The ” No” Conversations

  • Do you find it difficult to say no to requests and invitations from colleagues, friends, and bosses at work?
  • Very often at the office, do you feel like saying No to requests but end up saying Yes?
  • Do you feel upset with others in your team since you have your own job to complete, and you have not been able to say No to additional responsibilities?

and

  • How do you feel when someone at work says “No” to your request or an idea?

My paternal uncle always had lots of stories to share from his experiences. Often we used to chat about life and its lessons. He was a very helpful person and was known around his town as someone with a helping hand. He once told me” It is not possible to help people each time they ask. There are times when I have had to refuse them. But what has happened is that I see those people then begin to keep a distance from me. People essentially do not like hearing a no and get upset. They seem to forget the moments I had reached out and remember the only time I had said no. We complicate the simplest of things”.

That’s so true, isn’t it? We are experts at taking situations and flavouring them with emotions. We find it embarrassing to say No to a request and feel equally grim to hear one.

Often my clients ask me tips on how to say No to requests for support at work since saying No does not come naturally to us.  I feel at the core we all want to be supportive and helpful to each other and by saying No we feel like we are not being that.  Earlier I found saying No very difficult as it felt like I am refusing to help someone, whereas I wanted to feel like I am contributing and being useful.

So today I would like to explore situations in the workplace and see how we think when we hear a No and say a No. What does it do to our emotional state? Does it affect our communication? Our relationships? Does it feel conflicting? Does it cause stress?  Let us look at different situations.

 Situation I – Saying a “No”

Most of us feel extremely guilty saying no to requests, ideas, proposals etc.  at work within the context of a relationship we share. So sometimes either we reluctantly take it up or probably go ahead and decline.

When we reluctantly take it up, seconds later a voice goes off in our head that says,” Oh no, why did I agree, I should have come up with some excuse! ”.  Then you begin to feel anxious and upset about the situation and also the people involved. In fact what I have observed is that this emotion overshadows my day till the job is done.

When you refuse, initially you smartly endure that discomfort for a while. Then you begin to constantly observe that one person from the corner of your eye to see if his attitude towards you has changed or if he seems offended.  Just in case he does, then there goes your sleep for the night!

Situation II – Hearing a” No”

Ever thought of this one? We find it extremely unsettling to hear a No and carry those emotions for quite some time inside of us.  One Sunday I was not keeping well. I made a call to my cook asking her to come on a holiday to help me out. She explained the reason why she cannot and very calmly and kept the phone down. Honestly, I felt snubbed and extremely disappointed. Her no to my request sounded to me like a denial, a refusal.  Does this sound familiar? We pretend it does not matter and that everything is okay, but at some level, we are not able to come to terms with the fact that someone just said No to us.

Situation III – The silent “No”

Have you ever had ghost conversations? These are conversations we have in our head and we represent both the parties. Let me tell you more.  During the year-end audits at our office, I used to work late hours. All the time I used to hope someone would offer me help but no one ever did and I ended up sulking. In my head how the whole thing played out was that people must understand that I want help and ask me if I needed assistance. Since they did not, in my imagination there was a conversation happening where I am requesting and they are saying a No. Isn’t this bizarre?

Secret is in the Thinking

So if you carefully look through all the instances I shared, the common denominator is our emotional turbulence; Millions of moments of anxiety, irritation and anger.  Without being aware we carry the burden of so many unpleasant feelings in our body that it gets difficult to find joy and fulfilment while on the job.  It may seem very trivial but soon these responses become a way of life, a habit, and cause unpleasant stress at work. Most of us choose to ignore this and these feelings of upset soon extend as strained relations in the office.

It is time to acknowledge that we are humans working behind those corporate walls and that we have sentiments and reactions to what is happening with us or around us. In my experience, it has helped to take a moment, work on my relationship with self, iron out the inside and then move on.

So I stopped and asked myself, what is happening? When I heard a No, I felt people are rejecting me. When I had to say a No, I felt they will no longer like me. In short, I thought people are making life difficult for me.  That’s the time I realized;  I am blaming the outside world for the emotions I am feeling! The problem is in my thinking! The problem is with the meanings I am forming!

I was attaching my own meaning to peoples responses, and those meanings were spoiling the peace and joy in me. So I began taking personal responsibility. Responsibility means the ability to respond, and I began to choose a way of thinking that made me feel empowered.

  • So when I want to say “No” to a request, idea or proposal I am aware of my intention. When my intention is to be helpful and also be true to my priorities, values, make the other person feel listened to and respected, I find it simpler to express myself.
  • When I hear a No being said to me, I now realize that the others are choosing a priority. They are not doing anything to me, instead, are doing what fits them best.
  • One amazing learning I had in this self- reflection exercise was that people do not owe me a thing. So if I want something, I just have to ask!

If what I have shared remotely matches with any of your experiences, then take a moment and build a relationship with yourself first.  Take personal responsibility in your thinking, and create a positive world on the inside. It begins with you. It always was you.

“It is easy to say No when there is a deeper yes burning inside – Steven Covey “

Keep smiling

Warm regards

Manjiri

Power of Coaching

Story: Fox and the grapes

We all have heard the famous fable about the fox and the grapes in our childhood. A fox was walking through the forest and spotted a bunch of grapes hanging from a tree. Being hungry he jumps at the hanging grapes but misses. He keeps trying and jumps repeatedly, but cannot reach the grapes. Finally, he gives up and goes away saying” The grapes were probably sour anyway”.

Let us stop for a moment and think about this. The fox wanted the grapes and made an effort to reach them. He had the potential and strength to reach them. So what is one thing that could have enabled him to reach those grapes?  What would have made a difference in this situation of him wanting those grapes and he being able to reach them? What do you think?

What can make a difference?

Coaching can make a difference!

“Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them”    –   Timothy Gallway

Coaching is a powerful tool that aims at rocketing individual performance and achieve outstanding results.  It also enables an individual to experience transformation and sense of well-being, joy and fulfilment.

Coaching is one of the fastest growing service industries today and Sheila Maher and Suzi Pomerantz state that [ International Journal of Coaching in Organizations, 2003, 1(2), 3-11.}   “It is clear that coaching is not a fad and it is not new. Coaching is rooted in a range of philosophies and practices that can be traced back to Aristotle, Buddhist thought, Gestalt theory, and various gurus of ontology and business.”

Coaching is an effectual process that involves a partnership between two people. In the process, there are conversations within a context that leads to awareness, reflections, realisations, actions and results. Coaching is not a motivational tool. It is a process where the coach supports, encourages and challenges you to think differently.

In simple words, coaching encompasses the journey between where you are to where you want to be.

Who is a Coach?

  • A coach is a partner that helps you develop and tap into your strengths, maintain sustained efforts and stay focussed.
  • A coach is a resource that helps you clear your lens and have more clarity in your vision
  • He is like a sounding board that listens to you from a deeper level as you think through ideas and produce results.
  • A coach is a space that provides stillness as you see different perspectives; attend to your deepest fears and your internal conflicts.

There are different kinds of coaches such as Sports, Fitness, Performance, Life, Executive, Health coach and so on.  Every coach works differently, based on his area of expertise. I work as an NLP, Life & Executive Coach.

What does a Coach do?

A coach helps people produce excellent results at work and in life. He believes that people have limitless potential and works with those who are willing to work on themselves and wish to engage in the process of change, transformation and success.

A Life Coach helps individuals experience a sense of well-being and personal transformation by addressing various areas of their life. What does that exactly mean? Probably this might be a question in your mind. Let me share a couple of examples here.

I had this opportunity to work with a friend of mine. After more than two decades of working in a role, that he claimed was his passion, was suddenly finding a sense of dissatisfaction at work. He believed it was because he was not experiencing the freedom to work the way he wanted.  In the coaching sessions he discovered that he did have the freedom, so where was that sense of dissatisfaction coming from?  As I worked with him, his deeper thoughts unfolded. He realized, he wanted to earn more money, and through the sessions, he clearly saw a belief that was holding him from generating more money. Just knowing what was really causing the struggle within him, set him free.  With this insight, he then created a goal that motivated him and felt purposeful. We then created a plan and structure for him to achieve that. That’s the potential of coaching!

A challenge that one of my clients had was lack of confidence while speaking to people. He was aware that his voice trembled while speaking to people and that he spoke irrelevant matter while answering. Through our coaching conversations and few NLP processes what changed for him was that he started believing in his ideas and thinking. He began focusing on the conversation and not on his internal dialogue or the idea of impressing people. He got muscle into his conversations when he began expressing his own thoughts, insights and ideas. That’s the power of coaching!

 Similarly, an Executive Coach helps professionals, leaders, managers to improve their performance at work, achieve organizational goals, progress in their career and find a sense of joy and purpose at work. Here I would like to share one of my significant coaching experiences.

“ One of the challenges that I faced as a leader in my organization was the team not maintaining discipline in the processes involving paperwork and response to the internal communication. I struggled for a very long time and had several flight and fight scenes at the office.  But when I worked with a coach, in just one session, I became aware that I was trying to fix a leak where it was not happening. Some other part of the pipeline needed plumbing. That Aha moment threw me into a spiral of actions. The processes smoothened out and today I share the best relation I could imagine with my team.”

We all have limitless potential

  • Currently, are you looking at achieving some goals? If you are, then do you have clarity about what you truly want? Is it just a hazy image or just a lingering thought in your head as a “maybe” plan?
  • Is there any challenge that you are facing and think that this is how it will be? Really? Does it have to? Think again!
  • Have you started working on something and are wondering if your direction is right?
  •  Do you wish to bring change in some areas of your life, certain behaviours, or an emotion, but are not sure how? If you are experiencing moments like these, then you can certainly benefit from coaching.

In fact” you” are the most powerful ingredient that makes coaching brilliant. When you step into the coaching space with an intention and single-mindedness of working on your growth, improvement, success and fulfilment, magic happens. What you focus on expands and gets stronger!

So looking back at our story of the fox reaching out to his grapes as a metaphor, do you think he needed a coach? I don’t think he needed one. But if he truly wanted those grapes and wished to expand his potential a notch higher, then a coach would have certainly enabled him to tap into it.

You don’t have to be great to get started, but you have to get started to be great” – Les Brown

Move, jump, leap and keep that smile on!

Manjiri

Look who’s talking!

 

Learning Language –

Can a language be learnt? We all would say yes.  Of course, if you are willing, you can learn it. Very commonly I get a request from my clients that they want to learn body language.  When we interact with people, they observe our non-verbal’s or our body language and interpret a meaning. Since it is a way of communication we call it a language and believe that it can be learnt.  So, what exactly do we mean by learning body language? Why do we want to learn it? How does it help us in our communication? What do you think?

A few years back a parent had got his son to meet me with a request to teach him body language.  The son who had just finished his engineering was preparing for a job interview. When I asked what was it that he wanted to learn in body language, their response was how to walk, sit, keep the hands, how to place the legs on the floor while sitting etc.  I noted that sincerely in my notebook and pointed out that he is already doing that. His father replied, “I want him to learn correct body language so that the interviewer finds him impressive “Fair enough. Further in the conversation he explained, what he really wanted for his son was to be confident, carry himself effortlessly and look as someone who is in control of himself.  The young man seemed very unsure in his disposition. Is this only about someone who has not learnt correct body language? Can learning body language be the solution or could there be more?

Yes, we all can learn body language at the external physical level such as practice to stand, sit or walk in a way so that we appear confident and be respectful. But is that all that is required? I will say no. Even though we can learn body language, just doing that is not sufficient to achieve the desired outcome which in the case of this young man was to come across as self- assured.

Meaning – What is body language

Body language is referred to the silent messages our body conveys about our mood and emotions.  Even when you sit like a statue and not move at all it signals something, or more appropriate to say would be that the viewer will always decode a message. Everything right from our posture, gestures, facial expressions, eye movement, stride, handshakes, the physical distance we maintain and even our voice is interpreted. This is one language which can be spoken and read differently by people. There is no dictionary to refer.

Can we learn Body Language? Yes

We all have a certain way of moving our head, standing, walking, sounding, using our hands. Did we learn it?  Yes, we did, as babies we did that by observing others and still do. Then over time muscle memory set in and we all adopted a certain way of carrying ourselves. Some of us stand with our feet slight apart, some like to gesture while speaking, maybe tilt our head forward slightly while listening or keep a hand on the chin while thinking.

There is a sea of research done by experts that explains the connect between the body and mind.  So, if you wish to learn to stand or move in a way that seems respectful, empowering or even stop doing certain movements, you can do it with heightened self-awareness and sufficient practice. Similarly, you can train your voice to sound in a way you want or learn to keep an appropriate distance between people. Core exercises at the gym will certainly give you a good stance and posture.

Is just learning the external language sufficient? No

A few years back I had a client who was taking sessions with me to improve his interpersonal skills. This gentleman who was quite assertive and extremely polite in his conduct had a habit. He had a practice of rapidly moving his hands (wrist onwards) continuously in rhythm while speaking. Since he had a feedback from his senior that it was distracting he wished to overcome it. I also observed his rate of speech was very fast.

Now, the sensible thing to do was to ask him to stop moving, keep his hands down and speak. We did try that. But now he could not speak in a continuous flow and began filling his forgotten words with “umms “and “ aaa’s “ ! So, what was it that was stopping him from learning what we say the “right body language”?

Similarly, a person can be told to hold his shoulders well, pull out his chest a bit and walk straight, yet he may look uneasy and stiff.  I have seen people have an extremely assured gait yet they look more arrogant than confident. Our thinking creates our world and that gets communicated to our body. We don’t even realise it! Hence working only at the physiology/bodily level only may not give us the desired results. 

The gentleman with the moving hands had a habit, a body and mind tuning. What we did was replaced the habit of moving his hands. He practiced to visualise as he spoke, and that softened the hand gestures and his rate of speech. We then went on to practice varied rates of speech so that he sounded engaging. So, working at various levels is very important to have a desirable body language.

When I stepped into the training world I had great difficulty in speaking with people that I perceived to be high in authority and intelligence. I remember clearly that I used to have a sense of choking in the throat, people told me that they could see fear in my eyes and that I came across as a worried person. I knew the right way to stand and conduct myself, and though that gave me courage, I still did not seem poised. I realised that there was some deeper work needed and decided to address it. I worked with a coach who coached me on my self -perception and ability to think with clarity and that helped me to have even better body language.

I have a similar experience while working with my clients on their presentation skills.  While practicing presentation skills, I encourage my participants to be open, stand upright and use the space well. But almost always, the awkwardness remains, and the tension in their body is evident.  Something is incomplete in how their energy seems when they begin to present. But as we begin to have conversations around their fear, their self-image, or conflicts within their mind, I notice they begin to be comfortable with who they are and there is a very notable shift in their body language. Then with practice and by exploring different techniques of presenting, their body language just flows.

Understand and then Learn

  • So to have a confident body language get to know what constitutes good body language. It will help you to polish certain areas of how you present yourselves. A simple tip of not pointing a finger at someone, instead, using the entire hand while gesturing to the others can help you to appear respectful. Watch you own video; it will be a good tutorial to help you change your body expressions.
  • Our body stance and posture does affect our feelings. Keep the body slightly open and straight as it will help you to get into a good emotional state. We look attentive and self-reliant too. Remember in school how our teachers used to remind us to sit straight?
  • Similarly, working on our thinking, emotions and being aware of the trigger that sets our body immediately into a response would also be a wise thing to do. When we resolve those inner conflicts and are self –assured, the body just follows. And of course, we have our good old muscle memory too.

“The Limits of my Language are the Limits of my World”

– Ludwig Wittgenstein

 

Keep smiling

Regards

Manjiri

Present Miss!

I am not sure how they do it in school now but I remember responding to my Roll call with a loud enthusiastic“Present Miss!” In fact, I remember each one of my friends had a unique way to respond.  We marked our attendance with that shout, but is the physical presence equivalent to being really present?

I have a cook who comes to the house. She is one bright spirited lady who makes tasty food in a jiffy. Her cleanliness and neatness while prepping up is something to learn. It’s been more than fifteen years since she has chosen cooking as her profession and is quite proud that she has not had a single major complaint until now. I asked her how she manages to remember the exact taste preferences of so many houses (Seven exactly). She replied in Kannada, “When I step into a house, I leave all my personal thoughts on the doorstep. I am only thinking of food and the taste the family would want.”

Her mantra to do her job well is “Be present in the moment”

When we are being present in the moment we have our awareness directed on the outside. Our mind is not travelling to the past or future but is focussed on the now. And that is a very useful and powerful way to be as there is no conflict in the mind and our energy is directed towards what matters most at that moment.

Why practice being present in the moment?

In my earlier blog, https://blogmanjiri.wordpress.com/2017/04/13/presence-what-is-that/, I have spoken about the presence of a person. It has been observed that people who have a presence have the ability to focus their attention on the now. People with presence are other conscious and turn around each situation to be not about them but about others. That’s what great leaders do, make others feel important. Since their attention is outside they are observant to the changes in the mood and energy of the others and shift their communication accordingly.  So if you wish to have a presence at work, this ability would be very necessary to develop.

Recently I saw an incident. After a meeting, we were served some ice-cream. The hostess was taking great pride is explaining how she had arranged for the special flavour. Then she asked a lady participant if she was enjoying the flavour. The other lady immediately said, “Yeah, we have it all the time”. Clearly, the lady had missed the question! The hostesses gleaming face lost its colour in a flash. As an observer, I witnessed the importance of being uptime. It helps us to respond rather than react, be observant of the non- verbal feedback in communication and build relations.

Practicing being in the moment also helps us to manage our state/mood during the day. We can easily get anxious, moody or indifferent during the day as millions of things are happening around us. But when we choose to be present in the moment we automatically throw away the choice to carry emotional baggage of any incident in the past or during the day that has affected us. We look at every interaction with fresh eyes and that helps us come alive in the discussion. It enables us to give full attention to our job.

Just as being mindful of the moment is useful, going inward and spending time with ourselves or our thoughts is also equally important. Both have its own importance, but the choosing has to be done wisely. When you are making those presentations in office, getting into the thoughtful mode may not be helpful. There, being present in the moment would be an essential pre-requisite to think on your feet.

Uptime

One of the ways to be present in the moment is by using a simple NLP principle called “Uptime”.  Being uptime means you are breaking your attention away from you and focussing it towards the outside world. It is about taking a break from self and noticing the environment and others. It’s a state where you direct your attention towards people and observe things more as for how they really are. You observe changes in their physiology, listen to how far they seem to understand,  notice whether the conversation is moving in a useful direction etc and look at it as information…..just information. However, the moment you begin to form your own interpretations, the mind begins to travel and you lose your uptime.

Try and recall a time when you had travelled for a vacation or otherwise to a new place. Remember how you were being as you absorbed the new surroundings around you? How you had looked at everything with bright unmarked eyes? That’s your Uptime!

Getting into uptime is a way of energizing yourself, turning on to the world, shining your flashlight ahead of you   – Anne Linden

Keep that smile on….

Love

Manjiri

Talking through Emails

Since I was feeling a little lost in deciding what to share in my next blog, I went ahead and did the easiest thing. I asked my client, and he said he would like to read about email writing and the tension it causes at the office.

As you are reading this piece you may feel that it’s too basic with obvious bits of information, but I assure you the best of us falter here.  In our attempt to sound brief and succinct we end up being abrupt. While we want to sound all business like we sometimes come across as indifferent and disrespectful in our writing. I sure have been there many times.

So I asked myself, “Why is it happening?” I realised it’s because I had not been attentive of my intention. Secondly, since the person was not around I had been focussing only on the message, and how I was feeling at that point of time.

Emails are equivalent to a conversation with another person but only in this case, we don’t have the convenience of being flexible in our communication based on the responses of the listener. What we write becomes the final message and cannot be erased. The reader can read the message several times and feel the heat or have a respectful experience. Writing an email or messaging is certainly a skill that is worth developing if you feel people and relations at work are important.

Your Email can be the First Impression of you:

When you finally meet a manager face to face from another regional office after interacting with him on a couple of emails it’s actually not the first time you are meeting him. Think about this – He writes to you and several others to submit some information about the last official trip you have had. You take your own time to reply and send the details. He replies back probably denying passing some of the bills and also makes it a point to note your delayed reply. You feel troubled and write to him giving him a piece of your mind. Now that you meet him, can you sense the tension? How do you perceive him? How do you think he perceives you? How could you have handled it differently?

I believe emails were formulated to communicate information, data, schedule meetings etc. But most often it is seen that it also becomes the breeding ground for animosity, a place to express sarcasm and disgruntled feelings. Instead, considering the fact that we communicate quite a lot through emails, what if we looked at messaging as a space to create and maintain relationships?

It does not take much, really!

When you sit down to write a mail, what are your thoughts?

    1. If time is on your mind and you wish to finish it off as a chore in the next half an hour or so, then probably you may get abrupt in your writing. Eg: Your client writes to you raising several questions about the progress of a project. You reply saying,

            “ My team is on the job and will get in touch with you today!”

  1. 2. If you are upset with the progress of a job and want to get things rolling as completion of the task is what you are thinking of, then you might use a language that is a bit cold. You may write,

              “ The tasks are getting rescheduled and the deadline is approaching. What needs to happen to get this job done?? I want the final execution plan up and running by today evening 5:00 pm. Please confirm asap! “

  1. A client is complaining and you feel he is being unreasonable. Now if your attention is on defending your actions, then your email may sound like you are giving excuses. Eg : You write

I understand from my staff that you are upset with the delay. Since you had not issued the purchase order on time we had already mentioned that there would be non- compliance of the due date.  Also, the other vendors appointed by you have not cooperated with us, and that has caused further delay. Please refer our trailing emails.”

But… along with the above if you truly believe that this relationship is important to you and each individual deserves respect, then how you would be writing would be very different.  You will generate a positive intent while writing any email or a text message when your focus is on maintaining a fine balance between work completion and the human aspect. 

Eg: My friend had sent a request email asking for a deposit reimbursement for a facility that he had been using and was now no longer needed. He received a mail stating

Dear…
“Sure, the deposit reimbursement will happen once all the pending amounts are cleared”

He felt it implied that he has not paid his bills and certainly did not appreciate it. But then keeping the focus replied saying:

Dear…

Thank you for your immediate response.  I believe I do not have any dues. You may check with your office though. 

Regards,

The author, Lynn Gaertner-Johnston, of Business writing with heart writes in her book – Invest a few moments or minutes while writing a message and it saves a huge amount of time, effort, and money that are otherwise required to salvage situations that have suffered because of insensitive communication or no communication at all.

Your written messages can make people feel valued and respected – Little things you can do   

  1. Acknowledge messages:

Imagine you have a guest at home and he has said something to you, do you simply look away? I think not. So just like we acknowledge someone in person, a quick reply saying a “Thank you” or “Yes, sure. Noted.” can make the reader feel great.

  1. Interim emails:

Now imagine you have knocked on someone’s door, you know he is in there and yet does not open the door.  That’s the feeling most of us get when we don’t receive a reply to a message within a day. It is possible that one does not have the information then or has the time to reply. So send in an interim email asking for some time. This will create a better rapport with the receiver.

  1. Going beyond the template:

Initially, when I began working I had no idea how to write an email so I referred to the emails written by others, and soon was sticking to a formal language template. Phrases like please do the needful, this is to bring to your kind notice, using “we” than “I” etc delivered the message and also made me feel safe. But it was not the wisest choice if I wanted to build relations. Connecting with people through pleasant engaging language is an excellent way to build goodwill.

  1. Relationship Building Language:

Sometimes instinctively we write the first thought that comes to our mind and sound abrupt. That could lead to a misconception of our intention in that conversation. Positive worded sentences always hit the right tone. Thoughtless, embarrassing comments or feedback will weaken your relations. Eg: I will not be able to send you the details as I don’t have the report vs I will send it to you as soon as I receive it.

  1. Know when to speak and when to write:

I had met this person sometime back who had gone through a lot of stress at his last job since he had tried to resolve an issue with another department through an unending email spat, involving all levels right up to the MD. Later he realised all that was needed was to have a meeting with the right people. So if you have an email going back and forth, just give yourself a moment. And if you have to resolve a possible conflict, choose the ground wisely.

A Quick Tip:

Have a quick mental check about the purpose of your email, your relation with the receiver/audience and anticipate the experience of the reader. This will help in creating the right tone and select the appropriate language.

 “If you believe business is built on relationships, make building them your business” – Scott Stratter

 Till we meet next,

Keep smiling

Love

Manjiri

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What we wear to work!

When I am facilitating my presence or etiquette workshop one of the topics that I present is professional dressing/wardrobe.  This is one of the brightest segments as I sense the energy of the audience come alive in this module. Clothing interests everyone, even those who find discussing it as frivolous or overrated.

Just like we have never had a class in school for listening, most of us have not been taught how to dress and we instinctively do it wonderfully well.  In fact, for each one of us, our outfit is not just about looking good but also a way of expressing ourselves.  As professionals I do believe how we choose to dress is important as it is a part of our behaviour.

I had this participant in a training program, a young boy. He asked me a question as to why he had to wear a uniform to office? Then he mentioned since he wears a uniform which are formals he feels restricted and does not like it. He then mentioned that while he was in college he had the freedom to wear what he wanted, it felt vibrant and free while participating in festivals and studying. He wondered why all industries don’t have the same rule like some popular software companies in the US, where they are allowed to wear what they want.  Anyway, how does it matter what we wear? Our work is important isn’t it?” He said.  He had spoken for a whole five minutes about how it mattered to him.

I think the uniform gives a snapshot of the atmosphere of a company.  I feel when one is wearing a uniform, patterned with the name of their company, it enhances their sense of belonging and responsibility. The uniforms are designed in a way that they send a message to the viewer “I am at work and mean business”, and that sets the tone of the environment. Also when the entire organisation is wearing the same outfit it encourages cooperation and reduces feelings of disparity. While I shared these insights, the young gentleman looked thoughtful, but not very convinced.  Let me share more as to why your work clothes matter.

As Professionals, how does what we wear matter?

As professionals, it matters how we dress as it impacts our behaviour and relationships.

It impacts our behaviour as it affects our state/mood. I remember during school days when I wore a pretty dress to school on my birthday or a festival, I used to feel very different, relaxed and distracted. I could never really get my attention on the school work. The lace, the rustle of the fabric, my Cinderella shoes used to take me to a different world.  Many of my clients mention that at work they want to wear what makes them feel comfortable, relaxed and good. I guess we all want that. But comfortable clothing and feeling comfortable are two different things. You may need other resources such as focused, confident, attentive, energetic while working.  Also feeling comfortable at work and comfortable at the beach or on your home sofa watching television cannot be the same. When I train or coach I make sure my clothing is comfortable. But how I want to be in a workshop will be different than in a one on one session and hence I choose accordingly.

It also impacts our relationships as how we dress affects people’s perception about us. One student once told me “Mam, I don’t judge people on their clothes, I would like to give them more credit than that”, which is wonderful, and though we can choose to be aware of not judging people based on their appearance, whatever they wear does affect our perception of them at an unconscious level because each one of us is driven by our values and beliefs. When I walk into an air conditioned office, where the company culture is formal and meet an executive having a stubble, wearing a shirt that looks unwashed and stale, I definitely begin to doubt his quality of work while we speak though he sounds very encouraging.

It can distort your message. At work, we want people to pay attention to the discussion and listen to what we have to say. However, if our appearance is distracting it can affect our effort to be engaging and build rapport. What looks lovely or stylish out in a pub or at a party can seem very distracting while having a business conversation across a table. Sometimes the beautiful shade of lipstick, the bright nails and the shimmer in your huge danglers can dim your presence. A worn out collar, wrinkled shirt or a T-shirt with a slogan at work can hijack your message.

So, how do we dress?

Each one of us has certain values in clothes, a self-image, beliefs about how one should dress and that guides our choices. These define our individual preferences. So, if I believe I need to look smart as it will help me in being successful, and standing out is important to me then I will select my wardrobe accordingly. When I say, simplicity, being comfortable is the best way to be and looking like everyone else in the industry is what I want, then my choices would be different. Here are a few pointers to think about when you get ready to go to work.

Our life is frittered away by detailsimplify, simplify. – Henry DavidThoreau

As Professionals do give a thought to this when you plan your wardrobe and then watch how easy it becomes to choose from your assigned wardrobe.

  1. What is the Industry I am working in? Creative Media, Fashion & Lifestyle, Manufacturing, Banking, Construction etc. Know the set expectations from these sectors.
  2. What is the work environment in my organisation? Formal, Artistic, Relaxed & easy going?
  3. What is the occasion? Respect the occasion.( Client presentation, conference, vendor meet, exhibition, training)
  4. What message do you want to convey to the people? (Authoritative, Approachable, Discipline, Cooperative)
  5. How do you want to be with them? ( Confident, Assured, Firm, Easy going, Friendly)

While you consider all these parameters individually and collectively just remember each item of clothing (clothes, shoes, bag, socks etc) speaks a language of its own.  So choose consciously, as ultimately we want people’s attention to be on our face and not on what we are wearing

How we dress matters but the person inside matters even more, so let us give appearance sufficient importance, not more. And, whichever way you choose to dress, make sure you wear that smile too!”

Keep smiling…..

Love

Manjiri

Communication – Action Behind the Scenes

Out of many, one area that professionals approach me to work with them is on their communication skills. Participants during a chat after a session sometimes ask me tips on improving communication. When I ask my clients to give a feedback to themselves most of them have communication skills as an area for improvement. Interestingly, there was this conversation I had a few years back with one of my participants at a training. This person wanted communication skills lessons. When I asked a few questions, this is what he shared. He had been working for over ten years in his organisation; other people in his team were getting opportunities that he felt he deserved. During appraisal, his boss had asked him to improve his presentations to the management and work on his ability to handle the Q&A following the presentation. His relation with most people at the office was process driven, except a few, and he wished to change that. He also mentioned that he had a habit of interrupting people and that caused him to feel regret later.

When I asked him,” Is it possible that it is not just your Interpersonal Communication Skills, but something else that needs your attention?” he looked puzzled. His focus was on practising and learning the techniques to improve his communication which was essential, but what he really wanted was to feel confident and secure while communicating.

As we know, communication happens both verbally and non-verbally. What we speak, how we listen, our physiology including voice, and also our behaviours are a part of communication. However, I would not want to spend your attention on illuminating the importance of communication or its techniques. There are some invisible parameters which play a huge role in our ability to communicate confidently and I would like to share my thoughts about them.

Unveiling the hidden:

How we think, has a great impact on our interpersonal communication skills. Usually, we are more concerned with the “What” of communication, but the “How” is equally important.  The “How” is a derivative of our thinking that cannot be memorised. I was working with a gentleman for a marketing initiative a few years back. All was well, but very soon I started realising that he was not committed to the schedule. Neither was he keeping me informed. I felt he was not giving the mind space to my project the way I wanted. I was not sure how to bring it up and have a discussion around it. I had all the dialogues running in my head. I knew what I wanted to say, but was not sure how. I knew I had to be patient and polite but was still not sure how. I knew I was getting upset and had to focus on getting the work done but was not sure how. So, was never able to say it. I just was not finding the confidence to do it. In fact, along with confidence, I felt I did not have any clarity about how I wanted to communicate.

Would you say I needed to improve my communication skills? Yes, of course, but that would be the inside phase of communication. That’s where it all begins.

So if you wish to better your communication skills, feel secure, take a moment and direct your awareness within yourself. Dive in and go inward as that is where the action behind the scene is happening while we communicate.

Going Inward! How does that help?

Imagine, when you walk into a meeting, you see yourself as a shoulder that your boss loves to fire from, you look at most of the people in the management as monsters and the meeting room as a boxing ring! Your intention is not to give in to any of the ideas of those people and your awareness is mostly around how you are feeling at that point of time while listening to your own voice in your head. All of this is happening unconsciously while you enter the room!

How do you think you would be communicating then?

Unless what we see, feel and say on the inside is not encouraging or empowering we will not feel secure while communicating. Sometimes we tend to slip into a pattern of thinking which takes the life out of our external observable communication skills. So, what could you do?

What you could do:

So if you are in a situation where you are not getting desired responses, feel drained, agitated or not very resourceful in certain situations while communicating, it would be worthwhile to explore how you communicate along with examining what you are communicating.

Exercise:

  1. When you say you would like to improve your communication skills get a clear picture of what exactly is your meaning of better communication. What is it that you wish to change and improve? Get specific situations.
  2. Then be Aware
  • How you see and think of yourselves in that situation – Do you see yourself smaller, insignificant or an equal?
  • How you see and think of the other person – Does the other person seem better, superior or not so important?
  • How do you see the situation – Does it look like a war zone or an examination? A kid’s play or a boring board game? Make changes in these pictures in a way that you feel you are standing on firm ground.
  • What is your purpose of communication? Just saying what we have to say or hearing out a person does not complete communication.
  • Are you being present in the moment? Are you observant enough to see if your message is received? How would you know? Where is your attention while listening? Are you aware that the communication is going away from the purpose? What do you do to get it back?
  1. Get to know your strengths/resources, name them. E.g.: Observant, Creative…
  2. Notice your triggers

This will guide you to be more mindful while communicating and also more effective. Since all the internal conflict/ chaos has been addressed by working on the internal aspect of communication you will feel congruent and come across as self-assured.

 

“You were born to be real, not to be perfect. You are here to be you, not to live someone else’s life.” – Ralph Marston

Till we meet next!

Keep smiling!

Love

Manjiri