Posts Tagged ‘emotional competency’

10 Hard Skills To Learn That Will Last A Lifetime

Sunday, May 7th, 2017

To survive growing up on a remote cattle ranch in the middle of Wyoming, there were hard skills to learn if I wanted to survive. I needed to be scrappy, gritty, and tenacious. If I wasn’t keeping an eye out for rattle snakes, I was avoiding horned bulls from charging my horse as I tried to cut them from a herd of cows.

I learned many important life lessons on that ranch, not the least is that it takes hard work, sweat, and mental toughness to get to the top and stay there. I took many of those lessons with me into the FBI as an undercover and counterintelligence agent for 24 years.

Here are 10 hard skills to learn that will last you a lifetime:

1. Hunt The Good Stuff

Positive thinkers are not optimists. Positive thinkers believe they will prevail in their circumstances rather than believing their circumstances will change; optimists 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 and remain flexible by choosing to remain positive so that they will find a solution.

TIP: The greatest mental toughness tool we have is our ability to choose one thought over another.

2. Become Emotionally Competent

We all know lots of people who are intelligent, but they are not necessarily competent. If you can’t empathize with other people, you will never develop the emotional skills needed to get along with them.

As an FBI agent, I learned that empathy is not feeling sorry for others; it is relating to what others feel. Empathy helped create a team spirit within our squad and motivated agents to try harder.

As a leader or entrepreneur, you need to develop empathy to become a leader who can push people beyond their own apathy and to think about something bigger than themselves.

Emotional competency also requires you to develop the skills necessary to communicate accurately with people. This includes understanding the importance of both verbal and non-verbal cues.

TIP: You can have the greatest ideas in the world, but if you can’t explain them to others, you will never be anything more than an educated loser.

3. Know What Makes You Tick

Successful people spend their time thinking about what they want to do and how to make it happen. They know what is important to them; they have a vision and a set of goals to get them there.

In other words, it’s hitting your stride because you’ve found what makes you tick. The FBI only hires second career professionals because they want to know that the individual is making a deliberate and well thought-out move from their first successful career into their second with the FBI.

It doesn’t always take talent to meet goals. Instead, success needs flow. 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.

TIP: Ignorance of your competition makes you vulnerable; ignorance of yourself makes you stupid.

4. Have The Confidence To Fail

Unfortunately, most of us fear failure so much that we shuffle along in life until we accidentally stumble onto something at which we are good. Success can be very misleading because often it is not what really fuels us. It is a success that is based in complacency because we are too scared of failure to pursue the type of work that would provide value and meaning.

It takes confidence to look failure in the face and keep moving forward because if we are confident in ourselves and our ability, we look at failure as part of the fine-tuning process.

Most of my FBI investigations met many failures as I continually looked for the soft underbelly of the puzzle in front of me. Each failure educated me more about how to keep moving forward to solve the investigation.

TIP: The way in which you deal with failure determines how you will achieve success.

5. Identify Self-Limiting Beliefs

A British psychologist proved that our memory is not always reliable.  Instead, we extract the gist of the experience and store it in ways that makes the most sense to us. That’s why different people witnessing the same event often have different versions.

We already know that we are biased toward anything that confirms our own beliefs, but it’s important for you to realize that your brain has its own built-in confirmation bias. This means it stores information that is consistent with your own beliefs, values, and self-image.

For example, if you have low self-esteem, your brain tends to store information which confirms your lack of confidence. That will be all you remember about a specific event.

TIP: When you have doubts about your abilities and have self-limiting beliefs about what you can do in life, never rely on memory to give you accurace feedback, especially if the feedback is negative.

6. Stretch Toward Peak Performance

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.

At the FBI Academy, if coaches didn’t push every agent past their comfort zone every day they weren’t doing their job.

Experts agree that this magic stretch is 4% greater than our skill. Anything more will discourage you from trying harder; anything less will not push you hard enough to move forward. However, its important to keep that continual tension between stretch and skill if we want to move toward our peak performance.

TIP: Smart leaders focus on developing peak performance by continually moving into their discomfort zone.

7. Manage Time Wisely

Find a system that works for you and stick to it. Not everyone is a morning person, so perhaps you’re most alert after you’ve exercised or taken a nap. The idea is to schedule the tasks that take the most energy for when your brain is fresh and alert.

Visuals are a great way to activate the mind. That’s why storytelling, pictures, and metaphors work so well—they generate an image.

Visuals are laden with information. They provide color, shape, size, context, etc. Since they take less energy than words, they are efficient ways for the brain to process information.

TIP: Grab a pen and paper and write down your prioritized projects for the day. This saves your brain from the need to recall and review each one. Save your energy for getting those tasks done!

8. Use Positive Self-Talk

The internal conversations we have with ourselves, called self-talk, can go on for days, and sometimes through our nights as well. Many of us know how vicious that inner critic can be. Often, we are harder on ourselves than we are on others. It’s not because we want to be, it’s because we don’t know how to manage our negative self-talk.

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

TIP: The way you treat yourself sets the standard for others

9. Make Room For Your Emotions

Mental toughness is managing our emotions in ways that will set us up for success. Instead of denying uncomfortable emotions, acknowledge them.

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

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

TIP: Destroy negative thoughts when they first show up and are at their weakest.

10. Find Your Tribe

Sebastian Junger wrote in his book, “Tribe”—“We have a strong instinct to belong to small groups defined by clear purpose and understanding–tribes.”

The FBI Academy created a tribe when they refused to let new agents leave for the first several weeks. We grew to depend upon each other and it was habit that we took with us into the field as we looked out for fellow agents

When you are a member of a tribe, you have an acute sense of belonging—you feel accepted and safe when things go wrong. Many of us are lucky enough to feel that our biological families are our tribe, but usually tribes are founded around groups of people with shared values, ideas, and experiences.

In the competitive world of business, it is not always easy to feel safe and accepted. When things go wrong, you fear losing your company, your job, and maybe even your health.

TIP: In times of stress, it’s easy to feel neglected. It’s impossible to instantly create deep bonds of familiarity and trust. Don’t wait until things go wrong to start finding your tribe. Start now.

© 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.” 

How to Stay Mentally Tough When You Face Difficult Stressors

Monday, February 13th, 2017

Guest post by Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D.

Stress is on the rise. The American Psychological Association’s Stress in America survey indicate that 78% report at least one symptom of stress. 34% report increases in stress since the previous year. 

 

It can cause mental health problems like worry or depression or difficulty sleeping. 25% of those employed snap at co-workers because of stress. If you can’t handle it, you can sabotage your health and damage your relationships. This will interfere with your longer-term success.

Calming down your stressed out feelings is only one aspect of managing stress and it may not be the best strategy for every situation.  To most effectively master stress, you need to be self-aware about your own reactions. You also need to be able to focus and think clearly about your values and goals and to sustain attention and motivation in the face of roadblocks and failures. Finally and most importantly, your mindset about stress makes all the difference. Learning how to reframe stress more positively – as a challenge with potential for growth and learning – can help you feel more confident and excited about the possibilities. Building the four qualities of mental toughness: emotional competency, resilience, willpower, and attitude can set you up for success when stress inevitably hits you!

Emotional Competency

Stress sends your brain into “fight or flight” mode, which sets into play a cascade of neurotransmitters and hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. This response is very rapid and sometimes occurs before the conscious parts of the brain even know what’s going on. “Fight or flight” can trigger impulsive, behaviors like screaming at co-workers because your body is gearing up to fight a threat. This is where emotional competency comes in. You can’t stop “fight or flight,” but you can learn to identify when it’s happening and take a mindful pause before reacting automatically. Being mindful means being able to notice and describe what’s happening in your mind and body – observing rather than absorbing the stress. Mindfulness enhances your emotional competence because, over months and years, it actually changes the parts of the brain involved in the stress response. It also helps you find a more compassionate view of the situation, which helps you feel less stressed. Practicing mindfulness meditation can help strengthen this response.

Resilience

Resilience is another part of mental toughness that can help you deal more effectively with stress.  One aspect of resilience is “grit,” a concept defined by researcher Angela Duckworth. Grit means being able to tolerate discomfort and setbacks because you are driven by your passion for long-term goals,  Research studies in college students, salespeople, and Westpoint cadets shows that grit is just as or more important than intelligence and mental ability in determining long-term success. To build grit, you have to know what values and goals are most important to you and why. Stress makes you reactive in the moment, but grit can help you step back and take a long-term view. Think about your passion for building your business or your organization’s mission and let that empower you to plough through the difficulties.  In one study (Brooks,2014) subjects who felt anxious about public speaking were told to relabel their anxious feelings as excitement while another group was told to try to calm down.  Those in the “excitement”group felt more excited and actually performed better at the speaking task. The anxiety and adrenaline surges involved in “fight or flight” can actually fuel performance if they are managed effectively.

Willpower

One of the challenges of the stressors we face these days is that they can be chronic and that the outcomes are often at least partially out of our control. Retaining customers, making sales, and getting promotions involve making consistent effort to work hard and build relationships over long periods of time. This is where willpower comes in. Staying organized and focused on your goals means being able to manage your body’s “fight to flight” response so it doesn’t “hijack” your brain’s attention.  Time spent worrying about things you can’t control can be counterproductive and get in the way of getting things done.  Willpower means that you learn to direct your brain’s focus of attention, rather than letting automatic stress reactivity distract you. Willpower does not occur in a vacuum – you can deliberately organize your environment to sustain willpower (e.g., by programming reminders into your phone, having a vision board,  or putting your running shoes where you’ll see them).

Attitude

Research shows that your attitude towards your stress can have as much influence as the actual events in determining how well things turn out.  In a study by Crum, Salovey, and Achor (2013) the researchers used a questionnaire to assess whether people saw stress as damaging or as having some benefits.  Those who saw stress as damaging were more likely to focus on avoiding feeling stressed, which led them to miss out on opportunities to learn and grow. In their study, students who saw stress as damaging were less likely to want to hear feedback after they gave a speech. In another study (Keller et al., 2012), people who saw stress as damaging their health and who also experienced a lot of stress had a 43% increase in premature death. In a third study, participants who were able to reframe their stress reactions as functional had an improved cardiovascular response to stress and were less likely to think about negative aspects of the situation (Jamieson, Nock & Mendes, 2012). The take home message is that you need to think of your body’s stressful arousal as gearing yourself up for a challenge you can master, rather than something that threatens to derail you.

Stress is an inevitable part of life but mentally tough people know how to befriend their stress and use it to their advantage.  To learn more about your brain’s stress response and how to develop resilience, read my new book The Stress-Proof Brain, released in February 2017 and available on Amazon.

http://amzn.to/2kNwRqC

Melanie Greenberg is a practicing psychologist in Marin County California and an expert on managing stress in life, work, and relationships using proven strategies from neuroscience, mindfulness, cognitive-behavioral approaches, and positive psychology. She is the author of The Mindful Self-Express blog for Psychology Today (8 million+ page views). Her new book. The Stress-Proof Brain was released last week by New Harbinger. It received a starred positive review from Library Journal and is an Amazon bestseller in Neuropsychology and Stress-Management.

© 2017  All rights reserved.

You can follow LaRae Quy on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get LaRae’s FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Sign Up for LaRae’s How To Build Confidence on-line training course

LaRae Quy is the author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

How To Build Trust With Others

Monday, December 12th, 2016

An FBI agent’s most useful investigative tool is the interview. This is where we build trust with others—nose to nose, knee to knee. We need information from them, and they need to know they can trust us in return.

trust

Trust is at the heart of every business. Entrepreneurs, small business owners, and leaders need to work with people both inside and outside of their organization to create mutually beneficial relationships.

People who live in high-trust environments thrive. They are able to build strong relationships because trust is give-and-take. 

Emotional competency is a core component of mental toughness—the ability to manage our own emotions and empathize with the emotions of others. When learning how to build trust with others, you must find a way to relate to them in a meaningful way. Here are 6 tips:

1. Build Trust With Others By Trusting Yourself

Adversity - give up!

You will not be able to trust others if you cannot trust yourself. It requires you to be honest about who you are as a person. Learn how to be compassionate with yourself and not harshly judge the person you find. Compassion and forgiveness opens you up and allows you to learn.

Self-awareness enables us to understand and accept our limitations; in turn, it’s easier to understand that everyone has limitations.

2. Build Trust With Others By Mirroring Them

Self-awareness - squirrel

Neuro-linguistic researchers have found links between our mind, language, and behavior. The three primary modes through which people react to the world around them are visual (seeing), auditory (hearing), and kinesthetic (feeling).

These sensory channels become important when building trust because they impact the way we can relate to people in a way that is meaningful to them. Pay attention to the language that a person uses—chances are, they will follow one of the following three patterns in their speech.

Sounds like . . . a lot of information.

Looks like . . . a lot to learn.

Feels like . . . more than I can handle.

If someone expresses themselves using a feeling word, use a feeling word to respond. If someone is an auditory person, use sounds to bring home your point: “it sounds like a thousand people in the room.” For visual people, ask them what the issue “looks” like to them.

3. Build Trust With Others By Noticing Their Words

Trust - whispering

When people are passionate about something, they use words that are freighted with meaning. The first step is to notice the words they use that are full of energy. Here are some energy words another person may use in a conversation that point to their emotional state:

  • Disappointed
  • Baffled
  • Cautious
  • Confused
  • Grateful
  • Hesitant
  • Interested
  • Relaxed
  • Surprised
  • Uncertain
  • Nervous

The list goes on. After you have noticed the way a person uses an energy word, draw attention to it by simply repeating it, and then pausing. By repeating the word, and pausing, it alerts them that you 1) have noticed their concern, 2) are validating it, and 3) giving them an opportunity to further elaborate.

4. Build Trust With Others By Making Promises. And Keeping Them.

Successful financial plans

The promise does not have to be big, but small things like sending a timely email or sticking to a schedule can go a long way in building trust.

When others realize you can be trusted to keep your word on small things, they will instinctively trust you with bigger ones. This becomes very important when the stakes are higher.

5. Build Trust With Others By Admitting You Don’t Have All The Answers

Tough Decisions

It takes genuine confidence in yourself to admit you don’t know something, but this simple act of trust on your part speaks volumes to the people who hear it. Your team will understand that you are an honest and open person.

Trust is reciprocal, so the more you trust others, they more likely they will trust you. Trusting others also requires you to take a risk because you cannot always predict their response.

6. Build Trust With Others By Remaining Vigilant

Positivity - looking forward

We spend a great deal of time trying to size up other people to determine their trustworthiness. However, once we make a decision, we rarely re-evaluate it even if a significant period of time has lapsed.

Complacency is dangerous.

Always remain vigilant for instances of where trust can be abused. If we’re not paying attention, the landscape can change and suddenly the attitude and behavior of people you once trusted can shift.

This is not being paranoid, it is being wise. We all know of instances where deals have fallen through or bad decisions were made because they were based on a false sense of security.

Trust, but verify—Ronald Reagan

© 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.” 

book

4 Effective Ways To Develop Your Emotional Intelligence

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

Popular movies and TV shows depict FBI agents swaggering into a room, taking control of the situation by intimidation or force, and knocking the sh*t out of anyone who doesn’t want to play by their rules. Only Hallmark channel movies feature moms who understand that emotional intelligence can be more effective than brawn and fists.

pablo

The first thing I learned as an FBI agent was that “reading other people” would be essential if I hoped to live long enough to retire from my job. The second thing I learned was that “understanding myself” would be critical if I wanted to predict my response when confronted with the unknown.

Ignorance of your competition makes you vulnerable; ignorance of yourself makes you stupid—LaRae Quy

Fine-tuning self-awareness skills is the essence of emotional intelligence—recognizing, understanding, and managing the emotions of ourselves and of others.

Decades of research now point to emotional intelligence as the critical factor that sets star performers apart from the rest of the pack. Entrepreneurs, leaders, and business owners who need a winning edge in negotiations, understanding competitive behavior, and managing people rely on their emotional intelligence skills to be successful.

Neuroscience is showing us that we can rewire our brain. With that good news, here are 4 ways you can enhance your emotional intelligence skills:

1. KICK YOURSELF INTO HIGH GEAR

The first place to start in enhancing your emotional intelligence skills is become enthusiastic about achieving your goal. When you are motivated, you activate the left prefrontal cortex.

A good way to become motivated is to reflect upon your dreams and what you want to be in the future. Once you define that goal, take a closer look at where you are now and what you need to do in order to get there.

If you are unsure about the areas in which you are emotionally competent, ask people whom you know and trust.

ACTION POINTS:

  • Which specific behaviors reflect your strengths?
  • What behaviors do you see in star performers?
  • Which of your competencies need to be strengthened?

2. TAKE IT ONE STEP AT A TIME

Refrain from taking on more than one behavior at a time. Otherwise, you’ll become overwhelmed and frustrated.

Emotionally competent people are very intentional in the way they communicate to others. This will require you to pay full attention to each specific behavior.

Developing emotional intelligence will also require you to spend time with yourself to better understand what makes you tick—you will need to pinpoint which words, situations, or people trigger favorable and unfavorable reactions.

Mental toughness is not being afraid to address your weaknesses with the same enthusiasm and vigor as your explore your strengths.

ACTION POINTS:

  • Identify one specific behavior to change or enhance.
  • Give this goal your full attention.
  • Construct a plan of action on how you intend to take your goal to the next level in specific steps.

3. DEVELOP NEW HABITS

The neural connectivity of old habits is strong; their circuitry has become so connected and thick that they have become the brain’s default response.

But, when you start to form new habits that will help you be more emotionally intelligent, these new behaviors create new circuitry that will eventually compete with your old habits.  Over time, the new habit will become your brain’s default response.

The length of time to replace an old habit depends on how strong it is, and the new one will need to develop the same strength of connectivity.

ACTION POINTS:

  • Habits begin to be hardwired the very first time you practice them.
  • Continual practice creates more connectivity.
  • 3-6 months of continually practicing the new habit is usually about average for it to replace the old one.

4. FLEX YOUR MENTAL MUSCLES

Mental toughness is controlling your mind instead of letting your mind control you! That is why meditation is a great tool in developing mental toughness. It requires you to continually observe where your mind has gone and bringing it back to where you want it.

Mental rehearsal activates the same neural circuitry as the real activity. Mental exercises will increase your ability to perform when the real moment comes.

ACTION POINTS:

  • Take charge of your emotional competencies by mentally rehearsing how you want a meeting to unfold, your response to anticipated questions, or a conversation with a competitor.

The important thing to remember is that you can develop and enhance your emotional intelligence skills by following these 4 effective suggestions.

How have you developed your emotional intelligence over time?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

52 Tips cover smallSSM book-cover