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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Welcome to Straight Talk

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Being direct in communication is appreciated by most people.  Time is of the essence for the majority of us so getting to the point is important.  The challenge comes when we are too direct in our approach.  Most people don't like it.  Watch this video to hear straight talk about this style of communication, and learn a tip on how you can improve it.  To sign up to receive a weekly video tip, click here.

Monday, July 15, 2013

When Comments Are Insensitive

    In light of the recent verdict in the Zimmerman trial, there were many comments exchanged via social media, mainstream media, phone conversations, church sermons, text messages, and face to face.  Since most of these discussions were held in a public forum--especially social media--there was ample opportunity to involve a diverse group of people in offering an array of viewpoints.  I think it's great when people are able to express themselves.  There should always be a forum for healthy discussions about difficult topics.  As long as the lines of communication are open, we can learn from each other.  However, when the topic is volatile and highly sensitive, contributors to the dialogue have to be especially careful that their viewpoint is not misconstrued because of a lack of skill in being able to walk the tightrope of sensitivity.  It takes a little more thought and effort, but the conversation can be meaningful if all views are accepted and respected even if there is no agreement in perspectives.
     I was glad to be able to spark a discussion and get a variety of responses.  Not everyone agreed with my opinion, and that was okay.  I didn't expect them to nor do I want other people to always pacify me by being agreeable.  The beauty of living in this country is that we get the chance to express how we feel through freedom of speech.  As long as that speech isn't hateful or insensitive, everyone can participate without backlash.  Since I train in diversity management, and  a large part of what I teach on that topic is meaningful dialogue, the Zimmerman trial has provided an ideal teachable moment.  Therefore, I'd like to offer these three points when engaging in discussion on highly volatile subjects:
  1. Realize that people who have an opposing view may have a larger, deeper perspective of the situation than you do. You may feel that they are being overly sensitive or that you're being forced to be too politically correct to state your case. But you may not know that person's full story or their personal experiences with the situation. So rather than judge their comments against your own, try to understand why they feel as they do. You might be surprised to learn that there's a story there filled with pain and goes far beyond a mere opinion.
  2. Refrain from joking about tragic events so close to the time of the occurrence.  Everybody loves a good laugh especially when times are tough. Too many traumatic experiences can cause life to become dark and depressing. We try to find ways to lighten the mood, but those efforts can be insensitive if the pain is still fresh and emotions are still raw.  The prank on the local TV news station regarding the names of the pilots in the fallen Asiana Airlines flight may have been funny at a later time.  But so soon after people have perished and while others are nursing injuries and even still in the hospital makes an otherwise harmless prank fall flat.  Be sensitive to death and the grief of losing loved ones before you try to make light of a situation.
  3. Respect other people's opinions. We're all entitled to ours. Ridiculing, belittling, disregarding how other people feel about an issue is not healthy debate.  It's an arrogant stance on one's own views--as if yours is on the only one that matters.  This is more than insensitivity to the topic but insensitivity toward another human being.  People matter.
As a disclaimer, these points are not directed at anyone who participated in my debate.  The volley of conversation on my Facebook page opened the door for me to demonstrate how it's done.  There is no need for hostility.  Emotion, yes.  Passion, certainly.  But bitterness, never.  I believe that if we all keep the three important points above in mind, then we can continue to grow and learn from others.  We can maintain our freedom to express our views.  And we can still keep healthy, wonderful relationships with other people regardless of the differences in our opinions.  Continue to express yourself.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Self Talk That Leads to Big Rewards

    Okay, so I'm not here to pump you up today about speaking positive things into your life.  You've heard all of that before.  As real as it is, and as much sense as it makes, sometimes we can be as positive in our minds as we choose, but life still stinks.  We can keep saying that all will be well when we know deep down it won't.  So we're essentially trying to fake ourselves out--to believe something that is unrealistic.  Having said that, let me not become the new host of your pity party.  But let's keep it real.
    In order for things to happen in our lives, we do have to tell ourselves a different story.  It doesn't have to be a fairy tale as we often choose to do.  It should be a story that reflects the reality of our present and the hope for our future.  Lest we spend too much time on our present situation and make ourselves depressed, we should remind ourselves of those times when we passed this way before and we overcame.  Too often we act like our trials are new.  More often than not, they're not.  It stunk then and it stinks now.  But what got you there?  What stories did you tell yourself that landed you back in the same spot?  "Oh, it'll be alright.  I didn't take control last time, and that's why it got out of hand.  But I won't let that happen this time."  Or "If everything else falls into place, then it won't be bad like it was last time."  Unless some unforeseen and uncontrollable tragedy strikes, you will likely face similar circumstances throughout your life if you're blessed to have a long one.  The goal is to learn from the first time so that when you see it coming again, you are wise enough to avert imminent disaster.
    The conversation you have with yourself is important.  It should not be some superficial, cursory consideration of an event.  But it should be well thought out and meaningful with actions that support your growth.  Say to yourself, "The parts of this I can control, I will."  Say to yourself, "I should not fall short this time because I know better.  And when I know better, I can do better."  Say to yourself, "I will take wise risks--risks I can afford to take.  I know that big risks yield big rewards.  But I will not jeopardize my peace because of bad decision making."
    Be conscious of your talks with yourself.  Don't excuse, belittle or doubt yourself.  Be strong.  Be courageous.  Be faithful.  And more than anything, be positive.