Your Attention, Please

ringmasterThe ringmaster at the circus usually opens the show with a time-honored phrase: “Your attention, please!” Why is this? Because he knows that if he’s able to direct your attention, he is more likely to be able to control your experience.

In my opinion, the single most important skill to develop in life is becoming the master of your own attention. (And by the way, I still have a lot of work to do in this area!)

At any given time, there will be many events, people, and circumstances clamoring for your acknowledgment.

Notice them all. But choose wisely which of them will receive your sustained attention, because what you focus on expands for you. Make sure you only devote your deep attention toward experiences you want more of.

If you feel stuck in a circumstance that you don’t want more of, you have some work to do. Shift and sort until you find something within it that you do appreciate: a kind doorman in the building with the nasty neighbors, a coworker who brings homemade cookies to the office that teems with petty gossip, or as Mr. Rogers said, the helpers who run toward danger and crisis to rescue and take care of those who were harmed.

Right foot hurts? Focus on your left. Angry about the driver who cut you off? Focus on the hundreds of other drivers you’ve encountered in traffic today who didn’t.

Learn to intentionally direct the power of your attention, and you will possess the key to change your entire experience of the world.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/83741261@N04/22703819258″>circus 3</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>(license)</a>
Your Attention, Please2016-11-23T09:38:47-06:00

Give the Benefit of the Doubt

open the doorHurt feelings happen. What distinguishes healthy relationships from dysfunctional ones is the way we respond to each other when our feelings are hurt.

If we confront and blame the other party under the assumption that they intended to cause us pain, they often become defensive because they feel deeply misunderstood. And it’s quite rare for two upset and defensive people to have a productive dialogue.

Instead we might broach the subject in this way: I believe that you did not intend to hurt or offend me, and I wanted to share my reaction when I heard you say that I am not a good team player. I felt upset and disappointed, because it’s important to me to make a valuable contribution to our process. I wondered if we could talk about what you are seeing and experiencing that led you to say that.

Here’s the thing — in the rare case where the person actually DID intend to disparage you, this response takes the wind right out of their sails and reveals you as … a team player! Taking the high road shows your true character, and allows the other party to gracefully step out of their petty moment while saving face. And that’s a win-win outcome.

Giving the benefit of the doubt opens doors. Assuming malicious intent closes them.

ps: If you are consistently assuming that people intend to hurt or harm you, and find it very difficult to give the benefit of the doubt, you might find that counseling can help you change that perception so you can inhabit a kinder world.

Give the Benefit of the Doubt2016-11-23T09:38:47-06:00

How to Make the Most of Criticism

Close-up of magnifying glass focusing on two peopleInstead of deflecting a critical comment by counter-attacking, blaming, or pointing out the flaws of the one who leveled it at you, try using it as a starting point for introspection.

In the moment, you can say, “Thanks for sharing that with me. I will give it some consideration.”

Then, at your earliest convenience, do exactly that by asking yourself, “In what ways could this criticism of me be true?”

There’s very little anyone can accuse you of that won’t have at least a grain of truth to it.

And when you can identify that grain, tiny though it may be, you will also have found an opportunity.

Because once you see it, you can either work to change it or work to accept it and minimize the harm you cause to others because of it.

Who knows —  someday you might even find yourself actively seeking and welcoming criticism because of the empowering insights it reveals!

How to Make the Most of Criticism2016-11-23T09:38:47-06:00

How to Give Feedback

Croissant SandwichHere’s how to communicate a piece of feedback about something personal, such as the off-color jokes your partner told at the office party, or the short skirt your daughter wants to wear to her new waitressing job, or the thank you note that your ten year old still has not written to his grandma.

First tell the person you have some brief feedback to share and ask if they’d be open to hearing it.

Then ask them when a good time would be for the two of you to talk in private. This part is really important — embarrassment definitely interferes with trust and open communication.

Serve up a feedback sandwich:

compliment
brief feedback in an I-message
invite them to share their response
acknowledge their perspective
compliment/good wishes

Here’s how it can sound:

I think it’s terrific that you got a job!
I’m concerned that you might receive some
uncomfortable attention from customers if
you wear that skirt to the restaurant.
What do you think about that?
Sounds like you want to wear it today
and see how it goes so you can make
an informed decision next time.
Thanks for listening, and I hope
your shift goes great today!

And of course feedback sandwiches should always be garnished with a big helping of respect for the other person’s right to do with it as they wish.

Hope this helps!

How to Give Feedback2016-11-23T09:38:49-06:00

Don’t Make This Mistake When Customers Contact You

This tip might seem ridiculously simple, but you’d be shocked at how often it doesn’t happen.Hand Holding Telephone Receiver

Make time in your schedule every single weekday to return phone calls and respond to emails from current and prospective customers.

Even better, schedule TWO times to do this each day, one just before lunch for messages received in the morning, and one just before close of business for messages that come in during the afternoon.

Responding very promptly, even if all you do is acknowledge that their communication was received, sends a powerful message: I value your business and I am here to help.

If you need additional time to gather information or research your response, I recommend closing the communication loop at the end of the day with something like: I am working on your request, and will get back to you tomorrow with the answer to your question.

Don’t Make This Mistake When Customers Contact You2016-11-23T09:38:49-06:00

How to Resolve Conflicts with a Two Part Conversation

coupleinconflictWhen emotions flare, clear thinking evaporates. And nothing triggers emotion like conflict.

So to take the pressure off, allow yourselves to divide your problem-solving conversations into two phases: information-gathering and brainstorming.

During the information-gathering phase, your only job is to understand your partner’s perspective and concerns.

Since you know you won’t have to solve anything, it will be easier to listen carefully because you won’t be mentally rehearsing your rebuttal while your partner is talking. Instead of a clever, convincing comeback, you should reiterate your partner’s concerns, and ask him or her to correct your understanding if your synopsis is inaccurate. Then switch roles.

Stay with this discussion until you both feel heard and understood. Then take a break, ideally for at least a day, and try to do something fun together before you start phase two of your discussion.

Start the brainstorming phase with each of you giving a brief summary of the other person’s perspective and concerns as you understand them.

Then get out your computer, white board or pad of paper and start jotting down every idea you can think of that could address both your concerns. Go ahead and get silly here if you want – laughter fosters cooperation!

Finally, go back through your list and pull out an idea to experiment with. Agree to try it out for a fixed period of time, and schedule another meeting to evaluate how well it is working. If the first idea does not address both parties’ concerns to your satisfaction, try another idea until you find one that does.

How to Resolve Conflicts with a Two Part Conversation2016-11-23T09:38:50-06:00

How To Deliver Bad News

Businessman Thinking on Steps“Bad news” can be somewhat of a misnomer at times — often situations that appear negative on the surface reveal silver linings and eventually result in positive changes. But the fact remains that it’s not fun to be the bearer of news nobody wants to hear.

Here’s how to make this painful task easier:

1) Break the news in private. This protects the other person’s dignity and spares them from embarrassment.

2) Ignore #1 if you are dealing with a potentially volatile person. In this case, delivering bad news in public, preferably in a high-energy, crowded location like a coffee shop or hotel lobby, may ensure an extra measure of self-consciousness that might keep him or her from flying off the handle and shouting or reacting physically.

3) Get right to the point, but issue a heads-up first:  I’m sorry to say that I have some bad news to deliver today. 

4) Deliver the news succinctly. Don’t pretend it’s not bad news, and don’t point out the silver lining. Don’t prattle on and on. Don’t blame them or tell them they should have seen it coming. Say your piece as objectively as you can, then become quietly attentive and allow them to speak if they wish.

5) It’s okay to say you are sorry if you are. “I’m sorry” does not mean that whatever happened is your fault, it’s simply an expression of sympathy. Avoid “I understand” because it’s impossible for us to truly comprehend anyone else’s personal experience. Even if we went through the exact same situation, our individual reactions are unique.

5) Answer their questions concisely. Save detailed analysis and explanation for another conversation. People don’t tend to remember much of what they’ve heard while in shock.

6) Give them time and space to process the news privately. Don’t hit and run, however. Let them know you’ll connect with them again later.

7) Initiate contact again in a few hours or a few days. Make yourself available (but don’t be intrusive) in case they want to talk about it.

How To Deliver Bad News2016-11-23T09:38:50-06:00