Friday, March 31, 2017

Part 6. How Not to Suck at… Conflicts

Whether it’s in your daily life, or your personal relationships the rule about conflicts is the same: address them as quickly as possible!!! There is no time to waste. It will not work itself out. It will not get smaller. Deal with it… now!

The longer the issues sits out there unaddressed, the worse it will be for everyone involved. The things that should have been easy to deal with will snowball completely out of control. In the absence of facts, people will start to tell themselves stories. And not just any stories… worst case stories. People will begin to act as if these stories are facts. Tempers will rise and attitudes will fare. Without being addressed, the situation will get worse.

Most conflicts will result from poor or lack of communication. The things that should have been asked or discussed but we ignored instead. The feelings we had but didn’t express. The questions that we did ask, but weren’t answered. The things we thought we knew, but had the wrong idea. We assumed when we should have had explanations. We filled in the blanks with our imagination and start to treat people based on these alternative facts.

Have the courage to address the conflict. It will suck. It will be a tough conversation, otherwise it wouldn’t be a conflict. Here’s the catch…it will be better addressed quickly then after it festers. Now is better! Do not text or email. Pick up the phone or talk face to face. Leave no room for additional miscommunication and deal with the issue head on. 

Friday, March 24, 2017

Part 5b. How Not to Suck at... Communication (In Relationships)

B.                  … In Relationships
If you thought communication (or lack of) is a big deal in your life, it’s a bigger deal in relationships! At least at work people have to deal with you. For the rest of the world it’s a choice. In your relationships bad communication can end a friendship and halt a relationship before it even gets started.

I just finished a 5-day leadership class: they say that communication is 70% body language, 20% tone and 10% words –hence the phrase “it’s not what you said, but how you said it.” Communication is meant to build trust and share information but if your verbal message doesn’t match your body language and tone, people have a hard time believing what you say. It feels like you're lying, or at best, hiding part of the truth.

People mainly lie because it’s easier than telling the truth. That’s the coward’s way out, and as an adult it’s time to mature enough to have some of those difficult conversations. Be open and honest; those hard exchanges will help us grow as people. Though they may not like what you have to say or be happy about it, person on the receiving end will actually appreciate your straight forwardness.

A key part of communication for me is commitment… not the let’s have titles or put a ring on it kind. That just comes with time with the right person. I’m just talking about the follow through on plans kind. I used to plan allot of group trips and outings and people’s lack of assurance drove me up a wall.  Pet peeve: when someone says “I’ll let you know.” In my head that’s a polite way of saying “no.” But it gives the other person a way back in if they want it. The down side is that holds my time hostage! I felt like I couldn’t make other plans waiting to see what they would say. Now, I set a deadline to “let me know” by or just treat “know” as a “no” and move on. I’ve been a lot happier that way. And when they try to come back with a last min answer, they get the “I’m busy,” “you didn’t let me know” or the “I have plans already.”

Now that I know how certain phrases and tones can sound, I try to clearer in my message, esp. via text. I am sarcastic. Depending on a person’s mood I know that some of the stuff I say can come off as mean and rude when in reality I was being completely playful. For that reason, when I think a text/email conversation is going south I immediately pick up the phone and call. No more texts until I hear their voice and understand they know I don’t mean any harm. I make sure that my massage is received the way I sent it!

My point is that you must to listen and look beyond what people actually say, and also take into account how people may interpret your words and body language. Allot of miscommunication is not in the words, it’s in how the other person interpreted them.  The message you sent was not received as intended! I learned the major cues, sayings, body language and tones and what they generally mean. I want to believe the words that come out of people’s mouths but now I know to pay attention to how people say things. People how a million ways to say “no” and just a few to say “yes.”

Friday, March 17, 2017

Part 5A: How Not to Suck at… Communication (in Life)

It is AMAZING how many situations and issues have communication at its root. Most people think they communicate well… they don’t. A study asked a group if they thought they were in the top 10% of effective communicators. 90% said they were. So at least 80% of those people are completely delusional! While most of us think good communication is sending information, the important part is that the information is received and understood.

A.                 … In Life

Nothing irritates me more than when someone sends me an email expecting me to do something. I am not an email person. I am not checking it all day and I hate checking it from my phone. Emails are for details, updates and tracking. The initial project conversation needs to be a conversation! Hitting the send button in Outlook does not guarantee that

1)      I’ve seen your email (both my personal and work emails stay flooded).
2)      I can do what you are requesting or
3)      I am actively working on it

I hate when I sit in a meeting and someone says that told my group something only to find out that they hit send on an email. That’s not telling! That’s throwing a ball and hoping someone is there to catch it…otherwise the ball gets dropped!

I know I am not an email person, but apparently other people are. So for me not to suck at communicating I do things I don’t like. I check emails from my phone and when I get an email asking me to do something I initiate the conversation to get a better understanding. Now that I have a team of people working for me, I try to communicate in ways they receive the information. I follow up emails with phone calls or face to face conversations. I provide feedback when questions are asked. I try to compensate and follow-up.

Communicating is meant to do 4 things:
1)      Build trust! It no one believes what you saying, there is no point in saying it. A big part of that trust will be to communicate and do the things you say you will do
2)      Share information. Sharing is giving and receiving. Good communication makes sure that the message is received and understood.
3)      Provide Feedback. Acknowledgement of shared information and requests is key. Working on a project is no good if no one knows you’re working on it. Even worse when it’s assumed that you are working, but you aren’t!
4)      Walk to Talk. Communicate with people how they best receive information and express to them how you need to be reached.

If you’re communicating just to say you did it, then you’re missing the point. We’ve got to communicate so that we actually connect with other person. 

Friday, March 10, 2017

Part 4B. How Not to Suck at… Focus (in Relationships)

B.                 …In Relationships

When it comes to relationships, “Focus” and “Letting Go” go hand in hand. “Letting Go” allows you to Focus. The things, the people, and the situations that you struggle to let go of are the very distractions that will trip you up when you find something worthwhile. Until you ae ready to Let Go, it will be extremely difficult to Focus. Let Go first…then Focus.

When it comes to relationships you can focus on a particular person, but I want to start even before that. I want to talk about what you really need/want from any person. In that regard, your focus should be the infamous list – the set of nearly impossible traits that some of us want from a mate. So like before, we have to first find the things that are really important, then make those a priority and stick to them. A hand full of things you are unwilling to compromise on. It might be faith, kids, location, or job – but narrow that book of traits to a short list of must haves. Then let go of the rest!

You’ll be amazed at the new possibilities that are opened up when the focus is changed to a few really important things. You may even realize the other stuff wasn’t even all that important. Or even better it was all shallow and surface non-sense.

I know that as I’ve gotten older, the qualities I look for in women have matured. Back in undergrad all she needed a nice smile, a big butt and brown skin and I was in love. Intelligence didn’t matter, level of craziness was a non-issue, strong faith was actually a deterrent and I hadn’t even remotely thought how our lives could/would fit together. Now I still like a big butt and a smile, but intelligence/drive is a must. Crazy/drama is a show stopper. Faith is a necessity. Wondering how our lives would mesh is second nature.  And real chemistry is essential!

It might seem that my list, my focus, has gotten longer; however, I’ve already been through the bow wave of superficial requirements… height, weight, income, breast size, skin tone, kids, car, dress, etc, etc.

It’s kind of like the 80/20 rule in relationships. The 80/20 rule says that you get 80% of what you want from your mate in your relationship, but there is 20% that you don’t or will never get.  Realize that you may never find someone who had all of want you want, but define a focus on what you really need. Get that stuff and be happy!

Friday, March 3, 2017

Part 4A. How Not to Suck at… Focus (in Life)

Never lose focus 

Never, lose focus

Never lose, focus

Never lose - Focus!

It’s so easy to lose sight of what’s really important long term. Even worse it may not even be for gain… just instant gratification with nothing to show for it! What we need is FOCUS. Not that getting something in the short term is bad, but we can’t allow that to derail us from what’s really important. Thee definitely needs to be a healthy balance between now and later, but if it’s going to significantly deter from the end goal, is it even worth it?

All that other stuff is distraction. Seems legit for the moment. Makes us happy in that instant, but what’s left when all the hype is gone? Are we any better off than we started? Did the distraction even serve its purpose? No? Then we need to create and maintain focus. That means we have to first find the things that are really important, then make those a priority and stick to them. Do not change the planl! Don’t take your eyes of the prize. Continually hanging the plan – changing what we think is important - is the very definition of a lack of focus.

A.                 …In life

In life, that focus should be on our goals. Where do we want to be in 1, 5, 10, or 20 years? New job? Bigger house? Happier lifestyle? Better credit? Sweeter ride? If you don’t know already, now is the time to decide. Things generally don’t happen by accident. Most of us aren’t fortunate to have the perfect life dropped in our laps. We have to play an active role in making our dreams come true.

My plan, my goal (one of them) is to be able retire decently early (early 50’s). For that to happen I know I need to know what I would need to retire on and have some cash tucked away gaining interest. That’s the goal. That’s what’s really important to me. I hate to see people who worked all their lives and have little to show for it. People who have to work into their 60’s and 70’s. People who are still living check to check even though they put in 30+ years at the same company.

I’ve created my focus. I know my goal – early retirement. How do I maintain that focus? Each pay check, after I pay God and my bills, I pay future me. Yes, I could use that money to buy things for now. Food, better car, bigger house, jewelry, clothes, the newest gadget, VIP lounges; and bigger and better vacations. I would LOVE to do all of those things…and I do all of those things to a smaller degree. My car is good. My house is big enough. I travel several times a year. I have and do enough now to keep me happy, but I don’t trade that for what I want long term.

Future me gets a cut of my check before I do anything extra – unnecessary expenditures. I put his money in places that gain interest. Future me is very patient and we both understand that compounding interest on an investment is the gift that keeps giving. True be told, I could do better about current multiple streams of income and investment opportunities; but I am definitely doing enough to keep me on track to an early retirement.

This is how I’ve been able to stay on track with my focus:
  • Decide what’s important – You already know something about your life that you really want to change. Decide that will be you focus, your goal.
  • Determine how to accomplish it – Make a plan. Doesn’t need to be elaborate. Just something to get you headed in the right direction.
  • Surround yourself with those who support your goal – My friends have similar goals. We encourage and support each other.
  • Eliminate (at least minimize) unnecessary activities – Have fun, live now but realize and maintain a level of focus on the future.
  • Stay consistent! – Otherwise future you isn’t going to be happy.