Listening Tips and Traps: How do you rate?

big earsHave you ever noticed how GOOD it feels to be really listened to? It’s impactful, particularly when the listening goes beyond just the words you’re speaking. That kind of artful listening conveys respect and value to the speaker, and promotes positive relationships of all kinds.

And, like any art, it takes practice.

According to widely referenced statistics by Dr. Albert Mehrabian, known for his pioneering work in nonverbal communication, only 7% of communication happens through a person’s actual words (38% through tone and 55% through body language). That’s why it’s important to hone our skills to listen at deeper levels.

A good place to start is by understanding the three listening levels described in the book Co-Active Coaching, by Laura Whitworth, Henry Kimsey-House and Phil Sandahl.

Listening Levels
Level 1Internal: We hear the other person’s words, but our focus is on what it means to us—our thoughts, feelings, judgments and conclusions. We may also be concerned with what the other person thinks of us. This level is useful for checking in with our feelings or to make decisions.

Level 2Laser-Focused: Our attention is focused like a laser beam on the other person, with little awareness of anything else. With such strong focus, we are curious, open and have little time to pay attention to our own feelings or worry about how we are being received. Mind chatter disappears with such a sharp focus.

Level 3Global: Our attention is spread out like an antenna with a 360-degree range. It allows us to pick up emotions, energy, body language and the environment itself. Intuition heightens as we tune into the deeper layers of what is going on around us.

All three levels are necessary. However, when we spend too much time in self-focused Level 1 listening, our communication can seriously suffer. Engaging all three levels at once, with more emphasis on Levels 2 and 3, can improve how we listen—and the impact of how we are received.

Listening Blocks
Having spent more than 20 years training business people in listening skills, Richard Anstruther and his team of communication experts at HighGain, Inc., have identified five main listening blocks:

Tune Out—Listeners are not paying attention to the speaker due to disinterest in the speaker or subject, thinking about other things or multitasking.

Detach—Listeners are emotionally detached from the speaker, concerned with content only, not the feelings behind it. They may be only half listening, not really interacting, and miss the message’s underlying meaning.

Rehearse—Listeners are concentrating on what to say or do next, rather than focusing on the speaker’s message.

Judge—Listeners have a different opinion that causes them to block out new ideas and information or lose track of the conversation. They analyze and interpret the speaker’s delivery or message, missing the point. They criticize, give advice and make assumptions.
 
Control—Listeners don’t allow the speaker to talk at his or her own pace. They constantly interrupt with comments or questions, and don’t allow the speaker to finish a point.

Try This!
Below are a few suggestions for honing your listening skills. Enjoy!

1. Experiment with Levels 1, 2 and 3 listening, one at a time, to fully understand the dynamics at each level. Try this in everyday conversation, or practice with someone. Take turns telling a story and listening. The results may surprise you!

2. Spend some time noticing how often you fall into tuning out, detaching, rehearsing, judging or controlling. What can you do to keep from falling into these common traps?

3. In your everyday conversations, or in an intentional practice session with a partner, explore each listening block, one at a time. Notice how you feel and the impact on the person with whom you are communicating.

The first step to developing artful listening is to choose to truly listen. As you continue to develop your listening skills, your communications and your relationships are likely to become increasingly satisfying and rich!

Author’s content used under license, © 2008 Claire Communications
 

Procrastination—Everyone Talks About It, but Nobody Does Anything

procrastinationImagine the space this article fills as blank.
Imagine the time and energy it might have taken someone who procrastinates to: 1) think about doing the article, 2) put it on a list of “to dos,” 3) talk about doing it, 4) promise himself he will start it tomorrow, 5) promise himself he will definitely start it tomorrow, 6) promise…well, you get the point.
As the deadline for the article draws near (it’s midnight the night before the article is due), imagine the stress the writer must feel as he brews a pot of coffee and sets himself up for a couple of hours to research the topic, organize the information, create an outline, come up with a dynamite opening line, write the article, rewrite the article, rewrite it again, print it out and rewrite it one more time. And, of course, the whole time he’s beating himself up for waiting so long to start and telling himself he’s no good at this job anyway and the article will be a bust.
This is procrastination in full, weedy flower. Delay. Broken promises and unfulfilled expectations. Feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. Worry. Fear. Stress. Overwork and probably not as good an end product as the writer would have produced if he’d tackled the job in a timely, reasonable, professional manner.
Procrastination isn’t good for anyone, anytime. So why do so many do it? Not just around such matters as filing income tax and completing holiday shopping, but with everyday tasks such as cleaning off the desk or straightening up the garage or starting a project at work.
The more difficult, inconvenient or scary the task is perceived to be, the more procrastinators procrastinate. They come up with semi-convincing self-talk that makes the delay appear reasonable, but in the end it’s a self-defeating behavior that causes all sorts of problems, not the least of which is stress.
Following are a few remedies to overcome procrastination:
 
1. Set goals. Decide what you want and what needs to happen to get it. Be specific. Create a realistic timetable.
 
2. Commit. Make a contract with yourself. Tell a friend or co-worker or family member your plan. Ask for help when you need it.
 
3. Set priorities. Make a list of things that need to be done in order of their importance.
 
4. Get organized. Have the right tools and equipment to do the job. Make lists. Keep a schedule.
 
5. Think small. Don’t let the whole of the project overwhelm you. Stay in the present and do what you are doing.
 
6. Break tasks into parts. The “Swiss cheese” approach to getting any major project completed is to break it apart and work on one piece at a time. Reward yourself when you complete one step.
 
7. Use positive self-talk.
 
8. Replace excuses with rational, realistic thinking.
 
9. Realize there is no such thing as perfection. Begin the thing knowing it can never be done perfectly. You’ll do your best. You always do.
 
10. Reward yourself. Often and generously for accomplishing the smallest of tasks. Celebrate. Pat yourself on the back. Enjoy your accomplishment.
Like many other self-defeating behaviors, procrastination can be overcome. The place to begin is where you are.
The time to start is now.
Author’s content used  under license, © 2008 Claire Communications

Play to Your Strengths

strengthHow often have you invested in a personal growth training to try to improve something you felt you were not good at? Perhaps it was writing, marketing, trusting your intuition or public speaking. For most of us, trying to improve our weak areas in operating a business or improving people skills comes with the territory. Whatever the area, we feel as if we are required to do battle with what we don’t do well.
As it turns out, the majority of people around the world feel this way. In their groundbreaking book Now, Discover Your Strengths, authors Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton say that across all ages and cultures, people are more concerned about their weaknesses than their strengths. We believe that our weaknesses matter more in holding us back than our strengths matter in advancing us.
That’s nonsense, say the authors—widely held nonsense, but nonsense nonetheless. In their provocative theory, they suggest that the better strategy is to play to your strengths, building upon your core talents, and work around your weaknesses. You can work to add skills and knowledge to increase your performance in any area, but unless you are building upon one of your innate talents, your efforts won’t produce exceptional results—some results, yes, but not dramatic improvement.
“Unless you have the necessary talent, your improvements will be modest,” write Buckingham and Clifton. “You will be diverting most of your energy toward damage control and very little toward real development.”

The expression “damage control” is their term for trying to minimize your weaknesses—the areas where your lack of talent actually get in the way of your performance.

“Managing Around” a Weakness

Instead of trying to overcome your weaknesses by brute force—and at the expense of putting the same energy into growing your strengths—they offer five strategies for what they call “managing around” a weakness: (Note: most of these strategies are written in business terms, but for those of you not in a business-setting, they are still great, as they can easily be applied to all areas of life)

Get a little better at it. In some cases, your weakness is only moderately impeding your peak performance in other areas. If so, then maybe damage control is the right solution.

Develop a support system. This is the proverbial string tied around the finger to remind you of something. Whether it is time management systems for those with a talent for adaptability but not discipline, or a scheduled walk in the park for disciplined folks who neglect self-care, you can often blunt the effects of your weaknesses through such structured inputs.

Study your prospects. In business, if your skills tend toward the analytical and away from such talents as wooing clients or dealing directly with confrontation, then you probably ought not be spending a lot of time in sales. But when you do have to sell something—such as one of your ideas—approach the problem analytically. Rather than agonize over your lack of salesmanship, study your prospects, dig into what makes them tick and what ideas they’ve accepted in the past, and let your enthusiasm for your ideas do the talking.

Find a partner. This may be the best approach for small business people and “solo” practitioners. Go into partnership discussions with a clear-eyed understanding of the strengths you bring, and the strengths you need from your partner. Don’t be shy about your strengths—the whole point of this is to create a world in which you get to do what you are really good at. And be open-minded about what a partnership looks like. For some solo practitioners, an administrative assistant or a marketing consultant could be all the partnering you need.

Just (Don’t) Do It. The last option, say Buckingham and Clifton, is just don’t do the things you are weak at. In a corporate setting you might get away with this, particularly if you are a high-performer in the areas of your strengths. If you’re a small business owner and your organizational chart tends to have “me” written in most every box, not doing something may not seem like much of a choice. But keep it as a goal and continue to work toward the day when you can contribute to your business exclusively from the place of your highest strengths.

Author’s content used under license, © 2008 Claire Communications

Raising Compassionate Kids

compassionate kidsHow to raise kids who are kind and considerate is a hot topic these days. With so much bullying happening in the world, both in schools and via the Internet, it seems more important than ever to raise kids who can be thoughtful and empathetic towards other people.

Children have an inborn capacity for compassion. Although you can take steps to raise a compassionate child who is kind to others yet strong enough to stand up to hurtful words and actions when necessary, the most important thing to remember is that children may listen to what we say, but they model themselves on how we behave. This means that if you practice and demonstrate compassion (with yourself, your child and the other people in your world), your child is very likely to emulate that behavior.

Here are some ideas to help you integrate compassion into your everyday life in ways that you can share with your child:

Volunteer. Show your child that all people deserve kindness by serving together at a soup kitchen or volunteering with Habitat for Humanity. Let your child choose a volunteer activity that builds on interests they already have (for instance, the Humane Society if they love animals or reading aloud to the blind if they love to read).

Get a pet or a small plot of dirt to cultivate. When a child is invested in the care of another living thing, they learn about nurturing themselves and others and are less likely to engage in bullying. And most pets and plants require time outdoors, so you’ll both get a good dose of fresh air!

Practice listening. Darcia Narvaez, a writer for Psychology Today, says: “…if you are treated with empathy, you will treat others the same way.” When your child is hurting, instead of responses like “keep your chin up” or “boys don’t cry,” invite your child to share his or her feelings. Particularly with younger children, hug them to provide soothing reassurance that it’s okay to experience and express feelings of distress. When they feel loved and fully heard, it will be easier for them to listen to others with an open and compassionate heart.

Limit time with violent video games and television shows. Numerous studies have shown that media violence promotes aggression and desensitizes kids to the consequences of violent behavior.

Travel to a foreign country or a neighborhood very different from your own. Traveling to a place where people have a different culture, language and music shows a child that differences can be both interesting and fun!

Activities that promote compassion mean you’ll be bonding with your child in ways you can both feel good about. In addition, activities like volunteering or growing a garden serve another purpose—they remind both of you that you have something valuable to offer the world. Your child’s growing self-respect can help turn the tide of bullying and the devastating effect that this has on children’s lives.

Think it’s too late for teens and young adults? Think again. It may not be as easy to get their attention away from the things going on in their busy lives, but keep trying. Maybe start with yourself and set the example. When they see how much fun and joy you are getting from it, they may just decide to join you!


And of course, if you are a grandparent, you have eager and willing participants in your grandchildren.

 

It’s never too late to be a positive influence in the lives of your children (and grandchildren).

 
Author’s content used  under license, © 2008 Claire Communications

Give Your Relationship a Tune-Up

car loveBuy a car and you get a wonderful machine, ready to go for thousands of miles and, likely, many years. You also get a hefty owner’s manual with operating instructions and lots of written reminders for yearly check-ups and tune-ups. Chances are you’ll have several years of warranty, and of course, if something is seriously wrong, you can take it back.

Find a partner—and you’re on your own. There is no owner’s manual. No operating instructions, warranty or guarantees for the road ahead.

“Think about it: the requirements for a driver’s license are tenfold the requirements for a marriage license,” writes Phil McGraw, Ph.D., in his book Relationship Rescue. He adds, “The very society that has taught you that it is good and right and natural to share your life with another person…never bothered to teach you how to do that.”

Most of us can do without a car if need be, but few of us want to do without love. Within most of us there is a basic human longing for connection and relationships with others. For many, the backdrop of a loving, committed relationship gives us the space to learn about ourselves and grow deeper as we age.

Like cars, relationships need maintaining and regular tune-ups. But because they don’t come with operating instructions, below is a simple maintenance guide to help you keep your love relationship strong, healthy and on the road for years.

Know What Kind of Driver You Are

Recent research has shown several things strengthen a marriage and other long-term partnerships: communication, honesty and spending time together. Just as important is knowing yourself and what you bring to a relationship. When you connect with yourself, and work on those challenging parts of yourself, you create a stronger and better partner for someone else. That isn’t just true in the first flush of falling in love, it’s true for the many years that follow. “Being intimate with ourselves is the necessary foundation for being intimate with others,” writes John Amodeo in Being Intimate: A Guide to Successful Relationships.

It’s Not Always the Other Driver’s Fault

Taking responsibility for your feelings and actions is one of the greatest gifts you can bring to a relationship. You know that “other guy” who’s the worst driver on the road? That just might be you. Own up to what’s yours, and be clear with your partner about what you’re feeling or needing. Try not to make your problems their fault.

Watch the Warning Lights

Cars give us little signs that something is wrong—perhaps the wheels are out of alignment or the oil light goes on. Our partners or spouses also send little warning signs that something is not quite right, and it’s better to deal with the problems in the early stages, so that everything is in good working order when real crisis hits. After all, when another car pulls out in front of you, that’s not the time to wonder if you had the brakes checked.

A Wash and Wax Doesn’t Hurt

Are you a road hog? An impatient and irritable driver? Do you refuse to let someone into line during traffic or lean too heavily on your horn? Try a little tenderness. Sometimes we treat people we don’t know a lot better than the ones we’ve lived with for years, and we forget simple courtesies: a loving tone, a touch, a word of appreciation.

Accept the Little Dents and Scratches

Even the “perfect” car turns out to have quirks and challenges. So do our partners—those “perfect” people we fell in love with once upon a time. Before you get angry, decide which issues are worth pursuing, and let the rest go.

Bless This Car

How many of us are grateful for this metal conglomeration of thousands of parts that somehow work together to take us to where we want to go? The same goes for our love relationships. Stop, turn off the ignition and take a moment to be grateful for your spouse or partner and the love you both share.

Get Help Before the Engine Fails

Like a car, you can fix many of the small problems in a relationship by yourself. But sometimes that ominous clanking under the hood is a signal that something is seriously wrong and a quick fix won’t work. That’s when it’s time to find a “relationship mechanic”—that is, a counselor or therapist—who will help you diagnose what’s wrong, and guide you on getting your relationship back on the road.

A relationship with another human being is so much more complex than owning a car. So, too, is the work required to keep a long-term relationship vibrant, passionate and strong. In the end, maintaining something that enriches us is surely worth the investment.

I’d love to hear ways that you have kept your relationship “engine” running. Share your thoughts with me below!

 

Author’s content used  under license, © 2008 Claire Communications

The Road to Forgiveness is a Journey Toward Freedom

journey2“If unresolved anger is a toxin to the spirit, forgiveness is the antidote,” wrote Brian Luke Seaward in his book, Stand Like Mountain, Flow Like Water: Reflections on Stress and Human Spirituality.

When people get hurt, they often react with resentment, anger, rage, even hatred. While some of these feelings may be appropriate responses, holding on to them can cause emotional pain and stress. Nurturing old wounds and resentments is like tending weeds in a garden. The more care you give them, the more they take over until there’s no room for the feelings that can nourish you.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean condoning inappropriate behavior and excusing personal violations. It doesn’t mean giving up or hiding or denying what was done. To forgive someone of something doesn’t necessarily mean turning the other cheek so that you can be hurt again. To forgive doesn’t mean you forget that you were harmed. Or that you felt the way you did as a result.

What it does mean is letting go of the feelings of anger or resentment, so that you can get on with your life. Forgiving is a process—sometimes slow—that heals wounds and returns our power to us. So long as we hold onto old feelings, we give control of our lives over to those who have hurt us. Forgiveness sets us free.

Ways to Forgive

It’s not as though you can simply decide to forgive someone and it is done. Forgiving is an active process. To get from here to there is a journey to be traveled. But you don’t have to take it alone. Don’t be afraid to ask for help along the way.

• Acknowledge all the feelings. Though anger and resentment might be on top, beneath may lie feelings of hurt, betrayal, loss and grief. Uncovering these more tender emotions may be painful, but, like curves in the road, it is part of the journey to be traveled.

• Stop blaming. So long as you hold someone else responsible for your feelings or circumstances, you don’t own your own life. You stop blaming by accepting total responsibility for your life.

• Release the desire for revenge. The wish to inflict suffering or pain on the person who hurt us keeps us in a place of suffering and pain. We cannot experience the freedom of forgiveness until we are willing to move away from the need to punish.

• Learn to accept. It’s virtually impossible to stop judging; however, the fewer negative judgments we make, the easier it is to accept. And, according to author Wayne Dyer, “Acceptance is forgiveness in action.” Think of how useless negative judgments are: does it affect the weather because we say it’s awful? Imagine complaining to God about the quality of a sunset. Judgments say very little about the judged, but communicate lots about the one who is doing the judging.

• Decide to confront or not. Talking with the person who has harmed you may or may not be the best action to take. Professional counseling can help you in making this decision.

• Let go. Only through releasing all feelings of anger, resentment, or animosity can forgiveness be unconditional. “Sweet forgiveness cannot hold any taste of bitterness,” says Brian Luke Seaward. “When feelings of anger are released, the spirit once held captive by the encumbrance of anger is free to journey again.”

Self-forgiveness

Forgiveness is not just an outward expression toward others. Turning the open hand of forgiveness inward is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves. When we forgive ourselves we acknowledge our human limitations, release ourselves from our own judgments and practice self-acceptance. These actions are essential for a life of freedom and joy.

Through action or inaction, out of fear, pain or confusion, we may harm ourselves or others. But when we say, “I’ll never forgive myself,” we sentence ourselves to a life of guilt and shame.

Practice self-forgiveness through:

  • accepting yourself rather than judging yourself
  • honoring yourself rather than blaming yourself
  • nurturing yourself rather than criticizing yourself
  • releasing the past rather than holding onto it

Forgiveness, even self-forgiveness cannot be forced. And it may not come easily. Like many other skills we must learn, self-forgiveness takes practice. If you are unable to immediately release the past and move on, be forgiving of yourself and continue the practice.

I’d love to hear your thoughts! Share below…

13 Things I’ve Learned Running a Successful Energy Healing Business

CalfCreekDCI love August, because I have 2 anniversaries!

Today is my 34th Wedding Anniversary – woot, woot!

Wow, that is so weird!  I look at my hubby, “Dean the dream” (the nickname my Australian students gave him for his awesomely helpful assistance in the classroom) and it feels strange that we’ve been together that long and that so many years have passed so quickly!

During those years we’ve raised (and are still) 5 kids ranging in age from 31 down to 14.  They are the loves of our life, and all very different, yet they get along
fabulously.  

This past year we’ve added a daughter-in-law AND a son-in-law to our family AND next month we will be adding one more daughter-in-law – Yay!  We adore them all, and I consider myself very blessed to call these 9 amazing people my family!

The other anniversary I celebrate this month is my work anniversary. Thirteen years ago I started my first website and have been loving the online entrepreneur life ever since!  During these past 13 years, I have stretched, and grown and learned so very much!  

So in thinking back over the years, I’d like to share with you….(drum roll please…)

13 Things I’ve learned running a successful Energy Healing business


1. Everybody has a story. Really listen with your ears AND your heart

2. Set and maintain healthy boundaries: with clients AND with work hours.

3. Being confident in what you do helps others believe in it, even if it’s all new to them.

4. Be willing to look at situations from different angles. Inspiration can come from
random interactions –be open minded to what you see, hear, and feel.

5. Stay true to your values. Everyone has a different definition of success, take time early on to determine what it means for you and stick to it.

6. Believe in your abilities and get a great support system who believes in you too–spouse, family, friends, your team, mastermind group-any or all of these work, but don’t try to go it alone.

7. Taking time off is not a luxury it’s a necessity. It is very productive to charge your
batteries. Most often answers and insights come when you give your mind a break from
working.

8. You must find your own balance between moving with the trends and avoiding BSOS
(bright shiny object syndrome). I admit, I still have to watch myself on this one!

9. Outsourcing is your friend. Know where you shine and hire others for the places you
don’t. When hiring someone to do work for you, be super clear on what you want and
when you need it.

10. Accept Change –believe you are always being led to something better. Several years
ago I had to change my company name (not my choice). Although it took me many
months to come up with it, the new name has served me much better!

11. New level, new devil. Trust your gut and be bold! As my friend’s husband, a successful entrepreneur says, “Owning your own business is basically just making decisions continually every day”. Yep, get used to it, and know the “new devil” will show up-at least until you are bold enough to push past him.

12. Don’t accept every invitation – for interviews, networking events, speaking gigs, etc.
Make sure the invitation is not a distraction, but that it’s really in alignment with who you
are and what your brand is. Saying no to one thing is also saying yes to something else.

13. And lastly, in all areas of life and business, a little kindness goes a long way!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on my blog…what valuable lessons have YOU learned in business and in life? Share with us below!

The Power of Intention

important“Conscious change is brought about by the two qualities inherent in consciousness: attention and intention,” writes Deepak Chopra in Seven Spiritual Laws of Success. “Attention energizes, and intention transforms. Whatever you put your attention on will grow stronger in your life…. Intention, on the other hand, triggers transformation of energy and information. Intention organizes its own fulfillment.”

When you declare an intention, you gain the support of your subconscious mind.
 
Here are some suggestions for how to work with intentions in order to bring what you need into your life.

  • Get clear on what you want and why. It’s not enough to know what you don’t want. You can’t get what you want until you know what that is. Steven Covey in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, writes that all things are created twice. “There’s a mental or first creation, and a physical or second creation to all things.”
  • Imagine it. See it as happening. “Your imagination creates the inner picture that allows you to participate in the act of creation,” writes Dr. Wayne Dyer in his best-selling book The Power of Intention. “Your willpower is much less effective than your imagination, which is your link to the power of intention.”
  • Keep yourself receptive. Exercise, eat healthily, play and relax. Stress, exhaustion, anxiety, etc., become “static” that interferes with the “frequencies” of what you’re wanting to bring into your life.
  • Take action. Intention isn’t about sitting back and waiting for it all to come to you. For example, Victoria enrolled herself in a rehab program; Travis became involved with a social organization and took relationship classes to overcome his fear of dating; Doug began working with a therapist to examine the feelings of emptiness that led to his suicide attempt. When we commit to a thing by taking action, it’s often surprising how quickly our intentions are realized.   
  • Surrender control. This means to let go and trust. Let go of the particular way in which things will happen. Let go of fear, doubt, worry and disappointment. Let go of the notion of struggle. Trust that the outcome will be just right.

 

What do you think? Have you experienced the power of intention? Please share with us!

Your intuition plays a key role in strengthening your ability to use intention in powerful ways. Join me for this month’s Group Call – Developing Your Intuition!