Thursday, January 28, 2016

Tip Thursday - Pitching Ideas

Typically, when pitching a new idea, people work to convince their audience.  Their words and body
language are directed at getting their audience to buy into their concept.

However, pitching isn't about convincing someone, it's about inviting them in.  Put your idea out there, but look to your audience to contribute.  Generally, the idea gets better as others add their thoughts and ideas.  The more that others contribute, the more invested they become in the idea and the more likely it is to get off the ground.

Pitching to engage, rather than to convince, will help rally others to your idea, gaining support and developing momentum.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Expand Your Universe

If you have ever tried to grow an indoor plant, you likely came to realize that the size of the plant would often be determined by the size of the pot or container it is planted in.  When small, the plant thrives better if the container is not overly large. However, as the plant grows and matures, that same sized pot becomes restrictive and can stunt its growth, requiring that the plant be re-potted into something larger, allowing it more room to facilitate growth.

We are not all that dissimilar.  The smaller our personal Universe, the less space we have to grow. Though the size of our universe may have 'fit' and suited us when we were first starting out, we need to continually be expanding the space around us to provide us with the stimulation and room needed to grow and expand.
Grow your Universe to allow for Personal Growth
Expanding the size of our Personal Universe need not be difficult or arduous, but it does require that we remain open to constant exploration and learning.  Just as the Star Trek Enterprise expanded the size of the known Universe by 'seeking out new life and new civilizations', you too need to give yourself room to grow by continually expanding the environment you have to grow into.

The following are some great tips for helping you to give yourself some room to grow.  There is only growth or stagnation. If you want to keep on earning, you have to keep on learning.  There is no other or better way.

  1. Travel.  As much as you can, to as many places as you can.  See places for yourself. Meet the people.  Learn how they live.  Don't allow other people's interpretations to shape your impressions, experience it first hand.  
  2. Read.  There is no excuse for not expanding your mind, knowledge or understanding by not picking up a book.  Even if it's only for 10 minutes a day - Read!  There are free resources everywhere so cost is not an issue on this one!  Everything you read is an investment you make to your Brain Trust so don't shortchange yourself.
  3. Do something new.  Pick a new sport, a new activity, a hobby.  Give it a try.  You don't have to stick with it, you don't have to perfect it... just try it.  Experience it for yourself.  You will never uncover new interests, strengths or talents without trying something new.  
  4. Take a class.  Explore a new subject or skill by taking a class in it.  You can sign up at a local school or college or you can take advantage of free online resources.  MIT has open course ware now as do other great schools. Formal learning and education has never been so accessible.  
  5. Podcasts.  Listen to some podcasts on subjects that you know little about.  Gain some insight into new research, follow discussions on topics outside of your field, try a new interest on for size. Listen to what others are thinking and doing to stimulate your thoughts and actions.
  6. Ask Questions.  Develop your curiosity by asking more questions and seeking out answers. Don't hesitate to ask questions of others, to google questions that pop to your mind... you'll never get answers if you don't seek them out and questions are one of the easiest, fastest and best ways.
  7. Online Videos.  The internet is such a great resource available at your fingertips, eliminating excuses for not having access to information or tools.  TED is a phenomenal source of talks on a wide range of topics, many of which you may never have thought about but that open your mind to new avenues of thought, science, activity and research.  Whether you have 5 minutes or 15, TED has something to share.  Don't underestimate the value of YouTube as a resource, it has more to share than simply videos of cats jumping in boxes, or check out Instructables if you are looking to learn how to do things yourself - many new skills just waiting for you there.  
You can Expand your Universe with only 5 minutes a day.  The main point is to expand it, even in small ways.  Just as a plant's growth becomes stunted in a too small pot, so too does your growth become limited if you are trying to grow in too small a space.  Make a change, do something different, pick up something new...  it all adds not only to the size of your Universe and your potential growth, but to the quality of the life you experience along the way.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Tip Thursday - Etiquette

Saying Thank-You or offering an Apology when it is expected actually doesn't net you much in
return.  However, failing to offer either when it is expected will cost you big time.  Don't overlook the value of small courtesies... or of their potential cost.

Bear in mind though... offering a Thank-You or an Apology when either is unexpected?  Pure gold!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Tip Thursday - Accepting Feedback

Receiving less than desirable feedback from a boss or peer can be tough to take, but often learning and acting on the message is what's needed to propel your career forward.  Rather than being defensive, openly accept their feedback and ask for suggestions.
"I would like to do what I can to change that, do you have some suggestions to help me?"
Turn what could be a negative conversation into a positive one, where your critic becomes your coach!

Monday, January 11, 2016

How to Be More Likable

Whether others like you are not is often a strong influence in their decision to buy from you, to promote you, to date you, to believe you, to recommend you, or to want to hang out with you. Therefore, when viewed from a career perspective, getting others to like you can definitely be advantageous to your career and potential advancement.

By nature we humans are social creatures.  We are hard wired to seek others out.  Partly this is due to our reptilian brain which is largely focused on our survival.  In early days, our survival was highly dependent upon being part of a group. There were far too many threats and challenges to our survival to ever make it on our own.  Therefore, it was necessary to be liked by others and fit in.

Just because we're hardwired to want to seek others out though, doesn't mean we are naturally good at it!  Making friends and connecting with others is not as easy as it seems, especially for those with a more naturally introverted nature.  If we add technology into the mix with find that more people are reporting feeling disconnected from others than ever before.

Given that we may have limited opportunities to form those connections with others, it is to our benefit to ensure that we are doing all that we can to increase our friendship success rate  Below I offer you some quick Body Language tips to help you appear more likable.  These nonverbal cues are friendship signals that will help you lay a positive framework for your budding friendships.

When it comes to your friendship signals, the following are the Top Three cues that serve to make you appear more likable to others. If you are looking for a place to start, these three are your big hitters.

  1. Eyebrow Flash.  This one always takes people by surprise, primarily because it is an unconscious gesture that few people realize they make, or even consciously see in others.  The eyebrow flash is a quick (1/6th of a second) up and down movement of the eyebrows, which is our primary friend signal. This cue announces to others that we are not a threat.  Our brains will automatically look for this signal when first meeting someone.  
  2. Head Tilt.  Tilting the head to side is viewed as a non-threatening gesture since it exposes your carotid arteries to the other person. It demonstrates that you are listening to them. If you also tilt your head slightly in the direction of the other person you are likely to be viewed as being friendly and honest.  Note however, that tilting the head to the side helps you be seen as more likable but not dominant.  Therefore, using it during greetings and first meetings may be appropriate, but when giving presentations it does not.
  3. Real Smile.  Smiling is a universal gesture and therefore is a powerful tool in our toolkit.  It is a powerful friend signal that helps others see us as more engaging, attractive and likable.  The act of smiling itself can put us and others in a better mood and can be contagious, making others want to reciprocate with a smile.  A note on this too though... fake smiles are typically readily detected by others so try to smile from the heart.  Generally, if you smile with the intent of putting others at ease it will help your smile to be more natural and genuine.
Although the above three tips are the top three friendship signals, there are a number of other cues that also help to communicate to others your interest and engagement. You can up your likability by also using any of the following...

  • Eye contact.  This cue works in tandem with the other friend signals.  When first meeting someone hold eye contact for one full second, ending the gaze with a smile.  Don't hold the first gaze for longer, lest it come across as aggressive and intimidating.  Future gazes can be longer, signifying many other things, but your first gaze is there to signal your interest in exploring something 'more'.
  • Touch.  This can be a strong friendship signal but it is one where you also need to exercise caution, particularly in a work setting.  Studies have shown that even a fleeting touch can have a significant influence on friendships.  Here we are referring to a light and brief touch on the forearm during a brief social encounter.  
  • Inward lean.  People tend to lean their upper body slight toward people that they like and away from those they don't.  Therefore leaning your upper body slightly toward your audience will unconsciously communicate to them that you like them. Given that we tend to like those that like us, this can work in your favor.
  • Head nodding.  We will often nod our head when someone says something we agree with, or when we are looking to be supportive of them. Therefore, a couple of brief nods of the head when first meeting someone will indicate your approval of them and of your interest in what they are saying, both of which make you more likable in turn.
Connecting with others may not be a skill that comes naturally or readily to us, but it is a skill that we can become better at with a little practice.  Take one or two of the behaviours above and try them on for size, playing with them a little at your next networking event and see what the impact is.  As they become more comfortable for you, add in another until you have more friends than you can handle!


Thursday, January 7, 2016

Tip Thursday - Language

Women have a greater tendency to use the word 'Just' in sentences.

"I'm just a..."
"I just had a question..."
"I'm just checking..."

Used in this way 'just' is a way of asking for permission, of minimizing your request or apologising for the interruption.  Eliminate the 'justs' from your communications - both written and oral - to sound more confident and credible.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Be Your Own BFF

Many of us are prone to self criticism.  We have a strong and often strident inner voice that is only too pleased to tell us why we aren't special, how we have messed up, and why people don't like us.

What is interesting to note though, is that we are typically very generous and loving to others.  We are compassionate, giving, caring, supportive and understanding.  Why is it that we find it so difficult to direct that same kindness and love toward ourselves?

The relationship we have with ourselves is, and will always be, our longest standing relationship.  It should therefore be the most important relationship in our lives, one which we dedicate ourselves to perfecting. Instead of just working to brighten others' days... how about working to brighten your own?

We need to learn to practice more Self Compassion.  While Self Esteem (which seems to get the most press) is all about How we SEE ourselves, Self Compassion is about How we TREAT ourselves.  It seems as though there must be an inextricable link between the two, almost a chicken and egg symbiosis where one feeds the other.  However, self-compassion is a typically overlooked component that proves critical to our mental health and perspective.

According to research conducted by Kristin Neff, Ph.D. and Associate Professor in Human Development at the University of Texas, Self-Criticism can lead to not only lower Self Esteem, but Anxiety and Depression. According to Neff, Self Compassion consists of 3 components:

  1. Self Kindness - being understanding and gentle with yourself when you are suffering
  2. Common Humanity - realizing that you are not alone in your struggles, that others too share in the same struggle
  3. Mindfulness - observing life as it truly is, without judgement or critique
If you find that your relationship with - You - could use a little work, that you tend to treat others far better than you treat yourself, then it may be time for you to conduct a little 'relationship overhaul'. 

  • Notice how you`re treating yourself.  Consider how you would treat someone you loved and cared about.  Why would you do less for yourself?  Use this as your model, fostering a relationship with yourself that is guided by how you would treat someone you loved.  
  • Pay attention to your language.  If you wouldn't ever dream of saying something to someone else, of being that critical of others, why would you ever consider saying it to yourself?  Don't use language with yourself (name calling for example) that you wouldn't use with anyone else. Think of what you say to yourself, then consider what it would sound like to say them out loud in front of others.  If it makes you cringe then it is language you need to change.
  • Don't berate your Inner Critic.  Being critical of your critic tends to create an endless loop of behaviour that is challenging to break free of.  Instead of beating your Critic up, thank them for their attempt to help and explain how they are causing you distress.  Spending the time to educate yourself about how the criticism makes you feel, how it is not serving you, opens you to new ways and approaches
  • Develop counter statements.  Give your inner voice a new purpose and job. Think of the most common self criticism that you tend to use and hear, and develop counter statements to each. These become your new descriptors.  Recruiting your critic to your personal cheerleading squad redirects their focus in a way that is more positive for you and far easier than trying to fire them!
When people are mistreating us we always have the option of walking away.  We can let go of the toxic relationship and move on to one that serves us better, that builds us up rather than brings us down.  However, we can't walk away from a relationship with ourselves. There is no escaping it. Therefore, it makes sense to invest time and energy into being our own Best Friend. We need to learn to treat ourselves with love, understanding and compassion.  It is often how we treat ourselves that sets the bar for how others treat us.

Show yourself the respect and love that you deserve and expect. The relationship you have with yourself should not just be your longest relationship, it should be your best. Gift yourself with being the Best Friend you want, need and deserve.   

(for those that would like to explore the concept of Self Compassion even further, you might find value in checking out Kristin Neff's book on Self Compassion.  I have provided the link below for a quick reference)