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Confrontation is the Big Brother of Productivity

Confrontation is the Big Brother of Productivity
Confrontation

No. I repeat this simple word many times each day, in a variety of volumes and with relative efficacy. My three young children are used to me saying no but are keen to keep me in line in case I abuse the word or just get in the habit of saying no under the banner of being a “good parent”. When I’m at home, no is easy. At work, it’s another story altogether.

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“No may be the word we need most in today’s times,” said negotiator William Ury, author of The Power of a Positive No: How to Say No and Still Get to Yes. When you consider the consequences of confronting a coworker and the very real possibility of fallout in the days that follow, saying no is serious business indeed. I once confronted a colleague for his verbal abuse of a secretary and the result was predictable- he denied the whole thing and resented the fact that I called him out on it. What follow are some pointers when it comes to confronting the person who is way out of line.

Step back and “Go to the Balcony”. Ury uses this phrase as a way of encouraging poise under pressure. Someone has just offended you or said something completely out of line so how should you respond? Step back, take a breath and respond with calm and composure. Going “to the balcony” indicates a need to get away from the situation, if even for a moment. Maybe it’s taking a deep breath or putting your fingers to your temples. It might require you to leave the room and walk down the hall. The key is to avoid an emotional reaction and choose instead a rational response.

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Trust Your Gut. In the situation that I described earlier, I went with my gut which told me that a secretary had just been chewed out for no apparent reason. Instead of sweeping it under the rug as just a “bad day” for the offender, I marched right up to his room and spoke directly to him. Remember this: if it seems like a situation of abuse, neglect or outright workplace arrogance, it probably is. How to respond is the real question.
Give Him/Her a Chance to Speak. You’ve just witnessed a colleague get trashed in a public meeting so what do you do? You could walk right up to your boss and let her have it, launching verbal hand grenades and mincing no words. On the other hand, you could also request a meeting behind closed doors, outline what you witnessed and then give her a chance to respond. I’ve found that the simple stating of your case opens the other person to their case, ultimately leading to a better conversation.

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Respond Truthfully. Confronting someone at work takes tact and confidence and you may choose to forgo that difficult conversation this time in favor of a better time or place at another time. Without getting into “confrontation procrastination”, speak truthfully when the time is right. If you have a reservoir of respect with your boss or colleague, they’ll listen to your perspective 9 out of 10 times. Sometimes we’re tempted to backtrack because we want to be nice but it’s truth that ultimately teaches us best, not just being nice.

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Follow-through is Key. Holding grudges is absolutely off limits when it comes to moving on and following through. You’ve made your case, now move on. Don’t worry about how well it went or how much they empathized with you. Should they choose to ignore your perspective, they’ll only find themselves in hot water down the road.
Standing up for “the little guy” is hard work, especially if that guy is you. Sure, life would be easier if we all got along but saying no might be just the ticket for you and your organization. It’s often the uncomfortably truthful conversation that leads to a deeper level of growth and productivity.

Mike St. Pierre blogs about productivity and life balance at www.thedailysaint.com

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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