Conversations Take Their Toll

Hurtful conversations that bring on feelings of anger and resentment are telling you “things must change.” These feelings are killing you, literally. There’s a song from my favorite musical, A Little Night Music called “Every Day a Little Death.” If you listen to the words, you’ll know why I’m writing this. Holding on to bad feelings, fueling that fire within you by re-playing who has done you wrong and why, gradually accumulates to cause mental and physical deterioration. Repeated mental rehearsal of the wrongdoing may be the root of your aches and pains. Research claims that cardiac disease, certain cancers, skeletal health, drug and alcohol use have their roots in the endless looping of hurt you permit yourself to re-live every day. Jealousy, disappointment and worry, the kind that you can feel in your chest, your gut and your limbs, takes their toll on your health.

As an example, I was asked to consult to an employee of a large software company. I’ll call her “Lynn.”  Lynn’s boss, the finance manager, was dealing with many personal problems. Feeling sorry for her boss, Lynn agreed to her boss’s inconvenient and non-work related requests despite having a pile of her own work. The CEO, unaware of the manager’s issues, complained that Lynn wasn’t getting her assignments completed on time. Lynn began having mysterious abdominal and back problems requiring two hospitalizations. Test after test was negative. Lynn confessed, “All my life I let others take advantage of me. I never wanted to hurt their feelings, so I put aside myself and put them first. I was angry and resentful.”  She had many of these looping, resentment-laden conversations over the years with herself, which she believed led her to sickness. With coaching, however, her inner conversations began to change. Lynn learned to be okay with saying “no” and politely refusing to submit to unreasonable requests. Instead, she offered options and other solutions which satisfied her need to be helpful. Feeling more confident and in control, Lynn’s health is making a change for the better.

You can reverse these “little deaths.”  When the anger and resentment seep into your mind, have a mental escape plan ready. Change the conversation within immediately. Do something health-promoting: review your gratitude list, take a brisk walk, listen to a podcast or do something nice for someone. Taking some immediate action, making a rapid and positive shift, weakens the circuit of resentment and strengthens a path of self-regulation. Lynn goes on to say, “…in applying this practice, when I’m reminded of a past hurt, I no longer feel my heart beating and my stomach churning. The dialogue is dimmer. I observe it like a bystander from across the street. I can choose a different way of responding and my body listens.”

How effective is your communication with yourself? How fluently can you change the subject, pick better words, speak the truth and listen to your intuitive voice?  For more mindful communication tips visit www.MindfulCommunication.com or write to me at [email protected]             

 

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Capture Ideas and Connect Better with Information on Paper

If you want to get your ideas out quickly, put them on paper. Research shows that you’ll process your thoughts and remember more when you draw or write them down. I’m not a fan of GAGs (Gadgets, Apps, Gimmicks) because by the time you find and launch a note-taking app you could have instantly secured your thought on paper. Besides, if you use a phone or computer to take notes, it’s easy to get distracted by other GAGs on your desktop.

The same goes for using a paper calendar vs. an electronic calendar. Many of my hi-tech clients swear by the week-at-a-glance paper calendar book as a way to block off hunks of time and create a vista view of the week.  (See www.ata glance.com)

When reading something you care to remember, you’ll deep-process more of what you read if you annotate in pencil or write a note on a stickie. After you finish the book, skim through your annotations or collect your stickies to review those highlights. It’s so satisfying to remember what you read so you can have an intelligent conversation on the topic well after you put the book down. Keep your stickies together and put them in an envelope with the title on the front. It’s interesting, several months later, to open that envelope and refresh that information.

Be like Sheryl Sandberg, Richard Branson and Indra Nooyi and have paper and pen ready to jot down thoughts and brainstorm ideas anywhere you’d find yourself hanging out —by your bed, poolside, TV room etc. Keep a moleskin in your pocket or purse to write down ideas when you’re standing in line or getting a haircut. And, if by any chance that little piece of paper is swept off by a gust of wind, you’ll have a better chance of remembering what you wrote if you wrote it!

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Mindful Communication Newsletter July 2018

Beware of “Yes” and the Soft No’s

Listening to yourself is one of the hallmarks of a mindful listener, and the most difficult aspect to master. If you are like me, you probably say “Yes” or give a Soft No a bit too often. There are many reasons to control for the reflexive “Yes” and the Soft No’s. They steal our time away from the things we want to do and should do. We end up resenting the people we reluctantly said “Yes” to − they become the bad guys. You may have a kind heart and extend your goodness a bit too often. But if you can’t follow through, your kindness backfires and you disappoint those you intended to help. If you’re a parent, replying “Yes” or giving a Soft No when you can’t follow through makes you look weak and untrustworthy. When you say “Yes” to a work project that is well over your head and you don’t produce, you’re perceived as unreliable. We all know what “Yes” sounds like, but Soft No’s are less obvious. Soft No’s are sticky. The indecisive response can make the person who wants your “Yes” pursue you relentlessly. Here are some of the most common Soft No’s we utter:

  • I’ll think about it
  • Not right now
  • Call me in a few weeks
  • I’m too busy right now
  • I’m on vacation

My suggestion to you this month is to catch yourself before you agree directly or indirectly to requests that you’re not 100% sure about. If it’s uncomfortable for you to say “No, thank you,” practice saying it aloud several times until it is as easy as saying “Yes.”  Notice how “No, thank you,” lifts the weight of undesirable obligations, reduces resentment towards others, frees up your time, and lets you focus on what you truly want to say “Yes” to.

Did you know that the audio version of the Zen of Listening: Mindful Communication in the Age of Distraction is now available at Audible.com? Start listening in a more mindful way today!

 

 

 

 

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Mindful Communication Newsletter June 2018

Start Something Magical

 Have you ever tossed a stone in a pond and counted the ripples? Did you know that the ripple effect continues well beyond what the eye can see.  Inspiriting words can do the same. How often do you experience excellent customer service, someone’s cool T-shirt or a very courteous child and think, Wow, I’d love to tell them what I’m thinking right now, but you don’t? For the introverts among us, or for those who think that compliments to strangers are imposing, I urge you to reconsider. A compliment is more welcome to the recipient than you think. It is a very simple and magical way to set off a positive chain of events in the world.

I rather enjoy flexing my magical powers and seeing how a genuine compliment lights up a face. I’ll wager that my comment triggers a shot of serotonin and dopamine in the brain of the complimentee! For example, this morning I thanked a very cheery and helpful Panera server (within earshot of the manager) for his “refreshing attitude and exceptional service.” The server’s step picked up even more as he helped the next customer, and the next.

Later that day at work, I got another chance. A very quiet and sullen patient, who regularly visits oneof our psychiatrists, arrived wearing a strikingly beautiful coat. I remarked on her stunning taste and asked her how she found it. Her face lit up and stayed lit up as she entered her doctor’s office. The psychiatrist, unaware of the compliment I paid her, noticed his patient glowing and standing up straight. He couldn’t figure out why she made an appointment to increase her anti-depressant medication!

How can you create a ripple effect? Start small. Note some outstanding feature that other people seem to ignore: Thank a cop who’s guarding the bank. Give a “thumbs up” to the son helping his grandparent with a heavy load. Tell the teenager who bagged your groceries that they did an excellent job. Lifting up someone spirits makes you feel good too. The power of that compliment can transform someone for hours and perhaps days. And, like the ripple in the pond, we have no way of knowing how many other lives will be touched by that one act.

 

 

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Mindful Communication Newsletter April 2018

Seven Steps to Mindful Reading 

Being an efficient and prolific reader makes you a more interesting conversationalist and a better critical thinker. Lifelong learning is a great way to keep your marbles. But isn’t it frustrating, weeks or months later, to barely recall the title, maybe the author and only glimmers of the content? Some reasons include:

  • distractions
  • slow reading (btw, that’s not a bad thing)
  • time constraints so books get read in bits and pieces
  • trying to read multiple books on different topics at a time
  • not finishing a book
  • a lack of note-taking
  • an aging working memory

All these reasons affect deep processing of information and shake our confidence for learning new things. Here are 7 very effective steps to enhance reading comprehension and recall:

  1. Have an intention for choosing certain books or articles over others. I usually choose books on communication, psychology, mental health and brain research, because these areas are most pertinent to my work.
  2. Skim the book or article first. Review the table of contents; flip through to find graphs or illustrations. Your brain will immediately start scanning for what you already know about the topic.
  3. Elect to read when and where your concentration is maximized – low distractions, emotional readiness to focus, a decent chunk of time, good light, etc.
  4. Have pencil in hand. Annotate, or use small yellow stickies as bookmarks with key words or concepts you want to remember. Highlighting is overrated; it’s mostly a good hand exercise. The act of writing typing your thoughts aids retention.
  5. Use visual imagery when possible. For fiction, imagine the characters and the settings as you read. With non-fiction, pause to visualize situations, behaviors, concepts and processes.
  6. After each chapter, particularly with non-fiction, review your annotations or yellow stickies to burn in what you learned. Learning builds on what you learned previously. In this way, by chapter 8 you would have reviewed notes from chapter 1 seven times! This kind of rehearsal significantly enhances retention.
  7. For extra credit, start a journal called Books 2018. Take 1-2 pages per book and jot down the title, the author, and the main points in bulleted form. Write a paragraph or two about what you learned and how it applies to your life or work. Use your stickie notes or annotations if you must.
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