How to Have More Meaningful Conversations

In business and in pleasure, conversations are our roadmaps through the day. They are how we share information, feelings, and ideas, and the nature of our conversations dictates the all-important relationships between ourselves and those around us.

It’s no wonder that conversing can be pretty energy-consuming. And we can all be guilty of avoiding eye contact with others for fear of being drawn into a draining conversation from which we think we will take no value. Yet a conversation is never about one person: you get out of it what you put in, and a more important question to ask yourself before getting stuck in is not so much ‘what can I get from this conversation’ as ‘what can I bring?’

Making that conversation worthwhile for all involved begins with committing to it wholeheartedly. Putting your visual attention elsewhere – let’s face it, we’re talking about phones and computer screens here – literally diminishes your brain’s capacity to deal with the words that you hear. And that’s before we even get into the importance of demonstrating your respect for the person you’re talking with (or at least their right to be listened to!). Keep eye contact, repeat difficult concepts back to make sure you understand properly, and you will find the other person remains more engaged with you and your ideas, too.

After all, there is an important distinction between just hearing, and actually listening to someone. It’s not the easiest thing in the world to mute your inner voice while conversing, especially if it’s a heated chat and you have mental rebuttals just queuing up to be voiced. Deliberately process both the logic and the emotion behind what the other person is saying, though, and you should find a greater level of empathy arises between the two of you, improving the chances of a mutually agreeable outcome.

Watch out not just for what you say, but what you don’t say, to engender empathy. Giving unsolicited advice, for example, is likely to cause the other person to shut down on you – whether you’re offering it for their benefit or for your own! A better approach if you intuit that they could do with guidance or fresh ideas is to ask questions and get the situation out in the air, helping them to see the lay of the land more clearly and opening up opportunities to work towards successful resolutions.

Stories are another way to provide guidance or wisdom without coming across like a know-it-all. Folk remember stories far better than they can recall statistics – it’s just the way our brains are wired – and meaningful narrative will engage each of you on both an intellectual and an emotional level. A good story tends to revolve around conflict, and a good connection between the characters involved and the themes of the anecdote. Just remember one thing: always tell the short version.

Social topics can also help to open things up and create a bond between talkers. Too much work talk gets everyone down, while sharing or discovering something unexpected about each other’s outside interests and opinions is an excellent way to broaden a relationship and increase the options for future encounters and solutions. Be wary how much you talk about yourself, but if there’s a topic that you’re passionate about then that passion should come across even if you stray away from your own experiences and ask questions about the other person’s feelings on the subject.

Now you’ve figured out how to have deeper, more impactful conversations, just be wary of overdoing it. Not everyone is up for a deep conversation every time or all the time. People are busy both in their outward tasks and in their inner minds, and there’s nothing like a carefully judged silence to let people relax and process the events of the day. In particular, it’s been shown that an unfavourable balance between lots of small talk and less regular, deeper conversations can impact upon an individual’s reported levels of happiness.

This new infographic lays out the top principles for excellent conversations in a straightforward way, and it’s worth checking in on from time to time to tune-up your chit-chat game – making the experience of spending time with others more fulfilling for yourself and those around you.

John is a digital nomad specialising in leadership, digital media and personal growth topics, his passions include world cinema and biscuits. A native Englishman, he is always on the move, but can most commonly be spotted in the UK, Norway, and the Balkans.

Image: Unsplash

How to achieve your goals by improving your self-discipline

Breakfast is not just the most important meal of the day, but also the most important meeting you’ll have: a chance to check in with yourself, remember what it’s all about, and strengthen your resolve to succeed. Success in business means not just managing your assets, your network, and your office, but above all: managing yourself. Ambition and hard work are a good start, but without rhythm and regularity it is easy to lose your flow, and wind up stranded from your original vision.

Simply put, in business there is no sustainability without self-discipline. If you are concerned that your dwindling energy levels are compromising your ability to fulfill your potential, that you are hiding from responsibilities that require regular attention, or that you’re giving in too frequently to distractions, it is time to take a serious look at your levels of self-control.

Fortunately, there are a number of techniques for doing so, many of which have been suggested or verified by experts. These can be as simple as hiding temptation from your sight or avoiding distractions. If you find yourself reaching for your smart phone every two minutes when you know you should be concentrating on your spreadsheets, hide it. Put it in a drawer or, better still, out back in your locker. Tests have shown this works with kids and candy – and what is that smart phone if not candy for your bored eyes?

Then there are more grown-up, professional methods you can try. We all become jaded with our ambitions from time to time. We forget why we got into the game in the first place, or are dragged down by the sensation that our competitors are achieving more with less. Giving in to these feelings will just make things worse. Instead, highlight the positive values that drive your daily work. Make a list of the reasons it’s important for you to stay strong and fulfill your responsibilities. And visualize the end results: not just how they will affect you, but the benefits they will have for other people. These techniques have been shown to strengthen the user’s willpower.

It can also be a question of lifestyle. Poor sleep invariably leads to poor self-discipline. This is not just a matter of fatigue-induced laziness: sleep deprivation actually affects the way your prefrontal cortex operates. That’s the part of the brain responsible for self-regulation, so it’s worth making sure it’s in top working order when it’s online! Another lifestyle factor is the company you keep. You need two kinds of friends (and hopefully they overlap a bit). The first kind is the type that exercise their own self-control in an exemplary manner. Hanging out with well-disciplined people makes you better disciplined. (Probably your mother told you that when you were hanging out with wrong’uns as a child!) The second type of buddy you need is someone who’s prepared to look out for you. Having friends or family members that give you regular reminders to stick to your good intentions can be really effective.

All the same, it’s important to make sure that you’re not chasing somebody else’s dream. It has been shown in studies that our willpower soon runs low if we’re trying to please others instead of focusing on our own desires. If you’re not sure whether this is you, return to our first method: make that list of personal values. If they don’t match the goal for which you’re aiming, maybe you’re honing your discipline towards the wrong goal.

Now that you have a pretty good idea on how to pursue your self-discipline workout regime, one last tip: start with a bang. Don’t try to segue softly into your new mode of operation, but choose instead a specific start point and call it Day Zero. Research has shown that setting a date to start your new regimen can actually make you more likely to see it through.

For a step-by-step plan on how to integrate these ideas and more into your self-discipline campaign, have a run through this new visual guide. Self-discipline is not just a trait you are born with or without: it is a skill you can build on and practice on your rise to the top.

G. John Cole is a digital nomad and freelance writer. Specialising in leadership, digital media and personal growth, his passions include world cinema and biscuits. A native Englishman, he is always on the move, but can most commonly be spotted in Norway, the UK and the Balkans.

Image: Flickr

Celebrate, Motivate, Get Passionate

Three ideas for the new year.

1. Plan a Celebration

It is common at the turn of a new year to set “resolutions” for things you want to do, change, or achieve in your life.

The problem with new year’s resolutions is that, if they had been really important to you, you would have set them earlier without needing the new year as a prompt.

Achieving goals is more important than writing wish lists.

Instead of making a resolution, make a plan for a celebration you plan to have after your goal is achieved.

As Tom Peters has said, “celebrate what you want to see more of.”

2. Motivate Others

Zig Ziglar once said “people often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”

It can sometimes be hard to find motivation because working towards a meaningful long term goal requires short term effort. Delayed gratification is not easy.

One way to increase your motivation is to try and motivate your family, friends and colleagues. Some of your positive energy will rub off on you.

A second reason to motivate others is that there is a limit to what you can achieve by yourself. In the long run, your success will be limited unless you can motivate and inspire other people to work with you and for you.

3. Get Passionate About A New Idea

Life is a wonderful journey.

Find a new idea, person or project to be passionate about, and set aside some time for your new passion each week.

There is no limit to what you can learn. However, for many people (especially if you are in the corporate world) their job requires them to carry out routine tasks which sap their energy or bore them half to death.

“The mind is not a vessel that needs filling, but wood that needs igniting.” (Plutarch)

Find something new to get excited about.

How to make yourself work when you’re not feeling it

This is a guest post from John Cole.

Being boss doesn’t mean you get to demand results – it means creating the conditions for those results to be achieved. If you’re running your own business and are responsible for a team, you’ve probably cast a judgmental eye over some of the trendy quirks and gimmicks that your contemporaries in some of the better-known start-ups have applied to their workspaces. Yet, these environments became famous because the businesses are successful. The management at Google, Vimeo et al. recognize that staff motivation is a complex beast. No matter how devoted your employees might be, there are certain mental and physical limits that affect us all.

At this time of year, when serotonin is scarce, it’s more important than ever to ensure that your team’s work environment is conducive to sustained motivation. Perhaps you already have some reward system in place for when projects are completed, but have you considered the idea of daily rewards – before work is begun? A morning morale-booster, be it a box of donuts, a shared video or song can actually provide a dopamine hit for your staff, so that they plunge into work all the more motivated.

When you’re done with the donut solution, you can also attack from the other direction: exercise! If you have team members who like to hit the gym in the morning, do what you can to facilitate it: allow them a bit of extra time to get to work, or even consider making a deal with the local gym to get memberships as a job perk. It’s not because you want a team of buff jocks, but because exercise in the morning can actually improve motivation to work. As long as they don’t overdo things, getting the blood pumping is a good idea. This is also why you should ensure your team have regular breaks, and do what you can to help them be active on these breaks. We’re back in quirky work environment territory here: think about making a small, private space for quick bursts of activity, for example with a ping-pong table or exercise bikes.

Getting results from your team requires the use of your imagination, but it also requires engaging with the basics of how we work as human beings. Check out this infographic which covers some great motivation tricks for individuals – they’ll work for you, and with some of that innovative thinking that got you where you are today, you can use them to motivate the whole office.

John Cole is a digital nomad and freelance writer. Specialising in leadership, digital media and personal growth, his passions include world cinema and biscuits. A native Englishman, he is always on the move, but can most commonly be spotted in Norway, the UK and the Balkans.

5 Strategies To Create Workplace Happiness

5-strategies-that-create-workplace-happiness

This is a guest post from Riya Sander.

Creating a happy workplace can make it easier to retain your workers, allowing you to avoid the costs related to employee turnover. It can also increase the morale of those who stay, which may lead to higher productivity and a greater likelihood that your people take ownership of their work.

If happy workers are more loyal and productive workers, then worker happiness will have a direct impact on the profitability of your business.

What are some steps that you can take to ensure that your people are happy at work?

1. Emphasize Employee Wellness in the Workplace

If you want to keep your people happy, you will need to keep them healthy. Emphasizing health and wellness in the workplace ensures that employees don’t come to work sluggish, sick or injured.

Ways that you can improve worker health include providing an on-site gym, an on-site urgent care center or allowing workers to take time out of their day for a short walk. As a general rule, a brisk walk to reduce stress is a much more healthy and effective way to keep energy levels up compared with common alternatives like a cup of coffee or energy drink to perk up in the middle of the afternoon.

2. Ask Employees for Their Input

Conducting an employee happiness survey will allow you to learn more about what your people like and what they wish they could change about their jobs. For instance, you may discover that they don’t mind working 12 hours a day so long as they have the flexibility to choose when and where they work. By asking your people for this type of input, you can craft a schedule or create other working conditions that best meet the needs of the company and those who work for it.

ask-employees-for-their-input

3. Provide Office Cleaning Services

Employees may have a hard time keeping their mind free from clutter if the office is a mess. Therefore, it may be in your company’s best interests to hire an office cleaning service that can vacuum the floors, take out the trash and get rid of dust and other irritants in the air. In addition to helping your employees get more done, they may be healthier for it in the long run.

Hiring an office cleaning service may be a good idea even if employees share a communal working space. In fact, it may be even more important if employees share one work space since you don’t want insects or rodents running around or germs being spread between people who are working in close proximity to each other.

4. Provide Financial Incentives for a Job Well Done

You should give your workers as much incentive to do a good job as possible. For those who go above and beyond what is expected of them, you might want to compensate them for their efforts. Providing workers with a bonus for doing a good job with a client or for adding a new account will show your people that their efforts are recognized and valued. You may also want to give employees stock options or an equity stake in the company if it makes sense to do so.

5. Give Your Employees a Chance to Step Up

Employees generally don’t want to feel stuck in the same position for their entire careers. If an employee doesn’t think that they have a chance to make the most of their talents with your organization, they may look elsewhere. This is generally true even if the person enjoys working for your business. Therefore, it may be worth implementing a training program to help workers develop their skills and communicate their desire to expand their role. This will allow you to identify your potential future leaders, which will make it easier to promote from within and to replace your top managers when they eventually leave.

Your employees deserve to have a rewarding and fulfilling work experience. If you can provide them with the right incentives and encouragement, then your business will find it easier to attract and retain a large pool of talented, loyal and productive employees. This is just what you need to keep your business thriving for years to come.

Riya Sander is a reader and Australia-based writer. As a freelancer, Riya understands the importance of productivity at work. She never stops finding new ways to increase her productivity. Follow her on Twitter.

(Image Source: Pexels 1 and Pexels 2)

Hope

Hope

“Hope is like a path in the countryside: originally there was no path, but once people begin to pass, a way appears.” ~  Lu Xun, Chinese author

(Image Source: Flickr)

The Gift of Giving

The Gift of Giving

Merry Christmas to you, dear reader!

This is a special time of year when people give gifts and send messages of happiness, peace and good will to family and friends.

Christmas is a unique and valuable tradition because the practice of gift giving reminds us what life is all about.

As social animals, our identity, survival and prosperity depends on being part of groups. And by giving gifts at Christmas to the people we care about we help to build the social bonds and positive relationships which give meaning and value to our lives.

This is a positive idea that we can reflect on throughout the year.

May you have a happy and prosperous year ahead!

(Image Source: Flickr)

The Perpetual Motivation Machine

The Perpetual Motivation MachineMotivation is about being in the moment, and being fully present; in that state, deciding what you want and then taking steps towards it tend to happen naturally.

How often do you hear of a baby that failed to learn to walk?

The strange thing about motivation though is that it can often feel illusive. Why is this the case?

To understand where things may have gone wrong, let’s start at the beginning.

The education system is valuable in many ways but it is also designed to provide students with the illusion of progress.

Students are almost always advanced to the next level even if they have failed to grasp basic concepts (this rarely happens in the workforce or in start-ups or in life).

Students are also forced to study a broad range of subjects, even ones which they find boring, difficult and pointless (people who tend to excel in later life usually pick activities that they find easy, interesting, and useful).

In short, one of the key lessons that the school system teaches young people is that they should persevere in the face of boredom.

And having learnt that lesson, many of us continue to do so for the rest of our lives.

Evidence of this fact is that there is an entire industry dedicated to helping people stay motivated.

Famous motivational speaker Zig Ziglar once said that “people often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”

This is good advice in that it is helpful for people who find themselves trapped in difficult, boring or meaningless jobs. And if this is the case for you, then following Zig’s advice is probably a very good idea for the time being.

The problem with Zig’s advice though is that lack of motivation is probably a symptom of an underlying problem.

Society and our families often place subtle or direct pressure on us to shoot for the high paid or prestigious job options, even if these are not the ones which are the best fit with our interests and aptitudes.

People often talk about “selling out”, and what I think they mean by this phrase is that when we allow ourselves to accept more money or more prestige for a job which we don’t enjoy, aren’t good at, or which has little positive impact on the community, then we have sold ourselves drastically short.

Selling out costs us our time, and with it the freedom to create and produce things that we can really put ourselves into.

It can also sap our motivation, making future success just that little bit more illusive and harder to achieve.

We now live in a world where it is possible to connect and collaborate with more people more easily than ever before; all you need to find is the motivation to do so.

What are you waiting for?

Go, hurry, we need you.

(Image source: Flickr)