Archive | July 2012

Responding to a decision you don’t agree with that affects you

Good decisions come from experience, and experience comes from bad decisions. Unknown

Like it or not, people make decisions that affect us every day. The government of the country, the CEO of the company you’re working for, your manager, your local council, your bus or train driver, your partner… it’s just a fact of life we’re forced to deal with. But how do you cope when you really don’t agree with the decision that has been made?

1. Think about it
Take a step back from the frustration and panic that is overcoming you and don’t react. Be open to the decision that has been made: just because it’s not your decision, or your choice in decision, does not necessarily make it wrong. Consider why you don’t agree with it, why the decision was made, why the person may have made this decision, and what benefits could come from this decision?

2. Talk about it
It’s important to communicate. Find out if the decision is final or if there is any way you could influence it with your opinion by telling the person in charge your thoughts. Once you offer your ideas, opinions and perspective, the decision maker may take it into consideration. It may also get you included in the decision making process in future – you don’t know until you try!

3. Accept the decision
Everyone has the right to make their own decisions. You don’t have to agree with the decision made, but for your own peace of mind, you need to accept it. To put your mind at ease, trust that the person making the decision is making it the best way they can, in their situation, with their experience. This person will need to accept responsibility for their decision later on, so the best thing you can do is accept their decision and support it as best you can. Start taking action to support their decision to help you to feel empowered.

4. Respond
Many decisions aren’t yours to make – this is a fact of life. However, you do have the opportunity to respond and can make another decision that gives you power in the situation you have found yourself in. If someone else’s decision endangers your life or is seriously against your values, the final option is this: you can stay or you can go.

Top 10 positive reads … online!

To read is to fly: it is to soar to a point of vantage which gives a view over wide terrains of history, human variety, ideas, shared experience and the fruits of many inquiries. A C Grayling

Most people log onto the internet every day, and yet we still have our ups and downs. Perhaps all you need is some inspiration or a bit of a laugh to give you more energy on certain days … you just need to know where to look. So I have compiled a list of my top 10 favourite (non-cult-like) websites that inspire me and help me stay happy when life feels like it’s getting harder. The best things in life are free – just like your happiness and these fantastic websites!

1. Happiness Weekly (www.happinessweekly.wordpress.com – nothing like a bit of self-promotion!) Read on to get some great tips for how to maintain gain or maintain happiness in different situations. You happiness is something that can be worked on all the time. When you’re happy, the people surrounding you will also be happy.

2. Action for happiness (www.actionforhappiness.org) – you’re not going to be happy without taking action first! This is a fantastic organisation offering many inspiring and insightful messages to move you towards happiness. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter to keep up-to-date!

3. Oprah Winfrey’s website (www.oprah.com) check out her blog! Whether she writes it or not, it’s a great way to fill in time and it’s impossible to walk away feeling miserable – it’s like an episode of Oprah in writing!

4. In need of a good laugh? When times are tough and you’ve lost all ability to laugh at yourself – laugh at other people (and their thoughts and creations) by checking out these sites:
www.clientsfromhell.net
www.slaymyboredom.com
www.9gag.com
www.textfromdog.tumblr.com
www.happyplace.com

5. Motivational wellbeing (www.motivationalwellbeing.com) – if you’re feeling down you may just be in need of a little motivation and this is the place to get it! Check out some great videos, articles, quotes, tips and tricks here – all about motivation!

6. Happy fun corp (www.happyfuncorp.com) – this one is a little different. There’s not a lot to do on the webpage but listen to music (and it suggests dancing?) and read happy thoughts. The part I like most is that readers can contribute and share their own happy thoughts as well.

7. Dramatic reading from a break up (www.youmakemetouchyourhandsforstupidreasons.ytmnd.com) – Just get your heart stomped on in a tragic break up? Finding it impossible to smile? This dramatic reading is bound to make you laugh!

8. Positively positive (www.positivelypositive.com) – this is a fantastic little positive news site with some great quotes. At its core, Positively Positive is about optimism and inspiration. About seeing the possibility within each person—and within each day gifted us. It’s about wisdom and how we lift one another up to richer, more fulfilling lives. It’s about tapping into our true nature and capacity.

9. Optimist World (www.optimistworld.com) – possibly the best and most up-to-date news site I could find. Optimist World brings you positive news which shows the very best of the human spirit and helps to show that good news can help to counteract the bad by reminding us what an amazing world we live in. This website seeks to bring to light those inspirational stories that are often not picked up by the TV channels or newspapers to provide an antidote with good news and positive tales.

10. Positivity blog (www.positivityblog.com) – very similar to Happiness Weekly, this blog gives advice, tips and strategies that you need to succeed with living more consciously, simplifying your life, being happier, creating new habits, improving your self-discipline, reducing procrastination, learning to be mindful, getting into shape, identifying and understanding your blocks, improving your people skills and relationships and increasing your self-esteem and self-confidence.

Identifying emotional manipulation – before it hurts you

Fool on me once, shame on you. Fool on me twice, shame on me. Chinese Proverb.

We’ve all been emotionally manipulated at some stage in our lives, perhaps it’s happening to you right now. Can you recognise when your lover, friend, family turns a situation around to make them the victim, making you feel ashamed, disappointed in yourself and confused? Perhaps you’ve even felt violated upon reflecting on the situation and seeing it as it was. This blog will help you to identify emotional manipulators, disable their behaviours so they don’t affect you and avoid negative feelings/behaviours and toxic relationships as a result.

What is emotional manipulation?
Emotional manipulation occurs when someone deliberately manipulates another person into feeling or act a certain way that can then be exploited. It is a form of abuse, though it may not be as evident as other forms, because it’s an emotional abuse which may or may not be associated with other forms of abuse, such as physical and sexual abuse.
There is a difference between persuasion and emotional manipulation. As discussed in previous blogs, persuasion is not coercive and respects the right of the person to choose and to accept or refuse the suggested behaviour. In manipulation, it may seem superficially that the person is allowed to choose, but there is a strong under-current of emotional coercion. The process of emotional manipulation involves two parties: the manipulator and the manipulated in a process of manipulation which has its own dynamics. By understanding what emotional manipulation is and how these people operate with their tactics, you are able to prepare and prevent pain and confusion.

Why people use emotional manipulation to get their way
Manipulation is all about getting control. This need for control may come from underlying feelings of insecurity but often they compensate by showing feelings of strong self-confidence. Their motives are generally self-serving and see power as vital and feel threatened when they lose control. Outside of this, I have absolutely no idea why anyone would want to use emotional manipulation to get their way – so we’ll focus on how you can combat it when and if someone does try to use it against you.

Types of people that veer towards emotional manipulation
Recognising the types of people and manipulation tactics you may experience when dealing with them, will be empowered to resist their abuse and exploitation.
Intimidators –
people that use their power and position to threaten you into compliance. They use threats, anger, withholding and punishment to get their way. Generally these people are exploiting your fears, doubts and weaknesses – do not let them see this side of you.
Dependents – people that project their helplessness onto you to make you feel responsible. They use guilt and have a “woe is me” attitude. These people avoid taking responsibility and are rarely accountable for their actions.
Pretenders – people that pretend not to understand what you are saying or hear your concerns. They turn your statements and actions around and use them negatively towards you. They use manipulation to convince you that your concerns are small or non-existent to avoid dealing with them.
Projectors – people that accuse you of being emotionally manipulative and having the characteristics they have. When you find yourself being accused of something you aren’t and recognise that is how the other person is instead, you are dealing with a projector.

Evidence of an emotional manipulator
– Lying (withholding a significant amount of the truth, omitting some important facts, or fabricating false stories)
– Turning your statements around and using them against you in a negative way (they act genuinely offended, causing you to “owe them” a favour to make up for your offensive words)
– They say something and then take it back later, assuring you they never said it
– The manipulator portrays him or herself as a willing helper
– Putting you on a guilt trip or making your feel unworthy, shameful and inadequate
– Blackmail and threats (e.g. threats including loss of the relationship, financial ruin, revealing secrets, holding resentments, imposing consequences, treating you badly, or blaming you for the outcome)
– Triangulation (getting you to back down or give in because you’re outnumbered)
– Victimisation (making out that they’re the victim)
– They are indirect (e.g. they talk behind your back, get others to say what they wouldn’t and other subtle tactics of letting you know they’re unhappy)
– Gaining sympathy: they always have it worse than you
– Intimidation – a look, ignoring you, expressing anger or disapproval
– They lower positive energy of others around them
– Seduction – emotional seduction (flattery, praise, a charming attitude) can be used to make victims lower their defences and gain trust
– They’re irresponsible with no sense of accountability (they open up really early on in a relationship so that you feel sorry for them)
– Denial: denying any wrongdoing or refusing to admit or evade discussing the subject
– Rationalisation – explaining the reasons for his behaviour which make use of the vulnerability of the victim
– Projecting the blame (see projectors under The type of people that veer towards emotional manipulation)
– Aggressive – they may even resort to violence to make the victim weaker.

How to protect yourself from emotional manipulation
– Act on your own merits, not because of how someone makes you feel
– Avoid being honest with an emotional manipulator – they will use it against you
– Trust your intuition before you offer sympathy and give up your energy with advice – generally their problems don’t exist
– Act with integrity to avoid any guilt trips, you will know you’re doing your best
– Keep a log when dealing with an emotional manipulator, so you can clearly see what was said when
– Don’t let others affect your energy levels, this is your choice
– Avoid trying to help them change – they are highly resistant to change and won’t recognise their problem
– Know your weaknesses and what pressures you to give-in and be conscious of this
– Stick to the facts in arguments and don’t try to defend yourself (it opens you to more abuse)
– Stop manipulative interactions as quickly as you can – use short responses, end the conversation or leave: limit the time you spend with this person if you can
– Know your boundaries and stick to them
– Don’t take threats personally – detach yourself so this is no longer a pressure tactic for them
– Get stronger by knowing who you are and staying firm in your values and beliefs
– Get some validation by sharing the interaction with someone else
– Calmly let the manipulator know that what was said was outrageous and unacceptable without causing the situation to escalate
– Once you have identified that this person uses emotional manipulation tactics: WALK AWAY! Their act will only work on an audience.

All about assertive communication

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The basic difference between being assertive and being aggressive is how our words and behaviour affect the rights and wellbeing of others. Sharon Anthony Bower

Never allow a person to tell you no who doesn’t have the power to say yes. Eleanor Roosevelt

Assertive communication helps us express our feelings, thoughts and wants in a way that allows us to stand up for our rights without infringing on the rights of other people. Like any social behaviour, assertiveness skills have to be learned and practiced.

Assertive communication involves the following steps:

Identify your communication style
Passive – I talk softly and rarely stand up for my rights. I usually try to avoid conflict and arguments. I don’t usually get rejected directly, but people take advantage of me because I am afraid to say no – then I get angry and resentful when my needs are not met.
Aggressive
– I always get my way, even if I have to hurt or offend people to get it. People never push me around. I use my position, power, and harsh or manipulative words. I speak in a loud voice. I can be abusive and enjoy getting even with people.
Passive Aggressive
– I’m sly, sarcastic and subtly insulting. I protect myself by avoiding problems and risks. I deliberately ruin other people’s plan or projects. I talk about others in negative ways. I dress however I want, regardless of the situation.
Assertive
– I often get what I want without offending other people. I am clear and direct when I communicate and am able to express my thoughts, feelings and wants easily. I am honest and show my confidence without being aggressive about it.

Identify your solutions style
Usually you may have no problem being assertive, but when it comes to solving a problem tend to become passive or aggressive. Use the examples above to identify what communication style you use when solving a problem.

Know your values and beliefs
Your beliefs and values were moulded during childhood and include rules about “good” and “bad” ways to act as taught by our parents and other role models.

Learn the responsibilities that come with effective communication
* Assess your true feelings without exaggeration or minimising. Express your feelings appropriately without insulting anyone
* Reply as soon as possible without taking an unreasonable amount of time
* Thinking through your opinions and realising others can disagree
* Learn from mistakes rather than punishing yourself or others for them
* Act responsibly
* Feel appropriate anger and happiness, and share those feelings with the people involved
* Don’t impose your personal beliefs or standards on others
* Think through your responses before answering a question
* Respect your commitments and allow enough time to fulfil promises
* Talk about your needs and learn to compromise
* Express your feelings without infringing on the rights and responsibilities of others
* Avoid labelling or making unfair judgements on yourself or others.

Learn to use assertive communication
Express yourself in a way that doesn’t violate the legitimate right of others by using “I” statements, thinking through responses and using correct assertive body language. Remember, there are four parts to a message:
Feelings
– by sharing your feelings it allows others to have more understanding. Sharing the way you feel will give others the opportunity to behave in a way that meets your needs. For example: “When you are condescending, I feel disrespected” or “When you hug me, I feel loved”.
Observations
– sharing what your senses tell you: it should always be factual. For example: “I heard you call me an idiot” or “I saw you break the door”.
Thoughts
– sharing your beliefs and theories shows others that you have attempted to make sense of the situation. For example: “I think it’s hurtful to call me an idiot” or “I think I’m ready to do this course because it will challenge me”.
Needs
– It is important to express your needs with other people because they can’t read your mind. For example: “I need some time to think about this” or “I want some quiet so I can concentrate on reassessing my goals”.

Now to put the whole message together
“I feel _______(emotion)_______ when ______(situation)______, because _____(reason)_____, and I need ______(request)________.”
For example:
“I feel disappointed when you tell me I can’t do something because you haven’t given me a chance to try it and I need that chance to be disproved before I feel you can make your judgement.”
It may feel unnatural at first, but it just takes practice. The more natural it becomes, the more you will begin to see an improvement in the amount of successful resolutions in your daily situations.

Mind your (body) language
How you express yourself is just as important as what is said. If your body language is assertive, you will:
* Maintain eye contact: don’t stare, but avoid looking down or away
* Keep good posture (stand or sit up straight) and remain at a good distance from the other person – don’t stand too close
* Avoid fidgeting
*Keep your posture open and relaxed, relax your shoulders
* Naturally and briefly open your arms and use other hand gestures to emphasise your words
* Maintain a level tone of voice, and speak clearly at a volume that can easily be heard
* Concentrate on breathing normally speaking at a normal volume
* Keep facial expressions that fit the message you are trying to convey.

Diplomatic communication
Diplomacy is taking responsibility for getting your own needs met in a way that preserves the dignity of the other people involved.  Like tact, diplomacy involves careful consideration of the feelings and values of another so as to create harmonious relationships with a reduced potential for offence. It is the ability to communicate hurtful information without offending through the use of consideration, compassion, kindness and reason. Characteristics of diplomatic communication include open, inoffensive communication that is clear, flexible, with specific wording, a positive approach, non-judgemental and demonstrates a relaxed manner both verbally and non-verbally.

How to act diplomatically
– Make a conscious decision to act assertively. Avoid aggressive words and behaviours
– Be decisive when saying no. Explain your reasons without being apologetic
– Approach conflicts diplomatically
– Practice talking assertively with a friend
– Respect the wants, needs and feelings of others and accept their perspective may differ from yours
– Use active listening to ensure people know you have heard them. Ask questions to clarify
– Take a problem-solving approach to conflict and see the other person as your collaborator
– Concentrate on facts
– Use direct language “I  think” or “It looks like” rather than “You do this or that”
– Don’t interrupt people when they are talking. Understand what people are saying
– Resist interruptions until you have finished your thoughts. Don’t be scared to say “Just a moment, I haven’t finished…” and continue
– Be conscious of your body language: stop smiling too much, nodding too much, tilting your head or dropping your eyes in response to another person’s gaze.

How to diffuse an argument assertively
- Organise to have the conversation at another time and leave
– If you stay, remain calm, steer the conversation back to the original point, try to understand the other person’s perspective and try to find a common ground
– Accept that other issues may be motivating the person’s behaviour and don’t take it personally
– Avoid taking heat-of-the-moment criticism to heart
– Learn from mistakes and try to negotiate positive scenarios in future with a better outcome. Move the discussion to talk about how you will behave differently in future to get a desired outcome.

Benefits of assertive communication
- Improved confidence and self-esteem
– Better problem solving ability and less conflicts to manage
– Increased resilience
– Reduced stress/anxiety
– Learning the clearest, most productive and effective way to communicate honestly and openly
– The “feel good” feeling we get when we do it correctly – like teamwork!
– Improves relationships and leads to the development of mutual respect
– Assisting us to achieve our goals
– Minimising hurting and alienating people
– Protecting us from being taken advantage of by others
– Making better choices and good decisions
– Expressing ourselves (verbally and non-verbally) about positive and negative topics.

Quick Tips: Being assertive
- Be clear about your objectives: specify what you want and your needs, but be opening to listen to other people’s perspectives and criticisms
– Show respect: stay calm, be kind, maintain an even tone of voice
– Acknowledge the other person’s perspective
– Meet someone at their eye level – sit down or stand up with someone to equalise the balance of power
– Choose your words wisely – put yourself in the picture by using “I” statements, don’t get personal
– Ask questions to clarify the speaker’s intent
– Allow others to assert themselves – don’t interrupt
– Compromise where you can: meet people half way to get more win-win situations.

How to avoid causing offence

A tactful person can tell you something you don’t want to hear and you will be thankful for the information when they are finished. Unknown.

How to express your opinion without offending anyone
Expressing your opinion or adhering to your values and beliefs without offending someone can be tricky. In a world where putting other people down is considered funny, communication skills are diminishing as diplomacy is being lost. Have you ever expressed your opinion to be shot down, condescended or ignored? Not everyone will think or feel the same way about things that you do, so how do you articulate your opinion without instantly receiving a negative reaction?

How to resolve conflicts without offending anyone
Conflict is not inherently bad. In fact, conflict stems from differing viewpoints and since no two people view the world exactly the same way, disagreement is quite normal. Don’t let conflict go unresolved because it can get out of control and it’s uncomfortable for all those involved. The key to managing conflict effectively is to learn the skills necessary to become a good conflict manager.

Tips for being a good conflict manager:
- Try to determine if there is a problem between you and the other person
– If there is a problem, set up a private face-to-face meeting to discuss it with the other person
– In a non-confrontational manner, ask the person if there is a problem. If the answer is no, tell them that you think there is and explain what you think it is
– As you talk, ask for feedback, do not “attack” the other person with accusations
– Keep an open mind and listen
– Respect each other’s opinions
– Avoid finger pointing and put yourself in the other person’s shoes
– Try to work out a compromise that pleases both of you.

How to respond when someone insults your convictions
An appropriate response when someone insults our values, opinions or beliefs, can make all the difference between managing a potential conflict or fanning the flames.
– Don’t react immediately: gather your thoughts before saying or doing anything
– Speak up, in a calm and rational manner. If you don’t want to let the comment pass, then ensure your response is reasonable and not a reaction
– Don’t take things personally, if the comment was offhanded and from someone you don’t know well, there’s a chance that person has no idea the remark may have offended you. Rather than assuming the statement was intended to be insulting, give the benefit of the doubt and allow for some ignorance on the part of the speaker
– Ask the questions: find out why the person said what they did. Maybe the person had a personal vendetta that made him speak out so strongly. If that is the case, accept it and move forward
– Play devil’s advocate and generalise the argument to deflect from it becoming personal: “You could see it that way, but there are also those who see is this way”
– Identify yourself with tact and generosity for the other person’s point of view – even though that person didn’t really accord you the same courtesy. “I respectfully disagree, (and explain why)…”
– If you still haven’t made your point, let the other person know that she/he is entitled to an opinion, likewise, so are you. Explain that you found their remarks to be hurtful and ask them to tone it down for the sake of courtesy
– Take the high road: maintain your cool. At the end of the day, if you are kindly and gentle in your response, he or she is the one who looks bad to others present. The only thing you need to worry about is what kind of person you are
– Maintain good manners, always appear helpful and polite. Even if they intend to insult you, others will draw their own conclusions
– If you feel overwhelmed during a confrontation, get a drink to occupy your hands
– Keep an open mind, if the other person appears to be making a logical argument, they may also have information about the issue that you were unaware of before – this could be an opportunity to learn something new!

How to offer criticism without causing offence
By altering your wording and your attitude, you can help someone grow.
- Avoid direct accusations – leave the word “you” out of it, it will make the person defensive and then they won’t listen to what you have to say
– Soften with compliments – this will lower their defences and make them feel appreciated. Think of the feedback given on a reality talent show “I really enjoyed your performance today, your dance had a lot of complex movements, and you chose the perfect song to complement your message – you put a lot of effort into it. There were just a few technical errors which also lead to pitch problems when you were singing – but overall, you were great”
– No “buts”. After you’ve shared your compliments give them time to absorb – a “but” will destroy all you’ve tried to accomplish by making your praise seem false and insincere.
– Advise with advice – help the person grow instead of shooting them down “Next time you might want to slow down your dance moves. I find it helpful when I let the back-up dancers take over so that I can concentrate on my singing – this keeps my act alive”
– Be specific – be detailed in your advice but don’t overload them. You want them to keep trying and improving, so don’t let them leave feeling defeated
– Three tactics include:
* Choosing your words carefully. In order to get your point across, will be the ultimate deciding factor of your effectiveness. Be conscious of the consequences of your words when reprimanding
* Sandwich technique. Start with a compliment, tell them where they can improve, finish with a compliment
* Think of the bigger picture. Be calm and relaxed before you think of attacking back. The person that loses their cool first, is the one that doesn’t get their message through clearly. Keep in mind others feelings when you are speaking to them, be patient with yourself and others.

How to disagree with someone diplomatically
Reflect your understanding of the other person’s position or opinion, and then say “I think/feel/want…” which gives the message that you are listening and taking their opinion into account before stating your own.
– Let the other person know that you value him/her as a person although your opinions are different. “I understand/appreciate/respect/see how you feel that way” which says “I hear you and respect your opinion”.
– State your position or opinion “I feel/think/want” which says that you don’t agree but you value them and would like to exchange ideas comfortably and not as a contest for superiority.

Quick tips: how to communicate without offending people
- Address or correct the act or event, not the person
– Respond after fully listening and understanding the position of the other person, don’t interrupt
– Speak in a normal, respectful and loving tones
– Avoid devaluing a person’s statement or thinking
– Disagree without being disagreeable
– Always be polite and use your manners
– Treat others the way you want to be treated
– Don’t jump to conclusions or assume, repeat what they have said to verify
– Be courteous and have manners
– Maintain eye contact when conversing
– Avoid being blunt and dogmatic
– Encourage growth and change – you will attract more bees by honey than you will by vinegar
– Give grace and don’t expect perfection
– Avoid being rash with your words
– Be more interested in winning people than winning arguments
– Speak words that build people up
– Listen first to understand than to seek to be understood
– Think before you speak and react
– Avoid being judgemental, critical or condescending
– Always assume the best in people
– Be humble and gentle when correcting people.

What to do if you have offended someone
– Understand what you have done to offend the person. Be empathetic from their shoes
– Think about what you want to say to make things right
– Talk to your friend (face-to-face) about the situation, apologise to them privately, state the reason why you said what you did, explain how you feel and make suggestions on move forward (don’t forget to maintain eye contact)
– Exercise patience and respect your friend’s space if not all is forgiven
– Being ready to talk it out is key. Be sincere, honest and prepared to take responsibility.

Resolving conflicts in meetings – without offending your teammates
Conflicts in meetings can be helpful. If the person disagreeing with you is raising valid questions, it may benefit the group to address the issues they are presenting. So how do you get a meeting back on track when it’s spiralling out of control?
– Find truth in the other person’s perspective that you can build on
– Identify areas of agreement in the two positions
– Defer the subject to later in the meeting
– Document the subject and set it aside to discuss in the next meeting
– Ask to speak with the individual after the meeting or during a break
– See if someone else in the meeting has a response or recommendation
– Present your view, let things be and go on to the next topic
– Agree that the person has a valid point
– Create a compromise
– Remember you’re both on the same team!

Resolving conflict in negotiations
There are certain principles you can apply to increase your chances of a successful negotiation when conflict arises:
– Avoid defend-attack interaction
– Seek more information: ask questions
– Check understanding and summarise: ensure you are understanding everything
– Understand the other person’s perspective – communication is more than just listening – try to see it their way!

How to say “no” without offending anyone
“This sounds interesting, but unfortunately I am swamped with other projects at the moment”. This statement shows interest which gets the person you’re communicating on side, you’re validating the importance of what they have pointed out, but you are still politely declining.
- “I’m really sorry – but the last time I ______, I had ______(a negative experience)”. This will work because no one will intentionally want to hurt you. The statement takes the focus off what you want or do not want to do and remains at the bad experience you had.
- “I’d love to _____, but _____”. This says that you like the idea, you are willing to help but you just can’t at the moment. The trick is to try to avoid going into a lengthy justification or it really will come across as an excuse.
- “This sounds great, but I’m not the best person to help you – why don’t you try asking ___?” If you honestly feel you can’t contribute to the task at hand, lacking time and resources, be proactive and helpful about it. This statement let’s the person know up front that you cannot commit to help, but you can refer them to someone who can assist you.
- “I can’t do this, but I can do ______ (lesser commitment)”. This is a fast way to get you off the hook and avoid over-extending yourself. While saying no, you are still offering help on your own terms by making an easier, less time-consuming commitment.
- “You look great, but ____ does not do you justice”. This is the most diplomatic way of expressing your opinion to say you don’t like something about someone’s appearance or taste in clothing, without hurting their feelings.
- “That sounds great, but unfortunately I’m busy for the next few weeks. How about I call you ____ (specific time range).” This gives you time to reflect and consider something before making a final decision.

Don’t get SAD this winter

If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome. Anne Bradstreet

For some people winter can be a severely debilitating and isolating time as they suffer Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and are managing depression-like symptoms. The exact cause of this condition isn’t fully understood but it is generally put down to lack of exposure to daylight during the winter months.

“It’s important for people to get up in the morning and get some exposure to sunlight, ideally before 8am. Dawn and morning light is believed to be integral in regulating our biorhythms. Combining this with exercise is really important. If people feel this is not helping they should go to their doctor for more advice,” Associate Professor and beyondblue Clinical Advisor, Michael Baigent said.

Are you SAD?
Symptoms of SAD are similar to depression and include:
Sadness
Tiredness/Fatigue/Drowsiness and indifference
Depression
Crying spells
Sleeping more than usual
Irritability
Trouble concentrating
Body aches
Loss of libido (sex drive)
Poor sleep
Overeating (especially carbohydrates)
Weight gain
Low mood for most of the day
Loss of interest in usual activities
Inability to focus
Constant fatigue
Insomnia
Mood swings
Excessive energy/Anxiety
Poor appetite/Weight loss
Weakened immune system during the winter
Feeling generally “under the weather” without a cause
Isolating yourself/Avoiding social functions.

How can you avoid getting SAD this winter?
“Everyone’s affected differently by SAD so what works for one person won’t for another. But there’s usually something that will help, so don’t give up if the first remedy you try doesn’t work. Just keep trying,” said Sue Pavlovich – a SADA (the Seasonal Affective Disorder Association) committee member.

Lighten up
One of the more common treatments for SAD is light therapy which involves a light box that emits bright, fluorescent lights (10,000 lux) for about half an hour to an hour a day. Alternatively, brighten up your home or office by letting some natural light shine in. Some people find that using a dawn simulator – a bedside light, connected to an alarm clock, which mimics a sunrise and wakes you up gradually – as well as a light box can enhance SAD moods.

Get outside
Try to do some outdoor activities as often as possible during the daylight hours in winter and let light come through your windows at home and work. Fresh air is essential for a stable mood, so it’s recommended to get outside for at least 10 to 15 minutes a day, regardless of the temperature.

Exercise regularly
The same with most mood boosting techniques, exercise is highly recommended. While exercise alone doesn’t cure SAD, it will improve your mood. Get walking every day for at least twenty minutes to boost serotonin levels.

Treat yourself with aromatherapy
Aromatherapy can be a healthy way to replenish the mind and spirit. What we smell can have a profound effect on how we feel because odours travel through the nose to the limbic system – the emotion-controlling part of the brain. Essential oils or candles that are reminiscent of spring and summer days – such as lemon, rosemary, peppermint, lavender and honeysuckle – could help. Concentrate on scents that bring back positive memories. To increase alertness and encourage happier moods try jasmine, bergamot or citrus scents.

Take vitamins
A lack of essential vitamins can affect people with symptoms similar to depression. Take vitamin B to increase alertness and reduce depressive thoughts and anxiety, Vitamin D is linked to sunlight. Ensure you are getting enough iron, zinc and calcium in your diet. Incorporating multi vitamins or vitamin-specific supplements into your diet may assist with combating SAD.

Eat well
If you don’t want the vitamins – eat dairy products, whole grains, spinach, eggs, fish (especially salmon), fortified cereals, vegetables and nuts. Fish oil tablets will also help. Try to resist your cravings for rich, decadent foods in the colder months. Eat less sugar. Make homemade soups which are warming and nutritious. Gaining weight will only make you feel bad, so make sure you continue to eat healthily and look after yourself. Cut back on white flour-based products, caffeine and sugars. Chicken is a good dietary source of vitamin B6 or pyridoxine. Vitamin B6 is also found in wheat germ, brown rice, spinach and sunflower seeds. Fish contains high sources of vitamin B12 or cobalamin. Vitamin B12 is also found in shellfish, dairy products and organ meats. According to a “Mens Health” study in 2004, vitamin B12 can help control some symptoms for anxiety, depression and fatigue. Peanuts, brewers yeast, beef kidney, beets, tuna and swordfish contain vitamin B3 or niacin. Vitamin B3 improves blood circulation and stimulates the production of serotonin. It can also help to treat symptoms associated with SAD such as oversleeping and fatigue.

Socialise often
Spend more time socialising. Actively work to avoid the isolating symptoms of SAD, and push yourself to go out even when you don’t feel like it. Make social outings – meeting up with friends for coffee or dinner or visiting family members – a priority in your winter life. Accept any invitations to social functions. Try to avoid negative people.

Get organised
Reset your goals and priorities and make an effort to stay organised. Rearrange your to-do list into something practical and actionable. Start small and move onto the bigger things.

Review your stress management regime
Learn to manage stress better with yoga or meditation. Learning deep breathing skills will help you to release stress naturally.

Avoid alcohol
Challenge yourself to go a month without alcohol. Alcohol has a strong link to depression, and it is better avoided in the winter months if you are already struggling with SAD symptoms. Especially avoid binge drinking – if you do drink, drink in small quantities. The last thing you need when you’re already feeling low is a hangover!

Sleep well
Make sure your room is completely dark at night. Use earplugs to block out any noises that may disturb you in the night. Ensure you get at least eight hours sleep a night – but try to avoid sleeping any longer than that, even on weekends.

Musical mood
Create a playlist in iTunes to lead you up from the blues to a better place. Ramp up the tempo and themes to lift your mood. Choose songs you can relate to but are still positive and upbeat.

Read a book
Read a motivational book for tips and advice that get you ready to take on the world. Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People is very popular. There are many more inspiring reads, which I will blog about in coming weeks.

Keep warm
Rug up – being cold will make you more depressed! Staying warm can reduce winter blues by half. Keep warm with hot drinks and hot food. Wear warm clothes and shoes, keep your home between 18ºC and 23ºC.

Find a new hobby
Keeping your mind active with a new interest will ward off SAD symptoms. It could be anything from playing bridge, knitting, singing, joining a gym (and going), keeping a journal or writing a blog (this can also help you to express your feelings) etc. The important thing is that it is something you look forward to and can concentrate on.

Join a support group
There are SAD support groups around… mostly in the UK but I’m sure if you put some effort in you could find one or even start one. Sharing your experiences with others who can empathise, make be very therapeutic and make your symptoms more bearable.

Get painting
Paint your house bright colours or place bright paintings around the house to distract from the dreariness of the winter months. Pick a room you spend a lot of time in and try a vibrant paint or artwork in there.

Learn something new
Take a class and learn something new. It can keep your mind off the winter gloom, particularly when it gets you out of the house and meeting new people.

Change your perspective
Winter is inevitable in most countries, so it’s better to focus on the things you love about winter than the things you don’t like. Embrace the season and start a list for yourself and expand on it as you think of things. Take up a winter sport such as netball, ice skating, hockey or snowboarding – staying active will boost your energy. People tend to spring clean, why not winter clean? Live for today! Quit your job if it is too stressful. Take responsibility for your mood – it puts you in control and enables you to change it.

Make your bed each morning
This means you need to get up and get going, and it also helps you to feel organised. Simply by making your bed each morning, you have achieved just one thing and you’re on the path to achieving so much more! Pat yourself on the back for the little things you can do when things are feeling difficult – remember always focus on the good, don’t waste energy contemplating what can’t be done.

Stay productive
Keep setting goals to work towards and set yourself little projects. Avoid letting household chores pile up, it will only make you feel worse. Try to stay on top of things. Keep everything simple in the winter months, try not to over-plan or overextend yourself – it will only make you feel stressed.

Avoid jet lag
Try to avoid travelling during winter months and if you do, stick to no more than one time zone difference. Jet lag is particularly difficult for those with SAD – and if you must travel, go somewhere sunny and warm.

Manage your own expectations
Allow yourself extra time to do things – when you feel lousy, you work at a slower pace. Don’t try to live up to your usual high expectations, try to cut yourself some slack over the winter months.

Buy a pet
Cute animals in your life always help boost your mood. If you are unable to buy your own pet, head to a pet shop where you can play with theirs and not have the responsibility of caring for it.

Treat yourself
Celebrate your accomplishments for the year so far and treat yourself. Plan something exciting that you can look forward to – a weekend away, a trip to the day spa or a dinner party.

Relax
Read a book or a magazine, go to bed early, try some meditation, light candles, participate in a yoga class, do some deep breathing exercises etc. Try to work out what helps you to wind down quickly when you are stressed and keep it in mind for the days that are really difficult.

Get help
If things are really out of control, get some professional help. Talking it out with a psychologist, counsellor or GP may help. Just like depression, SAD can be a very serious psychological problem. The sooner you get help, particularly before winter sets in, the better you will be able to cope with any SAD symptoms you may experience. Offence is the best defence.

For more information about Seasonal Affective Disorder refer to
Dr Normal Rosenthal’s book – Winter Blues: Everything you need
to know to beat Seasonal Affective Disorder.

How to have a “Can Do” attitude

The greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances. Martha Washington

When applying for a job, we must all magically inherit a “can do” attitude. What on earth is that? Is that just enthusiasm? But what if you actually CAN’T do it? Are you just not meant to say anything and fake it and hope you don’t blow something up? Whatever it is, a positive attitude is vital for any successful journey.

So how do you get this positive “can do” attitude that gets you charged up and ready to tackle anything? Here are some simple tips that will help you build the attitude everyone wants, make you feel like there’s more hours in the day and give you the energy that everyone wants to be around:

Be confident
Success depends heavily in believe in your ability to succeed and having a strong sense of self-worth. You can develop your self-confidence by learning and growing at every opportunity and being aware of yourself and those around you.

Show enthusiasm
Be enthusiastic about life and all that it brings – including challenges! Think of it as an adventure and stay focussed on your goals to keep the motivation flowing.

Don’t compare
Don’t put yourself down – sometimes doing it your way will be just as good as doing it any other way! Try to learn from people around you to bring yourself up to a higher level, than be jealous. What is it they do that you could copy in order to attract the same success that they have?

Revisit your achievements
List your achievements and consider how you felt when you made that achievement, find a way to achieve something again and get that feeling back. Be aware of your values, strengths and skills and also how others view you. Seek feedback as often as you can, listen to it and focus on improving where you can.

Project your image
Select positive role models and learn from what they do. Project a confident image. Remember, negativity is like a boomerang, it always comes back to you.

Watch your appearance
Take care of yourself with a flattering haircut, manicure or maintain a healthy skin care regime. Take time with your clothes and shoes. Dress professionally.

Think positive
Focus on the things that are working well in your life and your strengths, rather than what is not working. Research has shown that 75-80% of daily communication is negative. Concentrate your energies on positive aspects of your life and move away from problems and fears.

Avoid self-criticism
Let go of the inner voice that criticises you when things don’t go well. Analyse the situation and learn from it, this will help you learn, grow and move ahead. Look at setbacks as opportunities to grow.

Challenge yourself
Step outside your comfort zone and stretch yourself to boost your confidence. Think creatively.

Chill out
Learn to relax and unwind after a potentially stressful day, with challenges that have you wound up. Meditation helps get into a relaxed state quickly.

Watch what you say
Language colours experience – speak positively because it reflects on you. Take responsibility and ownership where you can. When you start saying or even thinking you can’t do something, stop and ask yourself: what would it take to change that to can do? Focus on your answer and making it happen.

Develop your mindset
Develop a problem-solving mind-set. Challenge yourself when you think you can’t and prove why you actually can.

Motivate yourself
Look for positive past experiences when you successfully solved the same or a similar sort of problem and remember what worked for you. Solve problems by playing to your strengths.

Do something different
‘If you do what you’ve always done you’ll get what you’ve always got.’ There’s always more than one way to solve a problem.

Smile
A smile not only brightens your day, but it will brighten the day of those around you. It also changes your brain chemistry and makes for a brighter day.

Be professional
Use tact and diplomacy in the workplace and put any feelings of frustration, anger and disappointment aside. State facts before feelings and find ways to get jobs done even when it’s uncomfortable. The show must go on.

Set goals
Set goals that drive you towards results. Focus on what you want to happen ahead, not what you’re worried will happen. Set S-M-A-R-T-E-R (specific, measureable, attainable, realistic, timely, encouraging and rewarding) goals. Concentrate on getting win-win situations.

Reframe communication
If a conversation is going negatively, reframe it with a positive spin. Help the person seek solutions to their problems, avoid negative media and try to stay optimistic.

Fake it til you make it
Act like you are already achieving your goals, and you will rise to a higher level. Others will see you as achieving and interact with you accordingly.

Learn to let go
“Let it go and let go. Most of our problems and fears and worries and doubts come from clinging to people and objects and ideals and expectations and the need to control situations. Just let them be. You will clearly see things change just as quickly by being patient. Trust life’s flow sometimes. Don’t keep fighting it. Oh and let others shine and be right sometimes,” said news.com.au editor, Andrew Banks 2012.

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