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We Need to Challenge our Children

We Need to Challenge our Children

We Need to Challenge our Children

    A Personal Story

    I went to a Catholic boys school in Blackpool in the North of England.  In my first year in the senior school I was a nerdy kid, with spectacles and short trousers.  For one hour a week the class had elocution lessons from an old, portly teacher called Mr Priestley. He had a hard task wrestling with our flat northern vowels and trying to get us to enunciate the Queen’s English.  One day he came up to me and said,’ Sloane, I want to put you in for a speaking festival.’ ‘Why me?’ I grumbled.  ‘Because I think you can do it,’ was his reply.

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    I had to learn to recite a poem.  It was ‘Play up, Play up and Play the Game’ by Sir Henry Newbolt; a classic motivational poem ringing with the heroic values of the British Empire.  I had to practise it in front of the class, which was rather embarrassing; especially when dear old Mr Priestly said, ‘That’s good but you need to pause and to put feeling and emotion into it.’ Eleven year old boys are disinclined to express feelings.

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    The Saturday of the festival came and I went there on the bus (my parents never had a car).  I gave it my best shot but there were other children there who were more polished or experienced than I was and they scooped all the prizes.  So I had to return to school on Monday and tell Mr Priestley and the class that I had not won.  I was then, and still am, very competitive so it felt like a failure to me.  We did not have Mr Priestley again after that year and I never thanked him for that intervention.  It is too late to do so now.
    In my work I go around the world giving keynote talks on leadership and innovation and I often address large, prestigious audiences. Part of the reason that I can do that is because one teacher took the initiative and gave me a challenge.  He asked me to do something I had never done and helped me to learn how to do it.
    Education is not about league tables or exam results.  It is about opening doors for people and showing them rooms that that would otherwise be hidden.  If we can challenge children to try things and to learn what they can achieve then maybe one day we will be remembered with the gratitude that I hold for Mr Priestley.
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    More by this author

    Paul Sloane

    Professional Keynote Speaker, Author, Innovation Expert

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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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