Several years ago I came across a high-functioning team of over 40 people in a contact centre. Their work was stressful as they handled hundreds of difficult conversations each day.
I was intrigued to find out what the ‘glue’ was that bound this group together. It soon became obvious that it was the manager who had a considerable positive impact on that team.One of his favourite activities was ‘good-finding’. He would walk around the office and look for things he could praise and acknowledge in what people were doing.
He was specific in the things he said and avoided generalised statements like “You are doing great” or “Well done” with no specific context. Rather, he would say “I notice you have completed your filing – good on you” “You are up-to-date with your callbacks – well done for that”.
When he acknowledged someone’s efforts in this way they knew what they had done well and were more inclined to keep doing it. While his feedback encouraged the individuals concerned it also had a flow-on effect with others who worked there. They knew that good work was noticed and appreciated. They did not feel like they were going to be criticised constantly and they welcomed the presence of their manager in their workspace.
Neuroscientists tell us that negative or critical statements activate the amygdala, sometimes referred to as the fight/flight centre of the brain. When there is too much criticism people don’t feel safe. They become defensive and are constantly on alert to avoid being hurt from further disapproval.
To maintain a balance in workplace relationships it is recommended that you make at least three positive comments to one negative comment. In your personal relationships at home, this ratio jumps to seven positives to one negative.
Start good-finding today.
Comedian and mental health campaigner, Mike King has been named New Zealander of the Year for 2019. Congratulations Mike.
Mike wasn’t always the poster boy for young New Zealanders. While he was a well-known entertainer and comedian he was also addicted to drugs and alcohol and experienced mental health illness which lead to behaviour that often alienated him from friends and fans.
His journey to recovery and recognition has been long and hard over the past 15 years. When asked on a recent radio programme about this transformation he said that the number one thing that turned his life around was changing the way he reacted to things around him.
Instead of hearing a screaming baby on the plane and getting upset about “the annoying baby” he instead would say out loud “that poor baby”.
He entered the world of the baby and realised it could be distressed because of the change in cabin pressure on its ears. The only way the baby could express this distress was by crying.
“When I changed the way I thought about the world and other people I found that I could react to them in a more empathetic way”.
This is one way you can develop empathy. When you change your thoughts and focus on the other person you no longer see yourself as the centre of the universe and say ‘that baby is annoying me”. Rather, you enter the other person’s world by saying “that baby is in distress”. You could spare a similar thought for the mother too, who might be feeling that others are judging her for not having a quiet baby.
Nelson Mandela mastered the art of showing empathy when he was imprisoned on Rodden Island for more than 28 years. He could see that the prison wardens were also trapped on the island and he showed them kindness even when they were making his life difficult. Showing kindness and empathy to his captors kept Mandela in a healthy frame of mind and ultimately had a huge impact on his jailers.
Develop more empathy by thinking more of the other person and what is distressing them and less of your (unrealistic) expectations of how the world should be treating you.
Mike King spends much of his time now sharing his experiences with young people in schools and clubs and promoting good mental health. Thanks Mike.
We’re all familiar with that warm fuzzy feeling we get when we have a positive connection with someone – but what does it all mean?
When a person feels that you notice and accept them, a number of feel good hormones are activated in their brain.
These hormones include;
Oxytocin which is sometimes called the cuddle hormone
Endorphins which comes about particularly from exercise and laughter
Dopamine also known as the reward hormone and
Serotonin which helps to regulate your mood and hapiness.
The act of smiling at somebody and listening to them also reduces the stress inducing hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline which are activated when people feel under threat.
“When you listen to the other person and acknowledge what they are saying, without judgement or criticism, these hormones will be released into their system and will positively affect their brain functioning.”
This means they are more likely to trust you and reveal more about what is important to them.
Furthermore, they are more likely to listen with a positive frame of mind to what you are saying.Trust that by improving the way you listen you will help the other person say what they need to say and thus improve the quality of your conversations.