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gain control of conversation

Have you ever been in a situation where the conversation went off the rails? Maybe you were trying to talk to a client about a new product and they insisted on talking about politics or their latest family vacation. Or maybe you were leading a meeting and your team began to stray from the topic at hand. Or maybe every time you talk with a particularly chatty co-worker, it’s difficult to get a word in edgewise.

What do you do?

Start with these 5 steps:

1. Believe that your voice counts

Enter every conversation with the confidence that your voice (your thoughts, ideas, and opinions) matters. Believe in what you have to say and you will find a way to bring it up in the conversation. Keep in mind: there’s a difference between confidence and arrogance. What you have to say is important, but it’s not the only opinion that counts. Your listening ear is just as important as your voice.

2. Acknowledge what the other person is saying

It’s important to let the other party know that, yes, you hear what they have to say. You can also use this tact as a way to step in and take control of the conversation. For example:

“What I hear you saying, Bill, is that you’d like to implement more customer service surveys. I think that’s a great idea that warrants more discussion. I’d like to focus on that more during our next meeting so that we give the topic the time it deserves. In the meantime, let’s finish going over our quarterly reports and see what other ideas crop up…”

3. Keep your audience engaged

What you have to say is important; make sure your audience hears it! Instead of lecturing at others, make an effort to engage them. Ask questions, request feedback, and ask your audience if any clarification is needed. Make others a part of what you’re doing, not just passive observers.

4. Be direct

Oftentimes, the best way to refocus a conversation is to be direct. Acknowledge what the other party is saying (see tip #2) and then transition into what you’d like to say. Your interaction may go something like this:

“Your family vacation sounds great, Susan, and I’d love to discuss it more tomorrow, but I’m afraid I have to shift the conversation back to business…”

 

Remember: What you have to say is important! Don’t sell yourself short. Have the confidence to interject when necessary (in a tactful way!) and let your voice be heard.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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the right way to get angry

Picture this: You’re late to work because traffic was moving at a snail’s pace, which caused other drivers to get irritable and cut you off on the road. When you finally get to work, you find a Post-it note on a stack of papers on your desk that says “Need this by the end of the day.” You grumble about the huge pile of work and decide to make a cup of coffee. When you take your first sip, the coffee burns the roof of your mouth and you end up spitting it out…all over your white shirt.

Have you ever had a day like that? I know I have! How do you react? How can you turn such a disastrous day around?

A big part of the solution rests with you. How you handle the anger that’s undoubtedly bubbling within you can either make or break your day. But that’s easier than it sounds!

When many of us feel angry, we tend to react in one of two equally unhealthy ways:

  1. Bottle up the anger and hope things will get better.
  2. Let our anger flow forth and land on everyone and everything around us.

Research shows that neither method is ideal. Bottling up your anger can make it worse and can increase stress and anxiety. Venting your anger, on the other hand, can intensify your feelings and damage relationships with those around you.

So, what can you do?

One way to temporarily cool your jets is to practice steadying your breathing and counting or repeating a mantra in your head. Once you’ve gained control, assess the current situation that’s making you angry and LOOK FOR THE GOOD in it. Even terrible situations have silver linings. Take the story at the beginning of this blog post:

  1. Even though traffic was slow, you didn’t get in an accident and your car is running just fine
  2. Even though your boss gave you a pile of work, you are employed and capable. You are a problem-solver and can either figure out how to do the work or talk with your boss and negotiate.
  3. Even though you burned your mouth and spilled coffee on your shirt, it’s great that you have access to coffee and have the means to purchase a shirt. You’re luckier than many people out there.

See? If you dig into your frustrations, you can find bits of goodness embedded in them.

Another tactic you can utilize is practicing empathy. If other people are causing you to get angry, ask yourself why that might be. Put yourself in their shoes and consider if they are being a pain in the neck because they’re going through a rough patch. It could be that something terrible is happening in their lives that you’re not aware of. Before you combat anger with anger, take a moment to find compassion. Ask questions (if you feel comfortable doing so) and aim for understanding.

You can get a handle on anger. As researcher Albert Ellis said, “You don’t get frustrated because of events, you get frustrated because of your beliefs.” Work on your belief system. Believe that the world is not out to get you. Believe there is always something positive embedded in the negative. Your thinking can change your life.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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pool-690034_1280

Whew! All the hustle and bustle of the holidays can keep you go-go-going in a million different directions. Balancing end of the year work projects, family gatherings, and holiday activities can make us burn the candle at both ends. With the multitude of events and projects, it’s easy to get stressed. And that stress can be compounded by a lack of sleep, an abundance of sugary foods, and the weight of holiday expectations. Not to mention, if you live in the northern U.S. like I do, it’s cold! It’s not quite as tempting to hop on a bicycle or go for a walk when the weather is below freezing.

All of this stress can have serious consequences for our well-being.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Stress that’s left unchecked can contribute to many health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.” It can lead to muscle tension, digestion issues, and headaches.

Stress can also affect those around us.

When we’re stressed, we tend to lash out at others more. Or, we disengage and have trouble being present. We tend to get wrapped up in our own tension when we’re stressed and therefore do not give others the full attention and consideration they deserve.

How to combat the holiday stress? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Breathe. Take time to step away from stressful situations and focus on your breath. It only take a few seconds and it WORKS.
  2. Exercise. Go for a long walk, hit the gym, or ask a friend to go to yoga class. Movement gets your blood flowing and reduces anxiety.
  3. Treat yourself! Give yourself a gift this holiday season, some special treat that will help you relax. Schedule a massage, a pedicure, or a facial. Or, plan a relaxed night (by yourself or with a friend/significant other) that involves low-stress activities, like a nice dinner and a movie.
  4. Eat well. Good nutrition can increase our energy, improve digestion, and reduce headaches. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine reminds us to avoid high-fat foods (like pizza and mac ‘n’ cheese) when we’re feeling stressed because “they can make us feel lethargic and less able to deal with stress.”
  5. Practice quiet time. Read a book, knit, bake a pie. Do something that you love and DON’T feel guilty about taking this “you time.”
  6. Invest in yourself. If your stress reaches serious levels, you may want to consider reaching out to a therapist or career counselor to get yourself back on track. Pay attention to how you’re feeling. If this is more than “a little holiday stress,” reach out and seek help immediately.

Your mental and physical health is directly tied to your stress levels. Don’t let the holidays get to you! Take time to respect yourself and your wellbeing. Doing so will help set you up for success in the New Year.

Happy holidays!

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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the power of hope

Even in the darkest times, we can find sparks of hope. A single candle can illuminate a dark room in the same way that a grateful thought or an inspiration can illuminate a mind. Although the science is still fresh, research is starting to find that hope is a powerful factor in lifting people out of poverty, motivating people to find work, and encouraging investment (financially, educationally, or otherwise) in the future.

In a study on poverty, the researchers found that, “families that are stressed and impoverished — trapped in cycles of poverty — can feel a hopelessness that becomes self-fulfilling. Give people reason to hope that they can achieve a better life, and that, too, can be self-fulfilling.

Hope is self-fulfilling.

Whether you’re hunting for a new job, trying to overcome a bad habit, or thinking about going back to school, use hope as fuel. Let it ignite your motivation and allow you to see your possibilities.

When you have hope, you ask yourself constructive questions such as “What if..?” and “How will I…?” If you hold the belief that you can do something, you start seeing the paths of possibilities.

I challenge you today to think about what you’d like in your life. What are your goals? What do you want to do? What’s holding you back? Start thinking about your goals and dreams as REAL possibilities, instead of wishes. By changing your mindset to a “How can I…” instead of a “I couldn’t possibly…” you’ll start finding ways to make your goals happen.

Our minds can do amazing things. If you find yours blocked by pessimistic thoughts, try focusing on the possibilities buried within the doubt. Find hope in your life and see where it can take you.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM


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woman reaching for a donut in the office

We’ve all read the dreaded (and irresistible) announcement:

 There are donuts in the break room. Help yourself.

Recurring temptations combined with fatigue from early mornings, computer screen stares, and constant desk sitting, make it too easy for a person to abandon any sort of healthy diet in exchange for an easy treat and a sugar rush. There are, however, a few strategies you can incorporate into your work-day routine to combat the dreaded “office diet.”

Plan your meals.

The first and most important strategy is to plan your meal for the next day. If you’re running late one morning and you don’t have time to grab a lunch, fast food and break room treats will most likely be your solution. By packing a healthy meal with plenty of high-energy snacks to graze on throughout the day, you’re giving yourself the ammunition and energy to say no to unhealthy temptations.

Take breaks.

Oftentimes snacking serves as a distraction—and the mindless eating will only get easier as your eyes blur, your neck stiffens, and your legs cramp, all from sitting at the computer for too long. Don’t reach for food when your body really craves a break.

Get up and walk away from your desk to get your blood flowing. This helps to avoid sugar and caffeine cravings brought on by lethargy. If breaks aren’t on your radar when bombarded by your hefty to-do list, try setting a timer to go off at intervals throughout the day as a reminder to step away from your desk—even if just for a moment. By introducing daily buffers to stretch and move your body, your energy levels stay up and your mind (and willpower) stay sharp.

Drink lots of water.

This isn’t news. Water makes us feel good and dehydration hurts. Unfortunately, while it’s easy to snack at the desk, it’s also easy to become dehydrated, which leads to feelings of hunger, fatigue, cravings, and headaches—all symptoms that point to water, but ultimately lead to sugary snacks.

Find office allies.

Everything’s easier with a little encouragement and company. With a communicated purpose, your team can resist temptation by changing the culture around the office—by celebrating good health, together.

 

It may be difficult, but your eating habits at work will make or break your health routine. Rearrange your priorities—take care of yourself so you can take care of your work (and feel great doing it).

 

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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Define success in own terms

Most of my work is and has been people-oriented. Professionally, I spent nearly 30 years at 3M, working in various sales leadership positions. Now, I work with a wide range of clients through my career coaching business, UXL. In my personal life, I am involved in my church; I teach spin at the local gym; and I volunteer for several different organizations. Suffice it to say, I’ve met a lot of people through all these different avenues!

Some of the people I’ve met have been very career-oriented, some emphasize family above all else, some prefer spending their free time volunteering in the community and making a difference. Each person has different dreams and goals and different things they consider important. Because of that, how could there possibly be ONE measure of success?

And yet, our culture tends to paint a picture of success with one brush.

We consider a successful American to have a well-paying job, a nice house, a 401K, a loving family. We see wealth and power as the ultimate definitions of success. But that’s not everyone’s definition and shouldn’t be everyone’s definition.

If you define your personal success based on others’ measuring sticks, you’ll be constantly disappointed. What does success mean to YOU? What gives you satisfaction?

The idea of defining your own success really hits home whenever I volunteer at the Peace House, a shelter for troubled women. Many of the residents define success by having the ability to meet their basic needs—having shelter, sufficient food, and love from their families. They strive for independence, a steady income, a job that they enjoy. Some of them aim to get their GED or a certificate in a trade. For them, sales goals, investment portfolios, and owning a yacht are abstract concepts of success. AND THAT’S OKAY.

“But, wait,” you might be thinking, “my definition of success is meeting my sales goals, tucking some money away, and eventually owning a boat!” THAT’S OKAY TOO.

As soon as you figure out what you want out of life, you can work toward it with confidence. Sure, your definition of success may grow and evolve, but it should always reflect your personal ambitions instead of outside pressure to fit into others’ ideas of success.

 

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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As I mentioned in last week’s blog post, I am currently volunteering in Kraków, Poland for World Youth Day. This powerful experience has got me thinking about volunteering, humility, and living a life of service.

The effects of volunteerism can be life-changing. I know they were for my son, John. When John was a young man, he spent some time volunteering in Guatemala, a few weeks before Christmas. Before heading down there, John had carefully composed a Christmas wish list with several items that he wanted.

During his ten days in Guatemala, John lived and worked near a group of impoverished families. The camaraderie of the people and their optimistic attitudes in the face of severe poverty had an enormous effect on him. When John returned home, the first thing he did was tear up his Christmas list, saying, “I don’t need any of these things to be happy. Those people live in a house they made with scraps, have one light bulb in their home, and always have big smiles on their faces.”

What a profound lesson for a young person to learn!

Of course, I’m not advocating that you give up everything you have and live in a shack somewhere (especially in Minnesota during the winter!). What I am saying is that simplicity is often the key to happiness. When you’re not bogged down by the constant desire to want more, you give yourself a certain amount of freedom. You also make room in your heart to focus on the parts of life that truly matter—friendships, family, volunteerism, etc.

I urge you to make an effort to streamline and simplify your life. Don’t get attached to “stuff.” Instead, look at the big picture and focus on that.

And if you have the time, consider volunteering! Instead of writing a check and thinking that you “did your duty,” take the time to really dig in and get to know and understand the people and causes that you care about. Build relationships, develop understanding, and walk a mile in others’ shoes—only then will you begin to understand others’ needs and visions of success and how to help them achieve their goals.

After John returned from Guatemala, he resolved to live with “just enough.” Now, as a grown man, he still sticks by that mantra and does his best to live simply and appreciate what he has.

How will you simplify your life today?

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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