“Either you run the day, or the day runs you.” ~ Jim Rohn
“Either you run the day, or the day runs you.” ~ Jim Rohn
By LEO BABAUTA
One of the biggest sources of difficulties for every single human being is the desire for people to be a certain way.
We can’t seem to help it: we want the world to be the way we want it. Unfortunately, reality always has different plans, and people behave in less-than-ideal ways.
The problem isn’t other people. It’s our ideals.
Yes, I think it would be great if people stopped killing animals for food and fashion, and became vegan instead. But that’s not the reality I’m faced with, and it’s not going to happen for quite some time, if ever.
Yes, I think it would be great if my kids behaved perfectly all the time, but that’s not the reality of kids. Or any human beings, for that matter.
Yes, it would be great if my wife always agreed with me, but that’s not going to happen.
So the problem is:
This is obviously not great.
We have a couple options:
When we think about it this way, it’s obvious that option 3 is the best route. We’ll talk about this option soon, but let’s talk about a couple objections first.
When people are confronted with the idea of letting go of their ideals about other people, they usually have a few objections:
So these objections are all about wanting to change people’s bad behavior. This article is about inner acceptance of “bad” behavior (or what I think of as “not ideal”) … but once you have inner acceptance, you can take appropriate external action. That might be helping, being compassionate, getting to safety, talking calmly and lovingly to someone, reporting abusive behavior, getting counseling, or many more appropriate actions that come from a place of love, compassion and understanding rather than frustration and anger.
So how do you let go of wanting people to be a certain way?
First, reflect on how these ideals are harming you and others. This wanting your way, this wanting a specific version of reality … is making you frustrated, unhappy, angry. It’s harming your relationship. It’s likely making the other person unhappy as well. This is all caused by an attachment to expectations and ideals.
Next, reflect on wanting yourself and others to be happy. If the ideals and expectations are harming yourself and others … wouldn’t it be nice to stop harming yourself? Wouldn’t it be nice to be happy instead of frustrated? Think about the desire to have a better relationship with other people as well, and for them to be happier in their relationship with you. This is your intention, and it is one of love.
Third, notice the ideals and frustrations as they arise. See when someone else is frustrating you, and reflect on what ideal you’re holding for them. How do you want them to behave instead? Don’t get caught up in your story of why they should behave that way, but instead just take note of the ideal. See that this ideal is harming you. Decide that it’s not useful to you.
Also notice your mental pattern of resentment when someone doesn’t meet your expectations, and decide to try to catch it early. It’s a pattern you can be aware of and catch early, and decide to change your pattern.
Next, mindfully observe the tightness. Turn your attention to your body, the tightness that comes from holding on to this ideal. Pay attention to how it feels, the quality of the energy in your body, where it’s located, how it changes. In this moment of observing, you are awake, rather than being stuck in the daydream of your story about why this person should be behaving differently.
At this point, you can decide to try a different pattern.
So now, you can practice a different way of being.
Here are some ideas I’ve found useful:
These are some practices. Try them, practice them over and over. I think you’ll be happier for it, and every relationship will be better.
By Anne Fisher
Dear Annie: Your recent column about how to go from an “ideas person” to “management material” really struck a nerve with me because, like that other reader, I was just passed over for a promotion too, for a somewhat different reason. My boss told me I don’t speak up enough, especially in team meetings where someone disagrees with me or starts picking apart an idea I’ve recommended. He said I need to “work on my self-confidence.” It’s true that I tend to back down if someone challenges me, because I don’t want the meeting to deteriorate into an argument. But I’ve made a New Year’s resolution to be more confident. The question is, how? Any suggestions? —Wendy the Wallflower
Dear W.W.: Actually, yes. First, keep in mind that your reluctance to risk conflict with colleagues by sticking up for yourself is a particular hurdle for women, and that’s partly for good reason: Decades of research have shown that strong, assertive women are often perceived as less “likable,” and hence less likely to get ahead, than their male peers.
Even so, “there are plenty of people, and not just women, who lack the self-confidence to be comfortable speaking up in meetings,” observes Andy Molinsky. A professor of organizational behavior at Brandeis University’s International Business School, Molinsky wrote a book forthcoming in January that you might want to check out.
Called Reach: A New Strategy to Help You Step Outside Your Comfort Zone, Rise to the Challenge, and Build Confidence, it’s packed with real-life stories, based on Molinsky’s 15 years of research, about all kinds of people—from executives to actors to goat farmers—who conquered various anxieties that were holding them back. By analyzing exactly how they did it, Molinsky came up with a step-by-step system that he says will work for anyone who’s trying to get beyond his or her own comfort zone.
The starting point is what Molinsky calls the three Cs: clarity, conviction, and customization. Clarity has to do with the fact that your own perception of a situation may need some adjusting. For instance, hesitating to defend your ideas “often arises from not wanting to ‘turn the meeting into an argument,’ as you say, or be seen as a troublemaker,” Molinsky notes. “But is that really accurate? If you ask around, you’ll probably find that people you work with would respect you even more if you were more assertive. They may actually expect people to speak up and defend their ideas.” Obviously, your boss does.
The next step, conviction, is about the reasons why you want to be more self-confident—not just to get promoted, but to express your thoughts and describe your work in ways that will make the best use of your smarts and help the organization. Old habits are notoriously tough to break, and a foray out of one’s comfort zone isn’t quick or easy, so Molinsky suggests giving yourself lots of what psychologists call positive reinforcement: “Keep reminding yourself that building your self-confidence is worth doing, and why.”
One of Molinsky’s most fascinating findings, in Reach, has to do with the third step, customization. It turns out that people who seem effortlessly skillful at tasks many of us dread—public speaking, for instance, or delivering bad news to a team—usually started out disliking (and avoiding) these things just as much as the rest of us. The difference is, they’ve learned to make it look easy by customizing whatever the task is, so that they do it their own way.
You can, too. One approach that works: “Before a meeting where you think you may have to stand up for yourself, think of specific words and phrases you could use,” Molinsky suggests. “You could say, for example, ‘You’re making a good point, but here’s what we may be overlooking…’ The key is to practice asserting yourself in ways that don’t seem to you (emphasis his) likely to turn the meeting into an argument.”
This will take some practice. Molinsky recommends you try it out before the next big team meeting with a mentor or other trusted coworker. You can also give your ideas a test drive with small groups of colleagues in what he calls “pre-meetings“.
If you find yourself slipping back to your wallflower ways, be patient and keep trying. “Sometimes it really helps to remember that it’s not just you,” Molinsky notes. “Everyone struggles with having to move beyond his or her comfort zone at some time or other.” The effort, he adds, “usually creates a kind of positive spiral, where one small success leads to another, and then another. People are often surprised to find that making even a major change is not as hard as they thought it would be.” Here’s hoping that’s true for you, too.
Happy New Year!
Although most of us like to think of ourselves as rational decision makers, ample research shows that emotions play an outsized role in negotiations. If you can’t read what your counterpart is feeling and instead focus only on what he or she is saying, you’re highly unlikely to achieve everything you could have.
Of course, experienced negotiators know how to mask their true feelings. They choose their words, tone, body language, and expressions carefully. To the average observer, they often appear neutral, impassive. Or they’re able to convincingly fake an emotion if they think it will help them advance their own interests.
However, there is a way to read what your counterpart is feeling even if they are deliberately trying to hide it from you. The secret is to pay attention to the spontaneous and involuntary microexpressions that rapidly flit across everyone’s faces at times of intense emotion. If you know what to look for, they can provide an instant, honest window into how your counterpart is feeling.
Here are some examples of common microexpressions (as depicted by Patryk Wezowski — my husband and business partner — and me):
As you can see, it’s quite easy to recognize the meaning behind the expression on a still photo. In a real-life situation, however, when the stakes are high and the microexpression lasts for as little as one 25th of a second, it’s a different game entirely.
In my work as a body language researcher and instructor, I’ve long theorized that one of the key differences between exceptional negotiators or salespeople and those who are merely average is the ability to read these microexpressions, gauge visceral reactions to ideas or proposals, then strategically steer them toward a preferred outcome.
In the first study, we compared the video test scores of salespeople from the Karnak Stationery Company with their performance and found that those with above average scores noticeably outsold their colleagues. The second experiment involved salespeople from a BMW showroom in Rome, Italy. We found that high performers (who had sold more than 60 automobiles in the most recent quarter) scored almost twice as high on the test as low performers. Our conclusion: Effective negotiators seem to be naturally good readers of microexpressions.
The good news is this isn’t an ability you either have or you don’t. You can learn it, and get better at it over time, with practices tests and in real-life negotiations by following some simple rules:
Here’s how it might work in practice:
Imagine you’re a consultant who has proposed a certain fee for your services: “Based on your requirements, we can propose $100,000 as the consultancy fee for this project.” If you see your potential client show the microexpression of disgust, you can calibrate accordingly and lower your price without skipping a beat: “But because we anticipate a longer term collaboration and are excited about the direction your business is heading in, we can offer you 25% discount.”
What if you instead recognized an expression of happiness or contempt after the initial offer? Maybe your counterpart expected a higher price, or doubts that you’re offering the premium level of service. You could quickly adjust your price in the opposite direction: “That’s the basic fee which covers X and Y. For your project I also recommend our entire suite of services including A, B and C, which means the total price would be closer to $150,000.”
Attention to microexpressions allows you to secretly respond to the feedback your negotiating partners don’t even realize they’re giving, ensuring that you stay in control of the dialogue and achieve better outcomes.
Nancy Duarte has published her latest book, Illuminate , with coauthor Patti Sanchez. Duarte is also the author of the HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations , as well as two award-winning books on the art of presenting, Slide:ology and Resonate . Her team at Duarte, Inc. , has created […]