How Healthy is Your Emotional Culture?

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When we think of culture within organizations, we think of the cognitive culture–intellectual values, goals, and frameworks. But there is another type of culture within organizations and businesses which is just as critical–the emotional culture.

While the cognitive culture is generally expressed through words, the emotional culture is usually expressed non-verbally–facial expressions, body language and vocal tonality. How healthy is the culture within your organization or business? Are people stressed, tired or easily irritated?

Generally when there are problems within an organization, it involves the emotional culture because that is where the dysfunction will show up. It’s a symptom. I help leaders and managers in organizational cultures address those symptoms constructively by looking at the underlying causes with positive, realistic solutions.

Here is an article from the Harvard Business Review about how important emotional cultures are:

https://hbr.org/2016/01/manage-your-emotional-culture

 

©Copyright, 2016 Mary Claire O’Neal

Mary Claire O’Neal is a communication and leadership coach, consultant, Heartmath® Certified Trainer, and author of the award-winning book, Becoming What You Want to See in the World.  For more information:  maryclaireoneal.com  and lifeworkresilience.com

 

Eight Secrets for Being a Powerful Listener

 

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Hmmm. Shop or listen? The National Day of Listening is the Friday after Thanksgiving Day, a day many join the shopping madness on “Black Friday.” It seems a very appropriate day to, as an alternative to focusing on buying more stuff, focus on being with others and listening, really listening, to them. The National Day of Listening was launched by the national oral history project StoryCorps in 2008, now heard on public radio stations nationwide. From the StoryCorps website: “We do this to remind one another of our shared humanity, to strengthen and build the connections between people, to teach the value of listening, and to weave into the fabric of our culture the understanding that everyone’s story matters.”

Every day should be a day for listening.

Being a communication consultant for over 15 years, I know that listening (I have to work at this, too) is probably one of the most challenging parts of good communication. Good communication is an important element in building resilience and balance in life and creating positive and meaningful relationships of all kinds.

Not everyone is a good listener. In fact, really good listeners are, unfortunately, rare. But those who are good listeners are appreciated, respected and loved by those who know them.

The brain works by association, and it is very easy for your thoughts to make connections to either your own experiences that relate to what is being said or something that has an associative connection in some way with what is being said. But the problem with that is it takes our thoughts out of the moment with that person and brings the focus in our minds to ourselves instead of the other person. So, good listening is not a passive activity but rather a very active one–one in which intent and focus (to keep bringing ourselves back into the moment with that person) are required. A few of the things needed for good listening are: awareness, focus, compassion, generosity, patience, and mindfulness.

Here are some important tips and reminders for being a powerful listener:

  1. Stay in the moment with that person and what they are saying. If your mind wanders for a moment, bring your focus back to that person, breathe slower through the area of your heart with the intent to really hear the other person.
  2. Listen compassionately. Suspend judgement, and listen with your heart. Look for what you may have in common instead where you may not agree. The more judgmental one is, the shorter the conversation may end up being, and will leave an impression of separation instead of unity with the one who was sharing with you.
  3. Try to be aware of talking less and listening more. Avoid turning the conversation around to make it about you. If you find yourself using “I” and “me” a lot, try using them much less and make the conversation about the person you are listening to.
  4. It can help to enrich a conversation by using the answer to a question you may ask the other person as a basis for the next question. When what you are saying is connected to what you are hearing, it will assure the one who is talking with you that you’re really listening and encourage more sharing.
  5. Please try to avoid relating their experiences to yours, “I’ve experienced that, too!” While this can be an attempt to relate to the other person and show understanding (and have good intentions behind it), it can turn the conversation around to be focused on you. If you find you have done that, turn the conversation back to the other person as the focus.
  6. Use non-verbal communication that shows the other you are hearing them. Doing things like , nodding “yes,” eye contact, or leaning toward them across a table let the person know that you are listening and with them.​​​
  7. Try not to offer solutions or help, at least not right away. Wait to be asked for your opinion. If you aren’t asked, don’t offer it or ask them first if they want your perspective before giving it. Many times people just want to be heard. They don’t need someone to rescue them or solve their problem.
  8. Be encouraging and patient. Please don’t interrupt.

Give the gift of your undivided attention to others, they will appreciate your gift from the heart!

© Copyright 2015, Mary Claire O’Neal

Mary Claire O’Neal is a Heartmath® Certified Trainer and Coach, communication and leadership consultant, and Author of the Award-winning book, Becoming What You Want to See in the World.

For more information: http://lifeworkresilence.com

Mastery of Oneself

“The human race is challenged more than ever before to demonstrate our mastery – not over nature – but of ourselves.” –Rachel Carson, environmentalist

What is mastery over ourselves? What would that look like?

Ultimately our intent, thoughts, words, actions and responses are the only things that we can control and master. These all involve choice and our own freewill. It’s the awareness that every moment involves a choice—whether it be on the automatic, unconscious level or with awareness and mastery.

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Photo credit: Getty Images

The awareness of those choices in the moments that make up our lives involves a discipline of mind. Sound like a lot of work? It is—at first. But that discipline of mind becomes easier and easier, and it is SO worth it! How is it worth it? A simple example is when you make a conscious choice to change a thought. Maybe it’s a thought that really doesn’t serve any purpose other than making you feel down or defeated. By changing that one thought that has been floating around in your mind all day to one that is more uplifting, you can change the course of your day. You can also change the world around you by changing that one thought. Have you ever been around someone who stays negative about almost everything or doesn’t want to see a hopeful solution? It has an effect on those who are around them. The same is true for those who are hopeful, empowered and are taking action that is consistent with hope and empowerment. The hopeful draw people to them in a good way like a magnet.

Another example of that mastery is when you look at and consider the effects a choice you make will have on others before you make it. Does insisting that it be your way make you blind to the needs of others? I can think of an instance or two in my life where I, out of fear, had inadvertently done this. If you think about it, perhaps you can remember an example of this in your own life–an instance where you were coming from a place of fear–fear of change or fear that another way would not bring the desired results. How many times have we seen the effects of choices made by others when consideration was not made first about the impact those choices would have?  Perhaps you directly felt those effects, perhaps not, but the effects were apparent.

Seeking mastery over others is not leadership; it is an abuse of power.

Seeking mastery of oneself is living a conscious life and is genuine leadership.

Masters are everywhere, in all walks of life. A master can be the person who sees her/his life as a service. It’s a janitor I know who always has a cheerful greeting and is truly joyful in doing what some people would consider a menial task. It’s the person in the parking garage booth, who recently when I asked “how are you?” answered with, “I’m blessed! I have a job where all day long I can greet people and wish them a good evening. What could be better than that?” I’m humbled by that kind of mastery.

Mastery is not perfection. Masters make mistakes, and they do encounter difficulties. Mastery can be working in a process of knowing there’s always more to know. Mastery can be about getting back up again after a fall or mistake, claiming it, apologizing for it (if it affected others), learning from it, dusting oneself off, and moving forward again.

© Copyright 2014 Mary Claire O’Neal, All rights reserved.

Mary Claire O’Neal is the author of the award-winning book, Becoming What You Want to See in the World, and is a communication consultant and coach.

www.maryclaireoneal.com

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Creating Boxes in Life by Saying “No”

I recently wrote an article, ”Saying “Yes” into Overwhelm,” because I and many Imageother people I’ve met have a patterned tendency to take things on. It is an understandable tendency for those who want to be of help, service or make a positive difference. The point of the article was not to not say “yes,” but to consider first if one can fit this one more thing into an already busy life or if it will tip the balance into overwhelm.

Having said all that, let’s explore the flip side of the coin. Even though I’m one of those people who has a patterned tendency to say “yes,” there are areas of my life where I might have a tendency to have a knee-jerk “no” at the ready.

Can you think of areas of life where that might be the case for you?  Maybe it’s something that you should not agree to, because it would be a healthy choice to say, “no.”  But, there may also be areas or instances, as have been in my life, where to say “no” would limit  positive life experience or opportunities.  Usually these areas have to do with a fear of some kind.

While I enjoy speaking in front of large audiences (I had to get over that fear many years ago, but that’s another story), I’m somewhat of an introvert.  During my personal time (preferring my “cave” to large social situations), that knee-jerk “no” might be in regard to a party or large social gathering.  Saying “no” may limit my opportunity just to be out in the world connecting with others in a positive way. Being in this world is about relationships of all kinds, and communication is the key to all those many types of relationships. I was limiting myself. I was keeping myself in a bit of a box during my non-working time.

Perhaps you have a fear of over-committing your time, and your knee-jerk “no” might be there for just about any request.  Again, it may limit positive opportunities and experiences and back you into a box.

The bottom line in the knee-jerk “no” response is usually fear-based, and fears limit us in our lives. When considering a response, before automatically falling into the patterned tendency to say “no,” here are a few things you can ask yourself or do that may help:

  1. Is automatically tending to say “no” a pattern for me in situations like this? Is there a fear that might be preventing me from saying, “yes?”
  2. If I say “yes,” what will it involve (time, energy, expertise)?  Asking this question of the person or group that is making the request is important to make the decision in awareness.
  3. What are the benefits of saying, “yes?”
  4. Look at the various areas of life to see if you can fit it in.
  5. Sleep on it (unless it’s an urgent situation) before giving your answer.
  6. If still uncertain, talk with a trusted partner or friend who is supportive in your personal growth.

The important thing is to know yourself (and be aware of areas where there might be a fear) and make decisions in conscious awareness.  Of course, this is a process, and with each “yes,” step-by-step, you can overcome a fear and open up doorways for positive opportunities, growth, confidence and, even, miracles.

Mary Claire O’Neal is a communication consultant, coach and author of the award-winning book, Becoming What You Want to See in the World. For more informationwww.maryclaireoneal.com

© Copyright, Mary Claire O’Neal

Photo credit: Getty Images

Saying “Yes” into Overwhelm

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Every day offers new opportunities for activity, along with the challenges of keeping on track with priorities. Accomplishing things step-by-step is helpful in bringing ourselves back into a state of balance.

Have you ever said “yes” too many times and gotten yourself into a place of overwhelm? I have. I realized what was behind the “yes” was my desire to serve and to help (which is a good thing), but sometimes ego can be in there, too.

Has anyone ever said to you something like, “We’re looking for someone with your gifts and talents,” or “We need someone who has your insight to guide this.”  Saying “yes” to something and knowing that it will be of service to others is a very good thing.  Saying “yes” to something, knowing that you are already over-committed, but it will give you the opportunity to shine, is another. There’s nothing wrong with “shining” in the world. It can be a good thing. But it can be a part of the motivation in making choices that will send you into overwhelm or cause other priorities or commitments to be compromised, derailing your purpose in life and creating difficulty–not 83598834_8only for yourself but others. Also, when in overwhelm there is usually not time for the things that can help you stay balanced and healthy (like exercise, sufficient rest, and social and creative time). You cannot give the energy needed for things if you get seriously depleted or become ill.

I don’t write about anything that I haven’t experienced myself, and I can tell you, the overwhelm from saying “yes” too much kept me in a place of chaos for several months. It had nothing to do with the people or the organizations I said “yes” to. They would have kindly understood if I had said “no.” It had to do with me and my choices.

Lesson learned.

So, if you have a patterned tendency to “yes” yourself into overwhelm, here are a few things that can help:

1. Stay in the moment with life choices, using discernment before giving an answer. In other words, don’t fall back on a past pattern of taking things on or automatically saying, “yes.” The answer probably doesn’t have to be given right away.

2. Ask yourself, “Is this going to prevent me from honoring other commitments?”

3. Ask, “Will I still be able to take care of myself (health and happiness), if I do this?

4. Ask, “Is being considered indispensable or wanting to shine one of the main reasons for saying “yes?”

5. Take a break. If conflicted or in doubt, take some quiet time to just ask for guidance. Deeper or higher levels of ourselves probably already know the answer.

6. Talk to significant others or those in our lives the decision will impact.

After having honestly considered all these things, and you think that saying”yes” is still the best choice, you’ll have entered into the decision and commitment consciously.  Then there is more room to truly and happily give of yourself and serve.

Mary Claire O’Neal is the author of the award-winning book, Becoming What You Want to See in the World, and is a communication consultant, coach and speaker.

© Copyright, Mary Claire O’Neal

Photo credit: Getty Images

A Free, Easy Way to Bring More Balance into Busy Lives

When asked, most people say that taking a walk out in nature is a very effective way to bring more balance and health into a busy life. Time outside, away from activity and technology, can bring more clarity of mind when you are stressed or facing situations beyond your control. Taking a walk in the sunlight, feeling the breeze, and enjoying the beauty around you is very refreshing for the mind and spirit with the added benefit of healthy exercise for the body.

Find a place to walk that is accessible and easy to get to from your home or place of work.  A city park with pathways or a local arboretum can be convenient but still offer the balancing, healing effects of green space: trees, grass, plants and animals.

Here are some tips to keep in mind while taking a break outside to gain more balance and health:

1. Give yourself enough time so you don’t have to hurry. A 40 minute walk is really enough time to refresh the mind and get some good exercise. Brown bagging your lunch at a picnic table before your walk can even give you enough time on your lunch hour. If you have the luxury of more time, that’s even better!

2. Try to take your walk in silence. Instead of listening to music with earphones (which can draw your attention away from the experience around you), try to focus on the sights and sounds in the environment–the plants and flowers, the wind in the trees, birds chirping, or the rushing of water in a stream or fountain. This will help to keep you in the present moment.

3. Have an intent for your walk. Examples of intents can be:  “To bring more balance into my life” or “To give my mind and body a break for pure enjoyment and health.” Having a clear intent can help you get the greatest benefit from your walk.

© Copyright Mary Claire O’Neal

Mary Claire O’Neal is a communication consultant, coach and author of the award-winning book, Becoming What You Want to See in the World:  The Art of Joyful Living. www.maryclaireoneal.com


The Speed of Life

This article by Mary Claire O’Neal was chosen as one of the Intent.com articles of the week, 8/7/09.

M. K. Gandhi said, “There is more to life than increasing its speed.” One of the things Gandhi may be referring to is slowing down enough to listen.  Really listen.  “Slow down to listen to what?” you may ask. My answer would be many voices and yet one voice: That still, small voice within, or the same situation that presents itself over and over, or doors opening or closing, or what a child is saying with his behavior.

Slowing down to the speed of life can mean slowing down enough to pull myself out of autopilot—out of a routine, out of behaviors and ways of thinking that no longer work for me, out of reactions that can create separation instead of unity.

Slowing down to the speed of life can mean waking up, being fully alive right now, knowing that in every moment resides that choice to be awake.  I have found that what I need to know is within me and also spoken through life all around me, if I’m paying attention. Life is filled with miracles and magic, but unless I am listening and watching, even the miracles will be missed.

Something I’ve found refreshing is to just sit quietly for a few minutes, away from the seduction of technology (stripped of my computer or phone) and listen to the silence or just to my heart beating. Contemplative walks can be a wonderful time for me to get creative ideas. Being out in nature is a way that many people find the silence and peace to listen.

Slowing down can also mean waking up to the wonder of life again. Listening to my heart when it says, “Take a break, play, be silly!”  But it’s so easy to say, “ I don’t have the time.” And it’s so easy to see another day fly by without that joy. Having stuff coming at us all the time is a common way not to listen. Daily routines can become ruts that can distract us from the promptings of our hearts or the still, small voice within.

When slowing down, one can more clearly see things that need attention in life.  It might be that a relationship or friendship needs some quality time. What might need attention is the physical part of me—needing more exercise or healthy eating.  I might be reminded of a letter or phone call that’s been put off for later or a creative project that needs my attention.

When people have regrets at the end of their lives, it’s usually not that they would have liked to have worked one more day (even if their work was a joy for them). It’s usually, “I wish I had said, ‘I love you’ more” or  “I wish I had been kinder, more compassionate.” When one really listens, promptings can become fulfilling action instead of regrets.

© Mary Claire O’Neal

Mary Claire O’Neal has been a nationally known communication consultant for over 15 years, speaker, certified coach and author of the award-winning book, Becoming What You Want to See in the World. For more information: www.maryclaireoneal.com

Being the change through choices

I’ve had to make some big changes in my life over the past year–changes that needed to be made in order for me to function at my highest and best.  I’ve been a vegetarian for over 25 years, but even with that kind of healthy diet, there were things that were creating difficulty with my health.  I discovered that salt was a big problem, creating edema, headaches and other aches and pains.  I know this now because when I have taken just the salt out of my diet, many of those symptoms fade or go away.  There are other things in my diet I’ve had to say “bye, bye” to lately, as well.

Being a vegetarian all of these years has not been hard for me at all, but taking the salt out was my personal kryptonite. It has not been easy, mainly because I was addicted to it.  I always preferred salty over sweet, and so sugar was not something that I craved or wanted. I CRAVED salt and didn’t know how much until I took it away. And it is in almost every prepared vegetarian whole food that I’ve found–except things like canned beans or tomatoes (no salt added).  While I’ve always loved fresh veggies, fruits and grains, that’s my diet now. Pretty much, I have no prepared sauces or foods (when I say prepared foods, I mean prepared whole foods), salad dressings, or eating out. I loved eating Asian, Indian, Italian and Middle Eastern food out, and that’s gone now. I order a salad when I find myself out or at a meeting and put lemon juice and olive oil on it.  I was a vegetarian foodie (gourmet vegetarian cook and loved eating out), and I’ve gone through the stages of letting go, discomfort, even some grief, and a bit of whining. But I’ve come to the simple understanding that it is what it is.

Why am I writing about something as mundane as this? Because the human being of me is letting go of the things she loves–letting go of things that brought much pleasure–not really wanting those choices but having to make them. Newer and clearer awareness of my body being a temple and making choices that are best for me out of that awareness is an important part of it. It’s true, I’m healthier. I feel better. I’ve lost weight (almost 45 lbs. to date). My mind is clearer.  A very big gift is the empowerment within me of the awareness that I’m bigger than this is, or the very wise words that are thousands of years old,  greater is that which is within me than that which is without.

This is all about communication.  Lots of communication with myself and some communication with others. What I’ve found drives all of this is love. I didn’t make these choices because I didn’t like what I looked like or because I wanted to fix myself–which seems to be the biggest motivating factor for many in our culture for making changes like this. The deepest and most sustaining force in this change for me was love for my life and to be functioning at my highest, best, healthiest and strongest.

The world changes by us changing ourselves, and what I’ve found in my life to be the most lasting change for the highest is always and ever the change made because of and with love.

© Mary Claire  O’Neal

Fearlessly letting go of information

stack of books with post its sticking out of the pagesI’m an information pack rat, and I’m out of control. I’ve recognized that I have a fear of not having the information I need when I need it. Because of that fear, I have stacks of magazines, journals, papers, and clippings that have either practical information to make life easier (like how can you use olive oil a hundred different ways in your household and, er, how to simplify and get rid of clutter) or ideas for travel and leisure. I also hoard professional journals, thinking that I’ll find the time to read them all.

The problem is that this stuff takes up space, clutters, and cleaning has to be done around it–not to mention the fact that I feel a little stressed when I look at the stacks and wonder when I’m going to find the time to read it (thinking that I’m missing out on something that will streamline my life or make it more efficient). The irony here is pretty transparent.

Some people like clutter and really thrive in that type of environment—finding the chaos stimulating. I’ve tried that. Clutter just doesn’t work for me. I’m relaxed and more creative in a fairly well organized environment.  My mind is released from the stuff. I really appreciate the zen-like aesthetic of almost empty rooms. Peaceful. No distractions. I may never have that kind of decor, but just to see most of the floor in my office would be a huge step. Huge.

It became clear that I needed to have a serious talk with myself. I did, and I’ve  figured something out about my information collecting.  What have I to fear?  There’s the internet, library and my husband, who is a wealth of information (or knows where to find it). I just googIed “practical uses of olive oil” and within seconds found that olive oil can prevent stretch marks, relieve jelly fish or man-o-war stings, remove paint from hair, and the list goes on and on. “Eureka,” I cried!

I just need to courageously plunge into the stacks of paper and know that the best way to make my life more efficient and easier is to fearlessly toss the paper   into the recycling bin and drop off magazines that might be an interesting diversion for sick people at my doctor’s office. The professional journals will be harder to part with, but I will have to be brave as I quickly look through and clip for files.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I will still buy and read magazines and journals, but if they’re hanging around after about three months—I intend to clip and then toss them in the recycling bin. Books are dear to my heart, and I will continue to buy, read and write them. There’s always the used bookstore for those I won’t read again.

I’ve realized that the clutter in my life is baggage–baggage I don’t need as I travel through my days. For instance, recently cleaning out my office closet took me two days of concentrated work on a weekend. Now my work is so much more efficient because it is no longer a struggle to search through all the stuff to get to what I’m looking for. I try to think symbolically when I go through stuff, like, ”I’m giving away this old computer software because I’m changing the ‘software’ in my mind by thinking differently, and I no longer need the old program.” The software served me well in years past, but it is obsolete for my needs now. Also, an added benefit of perspective is that by giving it away, it may end up in the hands of someone who can use it.

After that very important talk I had with myself, I’ve been trying to simplify, even in small ways, everyday. Some days I only have five or ten minutes to spend on simplifying, and that’s okay. I’m working up my courage as I write this to dive into the stacks of paper and publications I’m staring at. I must be fearless.

© Copyright, Mary Claire O’Neal

Mary Claire O’Neal is a communication consultant, speaker,  coach and is the author of the award-winning book, Becoming What You Want to See in the World. For more information: www.maryclaireoneal.com