Tag Archives for " Leadership "

Don’t Hate! Celebrate, Emulate And Congratulate

Here is an interesting characteristic of the human brain, it dwells on negativity. Have you ever received a fantastic compliment along with a small note of feedback and you focused on the feedback? That’s the brain and it seeks out comfort by gravitating toward other negative thinkers. This is why when we see someone achieve a goal we want to achieve our initial gut reaction may be to hate on them. Here’s the twist – every time you hate on someone for having what you want, you program your brain to not achieve that goal. Allow me to illustrate.

Say you want a promotion at work. You see someone else is promoted and you immediately go dark. Why should they be promoted and not you? It doesn’t even matter if that person is in a different function or department. Their promotion doesn’t affect you getting a promotion at all, yet you still hate on them. That’s the brain’s natural default. Here’s the twist, every time you hate on someone for achieving the same thing you want to achieve you program your brain against it. Your brain doesn’t think these things through your mind does. While you may be thinking you want a promotion, by hating on someone else you sent a message to your subconscious brain that you don’t like promotions. You’ve also sent energy out into the Universe that you don’t want a promotion. This is how the law of attraction works and why it is critical to fill your mind with positive thoughts. The next time someone achieves something, don’t hate, you should celebrate, emulate and congratulate. There is a biological reason we should do these four things.

Celebrate

You’re walking down the street and you see two people holding hands and cooing at each other. Deep down inside you really want this for yourself but your initial reaction is to throw up in your mouth a little bit. This is a time to celebrate. I’m not suggesting you run up to the couple and throw confetti all over them. You should mentally celebrate them. In your head say “that’s wonderful and awesome, good for them!”. When you get an email that a friend or co-worker has been promoted do a little fist pump or celebratory dance. You can’t secretly want something for yourself that you hate for others. This is one I work on. There is science to support why it’s important to celebrate the thing you want even when others get it.

The brain has a reward center. When you do something you enjoy you release happy hormones. The act of celebrating, even for someone else, releases dopamine. The brain records that release as a good thing. When you do something you don’t like the brain releases an unhappy hormone. That gets recorded as don’t do that. The brain is a bit of a drug addict. It wants the feel-good hormone. When you celebrate you tell the brain whatever you were just doing or thinking is good. The brain says “let’s do that again”. When you celebrate someone else getting a promotion, the happy hormone is released and the brain says promotions are good. The opposite is true. Don’t feel good about the promotion the brain says, let’s not do that. The brain will make micro decisions, unbeknownst to you, to move you toward what it perceives to be the goal. There are thousands of micro decisions our subconscious makes for us. You want your subconscious aligned with your conscious. A micro decision could be something like going the extra mile on a project or an idea that suddenly pops into your mind. Your brain will make micro decisions to help release the happy hormone. So, celebrate to program your brain to align with what you want.

Emulate

I don’t believe in fake until you make it. I believe in imitation or, preferably, emulation. Imitation is about copying someone blindly while emulation is about doing something similar but modifying to fit your style or situation. Faking it to me means you don’t really believe you can do it or it’s not authentic. If you don’t believe something to be true, how can you make it there? When I see someone is successful at something I may just outright copy them until I get it. A great example is when I was pushing myself to become better at networking. I am an introvert. I realized in business school my more outgoing classmates were able to insert themselves into conversations and practically monopolize recruiters’ time. I had a good friend who was a master networker. In the beginning, I just copied him. I said what he said, or at least what I imagined he would say. I even stood how he stood. As I began to meet people and become more comfortable I switched from imitation to emulation. I adjusted his tactics to my style.

I prefer emulation because you are observing someone else’s gifts and combining them with your own to become even better. Emulation, if done successfully, is reinforced by the release of serotonin and dopamine. Serotonin is a biochemical that is released when we feel people respect us or we have a sense of accomplishment or pride. Dopamine makes us feel good when we’ve accomplished a specific task or goal. Eventually, the constant presence of these feel-good chemicals coursing through our veins will drive us to repeat the behavior and improve upon it as we are rewarded for it. As I got better at networking, I wanted to do it more. As I did it more I refined my method and improved, thus releasing even more serotonin and dopamine as a reward for the behavior.

Congratulate

The best way to program your brain to deliver your success is to congratulate. Speaking the words out loud to the person allows your brain to further embed the message. Additionally, you set your own energy to vibrate at that frequency. You know what else? It’s just a nice thing to do. Who we are today is the sum of the words we spoke yesterday. Not literally yesterday, but in our past. The words we speak have much more of an impact than we realize. That’s why mantras are effective and recommended. It’s a vicious cycle. The thoughts that we convert into words become thought again. The more you think and say something the more you think it and say it. Gandhi is most noted for putting this concept into words but at its core, it’s something that has been known for centuries:

Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.

In other words, haters gonna hate and winners gonna win. By actually giving congratulations to the person whether you speak the words, post them on Facebook or email them, you are programming your brain to deliver the results you want. Yes, even if you feel the person doesn’t deserve whatever they got. Should you congratulate someone who got an “A” in a class and you know for a fact they cheated? Probably not. Because the unintentional message you are giving your brain is that you value shortcuts or a lack of integrity. Your brain may subconsciously find ways to get you what you want that don’t necessarily align with your values. Lastly, when you congratulate someone the biochemical oxytocin is released. Oxytocin is the chemical that binds. It goes by several nicknames such as the hug hormone, the cuddle chemical, or the bliss hormone. This is that warm fuzzy feeling you get when you connect with another human being. When you congratulate someone, even if you’re a little envious, you will still push out oxytocin. The brain perceives that as a reward and will want to do it again.

Don’t Hate

Our brains are drug addicts. Luckily we were designed to be our own suppliers. Even though the human brain naturally dwells on negativity it craves reward. The tricky part is dislike, stress and anxiety also create a reward. We have to be conscious of what we want our brains to focus on. The same reason celebrating, emulating and congratulating work is the same reason eating a pint of ice cream after a bad break up works. The same biochemicals are released. Negative words, emotional eating, etc. can become the reward. Remember, the next time you hear of someone getting a promotion you wanted or similar to the one you wanted don’t hate, celebrate, emulate and congratulate.

 

Tips To Listening Better From A Lifelong Listener

The greatest gift you can give to someone is your time. Giving your time goes beyond simply just being there. What good is your time if you’re not present? A big part of being present involves doing something that people really just don’t do very much. I would say people don’t do it anymore but in my lifetime (which hasn’t been very long), I don’t recall there ever being a great time of listening. The skill of listening has declined over time with the advent of mobile technology. Now it’s difficult to have a conversation with someone without them checking their phone every four minutes. Further, in a world of instant gratification people only listen long enough to sort of hear what you’re saying to think of their response.

I am a listener. I have always been a listener. I rather talk than listen. That may seem odd for someone who aspires to public speaking, but not really. The one thing a listener really wants is to be heard. People like me spend our lives being present in conversations, not picking up our phones, and clarifying what we just heard. Unfortunately, the favor is rarely returned. One of the many things I have observed as a listener is that people are so used to not being listened to that they will just keep talking until you interrupt them. I get this a lot. I’m listening as a person speaks for five, even ten minutes straight without a break. I rarely interrupt. I don’t like interrupting or being interrupted. Since I don’t interrupt, the person will eventually stop speaking and ask why I’m not contributing or saying anything, almost in frustration. To which I reply “I’m listening to you”. There is almost always a look of shock. People often speak so fast or so much in anticipation of being interrupted. But alas, as a listener 90% of the time, I’m going to let you talk.

I have also come to believe that people are largely unaware of the habits that are making others feel unheard. I’m using heard and listen interchangeably here, but I do distinguish between hearing and listening. Hearing is simply the observation of sound. Listening is interpreting the sound (in this case talking), comprehending it, and reacting accordingly. I do sometimes say “I don’t feel heard” to mean the same as listening. Now with that out of the way, here are tips to becoming a better listener from a life long listener.

Put Down The Device

It really isn’t necessary to have the phone in your hand while talking to someone. I typically don’t even bring my phone to meetings. If it’s a meal, I usually leave it in my bag. I know. It’s just a quick glance. But typically that quick glance is right in the middle of someone else’s story. Or what’s quick to you is much longer to them. If you’re expecting an important message, then set the expectation with the person at the beginning. I have attended meetings where every single person is typing on their computers or punching away at their phones. Yes, everyone is busy. But somehow listeners manage to listen to everyone and get their work done too. For one week when you attend a meeting or hang with friends, leave the phone at the desk or in the car. You can’t give someone your time if your nose is buried in a screen.

Resist The Urge To Interrupt – Better Yet, Don’t

The reason I don’t interrupt is because I’m focused on what the person is saying. I do interrupt at times. Sometimes it’s out of excitement, other times the person may have misunderstood a piece of information and needs a course correction. Sometimes I interrupt because I realize the person won’t stop talking until I do or I just want to say what I want to say. The reason you shouldn’t interrupt isn’t simply because it’s rude. You can’t understand what the other person is saying, feeling, or thinking if you’re talking over them. The message you’re unintentionally sending is that what they want to communicate doesn’t matter to you. You have something to say and you’re going to say it. This is also how misunderstandings get started. I have amazing recall for conversations, not because I have an incredible memory, it’s because I’m listening in the first place. For one week don’t interrupt anyone for any reason.

Repeat What They Say

A great technique for active listening is to repeat what the person said to you but in your own words. This lets the other person know you’re listening and solidifies the information in your own mind. A great way to do this is to say “This is what I heard you say…… Is that correct?” I once knew a person who would say they understood what I was saying but then when it was repeated back to me at a later date it was drastically different and damaging. This was completely frustrating because it meant clearly the person wasn’t listening and projected something entirely wrong on to me. For one week repeat back to the person what you heard them say in your own words. If they correct you, say it again until they agree.

Don’t Reinterpret The Message

This can be a tricky one. Some people are very direct. They say what they mean and mean what they say. Others speak in veiled language. There is a time for both. It’s going to take some knowledge of the person, but don’t assume every message is a veiled one. An example of veiled language is to say a house is cozy when it’s small. Here is another example. Once upon a time I was interviewing for a role. I asked the interviewer, who was the VP of something, what his leadership philosophy is. His response was “so what you’re really asking me is what do I do.” It was an interview so I responded with “sure”, but what I really wanted to say was “no”. I asked exactly what I wanted to know and the reinterpretation was so far off. This becomes easier as you get to know a person. You’ll know when they’re using veiled language versus being more direct. For one week just assume that people you don’t know well are saying what they mean, don’t reinterpret it.

Enjoy The Freedom

Allow the conversation to go where it goes, within reason of course. Another aspect of non-listening behavior I’ve observed is the need to keep the conversation rigid. Because the talker is talking and not listening, they want to keep the conversation focused where they want it to be. Have you ever been having a conversation with someone where you apologized for something and they just kept talking about it? They continued to talk about why they were hurt or offended or upset, and completely grazed over the apology that they seem to want so badly? We have all been there. Had the other person been listening the discussion could have been allowed to move in a different direction. One of the reasons I like listening is because, every now and again, the conversation can become so random it’s fun. You get to learn so much about people and it’s cool. It’s also freeing to just sort of go where the conversation takes you. For one week just go with the flow, within reason. I mean, if you’re supposed to be talking about fixing world hunger, you should probably stick with that.

The next time you find the other person in the conversation isn’t talking very much consider two things. One, you may be doing most of the talking and it’s time to listen; and two they are a listener and would really welcome the opportunity to talk if they know they’ll be heard. Encourage them to contribute. By the way, most great leaders are also great listeners.