Category Archives: Personal Development

How can soft skills enhance your personal development?

Personal development can be seen as the evolution of a human’s professional and personal life until they reach their ultimate potential.  It is usually a lifelong learning process.  Some of the soft skills that you can use to help reach your ultimate potential are given below in a form of a brief description and an eGuide.

 

Note:

Ö The eGuides were adapted from my professional Corporate Library

Ö The eGuides are in the PDF format.

 

 

Anger Management

Anger can be an incredibly damaging force, costing people their jobs, personal relationships, and even their lives when it gets out of hand. However, since everyone experiences anger, it is important to have constructive approaches to manage it effectively. This eGuide will help teach you how to identify your anger triggers and what to do when you get angry.

 

Attention Management

Attention Management is a useful skill that allows managers to connect with their employees on an emotional level and motivate them to focus on their work and how to reach their personal and company goals. This eGuide will give valuable insight and strategies into what it takes to be more attentive and vigilant.

 

Being A Likeable Boss

You will begin to see how important it is to develop better managerial skills. By managing and looking at the way people interact and seeing things in a new light, you could improve on almost every aspect of your career.

 

Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking will lead to being a more rational and disciplined thinker. It will reduce your prejudice and bias which will provide you a better understanding of your environment. This eGuide will provide you the skills to evaluate, identify, and distinguish between relevant and irrelevant information. It will lead you to be more productive in your career, and provide a great skill in your everyday life–

 

Emotional Intelligence

As a result of the growing acknowledgement by professionals of the importance and relevance of emotions to work outcomes, the research on the topic continues to gain momentum.  This eGuide will discuss all aspects of Emotional Intelligence.

 

Goal Setting and Getting Things Done

This eGuide will cover strategies to help you overcome procrastination. These skills will translate into increased satisfaction in your professional and personal lives. You will learn the Goal Setting characteristics of successful people and in turn will become a happier and more productive individual.

 

 

Improving Mindfulness

By reading this eGuide you will begin to identify your own patterns of thinking. As you learn to practice mindfulness, you will cultivate positive emotions that will have a dramatic effect on the work environment.

 

 

Improving Self-Awareness

By reading this eGuide, you will learn how beneficial becoming more self aware can be. A highly self aware person will become more equipped to deal with daily life and its challenges. You will gain a new perspective on yourself and your emotions, and become a valuable member to society.

 

 

Increasing Your Happiness

This eGuide will show you how to engage in unique and helpful ways to increase your happiness. This will have a robust effect on your professional and personal life. It will improve your communication skills, increase productivity, and lesson absenteeism.

 

 

Job Search Skills

This eGuide helps you develop a plan that could get you a new job. Identifying the purpose for working and the assessment of skills can help determine the types of jobs you should apply for.

 

 

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Managing Workplace Anxiety

This eGuide will provide you with important skills and resources to recognize and manage workplace anxiety. By identifying these symptoms and coping skills employees and managers will be better suited in dealing with these common situations.

 

 

Managing Personal Finance

The eGuide shows you the benefits of having a budget and how to build a budget that fits your needs, and lifestyle. You will discover how you can cut costs, pay off debts, and live within your budget.

 

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Personal Productivity

This eGuide will help you achieve a goal of Personal Productivity. Through this guide participants will be on the right track in achieving that goal. Some people blame everything that goes wrong in their life on something or someone else, but through this guide you will take ownership and begin to lead a more productive life.

 

 

Social Intelligence

Increasing your Social Intelligence will provide benefits throughout your professional and personal lives. It is a fantastic tool for coaching and development as people will learn “people skills”. Improving social skills through active listening, understanding body language, and being more empathic will give you an advantage in your interactions. Social interactions are a two way street, know the rules of the road!

 

 

 

Social Learning

This eGuide will show you how to create learning communities that benefit every aspect of your organization. You will learn new behaviors through observation and modeling and be instilled with a passion for learning.

 

Stress Management

This eGuide will give you a three-option method for addressing any stressful situation, as well as a toolbox of personal skills, including using routines, relaxation techniques, and a stress log system. You will also understand what lifestyle elements they can change to reduce stress.

 

Work-Life Balance

This eGuide will show you how to focus on important things, set accurate and achievable goals, and communicate better with your peers at work and your family at home.

 

Public Speaking

However, mastering this fear and getting comfortable speaking in public can be a great ego booster, not to mention a huge benefit to your career. The Public Speaking eGuide will give you some basic public speaking skills, including in-depth information on developing an engaging program and delivering your presentation with power.

 

 

Taking the Initiative

With the “Seeing and Taking Initiative” eGuide, you will learn what initiative is, how to take it on, the advantages of it, and when to know one’s place. By studying this eGuide, you will be taking the first step in making something positive happen.  Now that is initiative!

 

Do you want to upgrade your Microsoft Office Skills?

We are now offering Microsoft Office 2016 mini-courses… each course comes with a training manual.


Here is a brief summary of the courses being offered…

Excel 2016 Essentials

You will gain an advanced level of understanding for the Microsoft Excel environment, and the ability to guide others to the proper use of the program’s full features – critical skills for those in roles such as accountants, financial analysts, and commercial bankers.

You will create, manage, and distribute professional spreadsheets for a variety of specialized purposes and situations. They will customize their Excel 2016 environments to meet project needs and increase productivity. Expert workbook examples include custom business templates, multi-axis financial charts, amortization tables, and inventory schedules.

Mini-course Content:
• Create worksheets and workbooks
• Navigate in worksheets and workbooks
• Format worksheets and workbooks
• Change views and configurations
• Print and distribute worksheets and workbooks
• Manage data cells and ranges
• Create tables, charts and objects
• Perform operations with formulas and functions

Learn on Skillshare

Outlook 2016 Essentials

You will be able to use Outlook to enhance professional correspondence, create calendars, and schedule appointments.

You will create and edit professional-looking email messages, maintain calendars across time zones, and schedule tasks for a variety of purposes and situations including sending email for marketing campaigns, planning staff meetings, and assigning action items from those meetings.

Mini-course Content:
• Connect one or more email accounts
• Preview, read, reply to and forward messages
• Process, create, format and check messages
• Use advanced message options
• Organize messages
• Use signatures and stationary
• Automate replies and organization
• Clean up and archive messages
• Create, organize and manage calendars, appointments, meetings and events
• Create and manage notes and tasks
• Create and manage contacts and contact groups
• Customize the Outlook environment settings
• Print and save Information
• Perform search operations in Outlook

Powerpoint 2016 Essentials

You will learn to create, edit, and enhance slideshow presentations to create professional-looking sales presentations, employee training, instructional materials, and kiosk slideshows.

You will gain a fundamental understanding of the PowerPoint 2016 environment and the correct use of key features of this application.

Mini-course Content:
• Create Presentations from scratch or templates
• Insert and format slides, handouts and notes
• Change Presentation views and configurations
• Insert and work with text, pictures, audio and video
• Work with tables, charts, and SmartArt
• Use transitions and animations
• Prepare for a presentation, including the slide size, narration, and timing
• Manage multiple presentations

Word 2016 Essentials

You will gain a fundamental understanding of the Microsoft Word environment and the ability to complete tasks independently.
You will demonstrate the correct application of the principle features of Word 2016 by creating and editing documents for a variety of purposes and situations. Document examples include professional looking reports, multi-column newsletters, resumes, and business correspondence.

Mini-course Content
• Create and manage documents
• Format text, paragraphs, and sections
• Create tables and lists
• Create and manage references
• Insert and format graphic elements

How much for the Microsoft Office Bundle?

To take all 4 courses will only cost you $99.99CAD… Each mini-course comes with a comprehensive manual… this is yours to keep!

The first step for you is to join, and try out a FREE mini-course on Business Etiquette… and then if you want to purchase the Microsoft Office bundle, then go to Membership Upgrade… and enroll from there.

Happy eLearning!

Why Verbal and Non-Verbal Communication Skills are Important in Workplace Diversity?

This post contains affiliate links, and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

Verbal Communication Skills

Words are a powerful tool. Knowing how we use words to communicate is vital in understanding where it fits into diversity. Saying the right thing or even more important not saying the wrong thing will help you in your everyday life. Through this module we will touch on differences between listening and hearing, and asking the right questions and communicating with power.

 

Crowdselling Your Inventions

Listening and Hearing; They Aren’t the Same Thing

Hearing is the act of perceiving sound by the ear. Assuming an individual is not hearing-impaired, hearing simply happens. However listening is something that one consciously chooses to do. It requires concentration to allow the brain to process the meaning from words and sentences.

Listening leads to learning, but this is not always an easy task. Adults speak at a normal rate of 100-150 words per minute. The brain, however, can think at 400-500 words per minute, leaving extra time for daydreaming, or anticipating the speaker’s next words.

Listening Skills

Listening skills can be learned and refined. The art of active listening allows you to fully receive a message from another person.

Especially during a conversation with someone who has a different accent or perhaps a speech impediment. Active listening allows you to be sensitive to the multiple dimensions of the communication that make up an entire message. These listening dimensions include:
• What is the reason the person is communicating with me now?
• What does the length of the message tell me about its importance?
• How is the message being made?
• What clues do the loudness and speed of speaking give me?
• How do pauses and hesitations enhance or detract from the message?
• What do eye contact, posture, or facial expressions tell me that perhaps words do not?

Barriers to Effective Listening

In order to listen effectively, one must overcome several barriers to receiving the message:
• The message content
• The appeal of the speaker
• Any external distractions
• Emotional interjections
• The level of clarity in the language
• Perceiving only parts of the message selectively
• The absence of or poor, inappropriate feedback

Communication at Meetings

People from some cultural groups prefer in-person meetings more than other groups. Face-to-Face meetings are more important to people from Africa, East, South and Central Asia, and the Middle East and Arabic countries. Virtual (electronic) meetings work for Latin Americans, and people from Europe, Australia, and North America.

Using an Interpreter

There may be times — especially if you work in an organization with locations around the world – which the use of an interpreter can help overcome language barriers as everyone listens. This reduces frustration with the communication process, and allows participants to stay focused on understanding the messages.

Asking Questions

Especially when communicating interpersonally in a diverse workplace environment, good question-asking skills are critical so that the message you are receiving is accurate and complete.

Active listeners use specific questioning techniques to elicit more information from speakers. Below are three types of questions to use when practicing active listening.

Open Questions

Using an open question stimulates thinking and discussion or responses, including opinions or feelings. Open questions pass control of the conversation to the respondent. Leading words in open questions include: Why, what, or how, as in the following examples:
• What are our benchmarks for improving our diversity training?
• How are we conducting diversity initiatives in our organization?

Clarifying Questions

Asking a clarifying question helps to remove ambiguity, elicits additional detail, and guides the answer to a question. Frame your question as someone trying to understand in more detail. Often asking for a specific example is useful. This also helps the speaker evaluate his or her own opinions and perspective. Below are some examples:
• I’m not sure I understood that correctly. How will we deliver the online training?
• I heard your proposed budget number, but what sort of diversity program training modules can we really afford?

Closed Questions

Closed questions usually require a one-word answer, and effectively shut off discussion. Closed questions provide facts, allow the questioner to maintain control of the conversation, and are easy to answer. Typical leading words are: Is, can, how many, when, or does. While closed questions are not the optimum choice for active listening, at times they are necessary, and may be helpful when you are interacting with someone who speaks in a different language or who has a speech impediment. Examples of closed questions are:
• Do we have a diversity program at our company?
• When will the new inclusivity training course be launched?

Communicating With Power

It’s been said that you have between thirty seconds and two minutes to capture your participants’ attention. In a diverse cultural work environment, this time frame is even more challenging.
In addition to voice characteristics, there are methods you can use to make communication with a non-English speaking person – or a hearing impaired person more efficient and message-effective.

Ten Tips for Communicating With a non- Native English Speaker
1. Make clear eye contact, right from the beginning.
2. Speak a bit more slowly than you normally do so the non-native speaker or hearing impaired person can keep pace with you.
3. Enhance your message with facial expressions that convey emotions such as joy, frustration, fright, or anger.
4. Try different words that accomplish the same purpose. Many people from different cultures have a passive knowledge of English gained through the media. Try saying a word slowly or with a different pronunciation.
5. Draw a concept if you realize that words alone are not conveying it. Repeat the word or phrase as you draw.
6. Confirm meanings by using an open-ended question or command such as “Please say back to me what we discussed”.
7. Enlist the assistance of a translator of necessary.
8. Be patient; the key to overcoming a language barrier is patience.
9. Use short words and short sentences. Keep your words very literal.
10. Avoid slang (technical person, instead of “geek”) and contractions (do not, instead of don’t).

Seven Suggestions for Communicating with a Person who is Hearing Impaired
1. Attract the listener’s attention
2. Speak clearly and naturally
3. Move closer
4. Face the listener
5. Take the surroundings into account
6. Understand that using hearing instruments can be tiring
7. Restate your message

Voice

38% of a particular message received by a listener is governed by the tone and quality of your voice. The pitch, volume, and control of your voice all make a difference in how your message is perceived by your audience.

voice

 

Non-Verbal Communication Skills

We all communicate nonverbally. The image that we project from our nonverbal communication affects the way that our spoken communication is received. While interpreting body language is important, it is equally important to understand what your nonverbal communication is telling others. It takes more than words to persuade others.

Body language is a form of non-verbal communication involving the use of stylized gestures, postures, and physiologic signs that act as cues to other people. Humans unconsciously send and receive non-verbal signals through body language all the time.

One study at UCLA found that up to 93 percent of American communication effectiveness is determined by nonverbal cues.

Another study indicated that the impact of a performance was determined 7 percent by the words used, 38 percent by voice quality, and 55 percent by non-verbal communication. Your body language must match the words you use. If a conflict arises between your words and your body language, your body language governs.

Below are examples of positive and negative body language in American culture.

Body Language

Just as with spoken language, each country in the world has its own forms of acceptable and unacceptable body language based on local cultural norms.

The Signals You Send to Others

Signals are movements used to communicate needs, desires, and feelings to others. They are a form of expressive communication. More than 75% of the signals you send to others are non-verbal.
People who are strong, culturally aware communicators display sensitivity to the power of the emotions and thoughts communicated non-verbally through signals.

Any nonverbal signals you send to others should match your words. Otherwise, people will tend to pay less attention to what you said, and focus instead on your nonverbal signals.

Eye Contact
• For Americans, direct eye contact indicates that a person is confident and favorable
• Africans typically look down when they are listening, and look up when they are speaking
• In China, a lack of eye contact may indicate a show of respect
• For a Navajo Indian, a lack of eye contact may mean avoiding a loss of soul, or avoiding a theft.
Posture
• Slouching is considered rude in northern Europe
• Bowing shows respect in Asia
• Sitting with one’s legs crossed is offensive in Turkey and Ghana.

Gestures

A gesture is a motion of the limbs or body made to express or help express a thought or to emphasize speech. Without gestures, our speech would not be very exciting or expressive. However just as with language, the social acceptability of gestures varies greatly according to cultural norms.

In the U. S., we point with our index finger. In Germany, the little finger is used, and Japanese point with the entire hand.

It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It

In workplace communication, it is important that your voice sounds upbeat, warm, under control, and clear. This is especially true when you are interacting with someone from a different culture, or who is speaking with you in a different language. Below are some tips to help you begin the process.
1. Breathe from your diaphragm
2. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated; avoid caffeine because of its diuretic effects
3. Posture affects breathing, and also tone of voice, so be sure to stand up straight
4. To warm up the tone of your voice, smile
5. If you have a voice that is particularly high or low, exercise its by practicing speaking on a sliding scale. You can also sing to expand the range of your voice
6. Record your voice and listen to the playback
7. Deeper voices are more credible than higher pitched voices. Try speaking in a slightly lower octave. It will take some practice, but with a payoff, just as radio personalities have learned
8. Enlist a colleague or family member to get feedback about the tone of your voice.

How to Use Initiative To Take Advantage of Opportunities

Initiative is something we can all use in our careers. It is what sets us apart from others and our competition. Many people are afraid to take the initiative, but if you can, you will stand out. Initiative is deep down inside all of us, but the successful ones are the ones who use it.

 

Definition

It is important to know what initiative is to properly utilize it. Initiative is defined as the ability to assess and initiate things independently. In other words, it is taking advantage of the opportunities in front of you. It is stepping up, and going beyond your typical duties. Take charge of situations before others do. You may not want to step out of your comfort zone, but usually you will be rewarded for doing so. It is thinking outside the box, preparing for success, capitalizing on opportunities. It is making changes to take a step forward and being persistent.

 

Benefits, Personal and Professional

In life, taking initiative offers many benefits. It is a positive step that anyone can take for themselves. Only you can take the initiative for yourself, so ensure you do it. Taking the initiative provides individuals with a sense of self-control both in their personal and professional lives. No one is going to offer you opportunities if you do not deserve them, so stepping up will make all the difference in your life.  In your personal life, it may benefit you by helping you feel more confident with yourself. In your professional life, it may help you get that coveted promotion. In either aspect of your life, it will promote better things.

Taking initiative promotes:

·        Control

·        Achievement

·        Confidence

·        Proactivity

·        Inspiration

·        Self-Awareness

·        Creativity

·        Fear-busting

 

Why People Do Not Take Initiative

Not everyone is comfortable with taking the initiative, or even knows how to do so. It is something that is developed mentally and takes strength to do. Some individuals have a bounded rationality. These individuals are unable to see past what they currently know. They cannot see the benefits of stepping up. Typically, the individual has never thought about it. Also, individuals do not take the initiative due to a lack of capability. Outside their general knowledge, some individuals do not possess the expertise to take the initiative for a more difficult task. Execution over innovation is also another popular reason that individuals do not take initiative. These individuals only focus on their own work, and do not have concern for any new tasks.  Finally, some individuals are too busy to take the initiative. There is already too much on their plate, and they physically and mentally cannot process anymore work.

Reasons for not taking the initiative:

·        Bounded rationality

·        Lack of capability

·        Execution over Innovation

·        Task overload

 

Make Initiative a Priority

It is our duty to make initiative a priority in both our professional and personal lives.  To make initiative a priority, we must first understand what it is and what its benefits are. Once we understand this, we can take the leap forward. To make taking initiative a priority, we must watch for opportunities. We must be aware of our surroundings, and what can potentially be a fantastic opportunity to do so.  In your professional career, if you see that your boss needs help with something, offer it! Show that you are a go-getter.  Take the extra step when you can! People will take notice of your initiative, and you will be rewarded positively.

Take a Chance

Life is about chances. Even if you are not ready to take a chance, just do it. It may change your personal and professional life in a positive way. Taking chances is what life is all about, and to get ahead you need to take that risk. Step outside of your box, and take that chance.

 

 

 

 

 

Be Open Minded

One of the most important tools you have for taking the initiative is being open- minded. A closed mind limits your productivity, but an open mind gives you limitless opportunities. To grow successfully, you should always be open to learning. Learning new things can never harm you, it will only benefit you. Once you are able to let go, and be open-minded, you will be able to change your life for the better.

There are many benefits of having an open mind in the workplace. They include:

·        Being able to let go of control

·        Being able to experience changes in a positive manner

·        Strengthening yourself

·        Gaining confidence

 

Be Adaptable

When taking initiative, it is important to be adaptable to any situation you may come across. When you can adapt to various situations, you can accomplish more.  Adaptability is the ability to change to the given circumstance.  All people have the basic capability to be able to adapt. It is part of human nature.

 

Examples of being adaptable at work:

·        Able to follow new policies and procedures.

·        Being able to adjust workload based on new, high priority assignments

Benefits of being adaptable at work:

·        More valuable to your employer

·        Makes you a better leader

·        Better equipped to handle career transitions

·        Bounce back quicker from adversity

 

Making Decisions

All jobs typically involve making decisions. It is your duty to determine if it is a good decision or bad decision. Making good and successful decisions not only will help your workplace, but it will also make you look good. Supervisors appreciate employees who take the initiative and make good decisions.

Bad decisions do not make you look good to your superiors. Making bad decisions can limit upward mobility in your career.  To help avoid making bad decisions, it is important to think about your decisions before you make them. Think about the possible outcomes and determine the best route from there. 

When making decisions in the workplace:

·        Get perspective on how important the decision is

·        Consider a variety of options

·        Ensure you have all the facts

·        Include the right people in the decision making process

 

Take Responsibility

When you take initiative, you must take the responsibility for your actions. For the most part, taking initiative brings positive outcomes.  Remember that you cannot make excuses for your actions. If you make a decision, take responsibility for it. You need to eliminate blame in your actions, and eliminate excuses. If you do not do this, it means you are shifting responsibility for your decisions to others.  Taking responsibility can be difficult, but in the long run it will be beneficial to you and others in the workplace.

River Street Consultant

Mindfulness

What Is Mindfulness?
People often confuse the concept of mindfulness with the idea that one should “stop and smell the roses.” However, if you found yourself with your nose stuck deep into a flower in a field where an angry bull was bearing down on you, this would be the exact opposite of being mindful. Put simply, mindfulness is a state of mind where you are fully conscious and engaged in the present moment and with the demands of the present moment.

Buddhist Concept
The concept of mindfulness comes to us through the Buddhist religion. The word “mindfulness” is one translation of the Pali word sati (Sanskrit smrti). Other translations of this word include “awareness” and “memory.” Mindfulness is one’s capacity to avoid distraction from the present moment, but in Buddhism it also means to avoid forgetting what one already knows and to remember to do what one has an intention to do.
If mindfulness means avoiding distraction, what is it that distracts us from the present? People are constantly besieged with needs. Our basic needs such as food and shelter, and our more complicated needs for love, respect, happiness, and so on all compel us to consider our past and future in terms of what to avoid and what to seek after. Consequently, the tempting answer is to blame all the things going on in our world as the source of distraction.

A Buddhist would disagree. Instead of everything that goes on “out there” being the source of distraction, Buddhists blame what they call the “monkey mind.” The monkey mind refers to our own mental capacity to engage internally in constant chatter. Sometimes internal mental chatter can be helpful for working out problems, for analysis, and even for play.

However constant mental chatter can also distract us from the things that are most important. And often, it can actually mislead us into misunderstanding a given situation. Buddhism teaches techniques in meditation to cultivate mindfulness and quiet the monkey mind.

Bare Attention
One aspect of mindfulness is the cultivation of bare attention. Bare attention is attention that is devoid of judgment or elaboration. Whenever we are faced with a new situation, we are tempted to try and consider what this new situation means to us. Will it be pleasant, scary, long lasting, or of minor importance? More often than not, we do not have enough information yet to make that assessment. When we start attempting to evaluate the situation before it has played out, this takes us into monkey mind style thinking, which often leads to distortion. One component of being mindful is to approach any present moment with our full and neutral attention.
Another way of thinking of bare attention is in the Zen Buddhist concept of “beginner’s mind.” To a Zen Buddhist, being a beginner is an ideal state because someone with no experience of something will also have developed no prejudice against it or other ways of placing limits on an experience. Since every moment of your life is unique, approaching each moment with innocence, as if you are a beginner and this is your first time experiencing this moment, allows you to keep yourself open to a host of possibilities that a more experienced person would either ignore or never consider.

Psychological Concept of Mindfulness
Although mindfulness originated as a Buddhist concept, psychologists from the 1970s to the present have studied the effects of Buddhist mindfulness meditation techniques and found that these are effective in reducing anxiety and reducing relapse rates in both depression and drug addiction. Recent studies have found that incorporating mindfulness into your life can increase positive emotions, improve the immune system, and reduce stress.

Despite the nearly universal agreement on the benefits of mindfulness, psychologists disagree on an exact definition of mindfulness or an exact method for developing mindfulness. Jon Kabat-Zinn , one of the first psychologists to study mindfulness as a secular concept, defines mindfulness as “paying attention, in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” According to a later study, mindfulness studies in psychology tend to require two components for mindfulness:
• A quality of high attentiveness and concentration
• An attitude of curiosity and openness.

Memory
To this point, we have focused on just one aspect of mindfulness, that of bare attention in the immediate moment. However, as mentioned earlier, another translation of the word sati is memory, and there is a very good reason for this.

Paying close attention to your immediate moment and environment sounds like a beneficial practice, and for the most part it is. However, there are times where paying too much attention can be detrimental and force you into mistakes. If you have ever been told or told someone else not to over-think a situation, this is a good example where bare attention can be detrimental. In fact, a recent study has found that a mindful state can be detrimental for certain kinds of learning.

When you learn to ride a bicycle, for example, you pay less attention about the process and feel of yourself pedaling. Instead, much of the learning occurs subconsciously in what is known as muscle memory. Muscle memory is one example of a special kind of memory called implicit memory. This type of memory occurs through practice.

For musicians who read music, for example, at a certain point in practice, they no longer consciously think about what the squiggles on the page actually mean. In fact, reading in general relies primarily on implicit memory. If you tried to be really mindful of what you were reading, by focusing on the shape of each letter or the makeup of each sentence, you would likely miss the overall meaning of a written passage, and it would take a long time to do it.

Mindfulness is helpful in tasks that make use of another kind of memory called explicit memory. This type of memory is helpful in learning new things and in memorization. However, when you wish to develop a habit, the combination of mindfulness when you are consciously willing yourself to do or notice something and scaling back your awareness as you allow the new task to be taken up in your unconscious mind through implicit memory is the ideal way to go.
Practicing Mindfulness
Mindfulness is a natural state of being. Throughout our lives we are frequently in this state without realizing it. If you have ever heard a noise at night and went to investigate, the level of attention that you bring to that situation is a good example of being mindful. However, we frequently divide our attention and, by necessity, we will selectively ignore aspects of our environment. When watching a sporting event on television, for example, a particularly enrapt fan might tune out conversation that is occurring around him or her in order to pay closer attention to the game. If the sports fanatics in this scenario consciously thought about paying attention to the conversations around them rather than the game on television, they could. In this sense, mindfulness is a mental skill that you can develop through practice.
Attention
When practicing mindfulness, whether through meditation or in a given moment, you want to pay attention to whatever comes up. For example, when you focus on your breath, note whether you are breathing in deeply or shallowly. Is your breath cold or warm? Fast or slow? Through your mouth or nose? If you feel pain somewhere, focus on that pain, note how it comes and goes or intensifies or subsides. You may notice aspects of breathing that you never have considered before. In fact whenever we are in any environment, we only pay conscious attention to a small number of details, typically.

Acceptance
When you meditate for mindfulness, or find yourself in a mindful state, it is important to accept things as they are without judgment. At some point, you may decide to act to change things, but initially you want to accept what you experience for what it is. Most religious thought includes some form of acceptance, whether it is the Christian view of surrendering your will to all God’s will to be done, or the Islamic view that you must submit to Allah.

By accepting things as they are, you allow yourself to remain open to a wider range of possibilities. So, for instance, when you meditate, do not do so with a goal in mind, as if you are trying to change yourself from one state to another. This may happen anyway, but that’s a side effect. Instead, think of the meditation as an opportunity to observe how things change and how they don’t change with the passage of time. Mindfulness is an act of observation rather than an attempt to change something. While you may determine later that a change is in order, initially you want to take a moment to observe how things are first.

Mindfulness Meditation
The best way to practice being mindful is through a regular program of meditation. Keep in mind that not all meditations are for the purpose of making you more mindful. Transcendental meditation and mantra meditation might increase mindfulness as a side effect, but these aim at an entirely different result. Furthermore, there are numerous methods of meditating that do aim at improved mindfulness. Some techniques take some time to learn.

For example, Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) approach involves taking an eight week course where you go through guided meditations. This can get expensive and time consuming. However if you are interested in a self-directed version of Kabat-Zinn’s course as an additional supplement to this course, you can follow the link at the bottom of this section.

The different approaches to mindfulness meditation typically focus on the following three attributes:
• Your body
• Your breath
• Your thoughts
This course provides a simple technique for mindfulness meditation. Spending approximately 10 to 15 minutes a day can help you dramatically improve your capacity for being mindful in any particular situation.
Scanning
One technique that Kabat-Zinn’s approach to mindfulness meditation includes is called scanning, or body scanning. Once you are used to it, you can do it without the need for a guided meditation, but one option for beginners is to record your voice talking yourself through the body scan. You start by lying down on your back in a comfortable space. Focus your attention on the toes of your left foot and noting anything you observe. You then move your focus to the sole of your left foot, your heel, and the top of your left foot. Then you move your focus up your left leg – your ankle, your calf, your knee, your thigh, and finally your left hip. At this point, you do the same with your right foot and leg all the way up to your right hip.

Once you have moved your focus up both legs, focus on your mid-section – pelvis, hips, groin, and buttocks – and then move your focus up your main torso – lower back, stomach, insides. At each point focus on how this part of you feels – are your muscles tense? Do you feel any pain, aches, coldness, warmth, etc.? Move your focus up the rest of your torso – your solar plexus, chest, breasts, spine, shoulder blades and shoulders. Once your focus has reached your shoulders, move your focus down the length of your left arm – your shoulder, bicep, elbow, forearm, hand, and fingers. Then do the same to your right arm. Finally we focus on the neck and head. Focus on your jaw, your cheeks and ears, eyes, forehead, back of the head, and finally top of the head. Once you have completed the scan, you can remain in this state for as long as you choose.
Source: Improving Mindfulness Workshop

River Street Consultant

Social Cues

Social cues are verbal or non-verbal hints that let us know what someone maybe thinking or feeling. When in a social situation, it is important to keep an eye out for these social cues and ensure our behavior isn’t contributing to them. While some cues can be obvious, other may be very subtle, so we must train ourselves to be able to recognize them when they do appear.

Recognize Social Situations

Social situations are not a ‘one size fits all’ situation. Because the people in each situation are different, we must learn to adapt ourselves to this ever-changing group – and know how to handle them. This does not mean we have to change who we are or hide our own personality, but rather we can change how we present ourselves around other people. Some of the best hints we can use are the ones we get from other people around you. How are they behaving? How are they ‘working through’ the event? Do you know all of them? Are there faces you do not recognize? With this information in mind, determine what type of social situation you may be in. Is this a formal gathering? Is it a business meeting or function with coworkers? Maybe a few friends catching a bite to eat? The key is to recognize your surroundings and the people involved to help determine how to present yourself.

Questions to ask in a social situation:

  • “What is the gathering for?”
  • “Who is present?”
  • “Do we share common interests?”

The Eyes Have It

Not all cues from others can be seen right and may be well hidden, but the eyes will always give them away. Without blatantly staring at a person (of course), try to observe how they are looking at you and others. Do certain words or phrases make them blink more or dart their eyes in another direction? Are they staying focused on a subject for a long period of time? Unfortunately, the eyes cannot lie – often. Many feelings or behaviors we try to hide in ourselves will often be shown through the eyes. Common eye behaviors such as rolling the eyes or looking around frequently can be signs of boredom or discomfort. If a person looks at you while talking or moves their eyebrows while listening to you talk, this can be a sign of interest or curiosity. But since these feelings may not be said out loud, or even gestured, it is a key tool to remember when gauging the people around you.

Common eye behaviors:

  • Eye rolling
  • Blinking too much or too little
  • Wandering eyes; not looking directly at a person
  • Long blinks

Non-Verbal Cues

It has been said that non-verbal communication is the most powerful form of communication since it can expand beyond voice, tone, and even words. It accounts for over 90% of our communication methods. Although the differences in non-verbal communication can be different in certain situations (amount of personal space or use of hand gestures), most cues can send the same message across the board. Nonverbal cues can include facial expressions, body movements, eye movement, and various gestures and usually are not associated with supported words or phrases.

Common non-verbal cues include folding the arms, gripping or moving hands while speaking, rolling the eyes and even misusing the tone of voice. Do you notice these gestures when speaking with people around you? When thinking of your behavior, do you find yourself making any of these gestures when you are in a social situation? If so, think of ways you can try to eliminate some of them and replace them with more welcoming or outgoing gestures instead.

Common non-verbal cues:

  • Folding the arms
  • Looking around frequently
  • Tapping the feet or clasping hands
  • Fidgeting
  • Moving closer/farther away

Verbal Cues

Verbal cues are cues that we are more likely to pick up on and notice right away. They are usually done with some sort of emphasis or tone that causes an effect within us, and is mostly likely to stick with us in the future. Phrases such as “Did you see the new rules in the handbook?” or “I can’t wait to see the projections for this week” add emphasis to certain words to stress a point or effect. Other verbal cues can include appropriate pauses when speaking, pitch, or volume of the voice or even speaking too slowly or quickly. These are cues that we can control and use with our voices (hence the term verbal) to get a message across.

When in a social situation, listen to those around you and determine what verbal cues you can pick up on. Do they sound positive or negative? Do they appropriately portray the message being sent? Do you find yourself using these verbal cues on others? Maybe you emphasized the wrong word or spoke in a higher pitch when trying to speak with a group of people. When we can recognize these cues in others and learn to adapt ourselves to them, we can learn to identify them in ourselves and ensure that we are not putting the wrong message out there.

Common verbal cues:

  • Voice tone or pitch
  • Word emphasis
  • Volume
  • Uncomfortable pauses or word inserts

Social cues can often enhance, or even downplay, what is being said or portrayed in a situation. But the social cue needs to be interpreted in the right manner for it to better a social situation – not make it worse. People who are better equipped to identify and understand these social cues are more likely to act appropriately to them, and will be better prepared to respond to them and adapt their behavior.

Spectrum of Cues

As in all situations, there is always a possibility for going to one extreme to the other without having any middle ground in between. For social cues, it can be a fairly wide spectrum with plenty of variations. On one side of the spectrum, a person can be very obvious with their cues, such as speaking very loudly or making very large and awkward hand gestures. These types of cues are easy to spot and can often make people feel uncomfortable right away. On the other hand, there are cues that are more subtle and can often be missed if not recognized right away, such as excessive eye blinking or adding a tone to their words.

Unfortunately, these types of cues may go unnoticed and can portray the wrong message when they may not be intended to. They key point is being able to recognize each side of this spectrum and the different ways a social cue can go wrong and right at the same time. When you learn the extremes they can reach, you’re better equipped to catch the cues in between and adapt your behavior faster.

Review and Reflect

It’s a natural behavior to want to react to a cue we may recognize and want to confront right away. Are you bored? Did I offend you? Did you understand? But these approaches are not the best solution to connect with people and better understand their behavior. When you notice a social cue, such as someone rolling their eyes or speaking in a shrill voice at you, take a moment to stop and review the action. Take notice if it is being directed at you or if others around you are subject to it as well. Does the behavior continue? Maybe the behavior was a onetime occurrence?

Reflect on what you can do to adapt yourself to the situation. Was there something you said to trigger this feeling? Does this person have something they want to share? Or maybe you just need to take a step back from this person. Sometimes they need a moment to review and reflect as well, and may need some personal space to do it. Whatever your results, remember to refrain from jumping to conclusions about the cues we encounter. Always take a minute to two before responding with your own actions.

Being Adaptable and Flexible

Even though there are times we can pick up on these social cues, we may be able to change them or even get away from them as soon as we’d like. These are the times we must learn to be flexible and adapt to the situation. We all know that not all situations will be comfortable for us and we may need to find a way to adapt until it’s over. Sometimes the room can have more people than we are comfortable with or maybe the other visitors are sending cues of boredom or annoyance, but don’t let these cues sink you. Be flexible to the group and reflect on what you can do to help the situation. Try to start a conversation with people that seem distant or unsure. Lead by example and speak in lower pitches or in casual tones. Many times the people around you will catch onto the cues you are sending out and will become adaptable as well. This great trick doesn’t always work in all situations, but it is one way we can help ourselves adapt and manage through a difficult situation.

Personal Space

Edward Hall was one of the first people to define and characterize the space around us – our different level of spaces. The outer most space around us is our public space, such as in a large room. Coming in closer is our social space, such as talking with a group of friends. The next inward space is our personal space, which is usually within arms’ reach of us. This space is usually on reserve for ‘invitation-only’, meaning we do not like for people to be in our personal space unless we initiate it and welcome them over.

In social situations, this can be a hard thing to maintain. The key is to refrain from being rude to someone who may have encroached on your space. If this person is too close, take a few steps to the side instead of backwards, which creates subtle distance and doesn’t appear as though you are backing away. If you must leave a group of people, or even just one, that are too close, always excuse yourself politely and move to an open area. If possible, take a few steps around the room every so often, which keeps you mobile and doesn’t allow for crowding. Remember, this is the time to be adaptable, so you may need to be flexible with your surroundings to feel more at ease.

Tips for keeping your personal space personal:

√ Excuse yourself politely when leaving a group

√  Step to the side a step or two to create subtle distance

√  Walk often or roam about the area – if possible

√  Opt for a handshake when greeting people – it allows for the other person to stay at arm’s length

√  Be aware of cultural differences in personal space

Source:  Social Intelligence Workshop

River Street Consultant

Modeling and Social Learning

Modeling and observational learning are essential ingredients for social learning. When people are inspired, have positive role models, and improve their self-efficacy, they are more likely to embrace learning and new experiences. Not only will social learning improve, you are likely to see an improvement in morale and productivity as well.

Inspired by Leaders
Leadership inspires much of the company’s culture for better or worse. There is an obligation to inspire others to perform well. The best way to accomplish this is to lead by example. When people see specific behaviors and ideals modeled for them, they understand what is expected of their behavior. Modeling behavior also generates respect for leadership.
Ways to Inspire:
• Present a positive attitude
• Communicate clearly and openly
• Avoid bias and preconceived ideas
• Recognize and reward achievements
• Encourage questions, and answer them

Boosting Self-Efficacy
Self-efficacy is the personal belief that one is capable of reaching a goal. This belief motivates learning and improves self-esteem. People with high self-efficacy are more likely to take action and achieve success. People with low self-efficacy are more likely to fail. While much of self-efficacy is personal perception, there are ways to boost it in others, and observation is a useful way in boosting self-efficacy. When you see someone else perform a task, you are motivated to try the task yourself. People are more likely to try something new the more that they see modeled. As they succeed in learning, their self-efficacy will improve.

Peer Role Models
Peer role models provide informal modeling and observational learning. Like any other role models, peer role models ought to exhibit traits and actions that should be repeated. Mentoring programs may be peer modeling programs, but peer modeling does not have to be an official work relationship. Peer modeling occurs anytime when one peer learns from another. Peers may provide a point of view that leaders cannot. Peers are effective at modeling:
• Tasks
• Ethics
• Communication

Generating Engagement
Learning is not possible without engagement, and if people are truly not engaged in the learning process, nothing will engage them. There are, however, ways to generate and improve upon engagement that already exists:
Motivation:
• Rewards: Create an environment that encourages learning with intrinsic and extrinsic rewards.
• Opportunities: Provide opportunities to grow and learn.
• Tools: Provide the tools that people need.
• Respect: Maintain a culture of respect.
Source: Social Learning Workplace

River Street Consultant

Dealing with Contentious Issues

Working on the Problem

The escalation of anger in ‘hot’ situations can be easily prevented, if a system for discussing contentious issues is in place. In this discussion we will examine how to work effectively on the problem. Specifically, we will tackle constructive disagreement, negotiation tips, building a consensus and identifying solutions.

Using Constructive Disagreement

There is nothing wrong with disagreement. No two people are completely similar therefore it’s inevitable that they would disagree on at least one issue. There’s also nothing wrong in having a position and defending it.

To make the most of a disagreement, you have to keep it constructive. The following are some of the elements of a constructive disagreement:

  • Solution-focus. The disagreement aims to find a workable compromise at the end of the discussion.
  • Mutual Respect. Even if the two parties do not agree with one another, courtesy is always a priority.
  • Win-Win Solution. Constructive disagreement is not geared towards getting the “one-up” on the other person. The premium is always on finding a solution that has benefits for both parties.
  • Reasonable Concessions. More often than not, a win-win solution means you won’t get your way completely. Some degree of sacrifice is necessary to meet the other person halfway. In constructive disagreement, parties are open to making reasonable concessions for the negotiation to move forward.
  • Learning-Focus. Parties in constructive disagreement see conflicts as opportunities to get feedback on how well a system works, so that necessary changes can be made. They also see it as a challenge to be flexible and creative in coming up with solutions for everyone’s gain.

 

Negotiation Tips

Negotiations are sometimes a necessary part of arriving at a solution. When two parties are in a disagreement, there has to be a process that would surfaces areas of bargaining. When a person is given the opportunity to present his side and argue for his or her interests, anger is less likely to escalate.

The following are some tips on negotiation during a conflict:

  1. Note situational factors that can influence the negotiation process.

Context is an important element in the negotiation process. The location of the meeting, the physical arrangement of room, as well as the time the meeting is held can positively or negatively influence the participants’ ability to listen and discern. For example, negotiations held in a noisy auditorium immediately after a stressful day can make participants irritable and less likely to compromise.

 

  1. Prepare!

Before entering a negotiating table, make your research. Stack up on facts to back up your position, and anticipate the other party’s position. Having the right information can make the negotiation process run faster and more efficiently.

 

  1. Communicate clearly and effectively.

Make sure that you state your needs and interests in a way that is not open to misinterpretation. Speak in a calm and controlled manner. Present arguments without personalization. Remember, your position can only be appreciated if it’s perceived accurately.

 

  1. Focus on the process as well as the content.

It’s important that you pay attention not just to the words you and the other party are saying, but also the manner the discussion is running. For example, was everyone able to speak their position adequately, or is there an individual who dominates the conversation? Are there implicit or explicit coercions happening? Does the other person’s non-verbal behavior show openness and objectivity? All these things influence result, and you want to make sure that you have the most productive negotiation process that you can.

 

  1. Keep an open-mind.

Lastly, enter a negotiation situation with an open mind. Be willing to listen and carefully consider what the other person has to say. Anticipate the possibility that you may have to change your beliefs and assumptions. Make concessions.

 

Building Consensus

Consensus means unanimous agreement on an area of contention. Arriving at a consensus is the ideal resolution of bargaining. If both parties can find a solution that is agreeable to both of them, then anger can be prevented or reduced.

 

The following are some tips on how to arrive at a consensus:

  1. Focus on interests rather than positions.

Surface the underlying value that makes people take the position they do. For example, the interest behind a request for a salary increase may be financial security. If you can communicate to the other party that you acknowledge this need, and will only offer a position that takes financial security into consideration, then a consensus is more likely to happen.

  1. Explore options together.

Consensus is more likely if both parties are actively involved in the solution-making process. This ensures that there is increased communication about each party’s positions. It also ensures that resistances are addressed.

  1. Increase sameness / reduce differentiation.

A consensus is more likely if you can emphasize all the things that you and the other party have in common, and minimize all the things that make you different. An increased empathy can make finding common interests easier. It may also reduce psychological barriers to compromising. An example of increasing sameness/ reducing differences is an employer and employee temporarily setting aside their position disparity and looking at the problem as two stakeholders in the same organization.

 

Identifying Solutions

Working on a problem involves the process of coming up with possible solutions. The following are some ways two parties in disagreement can identify solutions to their problem.

  • Brainstorming is the process of coming up with as many ideas as you can in the shortest time possible. It makes use of diversity of personalities in a group, so that one can come up with the widest range of fresh ideas. Quantity of ideas is more important than quality of ideas in the initial stage of brainstorming; you can filter out the bad ones later on with an in-depth review of their pros and cons.
  • Hypothesize. Hypothesizing means coming up with ‘what if’ scenarios based on intelligent guesses. A solution can be made from imagining alternative set-ups, and studying these alternative set-ups against facts and known data.
  • Adopt a Model. You may also look for a solution in the past. If a solution has worked before, perhaps it may work again. Find similar problems and study how it was handled. You don’t have to follow a model to the letter; you are always free to tweak it to fit the nuances of the current problem.
  • Invent Options. If there has been no precedence for a problem, it’s time to exercise one’s creativity and think of new options. A way to go about this is to list down each party’s interests and come up proposed solutions that have benefits for each party.
  • Survey. If the two parties can’t come up with a solution between the two of them, maybe it’s time to seek other people’s point of view. Survey people with interest or background in the issue in contention. Find an expert is possible. Just remember though, at the end of the day the decision is still yours. Identify a solution based on facts, not on someone’s opinion.

The River Street Consultant

Source:  Anger Management workshop