Posts Tagged ‘communication’

7 Stupid Things You’re Doing To Make Yourself Less Likable

Monday, June 19th, 2017

As an FBI agent, I needed to be likable as well as credible. As a likable person, I was able to exert a great deal of influence on others because I was able to connect with them in a meaningful way.

Likable people do better in business as well. Clients listen to them, trust them, and are willing to give them the benefit of doubt.

As a business owner or entrepreneur, your ability to be likable can be a big factor in your success. If you come across as likable, you will be better treated by investors, colleagues, and clients.

Being seen as likable often comes down to the smallest of behaviors. Unknowingly, you may be doing things that cause people to dislike you. 

If you are mentally tough, you will be able to manage these behaviors in ways that will set you up for success.

Here are 7 stupid things you may be doing to make yourself less likable:

1. PRETEND TO SMILE

When you pretend to smile, only the corners of your mouth will curl upward. This is called a smarmy “social smile” and is used by celebrities and politicans. A lot.

Research by Paula Niedenthal suggests that a true smile enlists not only the muscles around your mouth, but also those around the eye socket. Visually, a genuine smile will activate lines around the eye known as “crows feet.” In addition, our brain is wired to mimic the smile of others. If the smile is real, our brain will activate the same areas on our own face; subconciously we recognize almost immediately whether the greeting was genuine or not.

How To Make It Work For You: Maintain eye contact with the other person and notice how they mirror your facial gestures: they smile when you smile, they frown when you frown, they nod their head when you nod. Keep in mind how people will mirrow your behavior and make sure you are sending the right message.

2. PUSH TO THE FRONT

You want to impress the other person, right? You let them know that you’re smart, sophisticated, and ambitious. Everything about you shouts, “I’m first! I’m the winner!”

But here is the bad news—everyone sees right through it.

Likable people do not try to compete with the people they are meeting or brag about their accomplishments. Instead, they spend time complimenting others and truly being impressed by high achievers and those from whom they can learn. They are confident enough to be vulnerable and willing to admit they can still learn much from others.

How To Make It Work For You: If you are the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room. Move on, immediately, and surround yourself with people who really are smarter and brighter than you. You’ll be challenged in good ways that will expand your understanding of yourself and the world around you.

3. POORLY DEVELOPED COMMUNICATION SKILLS

Experts agree that communication, both interpersonal and organizational, is a necessity for the success of your business.

A recent Forbes article published research by the Carnegie Institute of Technology. This study indicated only 15% of financial success actually comes from knowledge or technical skills. The remaining 85% of success comes from the ability to effectively communicate and negotiate—both when speaking and listening.

In addition, Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman has found that people would rather do business with a person they like and trust than someone they don’t. While this isn’t surprising, the real clincher was this—it applied even if the likable person was offering a lower-quality product or service at a higher price.

How To Make It Work For You: Pay close attention to what your listeners are saying so you can learn what is important to them and their situation. Most importantly, remember that everyone is different. One size does not fit all.

4. FORGET TO BE POLITE

I chose my FBI mentors based on how successfully they handled 1) their investigations, and 2) their supervisors. One of the best agents I ever worked with taught me that sugar gets better results than vinegar, whether you’re interviewing a terrorism suspect or explaining a late report to a supervisor.

Tony always used these two words: “Please” and “Thank you.” It didn’t make any difference if you were a clerk behind the checkout register, the FBI Director, or a scumbag we were arresting for extortion. Tony always treated people with respect. He was unfailingly polite, no matter the situation.

Likable leaders like Tony make people feel special, as though they are the only person in the room. They are able to communicate on a very personal, emotional level.

How To Make It Work For You: People may forget what you say to them, but they will never forget how you made them feel. Make the extra effort to make everyone feel valuable—even better, really believe that everyone truly is valuable.

5. TOO SERIOUS

It’s is an inevitable truth: the more serious the FBI investigation, the more humor was needed to break through the stress.

Research has shown that humor is a great tension breaker in the workplace. When we laugh in response to something that is said, something happens in our brain. Not only is there a cognitive shift in how you view your stressors, there are emotional and physical responses that enable you to relax when you laugh.

People who are passionate and dedicated to their work often come across as too serious and uninterested in anything that isn’t related to their situation. They may or may not be seriously stressed, but they do end up missing out on valuable social moments. It’s possible to be serious, and friendly as well.

How To Make It Work For You: Usually, the most likable people in a room are those who can elicit a smile or laughter from others. You do not have to be a jokester; all you need to be is someone who can laugh easily and smile often.

6. LISTEN MORE

To be likable, you must be an active listener. This means responding with questions that confirm you are actually listening to what the other person is saying. Our time is one of our most valuable resources; when you actively listen, you are giving something very important.

How To Make It Work For You: People tend to feel good when they are the center of attention. Make empathetic statements that capture the person’s message:

  1. Notice an emotion that was conveyed in their conversation and then repeat it by asking a question—such as “So you are happy that you . . .”
  2. Rephrase a verbal message they communicated. This accomplishes two things: first, it confirms to them that you correctly heard them, and second, it allows them to talk further about it.
  3. Match their body language. If they speak in quiet tones, so should you. If they are intense, ratchet-up your style as well.

When you make a person feel good about themselves, they will like you. It’s a simple rule to follow.

7. SHARE TOO MUCH

Developing a tribe mentality in our work environment is important because tribes help us get behind a shared objective. We can sense a bubble of excitement and community when we’re surrounded by people with similar values. We are eager to hear our leaders tell stories that renew that sense of purpose.

While getting to know our tribes requires sharing, sharing too much about ourselves too early, or at inappropriate times, can sabotage our efforts. Instead of spewing out the nitty gritty details of your life at the first opportunity, learn about the other people in your tribe first.

Oversharing can take many forms. Sometimes it sounds a lot like bullying if we run over others in our eagerness to push our recommendations out front; other times it gives others the impression that we’re self-obsessed, in more need of a therapist or a sounding board.

How To Make It Work For You: Always be the first to give others a chance to talk. Give them the chance to be the most important person in the world. This requires a heart of humility and genuine belief in people.

© 2017 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Sign Up for my How To Build Confidence on-line training course

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

Body Language – 5 Things Your Walk Says About You

Monday, June 12th, 2017

A man once told me that he could tell I was an FBI agent by my body language. He said that I walked like I had someone important to meet. He stood up the moment I entered the room and held out his hand in a greeting.

Many people think I’m Asian when they hear my last name, Quy. Actually, it’s French Huguenot. I knew what the man I was meeting looked like because I had his driver’s license photo. How could he be so sure I was the FBI agent he was waiting to meet simply by my walk?

As a business leader and entrepreneur, the more you understand how your body language influences the people around you, the more effectively you can present your ideas with a stronger impact.

Our walk is one of the least analyzed aspects of body language, but as it turns out, our gait is often our first golden opportunity to impress others—or not. Depending how much we understand the messages were are subconsciously conveying, our walk speaks volumes as we walk down an office corridor or into a board meeting.

Here are 5 things a person’s walk projects about their confidence, credibility, and charisma. It—

1. HELPS US EVALUATE STRANGERS

Our early ancestors relied upon their ability to recognize people from a distance. They could see a lone figure on the horizon and determine whether they were friend or foe. Now, we’re more apt to recognize the car a person is driving.

Our ability to receive messages about other people by their body language, however, has not gone away. It’s an innate skill we were all born with.

TIP: These innate skills are often stored in our subconscious. To awaken them, take the time to observe people’s gait when you’re at an airport or music concert. You may not have the opportunity to tap them on the shoulder to determine if you’ve made the right assumption, but over time you’ll become more skillful in accurately interpreting what is going on with them based on their walk and other body language.

2. CONVEYS IMPORTANCE

We convey a lot of information through body language, but it’s easy to forget that our walk is sending a message as powerful as any other gesture. If we’re rushed, or deep in thought, we walk differently. I asked the man I was meeting to share with me what it was that tipped him off, he said, “You walked with an inordinate amount of confidence—quickly, like a person who values her time and the time of others.”

In other words, he could tell by my gait that I was serious and arriving for a business meeting.

People who shuffle along, hug themselves, and keep their head down often lack self-confidence.

TIP: Do not be that person! Walk with alertness and purpose, and keep your shoulders back and head held high. When you do, you are signaling to the world that you have an important place to be and an important task to accomplish.

3. COMMUNICATES OUR THOUGHTS

Recollect a time when you were at a store waiting in a long line to make your purchase. The clerk is slow. You look around and see the other employees also moving at a slow pace. They give the impression of dull minds that have no concern for others. Do you look forward to a return visit? People who give the impression that they don’t care will not be treated the same as those who communicate that they are both eager and capable.

For example, soldiers use forceful body language in marches when they use an exaggerated gait to portray both youth and vigor. For this reason, politicians often do the same thing to convey their vitality, particularly if they’re older.

TIP:

Slouching and slumped shoulders – sends the message that you don’t care, either about your appearance or your job. Instead, stand with shoulders back and chin level.

Leaning or swaying – creates the message that you’re not confident and not capable. Keep weight balanced on both feet

Slow movements – are interpreted by others to be laziness; speed is interpreted to mean both a good attitude and high energy.

Fast walkers convey a message of well being

4. INDICATES OUR LEVEL OF HEALTH & FITNESS

A former supervisor of mine went through a health crisis and overnight, his walk changed. His gait was heavier with a lower center of gravity that could indicate anything from depression to pain.

Recent research has shown that the pace of our walk is an accurate indicator of how healthy we are. Speed reflects vitality because so many organs are involved in how we move—heart, lungs, muscles, joints, and the brain.

TIP: If we give the wrong first impression, that imprint can have lasting results. So unless you really are depressed or in pain—or just plain lazy, put a spring in your step. It’s one of the easier and most effective ways of managing the first impression others have of you.

5. REVEALS FOCUS OF ENERGY

We’ve all seen people bustling and blabbering into the cell phone and then suddenly stop dead in their tracks. Chances are good that the conversation just got serious. People will stop walking and pause to focus. If they sit down, it’s likely that the conversation has gotten even more serious.

If we become angry or agitated during a cellphone conversation and do not stop, walking can subconsciously escalate the emotions that are bubbling to the surface.

TIP: In general, however, walking and talking can generate creativity so don’t hesitate to walk around your office on your phone for an extra boost of energy.

© 2017 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Sign Up for my How To Build Confidence on-line training course

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

Why Body Gestures Are More Accurate Than Words

Monday, April 24th, 2017

If you want to know what a person is really thinking or feeling, pay more attention to their body gestures than the words they use. When there is a conflict between what a person is saying and what they are doing, body language will give you more accurate feedback.

Babies will pucker their lips when fed food they don’t like, whether they were born in Africa or Norway. A five-year-old child is likely to cover their mouth when they tell a lie. This body gesture continues to mature throughout their adult life. Instead of covering their whole mouth, they may rub their fingers around their lips.

Famously, one of the most telling body gestures was Bill Clinton as he answered questions about Monica Lewinsky in front of a grand jury. His two front index fingers pressed together and touched the tip of his nose; the gesture effectively covered his mouth in the process.

Research at UCLA shows that only 7% of communication is based on the actual words we use. 38% of communication is based on the way words are expressed (including tone and voice). That leaves a whopping 55% of communication to be based on body gestures.

No matter how hard you’ve worked to perfect your presentation or polish your elevator speech, it’s a competitive market and polishing your body gestures will give you a powerful edge.

Understanding how people communicate is a core component of mental toughness. Accurate communication helps leaders and management to be emotionally competent, a skill that can provide a valuable and reliable way of evaluating both their team members and the market competition.

Here are some things you need to know about accurately interpreting body gestures:

1. BODY GESTURES COME IN CLUSTERS

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 dangerous to interpret a solitary gesture—scratching the head can mean confusion or it could indicate a serious case of dandruff.

TIP: Many people punctuate with body language gestures and movement while others are relatively still. They key is to notice when these gestures change during a conversation. Pinpoint what word or topic was introduced in the conversation that produced the change in behavior.

2. WOMEN’S INTUITION OR BODY GESTURES?

A hunch or gut feeling that someone has not been truthful really means that the spoken word and the body language do not agree. This is one aspect of intuition. Are women better at it than men? Here is one very simple explanation:

Women who have raised children are usually better at hunches than others. For the first few years, mothers rely almost exclusively on the nonverbal messages of young children. It is the way they communicate with each other.

TIP: The UCLA research also revealed that our facial expressions produce the most important body gestures when it comes to conveying our emotions and feelings. Young children and babies provide excellent opportunities to fine-tune your ability to accurately understand what the child is trying to communicate.

As an FBI counterintelligence agent, I worked closely with the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit on several of my cases. Here are some tips I want to share with you on how to recognize and interpret body language:

3. TIPS ON HOW TO READ HEAD MOVEMENTS

The head shows the most expressive body language characteristics. There has been a lot of research done on reading facial features and here are some generalizations that you can rely on when trying to read a person’s face to determine whether or not they’re being sincere:

  • Contempt – lip corner tightens and lifts on one side of the face
  • Happy – a real smile will always have crow’s feet wrinkles and pushed up cheeks
  • Surprise – lasts for only a second: eyebrows raised, mouth open, eyes wide open
  • Anger – eyebrows down and together, narrowing of lips

4. TIPS ON HOW TO READ EYE MOVEMENTS

As a general rule, breaks in eye contact are the most important non-verbal gesture. If you suspect deception in a conversation, here are some eye clues to watch for at the point at which they tell a lie:

  • Closing the eyes
  • Covering the eyes
  • Glancing at watch
  • Showing intense interest in fingernails
  • Looking out the window or at the floor
  • Avoid looking you in the eye during the moment of deception
  • Rapid eye movement
  • Raised eyebrows

Here are some eye clues that can reveal what a person is focusing on during your conversation:

  • Recalling a visual memory—eyes move upward.
  • Remembering something they heard—eyes move to the side
  • Recollecting a feeling—eyes look down and to the right
  • Thinking to oneself—eyes look down and to the left

5. TIPS ON HOW TO READ HAND MOVEMENTS

There are more connections between the brains and the hands than any other body part.

Positive impressions:

  • Palm up—nonthreatening. Even animals recognize this approach as friendly.
  • Squeezing thumb against the fingertips—avoids intimidating the audience
  • Shaking with two hands is meant to convey sincerity and trust. Don’t do this unless you and the other person have a strong bond of some sort. Otherwise, you end up coming across like a smarmy politician.
  • Grasping elbow with left hand—communicates depth of feeling and was commonly used by Bill Clinton with everyone.

Negative Impressions:

  • Holding the shoulder with left hand—invades personal space and may result in a hug
  • Palm down—authority. Think of the Nazi salute.
  • Pointing finger—leaves a negative feeling in most listeners

Top performers understand body gestures and avoid unspoken signals that could sabotage their best efforts to move forward.

© 2017 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Sign Up for my How To Build Confidence on-line training course

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

The Complete Beginner’s Guide To Mental Toughness

Monday, December 19th, 2016

In the 1930’s FBI agents needed mental toughness to hunt bank robbers like John Dillinger and mobsters like Al Capone.

As the world became more complex, FBI agents started working complex and sophisticated cases like terrorism, organized crime, cyber, and counterintelligence. In doing so, they were better able to address the threats to American lives and interests.

It’s no secret that business and life are not as simple as they were, either—even a few years ago. It is no longer just a matter of knowledge, ability, and skill to succeed.

As entrepreneurs and business owners, you need to be psychologically prepared to deal with strong competition, recover from mistakes and failure quickly, tackle tough situations, devise strategies, and collaborate with others.

In other words, you need mental toughness to manage the emotions, thoughts, and behavior that will set you up for success in business and life.

People define mental toughness in different ways. Often, they think it is plowing through obstacles and roadblocks. While that mindset might work in football, it is not an effective way to succeed in business and life.

Here is a complete beginner’s guide to mental toughness:

SKILL #1: MENTAL TOUGHNESS REQUIRES EMOTIONAL COMPETENCY

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

I prefer the term emotional competency rather than emotional intelligence. I know of lots of people who are intelligent but not necessarily competent. Competency requires more than just information; it requires the practical wisdom to put that knowledge to work in real life situations.

Let’s break emotional competency down:

1. Self-Awareness

Know what fuels you. 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.

Once you become self-aware, you have clarity about your values. This enables you to operate from a place of authenticity, and go after the things in life that are hard-wired to give you a purpose.

2. Communication

You know how to interpret the words and body language of others. This means you are a good listener and know how to build genuine trust with others. An essential element of mental toughness is the ability to accurately read the emotions of others and then adapt your behavior accordingly.

To be successful, match your personality to your boss, employee, or client. Assess whether they are introverts or extraverts, 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.

3. Empathy

Empathy is not feeling sorry for the other person; it is feeling their sorrow. If you can understand the emotions of others, it is easier to create empathy.

Sometimes we don’t really want to hear what other people have to say! We love our own opinions and thoughts and would prefer to shut out those of others.

Once we close down, however, we risk becoming judgmental and opinionated. More importantly, we miss out on what others have to share with us.

SKILL #2: RESILIENCE — MENTAL TOUGHNESS MEANS WE ADAPT TO OVERCOME

The ability to pick ourselves up when life knocks us down is called resilience. In today’s competitive culture, resilience has become a critical skill because it takes more than talent to succeed.

Resilient people do not blame others, whine, or complain about how unfair life is. Yes, life can be unfair but that is no excuse to give up.

As a new FBI agent, I learned to be bold, take risks, move into my discomfort zone, and put myself out there. I was scared to death of what I might face. The way in which we adapt to overcome our adversity determines how we will achieve success.

More than talent, more than education, more than experience, the ability to bounce back from setbacks determines who will succeed and who will fail. That is true in the classroom, in sports, and in the boardroom.

Here’s a breakdown of resilience:

1. Confidence

If you don’t believe in yourself, how can others believe in you? When you’re knocked down in life, you must have enough confidence in yourself to get back up. This is the only way to find a way forward and adapt to overcome.

Lack of confidence can rear its ugly head at any time. No one is immune because we are most vulnerable any time we’re out of our comfort zone or experience change in our life. We must face our fears. If we have confidence in ourselves we are not afraid of how others perceive us, afraid of commitment, or afraid of failure.

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.

2. Take Risks

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.

3. 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.

It’s tempting to give up and not try for anything beyond the predictions and admonitions of others. While many of these people are well-intentioned, they feed negative, limiting, and inaccurate narratives about what it possible once you put your mind to it.

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

SKILL #3: WILLPOWER — MENTAL TOUGHNESS ENABLES PERSONAL MASTERY

The capacity to say “no” to the call of temptation and desire to quit is called willpower. It is the ability to find the energy, motivation, and enthusiasm to keep going even when you’re tired, anxious, and looking for a way out.

Many people could improve their lives if only they had more of that mysterious thing called willpower, but most of us do not believe we have enough of it. In the American Psychological Association’s annual survey on stress, people cited lack of willpower as the No. 1 barrier to following through with changes that would improve their lives.

Willpower is something that can be learned and can be strengthened with practice. It’s also a vital component of mental toughness.

Here’s a breakdown of willpower:

1. Grit

It keeps FBI agents on a case when there is no easy answer in sight. Sometimes, in order to find a kidnapping victim or arrest a terrorist, agents need to rely not only on their skills and training, but also on their sheer will and determination to cross the finish line.

Jack Dempsey once said, “A champion is someone who gets up when he can’t.” He was talking about perseverance, persistence, and determination—grit.

Researcher Angela Duckworth has found that grit is more predictive of success than IQ in military academies like West Point. In fact, grit is unrelated, or even negatively correlated, with talent. When working with West Point cadets, she found that those who scored higher in grit had the mental toughness to keep going when times got tough.

The high score on grit surpassed other tests such as SAT scores, IQ, class rank, leadership, and physical aptitude when it came to predicting retention rates.

2. Performance Focus

Unless you know your limits, you will not be able to prepare either your mind or your body to move past them. To move toward peak performance, you need to stretch your current skill level—but not so hard that you want to give up.

Experts agree that this magic stretch is 4% greater than our skill. For most of us, that’s not much at all. However, it’s important to keep that continual tension between stretch and skill if we want to move toward our peak performance.

Managing time wisely and developing good habits are essential if we want to push our limits and reach peak performance.

Never be content with mediocrity.

3. Mastery

Research on elite athletes has found no correlation between innate talent and trainability. Mental traits were just as important as fitness level in differentiating top athletes from amateurs.

Successful people spend their time thinking about what they want to do and how to make it happen. And it doesn’t always take talent; it needs flow to make it happen. Flow is described as a state of deep absorption in the activity during which performance seems to happen effortlessly and automatically.

According to psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, flow happens when a person’s skills are fully involved in overcoming a challenge so it acts as a catalyst for learning new skills and increasing challenges.

SKILL #4: ATTITUDE — CHAMPION MINDSETS ARE THE PRODUCT OF MENTAL TOUGHNESS

There’s a long-standing belief that happiness makes people achieve more. However, a study by sports psychologist Tim Woodman shows that happiness is not the key to success. In fact, it didn’t factor anywhere in the results.

Instead, those who were most successful had experienced a negative, critical event in their life—such as death, the divorce of parents, disease, or some other perceived loss—all fairly early in life.

This is when they kicked into high gear and began to develop their talents and skills, and in the process, changed their life course almost immediately. As a result, they felt valued, important, and inspired—perhaps for the first time.

What stands out in Woodman’s study is that these same individuals also experienced another critical turning point in mid-life. It could have been positive, like finding the right marriage partner, or negative, like the death of a loved one; but it caused these successful people to redouble their efforts.

The study also implies that those who do not experience trauma or tough times earlier in life are less likely to have the drive necessary to achieve peak performance. The mid-life event reminded them of the original loss and motivated them at a deep-seated level.

This is a common finding among successful people; they have a deeper motivation that pushes them toward fame, happiness, or money.

Here’s a breakdown of attitude:

1. Positive Thinking

Positive thinkers are not optimists. Instead, they believe they will prevail in their circumstances rather than believing their circumstances will change. Optimists, on the other hand, believe their circumstances will eventually change for the better.

FBI Agents are not optimists who hope or expect an arrest to go without a hitch—instead, they prepare for the worst and practice ahead of time.

When they do come across adversity, they don’t wait and hope things will change for the better. They adapt quickly to the new situation. They remain flexible and choose to remain positive so that they will find a solution.

Visualizing your successful performance is based on solid science. As you visualize your performance repeatedly, your brain stores that information as a success.

The way in which we look at ourselves, and our circumstances, dictates our attitude when faced with adversity. To jettison those negative thoughts, you may find it necessary to express your situation differently. When you rethink, or reframe, your adversity, it helps to move it into a context that is more favorable.

This is not to make light of tragedy. It’s perfectly normal to be sad when we are immersed in a negative situation. That said, we do not need to let the crap moments produced by adversity sabotage our efforts to keep moving toward success.

2. Growth Mindset

Mentally strong leaders have a growth mindset that looks at success as hard work, learning, training, and having the grit to move ahead even when faced with obstacles and roadblocks.

When you face uncertainty, there are two choices: You can dread it because you are afraid you will fail. Or, you can anticipate it because you interpret failure as an opportunity for learning and improvement.

The first choice describes a fixed mindset that does best when there is a heavy hand running the show. That way of leading may have been efficient years ago, but today’s leaders are learning that the brain power of their workforce is a terrible thing to waste.

The second choice describes a growth mindset that looks at success as hard work, learning, training, and having the grit to keep moving ahead even when faced with obstacles and roadblocks.

3. Gratitude

This is a positive emotion that encourages reciprocal altruism, well-being, and appreciation. The strong and unequivocal support of others produces gratitude. It’s powerful because gratitude increases an individual’s self-confidence, provides a safety net for those times when they fall, and enhances their belief that they can overcome obstacles.

As Sebastian Junger wrote in his book, “Tribe:”

We have a strong instinct to belong to small groups defined by clear purpose and understanding–tribes. This tribal connection is largely lost in modern society, but if we regain it, it may be the key to our psychological survival.

Bonding strongly with others in a tribe provides greater security than if we strike out on our own.

Emotional competency, resilience, willpower, and attitude are the four essential components of mental toughness. Building mental toughness is a life long task, but here is the good news: Mental toughness is not something we were born with—it is something we can learn.

© 2016 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.” 

Are You Mentally Tough Enough to Be An Entrepreneur?

Monday, August 15th, 2016

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. Entrepreneurs need to be psychologically prepared to do battle with their competitors. They need to deal with stress, recover from mistakes quickly, and adjust strategies with each new innovation. On top of that, they need to 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. They learn how to anticipate their responses and correct them if needed.

Stretch past your comfort zone and learn how to be flexible in your approach when something doesn’t turn out as expected. You can quickly decide to change course or look for new ways to solve the problem.

FBI arrests require flexibility because they rarely go according to plan. This is especially important in tense and dangerous situations. Constant training helps them uncover their go-to reflexes and evaluate whether they are helpful or harmful, before they find themselves in an unexpected situation.

TIP:

  • Constantly re-educate yourself, even in the basics
  • Resist the temptation to fall 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.

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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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6 Reasons People Don’t Listen To You

Sunday, September 20th, 2015

Recently, I was talking to an individual whom I truly like, but we were in a crowded room filled with lots of people I knew. I wanted to listen to her but my eye wandered over her shoulder as I mentally prioritized those I needed to contact as soon as our conversation ended.

6 Reasons People Don't Listen To You

My friend tried to catch my eye and drag me back into our conversation. I nodded mechanically while my eye kept sneaking over her shoulder to take in the social patterns developing in the room.

Eventually, she said, “I’ve lost you. Let’s talk later.”

I felt terrible, but I knew she was right. I was pretending to listen as I recited a mental tally of whom I needed to talk to before the evening ended.

Situations like this can range from annoying to destructive. According to Pamela CooperVice President of the International Listening Association, “It takes hard work to really listen and it takes a great deal of concentration.”

If you want people to listen to you, you must have the mental toughness to be brutally honest with yourself.

Think about the way you listen to others,  or better yet, thicken your skin and ask a good friend or your spouse for their honest evaluation. To listen well, and be a good listener, it takes more than just hearing what the person is saying—it requires a conscious desire, conscientiousness, and practice.

People don’t listen to you because you don’t:

1. Stay Engaged

To be a good listener, you have to be present—which means not being preoccupied either physically or mentally. Dump the clutter from your mind and pay attention to what is being communicated to you now.

When you are distracted by other people or technology, it makes the other person feel unimportant.

TIPS:

  • If you’re in a busy room, focus on the person with whom you are talking rather than what is going on around you
  • If you’re talking on the phone, turn your back on the computer and give the person your full attention
  • Stop thinking about arguments, reports to be finished, or where you are going to dinner

2. Open Up Your Body Language

Body language communicates what you are thinking and feeling more accurately than the words you use.

No matter how interested you appear to be, if your feet are turned toward the nearest exit you are signaling that you are anxious to make an escape. Crossing arms or hands in pockets also exhibits nervous behavior. These small physical gestures can discourage others from approaching you.

TIPS:

  • Lean forward and nod occasionally
  • Face the person who is speaking
  • Open up your posture by uncrossing the arms
  • Make eye contact

3. Leave Your Assumptions Behind

If your brain thinks that it knows the answer, it will only accept information that confirms your beliefs.

Making assumptions and generalizations are hard-wired into our thinking. But, if you can generate genuine interest in the topic, or person, you can over-ride this tendency and create an open mind.

When listening to another person, it may help to assume you know nothing about what they are telling you.

TIPS:

  • Check your assumption out loud with the person with whom you are talking
  • Ask a question such as, “So you mean…” and let the person confirm or correct

4. Ask Questions

The two most powerful words in a conversation are: “Tell me.”

Questions are incredibly important in any conversation. People like to be heard, and when you ask a question, it signals that you are not only listening to them but that you are also hearing what they have to say.

If you take an genuine interest in the activities of others, they will return the favor.

Questions allow you to dig deeper and discover more about specific areas on which you are unclear so you can gain a better understanding of a person’s priorities, values, and interests. Because of this, it is easier to connect with others and develop meaningful relationships.

TIPS:

  • Open-ended questions provide great opportunities for people to elaborate on specific topics
  • Questions keep conversations flowing
  • Asking for clarification helps you understand someone’s point of view
  • Asking questions of yourself will keep you from becoming defensive

5. Create Empathy

Sometimes we don’t really want to hear what other people have to say! We love our own opinions and thoughts and would prefer to shut out those of others.

Once we close down, however, we risk becoming judgmental and opinionated. More importantly, we miss out on what others have to share with us.

If you can develop the ability to hunt out shared experiences, it is easier to take in the big picture and create empathy.

TIPS:

  • Suspend judgment—even if you have firm beliefs on the subject
  • Take in the entire message with no interruptions
  • Seek out bits of information with which you agree so you can find some shared ground
  • Place yourself in the other person’s shoes

6. Shut Up And Listen

There is a time to speak and a time to shut up and listen. Effective communication requires reciprocity. If you aren’t a good listener, do not be surprised when others don’t make listening to you a top priority.

TIPS: Shut up if: 

  • You don’t have something significant to contribute to the conversation
  • There isn’t something positive to say
  • You don’t intend to hold your part of the bargain
  • The only contribution is to whine and complain

How have you become a more effective listener?

© 2015 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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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

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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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6 Ways To Get Through Adversity

Sunday, March 10th, 2013

Many homesteaders sold whiskey illegally during Prohibition in the 1930’s to get through adversity and financial hardship. 

When my brother and I were kids, Dad pointed out a still used to brew whiskey on our Wyoming ranch. We were on horseback and rode past a few barrel rings and a wall of rocks. Tucked into a steep draw, it was surrounded by aspen trees and a little cow trail that led to the bottom of the canyon near our house.

At that time, my brother and I collected antique glassware as a hobby. We planned to go back to the whiskey still and look around for old bottles. It should be easy enough to find, we thought. So after school we told our parents we were going out to play and would be back in time for supper. We walked up the canyon, and when we saw a draw that looked familiar, we started up.

Our ranch was located in the scatterings of the Snowy Mountain Range at an altitude of 7,000 feet. Summers are short in that country. The green aspen trees that looked lush and cozy when we rode past them a few months before, were now barren and cold.

Night fell much earlier in the winter months and dusk had begun to set in. We could not find the whiskey still but continued on until we reached the top of the draw. When we saw Laramie Peak in a distance, we knew we had climbed over 2,000 feet out of the canyon bottom.

We had climbed up the wrong draw, night was coming, and we had no flashlights. The rattlesnakes had hibernated for the winter, but conditions were still adverse. It was dark, the terrain was steep and rocky. The temperature had begun to drop at an alarming rate.

At the ages of ten and eleven, my younger brother and I learned young to how to get through adversity.

Here are 6 ways that will help you get through adversity as well:

1. Muster Confidence 

We were too young to rely on pep talks or motivational speeches to provide the determination we needed to get through adversity. We had climbed over 2,000 feet out of the canyon in daylight. Now we had to be confident enough in our ourselves that we could repeat our performance downhill in the darkness.

The lessons I learned to get down the mountain stayed with me the rest of my life. In my book Secrets of A Strong Mind, I talk about the four months I spent at the FBI Academy in new agent’s training. We trained hard day in and day out, no matter the weather conditions—in snow, wind, rain, or heat. Those experiences drilled confidence in ourselves.

Whenever I thought I couldn’t push myself any further, I remembered that cold night climbing back down a mountain when I was eleven years old. I was confident I had what it took to get through adversity facing me now.

TIP: If we perform well when faced with adversity in the past, we have the self-assurance that we can beat the odds in the future.

2. Remain Persistent

My brother and I were not sure how to get back home before we found ourselves in complete darkness and freezing temperatures. We decided that if we stayed with the cow trail it would ultimately lead us to our destination. The trail was lost but we hopped over rocks and fallen trees to find it. We knew that as long we were headed downhill we were headed in the right direction. But the draw had many smaller ones that meandered over the sides of the canyon. Time was important and we knew the quickest way down was the way we came up. We persisted and found the cow path again.

As an FBI agent, there were many times when I needed to remember that dedication and blind persistence are two different things. We can work hard, but not always smart.

TIP: To get through adversity, attack the problem from a different angle if it doesn’t work. Learn to pivot when needed. Where there is a will, there is a way.

3. Keep A Lid On Emotions

While neither my brother or I panicked, we were scared—but we never let negativity set in. We acknowledged our fears but remained confident in our ability to get home safely.

I have drawn my weapon while making an arrest. I was scared and afraid of what I would need to do if the person resisted. When I leaned into my training, I regained my confidence and managed my emotions.

TIP: It’s always important to acknowledge emotions, but to get through adversity you need to remind yourself that you have the mental toughness to manage the negative ones. You may not be able to change the conditions but you can change the way you deal with them. It’s possible to have self-control in an out-of-control environment.

4. Accept Responsibility

We had no one to blame but ourselves. This was no game we were playing and we had to have the strength to look at our adversity realistically and take responsibility for getting ourselves back home. Our parents had no idea we had headed out to find the whiskey still because we hadn’t told them.

As an FBI agent, I found that self-examination would be one of the most important ways I could become a more effective leader and achieve my goals. When I confronted obstacles and adversity, I was not afraid to question my thinking. Often, this self-examination uncovered biases or assumptions I had made that either contributed to the obstacle or stood in my way of overcoming it.

TIP: A self-examination includes a regular review of traits, desires, and fears. This honest assessment can lead to a reinvention of goals and beliefs.

5. Pace Yourself

My brother and I both knew that if we stopped, we’d freeze to death before morning. On the other hand, if we depleted our resources, we’d be unable to continue.

I learned it was important to pace myself while running obstacle courses at the FBI Academy. I was not a strong runner, and while I enthusiastically charged out the gate, I knew I’d need to pace myself to last the entire obstacle course.

The same logic applied to my investigations: if I depleted my resources, ran myself to exhaustion, and then needed to respond to a fast-moving break in the case, I was in serious trouble.

TIP: Read the chapter on the 20 mile march in Great by Choice by Jim Collins.

6. Create Community

My brother and I were a team and we worked together to get back down the hill. We provided moral support for one another. We jumped across waterfalls and mucked through inches of mud to follow the meandering cow path.

The personal leadership skill of camaraderie is one of the first lessons taught at the FBI Academy. For the first three weeks, new agents are not allowed to leave the Marine Corp base. Instead, we were expected to develop a supportive community that would be needed during our four months of training.

The ability to relate to others was one of the most effective skills I developed in my career as a counterintelligence agent. Everyone has the need to be heard, and the need for information that can be put into action. The listener is a essential role because even very successful leaders need people who are allied to their cause.

My brother and I made is safely home that night to parents who were very worried.

TIP: If you learn how to get through adversity, it will help you turn underachievement into superior achievement. As long as you can stay alive, you are still in the game.

© 2013 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Sign Up for my How To Build Confidence on-line training course

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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