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The Forgotten Power of Conversation

The Forgotten Power of Conversation

Conversation is becoming a lost art, replaced by endless talk. To converse is to share ideas and learn from one another in the process. It demands listening and talking in equal degrees. Talk is one-way. All those people endlessly talking into their cellphones, the TV chat shows, the instant pundits on any topic, all of them talk without ceasing yet rarely pause to listen. We live surrounded by constant chatter that amounts to little more than fear of silence.

Go to any meeting in any organization. What will you discover? People who spend their time between talking thinking about what to say next. People eagerly seizing on someone else’s words purely as the excuse for talking themselves. Decisions made before the meeting ever takes place. No one listens. No one is open to persuasion. Attendees are briefed to take a position, regardless of what’s said after they arrive. Like politicians toeing the party line, they have open mouths and tightly shut minds.

People don’t even say what they mean when they do speak. Our organizational heroes are like John Wayne, strong and silent types, hiding themselves behind the action-man exterior. In “Conversation: How Talk Can Change Our Lives,”

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    Theodore Zeldin uses dialogue from a John Wayne movie to make the point. When the heroine says to Wayne, “You don’t need anybody but yourself,” she could as easily be speaking to a top executive in a corporation.

    “I want a woman who needs me,” Wayne replies. It’s all about him it seems. But when the heroine wears a sexy dress to attract his attention, all he can say is, “You wear those things and I’ll arrest you.”

    “I thought you’d never say it,” she replies.

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    “Say what?”

    “That you love me.”

    “I said I’ll arrest you.”

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    “It means the same thing. You know that. You just won’t say it.”

    Action-man (and action-woman) leaders prove their superiority by aggression. They don’t need to listen, and they cannot be persuaded save by aggression greater than their own. Conversation has no place in their lives. Who needs talk when there’s action to be done? Who needs to persuade others when you can manipulate them, or coerce them, or (like political fixers the world over) use dirty tricks to discredit them?

    Conversation is personal contact, the meeting of minds in a mutual search for what life and work are about and how we should deal with both. It’s approaching others with an open mind and ready sympathy for their concerns, not just our own. When people converse, a change of opinion is always possible. What would happen if politicians and leaders began to converse, instead of shouting pre-prepared political slogans? Might there be a chance to put the needs of the nation as a whole before narrow, sectional interests?

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    Conversation is the ultimate human interest activity, at work or outside, bringing you into direct contact with people in all their complexity and vulnerability. It’s also the best remedy for the sense of alienation from society that’s the underlying cause of vandalism, crime and terrorism.

    People want most of all to be heard; to have others listen to them — really listen — and understand their needs and concerns. If you want to attract and keep good employees, if you want to retain good customers, if you just want to have a better quality life, cut all the chatter and start a conversation. It will change your world.

    Adrian Savage is an Englishman and a retired business executive who lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his thoughts most days at The Coyote Within and Slow Leadership, the site for anyone who wants to bring back the fun and satisfaction to management work.

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    Last Updated on December 17, 2018

    Why You Think You’re Not Good Enough and How To Believe in Yourself

    Why You Think You’re Not Good Enough and How To Believe in Yourself

    Have you ever wanted to say something at work, but a little voice of doubt crept in and said, “what if you are wrong”?

    Maybe you wanted to apply for that promotion or ask that special someone on a date, but something kept you from taking action. When you think you’re not good enough, you tend to fear the outcome and lack faith in your abilities. That is why it is vital you discover how to believe in yourself so you can accomplish your goals and create your dream life.

    Whatever your situation, the fears and self-doubt your false beliefs create will always stop you in your tracks. Identifying the beliefs that cause you to sabotage your life is the first step to removing them.

    Self-doubt causes inaction, and inaction leads to regret. When you are not following your passion and living your dream life, you are left with a lot of questions:

    • What if I took a chance on myself?
    • Could I have had a better life if I took more risks?
    • Am I be satisfied with the legacy I am leaving behind?
    • What could I have accomplished if I did not settle for less?

    So why would you think you’re not good enough?

    1. Parenting

    The perception you have of yourself is based on your past experiences. There are studies that show children mimic everything from their parents ability to regulate emotions, to their parents belief about money.[1]

    I have had clients who did not believe they were good enough because they did not receive any positive reinforcement as a child. When they were young, their parents were extremely overprotective.

    Think of your childhood challenges like dragons you had to slay. Each obstacle you overcame was another dragon you successfully removed from your life. As you slay more dragons, your self-esteem and confidence increase. When someone has overprotective parents, their parents end up slaying the dragons.

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    As a result, the child builds more confidence in their parent’s abilities, while still doubting their own.

    If you are never encouraged to slay your own dragons, you start to doubt whether you can. It is only natural for a child to conclude their parents are always helping them because they think they need it. This child ages into an adult who still believes they are not good enough. They seek the help and confirmation of others, and they rarely stand-up to opposition.

    Solution: Slay Your Dragons!

    If you want to believe in yourself, you are going to have to take steps to rebuild your trust in yourself. Start by keeping your word to others and arriving on-time. By showing yourself that others can (and do) trust you, you are going to feel more comfortable trusting yourself.

    As you move onto larger and more challenging tasks, you have built a foundation of trust in your ability to keep your word. Next, you are going to want to reclaim your sword from others. At first, you may want to confide in whoever it is currently slaying your dragons.

    Understand if it is your parent or someone who loves you, they want the best for you and mean well. You are simply going to tell them that you want to do the work, and will ask them for their thoughts in the planning phase. Feel free to check in with them and give them updates on your progress, while making sure they understand you are wanting to do the work yourself.

    Then when the task is completed, let them know so you can celebrate together. Now that you have slayed your own dragon, you can start to reclaim your confidence. By you utilizing them as your guide, you get the added bonus of someone you respect and admire, telling you how amazing you are.

    Think of it like a symbolic passing of the torch. Now, you are both dragon slayers. Which means all the positive attributes you attributed to them slaying your dragons, now belong to you.

    2. Over-Exaggerating and Oversimplifying

    Your past experiences may involve you or someone close to you failing. When you experience failure, you can lose your desire to continue. This has less to do with whether you are brave or scared, and more to do with the fact that your mind does not like failure.

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    No one enjoys participating in events in which they under-perform. Outside of the usual reasons of embarrassment, feelings of inadequacy, and fear of failure – it is simply not fun.

    Who wants to play baseball if they strikeout every time it is their turn? Would you enjoy singing in front of an audience if you were booed off the stage every time you performed? I could go on, but I think you get the point.

    The thing about those two examples is no one really strikes out “every” at-bat. It is also unlikely someone could be booed off the stage “every time” they performed in-front of an audience.

    What ends up happening is you oversimplify and exaggerate your past experiences and then your mind believes you. If you believe you are not good enough to ask someone on a date because they “always” tell you no, then do not be surprised you never muster the courage to do so.

    If you want to overcome these feelings of inadequacy, start by changing your beliefs. This exercise does not need to be complicated. If you believe you strikeout every time it is your turn, I want to you to go to a batting cage and keep swinging until you hit the baseball.

    When you experience success, I want you to take a mental note, write it down, or have someone video it. This is your proof that you do not always strike out. Then, whenever your belief that you are not good enough resurfaces, you are going to replay that video.

    Regardless of the situation, you can find a successful experience that you are overlooking.

    Solution: Read About the Failures of Others

    It sounds a little crazy, I know, but reading about the failures of other successful people will improve your confidence. In a study conducted by Columbia University, they found that teaching students about the failures of great scientists encouraged them to do better.[2]

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    When you are battling fear and self-doubt, you tend to over-exaggerate the abilities of others and diminish your own by comparison. You start to believe the successful are successful because they are courageous risk-takers, who do not take no for an answer. You tell yourself, they are meant to succeed, while you on the other hand are not.

    When you are able to relate to the successful, you start to realize they have the same struggles and challenges you do. The only difference is they kept going.

    Now it is not a question of whether you can succeed, it is a question of whether you want to succeed.

    3. Undervalue Yourself

    What is the main difference between someone who believes they are good enough and someone who does not? The person who believes they are good enough understands they are a person of value.

    What I mean by this is if you do not believe you are worth being listened to, you will not have anything to say. If you do not believe you are good enough to be respected and treated as such, you will accept and rationalize all kinds of mistreatment.

    There is an old saying that we are treated as we allow ourselves to be treated. When someone has the confidence and self-esteem that commands respect, they will not accept being treated any kind of way. However, if someone does not see themselves as worthy, they will remain in toxic situations because they do not believe anything better is on the horizon.

    Dr. Jennifer Crocker, who worked on a series of self-esteem studies, found in her latest research that:[3]

    “College students who based their self-worth on external sources–including appearance, approval from others and even their academic performance–reported more stress, anger, academic problems, relationship conflicts, and had higher levels of drug and alcohol use and symptoms of eating disorders”

    Solution: Internalize Your Self-Worth

    Instead of valuing yourself based on the awards, recognition, and accolades of others, you need to search internally. By basing your perception of yourself on your core values, you can regain control over self-image.

    Instead of focusing on things that are outside of control, keep your mind on what it is that makes you special. You are not defined by your job, relationships, religion, or education. Rather, you are defined by the manner in which you participate in these things. You may be a creative, hard-working, and compassionate person; and that shows up in every thing you do.

    Understand that you do not need to be creative, hard-working, and compassionate all the time to consider yourself these things. You are not trying to be perfect, but you are trying to connect with your true self.

    By understanding the similarities in which you tackle objectives, you will build a consistent and powerful self-worth that stands apart from external confirmation.

    Final Thoughts

    Do not allow your past experiences do dictate your future success. You do not want to look back on your life and have a lot of questions and regrets.

    Build trust in yourself by taking action today. This will help you build the confidence you need to believe in yourself and your ability to become the champion of your life.

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    Featured photo credit: Riccardo Mion via unsplash.com

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    Reference

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