Are you really listening?
By Crystal Chan
Have you ever been in the following situation?
You and your friend are having a conversation. It is about a personal issue of your friend. You were listening and providing feedback to your friend… and suddenly your friend looked annoyed and asked, “Do you actually hear what I said or do you just want to talk about yourself?”
You probably were shocked and confused, maybe even a little hurt. Yes?
Because that’s how I felt a few weeks ago.
I personally see myself as a loyal and supportive friend. I thought I was listening attentively so my friend’s comment was very upsetting to me. But, thinking back what has been said between us - I was keen to offer some advice to my friend, I actually paid very little attention to their expressions and feelings.
In other words, I was simply listening to respond, not listening to understand.
We seem to be very fixated on the desire to be heard and have lost our ability to “listen” along the way. A great conversation does not always involve lots of words being exchanged. It is more about the people engaged in the conversation being present for each other. Solidarity may sometimes be better communicated through silence or body gestures.
A good article on “Active Empathetic Listening” can be found here
As for myself – I apologized to my friend and they accepted it. We continued to discuss the issue. This time, I listen to simply acknowledge whatever is going through my friend’s mind is valid. My friend felt the support that they needed. We both felt better at the end.
The Power of ‘No’ versus the Power of ‘Yes’
If you have about 10 minutes, try this little exercise:
With your body relatively at ease - Bring to mind a challenging situation you have, or a question you have yet to make up your mind on.
With that situation/question in your mind, start to focus on the word ‘NO’ for a few minutes … how does that feel in your head? In your body? What sort of emotions begins to arise?
After a few minutes, give yourself a minute break, maybe move around a little.
Then bring that same situation/question in your mind again, this time with the word ‘YES’. How does your body react to it, how do you really feel now?
After this little exercise, do you feel you have a better sense of what your preference is on the situation/question?
This exercise is actually a type of meditation that helps connect us with our intuition.
We often like to take pride of ourselves in making decisions bases on ‘data and information’. Rational decision making certainly has its merits most of the time, but have we put ourselves and our feelings in the decision making process?
Sometimes saying NO is easy because we can stick with the status quo and avoid embarrassment, but perhaps deep down we really want to give this a go?
Or, sometimes it make sense to just say yes because it ‘shouldn’t be a big deal’, but maybe we would really prefer not to take this on?
Honor your intuition, or your ‘gut feeling’. YOU matter in every single decision that you are to make in your life.
Want more productivity? Get a hobby
The modern life seems to have made us into jugglers, especially when we are running our own business. Do you feel that you are always busy but don’t seem to get as much done as you would like to? Do you want to be more productive? Then perhaps its time to throw that to-do list into the garbage bin and … pick up a hobby.
It might sound strange. You probably think – I’m already running out of time, why do I want to waste more time to do something that has got nothing to do with all the urgent tasks in my hand?
When we engage in doing something that we like that’s different from work, we are actually doing “active resting” - and that helps restore our energy and momentum. Hobbies also actively train the creativity part of our brain. When we use our creativity regularly, we tend to gain new perspectives and come up with different ways to tackle an issue. These newly formed mental pathways often boost efficiency as we come back to our work with a relaxed, refreshed mind.
Spring is finally here, do you feel the itch to leave the office desk and do something fun? I hope this article gives you another reason to go do it!
Read more here
After years of research, Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic finally publishes his work on leadership and highlights the problem we have been dealing with in the workplace for years. With a provocative title “Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders (And How to Fix it)?”, Dr. Chamorro-Premuzic seeks to find the answer for two powerful questions: Why is it so easy for incompetent men to become leaders? And why is it so hard for competent people--especially competent women--to advance?
For many women, the key messages of this book will definitely bring a “I told you so” validation moment. So pick up this book this month where we celebrate women’s contribution to history and society – and keep on doing the great work! Competence and wisdom will eventually win the day!
Dr. Chamorro-Premuzic’s new book will be released on March 12, click here for details
The Harvard Business Review article is here
Self-assured? Self-sufficient? Or Self-reliant? - Which one are you?
They all seem to mean the same thing at first glance… or are they? .
Self-assurance is a state of mind - something we all need to “make it”. Think about it, if you are not confident about what you do – why would you even take the risk to become an entrepreneur?
We live in a modern world that praises individualism and independence, but we often mistake independence for self-sufficiency. We often assume that we need to do everything ourselves and in that process unconsciously reject other people’s offer to help. This type of self-sufficiency - “being capable to fend for ourselves, alone” - actually starves ourselves from the need to connect with others. Do you notice if you are falling into this trap?
Self-reliance offers a different path towards independence. In an essay entitled “self-reliance” (1841), the American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson stated, “A foolish consistency is the hobglobin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.”
Self-reliance does not exclude the connection with others but does remind us to follow our own instincts and remain true to ourselves. Emerson believed that time alone is necessary in order for us to discover our own truth and build self-confidence.
The balance between “pleasing others” and “pleasing ourselves” is a delicate one. Humans are social animals and we survive better being in a group. We should all strive to be independent and stand up for ourselves when it’s necessary, but we should also recognize the need to connect with others and build inter-dependent relationships that encourage individuality and freedom.
Try this before you make any New Year resolutions…
Another year has passed, and here is another new beginning. Many of us like to set out New Year resolutions to improve ourselves one way or another - go to the gym more often, earn more money, expand our social circle, etc., etc. But too often we fail to stick to our resolutions by February (or March) and then spend the rest of the year feeling guilty about it.
So, this year, perhaps try something different before you make some “blanket resolutions”?
We make New Year resolutions because we want to change something about us. Unfortunately, our brains are naturally drawn to what’s wrong and what’s missing. A negative perspective does not usually inspire much energy and motivation in us to commit to change, so that’s why we often fail to stick to our resolutions.
We can tackle the issue by using the Appreciative Inquiry approach. Initially developed by organizational behavior scientists to initiate change within large-scale organizations, this approach is now being used as a simple way for self-improvement.
All you need to remember is 4 “D” words:
Discover – what was happening when you felt most energized and engaged in your life?
Dream – what are the images of the future that can motivate you to take positive actions?
Design – what are the paths that you need to take to bring those images to reality?
Deliver/Deploy – What steps are you willing to commit right away to get on the path?
You can read more about the Appreciative Inquiry approach here:
Christmas, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice… December is a month of joy and festivities. It is also the time for reflection. Here is an excellent book if you are thinking of the universal question – how can we experience happiness in the world that seems to be full of bad news and suffering?
Mental Health For Entrepreneurs
By: Crystal Chan
While there are many festivities to enjoy in the winter months, the colder and darker days could also be hard to adjust for most of us. Sometimes it can be a challenge to just get out of bed and we like to say we get SAD (Seasonal affective disorder). But take a moment to ask yourself this question – how are you feeling? Is this just about your body reacting to seasonal changes, the diagram below might help:
However, if it is something more, please read below:
Entrepreneurs are natural go-getters but the entrepreneurial path is a very difficult one. We tend to work long hours alone. We spend too much time doing business-related networking but not enough time with friends and family. The uncertainty looms over on a regular basis. It is too easy to forget to take care of our physical and mental wellbeing when we focus so much on our ventures. There is absolutely nothing wrong with feeling depressed or anxious. Entrepreneurship is very stressful and “just tough it out” is not a healthy coping mechanism in a long run. It’s okay to give yourself a break, and it’s okay to seek help. Your friends and family will be glad if you are open and share your struggle with them.
There are many ways to seek help if you think you are having more than SAD: https://sk.cmha.ca/documents/getting-help/.
Need some inspirations for self-care from the Scandinavian countries (where their winter is just almost as cold as ours)?
Personality and Personal Projects
September is back-to-school time. Whether or not you or your loved ones are in school, this month seems to be the time of self-reflection. We often want to know “what are we” and “where are we” – two very plain yet very complex questions. Fortunately, there is a different way to get a glimpse of our personality – through what Dr. Brian R. Little called “personal projects”.
The rationale behind the “personal projects” concept is straightforward – we only spend time doing things that we think are important to us. Activities we commit to do regularly is a reflection of our values and what we hope to achieve in the future. How these personal projects evolve over time will also have a great influence on our view of the world around us.
You can read about Dr. Little’s “personal projects” research and his TED talk here: https://ideas.ted.com/how-our-projects-shape-our-personalities-and-how-we-can-use-them-to-remake-who-we-are/
One way to get to know about your “personal projects” is to track how you spend most of your time on – both professionally and personally. More often than not there is a common theme behind all the things that you do.
And if you don’t like what you see – it’s OK!! Knowing where we are allows us to be more conscious in choices we make. It’s never too late to make a change.
Networking events for introverts
Being an entrepreneur, “network, network, and network some more” is probably the most frequent advice given. Sure, networking is the most effective way to keep us up-to-date on industry trends, create opportunities, and expand our resources in general. Networking events, however, are very daunting to some of us who consider ourselves to be introverts. A business occasion held in a casual setting - you are standing in a crowd of people, most of them are strangers. You are trying to convince yourself to approach the crowd and say… just say something. You notice some people in the room are particularly loud and overwhelming to your taste, but you tell yourself you need to participate because the reason for you to come to this event… is to mingle, even though you really don’t want to. To the introverts, the struggle ‘to thrive in a networking event’ is real.
Before we the introverts beat ourselves too much over the stress with networking, we need to look inward and re-evaluate our strengths and weaknesses. Being an introvert doesn’t automatically translate to being shy and awkward – it just means that we thrive in a more intimate, quiet setting with fewer people. We dislike networking events because they are over-stimulating in many ways. With that in mind, here are a few things we should consider before heading to the next networking event:
Why am I going to the event?
This seems to be a silly question – you go to a networking event because you want to… network? But let’s go to the next level. Sometimes you are going to the event because someone you know has invited you. In that case, simply ask the inviter to help introduce you to a few other people in the room. Or head directly to your inviter when you get to the venue, because chances s/he is probably already surrounded by some other people that you don’t know. Viola!
If it is more a social event organized by a business association – then you should focus on being light. Exchange business cards and follow up after the event.
Bottom line is – we all perform much better if we can clearly articulate a purpose behind our actions to ourselves. Networking is no different. If you can’t give yourself a more elaborate reason to go to an event, you probably shouldn’t go.
Authenticity is the key to build long-lasting, beneficial relationships with others – both in personal and professional settings. Know what you can bring to the table – for instance, being a creative writer, passionate about indigenous issues, expert in juggling multiple large-scale projects etc. You might need to mentally rehearse those phrases a few times to yourself, so it comes naturally, but knowing it will help you stand out in the crowd because you are not ‘just another person who wants to network’. Introverts tend to be good listeners too, so it’s easier for us to make meaningful connections. Keep that in mind!
Focus on the quality, not the quantity
Keep an open-mind about going to those networking events – perks don’t just come right after the event. Just because you only met 3 people when the other person you know met 10 doesn’t mean that you are worse off. Go talk to a group of 5 rather than a group of 12. Approach strangers the same way as you approach a potential friend – remember you do have to like the other person before anything positive can happen!
Don’t feel pressurized to ‘work the room’ for the entire duration. An extended bathroom break or even just leave the venue for a short stroll is completely OK. That really helps manage the stimulation level for introverts.
Networking is like an exercise – it does get easier over time. Eventually you will figure out your own way to do it well.
One of the hardest things to remember to do is to just BE. Our busy schedules become our rulers, our accomplishments become our badges of honour, our lives become synonymous with productivity and efficiency... Our lives become one version of the infinity that they could be.
Enhance Your Life Through Self-Reflection - Here Is How You Start
When is the last time that you sat down to reflect? No media, no distractions - just you, yourself and maybe a piece of brainstorming paper.
Research shows that without the process of reflection (actively thinking about and challenging thinking patterns about what we encounter), learning does not occur either. While experiences may be entertaining in the short term, they may leave more to be desired for the long-term. More importantly, every experience (with a few exceptions probably) can be an opportunity for learning - and reflection might just be the path to it.
At first, reflection sounds so simple; the act of thinking about doing it almost feels enough to replace the actual act of it. Reflection can also seem daunting - it can feel like another thing to add onto the ever-growing list of things to do. Of course, reflection can also be overwhelming - there are several kinds, ways, processes for it and a novice may not know where to start.
We've compiled a couple resources that may help you on your reflection journey - from where to start to how to maintain it, these are just some of our favourites:
- the tools and resources in this link provide you with frameworks to reflect on your current and ideal self, helping you assess, analyze and navigate between these two realities
- tools and techniques to help you keep track of and store your learning moments and reflections
These should be more than enough to get you started with the practice of reflection. Happy reading and happy reflecting!
What An Iconic Thought Experiment (& The Woman Behind It) Can Teach Us About The Way We Work
The second teeny peek into The Happiness Advantage (see the first peek here) takes us face-to-face with one of Achor's mentors and her brilliant science experiment done in 1981. This experiment, though interesting in its own right, also acts as an example to support an important lesson: we have the power to change what is possible.
The mystery woman is Ellen Langer, a social psychologist who organized for a group of 75-year old men to live in a time capsule of sorts. The men were given specific instructions of where to meet and what not to bring - namely, they could not bring any materials that were older than the year 1959. Upon their arrival at the set place, the men were oriented. For a week, the space emulated the year 1959, hosting objects & news pieces that dated back to that year, and a group of men instructed.
to psychologically inhabit who they were 22 years earlier, at 55 years old
Even just one week of pretending to be younger actually had significant effects on these men - particularly, on their aging. When compared to control groups, these men tested better on measures of dexterity and physical appearance.
It became very clear that there was significant power within each human being to affect one's reality.
If you’re interested in hearing more about the experiment & the woman behind it all, check out
Ellen Langer's interview with Krista Tippett, where she talks about her studies, her beliefs and this experiment in more depth.
Why Should You Care?
The point is, the moment we begin to accept something as our reality, we MAKE our reality into just that... If there's one thing that Achor & Langer bring to our attention, it's this:
"our mindset, and in turn our experience of the world, is never set in stone" - (Achor in The Happiness Advantage)
Whether or not you become one of the greatest successes in your industry, or a gigantic failure, is heavily dependant upon the belief that you have in yourself, and the follow-through (or lack there-of) towards big, harry, audacious goals.
What will you make into your reality? Ultimately, and without disregarding external forces, this is your choice.
October 19, 2017
How to Differentiate Your Small Business & Stay Relevant
With faster than ever technology advancements, small businesses are left to compete with big-box businesses and their larger capacities to innovate and shift with such technology. So we sat down with Madeline Toubiana, Assistant Professor at the Alberta School of Business. She had a lot to say in regards to how small business can stay relevant and innovative in changing times. One solution? It just might be... Read more >>
October 2, 2017
The 6 Biggest Goal Setting Mistakes You Can Easily Avoid
Goal setting is an integral part of life. It helps shape both one's professional world and personal development sphere. This post is a quick and easy guide to great goal setting, providing you with practical takeaways and tips! Read more >>