How to have civil conversations about controversial topics

If you turn on the news, or check social media, it seems that all you see is debating and arguing.

While there is a plethora of disagreement over controversial topics, there seems to be little meaningful discussion.

Which begs the question, whatever happened to civil discourse?

Civil discourse is defined as an engagement in conversation intended to enhance understanding.

It also seems to have temporarily disappeared from our society.

We can all, however, get back on the path to civil discourse by following a few simple steps:

First and foremost, we must approach these interactions with emotional intelligence.  Emotional intelligence is defined as the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others.  The key is to take the emotion away from the interaction, and not the significance or importance of the issue.

Second, we must look inside and be aware of own assumptions and biases, which form the basis of our current beliefs, and how they differ from the person we’re speaking with.

Third, we have to be willing to listen.  Meaningful dialogue cannot occur without it. Listening gives us a chance to truly understand why a person feels a certain way, or as Stephen Covey would say, “Seek first to understand, then be understood.”  Unfortunately, there is a tendency to tune out, disregard, and argue with anyone who has an opinion different than our own.

Fourth, we have to do our homework.  In the new era of fake or false news, there has been an abundance of stories shared on social media that simply aren’t true.  Unfortunately, for some, there is tendency to believe what they read without any fact checking.  Finding reputable unbiased sources for information is required (although this  becoming harder to do with views that go too far left or right).

Fifth, after we have listened to others who have viewpoints different than our own, we must exercise discernment.  Discernment is the ability to judge well, and is based on educating ourselves and forming viewpoints based on facts and understanding, and no on opinions or unverified information.

Sixth, after we have followed all of the above steps, we must learn to present ourselves respectfully, even if we decide to agree to disagree with someone and their viewpoints.

Finally, while we may have the right to free speech, we must understand that our words are not free of consequences.

As a result, we should be judicious and respectful with our words, and do our part to bring civil discourse back to these important discussions.

 

 

 

 

CHAOS – How to take back control of your life and business

There has been much written this past week about the chaos in the White House.

Chaos provides distraction and noise, which gets people off topic and task.

This is not immune to the White House, however, as chaos is prevalent both in business and at home.

In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey outlined the time management matrix.  The matrix was made up of quadrants which broke activities down as being important/urgent, not urgent/important, not important/urgent, and not important/not urgent.

The important/urgent quadrant is where the chaos and crisis occurs.  It is marked by pressing problems and deadlines, and is the place where things must get done.  It is marked by immediacy, and while it may be sometimes be inevitable, it is a place that we should avoid whenever possible.

Instead, Mr. Covey said that we should spend the majority of our time in the important/not urgent quadrant.

This is the area where we plan, look to prevent, and build relationships.  It is where we are proactive, and if done right, prevents the chaos from occurring.

Dr. Wayne Dyer said that, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

To help us deal with and take control of the chaos around us, we can begin to look at it in the following context:

Commitment – This is where we make the effort to make things better.  Too often leaders put band-aids on problems because they realize the effort that is needed to fix them.  We must commit to the effort in making long lasting change.

Honesty – Honesty is required for us to admit there’s a problem, and what that problem is.  We must also be honest with ourselves with the role that our leadership (or lack thereof) plays in the chaos that exists around us.

Articulation – As leaders, we must ask ourselves if we have properly articulated our vision, mission, and expectations to those around us.  If so, do they understand them?

Organization – Does your organization have clearly defined roles and responsibilities?  While we may strive for a sense of autonomy to do our job, it is important to know what that job is and how it fits into the overall hierarchy of our organization.  If there’s a problem, do your people know the is proper person to report it to?

Source and Solutions – Once we know what the source of the problems around us are, we must come up with a game plan to address them.  Sometimes the solution may involve the hiring and/or firing of personnel.  Other times, it may involve new policies or procedures.  To make effective change, however, you must clear on the source of the problem and the resulting solutions will be ineffective.

Whether it be at your business, the White House, or your own house, we can eliminate the chaos around us with a few simple steps if we are willing to make an effort to do so.

 

 

How to build and restore Trust in any relationship

They key to successful relationships, whether in our personal or professional lives, is the existence of trust.

Legendary Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz said:

The new player has three questions about the coach, which are the same questions the coach has about the player:

  1. Can I trust you?
  2. Are you committed?
  3. Do you care about me?

Trust requires effort to build, but can quickly be lost if not maintained.

We can achieve, and restore, TRUST in our relationships, however, by focusing on the following:

Truth – First and foremost, the truth must be present for trust to occur.  It is the foundation for any relationship, and requires each party to be honest with one another.

Respect – Each party must also have a mutual respect for the other.  Without it, we may take take the other person for granted and be dismissive of their ideas or feelings.  A feeling of lack of respect is the one of the biggest killers in any relationship.

Understanding – As Stephen Covey stated in the 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, “Seek first to understand, then be understood.”  We may not always agree with someone, but trying to understand why they feel or think a certain way shows that we care and are willing to listen.

Support – A spirit of togetherness and teamwork is required to foster a relationship.  Each party should know they have the support of the other, and know that each is willing to offer a helping hand, or ear, when necessary.

Transparency – While similar to the truth, transparency is providing all of the information with no hidden agendas.  Here’s an example of how one can be truthful or honest, without being transparent:

A wine glass is halfway filled with wine.  You can say the glass is half empty (or half full), and you are telling the truth.  You are being transparent, however, if you say that the 8 oz glass has 4 oz of wine in it.

Trust takes time to build, and can quickly erode, but focusing on the tenets of TRUST can help us to keep our relationships on track.

 

 

To deal with PAIN, you have to LAUGH

Pain is an inevitable part of our lives.

Sometimes it is the result of factors outside of control, but often its causes are self-inflicted.

Acknowledging the sources of our pain is the first step we can take to make positive changes in our lives.

This list may not contain all the sources of your PAIN, but it may open your mind to other causes:

Perfectionism – While it is good to set high standards and goals, establishing unrealistic ones that aren’t in line with our values is setting ourselves up for failure.  Two important questions to ask ourselves in a quest for perfection are Whose standard are you trying to live up to, and Why?

Anxiety – When we have regrets about the past, or worry about events in the future that have yet to occur, we let anxiety take over our lives.  As a result, we never live in the present moment.

Insecurity – When we don’t believe in our abilities, we become prisoners of our thinking.  These limited beliefs prevent us from opening our minds and living to our fullest potential.

Narcissism – When we put ourselves first, we let our ego take over.  While we may not think of ourselves as being narcissistic, a chase for happiness without a spiritual foundation is a never ending race.

To help us deal with some of the sources of our PAIN, we can LAUGH:

Let go – Letting go is about us having faith that things will work out, and a belief that we don’t have, and don’t need, all the answers.

Acceptance – Acceptance allows us to embrace our imperfections.  It is about us being honest with ourselves to establish a starting point to make positive changes in our lives.  We should also accept that we have the power to change if we are willing to do so.

Uniqueness – When we accept that we are unique, comparison to others is no longer necessary.  While we can’t be someone else, we can work on being the best version of ourselves.

Gratitude – Tony Robbins says that when we practice and experience gratitude we can’t be worried or angry.  What a perfect antidote to PAIN!

Humility – Being humble allows us to keep our ego in check.  It is a quiet confidence in our abilities, but also an understanding of the importance of service to others.

If we can learn to embrace our ability to LAUGH, we can learn how to handle, and begin to eliminate, the PAIN in our lives.

Leadership – commit to CHANGE

There has been much written on leadership but in its most simple definition, leadership is the ability to influence others.

In my 10+ years of leadership experience, I have made many mistakes and have learned much through trial and error.

As a result of my experiences, I believe that there are 6 characteristics of a great leader.

To become one, it comes down to a commitment to CHANGE

Competence – If you don’t have an understanding of the area, unit, or section you are responsible for overseeing, a “rah-rah” approach will only get you so far.  Take time to understand what your people do.  You don’t have to get too far into all of the nuts and bolts, but having an understanding of what they do, and how it fits into the organization, is necessary.

Humility – No one wants to work for someone who is arrogant, or has a “know it all” mentality.  Your ability to lead is dependent on your ability to relate to people, and their ability to relate to you.

Attitude – Attitude is everything!  People are looking for direction, and will feed off the energy of the leader.  The type of attitude you bring into your workplace will spark inspiration, fear, or indifference in those around you.

Navigation – In addition to influencing, a leader must have vision and the ability to navigate a team or organization in the right direction.  This involves having the foresight to see what is in front of you and making the necessary adjustments along the way to keep everyone on the right path.

Generosity – Do you give to others without expecting them to help you in return?  Are you generous towards your people with your time or your help?  Do you take the time to mentor and explain?  It is important for us to give to our people and organization with no strings attached.

Ethics – Ethics form the base of a great leader.  There are many examples of leaders who have influenced others, but who have done so in a negative or destructive way.  Our ethics are the guiding force for us to lead with excellence.

Great leaders are made, not born, and we can all become one if we commit to CHANGE.

 

Just Breathe!

There is no denying the role that stress and anxiety play in our daily lives, and how both can affect our state of mind.

Not being in a peak state of mind puts us at major disadvantage.

It can cause us lose control of our emotions and externalize our feelings in a negative way, or we can internalize these emotions and create an environment where they build on each other and manifest into negative self talk.

The external responses to the stress and anxiety we feel may cause us to snap at our spouse, kids, or customers at work, and result in a hurtful remark we wouldn’t say if we were in a peak state of mind and felt in control.

The internal responses can create an ongoing negative inner dialogue, creating a sense of noise or distraction that gets in the way of us being able to process what is actually going on around us.

We can, however, achieve a peak state of mind to help us deal with the daily stress and anxiety that we feel in a simple way.

How?  Just breathe.  Really.  It’s as easy as that.

A technique we can use to help accomplish this is called box breathing.

Box breathing is utilized by the Navy Seals in non-combat situations, and is done by inhaling to a count of 5, holding your breath for 5, exhaling for 5, and holding your breath for 5.  You then repeat this sequence until you feel calm and relaxed.  If you find that a 5 count is too much, you can adjust the count as necessary and work your way up.

According to Sealfit.com, the benefits of box breathing are:

  • Reduction of performance anxiety
  • Control of the arousal response
  • Increasing brain elasticity – flexibility through enhanced blood flow and reduced mental stimulation
  • Enhancing learning and skill development
  • Increasing capacity for focused attention and long term concentration

You can perform this technique in the morning before the kids get up, in your car on the way to work, at work, or walking through the grocery store.

The key is to do it habitually, so you are performing it prior to encountering a stressful or anxiety inducing situation.

Imagine how much better your decision making can be, or how much your communications will be improved when you can quickly put yourself in a peak state of mind.

The best part is that it doesn’t cost any money, or require any special training, but it is something that can help us have a significant impact on the quality of our lives.

All you have to do is breathe

 

 

 

 

How To Find Your Passion

Do what you are passionate about.  It sounds good and makes sense, but for a lot of people (including myself) making this a reality doesn’t seem as simple as it sounds.

As we get caught up in the marathon of life, it often feels as if we are simply going through the motions.  However, the bigger problem, as Earl Nightingale states in the YouTube video Change your life in 19 minutes, is that 90% of us aren’t even in the race.  Instead it sometimes feels as if we watch life go by from the sidelines, like a spectator.

How do we take control of our lives, and align ourselves to follow our passions?  I believe that this requires deep thinking and reflection, and for us to use our mind. It also forces us to be honest with ourselves about our current status and to take ownership, which isn’t always comfortable.

The Secret to Finding Your Passion (http://www.oprah.com/supersoulsunday/The-Secret-to-Finding-Your-Passion-Hint-Its-Not-What-You-Think_1), lists 4 steps to help give us guideance in this journey:

  1. Love everything you do.  This is a topic that Earl Nightingale addressed in his video.  A change in your attitude can open your mind, which can alter the way you look at the world and open you to possibilities that didn’t know existed.
  2. Look at your book collection, magazines, DVD’s, CD’s, and credit card statements.  What topics interest you?  What do you spend your money on?  What do you do with your free time?  See if there are any themes that emerge.
  3. What do you love to talk about, learn about and/or teach others about?  If time and money weren’t a factor, what would you focus on? What are you most interested in or curious about?  Is there a need for a skill or interest that you have?  Is there a way to incorporate your interests into what you currently do?
  4. Quit talking and start doing.  Take steps to help you narrow down your interests.  As Earl Nightingale also said in the video, write down your ideas everyday to help you identify and narrow down your interests.  You can then research them online, find books at the library, take courses at your local community college, and/or take online courses to explore these areas further.

What are you waiting for?