Posts Tagged ‘Behavior’

10 Commandments Of Interpreting Body Language

Sunday, December 13th, 2015

Body language plays an important role in leadership success. Many entrepreneurs and business owners focus on verbal skills, but they fail to realize there are two conversations going on when they meet another person.

10 Commandments Of InterpretingBODY LANGUAGE

The first conversation is the one where words are used to convey information; while the second one broadcasts thoughts, attitudes, and emotions through the body. If we’re unaware of the non-verbal messages we’re sending, the second conversation could undermine the first one.

To successfully read people, we need to collect non-verbal information to evaluate thoughts and emotions.

It is a skill that requires constant practice and training. Here are 10 commandments to interpret body language that will help you to maximize your ability to accurately read non-verbals:

Commandment 1: BODY LANGUAGE REACTIONS ARE MORE HONEST THAN YOU THINK

The brain controls all behaviors, both conscious and subconscious. This premise is the cornerstone if you want to understand non-verbal communication.

The limbic system is that part of the brain that reacts to events around us—in real time and without thought.

These reactions are genuine and are considered to be the “honest” part of our brain. The limbic brain enlists the body to send messages about what it is really feeling. The body will signal stress and discomfort in a variety of ways, and we interpret these behaviors as body language.

Read Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman.

Commandment 2: IT’S DIFFICULT TO SPOT DECEIT SO DON’T GET COCKY

There is no single sign of deceit itself—there is no single gesture, facial expression, or muscle twitch that indicates a person is lying.

There are only clues that the individual is feeling an emotion or thought that is not being expressed verbally. Once the point of stress is identified, it’s possible to pursue the cause of the discomfort.

When I interview people, I look for behaviors that would tell me they are stressed. Or not at ease with one of my questions. Once I asked a businessman if he knew Igor—an individual whom the FBI had identified as a Russian spy. The businessman responded, “No,” but then immediately touched his mouth. I didn’t know whether he was lying, but I did know he was bothered by that question. This prompted me to probe further into this line of inquiry.

Commandment 3: CLUSTER FOR SIGNIFICANCE IF YOU WANT ACCURACY

Conversations are a string of words put together to create meaning. One word, by itself, can mean many things, or nothing. A sentence, however, expresses complete thoughts. Similarly, one gesture can mean anything—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.

A scratch of 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.

Commandment 4: CREATE A BASELINE

Time is required to accurately read other people. It is a process  because it takes time to build rapport with others. Deception can only be identified if a baseline of the other person’s responses is established.

Non-threatening and innocent questions are likely to receive honest answers, and this is how norms are established. They can be used to measure responses to more probing questions later on.

Norms help to distinguish between a personal quirk and a contradiction in behavior. Contradictions are not goalposts when trying to detect whether someone is lying. Rather, they are signposts that suggest there is either deception, or there’s more to the matter. The person’s response is not consistent with how he or she normally responds.

Read What Every Body is Saying by Joe Navarro.

Commandment 5: LOOK FOR CHANGES IN BEHAVIOR

To read body languages you must notice whether the individual is stressed/relaxed—uncomfortable/comfortable.

A failure to understand this basic premise will lead you to make false assumptions about another’s behavior. If you notice a sudden change in a person’s behavior, it can help reveal the point of deception. This can be either verbal or non-verbal.

I’ve been in interviews with people who were in contact with foreign spies and they were very hospitable and eager to explain the reason for their contact. When I’d mention the possibility of continued contact with the FBI to gage the spy’s activities, most would answer “yes” because they wanted to appear cooperative with law enforcement.

At that point in the conversation, I would look for changes in their body language to determine whether they were being honest in their answer.

I would notice if they purse their lips (the lips disappear into a fine line which indicates stress) or squint their eyes (they wanted me out of their eyesight)! I knew I needed to address their concerns immediately if I wanted to continue contact.

Commandment 6: CAREFULLY INTERPRET FACIAL EXPRESSIONS

The face is the one part of the body that is most often used to conceal feelings and emotions. Dr. Paul Ekman, an expert on facial micro-expressions, states that the face is the primary place we display emotion. This is also why the face can be incredibly untrustworthy. According to Ekman, we lie with our faces because that’s what we’ve been told to do since childhood.

“Take that look off your face,” was one of my mom’s favorite expressions as I grew up.

The face can lie and tell the truth, often at the same time. While the face can be untrustworthy, most people still leak micro-expressions. These expressions are fleeting and can be easily missed.

Read Telling Lies by Paul Ekman.

Commandment 7: WATCH EYEBROWS AND FOREHEADS

Not all of the muscles that produce facial expressions are equally easy to control. Some muscles are more reliable than others. The forehead is the chief focus for reliable muscle movements. It can reliably indicate negative emotions such as sadness, grief, distress, and even guilt.

Eyebrow actions—raise and lower—are the most frequent facial expressions, and they are usually made in conjunction with forehead movements. When eyebrows rise and pull together, it is a reliable muscle movement that occurs with fear, worry, apprehension, and terror. The eyebrows express true emotion. When a person is calm and positive, there are fewer forehead furrows and eyebrow movement unless they are used to emphasize speech or as question marks.

Commandment 8: WATCH THOSE SMILES

The third most reliable facial action is the mouth area. Anger, tension, frustration, and fear can all lead to a narrowing of the lips. All of these emotions can easily be concealed by a smile.

But pay attention to the entire face: for a smile to be genuine, there must crow’s feet around the eyes and the cheeks must push up.

A smile is a sign of submission, which is why many dominant individuals don’t smile. I always smiled when I began an interview with a subject because it directly influenced how they would respond to me. The last thing I wanted to do was intimidate them or put them on the defensive. On the contrary, I wanted to put them at ease so I could create a baseline of their behavior. Smiling helps create empathy, something that can be important if you want concessions in a negotiation.

Commandment 9: TALK WITH YOUR HANDS

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.

I make an effort to shake hands with people I meet. The handshake that conveys equality is when both hands are vertical. As a woman, I’m frequently in situations where a male will offer a dominant handshake—his palm faces down. Palms down indicate dominance (think of Adolph Hitler’s Nazi salute).

To counter a dominant handshake, I simply move to the right of the individual so we are almost side-by-side. He is forced to move his hand into the vertical position as I move to his right.

Commandment 10: BELIEVE WHAT THE FEET ARE SAYING

As unglamorous as it sounds, feet are the most honest part of the body.

Children and adults alike bounce up and down when they see someone, or something, that makes them happy.

I met with an individual whom I suspected had contact with a Russian spy. I began the interview and asked general questions, as much to gain a baseline as to confirm background information that I already possessed. His answers were forthcoming and his body language was relaxed.

However, when I moved the conversation toward the Russian spy, he became rigid. He uncrossed his legs and sat with his feet flat on floor with ankles locked. Again, this didn’t mean he was a liar, but it did indicate he became stressed at the point in the conversation when we started talking about the Russian.

Read Secrets of A Strong Mind.

These 10 Commandments of Body Language will help you more accurately understand the importance of non-verbal behaviors.

Whether in business or life, always focus on whether the individual to whom you are talking is exhibiting stressed or relaxed behaviors.

What other commandments to interpret body language would you add?

© 2015 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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11 Toxic Habits That Keep You From Success

Sunday, May 3rd, 2015

Even though I did not appreciate the discipline imposed upon me by my 4 months at the FBI Academy, it did teach me to master and maintain good habits. I realize now that what I did on a daily basis for those 4 months taught me how to direct my time and energy into habits that would lead to my success as an FBI agent.

Success - wall climbing

The definition of habit is an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary.

Success needs more than inspiration—it requires good habits that lead to concrete action steps.

You may possess many skills and traits, but if you let toxic habits undermine your efforts, breaking the bad habit could be the game-changer for success you need.

Here are the 11 worst habits holding you back from success:

1. Fritter Away The Morning

If you waste your morning, you’ve lost your day. If you’re not a morning person, find a way to give yourself a kick in the butt so you get started. Create a routine that is easy to remember and even easier to follow. Give yourself tasks and deadlines to get you started; and then never leave anything that you started in the morning unfinished at the end of the day.

2. Cringe When Criticized

This club has a lot of members because no one wants to be criticized, but accept the fact that there is a huge difference between constructive criticism and vicious words spoken by petty critics.

You’re confident enough to walk away from small minds that only want to tear you down.

3. Blame Others

When I started whining about how unfair life was as a kid, my grandmother would look me in the eye and tell me to grow up. And that is my advice to you as well. Always take responsibility for your own actions. If you have any doubts about how ugly it looks and sounds to blame others and make excuses for yourself, take a closer look at our politicians.

Suck it up, admit your mistake, and move on.

Thanks, Grandma.

4. Confuse Money With Success

America has become so obsessed with money and all the stuff it will buy that it’s hard to have an intelligent conversation about what success should really mean to each one of us. Success is doing something with your life that gives you value and meaning.

Success is not just about making more money or going home with the most toys.

5. Refuse To Sacrifice

There are some who might consider the Marine Corp Base in Quantico, VA a great place to spend 4 months—however, I am not one of them. But, during my time at the Academy, because of the starkness of my surroundings, I did get into the habit of sacrificing things that I wanted in the short term to achieve the more important goal—to become an FBI agent.

The road to success is not one of excess. You will need to focus, sacrifice, and set priorities.

6. Complacency Will Kill You

One thing FBI agents learn early on in training is it’s not the streets or guns that will kill you—complacency is what will put you in harm’s way! Aways be alert and aware of what is going on in your environment. Opportunities are where your luck will hide, so always be searching for ways to make own your luck.

Complacency is where you go to wither up and die.

7. Complain About Working Hard

My grandmother told me, “You’ll never get to the top if you sit on your bottom,” and then she’d hand me a shovel to clean out the horse barn. If you work harder than everyone else, you will achieve the success you are looking for.

No one has ever drowned in a pool of sweat.

8. Permit Negative Thoughts To Take Over

I came very close to being washed out of the Academy because I wasn’t a good athlete. The FIT test was hard for me, and I was tempted to let the spiral of negativity keep me from achieving my goal. Our survival-driven brain is wired to pay more attention to negative thoughts than positive ones, so we really do need to work harder at remaining positive when things get tough.

Mental toughness is positivity on steroids—LaRae Quy

9. Neglect Your Family

Family looks different for everyone. Sometimes it’s our children and the people to whom we are related, but just as often it also includes those we love and hold close to us.

You need to spend quality time with them and not neglect those relationships if you want true success in life.

10. Maintain Mediocre Friendships

Since you don’t have choice in who you’re related to, be very careful in picking friends that will support you—in both good and bad times. My husband is an introvert who only counts a couple of buddies as close friends. I throw a much wider net and count lots of wonderful people as friends. The number doesn’t matter, but you don’t have either the time or the energy to surround yourself with mediocrity. That goes for friends, too.

11. Forget To Be Grateful

When you stop being grateful, you have the worst kind of heart trouble. It’s impossible to be negative or depressed when there is gratitude in your heart.

What bad habit have you broken lately?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE Mental Toughness Assessment

Get my FREE Mental Toughness Mini-Course

Author of “Mental Toughness For Women Leaders” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

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10 FBI Tips On How To Spot A Liar

Sunday, April 26th, 2015

FBI agents are trained to read other people and uncover what is hidden so they can get to the truth of a situation. Their job is to recognize language inconsistencies and other verbal cues to spot liars and deceptive behavior.

It would be nice if every job candidate, negotiating partner, and supplier told the truth—but they do not. In addition, many business owners and entrepreneurs get embezzled by the employees they trust.

In the world of business, being successful often means being able to spot liars and people who are deceptive. How do you know when someone is telling you the truth? And if you do believe something you are told, how can you be sure it’s not because you want it to be true?

Here are 10 FBI tips on how to spot the liar:

1. Build Rapport

Coming across as empathetic in a conversation gets the person to open up more than when the interviewer is cold and accusatory. Rapport building is the root of effective communication. In fact, without rapport no one will be interested in your message. Without rapport, you have no opportunity to influence others.

TIP: Practice on ways you can mirror and match another person’s behavior. When you match and mirror, you observe with your entire body. This is not mimicry. It’s learning to tune in with another person. Pay attention to their body posture, their energy level, and their voice.

2. Fill In The Blanks

Instead of asking direct questions, tell the person the story as if you already know all the facts. Make it a statement—the guilty party will supply details and make corrections.

TIP: Pause every so often or leave out details. Allow them the opportunity to fill in what you’ve left out. Liars have a prepared narrative in their mind. They will try to correct you when say something that is contrary to their version of the story. Those are the areas into which you will want to delve deeper.

3. Surprise Them

The person knows they are guilty and will be prepared for your questions. If you ask them something they do not expect, they will usually stumble when put on the spot.

TIP: As unexpected questions. This could put them in a tough spot because they’ll have to stop and think about how to add another detail to their story. Watch for signs of anxiety or hesitation. Better yet, ask the same question in different ways. Liars prefer to stick to their rehearsed answers and specific words because that is how they’ve memorized their response.

4. Ask For The Story Backward

This is one of my favorite techniques.

Truthful people tend to add details and remember facts the more they repeat their story. Liars, on the other hand, memorize their stories and keep them the same. Ask the person to recall events backward rather than forward in time.

TIP: For example, start at the end and then ask them to explain what happened right before that point. And so on…For truthful people, this makes recall easier. For liars, they tend to simplify the story so they don’t contradict themselves.

5. Withhold Evidence

Don’t show your hand at first. Start with empathy: nod your head or suggest that it isn’t really much of a big deal if they admit to it. Give them an opportunity to confess and tell the truth, but if they don’t, you will need to confront them. They’ll have a hard time editing out all the details they’ve had to add as you followed the above steps.

TIP: If confronted with evidence of guilt too early, the person will either clam up or become hostile. Instead, give them the opportunity to make a confession. If they don’t, allude to evidence in such a way that they realize you know the facts.

6. Listen More Than You Talk

Liars tend to talk more than truthful people in an attempt to sound legitimate and win over their audience. Liars also tend to use more complex sentences to hide the truth.

TIP: Here are some other things to look for:

  • Stress usually increases the speed of speech.
  • A stressed person may also talk louder.
  • Cracking in the natural tone of the voice often occurs at the point of deception.
  • Coughing and clearing the throat are good signs of tension at the point when they occur.

7. NO Is A Key Word

A person is most likely showing deceptive behavior when they:

  • Say “no” and look in a different direction (upward, downward, etc)
  • Say “no” and close their eyes
  • Say “no” after a hesitation
  • Say “noooooooo” stretched over a long period of time
  • Say “no” in a singsong manner

8. Be Wary Of Compliments

Watch out for someone who is trying too hard to make a good impression:

  • Emphasizing respect for your qualities and talents
  • Forming a mutual bond by reminding you of common friends and activities you share
  • Offering lots of praise and pleasantries
  • Laughing at all your jokes (a sure give-away)

9. Watch for Changes in Behavior

Take the time to notice subtle changes in behavior when you are interviewing them:

  • Exhibiting lapses in memory at critical times even though they’ve been alert in earlier conversation
  • Providing small crumbs of information to questions asked
  • Moving into a more formal way of speaking indicates that the conversation is hitting a point of stress
  • Using extreme superlatives or exaggerated responses, such as saying awesome instead of good

10. Ask follow-up questions

If the person exhibits uneasiness with a specific question, take the time to explore further. For example, “Explain this gap in your résumé” may lead to an answer such as, “I was recuperating from hip surgery.” Often, the deception that you’ve uncovered may be related to a personal embarrassment or a desire to be “the perfect candidate.”

What ways have you found to spot liars?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE Mental Toughness Assessment

Get my FREE Mental Toughness Mini-Course

Author of “Mental Toughness For Women Leaders” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

Co-author of Energize Your Leadership

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5 Harsh Reasons You Don’t Seize Opportunities

Sunday, December 21st, 2014

As a child, I loved taking risks. Growing up around rattlesnakes, barbed wire fences, and frisky horses that liked to kick the saddle out of my hands, there was very little I thought I couldn’t do.

The key was putting my mind to it.

With age comes wisdom—or so I thought. As an adult, I was less amenable to taking risk. I was very strategic about relationships, careers, and spiritual formation. And I realize that there is a place for strategy, as long as it does not make your thinking soft.

Soft thinking is the opposite of mental toughness. If you suffer from soft thinking, you are afraid of seizing opportunities because you are afraid that your emotions, thoughts, or behavior might spin out of control. Or, you’re afraid to leave your comfort zone.

As it turns out, the key to managing risk is still in our mind.

There is no way to sugar-coat it—you’re afraid of risk and don’t seize the opportunities in your life because you don’t:

1. EMBRACE A LITTLE TERROR IN YOUR LIFE

Strong minds seize opportunities because they allow themselves to be terrified—quite often. As a result, terror is a feeling that they are familiar with.

If you continually place yourself in situations where there is a little risk involved and the outcome is not known, your comfort zone is not stretched. Our brain likes to feel comfortable and seeks pleasure over pain. That’s why we’re tempted to abandon ship at the first sign of distress.

Our desire to avoid losses is almost twice as powerful as our desire to take a risk. This explains why we often walk away or fail to recognize new opportunities.

If you start your day without feeling a little terror from the challenges before you, you’re not pushing yourself hard enough.

2. THINK FAST ENOUGH TO MOVE AHEAD OF THE HERD

Strong minds seize opportunities because their minds are agile and flexible.

Thinking fast is automatic, frequent, emotional, stereotypic, and subconscious. It means we can throw out long debates in favor of snap judgments and hard-wired rules of thumb that have served us well in the past.

Thinking fast is driven by your past experiences and memories. If you move into your discomfort zone on a regular basis, you frequently experience doses of terror and uncertainty. As a result, your mind does not get mired down with fear when new opportunities present themselves.

Fast thinking is efficient and effective, and essential if we want to seize opportunities in the fast-moving world of life and business.

3. THINK FORWARD WITH CREATIVITY AND INNOVATION

Strong minds seize opportunities because they do not allow themselves to get stuck in a rut.

In business and life, the comfort zone has never been a good place to be. It may feel comfortable but then we face another kind of risk: one of being irrelevant, obsolete—and extinct.

If you plan to think forward, you will need to continually question conventional wisdom, reinvent your approach to work, and welcome disruptive innovation.

In short, you will need to live in a petri dish in which you are continually experimenting with new ideas and maneuvering in a perpetual zone of distress and uncertainty—and sometimes, even embarrassment.

4. MOVE ON FROM THE PAST

Strong minds seize opportunities because they learn from their past mistakes so they don’t repeat them.

Our ability to think fast and think forward is determined by our brain, and our past behavior.

As children, our brains were flexible, creative, and unpredictable. As adults, however, our brain becomes more rigid—anything with unvaried repetition like careers, cultural activities, and skills all lead to rigidity.

Once we make the same decision a second or third time, a habit is formed, and one that becomes quite inflexible.

Rigid patterns of thinking tend to become self-sustaining over time. Habits of behavior produced from past failure is not the same thing as learning from a mistake.

Habits are often a default reaction that leads to rigid thinking; learning, on the other hand, requires a flexible mindset that is always collecting and processing new information.

Often, we are not aware of these rigid patterns of thinking until we pinpoint their genesis in our memory. At that point, we recognize them for what they are and are able to move on from them.

5. FEED YOUR CURIOSITY

Strong minds seize opportunities because they are always looking for new things to do, and once they are engaged, they turn their full attention to it.

Researchers have found that curiosity is the single necessary condition for creating a flexible and agile mind.

When we are curious, we are engaged. Giving a subject our full attention and concentration is important if we want our brain to be more flexible and agile. It’s also important that, once we thoroughly understand a subject, we move on to something else.

To keep the brain fit, we must learn something new, rather than simply replaying already-mastered skills.

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Never lose a holy curiosity—Albert Einstein

How have you taken a risk and seized an opportunity?

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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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 Get Your Voice Heard When Leadership Doesn’t Listen

Sunday, July 20th, 2014

Dean had a tendency to dominate every meeting or briefing he attended. As a supervisor, he surrounded himself with other like-minded male FBI agents who frequently ignored, dismissed, or interrupted others whose opinion they did not respect.

Woman with bullhorn

As a woman I was tired of not getting my voice heard in meetings where louder voices drowned out what I had to say. How could I change the behavior of leadership?

When I looked around the room, I saw that Dean and others of his ilk were also ignoring some of the other male agents who did not stand out as exceptional performers or leaders. While being a female agent may have had some impact on their behavior toward me, it clearly was also a matter of who was perceived to have anything important to say.  Here is how I used mental toughness to get my voice heard:

1. FIND SOMETHING POSITIVE—EVEN IF YOU HAVE TO LOOK REALLY, REALLY HARD

I had my list of complaints about Dean, but now was the time to focus on the positive aspects of his leadership style, not his faults. For every 1 negative trait, I looked for and found, 5 positive traits about him. As a former U.S. Marine, he was:

  1. Disciplined and conscientious
  2. Possessed clarity of purpose
  3. Used humor to defray tension
  4. Relied upon a high standard of integrity to guide his decisions.
  5. Loyal to his friends

2. USE EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE

Emotional intelligence is being savvy about the what is important to not only ourselves, but others as well. Awareness is being alert and honest about my feelings of frustration and disappointment that I felt when ignored by Dean and others like him.

Mental toughness is letting go of our ego after we’ve acknowledged our feelings and focusing our attention on someone else instead of ourselves.

When I focused on Dean, I identified one characteristic that seemed to dominate every decision he ever made—integrity. If I wanted to get my voice heard, I needed to appeal to his sense of integrity, not his sense of equal opportunity.

3. NETWORK STRATEGICALLY

There is a saying: if you can’t beat them, join them. While collaboration is increasingly important, the silo mentality has arisen for a reason: people naturally tend to form safe tribes with colleagues and avoid those they don’t know well. This is because collaboration with people they don’t know is a threat to their brain. 

The emotional limbic brain is survival-driven, and it tends to trust those with whom we’ve developed close ties or have shared experiences. 

I intentionally sought out Dean, and his buddies, to ask for advice about my cases. I buried my pride and made them partners in the direction I took my investigations. Since Dean and his friends had developed deep relationships, I suspected they would talk about me in my absence, and I wanted those conversations to be complimentary and positive.

4. WATCH BODY LANGUAGE

Our emotional limbic brain system leaks all sorts of information through body languageWhen I approached Dean, his eyebrows arched, indicating a genuine feeling of warmth at seeing me. Few people notice this, but an “eyebrow flash” is an automatic reaction when you see someone you like.

Smiling is a sign of submission, which is why many dominant individuals don’t smile. If the smile is genuine there will crow’s feet and the cheeks will push up.

Smiling activates our mirror neurons; our brain sees a reaction in someone else and it wants to mirror those same emotions. I always approached Dean with a smile, and he naturally wanted to smile back.

Dean and his band of buddies laughed and joked around with each other but never smiled at anyone else. So, I began to smile at Dean every time I saw him. I’d smile and say, “How’s it going?” After a few weeks, he only smiled back but also stopped to tell me how it was going!

5. MAKE PITHY, STRONG STATEMENTS

Dean was a busy guy and very quick witted. I didn’t dawdle when chatting about a case—I came straight to the point with pithy, strong statements. I didn’t waste his time by trying to ingratiate myself in a way that he would not appreciate. 

In our next meeting, the discussion circled around to a topic that Dean and I had previously discussed. He knew he could rely on me to be succinct and make an impact, so he asked for my opinion. I didn’t let him down—I made my statement and then shut up, not using this opportunity to make sure everyone else in the room knew how competent I was. 

That day was a turning point. While I have never developed a loud voice, I have developed a strong one.

That is something you can do as well. Use it well.

 

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

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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What Grabs Your Attention Rules Your Life

Sunday, January 12th, 2014

My parents taught me to pay attention to my environment and be alert for rattlesnakes on our cattle ranch. They hid underneath sagebrush and cactus. My most prized Christmas present every year was a new pair of thick leather high top boots. They were tough enough to withstand a rattler’s sharp teeth if I should get bitten.

After many years of being alert of my surroundings, awareness of my immediate physical situation became a habit. Even after I had grown up and left the ranch. My ability to remain observant while in chaotic and quick moving circumstances was one of the primary reasons I became an FBI agent.

Habits don’t happen overnight. They are a repeated behavior that leaves us comfortable and safe. Therefore, we continue to choose more of the same experiences. When our attention is focused like this, our nervous system leaves us wanting more of the same.

For example: Whatever act of attitude gets your attention, the more frequently that act of attitude will manifest in your life. 

If you focus on anger, anger will show up. If you focus on looking for the positive in your situation, positivity will show up. And if you focus on finding a way to pursue your goal, determination will show up.

Pinpoint the focus, and put your attention on whatever you want to grow in life.

Start with Intention

Intention is a choice to act in a certain way. Without it, we spin and turn in all sorts of directions. Intention is an essential component of mental toughness. It is an ability that we can learn and strengthen over time to commit to a specific outcome. And regardless of distraction, to move forward. 

Intention is the key to transformation. Get serious about what is important in life and come up with a game plan to make it happen. Work on your intentions until they become perfectly clear.

Be intentional about:

  • Thoughts: Make corrections when you uncover thoughts that are not in alignment with your intention. “As a man thinks in his heart, so he is“~Proverbs 23:7a NKJV)
  • Words: Keep your conversations positive about the direction you’re moving. “Kind words are like honey—sweet to the soul and healthy for the body”~Proverbs 16:24 NLT
  • Deeds: Ensure that everything you do moves you closer to your intention. “Even children know by the way they act, whether their conduct is pure, and whether it is right”~Proverbs 20:11 NLT

Follow Up With Attention

We pay attention when we notice the importance of an act or person. We intentionally focus our attention on what is important in our life and those areas we want to grow.

Our consciousness can handle only so much information, so we have selective attention. One key part of the brain which focuses on attention is the Reticular Activating System (RAS). It filters out important information that needs more attention from the unimportant that can be ignored. Without the RAS filter, we would be over-stimulated and distracted by noises from our environment around us.

Whatever we choose to focus our attention on will make it past the mind’s filtering system. The RAS alerts the cerebral, thinking brain of changes in the environment such as:

  • Physical needs: when we’re hungry, we pay attention to food
  • Choices: if we decide to buy a Volvo (a MUST see video by the way!), we see them everywhere
  • Names: we notice the names of those whom we love
  • Emotions: if something evokes an emotion in us, it has our attention
  • Contrast: we pay more attention to things that are in contrast to other things
  • Novelty: the brain notices things in our environment that are new experiences for us

Mental toughness keeps attention focused on those attitudes and behaviors that you intentionally identify as important to you in life.

These positive influences will help you to move forward, and not get distracted, when faced with an obstacle or adversity.

End On A Happy Note

If you start with positive intentions, you will notice the importance of things that will move you toward your goals. This includes people, events, and situations. The result produces fulfillment and happiness.

Intention→Attention→Results

This outcome shouldn’t surprise you.

Research shows that people who maintain a positive mindset are the happiest. They also perform better in the face of challenge. Shawn Achor call this the “happiness advantage.” Every business outcome shows improvement when the brain is positive.

Happiness is not about being oblivious to negative situations in our environment. It’s about developing the mental toughness to find ways to do something about them. Leverage positivity in leadership to move forward and find both meaning and happiness regardless of your circumstances. 

Positive thinkers seek out information that is actionable, interesting, and relevant. Leaders who create positive responses to their situations use words like opportunity and challenge together. 

Our thoughts, words, and deeds turn into habits of behavior. They can enrich our lives once we understand how to intentionally focus our attention on experiences we want to repeat. What grabs our attention rules our life.

What grabs your attention?

© 2014 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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4 Ways To Be In Control of Your Life

Sunday, November 10th, 2013

Early in life, I made a decision to be in control of my career. I decided I wanted to work for the Foreign Service so I could travel and live an exciting life. I applied but didn’t pass the foreign language aptitude test. But I refused to let this stop me from pursuing my path; I wanted to live an exciting life, so I turned my attention toward the FBI.

Within six months I was hired as an FBI agent—a record in speedy recruitment. The average waiting list is three years. I had people walk up to me and say, “You were very lucky.” But no, I don’t think so.

It’s not that I don’t believe luck doesn’t exist; it’s just that I think it can be created and controlled. Luck happens when we seize opportunities to improve ourselves and our situation. It definitely doesn’t happen if we silently wait and hope for our lives to change.

I wanted to be in control of where I took my life—not a passive spectator. Things don’t always go according to plan. My experience with the Foreign Service is only one example of where life has not always unfolded in the direction or manner that I wanted. When disappointments, roadblocks, barriers, or obstacles kept me from my path, I took them as opportunities to re-evaluate both my plan and my options.

If you are a startup or business owner, it is impossible to be in control of markets, competition, and economic downturns. But this is exactly when you need to be in control of your own emotions, thoughts, and behavior so you can manage them in ways that will allow you to keep moving forward. In other words, you need mental toughness.

Here are 4 ways you can be in control of your own life:

1. Focus On A Game  Plan, Not Goals

We live in a very goal-oriented society. Once we achieve our goal we feel terrific, but then there is the realization that we have just lost the thing that gives us direction. Goals are temporary and temporal; they can be too rigid to change with circumstances. If we’re too wedded to them, we won’t be able to adapt to those changes.

If I’d continued to beat my head against the closed door at the Foreign Service, I would have gained nothing but blood and bruises. That is not mental toughness; that is being stupid.

Often, goals need to change as new information becomes available. So while your approach might shift from time to time, your game plan never does.

Goals are essential if progress is to be made in life, but we are tempted to let them take the place of the bigger picture. Once they do, it’s hard to pivot and move in a new direction when events take an unexpected turn.

Goals are a measure of where we will be and when we will make it there. We try to predict how quickly we can make progress, even though we have no idea what circumstances or situations will arise along the way and impede our progress. 

TIP: Our game plan is hitched to something bigger such our purpose. Your purpose will not change, even if your circumstances do. When confronted with obstacles, keep your eye on your purpose but be prepared to let go of your vision of an immediate goal in order to get there. Other, more expansive goals might become available as you move forward.

2. Work At Ways To Remain Positive

Living on a cattle ranch, I had a couple of different options on how I looked at cow turds. Either something to be avoided, or something to be used. When dry, they make excellent frisbees, and they are also dynamite fertilizer for the garden!

If you are positive about the events in your life, you are more alert to the possibilities that whiz around you everyday. People who are positive and in good moods actually take in more visual information, while those in bad moods don’t see as much around them.

Always look for opportunities. Luck happens because you’re motivated to take the steps necessary to succeed. You make it easier for luck to find you because you are more open to life’s forking paths, and see possibilities that others miss.

TIP: The best way to train your brain to think differently is to change your attitude. Respond to negative thoughts with something more positive. Instead of saying, “I’m going to mess this up,” say something like, “This is my chance to shine and I’m going to do my best.” Changing your internal conversations can be powerful if you want to change your life.

3. Foster Mental Flexibility

Luck tends to smile on folks who have a more relaxed approach to life. They have clarity of purpose and don’t worry too much about the details. For example, rather than aiming to become the top cardiac surgeon at John Hopkins, they vow to be a doctor who helps save lives.

If you’re a flexible thinker, you consider a range of different possible consequences of your actions rather than categorizing them as either positive or negative. You are also more likely to consider both optimistic and pessimistic explanations for other people’s behavior. For example, maybe a lack of understanding indicates someone isn’t paying attention, but maybe not. If they consider both options, they will not automatically assume something is negative.

TIP: If you you tend to be either optimistic or pessimistic, remember to factor this in when you’re thinking about things. It is a reminder to yourself to consider the other side of the coin.

4. Move Out Of Your Shell

Researchers have found that people who call themselves lucky are more likely to be extroverts. Because extroverts are curious about others, they are more likely to have opportunities present themselves since they not only meet lots of new people, they also keep in touch with a larger group of friends.

Whether or not you are an extrovert, you can still be curious about your environment and the people around you. Inquisitiveness is one of the most important traits of mental toughness. It is having the curiosity to see beyond your current circumstances so you can create your own luck and move forward. In one study out of the University of Edinburgh, researchers found that those of average intelligence who are curious and conscientious do just as well in school as those thought to have greater intelligence.

TIP: Ask questions. We tend to associate questions with childlike behavior so as grow older, we want to be the expert rather than the student. Be a student and ask questions! When you learn something new, express an opinion about it and ask why. Why is Italy your favorite foreign country? How do you make kale taste good? Why do you like your job? Explore by the use of questions and once you’ve gotten an answer, reflect on what you have learned.

© 2015 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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When Life Sucks!

Sunday, September 15th, 2013

When life sucks, it’s hard to be around perpetually perky people. My college room mate had unrelenting positivity and I frequently responded with sharp-tongued barbs intended to wilt her enthusiasm. It never did though—no matter what obstacle or barrier I presented, she found a way around it.

As I growled and sniped, however, I couldn’t help but be impressed by the way she always came out on top of the situation. As an over-achiever, this was irritating to me—but it turned out to be a game-changer.

As I moved into the real world after graduating from college, the obstacles and barriers popping up in my life seemed to take on new, gigantic proportions. The sarcasm and negativity that had seemed clever in the old days no longer seemed so witty.

When I applied to the FBI as a new agent, I quickly discovered that, while no one could be called perky, most agents could be described as possessing unrelenting positivity. Even when life sucks, a case looks hopeless, or a barrier appears unsurmountable, there are differences between agents who survive and those who thrive in their circumstances.

The game-changer for me came when I finally understood that mental toughness is unrelenting positivity in the midst of uncertainty and risk. The strong minded know how to look for the positive when life sucks. Follow these tips:

1. Accept That Reality Will Change

Life evolves, so be smart and stop acting surprised when it does. It is natural to react with anger and skepticism because these emotions are trying to ensure your survival. But new situations can provide you with opportunities to learn important lessons about yourself such as your reactions, values, vulnerabilities, triggers, and how to take better care of yourself.

2. Change Is Always Preceded By Chaos

Arrests are a mix of organized chaos. As much as FBI teams would prepare for an arrest, there was always the element of the unknown. Would the suspect shoot, grab a hostage, or go berserk? Chaos can keep us on our toes to anticipate the unknown, and the changes it will bring with it. This means being diligent, alert, and aware of our surroundings.

3. Choose Your New Reality With Intention

As situations change, you will be presented with multiple new realities and you will have an opportunity to chose your new one. Choose the one that is most likely to lead to positive growth.

4. Chart Your New Reality With Care

Be aware that most of us automatically look at change as a negative experience. As a result, you tend to look at your new situation as permanent, pervasive, and personal. Once you realize this, you strengthen your mind to accept your new direction with a more positive attitude.

5. Take Small Steps

Your emotional, survival-driven brain will feel safer if you take the time to chart your new reality with small and positive steps. With each success, you will train your brain to feel more comfortable with taking more, and eventually, bigger steps toward your new reality.

6. Reframe Your Situation

As long as you are learning, you’re are growing. Even if the circumstances are not ideal, or of your choosing, there is always something good to take away from them. Reframe your situation by asking a simple question: “What am I learning from this?”

It is not always easy to find the positive when life throws us a curveball. But reality changes with every shift of thought and attitude. For me, the reality I am experiencing today is not what it was when I was a student. Mental toughness is that strength of mind that allows us to react with agility and flexibility when confronted with the unexpected.

How have you found the positive when life sucks?

© 2013 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

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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 Visualize Success

Saturday, September 7th, 2013

I’ve always been afraid of water and to confront those fears, I had to visualize success. I did this learning how to scuba dive—even before I learned to swim. 

One of the requirements of scuba diving certification was to descend under water ten feet, take off my mask and mouthpiece, and then put them back on again. I was afraid I would drown in those few moments underwater and without oxygen.

What if I lost my mask? How would I get back to the surface? After all, I couldn’t even swim. My instructor was with me, and during practice he had helped me several times. But on the day of certification I would need to do it on my own.

My fear of water had not subsided as I hoped it would. I did not feel safe in the water, especially when I was ten feet under.

The night before the test, I spent hours trying to visualize success by mimicking how I would take off the mask and replace it without drawing a breath or dropping the mask. I walked myself through the exercise time and time again. 1. Take a deep breath and let go of my mouthpiece. 2. Pull off the mask with my left hand and hold it tightly as my right hand came around and pulled it back over my face. 3. Keep salt water out of my eyes and by keeping them tightly closed. 4. Grab hold of my mouthpiece and bring life-giving oxygen back into my lungs.

I visualized the sequence dozens of times. And when it came time for my scuba dive certification, I performed the underwater portion exactly as I had visioned it. Later that day, I dove 100 feet down a seawall!

Little did I know at the time that I could visualize success and point to solid science to explain why it worked. Achieving my goal was about more than work and discipline—it was also about physiology.

By visualizing my performance repeated, my brain stored that information as a success.

Whenever I could visualize success, my brain released a neurotransmitter called dopamine. That is the chemical that becomes active when we encounter situations that are linked to reward from the past. Dopamine enables us to not only see rewards, but to move toward those rewards as well.

If we can visualize success, it has implications that go far beyond scuba diving certification:

1. VISUALIZE SUCCESS IN BUSINESS LEADERSHIP

Mental toughness is the ability to envision the outcome of an event to trigger the production of dopamine. Sometimes asking yourself a simple question such as “What do I want this meeting to look like?” and then visualizing your performance is enough to get that important shot of dopamine. Start with visualizing every objection and/or question that is likely to come up in the meeting, and your response to it.

2. AND IN PERSONAL LEADERSHIP

Visualizing can help you see your own ability to perform in difficult or stressful situations. It can help take you beyond your self-limiting beliefs about yourself and move you beyond your current circumstances. Visualizing encourages leaders to ask “What if?” or “What else?” These types of questions open doors of possibility and opportunity. It’s an invitation to move past the status quo.

3. DON’T FORGET TEAM LEADERSHIP

If dopamine is associated with increased creativity, leaders can use this knowledge to help their teams find ways to be create a more satisfying work environment. Research has determined that dopamine is produced in anticipation of reward, not as the result of the reward.

The very act of giving your brain a detailed portrait of your end goal ensures the release of dopamine, a powerful mental toughness tool to steer you toward success.

From Victor Frankl: “There’s one reason why I’m here today. What kept me alive in a situation where others had given up hope and died was the dream that someday I’d be here telling you how I survived the concentration camps. I’ve never been here before. I’ve never seen any of you before. Nor have I ever given this speech before. But in my dreams I’ve stood before you in this room and said these words a thousand times.”

© 2013 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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Beating The Odds – How David Beat Goliath

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

The Old Testament story in the Bible of David fighting Goliath is a story of beating the odds. David was a sheepherder who led a very predictable and ordinary life. He might never have discovered his greatness if he hadn’t taken a risk and stepped into the unknown.

 

The Philistine army had gathered their troops for war against Israel. The two armies faced each other, camped for battle on opposite sides of a steep valley.  Every day for forty days, a Philistine warrior named Goliath broke out from the front line and challenged the Israelites to fight. Goliath was reported to be a giant of a man—he measured over nine feet tall and wore full armor. The Israelites fell back in fear when they saw the huge form of Goliath challenging them. They held out no hope for beating the odds.

Described as a runt by his father, David’s job was to run back and forth from herding sheep to bring news of his brothers who were all on the Israelite battle line. He looked at Goliath and asked, “What’s in it for the man who kills the ugly Philistine?”

He learned that King Saul would offer a huge reward and give his daughter in marriage. David thought of a way of beating the odds and said, “I’m your man!”

The runt of the litter takes on the giant. We love stories of the underdog who musters the courage and confidence to find ways of beating the odds! Here is how David did it:

1. Mastered A Skill Set

David had never fought in battle as a soldier but he had other experiences. He knew how to use a sling and perfectly weighted stones to protect lambs from large and strong predators like lions and bears. He was prepared to use those same skills to protect the Israelites. It took years of practice, but he never became distracted from learning the skills he needed to become a master of his trade.

TIP: Mastery is not a function of genius or talent. It is a function of intense focus applied to your area of expertise. Once you master your own skill set, it will give you confidence that you will be successful in beating the odds against big and strong opponents.

2. Acknowledged His Weaknesses

The soldiers laughed at David because he did not have a soldier’s training. The first thing they tried to do was turn David into one of them. They suited him in their armor and gave him a sword. But David was not a soldier and had never trained as one. He said, “I cannot fight in this because I’m not used to it.” The techniques of a soldier were not his own, and he was wise enough to acknowledge what he didn’t know so he could focus on what he did.

TIP: You will excel only if you maximize your strengths and stop trying to fix your weaknesses. Don’t ignore your weaknesses but acknowledge them so you are better able to manage them. This allows you to free up time and focus on developing your strengths.

3. Used The Skills He Understood

David met Goliath on the battlefield with a sling and five smooth, carefully selected stones because those were the tools of his trade. He had used these same tools against lions and bears.

While others considered David an underdog, he knew about beating the odds because he possessed a strong arm and good aim. He understood how to use these skills and adapt to his circumstances. He was authentic and didn’t try to live by someone else’s rules. David used the skills and talents he possessed and had developed. In other words, he was unconsciously competent.

TIP: When confronted with the unknown in a volatile and hostile environment, lean into the personal strengths and skills that you’ve honed through practice and experience.

4. Pressed Into The Unknown

According to the Biblical account, “David took off from the front line, running toward the Philistine.” David took leadership of the situation when he broken the pattern of the challenge. He moved toward the threat and pressed into the unknown.

In this case, Goliath may not have expected David to move closer and at such speed. He may have been caught unaware and hesitated, thereby giving David an opportunity of beating the odds by using his slingshot.

As Goliath moved in for the kill, David reached into his bag and slung one of his stones at the gap in the armor that protected Goliath’s head. Once struck on the forehead, the giant fell down on the ground. David then took Goliath’s own sword, killed him, and cut off his head. When the Philistine’s saw their hero was dead, they turned and ran.

TIP:

To increase safety, move toward the unknown—only by moving closer to the threat was David able to see where and how to strike. Opportunities that could not be seen from a distance were made visible as he pressed forward. The closer Goliath came, the more ways David could see of defeating the giant. He saw a small gap in Goliath’s armor that was not visible from a distance.

Increase your chances for success and move toward the challenge—when confronted with changing environments and overcoming challenges as a leader, you may also need to leave your place of safety and press forward.

David possessed the mental toughness to find ways of beating the odds and destroying Goliath. Nothing is impossible—you, too, can find a way.

© 2013 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

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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