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Peak Mind Pro: Mindfulness at Work

If there was a magic pill that made you sharper, more effective, more creative, and more socially skilled while simultaneously improving the quality of your decisions and reducing the number of mistakes you made – with side effects of lower stress and more happiness – would you take it?

Absolutely! 

And you’d probably give it to everyone on your team or in your organization as well.

While this magic pill doesn’t exist yet, mindfulness does all of those things. 

Mindfulness is your competitive edge

Many people these days have heard of mindfulness and how beneficial it can be, but they’ve dismissed it due, in large part, to misunderstanding what it actually is.

Set aside any preconceived notions of sitting cross-legged on a pillow with your eyes closed and mind going blank. Instead, think of mindfulness as heightened focus and awareness. This combo is your competitive edge. 

In action, mindfulness at work means being fully aware of what is happening, both inside of you and around you, and being able to direct and sustain your focused attention where you need it.

 

Awareness

How much time do you spend on autopilot or lost in your head? If you’re anything like the average person, it’s at least 47% of the time. That means that you are not fully present and focused on what you are doing roughly half of the time. That also means that you’re likely missing out on lots of vital information. Imagine how much more effective you could be if you raised that number even a little bit.

Focus

Being able to direct and control your attention – focusing on what is important while filtering out distractions – allows you to perform at a higher level while exerting less energy. Multitasking is a myth. When we divide our attention, we are actually shifting back and forth from one task to the other, albeit sometimes very quickly. That shifting eats up our limited resource of attention and actually requires more energy and effort resulting in more mental fatigue and stress and less quality work. 

The Solution

Mindfulness – being aware and focused – is a core element of psychological strength. As with all core elements, it is a skill that can be developed if you’re willing to put in the time and effort to do so. 

Tips to Try

While setting aside time most days for a formal mindful meditation practice (e.g., with an app like 10% Happier, Calm, or Headspace) can be tremendously beneficial, this just isn’t feasible for many people for a number of reasons. At Peak Mind, we are fans of finding effective ways to build mindfulness into the cracks of a busy, modern lifestyle. Try these tips out for a couple of weeks and see what a difference it can make.

1. Help you and your team have more effective meetings by starting with a little mindfulness. Ask everyone to set aside their phone, tablet, or laptop and spend the first 2 minutes of the meeting in silence thinking about the goals for the meeting. This will allow everyone to show up both physically and mentally, to become aware and focused on the task at hand. You will likely notice that meetings become more efficient.

2. Encourage employees (and model this behavior by doing it yourself) to carve out dedicated work times in which they focus solely on one important task or project. This means making these time blocks as distraction-free as possible by turning off notifications.

3. Build in mini-mindfulness breaks. Set a timer to go off hourly (or at least periodically). When the timer goes off, notice what you are doing and where your mind is. Were you focused on what you’re doing? Try to follow one full breath. This means resting your attention on your breath and trying to stay with it from the start of the inhale, to the pause at the top, and all the way through the exhale. Then, ask yourself, what do I want to focus on right now? 

If you are interested in learning more ways to help you and your team develop this vital skill, email us at info@peakmindpsychology.com

“The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness. Mindfulness means being awake. It means knowing what you are doing.”
Jon Kabat-Zinn
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Peak Mind Pro: The Power of Active Listening

Think back to a situation at work that did not go well. Perhaps it was an interaction with a colleague, a poor decision, or a costly mistake. What factors contributed to that situation? 

Have you considered listening as a factor? If everyone involved had truly been listening – to each other, to the information being conveyed, to the company’s goals or needs – would the outcome have been any different? 

Why We Don’t Listen

Listening is, arguably, the most important communication skill and is a cornerstone of most business activities, regardless of industry. Unfortunately, most people aren’t naturally great at listening. We get caught up in multitasking, so our attention is divided, all but ensuring we miss out on some critical aspects of the message. Or we jump to conclusions or interpretations that might be inaccurate, then react on the basis of misinformation. Alternatively, we might focus on our response, how to convey our points or press our agenda forward, bypassing the fundamental step of understanding. Ultimately, we want to speak, to be heard, and we often gloss over this crucial first step of effective communication: listening. 

That’s too bad because being an effective listener gives you a competitive edge, regardless of your organizational role.

Active Listening

So what does it mean to be a great listener?  It isn’t necessarily an innate talent. Rather, being a great listener means that you have mastered the skill of active listening, which essentially includes 3 main active listening techniques:

1. Pay attention. 

Multitasking or splitting attention is a myth. Trying to do so will result in you missing out on a significant chunk of information being conveyed verbally or non-verbally. 

2. Convey that you are listening.

Demonstrate that you are fully engaged by using body language, nodding, making small verbalizations (e.g., “Uh, huh,” “I see”), responsive facial expressions, or asking open-ended questions for elaboration.

3. Focus on comprehending the message as intended.

Listen with the intent to understand, not respond. This also means suspending judgments initially. Clarify your understanding to ensure accuracy before you move on to responding. 

The Benefits of Effective & Active Listening

The benefits of active listening are multifaceted. At a minimum, being a good listener means that you will capture and retain more of the crucial information, which can increase productivity and facilitate better performance on projects. It also means that you will have more accurate and robust information to consider when making decisions, potentially improving the quality and outcomes of those decisions. Thus ultimately making your conversation partner feel heard and building trust with them. 

In addition, active listening skills strengthen relationships. By paying full attention to another person and ensuring that you are understanding their message as intended, you are communicating several key messages such as “I value you and what you have to say” and that “you can trust me to understand and cooperate with you.” Practicing active listening helps with problem solving. In contrast, consider times when you’ve tried to talk to someone who was distracted by their phone or email or something else, nodded mindlessly, or cut in to respond without actually understanding what you were saying. You likely felt frustrated, dismissed, or devalued in some way. 

Effective and active listening can help cut down on miscommunication and the conflict or subpar performance that can follow. Furthermore, it enhances your influence and ability to persuade or negotiate. The most persuasive people and successful negotiators start by truly seeing the other’s perspective, then guiding them to a new one. Understanding that perspective starts with listening.

Taken all together, active listening is a soft skill that can have a substantial impact on your performance across the board.

Tips to Try

Active listening is a skill that needs to be practiced in order to master it. Implement these helpful strategies and notice what impact doing so has on you, your teams, and your organization.

Pay Full Attention:

  • Make eye contact.
  • Put down your phone.
  • If you must use a device to take notes, tell the other person. Say something like, “I want to be sure I capture the important points, so I’m going to take some notes.” Spelling it out directly lets them know that you are still fully engaged, not somewhere else mentally. 

Fact Check:

  • Before you respond with your opinion, ideas, or retorts, make sure you have an accurate understanding. 
  • Paraphrase their take home points. Rather than verbatim stating what they just said, rephrase it in your own words. Start with a phrase like, “Let me make sure I’m understanding correctly. Are you saying…?” or “What I’m hearing you say is…”
  • If you notice that you start to get upset by something you are hearing, this is a powerful signal that you need to fact check. It is quite possible that there is a bit of miscommunication happening, and strong emotions cloud our ability to think logically, process new information, and make effective decisions. 
“Listen with curiosity. Speak with honesty. Act with integrity. The greatest problem with communication is we don’t listen to understand. We listen to reply. When we listen with curiosity, we don’t listen with the intent to reply. We listen for what’s behind the words.”
– Roy T. Bennett
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Blogs

Lost in Translation: How to Avoid Miscommunication

Did you ever play Telephone as a kid? It’s the game where someone whispers a phrase into the ear of the next person, who whispers it to the next, and so on until the message, completely bungled by this point, gets to the last person. They say it out loud, and everyone laughs at just how far off it was from the original. “I like apples” somehow morphed into “ladybugs and tassels” or some other nonsense.

If only real-life Telephone scenarios were as funny. 

Where miscommunication happens

Humans are inherently social creatures. We exist within networks and communities, and all of our interactions hinge on communication. So much disconnect, tension, and outright conflict stems from things getting lost in translation. In any interaction, there’s what I think I’m saying, what I actually say, and what you think I’m saying. In other words, there are several opportunities for our meaning to get lost in translation. But it’s easy to avoid miscommunication.

That’s not what I meant to say

The gap between what we think we are saying and what we actually say can be surprisingly wide and can happen for a number of reasons. Sometimes, especially within close relationships, we make a thinking error by expecting them to understand – without full explanation – how we feel, what we want, or what we mean. When we fall into this trap, we may not verbally express what we mean…then get upset when the other person just doesn’t get it. 

Another barrier to actually communicating what you need and want has to do with willingness and effectiveness. Are you willing to experience the discomfort that may arise by saying what you need to? Do you worry that the other person will react negatively? Do you feel like a burden? Is it awkward or uncomfortable for you in some way? If these or similar sound familiar, learning how to accept difficult emotions and building the psychological strength to be effective in the face of them is important.

Speaking of effectiveness, that brings us to another barrier in communication: do you have the skills to communicate effectively? What you say and how you say it can dramatically affect how the message lands. For example, “You’re inconsiderate” v. “I would appreciate help with the kids this evening” may both stem from you wanting to communicate frustration to your partner about an unmet need, but the latter is more likely to get you the outcome you’re looking for.

A few quick tips for communicating more effectively:

1. Don’t expect anyone – even those who know you inside and out – to read your mind. Spell it out.

2. Use non-defensive language. This formula is a good cheat sheet for communicating clearly and effectively: I feel _____ when you _____ because _____. I need_____. 

3. Use eye contact and facial expressions to show you are paying attention. This builds trust in your communication partner. 

Be a better listener: Avoid Miscommunication

On the other side of the communication coin, there can be a mismatch between what someone actually says and what we hear them say. More aptly, the problem lies in the way we process and interpret what they say, and thinking errors come into play here, too. We may make assumptions about what they meant or add unintended implications, or we may fill in the blanks based on our own mind’s agenda rather than theirs. Have you ever been a part of a team and the project manager tells you what to do? Team members may feel put off just listening to the request if they make assumptions about what the project manager is implying. But face-to-face active listening and focus on the manager’s verbal cues, tone of voice, or body language may tell a different story. 

In any case, the effect can be destructive if we react to misinformation. Imagine what might ensue if your friend tells you he has to cancel dinner plans but you “hear” he doesn’t want to have dinner with you and you assume that he’s annoyed by you. 

One of the most helpful ways to avoid miscommunication in this translation problem is to strengthen and transform your listening skills. First, adopt the mindset that you are listening to understand, not to respond. That means that your primary objective is to listen to what is actually being said and make sure that you understand the message as intended. You can do this by fact checking. Paraphrase what you understood and ask if that is correct before moving on to your response. That alone can clear up a lot of misunderstandings

Level up your communication skills

Because communication is such an essential part of healthy relationships and healthy relationships are one of the biggest predictors of life satisfaction and wellbeing, our next Quarterly Psych Strength workshop (April 2022) is centered on this topic. We’ll be covering communication styles and ways to use this insider knowledge to avoid miscommunication in your life. You won’t want to miss this impactful event.

“Remember that misuse of language can lead to miscommunication, and that miscommunication leads to everything that has ever happened in the whole of the world.” 
– Joseph Fink
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Blogs

Peak Mind Pro: Enhancing Relationships

Strong relationships are a key aspect of well-being, for individuals as well as workplaces. While lots of attention gets paid to critical relationship skills like conflict resolution and boundary setting, we see surprisingly few conversations about the other end of the spectrum. Developing skills that actively enhance relationships is equally as important. 

It turns out that how you acknowledge and celebrate victories matters. In fact, it’s more predictive of strong relationships than how you handle conflict (according to research from UC Santa Barbara). While some people seem to naturally bask in others’ glory, this doesn’t always come easily, especially in the workplace. Fortunately, these are skills that can be learned. 

When it comes to responding to good news, positive psychology research tells us to consider two dimensions: active v. passive and constructive v. destructive. 

Active v. Passive

This factor relates to your degree of involvement in your response. Active responses are more engaged and robust, including animated facial expressions and detailed verbal content. Passive responses, on the other hand, are more, well, passive. They are characterized by neutrality, distraction, and disinterest. You might assume that an active response is preferable because it strengthens your relationship more, and you’d be correct, with a big caveat.

Constructive v. Destructive

That caveat lies with our second dimension, which captures whether the response adds to or detracts from the relationship health. Constructive responses add to – think of them as positive. In contrast, destructive responses tear down the relationship; they are negative.

Putting It Together

Taken together, the way you respond when coworkers, bosses, subordinates, partners, friends, family, or your kids share good news can fall into one of four categories:

Active Constructive – You are fully engaged and interested. You acknowledge the victory and expand by asking questions. This is what we’re shooting for. Active constructive responses are like making deposits in the relationship bank account, building strength, and promoting goodwill and collaboration.

Passive Constructive – While you acknowledge the victory, you do so in a generic way, typically in a neutral tone or while distracted. This is better than the alternatives below but leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to strengthening the relationship. 

Active Destructive – You give an active, involved response…that is negative, finding some way, perhaps inadvertently, to tarnish the victory. This response is damaging to the relationship.

Passive Destructive – You pretty much ignore the good news altogether. This response is also quite damaging.

Tips to Try

Consider times in the recent past when someone at work and someone in your personal life shared their good news. How did you respond? If your response didn’t fall into the active constructive category, see if you can revise your response. Can you reframe how you thought about or looked at the victory? What might you have said or done differently to enhance the relationship? What can you do to improve your relationship? 

Reflecting on your interactions after the fact and taking the time to revise your initial responses to be more active and constructive can help you cement this skill. 

Helpful Hints

  • Make eye contact.
  • Put down your phone.
  • Be specific. A generic “good job” is nowhere near as powerful as a specific “You did a really great job navigating the demands of this project.”
  • If praise feels inauthentic for you, try appreciation instead. “I like how you formatted that report” or “Thank you for your attention to detail. That really made a difference in the outcome here.”
  • Ask a follow-up question. Questions convey curiosity and interest. This can also open up pathways to bond over the long term. 

Communication Styles

Celebrating victories is one important aspect of building healthy relationship skills, but there is so much more to learn! In our next Quarterly Psych Strength Workshop Series installment (April 2022), we’ll be focusing on communication styles and how to use that information to level up your interactions and enhance your relationships further. If you’re interested in learning more about how your team can participate in this powerful learning experience, email us at info@peakmindpsychology.com.


Peak Mind is proud to be a featured speaker at the first Humanity At Work conference hosted by A Deeper Way. This 3 day event will be held in Minneapolis in May, 2022, and virtual tickets are available as well. 

“Celebrate the success of others. High tide floats all ships.”
– Susan Elizabeth Phillips
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Podcasts

Understand Your Communication Style

Have you ever been talking to someone, and you felt like they just weren’t understanding what you were saying?

Or maybe you’re are in a relationship with someone, whether it’s a romantic relationship, friendship, or professional relationship and you can’t believe the other person NEVER asks your thoughts. Or the flip side. You feel like you have to PRY thoughts out of them.

One more. Have you ever been in an important conversation with someone and ended up talking over each other? Almost as though you’re in a dance where BOTH OF YOU are trying to lead?

Turns out that understanding your communication style and the style of other important people in your life can help you communicate more effectively and effortlessly. That’s what we’re talking about today.

Today we’re diving into a model that is over 3 decades old, but I still find it so useful. It’s the Social Styles of Communication model. In this model, there are 2 different continuums that divide people into 4 different communication styles. We’ll go over all of that in this episode, and we’ll talk about how you can more effectively communicate with other important people in your own life.

Additional Resources:

  1. Episode 0311 with Peter Montoya about having effective political conversations: https://www.peakmindpsychology.com/blog/0311
  2. Episode 0138 with AmyK Hutchens about handling some of our toughest conversations with empathy and intention: https://www.peakmindpsychology.com/blog/0138

In this episode, we will identify a number of types of communication styles. You might find encounter a passive-aggressive communication style, a manipulative communication style, or a submissive communication style. How does one express their feelings and engage in active listening when they encounter an assertive communication style without becoming sidelined or left behind. Facial expressions, body language, and the silent treatment are also ways that may seem passive on the surface but it’s important to understand that this may not be a passive communication style at all. Whether it’s with family, friends, or team members, communication skills, especially when dealing with a passive-aggressive style, can be tougher than just making eye contact and taking turns speaking.

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Your Election Week Survival Guide

Let me get straight to the point. It’s election week in the US, and tensions are HIGH. So many people are feeling anxious and angry as we await the results and anticipate the next 4 years.

I suspect that wait is going to extend well past Tuesday night if the predictions I’ve heard are correct. It could take days or weeks to get the final tally from all of the ballots. That means that those tensions, that anxiety and anger, are likely to stay…and maybe even escalate. Here are 5 tips for surviving election week.

1.     Learn the difference between News and Noise.

There’s going to be a lot of the latter coming at you. News is factual, unbiased information whereas Noise is a distraction. It’s loud and unpleasant and causes a disturbance. It’s irrelevant though it can sound important.

Noise includes the speculations, predictions, assumptions, and opinions coming at you from news broadcasts and TV programming, articles, your social feeds, your neighbors, your family, even your own mind.

So much of human suffering comes from the “extra” we add to situations, from our minds’ commentary. Remember, that’s just Noise. And over the upcoming week(s), other people may get loud with their Noise and project it onto you.  Noise commands your attention, but you don’t have to give it. TUNE IT OUT.

2.     Compassion is the antidote to hate and anger. 

Regardless of which side of the political spectrum you fall on, you may have some strong feelings toward the other side. While the right kind of anger can be motivating, some anger is unnecessary and unhelpful, meaning that it can detract from your wellbeing and that of others. Compassion is the key.

To tap into your compassion this week, keep in mind that we have FAR more in common than it might seem. A recent study looked at the similarities among people across the globe and found that we’re overwhelming similar – on average upwards of 90% similar in attitudes on a range of things like human values (e.g., independence, achievement, conformity, tradition, benevolence, power), moral attitudes (e.g., dishonesty, domestic violence, purity), and trust (in other people, science, and the government).

More than 90% similar. Let that sink in. 

At our core, we all value the same things like education, security, and morality. Our current political system, among other contributing factors, amplifies differences, and our brains, with their information processing glitches, run wild with them. We fall prey to the Us/Them bias, black-or-white thinking, mind reading, name calling, and judgements, just to name a few. It’s your job to keep your mind in check, and this week is going to be a real psych strength challenge (If you need to shore up your own psych strength skills, our Ascend program can help).

Try to put yourself in others’ shoes and see the world from their perspective. Try to understand rather than judge. Try to find some common ground that can be a unifying force. Try to let your values guide you, not your fear or anger.

3.     Play nice.

I get that you may be passionate about the issues that speak to you, and you may feel compelled toward action. You may want to bring others to your side, and you may find yourself in heated discussions, in real life or online. Before you react, though, take a pause. Ask yourself what you really want from this interaction. While it may feel satisfying to unleash on someone else, to tell them how and why they’re wrong, that’s unlikely to end with them changing their mind. In fact, they’ll likely dig in more, and you will have actually just helped to strengthen their resolve. Think about it. When was the last time someone came at you, telling you that you’re wrong, perhaps tossing out a name or two, and you said, “You’re right! Thanks for helping me see the error of my ways”?

Exactly.

Changing someone’s mind starts with understanding their mind first. Starting at that common ground and operating from a place of compassion and respect, you may be able to guide them to a new way of thinking. Shouting, arguing, name calling…that’s all just Noise.

4.     Practice gratitude.

No matter what happens Tuesday or in the following weeks, there is a lot to be grateful for. Don’t lose sight of that. When you find yourself feeling anxious or angry or overwhelmed or disillusioned, take 60 seconds to find something IN THAT VERY MOMENT to be grateful for. Tapping into gratitude – really feeling it – can be a powerful way to tame internal Noise and find some calm in the chaos.

5.     Finally, be sure that you are taking some time to unplug, to breathe deeply to calm your nervous system, and to take care of yourself.

If you missed it, our Tips to Survive and THRIVE Through the Political Season podcast episode may be worth a listen.

“We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.”
-Jo Cox