort” element of optimistic thought patterns ( #3). But sometimes when things go wrong (as happened several weeks ago when someone hacked into my website), I can plunge myself into doomsday feelings of “this will never get fixed,” a negative thought pattern favored by pessimists (#1 above).
I’m happy to see that I have an optimistic viewpoint for 2 of the 3 elements Seligman describes. But while my belief in my own efforts keeps me moving forward, my fear-based thoughts (of never-ending catastrophes) often cause me harmful anxiety.
What is your unique blend of pessimism vs. optimism?
Do you see setbacks as temporary or permanent?
Do you see obstacles as isolated events or as the standard, (pervasive) state of your life?
Do you see success as a lucky break or as the result of effort?
© 2009 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved