May 282012

Whether you are faced with having to apologize to a loved one or business partner here are a few antidotes to keep in mind:

S/he says, “I want to talk with you.  I’m really upset over how you rushed through lunch with me the other day after having me wait thirty minutes while you sent  text messages to God only knows who.  This was very inconsiderate and disrespectful and I don’t appreciate being treated this way.”

Can you picture yourself in this situation? Before the third sentence could be finished, the apologies had begun: “Yes, I know. I am very sorry. I tried to…”  And now you are on to the next thing.

Sometimes saying “I’m sorry” too soon does more harm than good. This is especially true when the apology comes before acknowledging the other person’s feelings. Because an apology should open the door to honest communication between people.

So how do you achieve this?

1. Don’t start off by saying “I’m sorry.” But I thought apologizing when you do something hurtful is a sign of good manners. It is, but the apology is not the best place to start. Listening is a better place to start.

2. Stop what you are doing and focus on the other person speaking. This is known as effective listening because it involves the use of both ears, your eyes and mind. Try not to fidget, Tweet or file your nails the other person is talking. Your undivided attention will mean more than words can express in the moment.

3. Resist the temptation to become defensive. This is a hard one for most of us because we don’t usually think of ourselves as capable of deliberately hurting someone else. Resist the temptation to start explaining or making excuses for our behavior. Because this too can be interpreted as hurtful.

4. Acknowledge what you just heard the other person say (even if you don’t totally agree with them). If there is a lesson for them to learn from you, the surest way to convey this is by modeling the behavior you would like to see from them.

5. Be courageous enough to ask whether there is anything else they want to share. Doing this can also be affective when coupled with a physical gesture of some sort. You may discover that the real source of anger and hurt feelings has less to do with you than originally thought.

6. Now it is time to apologize. And remember to keep it simple. A heartfelt “I’m sorry” or request that your apology be accepted in many cases will be sufficient. If you determine that what went wrong was your fault, then take full responsibility for what you did because an apology with an excuse is simply not an apology at all. But if you have listened to the other person and conclude that what happened is not your fault, then you could express regret or sadness for the other person’s feelings.

Good: “I am sorry [insert what you did wrong] was offensive.

Bad: “Please forgive me for [insert what you did wrong].

Good: “It saddens me that you feel bad.”

Bad: ” You should have seen it coming.”

7. Express appreciation for the other person. An apology coupled with action steps for every involved to take in the future can be one of the most powerful ways to add mutual benefits to an apology.

The entire process described here should take no more than a few minutes, but makes the difference between a thriving relationship and a stifling one. Give yourself the benefit of what you truly are: one who listens, one who cares, one who is patient.


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May 282012

No one is perfect, even the most accomplished of us make mistakes or have problem areas in our personal or professional lives. What’s more, sometimes we’re not even aware of our weaknesses. That’s why embracing criticism can lead to positive changes in our lives.

Criticism can be constructive or destructive. This article will focus on the former because it generally follows good intentions and we care a lot about sharing messages that are encouraging. We begin with a simple definition. Constructive criticism points out problem areas where you might improve and are usually framed in a way that makes them useful for this purpose. In many cases it is a parent, friend, mentor, coach, teacher or your boss.

Although accepting any kind of criticism can be difficult, it’s important to keep an open mind towards constructive criticism. Consider who is criticizing you. Is it in that person’s best interest to see you succeed or fail? If by making personal improvements you might enhance your critics own success, there’s a strong chance their intentions are positive.

If you’ve judged that the source your criticism is positive, the next step is to listen with humility. Remember that although you’re not perfect in some ways, neither is your critic. Perhaps if the situation were different, you would be the one who could enhance the other person’s life by providing critical feedback. Only by listening carefully can you learn in situation like this one.

Once someone has helped you outline areas were improvement is both a possibility and necessity, then you can move forward to evaluate the critique. Were your trouble spots areas you knew you had problems with, or did the critique come as a surprise? Did your critic base their judgment on a pattern they were in a position to observe, or did they base their judgment on a single event? Did your critic offer advice on ways you might improve your performance? Or did they merely pass judgment?

Even the best critics may not have the expertise or experience to offer suggestions for ways to improve. In this case, you should consider their bringing a problem area to your attention as a true gift, the sort which comes from someone you respect. In other cases only part of a critic’s advice may be valid. It’s up to you to decide what parts may be at least partially true. Most of all, always remember that it does no good to take constructive criticism as a personal attack on your abilities or character. Even if your critics intention were to hurt you, it remains your choice the weight and value to assign it.

If you find yourself feeling angry or defensive, remember that those feeling may just be your minds way of defending habits or behaviors you know deep down need improvement, but that are also difficult to change. Making changes to improve ourselves is never without some stress. It may be that we’ve chosen to do something in a particular way because it was the best choice available at the time. Or it could have been simply easier.

For example, do you remember first learning to tie shoelaces? At first it was hard to do, it required us to hold opposite ends of an object in different hands while trying to cross them at just the right time and dimensions in order to get the perfect knot. Before long tying your shoelaces became second nature, you could now do it in the dark.

Try to remember other times in the past when you’ve learned a new skill or were put in a new situation. Did things get easier over time? Perhaps the areas you’ve been offered constructive criticism about are similar to this. Change may be hard at first, but in the end the improvement you’ve made probably won’t take any extra thought at all, and you’ll be able to take pride in doing something else well.

When giving or receiving constructive criticism, remember to evaluate the negative and positive points your critic brought up equally. When someone is evaluating you it’s likely they will purposely point out areas where you’ve done well alongside areas that could use improvement. Take care to notice this praise; it might ease the emotional sting that comes with being confronted with your weaknesses.

In cases where you judge a critic’s advice invalid, accept the situation gracefully. It’s rare that getting angry or holding a grudge against someone will lead to a positive outcome. In most cases you’ll be the one left to bare the stress. Because holding on to negative experiences gives away important tools necessary to reach your goals, namely, power over your health and well being.

Remember, the most important thing you can learn from constructive criticism is that inside each and every person is an even better person waiting to emerge. And when you’re in the position to offer constructive criticism to someone else, you can use what you’ve learned to make your message to them stronger causing a ripple effect of people drawing closer to the better person within.

May 282012

Let’s face it. It’s never easy to deal with rejection, no matter what part of our life it may affect. Learning to deal with rejection can be very difficult, not only in our personal life but also in our professional life. It’s critical that a person listen and understand what you’re offering someone, so you receive a positive reaction. More importantly, it’s essential that YOU understand their needs and are able to articulate your thoughts and express your ideas clearly and to the point. The following information will hopefully teach you how to deal with rejection and even avoid it altogether if you can.

Before you decide to make a pitch for business, ask yourself a few basic questions. First, do you understand the needs, desires and problems of your client? This first step is the foundation, in how to deal with rejection or to prevent it in the first place. Successful people know and understand that it is critical to know their customer before approaching them or coming to a meeting. Most people jump right in and start making their sales pitch too quickly after the word “Hello…” you have just met the person they have no idea who you are and what you are about. This may result, in getting your idea or a sale pitch rejected early in the conversation. When we do this we tend to give the wrong or unnecessary information that has no value to the client. Take time to introduce yourself build relationship with you client. Impress them by addressing their company’s successes and then slowly show them how your service or product will be of value to them. This is done by being prepared before the actual meeting, through the research you complied beforehand.

Next, the one thing many people forget to do is “Listen.” This goes along way. The person may give you some hints as to what they want, need and don’t need or want. So don’t just ask questions of your audience or client. You have to listen carefully to what they are saying to you or how they respond to each question presented. Too often people are poised with the right questions to ask but fall short when it comes to listening for cues in the other person’s response. Remember, there is a purpose for us having two ears and only one mouth. This purpose is so that we learn to listen twice as much as we speak.

In most cases, the failure to listen occurs because we are either nervousness or lack preparation. So, before entering any meeting take three long and deep breaths, this will help you calm down and allows for time necessary to avoid getting all choked up.

Pay particular attention to physical cues as well. Everyone has some tell tale sign or important signals during the course of a conversation. This is most definitely true when confronting another in person and it can be applicable to other means of communications, such as telephone calls, IMs, email and texting. Some are verbal and some are non-verbal cues, listen to the tone of their voice and watch their body language. Be aware of long pauses, their use of punctuation, facial expressions, eye contact, etc. Most of our daily communication is done through unspoken elements. Listen to the words carefully also, listen for disagreeing words, the tone of the voice and the person’s facial expressions.

According to psychological research 7% of interpersonal communication is verbal and 96% of interpersonal communication is through our vocal tone and general body language.

So remember it is important to listen with your ears, but also with their eyes. If you follow the above advice, you will not only be able to deal with rejection but, you will find that you will not receive as many rejections as you have in the past. One last thing to remember, don’t think of negative response as a failure but, as chance to improve your sales pitch. If you do get a negative result, make sure you ask for feedback. So you don’t make the same mistake twice. Good luck, be healthy and successful.