Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Are you Emotionally Intelligent? A checklist

People who are emotionally aware:

---Are able to recognize their own emotions and the effects of those emotions on others.

---Learn information about themselves and their environment from their emotional reactions.

---Understand how their feelings are related to their thoughts.

---Recognize how their feelings affect their performance.

Are you able to utilize the data from your emotions to enhance your life?

© 2010 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


These may seem overly obvious but, in today's world, don't we need these regular reminders to slow down? Are you following these guidelines for a more balanced life?

Here are several practical tips to reduce stress:
(1) Be realistic and don't try to be perfect, or expect others to be so.
(2) Don't over-schedule; cut out an activity or two when you start to feel overwhelmed.
(3) Get a good night's sleep.
(4) Get regular exercise to manage stress -- just not excessive or compulsive exercise -- and follow a healthy diet.
(5) Build time into your schedule for reading or a nice long bath.
--Adapted from Science Daily

Thursday, June 24, 2010

What's a Breakthrough for you?

I’ve been coaching a client recently and we explored what a “breakthrough” would look like to her. Here’s what she had to say:

A breakthrough would be moving through my recurring emotional impasse so I am finally free of it. I would breakthrough into a freedom to create, to be passionate about my work, and to feel righteous indignation (when appropriate) without the whiplash of fear and shame. I could allow myself to soar without fear of being struck down and allow myself to fail without fear of ultimate destruction.

Such a great list! I wish all of us this breakthrough. Ready for a breakthrough? What would that look like to you?
© 2010 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Mystery of the Left Turn—A true story (because I can’t make this stuff up!)

I consider myself a fairly intelligent person. Still, in some situations, my brain doesn’t work well. I struggle with simple math calculations. And I get lost. A lot. Yesterday I walked a mile in the wrong direction until I slowly understood my error. At first, I denied the possibility. I’ve always turned left at that intersection. I know I turn left. If the street looks different today, it’s because I’m walking instead of driving.

I plodded along looking for landmarks. Finally, I asked for help, but when the driver pointed in the opposite direction, I didn’t believe him! My brain couldn’t compute that I was going in the wrong direction. (Can we say cognitive dissonance?) I continued walking. But after several others confirmed my error, I stopped. I stood still, in the middle of the urban jungle, trying to comprehend how my sense of direction could be so wrong. I was only duplicating my previous travel to this site.

If only I could understand what happened. But even without understanding, I now had to face the truth. I had walked at least a mile in the hot sun. Now I was even further from my goal. I had given myself ample travel time but now I would be late. I couldn’t be late—I was the one with the key ! I am never late! That is why I gave myself 2 hours to reach this appointment.

I trudged along. I had just missed the bus (of course).

As I walked in dismay, I suddenly realized my simple error. It is the error I always make when I get lost and it is the error I never see or anticipate. I had made an assumption. My assumption was so rapid and unconscious I didn’t even know it was there. I had assumed that I was coming from the same direction but now I wondered--had the train left me off at the same spot as my car route? It had looked the same. The train ran along the same highway I had taken previously. I had scanned the intersection, confirming my route. I had exited at this spot many times. But there were no buildings as landmarks. And then I remembered! The “Blue Line” train moves in a “U” shape. My inaccurate assumption: visualizing myself coming from home (west), when in fact, I had been turned around downtown.

I have a bad habit of making these kind of assumptions when I travel in unfamiliar places. I always see myself as coming from the North or West and never think to question this.

Do I also make similar (unconscious) assumptions when I talk or listen to others?

One more realization emerged from this adventure. Although I was traveling to an unfamiliar place, I had chosen trains I had taken before. Later, I realized that other routes, using buses, would have been far easier and more direct. I had followed the most familiar path available, never questioning other options.

It was a strange, woozy feeling to suddenly see my assumptions—the “sea I swim in.” It was both embarrassing and exhilarating. The world suddenly opened up, past my pre-conceptions.

When the events in your life attempt to point you in another direction, are you willing to question your assumptions? © 2010 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Cab Ride Disaster: Seeing through another’s Eyes: A True Story

It had been a long grueling day at a conference. I was happy to see taxis waiting just outside and rushed to grab one. But I was also a Chicago gal, and I feared getting stung on an unknown rate. I always ask cabbies what they charge before I get into their car. I marched up to the first cabbie.

He mumbled, “I’m not sure, it’s a meter.”

Nope. I wasn’t going to do that. I walked down the row to the next cab. He was asking too much money. I moved to the next cab. His fare sounded reasonable but as I moved to get into the car, he moved slowly forward to follow the line of cabs. I followed him. Finally, a ride toward home!

As I approached the car door, a large union worker barked at me.

“There’s a line here! You need to get in line!”

Was it my great fatigue, or was it anger at the accusation? I wasn’t the type to cut in line. I hadn’t noticed any line. My voice was strong and fierce.

“I’ve been here! I was here before the others!”

I moved to the cab again.

“You need to get in line!”

I wasn’t going to fight with the burly union worker. There was one woman waiting for a cab. I stood behind her.

“Go ahead,” she said kindly.

Again, I moved to the cab.

“You need to—“ The union worker was yelling now.

“She told me to take this cab!” I was almost pleading. What was going on?

“How should I know that?” He bellowed and continued to complain to himself and others.

Finally, I got into the cab.

I told the driver my destination. He repeated it, using a slightly different name. I confirmed. We drove in silence.

I’ve always been nervous taking cabs. I prefer to walk if I can. Now we were driving in an unknown part of town. I repeated my destination.

“I know where I’m going,” he said, “just let me drive!”

I was shocked by his angry tone. Chicago cabbies could be tough but this seemed extreme. We continued through unknown streets. He wanted me to be quiet but I wasn’t going to risk a misunderstanding and an unwanted destination.

“I’m sorry,” I started, “but I want to make sure we’re going to Union Station. I don’t recognize where we’re going.”

“I know where we are going. This is the route I always take. If you want to get out of the cab now, I can stop now. Don’t tell me how to drive.”

What could I do? I was driving with an enraged cabbie in a dodgy, unfamiliar neighborhood. Still, I had learned to be strong in the city and not let myself be a victim. Also, my taxi ride that morning had taken me to the wrong spot.

“I just want to make sure that---“

“Listen lady, just because you’re having a hard day and you’re screaming at everyone else, doesn’t mean that you get to scream at me. I won’t take it. I won’t. You don’t get to throw your garbage at me.”

I sat stunned. This was a bad dream. Yelled at by the union worker, and now this cabbie. Even though my tone had been soft and civil, he assumed I was a raving witch. How had I seemed to him earlier, as I struggled outside his cab?

I kept quiet. The cabbie continued to berate me, and then also grew quiet. I saw we were nearing Union Station. I gathered my bags.

“Have a good day, lady.” He said. Was he feeling sorry for his tirade or just sorry for the angry woman with a bad attitude?

I hesitated. I had a choice: create more anger or seek peace?

I took a deep breath. “You have a good day too.”

We see all events through a prism of our history, our current mood, and our beliefs. I saw myself as a tired commuter, unaware of the taxi line protocol. To the cabbie, I was a pushy woman who abused his friend, the union enforcer. Our communication was further complicated by my fears of taxi rides and (probably) the cabbie’s own challenging day.

My cab “disaster” was a vivid lesson showing me how all interactions are a complex mix of conscious and unconscious attitudes and assumptions. Even though I felt mistreated by the cabbie and the enforcer, I suddenly realized that they were only trying to do their jobs and each saw me as a rule-breaker.

I doubt that I’ll ever see either Chicagoan again. But the event helps me remember that we each see the world differently. Keeping this in mind can help me communicate with more compassion and help bring more harmony to my tiny corner of world.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Best Practices of Experts

The Habits of Experts
* Experts ask good questions.
* Experts break problems into parts.
* Experts rely on evidence.
* Experts look for patterns.
* Experts consider other perspectives.
* Experts follow hunches.
* Experts use familiar ideas in new ways.
* Experts collaborate.
* Experts welcome critique.
* Experts revise repeatedly.
* Experts persist.
* Experts seek out new challenges.
* Experts know their own best work styles.

from Fires in the Mind: What Kids Can Tell Us About Motivation and Mastery,
by Kathleen Cushman and the students of What Kids Can Do. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 2008. For more information, go to

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Positive Psychology Experiment

Martin Seligman and colleagues have found that people can increase their well-being by writing about a time when they were at their best and reflecting on this daily for a week.
The study demonstrated that people reported increased happiness. Doing this exercise also allows you to see what you are good at.

Think of a time when you were at your best, a time when you may have felt productive or happy. What were you doing? Who were you with? Recreate this time by writing about it in detail. If you don’t enjoy writing you could record yourself describing this time. For the next week review the story once every day and reflect on the strength/s identified. This may help you to use the particular strength to maximize your engagement at work and increase your well-being. You are also priming yourself to recreate a ‘at your best’ moment more often

(Seligman 2005 in Positive Psychology Progress. )

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Developing Optimistic Thinking Habits May Also Help You Think More Effectively.

This is a excerpt from a longer blog post. MRI tests are allowing us to learn so much about our brains, behavior, emotions, and thought.

Optimism activates both the amygdala (emotions) and the rostral anterior cingulate cortex. an area important for motivation and reward, and error detection. So there may also be direct connections between brain areas important for an optimistic outlook and thinking efficiency.

from Eide Neurolearning Blog

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Great Quote for a Challenging Day

“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.”

—M. Scott Peck(1936-2005); Psychiatrist, Author

Monday, June 7, 2010

Tool for the Day--Co-workers Serenity Prayer

List qualities or actions of your co-worker that drive you crazy. Put items in the appropriate column--actions that you believe your co-worker can change, and actions or attributes that they probably cannot change. Once completed, you may seek to speak with your co-worker about the items in column 1 and work on accepting the items in column 2.

1. May Improve Somewhat 2. Unlikely to Change

Adapted from Quality of Life Therapy: Applying a Life Satisfaction Approach to Positive Psychology and Cognitive Therapy by Michael B. Frisch

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Facial Expressions Reveal and also Help the Brain Understand Emotional Signals

So what happens if you undergo botox treatment?

Here's an excerpt from a recent study:

In the new study, Botox-induced paralysis slowed down participants' response to angry and sad sentences by about a tenth of a second, on average. But such effects can snowball when communicating with others. "Language is highly interactive, and we're very, very sensitive to all kinds of cues that happen on the order of milliseconds," says Arizona State University psychologist Arthur Glenberg, one of the study's authors.

Timing is crucial, for example, in the ritual of taking turns during conversation. Let's say that, in a marital disagreement, your spouse is repeatedly just a tenth of a second too slow in responding, leaving the mounting impression of disinterest or failure to comprehend. If such delays were chronic, Glenberg says, "That's enough time for a person to get really (ticked) off."

Read the entire article here.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

How do we quantify emotional intelligence training?

One strategy is to use anecdotal evidence—asking managers and team members to describe the state of their company culture before training and after training. We can also use a more objective measure—an assessment of team functioning before and after training. This assessment would ask team members and managers to rate communication, problem-solving, conflict management, overall morale and other dimensions of their workplace. Comparing the pre and post-training results could help prove the value of the training.

The training should not be judged solely on the glowing reviews of participants. Training is worthwhile if it creates the desired change in the workplace.

At the end of training, managers and participants need to ask themselves—how can we take the concepts and techniques presented today and make them a lasting part of our company culture?
© 2010 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Daily Work of Emotional Intelligence

The first step is to allow myself to feel my emotions and examine them without judgment. I must trust that, while behavior can be labeled good or bad--all feelings are valid and acceptable. This is crucial since most of us learn, at a very early age, to judge emotions as good or bad. Then we dissociate from the “bad” emotions. We push them out of our conscious awareness and lose sight of our emotional impact on others.

The next step is even more difficult--to determine if my emotional “data” reflects outer reality.

If I think my coworker, “Beth,” is sabotaging me at work, I will feel angry. Is Beth really undermining me? It may be clear that her actions are wrong and hurtful to me. In this case, my emotions have helped me recognize the situation. Then I need to determine my action. Based on my needs and circumstances I can choose to do any of the following:
• talk to Beth,
• talk to my boss,
• look for a new job,
• or not take any large action but “simply” recognize the truth of the situation and adjust my expectations and future actions accordingly.

But, while emotions always provide important information, they don’t always give us accurate info about the outside world. What if I think that all my coworkers are seeking to undermine me? It may be true, but more likely it is my thinking that is distorted, not my workplace. Or, is it my own behavior that creates distrust in my coworkers?

Feelings provide initial information but interpreting this information is hard! I must be brave and honest with myself. The lessons I learn from my emotional data must (eventually) be consistent with feedback from the outer world.

If I find that Beth is truly undermining me, I will need to take action. If I discover that my own thoughts are distorted, I’ll need to adjust my inner dialogue (self-talk). (There are wonderful tools to help us do this work).

It is emotionally intelligent to remember that we can take actions to change our circumstances, inside and out, but we cannot change another person. Still, since our actions affect others, when we change our actions, their reactions may change too. If I decide to talk to Beth, we might be able to communicate well and resolve a misunderstanding. Or, if I work to change a distorted thought pattern in myself, Beth may sense less hostility in my voice. She too will relax and use a friendlier tone. I’ll sense this change and act with more kindness. Our interactions may now build off each other in a positive cycle. © 2010 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved