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How to Remain Powerful and Authentic In Your Everyday Conversations

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Communication was never a strong suit for me while growing up. I was extremely insecure within myself so naturally, the objective of my communication was to deter the focus from this painfully apparent reality. There were even subtleties buried within my speech patterns that gave this away, such as the tendency to drop the word “so” at the end of every explanation to mask my discomfort with silence.

Much of my conversations were centered around me getting what I wanted, as opposed to collaborating with the other person to cause a breakthrough in our relationship or topic of discussion. Much to my chagrin, I was forced to acknowledge the futility of being disingenuous.

Below are 4 things to pay attention to in order to remain authentic and powerful in your everyday conversations:

1. The voice in our head

We all have multiple voices. Apart from the obvious linguistic abilities, we also experience a running commentary inside of our minds. This voice is very subjective, offering all kinds of alternative views and opinions on what’s happening. We often let this voice dictate how we interpret what the other person says and means. Experiences of the past are brought to the forefront along with world-views, generalizations and conclusion suggestions.

By tuning out this mental chatter, we stay in the moment. More importantly, we’re less inclined to cut off the flow of the other person’s speech and give them ample space to convey their intended message, causing their effectiveness with our listening. The ratio of ears to mouth is no accident. Giving someone the space and time necessary to access their intersection of neurology and linguistics is one of the greatest recurring gifts you can give.

“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.” – Bryant H. McGill

2. The trap of manipulation

Maintaining authenticity while attempting to move them from one thought to another simultaneously is a tall order. One could argue that it’s not possible, as there is no honor in attempting to control something you cannot control. Being authentic is all about showcasing the truth, and we don’t get to decide who identifies with it. Influence is a matter of choice, one that isn’t ours to make. Influence occurs when you take a stand for something with no agenda for who may join you in your efforts.

Removing our obsession with outcome keeps us grounded and powerful in our stand. We realize that all we have is the truth of our word. Should people come along and board our train, that’s wonderful. If they don’t, it doesn’t have to diminish our purpose. It can simply allow us to take responsibility to grow in our communication until we achieve the impact we desire.

3. The impact of our word

There’s no accountability level quite like that of our word. What we say has a cyclical effect on the thoughts that show up from our unconscious mind and vice versa. If we’re not careful, our word can lose weight like rapid fire.

If we’re up to something big in life, it’s not likely that we’re always going to keep our word. As imperfect and flawed human beings, the only way to keep your word 100% of the time is to play small. However, we can use this very same word to restore itself whenever our word isn’t in alignment with what happened.

By communicating our original agreement, the impact of what failing to keep our word resulted in, and what we’re going to install moving forward to minimize it from happening again, we are more integrous. This isn’t a fun conversation, but it’s a far more productive one with a much higher success rate than simply making excuses.

“Our words reveal our thoughts; manners mirror our self esteem; our actions reflect our character; our habits predict the future.” – William Ward

4. The propensity to attach

Many times in communication we find ourselves stuck. Whatever the occurrence that took place, it’s left us feeling a loss of power or expression as a result. This often shows up in cases where someone did not fulfill the expectations of another.

While it may be temporarily gratifying to hold the upper hand in a relationship, it robs us of our fulfillment. Far too often, we choose to remain hung up on our view of how things should be or should’ve gone instead of simply being present with the person we’re with. This is easier said than done, but it’s simply a matter of choice.

Communication doesn’t always have to be about right versus wrong. We can choose to communicate from a space of empowerment or disempowerment. We always have a choice. True communication is about relatedness, not selfishness. It’s about vulnerability, not immunity. Stepping outside of yourself for a moment to stand for another or something greater than yourself is an act of nobility you can perform every time you interact with someone.

What could be possible for you in the relationships in your life if you adopted these strategies? Let us know in the comments below!

Image courtesy of Twenty20.com

Dan Whalen is a franchise operator with College Hunks Hauling Junk & Moving, personal development writer, and NLP master practitioner. He has a background in business management and team leadership spanning nearly a decade, and has a deeply-rooted passion for helping people experience fulfilling lives. You can find him on Twitter at @DanielJWhalen.

Life

7 Ways You Can Increase Your Concentration Right Away

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In today’s world, an overabundance of information and a large number of distractions is making it increasingly difficult to concentrate on performing the necessary tasks. In this article, I propose 7 simple methods that will train your ability to concentrate, while not taking you from your usual activities. (more…)

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5 Simple Hacks to Help You Develop the Habit That Will Transform Your Life

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It’s excruciating when we know what’s killing us but we can’t do anything about it because as you know, it is not easy to pull the brake on a high way. According to Napoleon Hill, “remember this always – the best (and one might say the only) way in which old habits may be removed is to form new habits to counteract and replace the undesirable ones”. (more…)

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Life

Why Do We Have An Unconscious Bias and How Can We Manage It?

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When I hear someone using my name once in a while throughout the conversation we are having, I cannot stop myself thinking “this person must have read Dale Carnegie’s books or must have been influenced by someone who read them…” Have you just recalled a similar moment and it felt nice?

As Dale Carnegie famously said, “Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and the most important sound in any language”. Why did Dale Carnegie highlight the importance of an individual’s name to that person in his “How to Win Friends and Influence People” book published in 1936?

Each and every one of us wants to feel special and unique. I guess he recommends using the person’s name in the conversation because that is one of the easiest ways to grab that person’s attention so that we can enhance the chances of getting our point across. However, I am more interested in this from the other side; hearing our names directly addresses our individuality, our need or desire to feel special and unique.  

Let’s park this one for now and we will come back. 

Categorization is essential to our survival

There is countless scientific research telling us about how our brains recognize similarities and put things into categories, which has been crucial to our survival in evolution and still helps us with a lot of things from learning new things to coping with the continuous influx of massive amounts of information through our senses. 

The continuous influx of information is mostly handled by our subconscious mind rather than conscious. It is estimated that our brains receive about 11 million bits of information every second through our senses, of which only 40-50 bits can be processed by our conscious mind. We process more information than we are aware of. The magic here is the subconscious mind.

An example is when you are at a very loud party where you hear a lot of words flying around without you recognizing each one of them, then suddenly, you immediately catch it when you hear your name. Your subconscious had been processing all of those words, without your awareness, but informed your conscious mind when your name was out there because it was relevant to you.

In order to most effectively process this much information and inform the conscious mind with only the relevant ones, our subconscious employs categorization as one of its strategies.

When our ancestors encountered some deadly predators in the African savanna, their subconscious prompted their conscious mind to immediately fight or flight by categorizing the information gathered through their senses into “predator / life threat / take action”. Most probably we are not descendants of the ones that were frozen rather than fighting or flighting! 

Although it is a completely different situation, the same strategy applied in remembering lists. Let’s look at the below two lists.

  1. lion, eagle, shark, leopard, hawk, whale, panther, falcon and dolphin 
  2. lion, leopard, panther, eagle, hawk, falcon, shark, whale and dolphin

The second list is easy to remember because it is reordered into relevant groups even though the content of the both lists are identical.

Subconsciousness is the magic and categorization is one of its key strategies. It is essential to our survival, learning new skills and processing information as well as bringing back the information we had processed and stored. 

This amazing skill has its drawbacks

As a result of our brains’ categorization strategy, we also categorize people, especially if we don’t know them as well as our closest ones.

Imagine I am sitting at the table next to yours while you are having your favorite coffee and working on your computer or reading your novel at your neighborhood coffee shop. I stand up, very calmly grab your bag, and start walking away. Your reaction might be quite different depending on my outfit. It could be much more vocal and harsh if I have a dirty T-Shirt and a pair of torn jeans on. However, if I have some navy colored, 3-piece suit and well-pressed white button up shirt on, you might even say something like “Excuse me, you might have picked up my bag by mistake”. (There is an experiment done by social psychologists which reported similar results)

Similarly, I would not be surprised to hear that my co-worker’s spouse is very skilled and knowledgeable in English grammar and literature because he is an English teacher. However, I would not expect it from my co-worker herself because she is an outstanding chemical engineer.  

This is defined as unconscious bias or stereotyping, as a result of our subconscious brain’s categorization strategy. The outfit I have at the coffee shop impacts your response to my action, because it puts me into a different category in your mind depending on my outfit. My co-worker’s and her spouse’s backgrounds make me put them into different categories, which might mislead me sometimes.

Just like we categorize things, it is very natural that we categorize people.  

The key question here for me is; how do we truly treat people as individuals so that they feel unique, just like as they would want, while we know that our brains categorize people

We can overcome unconscious bias 

Leonard Mlodinow, in his enlightening book “Subliminal”, suggests that “if we are aware of our bias and motivated to overcome it, we can.” That doesn’t mean that we need to fight our brain’s categorization strategy. We just need to employ our conscious mind more when we are working or dealing with individuals. 

Our unconscious bias might tell us scientists are bunch of technical nerds who cannot understand abstract concepts that marketers are talking about or it might say that marketers are some daydreamers who need to be grounded by scientists to the real world all the time. I am an engineer and I love thinking in abstract terms and I worked with quite a lot of marketers who thought primarily in factual and concrete terms. 

Spending some effort to learn more about individuals will help overcome unconscious bias. Gathering more information and qualities about them will make it easier for us to treat them as individuals rather than a member of the category we put them in our minds. 

The moral of the story here is to recognize the fact that our brains do categorize, and it is essential; but also, to recognize that every individual wants to feel unique. When we appreciate these two and keep reminding them to ourselves, we are one step closer to figuring out our own way to overcome unconscious bias and treat people more like individuals. 

What was the most interesting part of this article for you? Share your thoughts below!

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Life

The Problem Is Not Actually the Problem: Here’s Why

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With my understanding of the Three Principles, which is deepening month-by-month, I’m becoming more curious about whether the ‘problem’ that we think we have, is really a problem. Not for one second am I dismissing a persons’ experience; I’m human after all and I encounter challenges and what I think are ‘problems’ just like the next person. (more…)

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