7 Mental Hacks To Be More Confident In Yourself

October 17th, 2016 by LaRae Quy

On my first day at the FBI Academy, I didn’t feel like a superhero. In fact it wasn’t until after four grueling months of being placed in dangerous and awkward situations that I built the self-confidence necessary for my career. Boosting confidence is the primary goal of the Academy—before they send agents out with a gun and badge.

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There were days when my heart raced and my palms sweat just thinking about the new challenges that faced me. But I learned that success would not make me confident—confidence in myself and my abilities would make me successful.

On the first day, I was filled with doubt. I had never shot a gun, made an arrest or investigated a foreign spy—these challenges pushed me outside my comfort zone. I felt like I was at the mercy of the unknown, not knowing how I would land on my feet. But I held onto my dream of becoming an agent and plodded forward.

I’d venture to guess entrepreneurs, leaders and business owners might share some of the same fears I faced at the FBI Academy: How can I pull this off? But in my 24 years in the FBI, the only four-letter word I didn’t hear was “can’t.”

To be confident in our abilities is the cornerstone of leadership. If you don’t believe in yourself, how can others believe in you? Here are seven ways FBI agents learn to boost their confidence—mental hacks you can use to be more confident in yourself, too:

1. BUILD CONFIDENCE BY PUSHING THROUGH SELF-LIMITING BELIEFS

As children we think we can conquer the world, but somewhere between childhood and adulthood, our enthusiasm and natural inclinations to dream big are squashed. Parents and teachers start imposing their own beliefs—about what we can and can’t do in life—upon us.

If the instructors at the FBI Academy were not pushing us past our self-limiting beliefs, they weren’t doing their job.

How to make it work for you:

Find your limits by exposing yourself to different situations and pushing through the uncomfortable. Once you have confidence in yourself, you’ll be amazed what you can accomplish.

2. BUILD CONFIDENCE BY NEVER CONFUSING MEMORY WITH FACTS

Adversity - give up!

Our memory does not store information exactly as it’s presented to us. Instead we extract the gist of the experience and store it in ways that makes the most sense to us. That’s why different people witnessing the same event often have different versions.

Your brain has a built-in confirmation bias. That means it stores information that is consistent with your own beliefs, values and self-image. This selective memory system helps keep the brain from getting overloaded with too much information.

So recognize that your memory does not always provide you with accurate information. For example if you have low self-esteem, your brain tends to store information that confirms your lack of confidence. That will be all you remember about a specific event.

How to make it work for you:

Revisit the facts of a memory loaded with self-limiting beliefs and try to gain a more accurate perspective on the event. Talk with others that might have a different perspective.

3. BUILD CONFIDENCE BY TALKING TO YOURSELF

This might seem crazy, but it works. Talking to yourself can make you smarter, improve your memory, help you focus and even increase athletic performance. The documentary The Human Brain claims we say between 300 to 1,000 words to ourselves per minute. The Navy SEALS and Special Forces use the power of positive self-talk as a way of getting through tough times.

For example by instructing recruits to be mentally tough and speak positively to themselves, they can learn how to override fears resulting from the limbic brain system, a primal part of the brain that helps us deal with anxiety.

How to make it work for you:

Be positive, because the way you talk to yourself influences your neurobiological response to it. When you say, I know what to do here or see things as a challenge rather than a problem, you’ve turned your response into a positive one.

4. BUILD CONFIDENCE BY THINKING POSITIVELY TO OVERCOME YOUR NEGATIVITY BIAS

Willpower - rough road ahead

Since the early days, humans learned to get lunch or be lunch. Our natural negativity bias has kept us safe from danger for thousands of years. But not every new or different thing is a threat to our survival. This negativity bias can chisel away at our confidence because we’re hardwired to pay attention to all that we’ve done wrong.

FBI agents are taught to hunt the good stuff. It can be hard at times because positive information is like Teflon and easily falls away. But negative information, like Velcro, sticks.

How to make it work for you:

  1. Come up with five positive thoughts to counter every one negative thought.
  2. Let every positive thought sit for 20 seconds before moving to the next positive thought.
  3. Acknowledge both good and bad emotions.
  4. Do not try to suppress negative ones.
  5. Label the emotions for what they truly are and move on. Do not enter into inner dialogue about the negative emotion because then it becomes more powerful.

5. BUILD CONFIDENCE BY RAISING YOUR CURIOSITY LEVELS

Curiosity is an important trait for FBI agents working investigations and anyone who wants to be confident and successful.

Curiosity is the foundation of life-long growth. If we remain curious, we remain teachable and our minds and hearts grow larger every day.11 We can retain our beginner’s mind by always looking forward and discovering new experiences and uncovering new information.

How to make it work for you:

Ask questions and be curious because:

  1. It makes your mind active instead of passive.
  2. It encourages you to be more observant of new ideas.
  3. It opens up new worlds and possibilities.
  4. It creates an adventurous response that leads you in a new direction.

6. BUILD CONFIDENCE BY OVERCOMING SELF-DOUBT

Courage - take the path

If you lack self-confidence, you will always feel like you’re at the mercy of other people. When you assume a victim mentality, you are no longer resilient to life’s inevitable obstacles and roadblocks.

FBI agents go where they are needed, not to where they feel most comfortable. I was assigned investigations I had no idea how to solve. But my thinking was this: Drop me into the middle of any squad or any situation, anywhere, anytime. I will not be scared because I am confident and I will succeed wherever I am.

How to make it work for you:

No one but you is stopping you from achieving what you want to accomplish. It’s time to identify the areas in which you doubt yourself and remove those barriers.

7. BUILD CONFIDENCE BY FACING YOUR FEARS

When we feel in control, we’re not afraid. When we have a level of comfort with something, it’s not scary. When we don’t feel in control, we don’t think clearly because our emotional brain is in the driver’s seat and takes over. This is why fear often seems random and irrational—our emotions are in control.

To increase safety, FBI agents are taught to move closer to the threat. It does no good to avoid, deny or ignore the fear.

How to make it work for you:

Harvard Medical School professor Ronald Siegel recommends this in his book, The Mindfulness Solution:

  1. Think about your worst fear.
  2. Spend time with it.
  3. Now make your fear worse by getting closer to it.
  4. Imagine the worst that could happen.
  5. Now focus on your breathing.
  6. Feel your body relax.
  7. See, you didn’t die, did you? You’re on your way to conquering your fear.

If you don’t believe in yourself, how do you expect anybody else to? Start today.

This article first appeared on Success.com

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

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7 Things Successful Entrepreneurs Never Do

October 3rd, 2016 by LaRae Quy

Working undercover to recruit foreign spies to work with the U.S. Government was always a gamble: the failure rate was high, the emotional toll was hard, and it took a lot of hard work.

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I learned that my success was inexorably linked to the choices I made regarding attitude and subsequent actions. More often than not, it was the choice I made to kick myself into high gear rather than relying on someone else to do the kicking.

Sounds a lot like starting a new business! Entrepreneurs know that the failure rate is high, the emotional toll on them will be hard, and that it will take a lot of hard work.

So what makes one entrepreneur succeed when so many small businesses fail? Whether working undercover or starting a new business, there are choices we make that lead to a higher likelihood of success.

Here are 7 things successful entrepreneurs never do:

1. SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURS NEVER GIVE UP

As an undercover agent, it was often difficult to get introduced to the subject of an undercover investigation—most foreign spies do not want to meet an FBI agent in person!

Grit, however, kept me moving forward—especially when things didn’t go according to plan. I never made the mistake of believing that just because a way out, or through, a situation was not obvious that there weren’t ways around those roadblocks. What I needed was mental toughness to push through the barriers I encountered.

According to Harvard researchers, persistence and grit is essential for entrepreneurs—they need to be able to deal with obstacles and roadblocks.

Prospective clients might present a lot of excuses for not getting back in touch with you; yet, if you are persistent in trying to make things happen, your chances for success vastly improve.

2. SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURS NEVER STOP FLIRTING WITH FAILURE

grit-training

If I whined and cried every time one of my undercover operations failed, I would have ended up on Team B running leads for other agents instead of calling my own shots on Team A. I did a postmortem on each failed operation and explored why the operation failed so I could learn from the experience.

Making a mistake is not the problem. What is not acceptable is making the same mistakes over and over—if you do, you’re either stupid or incompetent.

Look at your mistakes as opportunities to grow and improve. Be willing to keep trying until you get it right. Learn from past mistakes so you can make better decisions in the future.

“Life is hard. It’s even harder when you’re stupid”—John Wayne

3. SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURS NEVER BACK AWAY FROM CHALLENGES

FBI agents know that emotions like fear and anger are OK; it’s complacency that will kill them. Awareness of their fear doesn’t mean they back away from the unknown; instead, they move through it with a sound strategy and a resilient mindset.

It takes resilience to deal with constant challenges, some of those you anticipated and some that come at you from left field.

You’ll face complex financial problems, long hours, sudden changes, and market predictions that are never reliable. Success is not so much a matter of how many obstacles in your path but how you respond to them.

Successful entrepreneurs are resilient and are able to face constant challenges without ever weakening their determination to keep moving forward.

4. SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURS NEVER SPIN THEIR WHEELS IN A RUT

Struggles - tiger in water

I learned early that our comfort zone is a dangerous place—it can be a dark and deep abyss where it’s possible to lose yourself entirely in mediocrity. Staying in your comfort zone is giving up on life.

Get out of your rut and experience breakthroughs by pushing through the discomfort and uncertainty you are feeling. Strong minds continually expand their boundaries and enlarge their territory, both personally and professionally.

Entrepreneurs with mental toughness always do something that they’re not ready to do because they know that’s how they grow.

5. SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURS NEVER LEAVE THEIR “WHY” BEHIND

It was my passion for the job that what got me through the FBI Academy. It was hard for me and I was almost washed out. But I had found a career that gave me both value and meaning, and I wasn’t going to let the opportunity slip away.

It is impossible to be a successful entrepreneur if you aren’t passionate about your work. You must understand why you are excited to come to work everyday. And if you can’t find that sort of excitement, you owe it to yourself to pack up and find something that does.

You don’t have to like every task you have to perform or every person you have to work with, but at the end of the day, you must be in touch with your passion and find a career that provides you with both value and meaning.

6. SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURS NEVER BLAME OTHERS FOR THEIR SITUATION IN LIFE

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No one is owed anything in life. We were born, and at some point, we must take responsibility for where we end up. If we want something, it’s up to us to make it happen.

This may come as a big shock to lots of people, but there are no handouts in life. So stop whining, pointing fingers, or blaming others when things don’t work out.

Successful entrepreneurs with mental toughness rely on backbones rather than wishbones to make their success happen.

7. SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURS NEVER CONSIDER THEMSELVES A VICTIM

One of the most important lessons I learned while working undercover is the importance of always maintaining a positive attitude. I found that mental toughness becomes most apparent in the midst of adversity.

Be smart—learn how to identify your negative thoughts when they arise and replace them with  positive ones.

Often, life is not what is happening to you; rather, it is your attitude about your situation. Studies show that positive thinkers are more likely to listen to negative information about their business or competition than pessimists, because they think they can do something about it.

Successful entrepreneurs with mental toughness always find the positive and run with it.

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

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How To Read People Like An FBI Agent

September 26th, 2016 by LaRae Quy

Wouldn’t it be great if we could tell if someone was lying to us?

body-language

Research shows that within five minutes of meeting someone, we can often evaluate them with 70 percent accuracy. Although that seems effective, the remaining 30 percent can be costly.

Entrepreneurs and leaders need to be game-ready when they approach a prospective client, walk into a board meeting, or chat with co-workers. If they know how to read people they will notice when inconsistencies arise so they can get insight into what is really going on.

To be a successful undercover FBI agent, I had to learn how to read people within minutes—and failing to accurately evaluate the person in front of me could jeopardize an entire assignment.

Detecting lies is hard work, and there is no single magic indicator, but here are two things you should know:

  1. Accurately reading body language is important if you want to avoid being scammed or deceived. Approximately 55% of what we convey when we speak comes from body language.
  2. Conversations are a string of words and gestures put together to create meaning. One word or gesture, by itself, can mean many things, or nothing. It’s only when we put them together that they have meaning. Nonverbal gestures come in clusters so it’s important to observe a person’s initial cluster of gestures to establish a norm.

It’s a serious error to interpret a solitary gesture. Scratching the head can mean confusion or it could indicate a serious case of dandruff. Many people punctuate with constant gestures and movement while others are relatively still. They key is to notice how these gestures change during a conversation.

Here are 3 areas to pay particular attention to if you want to read people like an FBI agent:

1. Hands Are A Gold Mine

There are more nerve connections between the hands and the brain than between any other parts of the body.

Our brain is hardwired to engage our hands to accurately communicate our emotions, thoughts, and feelings.

TIPS on how to read people:

  • Hand steepling (placing the tips of your fingers together similar to praying) indicates that you are confident of your thoughts or situation.
  • Clenching hands is a universal way of showing stress or concern.
  • Stroking the neck with one finger is a sign of less than normal confidence and is a subconscious way of relieving stress (the common number of strokes with a single finger is 5).

2. Always Believe The Feet

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As unglamorous as it sounds, feet are the most honest part of the bodyChildren and adults alike bounce up and down when they see someone, or something, that makes them happy.

I once met with an individual whom I suspected had contact with a Russian spy. Initially, his answers were forthcoming and his body language was relaxed. However, when I moved the conversation toward the Russian spy, he uncrossed his legs and sat with his feet flat on floor with ankles locked. Again, this didn’t mean he was lying, but it did indicate he became stressed at the point in the conversation when we started talking about the Russian.

In general, when in a negotiation or intense conversation, pay attention to crossed legs. Researchers have found that contract settlements increased greatly when both negotiators uncross their legs.

TIPS on how to read people:

  • Jiggling of a leg once seated indicates that the person is uncomfortable or stressed with something that was said.
  • Note: Some people always jiggle their leg, so notice when they start kicking—they are being asked something they don’t like.
  • Locking ankles, one over the other, indicates the individual is mentally “biting their lip” and holding back a negative emotion, uncertainty, or fear.
  • Note: In ankle locks, men tend to open their legs in a crotch display while women tend to hold their knees together
  • Pointing feet toward the door or elevator is a sign they are looking for a way to end the conversation. Many times the body will be angled in the direction of the feet even though the person has turned their face toward us.

3. Be Wary Of Facial Expressions

Confident woman

A lot has been written about reading facial micro-expressions, and while they can be accurate, they can also be very deceiving.

I never relied on interpretation micro-expressions when working undercover to accurately assess what a person was thinking or saying. From our childhood we are told to “wipe that look off your face” and so we learn at a very early age to control our expressions.

TIPS on how to read people:

  • Covering our mouth as children indicated we were being deceitful, but when adults are being deceitful, the hand is placed on the face in a nose-touch gesture. It can also mean they are being very careful in how they word their next response.
  • Raising eyebrows is a sign that we are excited to see someone or are full of positive emotions we can’t hold back.
  • Tilting our head is a powerful way of saying I am comfortable, receptive, and friendly. It’s very hard to do if we are around people we don’t like.
  • Hand touching, face touching, crossing arms, and leaning away are all clues that, by themselves, mean nothing, but together they are a highly accurate signal of deceit.

This article first appeared on Success.com.

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

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Why Self-Talk Is The Most Powerful Hack In The World

September 19th, 2016 by LaRae Quy

I listened as one of my fellow FBI agents gave a briefing on the next steps he planned to take in his investigation. I thought he was headed in the wrong direction, and when he asked for our opinions, I told him what I thought.

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Unfortunately, I was the only one in the room who thought he was headed for trouble because everyone disagreed with me. I felt I had made a huge faux pas—I didn’t like the agent’s idea while everyone else thought it was brilliant!

The negative self-talk chatter started to build. “You should have kept your mouth shut. That was stupid. You came across as argumentative, etc.” My self-talk was nothing more than self-criticism. I couldn’t wait to get out of that room.

The internal conversations we have with ourselves, called self-talk, can go on for days, and sometimes through our nights as well. My self-talk was negative and destructive because it made me question myself, and soon I was second-guessing myself.

Many of us know how vicious that inner critic can be. Often, we are harder on ourselves than we are on others. It’s not because we want to be, it’s because we don’t know how to manage our negative self-talk.

Energy follows attention—wherever your attention is focused, your energy will follow. If your inner critic is beating you up about a failure, your failing will be the one thing you focus on.

However, there are ways you can harness the power of self-talk so it can help you. Here are 8 ways you can make self-talk the most powerful hack in the world:

1. Nip It In The Bud

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Notice when you begin negative self-talk: who are the people that trigger it? and the situations or circumstances?

Do a post-mortem on when you’ve unleashed the inner critic and then ask yourself some basic questions:

  1. Are my thoughts factual, or are they just my interpretations?
  2. Am I jumping to negative conclusions?
  3. What is the evidence for and against my thinking?
  4. How can I find out if my thoughts are actually true?

Once you get in the habit of observing your self-talk, noting whether or not it’s constructive, you’ll find it that much easier to nip the negative thoughts in the bud.

2. Reverse The Negative Spiral

Successful financial plans

In the Rogelberg study, researchers discovered that the more you use negative self-talk and second-guess yourself, the less free your mind will be to roam through creative solutions of the problems that you face. These outcomes will only further cause you to doubt yourself, leading to a negative, downward spiral.

Turn the situation around and counter your inner critic with positive and constructive self-talk. For example, in my situation I could say to myself, “I don’t always agree with my colleagues. I’m glad I stuck to my guns and pointed out where the investigation could trip over itself. At least the agent understands that there are potential problems if he continues in that direction, etc.”

3. Be Specific

When I say, “Don’t look at the pink elephant,” a pink elephant immediately comes to mind. In the same way, when you criticize yourself, you see a stupid person who constantly makes mistakes.

If your self-talk is “I don’t want—,” all you will be thinking about are the things you don’t want—which will probably be what you end up with because that is where your energy will be focused.

However, if your self talk is “I want—,“ you will be thinking about all the specific things you do want—which is probably what you’ll end up with!

4. Change Self-Limiting Beliefs

Adversity - ducks

Many times it is our self-limiting beliefs that create the negative self-talk. As long as you are talking to yourself anyway, ask “Why do I have this self-limiting belief?”

Most self-limiting beliefs start in childhood and can be pointed to a parent or teacher telling us we couldn’t do something.

Those memories stick with us, even when circumstances change.

5. Respect Yourself

Adversity - shining through

One litmus test to stop destructive or negative self-talk dead in its track is to ask yourself this simple question: Would I talk to a child like this?

If the answer is no, you can be certain you are wasting precious energy on denigrating yourself in a destructive way. Often, we treat ourselves much worse than we would treat strangers; in fact, we would have no friends if we talked to them like we talked to ourselves!

6. Watch Your Language

Scientists estimate that we have between 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts every day. Whenever you think about something, it is a form of self-talk so you can see how important it is to control your thoughts.

Resilient people do not whine, complain, or blame others; instead, they have the mental toughness to take responsibility for their actions. Since you are not perfect, there will be mistakes and failures; instead of responding with negative self-talk, accept responsibility and turn your attention, and energy, toward learning from your mistakes and failures.

7. Embrace Your Imperfections

Success - mountains

Many CEO’s, entrepreneurs, and business owners are both overachievers and perfectionists. It’s a double whammy of a curse because they often end up holding themselves to an impossible standard of performance.

But no one will tell you they are a success because they’re a perfectionist or an overachiever.  Instead, they will tell you they are a success because they are willing to mess up, learn, and move on. They don’t give up on themselves.

8. Give Your Inner Critic A Name

Researcher David Rock believes that labeling our negative emotions is an effective way of short circuiting their hold over us. So give your inner critic a name or call it out for what it really is—jealousy, insecurity, fear, etc.

You can keep the name in your head, but Rock believes that when you speak it, it activates a more robust short circuit to help break the emotional hold.

If you think you can, or can’t, do something, you’re right—Henry Ford

How do you control your self-talk?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.”

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5 Evidence-Based Tips To Develop Stronger Minds

September 5th, 2016 by LaRae Quy

Growing up on a cattle ranch in Wyoming, I learned to survive by being scrappy enough to make-do and hungry enough to keep moving. Department stores were big buildings in places 100 miles away, and if a rattle snake came between me and where I wanted to go, guess who came out on top?

Willpower - Getty image

As a kid I learned a lot about mental toughness. When I joined the FBI, I learned even more. My defensive tactics and firearms training drilled one thing into me: never choke when faced with an obstacle that looks bigger, meaner, or uglier than you.

In other words, always be game-ready so you can have the mental toughness to rebound from disappointments and missed opportunities. Our coaches trained us to have a hardiness for enduring the downside of a situation.

Entrepreneurs, leaders, and business owners have tough situations to face in today’s competitive environment. They need to be game-ready meet those challenges with their best mental game.

Here are 5 evidence-based tips on how to develop strong minds:

DEVELOP STRONGER MINDS #1 Set A Super Clear Goal

Research confirms that the more specific your goal, the better you will perform. General goals are too vague so take the time at the very beginning to think it through so it will become more clear to you.

The goal must be real and important for you to achieve. Do not speculate—that will do nothing but waste your time and valuable energy.

TIPS:

  • Define your need and really mean it.
  • Describe in detail exactly what you want.
  • List what you want—it will help you visualize your success.
  • Define what will interfere in achieving your goal.
  • Determine the starting point.
  • Establish a time frame for achieving your goal.
  • Break down the tasks necessary for completion.
  • Tell others what you plan to do.

DEVELOP STRONGER MINDS #2 Learn To Be OK With Pain

soldiers

We all know we are most motivated just before a deadline—our pulse quickens and our focus narrows. We can use the same principles of neurobiology to help us be mentally tough when it comes to meeting our goals.

Handling tough negotiations, dealing with competitors, and climbing the corporate ladder are not easy achievements, but if you are pursuing something that holds both value and meaning for you, you will embrace the discomfort that comes from pushing yourself past self-limiting barriers.

Whether it’s physical, psychological, or emotional discomfort, pushing past the pain of exertion will require you to suck it up. Leaders who have mental toughness are able to function when they hit their pain threshold because their minds are trained to ease their way through it.

My defensive tactics coach used to shout out, “No pain, no gain!” It captures the idea that we need to move past the point of comfort to achieve professional excellence.

TIPS:

  • When you feel you are starting to hit the wall, stay in the moment and concentrate on the task in front of you. When you focus and concentrate on the task, it is easier to see where small steps can be taken to keep you moving through the wall you are facing. If you lose your concentration, all you will see is the wall! Your mind takes over and tells you that the task is impossible, so you crumble and wilt.
  • Craft your goals as a target you are moving toward. Athletes are rarely thinking how far they are from the starting line but rather how much closer they are to the finish line.

DEVELOP STRONGER MINDS #3 Get Competitive

Runner

As badly as I hate to admit this, I was passed in a 6K run by a woman pushing a baby carriage. My pride took a real nosedive at that sorry moment, but it prompted a real competitive spirit within me.

I made sure the woman never got more than a few paces ahead of me for the rest of the race. I focused my eyes on her back and kept her pace until we crossed the finish line.

Inch by inch, life’s a cinch; yard by yard, life is hard.

TIPS:

  • Identify your competitors.
  • Gage where you stand against them.
  • Pick out one competitor who is slightly ahead of you in terms of talent and skill set.
  • Find the scrappiness to stay up with them, and eventually, move past.
  • Throw your lasso around the next competitor ahead of you and do the same thing.

DEVELOP STRONGER MINDS #4 Talk To Yourself

suspicious

The way in which we talk to ourselves can influence our behavior in both positive and negative ways.

Self-talk used by FBI agents and Navy Seals is not just a motivational message like “You can do it!” In studies published by Perspectives on Psychological Science, it was determined that the most useful mental message is the “instructional self-talk.”

This is the kind of running commentary we engage in when we’re carrying out a difficult task, especially one that’s unfamiliar to us, to keep us focused on what we are learning and what we need to do next.

Learning forces us to focus our attention on the task before us so we can screen out distractions. It also helps us regulate our effort so we can make better decisions about what to do, how to do it, and when.

TIPS:

  • Recent studies have found that self-talk is most effective when incorporated into a series of thoughts and actions.
  • First, comes a thought where you set a goal for yourself and make a plan on how to get there.
  • Second, your performance follows where you enact the plan to the best of your ability.
  • Third, spend time in self-reflection when you carefully evaluate what you’ve done and adjust your plan to be even better next time.

DEVELOP STRONGER MINDS #5 Picture It

Beautiful mountain at nz

Visualizing your success is based on solid science. When you imagine yourself doing something before you do it, you are programming your mind to think you can. By visualizing your performance repeatedly, your brain will store that information as a success.

With each success, our brain releases a neurotransmitter called dopamine. This is the chemical that becomes active when we encounter situations that are linked to rewards from the past. Dopamine enables us to not only see rewards, but to move toward those rewards.

TIPS:

Mental toughness is the ability to manage our emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in ways that will set us up for success. It’s truly about mind over matter.

What additional tips would you add?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

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5 Bullet Proof Confidence Strategies, From A Former FBI Agent

August 29th, 2016 by LaRae Quy

As an FBI agent making an arrest, success wasn’t an option—it was an absolute necessity if I wanted to stay alive. I couldn’t wait for success to show up before I became confident in my abilities. The confidence was there first; the successful arrest came afterwards.

Confident woman

Confidence is a critical building block for a successful career because it is the one mindset that will take you where you want to go. The good news is that confidence is a set of learned skills and beliefs.

No one is immune to bouts of insecurity at work, but they don’t have to hold you back. For entrepreneurs, leaders, and business owners, it means having the grit you need to get through those times of doubt and the presence of mind to learn the lessons they can teach you about yourself and others.

Here are 5 bulletproof confidence strategies to get you where you want to be:

1. TAKE RISKS

Risk - mouse in mug

Most of us don’t know what we’re capable of until we’re truly challenged. And most of do not want to be truly challenged because we don’t want to fail.

But failure can be very beneficial for building confidence because it allows you a perfect opportunity to 1) learn why things went wrong, and 2) see how you can make adjustments next time.

When learning how to make an arrest or interview a terrorist I needed to take risks, fail, and learn from my mistakes as much as possible before I found myself in the actual situation.

If you think you never make mistakes, you are a narcissist—either that or stupid. But if you are humble and self-aware, you recognize that taking risks, making mistakes, and failing will help you understand that there is always something you can do to be better.

What It Means For You

Stressing yourself is the only way to grow, both mentally and physically. This means you will fail, but this is OK as long as you are willing to learn from the mistakes you made.

2. ASK FOR FEEDBACK

Communication - 2 people

Research by Leadership IQ shows that people who are good at managing negative feedback tend to be more successful than those who are not. The study further indicates that of those who fail, 26% do so because they are unwilling to accept feedback as they are afraid it might be negative.

In another study, it was found that people who ask for feedback are the most effective leaders. According to Joseph Folkman, leaders who are in the top 10% are those who are willing to ask for feedback—both positive and negative.

This study suggests that the worse you are as a leader, the less likely you are to be willing to ask for feedback because you’re afraid you will hear the truth!

After every major FBI operation, everyone involved gathers for a “hotwash” which is a critical analysis of the event. What went right, and why, is discussed as vigorously as what went wrong, and why. Everyone left the hotwash with a clear understanding of their performance in the operation.

What It Means For You

Pick people whose feedback will be honest and constructive. Feedback can be viewed as one more piece of data to analyze, digest, reject, or accept as information to make a better decision.

3. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE

Persistence - runner tying shoe

The best way to build confidence in a given area is to invest energy in it and work hard at it. Throw out preconceived ideas of what you can, and cannot do. If you put your shoulder to it, you will find that grit trumps talent every time!

Life-long training is a fact of life for FBI agents. It starts the day we arrive at the FBI Academy and ends the day we sign our retirement papers.

This constant training creates the sort of mentality that prepares for the worst and practices ahead of time to overcome it. We’ve either gathered the evidence, slapped on the handcuffs, or run the drills so we know what to do in case the sh*t hits the fan.

What It Means For You

Start by trying out your new skills in a safe setting. Practice a dry run before actually launching a product, negotiating with a tough customer, or making a presentation. Not only will it boost your confidence, but it can help you improve the quality of your performance.

4. LINK UP

Teamwork - ants

It’s important to surround yourself with people who believe in you. Having a solid network of people who understand you and your situation can help pave the way to confidence and success.

When your talent or skill set is reinforced by someone you respect, it resonates at a deeper level. When you believe you can do it, you work harder. When others believe in you, they push you harder.

The FBI encourages camaraderie amongst the agents because there is an intrinsic belief that together, we can all do better. And this keeps producing confidence in our own abilities.

What It Means For You

Find ways to link up with others in your area of expertise. There is something very powerful about seeing someone like yourself show you how to do the impossible.

5. GRIT UP

Grit Up!

Grit is the passion and perseverance for long-term goals.

Great athletes are not always young and fresh; instead, they are the ones who have prepared for the game and have the desire, grit, and will to succeed.

Researcher & psychologist Angela Duckworth has found that grit is the best predictor of success

Grit is unrelated to talent. When working with West Point cadets, she found that the high score on grit surpassed other tests such as SAT scores, IQ, class rank, leadership, and physical aptitude when it came to predicting success.

The most successful FBI agents were those with intrinsic goals like “I want to serve my country” or “I want to test my abilities” as opposed to those with extrinsic goals like “It’s a prestigious position” or “I will be in a powerful job.”

What It Means For You

If you are pursuing work that has meaning for you, it is easier to put your shoulder into it.

These tried-and-true strategies will help you build the confidence you will need to be ultimately successful in business and life.

What strategies have you used to gain more confidence?

This article was first published on Smartblog.

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

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How Emotional Competence Helps Leaders Make Tough Decisions

August 22nd, 2016 by LaRae Quy

Most of the FBI agents I worked alongside would never sputter the phrase emotional competence—much less attribute their success to it. While they considered themselves mentally tough, they preferred words like awareness and alertness to describe the skills they carefully honed over the years.

Tough Decisions

So what is mental toughness? It is being alert and aware of our emotions, thoughts, and behavior so we can manage them in ways that set us up for success.

Learning how to push through difficult situations while maintaining peak performance requires the ability to predict our responses so we can land on our feet—an impossible task unless we possess both self-awareness and self-management, two core components of emotional intelligence. Taking it one step further, emotional competency is knowing how to apply the intelligence to your situation.

Recent research points to emotional competence as being a critical factor that sets star performers apart from the rest of the pack. Smart leaders, entrepreneurs, and other professionals can be mentally tough by utilizing emotional competence to make better decisions and achieve positive results.

Here is why:

1. You Will Know What Fuels You

Grit - Man jumping blog

I am not talking about fluffy ideals or stuff that gives you the warm fuzzies.

Training at the FBI Academy at Quantico is constructed to filter out those who do not feel deeply attached to upholding our federal judicial system.

To be mentally tough, you must know what you feel down deep in your bones. If you are not pursuing something that really holds value and meaning for you, you will not have what it takes to keep going when the going gets tough.

If you are self-aware, you know how you go after the things in life that are hard-wired to give you a purpose.

2. You Will Have A Plan B. And Plan C

Success - wall climbing

Most arrests do not go according to plan! In fact, every arrest op takes into account all that could go wrong so there is not only plan A, but C and sometimes D or more.

If mental toughness is being able to manage your emotions, thoughts, and behavior, then you must be prepared for what is next. Being a reactionary is never a good strategy, so start planning different outcomes and different scenarios.

You will not be caught off guard if plan A is not successful. This will also help you learn how to think on the fly and respond when confronted with a crisis rather than simply reacting in ways that may not be in your best interest.

3. You Will Have Self-Control

Trust - cat & parrot

In stressful situations we often say or do things we regret later.

Whether an FBI agent, leader, or entrepreneur, losing self-control can significant negative consequences. The best place to begin is by recognizing the emotions that surface in ordinary situations during your day, Now name those emotions with one word.

Now that you’ve practiced identifying emotions, try this when in a stressful situation:

  • Identify the first emotion to surface
  • Stop for a moment
  • See your best self
  • Create a strategy to effectively deal with the situation and the negative emotion
  • Move on to the second emotion that arises, and so on.

Emotional competence is essential for your success because once you have self-control, you find ways to prevent derailment when confronted with obstacles and roadblocks. Self-control is the ability to step back, evaluate, and regroup so you can choose your response.

4. You Will Not Let Fear Take Over

Positive Thinking - sleeping on a beam

Fear is often our first response because our limbic brain system is programmed to protect us when we confront the unknown. Since the caveman days, our brain has helped us to “get lunch” not “be lunch.”

The only ones who look forward to change are babies, and that’s because they know what to expect. Most of us are not comfortable with change and it’s natural to run from things that frighten us, but not everything that is new or different is a threat to our safety.

Fear of change is paralyzing; if you have emotional competence you know that change is inevitable and you form a plan of action for each change that comes your way.

Now your turn. What has emotional competence taught you?

This article first appeared in Smartbrief.

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

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Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

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Are You Mentally Tough Enough to Be An Entrepreneur?

August 15th, 2016 by LaRae Quy

The FBI Academy engages their new agents by teaching them psychological readiness. At the root of all the mental training was the answer to this question: are you mentally tough enough to beat the opponent?

Complexity and turbulence in the business creates opponents and tough competition. Not only do entrepreneurs need to be psychologically prepared to do battle with their competitors, they need to deal with stress, recover from mistakes quickly, adjust strategies with each new innovation, and stay positive about their chances of success.

Yes, you do need to compete if you want to run a successful business; you also need to be mentally tough enough to make it happen.

Here’s how:

1. CREATE THE RIGHT ATTITUDE

Mentally tough entrepreneurs do not rely on knowledge, skills, ability or past success to break through roadblocks. Instead, they draw on an attitude of toughness that allows them to push through hard situations and face adversity with confidence.

FBI agents are trained how to conduct complex and sophisticated investigations, but they are also trained in mental toughness. This does not mean they bulldoze their way through people or problems; instead, they are trained to be aware of their own emotions and reactions when they are being pushed into their discomfort zones.

You can only be game-ready when you can predict your response when confronted with the unknown.

TIP:

  • Be curious about the things you do not know.
  • Let your grasp exceed your reach.
  • Place yourself in situations where you are a beginner

2. STRETCH TO BE MORE FLEXIBLE

Struggles - tiger in water

When mentally tough entrepreneurs move past their comfort zone, they learn how to absorb the unexpected. This makes them more self aware and in the process they become mentally stronger, because they learn how to anticipate their responses and correct them if needed.

Stretching past our comfort zone helps us learn how to be flexible in our approach when something doesn’t turn out as expected. We can quickly decide to change course or look for new ways to solve the problem.

FBI arrests rarely go according to plan so agents are required to be flexible, even in very tense and dangerous situations. Constant training helps them uncover their go-to reflexes and evaluate whether they are helpful or harmful, before actually finding themselves in an unexpected situation.

TIP:

  • Constantly re-educate yourself, even in the basics
  • Resist falling back on ideas simply because they are comfortable
  • Always look for new ways to do business

3. MANAGE RELATIONSHIPS

Successful financial plans

Mentally tough entrepreneurs are emotionally competent enough to manage the relationships that affect them and their ability to be effective.

If they experience a setback, they know how to keep their emotions in check so they can set the tone for the rest of the organization. Mentally tough leaders do the right thing for the organization and suppress the temptation to cut corners. They know how to make the right decisions for their team.

Teamwork is essential for all law enforcement, and communication must be clear and concise. In addition, FBI agents use interviews more than any other investigative tool in their arsenal which requires them to respond appropriately and effectively to the emotional reactions of their audience.

TIP:

  • Work on communicating in ways that cultivate healthy, enduring, and valuable relationships
  • Cut loose relationships that weigh you down or are negative
  • Recognize that collaboration is actually a back-and-forth flow of ideas, words, and actions

4. DEVELOP A CHAMPION MINDSET

Success - biker

Mentally tough entrepreneurs have a champion mindset that remains engaged when they are under pressure. They are constantly identifying the opportunities, challenges, and threats to their environment.

A champion mindset looks for new ways to think about adversity, and most importantly, looks for fresh ways to look at problems and roadblocks. Champions look at life with a sense of urgency and respond to the challenges of the changing face of business with innovation and curiosity.

FBI Cases are not given to agents with directions on how to solve them. Each one is a mystery to be explored, which means setbacks and false assumptions are encountered along the way. The champion mindset continues to chip away at a mystery, or problem, until a solution can be found.

TIP:

  • Pay attention to what is going on in the world around you
  • Jettison old assumptions about how business operates
  • Assume holding onto yesterday’s trend, or solution,  is dangerous

In what other ways do entrepreneurs need to be mentally tough?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.”

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7 Ways Coaches Train Athletes To Manage Emotions

August 8th, 2016 by LaRae Quy

Athletic success is not dictated by body shape and movement alone. Elite performers learn how to manage emotions so they can keep moving forward when faced with tough competition.

Coaching sports

Entrepreneurs, business owners, and leaders know what facing tough competition feels like. Emotional competency is one of the core principles of mental toughness. Successful people learn how to manage emotions if they want to be confident, resilient, and persistent.

Coaches know how to build people up and this can have a permanent impact on the mind-set of their athletes that reaches far beyond the playing field. Here are 7 ways coaches train athletes to manage emotions—that can apply to everyone:

1. LOOK WHERE YOU ARE HEADED

Coaches will tell you to never look down at the ground; instead, keep your sights on where you want to go. Keeping a vision of where you want to end up is critical when you come up against a roadblock or obstacle.

I was a slow long distance runner, but in the FBI Academy I needed to up my game and run 2 miles in 10 minutes to qualify—and ultimately, graduate. My coach told me to keep my eye on the back of a runner who was faster than me and focus on keeping up.

TIP: Whether you are on the playing field or in the boardroom, you need the persistence to live the vision you have for yourself everyday. Manage emotions so you remain positive and develop even more determination by planning how you can accelerate the timeframe for reaching your goal.

2. DON’T COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS

Self aware - dog

Coaches encourage personal best, not competitiveness. Whether you are on the playing field or in a boardroom, learn to focus on your performance and development.

While at the FBI Academy it was hard not to compare myself with agents who were buff and premium athletes. I did need to perform but I also knew that focusing on my own strengths and weaknesses would help me improve at increments that would eventually lead to my success.

TIP: Comparing yourself to others will only create frustration and resentment. Instead of looking at how the rest of the team is doing, focus on your performance and how you can make your contribution even stronger.

3. STRESS YOURSELF REGULARLY

Michael Phelps’s coach writes that he once cracked the swimmer’s goggles before a routine race to see how he would cope. Fast forward to the 2008 Olympics when water began to seep into Phelps’s goggles at the start of the 200-meter butterfly. By midpoint in the race Phelps could hardly see, but unflustered, he broke his own world record.

FBI agents train throughout their entire career so we were regularly exposed to performance pressure where we were required to manage emotions. Our firearms and defensive tactics coaches placed us in situations where we were intentionally stressed so we would know how the pressure felt when we actually encountered it.

TIP: You should never be surprised by your emotional reaction to a stressful situation because if you are, you will not be able to land on your feet when confronted with the unknown.

4. SKIP THE OVERTRAINING TRAP

Missing the deadlines. Thoughtful young woman in suit looking at the stack of paperwork and holding head on chin while sitting at her working place

It’s not surprising that many athletes burnout once they’ve finished competing. Progress is the byproduct of grit, not glamour—LaRae Quy.

However, a coach who has your best interests at heart will keep tabs on you to determine when you’re overtraining, because pushing yourself too hard can mean falling into a physiological and mental abyss.

TIP: Give yourself an emotional and physical break by pursuing a hobby, spending more time with friends and family, or taking a vacation. Create a bucket list of things you want to do in the next year, next 5 years, and the next 10 years.

5. BUILD RELATIONSHIPS

There is no one set of attributes that makes a great leader. Instead, what seems to matter most is the kind of relationship both leaders and coaches develop with others.

Despite the time-honored tradition of coaching like a drill sergeant, the disciplinarian approach is gradually shifting toward a more psychologically balanced approach.

TIP: The coaches that motivated me the most were the ones that uncovered what motivated me to become an FBI agent. They referred to those motives when giving me a pep talk or used related external cues when I felt emotionally exhausted or defeated so I could better manage emotions.

6. BELIEVE IN YOURSELF TO MANAGE EMOTIONS

Heart eye

Whether you are in the locker room, board room, or class room, the key to building relationships with others is by focusing on the positives.

Many coaches use the sandwich approach in which constructive criticism is bookended with praise. This increases motivation, the development of specific skills, and lessens anxiety.

TIP: Start by saying something positive to your team. People need to feel as though you are on their side if they are to accept what you are trying to tell them.

7. TEACH AUTONOMY

Studies have confirmed that coaches who deliver information in an interactive and relationship-based manner have the most success.

Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks was voted in 2014 as the most popular coach in the National Football League. Carroll is known for being supportive of other players’ opinions, encourages loud music in the locker room, and focuses on wins and not losses when reviewing past games with his players.

TIP: When your team feels that you listen to them and their input, you are giving them confidence in themselves. It is this confidence that will lead them to greater autonomy as they move forward in business and life.

How do you manage emotions?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

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9 Habits Of Incredibly Charming People

August 1st, 2016 by LaRae Quy

We are more likely to build personal and professional relationships with people we like. In doing so, we are drawn to people who are charming, polite, and modest.

Charm

Charm is the power of pleasing or attracting others through our personality. There are arguments that social media is damaging our people skills, but I disagree. The charm of manners and personality is as important in social media and news outlets as it is in face-to-face conversations.

A lot of people know how to be rude, blunt, and offensive but a lot of people also know how to be charming. In the world of sales, business, and startups, it’s impossible to change people’s minds unless you change their hearts, too.

Here are 9 habits of incredibly charming people:

1. CHARMING PEOPLE USE THE RIGHT BODY LANGUAGE

They step forward, with a genuine smile, eyebrows arched, head tilted, and a slight bow—a clear sign of deference in every culture—and offer a firm handshake.

This body language signals that we have put aside all pretense of power and self-importance to indicate we are honored by the introduction. Our body language is often the first thing others notice about us, so we need to be certain we are sending the right message.

Not everyone is excited about meeting an FBI agent, so the initial messages I sent with my body language went a long way to opening the other person up to a genuine conversation.

2. CHARMING PEOPLE KEEP THEIR EGO IN CHECK

They look for points of agreement; sometimes the search is hard but they find ways to understand the other person’s point of view. 

This doesn’t mean they are afraid to voice their own opinion—when asked and when appropriate! Our ego often insists that we demand our right to express our own opinion; charming people know how to keep the ego in check so someone else can have the main floor.

My job in the FBI was to recruit foreign spies to work for the U.S. government. Often, I wanted to spout off about why America was a better place to live than their country. I learned, however, that what is right for me might not be right for them, even if that meant swallowing my pride and admitting defeat.

3. CHARMING PEOPLE NEVER NAME DROP

Very little is more annoying that meeting someone who constantly name drops about all the important people they know. Or, brags about their points of contacts.

Charming people may know lots of fascinating people, but they don’t talk about it.

When interviewing people, I always made it a habit to treat the person in front of me as the most important person in the world to me at that moment. And they were important, either to me or my investigation—they key was letting them know it.

4. CHARMING PEOPLE REMEMBER FACES AND/OR NAMES

They work hard to remember names, faces, or even small details of the other person’s life. The fact that they remember those specifics always makes the other person feel better about themselves.

If they remember something about us, we will remember something about them.

I am very bad with names and repeating the name 3 times does not help me to remember at all. I am much better with faces, though, so I try to link something about the person’s past history to the face. That way, even if forget their name I can create rapport by mentioning the factoid that I do remember.

5. CHARMING PEOPLE LISTEN TO WHAT OTHERS HAVE TO SAY

They focus on the person in front of them—whether they are knee-to-knee and nose-to-nose with a person or in front of a computer screen answering emails. They don’t lapse into planning tomorrow or checking items off their to-do list.

Deep listening means being present with both sides of the conversation—not just your side.

Many times the individuals I was trying to recruit for the FBI spoke such poor English that I really did have truly concentrate to understand what they were trying to say. The more I focused on listening to them, the more they opened up.

6. CHARMING PEOPLE ADAPT THEIR PERSONALITY TO THE OTHER PERSON

They know how to match their personality to their employees, prospects, and clients. This means they must quickly assess whether the other person was an introvert or extrovert, analytical or a visionary, purpose-driven or security-driven, goal-oriented or people-oriented.

If you’ve been a good listener, you will be able to make these distinctions.

When listening to one particular foreign spy talk, I quickly determined that he was not a risk taker so I immediately re-framed the conversation. Instead of making a single suggestion, I offered a series of smaller, bite-sized ones he could take time to consider, and get comfortable with, before we moved onto the larger goal (that is, working for the U.S. government).

7. CHARMING PEOPLE ARE SINCERE

They take the time to develop relationships so they can accurately understand people’s needs, desires, and fears. Until this happens, it’s very difficult to engage people in any meaningful way.

Sometimes it’s not all about the money. The days of hard pitches to close sales are over. Customers are getting too sophisticated for this approach; they use mass media to educate themselves about a product and make their decisions right then and there.

If we’re on the losing end of this decision, our job is to change their mind by changing their heart.

The foreign spies I tried to recruit were suspicious of me and professed loyalty to their government. Understanding that, I could couch my conversations with them in ways that would not impugn their loyalty or trustworthiness.

8. CHARMING PEOPLE ARE RESPECTFUL OF OTHERS

They know how to give others the respect that is due to them without trying to belittle them in the process.

In a culture that at times seems to be losing its ability to have respect for the opposing point of view, this is an extremely important habit to cultivate.

When a suspect in one of my investigations understood that the FBI had no intention of bullying them or resorting to extortion (despite how the FBI is portrayed in TV and movies), I always sensed their gratitude for the respect that was shown to them.

9. CHARMING PEOPLE HAVE TACT WHEN IN DISAGREEMENT

They know what to say or do to avoid giving offense. Tact is essential when dealing with difficult or delicate situations.

Do not ask embarrassing questions that put people on the defensive. If you’re uncertain how to move forward with a difficult conversation, try role-playing with a friend and ask for their input. Are you coming across the way you want?

One foreign spy expected to be blackmailed (for what, I don’t know—it made me think I hadn’t watched him closely enough!) It was important that he walk away from our conversation with his dignity because I wanted to leave the door open for future conversations with him. Over time, he felt comfortable enough with me to provide valuable assessment on his fellow intelligence officers.

The charm had worked!

How have you charmed people?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.”

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