Posts Tagged 'emotional intelligence'

What kind of pain do you want?


The fact that you cannot escape the downsides of your strengths brings us to an interesting decision point. People often talk about the success they aspire to in life, but as author Mark Manson writes, the most important question to ask yourself is not, “What kind of success do I want?”, but rather, “…What kind of pain are you willing to bear in the name of achieving what you want to achieve? Answering this question honestly often leads to more insight about what you really care about than thinking of your dreams and aspirations.” —James Clear

One of the ingredients of a good life, I think, is using our strengths as consistently as possible to achieve things we care deeply about.

But while our strengths add value to our lives, they also can have a shadow side.

For instance, self disciplined people may lack spontaneity, while those known for their ability to improvise in the moment may have difficulty achieving goals that require consistent and persistent behavior.

Likewise, “success” can have a shadow side. In aspiring to something we regard as important we may simultaneously sacrifice something else that is also important to us.

Life’s most important decisions seldom are between something we value and something we don’t. Rather they are choices between two or more things that are important to us. Choosing one (for example, making a bigger difference in our work) is likely to mean sacrificing something else (say, family time or health).

That means that the pursuit of something important is likely to come with a cost or “pain,” as Mark Manson explains it.

Awareness of that reality can help us make more conscious decisions about the kinds of lives we want to have.

What do you think—does “success” have a potential downside, and how might it be avoided or at least minimized?

Bullies …


If not now, when? If not you, who?” ―Hillel the Elder

Bullies come in all sizes and exist in all occupations. There are playground bullies, cyber bullies, bullies in the workplace, and even bullies who run for president.

Bullies may be famous and powerful, or they may be virtually unknown except to those they bully.

When I was young an adult told me that the best way to deal with bullies was to stand up to them.

Such a stand against bullying, of course, requires courage.

One or more people standing up to him or her—one-to-one or in group settings—is often all that’s required to end the bullying or at least blunt its effects.

Given that courage doesn’t mean acting in the absence of fear, but rather acting in spite of it, the presence of fear is not a sufficient reason to allow bullies to destroy what others have created or want to create.


Sometimes standing up to bullies is no more complicated than that – it literally involves standing and looking the bully in the eye because deep down many bullies are very afraid.

One of my favorite moments in the first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump was when moderator Lester Holt asked Trump to explain to Clinton why she didn’t have “a presidential look,” given his public statements on that subject. Trump, not surprisingly, tried to change the subject.

At other times standing up to bullies may require clarifying one’s principles and perhaps even rehearsing a confrontation with a trusted colleague or friend.

In 1954 Joseph Welch’s, “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” was a turning point in the history of McCarthyism.

Many of us have one or more bullies in our lives.

Sometimes it is no more complicated than thinking deeply about your response to this question: If not now, when? If not you, who?

Do smart phones decrease empathy?


[C]onversation is the most human and humanizing thing that we do. It’s where empathy is born, where intimacy is born because of eye contact, because we can hear the tones of another person’s voice, sense their body movements, sense their presence. It’s where we learn about other people. —Sherry Turkle

One of the greatest gifts we can give others is our full attention.

Sherry Turkle underscores that point by reminding us that relationships are formed from and strengthened by careful attention to the nuances of communication, particularly during the earliest years of life. Such interactions are the substance of strong relationships for young and old alike.

Smart phones challenge our ability to offer our full attention to others.

Turkle agrees. “Eighty-nine percent of Americans,” she notes, “say that during their last social interaction, they took out a phone, and 82 percent said that it deteriorated the conversation they were in. Basically, we’re doing something that we know is hurting our interactions.”

Turtle adds: ”If you put a cell phone into a social interaction, it does two things: First, it decreases the quality of what you talk about, because you talk about things where you wouldn’t mind being interrupted, which makes sense, and, secondly, it decreases the empathic connection that people feel toward each other.”

Do you agree: Does the mere presence of a smart phone (or other screens) interfere with the quality of attention and conversation?

Don’t feed shame…


Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change. —Bene Brown

In a comment on last week’s post on self-care Jim Knight made an important distinction between guilt and shame which caused me to think more deeply about the importance of that distinction and how it can have a profound effect on both our personal and professional lives.

Sometimes people confuse what they do with who they are. 

For instance, more than once I’ve heard someone say: “When I get angry I just say whatever comes to mind [other problematic behavior can be substituted here]. That’s just who I am.”

The distinction between guilt and shame is reflected in that confusion.

Guilt, as I understand it, occurs when we have done something to violate a moral code. We have done something we regard as wrong.

Shame is when we are what is wrong. We are the mistake, not our behavior.

Children are shamed, for example, when in response to a misdeed they are asked, “What’s wrong with you?”

Once shame has become well established within a child or adult’s neural networks it can be very challenging to help that person separate their behavior from who they think they are as a person.

As a result, even a request for a conversation about “improvement” or change can activate shame and make it very difficult for the person to attend to the conversation.

Once we become aware of this distinction we are more likely to notice the presence of shame within and around us.

But what can we do about it?

First, be very careful with the language you use when speaking to others and in your self talk. When we are concerned about someone’s actions, focus on observable behavior. Don’t contribute to anyone’s shame by digging deeper for their “issues,” a task far better suited for professionals.

Second, when shame has been triggered anticipate the possibility of a defensive response: “Why do you think there’s something wrong with me?”

Third, to minimize defensiveness ensure that the conversation remains focused on behavior. Because people who are accustomed to being shamed may find it very difficult to separate their behavior from who they are as a person, it may be necessary to repeatedly remind them of that distinction.

I encourage you to think deeply about how shame and guilt affect your life, both at home and at work, and how you might counter it.

Being more compassionate with ourselves


[S]elf-directed compassion triggers the same physiological systems as receiving care from other people. Treating ourselves in a kind and caring way has many of the same effects as being supported by others…. Just as importantly, self-compassion eliminates the additional distress that people often heap on themselves through criticism and self-blame. —Mark Leary

While we cannot always control the things that happen to us, we do have a great deal of influence over how we respond to those things.

One of the best examples of that influence is the self-care we can give to ourselves during difficult times.

While many of us find it difficult to practice self-care, it is often as simple as extending to ourselves the same kindness and compassion we extend to others.

The fundamental question is: What kindness would I offer to others right now if they were experiencing my challenge, and how might I offer that caring to myself?

How do you or could you extend to yourself the kindness and caring you offer others?

Being our best selves


We have a choice about where to aim the lens of our attention. We can relive past injustices, settle old grudges and nurse festering sores. We can imagine failure, build up its potential for destruction, calculate its odds. Or, we can imagine the generous outcomes we’re working on, feel gratitude for those that got us here and revel in the possibilities of what’s next. – Seth Godin

Feelings and attitudes are contagious and can quickly spread throughout a group or community.

Leaders’ feelings and attitudes are particularly infectious and are determined, in large part, by where they focus their attention.

For instance, school and classroom leaders who spread positive emotions and attitudes focus on:

• problem solving and growth instead of complaints,

• talking with people (integrity) instead of about them (gossip),

• efficacy instead of resignation to the status quo,

• gratitude and appreciation instead of negativity,

• strengths instead of deficits, and

• creating a desired future instead of lamenting and acquiescing to a future being created by others.

The list could go on…

To put it simply, leaders who spread positive energy consistently focus on being their best selves, both for their own benefit and for the benefit of those with whom they interact in their personal and professional lives.

What is missing from my list?

I will be taking a sabbatical over the next few months to refresh and renew. Best wishes for an enjoyable summer (or winter if you happen to be Down Under)!

The gift of exquisite listening


“One social habit that I used to be quite bad at was to truly listen when other people spoke. I sometimes zoned out. I got distracted or my attention started to wander before they were done talking. Or I just waited for my turn to talk again (while thinking about what I should say next). Not very helpful. So things had to change.” —Henrik Edberg

There is no greater gift that one person can give another than sustained, attentive, and nonjudgmental listening.

Being fully heard and deeply understood by another human being is rare and can be life changing.

Because such committed listening also enriches the experience of the listener, it can transform relationships.

In addition, it is an essential ingredient of “deep work” (see previous post).

Henrik Edberg describes the attributes of such listening this way:

“When you listen, just listen.

” Don’t interrupt. Don’t jump in with solutions (this one can be a hard one in my experience).

“Just be present in the moment and listen fully to what the other person has to say and let him or her speak until the entire message is said.

“Sometimes that is also all that’s needed. For someone to truly listen as we vent for a few minutes and figure things out for ourselves.”

“Just listening” requires practice and discipline, however.

Sophia Dembling offers a tool that can help us master this demanding habit:

“Imagine that there is a big arrow hovering over the space between two people engaged in a conversation…. As the listener in this conversation, your goal is to keep the arrow pointing at the other person for as long as possible.

“A devoted listener knows that there is always more to learn about another person, no matter how long you’ve known them.”

What have you learned about the benefits of such listening, and what helps you more consistently offer it to others?

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