Sunday, October 15, 2017

Don't Miss It! (How Negatives Build Rapport and Engagement)

I used the phrases "Don't Miss It"  and " Don't start" in an ad, and someone made a comment about my "interesting" language. I don't know for sure that what interested that person was the use of negatives, but it made me think about the way people get hung up on a formula for what they should or should not say.

Once someone challenged me on the use of the word 'problem.' He felt that it was inappropriate in the work I was doing. I felt it was inappropriate to tell people that the things that troubled them were not problems or to hide from problems or to overlook them.

In fact, "negatives" can be a strong opening. We all know that: it's not an unusual strategy to catch people's attention with a warning or to motivate people by giving them a problem to solve. They are strong because they connect with people where they live: that ad was written to catch the attention of the people who were so tired of their baggage and mistakes, they would be ready to make a change.

"Don't miss it" is particularly interesting because it is a double negative. You have to see something you want, then miss it, then decide not to miss it. It's a lot of work to decode three short words. I used them because they were also a pretty exact fit for the people whose attention I wanted: they are the people who suspect that there's something they want but are prepared to put it off. . . unless someone calls them to take another look.

So yes, I think my language was interesting (I almost always find language interesting). Language is an expression of a mind/brain/body system that is so rich and complex that it's hard to comprehend. I won't give up any of it: I think it all does the work we need it to do some of the time. The trick is in knowing what connection you want to make and then choosing from the whole of the toolkit so that you have the best words for what you want to do with them.

And I do like encouraging people to catch something sliding by and slow it down so they can take another look.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Simple joys are sensible solutions

What do you do when you are tired and overwhelmed and your to-do list is so long that you can't face writing it all down?

Sometimes I go for a walk. I trust experience (and quite a lot of science) that suggests that I will get more done if I recharge first. And then I walk away from the computer and find some trees. If I can find some water too, that's even better.

I still hear the voices in my head that tell me I don't have time and I should work harder. I don't really fight them - it's like fighting construction noise. I just let them make sounds in the background until I stop noticing them. 

I walk until I feel my muscles loosen and my thoughts unwind and I realize that my number one priority is not the top thing on my list: my number one priority is to remember to live each day as well as I can. 

The voices in my head will kick up a fuss when I get back from my walk. But I'll be ready to calm them then.

Happy Thanksgiving!

p.s. I couldn't resist the alliteration in the title. Please remember it's okay to have fun while you work.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Focus + Fun + Friends = Energy

Do you have enough energy to do everything you need to do every day? Most of us would reply "yes" from between clenched teeth, and mean "obviously I get it done so I must have enough energy." Or we would be honest and say "I don't have enough energy to get it all done and feel good."

It's hard to manage your time if you are not managing your energy. You need to monitor which activities give you energy and which ones drain it. You probably already know what drains you, but you might not have thought beyond napping when it comes to finding the energy you need to enjoy your life.

Here's a formula to consider: focus + fun + friends = energy.  It means that anytime you are focused on a task that involves laughter and a satisfying social connection, you're likely to be energized. This is true for extraverts, and it's also true for introverts. When we are focused on getting something done with people we like in a state that includes laughter, we create energy.

Some of your activities will be energy sinks. You'll have to do them alone even though it's hard to focus and not much fun.  You'll have to sit through the meeting that lacks fun and focus. You'll hang out for an evening that has fun and friends but not much focus. There are some good reasons for being engaged in ways that don't produce energy for you.

If you build opportunities for focus + fun + friends into your schedule on a regular basis, you'll find you have more energy for tackling the situations that drain you. You'll also find you're more motivated, more focused, and more satisfied.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Small things that capture attention

Do you get trapped into thinking that something has to be big to make a difference?

Take a look at the picture. I bet there are two things you noticed: the pathway and the golden leaves.

Neither of those occupies much space in the picture. The picture is more green than gold, but what you noticed was the cue that signalled a change. In the same way, the path changes what the picture means. When there's a path through the woods, the setting is not the wilderness, even if the rest of the picture looks wild enough.

Now think about that thing that isn't big enough to make a difference. How can you make it a focal point so that it takes up more attention than it does space?

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Don't Fixate on Labels: Keep Your Eyes on the Horizon

I was reminded this week of how important it is to keep looking out at the horizon instead of backwards. Words help us stabilize thoughts so we can remember them. That's useful much of the time. But sometimes, those words transform a temporary problem into a permanent identity.

Therapists are not the only ones who offer us labels and invite us to own them longer than we should. Bosses do it, and so do teachers. Maybe you owned "messy" a long, long time ago (when it applied to your grade 2 printing). Maybe you owned "fearless" at a time when it applied to going for the goal in a soccer game (not impulsively leaping into a relationship or out of a job). Maybe you owned "analytical" so thoroughly that you forgot that the most creative people are often analytical too.

Don't go back to fight with your labels. Just take a look at the picture here and notice that if you said it was dark or cloudy, you would be missing the point. It was going to get darker, and then brighter again (because the sun would set and then rise again). Labelling a moment in a process is not a way to define the whole process.

You are a work in process. If you're going to use labels on yourself, make sure they are timestamped. Better yet, look at the horizon in front of you and attach a label to what you want to find when you get there.