Ten Ways to Strengthen Your Reading Habit

 

Most people wish they read more.

It is an activity that is both fun and enlightening. It can help us be more knowledgeable and successful. However, it is an activity that many people don't engage in very much. According to the 1999 National Household Education Survey, 50% of the U.S. population aged 25 and over read a newspaper at least once a week, read one or more magazines regularly, and had read a book in the past 6 months.

What does this mean?

It means that 50% of the population hasn't read a book in the last six months!

Looking at the other end of the spectrum, research shows that if you read ten books a year, you are in the top few percent of all people as readers. Simply stated, it doesn't take much to be well read, but we do need to know how to get started. The following are ten suggestions to help you strengthen your reading habit - ways to find and make more time for reading.

1. Always have a book around. Don't go anywhere without reading material. Keep magazines or short stories in your bathroom. Always have something in your briefcase to read. Keep a book(s) by your bed. Having things available makes it easier for you to steal otherwise lost moments.

2. Set a reading goal. Determine how much time you want to spend reading, or how many books you want to read over time. Your goal might be a book a month, one per week, or it might be to read 30 minutes a day. Start out with something attainable but still a stretch. As your habit builds, you might set higher goals. Setting a goal is the first step towards reading more.

3. Keep a log. Keep a list of the books you have read, or keep track of how much time you read each day. You might keep these lists in your journal or your day planner. My son's log is on our refrigerator. My list and log are kept on my computer. It doesn't matter where you keep it, just do it.

4. Keep a list. Make a list of things you want to read in the future. Ask your friends and colleagues what they are reading. Watch for recommendations in the newspaper and magazines. Once you start looking for good books, you'll find them everywhere. This is a great way to keep your enthusiasm up. By knowing what great stuff you want to read, you will reinforce your reading habit.

5. Turn off the television. Many people say they just don't have enough time. Television is one of our major time consumers. Make your television watching more conscious and less habitual. There is nothing wrong with watching television shows you really enjoy. Where the time gets lost is turning it on, and scanning to find "something to watch." Those are the times to turn it off and pick up your book!

6. Listen when you can't read. Use your commute and other time spent in the car to listen! There are great audio versions of all sorts of books. Whether you want to "read" fiction, the latest self-help or diet book, it is probably available on tape. Don't get locked into the idea that you have to read it - listening to the book still gives you the experience, ideas, and imagination that reading a book can.

7. Join a reading group or book club. Reading groups typically meet once a month to discuss a book they have all decided to read. Committing to the group provides a bit more impetus to finish the book, and gives you a great forum for discussion and socialization around the book's themes.

8. Visit the library or bookstore often. You have your list, right? So you'll have some ideas of what you are looking for when you walk in. But there is more to be gained by walking through places where books reside than just to make a transaction. Take time to browse! Let your eyes find things of interest. Let serendipity happen. Browsing will feed your mental need to read, and give you plenty of new things to read.

9. Build your own strategy. Decide when reading fits your schedule. Some people read first thing in the morning, some before bed. Some decide to read as they eat their lunch. And there is more to your strategy than just timing. Make your own decisions about reading. It is OK to be reading more than one book at once. It is OK to stop reading something before you finish if it isn't holding your interest. It is OK to skim the book, getting what you want or need, without reading every page. Determine what works best for you, develop your own beliefs and ideas--then make them work for you.

10. Drop Everything and Read. My son's fourth grade class has DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) time. When the teacher calls for it, that's just what they do. They read now. That is my last piece of advice for you. Do it. Just get started. Make it DEAR time. Now.

 

©All Rights Reserved, Kevin Eikenberry. Kevin publishes Unleash Your Potential, a free weekly ezine designed to provide ideas, tools, techniques and inspiration to enhance your professional skills. Go to http://www.kevineikenberry.com/uypw/current.asp to read the current issue and subscribe. Kevin is also President of The Kevin Eikenberry Group, a learning consulting company that helps Clients reach their potential through a variety of training, consulting and speaking services. You may contact Kevin at toll free 888.LEARNER.  Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

7 tips for leaving the office earlier

 

1. Stop participating in the cultural rules. Commit to getting out the door on time. Who decided that you should work until 7:00 p.m.? How much is the time "you're devoting because you're a salaried employee and obligated to do what it takes to get the job done" worth?

2. Start meetings before 4:00 p.m. If you have some say or control regarding meeting times, schedule them to end by 4:30. Preferably, start meetings right after lunch. Block out your calendar beginning at 4:00 every day so people can't schedule with you. And don't ask people to begin projects at 4:45 PM. Respect their right to a life, too.

3. Be assertive. Don't be afraid to tell others, "I leave work at 5:00, on time, every day. I have a 5:30 commitment I must adhere to." It's none of their business that your commitment is with yourself or your family. People tend to support others when their goals are made public.

4. Schedule fixed office hours. If you have an assistant, block off certain hours a few days a week to accept appointments. Perhaps Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, you take appointments from 9:00 to 10:30 and 2:00 to 3:30. This way you don't have interruptions overlapping the time you're trying to leave the office.

5. Make preparations to leave. Gather up your coat and put it in a visible spot so others can see you're on your way out. Close your door a few minutes before quitting time so people will think you're busy or already gone. Whatever they want, it can wait until tomorrow.

6. Challenge your assumptions. Long hours aren't "the way it is." To reduce the time pressure you feel, decide to reclaim your day, not by working longer, but to finish your work within the workday. Don't focus on "catching up." You will never catch up. There will always be more things to do than time to do them. By being more productive during the day, you'll get the same amount of work done and leave earlier.

7. Start small. Pick a single day, perhaps Thursdays, to be "the" day you leave work on time. To support this decision, you will automatically begin to be more productive on Thursdays and work your day more carefully. Keep working on productivity skills and adding more days, until you're working your 40-hour workweek again and accomplishing even better results.

..................................................................

Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, is president of The Productivity Pro, Inc., an international consulting firm specializing in productivity improvement in high-stress industries and is the media's go-to expert on personal productivity and workplace issues. Laura is the author of the bestselling book Leave the Office Earlier (Broadway Books). She has appeared on many top news media outlets including CNN, NBC-TV, NPR, Bloomberg, the New York Times, and numerous leading magazines. Laura presents keynotes and seminars on surviving information overload, managing multiple priorities, reducing stress, and balancing work and family. (C) Copyright Laura Stack, MBA, CSP. All rights reserved.

Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

Three Steps to Better Writing

Do you hate to write? Does it take you a long time to get the words on the page? Usually when people struggle to write, it’s because they are trying to edit as they go along. There is an easier way to write and be more creative!

 

Step 1 - Write

It’s hard to be creative if you’re editing at the same time. When you begin your writing project don’t think about word choices or punctuation. Just write. Don’t read your work. Just write. It will be difficult at first because you will be tempted to make changes. Resist the temptation! Just write. You’ll find that thoughts and ideas start flowing once you stop editing. When you’ve finished writing put it away for a couple of days. When you take it out, become the editor and start making your changes.

Step 2 - Edit

Read through your work, then mark the parts you want to change or revise. Focus in on the paragraphs, sentences and words that need revision. Get more specific with each round of edits. Read the piece again, then focus in on specific passages, sentences, paragraphs that you want to shape up. When you’re finished, read the entire piece again.

Now would be a good time to use the spell checker. However, don’t depend on it to catch all of the errors. If you write “your” and you really meant “you’re” the spell checker won’t catch it. It’s not a misspelled word. Unless your spell checker points out commonly confused words, it won’t find the problem.




Step 3 - Listen

Satisfied with your changes? Read your work out loud so that you’ll be more likely to catch missing words, incorrect tenses or repetitive phrases. It will also allow you to catch places where perhaps a word can be changed to a more appropriate one, or a sentence can be reworked so that it flows better. Make additional revisions and read it again.

If time permits, put your work away for another day or two. Give yourself some distance from the work, so when you read it again you’ll be less likely to be filling in words or meanings that aren’t there. You’ll be able to see it as though you were reading it for the first time. If possible have someone else read it and give you feedback. Perhaps another “pair of eyes” will find that a thought or concept isn’t coming across as you intended.

You know what you want to say, but that doesn’t mean that your readers will get it. Having someone else read the work will give you another perspective. In fact, it would be better to have a few people read it, especially if your work will be presented to a large audience. Take the feedback and determine what makes sense and what doesn’t. For instance, if the majority of your feedback mentions a specific issue, pay attention.

Allow yourself to write whatever comes to mind without editing. Let your ideas flow and you’ll see how easy it is to get your words on the page.

Autor Deborah A. Bailey, Writing Services Central, LLC
Deborah A. Bailey is a professional writer and owner of Writing Services Central, LLC. Her company provides expert writing and editing services to entrepreneurs. Subscribe to the free monthly ezine for writing and editing tips and articles at http://www.writingservicescentral.com

Effective Listening: Listen Up: Remove the Barriers; Hear the Words…

The second in a four-part series on effective listening.
By Kellie Fowler

In the last issue of the Mind Tools newsletter, we discussed something that some might believe to be obvious: That listening well is one of life's great challenges.

We saw how important it is possess and project a true desire to hear the messages that other people are sending us, to listen carefully, and to take the time to clearly reiterate the message before walking away. And we saw the importance of active listening, rather than the combative or passive approaches to listening which lie behind much failed communication.

Sure, this may sound like hard work, but remember that listening, really listening with our whole being, is a skill and one of the most important compliments we can give another human being.

To do this, you should know that there are different levels of communication. Now, you should also know that the different types of interaction or the levels of communication might also contribute to the level of difficulty or misunderstanding, or impede the true hearing of any message.

Three different types or levels of communication are:

  1. Facts
  2. Thoughts/Beliefs
  3. Feelings/Emotions

As listeners, we tend to “tune-in” to the level we think is most important. However, we may have no idea what the speaker thinks is most important, and this can create misperceptions or crossed wires, which yield the most undesirable results.

Sure, the purpose of the conversation and even the relationship you have with the speaker will influence what levels are used for the interaction. Even so, these will still vary. To best understand this, consider the differences in these verbal communications:

  • You are lost and ask a gas station attendant for directions.
  • Your spouse or loved one is being affectionate and playful.
  • Your boss is reprimanding you for a costly mistake you made.
  • Your child falls down and is injured and comes running to you hurting and crying for your help.

Considering these, it is easier to see that if you do not hear and address the appropriate elements of the communication, the situation can quickly worsen: A factual response to your child’s pain would seem cold and uncaring. And a belief-oriented response to the gas station attendant would probably be seen as peculiar!

Thus, it is important to consider all that goes into the message you are hearing, as well as the words themselves.

While seemingly elementary, there are quick and easy steps you can take to ensure that you hear the words, factor in the situation and even consider the sender’s motivation and desirable outcome. These include:

  • First and foremost, stop talking! It is difficult to listen and speak at the same time.
  • Put the other person at ease. Give them space and time and "permission" to speak their piece. How we look at them, how we stand or sit, makes a huge difference: Relax, and let them relax as well.
  • Show the other person that you want to hear them. Look at them. Nod when you can agree, ask them to explain further if you don't understand. Listen to understand them and their words, rather than just for your turn.
  • Remove distractions. Good listening means being willing to turn off the TV, close a door, stop returning emails or reading your mail. Give the speaker your full attention, and let them know they are getting your full attention.
  • Empathize with the other person. Especially if they are telling you something personal or painful, or something you intensely disagree with, take a moment to stand in their shoes, to look at the situation from their point of view.
  • Be patient. Some people take longer to find the right word, to make a point or clarify an issue. Give the speaker time to get it all out before you jump in with your reply.
  • Watch your own emotions. If what they are saying creates an emotional response in you, be extra careful to listen carefully, with attention to the intent and full meaning of their words. When we are angry, frightened or upset, we often miss critical parts of what is being said to us.
  • Be very slow to disagree, criticize or argue. Even if you disagree, let them have their point of view. If you respond in a way that makes the other person defensive, even if you "win" the argument, you may lose something far more valuable!
  • Ask lots of questions. Ask the speaker to clarify, to say more, give an example, or explain further. It will help them speak more precisely and it will help you hear and understand them more accurately.
  • STOP TALKING! This is both the first and the last point, because all other tools depend on it. Nature gave us two ears and only one tongue, which is a gentle hint that we should listen twice as much as we talk.

Becoming an effective listener is not a lengthy or particularly challenging process. Even poor listening habits can be easily changed and in the final two articles in this four-part series on listening, we provide proven tips and techniques that you can use to become a more effective listener. More in our next issue!

Reproduced from the Mind Tools Newsletter.  ã http://www.mindtools.com  To subscribe to the newsletter, send a blank email to: join-mindtools@atomic.sparklist.com.

 

Kaizen: The Process of Continuous Improvement In The Workplace

Without Kaizen

  • No structure to the improvement process; few set procedures
  • Goals are not defined or are vague/difficult to measure
  • Changes are made to processes infrequently; little reflection on their effectiveness
  • No plan exists for improvement; improvement is haphazard

With Kaizen

  • Consistent, ongoing process of improvement takes place
  • Improvement process has clearly defined, measurable goals
  • Constant review of successes occurs and the improvement process itself is evaluated
  • Consistency of the process leads to new, higher goals

Find out more about Kaisen and how you and your organisation can benefit from implementation

with this comprehensive resource from our Pivotal Network member, Creative Safety Supply.    ...  Kaizen Training and Research Page -  CSS Research and Training Center

Setting Goals

Pivotal Network – Guide: How to access the deep web and darknet

Put simply, the deep web is all of the information stored online that isn’t indexed by search engines.

You don’t need any special tools to access the deep web; you just need to know where to look.

Specialized search engines, directories, and wikis can help users locate the data they’re looking for.

Google only indexes a tiny fraction of the internet. By some estimates, the web contains 500 times more content than what Google returns in search results. The links that Google and other search engines return when you type in a query is known as the “surface web,” while all the other, non-searchable content is referred to as the “deep web” or “invisible web”.

Most of that information is hidden simply because the vast majority of users won’t find it relevant. Much of it is tucked away in databases that Google is either not interested or barred from crawling. A lot of it is old and outdated. The contents of iPhone apps, the files in your Dropbox account, academic journals, court records, and private social media profiles are all examples of data that aren’t necessarily indexed by Google but still exist on the internet.

Deep web vs darknet

The deep web is often confused with darknet, also called dark web, black web, and black net. Put simply, the deep web is all of the information stored online that isn’t indexed by search engines. You don’t need any special tools to access the deep web; you just need to know where to look. Specialized search engines, directories, and wikis can help users locate the data they’re looking for.

Many of the best general deep web search engines have shut down or been acquired, like Alltheweb and CompletePlanet. Still, a few are hanging around to get you started:

...  from out Pivotal Network member, Comparitech  ...   read more>>>  Guide: How to access the deep web and darknet

 

We also listed this resource on our Pivotal Kids site:

 

Managers Who Listen Achieve Sustainable Results

We’ve all read those statistics that reveal the number of employees who leave their jobs due to management. A recent study of 7,200 employees found that 50% of them left a job because of their manager. These statistics have a negative effect on talent retention and just spikes attrition. But what if those statistics can be used to boost managerial performance instead? Managers who actively prioritize time to listen to their employees have the opportunity to boost business in a number of ways.

Employees Are Empowered to Feel Like A Valuable Part of the Team

Companies who have support from their employees have a better chance of reaching their goals. In the case of Xerox, the company even managed a dramatic turnaround thanks to the efforts of its CEO. This and other success stories all have a common thread - employees are part of the decision-making process.

  • Employees who buy into the plan will welcome change - one of the toughest situations businesses face is change management. There are a number of reasons employees feel ill at ease with change and these include: a lack of understanding, inability to see how it affects the bigger picture, and a shortage of skills or staff to manage current tasks. Those who are part of the journey from the ground up will respond better to change.

  • Employees are better able to motivate their peers - It’s easy to assume that motivation is only needed at a managerial level. Real motivation filters through to other staff members, who will have a positive effect on their colleagues. This promotes teamwork and better facilitation of projects.

  • Employees will feel like they’re part of something special - One of the biggest reasons employees hate their jobs is the feeling that they’re not valuable collaborators.

How To Knuckle Down and Listen to Employees

Managers often avoid listening to an employee because they assume it will involve a cup of coffee and they then proceed to tell their whole life’s tale. However, this is not the case. When employees speak, it’s important for managers to listen with the intention of understanding their situation.

Managers need to be aware that listening to someone is about giving them more than just a platform to speak. They also need to know that their input is valuable. This means that they can’t share the floor or compete with other people or devices. This is about fostering good relationships overall. Managers can take a queue from their personal relationships in this regard. If it doesn’t work at home it also won’t work at the office. These include:

  • Using an electronic device, replying to messages, scheduling appointments, etc. while an employee has the floor.

  • Don’t take it personally. The employee is merely conveying things that are important to them. If they’re being disrespectful or disruptive, rather call them aside and deal with them personally than in front of the group.

  • Use the opportunity to grow. Nothing spells leader more than the ability to take criticism without getting offended.

Fostering good - yet professional - relationships with staff will involve learning a bit more about them as people. Remember the things that are important to them in order to build a relationship of trust. After all, Sir Richard Branson once said “If you look after your staff, they’ll look after your customers. It’s that simple.”

 

From contributor, Jackie

On Writing Well : The Classic Guide

A beloved classic, this definitive volume on the art of nonfiction writing celebrates its 30th anniversary. Revised seven times, it has stood the test of time and remains a valued resource for writers.

On writing well

On Writing Well has been praised for its sound advice, its clarity and the warmth of its style. It is a book for everybody who wants to learn how to write or who needs to do some writing to get through the day, as almost everybody does in the age of e-mail and the Internet.

Whether you want to write about people or places, science and technology, business, sports, the arts or about yourself in the increasingly popular memoir genre, On Writing Well offers you fundamental principles as well as the insights of a distinguished writer and teacher. With more than a million copies sole, this volume has stood the test of time and remains a valuable resource for writers and would-be writers.

 

About the Author

William Zinsser is a writer, editor and teacher. He has been a mentor for countless people who want to write with clarity and confidence.

William began his career on the New York Herald Tribune and has since written regularly for leading magazines. During the 1970s he was master of Branford College at Yale. His 17 books, ranging from baseball to music to American travel, include the influential Writing to Learn and Writing About Your Life. He teaches at the New School in New York.

RRP: AU$ 21.55


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10 Steps to Effective Communication

At the root of any successful leader is a strong ability to communicate. Sure, there have been leaders who have ascended into the highest positions and not had that skill, but they likely didn't last long. This point was illustrated recently as I listened to a NPR program about the failure of the big banks on Wall Street. When Congress grilled executives from these institutions about why they didn't catch the risky investments that were being made that ultimately failed, their answers were all the same and quite simple - we didn't know. It was their job to know and either nobody told them or they didn't catch it in the data they had access to. No flags were raised; nobody asked so nobody told. This is definitely a communication meltdown that had widespread negative consequences.

What is communication?

Communication in life is the pinnacle of every successful - and not so successful - relationship. According to Webster's dictionary, communication is defined as a process of transferring information from one entity to another. Communication processes are sign-mediated interactions between at least two agents, which share a repertoire of signs, and semiotic rules. Communication is commonly defined as "the imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions, or information by speech, writing, or signs". Although there is such a thing as one-way communication, communication can be perceived better as a two-way process in which there is an exchange and progression of thoughts, feelings or ideas (energy) towards a mutually accepted goal or direction (information).

Why is communication important?

Often times, we have a message which we want to communicate or we want the receiver of message to understand our message in the same sense as we convey it. Take for example a company's need to raise the cost of health insurance. Often times, this is conveyed through a written document to the employees at open enrollment time. The employee's reaction is usually anger towards the company for making them pay more money for health coverage. The miss here is that the company is not sharing as much information as they should to help the employee understand how the raising cost of health insurance coverage affects the company and their contribution too. A company should give the employee a total compensation statement at that time so all employees can see how much the company invests in him/her as individuals. Giving each employee a clear, individualized picture and then telling the employee the cost is raising would change the way the message is received. There may still be anger, but it will be focused on the right culprit of raising costs, which are the insurance and medical companies and not the employer. Effective communication helps in that the message is enable to achieve its goals and helps in receiving the desired response from the reader of the message. Effective communication helps organizations in keeping good relationships with their customers and employees; forwarding information effectively helps in avoiding any dispute that can arise because of a misunderstanding.

Related article:  Conflict: Constructive or Destructive?

The 4 Types of Communication.

I used to work with someone who I refer to as a "chit-chatter." He'd walk the halls every day knocking on doors and say, "do you have a minute?' An hour and a half later he'd still be sitting there rambling. I learned very quickly that my body language could help deter this activity without me having to be rude or disengaging. When Mr. Chatter would show up at my door and say, "do you have a minute?" He'd start to walk in the door before I would answer and I would throw my hand up in the "stop" mode. I would say, "actually, I'm in the middle of something right now, can I get you on my calendar for later today?" His answer was always, "Oh. No, I just came by to say hello." That one gesture changed the whole dynamic of the conversation. There are 4 types of communication that are present in our lives: verbal, non-verbal, written and visual.

Verbal Communication: Verbal communication includes sounds, words, language and speaking. Language is said to have originated from sounds and gestures. There are many languages spoken in the world. The bases of language formation are: gender, class, profession, geographical area, age group and other social elements. Speaking is an effective way of communicating and is again classified into two types viz. interpersonal communication and public speaking. Good verbal communication is an inseparable part of business communication. In a business, you come across people from various ages, cultures and races. Fluent verbal communication is essential to deal with people in business meetings. Also, in business communication self-confidence plays a vital role which when clubbed with fluent communication skills can lead to success. Public speaking is another verbal communication in which you have to address a group of people. Preparing for an effective speech before you start is important. In public speaking, the speech must be prepared according to the type of audience you are going to face. The content of your your speech should be authentic and you must have enough information on the topic you have chosen for public speaking. All the main points in your speech must be highlighted and these points should be delivered in the correct order. There are many public speaking techniques and these techniques must be practiced for an effective speech.

Non-Verbal Communication: Non-verbal communication involves physical ways of communication, like, tone of the voice, touch, smell and body motion. Creative and aesthetic non-verbal communication includes singing, music, dancing and sculpturing. Symbols and sign language are also included in non-verbal communication. Body language is a non-verbal way of communication. Body posture and physical contact convey a lot of information. Body posture matters a lot when you are communicating verbally to someone. Folded arms and crossed legs are some of the signals conveyed by a body posture. Physical contact, like, shaking hands, pushing, patting and touching expresses the feeling of intimacy. Facial expressions, gestures and eye contact are all different ways of communication. Reading facial expressions can help you know a person better.




Written Communication: Written communication is writing the words which you want to communicate. Good written communication is essential for business purposes. Written communication is practiced in many different languages. E-mails, reports, articles and memos are some of the ways of using written communication in business. The written communication can be edited and amended many times before it is communicated to the second party to whom the communication is intended. This is one of the main advantages of using writing as the major means of communication in business activity. Written communication is used not only in business but also for informal communication purposes. Mobile SMS is an example of informal written communication.

Visual communication: The last type of communication out of the four types of communication, is the visual communication. Visual communication is visual display of information, like, topography, photography, signs, symbols and designs. Television and video clips are the electronic form of visual communication.

What is Your Communication Style?

I come from a family where being direct is considered combative. To me, honesty is the best policy and the only way to be honest is to be direct. Of course that ends up causing conflict between myself, my mother and my siblings because they would rather agree with the person to their face then disagree behind the scenes. My style is direct and their style is harmonious (with a bit of passive aggressiveness in my opinion, but that's a blog for another time!) I have adjusted my style to reduce the conflict and I have learned to get my point across without ruffling anyone's feathers. Does it always work? No, but it has reduced my stress and those around me. It is critically important to know your style of communication and recognize the style of others so that you can learn to be flexible in your message without compromising it and drastically reduce the possibility of miscommunication. I found an interesting article that had some critically important information relative to communication style: The 21 most important words in the English language:

The two most important words:

Thank You

The three most important words:

All is forgiven

The four most important words:

What is your opinion

The Five most important words:

You did a good job

The six most important words:

I want to understand you better

The least important word:

I"

Related Article:  Top-Ten Email Management Tips

The Power of Listening:

There is nothing that will derail effective communication quicker than one of the parties not really listening to the other. This recently happened to a client with the financial aid office of the University of Michigan, where his child attends school. Every single person that he have dealt with in that office since his child first attended there in 2009 had been short, curt and robotic in conveying the Federal guidelines for student aid. Clearly, there is a budget they adhere to and there is no going outside the box, which is a total disconnect for him as the recipient of financial aid when he attended the Western Michigan University years ago. HIs perception was that the financial aid office exists to help student find a way to fund their education when they don't have money out of pocket to cover the entire cost. The University of Michigan's Financial Aid Office employees make it clear through their words and non-verbal communication that their mission is to limit the amount of funds that go to each student to meet some secret budget goal. He tried on several occasions to explain this to the head of the department and each time she twisted it around and blamed him for misunderstanding the counselors, or not following their guidelines, or taking what was said out of context. Not once did she acknowledge that she heard what my client was saying or that she would try and help him find financial resources to help him cover the $26,000 annual cost of school. His child asked, "How can I find more money to go to school?" The counselor responded, "By getting married, having a baby, joining the military or your parents dying." He said, "None of those are a remote possibility, to which he responded, "Well maybe you should have chosen a school that was more affordable to you." His child worked hard to get accepted to U of M and he worked hard to save enough money for him to go there. The counselor was actually conveying the Federal guidelines of student aid to him, but it was the way he conveyed it that was totally inappropriate. When my client brought it to the attention of the department director, she was very defensive and blamed the entire issue on me in that he wasn't accepting that these were the guidelines. That wasn't the point, but rather there is a right way and a wrong way to say, no, which is exactly what they were telling his son in terms of getting more aid. The last exchange my client had with the department head, she said, "Please accept my apologies for any response you feel was inappropriate." My client didn't feel the responses were inappropriate, they were. He totally understands the Federal guidelines, and she repeatedly and robotically recited them to him over and over and over again, missing the point. Putting the blame back on my client and his son clearly showed she never listened what I was trying to say and my client wasn't heard. That's an unfortunate gap between a parent and a major function at a major institution.

Managing Conflict: To say my client had a conflict with the U of M financial aid office is an understatement. It was a major communication breakdown, one I'm sure he'll pay the price for at a later date - literally. However it is a normal part of life to have conflict at home, in the workplace, in any situation where two or more people are exchanging information. What is key is how we manage conflict and bring it to successful resolution. In the case of the financial aid office, my client has agreed to disagree, take what they will give and find another resource to cover the gap in tuition. The head of that office will never get what was said to her and he can live with that, it's her loss. There are many effective ways to defuse a tense situation and one thing that has been successful is to decide - what can you live with and what are you not willing to budge on? Knowing conflict happens and being armed with tools to manage through it and resolve it are keys to having the right mindset while it is happening. My client's situation was unfortunate but not personal and I guarantee he is not the first nor will he be the last to experience a brick wall when it comes to the U of M financial aid office. Removing the emotion and defusing the situation helped bring this to a reasonable conclusion.

How Your Attitude Affects Communication: Every attitude is a combination of feelings, beliefs and evaluations. Behavior refers to the reactions or actions of an object or organism and attitude predicts behavior. Persuasive communication changes attitudes, which then affects behavior, which then creates a more productive environment. Persuasive communication involves openly trying to convince another to change their behavior and only works when the source is credible and trustworthy. Addressing trust and credibility first among your coworkers and other critical relationships you have lays a strong foundation. Learning to clearly state your position, followed by supporting arguments and obtaining others' agreement are the keys to persuasion.

Giving and Receiving Feedback: Feedback is a type of communication that we give or get. Sometimes, feedback is called "criticism," but this seriously limits its meaning.

Feedback is a way to let people know how effective they are in what they are trying to accomplish, or how they affect you. It provides a way for people to learn how they affect the world around them, and it helps us to become more effective. If we know how other people see us, we can overcome problems in how we communicate and interact with them. Of course, there are two sides to it: giving feedback, and receiving it.




Getting Feedback: Some people experience feedback as pure criticism and don't want to hear it. Others see it as spiritually crushing; a confirmation of their worthlessness. Still others only want to hear praise, but nothing that might suggest imperfection. That's not the case for everyone, of course. Some people are willing to accept feedback and seek it out, even if it is sometimes disturbing, because they believe they can grow from it. It comes down to whether you believe feedback will harm you or benefit you.

This is not to say that we should always have to accept feedback or the manner in which it is sometimes given. We all have the right to refuse feedback, and we can expect feedback to be given in a respectful and supportive manner. But for every positive and open way of accepting feedback, there's an opposite; a negative and closed manner which pushes feedback away and keeps it at bay.

Negative/Closed Style

Defensive: defends personal actions, frequently objects to feedback given. Attacking: verbally attacks the feedback giver, and turns the table. Denies: refutes the accuracy or fairness of the feedback. Disrespectful: devalues the speaker, what the speaker is saying, or the speaker's right to give feedback. Closed: ignores the feedback, listening blankly without interest. Inactive listening: makes no attempt to "hear" or understand the meaning of the feedback. Rationalizing: finds explanations for the feedback that dissolve any personal responsibility. Patronizing: listens, but shows little interest. Superficial: listens and agrees, but gives the impression that the feedback will have little actual effect.

Positive/Open Style

Open: listens without frequent interruption or objections. Responsive: willing to hear what's being said without turning the table. Accepting: accepts the feedback, without denial. Respectful: recognizes the value of what is being said and the speaker's right to say it. Engaged: interacts appropriately with the speaker, asking for clarification when needed. Active listening: listens carefully and tries to understand the meaning of the feedback. Thoughtful: tries to understand the personal behavior that has led to the feedback. Interested: is genuinely interested in getting feedback. Sincere: genuinely wants to make personal changes if appropriate.

Related Article:  6 Ways to Motivate Others

Giving Feedback

The other end of feedback is giving it. Some people deliver feedback with relish; after all, it's easier to give advice than take it. Some use feedback as a weapon, or offer it as tit-for-tat. For others, feedback is a great way to be critical. How you deliver feedback is as important as how you accept it, because it can be experienced in a very negative way. To be effective you must be tuned in, sensitive, and honest when giving feedback. Just as there are positive and negative approaches to accepting feedback, so too are there ineffective and effective ways to give it.

Ineffective/Negative Delivery

Attacking: hard hitting and aggressive, focusing on the weaknesses of the other person. Indirect: feedback is vague and issues hinted at rather than addressed directly. Insensitive: little concern for the needs of the other person. Disrespectful: feedback is demeaning, bordering on insulting. Judgmental: feedback is evaluative, judging personality rather than behavior. General: aimed at broad issues which cannot be easily defined. Poor timing: given long after the prompting event, or at the worst possible time. Impulsive: given thoughtlessly, with little regard for the consequences. Selfish: feedback meets the giver's needs, rather than the needs of the other person.

Effective/Positive Delivery

Supportive: delivered in a non-threatening and encouraging manner. Direct: the focus of the feedback is clearly stated. Sensitive: delivered with sensitivity to the needs of the other person. Considerate: feedback is intended to not insult or demean. Descriptive: focuses on behavior that can be changed, rather than personality. Specific: feedback is focused on specific behaviors or events. Healthy timing: given as close to the prompting event as possible and at an opportune time. Thoughtful: well considered rather than impulsive. Helpful: feedback is intended to be of value to the other person.

The Importance of Feedback

Feedback is a must for people who want to have honest relationships. A powerful and important means for communication, giving feedback connects us, and our behavior, to the world around us.

Communication and the Digital Age: There are now multiple means of causing communication barriers between people; texting, Facebook-ing, Twittering, instant messaging, voice mail and email to name a few. Stephen Covey's Time Management program preaches for us to be the master of technology versus letting technology being our master. I recently attended a baseball game and when I looked around the stadium, I saw a sea of people looking at their cell phones. They were texting, taking pictures, uploading them to Facebook, talking - it was a new age of mass media blitz. I frequently get instant messages from clients and potential clients asking me in-depth life changing questions and expecting a simple answer in return. It's hard to be an effective communicator in the digital age unless we learn how to use these means in a persuasive and appropriate manner. A client of mine has an employee who constantly fires off scathing emails. My client gets constant complaints about the employee who is perceived as being combative and abrasive. I advised her to sit down with the employee, show her examples of the inappropriate emails, advise her to a 24-hour "cool down" period, then initially reviewing the emails with someone they can trust before hitting the send key. A month later the client reported that 9 out of 10 emails were scrapped before sending. The employee then learned the skill of not reacting via email to other communication that was angering her. It is especially important in this economic climate where we're doing much more with much less and tensions are high.

Ask yourself the following questions:

How would your professional and personal life change if you could successfully master these basic skills?

Can you afford not to make the investment to improve your communication?

You will be amazed at the startling turn your life will take once you learn how to communicate effectively and successfully. Did you know that the most important asset to a company or to a client is a person who communicates effectively, someone who has the ability to influence and persuade others? Are you communicating successfully and effectively to influence others or are you just talking?

i. 2007, Stoney deGeyter; Pole Position Marketing. ii. 2009, Phil Rich, Ed.D., MSW, DCSW; Self-Help Magazine.

About Terri Kern Company
Terri Kern Company, LLC ( [http://www.terrikern.org] ) provides professionals at any level around the globe with the training & development they need to successfully manage their career. From group training, to executive coaching, to one-on-one career development planning, clients that have used TKC for their career management needs have achieved their goals faster, struck a work/life balance, engage in meaningful work and are financially stable. They work with or independent of the professional's current employer.
Vision of Terri Kern Company:
Our vision serves as the framework for the mission and guides every aspect of our business by helping each professional client:
• Create foundation for success through visualizing who you want to be, self-awareness and the perception of others;
• Cultivate a development plan that will bridge the gap between now and later;
• Conquer new skills, behaviors and motivations;
• Succeed in your new world.