Creating happy work spaces
Best Foot Forward Consulting Blog by Tam
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Creating happy work spaces

Communication: Do These 4 Things to not Miss the Real Intent

by Tami Anderson on 10/08/15

Communication is one of those nebulous words that mean everything and yet nothing. We know what it looks like. We want it. Do we do it well?  Do we model positive communication or do we react or respond to the others, the situation or the circumstances, based on our own needs and wants?

We all want positive, healthy, productive conversations everywhere we go - work, home, socially, school, shopping, any place we gather.  Do we do what it takes to actually listen to the person or do we categorise their words and the relate-ability of what they are saying to only our personal frame of reference? Instead of listening to what the person is truly saying to us, do we start thinking about our experiences, beliefs and what we want to share?  

I believe we all perceive the world from the one perspective of Me, My, I, or Mine. Sounds rather selfish. Perhaps it is just a reality of how we are wired. We relate primarily to our own experiences, to how we are feeling in the moment and to how this moment relates to those feelings of our past experiences. It all happens without any cognitive awareness. It's on auto pilot until we learn differently.

During a conversation each person is trying to find a place of comfort for themselves. Each person wants to be heard, understood and accepted. When it is an easy conversation, comfort comes easy. When it is stressful, either outwardly or inwardly, the communication becomes uncomfortable. If there is an imbalance between people, the discussion follows that track. Whenever there is conflict, an auto-pilot defence mechanism to protect us is triggered.  So, effective communication boils down to ensuring people feel comfortable (heard, respected, valued and valuable) in the conversation, no matter the circumstances.

First step is to become aware of our own feelings and thoughts to ensure their sharing does not become self focused, all about Me. We do a two part Check In:  first, check in emotionally - to either the heart or tummy area. Are you feeling good, happy, content, comfy, cared for, safe? Do you feel insecure, threatened, concerned, unsure, scared, yucky, anxious?  Second, we check in intellectually or physically - is there an instinctive plan of action forming. What am I thinking? Are my thoughts positive, reassuring, happy, content, helpful, encouraging? Are they negative, angry, protective, judgemental, critical?  Am I able to listen, relate, understand or am I planning a "Run Forest Run" escape, revenge or defence? So, what do I feel, what am I thinking. Deal with what is there. 

Then, begin to listen. We listen with what we hear, see, feel, know and relate to. Listen carefully to the words, eye movement, voice tone/volume/speed/pitch, body language and the emotions we can see. These are the many aspects to watching for the real intent of what is being said. Is there congruency between it all? In other words, does the information and body/voice clues match? Is there depth, care, passion? What are the key points, words, phrases, body language, voice variances being expressed.  

Next, focus how your own mind, emotion and body relates to this person. Become aware of the feelings and thoughts coming up.  Our relate-ability is not about sharing the same experience/incidents of life. It is always about sharing the same emotions. This connects us at the true intent of what they are sharing. 

Lastly, here is where it matters. It can be a bit tricky while learning these tools but push through anyways. Now, we want to actually relate and identify to that person. We acknowledge, understand, appreciate or care about what they said. We want them to know that we know the effect what they shared has on them personally. This means how they feel about themselves, other people, the circumstance or situation. The key here is to find their 'right' feeling.  The 'right' feeling is the one coming up for us as we relate emotionally to their feelings while they are speaking. Please note, we are not relating to the experience, or to a feeling of how we felt in a similar situation. We share with the person the feelings we felt come from them while we listened. This is true empathy - to feel their feelings and identify them as our own related to an experience where we felt that same way.

Now, in relating back, there may be several feelings coming forward. We begin with one. It may not be the exact feeling they felt or it may be a secondary one. If it is not close, they either don't respond or let us know that's not it. If it's a secondary feeling, they nod a bit, think, check in for themselves, giving a vague ok. It is not the primary; we are close but not spot on yet. 

 We go back, check in internally to the next, similar feeling their story brought up, sharing this one. We keep going until we find the match between their feeling and ours. And, the right words to describe the feeling. You will know when you find it by their reaction. There is a settling of the body, they look comfy, sometimes relieved. Sometimes they agree, not always though. They often stop talking or explaining; they have been heard. Once successful, we are connected. We now know the intent. We now have trust. The more we do this the more trust we build. And, we certainly have compassion, relationship and effective communication.  

This technique does not only apply to people sharing about tragedy, sorrow or  difficulty. We all want others to relate to us on our level no matter the situation. We can relate to others this way on any topic they choose.  

It is a paradox, my favorite kind of thinking. When we actually listen by getting out of our own neediness, our needs get met by relating at this soul level with another person and we gather into a community. Then, we hear the intent of what another is sharing; of how it relates to their state of Being - how they truly want and need to communicate.   

Recognition and Its Effect

by Tami Anderson on 07/10/13


Working in my garden recently, I thought about why I find it so difficult to do small jobs before they end up being big jobs. Procrastination may come to your mind. Maybe. Could procrastination be caused by something else though? For me, that something else can be a lack of recognition. 

Here is why I thought about this. I decided to devote one early-morning hour to pulling the long, tough brome grass out of our small raspberry patch. Bit by bit it would be conquered, giving the raspberries lots more nutrients. I did a couple of days and mentioned it to my husband. He said, "Didn't even make a dint, eh"! My heart sank, interest wained immediately. A thought came. (Oh Oh!). "Do it yourself then", my brain said. Now, as if that will make the raspberries bigger, plumper, tastier! New thought needed! I went out to the garden to admire the little space where the raspberry plants stood tall and healthy. I felt much better by changing my focus. No fight, resentment, retaliation, negative effect. Instead, I felt happy, proud, grateful and excited about those little berries. Next day, I pulled more grass and admired it again. 

Then I thought about how other people feel about doing their tasks when they don't get much recognition. Like people working in isolated or overlooked jobs - the garbage collector, the utility folks, the administrative assistant, a stay at home parent. When we get what we need we don't think about how it gets done or by who. Maybe they are too busy to recognize what someone else is doing. Other times, people craving recognition can't see another's accomplishments. Some just choose not to recognize others.  The results?  It's hard to do our best or keep going. Clients (employers and employees) tell me that all the time. It is one of the reasons they procrastinate. People feel unhappy with their job or life. They are not as capable, happy, friendly or productive as they could be. They switch jobs, feel anxious, have low self esteem, get depressed. Their essence of who they are is not built, developed, expanded. People do not view their Life at work as an extension and expression of who they are. How destructively sad!

So, what would happen if we did recognize others? For the little progresses; the common, everyday things they do? Every single day, as a business owner, manager, parent, coworker,  teacher, clerk, student, spouse or plain ol' human being, we have the opportunity to make a difference in every person we come across. Imagine that! Imagine the possible impact! 

Here is a list of tips to build recognition... 

  1. Change the focus from 'ME' long enough to see 'YOU'. 
  2. Listen to the voices in our heads; the reaction of our hearts. 
  3. Make a choice to support ourselves and others. 
  4. Show or tell others that what they do is important.
  5. Encourage others to see their contributions.
  6. Be polite; say please and thank you. 
  7. Look people in the eye (kindly) when speaking to them.
  8. BE grateful. 
  9. Be the change. 
  10. And, always keep in mind our Life at work is progress not perfection :D

Tami Anderson finds ways to be useful for all three aspects of the employment relationship - Employers, Employees and the Organization - by removing blockages and creating unity with challenging, common sense, useable solutions. 


Suffering in the Workplace

by Tami Anderson on 09/19/12

Suffering is in the workplace. It is everywhere. And the effects are damaging. What kind of pain is causing suffering? Although there are physical challenges in many jobs, it is the emotional pain causing suffering. People's feelings are hurt on a regular basis. One hurt does not heal before the next one attaches itself. We are whole beings so cannot separate our hearts between professional and personal existances. What hurts in one place continues and exemplifies itself everywhere. To explain a very complex condition in simple terms here is an example. When a little boy is told he is not good enough, that belief carries over to his work life as an adult. When a peer or supervisor correct a mistake, he reacts internally. The outward appearance may look like mad, sad, dispondent or defensive. In reality, he is hurt and feels like he is not good enough. He is suffering with an unhealed emotion.

All of us have unhealed emotions affecting our Life at work. It is easy to recognize the people who do not like their job. Gossip in the workplace has a strong, negative effect on everyone. The most common complaints are: "I am not appreciated." "The lady training me only tells me what I am doing wrong." "My boss never even says Thank you." Ouch! What effect does this have? It creates suffering  in employees  who feel unhappy, stressed, despondent, lonely, fearful, disassociated, depressed, anxious, worthless. The incidents of heart, stroke, cancer and addiction dis-eases increase annually. This affects every employee - including managers, business owners and supervisors - working in the organization.

If I cannot convince you change is crucial because people are suffering, let's look at the affect this suffering has in economic terms. All organizations exist based on two primary factors: a) financial stability and b) to provide a product and/or service.
Here is what is happening: high staff turnover, short term and long term disability claims rising, staff regularly calling in sick or not showing up, poor efficiency and effectiveness in performance, service and product output (both productivity and integrity). To replace an employee it costs $15,000 - $100,000 per person, depending on the length of service and level of position. The costs for insurance increase exponentially. Then, to realize the incalculable loss in productivity, service, sales and so on from unhappy staff, the accumulated cost is staggering.

It is time for the next r-Evolution in HR. Businesses are not expected to heal individual brokenness but until now there has been a duality of values. This causes more damage to the souls of their employees, negatively affecting the organization's own bottom line.

It is time to have a holistic approach to corporate thinking .  It is not just business any more! It's personal with your personnel - the individual to the collective. The people  are at the very core, making the organization run. Companies have their own identity. If the structure, policies and procedures are only geared toward efficient productivity, then it could be creating suffering. If an organization or the people experience any of the suffering symptoms, then it is time to change! It is time to relook at the culture, attitude, behaviours, feelings and thoughts working behind the scene of the organization. The time is now to create work spaces that naturally transform into productive, happy, energetic and positive environments.

Don't be mad or sad...

by Tami Anderson on 09/05/12

The only real thing I have to share with you is my experience, strength and hope. I know what I have read but what I learn is so much more beneficial to my growth.

In the last three months, on three separate occasions, three separate, important people were very angry with me. All three times I had done the right thing. Each time I made a decision based on what was right for them and others. Each person told me to not respond; not have any feelings about what they were saying to me, and, especially, don't be sad or mad.

At the time, I thought to myself, "How can I not be sad or mad when you are visibly extremely upset with me. You are yelling at me; holding me responsible for something I did to be helpful, not harmful and your face is contorted with eyes full of anger."

This complicated my poor little brain. I teach the importance of being honest with whatever a person is feeling. I believe deep, rigorous honesty is the only way to heal. You see, any emotions left unresolved add to all the similar past ones. Then there is a cluster. This collection gains power and momentum. Wherever beliefs of doubt, unworthiness, vulnerability, victimization, hopelessness are harboured, the emotions add the credibility to the belief. We now have congruency between thoughts and feelings which run our behaviour.

My natural default when faced with unexpected aggression is to shut down, close off from the people and put on my 'mature mask'.  So I did. The result? I felt nothing. For me, to feel nothing is, by far, worse than feeling something yucky. For decades I had a hole in my soul. I did not even know it was there. I didn't know what I didn't know until I knew it. Anyone could do and say whatever; I would just put it all in that hole. When I learned how to be deeply honest with my feelings, the hole left leaving me whole, worthwhile, valuable and confident.

Now, this seems it would be the exact opposite. It would look as if this technique makes us wallow in pain and self pity. Not true! Holding onto those emotions cause pain; kicking in an instinct to survive. Accumulating, and not healing, destructive feelings cause our world to appear unsafe.

Life's real oxymoron is by burying these emotions from the day we are born until we awaken to this light, we are burying our very own essence. Our Light cannot shine under such darkness. We are only surviving life, not an integral, thriving part of it. If I am only responding to circumstances through an instinct to make my world safe, how am I living fully and full of happiness?

At those times I felt ashamed, afraid, vulnerable and hurt. I chatted with people who understand the integral workings of healing by processing through feelings. They are not counsellors or psychologists. They are aware. They know, from experience, how it works. They can hold my pain because someone held theirs. I went deep to actually feel the shame, fear and hurt. I repeated the process periodically over a couple days until they left. It takes as long as it takes; as often as they come back. The result? Well, it reminds me of a favorite Buddhist saying, "Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional". Walking through the pain removes the suffering. I understand others have their own thoughts and feelings directing their beliefs which run their life. I am left with compassion, care and understanding for them and for me. I do not feel angry or sad or nothingness. The heart healed, it is not bitter. And, it is open for relationship with these people. Yay! Whew!

Our work with organizations revolves around these ideas and principles as well. Would this be beneficial in the workplace? Emotions run the show in organizations. The whole idea of 'getting ahead', 'business not personal', 'laying down the law', 'do it or else', 'whatever it takes', 'moving on up', 'don't take this personally', is hurting people. It is keeping them stuck, unhappy and unproductive. Are you giving or receiving these messages?

I may not be responsible for how others behave but I sure do own my way of thinking, feeling and being.

Bit of Good; Bit of Bad

by Tami Anderson on 08/21/12

There is a bit of good in the worst of us and a bit of bad in the best of us. We are all here on a journey. We may look alike as a human but the experiences, thoughts, feelings and beliefs we adopt differ greatly. Having said that, the way we act is exactly the same for every one of us because our behavior is a direct result of our thoughts and feelings which come from our beliefs. Those beliefs are about ourselves, others and how we think this ol' world 'should' turn (in our favor).

Below is a picture I got on Facebook recently with a note to pass it on. It shows: The Bad Boss and the Good Leader.  Perhaps we can see where we could have a bit of both of these characteristics depending on the situation and the circumstances. I have been a grouchy boss when, after lots of coaching, the people did not do what they needed to do. I had no idea what to do next. So, I pushed. Or when people quit at the most inoportune time! Agh! I was hurt, frustrated and overwhelmed. Other times when I am confident, employees and customers happy and things going great, it was easy being the happy-face leader.

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What makes the difference? Here's a little piece of magic that worked for me. It is likely the biggest oxymoron I've ever come across. A method of Being that looks as if it would be the very least effective way to manage myself, let alone others.

Here it is: Deep, rigorous HONESTY......with myself.

First, about what I am truly feeling; then to listen to what I am actually thinking. This may sound simply trite. Rest assured it is far from easy. When I am able (not always able; sometimes only willing) to accept both feelings and thoughts before I act or react to whatever is in front of me, I can be a leader. Now, I must say, this is likely the most difficult journey I take every day. When I realized other people cannot make me 'mad, glad, happy or sad'; that all these emotions are an actual part of every one of us. And, that we chose every action and reaction based on what is going on in the heart and the head, then I chose to start on this tedious, challenging and most rewarding path.

Honestly, it makes all the difference in the world. This makes it possible to make a new, empowering and happier choice.

Now, we can look at other people with the same tool of honesty. When I can see how their behaviour is a direct result of what is going on in their head or heart, I don't take what they do and say as personally as I used to. Although I still find it amazingly hard to set my initial reaction on the back burner, I know that I do not have to have a negative reaction to them. I also know now that my happiness is based 100% inside me.

Buddha once said, "If a man gives you a gift and you refuse to accept the gift; to whom does that gift belong?"
A simple translation - "If someone is angry towards me and I refuse to buy into their anger with my reaction, then the anger belongs to them; not to me! And, I can go about my happy day. I love making my Life at work really work! Yay! Have a good one!