Learn these two critical communication skills for Connecting with Others.


Daily Quote: ” Sometimes the most unique connection and learning happens when others are encouraged to talk about themselves. Questioning and active listening are the best and most appreciated way to show others you care”. Mark W. Hardwick, Ph.D.

Reflection: Questions can be an effective way for you to show others that you curious about them and want to get to know them better. Effective questioning and active listening promote unique connections, progress and possibilities, and typically lead to two-communications, discoveries, understanding, and solutions.

A powerful question, for example, might be, “What are your goals for this year?” “What are the critical responsibilities for job”? “How do you show gratitude for others support”? and “What do you think our customers need to refer us to other companies”?

When the right questions are asked we can connect with others and have the possibility for problem solving and opportunity finding.

In the following, I will discuss some ways of questioning that lead to connections and  open-up conversations. Also we will examine the other side of the coin where the wrong type of questions shut down conversations and move others away from us.

Let’s review a few types of questions to see which ones work better in developing rapport and connections with others.

  1. Open ended questions. Are used so the other person can explain or provide more information which creates more of a two-way conversation and unique connect. Most open questions start with What? or How? Questions. For example –What are we going to do with our credit card debts? How are we going to pay for the kid’s college tuition?  Another way to open a conversation up is to say – “tell me” more about your ambition to be a doctor…
  2. Closed questions. Are questions that  can be answer with a simple “yes” or “no” and actually close down dialogue between to people. For example, Are you going to the game today?
  3. Exploration questions.   These types of questions generally, start with What? How? Where? or When? They facilitate exploration and provide an opportunity for learning more about the other person who you are interacting with. They provide more opportunity to gather information and lead to more understanding which is the basis of empathy.
  4. Judgmental questions. By contrast, a question that is classified as a “judging” make others defensive and less forth coming. Questions like this are more closed-minded, snarky and critical which lead to withdrawal a very little productive dialogue. They focus on problems rather than solutions and often lead to unproductive outcomes. Judging questions lead to negative energy and stop conversation before it has a chance to really get started. For example, “Are you responsible for this mess?  Or “Why aren’t we selling more in this quarter? By the way most people find Why? very difficult to answer and most of the time “just make shit up” to get the person off their back And so on.

Self-Coaching Challenge. Ask a colleague to make note of the kind and frequency of questions you ask at your next staff meeting. After you get the feedback decide what you are going to do to improve the openness and flow of your questions.

Part I. Leadership Research: # 1 skill for Becoming Extraordinary Leader

High-Resolution Leadership a research study conducted by DDI identifies that “the single most important skill of a good leader may not be what you think. Although it is important to be visionary and a strategic thinker, a new study suggests that it’s more rooted in their daily conversations and interactions with people”.

According to DDI research on leadership, the leader who’s most effective in having successful conversations is most likely to do the best in developing their team and creating a successful business. “By the end of each day, leaders likely have had multiple conversations with a range of their constituents,” DDI’s researchers write. “Each of these interactions will collectively determine their ultimate success as a leader.”

This conclusion comes from a report called High-Resolution Leadership, which is the result of synthesizing assessments taken by 15,000 participants being considered for leadership from the front lines to executive levels at 300 companies in 18 countries. DDI evaluated the data from personality and intelligence tests as well as from “day-in-the-life” simulations that allowed participants to demonstrate their skills.


Avoid Derailing your Career: Pay attention to Blindspots and Other People’s Perceptions.

How other people see us impacts our identity, reputation and sense of worth. It can also derail a promising career. Here are some examples from my Leadership Coaching experience–Some people may see you as a “softie” because of your hypersensitivity to any comments that you perceive as criticism. This leads to less feedback because they are afraid of offending you and this leads to less feedback and others avoiding being straight with you. Others may see you as hot, impulsive, explosive, to quick to react emotionally or overwhelm them with your arguments. This leads to people seeing you as a bully or intimidating  because you are experienced as having always to  win with your idea or point of view. This type of style can be improved by being more open to other points of view and actively listening to understand people’s position and feelings.  Also, some withhold feedback because you are seen as to strong, rude or very opinionated; not getting feedback in any of these situations leaves you with many “blinspots” that can stall your career and raise undue tension and conflict in your management team.

These blindspots are not to be considered personality flaws but only areas for more training and development of your interpersonal communication skills. Blindspots generally signal a need for more self-understanding because people are experiencing you in a way that is not productive for you or your organization. A blindspot  area could also include issues that others are deliberately withholding information from you and this might lead to your inability to manage and lead the team.

Self-Coaching Challenge:  To reduce the blind spots that may de-rail your career or interpersonal relationships you need to seek more input and information from others. To do this you need to model and support more listening and less judgmental feedback. Modeling openness and support for  more individual disclosure, reduces fear and therefore encourages honest feedback to flourish.  The extent to which an individual seeks feedback, and the issues on which feedback is sought, must always be at the individual’s own discretion. Some people are more resilient than others – care needs to be taken to avoid causing emotional upset. The process of soliciting serious and deep feedback relates to the process of ‘self-development and growth as a leader.

If you are committed to seek more feedback the question becomes– how do you go about getting it?

Sometimes people describe blind spots as perception disconnects – when the people around us don’t perceive our words and behaviors in the way we intended. We might believe that our calm, composed demeanor is a serious advantage in a high-stress workplace. Unfortunately, our co-workers perceive us as robotic, uncaring and even bully. Our goal might be to appear decisive and candid, but others actually think we’re abrupt and insensitive. Are we energetic and driven? Or relentless and annoying?  Are we methodical and systematic? Or inflexible and overly cautious? Sometimes there’s a very fine line there. But, at the end of the day, perceptions trump intentions. Despite our goals and the impressions we intend to make, our career success is determined by our reputations and the perceptions of us held by others.

Over the next three weeks take time to inform others that you want more feedback. Ask a close associate to observe and provide feedback on your blind spots– Be careful to be concrete in your request–by saying something like this– during the next few staffing meetings would you mind observing and documenting my ability and manner of listening or not  with team members and after the meeting we can talk about what worked, what didn’t work and how I might improve my listening skills.

Remember in trying to get feedback and uncover your blind spots you need to be supportive when this person provides their feedback on areas for improvement. Good Luck and be sure and share with us how it your personal development goes.

Daily Quote and Reflection: Are “SOFT SKILLS” and Emotional Intelligence the Missing Link for Your Life and Job Success in 2014?

Daily Quote:  “In the last decade or so, science has discovered a tremendous amount about the role emotions play in our lives. Researchers have found that even more than IQ, your emotional awareness and abilities to handle feelings will determine your success and happiness in all walks of life, including family relationships.” —Dr. John Gottman–From the book:  Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child

“Let’s say you work at a place that’s saturated with smarts. If all of your colleagues were always the brightest person in the room growing up, then what makes you stand out? One of the key factors for differentiating yourself from others in the workplace is the concept of emotional intelligence and self-awareness”. Drake Baer,  from Fast Company 

Reflection: Many studies are now pointing to emotional intelligence as a strong predictor of  productivity, effectiveness and success for people and the companies they work for.

To be emotionally intelligent, Goleman and other researchers say, you need to have confidence. To have confidence, you need to know your strengths and weaknesses. Yet what does it mean to have confidence? It means to understand and believe you have the ability and belief that you can do the things that produce positive results. When faced with a decision or choice of what to do to be successful at a task or activity you believe you have the wherewithal to use your focused concentration, experiences and talents to complete the job successfully. This underlining insight is based on what Arthur Bandura calls self-efficacy. Working from a basis of belief in yourself provides a behavioral framework or platform of “I can do this”.

Self-Coaching Challenge: So your challenge for the New Year is to assess where you are on the Emotional Intelligence scale and then put together a plan for personal and emotional intelligence. Remember you can change your level of emotional intelligence because unlike IQ and other fixed variables our EQ is malleable but it will take more self-awareness and deliberative practice to improve you EQ level.

Want to learn more about EQ read this powerful article in Fast Company called: Emotional Intelligence predicts Job Success Do You Have It?  by Drake Baer.



Part I : Listening and Building Relationships with the “Third Ear”

Daily Quote:  “When people are listened to sensitively, they tend to listen to themselves with more care and to make clear exactly what they are feeling and thinking.” Dr. Carl Rogers 

1. Communicate so as to build rapport by showing interest, respect and responsiveness.Show positive regard and respect by greeting and attending to others needs.Trying to find common interests creates unique and supportive connections. For example, pay attention to what the other person is wearing and how they carry themselves. Always be ready to pay sincere compliments and ask open ended questions.

2. Be in-synch. With words, voice tone, body language ( use high and low tones, open gestures, eye contact) aligned with clear and concise message. If you find the place in you that is really pleased to speak with the other person and truly interested in what they have to say, you will be congruent in what you say and how you say it. People will clearly see your warmth and caring concern through your eyes, voice tone and facial expressions.

3. Tune-in with the Third Ear-eliminate external and Internal distractions
We can all sense if someone is fully “present” with us or distracted by other things going on in the environment.  Listening with the “third ear” means that you focused not just the other person’s words or content, but you are truly trying to content and emotional intent of what they are saying. To do this you must be sure that your mind is not distracted. Active listening requires you to stay with and be there for the other person, so please eliminate al noise distractions such as cell phones, televisions and other conversations or activities.
If possible, find a place with minimal distractions away from other people and activities so that you can fully concentrate on listening and responding. If you are doing something else when someone approaches you to share, choose to “drop” what you are doing and actively fully focus on listening to show the person they are important and valued.

4. Acceptance of others and building trust. No one has said it better than Carl Rogers in his book Freedom to Learn “When I do truly hear a person and the meanings that are important to him at that moment, hearing not simply the words, but him, and when I let him know that I have heard his own private personal meanings, many things happen.  There is first of all a grateful look. He feels acceptance.  He feels released.  He wants to tell me more about his world. He surges forth in a new sense of freedom.  I think he becomes more open to the process of change.”

It is easier to eliminate external noise than the internal noise in your mind that is thinking of other things, worrying about the past or future conversations or problems.  Eastern psychologists warn us that the mind is like a bouncing ball going in one direction or another. So we need to learn to quiet our mind, stop randomly jumping around  and to focus on where we want the mind to go and then the behavior will follow.

How to stop the “bouncing ball” and be attentive and actively listen? 
Many neurologists and psychologist suggest the practice of meditation, mindfulness and/or other western methods of focusing the mind with discipline, people begin to become the master of their minds and in control of the vast energy and power of the mind.  The mind focused on one-to-one communication is “mindful” and gives the person an immense power of “presence”, the power of focus, of attention, and really being fully present with another person in the moment

We are often distracted by our own views and values, our own perceptions that cause us to judge another person from our own personal experiences and histories.  We cannot fully listen to another person if we are really listening to our own “mind chatter.”  We tend to listen “autobiographically” and perceive what the other person is saying through filters based on our own lives and personal experiences. We need to be less self-centered. The key concept is listening with a mind-set of non-judgment. Often we “selectively listen” to what the other person is saying with personal bias, listening for affirmations of our own views or judging negatively when we find differences. If we eliminate our own judgments based on our own lives, we can have the opportunity to experience empathic understanding of the other person and enter into their world, their perceptions and reality.
Be sure you are listening to the other person and not to yourself and your own perceptions of the world.  Full respect, positive regard and unconditional acceptance of the other person are necessary conditions  for becoming a empathic listening.

As you listen carefully, what do you want to know to understand more fully the other person’s perspective?  Invite them to share more to deepen your understanding.  Ask “open questions”  and “door openers” that invite the person to share more.   “That is very interesting, . . “  Tell me more about . . .” How do you feel about . . .”

Let your body express that you are “following” and interested in what the other person is saying and that you would like to hear more.  Show excitement and genuine interest by using “encouragers”, allowing your body to express attention through positive and encouraging head nods, caring voice tone, warm eye contact and expressive facial expressions.  Convey genuine interest, enthusiasm and joy in trying to connect with others.

Practice:  Clarification, Restatement and Reflective RESPONSES
Once you have begun to sense the world of the other person, begin to reflect back their significant thoughts and feelings.  Listen to what they have just shared and find the most important feelings that the person has shared or the deeper meaning that may lie behind the words.  Use reflective statements to paraphrase or summarize what the other person seems to be thinking or feeling.
Check your perceptions by reflecting back what you think you have heard the other person say or perhaps what they might like to say or explore..  “Perception-checking” often starts with statements like “You seem to feel”, “I imagine you must want.”   You are not sure so you give “wiggle-room” for them to agree or clarify more fully how they do feel etc.  Your clear interest allows the other person to share his/her feelings at a deeper, more accurate level that fosters real contact and genuine communication.

As you actively listen and respond, you will clarify the feelings and meanings of what the person is expressing or trying to express.  When you do not understand exactly what the other person means, paraphrase or summarize what you think they are saying and they will clarify their feelings for you.
In your reflections, strive to use clear, specific, “concrete” descriptions to deepen the level of understanding.  Being clear and descriptive communicates true understanding and leads to deeper levels of empathic two-way communication and sharing that can lead to improved  interpersonal connections and relationship development and growth.

Self-Coaching Challenge: Identify one person who you would like to connect with and understand more fully, then choose to practice one of the techniques listed above like clarification, reflection or perception checking. Take notes in your journal on what worked, what didn’t work and how you can improve your listening skills.

Third Ear–Active listening Techniques for Connecting with Others

” Listening is an attitude of the heart, a genuine desire to be with another which both attracts and heals”. Carl Rogers

Active listening is a critical skill for leaders and coaches. As a an effective listener you show interest and are demonstrating the “golden rule” of listening: MMFI (Make Me Feel Important).  You will encourage people to more fully develop their answers and this will provide you invaluable information, understanding and insight.  Setting your concerns and self-interest aside and “being there” in the “here and now” with the other person is rare and powerful.  If you are truly listening you not only hear the words, but also the emotions, fears and issues of the other person.  This provides a unique bond of empathy and an opportunity to learn and connect with others. 

CPR Technique for better understanding and personal connections 

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Dr.Stephen Covey


Ask questions to check your understanding of the meaning of the person’s words or ask person to clarify by telling you more… use open-ended questions.

  • Please tell me more about that issue….
  • “When you say __________, what exactly do you mean?”


In your own words repeat or restate what you think the other person said.

  • “Let me see if I understand you correctly…”
  •  It seems to me, if I understand you correctly,  that you want to find a new job. Have got it right?


Use reflection to display empathy and to check your perception of the person’s emotions.  There are two components of reflection:

  • Tentative statement (“It appears that you are overwhelmed with forms”)
  • Attempt to identify the feeling (“You’re frustrated with…”) Identify the feeling being expressed, if you are wrong the person will set you straight.

Additional Active Listen Tools   

Focused Attention

Tune out distractions. Concentrate.  Look the person in the eye and turn toward them to clearly communicate your interest in what they are saying. Do not multitask when talking with others. Resist need to respond too quickly or interupt the other person.


Give the person time to collect their thoughts and continue.  Use non-verbal cues to demonstrate your receptivity.

See more at TED talk on Importance of Listening 

Part I: Meaningful Life principle #2 –Learn to be a Great Communicator and Presenter

Author’s note: On this post I will flush out in more detail the number #2 principle from the Handbook for Creating and Living a Meaningful Life: 30+ Rules of the Road .

Meaningful Life Principle #2: Learn to become a “dynamic” communicator.   

Relevant thought trigger and quotes : Not only is there an art in knowing a thing, but also a certain art in communicating and teaching it. Cicero 

“The problem with communication… is the ILLUSION that it has been accomplished.”—George Bernard Shaw

A Presentation is a Performance Act. You are an Actor. Tom Peters

To be a great a communicator requires high performance (self3) behaviors  and takes “Truth Telling” which begins with clear thinking, courage and belief in yourself and the ideas you are trying to get across. Learn to be an active listener when preparing for the presentation, so you can identify your audience needs ( something you didn’t learn in school)–So if you want to come across to others as authentic and be perceived as “star presenter” practice the mental set, attitude, and actions listed in my “ten rules for excellence in communicating” they will speak volumes of who you really are and transform how you think about interpersonal communications and how you connect with others when presenting.

Dr. Mark’s 10 Tips Becoming a passionate communicator and public speaker:                                               1. Be clear and concise, confident and compelling about your purpose and goals for the interaction or presentation. Don’t present anything you would not want to hear if you were on the other side of the desk or in the meeting room.

2. Learn that “Connecting with Others” is the most important factor to consider when communicating and delivering you message. Do you believe in what you are talking or spouting off about? How comfortable are you in presenting ideas and information to others? Are you open to other points of view? Can you communicate in conversational tones and gestures? Can you manage your nervous energy?

3. Believe in your self—Know your strengths and become a high performer by using them when communicating 1 to 1 or to an audience of 1000 people. This will allow you the freedom to overcome nervousness and self-doubts.

4. You must become a serious and formal student of communication and listening. Yes, the likes of presenting, conversing,  talking and listening can be studied and practiced with the same thoroughness with which you studied mathematics or science that is the bedrock for becoming a physicist or medical doctor.  There’s no more need to be casual about developing these soft skills of interpersonal communication than there is concerning mastering the job of doctor or lawyer. Granted formal schooling for the hard stuff is more available to aspiring professional presenters and students. Yet it can be done—and as I said before, the benefits of undertaking professional study in the art of communicating and presenting and listening is critical to your success in business and life.

5. Give as many speeches as you can—of all shapes and sizes. “Hey, Coach Mark, how did you get to where you are with your presentation skills?” “I’m a lot better after 2500 speeches than I was after 2 or 3.” Meetings are a great training ground for both watching and learning about performing; for example, observe how people react to this or that approach taken by a speaker.

6. The One Big Secret I have learned over and over again in my 40+ years in public speaking and giving presentations is that they are personal and open conversation whether it is a 1 to 1, face 2 face conversation, small staff meeting, conference key-note to 500 people. Make it personal and create closeness by being self-disclosing and truthful–tell stories… Remember an effective speech to 1,000 people is an intimate, 1-on-1 conversation so engage them and surprise them so they are interested and curious about what you have to say.

7. Speak with passion–be energized and excited that you get the privilege of presenting  what you know that can help the audience members live a more fulfilling life.

8. Stay focused but flexible on interests and needs of the other person. Be ready to change topis or re-focus speech if you get feedback or body language that the audience is not with you. Don’t be bound or married to your agenda, always remain audience-centered.

9. Don’t worry about what is going to happen next or be preparing to respond stay in the moment observe, respond and focus on the process of conveying your message and connecting.

10. Close with a bang. Let the audience tell you what they learned. Check for audience AHA’s,  discoveries and learning. Check on commitment for action and personal change.

Bonus Idea for getting ready to speak– Use “relaxation and release” tools to start in a great state of mind and energy…   be open to whatever arises, and be confident you can handle whatever comes-up.

Remember as JFK said,“The only reason to give a speech is to change the world.”

Handbook For Creating and Living a Meaningful Life:Principle # 1– Power of “First Impressions” Be Ready.

Author’s note: From the Handbook for Creating and Living a Meaningful Life: 30+ Rules of the Road . This my first post and Principle #1 for creating a more fulfilling and meaningful life.

Meaningful Life Principle # 1 : Power of First Impressions. Be Ready.

Quote: “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression”.

Will Rogers , American Humorist

When interacting with others remember from the very first moment, people are taking the measure of you and you are creating an impression.  This observation is backed up by very good research on the astonishing speed at which people form first impressions of others, often in seconds. And, once formed, opinions can be difficult or impossible to change. In fact, people tend to seek out information that confirms their pre-existing impressions and block out information that doesn’t — the so-called “confirmation bias.” So think hard about the impressions you want to create. If you make a good first impression If you do, others will want to keep interacting with you and will work with you and help you to succeed. So always  “Be Ready” when opportunities in life are presented.

“If (a man) is brusque in his manner, others will not cooperate.  If he is agitated in his words, they will awaken no echo in others.  If he asks for something without having first established a (proper) relationship, it will not be given him.” Robert Bolton

The immediacy of first impressions and how they effective the decision to go forward in a conversation or a relationship has been called many things in the fields of Communication, Social Psychology and Psychology–power of first impressions, bias of confirmation, primacy effect, thin slicing etc. As a father, I tried to teach my boys the “power of first” impressions. My simple message was to look the person in the eye and give them a firm handshake. Now there is more research that confirms that it takes only a matter of seconds for a person to decide if they want to go forward with a relationship. As a matter of fact researchers have found that before you complete your answer to an interviewer’s first question (15 seconds) they have decided whether to hire you or not. WOW 15 seconds just about enough time for you to look them in the eye, exchange a firm handshake and ask them how their day is going. Is there any we can to do to overcome this powerful interpersonal law.

Until recently, little if any research  had been done about what happens when we first meet someone and yet somehow this advice had been handed down from generation to generation. Psychologist and interpersonal communication experts just ignored or took this axiom for granted. Research over the past decade, now confirms the power of the first impression. In a sense, those who gave you that advice were  correct –good eye contact and  a firm handshake may be all it takes to create a memorable first impression. These “moments of truth” can have significant implications in the friends we make, advice we receive from a doctor, the career opportunities we are open to and the person we will fall in love with and marry.

Professor Frank Bernieri of Oregon State University, and a colleague recently  collected a series of videotaped job interviews to test whether it is possible to guess the result of the interview simply from observing the interaction between the interviewer and interviewee. It was found  that an observer could predict whether or not the interviewee would be offered the job from watching just the first 15 seconds of the tape – the handshake, the “hello” and very little else. What happened in those few, brief moments was enough to determine if the candidate received an offer to be hired or not. This is the power of first impressions. “First impressions are the fundamental drivers of our relationships,” says Professor Frank Bernieri. He goes on to say “In a sense, … the initial conditions can have a profound impact on the eventual outcome.

A first impression is your initial contact and gauge for analyzing  and judging another human being. This power of “thin-slicing” methodology is based on the theory that we make a reasonably accurate assessment of a person from observing  just a few seconds, or a “thin slice”, of their behavior. From the evidence gleaned in not much more than a few glances, we decide whether we like another person, whether they’re trying to connect with us, and if they’re friend or foe. If you’ve ever changed seats on an airplane or train to avoid someone, because there was something “not quite right about them”, you’ve used your ability to thin-slice. In that instance, you were probably aware of a gut instinct – you may have felt as if your sense of perception was heightened because there was the possibility of something strange happening – but we thin-slice people in all kinds of situations, not just when we feel uneasy or threatened. Bar hopping to find a hookup is another common example of impulsive thin-slicing decisions. These early assessments that we make of people set us up to look for certain behaviors or non-verbal cues. This information is locked-in and sets us on a course of a self-fulfilling prophecy.  If we have decided that a person is a certain type of person, who thinks, feels and behaves a certain way, we pay more attention to evidence that confirms our initial thoughts and supports our implicit impressions of this person. This cognitive phenomenon is known as the “confirmation bias”. For example, after meeting a business friend’s new partner you might decide they are a little removed and not engaging. From then on, you will be on the look out for other signs of what you see as arrogant or dismissive behavior. noticing when they talk only about themselves, their possessions such as cars or condo in Naples, or they are so self-centered they don’t inquire or  ask you or other people any questions about their interests or life situation. You won’t necessarily notice other more friendly or accepting gestures or comments because you have made your mind-up that are egotist.  We seek out the information that confirms we are right, and we ignore or discount evidence  that might suggest we are wrong or misguided about our snap judgment.

First Impression judgments and confirmation bias are at the heart of many recent works, including Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (see below) and Gerd Gigerenzer’s Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious. One thing all these writers and researchers agree on is that our ability for making such immediate judgments is largely unknowable, and when we begin to question exactly what it is that made us choose a certain way, we begin to second-guess ourselves, and get things wrong. The researchers have found that when people are asked to deliberate before they make a decision they tend not to be as good as they are if they do it unconsciously and quickly.

Although our rapid cognition is fairly accurate, it’s still possible for us to misread someone the first time we meet them. No matter how shrewd you might think you are  – we are subject to all kinds of cognitive biases, which stretch and distort our judgment. “There’s a classic study where participants are shown a short film of a woman coming home from work,” says Bernieri. “Sometimes the woman was labelled ‘Jane the waitress’, sometimes she was called ‘Jane the librarian’. After viewing the short film, researchers asked the viewers to relate what they’d seen, they ‘remembered’ details consistent with the woman’s job. If Jane had been introduced as a librarian, people remembered her wearing glasses, even though she hadn’t been.  Our assumptions about how a waitress might behave or the way a librarian might look are so strong that we pay more attention to them than the person or evidence in front of us. Indeed, our assumptions and expectations influence the way that we see and judge others.”For example, if I’ve heard from a client that you are a difficult person, then I might have already decided I’m not going to like you and the interaction will be difficult and stressful. Then, when I meet you, I’m going to behave in a more defensive and critical way towards you, which, in turn, is going to get you to behave in a difficult way towards me.”

Stay tuned on more about Creating and Living a Meaningful Life.


Self-Coaching Tip: Be an Anthropologist by Being Present and Observant

” If you think self-belief and being more aware and observant  in life cannot make a difference in your life, think again” Jeffrey Brantley, M.D.  

The greatest thing I’ve got going for me is my ability to be observant and believe in other people’s talents. I am a feedback mirror because I hear and see people doing things they can’t hear or see themselves doing. Every great communicator needs that kind of feedback or they will not be stimulated to change or grow. Blindspots will trip them up on their path to success. Having confidence in yourself is important, but it helps to have someone who believes in you, too, whether it’s a spouse, a friend, a teacher, or even a coach. These important teachers and mentors can keep you from tripping-up in life by providing honest feedback and reality checks.

Challenge Assignment: 

1. List 5 people in your life who could serve as a reality and feedback coach?

2. Contact them in the next 24 hours and ask them to be your coach.

3. Be specific and concrete about what you want from them.

Self-Coaching Tip #6: Overcoming Self Doubt by Relaxing and Mindfulness

Overcoming Self-Doubts and the Critic Within

Daily Quote: 

” Mindfulness and Centering involves simple keeping your attention in the present moment, without judging it as happy or sad, good or bad. It encourages living each moment – even painful ones – as fully and as mindfully as possible. Mindfulness is more than a relaxation technique; it is an attitude toward living. It is a way of calmly and consciously observing and accepting whatever is happening, moment to moment…This may sound simple enough, but our restless, judging minds make it surprisingly difficult. As a restless monkey jumps from branch to branch, our minds jump from thought to thought”. See more at: http://www.ocdrecoverycenters.com/about/prot_meditation.html

Reflection:  I can see that there is tremendous benefit in choosing to let go of fear, judgment, expectations and stress. When we choose this course, we have the opportunity to be present in the “here and now” and in turn we are empathic, more centered and more peaceful. We have more energy and vitality for life because we are no longer resisting this moment but embracing it for what it is. When we are present, we are in a better place to think clearly, be in touch with our feelings, and make more informed rational choices in life.

We can learn to let go and be more aware and centered by:

1. Choosing to be more mindful and present in the moment and less on automatic pilot or “sleep walking through” life.

2. Becoming aware of the self-talk in regards to the past and the future.

3. Using 10 Minute Stress Relaxation and Recovery Response.   Just breathe and relax your body, smile and clear your mind and say “this is what it is, now what”.

4. Accept and trust that you can handle what is happening in the “here and now”

5. Choosing to do the right thing at that moment of truth.

6. Use positive self-talk like “ I am willing and can let go by just doing what I need to do now.

7. Use deliberative practice of relaxation responses which are great for centering and keeping you focus.

8. Practice taking Smart-steps to give your rational side to gain control over impulses and other stupid and primitive actions.

Self-Coaching: Focus on Plus One and Smart-Steps techniques

Smart-Step and Plus 1 Change Tools for Self-Coaching   

  • Identify a reasonable change goal. Start by making your goal realistic, understandable, doable and measurable.
  • Monitor and Edit yourself in positive ways. Commit to setting and making progress to accomplishing this goal by the end of the weekend.  Set a Plus 1 goal by identifying one specific behavior to change and take a one step at a time to make some changes. To make the activity more challenging stretch from where you are now to where you want to go. Do not try to change everything at one time; review and reassess goal to keep it realistic and incorporate these small lessons learned from setbacks or failures. Try to understand setbacks and overcome them by the lessons you learned. Don’t give-up or give-in. Stay focused and bothersome distractions will disappear.
  •  Soften your “criticism.” of self . Do not quit if you feel overwhelmed. Practice this technique–STOP. Reflect. Challenge your thinking.
  • Ask for and accept support and advice from others. Changing a habit or getting unstuck succeeds to the extent that you do not feel alone in tackling or changing it. Be responsive to friends and family members comments or concerns. Be open and flexible to suggestions and feedback from others in trying to keep momentum for change going.
  • Have high standards. Have high standards and don’t expect perfection. Things may go wrong. Be ready to go with the flow.
  • Focus on the optimistic “POV” and Self-Talk. Try to understand and apply your strengths and abilities to the change process. People who succeed on changing  behavior permanently make at least three times as many positive statements to themselves about progress than negative statements or excuses.

Once you understand the Smart-Step Process you are on the road to significant personal change and getting unstuck.  Specific change goals replace other people’s expectations and help you focus on what is really an important priority in your life. Being and living in the moment is critical to developing confidence. It means learning to trust and believe in your ability to accept the challenge. Developing this change posture means that you must accept more vulnerability and take more risk. Trust is directly related to your ability to be open and is experienced as authenticity by others. Good Luck on your change goals and share your success stories with us next week.

Self-Coaching: “First Things First” Ideas on Time and Energy management

Part 1–In this post I am presenting an important concept for your Self-Coaching experience– Identifying what are the important but not urgent activities in your life that provide the biggest payoff in managing an a limited resource “time” and how time impacts an important quality of life resource–your daily energy. Time is a fixed amount for all of us–168 hours per week. So energy is our currency for life and without this energy, we can`t perform or enjoy doing much in our life, even as we try to manage extend time. Learn more at: Natural News webpage article on Energy and Life Balance. 

Questions and Reflection: “Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that’s the stuff that life is made of.” – Benjamin Franklin

“It’s not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is, what are we busy about?” Henry David Thoreau


Here are some ideas on time and energy management that I think will help you to see that at its essence  time management means choice, prioritizing, decision making on what’s important to you. It is a critical building block in becoming more emotionally intelligent and increasing self-management expertise for living a more satisfying and meaningful life.

What are the most important things in your life? Do they get as much care, emphasis, and time as you’d like to give them? Far from the traditional “be-more-efficient” time-management book with shortcut techniques, First Things First shows you how to look at your use of time totally differently. Using this book will help you create balance between your personal and professional responsibilities by putting first things first and acting on them. Covey and Merrill try to convey an organizing process that helps you reflect on what is important. You achieve this by structuring and making decisions about what tasks in life are important to focus on to achieve your goals and mission in life. You focus on what is important, not merely what is urgent. First you divide tasks into 4 quadrants:

  1. Important and Urgent (crises, deadline-driven projects, revenue collected policies in force, quotas etc).
  2. Important, Not Urgent (preparation, prevention, planning, relationships like teeth cleaning to prevent cavities; planning the yearly budget and building trusted and long-term relationships. 
  3. Urgent, Not Important (interruptions, many pressing matters like ringing cell phone
  4. Not Urgent, Not Important (trivia, time wasters, like watching TV)

Most people spend most of their time in quadrants 1 and 3, while quadrant 2 is where quality of life and work happens. The authors point out that “Doing more things faster (efficiency) is no substitute for doing the right things (effectivness). They points you toward the real meaningful human needs–“to live, to love, to learn, to leave a legacy”–and how to balance your time to achieve a meaningful life, not just get things done.

Time management is good. Setting goals is good. But all of these things are only good if your goals are actually meaningful and important for you in living a productive and satisfying life. If you spend all your time creating to-do lists, and carefully plotting out weekly goals … but your goal is to get a “bigger house or a Porsche ” while your children are struggling to find their way at school or life and you’re miserable at work, something is out of sync.

This book is all about making sure that what you do is what you really want to do. It’s about a higher level of time and self-management called living a Meaningful and Constructive life. So they’re not saying the other time management systems are bad. They explicitly say that each has its place in life! However, if you work very hard every day to climb a ladder, and find after many years that the ladder you’ve climbed was against the wrong wall, then you’ll be very disappointed. You should always make sure you are working for a goal that you really feel is important at a basic moral level.

This isn’t a book to just plow through in a few hours or days and see what you remember. It’s asking you to really think about why you do things in life. Is it because your parents harassed you when you were young, and you want to get a flashy car to prove you’re something? Do you try to out-do your co-workers even if it hurts your home life? Sometimes these answers don’t come easily. If they did, I imagine we wouldn’t need a book to help us sort them out.

This is a good book to read slowly and reflect on. I often use this book as a resource when things seem to be getting hectic or out of control. The basic concept is easy enough to understand. Divide your “to do list” based on what category they fall into – Quadrant  1, 2, 3,or 4; then execute against these priorities. 

Sounds easy, yes? But how many of us get sucked into a ton of “urgent” but really not important tasks for all sorts of reasons? It’s the planning – the Quadrant II time – that can help fix those issues. But we have to make time to plan. If your life is full of urgent demands, it may seem impossible to do this. But it can be done.

I know, I know this is a hard idea to wrap your mind around because  we all only have 24 hrs a day. You might say “Well but I have 3 kids at home”. True! So in your life, you made children your priority. You wanted kids! So embrace that, and accept that as your personal mission and long-term commitment. Put aside other less important things like the Porsche car you want. We all make choices in life about what is important to us. When we make those choices, we should accept that, be happy with that, and find ways to emphasize our time in those areas. You have to choose to spend the time on things that are important and you love – not to divide your time up among various things urgent and pressing. 

This is the main lesson in managing time. If you say you do not have time for something; like call your mother  then it is important to realize you are making a decision that she is not part of what you decided is important in life. You have chosen to focus on what is most important – don’t try to do or be all things to all people. That is living your with all urgent and not necessarily important  and meaningful activities. Trust me it doesn’t work and the stress will burn you out.

In Part 2 of this paper I will provide more ideas about the importance of energy vs time management in this hectic world we are all trying to navigate.

Self Coaching Module #3: Developing Unique Connections through the Art of Listening and Questioning.

Studies have concluded that 70 percent of the average day is spent in communicating.  However, only 10 percent of that communicating is done in writing: therefore, the rest is verbal.  Also, it has been discovered that most people speak at a rate of 125 words per minute and that people can absorb or process words at a rate of 400-500 words per minute.  The question becomes what do we do with that extra capacity to listen?

Since gathering information and connecting with people are important dimensions of leadership it seems only smart to always be looking for ways to improve the skills of listening and questioning. Remember what I have said before: “In Self-Coaching you are the person builder and value developer…who is trying to focus on your strengths and find ways to reach your full potential.  Your goal of becoming a more effective leader is enhanced if you learn  to  improve your ability to actively listen, confront issues, and problem solve.”

Listening Habits or Mannerisms to Avoid

  •  Prejudging the subject or speaker
  •  Criticizing the speaker or manner of delivery
  • Getting over-stimulated about the subject and therefore getting ahead of the speaker or not remaining objective
  • Attempting to be “too” complete in taking notes
  • Audience distractions – causing them or being part of them
  • Letting personal prejudices get between you and the material “hot buttons”
  • Not paying attention to the speaker

Positive Listening Habits

  •  Evaluate the message for its pertinence to you and your job
  • Try to detect a central message and avoid getting “hung-up”
  • Avoid or overcome distractions
  • Maintain emotional control
  • Use extra listening capacity to anticipate where the speaker is going
  • Focus on how the message fits or contradicts your ideas and thoughts


Active listening is only half of the communication process.  The other half is the art of effective questioning.  As a good questioner you show interest and are demonstrating the “golden rule” of listening: MMFI (Make Me Feel Important).  You will encourage people to more fully develop their answers and this will provide you invaluable information and insight.  Setting your concerns and self-interest aside and “being there” in the “here and now” with the other person is rare and powerful.  If you are truly listening you not only hear the words, but also the emotions, fears and issues of the other person.  This provides a unique bond of empathy and an opportunity to learn from others. 

CPR Technique for better understanding and personal connections 


Ask questions to check your understanding of the meaning of the person’s words or ask person to clarify by telling you more… use open-ended questions.

  • Please tell me more about that issue….
  • “When you say __________, what exactly do you mean?”


In your own words repeat or restate what you think the other person said.

  • “Let me see if I understand you correctly…”
  •  It seems to me, if I understand you correctly,  that you want to find a new job. Have got it right?


Use reflection to display empathy and to check your perception of the person’s emotions.  There are two components of reflection:

  • Tentative statement (“It appears that you are overwhelmed with forms”)
  • Attempt to identify the feeling (“You’re frustrated with…”) Identify the feeling being expressed, if you are wrong the person will set you straight.

Additional Active Listen Tools   

Focused Attention

Tune out distractions. Concentrate.  Look the person in the eye and turn toward them to clearly communicate your interest in what they are saying. Do not multitask when talking with others. 


Give the person time to collect their thoughts and continue.  Use non-verbal cues to demonstrate your receptivity.

Powerful Questions: 

What is the higher purpose for resolving this matter?

What is the ultimate reason for doing this activity?

What is the outcome that you want?

What are your goals?

Withhold judgment and actively listen – When interacting with others, attempt to take their entire experience into account and take time to understand the full context of that interaction to
the best of your ability. Refrain from making snap judgments and quick first impressions. Try to see the world through their eyes by asking relevant questions not canned ones. Before framing your question reflect on your past relationship with this person and hoe that may influence your ongoing interactions? How do you think they truly feel about you? Given what you are now discussing what information do you need to better understand their point of view, then ask your question.

Self-Coaching: Overcoming Pinches and Stress in Interpersonal Communications

Stress or Irritation (Pinch) – A pinch is a frustration or anger trigger that occur when one person, violates another’s needs, wants, expectations, boundaries, values, beliefs etc.

The offended person reacts with either a knot in the stomach or a small alien popping out of their chest to right the wrong caused by their frustration. Along with these physical sensations comes an irrational thought from the primitive part of their brain that over-rides the executive and rational part of their brain. Their thinking goes like this:  This person has offended or dis-respected me and should not have done/said that! Or in some cases, we think, this person should be more  responsive or courteous to me. In these situations we feel disappointed, frustrated or angry because our expectations are not being met.

Coaching Tip: Use alignment principle to manage stress and unmet expectations: Living with respect and empathy as core values means: not settling for less than what you think or know you deserve in a situation or relationship. To be proactive ask for what you want and need from others rather than assuming others know what you expect or want. When interacting with others speak your truth, even though it might create conflict or tension. Behave in alignment with your personal values. Make choices based on what you believe, and not what others tell you to do. This approach will bring clarity to the interaction and may produce a better outcome.

Weekly Self-Coaching Assignment–How to Diffuse Relationship Conflicts?

Weekly Self-Coaching Assignment 

A handy tool if you are having issues with someone, that sets you off and causes pain for everyone involved is called the caring confrontation process. At its core it is the ability to “say what needs to be said; you don’t withhold comments because they might hurt or be offensive to the other person. You  don’t run from or ignore the person but in a caring way you say what is on your mind and how you feel so as to be clear and compelling with other person rather than vague or miss leading.

These “difficult conversations” are built on openness and leveling with others and this behavior leads to  trust. I think one of the toughest elements of  coaching consciousness is the ability to build trust  and integrity in our relationships. That means saying what needs to be said in a caring and clear manner so as keep our relationships open and clear.

It’s not always easy to say what needs to be said. However, avoiding difficult conversations can drain the trust out of important relationships, sometimes to the point that we abandon the relationships because they lose their shared value.

Rupturing relationships because we won’t step up to the plate and say what needs to be said is a failure of our responsibility as a coach or trusted partner in our relationships. Valuable relationships are deepened by our willingness to be honest and level with the other person. Sometimes that means saying what needs to be said through caring confrontation.

You know that “something needs to be said” when something is bothering you about a situation. You have some emotional energy and baggage around the situation or what is or not being said. it. A conversation may be needed to get back to a place of clarity and shared understanding.

Assignment for this week

Identify a relationship that you are having difficulty with and then use the tool of caring confrontation and listening to begin to reset the relationship. Keep notes in your Person Self-Coaching Journal to identify what is working for you and where you need to improve to put the relationship back on a productive and effective path.

Send thewick an email to get the proven to tools to get started. thewick.wordpress.com/us or simple leave a comment at–http://wp.me/pnKb1-1Cg

Attention Assholes: Check-out if the Label Fits You. Take Self-Test.

Defining Asshole behavior “Someone who displays very rude, vulgar, inappropriate, obnoxious behavior that causes a major embarrassment and inconvenience to those around them”.However, what makes this person an asshole is the fact that they, while fully aware that others suffer on their behalf, intentionally behave so discourteously.

Examples of Asshole  behavior, and why it is:1) If you’re in a parking lot, and you’re closer to the parking spot someone just pulled out of than the other car, that’s been waiting for 5 minutes, you are an asshole. They were there first, making them rightfully entitled to that space.

2) Everyone stops talking when you walk-up, this makes you an asshole because people are afraid to offend you or to trip you anger button.

3) If you’re in a fancy restaurant on your only night out this month and you bring your 4 mo. old crying baby, you are an asshole. The baby will cry, and you will disrupt everyone’s time out.

4) Traffic is backed up for miles because of a closed lane. You don’t care so you drive along the shoulder till you can cut-in front of all the other idiots.

5. You drink a little too much at your brothers wedding and during the toast you talking about all the other girls he dated and the good times you and he had before the bride showed up in the picture.

Now,  if you have the nerve take Dr. Robert Sutton’s Quiz on Asshole behavior and see where you fit on his scale. There are only 15 questions and it is insightful if you can be truthful but this might illuminate some of your leadership “blindspots.  By the way lying or so-called “white lies” is also Asshole Behavior.

After taking the Quiz you might want to pick-up Dr. Robert Sutton’s Book –The No Asshole Rule