Stop, think, respond

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Ever find yourself reacting to a person, situation, place, rather than responding? I sure do. Some people just push my buttons and get my back up straight away. Sometimes I’m not so good at taking feedback so I’ll jump straight in to protection/blame mode. Sometimes I’ll feel uncomfortable in a space and I’ll just want to run and get the hell out of there regardless of the reason I’m there in the first place.

When I was working in a corporate environment I often had to give performance appraisals. I used to always find it perplexing that people would be so scared of this process and not find it an opportunity to receive praise, learn and plan their own development with the support of a manager. However, when it came to my own appraisal I’d go in feeling confident but as soon as I was provided with constructive criticism I’d get very defensive and try to excuse myself out of whatever issue was brought to light. This was not a good look. It also provided me with no opportunity to listen or learn because I was so focused on my reaction.

I think we often find ourselves reacting to things without thinking about the consequences. We just go straight in to fight or flight response rather than considering the situation with a level head and considering our response to ensure a good outcome. I had a client the other day talk about how whenever her partner raises a particular topic she just goes straight in to protection mode, becoming defensive and trying to push him away. Clearly the result of this type of reaction will not lead to a sensible considered discussion. It does not provide the other party with an opportunity to really explain and express themselves and it just makes us uptight and angry when perhaps the alternative is not so bad.

My experience in life and business has really shown me that if we can take a step back, identify our feelings and respond appropriately then we can build better relationships, display our emotional intelligence and show others that there are better ways to handle ‘potential’ conflict. I say potential because really if we just react we will find that an agreed outcome is difficult to achieve. If we learn to gain awareness around our reactions and start responding to what happens then there is a far less likely chance of conflict.

So now when I’m provided with feedback I try to take a different approach. I allow the person to finish what they are saying; I hear them out and try to understand things from their perspective. This gives me all the information I need to know and I can then respond appropriately. This isn’t to say that sometimes we don’t need to protect ourselves but by allowing the time to assess and process we remove the urge to try to control and direct things in our own favour. This provides an opportunity for learning as well as connecting with the other person involved. It shows respect to everyone and allows ideas to evolve harmoniously and at the right pace.

If you want more information on how Make Hay coaching can help you gain greater awareness and learn to manage your emotions then check out my website http://www.makehay.com.au.

Gross National Happiness

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I went to an incredibly inspiring conference last week. The conference was about ‘Happiness and What Makes a Good Life’ and featured many acclaimed speakers, psychologists, musicians and humanitarians. I was moved and motivated by just about everyone but the highlight for me was Matthieu Ricard, a Buddhist monk and author of Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill.

Matthieu talked about cultivating altruism as a path to happiness. He explained how altruism and compassion are a win/win for happiness and wellbeing and how selfish happiness doesn’t work. In fact selfish happiness is really just another form of narcissism. He discussed research, which has shown that increased consumption leads to a reduction in one’s number of friends and one’s own happiness.

Matthieu focused on the idea of Gross National Happiness (GNH) and how currently many governments only focus on Gross Domestic Product (GDP). He talked about the three states for GNH, which include not only improved economical wealth but also improved social and environmental health. Unfortunately the latter two are seen as bad for the economy by many and therefore the focus remains on GDP while our other obligations as humans are left to the caring few who try passionately to ensure equality and support for those less fortunate as well as the future of our planet.

Given the timing of this message and the recent Australian budget I could not help but reflect on how poorly our, and many other countries, fare in the goal of social and environmental wealth. I wonder what good it does to purely focus on financial stability when people are left in poor health, bad housing situations and few opportunities for a good education. How can these people make a difference in the world if they are not provided with the opportunity to learn and grow and share their ideas?

Further, what good will this strong economy be if in fact our planet is dying around us. How can there be a future for anyone if we don’t take action to ensure the safety of all species, not just our own.

Most people I know have empathy for others who are less fortunate but Matthieu made an interesting comment based on his research, which shows that empathy without altruism leads to burnout. This suggests that just by feeling sorry for others, little will change and we will eventually stop caring so much. To me this just means that more of us need to do more to help. We need to put aside our individualistic attitudes and think about our connection to others and the world around us.

We all know how good it feels to help others and do the right thing and often we put our own needs aside to show care for those we love. Unfortunately though this may not be enough. We need to extend this altruism to the wider community and to future generations. I heard many of the conference speakers tell stories of what they, as individuals, had done to make a difference. People such as Jane Goodall and the amazing Anna Rose, these ladies made me realise that if they had been able to make such a difference through their own passion and hard work then imagine what amazing changes could be made if more of us took a stand and fought for what is socially and environmentally right.

So I’ve started thinking about ways in which my actions and choices can impact the future in a positive way. I’m going to be smarter in my purchasing decisions, I’m going to consider where my food comes from how it got to me and encourage others to do the same. I’m going to continue to focus on how I can help others and fight for those less fortunate. Whilst this latest budget does not bare a great impact on me I know it creates a greater imbalance in society and even though I don’t have my own children I’m going to ensure that my actions, the choices I make and the words that I use contribute to a better future for all.