Don’t let stress lead to bad decisions
It’s hard to think clearly when you’re under stress. Your blood pressure and heart rate rise, adrenaline and cortisol flood your body, and your survival instincts kick in — all of which interfere with decision making. To avoid making bad decisions when you’re stressed, pay careful attention to your physical symptoms. We all have an inner “lookout” that helps us monitor our reactions. Tap into that part of your mind and look for physical sensations or emotions that indicate your stress level is rising: a tightness in your stomach or a feeling of anxiety or panic. By noticing these reactions, you can hold yourself back from acting rashly.
(Adapted from “Manage Your Stress by Monitoring Your Body’s Reactions to It,” by Erica Ariel Fox.)
Don’t ignore nonverbal cues
In an ideal world, your colleagues would give you direct, honest feedback. But if they’re not forthcoming, often you can find out what someone really thinks by watching their nonverbal cues. Learn to read facial expressions and body language to understand how your words and actions are being received. When people look down or avoid eye contact with you, pay attention and graciously point out your observation. You might say, “Tell me how I should interpret your silence,” or “I’m concerned that something I’ve said isn’t sitting well with you. Is that true?” These polite statements and questions invite others to be more open about how they’re reacting to you, which can help deepen trust between you and your colleagues.
(Adapted from “4 Ways to Get Honest, Critical Feedback from Your Employees,” by Ron Carucci.)
Start a mindfulness routine
Sometimes it feels impossible to stay focused at work. Mindfulness can help. Studies have shown that people who have a mindfulness routine are less distractible and better at concentrating. You can develop your own routine by scheduling three 10-minute mindfulness sessions throughout your day. Put everything aside — close your email and the door to your office or a conference room — and bring your full attention to your breath. Don’t try to control it; just sense the full in-breath and the full out-breath. Of course, your mind is likely to wander — that’s normal. Don’t judge yourself for these runaway thoughts. Simply guide your attention back to your breathing and start over with the next breath. It’s the act of returning your focus to the breath that strengthens the brain’s circuitry of concentration — and eventually helps you better control your attention.
(Adapted from “Here’s What Mindfulness Is (and Isn’t) Good For” by Daniel Goleman.)
Give feedback on creative work
Giving feedback is tricky, but especially for creative work, where “good” may be subjective. The next time you have to provide input on a piece of creative work, start by signalling that your opinion is exactly that: an opinion.
— Use first-person pronouns (I, me, and my) and descriptive phrases such as “What I see is…”
— Make clear that your input is meant to outline potential trajectories for the project — not a specific, “right” road for it to take.
— Focus on giving direction, not critiquing.
The discussion should open up space for something new to emerge, something that neither you nor the creator might have anticipated.
(Adapted from “How to Give and Receive Feedback About Creative Work,” by Spencer Harrison.)
Negotiation: ask what you don’t know
Negotiations are won in the preparation. And a key part of preparing is figuring out what relevant information you don’t have. Of course, you need to research your counterpart, their organization and the context, but think about what details might be useful. Make a list of questions to ask your counterpart that, once answered, will help you unlock new solutions and propose a deal that meets everyone’s needs. For example, you might ask about the other deals the person is involved in, their company’s long-term goals, or why the company needs your services. And consider what information your counterpart might want about you. Go into the negotiation with a curiosity mindset. Admitting that the other person has more information than you can be unnerving, but it can also lead to new possibilities.
(Adapted from “The Most Overused Negotiating Tactic Is Threatening to Walk Away,” by Jay A. Hewlin.)
Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, March 19th, 2018