How do you respond to conflict? Learn how to set your Emotional Thermostat

How do you respond to conflict? Learn how to set your Emotional Thermostat

What is an Emotional Thermostat?  When faced with an indifferent waiter and disappointing food, how easy do you find it to complain?

When someone at work has produced poor quality work, what do you do and say?  And more importantly, how do you feel?

These feedback moments are challenging for many of us because of the potential for confrontation and conflict.  We need to learn to respond while retaining control of our ancient fight or flight responses.

So let’s get acquainted with our Emotional Thermostat (more…)

What is your self-worth? How to really value yourself.

What is your self-worth? How to really value yourself.

If I asked you the question “What is your self-worth?”  what would you take into consideration?

Would you think about how much you earn or how much you own?  Would you think about what’s in the bank, or how much you owe the bank?

Or would you dwell on what other people might think you’re worth?

How long did it take you before you valued yourself?

Not just in this exercise above, but in your life?

The trouble with external valuations – like everything in a market – is the value can rise or fall without really having anything to do with you.

We’ve been judged and labelled all our lives 

Sporty, smart, arty, eccentric, funny, beautiful, introvert, extrovert, people person, shy, bossy, go-getting.  These (e)valuations are set by other people, or agreed by us in some kind of unconscious negotiation with other people.

Rescuing knight - self-wroth value yourselfAfter a while we may even take on that label; wear it like a suit of armour.  You might begin sentences with:

“you see, I’m an X kind of person.”

We limit our self-worth by overlooking our value

Being an “X kind of person” makes sure that we limit ourselves before someone else does.  It’s a bulwark against rejection.

It’s why I think psychometric tests are such comfort blankets for corporations; they’re grown-up labels where it’s ok to put people in boxes.  The focus is on a fixed point. Nowhere are we considering our value; what we’re offering or what we have in common.

Most of the coaching conversations I’ve ever had – whether I have been the coach or the one being coached – has begun at the point of being frustrated or comforted with a label.

The biggest value of coaching or therapy is that it allows us the space to examine our own assumptions and unpick the tapestry of labels and self-limiting beliefs we’ve stitched together over time.

How to set your own self-worth and value

Setting our value, establishing our own self-worth, is not an easy task.  Especially when we’ve got used to other people doing it for us.

We could all value these things more:


Listening is good for you: Four steps to mastering active listening

Listening is good for you: Four steps to mastering active listening

Do you understand the difference between listening and active listening?

Do you feel listened to?

What’s more, are YOU a good listener? 

Studies show adults remember between 25 and 50 per cent of what they hear. So when you talk to your boss, colleagues, customers or spouse, they’re paying attention to less than half of the conversation.

Some of you – especially those who have been married for some time – may not be at all surprised by this.

Listening is more than just hearing

Active listening is a conscious effort to understand messages that are only partly about the words being said. As Peter Senge says:

“To listen fully means to pay close attention to what is being said beneath the words. You listen not only to the ‘music,’ but to the essence of the person speaking. You listen not only for what someone knows, but for what he or she is.

Stress: Being a compassionate friend to ourselves

Stress: Being a compassionate friend to ourselves

How many of us are kind and compassionate towards ourselves in times of stress? Most have us have known that feeling when we’ve got a lot on our plates; challenging targets, multiple demands (often a combination of work and home) and tight deadlines.

Yet sometimes this just helps us focus; makes us resourceful, creative, efficient. We’re resilient in the face of pressure.

Sometimes it does the opposite. We feel stuck; as if we’re going to fail at something (possibly lots of things). The pressure overwhelms us. That’s when we need to be a compassionate friend to ourselves.

The impact of Control, Choices and Competence – or lack of it

I held an interactive webinar for the Get off the Hamster Wheel  group on Facebook to find out what caused them stress and how they dealt with it. Reflecting on the experiences and wisdom, I asked myself what they all had in common.

This is when those three Cs seemed significant.  Pressure is a form of stimulation, which we can use to help us, just as long as we think we have at least one (preferably two) of those elements.

I think that unconsciously we ask ourselves:

  • Do I feel as if I’m control?
  • Do I think I have choices?
  • Do I believe I have the skills to complete the multiple demands being thrown at me?

Notice the role of our emotions, thoughts and beliefs


Stress: When last were you unplugged?

Stress: When last were you unplugged?

When last were you really, completely unplugged? A few years ago, I experienced it for the first time in a very long time around a campfire in Zimbabwe, the land of my birth. A campfire in a place that is only accessible by boat or plane.  A place where rush hour means the dawn and dusk ritual of animals coming down to the river to feed. What a contrast it was to the traffic I was used to hearing outside my office window. I was truly unplugged!

A place without the internet or a reliable mobile phone connection

It was the first time I’d been unplugged since 1989 when I spent six months backpacking through Africa, from Cairo to Cape Town.  No phone, no web, no social media.  There were weeks at a time when my family back home had no idea who I was travelling with or even which country I was in. In 1989 I took that freedom for granted.  Now I worry about not being able to speak to my kids or check my email for a few days.

Which got me thinking about what being connected and available 24/7 does to me, does to us

“In most organizations the expectations of instantaneous responsiveness pushes everyone into reactive mode, making it difficult to stick to any agenda.  In the race to do more, bigger, faster, what gets sacrificed are boundaries, stopping points, and finish lines. Organizations settle for our continuous partial attention – to their detriment and to ours.” Tony Schwartz ~ “The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working.”

Being reactive, permanently connected and frequently distracted are sources of stress

The expectation that we should respond instantly and the way that we allow technology to intrude into our lives in a way that causes us to “multi-task” has an effect on us, whether we notice it or not. Failing to notice shapes out thoughts and deeds Tony Schwartz in The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working identifies four energy needs that we need to pay attention to in order to operate at our best:

  • Physical
  • Emotional
  • Mental
  • Spiritual

He links these energy needs to corresponding needs for:

  • Sustainability
  • Security
  • Self-expression
  • Significance

Schwartz’s findings are supported by the research of Richard Boyatzis, Daniel Goleman and others who have spent the last decade looking at what differentiates great leaders from average ones and how people can remain resilient in the face of continued pressure and challenge. They found that: “even the best leaders can find it difficult to sustain effectiveness over time.  This is, ironically, particularly true for good leaders – people who take their roles and responsibilities seriously…people often lose their capacity for resonance – they get caught in the Sacrifice syndrome.” ~ Becoming a Resonant Leader Schwartz uses a four quadrant model to show how we all move between activity and renewal in each of these areas.

Energy Quadrants - Schwartz

We’re all giving out energy all the time

Maintaining a balance between short fix (empty carbs and caffeine) forms of energy and slow release, renewable energy (mindfulness) builds our capacity to generate more and more value over time. But as Schwartz says: “The problem is that few of us intentionally address each of our four needs on a regular basis and organizations often ignore them altogether.”

Can you recognize your responses to stress in these quadrants?

I’ve been caught in activity and sacrifice.  I started my own business in 2008, just as the financial crisis took hold.  I managed to hang on and grow my business and juggle the responsibility of being a mum to two young boys.

I love what I do, but it’s easy to over-commit and over-work.  It’s easy to get trapped in that sacrifice syndrome. So I made that 5000 mile journey to see if being unplugged could help me re-focus and reconnect – with who I am and who I wanted to be. 

With no distractions I was able to fill in Schwartz’s final quadrant.

Schwartz spiritual energy significance Since then, I have been able to take other leaders on the journey to that campfire – I’ve held Campfire Conversations in the Netherlands, Germany and the UK. I’ve been able to help others who wanted to examine how they lead as well as how they live. All the research shows that the key to sustainable performance and a healthy life, is to take moments to reflect, to consider what really matters and to visualize how small changes might make a big difference.

How I can help

Getting away from it all in Africa isn’t possible for everyone, but a facilitated Campfire Conversation in your own country can still provide a unique and powerful opportunity to slow down, fully engage all of our senses and reconnect with what matters to each of us.

I would highly recommend journal writing. I joined one of Moyra’s journal safari sessions a couple of weeks ago and have been keeping a daily journal ever since. The main benefits for me is it’s helped me to keep perspective in these times, not to be too hard on myself and be thankful for the things I have achieved.

Justin Ellis

Innovation & Strategy, British retail bank

The perils of perfectionism and other life stealers

The perils of perfectionism and other life stealers

My name is Moyra Mackie and I’m a recovering perfectionist.

Perfectionism is rightly described as a life-stealer

Even though I know that perfection is not possible, it is one of my Drivers. I hear the siren call of perfectionism whenever I’m under pressure.  This might be a tight deadline when I’m tempted to research one more fact or fine tune (again) the design of a slide deck or report.  Or it might be when I’m facing a stressful situation like negotiating a contract, presenting to a large audience or going to a networking event.

The upside of attempting to be perfect is that I will prepare.  Really, really well.  The downside is that I will over-work or become paralysed by doubt and fear or hyper critical of myself and others.

“Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life. Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis.”
Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

We all have Drivers (and potential life-stealers)