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3 Ways to Take Feedback Better from Authors of ‘Thanks for the Feedback’

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

Feedback. It’s everywhere–from bosses, friends, teachers, husband and even our kids and Facebook. How do you take it? It’s a double-edged sword. We all want to improve our skills, but we also want to be liked and accepted.

This unique book addresses how to accept feedback gracefully whether your boss is giving you a review, your kids are commenting on their meatloaf dinner or your mother-in-law is offering snide commentary on your parenting style. Criticisms are among the most difficult conversations to have–but the new book, Thanks for the Feedback, aims to make it a little easier.

Now listen, sometimes the feedback you get is just plain crap.  Sometimes it’s callous or wrong. But sometimes it’s right. What do you say or think or do in response? The authors of Thanks for the Feedback try to give you a guide to make friends with your mistakes. They want you to know the difference between when you should let it roll off your back and when you should take it seriously and try to improve.

The authors, Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen of the Harvard Negotiation Project hit it out of the park with well-researched insight, advice and tips. I asked them some questions below–they explain what feedback is 3 Quick Ways to Take Feedback Better.

KK: What do you mean by feedback?
DS and SH:
We mean it both narrowly and broadly. Feedback is that performance evaluation or those test results, but in a bigger sense, this is a book about how to learn about ourselves from people and experiences – how to learn from life.

Feedback can be direct (“you missed your sales targets”) or indirect (when your boss said “good work, team,” she looked at your two colleagues, but not at you). And we’re constantly getting feedback in our personal lives as well – that comment from your mother-in-law about your permissive parenting, the way your spouse left this morning without saying the usual, “Love you.”  It can be from your boss or your boyfriend, your neighbor or your niece, even from your suddenly-too-tight jeans. We get feedback from everywhere, and not only from the outside. Let’s not forget the ways we beat ourselves up – the feedback we get from ourselves can be some of the hardest to take.

KK: What are 3 Quick Ways to Take Feedback Better?
DS and SH: Great question.  The research shows that people who seek out feedback – especially negative feedback that they can learn from – are perceived to be more competent, settle into new roles more quickly, and get higher performance reviews. So here are three tips that will help.

1. Don’t ask: “Do you have any feedback for me?” Too broad. Too daunting. Instead ask: “What’s one thing you see me doing – or failing to do – that’s getting in my own way?” That lets people know you actually want the feedback, and gives them permission to be honest.

2. Don’t just tap people you like and who like you – they can’t help you with your edges because they don’t see your edges. You live or work well and easily together. It’s the people we struggle to get along with who are often in a position to offer us something valuable about ourselves. They see our edges because they are so wonderfully adept at provoking them. Asking them about one thing you’re doing that’s getting in the way will not only elicit valuable insight into what you can do to reduce the friction, it will also be a bold step toward improving that relationship.

3. When you’re really struggling with feedback that seems fundamentally “off,” divide a sheet of paper into two columns and make two lists. On the left, list all the things that are wrong with the feedback. What they are saying isn’t true, it’s unfair, they’re one to talk, when they gave it was inappropriate, how they gave it was pathetically unskilled, why they gave it is suspect.  Now on the right make a list of things that might be right about the feedback. Too often we use all that is wrong with the feedback we get to cancel out the possibility that there is anything right about it. Your feedback might be 99 percent wrong, but that 1 percent that’s right might be just the insight you need. And once you get good at listening for what’s right, not just what’s wrong, you’ll do that in your conversations themselves more easily – getting curious about what they mean that might be helpful. That’s when you can really accelerate your own learning and improve your relationships. (more…)

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Five Co-Workers That Drive You Nuts–And How to Win Them Through Surrender

Friday, February 28th, 2014

Sounds weird, right? You have a co-worker who drives you nuts. But instead of trying to win a battle with that person–whether it’s in the open or not–just give up. Surrender. By knowing the toxic types, you can let them do their thing without letting their behavior interrupt your day or upset you.

I became a big fan of Judith Orloff, M.D., after I saw her TED talk on surrender. When I saw her new book comes out in April, I was psyched. The Ecstasy of Surrender: 12 Surprising Ways Letting Go Can Empower Your Life is a great read for anyone interested in the topic. And check out this glowing recommendation from Marianne Williamson: “One of the most important changes we can make is to shift from seeing surrender as sign of defeat, to seeing it as a land of victory inside ourselves. In The Ecstasy of Surrender, Dr. Judith Orloff offers beautiful guidance and insight into making the switch.”

Below, Orloff encourages us to get along with our co-workers at work by identifying their personality type and just giving in and letting go of the issues we have with them. Here are five difficult people and communication strategies for each one.

1. The Narcissist
These types have an inflated sense of self-importance and entitlement, crave attention and require endless praise. Some are obnoxious ego-maniacs, others can be charming. Both types know how to belittle you and make you serve them. First, let go of the belief that you can win them over with loyalty and love. Narcissists value control and power over love, and they lack empathy. Next, don’t make your self-worth dependent on them. Seek out supportive coworkers and colleagues instead. Finally, to get your goals met with narcissists, frame your request in ways they can hear–such as showing them how your request will be beneficial to them. Ego stroking and flattery also work.
2. The Passive-Aggressive Coworker
These types express anger while they’re smiling or showing exaggerated concern. They always maintain their cool, even if through clenched teeth. Start by trusting your gut reactions and the feeling that their behavior feels hurtful. Say to yourself, “I deserve to be treated better and with more respect.” If the person is someone you can speak directly with–a team member as opposed to a boss–address the behavior specifically and directly. You could say, for example, “I would greatly appreciate it if you remembered our meeting time. My time’s very valuable, as is yours.” If the person doesn’t or won’t change, you can decide whether to accept their behavior or not.
3. The Gossip
Gossipy busybodies delight in talking about others behind their backs, putting them down and spreading harmful rumors. They also love to draw others into their toxic conversations. Start by letting go of your need to please everyone or control what they say. Then be direct. Say, “Your comments are inconsiderate and hurtful. How would you like people talking about you like that?” You can also refuse to participate by simply changing the subject. Don’t share intimate information with gossip mongers. And finally, don’t take gossip personally. Realize that gossips aren’t happy or secure. Do what you can to rise to a higher place, and ignore them.
4. The Anger Addict
Rage-a-holics deal with conflict by accusing, attacking, humiliating or criticizing. Let go of your reactivity. Take a few short breaths to relax your body. Count to 10. Pause before you speak. If they’re spewing verbal venom at you, imagine that you’re transparent and their words are going right through you. To disarm an anger addict, acknowledge their position, and then politely say you have a slightly different approach you’d like to share. Request a small, doable change that can meet your need. Then clarify how it will benefit the relationship. Finally, empathize. Ask yourself what pain or inadequacy might be making this person act so angry.
5. The Guilt Tripper
These workplace types are world-class blamers, martyrs and drama queens. They know how to make you feel terrible about something by pressing your insecurity buttons. Start by surrendering the notion that you have to be perfect. Everyone makes mistakes, so if the guilt tripper is scolding you, you can simply apologize or take responsibility, and that will shut them down. If you need to, find a safe place to cry. Tears will cleanse the stress and help you heal. Also, know your guilt buttons. If there’s something you feel bad about, you can work on being compassionate with yourself so you’ll feel stronger when this difficult coworker tries to push that particular button. Finally, set limits with the guilt tripper. Tell them you can see their point of view, but that it hurts your feelings when they say those things, and you’d be grateful if they stopped saying it.
How do you deal with people who drive you nuts? Do you struggle or just walk away and go on about your day?

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Work-Life Balance in America
Work-Life Balance in America
Work-Life Balance in America

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5 Tips for Toddlers Who Freak Out About Getting Dressed from ‘How Toddlers Thrive’

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

Is your toddler driving you nuts? If so, that’s totally okay! You are among friends here. All of us have had toddlers who made us bonkers. But what you have that we didn’t is this new book, How Toddlers Thrive by Tovah P. Klein, Ph.D. (with a fun and reassuring foreword by Sarah Jessica Parker). Tovah is also the director of the Center for Toddler Development at Barnard College. Check out Parents editorial assistant Ruthie, who recently attended Tovah’s book party.

Tovah tackles the most common issues and gives you real-life research and advice you can put to use. First of all, parents need to understand how those barely-walking baby minds think. The skill they most need to learn at age 2 is not how to share a toy or pee on the potty, but self-regulation. That alone is the key to their future success, Dr. Klein says.

Other topics in the book include thinking like a toddler (which helps you tame them), and “cracking the code” on everything from eating/sleeping/peeing routines to tantrums to sharing/playing/being alone. She’s full of useful tips that will help you and and your 2- to 5-year-old.

I really like these 5 Tips for Toddlers Who Freak Out About Getting Dressed:

1. Prepare in Advance
Put out two outfits your child can choose from in the morning. They need to feel a sense of power.

2. Give Limited Choices
“Dress or long pants?”

3. Buy Fewer Clothes
The fewer clothes your child has to choose from, the fewer fights you will have with her. Plus, you’ll save money!

4. Let Her Dress Herself
Even if you’re in a hurry, take the time to let her put that sock on. She will feel so proud.

5. Make It a Game
Whenever a tantrum is about to erupt, put a pair of panties on your head to turn tears into giggles.

 

 

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ADHD Does Not Exist–Right?

Friday, February 21st, 2014

The title of this new book screams for attention: ADHD Does Not Exist: The Truth About Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder. It’s so sensational that it turned me off at first. But once I dig into the author, Richard Saul, M.D.‘s arguments, I see he’s completely serious and legit.

As a behavioral neurologist who is certified in pediatrics, Saul has been seeing children and adults who think they have ADHD for 50 years. He believes that they do not have this disease. Instead, they have symptoms that can be treated. It’s a huge mistake to pop pills like Adderoll and Ritalin. People want a magic solution to get their kids–or themselves–to sit down and shut up. But these drugs are stimulants, and Saul says they lead to dangerous addictions.

He urges health care professionals and patients to dig deeper. One adult man complained that he could not turn off his television, computer and games, and he was going crazy. He was sure he had ADHD. Saul discovered he was only sleeping 4 to 5 hours a night and diagnosed him with sleep deprivation. Saul prescribed black out shades, a noise machine and a program that turns off all devices at midnight. The patient’s health dramatically improved.

The real conditions and disorders he diagnoses include vision and hearing problems, substance abuse, mood disorder, giftedness (kids need more challenge sometimes!), seizure disorders OCD, Tourette’s and Aspberger’s. He digs in and treats what is really wrong.

ADHD Does Not Exists is a wake-up call to get patients and professions off the Adderall and Ritalin. Saul acknowledges that attention and hyperactivity do exist. But there are so many better ways to tackle them than what we mostly see used today.

What do you think? Is ADHD a real disease or a catch-all excuse to put people on pills?

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Why Teaching Our Kids to Fail is So Important: ‘The Up Side of Down’

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

When I’m not writing this blog, I teach yoga classes. A woman fell out of her half-moon pose the other day and said, “Falling is very, very bad!” I said, “Falling is excellent! How else will you learn half-moon if you don’t fall 50 times? That’s exactly how all of us learned to get balanced and get strong.” She was so devastated to fail, but why? Failing is the key to success.

Author Megan McArdle agrees. Her book, The Upside of Down: Why Failing Well is the Key to Successexplains why teaching our kids to fail is so important.

KK: My kids get trophies just for playing soccer or participating in gymnastics class. Is giving out rewards like this good for our kids? How can it hurt them? What should our schools—and we as parents—be doing differently to prepare our kids for life?
MM: Failure doesn’t feel good. We probably all remember how bad it felt to be the kid who got picked last for the team or tried as hard as we could to win a prize but still fell short. It’s natural that we should want to shield our kids from that bad feeling by setting up games where “everybody wins.” But one of the most important lessons we learn in life is how to pick ourselves up after we try something—and flop. From babies learning to walk, to scientists figuring out how to split an atom, learning is a process of trial and error. A whole lot of error. The greatest successes are people who have failed again and again, learning along the way what doesn’t work . . . and from that, what does. When we shield our kids from failure, we’re teaching them that failure isn’t just unpleasant, but unimaginably horrible. They are sometimes completely derailed. Learning to cope with failure is one of the most important things anyone can teach. Kids who never confront failure won’t be equipped to dodge the curveballs that life inevitably sends you way, and will flounder once they hit the workforce.

KK: In what ways does the United States view failure and risk taking differently than other countries? Why is it easy to get rich in America and hard in Zimbabwe (or France)?
MM:
 America is a nation founded on failure. Why did our ancestors come here? By and large, because things weren’t working out back home. That heritage can be seen in our attitude towards failure. We admire people who don’t succeed at first but try, try again. We have higher rates of entrepreneurship, and we are more forgiving toward people who have tried to start a business and failed. We’re also more forgiving of people who have failed in other ways—our bankruptcy laws are the most generous in the world. When you make it easy for people to take risks, you also make it easy to get ahead. The more forgiving your culture is towards failure, the more welcoming it is of success.

KK: Which is better, frequent small failures or an occasional big failure? How can we encourage our kids to fail?
MM: “Fail fast to succeed soon.” That’s the motto of a lot of startups, for good reason. Small failures are easy to recover from. Big failures that build for a long time are much more likely to be catastrophic. Businesses, governments and parents should encourage people to fail early and often—but also to recognize their failures and cut their losses quickly.

KK: Why is consistency so key to changing bad habits, from toddler tantrums to self-destructive behavior?
MM:
 I said earlier that people are obsessive pattern-makers. We learn how to behave by observing what happens when we do certain things. If we like what happens, we do it again, and if we don’t, we try to avoid whatever we did to trigger it. That means that if you want to teach a kid—or an adult—how to behave, you need to have absolutely consistent rules. That allows them to successfully predict what results their behavior will produce. Small punishments that are doled out for every single transgression are much more likely to produce behavior change than larger punishments that are delivered inconsistently—and the same is true of rewards. So if you want to raise well-behaved kids, or help adult prisoners rehabilitate themselves, the most important thing you can do is focus on making sure that the same behavior gets punished or rewarded the same way every single time.

Need some inspiration to get back up, try again, and smile? Check out this video, Epic Animal Fails.

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Parenting Style: Positive Parenting
Parenting Style: Positive Parenting
Parenting Style: Positive Parenting

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