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how to improve communication skills

September 12, 2022

4 Ways To Improve Your Communication Skills

When a leader thinks about effective communication skills, they’re focusing on the different ways in which we give and receive information. The ability to communicate is essential in all fields, but nowhere is it more vital than in the workplace. If you can't communicate effectively with other people, you will create unnecessary problems and be much less effective at what you do.

Have you ever had a boss you knew would give you their undivided attention and honest feedback? Conversely, have you ever had a boss whose feedback was vague and unclear? I've encountered a wide range of communicators during my journey as an entrepreneur, and I've tried to learn lessons from all of them. 

Communication with others can take many forms. Whether you're in an in-person meeting or sending a quick email to your boss, it's essential to communicate effectively and respectfully. Here are four ways you can be a better communicator.

  1. Be clear, brief, and specific

Communication is all about getting your point across. You risk being misunderstood if what you’re saying or writing is unclear, vague, or overly wordy. Be as clear and as concise as possible to get your point across. You should also be as specific as possible; avoid unnecessary words or overly descriptive language that can muddle or weaken your message.

  1. Always be prepared

Before you make a phone call, begin a presentation, or send an email, you should have a plan. No one appreciates having their time wasted, so go in with all of the information you need close at hand. If you’re dealing with a client, try and anticipate their questions so you can be ready to answer them. If you’re in a meeting or on a phone call, write down notes to refer to during the conversation to help guide you.

  1. Give your undivided attention

We all live busy lives, full of people who demand our attention at any moment. I’ve learned the importance of giving each task my full and undivided attention while building three companies. If you try to send an email to your boss while on the phone with a client, you may find yourself inattentive to both conversations. Always give your full attention to the other person, listening closely, and responding only when you feel you have heard everything they say.

  1. Don't be afraid to ask questions

Communication is a two-way process. If you’re unsure about something someone has said, never presume their meaning. It’s always better to clarify with a question than to misunderstand. Follow up with an email after a meeting to confirm that you have all the necessary information.

Tips To Improve Face-to-Face Communication Skills

While we've all been in meetings that could have been handled better via email, face-to-face communication is still the best way to hold meaningful discussions with others. Here are several tips for improving your communication skills during face-to-face conversations.

Although we may wish otherwise, not all conversations will be pleasant or lighthearted. You may have to fire an employee, have a difficult discussion with your boss, or disagree with your colleagues during a meeting. Practice civil discourse by speaking truthfully and respectfully while allowing others to disagree.  Avoid the temptation to lose your temper or interrupt the other person.  As long as you speak truthfully and listen to the other person’s point of view, it is possible to have difficult conversations civilly.

  • Practice active listening

When it comes to improving communication skills, listening is equally as important as speaking.  Practice active listening by giving the person speaking your complete attention.  Don't interrupt them, and make eye contact if possible.  While the other person is speaking, don't spend time formulating your own response; instead, take a moment once they’ve finished considering what you’d like to say next.  When you reply, paraphrase what they said to ensure you understand it.  Ask questions if you need more information before responding.

  • Focus on nonverbal communication

Language is just one of the ways in which human beings communicate.  Our body language can share many things that our words do not, from our facial expressions to the gestures we make.  If you’re a manager leading a meeting, be mindful of your employees’ body language.  While they may not say anything to raise a concern, they may be communicating discomfort or disagreement through crossed arms.  Be mindful of your nonverbal communication, as you want your body language to match your message.

  • Ask for honest feedback

Giving and receiving criticism can be awkward for both parties, but feedback is critical to personal growth.  To encourage others to communicate freely, ask for honest feedback when needed.  Most people will say what’s on their minds when given an invitation to do so.  The more you ask for honest feedback from your colleagues, the more you’ll learn how to improve your communication skills.

Civil Discourse

self reflection questions

September 9, 2022

Self Reflection Questions: 57 Questions You Should Ask Yourself

What Is Self Reflection?

Self-reflection is the core of self-awareness. Through introspection and asking yourself "why" questions, you can gain a better understanding of your actions and behavior. If you regularly reflect on your life, you may notice that you're unhappy in some areas—such as your friendships, career, or self-care. Asking these questions will help you identify changes you can make to improve your mental and physical well-being.

What Are The Self Reflection Questions?

There are countless topics to reflect on, but we’ll focus on the ones that enable the most personal growth. We’ll also look at topics pertaining to civil discourse to see why it’s an important part of a balanced life.

Self-reflection questions help you to get to know yourself better by tapping into your thoughts and emotions. They allow you to identify your strengths and weaknesses, your core beliefs and values, so that you can grow.

Introspection—the process of reviewing thoughts, feelings and behaviors—is one powerful way to make positive changes in your life. Research shows that we think more than 6,000 thoughts per day, of which more than half are negative and more than 90% are just repeats from the day before. These self reflection questions can help you become aware of your thought patterns.

Questions about childhood memories

Childhood is a significant time in our lives that can help us become the people we are meant to be. Reflecting on your childhood memories can help explain why you make the decisions you do today. Here are some questions to ask yourself about your childhood:

  1. What was it like growing up?
  2. Did you have any experiences that felt traumatizing or overwhelming?
  3. Were your needs being met as a child?
  4. What is your favorite childhood memory?

Questions about mental health

The way we prioritize our mental health can have a huge impact on our lives. These questions can help you determine how you care for your mental health.

  1. How do you de-stress?
  2. Do you have a support network?  Who is at the top of it?
  3. On a scale from 1 to 10, how is your mental health right now?
  4. Are you too hard on yourself?

Questions about physical health

You can neglect your physical health in many ways. Consider the ways in which you care for your body and how you can improve to live a healthier life.

  1. Do you have any habits that are bad for your health?
  2. What activities may you feel physically well?
  3. Is exercise a part of your life? How so?
  4. What is your relationship like with food?
  5. How do you deal with burnout?

Questions about routines and daily life

The best way to get an objective view of our lives is to look at our daily routines. These self-reflection questions can help us see what works and what doesn’t.

  1. Do you have a morning routine?  Does it leave you feeling excited and energized for the day?
  2. What is your nighttime routine like?  Do you fall asleep easily?
  3. Do you leave yourself enough free time during the day?  How do you fill it?
  4. Name one thing you’d like to make time to do every day.

Questions about work

It can be challenging to integrate work into our lives in a healthy way.  Ask yourself these questions for introspection on whether or not you have a healthy work-life balance.

  1. When you’re not at work, are you able to leave work thoughts behind?
  2. Does your workplace encourage civil discourse on tough discussions?
  3. How do you feel about your job?  If it’s not fulfilling, are there ways to find fulfillment?
  4. If you could have any career without having to worry about money, what would you choose?

Questions about family relationships

Regardless of how close you are to your family, family relationships have a huge effect on our sense of security and stability. Here are some self-reflection questions to help you learn how you define family.

  1. Are you close with your biological family?  If not, do you have close friends who you would consider family?
  2. Does your family support your life decisions?  Are you able to have respectful conversations when you disagree?
  3. Do you spend quality time with your family?
  4. How important is the concept of family in your life?

Questions about friendships

No two friendships are alike.  Ask yourself these self reflection questions to determine how the friends in your life uplift or hinder you.

  1. Who would you call if you needed help?
  2. Do you make an effort to be there for your friends in their time of need?
  3. How do you handle disagreements with friends?  Are you able to forgive easily?
  4. What is most important to you in a friendship?

Questions about romantic relationships

Romantic relationships can be incredibly fulfilling.  They can also illuminate many things about ourselves that we may not be aware of or want to admit.

  1. What do you want from a relationship?
  2. Describe your dream partner.
  3. What is your love language?
  4. How do you maintain boundaries and independence when in a relationship?

Questions about self-care

Many of the things we consider to be self-care are actually self-destructive acts in disguise. These questions for self reflection will help you identify and change destructive habits.

  1. What do you consider self-care?
  2. Do any of your self-care practices hurt you in any way?
  3. Do you make time for self-care even when pursuing a personal or professional goal?
  4. Do you focus on caring for others and neglect yourself?

Questions about dreams/goals

Our dreams motivate us through periods of doubt.  These self reflection questions will help you identify what motivates you to overcome obstacles.

  1. What is a dream you have that you’re embarrassed to admit?
  2. Name 5 short term and 5 long term goals.
  3. Do you feel like you’re living your dreams?
  4. What are you willing to do to go after your dreams?

Questions about past trauma

As human beings, we’re often tempted to gloss over or ignore past trauma to protect ourselves.  By facing these incidents head-on, we can heal from the pain and emerge stronger than before.

  1. Is there any past trauma that you haven’t dealt with?
  2. How do you feel about pursuing professional help?  Are you willing to ask for help if needed?
  3. Have you healed from your past traumas?
  4. What do you do when you feel triggered or retraumatized? 

Questions about bad habits

Many of us have bad habits that we don’t even realize we’re doing.  Here are a few questions that will help you identify and eliminate bad habits.

  1. What are your bad habits and what are their consequences?
  2. Are you willing to practice contrary action?
  3. What good habits can you replace your bad habits with?
  4. Have you ever been in addiction?  If so, how did you deal with it?

Questions about interests

Our interests help sustain us and offer us a sense of excitement outside of our work lives.  These self reflection questions will examine the ways in which your interests uplift your life.

  1. Name 10 interests outside of work.  
  2. Now name 5 interests you’d like to pursue that you haven’t.
  3. How can you make more time for the things that interest you?
  4. Is there a group you can join to meet up with people with similar interests?

Questions about personal wellness and happiness

While there’s no fool-proof path to happiness, we can take steps towards a happy and contented life when we identify what brings us joy.

  1. Are you happy overall?
  2. How do you define happiness?
  3. What’s something you can do right now to bring more joy into your life?
  4. What steps can you take to improve your emotional well being?

Self-reflection is a valuable tool for all of us, no matter our circumstance. Whether you’re a CEO, a student, or an entrepreneur, self-reflection can help you better understand yourself and the world around you. The more you understand what makes you tick, the easier it will be to find ways to improve your life.

As you go through life, you will undergo major changes that will alter who you are. These self-reflection questions will help you get a better sense of who you are right now and what changes you can make for the better.

Civil Discourse

listening barriers

September 8, 2022

Barriers To Listening: 5 Tips On Being A Better Listener

When it comes to communicating, talking is easy–listening, not so much.  Listening involves more than just hearing what someone is saying. When you’re truly listening to someone, you’re taking in information and processing it. You're also paying attention to body language and other signals that might help your understanding of what the person is trying to convey.

Research suggests that we listen with only 25% efficiency, meaning that three out of four times we communicate, we misinterpret what the other person is saying or fail to retain it accurately. These miscommunications occur because of several barriers to effective listening that many of us are guilty of.

Why Active Listening Is Important

Active listening is one of the most powerful tools you can have at your disposal.  As a founder, I’ve learned that listening—and being open to the opinions of my peers—is key to being an effective leader. Not only does it prevent avoidable mistakes, but it’s also vital in respecting and understanding others. Active listening provides you with accurate information, making it easier for you to communicate, collaborate and make decisions.

What Are The Common Barriers To Listening?

I’ve found that while a number of barriers to effective listening exist, they generally fall into two categories: external and internal.  Here are a few external and internal listening barriers that can get in the way of active listening.

External Listening Barriers

Noise

It’s incredibly challenging to listen effectively when you’re concentrating on filtering out background noise. Too much noise from side conversations or phone alerts will distract you from what the other person is saying.

Visual distraction

Sights have the power to distract as much as sounds. A movement out of the corner of your eye, people coming and going, or staring out the window can all pose barriers to active listening.

Physical setting

The physical environment you’re in can hinder your ability to listen. For example, if you’re outside in the hot sun, in a crowded space, or in any setting that causes discomfort, it will be more difficult for you to actively listen.

Objects

While some people believe playing with personal items can help them pay attention, it often distracts them from listening. Playing with a pen or a piece of jewelry can be a barrier to active listening.

The person speaking

Your personal feelings about the person speaking can be one of the biggest barriers to listening.  Talking with a close friend, someone you don’t like, or someone you find attractive/unattractive can all cause distractions.

Internal Listening Barriers

Anxiety

If your mind is worried about something unrelated to what you’re discussing, then this can distract you from the conversation.  Anxious thoughts will prevent you from actively listening to what’s being said.

Self-centeredness

When you’re talking with someone, it’s important to give them your full attention.  Self-centered thoughts can take you away from their words and distract you with your own thoughts instead.

Mental laziness

We don’t always want to listen to what’s being said to us.  If we’re listening to complicated information, we might be tempted to tune it out to avoid having to follow along.

Boredom

Boredom is another barrier to effective listening that can be difficult to overcome.  If you’re uninterested in the subject you’re discussing, it takes much more effort to pay attention.

Sense of superiority

Listening is all about taking in information you may not already know.  If you believe you have nothing to learn from someone, this can prevent you from listening to what they have to say.

Cognitive dissonance

Our preconceived notions can shape what we hear instead of allowing us to listen objectively.  If we believe something strongly enough, then we might wind up interpreting what’s being said to support our opinion.

Bias

Bias may cause us to disregard the other speaker entirely.  If we have a bias that doesn’t allow us to change our beliefs, then anything that doesn’t match that belief will be ignored.

Impatience

The less efficient the communicator, the more difficult it is to listen.  We may let impatience with a slow communicator interfere with what we hear.

How To Eliminate These Barriers To Listening

We have now answered the question, “what are the barriers to active listening?” But how exactly do we overcome them? To help you become a better listener, here are 5 practices I use in my own life.

  1. Practice Civil Discourse

Civil discourse is a helpful mindset to practice in order to be a better listener.  It encompasses many practices that encourage listening over speaking to allow for a better exchange of ideas. To practice civil discourse, don’t interrupt or have side conversations.  You should also listen for the content of what others are saying rather than assuming.

  1. Ask Questions

Asking questions will help you ensure that you fully understand what other people have to say.  If you’re unclear about anything that’s being said, feel free to ask questions to clarify or request additional information.  Asking questions also reduces boredom and impatience by allowing you to engage and extract the information you need.

  1. Set Aside Your Own Bias

We all have opinions, but these opinions can get in the way of truly listening to what another person is saying.  While you obviously can’t change your opinion at will, try to take a moment to set aside your preconceived notions before a discussion.  This will help you listen to what’s being said in an objective way without responding emotionally or being dismissive.

  1. Prioritize The Other Person

It can be easy to let internal and external listening barriers distract us during a conversation.  Make active listening a priority by dealing with any external barriers as they arise.  If you’re in a noisy area, move to a quieter one.  If you find yourself fidgeting with something, set it out of reach.  If you find your mind wandering, ask the person to repeat themselves to bring yourself back on track.

  1. Listen More Than You Talk

A good ratio to strive for is to listen twice as much as you talk.  If you have a point that you want to make while another person is speaking, write it down for later reference and let them finish their dialogue.  If you focus on listening more than talking, you’ll make active listening a habit before long.

Poor listeners will often interrupt the speaker, formulate opinions while the other person is still talking and rush to judgement. The above listening barriers can hurt us by preventing us from effectively taking in information. Follow these tips to overcome these barriers to listening and be a better communicator.

Civil Discourse

stand up for what you believe in

September 7, 2022

6 Steps to Respectfully Stand Up for Your Beliefs

Your beliefs are the foundation of your personality. Firmly rooted in your ancestry, upbringing, and life experiences, they shape your narrative and define your life’s 

key moments. Your beliefs work behind the scenes to guide your everyday actions. 

Not only do your beliefs shape who you are, they also provide a moral compass for your life. To stand up for them, you must first determine what values and principles you abide by. Only then can you articulate those beliefs with passion and conviction.

​​The Benefits of Speaking Up for What You Believe In 

Expressing your beliefs is the key to living authentically and in alignment with your values. Taking a stand for your convictions helps you deal with life challenges in a level-headed manner. Here are some reasons you should work on speaking up for your own beliefs:

  • Preventing identity loss. Your individuality separates you from the crowd. Defending your beliefs establishes your identity and guards your voice against getting lost in the crowd.
  • Building respect. Sticking up for your beliefs builds self-respect. Going against your values just because it's more convenient is less than admirable. Standing your ground shows that you aren't a pushover and can voice your opinions.
  • Gaining confidence. Standing up for your beliefs is not easy at first. You may doubt yourself, be hesitant and feel awkward. But each time you do it, you’ll get better at it and gain more confidence. So step out of your comfort zone and speak up whenever you can!
  • Bringing about change. Expressing your values makes an impact in society. It helps bring attention to issues that may have been overlooked and can affect the lives of people who share your belief system.

How to Defend Your Beliefs 

When someone disrespects your beliefs or pressures you into changing them, it’s important to speak up. I’m not advocating for responding to fire with fire but rather being firm in what you believe and standing up for your rights. It might be difficult at first and you might offend people close to you, but it’s essential for protecting your self-esteem. Here are six steps you can use to defend your beliefs:

  1. Know your audience: Before standing up for your ideologies, know who you’re talking to. Are you speaking to a friend, a family member, or a stranger? Each audience requires a different approach.
  1. Select your words carefully: Your word choice is crucial when defending your beliefs. Make a clear stand and maintain a respectful demeanor. Refrain from using inflammatory language that might come across as argumentative. 
  1. Be prepared for pushback: Not everyone will resonate with your beliefs, and that’s fine. When people challenge you back, be ready to explain why you hold those beliefs. Have supporting evidence, statistics, or examples ready.
  1. Make room for different perspectives: While it’s important to voice your values, making space for other views is also vital. Turn the discussion into a civil discourse where everyone can safely express their beliefs. You don’t have to agree with everything they say, but you must respect their right to hold those beliefs.
  1. Address self-doubt: Rejection is inevitable in life, but it can lead to self-doubt and a lack of confidence. If you’re able to acknowledge that failure is a natural part of the process to success and know that you’re worth more than a rejection, you can move forward with your beliefs intact.
  1. Practice detachment: When you stand up for what you believe in, you are making your opinion known and letting others know where you stand. Detachment isn't a call to avoid conflict; it's the acceptance that sometimes people will disregard your beliefs even though they know where you stand.

Negotiating Better and Integrating Beliefs In Your Life 

Seeking out perspectives that oppose your own helps you break out of your echo chamber. Civil discourse is a fantastic tool for negotiating with people holding onto different beliefs, listening to each other's stances, and showing respect for opposing views.

Civil discourse is about truly listening to understand, rather than pretending to be polite. It enables you to amplify your beliefs and question the preconceived notions that help you evolve as a human. It provides a learning space for everyone.

When you stand up for what you believe in and break out of your comfort zone, you will build respect for yourself, gain confidence and discover who you really are. It may not be easy at first but it’s really quite simple to do. Start by finding out what your beliefs are and let go of your fears, quit doubting yourself and keep practicing. Civil discourse is essential to foster a healthy discussion.

Civil Discourse

respect opinions

September 6, 2022

How to Respect Opinions Even When You Disagree

Difference of opinion is inevitable in any diverse society, but showing respect for opinions (whether you agree or not) is important for maintaining positive relationships.

When you can respect opinions you disagree with, you will be able to connect with others on a deeper level and build trust, which will open your mind to new ideas. Being respectful requires self-esteem, self-control, sensitivity, tolerance and fairness. As we mature, we’re expected to develop respect for everyone's opinions and not just those that belong to ourselves.

Many people are rigid about their opinions. Some even tend to disagree if what others say goes against their beliefs. But you can always find common ground by conducting civil discourse.

Opinions are the expression of your unique way of viewing the world. Your opinions reflect your upbringing, life experiences, education, and other cognitive biases. People with similar opinions may be drawn to one another, but a group of people with differing viewpoints can also be engaging and stimulating. You might not always agree with others, but it's important to respect their views. 

Here's a complete guide on how you can learn to accept people's opinions even if you disagree.

The Right to Have an Opinion

There is some debate about whether or not we all have a right to our opinions. While opinions are subjective, they may be based on facts such as when someone's opinion is grounded in technical expertise, for example, a legal opinion.

It's interesting how people feel strongly about the things they believe in. Their beliefs shape their worldviews, so it's natural to feel slightly rejected when someone disagrees with you. But it's also important to remember that everyone has a right to his or her own opinion.

Disagreements will happen. But you can choose to listen carefully and respectfully, and to communicate your feelings civilly. A world without such disagreements is a world without innovation and change. 

What Does Respecting Others' Opinions Look Like?

Scrolling through social media will often reveal people arguing aggressively over differing views. However, we don't always have to be hostile towards opposing ideas. Avoid heated debates - they never end well. Learn to separate your feelings from the issue at hand and analyze if someone else's opinions are valid in the context of their life experience. Arguing and undermining other people's beliefs will not help us grow. We learn by gaining new perspectives and widening our understanding.

Respect people's opinions and you'll be able to engage in civil discourse, which is vital for idea sharing. Humility and kindness are highly valued qualities. It shows you're willing to listen, even when it's hard. This will earn you respect even from people who disagree with you.

Disagreeing with someone doesn't have to be unpleasant. Here are some ways to respect differences:

  • Admit when you've made a mistake

When you notice your own flaws, you have two choices: either get defensive or accept your fault. The first choice will put your self-respect at stake and trap you in a never-ending argument. The second choice will help you take a solution-oriented approach that leaves no room for hurt feelings and burnt bridges.

  • When you disagree, listen to the other side patiently

Be curious about opposing views. Ask people why they hold those opinions and listen to them patiently. You may not agree with everything they say, but active listening will help you understand the ground of their views, which will make it easier to counter their arguments.

  • Don't raise your voice

You don't always need to prove yourself right. It’s fine to politely communicate your feelings and opinions in response, but yelling and being argumentative shows a lack of respect for the other person. The point isn’t to “win”, so there’s no reason to be aggressive. Agreeing to disagree is sometimes the most productive solution to a conflict.

  • Be polite and kind

Kindness and respect are intertwined. If you can be kind in the midst of a disagreement, you'll earn people's respect.

If you understand why someone believes what they say, it's easier to empathize with them. Despite differences, it's possible to coexist in a gray area without imposing your ideas on others.

  • Don't call others' opinions wrong.

Opinions reflect personal choices, not facts. It’s unnecessary to feel threatened or argue over which opinion is correct, because oftentimes, no one is “right”. The best way to learn how to respect someone's opinions is to consider how you'd want other people to behave when you share your perspective. This reminder will help you reciprocate respectfully with contrarian views.

The Benefits of Respecting others' Opinions in the Workplace

Showing respect toward others' opinions creates a cooperative environment. Be it at home or in the workplace, respecting diverse opinions yields excellent benefits, as mentioned below:

  1. People feel motivated to share their ideas.
  1. Employees don't engage in trivial office politics and are more satisfied.
  1. A healthy workplace culture is cultivated. 
  1. People engage in civil discourse that facilitates knowledge sharing.
  1. Teammates bond faster and develop enriching relationships. 
  1. Mindful listening widens the perspective to new ways of approaching the situation. 
  1. Being considerate of others' opinions earns you their respect.

Everyone has the power to think and reason. Differences in opinions have led to many innovations in the world. If we can benefit from diverse views, then we must also reap their benefits in our professional and personal lives.

Tips for How to Oppose or Respectfully Disagree 

Respect everyone's opinions, but don't be afraid to express your own. If you want to reach a conclusion that everyone can agree on, try using a civil approach. It might help avoid future clashes and disputes. 

Here are some solution-oriented tips to help you respectfully disagree:

  1. Stick to facts instead of emotions and opinions.
  1. Avoid making the person feel small for holding certain beliefs.
  1. Use "I" statements to communicate what you think and feel. Encourage similar behavior from the other side. For example, instead of saying, "This is not true," try saying, "I don't think this is true. Here's why."
  1. Ask questions to understand the root of opposing opinions and listen carefully.
  1. Have a civil approach and find a middle ground by agreeing to some parts of the discussion.
  1. Stay calm while explaining your perspective.
  1. Remember that you only disagree on one topic. This shouldn't change your relationship with the person.
  1. Agree to disagree if you can’t come to a middle ground.
  1. Walk away from the conversation if the other person turns hostile. Don't get defensive and escalate the situation.

A healthy self-esteem is the first step toward being respectful of others. Respect yourself enough to be honest with yourself and others. Understand that you are your priority—not what someone else wants or expects from you. When you accept that some relationships aren't meant to last, it's easier to move on from them.

Constructive Opinion and Destructive Critique

Opinions in the form of feedback come in two forms: destructive and constructive. Both types of feedback point out our mistakes, flaws, or potential improvements. While constructive criticism offers suggestions and possible solutions, destructive criticism is cutting, derogatory, or even mocks our failures.

Seek constructive feedback to improve your work. Ignore destructive criticism, which adds negativity and fosters self-doubt. Here are some ways you can differentiate between constructive feedback and negative criticism:

  • Intention - Constructive criticism keeps your best interest at heart. Destructive criticism aims to humiliate or insult the other person.
  • Focus of criticism - Positive feedback focuses on improving your shortcomings. Destructive critique leans toward personal attacks.
  • Nature - Productive criticism offers an actionable, solution-oriented approach. Destructive opinions are mostly vague and demeaning without any clear takeaways.

Always welcome constructive criticism with an open mind. Ask questions to understand their feedback, and use that feedback to improve yourself. Don't let destructive critique get you down; it's only words, not bullets.

To grow and learn, acknowledge your own beliefs and those of others. Create an environment where disparate points of view can be expressed respectfully. Civil discourse is the best tool at your disposal to build healthy, collaborative relationships.

Civil Discourse

productive conflict

September 5, 2022

The Art of Productive Conflict: Learn How to Turn Disagreements Into Opportunities for Growth

As an entrepreneur, I know what it feels like to be stressed out by the fast-paced work environment. While building a startup is challenging in itself, extra stress can arise among teams if conflict is avoided entirely. Most entrepreneurs avoid disputes in order to avoid discomfort, but this leads to poor results and more stress on top of their already busy lives.

While growing three purpose-driven startups, I’ve found that avoiding conflict does more harm than good. If you don’t communicate your disagreements clearly with the team, they’ll execute even bad plans. You may avoid disrupting peace in the short term, but in the long run, it will inhibit growth and progress in your company. Managing conflict productively is vital for avoiding undue stress and fostering an environment brimming with growth opportunities.

What is Productive Conflict?

Resolving any dispute requires a culture that encourages respectful communication and civil discourse. All team members should feel comfortable having open conversations where they can freely exchange ideas to reach a common ground.

Communicating civilly can help you turn a sticky situation into an opportunity for growth. Productive conflict is about having a healthy interaction with another person with a clear goal of dispute resolution. Positive conflict allows you to voice your disagreements with someone in a respectful tone, so that you can learn from one another and find solutions together.

There are numerous benefits that you’ll gain from embracing productive conflict. These include:

  1. Reducing workplace stress and increasing productivity.
  2. Making it easier to embrace and process contrasting ideas.
  3. Creating a solution-oriented environment teeming with growth opportunities.
  4. Nurturing mutual respect and holistic growth of all parties involved.

Components of Productive Conflict

Regardless of the size or nature of your company, productive conflict had three common characteristics:

  1. Have empathy for others

Conflict creates gaps in understanding. Empathy—putting yourself in the other person’s shoes—can help you understand why things broke down in the first place.

  1. Give respect to all parties

Respect is a powerful force in building relationships, allowing people to work together toward achieving common goals. Just demonstrating respect in a conversation can improve your relationship with another person.

  1. Focus on the problem

Focus on fixing the problem at hand, not winning the argument. Encourage everyone to bring their ideas to the table and work together toward a solution.

Creating Productive Conflict: A 2 Step Method

When you have a plan in place for how to resolve conflict, it’s much easier to do so. Here’s a simple formula for creating productive conflict in the workplace:

  1. Be aware

In order to overcome conflict, understanding is key. Understanding the problem, your own position, mindset, and communication style as well as those of the person opposing you are all vital parts of resolving disputes peacefully.

To address a problem, first acknowledge that it exists. Second, create an environment conducive to civil discourse by being respectful of others' viewpoints and listening to their input. Also, understand the root cause of the conflict so you can move forward productively.

  1. Find Common Ground

Once you’ve taken a moment to pause, get everyone involved to focus on finding a potential common ground. Let everyone present their perspective, listen to each other’s points of view in a civil manner, and carve out the best possible way to resolve the issue at hand. 

The true art of productive conflict lies reaching a mutual agreement, and that requires common ground between opposing parties.

Productive vs. Destructive Conflict

Conflict arises when people have different opinions or work ethics. With multiple people working in close proximity, potential for conflict is inevitable.

When people are not aware of their behavior, conflicts can be destructive. In such cases, two parties may unconsciously become absorbed in an argument that saps their motivation and frustrates them. The mood of the entire team sinks and no progress is made.

Destructive conflict happens when you focus on the person, not the issue. When this happens, your team members may look for ways to deny responsibility and pass the blame to someone else. This shows that they're not trying to solve a problem; instead, they're looking to pass blame to protect their egos.

We can fix things by adopting a solution-oriented approach. This means we must reflect on the conflict from a new perspective and determine how to move forward.

To turn conflict into a growth opportunity, both parties must adopt a civil mindset and let all participants speak freely. This approach helps you build trust and enrich relationships with your team members, and it brings harmony to the entire team.

Role of the Leader in Productive Conflict

A strong leader will drive conflicts to a productive solution in their workplace. They involve all team members in decision-making, getting everyone to focus on the bigger picture. They seek not a single star performer within the team, but rather success as a whole.

A good leader is transparent and honest with their team. They communicate clearly and respectfully, building trust. This allows them to solve conflicts within the group in a productive way.

Ultimately, the leader should try to build a cohesive team where individual goals are aligned with the team’s targets. This will help ensure that everyone is working in sync to meet all challenges and that your team remains productive even amid conflict and strife.

Conclusion

Conflict is inevitable in the workplace. When faced with unproductive conflict, you must bring the issue out into the open. Then everyone must work to address it head on. Some people will need to develop more sensitivity to detect when people are getting uncomfortable, and others need to become more comfortable making their thoughts and opinions heard. 

Teams that work together respectfully, and are willing to adjust their communication style, can engage in productive conflict that leads to success.

Civil Discourse

leadership soft skills

September 2, 2022

10 Soft Skills that are Crucial for Leadership

The best leaders not only know how to work with numbers, they know how to work with people. Skills like empathic communication, active listening, and body language are “soft skills” and are essential to productive leadership.

As we embrace an automated future, people are investing more in learning technical skills. However, I’d argue that soft skills will become more critical as we settle into the age of automation.

 Being an entrepreneur, I’ve met several successful leaders. One of the biggest things I found common in them was - a good grasp of soft skills. This allows them to effectively collaborate with remote teams and guides them to new heights. 

Soft Skills that a Strong Leader Needs in 2022

Leading people is a function of an intangible connection that is difficult to put into words. Good leaders instill purpose in their teams and make them feel fulfilled with their work. Whether your teams work from the office or home, if you want to deliver your best, become a leader by heart and mind.

 This is where developing soft skills enters the picture. The strength of your soft skills will determine how well you can lead your teams. As a leader, your success is defined by the success of your people. Here are ten soft skills that you should work on developing if you want to be a better leader: 

  • Communication skills 

The ability to effectively communicate tops the list of soft leadership skills. Disagreements are natural when you manage a team of people with varied opinions.

 In such situations, practice civil discourse with your team. It’s a great tool that allows everyone to present their honest opinions and find common ground.

 Here are a few tips for facilitating civil communication: 

  1. Be open-minded to understand other people’s viewpoints.
  1. Ask for feedback and openly discuss them.
  1. Be confident while presenting yourself, and back your words with credible facts.
  1. Seek common ground to find solutions rather than focusing on points of conflict.

  • Empathic approach 

Leaders are primarily responsible for inspiring others. If you want people to follow your lead and take action, you need to know what they care about, which takes empathy. To lead them well, you have to understand their situation and feelings.

 Empathy as a soft skill fosters a work culture where everyone feels heard and understood. This instills in them a sense of responsibility to resolve conflicts. Compassion is a foundation of solid leadership. Here’s my personalized formula to enhance empathy for leadership: 

  1. Take others’ opinions into account before concluding.
  1. Engage in personalized communication by paying attention while listening and responding positively.
  1. Show support towards your employees and express willingness to solve their problems.
  1. Take feedback from the team to foster better understanding.
  1. Be genuine, kind, unbiased, and non-judgmental toward others. 
  1. Focus on growing as a team without leaving anyone behind.

  • Mindful actions that Win Over Trust

Trust is essential for the success of your team. Creating a trustworthy environment is only possible when your actions match your words. Employees begin to trust you when they realize you care about their well-being and take measures to help the company grow.

However, remember that your behavior needs to come from an authentic place. You can’t fake genuine trust. 

  1. Practice transparency in your work principles.
  1. Acknowledge others’ talents and value their strengths.
  1. Establish civil discourse with your team to allow the free flow of ideas.
  1. Don’t shy away from accepting your mistakes. 
  1. Be open and embrace other people’s perspectives or constructive criticism. 

  • Delegation Skills that Empower Others

The art of delegation is a must-have soft skill for leadership. As a leader, your goal is to empower every individual by recognizing their true potential.

Trusting employees with their assigned tasks without micro-managing creates a positive work environment. It also prevents you from overworking while boosting your team’s confidence.

Delegating responsibilities to capable individuals also allows you to hone your leadership skills.

Below are a few tips to help you effectively delegate tasks: 

  1. Conduct 1-on-1 sessions and group discussions to evaluate every individual’s standpoint.
  1. Offer challenging but achievable goals to your employees to help them grow.
  1. Give them space and trust in their process.
  1. Don’t micromanage at every step while the work is in progress.

  • Flexible mindset

Leadership is an ever-changing sphere. Leaders must be able to adapt to the constantly evolving industry standards.

Being open-minded with varied opinions elevates your strengths as a leader. If your employees view you as an approachable leader, they’d feel connected and dedicated to you. This leads to a productive workspace and promotes personal growth.

I’ve learned a few ways to adjust to different situations: 

  1. View changes as positive opportunities for growth.
  1. Don’t be afraid to experiment or push your limitations.
  1. Remain approachable.
  1. Adjust your conflict management tactics to effectively resolve stressful situations.

  • Collaborative Attitude

Bringing a team together is one of the most potent traits of an influential leader. It’s more about being a part of the team and not just allocating tasks to the employees. Inculcating a spirit of teamwork enhances cooperation, collaboration, and synchronization among the members. It helps you identify the team’s challenges while working towards a common goal.

A leader is nothing without a team. Guide them, split the responsibilities, and maintain clear communication with them. Polishing teamwork skills is imperative to becoming a strong leader. Here are some steps I follow and recommend: 

  1. Set hyper-defined goals.
  1. Develop a flow of communication among teammates.
  1. Provide updated tools and resources your team needs to seamlessly function.
  1. Conduct frequent review sessions.
  1. Clarify every member’s roles and responsibilities within the team.
  1. Praise the accomplishments and constructively address the poor performances.

  • Problem-solving skills

Problems are inevitable. A leader’s ability to deal with them separates a good leader from the average. A solution-oriented mindset becomes your strength to overcome roadblocks.

As an entrepreneur, you’ll encounter unique challenges. Your project might not shape up as expected, or your team might not be working up to the mark. You must objectively look at things in such situations to find the best solution.

My default mode of problem-solving involves the following steps: 

  1. Address the problem before assuming the pain points.
  1. Brainstorm possible solutions and analyze if their execution has some limitations.
  1. Involve your team in the creative problem-solving procedure. 
  1. Break down the challenge into a series of steps and individually tackle them.

  • Self-Awareness to Manage your emotional intelligence

Pay attention to your emotions, inner conflicts, and mindfulness to foster leadership skills. Your emotional triggers influence your behavior and guide your actions. Emotional intelligence helps you in confronting any challenging scenario.

High self-awareness is a critical component of emotional intelligence. Self-aware people have a purpose, influence, and achieve success in their lives. When you incorporate these key attributes into your work life, you’ll lead a competent and passionate team and bring desired results.

A few measures that help manage emotional intelligence are: 

  1. Know your patterns. Identify the emotional triggers that often take you off track. 
  1. Listen, analyze, and then respond to other people. 
  1. Value everyone’s uniqueness and appreciate them.
  1. Choose patience and empathy over conflicts.
  1. Take breaks. If you feel overwhelmed, slow down to recover whenever necessary.
  1. Be mindful while interacting with people who hold contrary opinions.

  • Efficient decision-making to overcome challenges

When you’re in a leadership position, your decisions have high stakes. You have the power to influence the lives of team members, organizational stakeholders, and the company at large. It’s essential to make good decisions when you’re leading a team.

Efficient decision-making must be one of your strengths in all your leadership roles.

Here are some tips to help strengthen your decision-making skills: 

  1. Manage your emotions and the emotions of visibly-disturbed teammates.
  1. Analyze the pros and cons of whatever issue is at hand.
  1. Limit the choices, so you don’t take forever to conclude.

  • Strong mentoring skills

A great leader is known for empowering other people, which improves organizational productivity. The best way to lead a team is by mentoring members and supporting their growth and development.

People often see the leader as a role model to lead an organization. Mentoring others is a soft leadership skill that brings integrity to the team. Here are a few tips to become a great mentor to the people who look up to you: 

  1. Bridge the gap between your actions and words. When your actions match your words, it enhances the trust of your team to follow the path you show them. 
  1. Understand the team’s drives and assign tasks that are exciting for the teammates and essential for the organization.

Leadership requires mastery of a variety of skills. Soft skills are often overlooked, but they’re just as important as your technical and managerial abilities.

The conversation of soft vs. hard skills for leaders reflects a more profound truth: Leadership is not just a programmed set of tasks you check off daily. It’s not a formula you follow or a code you adhere to. Authentic leadership comes from the heart. Genuinely caring about others is at the core of all soft skills that can empower you to be a more effective leader. If you don’t care about your people, they likely won’t care about you or the company.

We all want to know that our work is important and that what we do adds to something meaningful. Improving your soft skills and showing your team you care doesn’t have to add a lot to your plate, but it does have to be a priority in your days. Start small and learn as you go. It will make all the difference.

Civil Discourse

finding common ground

September 1, 2022

Finding Common Ground

A fundamental mindset shift that has helped me scale three successful startups from scratch is always looking for the best in people. This doesn’t mean I haven’t encountered conflict; which entrepreneur hasn’t? But I’ve always prioritized giving every person a fair chance to speak. Looking back, that has made all the difference in my journey.

Every person you meet has a unique perspective. Their personal life experiences, upbringing, and current situation determine their worldview. As a result, people see things differently and hold varying beliefs. This difference in thought is the primary cause behind conflicts.

Finding common ground enables you to find a mutually beneficial solution for both parties. You build trust and forge strong bonds with people who don’t share your mentality. Here’s a comprehensive guide on how you can find common ground during conflicts.

What Does Finding Common Ground Mean? 

Not everyone thinks, feels, or acts the same way as you do. You might find a few kindred souls who resonate with your thoughts, but most people won’t. Conflicts will inevitably arise. You must find common ground to protect your relationships. It’s a practice where you discover a topic, opinion, or perspective you both can agree upon. It allows you to see where the other person is coming from and better appreciate their point of view.

Civil discourse is an excellent tool for finding common ground. It allows you to create a non-confrontational environment where:

  • everyone can freely express themselves,
  • listen carefully to each other, and
  • show respectful disagreement.

Establishing a common ground doesn’t mean you have to agree on everything. You may share some interests with the other person, but other issues can still separate you. However, seeking mutual ground will help bridge the divides that pull you apart.

The Importance of Finding Common Ground

Locating a mutual ground ensures that both parties understand each other’s perspectives and strive to find the best possible solution to resolve the conflict. Here are some reasons why finding common ground is essential:

  • Builds strong relationships

Conflict pushes people apart. Establishing a common solution helps maintain relationships even amid disagreements. People develop strong bonds and build trust when they’re aligned toward a shared goal.

  • Resolves conflict quickly

You can resolve conflicts when you understand the depth of an issue. People’s viewpoints differ due to their unique identities. However, establishing common ground allows you to analyze both opinions without bias to arrive at a mutually agreeable solution.

  • Increases Open-mindedness

To resolve arguments, you must be open to opposing ideas. Conducting civil discourse helps all the parties to adopt a flexible mind toward varying perspectives. This allows you to quickly attain common goals.

  • Prevents opinion polarization

Everyone has a different approach to solving the same problem. However, sometimes, people counter the other person’s strategy to prove their solution right. Common ground prevents both parties from vehemently opposing each other’s opinions. It aligns everyone to focus on achieving the shared outcome. 

Civil Discourse: The Ultimate Strategy for Finding Common Ground

During an argument, people defend themselves to protect their egos. This further escalates the conflict. To resolve an issue, you need to constructively approach it so everyone can feel respected. Engaging in civil discourse lets you understand what matters to the other person.

Civil discourse enables a productive exchange of ideas. It helps both parties figure out what’s important to them. Such conversation allows people to express their views without rancor. It gives rise to mutual respect and reinforces people’s right to hold their beliefs.

Everyone must honestly present their thoughts to quickly find the middle ground. No one needs to downplay or overstate their ideas. Carefully listen to other people, ask questions, and show respectful disagreement whenever necessary.

Civil discourse lays down the stepping stone to align different visions and find common ground faster. Read on for the steps you must follow to tackle conflicts smartly.

Steps for Finding Common Ground 

As an entrepreneur, it’s essential to learn how to find common ground with your team. Learning this will foster a sense of teamwork and help your business grow. 

Here are the steps you can take to find common ground in any conflict:

  • Establish the tone with small talk

Small talk is a great way to break the ice. When you meet someone new, make a connection by talking about food, drinks, music, and hobbies. Talk about all the activities that allow you to experience commonality. It will create a comfortable environment where you can efficiently conduct civil dialogue with the other person.

  • Listen actively

Civil discourse ensures things don’t get heated up during a disagreement. You have to listen, take mental notes and be willing to embrace new opinions. An active listener focuses on what the other person is saying, not what they want to say next. Use non-verbal language like nodding or establishing eye contact to show you’re genuinely listening to them. 

  • Begin a more profound conversation by asking questions

Once the other person expresses themselves, ask open-ended questions to dig deeper into the conversation. Encourage them to speak freely and listen without interrupting them. Their answers will help you understand their side of the story and reach the common ground faster.

  • Don’t be overly judgmental.

As humans, we naturally have biases about other people. Recognizing what triggers you to be judgmental or critical of others is vital. Focus on the current topic and don’t delve into judgments during the discussion.

  • Be empathic to their perspective.

Everyone holds different opinions based on their idea of reality. Listen to their point of view, and consider the facts and opinions they present. Ask questions when you need elaboration. They might say something that makes you rethink your approach.

  • Be authentic

Avoid being confrontational when speaking your mind. Frame your thoughts using “I” statements. Explain how you feel and why you feel that way. The goal isn’t to prove that you’re right. It’s about sharing your stance that helps the other person comprehend where you’re coming from. This establishes the common ground both people are comfortable with. 

How To Find Common Ground With Friends and Family

Civil discourse not only enriches the workplace but also helps you locate common ground with your friends and family. When you establish a shared goal with people, you resolve conflicts faster and co-exist in harmony even with diverse opinions. This strengthens your bonds and develops mutual respect.

Here are some steps that will help you find common ground with friends and family:

  • Respond, don’t react

Listen carefully to the other person. Their opinions might trigger your emotions, and you may feel the temptation to counter them. But don’t. Strive to understand their perspective before reacting. Ask questions to ensure you’ve understood their points correctly. Remember that you’re looking for common ground, not ways to disagree further.

  • Keep calm during the argument.

You can easily become defensive when you disagree with someone close to you. Remind yourself to stay calm and take deep breaths. Don’t respond with rage regardless of the temptation. If the other person gets upset, calm them down and revisit the topic when things settle down.

  • Express your feelings

If your friend has a different perspective, talk to them about it. Don’t assume they know what you think or feel. They cannot read your mind. You must help them understand your stance and why you believe in it. This will let the other person do the same and help you reach an understanding.

  • Focus on solving the conflict, not on winning the argument 

You will experience disagreements no matter how close you are to friends or family. When diverse views arise, know that it’s normal. Don’t disregard their beliefs or try to prove your thoughts are correct. Patiently listen to the other person and be curious to know why they think what they think. The goal is to solve the conflict, not to win the fight.

Conclusion

Diverse views are expected. They arise regardless of the situation and people involved. This thought difference often leads to conflicts, which can sabotage relationships if not handled well. That’s why finding common ground that mutually benefits all parties is vital. When people know they’re working towards the same goal, they don’t obsess over their views. They listen to diverse opinions that help reach the goal faster. Civil discourse is a great way to establish a mutual ground amid a conflict. Ask everyone to share their views and agree to disagree with opposing ideas.

Civil Discourse

how to handle criticism

August 29, 2022

How to Handle Criticism Like a Winner

You can never be truly successful without the input of others. When taken in stride, criticism can improve relationships and make us more effective at what we choose to do. 

In the era of social media, it's far too easy for criticism to come your way, as anyone who has spent a decent amount of time on Twitter can attest to. If you don't learn to deal with criticism well, you'll spend your life letting other people define who you are. 

Above all else, if you learn to take criticism well, you will gain a powerful tool that can propel you forward personally and professionally. 

Types of Criticism

The ability to respond positively to criticism requires being able to identify it. Here are the various forms of criticism that you might encounter:

  • Aesthetic Criticism

This type of criticism is part of the broader field of aesthetics, which has to do with determining what is beautiful, how it connects to our emotions and other issues concerning human sentiment. Aesthetic considerations have a place in most parts of human life, so there is potential for much criticism.

  • Logical Criticism

A logical criticism is an objection to an idea, argument, action, or situation because it does not make rational sense. The critique usually refers to assumptions, coherence, implications, and intent.

  • Constructive Criticism

Constructive criticism is a suggestion for improvement—how things could be done better or more acceptably. Good constructive feedback helps you grow and learn and creates an open-minded culture.

  • Destructive Criticism

Destructive criticism is negative feedback that directly hurts people and their creations. It often takes the form of an attack on a person's character or personality or an emotional outburst. It may be based on prejudice or result from the critic's frustrations and insecurities.

Receiving criticism can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. By adopting these key traits, you’ll be able to handle any criticism effectively:

  1. A strong self-esteem
  2. Assertiveness 
  3. Mindfulness
  4. Emotional intelligence
  5. A solution-oriented mindset 
  6. Self-awareness

Constructive vs Destructive Criticism

Each person is unique, and so are their opinions. As an entrepreneur, I find criticism inevitable. The people I work with have differing experiences, mindsets, and creativity, often leading to disagreements and opposing thoughts within the team. To benefit from such conflicts, I engage in civil discourse within my team to give everyone a fair chance to express their ideas and constructively criticize each other's viewpoints.

Constructive criticism is a method of providing feedback that intends to improve. To be effective, it must be addressed in a way that acknowledges the person's strengths and weaknesses. In addition, it should provide focus on areas for growth and improvement.

In contrast, destructive criticism is negative feedback intended to harm, insult or destroy someone's creation. It's malicious and focuses on belittling the person at the receiving end.

Tips to Deal With Criticism

No one wants to be criticized, but if you want to build something exceptional, you must be willing to take it. The best way to fight criticism-related anxiety is to learn how to deal with it. 

Here are some tips to help you handle criticism effectively:

  1. Be calm and patient

Receiving criticism can be difficult, but if you lose patience, it will only increase friction. The best way to take criticism positively is to engage in civil discourse. This helps people conduct a productive discussion while respectfully accepting the criticism for improved results.

  1. Don’t be tempted to criticize back

The way you respond to your critic is crucial. Thank the person who offered the best suggestion they could come up with. Stay focused on learning and improving rather than reacting defensively to justify your motives.

        3. Project Positivity

The way you hold yourself during a confrontation is your biggest strength. Smiling gently, nodding in agreement, or relaxing your eyebrows can turn even serious disagreements into friendly debates. Open body language creates an atmosphere conducive to productive criticism and keeps the critic motivated to provide valuable feedback without personal attacks.

  1. Listen actively

By listening patiently to your critic, you can handle criticism well. We're not always the best judge of our situations. But, if you are all ears to the limitations someone else can foresee in your innovations, it will improve your methods and get you profound results.

How to Improve Accepting Criticism

Collaboration encourages you to accept criticism in the interest of better results. If the intention behind the critical feedback is constructive and focuses on improved results, you shouldn’t feel bad about it. Instead, use the feedback as fuel to refine your work and create incredible results.

Start accepting criticism like a winner by following these steps:

  • Don't let your emotions get the best of you

A calm mind is the first requirement for handling criticism. A raging sense limits your capacity to think objectively. Don't interrupt an argument, even if you disagree at times. Instead, take deep breaths to calm your nerves and postpone the conversation to a time when you're in a relaxed state.

  • Ask questions to seek clarity 

While dealing with criticism, it’s crucial to keep the communication to the point. Ask questions that add clarity to the discussion. It keeps the criticism constructive and helps you benefit substantially from the feedback.

  • View criticism as a challenge to overcome, not an excuse to retaliate

The way you handle criticism matters more than the criticism itself. Remind yourself that your critic is here to help you improve rather than belittle you. Evaluate the critical points rather than reacting negatively to their perception.

  • Acknowledge the critic’s efforts in providing insight

It takes courage to give genuine feedback, mainly when that feedback differs from your perspective. But on the other hand, expressing gratitude helps foster understanding and prevents conflict.

  • Avoid taking the criticism personally

When dealing with criticism, it's important to view it rationally. You're not perfect and making mistakes is a normal human tendency. If you take feedback personally and let it get to you, it will hinder your ability to take it in stride and grow.

Final Words

To thrive in this competitive world, you must learn how to handle criticism. When you receive feedback in your life, view it as an opportunity to grow. A critic becomes your ally when you accept their viewpoints as opportunities for growth. The ability to receive criticism without taking it personally is a skill that will allow you to live a happier, more successful life.

Civil Discourse

social media echo chamber|

August 16, 2022

How to Break Out of the Social Media Echo Chamber?

Social media is an integral part of modern life, giving every person the opportunity to share their thoughts with the world. Unfortunately, people tend to surround themselves with content that aligns with their perspectives and beliefs, making it easy for them to avoid viewpoints that differ from their own and effectively create a social media echo chamber.As algorithms become better at showing you content that fits your preferences and past behavior, they can also limit your worldview.

What is an Echo Chamber?

Everyone picks a side. You choose heads or tails, and you root for it: the same goes for online opinions. You tend to favor one side, regardless of how well-balanced your behavior is. Social media then bombards you with content that validates your confirmation bias.Confirmation bias is the tendency to interpret information in a way that conforms to your existing beliefs. It is more prominent when emotions are attached to opinions, as on social media. Social media can create an echo chamber by providing versions of the same information that reinforce each other.Algorithms restrict your access to opposing perspectives, which can stifle the scope for civil discourse or productive exchange of ideas.

What are the Consequences of Social Media Echo Chambers?

Here are some severe consequences of being in an online echo chamber:

  1. Unintentional alliance in spreading fake news
  2. Lack of original ideas
  3. Absence of challenging viewpoints
  4. Less scope for knowledge growth
  5. Limitation of problem-solving abilities.
  6. Polarization and division between social groups

Why is it Important to Break out of the Comfort Zone of Like-minded People?

When you constantly surround yourself with people who agree with you, it's easy to create a bubble in which you don't hear dissenting opinions. Unfortunately, this can lead to heated arguments and strained relationships.We see this trend on social media often, which can harm our understanding of the world. People fight in the comments, spread misinformation, and surround themselves with people who harbor similar opinions. This is why it's vital to break out of this pattern.The first step is to recognize that you're in an echo chamber. The next step is to ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Is the content shedding light on only one side of the issue?
  2. Is there concrete evidence behind the viewpoints, or are they based on rumors?
  3. Does the content take facts or statistics into consideration?

If you find your content consumption pattern one-sided and constantly bashing the other side, it's time to break free of your filter bubble. Of course, you don't need to abandon your ideologies completely, but stepping out of your filter bubble will feel liberating.You miss out on multiple growth opportunities by staying in an echo chamber. Once you start thinking outside the box, you unlock various benefits of listening to diverse opinions, such as:

  • Getting enough information from both sides to make a fair judgment
  • Letting go of your need to be right all the time
  • Opening yourself up to new learning opportunities
  • Not basing your ideas on someone else's perspective

How to Break Out of Your Echo Chamber

If you want to expand your perspective and break free from the comfort of echo chambers, try these strategies to find and listen to the opposing side of the story:

  1. "Like" everything

Don't pledge allegiance to any side on social media. Instead, engage with conflicting posts to feed your algorithm that you like everything, so you'll get recommendations from all facets. This way, you'll be exposed to various viewpoints, even if it goes against your confirmation bias.

  1. Be mindful of who you follow

Your favorite creators might be biased and not present a balanced outlook on both sides. An easy way to find their leanings is to see who they follow and who follows them. You'll undoubtedly find a common thread of ideology and confirmation bias in their posts.

  1. Sort chronologically

Instead of relying on the algorithm to feed you content, set your feed to view content chronologically if possible. This will allow you to see the latest posts irrespective of whether your circle agrees with them—and it may also help you get acquainted with differing perspectives on the matter.

  1. Give space to emerging voices

Don't just stick to the same creators. Instead, keep finding new voices and following them. Everyone has unique stories that lead them to where they are. In understanding their' whys,' you add diversity to your feed and may find reasons behind popular internet debates.

  1. Seek out opposing viewpoints

It isn't easy to consume the content you disagree with, but by following people with varying views, you can find knowledge across the spectrum. In addition, you create a healthy balance of diverse opinions by beefing up your social media content sources.

  1. Read everything with a critical viewpoint

Question what you read and hear. Don't share anything without verifying it first. Seek out the source of a news piece before passing it along to others. Never rely solely on social media for information; confirm what you hear or read with various sources. If a post sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

  1. Talk, don't mute

Don't let your desire to avoid conflict lead you to silence others whose views differ from yours. On the contrary, by engaging civilly with people whose opinions differ from your own, you will gain the knowledge and understanding necessary for productive conversations.

  1. Manage your anger

Seek evidence, not just your own belief or opinion. Respect those who present facts and figures. Keeping calm is more effective in putting your message across in any disagreement.

Is it Worth Breaking out of Your Social Media Echo Chamber?

Social media can be an excellent opportunity to find new jobs, gain recommendations, and build connections. But it's not all sunshine and roses. You need to be aware of pitfalls—how to avoid confirmation bias, for example, or how to get over your attitude of always being right.To gain a broader perspective, you must take active steps to welcome opposing views.

  1. Be humble and recognize that you don't know everything. Be open to new ideas and opinions.
  2. When someone makes a statement contrary to your own opinion, don't be so quick to dismiss or scorn it.
  3. Identify and reflect on the biases you may harbor to gain a more objective perspective.
  4. Research opposing viewpoints when you need to challenge your ideas.
  5. Learn to identify the most common types of fake news.
  6. Respect the human on the other side of the screen before making offensive or harsh statements.

Avoiding an echo chamber is not about avoiding opposing viewpoints. Instead, the goal is to use empathy and civil discourse to bring people together in meaningful dialogue, even when you have differing opinions. Try the steps above to keep your social media feeds balanced. Remember that everyone has a different idea of what's essential, and keep an open mind.

Civil Discourse

principles of communication

August 15, 2022

Principles of Communication: The 7 C’s

The ability to communicate and collaborate is what separates humans from other species. To understand why we've succeeded in conveying our thoughts and ideas, it is essential to examine how we communicate. Human language, problem-solving, and morality originate in our imaginative ability to reflect on different situations and our deep-seated drive to connect with others.People often overlook the importance of effective communication, but being a good communicator is a skill that will help you succeed at almost anything. It's a way to share your thoughts and feelings, connect with others, and achieve your goals.

Modes of Communication

Effective communication is critical for success. To effectively share information with your team and customers, it helps to learn the various modes of communication and when to use them:

  1. Verbal communication

Verbal communication uses words to speak, present, discuss, or convey a message. Body language, tone, pitch of voice, and choice of words play a vital role in verbal communication. Verbal communication helps transmit thoughts by each party and results in faster decision-making.

  1. Non-verbal communication

Body language, facial expressions, eye contact, appearance, and sign language are essential forms of communication that complement verbal communication and also help when words don't suffice. In addition, non-verbal communication is integral to interviews and discussions as it can convey meaning even when words fail.

  1. Written communication

Written communication is when we use words to convey a message. This communication happens through emails, memos, texts, posts, etc. Written communication can help you share your thoughts well, but sometimes it does not fully convey the emotion you're trying to communicate.

Importance of Communication in the Workplace

Communication is one of the most vital skills for any business professional to master. It builds understanding, resolves doubts, and reduces stress. In addition, effective communication helps you reach the company’s targets while successfully managing a team of innovative people.Here are a few benefits of effective communication at work:

  • Promotes team spirit

Effective communication encourages everyone to participate in civil discourse, share ideas, build trust, and collaborate while working on a project. In addition, it allows the entire team to value one another, which keeps your team's morale high.

  • Improves creativity and productivity

Communication among people with different opinions results in new ideas, doubts, and resolutions, streamlining the work process and boosting the creativity and productivity of the team.

  • Resolves conflict

Communication is essential in the workplace to resolve conflicts, find common ground, and work as a team. Therefore, employers should encourage civil discourse among employees, which helps them set goals, strategize efficiently, and execute plans successfully.To communicate effectively in a work environment, these seven principles prove their worth:

7Cs: The Principles of Workplace Communication (with examples)

There are seven basic principles of effective business communication that a team can use to accomplish productive dialogue.

  • Conciseness

Be concise in your messages. It will help you to have more meaningful conversations and save time.Example: While training employees on developing a skill, avoid talking about the foundational story of your company or repeating sentences. People will disengage and reduce enthusiasm among the team. You will gather the team's transformative output if you respect everyone’s time, stay on point with your message, and encourage active participation.

  • Consideration

To deliver an impactful message and resolve the challenges employees face, you must consider your team members’ viewpoints, levels of understanding, concerns, etc., while communicating.Example: If an employee struggles to complete an assigned task, don’t just explain the importance of the task. Instead, consider their struggles and help them where they’re stuck to execute the task effectively.

  • Correctness

The correctness of your message is vital for the team to conduct productive work. This allows everyone to contribute the correct information and their progress related to the topic. It leads to better decision-making. Appropriate language, correct spelling, grammar and punctuation, the authenticity of the facts and references, etc., all fall under this principle.Example: Using inappropriate language or incorrect data in a formal report could lead to your dismissal or damage the company’s reputation.

  • Completeness

Completeness is an integral part of effective communication. A complete message includes everything that enhances your team's understanding and definitive next steps to achieve the desired results.Example: When you assign a project to the team, specify the outline, each member's role, and the exact strategy. This will help ensure that employees have clarity of the task without any confusion over the critical areas.

  • Courtesy

Workplace communication needs to include sincerity and respect for everyone. You must not resort to making offensive remarks or belittling any team member, even if there is a disagreement.Example: If employees attack each other to prove their points, calm them down and set up an environment for civil discourse. This will help people acknowledge each other's opinions and find common ground on which to discuss creative ideas.

  • Principle of concreteness

Workplace communication must be specific, clear, and direct. There is no room for ambiguous or vague information that might confuse or mislead the team.Example: When you educate your employees about the benefits of civil discourse in the workplace, be sure to provide them with an understanding of its basics, importance, and value. Also, encourage them to ask questions, resolve their doubts and provide relatable examples.

  • Coherence

This principle ensures that the employees are well informed about the company's objectives. Furthermore, systematically communicating with them brings clarity into the discussion and resolves any doubts they might have about your methods.Example: If you're updating employees on company policies, describe the reasons behind the changes to maintain harmony within the workplace. Sudden changes will affect the employees' efficiency.

Tips for Good Communication

Here are a few practices that will help you implement the seven principles of effective communication in the workplace:

  • Treat your employees with respect by valuing their presence and role in the company
  • Address the needs of your team and respond to their questions with patience
  • Before initiating a dialogue, consider your team's perspective on the topic
  • When communicating with a team, understand which mode of conversation is best-suited to convey your message

Final Words

Effective communication can help you build healthy relationships with your employees and foster a healthy work environment. How you speak, respond, or share your ideas will show your employees how you feel about them. With good communication skills, you can cultivate a healthy and growth-oriented culture in the workplace.

Civil Discourse

constructive criticism

August 9, 2022

How to Give and Take Constructive Criticism: Useful Tips

Valuable feedback in the form of criticism can help you improve, but many people are uncomfortable when they hear negative comments about their work. Getting used to responding positively to criticism will help you grow as a person and advance in your career.Constructive criticism is a tool for improvement; it helps the other person see and polish their work from a new perspective. On the other hand, destructive criticism is abuse that can lead to stress and decreased productivity. In this post, we'll walk through tips and strategies for giving and receiving constructive criticism like a champ.

What is Constructive Criticism?

Constructive criticism is a way of giving feedback that provides specific, actionable suggestions. Rather than providing general advice, constructive criticism offers specific recommendations on how to make positive improvements. Criticism that is constructive focuses on the positive aspects of the situation while emphasizing the scope for improvement. This is a valuable quality in leadership. You can drastically enhance your team's output if you can show people where they fall short and help them improve without bringing their morale down.

Benefits of Using Constructive Criticism

Constructive criticism is an essential part of the workplace. When people know how to give and take criticism, they can identify areas for improvement. Here are some of the benefits of constructive criticism:

Learning opportunities

Humans tend to overestimate their abilities and ignore their shortcomings. That’s why it’s important to seek feedback for personal growth. The learning curve increases as you adapt to doing things differently and accept corrective criticism.

Builds relationships

Giving constructive criticism takes courage because you can't predict how the other person will respond. People who have your best interests at heart go out of their way to provide corrective feedback. Accept their criticism and thank them for helping you improve. This way, you can build productive relationships with people who care about you.

Welcomes new perspectives

Constructive criticism can give you a fresh perspective on the world. When you understand other people’s views, you can make effective changes to your work and approach.

3 Tips for Giving Constructive Criticism:

Constructive criticism encompasses a variety of factors that influence one's outlook to a significant degree. However, the following are several noteworthy features of corrective criticism:

  • Practice what you preach

If you want to be taken seriously, implement what you say before you share your opinion. People won't respect your feedback if you don't follow your own advice. For example, if an employee is struggling to maintain a work-life balance, they won't seek advice from someone who rarely leaves the office. Instead, they'll go to colleagues who have found balance and know how they can achieve it.

  • Use real and specific examples

Use real-life examples when providing feedback. It will help people visualize how their method is flawed and, if improved, how it can generate better results.For example: "Hey, I noticed you don't follow up with leads after the first sales pitch. That's something we can work on together. I usually see 40% more conversions in my first follow-up and 10% in the second. It adds up quickly and can increase commissions significantly."

  • Provide people a chance to revert

Always conduct civil discourse when sharing your perspective with others. It will help them understand the reasoning behind your actions. Let them cross-examine you and respectfully answer their questions. If they find your stance wrong, gracefully accept it, apologize and move on.

Destructive vs. Constructive Criticism

Constructive criticism can help people improve, while destructive criticism often targets people personally and does little to improve a situation. While you can’t choose which feedback you receive, you can decide how to respond to them. Self-acceptance plays a pivotal role in providing a healthy response to criticism. It will help if you put conscious effort into offering feedback empathically.

Empathy and Constructive Criticism

When offering constructive feedback to others, be sure to put yourself in their shoes. If you don’t understand their situation and they feel you don’t care about them, they will not listen to anything you have to say. Here’s an effective method for delivering constructive criticism empathetically:

Leverage the ‘Feedback Sandwich’ approach

The ‘Feedback Sandwich’ method is a way to deliver negative feedback that minimizes the harmful intensity of the criticism and makes it comforting for the receiver. This approach consists of a negative remark between two positive statements, balancing the critical comment with two relatively positive ones.Here’s an example:The first ‘positive’ layer: This website looks great! The overall design is aesthetically pleasing, and I love how you’ve integrated an easy-to-understand UI. In addition, your explainer video works amazingly well with our services.The ‘improvement’ layer: The content structure for our ‘About Us’ and ‘Services’ pages is too cluttered. We would do better to present the information in a way that makes it easier for people to browse through.The last ‘positive’ layer: Overall, the work is good! We are headed in the right direction. By revamping the content structure, we can enhance the user experience significantly. This type of feedback adds a positive spin to criticism, making it easier for employees to digest. They are also more motivated to improve their work after being given this response.

How to give and take constructive criticism?

Delivering Constructive Criticism Taking Constructive Criticism Offer feedback sandwich Don’t give impulsive reactions Be concise and to the point Strive to be a good listener Always follow up with recommendations Cross question for clarity Give unbiased feedback Do not become defensive Avoid making assumptions Do not interrupt the other person Be empathic Try and extract the learning point from the feedback and focus on it Pay attention to your situation instead of peopleDo not respond with anger and disappointmentCriticism is a natural part of workplace life. It's easy for leaders to lash out at employees and exercise their authority, but this doesn't motivate people. Giving constructive criticism is the best way to improve performance.

Civil Discourse

how to improve communication skills

September 12, 2022

4 Ways To Improve Your Communication Skills

When a leader thinks about effective communication skills, they’re focusing on the different ways in which we give and receive information. The ability to communicate is essential in all fields, but nowhere is it more vital than in the workplace. If you can't communicate effectively with other people, you will create unnecessary problems and be much less effective at what you do.

Have you ever had a boss you knew would give you their undivided attention and honest feedback? Conversely, have you ever had a boss whose feedback was vague and unclear? I've encountered a wide range of communicators during my journey as an entrepreneur, and I've tried to learn lessons from all of them. 

Communication with others can take many forms. Whether you're in an in-person meeting or sending a quick email to your boss, it's essential to communicate effectively and respectfully. Here are four ways you can be a better communicator.

  1. Be clear, brief, and specific

Communication is all about getting your point across. You risk being misunderstood if what you’re saying or writing is unclear, vague, or overly wordy. Be as clear and as concise as possible to get your point across. You should also be as specific as possible; avoid unnecessary words or overly descriptive language that can muddle or weaken your message.

  1. Always be prepared

Before you make a phone call, begin a presentation, or send an email, you should have a plan. No one appreciates having their time wasted, so go in with all of the information you need close at hand. If you’re dealing with a client, try and anticipate their questions so you can be ready to answer them. If you’re in a meeting or on a phone call, write down notes to refer to during the conversation to help guide you.

  1. Give your undivided attention

We all live busy lives, full of people who demand our attention at any moment. I’ve learned the importance of giving each task my full and undivided attention while building three companies. If you try to send an email to your boss while on the phone with a client, you may find yourself inattentive to both conversations. Always give your full attention to the other person, listening closely, and responding only when you feel you have heard everything they say.

  1. Don't be afraid to ask questions

Communication is a two-way process. If you’re unsure about something someone has said, never presume their meaning. It’s always better to clarify with a question than to misunderstand. Follow up with an email after a meeting to confirm that you have all the necessary information.

Tips To Improve Face-to-Face Communication Skills

While we've all been in meetings that could have been handled better via email, face-to-face communication is still the best way to hold meaningful discussions with others. Here are several tips for improving your communication skills during face-to-face conversations.

Although we may wish otherwise, not all conversations will be pleasant or lighthearted. You may have to fire an employee, have a difficult discussion with your boss, or disagree with your colleagues during a meeting. Practice civil discourse by speaking truthfully and respectfully while allowing others to disagree.  Avoid the temptation to lose your temper or interrupt the other person.  As long as you speak truthfully and listen to the other person’s point of view, it is possible to have difficult conversations civilly.

  • Practice active listening

When it comes to improving communication skills, listening is equally as important as speaking.  Practice active listening by giving the person speaking your complete attention.  Don't interrupt them, and make eye contact if possible.  While the other person is speaking, don't spend time formulating your own response; instead, take a moment once they’ve finished considering what you’d like to say next.  When you reply, paraphrase what they said to ensure you understand it.  Ask questions if you need more information before responding.

  • Focus on nonverbal communication

Language is just one of the ways in which human beings communicate.  Our body language can share many things that our words do not, from our facial expressions to the gestures we make.  If you’re a manager leading a meeting, be mindful of your employees’ body language.  While they may not say anything to raise a concern, they may be communicating discomfort or disagreement through crossed arms.  Be mindful of your nonverbal communication, as you want your body language to match your message.

  • Ask for honest feedback

Giving and receiving criticism can be awkward for both parties, but feedback is critical to personal growth.  To encourage others to communicate freely, ask for honest feedback when needed.  Most people will say what’s on their minds when given an invitation to do so.  The more you ask for honest feedback from your colleagues, the more you’ll learn how to improve your communication skills.

Civil Discourse

self reflection questions

September 9, 2022

Self Reflection Questions: 57 Questions You Should Ask Yourself

What Is Self Reflection?

Self-reflection is the core of self-awareness. Through introspection and asking yourself "why" questions, you can gain a better understanding of your actions and behavior. If you regularly reflect on your life, you may notice that you're unhappy in some areas—such as your friendships, career, or self-care. Asking these questions will help you identify changes you can make to improve your mental and physical well-being.

What Are The Self Reflection Questions?

There are countless topics to reflect on, but we’ll focus on the ones that enable the most personal growth. We’ll also look at topics pertaining to civil discourse to see why it’s an important part of a balanced life.

Self-reflection questions help you to get to know yourself better by tapping into your thoughts and emotions. They allow you to identify your strengths and weaknesses, your core beliefs and values, so that you can grow.

Introspection—the process of reviewing thoughts, feelings and behaviors—is one powerful way to make positive changes in your life. Research shows that we think more than 6,000 thoughts per day, of which more than half are negative and more than 90% are just repeats from the day before. These self reflection questions can help you become aware of your thought patterns.

Questions about childhood memories

Childhood is a significant time in our lives that can help us become the people we are meant to be. Reflecting on your childhood memories can help explain why you make the decisions you do today. Here are some questions to ask yourself about your childhood:

  1. What was it like growing up?
  2. Did you have any experiences that felt traumatizing or overwhelming?
  3. Were your needs being met as a child?
  4. What is your favorite childhood memory?

Questions about mental health

The way we prioritize our mental health can have a huge impact on our lives. These questions can help you determine how you care for your mental health.

  1. How do you de-stress?
  2. Do you have a support network?  Who is at the top of it?
  3. On a scale from 1 to 10, how is your mental health right now?
  4. Are you too hard on yourself?

Questions about physical health

You can neglect your physical health in many ways. Consider the ways in which you care for your body and how you can improve to live a healthier life.

  1. Do you have any habits that are bad for your health?
  2. What activities may you feel physically well?
  3. Is exercise a part of your life? How so?
  4. What is your relationship like with food?
  5. How do you deal with burnout?

Questions about routines and daily life

The best way to get an objective view of our lives is to look at our daily routines. These self-reflection questions can help us see what works and what doesn’t.

  1. Do you have a morning routine?  Does it leave you feeling excited and energized for the day?
  2. What is your nighttime routine like?  Do you fall asleep easily?
  3. Do you leave yourself enough free time during the day?  How do you fill it?
  4. Name one thing you’d like to make time to do every day.

Questions about work

It can be challenging to integrate work into our lives in a healthy way.  Ask yourself these questions for introspection on whether or not you have a healthy work-life balance.

  1. When you’re not at work, are you able to leave work thoughts behind?
  2. Does your workplace encourage civil discourse on tough discussions?
  3. How do you feel about your job?  If it’s not fulfilling, are there ways to find fulfillment?
  4. If you could have any career without having to worry about money, what would you choose?

Questions about family relationships

Regardless of how close you are to your family, family relationships have a huge effect on our sense of security and stability. Here are some self-reflection questions to help you learn how you define family.

  1. Are you close with your biological family?  If not, do you have close friends who you would consider family?
  2. Does your family support your life decisions?  Are you able to have respectful conversations when you disagree?
  3. Do you spend quality time with your family?
  4. How important is the concept of family in your life?

Questions about friendships

No two friendships are alike.  Ask yourself these self reflection questions to determine how the friends in your life uplift or hinder you.

  1. Who would you call if you needed help?
  2. Do you make an effort to be there for your friends in their time of need?
  3. How do you handle disagreements with friends?  Are you able to forgive easily?
  4. What is most important to you in a friendship?

Questions about romantic relationships

Romantic relationships can be incredibly fulfilling.  They can also illuminate many things about ourselves that we may not be aware of or want to admit.

  1. What do you want from a relationship?
  2. Describe your dream partner.
  3. What is your love language?
  4. How do you maintain boundaries and independence when in a relationship?

Questions about self-care

Many of the things we consider to be self-care are actually self-destructive acts in disguise. These questions for self reflection will help you identify and change destructive habits.

  1. What do you consider self-care?
  2. Do any of your self-care practices hurt you in any way?
  3. Do you make time for self-care even when pursuing a personal or professional goal?
  4. Do you focus on caring for others and neglect yourself?

Questions about dreams/goals

Our dreams motivate us through periods of doubt.  These self reflection questions will help you identify what motivates you to overcome obstacles.

  1. What is a dream you have that you’re embarrassed to admit?
  2. Name 5 short term and 5 long term goals.
  3. Do you feel like you’re living your dreams?
  4. What are you willing to do to go after your dreams?

Questions about past trauma

As human beings, we’re often tempted to gloss over or ignore past trauma to protect ourselves.  By facing these incidents head-on, we can heal from the pain and emerge stronger than before.

  1. Is there any past trauma that you haven’t dealt with?
  2. How do you feel about pursuing professional help?  Are you willing to ask for help if needed?
  3. Have you healed from your past traumas?
  4. What do you do when you feel triggered or retraumatized? 

Questions about bad habits

Many of us have bad habits that we don’t even realize we’re doing.  Here are a few questions that will help you identify and eliminate bad habits.

  1. What are your bad habits and what are their consequences?
  2. Are you willing to practice contrary action?
  3. What good habits can you replace your bad habits with?
  4. Have you ever been in addiction?  If so, how did you deal with it?

Questions about interests

Our interests help sustain us and offer us a sense of excitement outside of our work lives.  These self reflection questions will examine the ways in which your interests uplift your life.

  1. Name 10 interests outside of work.  
  2. Now name 5 interests you’d like to pursue that you haven’t.
  3. How can you make more time for the things that interest you?
  4. Is there a group you can join to meet up with people with similar interests?

Questions about personal wellness and happiness

While there’s no fool-proof path to happiness, we can take steps towards a happy and contented life when we identify what brings us joy.

  1. Are you happy overall?
  2. How do you define happiness?
  3. What’s something you can do right now to bring more joy into your life?
  4. What steps can you take to improve your emotional well being?

Self-reflection is a valuable tool for all of us, no matter our circumstance. Whether you’re a CEO, a student, or an entrepreneur, self-reflection can help you better understand yourself and the world around you. The more you understand what makes you tick, the easier it will be to find ways to improve your life.

As you go through life, you will undergo major changes that will alter who you are. These self-reflection questions will help you get a better sense of who you are right now and what changes you can make for the better.

Civil Discourse

listening barriers

September 8, 2022

Barriers To Listening: 5 Tips On Being A Better Listener

When it comes to communicating, talking is easy–listening, not so much.  Listening involves more than just hearing what someone is saying. When you’re truly listening to someone, you’re taking in information and processing it. You're also paying attention to body language and other signals that might help your understanding of what the person is trying to convey.

Research suggests that we listen with only 25% efficiency, meaning that three out of four times we communicate, we misinterpret what the other person is saying or fail to retain it accurately. These miscommunications occur because of several barriers to effective listening that many of us are guilty of.

Why Active Listening Is Important

Active listening is one of the most powerful tools you can have at your disposal.  As a founder, I’ve learned that listening—and being open to the opinions of my peers—is key to being an effective leader. Not only does it prevent avoidable mistakes, but it’s also vital in respecting and understanding others. Active listening provides you with accurate information, making it easier for you to communicate, collaborate and make decisions.

What Are The Common Barriers To Listening?

I’ve found that while a number of barriers to effective listening exist, they generally fall into two categories: external and internal.  Here are a few external and internal listening barriers that can get in the way of active listening.

External Listening Barriers

Noise

It’s incredibly challenging to listen effectively when you’re concentrating on filtering out background noise. Too much noise from side conversations or phone alerts will distract you from what the other person is saying.

Visual distraction

Sights have the power to distract as much as sounds. A movement out of the corner of your eye, people coming and going, or staring out the window can all pose barriers to active listening.

Physical setting

The physical environment you’re in can hinder your ability to listen. For example, if you’re outside in the hot sun, in a crowded space, or in any setting that causes discomfort, it will be more difficult for you to actively listen.

Objects

While some people believe playing with personal items can help them pay attention, it often distracts them from listening. Playing with a pen or a piece of jewelry can be a barrier to active listening.

The person speaking

Your personal feelings about the person speaking can be one of the biggest barriers to listening.  Talking with a close friend, someone you don’t like, or someone you find attractive/unattractive can all cause distractions.

Internal Listening Barriers

Anxiety

If your mind is worried about something unrelated to what you’re discussing, then this can distract you from the conversation.  Anxious thoughts will prevent you from actively listening to what’s being said.

Self-centeredness

When you’re talking with someone, it’s important to give them your full attention.  Self-centered thoughts can take you away from their words and distract you with your own thoughts instead.

Mental laziness

We don’t always want to listen to what’s being said to us.  If we’re listening to complicated information, we might be tempted to tune it out to avoid having to follow along.

Boredom

Boredom is another barrier to effective listening that can be difficult to overcome.  If you’re uninterested in the subject you’re discussing, it takes much more effort to pay attention.

Sense of superiority

Listening is all about taking in information you may not already know.  If you believe you have nothing to learn from someone, this can prevent you from listening to what they have to say.

Cognitive dissonance

Our preconceived notions can shape what we hear instead of allowing us to listen objectively.  If we believe something strongly enough, then we might wind up interpreting what’s being said to support our opinion.

Bias

Bias may cause us to disregard the other speaker entirely.  If we have a bias that doesn’t allow us to change our beliefs, then anything that doesn’t match that belief will be ignored.

Impatience

The less efficient the communicator, the more difficult it is to listen.  We may let impatience with a slow communicator interfere with what we hear.

How To Eliminate These Barriers To Listening

We have now answered the question, “what are the barriers to active listening?” But how exactly do we overcome them? To help you become a better listener, here are 5 practices I use in my own life.

  1. Practice Civil Discourse

Civil discourse is a helpful mindset to practice in order to be a better listener.  It encompasses many practices that encourage listening over speaking to allow for a better exchange of ideas. To practice civil discourse, don’t interrupt or have side conversations.  You should also listen for the content of what others are saying rather than assuming.

  1. Ask Questions

Asking questions will help you ensure that you fully understand what other people have to say.  If you’re unclear about anything that’s being said, feel free to ask questions to clarify or request additional information.  Asking questions also reduces boredom and impatience by allowing you to engage and extract the information you need.

  1. Set Aside Your Own Bias

We all have opinions, but these opinions can get in the way of truly listening to what another person is saying.  While you obviously can’t change your opinion at will, try to take a moment to set aside your preconceived notions before a discussion.  This will help you listen to what’s being said in an objective way without responding emotionally or being dismissive.

  1. Prioritize The Other Person

It can be easy to let internal and external listening barriers distract us during a conversation.  Make active listening a priority by dealing with any external barriers as they arise.  If you’re in a noisy area, move to a quieter one.  If you find yourself fidgeting with something, set it out of reach.  If you find your mind wandering, ask the person to repeat themselves to bring yourself back on track.

  1. Listen More Than You Talk

A good ratio to strive for is to listen twice as much as you talk.  If you have a point that you want to make while another person is speaking, write it down for later reference and let them finish their dialogue.  If you focus on listening more than talking, you’ll make active listening a habit before long.

Poor listeners will often interrupt the speaker, formulate opinions while the other person is still talking and rush to judgement. The above listening barriers can hurt us by preventing us from effectively taking in information. Follow these tips to overcome these barriers to listening and be a better communicator.

Civil Discourse

stand up for what you believe in

September 7, 2022

6 Steps to Respectfully Stand Up for Your Beliefs

Your beliefs are the foundation of your personality. Firmly rooted in your ancestry, upbringing, and life experiences, they shape your narrative and define your life’s 

key moments. Your beliefs work behind the scenes to guide your everyday actions. 

Not only do your beliefs shape who you are, they also provide a moral compass for your life. To stand up for them, you must first determine what values and principles you abide by. Only then can you articulate those beliefs with passion and conviction.

​​The Benefits of Speaking Up for What You Believe In 

Expressing your beliefs is the key to living authentically and in alignment with your values. Taking a stand for your convictions helps you deal with life challenges in a level-headed manner. Here are some reasons you should work on speaking up for your own beliefs:

  • Preventing identity loss. Your individuality separates you from the crowd. Defending your beliefs establishes your identity and guards your voice against getting lost in the crowd.
  • Building respect. Sticking up for your beliefs builds self-respect. Going against your values just because it's more convenient is less than admirable. Standing your ground shows that you aren't a pushover and can voice your opinions.
  • Gaining confidence. Standing up for your beliefs is not easy at first. You may doubt yourself, be hesitant and feel awkward. But each time you do it, you’ll get better at it and gain more confidence. So step out of your comfort zone and speak up whenever you can!
  • Bringing about change. Expressing your values makes an impact in society. It helps bring attention to issues that may have been overlooked and can affect the lives of people who share your belief system.

How to Defend Your Beliefs 

When someone disrespects your beliefs or pressures you into changing them, it’s important to speak up. I’m not advocating for responding to fire with fire but rather being firm in what you believe and standing up for your rights. It might be difficult at first and you might offend people close to you, but it’s essential for protecting your self-esteem. Here are six steps you can use to defend your beliefs:

  1. Know your audience: Before standing up for your ideologies, know who you’re talking to. Are you speaking to a friend, a family member, or a stranger? Each audience requires a different approach.
  1. Select your words carefully: Your word choice is crucial when defending your beliefs. Make a clear stand and maintain a respectful demeanor. Refrain from using inflammatory language that might come across as argumentative. 
  1. Be prepared for pushback: Not everyone will resonate with your beliefs, and that’s fine. When people challenge you back, be ready to explain why you hold those beliefs. Have supporting evidence, statistics, or examples ready.
  1. Make room for different perspectives: While it’s important to voice your values, making space for other views is also vital. Turn the discussion into a civil discourse where everyone can safely express their beliefs. You don’t have to agree with everything they say, but you must respect their right to hold those beliefs.
  1. Address self-doubt: Rejection is inevitable in life, but it can lead to self-doubt and a lack of confidence. If you’re able to acknowledge that failure is a natural part of the process to success and know that you’re worth more than a rejection, you can move forward with your beliefs intact.
  1. Practice detachment: When you stand up for what you believe in, you are making your opinion known and letting others know where you stand. Detachment isn't a call to avoid conflict; it's the acceptance that sometimes people will disregard your beliefs even though they know where you stand.

Negotiating Better and Integrating Beliefs In Your Life 

Seeking out perspectives that oppose your own helps you break out of your echo chamber. Civil discourse is a fantastic tool for negotiating with people holding onto different beliefs, listening to each other's stances, and showing respect for opposing views.

Civil discourse is about truly listening to understand, rather than pretending to be polite. It enables you to amplify your beliefs and question the preconceived notions that help you evolve as a human. It provides a learning space for everyone.

When you stand up for what you believe in and break out of your comfort zone, you will build respect for yourself, gain confidence and discover who you really are. It may not be easy at first but it’s really quite simple to do. Start by finding out what your beliefs are and let go of your fears, quit doubting yourself and keep practicing. Civil discourse is essential to foster a healthy discussion.

Civil Discourse

respect opinions

September 6, 2022

How to Respect Opinions Even When You Disagree

Difference of opinion is inevitable in any diverse society, but showing respect for opinions (whether you agree or not) is important for maintaining positive relationships.

When you can respect opinions you disagree with, you will be able to connect with others on a deeper level and build trust, which will open your mind to new ideas. Being respectful requires self-esteem, self-control, sensitivity, tolerance and fairness. As we mature, we’re expected to develop respect for everyone's opinions and not just those that belong to ourselves.

Many people are rigid about their opinions. Some even tend to disagree if what others say goes against their beliefs. But you can always find common ground by conducting civil discourse.

Opinions are the expression of your unique way of viewing the world. Your opinions reflect your upbringing, life experiences, education, and other cognitive biases. People with similar opinions may be drawn to one another, but a group of people with differing viewpoints can also be engaging and stimulating. You might not always agree with others, but it's important to respect their views. 

Here's a complete guide on how you can learn to accept people's opinions even if you disagree.

The Right to Have an Opinion

There is some debate about whether or not we all have a right to our opinions. While opinions are subjective, they may be based on facts such as when someone's opinion is grounded in technical expertise, for example, a legal opinion.

It's interesting how people feel strongly about the things they believe in. Their beliefs shape their worldviews, so it's natural to feel slightly rejected when someone disagrees with you. But it's also important to remember that everyone has a right to his or her own opinion.

Disagreements will happen. But you can choose to listen carefully and respectfully, and to communicate your feelings civilly. A world without such disagreements is a world without innovation and change. 

What Does Respecting Others' Opinions Look Like?

Scrolling through social media will often reveal people arguing aggressively over differing views. However, we don't always have to be hostile towards opposing ideas. Avoid heated debates - they never end well. Learn to separate your feelings from the issue at hand and analyze if someone else's opinions are valid in the context of their life experience. Arguing and undermining other people's beliefs will not help us grow. We learn by gaining new perspectives and widening our understanding.

Respect people's opinions and you'll be able to engage in civil discourse, which is vital for idea sharing. Humility and kindness are highly valued qualities. It shows you're willing to listen, even when it's hard. This will earn you respect even from people who disagree with you.

Disagreeing with someone doesn't have to be unpleasant. Here are some ways to respect differences:

  • Admit when you've made a mistake

When you notice your own flaws, you have two choices: either get defensive or accept your fault. The first choice will put your self-respect at stake and trap you in a never-ending argument. The second choice will help you take a solution-oriented approach that leaves no room for hurt feelings and burnt bridges.

  • When you disagree, listen to the other side patiently

Be curious about opposing views. Ask people why they hold those opinions and listen to them patiently. You may not agree with everything they say, but active listening will help you understand the ground of their views, which will make it easier to counter their arguments.

  • Don't raise your voice

You don't always need to prove yourself right. It’s fine to politely communicate your feelings and opinions in response, but yelling and being argumentative shows a lack of respect for the other person. The point isn’t to “win”, so there’s no reason to be aggressive. Agreeing to disagree is sometimes the most productive solution to a conflict.

  • Be polite and kind

Kindness and respect are intertwined. If you can be kind in the midst of a disagreement, you'll earn people's respect.

If you understand why someone believes what they say, it's easier to empathize with them. Despite differences, it's possible to coexist in a gray area without imposing your ideas on others.

  • Don't call others' opinions wrong.

Opinions reflect personal choices, not facts. It’s unnecessary to feel threatened or argue over which opinion is correct, because oftentimes, no one is “right”. The best way to learn how to respect someone's opinions is to consider how you'd want other people to behave when you share your perspective. This reminder will help you reciprocate respectfully with contrarian views.

The Benefits of Respecting others' Opinions in the Workplace

Showing respect toward others' opinions creates a cooperative environment. Be it at home or in the workplace, respecting diverse opinions yields excellent benefits, as mentioned below:

  1. People feel motivated to share their ideas.
  1. Employees don't engage in trivial office politics and are more satisfied.
  1. A healthy workplace culture is cultivated. 
  1. People engage in civil discourse that facilitates knowledge sharing.
  1. Teammates bond faster and develop enriching relationships. 
  1. Mindful listening widens the perspective to new ways of approaching the situation. 
  1. Being considerate of others' opinions earns you their respect.

Everyone has the power to think and reason. Differences in opinions have led to many innovations in the world. If we can benefit from diverse views, then we must also reap their benefits in our professional and personal lives.

Tips for How to Oppose or Respectfully Disagree 

Respect everyone's opinions, but don't be afraid to express your own. If you want to reach a conclusion that everyone can agree on, try using a civil approach. It might help avoid future clashes and disputes. 

Here are some solution-oriented tips to help you respectfully disagree:

  1. Stick to facts instead of emotions and opinions.
  1. Avoid making the person feel small for holding certain beliefs.
  1. Use "I" statements to communicate what you think and feel. Encourage similar behavior from the other side. For example, instead of saying, "This is not true," try saying, "I don't think this is true. Here's why."
  1. Ask questions to understand the root of opposing opinions and listen carefully.
  1. Have a civil approach and find a middle ground by agreeing to some parts of the discussion.
  1. Stay calm while explaining your perspective.
  1. Remember that you only disagree on one topic. This shouldn't change your relationship with the person.
  1. Agree to disagree if you can’t come to a middle ground.
  1. Walk away from the conversation if the other person turns hostile. Don't get defensive and escalate the situation.

A healthy self-esteem is the first step toward being respectful of others. Respect yourself enough to be honest with yourself and others. Understand that you are your priority—not what someone else wants or expects from you. When you accept that some relationships aren't meant to last, it's easier to move on from them.

Constructive Opinion and Destructive Critique

Opinions in the form of feedback come in two forms: destructive and constructive. Both types of feedback point out our mistakes, flaws, or potential improvements. While constructive criticism offers suggestions and possible solutions, destructive criticism is cutting, derogatory, or even mocks our failures.

Seek constructive feedback to improve your work. Ignore destructive criticism, which adds negativity and fosters self-doubt. Here are some ways you can differentiate between constructive feedback and negative criticism:

  • Intention - Constructive criticism keeps your best interest at heart. Destructive criticism aims to humiliate or insult the other person.
  • Focus of criticism - Positive feedback focuses on improving your shortcomings. Destructive critique leans toward personal attacks.
  • Nature - Productive criticism offers an actionable, solution-oriented approach. Destructive opinions are mostly vague and demeaning without any clear takeaways.

Always welcome constructive criticism with an open mind. Ask questions to understand their feedback, and use that feedback to improve yourself. Don't let destructive critique get you down; it's only words, not bullets.

To grow and learn, acknowledge your own beliefs and those of others. Create an environment where disparate points of view can be expressed respectfully. Civil discourse is the best tool at your disposal to build healthy, collaborative relationships.

Civil Discourse

productive conflict

September 5, 2022

The Art of Productive Conflict: Learn How to Turn Disagreements Into Opportunities for Growth

As an entrepreneur, I know what it feels like to be stressed out by the fast-paced work environment. While building a startup is challenging in itself, extra stress can arise among teams if conflict is avoided entirely. Most entrepreneurs avoid disputes in order to avoid discomfort, but this leads to poor results and more stress on top of their already busy lives.

While growing three purpose-driven startups, I’ve found that avoiding conflict does more harm than good. If you don’t communicate your disagreements clearly with the team, they’ll execute even bad plans. You may avoid disrupting peace in the short term, but in the long run, it will inhibit growth and progress in your company. Managing conflict productively is vital for avoiding undue stress and fostering an environment brimming with growth opportunities.

What is Productive Conflict?

Resolving any dispute requires a culture that encourages respectful communication and civil discourse. All team members should feel comfortable having open conversations where they can freely exchange ideas to reach a common ground.

Communicating civilly can help you turn a sticky situation into an opportunity for growth. Productive conflict is about having a healthy interaction with another person with a clear goal of dispute resolution. Positive conflict allows you to voice your disagreements with someone in a respectful tone, so that you can learn from one another and find solutions together.

There are numerous benefits that you’ll gain from embracing productive conflict. These include:

  1. Reducing workplace stress and increasing productivity.
  2. Making it easier to embrace and process contrasting ideas.
  3. Creating a solution-oriented environment teeming with growth opportunities.
  4. Nurturing mutual respect and holistic growth of all parties involved.

Components of Productive Conflict

Regardless of the size or nature of your company, productive conflict had three common characteristics:

  1. Have empathy for others

Conflict creates gaps in understanding. Empathy—putting yourself in the other person’s shoes—can help you understand why things broke down in the first place.

  1. Give respect to all parties

Respect is a powerful force in building relationships, allowing people to work together toward achieving common goals. Just demonstrating respect in a conversation can improve your relationship with another person.

  1. Focus on the problem

Focus on fixing the problem at hand, not winning the argument. Encourage everyone to bring their ideas to the table and work together toward a solution.

Creating Productive Conflict: A 2 Step Method

When you have a plan in place for how to resolve conflict, it’s much easier to do so. Here’s a simple formula for creating productive conflict in the workplace:

  1. Be aware

In order to overcome conflict, understanding is key. Understanding the problem, your own position, mindset, and communication style as well as those of the person opposing you are all vital parts of resolving disputes peacefully.

To address a problem, first acknowledge that it exists. Second, create an environment conducive to civil discourse by being respectful of others' viewpoints and listening to their input. Also, understand the root cause of the conflict so you can move forward productively.

  1. Find Common Ground

Once you’ve taken a moment to pause, get everyone involved to focus on finding a potential common ground. Let everyone present their perspective, listen to each other’s points of view in a civil manner, and carve out the best possible way to resolve the issue at hand. 

The true art of productive conflict lies reaching a mutual agreement, and that requires common ground between opposing parties.

Productive vs. Destructive Conflict

Conflict arises when people have different opinions or work ethics. With multiple people working in close proximity, potential for conflict is inevitable.

When people are not aware of their behavior, conflicts can be destructive. In such cases, two parties may unconsciously become absorbed in an argument that saps their motivation and frustrates them. The mood of the entire team sinks and no progress is made.

Destructive conflict happens when you focus on the person, not the issue. When this happens, your team members may look for ways to deny responsibility and pass the blame to someone else. This shows that they're not trying to solve a problem; instead, they're looking to pass blame to protect their egos.

We can fix things by adopting a solution-oriented approach. This means we must reflect on the conflict from a new perspective and determine how to move forward.

To turn conflict into a growth opportunity, both parties must adopt a civil mindset and let all participants speak freely. This approach helps you build trust and enrich relationships with your team members, and it brings harmony to the entire team.

Role of the Leader in Productive Conflict

A strong leader will drive conflicts to a productive solution in their workplace. They involve all team members in decision-making, getting everyone to focus on the bigger picture. They seek not a single star performer within the team, but rather success as a whole.

A good leader is transparent and honest with their team. They communicate clearly and respectfully, building trust. This allows them to solve conflicts within the group in a productive way.

Ultimately, the leader should try to build a cohesive team where individual goals are aligned with the team’s targets. This will help ensure that everyone is working in sync to meet all challenges and that your team remains productive even amid conflict and strife.

Conclusion

Conflict is inevitable in the workplace. When faced with unproductive conflict, you must bring the issue out into the open. Then everyone must work to address it head on. Some people will need to develop more sensitivity to detect when people are getting uncomfortable, and others need to become more comfortable making their thoughts and opinions heard. 

Teams that work together respectfully, and are willing to adjust their communication style, can engage in productive conflict that leads to success.

Civil Discourse

leadership soft skills

September 2, 2022

10 Soft Skills that are Crucial for Leadership

The best leaders not only know how to work with numbers, they know how to work with people. Skills like empathic communication, active listening, and body language are “soft skills” and are essential to productive leadership.

As we embrace an automated future, people are investing more in learning technical skills. However, I’d argue that soft skills will become more critical as we settle into the age of automation.

 Being an entrepreneur, I’ve met several successful leaders. One of the biggest things I found common in them was - a good grasp of soft skills. This allows them to effectively collaborate with remote teams and guides them to new heights. 

Soft Skills that a Strong Leader Needs in 2022

Leading people is a function of an intangible connection that is difficult to put into words. Good leaders instill purpose in their teams and make them feel fulfilled with their work. Whether your teams work from the office or home, if you want to deliver your best, become a leader by heart and mind.

 This is where developing soft skills enters the picture. The strength of your soft skills will determine how well you can lead your teams. As a leader, your success is defined by the success of your people. Here are ten soft skills that you should work on developing if you want to be a better leader: 

  • Communication skills 

The ability to effectively communicate tops the list of soft leadership skills. Disagreements are natural when you manage a team of people with varied opinions.

 In such situations, practice civil discourse with your team. It’s a great tool that allows everyone to present their honest opinions and find common ground.

 Here are a few tips for facilitating civil communication: 

  1. Be open-minded to understand other people’s viewpoints.
  1. Ask for feedback and openly discuss them.
  1. Be confident while presenting yourself, and back your words with credible facts.
  1. Seek common ground to find solutions rather than focusing on points of conflict.

  • Empathic approach 

Leaders are primarily responsible for inspiring others. If you want people to follow your lead and take action, you need to know what they care about, which takes empathy. To lead them well, you have to understand their situation and feelings.

 Empathy as a soft skill fosters a work culture where everyone feels heard and understood. This instills in them a sense of responsibility to resolve conflicts. Compassion is a foundation of solid leadership. Here’s my personalized formula to enhance empathy for leadership: 

  1. Take others’ opinions into account before concluding.
  1. Engage in personalized communication by paying attention while listening and responding positively.
  1. Show support towards your employees and express willingness to solve their problems.
  1. Take feedback from the team to foster better understanding.
  1. Be genuine, kind, unbiased, and non-judgmental toward others. 
  1. Focus on growing as a team without leaving anyone behind.

  • Mindful actions that Win Over Trust

Trust is essential for the success of your team. Creating a trustworthy environment is only possible when your actions match your words. Employees begin to trust you when they realize you care about their well-being and take measures to help the company grow.

However, remember that your behavior needs to come from an authentic place. You can’t fake genuine trust. 

  1. Practice transparency in your work principles.
  1. Acknowledge others’ talents and value their strengths.
  1. Establish civil discourse with your team to allow the free flow of ideas.
  1. Don’t shy away from accepting your mistakes. 
  1. Be open and embrace other people’s perspectives or constructive criticism. 

  • Delegation Skills that Empower Others

The art of delegation is a must-have soft skill for leadership. As a leader, your goal is to empower every individual by recognizing their true potential.

Trusting employees with their assigned tasks without micro-managing creates a positive work environment. It also prevents you from overworking while boosting your team’s confidence.

Delegating responsibilities to capable individuals also allows you to hone your leadership skills.

Below are a few tips to help you effectively delegate tasks: 

  1. Conduct 1-on-1 sessions and group discussions to evaluate every individual’s standpoint.
  1. Offer challenging but achievable goals to your employees to help them grow.
  1. Give them space and trust in their process.
  1. Don’t micromanage at every step while the work is in progress.

  • Flexible mindset

Leadership is an ever-changing sphere. Leaders must be able to adapt to the constantly evolving industry standards.

Being open-minded with varied opinions elevates your strengths as a leader. If your employees view you as an approachable leader, they’d feel connected and dedicated to you. This leads to a productive workspace and promotes personal growth.

I’ve learned a few ways to adjust to different situations: 

  1. View changes as positive opportunities for growth.
  1. Don’t be afraid to experiment or push your limitations.
  1. Remain approachable.
  1. Adjust your conflict management tactics to effectively resolve stressful situations.

  • Collaborative Attitude

Bringing a team together is one of the most potent traits of an influential leader. It’s more about being a part of the team and not just allocating tasks to the employees. Inculcating a spirit of teamwork enhances cooperation, collaboration, and synchronization among the members. It helps you identify the team’s challenges while working towards a common goal.

A leader is nothing without a team. Guide them, split the responsibilities, and maintain clear communication with them. Polishing teamwork skills is imperative to becoming a strong leader. Here are some steps I follow and recommend: 

  1. Set hyper-defined goals.
  1. Develop a flow of communication among teammates.
  1. Provide updated tools and resources your team needs to seamlessly function.
  1. Conduct frequent review sessions.
  1. Clarify every member’s roles and responsibilities within the team.
  1. Praise the accomplishments and constructively address the poor performances.

  • Problem-solving skills

Problems are inevitable. A leader’s ability to deal with them separates a good leader from the average. A solution-oriented mindset becomes your strength to overcome roadblocks.

As an entrepreneur, you’ll encounter unique challenges. Your project might not shape up as expected, or your team might not be working up to the mark. You must objectively look at things in such situations to find the best solution.

My default mode of problem-solving involves the following steps: 

  1. Address the problem before assuming the pain points.
  1. Brainstorm possible solutions and analyze if their execution has some limitations.
  1. Involve your team in the creative problem-solving procedure. 
  1. Break down the challenge into a series of steps and individually tackle them.

  • Self-Awareness to Manage your emotional intelligence

Pay attention to your emotions, inner conflicts, and mindfulness to foster leadership skills. Your emotional triggers influence your behavior and guide your actions. Emotional intelligence helps you in confronting any challenging scenario.

High self-awareness is a critical component of emotional intelligence. Self-aware people have a purpose, influence, and achieve success in their lives. When you incorporate these key attributes into your work life, you’ll lead a competent and passionate team and bring desired results.

A few measures that help manage emotional intelligence are: 

  1. Know your patterns. Identify the emotional triggers that often take you off track. 
  1. Listen, analyze, and then respond to other people. 
  1. Value everyone’s uniqueness and appreciate them.
  1. Choose patience and empathy over conflicts.
  1. Take breaks. If you feel overwhelmed, slow down to recover whenever necessary.
  1. Be mindful while interacting with people who hold contrary opinions.

  • Efficient decision-making to overcome challenges

When you’re in a leadership position, your decisions have high stakes. You have the power to influence the lives of team members, organizational stakeholders, and the company at large. It’s essential to make good decisions when you’re leading a team.

Efficient decision-making must be one of your strengths in all your leadership roles.

Here are some tips to help strengthen your decision-making skills: 

  1. Manage your emotions and the emotions of visibly-disturbed teammates.
  1. Analyze the pros and cons of whatever issue is at hand.
  1. Limit the choices, so you don’t take forever to conclude.

  • Strong mentoring skills

A great leader is known for empowering other people, which improves organizational productivity. The best way to lead a team is by mentoring members and supporting their growth and development.

People often see the leader as a role model to lead an organization. Mentoring others is a soft leadership skill that brings integrity to the team. Here are a few tips to become a great mentor to the people who look up to you: 

  1. Bridge the gap between your actions and words. When your actions match your words, it enhances the trust of your team to follow the path you show them. 
  1. Understand the team’s drives and assign tasks that are exciting for the teammates and essential for the organization.

Leadership requires mastery of a variety of skills. Soft skills are often overlooked, but they’re just as important as your technical and managerial abilities.

The conversation of soft vs. hard skills for leaders reflects a more profound truth: Leadership is not just a programmed set of tasks you check off daily. It’s not a formula you follow or a code you adhere to. Authentic leadership comes from the heart. Genuinely caring about others is at the core of all soft skills that can empower you to be a more effective leader. If you don’t care about your people, they likely won’t care about you or the company.

We all want to know that our work is important and that what we do adds to something meaningful. Improving your soft skills and showing your team you care doesn’t have to add a lot to your plate, but it does have to be a priority in your days. Start small and learn as you go. It will make all the difference.

Civil Discourse

finding common ground

September 1, 2022

Finding Common Ground

A fundamental mindset shift that has helped me scale three successful startups from scratch is always looking for the best in people. This doesn’t mean I haven’t encountered conflict; which entrepreneur hasn’t? But I’ve always prioritized giving every person a fair chance to speak. Looking back, that has made all the difference in my journey.

Every person you meet has a unique perspective. Their personal life experiences, upbringing, and current situation determine their worldview. As a result, people see things differently and hold varying beliefs. This difference in thought is the primary cause behind conflicts.

Finding common ground enables you to find a mutually beneficial solution for both parties. You build trust and forge strong bonds with people who don’t share your mentality. Here’s a comprehensive guide on how you can find common ground during conflicts.

What Does Finding Common Ground Mean? 

Not everyone thinks, feels, or acts the same way as you do. You might find a few kindred souls who resonate with your thoughts, but most people won’t. Conflicts will inevitably arise. You must find common ground to protect your relationships. It’s a practice where you discover a topic, opinion, or perspective you both can agree upon. It allows you to see where the other person is coming from and better appreciate their point of view.

Civil discourse is an excellent tool for finding common ground. It allows you to create a non-confrontational environment where:

  • everyone can freely express themselves,
  • listen carefully to each other, and
  • show respectful disagreement.

Establishing a common ground doesn’t mean you have to agree on everything. You may share some interests with the other person, but other issues can still separate you. However, seeking mutual ground will help bridge the divides that pull you apart.

The Importance of Finding Common Ground

Locating a mutual ground ensures that both parties understand each other’s perspectives and strive to find the best possible solution to resolve the conflict. Here are some reasons why finding common ground is essential:

  • Builds strong relationships

Conflict pushes people apart. Establishing a common solution helps maintain relationships even amid disagreements. People develop strong bonds and build trust when they’re aligned toward a shared goal.

  • Resolves conflict quickly

You can resolve conflicts when you understand the depth of an issue. People’s viewpoints differ due to their unique identities. However, establishing common ground allows you to analyze both opinions without bias to arrive at a mutually agreeable solution.

  • Increases Open-mindedness

To resolve arguments, you must be open to opposing ideas. Conducting civil discourse helps all the parties to adopt a flexible mind toward varying perspectives. This allows you to quickly attain common goals.

  • Prevents opinion polarization

Everyone has a different approach to solving the same problem. However, sometimes, people counter the other person’s strategy to prove their solution right. Common ground prevents both parties from vehemently opposing each other’s opinions. It aligns everyone to focus on achieving the shared outcome. 

Civil Discourse: The Ultimate Strategy for Finding Common Ground

During an argument, people defend themselves to protect their egos. This further escalates the conflict. To resolve an issue, you need to constructively approach it so everyone can feel respected. Engaging in civil discourse lets you understand what matters to the other person.

Civil discourse enables a productive exchange of ideas. It helps both parties figure out what’s important to them. Such conversation allows people to express their views without rancor. It gives rise to mutual respect and reinforces people’s right to hold their beliefs.

Everyone must honestly present their thoughts to quickly find the middle ground. No one needs to downplay or overstate their ideas. Carefully listen to other people, ask questions, and show respectful disagreement whenever necessary.

Civil discourse lays down the stepping stone to align different visions and find common ground faster. Read on for the steps you must follow to tackle conflicts smartly.

Steps for Finding Common Ground 

As an entrepreneur, it’s essential to learn how to find common ground with your team. Learning this will foster a sense of teamwork and help your business grow. 

Here are the steps you can take to find common ground in any conflict:

  • Establish the tone with small talk

Small talk is a great way to break the ice. When you meet someone new, make a connection by talking about food, drinks, music, and hobbies. Talk about all the activities that allow you to experience commonality. It will create a comfortable environment where you can efficiently conduct civil dialogue with the other person.

  • Listen actively

Civil discourse ensures things don’t get heated up during a disagreement. You have to listen, take mental notes and be willing to embrace new opinions. An active listener focuses on what the other person is saying, not what they want to say next. Use non-verbal language like nodding or establishing eye contact to show you’re genuinely listening to them. 

  • Begin a more profound conversation by asking questions

Once the other person expresses themselves, ask open-ended questions to dig deeper into the conversation. Encourage them to speak freely and listen without interrupting them. Their answers will help you understand their side of the story and reach the common ground faster.

  • Don’t be overly judgmental.

As humans, we naturally have biases about other people. Recognizing what triggers you to be judgmental or critical of others is vital. Focus on the current topic and don’t delve into judgments during the discussion.

  • Be empathic to their perspective.

Everyone holds different opinions based on their idea of reality. Listen to their point of view, and consider the facts and opinions they present. Ask questions when you need elaboration. They might say something that makes you rethink your approach.

  • Be authentic

Avoid being confrontational when speaking your mind. Frame your thoughts using “I” statements. Explain how you feel and why you feel that way. The goal isn’t to prove that you’re right. It’s about sharing your stance that helps the other person comprehend where you’re coming from. This establishes the common ground both people are comfortable with. 

How To Find Common Ground With Friends and Family

Civil discourse not only enriches the workplace but also helps you locate common ground with your friends and family. When you establish a shared goal with people, you resolve conflicts faster and co-exist in harmony even with diverse opinions. This strengthens your bonds and develops mutual respect.

Here are some steps that will help you find common ground with friends and family:

  • Respond, don’t react

Listen carefully to the other person. Their opinions might trigger your emotions, and you may feel the temptation to counter them. But don’t. Strive to understand their perspective before reacting. Ask questions to ensure you’ve understood their points correctly. Remember that you’re looking for common ground, not ways to disagree further.

  • Keep calm during the argument.

You can easily become defensive when you disagree with someone close to you. Remind yourself to stay calm and take deep breaths. Don’t respond with rage regardless of the temptation. If the other person gets upset, calm them down and revisit the topic when things settle down.

  • Express your feelings

If your friend has a different perspective, talk to them about it. Don’t assume they know what you think or feel. They cannot read your mind. You must help them understand your stance and why you believe in it. This will let the other person do the same and help you reach an understanding.

  • Focus on solving the conflict, not on winning the argument 

You will experience disagreements no matter how close you are to friends or family. When diverse views arise, know that it’s normal. Don’t disregard their beliefs or try to prove your thoughts are correct. Patiently listen to the other person and be curious to know why they think what they think. The goal is to solve the conflict, not to win the fight.

Conclusion

Diverse views are expected. They arise regardless of the situation and people involved. This thought difference often leads to conflicts, which can sabotage relationships if not handled well. That’s why finding common ground that mutually benefits all parties is vital. When people know they’re working towards the same goal, they don’t obsess over their views. They listen to diverse opinions that help reach the goal faster. Civil discourse is a great way to establish a mutual ground amid a conflict. Ask everyone to share their views and agree to disagree with opposing ideas.

Civil Discourse

how to handle criticism

August 29, 2022

How to Handle Criticism Like a Winner

You can never be truly successful without the input of others. When taken in stride, criticism can improve relationships and make us more effective at what we choose to do. 

In the era of social media, it's far too easy for criticism to come your way, as anyone who has spent a decent amount of time on Twitter can attest to. If you don't learn to deal with criticism well, you'll spend your life letting other people define who you are. 

Above all else, if you learn to take criticism well, you will gain a powerful tool that can propel you forward personally and professionally. 

Types of Criticism

The ability to respond positively to criticism requires being able to identify it. Here are the various forms of criticism that you might encounter:

  • Aesthetic Criticism

This type of criticism is part of the broader field of aesthetics, which has to do with determining what is beautiful, how it connects to our emotions and other issues concerning human sentiment. Aesthetic considerations have a place in most parts of human life, so there is potential for much criticism.

  • Logical Criticism

A logical criticism is an objection to an idea, argument, action, or situation because it does not make rational sense. The critique usually refers to assumptions, coherence, implications, and intent.

  • Constructive Criticism

Constructive criticism is a suggestion for improvement—how things could be done better or more acceptably. Good constructive feedback helps you grow and learn and creates an open-minded culture.

  • Destructive Criticism

Destructive criticism is negative feedback that directly hurts people and their creations. It often takes the form of an attack on a person's character or personality or an emotional outburst. It may be based on prejudice or result from the critic's frustrations and insecurities.

Receiving criticism can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. By adopting these key traits, you’ll be able to handle any criticism effectively:

  1. A strong self-esteem
  2. Assertiveness 
  3. Mindfulness
  4. Emotional intelligence
  5. A solution-oriented mindset 
  6. Self-awareness

Constructive vs Destructive Criticism

Each person is unique, and so are their opinions. As an entrepreneur, I find criticism inevitable. The people I work with have differing experiences, mindsets, and creativity, often leading to disagreements and opposing thoughts within the team. To benefit from such conflicts, I engage in civil discourse within my team to give everyone a fair chance to express their ideas and constructively criticize each other's viewpoints.

Constructive criticism is a method of providing feedback that intends to improve. To be effective, it must be addressed in a way that acknowledges the person's strengths and weaknesses. In addition, it should provide focus on areas for growth and improvement.

In contrast, destructive criticism is negative feedback intended to harm, insult or destroy someone's creation. It's malicious and focuses on belittling the person at the receiving end.

Tips to Deal With Criticism

No one wants to be criticized, but if you want to build something exceptional, you must be willing to take it. The best way to fight criticism-related anxiety is to learn how to deal with it. 

Here are some tips to help you handle criticism effectively:

  1. Be calm and patient

Receiving criticism can be difficult, but if you lose patience, it will only increase friction. The best way to take criticism positively is to engage in civil discourse. This helps people conduct a productive discussion while respectfully accepting the criticism for improved results.

  1. Don’t be tempted to criticize back

The way you respond to your critic is crucial. Thank the person who offered the best suggestion they could come up with. Stay focused on learning and improving rather than reacting defensively to justify your motives.

        3. Project Positivity

The way you hold yourself during a confrontation is your biggest strength. Smiling gently, nodding in agreement, or relaxing your eyebrows can turn even serious disagreements into friendly debates. Open body language creates an atmosphere conducive to productive criticism and keeps the critic motivated to provide valuable feedback without personal attacks.

  1. Listen actively

By listening patiently to your critic, you can handle criticism well. We're not always the best judge of our situations. But, if you are all ears to the limitations someone else can foresee in your innovations, it will improve your methods and get you profound results.

How to Improve Accepting Criticism

Collaboration encourages you to accept criticism in the interest of better results. If the intention behind the critical feedback is constructive and focuses on improved results, you shouldn’t feel bad about it. Instead, use the feedback as fuel to refine your work and create incredible results.

Start accepting criticism like a winner by following these steps:

  • Don't let your emotions get the best of you

A calm mind is the first requirement for handling criticism. A raging sense limits your capacity to think objectively. Don't interrupt an argument, even if you disagree at times. Instead, take deep breaths to calm your nerves and postpone the conversation to a time when you're in a relaxed state.

  • Ask questions to seek clarity 

While dealing with criticism, it’s crucial to keep the communication to the point. Ask questions that add clarity to the discussion. It keeps the criticism constructive and helps you benefit substantially from the feedback.

  • View criticism as a challenge to overcome, not an excuse to retaliate

The way you handle criticism matters more than the criticism itself. Remind yourself that your critic is here to help you improve rather than belittle you. Evaluate the critical points rather than reacting negatively to their perception.

  • Acknowledge the critic’s efforts in providing insight

It takes courage to give genuine feedback, mainly when that feedback differs from your perspective. But on the other hand, expressing gratitude helps foster understanding and prevents conflict.

  • Avoid taking the criticism personally

When dealing with criticism, it's important to view it rationally. You're not perfect and making mistakes is a normal human tendency. If you take feedback personally and let it get to you, it will hinder your ability to take it in stride and grow.

Final Words

To thrive in this competitive world, you must learn how to handle criticism. When you receive feedback in your life, view it as an opportunity to grow. A critic becomes your ally when you accept their viewpoints as opportunities for growth. The ability to receive criticism without taking it personally is a skill that will allow you to live a happier, more successful life.

Civil Discourse

social media echo chamber|

August 16, 2022

How to Break Out of the Social Media Echo Chamber?

Social media is an integral part of modern life, giving every person the opportunity to share their thoughts with the world. Unfortunately, people tend to surround themselves with content that aligns with their perspectives and beliefs, making it easy for them to avoid viewpoints that differ from their own and effectively create a social media echo chamber.As algorithms become better at showing you content that fits your preferences and past behavior, they can also limit your worldview.

What is an Echo Chamber?

Everyone picks a side. You choose heads or tails, and you root for it: the same goes for online opinions. You tend to favor one side, regardless of how well-balanced your behavior is. Social media then bombards you with content that validates your confirmation bias.Confirmation bias is the tendency to interpret information in a way that conforms to your existing beliefs. It is more prominent when emotions are attached to opinions, as on social media. Social media can create an echo chamber by providing versions of the same information that reinforce each other.Algorithms restrict your access to opposing perspectives, which can stifle the scope for civil discourse or productive exchange of ideas.

What are the Consequences of Social Media Echo Chambers?

Here are some severe consequences of being in an online echo chamber:

  1. Unintentional alliance in spreading fake news
  2. Lack of original ideas
  3. Absence of challenging viewpoints
  4. Less scope for knowledge growth
  5. Limitation of problem-solving abilities.
  6. Polarization and division between social groups

Why is it Important to Break out of the Comfort Zone of Like-minded People?

When you constantly surround yourself with people who agree with you, it's easy to create a bubble in which you don't hear dissenting opinions. Unfortunately, this can lead to heated arguments and strained relationships.We see this trend on social media often, which can harm our understanding of the world. People fight in the comments, spread misinformation, and surround themselves with people who harbor similar opinions. This is why it's vital to break out of this pattern.The first step is to recognize that you're in an echo chamber. The next step is to ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Is the content shedding light on only one side of the issue?
  2. Is there concrete evidence behind the viewpoints, or are they based on rumors?
  3. Does the content take facts or statistics into consideration?

If you find your content consumption pattern one-sided and constantly bashing the other side, it's time to break free of your filter bubble. Of course, you don't need to abandon your ideologies completely, but stepping out of your filter bubble will feel liberating.You miss out on multiple growth opportunities by staying in an echo chamber. Once you start thinking outside the box, you unlock various benefits of listening to diverse opinions, such as:

  • Getting enough information from both sides to make a fair judgment
  • Letting go of your need to be right all the time
  • Opening yourself up to new learning opportunities
  • Not basing your ideas on someone else's perspective

How to Break Out of Your Echo Chamber

If you want to expand your perspective and break free from the comfort of echo chambers, try these strategies to find and listen to the opposing side of the story:

  1. "Like" everything

Don't pledge allegiance to any side on social media. Instead, engage with conflicting posts to feed your algorithm that you like everything, so you'll get recommendations from all facets. This way, you'll be exposed to various viewpoints, even if it goes against your confirmation bias.

  1. Be mindful of who you follow

Your favorite creators might be biased and not present a balanced outlook on both sides. An easy way to find their leanings is to see who they follow and who follows them. You'll undoubtedly find a common thread of ideology and confirmation bias in their posts.

  1. Sort chronologically

Instead of relying on the algorithm to feed you content, set your feed to view content chronologically if possible. This will allow you to see the latest posts irrespective of whether your circle agrees with them—and it may also help you get acquainted with differing perspectives on the matter.

  1. Give space to emerging voices

Don't just stick to the same creators. Instead, keep finding new voices and following them. Everyone has unique stories that lead them to where they are. In understanding their' whys,' you add diversity to your feed and may find reasons behind popular internet debates.

  1. Seek out opposing viewpoints

It isn't easy to consume the content you disagree with, but by following people with varying views, you can find knowledge across the spectrum. In addition, you create a healthy balance of diverse opinions by beefing up your social media content sources.

  1. Read everything with a critical viewpoint

Question what you read and hear. Don't share anything without verifying it first. Seek out the source of a news piece before passing it along to others. Never rely solely on social media for information; confirm what you hear or read with various sources. If a post sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

  1. Talk, don't mute

Don't let your desire to avoid conflict lead you to silence others whose views differ from yours. On the contrary, by engaging civilly with people whose opinions differ from your own, you will gain the knowledge and understanding necessary for productive conversations.

  1. Manage your anger

Seek evidence, not just your own belief or opinion. Respect those who present facts and figures. Keeping calm is more effective in putting your message across in any disagreement.

Is it Worth Breaking out of Your Social Media Echo Chamber?

Social media can be an excellent opportunity to find new jobs, gain recommendations, and build connections. But it's not all sunshine and roses. You need to be aware of pitfalls—how to avoid confirmation bias, for example, or how to get over your attitude of always being right.To gain a broader perspective, you must take active steps to welcome opposing views.

  1. Be humble and recognize that you don't know everything. Be open to new ideas and opinions.
  2. When someone makes a statement contrary to your own opinion, don't be so quick to dismiss or scorn it.
  3. Identify and reflect on the biases you may harbor to gain a more objective perspective.
  4. Research opposing viewpoints when you need to challenge your ideas.
  5. Learn to identify the most common types of fake news.
  6. Respect the human on the other side of the screen before making offensive or harsh statements.

Avoiding an echo chamber is not about avoiding opposing viewpoints. Instead, the goal is to use empathy and civil discourse to bring people together in meaningful dialogue, even when you have differing opinions. Try the steps above to keep your social media feeds balanced. Remember that everyone has a different idea of what's essential, and keep an open mind.

Civil Discourse

principles of communication

August 15, 2022

Principles of Communication: The 7 C’s

The ability to communicate and collaborate is what separates humans from other species. To understand why we've succeeded in conveying our thoughts and ideas, it is essential to examine how we communicate. Human language, problem-solving, and morality originate in our imaginative ability to reflect on different situations and our deep-seated drive to connect with others.People often overlook the importance of effective communication, but being a good communicator is a skill that will help you succeed at almost anything. It's a way to share your thoughts and feelings, connect with others, and achieve your goals.

Modes of Communication

Effective communication is critical for success. To effectively share information with your team and customers, it helps to learn the various modes of communication and when to use them:

  1. Verbal communication

Verbal communication uses words to speak, present, discuss, or convey a message. Body language, tone, pitch of voice, and choice of words play a vital role in verbal communication. Verbal communication helps transmit thoughts by each party and results in faster decision-making.

  1. Non-verbal communication

Body language, facial expressions, eye contact, appearance, and sign language are essential forms of communication that complement verbal communication and also help when words don't suffice. In addition, non-verbal communication is integral to interviews and discussions as it can convey meaning even when words fail.

  1. Written communication

Written communication is when we use words to convey a message. This communication happens through emails, memos, texts, posts, etc. Written communication can help you share your thoughts well, but sometimes it does not fully convey the emotion you're trying to communicate.

Importance of Communication in the Workplace

Communication is one of the most vital skills for any business professional to master. It builds understanding, resolves doubts, and reduces stress. In addition, effective communication helps you reach the company’s targets while successfully managing a team of innovative people.Here are a few benefits of effective communication at work:

  • Promotes team spirit

Effective communication encourages everyone to participate in civil discourse, share ideas, build trust, and collaborate while working on a project. In addition, it allows the entire team to value one another, which keeps your team's morale high.

  • Improves creativity and productivity

Communication among people with different opinions results in new ideas, doubts, and resolutions, streamlining the work process and boosting the creativity and productivity of the team.

  • Resolves conflict

Communication is essential in the workplace to resolve conflicts, find common ground, and work as a team. Therefore, employers should encourage civil discourse among employees, which helps them set goals, strategize efficiently, and execute plans successfully.To communicate effectively in a work environment, these seven principles prove their worth:

7Cs: The Principles of Workplace Communication (with examples)

There are seven basic principles of effective business communication that a team can use to accomplish productive dialogue.

  • Conciseness

Be concise in your messages. It will help you to have more meaningful conversations and save time.Example: While training employees on developing a skill, avoid talking about the foundational story of your company or repeating sentences. People will disengage and reduce enthusiasm among the team. You will gather the team's transformative output if you respect everyone’s time, stay on point with your message, and encourage active participation.

  • Consideration

To deliver an impactful message and resolve the challenges employees face, you must consider your team members’ viewpoints, levels of understanding, concerns, etc., while communicating.Example: If an employee struggles to complete an assigned task, don’t just explain the importance of the task. Instead, consider their struggles and help them where they’re stuck to execute the task effectively.

  • Correctness

The correctness of your message is vital for the team to conduct productive work. This allows everyone to contribute the correct information and their progress related to the topic. It leads to better decision-making. Appropriate language, correct spelling, grammar and punctuation, the authenticity of the facts and references, etc., all fall under this principle.Example: Using inappropriate language or incorrect data in a formal report could lead to your dismissal or damage the company’s reputation.

  • Completeness

Completeness is an integral part of effective communication. A complete message includes everything that enhances your team's understanding and definitive next steps to achieve the desired results.Example: When you assign a project to the team, specify the outline, each member's role, and the exact strategy. This will help ensure that employees have clarity of the task without any confusion over the critical areas.

  • Courtesy

Workplace communication needs to include sincerity and respect for everyone. You must not resort to making offensive remarks or belittling any team member, even if there is a disagreement.Example: If employees attack each other to prove their points, calm them down and set up an environment for civil discourse. This will help people acknowledge each other's opinions and find common ground on which to discuss creative ideas.

  • Principle of concreteness

Workplace communication must be specific, clear, and direct. There is no room for ambiguous or vague information that might confuse or mislead the team.Example: When you educate your employees about the benefits of civil discourse in the workplace, be sure to provide them with an understanding of its basics, importance, and value. Also, encourage them to ask questions, resolve their doubts and provide relatable examples.

  • Coherence

This principle ensures that the employees are well informed about the company's objectives. Furthermore, systematically communicating with them brings clarity into the discussion and resolves any doubts they might have about your methods.Example: If you're updating employees on company policies, describe the reasons behind the changes to maintain harmony within the workplace. Sudden changes will affect the employees' efficiency.

Tips for Good Communication

Here are a few practices that will help you implement the seven principles of effective communication in the workplace:

  • Treat your employees with respect by valuing their presence and role in the company
  • Address the needs of your team and respond to their questions with patience
  • Before initiating a dialogue, consider your team's perspective on the topic
  • When communicating with a team, understand which mode of conversation is best-suited to convey your message

Final Words

Effective communication can help you build healthy relationships with your employees and foster a healthy work environment. How you speak, respond, or share your ideas will show your employees how you feel about them. With good communication skills, you can cultivate a healthy and growth-oriented culture in the workplace.

Civil Discourse

constructive criticism

August 9, 2022

How to Give and Take Constructive Criticism: Useful Tips

Valuable feedback in the form of criticism can help you improve, but many people are uncomfortable when they hear negative comments about their work. Getting used to responding positively to criticism will help you grow as a person and advance in your career.Constructive criticism is a tool for improvement; it helps the other person see and polish their work from a new perspective. On the other hand, destructive criticism is abuse that can lead to stress and decreased productivity. In this post, we'll walk through tips and strategies for giving and receiving constructive criticism like a champ.

What is Constructive Criticism?

Constructive criticism is a way of giving feedback that provides specific, actionable suggestions. Rather than providing general advice, constructive criticism offers specific recommendations on how to make positive improvements. Criticism that is constructive focuses on the positive aspects of the situation while emphasizing the scope for improvement. This is a valuable quality in leadership. You can drastically enhance your team's output if you can show people where they fall short and help them improve without bringing their morale down.

Benefits of Using Constructive Criticism

Constructive criticism is an essential part of the workplace. When people know how to give and take criticism, they can identify areas for improvement. Here are some of the benefits of constructive criticism:

Learning opportunities

Humans tend to overestimate their abilities and ignore their shortcomings. That’s why it’s important to seek feedback for personal growth. The learning curve increases as you adapt to doing things differently and accept corrective criticism.

Builds relationships

Giving constructive criticism takes courage because you can't predict how the other person will respond. People who have your best interests at heart go out of their way to provide corrective feedback. Accept their criticism and thank them for helping you improve. This way, you can build productive relationships with people who care about you.

Welcomes new perspectives

Constructive criticism can give you a fresh perspective on the world. When you understand other people’s views, you can make effective changes to your work and approach.

3 Tips for Giving Constructive Criticism:

Constructive criticism encompasses a variety of factors that influence one's outlook to a significant degree. However, the following are several noteworthy features of corrective criticism:

  • Practice what you preach

If you want to be taken seriously, implement what you say before you share your opinion. People won't respect your feedback if you don't follow your own advice. For example, if an employee is struggling to maintain a work-life balance, they won't seek advice from someone who rarely leaves the office. Instead, they'll go to colleagues who have found balance and know how they can achieve it.

  • Use real and specific examples

Use real-life examples when providing feedback. It will help people visualize how their method is flawed and, if improved, how it can generate better results.For example: "Hey, I noticed you don't follow up with leads after the first sales pitch. That's something we can work on together. I usually see 40% more conversions in my first follow-up and 10% in the second. It adds up quickly and can increase commissions significantly."

  • Provide people a chance to revert

Always conduct civil discourse when sharing your perspective with others. It will help them understand the reasoning behind your actions. Let them cross-examine you and respectfully answer their questions. If they find your stance wrong, gracefully accept it, apologize and move on.

Destructive vs. Constructive Criticism

Constructive criticism can help people improve, while destructive criticism often targets people personally and does little to improve a situation. While you can’t choose which feedback you receive, you can decide how to respond to them. Self-acceptance plays a pivotal role in providing a healthy response to criticism. It will help if you put conscious effort into offering feedback empathically.

Empathy and Constructive Criticism

When offering constructive feedback to others, be sure to put yourself in their shoes. If you don’t understand their situation and they feel you don’t care about them, they will not listen to anything you have to say. Here’s an effective method for delivering constructive criticism empathetically:

Leverage the ‘Feedback Sandwich’ approach

The ‘Feedback Sandwich’ method is a way to deliver negative feedback that minimizes the harmful intensity of the criticism and makes it comforting for the receiver. This approach consists of a negative remark between two positive statements, balancing the critical comment with two relatively positive ones.Here’s an example:The first ‘positive’ layer: This website looks great! The overall design is aesthetically pleasing, and I love how you’ve integrated an easy-to-understand UI. In addition, your explainer video works amazingly well with our services.The ‘improvement’ layer: The content structure for our ‘About Us’ and ‘Services’ pages is too cluttered. We would do better to present the information in a way that makes it easier for people to browse through.The last ‘positive’ layer: Overall, the work is good! We are headed in the right direction. By revamping the content structure, we can enhance the user experience significantly. This type of feedback adds a positive spin to criticism, making it easier for employees to digest. They are also more motivated to improve their work after being given this response.

How to give and take constructive criticism?

Delivering Constructive Criticism Taking Constructive Criticism Offer feedback sandwich Don’t give impulsive reactions Be concise and to the point Strive to be a good listener Always follow up with recommendations Cross question for clarity Give unbiased feedback Do not become defensive Avoid making assumptions Do not interrupt the other person Be empathic Try and extract the learning point from the feedback and focus on it Pay attention to your situation instead of peopleDo not respond with anger and disappointmentCriticism is a natural part of workplace life. It's easy for leaders to lash out at employees and exercise their authority, but this doesn't motivate people. Giving constructive criticism is the best way to improve performance.

Civil Discourse

conflict management styles

July 27, 2022

A Guide to Conflict Management for Leaders

The best leaders neutralize workplace conflicts, making sure their team doesn’t lose sight of the company’s long-term goals.  Leaders often deal with conflicts with clients, employees, and other stakeholders. A strong ability to manage such conflicts can help a leader succeed. I used to fear that conflicts would grow in my team if I didn't address them immediately. Now, I've learned two things:

  • Focusing on preventing workplace conflicts can be a waste of time. Human beings are social creatures, and as such, we're bound to clash over differences.
  • Conflicts aren’t necessarily as bad as we fear them to be.  Conflicts can be growth opportunities, provided they are handled well.

After I learned how to manage conflict, my approach toward it completely changed.

What is Conflict Management?

Conflict management is the process of tackling disputes and the lack of consensus between individuals or groups.  The purpose of conflict management in a workplace is to learn to deal with disagreements effectively before they escalate into large disputes.  When conflict management styles bring team members together, they can find common ground and work towards a solution.Consider your conflict management style successful once you reach a mutually acceptable decision, whether through compromise, mediation, or collaboration. Remember that solving all fights and issues with the same conflict management style is impossible. You should be equipped with diverse conflict management tricks to judge and resolve each situation accordingly.To become an expert at conflict management, instill the following values in your team:

  • A growth mindset to encourage deriving a lesson out of every situation
  • A non-defensive attitude during arguments
  • Mindful listening to hear and process all perspectives
  • Emotional intelligence to empathize with everyone
  • Civil discourse to understand the disagreements

You must also find a balance between your assertive and collaborative reactions. Your initial response to disputes at the workplace should be determined by how assertive vs. collaborative you need to be in each case. This process will ensure smooth reactions in all situations.

5 Styles of Conflict Management

Leaders need to have some basic conflict management skills to tackle all kinds of conflicts.  Different styles of conflict management are employed depending on the gravity of the situation and nature of disputes. Some conflict-management strategies prioritize interpersonal relationships over any other factor involved. Let's familiarize ourselves with my top five go-to conflict management styles:

  1. Accommodating style
  2. Avoiding style
  3. Compromising style
  4. Competing style
  5. Collaborating style

These are the components of the  Thomas Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument. It's one of the most effective teamwork-improving tools available that help you establish conflict grounds and guides to conflict resolution through negotiation techniques.

  • Accommodating Style

The Accommodating Style is best for conflicts that aren’t too big and when time is of the essence. If you don't think a dispute is worthy of your time, energy, and efforts, then you can resolve it by readjusting your side. It might seem like you're losing your ground by simply letting things be, but it’s quite effective for smaller conflicts. You accommodate the other person's perspective and compromise your personal interests. This reduces the risk of straining your relationship with a team member. For all the times when you don't want to be assertive and just need to resolve an issue immediately, go for the accommodating style. Pros: This conflict management approach allows you to solve problems immediately and project yourself as a decisive and empathetic leader.Cons:  You should not try this technique to solve bigger problems without first considering all sides of the issue.

  • Avoiding Style

The Avoiding Style of conflict management involves putting off dispute resolution until it's absolutely necessary. It can be smart to put off resolution for small conflicts until you've run out of other options.This style of conflict management works great when the involved parties need some distance from the subject. You let them cool off and then start a discussion to resolve issues. This will give them the time to gain perspective and headspace to have an open dialogue.Pros:  When the boss adopts an avoiding style, employees start to respect their manager more. Time and distance can work as great healers.Cons: If you avoid problems and their consequences, they won't go away. Some employees may also see you as weak or ineffective if you delay dealing with situations instead of facing them head-on.

  • Compromising Style

The Compromising Style is a win-win situation. Both parties aren’t adamant about their perspective, and they are capable of reaching a mutually-agreed decision. This is a simple conflict management style when both sides are willing to put in the effort and find a solution before proceeding with further work.The compromising style is commonly used when both sides have valid arguments. The project can be benefitted from both ideas if only they compromise a little on their ends.  This conflict management style involves putting relationships above all else, and disagreements take a back seat. However, this technique is not ideal for legal situations or industry compliance. If compromising can stir widespread discontent, there will be no point in using this method.Pros:  Compromise creates a strong foundation for relationships. The decisions are made quickly, and both sides have a part of their demands met in the process.Cons: Even though both parties make sacrifices, one party may feel exploited during the negotiating process. This can create resentment and anger in some employees.

  • Competing Style

When it's time to put your foot down and make a decision, the Competing Style offers a straightforward approach. It doesn't give too much weight to other people's opinions and values and makes self-interest a priority. This conflict management style is ideal in situations where you've already made up your mind and don't want to waste time debating.Competing Style is a conflict management tool that involves holding your stance against all odds and refusing to budge, even when others disagree. It is best used when you need to take a firm decision beyond popular consensus.Pros: When you make a firm decision, it reflects your competence and courage. You can use this move to create a good first impression, but only after considering all other factors.Cons: The biggest drawback of this method is you risk a bad reputation if your decision is wrong. You will also seem like a tyrant who doesn't listen to the people around him or her, but despite this drawback, your decision yields excellent results.

  • Collaborating Style

The Collaborating Style of conflict resolution relies on factoring in the concerns and requirements of all parties involved. It also involves clear communication and mindful listening so that managers can figure out a win-win situation and resolve workplace conflicts.This style demands more time and energy investment but the results are worth it. It requires hours of dialogue and meetings to reach a solution, but that conclusion is most effective. This should be the ideal conflict resolution tool for new managers who want to foster a collaborative environment.Pros: Everyone is happy and this lays the foundation for a strong and collaborative relationship. Cons: It is a long process and requires great commitment. It can be difficult to take time and energy out for collaborative conflict resolution from our busy schedules.

Test Your Knowledge of Conflict Management

What's your go-to conflict management style? Take a simple quiz to find out.In this quiz, the rate on a scale of 1 to 5 based on how strongly you resonate with the following actions. 1 is least likely and 5 indicates you're most likely to follow suit.

  1. I can analyze all aspects of a conflict and understand all points of view.
  2. I believe in myself and enjoy presenting my case until I win.
  3. I don't feel good during conflicts. I actively ignore them.
  4. I prefer discussions during a conflict to reach a solution.
  5. I always look for a middle ground in conflicts.
  6. I won't disrupt peace just to argue and get my way.
  7. I don't waste time in conflicts. I fix a problem and move on.
  8. I keep my disagreements to myself instead of sharing.
  9. I take great satisfaction in winning a conflict.
  10. I don't want to waste my energy in arguments when I can agree with everyone and relax.
  11. I don't like to stay near conflicts.
  12. I’m happy to negotiate with people so everyone wins.
  13. I want to stand true to everyone's expectations.
  14. I believe it's best to keep talking until we resolve a conflict.
  15. I know I'm right and I'll stand by it until everyone realizes the same.

Tally your scores with to see the conflict management style you tend to rely on:1, 4, and 14 are collaborative styles3, 8, and 11 are avoiding styles6, 10, and 13 are accommodating styles2, 9, and 15 are competing styles5, 7, and 12 are compromising styles

Civil Discourse as a Method to Manage Conflicts

Besides conflict management styles and techniques, I actively practice civil discourse in my personal and professional life. I define civil discourse as a productive dialogue exchange where people mindfully entertain diverse opinions and stay respectful. The real essence of civil discourse is in understanding everyone's perspective without any preconceived notions coloring our judgment. By mastering this clever art of agreeing to disagree, you stand by your perspectives while paying due respect to everyone else's opinions. This approach has helped me create a dynamic team, launch successful start-ups, and steer clear of grave internal conflicts. Here are some of my tried and tested civil discourse principles:

  • Listen actively

Civil discourse is not a veiled attempt to change people’s minds. Passive listening and nodding are not conducive to healthy communication, as they encourage more of the same from others; it’s all about expressing your opinion and listening to other perspectives. Practice patiently listening to someone else’s point of view and ask them to repeat if you miss anything. By mindfully listening to someone else, you make them feel heard and accepted.

  • Be receptive to diverse opinions

It is human nature to be biased. I understand that when I am communicating with others, my own biases play a role in how I react to their comments and ideas. In order to keep an open mind and listen more intently, I remind myself that my cognitive bias is always at play.

  • Convey value-adding opinions

Dialogue and debate are essential to civil discourse. However, it is important to understand that there is a difference between simply listening to others and having an open mind and going back to square one.

  • Be critical and accept criticism

Engaging in civil discourse doesn't mean you must accept others' opinions without criticism. You can be critical of others' ideas without using negative language. At the same time, prepare yourself to offer criticism even if you don't receive it.

  • Use assertive language with a regulated tone

I try to always be assertive in my language and moderate in my tone. All the participants listened attentively, responded to me, and considered my points. It can be tricky to make sure that you come across as confident and not utterly rude; so use polite gestures and body language to complement your confidence.

  • Present facts and figures

Practice civil discourse and back up your arguments with facts and statistics to become more persuasive. Focus on explaining yourself instead of getting drawn into arguments and personal attacks.

  • Demarcate your boundaries

While there are no hard and fast rules in civil discourse, you should define your boundaries at the start of any interaction. If certain topics are off-limits to you, disclose that early on. Remember that everyone has different limits and that everyone deserves respect.

Conclusion

A conflict is only negative when you don't know how to make the best out of it. Conflicts and disputes present an opportunity to learn and open up lines of communication. Use this chance to recognize your team members' motivations, understand their strengths, and develop a practice of civil discourse in your workplace.If some raging topics persist, follow the five effective conflict management styles:

  • Accommodating style
  • Avoiding style
  • Compromising style
  • Competing style
  • Collaborating style

These techniques will help you move past conflicts and create your ideal workspace brimming with productivity, but keep in mind that conflict management is only a temporary fix.  When all the team members value mutual respect, awareness, transparency in communication, and mindful listening, every business conflict can be resolved permanently. Start today and strive to build a thriving community with values of civil discourse.

Business and Leadership

Mindful Leadership

July 20, 2022

What Does It Take to be a Mindful Leader?

Mindfulness is the quality of being conscious of everything that’s happening inside and around you - maintaining a present awareness of your thoughts, feelings, and environment.People assume it comes with age, but in truth, mindfulness can be built with practice and instilled into your mindset at any age. I consider it to be an invaluable trait, irrespective of where you are in your career trajectory. But if you’re an entrepreneur, manager, or team leader, mindfulness can work wonders to translate your business targets into reality. Mindful leaders are not easily triggered by external events or swayed by emotion. They’re fully present in the moment and process their thoughts, feelings, emotions, and opinions with clarity. As a leader, being mindful is a powerful asset that allows you to have a clear vision and set well-defined expectations from your team. This inspires your team to be more solution-oriented and aligned with the company’s goals. Let's shed some light on mindful leadership and why you should consider putting it into practice.

What is Mindful Leadership?

Leaders today often tackle simultaneous challenges on a daily basis, and when you wear many hats, it’s inevitable that you’ll face overwhelm, stress, and burnout. That’s where mindfulness comes into play. Approaching chaos with a mindful mentality can be a liberating experience.A mindful leader’s presence, awareness and empathy can help them inspire and motivate their teams in an entirely new way. So how can you develop the qualities of a mindful leader for yourself?Let’s dive into some actionable steps.

Characteristics Of a Mindful Leader

Mindful leaders exhibit some unique traits that set them apart from others. To establish a mindful leadership culture in your organization, here are three characteristics you must pursue:

  • Presence

Bonding with your employees is pivotal to achieving a common goal and inspiring action. Being mindful will allow you to be more present while interacting with your team, and it opens the door to showing true compassion. When you’re able to fully direct your attention and focus on someone who’s speaking to you instead of letting your mind wander to emails, your to-do list, or an upcoming presentation, people will take notice. Being present in conversation goes a long way, and you might be surprised at how much more easily you bond with your team when you’re mindful during your interactions.

  • Flexibility

Having a flexible mindset is essential to being a mindful leader. When you embrace contradicting opinions that challenge your beliefs, it creates a collaborative ground for everyone to contribute their ideas. Conducting civil discourse is an amazing way to foster exchange of opinions to approach a common ground, and can help you be more open to others’ views and perceptions.

  • Authenticity

Authentic leaders show up as their true selves and are able to participate fully and honestly with their teams. Making an effort to show up as your authentic self is about accepting that you are an imperfect human who is simply trying to do their best. In the hustle culture we live in today, this can be a refreshing change that creates the space for you and your team to do your best work.

Why is Mindful Leadership Essential for Success?

Mindful leadership is imperative for productive teamwork. When leaders are in tune with their team and actively guide them to find effective solutions, the company grows exponentially. Here are a few reasons why mindful leadership is beneficial

  • High level of emotional intelligence: Emotional intelligence stands tall on the two pillars of empathy and self-awareness. Self-awareness helps  you remain conscious of your feelings and allows you to respond presently to a challenging situation. Empathy allows you to acknowledge your team’s efforts genuinely and encourages them to give their best shot. 
  • Improved decision-making: Emotions tend to cloud our decision-making abilities, but mindfulness is a great way to keep your head clear. Smart decision-making results in better business acumen. Using a solution-oriented approach drives your business to higher pedestals of success. 
  • Enhanced innovative thinking: Creative thinking is a skill that’s often overlooked in the workplace. As a mindful leader, you’re able to create an innovative environment by encouraging people to think out of the box. Being mindful also helps you accept failure and move past it without dwelling on it for long.

Civil Discourse And Mindful Leadership

Civil discourse in the workplace is pivotal for executing collaborative ideas and solving complicated issues. When employees get the green light to express their perspectives freely, it paves the way to productive discussions. Here are some ways you can use mindfulness to incorporate civil discourse in your team:

  • Actively listen to each team member’s opinions.
  • Ask questions to understand their stance before expressing disagreement.
  • Disagree respectfully with counter points, without demeaning anyone.

As a mindful leader, you need to take the first step towards implementing these civil practices in your meetings. Lead by example and provide support for your team members if they’re struggling to take a mindful approach.

Final Words

As a purpose-driven founder, I strive to be mindful as often as I can. I've found that it teaches me to pay attention to the present moment, recognize emotions and keep them under control, especially when faced with highly stressful situations. I'm more aware of my own presence and the ways I impact other people, which goes a long way. When you’re able to both observe and participate in each moment, while recognizing the implications of your actions for the longer term, it prevents you from slipping into a life that pulls you away from your purpose.

Business and Leadership

Conflict Avoidance

July 18, 2022

How Leaders Can Overcome Conflict Avoidance

Imagine a situation where one of your team members frequently interrupts you in meetings. They build upon your premise, take credit for your ideas, and steal your thunder. What would you do?You have two choices:

  1. Confront the person and share your concerns with them. This approach may lead to a conflict.
  2. Avoid the conflict, let them have their way, and silently withdraw

If you choose the first option, you can use strategic conflict management styles for a productive confrontation. Humans, however, often tend to avoid conflict at a biological level, especially if there are any substantial repercussions. Most people who gravitate towards polite conversations will go for the second choice and dodge a dispute. But leaving anger unaddressed can be more dangerous than you think.

What is Conflict Avoidance?

Conflict avoidance is the quality of avoiding confrontations with other people by hook or crook to maintain a false sense of peace. People often sweep issues under the rug with the good intentions of not disrupting harmony. Common ways to avoid a conflict include 1) changing the subject; or 2) simply agreeing to a contrary opinion without putting forth your genuine concerns. The problem with this approach is that the issue doesn’t go away if you don't talk about it. While avoidance sometimes seems like the easiest way to deal with conflict, in the long run, you'll still suffer. The issue will likely continue and lead to recurring frustration and stress which can seep into your personal life.  When you run from conflict instead of addressing it directly, you're compromising your true feelings and storing up frustration that can negatively affect your health.

What Causes Conflict Avoidance?

Understanding the underlying causes of conflict avoidance requires a bit of psychology and introspection. While the root cause of avoiding conflict will differ for everyone, if you've been told in the past that your opinions are not valuable, you’ll probably be reserved about sharing them in the future. If you’re not sure whether you fall into the category of being “Conflict Avoidant” this short quiz can help you determine where you stand:

  1. Do you compromise your opinions just to avoid a fight?
  2. Are you afraid of disappointing others?
  3. Do you change the direction of conversations to get away from disagreements?
  4. Are you often the “calm one,” but you have a tendency to accumulate grievances and then let them out all at once?
  5. Do you frequently think about unresolved issues and yet don't take any action towards their resolution?
  6. Are you afraid of facing backlash over your thoughts?

If you answered yes to even one of these questions, you have definitely dodged conflicts in your life. Asserting your opinion can seem scary or unnerving, but it's worth it to build the confidence to face conflicts effectively.

Why is it Unhealthy to Avoid Conflicts?

No matter how much you enjoy being the “nice person” at work who never rocks the boat, conflict avoidance isn’t going to help you progress. Being calm and patient is a virtue, but compromising your true feelings and holding on to resentful emotions isn’t a healthy approach. Continuous conflict avoidance can lead to depression and loneliness. Bottling up your emotions can feel isolating and lead to a loss of trust with your team, hindering your professional growth. Is avoiding a conflict really worth losing so much? It might seem like the right way to go about things, but in the long run, conflict avoidance comes at a significant cost.

Being Open to Conflict through Civil Discourse

Most people find it easier to put off a difficult discussion until it's absolutely necessary to deal with, but great leaders can't effectively lead a workforce by consistently dodging conflicts. Be prepared to face severe consequences if you routinely practice conflict avoidance, like:

  • Strained communication between your team
  • Diminishing team spirit and trust
  • Low productivity
  • High employee turnover

Getting over conflict avoidant behavior starts with internalizing the belief that conflict is an unavoidable aspect of life and that the right approach can help you make conflict a productive event.When there are no disagreements, people become mere followers of commands and lose their innovative and creative zest. This doesn't mean everyone should yell, blame, demand change, and refuse to negotiate. There’s a middle ground, and I believe the key to reaching it is by practicing civil discourse. Civil discourse encourages respectful expression and fosters a better understanding of situations from all sides. When you face a conflict, instead of avoiding it, you strive to find a solution. Leverage civil discourse to unlearn conflict avoidance in relationships and the workspace by:

  • Concentrating on the issues in real-time

There's no need to beat around the bush. You can take endless time to ruminate over conflicts, but it requires courage to address them immediately. Start by stating facts about issues as they occur.For example: “I was also an active participant in this project, but it was disheartening to find my name missing from the first draft of the report. I'd appreciate it if my name is also mentioned in the next revision.”

  • Creating opportunities for open dialogue

Be open to unambiguous and respectful dialogue with everyone. Address all emotions in the workplace first-hand instead of avoiding conflicts. It's the leader's job to foster a healthy environment where all teammates are comfortable voicing their opinions. Share your experiences with conflict and create opportunities for open dialogue.For example: “If you're facing any difficulties, my doors are always open. Let's talk it out before it reflects on our working styles.”

  • Changing your stance on confrontation

Disagreements don't automatically translate to fights. It's not always about being right and proving someone wrong. Confrontation and conflict resolution also reflect taking a stand for yourself and demanding accountability for everyone's actions. There's nothing wrong with confronting someone and calling for respectful discussions. Keep in mind that a confrontation now can save you from bigger problems later.For example: “Whenever you're free, can we finish our discussion on the new lunchtime policies? I have a few points to add that may bring a fresh perspective to the matter.”

  • Setting safe boundaries

Boundaries play a crucial role in maintaining civil discourse. No one should resort to personal attacks or destroy the office decorum. If you disagree with someone, you can explain your side and help everyone see your perspective without being disrespectful. For example: “I won't raise my voice throughout the discussion and will mindfully listen to you. Can you please do the same for me?”

  • Keeping communication channels accessible

Many people stay silent if they’re hurt and avoid conflict. Don't shut everyone out when you're going through something and keep the communication channels accessible. Recognize your emotions and express them openly. Let others come to you for resolution even if it leads to disagreements. With civil discourse, you can solve your conflicts, but the first step is to move past conflict avoidance.For example: “I have some ideas that contradict your views. Should we have a 1:1 meeting the discuss them?”

  • Safeguarding your mental and emotional well being

Accepting your emotions also makes you aware of their intensity. Instead of giving in to anger, look at the situation through a lens of compassion. This way, you can safeguard your mental and emotional well-being without getting reeled into impulsive fights. Gain your composure and ask for a conversation to resolve a conflict.For example: “I'm feeling understandably frustrated about this right now. I’ll set up a time to discuss it after I’ve cooled down.”

Conclusion

Conflict is a sign of growth, and some form of it is a normal part of our personal and professional lives. It’s okay if you never learn to be completely comfortable with confrontation and difficult discussions, but learning to communicate through them to resolve issues is imperative for your personal growth. Look beyond the little roadblocks and keep making progress. Remember, smaller disagreements prevent bigger ones and are far better than avoiding conflicts completely. Own your fears and take a stand for yourself – that's the beginning of every leader's journey.

Business and Leadership

supporting team|resolving conflict at workplace

July 13, 2022

How to Support Your Team as a Leader

Leadership takes many forms and can be described by a multitude of definitions, but one thing remains true for great leaders across the board: Leaders translate visions into reality. Strong leaders are essential to success in any industry. As long as you have people who are inspired to do their best work, you can accomplish just about anything. The single most important factor in our knowledge-based economy is human capital, and if you want to be successful, you need people to stay inspired.Leaders play a vital role in providing the motivation, inspiration and direction that teams need in order to progress toward a common goal.  Leadership matters now more than ever, but in order to be an effective leader today, we need to shift from the old power-driven leadership model to a new way forward.  Supporting your team now requires a focus on purpose, inspiration, and a desire to care for your people. While building three companies (The Doe, Audo, and Guin Records) with diverse teams, I’ve learned that if you want to inspire and support your teams to work together for the greater good, you have to lead by example.

Why A Supportive Atmosphere at the Workplace Important

Supporting employees helps leaders build a more positive work culture and brings great results for your company. If you provide ample guidance, acknowledge talents, and trust your team members, the results will be reflected in your company’s overall growth.  A supportive atmosphere in the workplace can lead to several benefits, including:

  • Enhanced confidence and collaboration

When people of different skill sets and experiences come together as a team, they learn from and motivate each other. Such an environment makes everyone feel heard and respected. It develops fruitful collaboration.

  • Improved creativity and productivity

In a supportive work culture, people conduct civil discourse to share their ideas, brainstorm, and appreciate each other's uniqueness. This makes every team member feel valued and instills in them a sense of responsibility to do meaningful work. This further cultivates every member’s creativity and productivity which brings great results for the company in the long run.

  • Fewer stressful conflicts

People who encourage each other at work form a positive team. The employees don't hesitate to put their best foot forward and discuss their strengths and weaknesses openly. This enhances the team’s overall performance and decreases workplace conflicts.

How to Support your Team as a Leader?

Creating a supportive atmosphere for the team should be among your biggest priorities as a leader. Your attitude toward projects and routine tasks builds your reputation in the team and motivates them to give their best. Here’s how to offer the best support to your employees:

  • Engage in frequent and empathic communication

Empathic communication brings your employees together and cultivates productive teamwork. It’s important to conduct frequent team meet-ups to keep everyone informed about their roles and expectations. The process of sharing ideas, feedback, progress reports, etc. must be included in the meetings. The key to conduct insightful team collaboration involves practicing  civil discourse . This allows people to constructively state their varying viewpoints without resorting to personal attacks.

  • Be available to resolve employee challenges

Be accessible to your employees whenever they need to discuss, seek advice, or clear doubts related to fulfilling their responsibilities. A healthy work environment requires leaders to make time for their employees. Your presence to support the team irrespective of a busy schedule showcases your ability as a capable leader. The team members feel valued and supported at every step. This ensures a positive work culture and better growth of the company.

  • Conduct mentoring sessions to help employees up-skill

Helping your employees learn and grow is one of the prime qualities of a leader. You must provide learning opportunities within the workplace to target professional development. Conducting 1-on-1 sessions with teammates helps you understand their expertise and shortcomings. You can also guide your team by encouraging them to exchange insights. This will increase team collaboration and push everyone to work to the best of their capabilities.

  • Encourage employees to express their unique perspectives

Inclusivity is one of the most effective ways to support your employees in the workplace. As a leader, you must create a civil environment for everyone to share their ideas freely. When everyone feels accepted as a part of the system, they cheerfully participate in brainstorming sessions and push themselves to come up with innovative ideas. This approach also helps overcome challenges faster and brings the company one step closer to success.

  • Help team members in prioritizing tasks

As a team leader, you must be clear on which tasks to delegate to whom in order to fulfill the vision.  Effective planning and time management will help you prioritize team tasks. If everyone follows a proper sequence, helps each other out and hustles, they'll meet every deadline. The role of a leader plays a crucial part here in developing a culture of harmony within a team.

  • Provide valuable feedback

Check in periodically with your team to review their progress. When employees receive consistent feedback from their leader, they feel supported. Praising members for their efforts  and acknowledging their strengths motivates employees to push their limits.

  • Use break-time to build a personal bond

Building relationships with co-workers is essential to developing understanding. Leaders can utilize their break time to bond with employees. When you spend quality time with your team apart from work, they feel valued and supported. This ultimately facilitates a trusting and open work culture while boosting the team’s productivity and confidence.

  • Set realistic goals

Thriving in this competitive world is possible when you push your team’s limits with every new project. By the same token, understanding your team's bandwidth before assigning tasks is crucial to reaching goals. You can introduce a few challenges which help your employees learn and grow. But the team must not feel overburdened with too many tasks simultaneously. Support your team members by setting realistic targets and encouraging everyone to collaborate and assist each other.

  • Build emotional intelligence

Developing emotional intelligence is imperative to fostering a cooperative work environment. The ability to control your emotions and to understand, interpret, and respond to the emotions of others is a soft skill that allows you to actively manage your team’s emotional triggers and needs.

  • Focus on empowering others

Empowering every team member is one of your key responsibilities as a leader. Trust your employees’ potential and encourage them to ideate, process, and execute a task on their own. To convey your trust on the team, delegate responsibilities without micromanaging every aspect.  When you’re ready to help employees grow, they will be ready to give their best.

What to Avoid While Being the Supportive Team Leader?

The best leaders know how to follow certain practices that discourage negativity and keep the team moving in the right direction. Here are a few practices every leader needs to avoid:

  • Avoid playing favorites within a team

Being supportive doesn’t mean being biased towards members you get along with. Such behavior degrades the company’s work culture. To genuinely support your team members, establish cohesion among them.

  • Be transparent in your demeanor.
  • Provide equal opportunities to everyone.
  • Take feedback on your leadership role from someone with more experience than you.
  • Don’t rely on false assumptions while making decisions

As a leader, you must be able to make decisions for your team. You need to understand each person's opinion and then consider them before coming to a conclusion. If you make decisions based on assumptions while neglecting members’ perspectives, they will likely feel demotivated and unappreciated. Here’s how you can make better decisions as a team leader:

  • Focus on promoting a collaborative work culture.
  • Listen to employees' concerns to provide solutions.
  • Conduct timely reviews and provide genuine feedback.
  • Be mindful and self-aware to promote the well-being of the team.
  • Avoid taking all the responsibilities by yourself

Leaders often make the mistake of doing all the work by themselves. This shows a lack of faith towards your employees and leads to burnout. Not only does it leave you overburdened, but it closes the door to creativity and innovation in your team. To consolidate your role as a leader, here are some helpful tips to follow:

  • Conduct meetings to discuss projects constructively.
  • Ask questions and seek mutual solutions.
  • Consider other member’s suggestions, ideas, and opinions.
  • Encourage members to take responsibilities that push them to their full potential.
  • Never respond with anger or frustration

It’s natural to get upset when your team isn’t performing as expected. But responding in such a state of mind will only make things worse. As a leader, you have to be aware of your emotions while fulfilling your responsibilities. Reacting to an employee's mistake without understanding the ground issue isn’t the best way to support your team. Here’s what to do instead:

  • Take time to process the situation and get a hold of your emotions.
  • Don’t criticize the employees by attacking them personally.
  • Think objectively to reach a better conclusion while reducing stress and friction.

Final Words

Being a leader is not just about being in charge, it’s about being an example for your team to follow. If you want your employees to follow you with blind trust, then you need to support them in the workplace and help them foster a positive, healthy work culture where they can thrive.A great leader focuses on finding opportunities, solving problems and keeping everyone feeling motivated and inspired. Implementing the above-mentioned tips will help you support your team, build a successful company, and make a lasting impact.

Business and Leadership

resolving conflict at workplace|supporting team

July 12, 2022

How Great Leaders Deal With Arguments

Conflict is inevitable when you're a leader. It's how you handle conflict that will determine whether you grow and propel your people forward, or disrupt momentum and divide the team. When it comes to team conflict, the faster and more effectively you deal with it, the better your chances will be for a positive outcome. I see team-building as a process of conflict and collaboration. It's the combination of these two things that leads to strong relationships and creative solutions in the workplace.  If you want to get the most out of your employees, you should know that conflict can be a great motivator. Here's how:

  • Constructive conflict encourages civil discourse and open communication.
  • It instills a problem-solving approach, thus fostering collaboration among teammates.
  • Constructive conflict ensures transparent communication between all stakeholders throughout the corporate ladder.
  • It welcomes out-of-the-box ideas to keep the organization growing.
  • Constructive conflict helps in avoiding frustration and suppressing resentment due to pent-up issues.

Companies can empower teams through conflict. In order to resolve workplace issues and leverage them for boosting employee productivity, you need smart decisions and swift action.

Causes of Workplace Conflict

The first step to resolving conflict in the workplace is understanding the underlying causes of the dispute. Some common reasons behind workplace conflict include:

  1. Poor leadership skills in the senior management and team leads.
  2. Bad communication patterns within the team.
  3. Inadequate training at the beginning of the job, leading to unequal contribution and unfair expectations from team members.
  4. Unclear job roles and designations.
  5. Lack of resources like tools, software, and machines required to complete a job.
  6. An unsupportive work environment where the employees see no growth.
  7. Employees’ resistance  to change due to fear or uncertainty.
  8. Unequal opportunities for all employees.
  9. Workplace politics or favoritism from leaders.
  10. Unfair competition between employees to achieve a higher position.
  11. Workplace bullying, harassment, and personal threats to safety and health.
  12. Work-induced stress that generates negative emotions like anxiety and lack of concentration.

What are the Consequences of Workplace Conflict?

As an entrepreneur, I am always striving to build teams that stay motivated and share my passion for achieving purpose-driven and impactful goals. I often ask my teams to speak up and challenge a point of view if they don’t agree (yes, even mine!) but this can sometimes lead to conflict. As I’ve mentioned, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing: it’s all in how you manage it. Poorly managed conflict can lead to some undesirable consequences, such as:

  1. Unmotivated staff - It’s natural for employees to feel stressed and have low morale because of unresolved conflicts in the workplace. When a disagreement goes on for too long, employees feel concerned about their role and future in the company and may lose motivation.
  2. Poor internal communication - Conflicts create distrust and group politics within an organization, further weakening internal communication.
  3. Low productivity - When employees put most of their energy into engaging in conflict, it leaves them with zero to no time or energy to get work done.
  4. Degraded KPIs - As the productivity rate goes down due to disputes, companies fail to achieve their key business objectives, ultimately hurting their growth and revenue.
  5. Mental health issues - Continuous arguments trigger mental health issues like anxiety, depression, loneliness, and poor self esteem
  6. Absenteeism - Employees who can’t afford to leave their jobs tend to take frequent leaves if conflicts become a norm. They feel the need to take some time off and recover from burnout.
  7. Employee resignations - A toxic work culture accelerates employee resignations due to mental stress and frustration.
  8. Bad public perception - If the workplace conflict goes public, it creates a bad image of the company. It can put off prospective clients, future employees, and impact the judgment of loyal customers.
  9. Wasted resources - Time is the most valuable resource for any growing company. When ugly conflicts arise, companies stand to incur a lot of wasted time in the form of conflict resolution sessions, therapy, settlements, lawsuits, etc.
  10. Brunt on revenue - Conflicts have financial repercussions too. The negativity impacts the customer experience, and a hostile work environment leads to massive staff turnover, leading to additional costs to hire and train new employees.

Keeping these concerns at bay, when a strong leader utilizes civil discourse to resolve conflict, they can turn workplace disputes into a positive experience. Some ways this could transpire are:

  • Empathic communication - If employees acknowledge a problem and sit together to discuss it, they can understand each other's perspectives. This makes conflict resolution in the workplace easier.
  • Emotional sharing -  Civil discourse  gives employees the opportunity to express their negative feelings respectfully by avoiding any pileups.
  • Creative problem-solving - When employees are motivated to resolve workplace conflicts, they come up with unique solutions and creative ideas to tackle the problem.
  • Civil approach - Constructive conflicts can bring teammates together, allowing them to understand all kinds of opinions. They can trace it back to the root of miscommunication and resolve their conflict through civil discourse.
  • Identifying the leadership spirit - At times of crisis, new leaders are born. Team members can exhibit leadership skills during conflict and emerge as strong leaders in the future.

How to Prevent Disagreements in the Work Environment

Some conflicts are inevitable. But with the right measures in place, many can be prevented before they start. Leaders should be proactive whenever possible, and strive to put out the spark before it turns into a full-blown fire.Here are 5 steps to effectively prevent conflict among your team:

  • Have an open-door policy

When you create an environment of open communication, team members feel comfortable sharing their concerns with you. Let everyone know any team member can approach management without the fear of repercussions. Practice active listening, ask constructive questions, and foster the spirit of teamwork in them.

  • Focus on building relationships

If you focus on creating strong and transparent relationships among your employees, they’ll be able to tackle conflicts without an issue. Due to their positive relationship, they’re also more likely to be empathetic and civil throughout conversations.

  • Lead by example

Invest in leadership training programs for your senior staff who can take on more responsibility in the future to teach them how to handle difficult conversations. With a few tools at their disposal to conduct civil discourse and avoid animosity between team members, they can steer conflict management in the workplace effectively.

  • Encourage employee interactions

Senior management should take steps to encourage employee interactions irrespective of conflicts. There will be fewer disagreements and more informative discussions if employees have the habit of interacting with each other.

  • Offer incentives and training

A great way to encourage teamwork is by assigning incentives to achievable group targets. Once a team reaches the target, the collaborative teamwork gets rewarded. If the team struggles in working together, hold training sessions for them.If you implement such activities in your workplace, they’ll evolve as a part of the employees’ daily life. They’ll learn to interact civilly and find common ground in the face of conflicts to foster the company’s growth.

How Great Leaders Solve Conflict in the Workplace

To resolve conflicts in the workplace, great leaders take a wide-angle view of the situation. They establish the environment for civil discussions to carve a way through disagreements. Good leaders align the team to achieve a common goal.  Here are the 5 things great leaders do to resolve workplace conflicts:

  • Identify the source of conflict

The first step separates great leaders from average ones. While most employees focus on the problem at hand, good leaders know the reasons behind disputes are often deep-rooted. They acknowledge the concern honestly, considering the needs of all involved parties.

  • Create a safe space to communicate

Instead of playing blame games and wasting time on allegations, leaders need to create a safe space for communication. Gather all parties in conflict and allow them to present their perspective without angering anyone.

  • Listen to all sides of the story

When resolving a conflict in the workplace, good leaders keep their biases aside. All the employees who want to voice their concerns get a platform to speak upon. The leader doesn't interrupt or threaten the employees, but seeks active resolution based on their feelings.

  • Practice civil discourse

Foster the environment of civil discourse and encourage conversation in your team. In most cases, resolving conflict in the workplace is all about understanding everyone's situation and analyzing the driving force behind any conflict. With civil discourse, it's easier to conclude conflicts in the agreement or respectful disagreement.

  • Implement a plan to tackle conflicts in the future

The final step to conflict resolution is implementing a model to deal with similar issues in the future. This includes a healthy exchange of ideas, building trust between team members, and following civil etiquette. Through sustained effort, workplace conflicts can be reduced significantly.Conflict resolution in the workplace is one of the most challenging tasks for a leader. By taking the right measures to tackle disputes and conducting civil discourse, you can easily resolve conflict at work and collectively guide your team towards success.

Business and Leadership

how to be a good leader

July 11, 2022

10 Strategies to Become a Better Leader

Do you know the true purpose of leadership? A "leader" can be defined many ways, but the real meaning is often lost in translation. The majority of those in leadership roles falsely believe that their primary purpose is to be “in charge”. Being a good leader, however, is about much more. It’s not just about being in charge, it’s about taking care of the people in our charge. A good leader is the motivational force that navigates a team towards their common goal. Earlier, leaders were philosophers who offered pearls of wisdom and truth. Or they were military leaders who served, organized, and inspired. Leadership styles have significantly evolved over the years with the influence of the political, economic, and social landscape. Modern leaders are strong communicators, decision-makers, and risk-takers. But most importantly, they are empathetic and understanding human beings.

What is Leadership?

Leadership is a socially influential act of gathering and aligning teams to work towards the desired outcome. It’s not about hierarchy, job title, or pay grade, but about your potential to mobilize a team to translate a vision into reality. Before beginning my own entrepreneurial journey in college, I looked up to great business leaders and entrepreneurs for inspiration. Now that I have three growing companies, I know it was never about clout or notoriety for those leaders I admired, but about how they could bring people to work towards a common goal, and genuinely caring about those people along the way. Many people believe that leadership in a workplace involves efficiently delegating tasks to subordinates. But impactful leaders go beyond that. They create a positive impact on their team that flows through the organization with a ripple effect. Team members working under good leaders are happy and draw greater work satisfaction.In my experience, great leadership involves:

  • Identifying your motivation, strengths, and weaknesses
  • Aligning teams to achieve your goal
  • Connecting and inspiring a sense of ownership in every team member
  • Offering growth and development opportunities

Maintaining a give-and-take feedback loop while following  civil discourse

How to Become a Better Leader?

Most of us are hard pressed to come across quality leaders, but despite the lack of great leadership, it is a skill like any other that can be learned or taught. Good leadership is practicable and learnable, but you have to want it because being a good leader is not easy. When things go right, you have to give away the credit. When things go wrong, you have to take all the responsibility. If you want to be a good leader and have the drive to inspire a team to greatness, keep reading to learn the core traits of strong leadership.

  • Self-awareness

Self-awareness and introspection skills are vital to the role of leadership. The better you know yourself, the stronger decisions you can make as a leader. Self-awareness also makes it easier for you to accept your flaws and leave behind all baggage that stops your team from achieving success.

  • Accountability

Leaders need to take accountability for their actions. Your people are obliged to follow what you say when you're the leader. It falls upon you to guide your team members by taking responsibility. Leverage this power by encouraging people in a positive direction and making them enthusiastic about every project and deadline.

  • Courage

Leaders exhibit courage daily by accepting responsibility, voicing their expectations, taking chances on new ideas, and having the team's back in front of superiors. They engage in civil discourse and critical thinking rather than allowing conflicts to grow. When you’re courageous, your employees can count on you to address their concerns.

  • Integrity

With integrity and an ethical value system, you prove to be trustworthy for your organization. Your honesty and consistency become a testament to your credibility, and you will find that authentic relationships with your teams form more seamlessly.

  • Trust

You must create trust with both your superiors and your team members as a leader. When higher-ups can trust you, they will give you the space to do your best work. Similarly, your employees perform better when they trust you. Learn to trust people with their jobs and delegate tasks to boost the team spirit. With more trust, you can also exercise better decision-making.

  • Empathy

If you work in a position that challenges you, you'll likely face stress, burnout, and periods of low performance. When we experience tough times, empathy can be a powerful antidote and contribute to positive experiences for individuals and teams. Empathy also fosters more empathy. The more you care, the more your team will care; Both about their work and each other.

  • Gratitude and Respect

A  Glassdoor survey  found that 80% of employees say they’d be willing to work harder for an appreciative boss. We all want to know that our hard work is appreciated, and recognition is often the greatest motivator. Leaders who express gratitude in the workplace are likely to see happier and more productive employees. Take the extra two minutes to say thanks, it goes a long way.

  • Learning Agility

I’ve never met a great leader who thinks of themselves as an expert, they think of themselves as lifelong  students. Leaders who succeed tend to be curious, proactively seek out new knowledge, and take on challenges willingly. They are flexible enough to apply what they learn to unfamiliar situations so they can learn from their mistakes.

  • Skillful Communication

Effective leadership is closely tied to transparent communication. Being a leader is all about communicating through various channels and ensuring that everyone in the team has the same interpretation of a message. A leader's communication skills go beyond demographics, social identities, and company hierarchies. Skillful communication is an integral part of building trust between leadership and team members.

  • Influence

Don't confuse influence with manipulation. Some managers try to exploit their employees by making them work extra hours and subjecting them to high stress.  True leaders don’t conduct such practices in their workplace. Being a leader means exercising emotional intelligence and building trust with your team. When your influence on your employees is transparent, they’ll be naturally motivated to follow your direction.

Final Thoughts

While we’re all on our own paths and journeys in life, we look to leaders for guidance and advice.  Honing your leadership skills will allow you to make a positive impression on the lives of those around you.  Whether you're a CEO, department manager, or a small team leader, we all work with other people, and our actions always impact others.  This gives everyone a chance to demonstrate leadership qualities and inspire action. Motivation and inspiration can help you to be a strong people manager, but it’s your actions that will ultimately drive the respect and trust needed to be effective

Business and Leadership

December 15, 2021

Reconciling The Entrepreneurial Hustle With Your Need For Self-Care

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Photo by Colton Sturgeon on Unsplash[/caption]

I will be the first to admit that I don’t always practice enough self-care. The drive to be successful and make a positive impact is strong, and it’s something that is pervasive among entrepreneurs. It’s gotten to the point of being a kind of toxic gospel, in which business gurus encourage young or up-and-coming entrepreneurs to abandon everything else in their lives in order to grow their business. Not only is this demonstrably bad advice from a business perspective, but it’s also extremely bad for your overall health and well-being.

On the other hand, building your own business from scratch requires hard work, long days and plenty of sacrifices. You can’t always “have it all” with the perfect amount of sleep, family time, social life and business success. In short, the entrepreneurial hustle is very real. So, how can you work hard while also taking care of yourself?

I cannot speak for every entrepreneur out there, but in my case, hyper-defining my goals has been the greatest way to keep my businesses running without neglecting my basic needs. Many entrepreneurs assume that they should keep their personal and professional lives completely separate. In doing so, they should be able to find ways to schedule both “work time” and “self-care time.” I’m not saying that this is a bad approach, but it does not fix the central problem in many cases. Why? Because it can open the door for personal goals (and schedules) that conflict with your professional ones, and vice versa.

Instead, I try to look at the really big picture and figure out my life goals. What do I want to do with my life? What legacy do I want to leave behind for the world and those closest to me? What kinds of activities leave me fulfilled? How can I balance my personal priorities while also pursuing my passions and interests at the same time?

As you might have noticed, none of these questions relate to one single aspect of my life. They all factor in my needs, desires, aspirations and motivations in both the personal and professional realms. I’ve found that by zooming out and looking at the really big picture, I can develop a daily routine that moves me just a little bit closer to meeting my most important life goals. In my experience, when you find yourself making this kind of broad-ranged progress, inching toward the things that will bring you the greatest sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in life, you are far less likely to suffer from burnout, self-doubt, frustration and all the other things that require extensive self-care.

However, this does not mean that setting goals (and working toward them) will free you of the need for self-care entirely. While some may see the term “self-care” as a recent addition to our collective vernacular that helps narcissists and self-obsessed people justify bad behavior, it’s a very real way to cope with the ever-increasing demands that our work and personal lives put on us. Besides, people have been practicing different forms of self-care since time immemorial; they just called it something else.

Semantics aside, self-care is something that can (and should) be practiced for the sake of bettering oneself and ensuring that one aspect of your life does not take away from another. For example, I always need a lot of mental energy to run my businesses. Whether I’m meeting with stakeholders, ideating with the team, writing briefs or simply emailing, I need to have the stamina to think critically and the patience to keep going when frustrated. There are all sorts of methods to keep up my energy levels, some more effective than others.

This is where I return to the importance of setting and working toward goals. For me, goals are what keep me driven, motivated and energized each and every day. Even during my “off days,” I find my mind wandering to ways in which I can get just a little bit closer to achieving what I want. Since my personal goals are interwoven with my professional goals (and given equal importance), this means that self-care becomes a natural part of both my work and personal time. I want to live a happy, healthy, fulfilling life — and I can’t do that without taking care of myself on a regular basis.

Even if you give self-care just as much importance as your work life and obligations, you may still find yourself with little time in the day to truly unwind and disconnect from “work mode.” Thankfully, one of the best parts about being an entrepreneur is that you have much more control over how and when you work. Sure, there will always be obligations, deadlines and the needs of others to account for, but generally, you can manage your schedule in a way that offers much more liberties than a traditional 9-to-5 job. This is why I design my work schedule and environment to incorporate self-care into the daily routine.

Whether it’s a morning exercise routine before work starts or a 15-minute meditation session in the middle of the afternoon, planting designated self-care time into your schedule is a matter of intention. If you’re an entrepreneur working yourself to the bone without any time or energy to take care of your own well-being, you’re doing something wrong. In many cases, it can be as simple as learning how to say “no” or delegating tasks so you can focus on yourself as needed.

When it comes down to it, being an entrepreneur doesn’t mean dedicating 100% of your life to your business. It’s true that businesses can take away a lot of your time and energy, but you should always look at them as parts of a larger whole. At the end of the day, if you’re not happy or unable to take care of your mental and physical well-being while building your business, you have to reevaluate your goals and recalibrate your routine accordingly.

Originally Posted on Forbes.

Business and Leadership

December 2, 2021

How to Deal With Teammates Who Don't Share Your Values

It’s no secret that we live in an era of divisiveness and polarization. I founded The Doe to introduce anonymity to publishing so that we could have a safe space to elevate marginalized voices, while also giving readers the chance to respond and debate different viewpoints we rarely hear from. Though it may be somewhat plausible to manage polarized views in a comment section, it’s not nearly as simple when the same polarization takes place behind the closed doors of a business.

As an entrepreneur, you will generally try to surround yourself with people who share your vision. However, this is a double-edged sword. You want teammates who understand what you’re trying to do and can help you achieve it, but you don’t want a room full of “yes” men and women. Moreover, I genuinely believe that it’s better to expose yourself to opposing views, otherwise you risk getting stuck in an echo chamber of your own making.

Naturally, this approach comes with its own drawbacks. If you choose to hire people who have opposing views, it may result in more debates in the meeting room. However, it should ultimately bring about better results. This is where it’s important to mark the distinction between opposing “views” and opposing “values.” What do you do if and when you have a co-worker whose values are drastically different from your own?

Being an entrepreneur requires conviction, but it also requires a lot of sacrifices. If you are never willing to cede ground to others, you will likely find yourself on a more lonely — and less successful — path. For this reason, you have to be willing to have difficult conversations with your teammates, even when it feels like you’re speaking about totally different issues.

You might be able to avoid talking about polarizing topics around the dinner table, but at the workplace, you have to talk about the issues that matter the most for your business. When the person sitting across the table from you has different fundamental values, it can feel like a never-ending battle. You are partners in the same endeavor, so you both share a stake in the company’s future, but you probably have very different visions of what that future should look like.

The Doe is all about questioning our preconceived notions of the world and being willing to listen to views that do not align with our own. I would be a fraud if I didn’t incorporate the same open mindedness in my own business dealings. Fortunately, this obligation has also allowed me to cultivate a few “tricks” to keep things civil, productive, and forward-thinking among all key stakeholders, even when our values fall on opposite ends of the spectrum.

The first “trick” is to truly keep an open mind. This means that, even if you think you already know what a teammate is going to say, you need to avoid negative expectations. Simply go into a conversation or meeting with an agenda of what to discuss and a willingness to listen. In fact, this is one of the best ways to “deal” with anyone who does not share your values. Simply listen. You don’t have to agree; you just have to listen with the aim of learning about their position, regardless of the topic at hand or how you think you should respond.

Trying to understand someone is not the same as conceding or reaching an agreement — far from it. You just want to understand a point of view that is foreign to your own; nothing more and nothing less. However, when you’re dealing with a teammate, you have to grant them the respect they deserve as a professional equal. You can’t just listen without at least opening yourself to the possibility of implementing strategies, changes, or processes that align more with their values than your own.

During this process of listening and expressing your views, it’s extremely important to keep your emotions in check. If you’re passionate about something, you can express that passion without losing control of your emotions or showing frustration. Instead, simply show that it is a very important issue for you; perhaps even something that is not up for debate or discussion (though this is usually not a good strategy to take). In any case, ensure that you check your emotions at the door and let your head do the talking.

Finally, it’s important to stay active as a teammate, both in the moment and over the long-term. In a conversation or meeting, allowing someone with different values than your own to hijack the entire conversation could ultimately take power away from anything you have to say. The same applies during day to day operations. Actively participate in your company and let your own values shine through. This way, you don’t have to consistently oppose your co-worker at every turn, but can instead find ways to collaborate with them in a more natural way. Oftentimes, when you just try to argue with each other directly, it can turn an otherwise small issue into a much larger one. Instead, allow your peers to actively participate in the same way that you do.

Working with someone who doesn’t share your values is never easy, whether you’re aligned on what the goal you’re trying to accomplish is, or not. However, the keys to ensuring a successful outcome are honest, calm communication and a willingness to learn. If direct argumentation has failed or reached a standstill, just allow yourself to take an active role in the growth of your business, and don’t take away your partner’s right to do the same.

Originally Published on Medium.

Business and Leadership

June 23, 2021

What Our World Would Look Like With an “Admire and Inspire” Mindset

It’s easy to talk about big ideas that could transform the world, but how would society actually change if we all lived to admire and inspire one another?

When I founded The Doe, I started with the idea that civil discourse had hit a barrier. From my perspective, people were no longer communicating with one another with positive intentions; they just talked at each other and debated for a right vs. wrong resolution. Anger and emotion trumped reason, making true discourse impossible. By letting people tell their stories anonymously and establishing a space for marginalized voices, I hoped to bring about a change in the way we, as a species, exchange and develop ideas.

Unfortunately, people tend to get cynical when you talk about “big” ideas. Perhaps they think that being a dreamer is naive, or that thinking outside the box isn’t practical. However, many of humanity’s greatest achievements came from the seeds of impractical ideas. There was a time when democracy was just a pipe dream — now it serves as the foundation for nearly every major government on the planet.

What does “admire and inspire” really mean?

inspiring mindset
Image Source: https://unsplash.com/photos/0G2ZxV31kk4

“Admire and inspire” is more than just a catchy phrase. When you really delve into the meanings of these terms, it’s easy to see why they reflect the best parts of human nature. When you admire another person, you recognize traits in them that you feel are positive, enviable, and altogether good for mankind. It is a way to use your own sense of what is right to heap praise onto others. This, in turn, helps others see the best in themselves and, ideally, work to become even better.

While admiration helps us identify positive qualities and ideas, inspiring others transforms these same ideas into action. When you believe something to be right and admirable, you’re more inclined to incorporate that action into your daily life. In this way, you project your best possible self onto the world, inspiring others to take action in the process. This creates a perpetual cycle of people inspiring and admiring one another.

While it might seem impractical to live in a world driven by the “admire and inspire” mentality, it’s not all that foreign. When we act in a certain way, self-interested or otherwise, we are projecting what we see as the “correct” way of being. The French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre believed that “man first of all exists, encounters himself, surges up in the world-and defines himself afterward.” In other words, we create our own image of the ideal person simply by acting. When viewing the human experience in this way, one can see that we are largely the sum of our own actions.

Therefore, we have an innate need to inspire with our actions. We live to act, and we act for the sake of ourselves and others. Our actions, from an ethical standpoint, reflect what we want to see in others. We are inspiration personified.

However, the act of admiring is far more complex, as it requires us to view the actions of others as worthy of praise and emulation. To truly admire someone else, you have to let go of your ego and recognize the qualities in others that are — or at least could be — superior to your own. Thus, the combination of admiration and inspiration has the potential to bring about the best possible results for humanity.

What would it actually look like in practice?

mindset
Image Source: https://unsplash.com/photos/jpHw8ndwJ_Q

With an “admire and inspire” mentality, individuals, businesses, organizations, and governments would flourish by simply lifting up those around them. Rather than looking at those different than ourselves as “others” or adversaries, we could look past these differences to appreciate the best qualities they have to offer. In short, a world built on inspiration and admiration would be a utopia of collective progress.

While it may not be realistic to think that everyone on the planet would adopt this mindset, it isn’t so far-fetched to envision a world in which entrepreneurs and business owners might lead by example. Businesses, by nature, are designed to provide something to the world. They innovate and bring about new ideas to meet the needs of others. If more entrepreneurs could realize this and focus their energy on helping others, the world of “admire and inspire” would not be so far off.

My Challenge to Entrepreneurs

I challenge my fellow entrepreneurs to adopt the “admire and inspire” mentality in their daily lives. Though I’ve certainly made my fair share of mistakes, I’ve always aimed to create businesses that help people. However, I don’t look at myself as a source of admiration. Instead, I look to those around me for the inspiration I need to wake up every morning and try to be better than I was the day before. I believe that if we can separate ourselves from our own egos and work to admire and inspire, we can build a society that is worthy of praise.

Originally published on Medium.

Business and Leadership

June 15, 2021

5 Ways to Destress From Your Desk

It’s easy to let stress accumulate at your job, but it’s not always easy to get rid of it — especially when you’ve got work to do. Fortunately, there are ways to destress your mind and body even when you’re stuck behind a desk.

As an entrepreneur, I am no stranger to stress or anxiety. I’ve been very fortunate to have founded multiple successful companies, including The Doe, which has grown into the largest anonymous publication platform on the market. Thankfully, I can say that all of our amazing staff is compensated fairly; when The Doe succeeds, everyone under its umbrella succeeds as well.

Sadly, not all entrepreneurs and business owners have adopted this mindset. In fact, the prevailing theory is that paying workers the lowest amount possible helps the bottom line. This could not be further from the truth.

If you look at the numbers, our current era reflects one of the worst times to be an employee in the last century. According to research by the Economic Policy Institute, the productivity-pay gap has been steadily widening since the late 1970s. This means that Americans are working and producing more than ever, but their wages have not kept up. In fact, since 1979, productivity has grown 6x faster than wages earned.

This puts Americans in a precarious position, especially given the ongoing pandemic and economic downturn. Many people cannot afford to leave their jobs in search of something better, while their employers continue to rake in profits by keeping wages stagnant. As a result, we’re left with Americans who are overworked, underpaid, and overstressed. While the first two factors will take large-scale societal shifts to fix, the issue of stress is largely within our control.

If your job or your financial situation has you feeling stressed, what can you do? You need to continue working to pay the bills, so when can you find the time to unwind? Thankfully, you don’t have to carve out a huge chunk of your free time just to feel better. You can actually start to undo some of this stress while you work! So, let’s take a look at 5 ways to destress from your desk:

Declutter your workspace

While cleaning may not be your favorite activity, research shows that messiness only increases stress and anxiety. Some people leave their workspace impeccably clean at all times. However, the vast majority of people don’t fall into this category. This means that you’ve probably got stacks of papers, reminders, office supplies, and various other items clogging up your workspace.

The great thing about decluttering your desk, office, or general workspace is that it’s not time-sensitive. You can spend two minutes decluttering and leave the rest for another day or go ahead and finish the job all at once. Either way, getting rid of some or all of the clutter can help you get more organized with your work, think more clearly, and feel more productive — all at the same time!

Check something off your to-do list

If you already decluttered your workspace, you can use that task to complete this one! All jokes aside, making a to-do list for your day, week, month, or even year can help you stay focused on the tasks that matter the most. This can apply to tasks that you need to accomplish for work or your personal life.

So, be sure to make a complete to-do list (or multiple lists) for everything you want and need to accomplish. You can prioritize them based on urgency or importance, but be sure to sprinkle in a few easy tasks whenever possible. This way, you can quickly check off items from your list, helping you stay productive even when you’re not in the mood to tackle bigger tasks.

Take “movement” breaks

Sitting behind a desk for 8 hours or more per day can take its toll on your body. So, if you have a desk job that doesn’t keep you moving, you need to incorporate movement into your day. This isn’t just a good way to destress from your desk, it’s also a great way to keep your body in shape.

You may not be able to conduct a full yoga class in your office, but doing some stretching and even low-impact exercises for a few minutes can help take your mind off of stressors. In fact, exercise is reported to be one of the best ways to reduce anxiety. So, even if you can only manage some light stretching, that’s ok! The important thing is that you find time throughout the day to keep your body in motion.

Practice breathing exercises

A lot of people don’t realize the importance of proper breathing. If you find yourself taking short, rapid breaths or even slow, shallow breaths, you could be doing more harm than you know. These inefficient forms of breathing can reduce the amount of oxygen that gets to your bloodstream, which can ultimately have negative effects throughout your entire body.

However, breathing exercises are not all about physical health. Actually, the primary benefit of breathing exercises is nearly instantaneous stress relief! You don’t have to be a meditation expert, either. Simply take a few minutes out of your day to close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Not only will this help combat the short-term symptoms of stress, but if done regularly, it can also help fight long-term issues related to both anxiety and depression!

Enjoy something inspirational

It may sound cheesy, but watching inspirational videos or listening to inspirational podcasts can really help you destress during the workday. You may feel anxious about tedious work tasks or stressed over a personal relationship. Either way, the stress often arises from a negative perception of something in your life.

Changing that perception into something positive can undo a lot of the stress you’re experiencing. One way to get a new perspective on things is by watching inspirational videos like TED Talks. Alternatively, you could spend a few minutes listening to inspirational podcasts like Happier with Gretchen Rubin. If you can target the issue that’s making you feel stressed, you can even search for inspirational videos that address similar issues. This will help you destress from your desk and gain useful insight simultaneously!

Originally published on Medium.

Business and Leadership

May 12, 2021

How Coronavirus Stimulus Could Shape Startup Culture in 2021

We’ve already seen three direct payments and countless PPP loans for individuals and small businesses, but further Coronavirus stimulus could completely redefine the startup landscape in 2021 and beyond.

As a serial entrepreneur, I’ve benefited from the fact that all of my business ventures started before the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m also extremely fortunate that two of my largest endeavors thus far, The Doe and Dormzi, are both digital companies that have adapted well to the Coronavirus pandemic and subsequent safety regulations. Sadly, many entrepreneurs and small business owners have not been so lucky.

It goes without saying that Coronavirus had a devastating effect on businesses in 2020, particularly small businesses and startups. Many entrepreneurs had to put their dreams on hold or completely throw in the towel. Moreover, businesses that had been running smoothly for years suddenly found themselves with virtually no cash flow. Partisanship in Washington D.C. delayed the first round of Coronavirus stimulus, forcing thousands of these businesses to close their doors in the process.

Since then, the government has strengthened its commitment to helping small businesses and individuals struggling to make ends meet during the pandemic. Under the Trump Administration, the CARES Act appropriated $302 billion to aid small businesses and created the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The PPP opened a window for small business owners affected by COVID-19 to apply for loans from the government to help pay for employee salaries and similar business expenses. Later, the PPP loans were expanded to include freelancers, contractors, and small businesses that may not have met the requirements for the first round of loans.

In March of 2021, the newly-inducted Congress, in conjunction with the Biden Administration, introduced and passed the American Rescue Plan. This new legislation injected $1.9 trillion into the economy, bolstering COVID-19 preventative measures and medical infrastructure, while also providing financial assistance to individuals and small businesses. In total, there have been six bills passed through Congress worth approximately $5.6 trillion.

How Coronavirus Has Impacted Startup Culture

Image Source: https://unsplash.com/photos/nmUOtF68SYE

Thanks in large part to the Payment Protection Program, startups have had access to low-interest (and potentially forgivable) loans to help them sustain and grow their businesses. However, even under the expanded PPP criteria, businesses needed to be in operation since February 15th, 2020, or earlier. Thus, startups that began during the pandemic could not access this cash.

Fortunately, direct payments to individuals also gave some help to new startups. Thus far, any single person earning less than $75,000 per year should have received $3,200 in direct stimulus payments. While this may not be enough to sustain a startup for very long, it could be enough to keep a startup afloat until it can bring in revenue. Moreover, unemployment benefits have also been expanded through all of the Coronavirus legislation, ensuring that unemployed individuals can at least pay the bills until they get their venture off the ground.

The Startup Landscape in 2021

Putting aside fiscal assistance for a moment, it’s important to take note of the new startup landscape that has developed in 2021. While Coronavirus has put some industries like travel and hospitality on the verge of collapse, it has helped others expand rapidly. For example, IT services, online education, and various other sectors have seen gains over the last year and a half.

The key to creating and building a startup in 2021 is analyzing the characteristics of our “new normal.” What business models are flourishing? What no longer works? By asking these questions, many entrepreneurs will find that traditional brick-and-mortar businesses are currently a difficult sell to angel investors or even traditional lending institutions. With social distancing and masks still in place, workforces are transitioning to telecommuting en masse. Meanwhile, businesses that have the capacity to move their products and services into the virtual sphere are doing so as quickly as possible. Still other businesses are adapting their business practices to accommodate stringent health and public safety regulations.

While it may sound overly opportunistic, there has probably never been a better time to enter the world of entrepreneurship. As a result of the pandemic, a lot of entrepreneurs have a better chance of entering markets in which many competitors have had to close their doors for good. Thus, more hawkish entrepreneurs can swoop in to take advantage of market gaps that are quickly being filled by larger businesses.

Can Entrepreneurs Expect More Aid in the Near Future?

Image Source: https://unsplash.com/photos/8lnbXtxFGZw

As of this writing, it’s still too early to say if there will be more Coronavirus aid in 2021. In the United States and many other developed nations, the vaccine rollout is cutting case numbers by a huge margin. By the end of 2021, the vast majority of Americans are expected to be vaccinated. Though this will be a huge step toward stopping the spread of Coronavirus, it won’t undo the economic damage that’s already been done.

This is why many figures in Washington D.C. are calling for further aid. Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren (among others) have called on President Biden to provide recurring direct payments and small business aid until the crisis is effectively over. Other members of Congress have also called for more investments in infrastructure, medical care, and state-sponsored programs for small businesses and startups.

However, the bipartisan divide did not go away overnight when President Biden took office. In fact, despite the overwhelming popularity of direct payments and small business aid, many in Congress believe that the government should wait to see how existing legislation affects the economy and the national deficit. However, others (particularly Democrats) don’t think lower-income individuals and small business owners have time to see how things play out. As a result, the future of Coronavirus aid will be a major issue of contention.

Conclusion

While further COVID-19 stimulus is uncertain, it could completely reinvigorate new and existing startups in 2021. Entrepreneurs who are short on capital can use government aid to bring new ideas to struggling sectors, helping to bolster the economy on multiple fronts. Moreover, the ever-changing nature of the pandemic requires new businesses to consistently fill new gaps in the market. In the meantime, we will just have to wait and see how much more (if any) Coronavirus stimulus will come to the entrepreneurs who need it most.

Originally published on Entrepreneur.

Business and Leadership

Meditation and Entrepreneurship: How Self-Reflection Drives Innovation

Even though I’m just 21 years old, I’ve been meditating for years. I don’t always have time in my schedule to sit and meditate for an hour or more, but I find that a few breathing exercises throughout the day help clear my head and make me feel more present. I don’t do it to improve my creativity and business acumen, but these are very, very helpful side effects.

As a serial entrepreneur, I’ve founded and co-founded a number of successful businesses, including The Doe and Guin Records. Both of these businesses took a great deal of time, dedication, funding, and even luck to get off the ground. However, they also took creativity, a forward-thinking approach, and a steady hand. Unbeknownst to many people, meditation is a great way to strengthen the creative part of your brain. I was able to cultivate the parts of my mind that don’t always get used on a day-to-day basis thanks in large part to daily meditation.

I’m not saying that meditation alone made me (or anyone else) a successful entrepreneur. What I’m saying is that meditation made me a better entrepreneur. But at the end of the day, I’m just one person. Clearing my thoughts and practicing breathing exercises may help me flourish as an entrepreneur, but who’s to say that these tactics will work for someone else? Fortunately, I’m not alone.

Entrepreneurs Who Meditate and Innovate

Everybody likes a good success story. There are thousands of entrepreneurs who started small or came up with ideas that seemed like a long shot before reaching success. Today, many of those same entrepreneurs are some of the leading business moguls in their respective industries. Moreover, many of them practice meditation (or similar mindfulness activities) to help improve themselves, destress, and find perspective.

Arianna Huffington

The founder of The Huffington Post and Thrive Global needs no introduction. As one of the most successful businesswomen and political commentators in the United States, Arianna Huffington is someone millions of young entrepreneurs would like to emulate. However, many of those who look up to her may not realize that Arianna Huffington is an avid meditator. In fact, she opened a 2016 article on meditation by writing that “one of the best — and most easily available — ways we can become healthier and happier is through mindfulness and meditation.”

Russell Simmons

While he may not have the same kind of international name recognition as Ariana Huffington, Russell Simmons is a highly successful entrepreneur in his own right. Simmons co-founded Def Jam Recordings, in addition to numerous successful clothing lines. While he took part in the party culture of his youth and readily admits to using drugs at the time, Russell Simmons has since changed his ways. After becoming an entrepreneur and a father, Simmons shifted to a healthier lifestyle centered on yoga, meditation, and veganism.

Steve Jobs

Though he is no longer with us, Steve Jobs is one of the most famous and influential entrepreneurs of all time. As the co-founder of Apple, Jobs helped lead the way in the world of computing and mobile technology. To this day, his inventions and designs are used by millions of people all over the planet. At his memorial service, attendees were reportedly given a copy of Autobiography of a Yogi, a nod to Jobs’ dedication to meditation and Zen Buddhism. It was even said that Steve Jobs saw meditation as a way to train his brain to work more efficiently.

The Science Behind Self-Reflection and Innovation

It’s easy to throw up examples of famous or successful entrepreneurs who meditate and draw unfounded conclusions. However, the science behind meditation helps prove my point. Meditation is so much more than just a peaceful breathing exercise. In addition to its calming and destressing effects, regular meditation and self-reflection can have a lasting impact on your brain’s structure. At least one study from Harvard concluded that daily meditation even works to reverse the aging process in the brain.

So far, we’ve established that meditation does at least two very important things: it helps you destress and it helps strengthen your brain’s natural mechanisms and structure. The former is good for any entrepreneur; a stressed business owner does not think clearly and is more likely to make rushed or ill-advised decisions. Regarding meditation’s effect on the brain, keeping your brain young, strong, and vibrant is certainly a good way to come up with new and innovative ideas for your business.

Finally, it’s important to note some of the effects of meditation that may not be easily measured. Meditation and breathing practices require you to clear your mind and live in the present. This naturally requires you to take a closer look at yourself. People often dismiss the benefits of self-reflection, but they really cannot be overstated. When you evaluate yourself — your behaviors, characteristics, and goals — you can identify ways to improve. It also gives you a new perspective on how and why you run your business, giving you insight into the nature and underlying purpose of your endeavor.

The Bottom Line

In short, meditation and self-reflection are two of the easiest, cheapest, and most effective ways to become a better entrepreneur. That said, I don’t swear by meditation as a “cure-all” for every problem. As an entrepreneur, you will still have to deal with all the stresses and tough decisions that come with running a business. You will still have to juggle your work and personal life. Meditation won’t change any of those external issues. However, it will make you better equipped to deal with them.

Best of all: meditation is completely free! Many entrepreneurs spend thousands of dollars seeking out advice or guidance on how to improve. Instead, just spend a few extra minutes per day relaxing, breathing, and reflecting. Believe me, you won’t regret it.

Business and Leadership

how to improve communication skills

September 12, 2022

4 Ways To Improve Your Communication Skills

When a leader thinks about effective communication skills, they’re focusing on the different ways in which we give and receive information. The ability to communicate is essential in all fields, but nowhere is it more vital than in the workplace. If you can't communicate effectively with other people, you will create unnecessary problems and be much less effective at what you do.

Have you ever had a boss you knew would give you their undivided attention and honest feedback? Conversely, have you ever had a boss whose feedback was vague and unclear? I've encountered a wide range of communicators during my journey as an entrepreneur, and I've tried to learn lessons from all of them. 

Communication with others can take many forms. Whether you're in an in-person meeting or sending a quick email to your boss, it's essential to communicate effectively and respectfully. Here are four ways you can be a better communicator.

  1. Be clear, brief, and specific

Communication is all about getting your point across. You risk being misunderstood if what you’re saying or writing is unclear, vague, or overly wordy. Be as clear and as concise as possible to get your point across. You should also be as specific as possible; avoid unnecessary words or overly descriptive language that can muddle or weaken your message.

  1. Always be prepared

Before you make a phone call, begin a presentation, or send an email, you should have a plan. No one appreciates having their time wasted, so go in with all of the information you need close at hand. If you’re dealing with a client, try and anticipate their questions so you can be ready to answer them. If you’re in a meeting or on a phone call, write down notes to refer to during the conversation to help guide you.

  1. Give your undivided attention

We all live busy lives, full of people who demand our attention at any moment. I’ve learned the importance of giving each task my full and undivided attention while building three companies. If you try to send an email to your boss while on the phone with a client, you may find yourself inattentive to both conversations. Always give your full attention to the other person, listening closely, and responding only when you feel you have heard everything they say.

  1. Don't be afraid to ask questions

Communication is a two-way process. If you’re unsure about something someone has said, never presume their meaning. It’s always better to clarify with a question than to misunderstand. Follow up with an email after a meeting to confirm that you have all the necessary information.

Tips To Improve Face-to-Face Communication Skills

While we've all been in meetings that could have been handled better via email, face-to-face communication is still the best way to hold meaningful discussions with others. Here are several tips for improving your communication skills during face-to-face conversations.

Although we may wish otherwise, not all conversations will be pleasant or lighthearted. You may have to fire an employee, have a difficult discussion with your boss, or disagree with your colleagues during a meeting. Practice civil discourse by speaking truthfully and respectfully while allowing others to disagree.  Avoid the temptation to lose your temper or interrupt the other person.  As long as you speak truthfully and listen to the other person’s point of view, it is possible to have difficult conversations civilly.

  • Practice active listening

When it comes to improving communication skills, listening is equally as important as speaking.  Practice active listening by giving the person speaking your complete attention.  Don't interrupt them, and make eye contact if possible.  While the other person is speaking, don't spend time formulating your own response; instead, take a moment once they’ve finished considering what you’d like to say next.  When you reply, paraphrase what they said to ensure you understand it.  Ask questions if you need more information before responding.

  • Focus on nonverbal communication

Language is just one of the ways in which human beings communicate.  Our body language can share many things that our words do not, from our facial expressions to the gestures we make.  If you’re a manager leading a meeting, be mindful of your employees’ body language.  While they may not say anything to raise a concern, they may be communicating discomfort or disagreement through crossed arms.  Be mindful of your nonverbal communication, as you want your body language to match your message.

  • Ask for honest feedback

Giving and receiving criticism can be awkward for both parties, but feedback is critical to personal growth.  To encourage others to communicate freely, ask for honest feedback when needed.  Most people will say what’s on their minds when given an invitation to do so.  The more you ask for honest feedback from your colleagues, the more you’ll learn how to improve your communication skills.

Civil Discourse

self reflection questions

September 9, 2022

Self Reflection Questions: 57 Questions You Should Ask Yourself

What Is Self Reflection?

Self-reflection is the core of self-awareness. Through introspection and asking yourself "why" questions, you can gain a better understanding of your actions and behavior. If you regularly reflect on your life, you may notice that you're unhappy in some areas—such as your friendships, career, or self-care. Asking these questions will help you identify changes you can make to improve your mental and physical well-being.

What Are The Self Reflection Questions?

There are countless topics to reflect on, but we’ll focus on the ones that enable the most personal growth. We’ll also look at topics pertaining to civil discourse to see why it’s an important part of a balanced life.

Self-reflection questions help you to get to know yourself better by tapping into your thoughts and emotions. They allow you to identify your strengths and weaknesses, your core beliefs and values, so that you can grow.

Introspection—the process of reviewing thoughts, feelings and behaviors—is one powerful way to make positive changes in your life. Research shows that we think more than 6,000 thoughts per day, of which more than half are negative and more than 90% are just repeats from the day before. These self reflection questions can help you become aware of your thought patterns.

Questions about childhood memories

Childhood is a significant time in our lives that can help us become the people we are meant to be. Reflecting on your childhood memories can help explain why you make the decisions you do today. Here are some questions to ask yourself about your childhood:

  1. What was it like growing up?
  2. Did you have any experiences that felt traumatizing or overwhelming?
  3. Were your needs being met as a child?
  4. What is your favorite childhood memory?

Questions about mental health

The way we prioritize our mental health can have a huge impact on our lives. These questions can help you determine how you care for your mental health.

  1. How do you de-stress?
  2. Do you have a support network?  Who is at the top of it?
  3. On a scale from 1 to 10, how is your mental health right now?
  4. Are you too hard on yourself?

Questions about physical health

You can neglect your physical health in many ways. Consider the ways in which you care for your body and how you can improve to live a healthier life.

  1. Do you have any habits that are bad for your health?
  2. What activities may you feel physically well?
  3. Is exercise a part of your life? How so?
  4. What is your relationship like with food?
  5. How do you deal with burnout?

Questions about routines and daily life

The best way to get an objective view of our lives is to look at our daily routines. These self-reflection questions can help us see what works and what doesn’t.

  1. Do you have a morning routine?  Does it leave you feeling excited and energized for the day?
  2. What is your nighttime routine like?  Do you fall asleep easily?
  3. Do you leave yourself enough free time during the day?  How do you fill it?
  4. Name one thing you’d like to make time to do every day.

Questions about work

It can be challenging to integrate work into our lives in a healthy way.  Ask yourself these questions for introspection on whether or not you have a healthy work-life balance.

  1. When you’re not at work, are you able to leave work thoughts behind?
  2. Does your workplace encourage civil discourse on tough discussions?
  3. How do you feel about your job?  If it’s not fulfilling, are there ways to find fulfillment?
  4. If you could have any career without having to worry about money, what would you choose?

Questions about family relationships

Regardless of how close you are to your family, family relationships have a huge effect on our sense of security and stability. Here are some self-reflection questions to help you learn how you define family.

  1. Are you close with your biological family?  If not, do you have close friends who you would consider family?
  2. Does your family support your life decisions?  Are you able to have respectful conversations when you disagree?
  3. Do you spend quality time with your family?
  4. How important is the concept of family in your life?

Questions about friendships

No two friendships are alike.  Ask yourself these self reflection questions to determine how the friends in your life uplift or hinder you.

  1. Who would you call if you needed help?
  2. Do you make an effort to be there for your friends in their time of need?
  3. How do you handle disagreements with friends?  Are you able to forgive easily?
  4. What is most important to you in a friendship?

Questions about romantic relationships

Romantic relationships can be incredibly fulfilling.  They can also illuminate many things about ourselves that we may not be aware of or want to admit.

  1. What do you want from a relationship?
  2. Describe your dream partner.
  3. What is your love language?
  4. How do you maintain boundaries and independence when in a relationship?

Questions about self-care

Many of the things we consider to be self-care are actually self-destructive acts in disguise. These questions for self reflection will help you identify and change destructive habits.

  1. What do you consider self-care?
  2. Do any of your self-care practices hurt you in any way?
  3. Do you make time for self-care even when pursuing a personal or professional goal?
  4. Do you focus on caring for others and neglect yourself?

Questions about dreams/goals

Our dreams motivate us through periods of doubt.  These self reflection questions will help you identify what motivates you to overcome obstacles.

  1. What is a dream you have that you’re embarrassed to admit?
  2. Name 5 short term and 5 long term goals.
  3. Do you feel like you’re living your dreams?
  4. What are you willing to do to go after your dreams?

Questions about past trauma

As human beings, we’re often tempted to gloss over or ignore past trauma to protect ourselves.  By facing these incidents head-on, we can heal from the pain and emerge stronger than before.

  1. Is there any past trauma that you haven’t dealt with?
  2. How do you feel about pursuing professional help?  Are you willing to ask for help if needed?
  3. Have you healed from your past traumas?
  4. What do you do when you feel triggered or retraumatized? 

Questions about bad habits

Many of us have bad habits that we don’t even realize we’re doing.  Here are a few questions that will help you identify and eliminate bad habits.

  1. What are your bad habits and what are their consequences?
  2. Are you willing to practice contrary action?
  3. What good habits can you replace your bad habits with?
  4. Have you ever been in addiction?  If so, how did you deal with it?

Questions about interests

Our interests help sustain us and offer us a sense of excitement outside of our work lives.  These self reflection questions will examine the ways in which your interests uplift your life.

  1. Name 10 interests outside of work.  
  2. Now name 5 interests you’d like to pursue that you haven’t.
  3. How can you make more time for the things that interest you?
  4. Is there a group you can join to meet up with people with similar interests?

Questions about personal wellness and happiness

While there’s no fool-proof path to happiness, we can take steps towards a happy and contented life when we identify what brings us joy.

  1. Are you happy overall?
  2. How do you define happiness?
  3. What’s something you can do right now to bring more joy into your life?
  4. What steps can you take to improve your emotional well being?

Self-reflection is a valuable tool for all of us, no matter our circumstance. Whether you’re a CEO, a student, or an entrepreneur, self-reflection can help you better understand yourself and the world around you. The more you understand what makes you tick, the easier it will be to find ways to improve your life.

As you go through life, you will undergo major changes that will alter who you are. These self-reflection questions will help you get a better sense of who you are right now and what changes you can make for the better.

Civil Discourse

listening barriers

September 8, 2022

Barriers To Listening: 5 Tips On Being A Better Listener

When it comes to communicating, talking is easy–listening, not so much.  Listening involves more than just hearing what someone is saying. When you’re truly listening to someone, you’re taking in information and processing it. You're also paying attention to body language and other signals that might help your understanding of what the person is trying to convey.

Research suggests that we listen with only 25% efficiency, meaning that three out of four times we communicate, we misinterpret what the other person is saying or fail to retain it accurately. These miscommunications occur because of several barriers to effective listening that many of us are guilty of.

Why Active Listening Is Important

Active listening is one of the most powerful tools you can have at your disposal.  As a founder, I’ve learned that listening—and being open to the opinions of my peers—is key to being an effective leader. Not only does it prevent avoidable mistakes, but it’s also vital in respecting and understanding others. Active listening provides you with accurate information, making it easier for you to communicate, collaborate and make decisions.

What Are The Common Barriers To Listening?

I’ve found that while a number of barriers to effective listening exist, they generally fall into two categories: external and internal.  Here are a few external and internal listening barriers that can get in the way of active listening.

External Listening Barriers

Noise

It’s incredibly challenging to listen effectively when you’re concentrating on filtering out background noise. Too much noise from side conversations or phone alerts will distract you from what the other person is saying.

Visual distraction

Sights have the power to distract as much as sounds. A movement out of the corner of your eye, people coming and going, or staring out the window can all pose barriers to active listening.

Physical setting

The physical environment you’re in can hinder your ability to listen. For example, if you’re outside in the hot sun, in a crowded space, or in any setting that causes discomfort, it will be more difficult for you to actively listen.

Objects

While some people believe playing with personal items can help them pay attention, it often distracts them from listening. Playing with a pen or a piece of jewelry can be a barrier to active listening.

The person speaking

Your personal feelings about the person speaking can be one of the biggest barriers to listening.  Talking with a close friend, someone you don’t like, or someone you find attractive/unattractive can all cause distractions.

Internal Listening Barriers

Anxiety

If your mind is worried about something unrelated to what you’re discussing, then this can distract you from the conversation.  Anxious thoughts will prevent you from actively listening to what’s being said.

Self-centeredness

When you’re talking with someone, it’s important to give them your full attention.  Self-centered thoughts can take you away from their words and distract you with your own thoughts instead.

Mental laziness

We don’t always want to listen to what’s being said to us.  If we’re listening to complicated information, we might be tempted to tune it out to avoid having to follow along.

Boredom

Boredom is another barrier to effective listening that can be difficult to overcome.  If you’re uninterested in the subject you’re discussing, it takes much more effort to pay attention.

Sense of superiority

Listening is all about taking in information you may not already know.  If you believe you have nothing to learn from someone, this can prevent you from listening to what they have to say.

Cognitive dissonance

Our preconceived notions can shape what we hear instead of allowing us to listen objectively.  If we believe something strongly enough, then we might wind up interpreting what’s being said to support our opinion.

Bias

Bias may cause us to disregard the other speaker entirely.  If we have a bias that doesn’t allow us to change our beliefs, then anything that doesn’t match that belief will be ignored.

Impatience

The less efficient the communicator, the more difficult it is to listen.  We may let impatience with a slow communicator interfere with what we hear.

How To Eliminate These Barriers To Listening

We have now answered the question, “what are the barriers to active listening?” But how exactly do we overcome them? To help you become a better listener, here are 5 practices I use in my own life.

  1. Practice Civil Discourse

Civil discourse is a helpful mindset to practice in order to be a better listener.  It encompasses many practices that encourage listening over speaking to allow for a better exchange of ideas. To practice civil discourse, don’t interrupt or have side conversations.  You should also listen for the content of what others are saying rather than assuming.

  1. Ask Questions

Asking questions will help you ensure that you fully understand what other people have to say.  If you’re unclear about anything that’s being said, feel free to ask questions to clarify or request additional information.  Asking questions also reduces boredom and impatience by allowing you to engage and extract the information you need.

  1. Set Aside Your Own Bias

We all have opinions, but these opinions can get in the way of truly listening to what another person is saying.  While you obviously can’t change your opinion at will, try to take a moment to set aside your preconceived notions before a discussion.  This will help you listen to what’s being said in an objective way without responding emotionally or being dismissive.

  1. Prioritize The Other Person

It can be easy to let internal and external listening barriers distract us during a conversation.  Make active listening a priority by dealing with any external barriers as they arise.  If you’re in a noisy area, move to a quieter one.  If you find yourself fidgeting with something, set it out of reach.  If you find your mind wandering, ask the person to repeat themselves to bring yourself back on track.

  1. Listen More Than You Talk

A good ratio to strive for is to listen twice as much as you talk.  If you have a point that you want to make while another person is speaking, write it down for later reference and let them finish their dialogue.  If you focus on listening more than talking, you’ll make active listening a habit before long.

Poor listeners will often interrupt the speaker, formulate opinions while the other person is still talking and rush to judgement. The above listening barriers can hurt us by preventing us from effectively taking in information. Follow these tips to overcome these barriers to listening and be a better communicator.

Civil Discourse

stand up for what you believe in

September 7, 2022

6 Steps to Respectfully Stand Up for Your Beliefs

Your beliefs are the foundation of your personality. Firmly rooted in your ancestry, upbringing, and life experiences, they shape your narrative and define your life’s 

key moments. Your beliefs work behind the scenes to guide your everyday actions. 

Not only do your beliefs shape who you are, they also provide a moral compass for your life. To stand up for them, you must first determine what values and principles you abide by. Only then can you articulate those beliefs with passion and conviction.

​​The Benefits of Speaking Up for What You Believe In 

Expressing your beliefs is the key to living authentically and in alignment with your values. Taking a stand for your convictions helps you deal with life challenges in a level-headed manner. Here are some reasons you should work on speaking up for your own beliefs:

  • Preventing identity loss. Your individuality separates you from the crowd. Defending your beliefs establishes your identity and guards your voice against getting lost in the crowd.
  • Building respect. Sticking up for your beliefs builds self-respect. Going against your values just because it's more convenient is less than admirable. Standing your ground shows that you aren't a pushover and can voice your opinions.
  • Gaining confidence. Standing up for your beliefs is not easy at first. You may doubt yourself, be hesitant and feel awkward. But each time you do it, you’ll get better at it and gain more confidence. So step out of your comfort zone and speak up whenever you can!
  • Bringing about change. Expressing your values makes an impact in society. It helps bring attention to issues that may have been overlooked and can affect the lives of people who share your belief system.

How to Defend Your Beliefs 

When someone disrespects your beliefs or pressures you into changing them, it’s important to speak up. I’m not advocating for responding to fire with fire but rather being firm in what you believe and standing up for your rights. It might be difficult at first and you might offend people close to you, but it’s essential for protecting your self-esteem. Here are six steps you can use to defend your beliefs:

  1. Know your audience: Before standing up for your ideologies, know who you’re talking to. Are you speaking to a friend, a family member, or a stranger? Each audience requires a different approach.
  1. Select your words carefully: Your word choice is crucial when defending your beliefs. Make a clear stand and maintain a respectful demeanor. Refrain from using inflammatory language that might come across as argumentative. 
  1. Be prepared for pushback: Not everyone will resonate with your beliefs, and that’s fine. When people challenge you back, be ready to explain why you hold those beliefs. Have supporting evidence, statistics, or examples ready.
  1. Make room for different perspectives: While it’s important to voice your values, making space for other views is also vital. Turn the discussion into a civil discourse where everyone can safely express their beliefs. You don’t have to agree with everything they say, but you must respect their right to hold those beliefs.
  1. Address self-doubt: Rejection is inevitable in life, but it can lead to self-doubt and a lack of confidence. If you’re able to acknowledge that failure is a natural part of the process to success and know that you’re worth more than a rejection, you can move forward with your beliefs intact.
  1. Practice detachment: When you stand up for what you believe in, you are making your opinion known and letting others know where you stand. Detachment isn't a call to avoid conflict; it's the acceptance that sometimes people will disregard your beliefs even though they know where you stand.

Negotiating Better and Integrating Beliefs In Your Life 

Seeking out perspectives that oppose your own helps you break out of your echo chamber. Civil discourse is a fantastic tool for negotiating with people holding onto different beliefs, listening to each other's stances, and showing respect for opposing views.

Civil discourse is about truly listening to understand, rather than pretending to be polite. It enables you to amplify your beliefs and question the preconceived notions that help you evolve as a human. It provides a learning space for everyone.

When you stand up for what you believe in and break out of your comfort zone, you will build respect for yourself, gain confidence and discover who you really are. It may not be easy at first but it’s really quite simple to do. Start by finding out what your beliefs are and let go of your fears, quit doubting yourself and keep practicing. Civil discourse is essential to foster a healthy discussion.

Civil Discourse

respect opinions

September 6, 2022

How to Respect Opinions Even When You Disagree

Difference of opinion is inevitable in any diverse society, but showing respect for opinions (whether you agree or not) is important for maintaining positive relationships.

When you can respect opinions you disagree with, you will be able to connect with others on a deeper level and build trust, which will open your mind to new ideas. Being respectful requires self-esteem, self-control, sensitivity, tolerance and fairness. As we mature, we’re expected to develop respect for everyone's opinions and not just those that belong to ourselves.

Many people are rigid about their opinions. Some even tend to disagree if what others say goes against their beliefs. But you can always find common ground by conducting civil discourse.

Opinions are the expression of your unique way of viewing the world. Your opinions reflect your upbringing, life experiences, education, and other cognitive biases. People with similar opinions may be drawn to one another, but a group of people with differing viewpoints can also be engaging and stimulating. You might not always agree with others, but it's important to respect their views. 

Here's a complete guide on how you can learn to accept people's opinions even if you disagree.

The Right to Have an Opinion

There is some debate about whether or not we all have a right to our opinions. While opinions are subjective, they may be based on facts such as when someone's opinion is grounded in technical expertise, for example, a legal opinion.

It's interesting how people feel strongly about the things they believe in. Their beliefs shape their worldviews, so it's natural to feel slightly rejected when someone disagrees with you. But it's also important to remember that everyone has a right to his or her own opinion.

Disagreements will happen. But you can choose to listen carefully and respectfully, and to communicate your feelings civilly. A world without such disagreements is a world without innovation and change. 

What Does Respecting Others' Opinions Look Like?

Scrolling through social media will often reveal people arguing aggressively over differing views. However, we don't always have to be hostile towards opposing ideas. Avoid heated debates - they never end well. Learn to separate your feelings from the issue at hand and analyze if someone else's opinions are valid in the context of their life experience. Arguing and undermining other people's beliefs will not help us grow. We learn by gaining new perspectives and widening our understanding.

Respect people's opinions and you'll be able to engage in civil discourse, which is vital for idea sharing. Humility and kindness are highly valued qualities. It shows you're willing to listen, even when it's hard. This will earn you respect even from people who disagree with you.

Disagreeing with someone doesn't have to be unpleasant. Here are some ways to respect differences:

  • Admit when you've made a mistake

When you notice your own flaws, you have two choices: either get defensive or accept your fault. The first choice will put your self-respect at stake and trap you in a never-ending argument. The second choice will help you take a solution-oriented approach that leaves no room for hurt feelings and burnt bridges.

  • When you disagree, listen to the other side patiently

Be curious about opposing views. Ask people why they hold those opinions and listen to them patiently. You may not agree with everything they say, but active listening will help you understand the ground of their views, which will make it easier to counter their arguments.

  • Don't raise your voice

You don't always need to prove yourself right. It’s fine to politely communicate your feelings and opinions in response, but yelling and being argumentative shows a lack of respect for the other person. The point isn’t to “win”, so there’s no reason to be aggressive. Agreeing to disagree is sometimes the most productive solution to a conflict.

  • Be polite and kind

Kindness and respect are intertwined. If you can be kind in the midst of a disagreement, you'll earn people's respect.

If you understand why someone believes what they say, it's easier to empathize with them. Despite differences, it's possible to coexist in a gray area without imposing your ideas on others.

  • Don't call others' opinions wrong.

Opinions reflect personal choices, not facts. It’s unnecessary to feel threatened or argue over which opinion is correct, because oftentimes, no one is “right”. The best way to learn how to respect someone's opinions is to consider how you'd want other people to behave when you share your perspective. This reminder will help you reciprocate respectfully with contrarian views.

The Benefits of Respecting others' Opinions in the Workplace

Showing respect toward others' opinions creates a cooperative environment. Be it at home or in the workplace, respecting diverse opinions yields excellent benefits, as mentioned below:

  1. People feel motivated to share their ideas.
  1. Employees don't engage in trivial office politics and are more satisfied.
  1. A healthy workplace culture is cultivated. 
  1. People engage in civil discourse that facilitates knowledge sharing.
  1. Teammates bond faster and develop enriching relationships. 
  1. Mindful listening widens the perspective to new ways of approaching the situation. 
  1. Being considerate of others' opinions earns you their respect.

Everyone has the power to think and reason. Differences in opinions have led to many innovations in the world. If we can benefit from diverse views, then we must also reap their benefits in our professional and personal lives.

Tips for How to Oppose or Respectfully Disagree 

Respect everyone's opinions, but don't be afraid to express your own. If you want to reach a conclusion that everyone can agree on, try using a civil approach. It might help avoid future clashes and disputes. 

Here are some solution-oriented tips to help you respectfully disagree:

  1. Stick to facts instead of emotions and opinions.
  1. Avoid making the person feel small for holding certain beliefs.
  1. Use "I" statements to communicate what you think and feel. Encourage similar behavior from the other side. For example, instead of saying, "This is not true," try saying, "I don't think this is true. Here's why."
  1. Ask questions to understand the root of opposing opinions and listen carefully.
  1. Have a civil approach and find a middle ground by agreeing to some parts of the discussion.
  1. Stay calm while explaining your perspective.
  1. Remember that you only disagree on one topic. This shouldn't change your relationship with the person.
  1. Agree to disagree if you can’t come to a middle ground.
  1. Walk away from the conversation if the other person turns hostile. Don't get defensive and escalate the situation.

A healthy self-esteem is the first step toward being respectful of others. Respect yourself enough to be honest with yourself and others. Understand that you are your priority—not what someone else wants or expects from you. When you accept that some relationships aren't meant to last, it's easier to move on from them.

Constructive Opinion and Destructive Critique

Opinions in the form of feedback come in two forms: destructive and constructive. Both types of feedback point out our mistakes, flaws, or potential improvements. While constructive criticism offers suggestions and possible solutions, destructive criticism is cutting, derogatory, or even mocks our failures.

Seek constructive feedback to improve your work. Ignore destructive criticism, which adds negativity and fosters self-doubt. Here are some ways you can differentiate between constructive feedback and negative criticism:

  • Intention - Constructive criticism keeps your best interest at heart. Destructive criticism aims to humiliate or insult the other person.
  • Focus of criticism - Positive feedback focuses on improving your shortcomings. Destructive critique leans toward personal attacks.
  • Nature - Productive criticism offers an actionable, solution-oriented approach. Destructive opinions are mostly vague and demeaning without any clear takeaways.

Always welcome constructive criticism with an open mind. Ask questions to understand their feedback, and use that feedback to improve yourself. Don't let destructive critique get you down; it's only words, not bullets.

To grow and learn, acknowledge your own beliefs and those of others. Create an environment where disparate points of view can be expressed respectfully. Civil discourse is the best tool at your disposal to build healthy, collaborative relationships.

Civil Discourse

productive conflict

September 5, 2022

The Art of Productive Conflict: Learn How to Turn Disagreements Into Opportunities for Growth

As an entrepreneur, I know what it feels like to be stressed out by the fast-paced work environment. While building a startup is challenging in itself, extra stress can arise among teams if conflict is avoided entirely. Most entrepreneurs avoid disputes in order to avoid discomfort, but this leads to poor results and more stress on top of their already busy lives.

While growing three purpose-driven startups, I’ve found that avoiding conflict does more harm than good. If you don’t communicate your disagreements clearly with the team, they’ll execute even bad plans. You may avoid disrupting peace in the short term, but in the long run, it will inhibit growth and progress in your company. Managing conflict productively is vital for avoiding undue stress and fostering an environment brimming with growth opportunities.

What is Productive Conflict?

Resolving any dispute requires a culture that encourages respectful communication and civil discourse. All team members should feel comfortable having open conversations where they can freely exchange ideas to reach a common ground.

Communicating civilly can help you turn a sticky situation into an opportunity for growth. Productive conflict is about having a healthy interaction with another person with a clear goal of dispute resolution. Positive conflict allows you to voice your disagreements with someone in a respectful tone, so that you can learn from one another and find solutions together.

There are numerous benefits that you’ll gain from embracing productive conflict. These include:

  1. Reducing workplace stress and increasing productivity.
  2. Making it easier to embrace and process contrasting ideas.
  3. Creating a solution-oriented environment teeming with growth opportunities.
  4. Nurturing mutual respect and holistic growth of all parties involved.

Components of Productive Conflict

Regardless of the size or nature of your company, productive conflict had three common characteristics:

  1. Have empathy for others

Conflict creates gaps in understanding. Empathy—putting yourself in the other person’s shoes—can help you understand why things broke down in the first place.

  1. Give respect to all parties

Respect is a powerful force in building relationships, allowing people to work together toward achieving common goals. Just demonstrating respect in a conversation can improve your relationship with another person.

  1. Focus on the problem

Focus on fixing the problem at hand, not winning the argument. Encourage everyone to bring their ideas to the table and work together toward a solution.

Creating Productive Conflict: A 2 Step Method

When you have a plan in place for how to resolve conflict, it’s much easier to do so. Here’s a simple formula for creating productive conflict in the workplace:

  1. Be aware

In order to overcome conflict, understanding is key. Understanding the problem, your own position, mindset, and communication style as well as those of the person opposing you are all vital parts of resolving disputes peacefully.

To address a problem, first acknowledge that it exists. Second, create an environment conducive to civil discourse by being respectful of others' viewpoints and listening to their input. Also, understand the root cause of the conflict so you can move forward productively.

  1. Find Common Ground

Once you’ve taken a moment to pause, get everyone involved to focus on finding a potential common ground. Let everyone present their perspective, listen to each other’s points of view in a civil manner, and carve out the best possible way to resolve the issue at hand. 

The true art of productive conflict lies reaching a mutual agreement, and that requires common ground between opposing parties.

Productive vs. Destructive Conflict

Conflict arises when people have different opinions or work ethics. With multiple people working in close proximity, potential for conflict is inevitable.

When people are not aware of their behavior, conflicts can be destructive. In such cases, two parties may unconsciously become absorbed in an argument that saps their motivation and frustrates them. The mood of the entire team sinks and no progress is made.

Destructive conflict happens when you focus on the person, not the issue. When this happens, your team members may look for ways to deny responsibility and pass the blame to someone else. This shows that they're not trying to solve a problem; instead, they're looking to pass blame to protect their egos.

We can fix things by adopting a solution-oriented approach. This means we must reflect on the conflict from a new perspective and determine how to move forward.

To turn conflict into a growth opportunity, both parties must adopt a civil mindset and let all participants speak freely. This approach helps you build trust and enrich relationships with your team members, and it brings harmony to the entire team.

Role of the Leader in Productive Conflict

A strong leader will drive conflicts to a productive solution in their workplace. They involve all team members in decision-making, getting everyone to focus on the bigger picture. They seek not a single star performer within the team, but rather success as a whole.

A good leader is transparent and honest with their team. They communicate clearly and respectfully, building trust. This allows them to solve conflicts within the group in a productive way.

Ultimately, the leader should try to build a cohesive team where individual goals are aligned with the team’s targets. This will help ensure that everyone is working in sync to meet all challenges and that your team remains productive even amid conflict and strife.

Conclusion

Conflict is inevitable in the workplace. When faced with unproductive conflict, you must bring the issue out into the open. Then everyone must work to address it head on. Some people will need to develop more sensitivity to detect when people are getting uncomfortable, and others need to become more comfortable making their thoughts and opinions heard. 

Teams that work together respectfully, and are willing to adjust their communication style, can engage in productive conflict that leads to success.

Civil Discourse

leadership soft skills

September 2, 2022

10 Soft Skills that are Crucial for Leadership

The best leaders not only know how to work with numbers, they know how to work with people. Skills like empathic communication, active listening, and body language are “soft skills” and are essential to productive leadership.

As we embrace an automated future, people are investing more in learning technical skills. However, I’d argue that soft skills will become more critical as we settle into the age of automation.

 Being an entrepreneur, I’ve met several successful leaders. One of the biggest things I found common in them was - a good grasp of soft skills. This allows them to effectively collaborate with remote teams and guides them to new heights. 

Soft Skills that a Strong Leader Needs in 2022

Leading people is a function of an intangible connection that is difficult to put into words. Good leaders instill purpose in their teams and make them feel fulfilled with their work. Whether your teams work from the office or home, if you want to deliver your best, become a leader by heart and mind.

 This is where developing soft skills enters the picture. The strength of your soft skills will determine how well you can lead your teams. As a leader, your success is defined by the success of your people. Here are ten soft skills that you should work on developing if you want to be a better leader: 

  • Communication skills 

The ability to effectively communicate tops the list of soft leadership skills. Disagreements are natural when you manage a team of people with varied opinions.

 In such situations, practice civil discourse with your team. It’s a great tool that allows everyone to present their honest opinions and find common ground.

 Here are a few tips for facilitating civil communication: 

  1. Be open-minded to understand other people’s viewpoints.
  1. Ask for feedback and openly discuss them.
  1. Be confident while presenting yourself, and back your words with credible facts.
  1. Seek common ground to find solutions rather than focusing on points of conflict.

  • Empathic approach 

Leaders are primarily responsible for inspiring others. If you want people to follow your lead and take action, you need to know what they care about, which takes empathy. To lead them well, you have to understand their situation and feelings.

 Empathy as a soft skill fosters a work culture where everyone feels heard and understood. This instills in them a sense of responsibility to resolve conflicts. Compassion is a foundation of solid leadership. Here’s my personalized formula to enhance empathy for leadership: 

  1. Take others’ opinions into account before concluding.
  1. Engage in personalized communication by paying attention while listening and responding positively.
  1. Show support towards your employees and express willingness to solve their problems.
  1. Take feedback from the team to foster better understanding.
  1. Be genuine, kind, unbiased, and non-judgmental toward others. 
  1. Focus on growing as a team without leaving anyone behind.

  • Mindful actions that Win Over Trust

Trust is essential for the success of your team. Creating a trustworthy environment is only possible when your actions match your words. Employees begin to trust you when they realize you care about their well-being and take measures to help the company grow.

However, remember that your behavior needs to come from an authentic place. You can’t fake genuine trust. 

  1. Practice transparency in your work principles.
  1. Acknowledge others’ talents and value their strengths.
  1. Establish civil discourse with your team to allow the free flow of ideas.
  1. Don’t shy away from accepting your mistakes. 
  1. Be open and embrace other people’s perspectives or constructive criticism. 

  • Delegation Skills that Empower Others

The art of delegation is a must-have soft skill for leadership. As a leader, your goal is to empower every individual by recognizing their true potential.

Trusting employees with their assigned tasks without micro-managing creates a positive work environment. It also prevents you from overworking while boosting your team’s confidence.

Delegating responsibilities to capable individuals also allows you to hone your leadership skills.

Below are a few tips to help you effectively delegate tasks: 

  1. Conduct 1-on-1 sessions and group discussions to evaluate every individual’s standpoint.
  1. Offer challenging but achievable goals to your employees to help them grow.
  1. Give them space and trust in their process.
  1. Don’t micromanage at every step while the work is in progress.

  • Flexible mindset

Leadership is an ever-changing sphere. Leaders must be able to adapt to the constantly evolving industry standards.

Being open-minded with varied opinions elevates your strengths as a leader. If your employees view you as an approachable leader, they’d feel connected and dedicated to you. This leads to a productive workspace and promotes personal growth.

I’ve learned a few ways to adjust to different situations: 

  1. View changes as positive opportunities for growth.
  1. Don’t be afraid to experiment or push your limitations.
  1. Remain approachable.
  1. Adjust your conflict management tactics to effectively resolve stressful situations.

  • Collaborative Attitude

Bringing a team together is one of the most potent traits of an influential leader. It’s more about being a part of the team and not just allocating tasks to the employees. Inculcating a spirit of teamwork enhances cooperation, collaboration, and synchronization among the members. It helps you identify the team’s challenges while working towards a common goal.

A leader is nothing without a team. Guide them, split the responsibilities, and maintain clear communication with them. Polishing teamwork skills is imperative to becoming a strong leader. Here are some steps I follow and recommend: 

  1. Set hyper-defined goals.
  1. Develop a flow of communication among teammates.
  1. Provide updated tools and resources your team needs to seamlessly function.
  1. Conduct frequent review sessions.
  1. Clarify every member’s roles and responsibilities within the team.
  1. Praise the accomplishments and constructively address the poor performances.

  • Problem-solving skills

Problems are inevitable. A leader’s ability to deal with them separates a good leader from the average. A solution-oriented mindset becomes your strength to overcome roadblocks.

As an entrepreneur, you’ll encounter unique challenges. Your project might not shape up as expected, or your team might not be working up to the mark. You must objectively look at things in such situations to find the best solution.

My default mode of problem-solving involves the following steps: 

  1. Address the problem before assuming the pain points.
  1. Brainstorm possible solutions and analyze if their execution has some limitations.
  1. Involve your team in the creative problem-solving procedure. 
  1. Break down the challenge into a series of steps and individually tackle them.

  • Self-Awareness to Manage your emotional intelligence

Pay attention to your emotions, inner conflicts, and mindfulness to foster leadership skills. Your emotional triggers influence your behavior and guide your actions. Emotional intelligence helps you in confronting any challenging scenario.

High self-awareness is a critical component of emotional intelligence. Self-aware people have a purpose, influence, and achieve success in their lives. When you incorporate these key attributes into your work life, you’ll lead a competent and passionate team and bring desired results.

A few measures that help manage emotional intelligence are: 

  1. Know your patterns. Identify the emotional triggers that often take you off track. 
  1. Listen, analyze, and then respond to other people. 
  1. Value everyone’s uniqueness and appreciate them.
  1. Choose patience and empathy over conflicts.
  1. Take breaks. If you feel overwhelmed, slow down to recover whenever necessary.
  1. Be mindful while interacting with people who hold contrary opinions.

  • Efficient decision-making to overcome challenges

When you’re in a leadership position, your decisions have high stakes. You have the power to influence the lives of team members, organizational stakeholders, and the company at large. It’s essential to make good decisions when you’re leading a team.

Efficient decision-making must be one of your strengths in all your leadership roles.

Here are some tips to help strengthen your decision-making skills: 

  1. Manage your emotions and the emotions of visibly-disturbed teammates.
  1. Analyze the pros and cons of whatever issue is at hand.
  1. Limit the choices, so you don’t take forever to conclude.

  • Strong mentoring skills

A great leader is known for empowering other people, which improves organizational productivity. The best way to lead a team is by mentoring members and supporting their growth and development.

People often see the leader as a role model to lead an organization. Mentoring others is a soft leadership skill that brings integrity to the team. Here are a few tips to become a great mentor to the people who look up to you: 

  1. Bridge the gap between your actions and words. When your actions match your words, it enhances the trust of your team to follow the path you show them. 
  1. Understand the team’s drives and assign tasks that are exciting for the teammates and essential for the organization.

Leadership requires mastery of a variety of skills. Soft skills are often overlooked, but they’re just as important as your technical and managerial abilities.

The conversation of soft vs. hard skills for leaders reflects a more profound truth: Leadership is not just a programmed set of tasks you check off daily. It’s not a formula you follow or a code you adhere to. Authentic leadership comes from the heart. Genuinely caring about others is at the core of all soft skills that can empower you to be a more effective leader. If you don’t care about your people, they likely won’t care about you or the company.

We all want to know that our work is important and that what we do adds to something meaningful. Improving your soft skills and showing your team you care doesn’t have to add a lot to your plate, but it does have to be a priority in your days. Start small and learn as you go. It will make all the difference.

Civil Discourse

finding common ground

September 1, 2022

Finding Common Ground

A fundamental mindset shift that has helped me scale three successful startups from scratch is always looking for the best in people. This doesn’t mean I haven’t encountered conflict; which entrepreneur hasn’t? But I’ve always prioritized giving every person a fair chance to speak. Looking back, that has made all the difference in my journey.

Every person you meet has a unique perspective. Their personal life experiences, upbringing, and current situation determine their worldview. As a result, people see things differently and hold varying beliefs. This difference in thought is the primary cause behind conflicts.

Finding common ground enables you to find a mutually beneficial solution for both parties. You build trust and forge strong bonds with people who don’t share your mentality. Here’s a comprehensive guide on how you can find common ground during conflicts.

What Does Finding Common Ground Mean? 

Not everyone thinks, feels, or acts the same way as you do. You might find a few kindred souls who resonate with your thoughts, but most people won’t. Conflicts will inevitably arise. You must find common ground to protect your relationships. It’s a practice where you discover a topic, opinion, or perspective you both can agree upon. It allows you to see where the other person is coming from and better appreciate their point of view.

Civil discourse is an excellent tool for finding common ground. It allows you to create a non-confrontational environment where:

  • everyone can freely express themselves,
  • listen carefully to each other, and
  • show respectful disagreement.

Establishing a common ground doesn’t mean you have to agree on everything. You may share some interests with the other person, but other issues can still separate you. However, seeking mutual ground will help bridge the divides that pull you apart.

The Importance of Finding Common Ground

Locating a mutual ground ensures that both parties understand each other’s perspectives and strive to find the best possible solution to resolve the conflict. Here are some reasons why finding common ground is essential:

  • Builds strong relationships

Conflict pushes people apart. Establishing a common solution helps maintain relationships even amid disagreements. People develop strong bonds and build trust when they’re aligned toward a shared goal.

  • Resolves conflict quickly

You can resolve conflicts when you understand the depth of an issue. People’s viewpoints differ due to their unique identities. However, establishing common ground allows you to analyze both opinions without bias to arrive at a mutually agreeable solution.

  • Increases Open-mindedness

To resolve arguments, you must be open to opposing ideas. Conducting civil discourse helps all the parties to adopt a flexible mind toward varying perspectives. This allows you to quickly attain common goals.

  • Prevents opinion polarization

Everyone has a different approach to solving the same problem. However, sometimes, people counter the other person’s strategy to prove their solution right. Common ground prevents both parties from vehemently opposing each other’s opinions. It aligns everyone to focus on achieving the shared outcome. 

Civil Discourse: The Ultimate Strategy for Finding Common Ground

During an argument, people defend themselves to protect their egos. This further escalates the conflict. To resolve an issue, you need to constructively approach it so everyone can feel respected. Engaging in civil discourse lets you understand what matters to the other person.

Civil discourse enables a productive exchange of ideas. It helps both parties figure out what’s important to them. Such conversation allows people to express their views without rancor. It gives rise to mutual respect and reinforces people’s right to hold their beliefs.

Everyone must honestly present their thoughts to quickly find the middle ground. No one needs to downplay or overstate their ideas. Carefully listen to other people, ask questions, and show respectful disagreement whenever necessary.

Civil discourse lays down the stepping stone to align different visions and find common ground faster. Read on for the steps you must follow to tackle conflicts smartly.

Steps for Finding Common Ground 

As an entrepreneur, it’s essential to learn how to find common ground with your team. Learning this will foster a sense of teamwork and help your business grow. 

Here are the steps you can take to find common ground in any conflict:

  • Establish the tone with small talk

Small talk is a great way to break the ice. When you meet someone new, make a connection by talking about food, drinks, music, and hobbies. Talk about all the activities that allow you to experience commonality. It will create a comfortable environment where you can efficiently conduct civil dialogue with the other person.

  • Listen actively

Civil discourse ensures things don’t get heated up during a disagreement. You have to listen, take mental notes and be willing to embrace new opinions. An active listener focuses on what the other person is saying, not what they want to say next. Use non-verbal language like nodding or establishing eye contact to show you’re genuinely listening to them. 

  • Begin a more profound conversation by asking questions

Once the other person expresses themselves, ask open-ended questions to dig deeper into the conversation. Encourage them to speak freely and listen without interrupting them. Their answers will help you understand their side of the story and reach the common ground faster.

  • Don’t be overly judgmental.

As humans, we naturally have biases about other people. Recognizing what triggers you to be judgmental or critical of others is vital. Focus on the current topic and don’t delve into judgments during the discussion.

  • Be empathic to their perspective.

Everyone holds different opinions based on their idea of reality. Listen to their point of view, and consider the facts and opinions they present. Ask questions when you need elaboration. They might say something that makes you rethink your approach.

  • Be authentic

Avoid being confrontational when speaking your mind. Frame your thoughts using “I” statements. Explain how you feel and why you feel that way. The goal isn’t to prove that you’re right. It’s about sharing your stance that helps the other person comprehend where you’re coming from. This establishes the common ground both people are comfortable with. 

How To Find Common Ground With Friends and Family

Civil discourse not only enriches the workplace but also helps you locate common ground with your friends and family. When you establish a shared goal with people, you resolve conflicts faster and co-exist in harmony even with diverse opinions. This strengthens your bonds and develops mutual respect.

Here are some steps that will help you find common ground with friends and family:

  • Respond, don’t react

Listen carefully to the other person. Their opinions might trigger your emotions, and you may feel the temptation to counter them. But don’t. Strive to understand their perspective before reacting. Ask questions to ensure you’ve understood their points correctly. Remember that you’re looking for common ground, not ways to disagree further.

  • Keep calm during the argument.

You can easily become defensive when you disagree with someone close to you. Remind yourself to stay calm and take deep breaths. Don’t respond with rage regardless of the temptation. If the other person gets upset, calm them down and revisit the topic when things settle down.

  • Express your feelings

If your friend has a different perspective, talk to them about it. Don’t assume they know what you think or feel. They cannot read your mind. You must help them understand your stance and why you believe in it. This will let the other person do the same and help you reach an understanding.

  • Focus on solving the conflict, not on winning the argument 

You will experience disagreements no matter how close you are to friends or family. When diverse views arise, know that it’s normal. Don’t disregard their beliefs or try to prove your thoughts are correct. Patiently listen to the other person and be curious to know why they think what they think. The goal is to solve the conflict, not to win the fight.

Conclusion

Diverse views are expected. They arise regardless of the situation and people involved. This thought difference often leads to conflicts, which can sabotage relationships if not handled well. That’s why finding common ground that mutually benefits all parties is vital. When people know they’re working towards the same goal, they don’t obsess over their views. They listen to diverse opinions that help reach the goal faster. Civil discourse is a great way to establish a mutual ground amid a conflict. Ask everyone to share their views and agree to disagree with opposing ideas.

Civil Discourse

how to handle criticism

August 29, 2022

How to Handle Criticism Like a Winner

You can never be truly successful without the input of others. When taken in stride, criticism can improve relationships and make us more effective at what we choose to do. 

In the era of social media, it's far too easy for criticism to come your way, as anyone who has spent a decent amount of time on Twitter can attest to. If you don't learn to deal with criticism well, you'll spend your life letting other people define who you are. 

Above all else, if you learn to take criticism well, you will gain a powerful tool that can propel you forward personally and professionally. 

Types of Criticism

The ability to respond positively to criticism requires being able to identify it. Here are the various forms of criticism that you might encounter:

  • Aesthetic Criticism

This type of criticism is part of the broader field of aesthetics, which has to do with determining what is beautiful, how it connects to our emotions and other issues concerning human sentiment. Aesthetic considerations have a place in most parts of human life, so there is potential for much criticism.

  • Logical Criticism

A logical criticism is an objection to an idea, argument, action, or situation because it does not make rational sense. The critique usually refers to assumptions, coherence, implications, and intent.

  • Constructive Criticism

Constructive criticism is a suggestion for improvement—how things could be done better or more acceptably. Good constructive feedback helps you grow and learn and creates an open-minded culture.

  • Destructive Criticism

Destructive criticism is negative feedback that directly hurts people and their creations. It often takes the form of an attack on a person's character or personality or an emotional outburst. It may be based on prejudice or result from the critic's frustrations and insecurities.

Receiving criticism can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. By adopting these key traits, you’ll be able to handle any criticism effectively:

  1. A strong self-esteem
  2. Assertiveness 
  3. Mindfulness
  4. Emotional intelligence
  5. A solution-oriented mindset 
  6. Self-awareness

Constructive vs Destructive Criticism

Each person is unique, and so are their opinions. As an entrepreneur, I find criticism inevitable. The people I work with have differing experiences, mindsets, and creativity, often leading to disagreements and opposing thoughts within the team. To benefit from such conflicts, I engage in civil discourse within my team to give everyone a fair chance to express their ideas and constructively criticize each other's viewpoints.

Constructive criticism is a method of providing feedback that intends to improve. To be effective, it must be addressed in a way that acknowledges the person's strengths and weaknesses. In addition, it should provide focus on areas for growth and improvement.

In contrast, destructive criticism is negative feedback intended to harm, insult or destroy someone's creation. It's malicious and focuses on belittling the person at the receiving end.

Tips to Deal With Criticism

No one wants to be criticized, but if you want to build something exceptional, you must be willing to take it. The best way to fight criticism-related anxiety is to learn how to deal with it. 

Here are some tips to help you handle criticism effectively:

  1. Be calm and patient

Receiving criticism can be difficult, but if you lose patience, it will only increase friction. The best way to take criticism positively is to engage in civil discourse. This helps people conduct a productive discussion while respectfully accepting the criticism for improved results.

  1. Don’t be tempted to criticize back

The way you respond to your critic is crucial. Thank the person who offered the best suggestion they could come up with. Stay focused on learning and improving rather than reacting defensively to justify your motives.

        3. Project Positivity

The way you hold yourself during a confrontation is your biggest strength. Smiling gently, nodding in agreement, or relaxing your eyebrows can turn even serious disagreements into friendly debates. Open body language creates an atmosphere conducive to productive criticism and keeps the critic motivated to provide valuable feedback without personal attacks.

  1. Listen actively

By listening patiently to your critic, you can handle criticism well. We're not always the best judge of our situations. But, if you are all ears to the limitations someone else can foresee in your innovations, it will improve your methods and get you profound results.

How to Improve Accepting Criticism

Collaboration encourages you to accept criticism in the interest of better results. If the intention behind the critical feedback is constructive and focuses on improved results, you shouldn’t feel bad about it. Instead, use the feedback as fuel to refine your work and create incredible results.

Start accepting criticism like a winner by following these steps:

  • Don't let your emotions get the best of you

A calm mind is the first requirement for handling criticism. A raging sense limits your capacity to think objectively. Don't interrupt an argument, even if you disagree at times. Instead, take deep breaths to calm your nerves and postpone the conversation to a time when you're in a relaxed state.

  • Ask questions to seek clarity 

While dealing with criticism, it’s crucial to keep the communication to the point. Ask questions that add clarity to the discussion. It keeps the criticism constructive and helps you benefit substantially from the feedback.

  • View criticism as a challenge to overcome, not an excuse to retaliate

The way you handle criticism matters more than the criticism itself. Remind yourself that your critic is here to help you improve rather than belittle you. Evaluate the critical points rather than reacting negatively to their perception.

  • Acknowledge the critic’s efforts in providing insight

It takes courage to give genuine feedback, mainly when that feedback differs from your perspective. But on the other hand, expressing gratitude helps foster understanding and prevents conflict.

  • Avoid taking the criticism personally

When dealing with criticism, it's important to view it rationally. You're not perfect and making mistakes is a normal human tendency. If you take feedback personally and let it get to you, it will hinder your ability to take it in stride and grow.

Final Words

To thrive in this competitive world, you must learn how to handle criticism. When you receive feedback in your life, view it as an opportunity to grow. A critic becomes your ally when you accept their viewpoints as opportunities for growth. The ability to receive criticism without taking it personally is a skill that will allow you to live a happier, more successful life.

Civil Discourse

social media echo chamber|

August 16, 2022

How to Break Out of the Social Media Echo Chamber?

Social media is an integral part of modern life, giving every person the opportunity to share their thoughts with the world. Unfortunately, people tend to surround themselves with content that aligns with their perspectives and beliefs, making it easy for them to avoid viewpoints that differ from their own and effectively create a social media echo chamber.As algorithms become better at showing you content that fits your preferences and past behavior, they can also limit your worldview.

What is an Echo Chamber?

Everyone picks a side. You choose heads or tails, and you root for it: the same goes for online opinions. You tend to favor one side, regardless of how well-balanced your behavior is. Social media then bombards you with content that validates your confirmation bias.Confirmation bias is the tendency to interpret information in a way that conforms to your existing beliefs. It is more prominent when emotions are attached to opinions, as on social media. Social media can create an echo chamber by providing versions of the same information that reinforce each other.Algorithms restrict your access to opposing perspectives, which can stifle the scope for civil discourse or productive exchange of ideas.

What are the Consequences of Social Media Echo Chambers?

Here are some severe consequences of being in an online echo chamber:

  1. Unintentional alliance in spreading fake news
  2. Lack of original ideas
  3. Absence of challenging viewpoints
  4. Less scope for knowledge growth
  5. Limitation of problem-solving abilities.
  6. Polarization and division between social groups

Why is it Important to Break out of the Comfort Zone of Like-minded People?

When you constantly surround yourself with people who agree with you, it's easy to create a bubble in which you don't hear dissenting opinions. Unfortunately, this can lead to heated arguments and strained relationships.We see this trend on social media often, which can harm our understanding of the world. People fight in the comments, spread misinformation, and surround themselves with people who harbor similar opinions. This is why it's vital to break out of this pattern.The first step is to recognize that you're in an echo chamber. The next step is to ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Is the content shedding light on only one side of the issue?
  2. Is there concrete evidence behind the viewpoints, or are they based on rumors?
  3. Does the content take facts or statistics into consideration?

If you find your content consumption pattern one-sided and constantly bashing the other side, it's time to break free of your filter bubble. Of course, you don't need to abandon your ideologies completely, but stepping out of your filter bubble will feel liberating.You miss out on multiple growth opportunities by staying in an echo chamber. Once you start thinking outside the box, you unlock various benefits of listening to diverse opinions, such as:

  • Getting enough information from both sides to make a fair judgment
  • Letting go of your need to be right all the time
  • Opening yourself up to new learning opportunities
  • Not basing your ideas on someone else's perspective

How to Break Out of Your Echo Chamber

If you want to expand your perspective and break free from the comfort of echo chambers, try these strategies to find and listen to the opposing side of the story:

  1. "Like" everything

Don't pledge allegiance to any side on social media. Instead, engage with conflicting posts to feed your algorithm that you like everything, so you'll get recommendations from all facets. This way, you'll be exposed to various viewpoints, even if it goes against your confirmation bias.

  1. Be mindful of who you follow

Your favorite creators might be biased and not present a balanced outlook on both sides. An easy way to find their leanings is to see who they follow and who follows them. You'll undoubtedly find a common thread of ideology and confirmation bias in their posts.

  1. Sort chronologically

Instead of relying on the algorithm to feed you content, set your feed to view content chronologically if possible. This will allow you to see the latest posts irrespective of whether your circle agrees with them—and it may also help you get acquainted with differing perspectives on the matter.

  1. Give space to emerging voices

Don't just stick to the same creators. Instead, keep finding new voices and following them. Everyone has unique stories that lead them to where they are. In understanding their' whys,' you add diversity to your feed and may find reasons behind popular internet debates.

  1. Seek out opposing viewpoints

It isn't easy to consume the content you disagree with, but by following people with varying views, you can find knowledge across the spectrum. In addition, you create a healthy balance of diverse opinions by beefing up your social media content sources.

  1. Read everything with a critical viewpoint

Question what you read and hear. Don't share anything without verifying it first. Seek out the source of a news piece before passing it along to others. Never rely solely on social media for information; confirm what you hear or read with various sources. If a post sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

  1. Talk, don't mute

Don't let your desire to avoid conflict lead you to silence others whose views differ from yours. On the contrary, by engaging civilly with people whose opinions differ from your own, you will gain the knowledge and understanding necessary for productive conversations.

  1. Manage your anger

Seek evidence, not just your own belief or opinion. Respect those who present facts and figures. Keeping calm is more effective in putting your message across in any disagreement.

Is it Worth Breaking out of Your Social Media Echo Chamber?

Social media can be an excellent opportunity to find new jobs, gain recommendations, and build connections. But it's not all sunshine and roses. You need to be aware of pitfalls—how to avoid confirmation bias, for example, or how to get over your attitude of always being right.To gain a broader perspective, you must take active steps to welcome opposing views.

  1. Be humble and recognize that you don't know everything. Be open to new ideas and opinions.
  2. When someone makes a statement contrary to your own opinion, don't be so quick to dismiss or scorn it.
  3. Identify and reflect on the biases you may harbor to gain a more objective perspective.
  4. Research opposing viewpoints when you need to challenge your ideas.
  5. Learn to identify the most common types of fake news.
  6. Respect the human on the other side of the screen before making offensive or harsh statements.

Avoiding an echo chamber is not about avoiding opposing viewpoints. Instead, the goal is to use empathy and civil discourse to bring people together in meaningful dialogue, even when you have differing opinions. Try the steps above to keep your social media feeds balanced. Remember that everyone has a different idea of what's essential, and keep an open mind.

Civil Discourse

principles of communication

August 15, 2022

Principles of Communication: The 7 C’s

The ability to communicate and collaborate is what separates humans from other species. To understand why we've succeeded in conveying our thoughts and ideas, it is essential to examine how we communicate. Human language, problem-solving, and morality originate in our imaginative ability to reflect on different situations and our deep-seated drive to connect with others.People often overlook the importance of effective communication, but being a good communicator is a skill that will help you succeed at almost anything. It's a way to share your thoughts and feelings, connect with others, and achieve your goals.

Modes of Communication

Effective communication is critical for success. To effectively share information with your team and customers, it helps to learn the various modes of communication and when to use them:

  1. Verbal communication

Verbal communication uses words to speak, present, discuss, or convey a message. Body language, tone, pitch of voice, and choice of words play a vital role in verbal communication. Verbal communication helps transmit thoughts by each party and results in faster decision-making.

  1. Non-verbal communication

Body language, facial expressions, eye contact, appearance, and sign language are essential forms of communication that complement verbal communication and also help when words don't suffice. In addition, non-verbal communication is integral to interviews and discussions as it can convey meaning even when words fail.

  1. Written communication

Written communication is when we use words to convey a message. This communication happens through emails, memos, texts, posts, etc. Written communication can help you share your thoughts well, but sometimes it does not fully convey the emotion you're trying to communicate.

Importance of Communication in the Workplace

Communication is one of the most vital skills for any business professional to master. It builds understanding, resolves doubts, and reduces stress. In addition, effective communication helps you reach the company’s targets while successfully managing a team of innovative people.Here are a few benefits of effective communication at work:

  • Promotes team spirit

Effective communication encourages everyone to participate in civil discourse, share ideas, build trust, and collaborate while working on a project. In addition, it allows the entire team to value one another, which keeps your team's morale high.

  • Improves creativity and productivity

Communication among people with different opinions results in new ideas, doubts, and resolutions, streamlining the work process and boosting the creativity and productivity of the team.

  • Resolves conflict

Communication is essential in the workplace to resolve conflicts, find common ground, and work as a team. Therefore, employers should encourage civil discourse among employees, which helps them set goals, strategize efficiently, and execute plans successfully.To communicate effectively in a work environment, these seven principles prove their worth:

7Cs: The Principles of Workplace Communication (with examples)

There are seven basic principles of effective business communication that a team can use to accomplish productive dialogue.

  • Conciseness

Be concise in your messages. It will help you to have more meaningful conversations and save time.Example: While training employees on developing a skill, avoid talking about the foundational story of your company or repeating sentences. People will disengage and reduce enthusiasm among the team. You will gather the team's transformative output if you respect everyone’s time, stay on point with your message, and encourage active participation.

  • Consideration

To deliver an impactful message and resolve the challenges employees face, you must consider your team members’ viewpoints, levels of understanding, concerns, etc., while communicating.Example: If an employee struggles to complete an assigned task, don’t just explain the importance of the task. Instead, consider their struggles and help them where they’re stuck to execute the task effectively.

  • Correctness

The correctness of your message is vital for the team to conduct productive work. This allows everyone to contribute the correct information and their progress related to the topic. It leads to better decision-making. Appropriate language, correct spelling, grammar and punctuation, the authenticity of the facts and references, etc., all fall under this principle.Example: Using inappropriate language or incorrect data in a formal report could lead to your dismissal or damage the company’s reputation.

  • Completeness

Completeness is an integral part of effective communication. A complete message includes everything that enhances your team's understanding and definitive next steps to achieve the desired results.Example: When you assign a project to the team, specify the outline, each member's role, and the exact strategy. This will help ensure that employees have clarity of the task without any confusion over the critical areas.

  • Courtesy

Workplace communication needs to include sincerity and respect for everyone. You must not resort to making offensive remarks or belittling any team member, even if there is a disagreement.Example: If employees attack each other to prove their points, calm them down and set up an environment for civil discourse. This will help people acknowledge each other's opinions and find common ground on which to discuss creative ideas.

  • Principle of concreteness

Workplace communication must be specific, clear, and direct. There is no room for ambiguous or vague information that might confuse or mislead the team.Example: When you educate your employees about the benefits of civil discourse in the workplace, be sure to provide them with an understanding of its basics, importance, and value. Also, encourage them to ask questions, resolve their doubts and provide relatable examples.

  • Coherence

This principle ensures that the employees are well informed about the company's objectives. Furthermore, systematically communicating with them brings clarity into the discussion and resolves any doubts they might have about your methods.Example: If you're updating employees on company policies, describe the reasons behind the changes to maintain harmony within the workplace. Sudden changes will affect the employees' efficiency.

Tips for Good Communication

Here are a few practices that will help you implement the seven principles of effective communication in the workplace:

  • Treat your employees with respect by valuing their presence and role in the company
  • Address the needs of your team and respond to their questions with patience
  • Before initiating a dialogue, consider your team's perspective on the topic
  • When communicating with a team, understand which mode of conversation is best-suited to convey your message

Final Words

Effective communication can help you build healthy relationships with your employees and foster a healthy work environment. How you speak, respond, or share your ideas will show your employees how you feel about them. With good communication skills, you can cultivate a healthy and growth-oriented culture in the workplace.

Civil Discourse

constructive criticism

August 9, 2022

How to Give and Take Constructive Criticism: Useful Tips

Valuable feedback in the form of criticism can help you improve, but many people are uncomfortable when they hear negative comments about their work. Getting used to responding positively to criticism will help you grow as a person and advance in your career.Constructive criticism is a tool for improvement; it helps the other person see and polish their work from a new perspective. On the other hand, destructive criticism is abuse that can lead to stress and decreased productivity. In this post, we'll walk through tips and strategies for giving and receiving constructive criticism like a champ.

What is Constructive Criticism?

Constructive criticism is a way of giving feedback that provides specific, actionable suggestions. Rather than providing general advice, constructive criticism offers specific recommendations on how to make positive improvements. Criticism that is constructive focuses on the positive aspects of the situation while emphasizing the scope for improvement. This is a valuable quality in leadership. You can drastically enhance your team's output if you can show people where they fall short and help them improve without bringing their morale down.

Benefits of Using Constructive Criticism

Constructive criticism is an essential part of the workplace. When people know how to give and take criticism, they can identify areas for improvement. Here are some of the benefits of constructive criticism:

Learning opportunities

Humans tend to overestimate their abilities and ignore their shortcomings. That’s why it’s important to seek feedback for personal growth. The learning curve increases as you adapt to doing things differently and accept corrective criticism.

Builds relationships

Giving constructive criticism takes courage because you can't predict how the other person will respond. People who have your best interests at heart go out of their way to provide corrective feedback. Accept their criticism and thank them for helping you improve. This way, you can build productive relationships with people who care about you.

Welcomes new perspectives

Constructive criticism can give you a fresh perspective on the world. When you understand other people’s views, you can make effective changes to your work and approach.

3 Tips for Giving Constructive Criticism:

Constructive criticism encompasses a variety of factors that influence one's outlook to a significant degree. However, the following are several noteworthy features of corrective criticism:

  • Practice what you preach

If you want to be taken seriously, implement what you say before you share your opinion. People won't respect your feedback if you don't follow your own advice. For example, if an employee is struggling to maintain a work-life balance, they won't seek advice from someone who rarely leaves the office. Instead, they'll go to colleagues who have found balance and know how they can achieve it.

  • Use real and specific examples

Use real-life examples when providing feedback. It will help people visualize how their method is flawed and, if improved, how it can generate better results.For example: "Hey, I noticed you don't follow up with leads after the first sales pitch. That's something we can work on together. I usually see 40% more conversions in my first follow-up and 10% in the second. It adds up quickly and can increase commissions significantly."

  • Provide people a chance to revert

Always conduct civil discourse when sharing your perspective with others. It will help them understand the reasoning behind your actions. Let them cross-examine you and respectfully answer their questions. If they find your stance wrong, gracefully accept it, apologize and move on.

Destructive vs. Constructive Criticism

Constructive criticism can help people improve, while destructive criticism often targets people personally and does little to improve a situation. While you can’t choose which feedback you receive, you can decide how to respond to them. Self-acceptance plays a pivotal role in providing a healthy response to criticism. It will help if you put conscious effort into offering feedback empathically.

Empathy and Constructive Criticism

When offering constructive feedback to others, be sure to put yourself in their shoes. If you don’t understand their situation and they feel you don’t care about them, they will not listen to anything you have to say. Here’s an effective method for delivering constructive criticism empathetically:

Leverage the ‘Feedback Sandwich’ approach

The ‘Feedback Sandwich’ method is a way to deliver negative feedback that minimizes the harmful intensity of the criticism and makes it comforting for the receiver. This approach consists of a negative remark between two positive statements, balancing the critical comment with two relatively positive ones.Here’s an example:The first ‘positive’ layer: This website looks great! The overall design is aesthetically pleasing, and I love how you’ve integrated an easy-to-understand UI. In addition, your explainer video works amazingly well with our services.The ‘improvement’ layer: The content structure for our ‘About Us’ and ‘Services’ pages is too cluttered. We would do better to present the information in a way that makes it easier for people to browse through.The last ‘positive’ layer: Overall, the work is good! We are headed in the right direction. By revamping the content structure, we can enhance the user experience significantly. This type of feedback adds a positive spin to criticism, making it easier for employees to digest. They are also more motivated to improve their work after being given this response.

How to give and take constructive criticism?

Delivering Constructive Criticism Taking Constructive Criticism Offer feedback sandwich Don’t give impulsive reactions Be concise and to the point Strive to be a good listener Always follow up with recommendations Cross question for clarity Give unbiased feedback Do not become defensive Avoid making assumptions Do not interrupt the other person Be empathic Try and extract the learning point from the feedback and focus on it Pay attention to your situation instead of peopleDo not respond with anger and disappointmentCriticism is a natural part of workplace life. It's easy for leaders to lash out at employees and exercise their authority, but this doesn't motivate people. Giving constructive criticism is the best way to improve performance.

Civil Discourse