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31 Essential Email Etiquette Tips

In today’s fast paced world, the information we need is often right at the touch of a smart phone button. The convenience of tapping or typing out quick emails and responses makes it tempting to hit send without giving much thought to what we have written. The tricky part is that unlike with personal messages, business emails blunders may have serious and far-reaching consequences. Our tone may be misinterpreted by the reader, we may inadvertently include confidential information, we may offend a reader from a different culture. Not taking the time to consistently deliver professionally drafted emails will invariably color our attitude to work as being inattentive, immature or sloppy.

The standard of quality of our email correspondence forms as much a part of our professional presence as the way we speak and the way we dress. Every email you send will either help to build your reputation as a competent professional, or run the risk of destroying the way you’re viewed at work. Etiquette may seem like a stuffy, old-fashioned concept, but there is nothing old-fashioned about having excellent standards. Perfecting and consistently applying good email etiquette will go a long way toward boosting your reputation with colleagues and bosses for years to come. It’s never too late to start forming positive new email habits.

Here are 31 essential professional email etiquette tips which should help you make a positive difference in most professional environments:

 

1. Ask yourself: Is it email worthy?

Avoid introducing highly confidential or private matters over email. If you would hesitate about broaching the topic publicly, then you should carefully consider the appropriateness of the contents before hitting send. Some topics should only be discussed behind closed doors, and face to face. Make a commitment to thinking twice about discussing sensitive issues via email.

2. Use a well-crafted subject line

Never leave an email subject line blank. Readers often decide if and how soon to open an email based on the subject line. Make a habit of giving your readers a concise snapshot of the contents to follow by using a precise and unambiguous subject line. If the topic in an email thread has changed, keep the subject line current, as well. Consider keeping the original subject in brackets.

3. Use an appropriate greeting

Each new email should always begin with an appropriate greeting and the name of the person you’re writing to. Dear _____, Good day _____, Hello _____and Hi _____ are all appropriate email greetings, in decreasing order of formality. Out of courtesy, try never begin an email with just the recipient’s name, or by going straight into the content. Save very informal greetings for casual friends.

4. Open on an agreeable note

Being pleasant to deal with, even in challenging situations, will increase your influence and help others enjoy working with you. On the other hand, being a Gruff Grady or Pessimistic Pete may have colleagues ignoring your emails until they’ve worked up the courage to open them. Make a commitment to conveying warmth in the very first line of every email. Sharing related good news, giving a sincere compliment or a personalised word of appreciation is a great way to open an email message.

5. Be concise

If your email recipient cannot quickly process what you have written, this is guaranteed to reduce the probability of a prompt response. Be concise when writing emails. Use clear language and avoid rambling sentences. Respect the recipient’s time. Don’t attempt to convey long drawn out incidents or complicated concepts via email. Be clear and up front about the email’s purpose and what you’re asking.

6. Maintain a positive tone throughout

Just like spoken communication, effective written communication is best achieved with a positive attitude. Using active, positive language and a high level of respect and courtesy in your emails will set the tone for your reader to mirror your behavior, and respond in like manner. Select your words carefully. Avoid negative or emotionally laden words, accusing statements and blaming. Practice using empathy, neutral word choice and clarifying questions instead.

7. Be structured and thorough

Be thorough. Email replies should answer all previously posed questions. Always respond point for point before introducing new information or making requests of your own. Avoid table-tennis email matches by making your best effort to pre-empt further questions by crafting a well-considered, thoughtful and efficient response.
Be structured. If you’re asking three questions, enumerated them clearly. When you’re responding to emails, do the same.

8. Use the AIDA formula

Use the AIDA formula when composing emails to improve the likelihood of a positive response to requests.

A: Get the attention of the reader with an appropriate subject line.

I:  Stimulate their interest with a pleasant opening sentence.

D: Create desire by explaining the details of the situation, clearly stating what’s in it for them.

A: Give a call to action with a request that outlines what you wish to happen next.

9. Use white space

Always make your emails simple to read and easy to scan. Do your best to minimize the need for scrolling, bearing in mind that many emails will be read on mobile devices. Make use of white space by limiting the length of each paragraph, and keeping your email to a maximum of three or four short paragraphs. Each paragraph should only be three or four lines long. Use paragraph titles in bold if you must cover more than a single topic in one email. Use bullet points or enumeration to add clarity to your content when possible.

10. Conclude intentionally

Make it a habit to close your email with confidence. Confidence breeds attraction and respect. End your email in a positive, optimistic manner that demonstrates you have confidence and anticipate the required response outlined. If you expect a response, conclude by saying so e.g. “I look forward to your response”, or “I look forward to us setting a meeting time”.

11. Sign off cordially

Your closing should be both warm and reflection of your personality. ‘Warm regards’, ‘Many thanks’ and ‘Cheers’ are all appropriate email sign offs. Don’t ever just close with your name alone, or worse – by abruptly leaving the reader hanging.

12. Always use a signature

Always use an email signature. A signature is an important contact tool, which makes it easy for your recipients to reach you. Set up an automatic signature on each of the email platforms you use, including all mobile devices. Your email signature should include your full name, position, company name and telephone contact number.

13. Use Cc and reply with care

Avoid drama, confusion and unnecessarily clogged inboxes, by taking the time to send email messages only to the right people. Be careful when replying to emails where numerous others have been cc’d. Instead of automatically clicking ‘reply all’, ask yourself if every one of the recipients needs the information in your message. Remove recipients who aren’t relevant. It is not necessary to respond if you have only been included in the cc line.

14. Use exclamation points sparingly

Excessive use of exclamation points puts you at risk of appearing overly emotional or immature, and of offending the reader. Only use exclamation points lightheartedly to convey excitement, never to convey anger, frustration or disappointment. As a rule of thumb, use a maximum of one exclamation point per email, and say no to using multiple punctuation marks e.g. ??? or !!! or ?!?

15. Be cautious with humour

Humour, irony and sarcasm can easily get lost in translation without the tone of voice or appropriate facial expressions to back them up. Comments perceived as funny when spoken may be interpreted very differently, perhaps even as offensive, when written. In a professional exchange, it’s better to leave  humour out of emails unless you know the recipient very well.

16. Be sensitive to your audience

People from varying backgrounds speak and write differently. Miscommunication occurs more often over email when we can’t see each other’s body language and facial expressions. Higher context cultures e.g. Asian, and Caribbean may appreciate a more polite, personal approach compared to lower context cultures where you can get straight to the point. Learn to balance your approach, and when in doubt, choose to err on the side of courtesy.

17. Respond in a timely manner

Emails should receive a response as swiftly as you would return a phone call—generally within the same working day. If you can’t provide the response or action within the required time frame, acknowledge the email and state clearly both your intended delivery date, and what your plan of action is e.g. research, contact supplier. While you may not be able to respond to every email immediately, avoid keeping the sender waiting for more than two business days.

18. Proofread before you send

Always read through each email before sending. Proofread to verify that you have not forgotten important details. Check thoroughly for spelling and grammatical errors and to ensure clarity of meaning. Set your email program to automatically spellcheck before sending. Be sure to double-check that your recipient’s name is spelled correctly.

19. Ban text-speak from your emails

Many common text-message abbreviations, emoticons, acronyms and slang are not appropriate for professional emails. Make it a habit to avoid using shortcuts to real words, even when you’re sending emails from mobile devices. Save the abbreviations such as Gr8, 4 u, IKR and BTW for instant message conversations with casual friends.

20. Avoid using ALL-CAPS

Writing emails, or portions of your emails in capital letters is considered to be shouting. Be courteous to your readers. Don’t yell; always avoid using all caps in written correspondence, even for emphasis.

21. Do you need to talk instead?

You may have started composing an email only to realize that the topic is too cumbersome to be effectively handled via this medium. Never use email as a means of covering a mistake, dodging an uncomfortable situation, or avoiding personal contact. ‘Well I sent you an email’ is a refrain too often used to avoid taking full responsibility. Pick up the phone and request a meeting when the topic is a potential “can of worms” i.e. has many parameters to be explained or negotiated or that may be potentially confusing.

22. Give a heads up when needed

Some emails should never be sent cold. It may be much more effective to prepare your reader in advance for what you are about to send. If your email is more than a few lines long, be sure to contact the person in advance to let them know. If you agree to do this in advance, emails also serve as great reminders of the salient points from quick meetings or telephone discussions.

23. Never send an angry email

If you are upset, disappointed or displeased about something, take a moment to calm down, then deal with it face to face, or over the telephone. Refrain from delivering bad news, reprimands, or firing an employee or supplier via email. Email is forever. Avoid writing something you may regret. Even if you are in the right, never adopt an arrogant, condescending, or demanding tone. Practice composing every email as if you were addressing a future employer or your most important client.

24. Be considerate with attachments

When providing email attachments, be sure to carefully list each item you are attaching, with a brief explanation of why you are sending it. Use meaningful file names for each attachment, and avoid sending large and numerous attachments unless necessary.

25. Run away from one-liners

If you’re expected to respond to an email, don’t cherry pick the points you will address. Be courteous enough to address all points thoroughly and respond using full sentences. Unless necessary, avoid sending one-liners such as ‘sure thing’ and ‘oh ok’, which do not advance the conversation in any way. If a response is not expected or required, don’t send one.

26. Avoid read and delivery receipts

Email delivery and read receipts are discourteous, and run the risk of annoying the reader, before he/she has even had a chance to read the message. If you want to know if your intended recipient has received your message, politely request a reply within a specified time frame, or pick up the phone and ask.

27. Respond to angry emails with care

When you receive an angry email, it is important to respond with great care. Investigate the details of the situation fully and speak with the offended party in person. When you respond, apologize first. Nest, express both concern and an empathetic understanding of the impact of the circumstances. Thirdly, explain. This way, it does not look like you’re merely letting yourself off the hook with an excuse.  Finally, offer a remedy or solution.

28. Respond to calendar invitations

Meeting invitations are emails, too. When you receive a meeting invitation via email, it is impolite to ignore it. Respond within an appropriate period of time letting the meeting organiser know if you plan on attending. You can accept, decline or accept tentatively. If you’re declining, be sure to edit the message before sending—briefly providing a polite explanation of  why you won’t be able to make it.

29. Avoid SPAM

Cute poems, off-color jokes, threats of 7 years of bad luck, Nigerian bank account promises, and other email hoaxes are often vehicles for malicious content. Worms, viruses or Trojan horses can find their way onto your computer and the company’s information systems via these emails. Delete junk mail as soon as you receive it. In professional settings, make a commitment never to forward this type of unsolicited email to anyone.

30. Your email is a reflection of you

Are your emails scattered, disorganized or filled with typos and grammatical mistakes? Are your emails curt, too short or have a rude or negative tone? Do your emails ramble on without getting to a clear point or request? You may not think so, but if your colleagues or bosses think so, they may also think poorly of your professional standards. Make your email a reflection of you. Begin with the end in mind; think of the professional image you want to project and make it a habit to ensure that your emails always reflect this.

31. Share the knowledge

Don’t assume your direct reports are familiar with the email etiquette standards you expect. Explain to them clearly the guidelines everyone should follow. As a minimum, ensure their email signatures are set up and that they adhere to standard company fonts and stationery. Share this post with your colleagues if you’ve found it to be useful.
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10 Ways to Stop Talking Too Much

Are You a Chatterbox?

Do you know someone who talks too much? I’m sure you can think of an acquaintance or colleague who makes you want to head in the opposite direction as soon as you see them coming. Maybe you’re bringing to mind the aunt or uncle who starts off asking how you’re doing, but without even giving you a chance to respond, launches into the tedious details of the medical procedure they underwent six months ago. The person you’re thinking of may be a sweet, friendly and well-meaning magpie. Or he may be an extroverted windbag—always cracking jokes and full of gossipy tidbits.

Guess what. The person you’re thinking of is you! To the irritation and dismay of those around us, we ALL talk too much sometimes. Whether our chattiness is needy or noisy, when we start over-sharing, we become tolerable only in small doses. We leave the person we’re yammering to wondering why we keep rambling on long after they’ve lost interest.

On the occasions when we talk too much, we miss the generous stream of verbal and non-verbal clues heaped on us by our disinterested audiences. We miss the folded arms, stony faces, wondering eyes and vague remarks of the bored. We fail to notice how conversations sometimes break up as soon as we appear. Like the fat kid at a birthday party, we obliviously eat more than our fair share of cake.

The Dangers of Talking Too Much

We all gossip sometimes. Occasionally, we become over-excited and hog the flow of conversation. Most of the time we manage to keep our chattiness from getting out of control. We have all had instances, however, where running our mouths has had far-reaching consequences:

  • Talking too much can destroy our friendships
  • Talking too much can cause strife in our family lives
  • Talking too much can cause co-workers to distrust us
  • Talking too much can keep us from advancing at work
  • Talking too much can get us fired

One of my newest coaching clients is a talented and engaging young man. He completed university well ahead of his peers and is holding down a good job with a large company. He has identified one major challenge he’d like to work on: sometimes he talks too much. I’m inspired by this young man’s wisdom and bravery. He has recognized what most of do not—that the words that come out of our mouths should always be under our full control. Together we will work through strategies to help him develop high levels of discipline governing his speech. This will place him even further along the road to success in his career and in life.

Here are 10 steps we can all take to help us take control of unguarded speech:

1. Take Responsibility

Whether you’re an occasional over-talker, or a full-time blowhard, recognizing that there is room for improvement, and that you have the power to change is the first step to succeeding at any personal goal. In his brilliant book, ‘The War of Art‘, Steven Pressfield writes, “There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny.” All bad habits can be broken.

2. Keep A Log of Transgressions

Benjamin Franklin built his strong character by recording his progress on personal development tasks every day. He was famous for keeping a special notebook for this purpose even into old age. Keeping a record of the number of times in a day when we shoot off at the mouth can help us to gauge the severity of our over-talking. To become more mindful of when your mouth should be kept shut, record the following in a notebook daily for at least a week:

a) Each time you offered up criticism or hurtful opinions about other people
b) Each time you let confidential or unflattering details slip about a friend, family member or colleague
c) Each time you blurted out inappropriate personal information or secrets
d) Every instance when you rambled on in conversation giving unsolicited details

3. Become a Good Listener

Listening is hard work. To become good listeners, we must develop a genuine interest in other people. One of the adages from Stephen Covey’s best-selling book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People‘ is “Habit 5: Seek first to understand, then be understood.” Look for opportunities to ask people open-ended questions about themselves. When they respond, instead of looking for the first opportunity to jump in and relate a similar experience, ask them to elaborate.  You will find that others enjoy talking with you a lot more when you give them the opportunity to talk about themselves.

4. Be Sensitive to Cues

A conversation should be an ongoing exchange. As in a game of tennis, if someone decides to hog “the ball” instead of volleying, the game will be over. People will generally let us know when we’re hogging the ball—we just need to pay attention to the cues. Their eyes will stray, they will fiddle and seem distracted. They respond to our drone with a few polite smiles, nods and okays, all the while thinking of clever ways to escape. Learn to sense disinterest in others and either engage them or be the one to end the conversation.

5. Practice the One Sentence Rule

Practice responding to any question in a single thoughtful sentence. This will require some effort. Compose your response carefully before speaking, instead of thinking aloud and rambling on. Then pause, and wait for a response. If your conversation partner is interested in what you have to say, they will dig deeper and ask questions. If they don’t, this is a clue that you shouldn’t continue talking. You should aim to own only 30%-40% of the talk time in any conversation.

6. Calm Down

For some of us, talking too much is a defense mechanism—a sign that we are feeling nervous, tense or uncomfortable. One great way to slow down our racing inner clocks is to spend a few moments in meditation each day. Sit or lie quietly with your eyes closed and a half-smile on your face. Focus on your breathing. Feel all the rhythms of your body as you inhale and exhale. Do this upon waking, and several times per day for ten breaths. Work toward spending as much as 30 minutes daily bringing your mind in tune with your breathing. You will begin to feel a greater sense of control and calm in everything you do.

7. Embrace Solitude

Sometimes when we talk too much, we’re performing—working hard on presenting the best version of ourselves. We’re uncomfortable being alone, and may find ourselves constantly craving an audience. Stillness requires discipline. Spend 30 minutes to one hour a day engaging the practice of a quiet activity that requires concentration. Read a book, or listen to an audiobook. These quiet activities will help you to exercise your mind without simultaneously engaging your mouth.

8. Work up a Sweat

Talking too much may be the result of having excess nervous energy. Vigorous exercise is a great way to rid ourselves of the desire to keep talking. When we tire out our bodies, our brains settle down as well. Even people who talk too much as a result of ADHD benefit from significantly reduced symptoms as a result of regular exercise.

9. Build Mystique

People are more interested in those who have a bit of mystery about them. We don’t need to blurt out all the details of what’s going on in our lives all the time. Speak generally. The less we say, the more interesting we become to friends, co-workers and even lovers. Keep some things to yourself, and allow others to discover more about you over time.

10. Commit to Self-Improvement

At times, we over-talk as a result of insecurity. With bosses, colleagues and strangers, we overuse conversation is an attempt to improve our image. We brag about our achievements and season our conversations with names and details that help us seem more successful, and our lives more glamorous. This insecurity may also cause us to become judgmental toward others. We inadvertently criticize people and spread unflattering gossip as a way to bolster our self-image. When we discipline ourselves to invest more time working on becoming better, we have less of a need to cover up our inadequacies by trying to convince others of how great we already are.

 

 

 

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What Are You Grateful For Today?

Did you take a moment to be grateful today? Gratitude consists of being fully aware of your current circumstances with all its worrying details, both big and small, and being able to recognize the good.

“In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

In our modern daily lives, it is easy to take for granted the gifts we have been given by the many thousands of people who have gone before us. It is mind-boggling to try to fathom the effort that has gone into giving us the lives we enjoy simply by virtue of having been born in the 20th century.

Consider the desktop computer, laptop, handheld tablet or smart phone on which you are reading this post. Only a genius could fully comprehend all the details, the intricate science, engineering and technology used to develop and manufacture it. Try to imagine the time and effort that went into making each item of clothing you are wearing now – how the cotton was grown, and picked and spun and then woven into cloth, and dyed into interesting fabric. Think of the designers who envisioned the cut and style of the garments. Ponder the work of the people involved in creating and sewing the patterns. Contemplate the last meal you ate—even if it was only as modest as a can of beans or a bowl of ramen noodles. What about the  transportation you take each day? Could you reproduce any of these items completely on your own?

Reflect on the brilliant minds over thousands of years that devoted themselves to inventing and perfecting the modern comforts and luxuries we take for granted. Innumerable men and women cared enough to make their lives count for something, so that we can all enjoy better standards of living today. Life has given us so much more than we can ever return to it.

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” – Melody Beattie

I encourage you to spend just a few moments now and each day in quiet reflection on the good things in your life.
All day long, make a habit of noticing all the gifts around you, the people, companies and technologies that serve you. Think of your health. It may not be perfect, but focus on the miracle of the things that work – your eyes to see, ears to hear, skin to protect all your internal organs, legs to take you were you need to go. Take responsibility for consciously feeling grateful for all the gifts life has presented to you. Express your appreciation. Say “thank you” as often as possible, to as many people as possible.

“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.” — Meister Eckhart

I spent my time in gratitude this morning with my dog, Frisky, on Ffreyes Beach—just three minutes from my home. I stood in awe of the natural beauty that surrounded me, and felt overwhelmed with appreciation (as I always do), for this little island of Antigua, which I call home. I snapped a few seconds of video. Enjoy!

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10 Great Ways to Rise Above Office Politics and Be a Winner in the Workplace

“Mondays aren’t so bad, it’s your job that sucks.” -Anonymous graffiti artist

It’s Monday again, groan… This is the exasperated refrain that can be heard around the world, in every language at the start of each new work week. In the photo of street graffiti above, we are cheekily chided: “Mondays aren’t so bad, it’s your job that sucks.” In a typical case of “it’s funny because it’s true”, the accusing words resonate with us. But are those irreverent words really true? Do the millions of people around the world who dread each Monday’s arrival really have jobs that suck? With all the drama, frenemies, nonsensical rules and un-stimulating environments many of us experience at work, maybe do have horrible jobs. Or maybe not.

Maya Angelou wrote “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.” I’m with Maya. I can’t promise you that after reading this you’ll be bounding out of bed gushing with anticipation for the work week ahead, but here are ten tips to help you get out of your own way, and become a winner at work.

1. Be Strategic

Focus on what you are longing to achieve. When you go to work each day, you should have your life goals in mind. Do you want a raise or a promotion? Are you working at accumulating the downpayment for a house? Are you planning on starting a family? Concentrate on the future, and you will find yourself less concerned with gossip and petty complaints.

2. Take the High Road

When you’re stuck in close quarters with the same people for eight hours day after day, sooner or later someone is going to do something that will make you really angry. You’re only human, and tempers will flare. The key is to not let it get the best of you. As a person with big goals in mind, don’t ruin your reputation just to get a few moments of gratification by publicly venting your anger. In explosive situations, walk away, have a drink of water, take a break, but by all means do not blow your top. In the same vein, don’t resort to becoming passive aggressive and taking things out slowly on the person who upset you with sarcasm or political maneuvering.

3. Craft a Personal Vision

What do you want to be known for at work? How will accomplishments in this job affect future career aspirations? When I was fresh out of university as an audit assistant with Ernst & Young, I made a list of qualities I wanted to strive for in my work. “My Commitment to Excellence” was my professional manifesto, printed on an 11′ x 4′ card and posted on my cubicle wall. It listed a handful of values and practices I wanted to be held accountable for by myself, my colleagues and my bosses. This was probably taking it a bit far, and it makes me laugh to think of it now, but it helped me to go from being an unmotivated, mediocre student to a top performer at work.

4. Choose to be a Victor, not a Victim

Every situation in life comes with its own set of limitations; work is no different. There are inevitably going to be circumstances which occur at work which will be both unpleasant and outside your control: the sick day policy might change, you may have to suddenly start working shifts, there may be a wage freeze imposed. Only losers waste time pining over things they cannot control. Be a winner; decide today not to waste your time and energy complaining about things you can’t control. Get over it and move on.

5. Set Growth Goals

We all have things we can do better in life. You will not become a winner by basking in mediocrity. Commit to being much better than average. Set a goal to become one of the top 10% of performers at your workplace. Pay close attention to performance reviews, and create your own personal self-improvement plan. Get ongoing feedback from your colleagues and supervisors, and set yourself daily goals and measurable targets.

6. Become an Effective Communicator

It has often been said those who are able to communicate effectively have an advantage at work and in life. Make a decision to become one of the best communicators among your colleagues. Good communicators know how to effectively employ eye contact, body language, tone of voice, and they are adept at choosing the right words. Challenge yourself to speaking up, and to being courteous and friendly in every interaction. Most conflicts arise or are fueled by ineffective communication, so your new skills will go a long way toward helping you avoid workplace misunderstandings.

7. Embrace the Big Picture

If you’re going to be a winner in the work place, you’re going to have to trade in your myopic mindset for one that embraces the big picture. If you had your supervisor’s job, would you be spending time grumbling in the lunch room about the new policy on tardiness? Probably not. Make an effort to learn more about how the organization functions, why certain decisions are made, and what makes it tick. Finding out the reasons behind unpleasant mandates can give you a different perspective, and will neutralize the powerlessness that comes with not knowing why.

8. Stay Organized. Stay Busy.

My grandfather used to say “the devil finds work for idle hands to do”. Many people develop the habit of lack-luster performance out of sheer boredom. If you go to work every day waiting to be told what to do, watching the clock and longing for home time, you are bound to hate your job. You’re bored. It is no wonder you’ve become embroiled in office gossip and politics just to liven things up. Instead, make a commitment to go to work each day with a purpose. Have a list of the things you would like to accomplish, and volunteer to help out if you run out of things to do. In this way, you will no longer have time to wonder who is talking about you behind your back.

9. Think Win-Win

To truly be a winner in the workplace, you must learn to think win-win. This will require you choose to compromise, not to give in, but to evaluate all the options and choose a path that will not only benefit you, but all concerned. It’s a give and take. If you make a decision to work on this every day, you will develop the reputation of being a fair-minded person, and a good negotiator. You will find yourself gaining a lot more than you would have by selfishly fighting for your own gain.

10. Nurture Your Enthusiasm

Enthusiasm can be an elusive quality. Many of us only show it in response to exciting events, others hardly ever, and yet there are those who appear to exude it from within. An enthusiastic person has a winning attitude. They choose to see the opportunities in every challenge they face. They know how to generate energy and positive vibes even in the worst of circumstances. Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor, wrote a groundbreaking book called ‘Man’s Search for Meaning‘. In it, he celebrates the kind of attitude it took to make it through a Nazi death camp alive. The person who is able to think positively in sticky situations, and devise a desirable conclusion, is the person who will win. Commit today to becoming an enthusiastic person.

 

Being a winner in the work place starts with a decision, it starts with you. Here’s to happier Mondays in the future!

Let me know what you thought of this post in the comments section, and if there’s anything else you would add to the list. If you liked it, be sure to share it with someone you care about.

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Love Hurts?

Love hurts. Love scars. Love wounds and mars. Ooh ooh. Love hurts. ~Beverley Ross and Neil Fredericks, performed by ‘Nazareth’

Rejected by Cyberspace

Many years ago, newly single, I tried to sign up for an online dating service. The television commercial boasted the site’s ability to find “soul mates” for its members based on “29 dimensions of compatibility”. So, I slogged through the 436-question Compatibility Profile. Apparently, now it has been shortened to 250 questions. To the faceless evaluator, I shared self-descriptions, personal characteristics, important qualities, personal beliefs, living skills, communication style, relationship style and my family background. I answered scores of multiple choice questions such as “If you decided to stay at home for the evening would you tend to: A: watch TV B: clean C: talk on the phone D: read”. At the end of the questionnaire, eHarmony.com informed me that the calculator had concluded that based on my unique combination of preferences and traits, I could be matched to only about 3 – 5% of men in the general population and vice versa. To add insult to injury, the site further informed me that it could not find even a single potential match for me at that time, and summarily turned down my business, curtly suggesting that I return at a later date to try again.

I could have taken that experience as the ultimate rejection. If cyberspace turned me down, what could I expect to find in the real world? Today, it still makes me chuckle. Ironically, the Internet-calculator must have been on to something; I have spent about 75% of my adult life unattached. I’ve endured the “why have you never been married?” questions, as well as the unsolicited explanations for my predicament: “you are too picky”, “you intimidate men.” Those people may have been concerned that during the periods when I have been single, I would be sad, lonely and unfulfilled. A person can never be sad, lonely or unfulfilled when they accept themselves. Whether I am in a relationship or not, I strive to love and respect myself every day.

Silent Agreements. Unspoken Expectations.

Men and women go into relationships searching for love. They feel empty inside and go begging for someone to fill the void. They find themselves moving hungrily from lover to lover, or smothering their partners with a ravenous neediness — “make me feel loved”. They become obsessed about never being alone, willing to give up their very sense of self in exchange for enjoying the company another person. These people are as much controllers, as they are the controlled. Women change the way they speak, act and dress to please their husbands. Men give up their hobbies, change their jobs, and even their friends to fit into their partner’s mold of an ideal husband. Some people leave their countries, their families and even abandon their religions, just to hear three little words.

When we enter into a relationship with another person, we have expectations that are never communicated. Our partners also load upon us unspoken obligations. When they say the words, “I love you”, what they might be saying is “I love you if” — if you behave a certain way, if you are good to me, if you fit my mold, if you fulfill my dreams, if you let me control your life. When we say “I love you, I want to be with you forever”, what we might really mean is: “I have finally found the right person. Now I am going to place all my hopes and dreams in you. Promise to be perfect and to never disappoint me. I am giving you responsibility for my happiness, so you must never hurt me or leave me. If you do, my world will fall apart.”

A promise to make another person happy is a promise no one can ever hope to fulfill. We will never experience our partner’s thoughts or their feelings, so why should we try to control them? Who can fulfill obligations they are not aware of? Selfish expectations will eventually destroy almost any relationship. When we give love because we feel we have to, then our generosity will soon turn to selfishness. When fun and freedom turn into obligation, then respect turns to hatred. There is no more spontaneity and romance, just a burden and the growing desire to escape. If you do something just because you feel you have to, it is not really love.  Love only thrives when it is given unconditionally. Love should always be an expression that is motivated by desire and free will.

Mastery of Love

True happiness can never come solely from receiving another person’s love. Happiness is your own responsibility. Happiness comes from the love inside of you, that you freely give without conditions. You already have all the love you need. The love you have inside is infinite. Don Miguel Ruiz in his book ‘The Mastery of Love: A Practical Guide to the Art of Relationship‘, writes “Love is not about concepts; love is about action. Love in action can only produce happiness… The only way to master love is to practice love.”

You can love someone else when you have learned to love yourself. When you have accepted yourself the way you are, then you don’t go into relationships trying to find the love you’re missing. This is why needy relationships always fail. You have a right to be free, and so does everyone else. When you try to control someone else by depending on them for love, all you really do is become dependent on them and give up your own personal freedom. When you truly love yourself, you will never trade in your freedom.

Being Together. Staying Together.

We can only ever be responsible for ourselves and our half of any relationship. Two people can be happy together in a relationship by entering into a new kind of agreement. This kind of agreement requires you to take responsibility for your own happiness and to love the other person unconditionally, finding a balance that works just for the two of you. There are infinite possibilities for relationships based on respect.

You must know exactly what you want. What are your likes and dislikes? Who are you compatible with? What brings you joy? What are your needs? Feel free to be yourself. Anything less, will leave you feeling disappointed, used and abused. You have to love yourself, and you have to trust your partner. You don’t need to be afraid to be taken advantage of because you guard your own happiness. There must also be compatibility. Both of your needs must coincide in a way that works for the two of you. You both agree that being together simply means that you are both going in the same direction and decided you can be happy together.

When you know that you love this person unconditionally, without any ifs and expectations, exactly the way they are without wanting to change a thing, then you know that they are right for you. If that person feels the same way about you, then there will be no need for false pretenses. Neither of you is trying to fulfill the other’s unspoken expectations. You don’t want to change them, and they don’t want to change you. You can be finally just be yourself, and you are happy taking a risk.

What if you start going in different directions? What if the situation no longer works for you and no longer brings you both joy? You can simply walk away without being selfish. You wish your partner well, because you accept that you cannot control him, you cannot change her. You give yourself a chance to be happy and you give your partner the chance to be happy.

Love Hurts?

Anger hurts. Betrayal hurts. Blame hurts. Conflict hurts. Disappointment hurts. Drama hurts. Fear hurts. Guilt hurts. Gossip hurts. Jealousy hurts.  Judgement hurts. Selfishness hurts. Love does not hurt.

 

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Crucial Confrontations

Slightly ahead of my annual goal, I have just completed book number fifty-three for 2012. ‘Crucial Confrontations: Tools for Resolving Broken Promises, Violated Expectations, and Bad Behavior‘, was released a few years ago by authors Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler. The book teaches how to confidently address violated expectations and resolve accountability issues without harming relationships.

The Scenario

[Husband lying on the sofa watching TV.]

Wife: Honey, can you please remember to take out the garbage tonight?

Husband: Yeah

[Thirty minutes later.]

Wife: Honey, are you going to take out the garbage?

Husband: In a minute.

[One hour later.]

Wife: Honey, the garbage!

[Snore.]

How Do You Respond to Bad Behavior?

We have all been there, situations where someone disappoints us not just once, but repeatedly. Your wife takes so long to get herself dolled up that you are late every time you go out together. Your assistant hands in sloppy assignments. Your boyfriend drinks too much and embarrasses you. Your boss screams at you. Your best friend borrows money and does not pay it back.

How do you respond to similar disappointments?

A) You handle yourself with grace and aplomb. You introduce the topic of the broken promise or inappropriate behavior in a safe environment, explain your disappointment, carefully get feedback from the other person and mutually agree on a plan of action.

B) You condescendingly remind the other person that the infringement has now been committed for the two-hundredth and thirty-seventh time.

C) You silently replay your fantasy to strangle him or her and curse under your breath.

D) You grudgingly ignore the first few instances, whine to your friends about it, and then explode like a crazy person when it happens a third or fourth time.

If you answered A, then you’re already applying the skills taught in ‘Crucial Confrontations’. If you answered B, C or D, then you’ve done what most modern human beings have been conditioned to do. We respond to conflict in one of two ways–fight or flight.

Crucial Confrontations

The pre-programmed responses do not work. Failing to adequately resolve touchy, controversial or complex issues at work can lead to major organizational problems and can be very costly. Picking fights or ignoring ingrained family problems because we feel ill-equipped to deal with broken rules or failed promises is a common cause of long-lasting family tension and strife. In ‘Crucial Confrontations’, the authors teach how to skillfully handle sticky situations without resorting to silence or violence. The book explains how to carefully prepare for an accountability session, how to conduct one and how to follow-up so that the behavior does not continue to occur. These skills applied in a disciplined manner will empower you to face the challenges that plague families, teams and organizations and resolve them permanently.

In a coming post, I will discuss some of the valuable lessons from ‘Crucial Confrontations’ in more detail. If you are struggling with unresolved conflict, I recommend that you read this book right away.

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Does This Chart Make Me Look Fat?

Above is a BMI Chart. BMI stands for Body Mass Index. It is a height to weight ratio, and is the most accepted screening tool used to assess weight categories that may lead to health problems. Knowing your BMI can give you an important indication of your risk of developing a range of obesity-related health issues including metabolic syndrome, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure.

How to find your BMI

1. Read across the top of the chart to find your height (in feet and inches).
2. Read down the left side of the chart and find your weight (in pounds).
2. The point where those two lines meet will give you your BMI.

 

What Does Your BMI Number Mean?

In the Green
If your BMI is 24 or less (green) then you have a normal weight and are in the healthy range. A BMI of 18 or below would make you underweight.

In the Yellow
If your BMI is between 25 and 29 (yellow) then you are overweight for your height. Individuals who fall in this range are at increased risk for a variety of illnesses, and may already be suffering from Metabolic Syndrome.

In the Red
If your BMI is 30 or greater, then you are obese. Individuals with a BMI over 30 are in a physically unhealthy condition, which puts them at risk for serious illnesses such as high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, cancer, as well as diseases of the gall bladder disease, heart, liver and lungs.

 

What to Do Next

If your BMI reading is in the yellow or red, you should immediately see a physician to assess other risk factors of cardiovascular disease. You should also start on a weight-loss program. The easiest way to lose weight is to eliminate from your diet the foods that put your health at risk in the first place. Refined carbohydrates are the biggest culprit. These empty calories are found in such foods as sodas and fruit drinks, unhealthy snacks including potato chips, corn chips, cakes and cookies, and foods such as bread, potatoes, pasta and white rice. Reduce your portions of these foods or cut them out completely wherever you can to get on the road to better health and longevity!

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Promise Yourself…

 

Promise yourself to think well of yourself and to proclaim this fact to the world, not in loud words, but in great deeds. Christian D. Larson wrote these words one hundred years ago. He realized that self-confidence combined with humility is a prerequisite for personal achievement.

When you think well of yourself — I am thoughtful, I am kind, I am productive, I am a positive person, I am considerate of other people, I am creative, I am diligent at work, I am punctual — you will naturally make your best effort to give expression to those thoughts as you go through your day. On the other hand, if you persistently think of yourself as weak, lazy, selfish, limited, then these traits will gain tangible expression in your life. People who experience a lack of self-confidence feel restricted by their own limiting thoughts; deep down inside they don’t feel good about themselves. Consistently thinking negative thoughts about yourself creates a ‘bad reputation’ of yourself within you. This lack of self-worth then gains expression through low levels of achievement and a general dissatisfaction with your life.

It is natural to question your own positive opinions about yourself. Having self-worth does not mean trying to hypnotize yourself into thinking that you’re perfect or better than you truly are. Self confidence is not an indication of a lack of humility. True self confidence requires a level of comfort with your insecurities and imperfections. Being aware of your flaws empowers you to work to improve them. If you think of yourself as a kind person, you will be more likely to act in accordance with that perception.

One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself is to recognize your self-worth; it is your most important psychological resource. Thinking well of yourself is not about bragging or bringing attention to yourself. It is, rather, an abundance of recognition and gratitude for all the blessings you’ve been given. When you are deeply aware of your talents and potential, you don’t want to see those abilities go to waste. Having a sense of self-worth means being aware of the good that is within you. Tapping into the awareness of your own potential inspires action; it creates a hunger for expression. Thinking well of yourself creates a sense of responsibility and empowers you to go out and do great things. When you expect more from yourself, you do more.

Here are four great reasons to take the time to think great thoughts about yourself every day and develop a good sense of self worth:

1. The world becomes a beautiful place filled with possibility; life will seem less difficult, the universe less scary.
2. You will be better able to cope with adversity and challenges when they come along.
3. You will be more open to others, and less likely to see those around you as a threat.
4. You will be more inclined to treat others well and your friendships and relationships will improve.
5. You will be happier; without constantly thinking you don’t measure up, you will find joy in just being you.

You are unique. You are amazing in so many ways. There are greater powers and possibilities within you than you know, and those possibilities are limitless. You can do more and be more than you have in the past, but you must intend it. Intention starts with thought. Think great thoughts of yourself and live up to them by the things that you do. Go out and act like the person you know you can be. Proclaim your greatness to the world today! You wouldn’t want to disappoint yourself, now would you?

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Promise Yourself…

“Promise yourself to wear a cheerful expression at all times, and give a smile to every living creature you meet.” ~Christian D. Larson

Christian D. Larson penned these inspiring words in 1912. They appeared in his book ‘Your Forces and How to Use Them‘ (now in the public domain) and form part of what has become known as the Optimist Creed, adopted by Optimist clubs worldwide. These beautiful words have been inspiring me for years and I hope they touch your life, too.

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Sugar Free Me

After watching Matt Cutts’ three-minute Ted talk, I’ve been inspired by a new friend to go completely sugar-free for 30 days. While I am passionate about the benefits of living a healthy, low carb lifestyle, I’ve never gone completely sugar-free.  For the first time, I won’t even allow myself a few packets of Splenda or Equal. A 30-day, cold turkey sugar-free journey starts now.

 

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Promise Yourself…

“Promise yourself to today to forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.” ~Christian D. Larson

Christian D. Larson penned these inspiring words in 1912. They appeared in his book ‘Your Forces and How to Use Them‘ (now in the public domain) and form part of what has become known as the Optimist Creed, adopted by Optimist clubs worldwide. These beautiful words have been inspiring me for years and I hope they do the same for you.

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Promise Yourself…

“Promise yourself to today to be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.” ~Christian D. Larson

Christian D. Larson penned these inspiring words in 1912. They appeared in his book ‘Your Forces and How to Use Them‘ (now in the public domain) and form part of what has become known as the Optimist Creed, adopted by Optimist clubs worldwide. These beautiful words have been inspiring me for years and I hope they do the same for you.