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A Reason (and Season!) to Connect

We see the signs everywhere: gift ideas, charities asking for help, the Salvation Army Bell Ringers, the Hanukkah candles and the Christmas trees. Our whole mindset is about giving gifts, showing love, and gathering together at work and home. At times it seems tedious, so many in need and so many parties/invitations.

What is the point of it all?

At our core, our humanity demands connection.  In every culture throughout the world, human beings gather in groups using formal celebration, movement and words to express their desire for connection. Even our brains are hardwired for connection as Marco Iacoboni found when he discovered Mirror Neurons.  According to Wikipedia, “A mirror neuron is a neuron that fires both when an animal acts and when the animal observes the same action performed by another. Thus, the neuron “mirrors” the behavior of the other, as though the observer were itself acting.”  The fact that we respond in our brains to what someone else is doing as though we were doing it, is remarkable. It demonstrates how connected we humans are with others at the brain level.

So, what does this say about how we celebrate and give at this time of year?  It implies that apart from corny sentimentality or tradition or because we should, we come together and give to others because it is who we are as human beings.  How shall we express this spirit of connection and giving throughout the year in our homes, marriages, offices and teams?  More importantly, how can we get more skillful at connecting in ways that help us be better people and more successful in our relationships.   The late Judith Glaser, an Organizational Anthropologist and executive coach, with whom I had the honor to study, was a pioneer in communication and connection in business.  She shares the practical applications of the connection between neuroscience and communication strategies in her book Conversational Intelligence.  Two of her strategies that work to create trusting connection and to overcome conflict are:

The Ladder of Conclusions and Moving From “I to We”

Often, we have whole conversations in our heads that predict how someone will think, feel or respond and, based on our “self- talk”, we decide whether to talk to that person and what to say.  The “Ladder of Conclusions” graphically shows the brain science behind how we come to “know” something and how important it is to distinguish between our assumptions and theories and fact.

When we realize that what we are thinking in our head is not fact, but is merely our theory, we can check out that assumption by talking to the other person involved. We can ask open questions that build a shared understanding of reality which can pave the way to communication, and mutual solution seeking. This moves us from “I to We.” When we talk in ways that invite others to openly express their thoughts especially if they are different from ours, and if we listen with the desire to understand and connect, we open up new possibilities, solutions and connections. As Judith often said: “Words create worlds.” The words we use either create positive feelings and brain chemicals of connection(oxytocin) or make us fearful or defensive (cortisol) which drive us apart. “Culture depends on the quality of our relationships which depend on the quality of our conversations.” * Judith Glasser Conversational Intelligence for Coaches Training, 2016

So, this Holiday Season, lets practice the skills of self- awareness, checking our assumptions and opening up dialogue so as to increase understanding in our homes neighborhoods, businesses and on social media.  Let’s remember that there are myriad possibilities for solutions, innovation and healing in all our relationships.  Let’s make this the gift that keeps on giving all through the year.

Marjorie is a clinical social worker and certified professional coach. She applies the concepts of Mindfulness, Emotional Intelligence and “conversational intelligence” in her counseling, coaching, corporate training and keynotes.  Contact Marjorie at Marjorie@ascendconsulting.net (610-696-4443) for information on these topics and keynotes and check out her websites: 

www.ascendconsulting.net 

www.ascendcounselingpa.com

 

 

Interested in Learning and Practicing Mindfulness?

Are you interested in finding ways to put a pause in your stressful days?

Are you anxious or depressed and want new strategies to feel calmer; more positive?

Marjorie has been facilitating the Mindfulness Based Support Group for 10 years. While Marjorie does not directly accept insurance, if you have out -of -network benefits you may submit your receipt to insurance for reimbursement.

 

The next Mindfulness Meditation Support Group starts Jan 23, 2019 7:15 – 8:30 pm for 6 Wednesdays (Last group is Feb 27, 2019.)

           

September/October 2018 PowerPoints

As we settle back into the fall routine, stressful situations are bound to arise.  As Maureen Killoran said, “Stress is not what happens to us. It’s our response TO what happens. And RESPONSE is something we can choose.”

Embrace the new season and take some time for yourself to read my latest PowerPoint blog excerpt, upcoming events and more about my practice.

September/October 2018 PowerPoints

Living and Working Mindfully…The Case for Compassion

In a recent Harvard Business Review article on stress, the authors mentioned 2 key strategies that help leaders effectively manage stress: tipping point awareness-recognizing when you are exhibiting behaviors indicating you are nearing your threshold of overwhelm, and stress shifting through intentional breathing. More and more we hear evidence of how intentionally pausing to breathe, can be a powerful anecdote to stress. What’s more, mindful breathing can help restrain us when we are about to interrupt someone or blast a colleague or employee with negative criticism.

As a teacher of Mindfulness Meditation, I recommend this to all my executive coaching and personal counseling clients because stress is everywhere, and the breath is always with us to slow the runaway nervous system and our quick tongue.

“She did me wrong”, “He attacked me in that meeting”! When clients feel wronged, whether at home or at work, I listen with compassion and invite them to be compassionate with themselves. After the grief and hurt is calmed, I invite the person to release the hurt, because resentment only hurts the one holding on to the anger. Thus, forgiveness and letting go clears the way for effective problem solving so one can plan the best approach to an honest conversation with the other party. Let’s face it, we humans aren’t always at our best and our communication often goes awry. Misunderstandings, the silent treatment or thinly veiled alliances that pit one group again the other ensue. Resentment, hurts and grudges impede team work and sabotage success. As Judith Glaser in her book: Conversational Intelligence (2014, Bibliomotion, Inc.) says, people get stuck in positional conversations or the Tell Sell Yell syndrome, and innovative solutions cannot occur. So, yes, at work, too, in the most sophisticated organizations I recommend Mindfulness, compassion, forgiveness and letting go. After all, its only then, with a clearer mind that can we think clearly, created trusting connections get back to business.

Blind Spots and Building Blocks to Listening

Often, we hear and don’t listen. Or, we listen and think we know what the other person thinks but we don’t. In fact, according to Sandford research study 9 out of 10 conversations miss the mark. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/speech-acts/. Why is this? One of the reasons is because we use words and phrases that the other person understands and uses in a very different way or degree. Take Harry, a friend a of mine who was unemployed although he was looking diligently for over 3 months. I asked this soft-spoken man how he felt about the job search process and he said he was “depressed.” (I had used the word “depressed” for minor setbacks like when I gained a few pounds!) So, I did what Judith Glaser calls “double clicking” I asked him to share with me what “depressed” felt like for him. He said he felt “like he was climbing a mountain with a piano on his back!” This brought tears to my eyes because I now understood what he was really trying to say.

In personal or business conversation we may think we know what someone means when we may not. Using “double clicking” or reflective listening gives the listener a chance to state what we heard and then, invites the speaker to say more so we really hear the accurate; deeper meanings of their comment. I have found that when people take the time to do this, understanding really opens people feel heard and co -created solutions can be generated.

Upcoming Events

Sept 27, 2018 6 pm Corner Bakery, King of Prussia
Marjorie  presents “ Insights on Type and Mindfulness” at the  Philadelphia Area MBTI meetup for trainers, coaches and practitioners

Oct 24, 2018 Mindfulness Based Support Group
6-7:15 for 6 Wednesdays
Personal Touch Physical Therapy
790 E. Market St, Suite 290
West Chester, PA 19382

Oct 30, 2018 11-12:30
Leadership: The Importance of Presence
Novak Francella LLC, a Bala Cynwyd CPA Firm

Oct 30, 2018 11-12:30

Leadership: The Importance of Presence

Novak Francella LLC , a Bala Cynwyd CPA Firm

June/July 2018 PowerPoints

The newest addition of PowerPoints is out!  Take some time for you to read my latest blog excerpt, upcoming events and more about my practice. Take the time to pause and refresh this summer! As the Dalai Lama once said: “Calm mind brings inner strength and self-confidence, so that’s very important for good health.”

Enjoy your summer and be on the lookout for an announcement for the next Mindfulness Groups in the September PowerPoints issue!

 

June/July 2018 PowerPoints

 

March/April 2018 PowerPoints

The newest addition of PowerPoints is out!  Take some time for you to read my latest blog excerpt, upcoming events and more about my practice. Make Spring 2018 the start of a new beginning for you and  your life. A fitting quote from Buddha, “What we think, we become.”

Have a great spring and I hope to see you at my upcoming Mindfulness Meditation Group starting April 11th.

March/April 2018 PowerPoints

PowerPoints strategies for growth.

You have reached your growth potential.

Four Strategies to Intentionally Grow Your Career

 

 

 

In life, everything depends on being intentional about our thoughts, goals and actions. This is one of the reasons why we hear so much about the value of Mindfulness in so many areas of our lives. In our busy, achievement-oriented “go, go, go” world, it is especially important to pause, and reflect on where we are now, where we are going next and why! This is especially essential in our careers. As an executive and career coach, I work with Millennials through Boomers who want to take their career to the next level or in a different direction. Many lack clear vision about what they really want, what a change might look like or how to achieve it.

Any career achievement begins with a thoughtful assessment of where one is today: what skills and experiences we bring to the table, what we value and what we want our unique meaningful contribution to be. When we approach our work life with this mindful awareness every day, we are more likely to find our actions are aligned with our goals.

Thus, the potential we have for future career success is based on consistent excellence delivered today and every day. The habit of commitment all day, every day demonstrates motivation to achieve at higher levels. Promotions are not just given. They are earned by those who provide value beyond ‘doing their job’ as well as showcasing their contribution. The energy we put in day by day, along with requests for greater challenges and more responsibility, can open the door to higher roles.

The following four strategies will help you on a path for growth! 

1. Begin each day with some time dedicated to quiet.
• Consider formal Mindfulness Meditation, prayer or simply breathing and reflection.
• Invest the time to be in touch with what is important; where and how we want to show up today.

2. Deliver excellence today.
• Define what your company needs to thrive.
• Consistently know and deliver your strengths according to company needs.
• Demonstrate integrity by making decisions based clearly on your values.

3. Think BIG and communicate your vision for tomorrow.
• Proactively assess what the Company wants/needs.
• Look for the source of department/organizational challenges.
• Speak of solutions you can deliver when you discuss any problem with management.

4. Network
• Build relationships outside your department and company.
• Always give to get – listen for opportunities where you can help advance someone else’s objectives.
• Connect face to face: email is overused and easily ignored. Respect others and communicate collaboratively to build long-lasting alliances. Emotional Intelligence (EQ) matters often more than technical skill.

Marjorie works with organizations and individuals to identify what is important, and to communicate in ways that build collaborative relationships to achieve those goals. Her coaching incorporates “conversational intelligence”,* mindfulness, strategic thinking and planning so actions are aligned with meaningful goals.

*Judith Glaser

Contact Marjorie for executive or career coaching or to create a mindfulness program in your organization at www.ascendconsulting.net

**Did you know that Marjorie works with non- profits?**

Executive directors and their teams benefit by her coaching, strategic planning retreats and team building.  For more information call Marjorie at 484-875-3040 or 610-696-4443, or e mail  Marjorie@ascendconsulting.net

A Guide to Letting Go

You have identified an ending or loss, now what?

I wish I could say there were 5 easy steps but that would trivialize your loss.

There is a process to go through that may ease the process.

First, give yourself time and space to feel what you are feeling. Sadness, anger, frustration or ambivalence- all are allowed as you let go of something or someone. This means having compassion and patience with yourself when you think you should be “getting over it faster”.

Acknowledge the positives in what you are letting go of- even with an addiction or other self-hurtful pattern it worked for a reason…it gave you relief or distraction.  What did you give you? What have you learned? As you acknowledge the aspects you will miss, you are clearing the way to think about what you need now to support yourself during this change.

Create a ritual or process to honor what you are letting go of.  A letter to the person or substance lost, a tree you plant in their honor, something active that uses the whole self- your feelings, thoughts, and body.  This integrates the many ways that grief inhabits our person.  If possible, share this with a close friend or therapist so you have a witness and support.

Identify what you need to put into your life to support you.  Is it comfort and guidance from others, time for prayer or meditation, physical exercise?  Professional help and a support group can make the difference between staying stuck and gently moving through the stages of grief.

Begin to think of what is possible.  Not nirvana but, what is possible for you now with the new reality of your life?  As painful as it is, what may emerge as growth, new awareness or a direction for you in the next months?  This is when we know we are coming out of the darkness…when we begin to have hope for the future.

As you go through this cycle of death and loss to new life, know that you are witnessing the truth of what it means to be human and that there others who are willing to walk this journey with you. I am one.

 

Also, check out my counseling website: www.ascendcounselingPA.com.

Celebrate Endings to Open Space for Beginnings

It’s a new year, which means many of us are setting goals and making plans for new beginnings in 2018. There is talk everywhere about New Year’s Resolutions and making a fresh start. All good stuff!

Where will we find room for newness: the new thoughts, behaviors, emotions and spiritual renewal, if we don’t first consider what we need and (hopefully) are ready to let go of?

The goodbyes, the endings; the losses are harder for us to willingly embrace and yet, these are a necessary part to the cycle of change. When you think about it, a new beginning really can’t occur without the ending of something else. In the Christian tradition, this is represented by the parable of the seed that must fall to the ground before new life can spring up. Conversion or a dying to one way of living, one “path”, is necessary before we can turn to embark on another. For those who practice Mindfulness Meditation, there is an invitation to turn from grasping at or rejecting parts of life as good or bad. Instead, we turn toward accepting all that is occurring in one’s life simply because it is occurring. Those who have suffered loss of a marriage or through a loved one’s death, must accept that reality before they can begin to start a new life. This turning from and letting go is a painful necessity before new life can begin.

So, as you think about your New Year’s Resolution, I encourage you to think about what you will let go of to clear space for your new goal. Go beyond identifying obstacles that might hamper you from achieving your goal. What ending is actually a part of the new beginning you are wanting to bring to fruition in 2018? Is there a habit you need to say goodbye to and even mourn the loss of? Is there a job or relationship that you have outgrown and need to release before you can find the job or relationship that will help you grow?
Welcome this process of letting go as a prerequisite step to beginning your new path. Beginning with “clearing the brush”, busyness and anxiety before you can till the soil and begin planting. If you do, you will find that new life begins to emerge.

I specialize in coaching people in the learning to let go of what is holding them back. Contact me if you’d like to begin the conversation. Marjorie@ascendconsutling.net

A Word About Anxiety

Mindfulness. Mindfulness is the word. Anxiety is based on the past or the future. We have regrets or guilt about what did happen (usually we did or failed to do or say) in the recent or distant past.  Future based anxiety is about what might happen in the next minute, day week or year.  When griped by anxiety, our mind races and ruminates about how to fight, flee, freeze or appease the perceived danger.  Our minds are trying to problem solve about something that is not actually solvable (the past) or about the catastrophe that we are anticipating.

 

Here is where mindfulness has been found to be ever so helpful!  When we are mindful we are fully present to this moment, without guilty thoughts or anticipated fears.  After all, it is only the present moment that we actually have.  Extensive research has been conducted, over the past 30+ years, since Jon Kabat Zinn developed the program called, “Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction.  His work has been adapted and applied to Fortune 500 companies like Google and Proctor and Gamble, government agencies like NASA and all 4-armed services, and in hospitals and schools. Why? Because when we are mindful staying in this moment, our focus improves, anxiety, rumination and guilt is decreased and we are calmer and healthier.

 

So how do we begin?  With just this moment!  Simply sit quietly, close your eyes and focus your attention to the breath wherever you sense it in our body. You may feel it in your belly or chest as it expands on the inhale and falls on the exhale. Or, you may feel  the air as it comes in and out of your nostrils or mouth.  When your mind wanders, no worries that what minds do, simply come back to gently attending to the breath. No criticism, just re-focus on the physical sensation of breathing.  There are many techniques that I teach my coaching and counseling clients but the breath practice is always there for us! We can always tune in to our breath, one breath, one moment at a time. Try it. When you do, you will find your heart rate slows, blood pressure lowers and your body and mind are a bit calmer.  Anxiety quiets along with our busy mind as we attend to this one breath.

 

Want to learn more?

My next Mindfulness support group begins in January 2018. Contact me at Marjorie@ascendconsulting.net.  I’ve also trained many  company leaders in Mindful Leadership- Call (484) 875-3040 to plan a program that will boost engagement, alignment and productivity at your company or non- profit!

 

Team Facilitation and Team Building

Looking for relevant, inspiring training and team facilitation for your company or organization? Recent satisfied clients are Concilio, and The Hill at Whitemarsh,  Women in Business at Philadelphia Energy Solutions,  The Exton Chamber of Commerce, The Womens’ Business Connection and many more!

Check out more at www.ascendconsulting.net  or send me an email at Marjorie@ascendconsulting.net

Overcoming Communication Roadblocks

Mary, a valued high producer at her company, has a difficult time performing one-on-one check-ins with her staff. As a self proclaimed introvert, she is unsure of topics to discuss beyond assigning and reviewing work product. Jack, a successful, senior executive, is courting a potential new employer. He is undecided whether the company culture is the best fit for him. Sarah works in a matrixed team, where most of her staff reports to “Pat”, who works in a different department. She feels frustrated that herself and her peers are not “rowing in the same direction” Sarah is concerned her employees feel pulled in 2 different directions.

All three of these talented, conscientious leaders are challenged by a common issue: communication. Beyond talking and hearing, communication gets at two of human beings’ most basic needs: the need to connect and the need to be safe. Three of the most common breakdowns that occur in business; 1) manager- employee conflict, 2) unease about accepting a new job or 3) leader- to-leader conflict stem from communication problems. This is critical because when communication goes awry, whether due to conflict or lack of person to person sharing, people don’t feel connected, they don’t feel they can trust and they don’t feel safe! This subtle but real disconnection elevates the stress hormone cortisol which hampers critical thinking. Conversely, when people feel connected and trust is high, their brains release the hormone oxytocin which makes them feel happier and helps them think more clearly.

Thankfully, Mary, Jack and Sarah were excited to learn about the neuroscience behind positive communication and wanted to master this critical skill set.
Mary learned to manage her feelings of anxiety (lack of safety) when chatting informally with staff. She learned simple, effective ways to begin and then navigate conversations about common human experiences, such as, family, weekends and hobbies. As she focused on getting to know her employees they felt cared about as people and became more engaged and productive.
Jack learned to clarify what he wanted in a company. I asked him what was most important about work culture. How might her get at that? What kind of culture might he want to co- create in his next company? As he asked these questions and listened to his intuition he was able to find a best fit culture and role.
I asked Sarah about her assumptions and beliefs about why “Pat” seemed to have different priorities. Together, we created a series of questions to open communication between Sarah and “Pat”. The end goal being to work together to meet the needs of both their departments and the business entity.

All three of these coaching clients learned best practices to communicate clearly, hot to listen to connect and how to work together to design an environment that was enjoyable and productive. Your company may benefit from similar coaching. For more information I suggest Conversational Intelligence by Judith Glaser. Call me at (610) 875-3040 or email me Marjorie@ascendconsulting.net if you want to learn more.