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May 2007

Making the right choices

Shobana, Aravind and I saw Spiderman 3 couple of weeks back with parents before they left to India. Best line in the movie was the simplest/most obvious: "we always have choice. We can always choose between right and wrong."

This leadership stuff really is pretty simple. Simple, not easy. But the best things in life take some effort/discipline/commitment. And sure, it all seems so obvious. But what's most obvious is often most forgotten.

Bringing out the Best in others

"Everyone has an invisible sign hanging from their neck saying, 'Make me feel important.' Never forget this message when working with people." -- Mary Kay Ash
If practiced, this could be one of the most life-changing pieces of advice. In any relationship, whether it's a spouse, child, client, colleague, or casual acquaintance, the best way to make a lasting impression is to take the time to make others feel genuinely valued.
Here are four tips to help you make others feel more important.                                                          
1. Greet everyone you meet with enthusiasm. Have you ever called someone on the telephone - or met them somewhere -- and they greeted you with such energy and enthusiasm that you felt they must truly adore you? A greeting of ardent and genuine enthusiasm sets the tone for your entire encounter. It's such a simple skill (the hardest part is remembering to do it) but if you CAN remember, it will enliven all of your relationships. This skill can be particularly life-changing when practiced with your children. A simple show of enthusiasm and appreciation when a child walks in the room can have a miraculous
effect on the relationship.
2. Slow down. Take the time in conversation to really listen. While someone is talking, focus on taking in what he or she is saying in words, tone, and body language instead of thinking about what you are going to say next. Relax and listen before responding. As you practice this form of deep listening, work on identifying the other person's needs. Put your own needs aside during the conversation and focus on determining what *they* need today. Imagine that each encounter is like a brief interlude in what may otherwise be a hectic day. Slow down and savor the connection you can make with another person, even in a casual conversation.
3. Work on remembering the details of past conversations and encounters. Ask about the things they confided to you. How did her business presentation go? How is his ailing father? It's often helpful to make little notes to remind you to ask about something or someone the next time you meet. This simple skill shows people that they are important to you.
4. Appreciate the small things that people do for you and never pass up an opportunity to say thank you. It doesn't have to be anything fancy...a few kind words or even a simple note is plenty. Find simple and small ways to show appreciation and caring to those you love. Maybe it's bringing home takeout when your spouse has been home all day with a sick child. Maybe it's making a quick phone call to your mother. As you go through your day, be thinking of how you can take a step toward recognition and appreciation. When you make the people around you feel important, you create a climate of trust and mutual appreciation, which can change your life in ways large and small. Try it today.

The Brick

A young and successful executive was traveling down a neighborhood street, going a bit too fast in his new Jaguar. He was watching for kids darting out from between parked cars and slowed down when he thought he saw something. As his car passed, no children appeared. Instead, a brick smashed into the Jag's side door!

He slammed on the brakes and backed the Jag back to the spot where the brick had been thrown. The angry driver then jumped out of the car, grabbed the nearest kid and pushed him up against a parked car shouting, "What was that all about and who are you? Just what the heck are you doing? That's a new car and that brick you threw is going to cost a lot of money Why did you do it?" The young boy was apologetic. "Please, mister...please, I'm sorry but I didn't know what else to do," He pleaded. "I threw the brick because no one else would stop..."

With tears dripping down his face and off his chin, the youth pointed to a spot just around a parked car. "It's my brother, "he said "He rolled off the curb and fell out of his wheelchair and I can't lift him up."

Now sobbing, the boy asked the stunned executive, "Would you please help me get him back into his wheelchair? He's hurt and he's too heavy for me." Moved beyond words, the driver tried to swallow the rapidly swelling lump in his throat. He hurriedly lifted the handicapped boy back into the wheelchair, then took out a linen handkerchief and dabbed at the fresh scrapes and cuts. A quick look told him everything was going to be okay. "Thank you and may God bless you,"the grateful child told the stranger. Too shook up for words, the man simply watched the boy push his wheelchair-bound brother down the sidewalk toward their home.

It was a long, slow walk back to the Jaguar. The damage was very noticeable, but the driver never bothered to repair the dented sidedoor. He kept the dent there to remind him of this message:

"Don't go through life so fast that someone has to throw a brick at you to get your attention!"

God whispers in our souls and speaks to our hearts. Sometimes when we don't have time to listen, He has tothrow a brick at us. It's our choice to listen or not.

Thought for the Day:

If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it.
If He had a wallet, your photo would be in it.
He sends you flowers every spring.
He sends you a sunrise every morning.

Face it, friend - He is crazy about you!

Self Esteem

If you're tired of feeling "less than", afraid of making and achieving your desires and goals, feel that no matter what you do it is never "good enough", then your self esteem could do with a boost!

Having low self esteem takes an enormous toll on the quality of your life. You take fewer risks, which limits your opportunities, both personally and professionally. You are reluctant to voice or acknowledge your needs. You are probably also haunted by past mistakes and making future ones.

It doesn't have to be like this, the tools you've used to (unconsciously) lower your self esteem are the same ones you use to raise it. The following article gives you ten tips to raise your self esteem and improve the quality of your life!

1. Stop comparing yourself to other people. If you play this game, you're likely to compare yourself in a negative way and set yourself up for continuing to have low self esteem. Why continue to play a game where you've set the rules against yourself, so that you're less likely to win!

2. Don't keep putting yourself down! You can't develop high self esteem if you constantly repeat negative comments about your skills and abilities. Other people will pick up on it and take on board the negative way you view yourself. How are they likely to treat you? Also don't beat yourself up over "mistakes" that you've made - learn how to reframe them so that they work for you.

3. Using affirmations is an excellent way to raise your self esteem. It's the opposite of no 1. If you can program your mind to repeat negative phrases about yourself (and see how effective that's been!), then you can certainly get into the habit of continually thinking (and saying to yourself) positive statements about you. When you do, allow yourself to experience the positive feelings about your statements. Also use inspirational quotes to assist you.

4. Accept all compliments graciously. Don't dismiss or ignore them. When you do you give yourself the message that you do not deserve or are not worthy of praise, which reflects low self esteem. It also means that others will become more reluctant to praise or acknowledge your abilities, if you don't.

5. Take advantage of and use life coaching programs, workshops, books on how to raise your self esteem and develop a more positive attitude. Whatever material you see, read acts as subliminal learning, which means that it will plant itself in your mind and dominate your behavior. Talk about food for thought - what diet is your mind on? Is it a nourishing one?

6. Mix with positive and supportive people. Who you associate with influences your thoughts, actions and behavior - another form of subliminal learning. Negative people can put you and your ideas down and it lowers your self esteem. On the other hand, when you are surrounded by supportive people, you feel better about yourself, which helps to raise your self esteem. Learn how to develop your positive personal support network.

7. Acknowledge your positive qualities and skills Too many people with low self esteem constantly put themselves down (back to no 1 again!) and don't appreciate their many positive attributes. Learn how to truly affirm and value your many excellent qualities. If you find this difficult, ask others to tell you. They'll come up with things you would never have imagined!

8. Stop putting up with stuff! Not voicing or acknowledging your needs means that you are probably tolerating more than you should. Find out what you're putting up with and zap those tolerations. By doing so, you're giving yourself the message that you're worth it.

9. Make positive contributions to others. This doesn't mean that you constantly do for others what they could be doing for themselves. But when you do make a positive contribution to others, you begin to feel more valuable, which increases your sense of your own value and raises your self esteem.

10. Involve yourself in work and activities that you love. So many people with low self esteem stop doing those activities that they most enjoy. Even if you're not in a position to to make immediate changes in your career, you can still devote some of your leisure time to enjoyable hobbies and activities.

and..............................Start taking action! The universe rewards action. Backing away and avoiding challenges means that your self esteem muscles become weak and flabby. When you start to take action - regardless of the outcome - you will start to feel better about yourself, develop your self confidence and raise your self esteem.

Speaking right

If you want to get ahead in life, you have to watch what you say to others. Not just in the showpieces of communication such as a presentation,or in a meeting, but in everyday interaction. These 7 rules can help you become a master of interpersonal relationships.

1. Be Kind. No matter what you say or how you say it, at bottom your communication will always reveal your true thoughts and attitudes. As such, you always have two choices. You can communicate from a standpoint of love or from one of fear. When your communication is laced with sarcasm, blame, threat, anger, anxiety, worry, and control, you are essentially communicating fear. When your communication is laced with respect, appreciation, acceptance, joy, delight, wonder, and acceptance, you are essentially communicating love. If you don’t quite understand the difference, there is an easy way to communicate love not fear: always be kind.

“Words are but pictures of our thoughts.”

-John Dryden 1631 – 1700

2. Be Aware Of Your Effect On Others. We often use language to criticize and attack others. Some people are masters of doing this in disguise; others do it openly. For many, communication is a battle that they have to win and words are their chief weapons of war. Harsh words can cut people deep and leave their scars for days if not years. That’s why the mark of the true communicator is to know what effect their words have on others and to adjust them accordingly.

“Some words are like rays of sunshine, others like barbed arrows, or the bite of a serpent. And if hard words cut so deep, how much pleasure can kind ones give?”

-Sir John Lubbock 1834 – 1913

3. Accentuate The Positive. Really masterful communication doesn’t just depend on getting your message across or even clarifying what someone else is trying to say to you. It goes much deeper. Great communicators leave people feeling better than they did. They said something of value to the other person. Or they appreciated what the other person was saying to them. This happens when the communication isn’t just about the words; it’s about the people.

“There is a subterranean emotional economy that passes amongst all of us. In every interaction, we can make people feel better or worse.”

-Daniel Coleman

4. Don’t assume you’ve been understood. The history of relationships is littered with the history of misunderstood communications. A word gone awry here, a meaning missed there: they all add up to distorting your message and being mis-received.

The story is told of the teacher who handed out a set of worksheets to the pupil at the front of her class with the words, “Please pass these on”. She then turned her attention to the next topic. A few minutes later, she looked up to see the pupil at the back of the room sitting with all the worksheets wondering what to do with them.

As Stephen Covey reminds us, “First, seek to be understood; then understand.”

5. Know when to shut up. If you’ve ever attended a workplace meeting, you’ll know how hard it is to say nothing. Many people attend business meetings with the sole intention of talking, even if it isn’t relevant, even if the point has already been made. Talking is a way to impress. As a result, many meetings waste time and are unproductive. The best communicators are those who are secure enough to admit when they have little to say or little to add. They know when to shut up.

"If A equals success, then the formula is: A = X + Y + Z, where X is work, Y is play and Z is keep your mouth shut."

-Albert Einstein 1879 - 1955

6. Don’t Interrupt. If you’ve ever eavesdropped on a conversation between two people, you’ll probably have noticed that, instead of there being a progression of ideas building one on top of the other, most people talk over one another. It resembles a contest more than a dialogue. It is rare to see people listening with openness and non-judgement until the other person has stopped speaking. And even rarer to hear people asking for clarification and help with understanding. But holding back while you listen to others is the mark of the real communications expert.

“There is no such thing as conversation. It is an illusion. There are intersecting monologues, that’s all.”

-Rebecca West

7. Don’t gossip. Gossip is a particularly pernicious form of communication. It is idle, often indulged in merely to pass the time, and serves no real purpose other than to make ourselves feel better at the expense of others. If you work with others who like to gossip, simply learn the trick of disengagement: don’t reply, don’t be drawn in, and never do it yourself. “Great minds think and talk about ideas. Average minds think and talk about situations. Little minds think and talk about other people.”

Every conversation you have with others is an opportunity to develop a relationship into something special. When you add something of value, you move it on. When you don’t, you move it back. That’s why one of the most important rules of masterful communications is paying attention to what you say.